Health stories in the news — week ending 25th January 2015

NCOR’s Carol Fawkes gives us a round-up of osteopathically-relevant health stories that have been in the news this past week.

Reduction in the number of whiplash claims.

Third party motor insurance claims make up 70% of all motor insurance costs according to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA).   The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) which has been in place since April 2013 introduced a number of measures that have affected third party insurance claims.  The report shows that there has been a reduction in the cost of whiplash body claims by 19%, and a reduction of 12% in the frequency of body injury claims since the introduction of LASPO.   A copy of the IFoA’s short report can be found at

Institute of Faculty of Actuaries.  Third party motor claims from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) – Short version of the 2014 report analysing 2013 data.

Blood pressure and the effect of beetroot juice

Beetroot juice has been recommended in the management of hypertension.  This study funded by the British Heart Foundation used a double blind placebo controlled trial; 68 patients with hypertension were assigned to either daily dietary nitrate supplementation (250mL of beetroot juice) for four weeks or a placebo (250mL nitrate-free beetroot juice).  After completion of the trial, mean reduction in clinic blood pressure was 7.7/2.4mm Hg, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure was reduced by 7.7/5.2mm Hg, and home blood pressure was reduced by 8.1/3.8mm Hg.  The intervention was well-tolerated and suggests an adjunctive role for dietary nitrate in the management of patients with hypertension.

Kapil V, Khambata RS, Robertson et al.  Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients.  Hypertension. 2015;65:320-327.

The influence of a partner’s behaviour on health behaviour change

Couples demonstrate highly similar behaviour for unhealthy behaviour.  However, a change in the behaviour of one partner is often associated with change in the other partner’s behaviour.  Since no studies have examined the effect of one partner’s newly-acquired healthy behaviour on a partner who already demonstrates healthy behaviour, prospective data was examined to investigate this effect.  Data from 3722 couples was examined looking specifically at smoking, physical inactivity, and excess weight.   The study found that men and women are more likely to make a positive health change if their partner is also involved in the behaviour change.

Jackson SE, Steptoe A, Wardle J.  The Influence of Partner’s Behaviour on Health Behaviour Change.  The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.    JAMA Internal Medicine Published Online January 19, 2015.  doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554.

Assessing the health benefits of outdoor walking groups

New health interventions advise us to become more active and walking groups are an increasingly popular means of activity.  This systematic review and meta-analysis looked at differences in physiological, psychological, and well-being outcomes.   A total of 42 studies involving 1843 participants were examined.

Statistically significant reductions were found in the mean differences for systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, BMI, total cholesterol, and depression score.  An increase in VO2max  was identified.  Evidence was less clear for changes in waist circumferences, serum lipids, and fasting lipids.

Hanson S, Jones A.  Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits?   A systematic review and meta-analysis.  British Journal of Sports Medicine published online 19 January, 2015.  doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094157.

Prolonged periods of sitting and its effects on health

The longer period of time spent sitting, the more detrimental it has found to be on general health.  A study conducted in Canada identified that prolonged amounts of time spent sitting was associated with an increased risk of developing a range of different health disorders.  The harmful effects of prolonged sitting are more pronounced in individuals who engage in little or no exercise.  Further research is needed to identify how much physical activity is required to try to compensate for the health risks associated with large amounts of sedentary time.  The full citation for the paper is given below.

Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, et al.  Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalisation in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.  Annals Intern Med.  2015;162(2):123-132