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Food poverty health emergency, new pump to save livers and why a 4p-a-day drug ‘could beat dementia’

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 4 December

Hunger has reached the level of a ‘public health emergency’ in Britain as a result of austerity and welfare cuts, reports the i this morning.

The comments come from doctors and academics writing in the BMJ, who claim the surge in people requiring emergency food aid, a decrease in the average amount of calories consumed and doubling in the number of malnutrition cases seen in English hospitals ‘are all signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action’.

Meanwhile the BBC reports on a new pump device that relieves ascites resulting from liver disease. Patients at the Royal Free Hospital are testing the device, which siphons off excess fluid in the abdomen and diverts it to the bladder so it can be urinated out.

Doctors say it could buy patients time and even allow the liver to recover, avoiding the need for a transplant.

Rajiv Jalan, professor of hepatology at University College London, who is running the trial, said: ‘With cirrhosis, patients can accumulate litres and litres of fluid. They might need to come to hospital fortnightly to have up to 20 litres drained from their tummy.

‘The pump can avoid this by draining about 15 millilitres every 15 minutes. It means they’ll pass a little bit more urine but they can turn the pump off at night.’

Finally, the Daily Express has news of how a 4p-a-day drug ‘could beat dementia’. That’s because scientists are doing a trial of the calcium channel blocker amlodipine in people with vascular dementia, using a 10 mg daily dose to see if it will prevent the disease progressing and improve memory and cognition.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘It’s scandalous that despite affecting 150,000 people there are no effective treatments for vascular dementia and very few new treatments under investigation. This ground-breaking trial could be the best hope we have to get an effective treatment in use in the next decade.’

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