Behind the Headlines

Behind the Headlines, a service provided by the NHS, offers an unbiased and evidence-based analysis of health stories that make the news. Click here to read more about Behind the Headlines.


Reality TV exposing young people to alcohol and smoking

18 June 2019

"Reality TV encourages children to drink and smoke, experts warn," The Guardian reports. A new study measured the amount of smoking and alcohol shown in the complete series of 5 reality TV programmes aired last year: Celebrity Big Brother, Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore and Love Island.

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Red meat linked to higher chance of dying earlier

13 June 2019

The Daily Telegraph reports that "swapping one portion of red meat a day for fish or nuts could cut risk of early death by almost a fifth".

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Warning that strobe lighting used at music festivals could trigger seizures

12 June 2019

"Music festival lighting 'can trigger epileptic fits'," reports BBC News. Dutch researchers used records from a company providing medical services to music festivals to investigate the number of festival goers treated for epileptic seizures (fits). They looked at 28 electronic dance music festivals held in the Netherlands in 2015. They compared the number of seizures during concerts held in daylight with the number during night-time or indoor concerts, where strobe lighting is more intense.

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Sleeping with light or TV on linked to weight gain in women

11 June 2019

"Falling asleep in front of the TV could increase the risk of obesity," The Daily Telegraph reports.

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Claims that tomato juice is good for the heart not backed by evidence

06 June 2019

"Drinking tomato juice can reduce your risk of heart disease, study reveals," the Daily Mirror reports.

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Number of girls and young women reporting self-harm in England on the rise

05 June 2019

"Self-harm in girls and young women rising at 'alarming' rate," reports Sky News. A study based on 3 surveys of people in England aged 16 to 74 found a worrying rise in people who say they have ever self-harmed. The overall numbers rose from 2.4% in 2000 to 6.4% in 2014. The increase in reported self-harm was biggest among women and girls aged 16 to 24, with 19.7% of those questioned in 2014 saying they'd self-harmed.

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'Pregnancy hormone' may help treat frozen shoulder

04 June 2019

"A hormone most commonly produced during pregnancy could be used to treat a painful joint condition according to new research," the Mail Online reports. The research involved rats who'd undergone surgery to replicate what's commonly called frozen shoulder in humans.

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Does 'ultra-processed' food cause earlier death?

30 May 2019

"Heavily processed food like ready meals and ice-cream linked to early death," reports The Guardian. The headline comes from 2 large observational studies, which found people who ate the most "ultra-processed" food were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, or to die sooner, compared with those who ate the least ultra-processed food.

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Major study finds no link between night shift work and breast cancer

29 May 2019

"Night shifts do not increase breast cancer risk, study concludes," reports The Guardian. This reassuring headline follows analysis of information about more than 100,000 women in the UK over a 10-year period. A link between night shift work and breast cancer risk was first proposed 30 years ago.

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Honey 'as good as antiviral creams' for cold sores

28 May 2019

"Honey is 'just as effective at treating cold sores as anti-viral creams'," the Mail Online reports. Cold sores are skin infections around the mouth caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). You catch the virus through direct skin contact with another person who has the virus. Once you have it, HSV lies dormant in the nerve cells and can reactivate at another time, which is why some people get recurrent cold sores, particularly when they're run down.

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Fewer now dying from strokes, but numbers having them go up in the young

23 May 2019

"Stroke deaths in England halved in a decade," reports The Guardian, but the Sun warns us that, "Stroke rates are rocketing among young Brits due to obesity and cocaine use". Both headlines were prompted by a new study where researchers looked at NHS stroke data from between 2001 and 2010. They found the number of people in England dying from stroke fell sharply during this time, with drops each year of about 6%.

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Sleep apnoea possibly linked to cancer risk in women

22 May 2019

"Snoring or waking up exhausted 'could be linked to cancer'," reports the Sun. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. This makes people wake up briefly to catch their breath, though many people with OSA do not remember doing so.

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Heart scan may detect young people at risk of sudden cardiac death

21 May 2019

Heart scan ‘could pick up signs of sudden death risk’ BBC News report

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