Actress Samantha Womack launches ActionAid’s first ever Child Sponsorship Week

Actress Samantha Womack travels to Burma to help launch child sponsorship charity ActionAid’s first ever child sponsorship week from 12-16th November. 

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The aim is to allow people in the UK to change poor people’s lives in the country following decades of struggle and uncertainty. To mark this week, ActionAid are to offer child sponsorship in Burma for the very first time. After decades of military rule and closed borders, the country has now opened up sufficiently to allow us to set up life-changing child sponsorship there, so people in the UK can help individual children in Burma and get a first-hand glimpse of ordinary life in one of the world’s most secretive countries.

 Actress Samantha Womack (pictured above) travelled to Burma to see child sponsorship in action, visiting local schools and families to see the difficulties they face and how ActionAid is helping them.

Watch the video of Samantha in Burma:


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FDA investigates anti-spasm toxin in cerebal palsy child deaths


The US’s Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that it has opened a safety review on reported side effects of Botulinum Toxin for the treatment of a number of non-cosmetic conditions.

Under review are Allergan brands Botox, Botox Cosmetic, and Myobloc, by another manufacturer, privately held Solstice Neurosciences.

All these products are injections of botulism toxins that block nerve transmissions and paralyse muscle. Such treatments can be used in small amounts to relax facial muscles to smooth wrinkles or calm severe spasms, such as those in patients with cerebral palsy.

The FDA said it was re-view-ing deaths and severe side-effects in children, in-cluding respiratory problems requiring ventilators and feeding tubes. The most common side-effects were in children with cerebral palsy.

In addition, the FDA said it had had reports of adult botulism cases, with symptoms such as difficulty holding up the head, weakness and numbness of the lower extremities. No adults had died and none required ventilators or tubes as a result.

The agency said that it was looking into whether these were reactions to “overdosing” and that no evidence linked the cases to “any defects in the products.”

Allergan said the most severe cases were often “severely compromised” children receiving high doses for spastic symptoms.

“We are continuing to work closely with the FDA to ensure they have all the necessary information to formulate their conclusion on the adverse event reports. We fully support the agency’s evaluation of the safety information they receive on our product,” Allergan said.

The company’s shares fell 6 per cent to $63.30 yesterday in New York trading.

Scrutiny over the safety of Botox has re-emerged in the past few weeks. Public Citizen, a US safety watchdog, recently asked the FDA to strengthen warnings on botulism products, citing deaths and fluid in the lungs and other side-effects.

Allergan has said Botox has a long safety record.

Allergan sees additional potential uses for Botox, including injections for severe headaches. It is a blockbuster product with at least $1.36bn in sales expected this year.

Food additives do make children behave badly – new study

London: The UK Government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has confirmed fears that artificial colours in children’s foods can make them behave badly.

The FSA tested a range of E-numbers on two groups of children and discovered that youngsters found it more difficult to sit still and concentrate, had problems reading and became loud and impulsive. The additives tested are commonly used in the sweets, biscuits, soft drinks and ice cream consumed by millions of British children. But the FSA will not order a ban on them.

The research was carried out by scientists from the UK’s Southampton University and involved almost 300 children published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The children in the six-week Southampton trial were split into two groups – one of 153 three-year-olds and the other of 144 eight and nine-year-olds.

The additives tested were tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129). and the preservative sodium benzoate, commonly found in soft drinks.

Initially, all the children were changed to diets that did not include artificial additives to set a benchmark.

They were then given daily fruit juice drinks, In some weeks, these contained a mixture of additives, in others they were pure.

The children’s behaviour was monitored by parents, teachers and independent observers.

None of the participants in the study knew what drinks the children were receiving, to ensure the results were not skewed.

In both groups, children were more hyperactive in the weeks they consumed a cocktail of additives.

One of the additive mixes, designed to mimic what a child might be expected to consume in one day, produced what the scientists believe was a ‘significant’ change in behaviour in the older children.

The other mix produced a more profound response in the younger group.

Professor Jim Stevenson, who led the research, said: “We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children.”

Obesity now a major health risk in UK

London: Obesity is a major health risk in the UK, the British government warned today.

Health officials called on parents to take more responsbility for their diets and that of their children. Children in the UK are five times more likely to be overweight and than their parents.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said that obesity cost the country’s National Health Service more than £1bn and that obese people were twice as likely to suffer from diabetes and heart disease.

She said the cause was the decreasing amount of exercise taken by adults and children, even though the average number of calories consumed had fallen.

Hormone link to child obesity

San Francisco: Children in developed countries are becoming fatter because their diets play havoc with their hormones, according to a new study by scientists.

Robert Lustig, a paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of the University of California in San Francisco, said: “Our current western food environment has become highly insulinogenic, as demonstrated by its increased energy density, high-fat content, high glycaemic index, increased fructose composition, decreased fibre, and decreased dairy content.”

Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, putting people at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

In the latest issue of Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology and Metabolism, Dr Lustig says the obesity epidemic rests on effects of processed food, which has sugar added to a wide variety of products that used never to include it and has fibre removed. This upsets the balance of two hormones which regulate how much we eat – leptin and insulin.

Obesity in children set to rise

Boston: US doctors have found that having just one fizzy drink a day could equate to putting on almost a stone in a year.

The warning follows a study of teenagers by US researchers assessing if home deliveries of ‘healthy’ drinks such as bottled water helped.

A second study, by the International Obesity Task Force, warns childhood obesity will almost double by the end of the decade.

The IOTF, which studied data on childhood obesity from around the world, warns that the number of children who are overweight in the EU is set to rise by 1.3m a year, with more than 300,000 of those likely to be obese.

By the end of the decade, it is estimated that 26m children in the EU will be overweight, including 6.4m who will be obese – double the current number.

In the Middle East, the proportion of obese children is set to rise to 11.5%, and in both North and South America, it will be up to 15.2%.

In Asia, the proportion of obese children is set to treble to 5.3% – up from 1.5% now.

Dr Tim Lobstein, co-ordinator of the IOTF’s childhood and adolescent obesity research programme, said: “The obesity estimates are very cautious, but extremely worrying.”

In the US study, researchers from the Children’s Hospital Boston studied 103 children aged 13 to 18. Half received weekly deliveries of healthy drinks.

They were instructed to avoid drinks containing sugar and received reminders via monthly phone calls and refrigerator magnets to “think before you drink”.

The rest of the teenagers were asked to continue their usual eating and drinking patterns.

At the end of six months, those receiving deliveries had cut their consumption of sugary drinks by 82%, while that of the other group remained unchanged.

Researchers found that the heavier the teenager had been initially, the stronger the effect on body weight.

Among the heaviest third, those who had drinks delivered saw a decrease in their body mass index (BMI), while the control group had a slight increase – the difference equated to almost one pound per month.

Other factors affecting obesity, such as the amount of physical activity levels and time spent watching television, did not change in either group.

Dr Cara Ebbeling, who led the study, said: “Sugary beverages have no nutritional value and seem to make a huge contribution to weight gain.”

She said the study showed it was relatively easy to have a significant impact on teenagers’ habits.

“People often get overwhelmed by nutrition advice and give up.

“We opted to study one simple, potentially high-impact behaviour, and made it easy for adolescents to replace sugary drinks with noncaloric [no or low calorie] beverages.”

She added: “It should be relatively simple to translate this intervention into a pragmatic public health approach.

“Schools could make noncaloric beverages available to students by purchasing large quantities at low costs.”

Obese children likely to die before parents, says new government report

London: At lease one in four children aged between two and ten is overweight or obese, a UK government report reveals.

These children face a lifetime of weight-related health problems and cost the taxpayer more than £5bn by 2010. They could also die before their parents.

The report from the National Audit Office, the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission says slow progress is being made towards delivering on the target cut for lowering obesity, set in July 2004.

Recent figures show that obesity had increased from 9.6 per cent of youngsters in 1995 to 13.7 per cent in 2003. The proportion of children who were overweight or obese rose from 22.7 per cent to 27.7 per cent.

The cost of childhood and adult obesity to the UK health service is around £1billion. There is a further £2.3billion to £2.6billion cost to the economy as a whole – this includes lost productivity. But Mr Bundred said the cost to the economy alone could rise to £3.6billion by 2010, with more than £1billion in costs to the NHS – a bill close to £5billion.

The report’s recommendations include the need for better local guidance on initiatives, such as increasing use of school sports facilities outside school hours.

Obesity causing adult diabetes in children

London: Children in the UK as young as nine years are suffering from adult type diabetes, according to new figures from doctors.

Type 2 diabetes, which normally affects middle-aged adults, across the country, and is blamed on the huge increase in obesity. has been diagnosed in 100 children in the past year.

The figures released to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health could mean that some young children will look forward to ill health throughout their lives, including increased risk of heart disease, stroke, eye and kidney problems.

As well as diabetes, a further 60,000 youngsters are thought to be suffering from weight-related metabolic syndrome – a combination of conditionsincluding high blood pressure and raised cholesterol – which is thought to precede Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Julian Shield, the Bristol University paediatrician responsible for the research, said the figures were “shocking.”