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Disabled face 'unacceptable' sickness benefit delays, St John's wort contraception warning and why saturated fat is not so bad after all

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Tuesday 18 March.

MPs have launched a scathing attack on the ‘unacceptable’ delays disabled people face accessing benefits, the BBC reports.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said delays to decisions about the new personal independence payment (PIP) - the replacement for disability living allowance - were causing stress and uncertainty.

A National Audit Office report last month showed claimant were waiting an average of 107 days, and terminally ill patients 28 days, for a decision on their claim.

The chair of the committee, Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, said: ‘This not only leaves people facing financial difficulties whilst they await a decision, but causes severe stress and uncertainty.’

‘It is vital that all disabled people, but especially the terminally ill, experience as little delay and stress as possible in making a claim.’

Meanwhile drug safety chiefs at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have warned women that taking St John’s wort might stop their contraception from working, the Daily Mail says, after two women accidentally got pregnant while using contraceptive implants as a result of taking the herbal remedy.

Dr Sarah Branch, the MHRA’s deputy director of Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines, said: ‘Patients are advised to tell their doctor if they are using St. John’s wort when they are prescribed their contraceptive or receiving their implant.

‘Healthcare professionals should also warn patients of the risk of unplanned pregnancy associated with St. John’s wort when using contraceptives.’

Finally, we can feel a bit less guilty reaching for the butter this morning as The Telegraph says scientists have found saturated fat is not harmful to the heart - and ‘healthier’ polyunsaturated fats in margarines are in fact no less harmful to your coronaries.

The US researchers’ analysis of 72 studies found neither saturated fat nor polyunsaturated fat - either in the diet or in the bloodstream - had anyeffect on heart disease risk.

But Professor Tom Sanders, from King’s College London, said the study would just confuse people.

He told the paper: ‘It really is time that we moved away from focusing on individual components of diet like saturated fat, salt and sugar and moved into better describing diets that we know are associated with a lower risk of heart disease such a Mediterranean dietary pattern or a vegetarian dietary pattern.’

‘Studies like this just cause a lot of confusion and undermine sensible dietary advice by given in the UK which has had some degree of success in reducing heart disease in the UK.’

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