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Obesity, childbirth and the war on terror

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 22 December.

The Guardian‘s front page story is that at least six clinics in the UK are to be sued by more than 250 women with breast implants made by PIP who maufactured them with cheaper industrial silicone. Although only 1% of women in the UK with PIP implants have suffered ‘implant failure’, according to the MHRA, lawyers say they represent ‘many women’ who have experienced ‘agonising problems, including ruptures and leakages’.

Apparently, according to solicitor, Mark Harvey, it’s ‘not viable’ to sue PIP themselves so the target has moved to the clinics where the operations took place. Mr Harvey claims the clinics had entered into contracts with the women, promising the implants would last a lifetime and not rupture or leak.

The Mail is concerned that rising obesity rates are causing a 50% increase in the number of people suffering from acid reflux that can trigger oesophageal cancer. The condition, whereby stomach acid leaks into the gullet causing heartburn, has been linked to obesity, high-fat diets, alcohol and smoking by researchers from Norway, Sweden and the UK. Britain has the highest rates in Europe of oesophageal cancer, which recently led to the death of British journalist Christopher Hitchens.

Being the thoughtful and considerate paper that it is, the Mail offers some advice a few pages later on how to raise slim children and, hopefully, avoid too much acid reflux. Apparently, breastfeeding babies ‘helps them grow up to be slimmer’ and can prevent them from developing diabetes. This comes from another study by seemingly weight-obsessed Scandinavians who compared babies brought up on breast milk with others brought up on formula milk. They found children who drank breast milk were at a ‘slightly lower risk’ of becoming obese.

The war on terror is now being fought on pages of medical journals, according to the Independent. The US government has been asking scientific journals to refrain from publishing key parts of research into bird flu in case any terrorists hold subscriptions. Scientists have told the Americans that they’ve missed the boat because the information has been shared quite freely by researchers for a long time. Conceding that, yes, terrorists might use the journal to unleash a bird flu pandemic, it is, however, much more likely that the publication of the research could help other scientists to develop a vaccine.

Anyway, the war on terror was last decade, let’s get back to obesity and childbirth. The Telegraph says obese women have been urged to lose weight before they become pregnant because of the risks to both mother and baby. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, being obese increases the risk of blood clots, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. However, the risks to a baby inside an obese mother include miscarriage, neural tube defects, larger birth weight and stillbirth. Alarmingly, around 40,000 ‘severely obese’ women give birth each year.