Category Archives: Expat Alert

Special product for pilots and air crew

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Our CEO, Sarah Jewell, was  recently interviewed about the new product in ‘Global Health  Insider’ magazine. Click HERE to read the interview in full and find  out more about this exciting and
innovative product.

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For more information visit our dedicated web page .



The truth behind your 5-a-day

If you have ever lived in the UK, USA or Germany, there is a high chance you know this slogan very well. But what does it exactly mean? Why 5? Is there any truth to this?

The ‘5-a-day’ campaign was introduced in 2003 by the UK Department of Health as the minimum daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Since then, its popularity skyrocketed and it’s now even the basis of the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme in the UK. The food guide ‘Balance of Good Health’ also supports this campaign as it fits with the recommendations of 425 g intake of fruits and vegetables per day.

But why do we need fruits and vegetables?

The most eye-opening truth behind this campaign is that most people fail to reach their minimum 5-a-day balanced intake of fruit and vegetables. A 2013 study showed that adults in the USA consume fruit 1.1 times per day and vegetables 1.6 times per day. Not consuming enough fruit and vegetables can result in serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies, digestive issues, disease risks, cardiovascular health problems and weight gain.

There are several beneficial reasons behind this campaign and the first has to do with decreasing risk of diseases, such as diabetes, heart diseases and obesity. The UCL studyalso reports that eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces a risk of early death by 42%.

Eating enough fruit and vegetables also ensures your body remains healthy and energized throughout the day as they contain a heavy dose of vitamins and minerals.

As most fruit and veggies are quite low in calories, you won’t need to feel guilty for eating a few more than you’re supposed to.

When it comes to fruit and vegetables, as long as you watch your calorie and sugar intake it is very much the case of the more the merrier” state the NHS.

Your “5 a day” around the world

  • The Netherlands – 2 ounces of vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit
  • Germany – 3 vegetables (400 g total) and 2 pieces of fruit (250 g total)
  • Slovakia – minimum of 400 g fruit and vegetables
  • Austria – 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, or ≥400 g
  • Finland – 400 g fruit and vegetables, revised to 500 g from the 23rd Jan 2014
  • Ireland – 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables
  • Brazil – 3 portions of fruit, 3 of vegetables/legumes, and 1 of beans
  • Australia – 5-6 x 75 g servings of vegetables, 2 x 150 g fruit


Daily consumption of fizzy drinks could raise risk of cancer

According to a study conducted by the Consumer Reports on the effect of caramel colouring used in soft drinks, the daily consumption of fizzy drinks is more dangerous than we thought.

The chemical process that takes place with the manufacturing of caramel colouring produces a carcinogen that could be raising the risk of cancer, suggests an analyst.

The laboratory tests on 11 different soft drinks revealed that one can a day could be enough to expose a consumer to potentially cancer-causing levels of the chemical 4-MeI, which is short for 4-methylimidazole. Surprisingly however, the levels of 4-MeI varied in samples of the same type of fizzy drinks. Tyler Smith, the lead author of the Johns Hopkins study, the team that led the Consumer Reports researchers, said that “For example, in diet drinks, certain samples had higher or more variable levels of the compound, while other samples had very low concentrations”.





C-section baby boom as parents rush to give birth before Lunar New Year

Hong KongDoctors in Hong Kong and Singapore are witnessing a “baby boom” as pregnant women rush to give birth by caesarean section ahead of the Lunar New Year.

The trend – as parents try to give their children an auspicious start in life or to avoid being stuck in hospital during the holidays – has prompted insurance companies to double their fees or even halt some maternity policies.

Tradition dictates, according to some fortune tellers, that babies born in the Year of the Horse are more vigorous than those born in the Year of the Goat, which begins on Thursday. Well-known Hong Kong fortune teller Mak Ling-ling said some parents were keen to have their babies early in order for their “luckier” offspring to collect lai see – cash gifts given over Lunar New Year  – from their relatives. READ MORE  HERE >


Breath test for Parkinson’s disease

Experts believe that a simple breath test could help doctors detect and diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

The test looks for a unique signature of chemicals in exhaled breath.
Small studies in volunteers have begun and early findings suggest the test can identify those with the debilitating brain condition.
Larger trials are now planned to see if it could truly be a useful test, particularly for picking up Parkinson’s in its earliest stages.
Currently, no test can conclusively show that a person has Parkinson’s.

Instead, doctors reach a diagnosis based on a person’s symptoms and test results – such as brain scans to rule out other diseases.
At this stage, Parkinson’s may already be fairly advanced.
Identifying it earlier would be beneficial because it would mean treatment could be given sooner.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition where there is gradual loss of nerve cells from the brain.

And it is thought that this degradation leaves a chemical footprint in the body that could potentially be used in diagnostic tests.

Scientists have been exploring different ways of finding such biomarkers, including looking in blood, spinal fluid, and exhaled breath.

The breath test looks for traces of volatile organic compounds or VOCs in the air we exhale.

In a small trial in Israel with 57 people, some with Parkinson’s and some without, the test could identify the individuals with Parkinson’s by looking for distinctive patterns of VOCs.

It also appeared to distinguish between different sub-types of the disease based on the presence and quantity of different VOCs.

The charity Parkinson’s UK and experts at the University of Cambridge were intrigued by these early findings and are now setting out to do a bigger study involving 200 volunteers from England.

Dr Simon Stott, who is part of this UK team and will be working alongside the scientists from the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, said: “We would like to find biomarkers that can identify patients early.

“A breath test would be really appealing because it’s non-invasive, non-painful and can be done in seconds.

“While it wouldn’t replace what doctors already do, it could be a useful diagnostic tool to help them.”

The biggest hope is that there may be molecules in the breath of people with Parkinson’s which throw up new options for drug targets.

The researchers say they have many years of work ahead of them before they will know if the test can be used in clinics.

BBC News

Babies with frequent eye movement could be a clue to autism

Frequent eye movements in babies could be a clue to whether they will develop an autism spectrum disorder, a Medical Research Council study suggests.

Using eye-tracking technology, researchers measured 100 six-month-old babies looking at a static image.

Those later diagnosed with ASD moved their eyes around more often, which could be a cause of learning problems.

BBC News

Women more likely to die with type 1 diabetes

Women with type 1 diabetes face a greater risk of dying from a range of diseases compared with men with the same condition, research suggests.

This is particularly the case when it comes to heart disease, Australian scientists report.

They say their findings could have “profound implications” for how women with the condition are treated.

Charities warn that the study highlights a failure of care that needs to be changed urgently.

Type 1 diabetes is a disorder that often appears in childhood. Patients’ pancreases are unable to produce the insulin needed to convert sugar and other foods into energy.

Compared with the general population, people with type 1 diabetes have a shorter life expectancy. But researchers say it hasn’t been clear until now whether this affects men and women equally.

To investigate this, scientists from the University of Queensland analysed data from more than 26 studies involving some 200,000 people with the disease.

Overall, they found women had a 40% increased risk of deaths from all causes.

They faced a greater risk of stroke than men and were also more likely to die from kidney disease.

No-one is entirely sure what lies behind these trends.

Simon O’Neill, of Diabetes UK said there had been evidence to suggest changes to girls’ bodies during puberty could make it more difficult for them to get their diabetes under control.

He added: “We need the NHS to urgently improve diabetes care so that all people are offered care that is tailored to their individual needs and so are able to manage their condition effectively and reduce their risk of devastating complications and early death.

“With the right care and support in place there is no reason why people with type 1 diabetes – both men and women – can’t live long, healthy lives.”

Sarah Johnson, from type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “I’m angry. These findings show that type 1 diabetes care is failing and these failings should be addressed urgently for everyone with the condition – not just women.”

Prof Rachel Huxley, lead researcher on the project, said in a statement: “The marked difference between the sexes for vascular-related disease is likely to have profound clinical implications for how women with type 1 diabetes are treated and managed throughout their lives.”

The study appears in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

BBC News

Saudi Arabia. Deadline for biometrics has now passed

The media in Saudi Arabia has caused confusion among expats this week as it had reported that the deadline for registration of health insurance and biometrics was to be extended three months, until April this year.

The Passport Office has strongly refuted these claims and assured expats that, contrary to the media reports, the deadline for registration has not been extended, and that it has now passed. The deadline for registering biometrics in Saudi Arabia was the 21st January this year.

It has now become mandatory for all male and female expats, and their dependents over the age of fifteen, to have their biometrics registered with the Passport Office of Saudi Arabia. Residency permits (iqamas) are issued to those expatriates who live in Saudi Arabia on an employment visa. These will now not be issued or renewed without proof of health insurance and biometrics, without an iqama, entry and exit will be denied to expats. Once fingerprints have been recorded on the Automated Central System (ACS), they do not need to be recorded again, although they will be checked upon exit and entry to the country and upon renewal of the iqama, which is only valid for one to two years.

It must be noted by expats living in the country that they are liable to face a considerable fine if they have not already registered their biometrics, and their exit visas will not be granted until this has been done. Information on where to go to register can be found on the passport control website.


Exercise advice is unrealistic

imagesResearchers say current exercise guidelines are unrealistic and argue that doctors should sometimes advise small increases in activity instead.

They warn the 150-minute weekly target is beyond the reach of some people – particularly older individuals.

And striving to reach these goals could mean the benefits of lighter exercise are overlooked.

But public health officials say current recommendations have proven benefits in lowering the risk of heart disease.

Tailored advice

There is mounting evidence that inactivity is linked to heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

UK guidelines for adults recommend at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity a week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

But in two separate articles in the BMJ, experts argue the message needs to change, with greater emphasis on making inactive people move more.

Prof Philipe de Souto Barreto at the University Hospital of Toulouse, advises people who are sedentary to make small incremental increases in their activity levels – rather than pushing to achieve current goals.

He points to previous studies which show even short periods of walking or just 20 minutes of vigorous activity a few times a month, can reduce the risk of death, compared to people who do no exercise.

In the second article, Prof Phillip Sparling of the Georgia Institute of Technology, says doctors should tailor their advice – particularly for older patients.

He suggests using GP visits for people over 60 to discuss “realistic options” to increase activity – such as getting people to stand up and move during TV commercial breaks.

Prof Kevin Fenton at Public Health England, says: “Everyone needs to be active every day – bouts of 10 or more minutes of physical activity have proven health benefits, but getting 150 minutes or more of moderate activity every week is the amount we need to positively impact on a wide range of health conditions.

“This includes reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”

BBC News