Study shows diet fizzy drinks ‘increase risk of dying’ as much as full-sugar

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So-called diet drinks which are marketed as lower calorie versions are actually no better for your health than the full-sugar variety, new research suggests.

Drinking beverages made with artificial sweeteners “raises your risk of dying young” with consumers more likely to die from heart disease, the report shows.

Experts from Zhengzhou University in China tracked 1.2million adults over more than 20 years to learn about their consumption of soft drinks.

They recorded 137,310 deaths during this time with the risk of dying increasing for every 250ml consumed each day.

A standard can of pop is 330ml with a bottle hitting 500ml.

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Writing in the Journal of Public Health, the leading author of the study, Dr Hongyi Li, said that people who drank sugar-sweetened drinks had a 5% increased risk of dying from any cause.

And they had a 13% increase in risk of dying from heart disease, reports The Sun.

People who drank the most sugar-sweetened drinks were 12% more likely to die from any cause and 20% more likely to die from heart disease when compared to those who drank the least.

Meanwhile, when looking at artificially sweetened drinks the researchers discovered that people were 4% more at risk of dying from any cause and 7% higher risk of drying from heart disease.

People who drank more of the artificially sweetened drinks were 12% more likely to die of any cause and 23% more likely to die of heart disease.

That’s just a 3% increase on those drinking the drinks including sugar.

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Experts said that people should avoid drinking these drinks ideally, but that they are fine as part of an overall healthy diet.

Dr Li said: “High consumption of both artificially sweetened beverages and sugar-sweetened beverages showed significant associations with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and all-cause mortality.

“This information may provide ideas for decreasing the global burden of diseases by reducing sweetened beverage intake.”

Meanwhile, a whopping two thirds of Brits said that they would rather sacrifice years of their life than give up eating meat.

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China reports 19 new COVID-19 cases vs 6 a day earlier

FILE PHOTO: People line up at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mobile vaccination unit in Beijing, China, April 14, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China reported 19 new COVID-19 cases on April 22, up from six cases a day earlier, the national health authority said on Friday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement all of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 24 from 16 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 90,566, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

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World awaits China COVID origins report

It was only in January 2021 that a team of international experts assembled by WHO finally visited Wuhan to start a month-long in

The much-anticipated report from the international mission to Wuhan to investigate COVID-19’s origins is set to be published this week, following intense US and Chinese pressure over its contents.

The coronavirus pandemic has engulfed the planet, killing more than 2.6 million people and shredding the global economy since the first cases emerged in the Chinese city in December 2019.

In the 15 months since then, science has miraculously developed multiple vaccines to fight the disease—but the mystery at the very heart of the pandemic remains unsolved.

It was only in January 2021 that a team of international experts assembled by the World Health Organization finally visited Wuhan to start a month-long investigation on the ground.

The WHO mission was aimed at finding clues as to how the virus originally jumped from animals into humans.

Now, another month on after leaving Wuhan, the team and its Chinese counterparts are set to issue their findings—which should help to identify the most likely pathways, while relegating other less probable hypotheses.

Hunt for clues

While global leaders want immediate answers, uncovering the exact origin of an epidemic takes time—and is sometimes never found.

Nonetheless, the mission members, drawn from a range of fields and disciplines, are upbeat.

“I’m convinced we’re going to find out fairly soon. Within the next few years, we’re going to have real significant data on where this came from and how it emerged,” British zoologist Peter Daszak, one of the team members, said on Wednesday.

On February 9, the team held a lengthy news conference in Wuhan before departing, giving a taster of what might appear in the report.

Experts believe that SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, originally came from bats, and jumped into humans via an intermediate animal.

However, samples from tens of thousands of wild, domestic and farm animals in the region revealed no trace of the virus.

The scientists are also uncertain as to where and when the outbreak started, though the Wuhan cases remain the earliest known.

Likeliest route

That said, the mission has produced a number of hypotheses.

“There was conduit (back) from Wuhan to the provinces in south China where the closest relative viruses to SARS-CoV-2 are found in bats,” Daszak told an event hosted by Britain’s Chatham House think-tank last week.

“It provides a link and a pathway by which a virus could convincingly spill over from wildlife into either people or animals farmed in the region and then shipped into a market.

“That’s a really important clue.”

The team also did not rule out transmission through frozen meat—imported frozen food packages being Beijing’s favourite theory.

Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, also a member of the team, said that while transmission of the virus could potentially happen through infected people touching frozen food products, “the origin most likely is not the outside of the package”.

However, she and her colleagues said frozen wild meat from neighbouring provinces remained a “very valid option”.

The idea of a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology—a hypothesis promoted by former US president Donald Trump’s administration—is “the least likely on the list of our hypotheses”, said Koopmans.

It was downplayed at the Wuhan news conference.

However, back in Geneva, in the face of clouds of suspicion that continued to hang over the mission, WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted all hypotheses remained on the table and promised transparency over the report.

Tug of war

Behind the scenes and in public, China and the United States have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the report.

The plan to publish a summary first, with the main report to follow, was ditched in late February, without any real explanation from the WHO.

The White House, which had had concerns about a summary report being issued first that would not contain the underlying data behind it, voiced its delight and claimed credit for the change of plan.

US and Chinese diplomats have waded in more than once while awaiting the report, with one side calling for greater transparency; the other insisting that the mission was only possible with scientific cooperation from Beijing.

Trump had accused the WHO of being China’s puppet.

Though his successor Joe Biden has changed the tone towards the UN health agency since becoming US president in January, Washington has continued to voice serious concerns about the WHO investigation, and has pushed Beijing to provide more information.

The pressure is emanating not just from the United States.

Walter Stevens, the European Union’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, recently called for the report to be “completely transparent” and answer the questions “that we all have”.

The mission insists it got access to all the sites and people it wanted to.

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WHO report on Wuhan, China mission due in mid-March: officials

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) – The findings of a WHO-led mission to Wuhan, China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are expected in mid-March, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

“The current timing is the week of 14-15 March,” Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO expert who led the mission, told a news briefing.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, said. “To clarify, there was never a plan for an interim report, first of all. It was hoped we would get a summary report out…The director-general (Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) will receive that report from the team in the near future and we will discuss the recommendations.”

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WHO expert in Wuhan says lab leak 'very unlikely' as COVID source

Peter Ben Embarek, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), attends the WHO-China joint study news conference at a hotel in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization-led team of experts investigating the origins of COVID-19, Peter Ben Embarek, said on Tuesday that it was “very unlikely” that a leak from a laboratory was the source of the outbreak.

During its investigation in the central Chinese city where the virus first emerged, the team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the subject of a number of conspiracy theories that claim a lab leak caused the city’s outbreak.

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China to provide 10M COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries

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China will supply 10 million coronavirus vaccines to developing countries through an initiative co-led by the World Health Organization, called COVAX, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

Spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a briefing Wednesday China is answering to a request from the WHO, to help supply vaccines to lower income countries.

He did not specify which Chinese vaccine would go to COVAX. Through the pandemic, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been urging the importance of COVAX for a fair distribution of vaccines globally. Experts say widespread vaccination will help prevent emerging mutations in coronavirus strains and ultimately conquer the pandemic.

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China has already shipped large numbers of doses of its own vaccines, mainly to developing countries. It has pursued deals or donations with more than 30 nations far exceeding the 10 million doses it is providing to COVAX. In Turkey alone, Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd. has struck a deal to sell 50 million doses.

Its global efforts are seen by many as an attempt to boost China’s reputation as it seeks to repair its image after the first cases of the coronavirus were detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Earlier on during the pandemic, China donated face masks and protective gear to countries around the world as part of a diplomatic push.

Wenbin said the WHO is investigating emergency approvals for Chinese vaccines, though the products have met criticism for lacking data from late-stage trials.

A vaccine developed by Sinopharm has been authorized for use in China, and the company said the vaccine is 79.3% effective. Sinovac’s shot in particular has raised concerns after it initially announced an efficacy rate of 78% at protecting against symptomatic illness, but after counting mild cases announced that effectiveness is just over 50%, based on its trial in Brazil.

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The WHO intends to distribute 2 billion safe and effective vaccines to developing countries through COVAX in 2021. AstraZeneca has already agreed to supply 170 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Pfizer signed on to provide 40 million doses, and Johnson & Johnson has signed a memorandum of understanding for 500 million doses of its one-shot vaccine. The agreements follow other deals, like 200 million doses from the Serum Institute of India and 200 million doses of the Sanofi/GSK vaccine candidate, according to the WHO.

Shipments are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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China to donate 500,000 Covid-19 vaccines to Pakistan

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China will donate 500,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Pakistan, the country’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday.

It comes as the number of coronavirus cases surged to 527,146 in Pakistan, with over 11,000 deaths since the virus was first detected in February last year.

“Pakistan greatly appreciates the 500,000 doses of the vaccine gifted by China,” foreign minister Qureshi tweeted.

The news follows similar announcements from other nations in the region—the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar have all announced they were set to receive vaccine donations from Beijing.

Qureshi had earlier told reporters: “China has assured us that the first shipment of half a million doses will be free of cost and will arrive by end of January”.

Beijing also promised to send another one million doses by end of February, he said, adding that emergency use and authorisation of the SinoPharm vaccine had been approved in Pakistan.

For years, China has focused much of its attention in Pakistan on mammoth development projects, bankrolling the construction of roads, power plants and a strategic port.

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China OKs 1st homegrown coronavirus vaccine as virus surges globally

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China authorized its first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine for general use Thursday, adding another shot that could see wide use in poorer countries as the virus surges back around the globe.

The Sinopharm vaccine had already been given to groups such as health care professionals and essential workers under emergency-use guidelines as part of China’s program to inoculate 50 million people before the Lunar New Year holiday in February. But the go-ahead should allow it to be supplied more broadly at home and moves Beijing closer to being able to ship it abroad. It comes one day after British regulators authorized AstraZeneca’s inexpensive and easy-to-handle vaccine.

Both shots have been closely watched by developing countries, many of which have been unable to secure the Pfizer and Moderna doses being snapped up by rich nations. Pakistan’s science minister said Thursday that his government will buy 1.2 million doses of a Sinopharm shot, two days after its death toll topped 10,000.

In this Dec. 25, 2020 file photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, a staff member inspects syringes of COVID-19 inactivated vaccine products at a packaging plant of the Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., Ltd, a unit of state-owned Sinopharm in Beijing. (Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via AP, File)

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The greenlight came a day after the state-owned company announced that preliminary data from last-stage trials had shown it to be 79.3% effective. That announcement did not detail the size of the control group, how many people were vaccinated and at what point the efficacy rate was reached after injection, and experts have cautioned that trial data needs to be shared.

Officials have said the vaccine standards were developed in "close cooperation" with the World Health Organization. Securing WHO’s so-called pre-qualification could go some way toward assuring the rest of the world about the quality of Chinese vaccines, which already face a reputation problem back home. It would also open the path for the shots to be distributed in the global vaccine consortium, COVAX, and potentially in countries that don’t have their own regulatory agencies.

China is eager to ship its vaccines globally, driven by a desire to repair the damage to its image caused by the pandemic that started a year ago in the central city of Wuhan.

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Technically, China granted conditional approval for the vaccine, meaning that research is still ongoing, and the company will be required to submit follow-up data as well as reports of any adverse effects after the vaccine is sold on the market, Chen Shifei, the deputy commissioner of the National Medical Products Administration, told a news conference. Final proof of its effectiveness will depend on publication of more data.

Sinopharm, which has another shot under development, is one of at least five Chinese developers that are in a global race to create vaccines for the disease that has killed more than 1.8 million people. While the Pfizer and Moderna shots have been greeted with much fanfare in the West, those shots must be stored at ultra-cold or freezer temperatures, complicating distribution.

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The Sinopharm vaccine, like the AstraZeneca one, could be easier for countries around the world to handle since they can be stored at normal fridge temperatures.

Both shots, as well as Russia’s Sputnik, are expected to be supply much of the developing world. That means the cost will also be important. AstraZeneca is expected to cost about $2.50 a dose, while Russia has said its doses will be priced at $10 for the global market. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements with the U.S. government.

Chinese officials declined to name a particular price and gave conflicting statements about it. One official said it would be affordable for the Chinese public, but another jumped in to clarify that it will be free. President Xi Jinping had previously vowed to donate a Chinese-made vaccine as a public good to the world.

The Sinopharm shot is already under mass production, though officials did not answer questions about current capacity. It has already been approved in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and is slated for use next in Morocco.

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Other countries have also been buying doses of another Chinese vaccine candidate, made by Sinovac Biotech. Turkey received shipments this week of 3 million doses, and Indonesia and Brazil have also purchased it.

Belarus and Argentina both launched mass vaccinations Wednesday using Russia’s vaccine, and Guinea has begun giving it to government officials.

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In addition to the emergency vaccinations already underway in China, the country plans to start vaccinating high-risk population, such as seniors as well as people with existing chronic illnesses. Officials did not say what percentage of the population they will vaccinate in China.

"This is very exciting that there is another vaccine and one that can be distributed in locations that don’t have the cold chain," said Ashley St. John, an immunologist at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. "But at the same time we have to temper the excitement. We have to understand the long term efficacy, effect on transmission and effect on severe disease."

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New coronavirus strain spreading in UK has key mutations: Scientists

British scientists are trying to establish whether the rapid spread in southern England of a new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 is linked to key mutations they have detected in the strain, they said on Tuesday.

The mutations include changes to the important “spike” protein that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to infect human cells, a group of scientists tracking the genetics of the virus said, but it is not yet clear whether these are making it more infectious.

“Efforts are under way to confirm whether or not any of these mutations are contributing to increased transmission,” the scientists, from the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium, said in a statement.

The new variant, which UK scientists have named “VUI – 202012/01” includes a genetic mutation in the “spike” protein, which – in theory – could result in Covid-19 spreading more easily between people.

The British government on Monday cited a rise in new infections, which it said may be partly linked to the new variant, as it moved its capital city and many other areas into the highest tier of Covid-19 restrictions.

As of Dec. 13, 1,108 Covid-19 cases with the new variant had been identified, predominantly in the south and east of England, Public Health England said in a statement.

But there is currently no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe Covid-19 infections, the scientists said, or that it would render vaccines less effective.

“Both questions require further studies performed at pace,” the COG-UK scientists said.

Mutations, or genetic changes, arise naturally in all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, as they replicate and circulate in human populations.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2, these mutations are accumulating at a rate of around one to two mutations per month globally, according to the COG-UK genetics specialists.

“As a result of this on-going process, many thousands of mutations have already arisen in the SARS-CoV-2 genome since the virus emerged in 2019,” they said.

The majority of the mutations seen so far have had no apparent effect on the virus, and only a minority are likely to change the virus in any significant way – for example, making it more able to infect people, more likely to cause severe illness, or less sensitive to natural or vaccine-induced immune defences.

Susan Hopkins, a PHE medical advisor, said it is “not unexpected that the virus should evolve and it’s important that we spot any changes quickly to understand the potential risk.”

She said the new variant “is being detected in a wide geography, especially where there are increased cases being detected.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed. )

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Brazil drug agency questions ‘transparency’ of China vaccine

The Brazilian health regulator Anvisa on Monday accused China of using criteria that “are not transparent” to win emergency approval of its coronavirus vaccine CoronaVac, which is in the final phase of trials in Brazil.

“The Chinese criteria applied to grant the authorization of emergency use in China are not transparent,” Anvisa said in a statement.

The regulator, which sent a group of technicians to inspect the Sinovac plant in Beijing in early December, also warned against the “influence of issues related to geopolitics” in promoting vaccines.

CoronaVac, produced by the Chinese private laboratory Sinovac in association with the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, has been the target of attempts to discredit it by Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who sees it as a tool of both the governor of the state of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria—considered as potential rival in the next election—and of the Chinese Communist regime.

Bolsonaro even referred to it as “Joao Doria’s Chinese vaccine,” in an attempt to belittle it.

Doria announced on Monday that the Butantan Institute had changed its plans and that it would present Anvisa with a request for definitive authorization, rather than for emergency use for CoronaVac in Brazil, where the pandemic has already claimed more than 181,000 lives and infected almost 7 million people.

The application will be submitted on December 23, he said.

Doria said last week that he expected to start administering the vaccine on January 25 in his state of 46.2 million inhabitants, the most populous in Brazil.

The Brazilian government has said that it has guaranteed access to 300 million doses of vaccines, mainly the drug developed by the University of Oxford in alliance with the AstraZeneca group and the Brazilian health institute Fiocruz, and the international initiative Covax Facility.

It also negotiated another 70 million doses earmarked from Pfizer. The government presented a vaccination “plan” last week, with priority sectors to receive it, but without a start date for the campaign.

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