The sugary truth

Juice drinks can contain as much sugar as fizzy drinks, say safefood. Dilutable juice or cordial drinks were found to contain as much as five cubes of sugar in a small glass. Children should, therefore, be offered water more often.

“Milk or water are best for our children,” says Professor Donal O’Shea, obesity specialist with the HSE.

“As parents, we tend to ignore the contribution of liquids to our kids daily calorie intakes, but there is evidence that sugar-sweetened drinks are linked to obesity.”

45% of children are drinking soft drinks at least once a day, say safefood.

Top tips:

  • Don’t buy them: If they are not in the house, they can’t be consumed.
  • Water: Offer water at mealtimes instead. Switch to water at the cinema and when eating out so that you’re not double dosing on sugar.
  • See for a chart showing the sugar content of individual fruit juice and fizzy drink products.

    Morning-after pill may not work if you’re over 11st 11lbs

    Norlevo, the morning-after emergency contraception pill available from pharmacists, may not work if a woman weighs more than 75kg (11st 11lbs). Women over this weight are now being told to make an immediate appointment with their GP to get alternative emergency contraception (e.g. a five-day emergency contraceptive pill).

    The Dublin Well Woman Centre has called for an urgent campaign to increase awareness about this.

    The manufacturers found that contraceptive efficacy was reduced in women weighing 75kg or more.

    Effectiveness also decreases each day after unprotected sex, i.e. Norlevo is stated to be 95% effective if taken within 24 hours, but this decreases to 58% between 48 to 72 hours later. Manufacturers of Norlevo, which has been available from pharmacists after private consultation since 2011, have admitted that the medication may not work as well for heavier women and that they failed to include this information in the pack.

    Norlevo works by causing a blockade and/or delay of ovulation via suppression of the luteinizing hormone (LH) peak.

    Alison Begas of the Well Woman Centre says: “Emergency contraception is a very safe form of medication, but it is not a substitute for being on a more long-term form of contraception. There’s also a huge need to raise awareness around sexual health and STIs.”

    The centre is now calling for a comprehensive awareness campaign.

    Note: The average Irish woman weighs around 11 stone.

    Cycle or walk

    A pedometer challenge, organised by the National Transport Authority and the Irish Heart Foundation, led to 4,250 people from 56 of Ireland’s largest workplaces ditching their cars and walking or cycling to work instead. The overall winning workplace was St Vincent’s University Hospital, where participating workers clocked up an average of 939,1145 steps over four weeks.

    “In a country where 100,000 new cases of heart disease and stroke are diagnosed every year, the benefits of reducing risk factors like physical inactivity cannot be over-emphasised,” says Barry Dempsey, CEO of the IHF.

    Beware of Heart rhythm disorder

    30% of strokes in Ireland are caused by atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder. However, only 2% of us realise how serious the condition is. Rugby legends Fergus Slattery and Frankie Sheahen and 2FM DJ Will Leahy are now fronting a campaign to increase awareness of the condition, which affects 40,000 Irish people over 50. Many people don’t know they have it. Fergus Slattery was diagnosed with the condition himself four years ago and says: “I couldn’t stress enough the importance of checking for an irregular heartbeat. A simple pulse check will detect it early.”

    Antibiotic usage

    Antibiotic usage is higher in Ireland than in other European countries, according to the Eurobarometer report. 43% of 1,001 people interviewed had taken oral antibiotics in the past year, compared to an EU average of 35%. The good news is that this has decreased by 2% since the last survey in 2009 and awareness about antibiotic usage has also improved.

    Did you know?

  • Most dust particles in your house are made from dead skin.
  • Chia seeds are the highest known plant-based source of Omega 3.
  • A boy’s voice breaks at puberty because his vocal cords start to lengthen.
  • Your middle finger nail grows the fastest. The thumbnail grows the slowest.
  • You actually burn more calories sleeping that you do watching television.
  • The average Irish person consumes 10g of salt a day – 4g more than the advised 6g.
  • The build-up of fats (called plaque) on artery walls begins as early as age 12 to 17.
  • 2013 was a record year for transplants – 293 organs were transplanted compared to 275 in 2012. 38 living donor transplants are included in this.
  • The Migraine Association of Ireland has a new website. See
  • Cancer-only cover health insurance

    There are now 275 health insurance plans on the market and research is necessary to find out what plan suits you and your budget best.

    The good news is that insurers are now introducing no-frills packages. Both Laya and Aviva have cut their price plans. Glo offer free cover for children under three and VHI has also reduced some prices.

    Cancer-only cover is now available from Dolmen Insurance Brokers. While its Cancer Cover Plan is not a substitute for full health cover, Dolmen spokesperson Ronnie Smith believes that it will appeal to people who are struggling to keep their heads above water.

    “It is available regardless of family history, and no medical examination is required.”

    Monthly premiums start from €3.50 per month (for18- to 29-year-olds on the €32,000 lump sum cover level). Cover for a 50- to 54-year-old male or female non-smoker is €24.30 per month for the €32,000 pay-out and €43.75 per month for the €64,000. Premiums are dearer depending on your age and if you are a smoker. See for more information and also

    Sandwich generation

    A third of women aged 50- to 69-years-old are in the sandwich generation, providing care (time and money) to two generations – elderly parents and adult children.

    While these women make an important contribution by doing this work, it does have an impact on their own physical and mental health, according to the Trinity-led Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).

    Half of these women help elderly parents with daily chores and a third help adult children for an average of 12 hours per month. A third also look after grandchildren for an average of 34 hours per month. 9% provided financial support to parents to the tune of €2,000 in the past two years and two-thirds provided an average of €3,000 to their adult children in the past two years.

    “The depression experienced by these women may reflect both the financial strain and the stress of informal caring,” says researcher Dr Christine McGarrigle.

    Blood screening test for pre-eclampsia

    A new blood-screening test is being developed to detect pre-eclampsia, the late-stage pregnancy complication that can lead to mother and infant death.

    UCC is leading the way with its IMPROvED research initiative. The acronym stands for Improved Pregnancy Outcomes by Early Detection.

    First-time mothers are now being recruited in five EU countries and €6m in EU funding is being provided.

    If you would like to be involved, see

    A simple blood test at 15 weeks’ gestation is involved.

    Pre-eclampsia is the current leading cause of maternal death in Europe.

    “Our goal is to save the lives of affected mums and babies,” says Louise Kenny, Professor of Obstetrics, UCC.