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A 10-point plan to halt the obesity epidemic, the ‘Crystal Lab’ and a new patch to treat depression

The Guardian leads today with a call from the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, which represents some 220,000 doctors, for a tax on sugary drinks, fewer fast food outlets near schools and a ban on unhealthy food in hospitals to prevent the UK’s spiralling obesity crisis.

The academy also calls for health professionals to routinely ask overweight parents about their lifestyle, and demands help for new parents with their babies’ feeding habits, an expansion of bariatric surgery and £300m over the next three years to tackle the shortage of weight management programmes.

As part of a 10-point plan drawn up to stem the obesity epidemic, the academy said doctors are ‘united in seeing the epidemic of obesity as the greatest public health crisis facing the UK’, adding that the consequences include diabetes, heart disease and cancer and that people are ‘dying needlessly’ from ‘avoidable diseases’.

Over at the Daily Mail, Jeremy Hunt has promised NHS executives there will be harsh ‘consequences’ if they have wrongly gagged the former chief executive of a trust, to stop him speaking out over patient safety concerns.

Gary Walker, former chief executive of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, said he was paid £500,000 to keep quiet after he was removed from this position.

He gave interviews in the Daily Mail and the BBC which attacked NHS executives Sir David Nicholson and Dame Barbara Hakin, saying they were warned about patient safety issues at the trust.

He ignored an email from NHS-funded lawyers ordering him to respect the terms of the gagging order in 2011, as well as phone calls re-iterating this.

The Mail reports he was told: ‘Should you breach the term relating to confidentiality, you will immediately repay to the trust, on demand, all sums paid under this agreement in full.’

Mr Hunt said he is ready to order NHS bosses to reverse the gagging order if it is found to have breached NHS guidelines, and said there would be consequences for executives if there is found to have been mismanagement.

The UK’s national synchrotron science facility - the Diamond Light Source near Oxford - is to become a world centre for studying the structure of viruses and bacteria that cause disease, the BBC reports today.

Diamond announced that preparations for its ‘Crystal Lab’ were complete, and it will use X-rays to study the molecular and atomic make up of Level 3 pathogens - those responsible for illnesses such as AIDS, hepatitis  and some types of flu.

The new facility allows scientists to study virus structures in detail, and has the potential to discover new ways of developing treatment and vaccines.

The Telegraph has a story on a new patch that reportedly causes a 50% improvement in the symptoms of depression.

American researchers have developed a devicem- similar to a sticking plaster, and connected to a small battery pack by wires - which stimulates nerves beneath the skin that connect to key areas inside the brain associated with mood.

Trials have shown it can cause a 50% improvement in the symptoms of depression, and has also been found to reduce the occurrence of epileptic seizures in patients who did not respond to drug treatments.

Developer Dr Christopher DeGiorgio, a professor of neurology at the University of California in Los Angeles, said: ‘The patch is placed on the skin above the eyebrows and stimulates the nerve under the skin. It generates pulses of very low current – it feels like a mild tingling.’

‘This particular nerve projects to key regions in the brain that modulate both epilepsy and mood. We have found that it increases blood flow in areas of the brain that have decreased blood flow in people with depression.’