coffee, Health, Uncategorized

Could a cup of coffee a day really keep the doctor away?


Whether it’s your morning rush of energy or simply enjoying the fruity, smoky smoothness as it settles on your palette, Brits love a good cup of coffee.


With the London Coffee Festival commencing tomorrow and the celebration of all things from lattes to skinny caramel macchiatos, coffee lovers will rejoice to learn that their caffeine fix could in fact be helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.


A  new study led by Professor Hui-Chen Lu from Indiana University has discovered that caffeine is one of the 24 compounds that boost the enzyme NMNAT24 in the brain.


The study, published last month, found that NMNAT24 protects neurons from stress and fights against the proteins called tau, which build up in the brain as plaques. These plaques have been proven to cause neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.


‘This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain and could play a role in future treatment of these debilitating mental disorders,’ Lu said in a press statement released by the university.


Alzheimer’s Research UK states that there are currently 850,000 people suffering in the UK, a 56% increase since 2010/11 and it is predicted that this number will increase to over one million by 2025, with a cure yet to be discovered.


Roger Cook, science manager at the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee said: ‘Whilst the research findings are valuable in providing further understanding of a very unpleasant condition, much more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.’


Starbucks regular and student Alissa D’antonio, 20 said: ‘It’s great that scientific research is working to uncover cures and prevention for Alzheimer’s. I drink at least 3 cups of coffee a day but research needs to conclude how much coffee is beneficial and how much can be harmful. I’m a smoker so I have to be wary about my heart rate and other problems associated with stimulants anyway.’


Robin Brisbourne from Alzheimer’s Research UK stated that: ‘The best current evidence from the dementia prevention field suggests that eating a healthy diet, staying mentally and physically active, not smoking and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check are the most effective ways to keep our brains healthy.’

Female, Health, News Feature, Religion

The Question of Catholics and Contraception

‘The Lord commands us to be fruitful and multiply’, the sacred words taken from the Book of Genesis which provide the foundation of the Catholic religion. However there is a stigma surrounding the Catholic Church’s beliefs on contraception with the illusion that all Catholics believe that artificial birth control is intrinsically evil and those who use it are sinners. Women today are ploughed with the societal norm that contraception is a staple of feminism and the key to feminine health, despite the unpleasant side effects on the body and mind.  


Pippa Bonner from the Catholic Women’s Ordination which campaign for female rights within the Church said: ‘Non-Catholics can’t understand why we hold these views and we are often criticised for supposedly taking away a key feature of Women’s Rights. However ultimately we teach that women should take charge of their own bodies in order to protect themselves and do whatever makes them happy.’ 


Modern research into the Church and its stance on contraception provides a more unorthodox interpretation which contrasts the traditional portrayal of Catholicism. A 2008 study by The Tablet magazine of 1,500 Mass-goers in England and Wales found that 54.5% used the contraceptive pill and nearly 69% had or would consider using condoms. 


Nina Azadeh from The Catholic Church for England and Wales states: ‘The Church recommends methods of self-observation and Natural Family Planning. Natural methods maintain the dignity of men and women whilst respecting the innate laws of the female body.’  


Natural Family Planning involves a woman observing the various natural indicators of fertility on each day of her menstrual cycle such as body temperature and the length between periods. This will enable her to identify when she is fertile and likely to get pregnant. 


The promotion of Natural Family Planning has recently gained increased recognition with more readily available online advice and the creation of the iOS and Android app ‘Natural Cycles’ which has been medically tested and is said to be just as effective as the contraceptive pill.  


Nina Azadeh continues: ‘It is no accident that Natural Family Planning is called natural; it is ecological, holistic, healthy and an exercise in partnership.’ This sparks the question whether the ideology of the Catholic Church could be more useful to the female population and their relationships than society has led us to believe.  


Whitney Belprez grew up as a casual Protestant and a regular user of the contraceptive pill since the age of fifteen: ‘I didn’t think of contraception any differently than what the predominant culture had taught. Being on some form of artificial contraception was the norm and my friends and family considered people who weren’t to be irresponsible.’ 


Whitney went on to meet the man who was to become her husband, a practicing Roman Catholic. She then made the decision in 2008 to convert to Catholicism and further explore the Church’s tenets, particularly in regards to contraception. She said: ‘I wanted to understand why the Church had these beliefs about contraception and I wanted to know more about Natural Family Planning but the lack of resources and the taboo nature of the topic meant I was simply directed to a brochure or the Diocese website.’ 


‘Despite knowledge on the Church’s teachings, the possibility of pregnancy was scary to both me and my husband as we were young and without steady jobs. Therefore we felt staying on the Pill was the only suitable option.’ 


After years of swallowing a pill which had accumulated an unnatural amount of oestrogen and progesterone inside her body, Whitney began to experience ovarian cysts, abnormal uterine bleeding and excessive pain which her doctor concluded could be an effect of contraception. 


Research obtained by Family Planning Specialist Dr. David Delvin in 2016 found that 100 million women take the Pill worldwide making it the most popular form of contraception along with other methods such as the implant, IUD and the hormonal injection. The Pill is said to be 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. However Dr. Delvin found that the risk of blood clots (VTE) increased from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 1,000 for women taking the Pill along with the endless list of more common side effects such as depression, migraines, weight gain, sore breasts, hair loss, low libido, irregular bleeding, and the rest. 


The hormonal surge which is absorbed into the body when using artificial contraception is bound to have concerning effects on the female anatomy. Despite this girls are continually encouraged to put up with these problems and stresses without really knowing what harm contraception could be doing to their bodies. 


Whitney decided to stop using artificial contraception in a bid to save her body. She said: ‘It was incredibly empowering, I had never felt healthier in my life. It was amazing to see how much the artificial hormones had interfered with my body and to finally be able to see that my body could do what it had been created to do.’  


‘This was completely counter to the cultural message we hear which is that to take this drug to turn off a perfectly natural function of our body. For me coming off contraception was nothing but a positive experience.’ 


Whitney and her husband soon began to explore Natural Family Planning and in 2011 fell pregnant with their first child. 


‘I am completely anti-contraception now, it is detrimental to women’s health and relationships. I would say our marriage has greatly improved since embracing NFP. There are so many women who are miserable taking contraception with its myriad of side effects, and having never heard of NFP or think it’s the ‘rhythm method’ and ineffective. I plan to teach all of my children NFP as teenagers and think that offering NFP classes for couples would be extremely beneficial.’ 


Many studies show NFP to be just as effective as artificial methods of contraception, both in preventing pregnancy and as an aid when couples are trying to conceive. A spokesperson for the Family Planning Association said: ‘There really is no preference on which method is better than another, it’s completely up to the individual to decide what works for them. The Natural Family Planning method does require the individual to be committed to ensure methods are used according to instructions to avoid unwanted pregnancy, but if done correctly it can be just as effective as artificial methods.’ 


In a bid to help women follow these instructions, the Natural Cycles app was launched in 2013 by Dr. Elina Berglund and her husband Dr. Raoul Scherwitzl. The app now has approximately 150,000 users worldwide and costs around £60 a year. The app works by the woman taking her temperature each morning and logging it into the app which then labels fertile days as red, when she should abstain from sex or use a condom, and infertile or ‘safe’ days are labelled green. 


Harry Cymbler from the app’s PR team said: ‘The app was created to increase choice and freedom in regards to contraception. It will empower all women with knowledge about their body, menstrual cycle and fertility and therefore able to make their own conscious decisions.’ 


Harry continued: ‘We have had a large amount of attention from the religious press and the Catholic news agencies in particular. The app wasn’t created with a religious agenda but it has been interesting to see the different responses.’ 


Natural Cycles joins other fertility tracking apps such as Kindara, Ovia and Glow in what appears to be a revolutionary movement changing attitudes and increasing choice in regards to birth control once and for all. After decades of women being bombarded with the assumption that artificial contraception is an essential part of any sexually active adult’s life, the doors are opening for people who want to get away from the synthetic hormones and experiment with the steadily growing number of alternatives proven to be just as effective. 


The increasing knowledge and resources associated with natural methods of birth control is an optimistic development for the Catholic Church in the hope that people will become more understanding of their views on sex and also to remind women that they should make their own decisions on what happens to their body and not feel pressured by the norms of society.


Welsh RNLI coxswain awarded MBE for 30 years’ service

A post shared by RNLI Rhyl (@rnlirhyl) on Aug 22, 2016 at 1:38am PDT


The rough chop of the Welsh sea wades back and forth across Rhyl’s famous seaside sand. The fierce tidal surge we witness from the overlooking window of the lifeboat station provides a stark reminder of the true power of the ocean, something that Martin Jones (right) is all too familiar with.

Martin, 47 sits opposite me with a beaming smile from ear-to-ear as he says: ‘I received a letter in January from the Cabinet Office which said that the Prime Minister had recommended me to The Queen for this award.’

Martin Jones has been part of the Rhyl lifeboat crew for almost 30 years. In December he received the news that he is to be awarded an MBE for his outstanding services to maritime safety. He said excitedly, ‘I thought it was a wind up at first! You usually get these awards at the end of your career, not in the middle, it was a definite surprise.’

Martin began volunteering for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution when he was just seventeen and progressed to the paid positions of mechanic, training coordinator and went on to become the station’s coxswain in 2010. The charity was founded in 1824 and has saved over 140,000 lives. The Rhyl station covers a 55 mile distance from Colwyn Bay to Hoylake which can experience particularly rough seas and cyclonic gales during the winter months.

When asked what attracted him to the lifeboats, smiling once again Martin replied, ‘My grandfather Eric was a tractor driver for the crew, as a child I would come to the station and experience it. I always dreamt that I would work for the lifeboat myself.’

Having been on over 700 call-outs during his time in the crew, Martin can’t possibly have experienced heroic satisfaction all of the time. ‘It is an amazingly fulfilling job, you get some real satisfaction, although you do sometimes have the unpleasant task of recovering bodies.’ Martin reminisces on occasions where he and his crew had to ride 10-foot waves in force ten storms, putting themselves in danger in order to save others.

When I spun the conversation back to the MBE he coyly replied, ‘It’s not my cup of tea I don’t like the limelight, for me I just do my job, but it’s not often you can say you’ve been inside Buckingham Palace.’ Martin was delightfully decorous and evidently shocked by the news of his award.

For Martin he may just be doing a job, but it is definitely far from the average nine-to-five career. Martin began to recall some of the harrowing experiences he has witnessed over his thirty year spin. He stated that he is also part of the National Flood Team and helped to save 74 people during the Cumbria floods in December 2015, including a grandmother and two children whose bungalow was completely flooded. ‘Having two children myself it really did hit home, what might have happened if we hadn’t arrived on time? Being able to save children who have maybe been washed out to sea and hand them back to their parents is the most amazing feeling.’

Martin began to reminisce about the downsides of such a demanding profession. He particularly focused on the struggles and strains his work commitments have on family life. ‘Every single year the pager has gone off on my daughter’s birthday, she’s fifteen. But I have no choice, the lifeboat has to come first and the boat has to go to sea.’ Martin has been married for thirteen years and says that his two children are used to his job-centric lifestyle ‘They have been brought up with it so they understand even though it has been a big strain over the years. They deserve the MBE too!’

Martin then exclaimed, ‘Would you like to come and see the boats?’ Before I knew it I was inside the 55 foot vessel as Martin proudly showed me the complex engine controls and steering gears within his floating kingdom. Observing first-hand the mechanics and on-hold medical equipment inside the boat highlighted how much skill really goes into a lifeboat rescue. Martin explained that it can take twelve to eighteen months to fully train a candidate.

A post shared by RNLI Rhyl (@rnlirhyl) on Jun 12, 2016 at 2:16am PDT


‘We are extremely lucky in Rhyl, we have 30 strong crew members who we can call on anytime. Some are doctors, electricians, doormen and additionally volunteer for the lifeboats, they have to drop everything if the pager goes off. Commitment is incredibly high but I do warn that it will take over your life, and the divorce rate is high!’ Modest Martin insisted that the MBE was an award dedicated to the whole charity and the incredible work completed by the volunteers and employees over the years.

A post shared by RNLI Rhyl (@rnlirhyl) on May 16, 2016 at 1:19pm PDT


Martin pointed out that an array of advancements are soon to arrive at the Rhyl lifeboat station including a £2.2 million Shannon class lifeboat which is the most technologically advanced of its kind and is twice as fast as Rhyl’s current Tamar class boat. He added that a visitor’s centre, training department and a station expansion was also in talks. ‘These new developments will be great for the local schools and educational purposes.’

Martin highlighted that a major issue for the lifeboats is the fact many people are not sufficiently educated on the deadly dangers at sea. He referred to the highly reported deaths of two boys after they were washed ashore on Barmouth beach in 2016, pointing out that this issue has never been more prominent.

Martin Jones finished the interview by saying that he is thoroughly looking forward to what 2017 holds for him and the lifeboat station. He said ‘I always say to people if you have a dream keep going for it, I did and it paid off.’

The interview with Martin was conducted on 5th February 2017 before he received his MBE on 25th March.


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Is this the end of London’s nightlife?

The 1980s saw London’s vibrant nightlife really come alive. The world of disco had arrived bringing with it a pop of neon lights shooting within the dark and mysterious walls that to an outsider looked like a simple building. Volume poured out of the speakers, as the dancefloor burst with expression and people unleashed their revolutionary alter egos, an escape from reality.

A nighttime escape created life shaping moments: people forming lifelong friends, falling in love and welcoming an escapade of new cultures and exhilaration into Britain, this is a staple of London’s iconic nightlife.

Unfortunately, this explosion of club-culture could not stand the test of time. The thirst for partying has slumped over the years, and it has caused apprehension as to what will become of our society if we abandon this incredible nighttime culture.

According to ALMR (the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers) there were 3,144 clubs across the UK in 2005, however this figure has depleted  to 1,733 in 2016, with London as one of the most effected.

On the 16th September, the world-famous Farringdon nightclub ‘Fabric’ was controversially closed after the death of Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley, both 18 as a result of MDMA consumption. This sparked an overwhelming campaign with protestors using the mantra #SaveOurCulture in an attempt to save one of the last remaining nuclei of London’s nighttime culture, and to prevent the 24 hour city dying a drug induced death.

The campaign which raised almost £335,000 to fund Fabric’s legal fees, finally won their case on the 21st November 2016 when a deal was struck with Islington Council to re-open the club which was originally founded in 1999.

Hooray! Some may say. The reopening of Fabric is certainly a start, although it does not ensure the public that this is an end to the rapid decline of London’s nightlife, and the devastating effects it is having on our economy and society.

Dr. Henry Fisher, editor at Volteface Magazine whom explore alternative ways to approach current drug policies in the UK said: ‘The #SaveOurCulture campaign proves that our nightlife is not in total decline, it is important to adopt a different outlook in regards to drugs if the problem is to be well and truly tackled.’

This distinct viewpoint is echoed by Alexios Const, a student representative who worked for Fabric. He said: ‘clubs aren’t contributing to the drug war, electronic music and drugs go hand-in-hand so shutting down clubs won’t put a stop to the problem. A new solution needs to be sought to put an end to this decline.’

Const made the point that clubs such as Fabric and Studio 338 (which closed in August) ‘are representative to us millennials and youth in general and provide a means to express music and culture.’

Over the last eight years London has lost 50 per cent of its nightclubs and 40 per cent of its live music.

Club DJ Jordan Campbell voiced his concerns regarding the ‘dying club culture’ and the effect it is having on today’s DJ and music sector.

‘People are becoming less inclined to DJ due to the lack of clubs, there is simply nowhere to express our musical talent and it is increasingly difficult to establish a long-running DJ career.’

ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nichols commented: ‘London clubs produce some of the best musical talent around, they are an integral part of the zeitgeist providing opportunities to learn and break into the music industry.’

Nichols expanded to mention the effect this nightlife decline will have on the UKs economy and society: ‘It is an integral part of the country’s social fabric and crucial economic assets, particularly as drivers of growth in local areas.’

London mayor Sadiq Khan has also been vocal on the issue. In a statement, Khan expressed his disappointment that clubs, councils and the police cannot seem to find a way to keep clubs open and safe.

‘No single organisation or public body can solve these problems alone – we all need to work together to ensure London thrives as a 24-hour city, in a way that is safe and enjoyable for everyone.’

In August, Mr Khan announced he would appoint a ‘night czar’, who would receive a £35,000 salary in exchange for work to boost the city’s night time economy.

In addition, the long-awaited all-night tube service launched on 19 August on the Central and Victoria lines.

Khan said: ‘The night tube is absolutely vital to my plans to support and grow London’s night-time economy.’

The night tube is estimated to boost £360 million over the next 30 years and contribute to creating more jobs and supporting businesses.