The sun is here! For the first time in several years, much of the UK seems set for a proper spell of summer weather.

Sunshine helps us feel good and allows our bodies to make vitamin D that is important for the health of our bones and for helping to prevent heart disease and cancers. But too much exposure to sunlight brings dangers.

A recent publication* from the Office of National Statistics shows an increase in cancers in the UK and draws particular attention to skin cancer. Between 2002 and 2011, malignant skin cancer increased by 56% in males and 38% in females. It is thought this might be due to sunbathing and the use of sunbeds.

The daily use of a good sunscreen helps protect your skin from prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) light that induces skin cancer. This can literally save your life.

What you might not realise is that daily use of a sunscreen can also protect your skin from ageing processes and keep it looking younger. This has been demonstrated in a recent, timely, study** carried out in Australia.

This study followed 900 middle-aged adults for over 4 years in a controlled trial and compared a group who used sunscreen daily with a group who decided themselves if and when they used sunscreen. Some of the participants also took beta-carotene tablets – an antioxidant that some people take to lessen skin ageing – while others took a placebo for comparison.

The researchers used an established method for assessing skin ageing, and showed that skin ageing was reduced by 24% in the regular users of sunscreen. They found no benefit from taking the antioxidant tablets.

Enormous amounts of money are spent each year by people trying to keep their skin looking young. Some of these commercial products are effective, but many are expensive and can be of dubious merit.

It is good to have evidence that something as simple and easily available as sunscreen used daily can make a significant difference to skin ageing.

And it should reduce your risk of skin cancer too.


*Cancer statistics


**Link to the study: Ann Intern Med.

**Link to a summary:


If you have type 2 diabetes, as so many people do these days, then going for a walk after eating may help.

Were you told you should rest after meals? If you are over a certain age, it’s quite likely you have been following this advice since childhood – but it may be wrong.

After a meal, the level of glucose – a type of sugar – increases in your blood. One of the problems with diabetes is controlling this raised glucose level. Now there is some objective evidence from a small study* showing the benefit of low level physical activity after a meal.

The study involved 10 people older than 60 years who were asked to walk in a laboratory for 45 minutes at roughly 2½ mph either in one sustained session or as 15-minute sessions after each of their three main meals. Researchers compared their glucose levels afterwards. Both regimes improved the overall control of glucose levels over the whole day, but walking for 15 minutes after eating was better at controlling the rise in glucose after meals.

This was a small study, but it suggests that even a relatively modest amount of walking after meals – which is within the capability of older people and those less physically able or active – is beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. Higher levels of activity might bring even greater benefit, but it is good to know that even this low level of exercise helps.


*Link to a summary of the study:

Link to the study abstract:


There have long been health warnings over eating too much red meat. Initially the concern was over its fat content, and more recently there has been interest in whether the way red meat is broken down in the body might be behind an increase in the risk of heart disease and, to a lesser extent, stroke. Eating red meat has also been shown to have links with bowel cancer.

Now it may be the turn of type 2 diabetes, a rapidly increasing disease that not only brings its own problems but also contributes to the risk of heart disease.

Researchers* have used health data collected in nearly 150,000 American men and women who were followed up over more than 7 years. Among these, there were 7,450 new cases of type 2 diabetes.

In addition to the already known factors that might have explained these new cases, the researchers looked changes in the amount of red meat the participants ate. Those who increased their consumption by an average of half a serving of red meat a day for a four year period were more likely to get diabetes during the subsequent four years than those who didn’t. And those who cut their red meat consumption over the first four years were then less likely to go on to develop diabetes.

This wasn’t the whole story as there were changes in body weight – which is known to be a factor in diabetes – to take account of. But there was enough evidence to suggest red meat played a part in these people developing the condition.

However, a word of caution is needed. A study of this sort that looks retrospectively through data that wasn’t specifically collected for the purpose is not enough to establish cause and effect, or to say how such an effect arises.

For researchers, it raises interesting questions about red meat and how it might have led to this finding. For the rest of us, it is a useful reminder that we should be conscious of what we eat and of maintaining an appropriate body weight, and that those of us who consume a lot of red meat might consider the already current advice to replace some of it with fish, chicken, pulses or vegetables.

*Link to the study abstract:


© 2012 How to Live to 110 Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha