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Organic food ‘no healthier’, frozen embryos ‘better’ for IVF, and asthma inhalers impact on height in children

For some people the decision to buy organic food is an ethical one but anyone who thinks it is the healthier option may have to think again. BBC News Online reports on a Stanford University analysis of more than 200 studies showing there is no discernable difference in nutrient content of organic and non-organic food, although the organic stuff is 30 per cent less likely to contain pesticides. The Annals of Internal Medicine study did point out that many of the studies were flawed and the evidence weak. Study leader Dr Crystal Smith-Spangler, said there were many reasons people opted for organic but that some believe it is always healthier and more nutritious. ‘We were a little surprised that we didn't find that. There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health.'

The debate over use of frozen versus fresh embryos in fertility treatment has reignited today with reports in several papers including the Guardian that women using frozen embryos tend to have healthier babies and fewer complications. The review of 11 studies, published in Fertility and Sterility, found mothers had a lower risk of bleeding in pregnancies with frozen embryos and had fewer pre-term and low birthweight babies. Some experts believe the results could end up changing the way IVF is offered in the UK. Study leader Abha Maheshwari from said more evidence was needed before a change in practice could be recommended. But added: ‘If pregnancy rates are equal and outcomes in pregnancies are better, our results question whether one should consider freezing all embryos and transfer them at a later date, rather than transferring fresh embryos.'

The Daily Mail says children taking inhaled steroid drugs for asthma end up being on average half an inch shorter than their peers. It comes from a US study of more than 1,000 five to 12 year olds treated for mild to moderate asthma who were assessed once they had reached adult height. The slower growth seemed to happen in the first two years of four-year treatment given as part of a clinical trial but experts pointed out that uncontrolled asthma in itself could stunt growth. Study leader Professor Robert Strunk, Washington University School of Medicine, said: ‘We think that the half-inch of lowered adult height must be balanced against the well-established benefit of inhaled corticosteroids in controlling persistent asthma.'

The future of Andrew Lansley as health secretary is dominating the headlines today with speculation that he could be replaced as part of David Cameron's reshuffle.  According to the Guardian, Lansley's downfall was when he left the Prime Minister in despair by struggling to explain the need for his plans to devolve most of the NHS's budget to the new CCGs. Mr Cameron had already begun to make his announcements this morning, so Pulse will be reporting on any developments as they happen.

Also hitting the headlines today is the latest research showing an active lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing cancer. And it doesn't have to involve running a marathon, as just walking the dog or spending some time pruning the garden can make a difference. The study of 8,000 women published in the International Journal of Cancer found those who were the most active were 13% less likely to get breast cancer than those who were inactive. Women who were moderately active ran an 8% lower risk. The authors said that exercise could include anything ‘that leaves you slightly out of breath' like the gardening, walking the dog or housework. 


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