Findings suggest increased consumption of ultra-processed foods tied to rise in cancers, but scientists say more research is needed
Findings suggest increased consumption of ultra-processed foods tied to rise in cancers, but scientists say more research is needed
The virility drug, soon to be available over the counter in the UK, is a phenomenal success story, despite being the butt of many jokes. In 25 years, its also changed how we talk about male impotence
It all began 25 years ago in Britain. The UK division of the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer was running trials on a new drug for the treatment of angina. It was called UK-92480 and it wasnt pulling up any trees.
But if UK-92480 failed with the heart, the symbolic home of love, it made a big impact on another organ, one with a rather more prosaic association with romance. Male participants in the trials reported a pronounced side-effect: erections. A lot of trees, and other things, were about to be pulled up.
Six years later, on 27 March 1998, the American Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of Viagra and the rest is hysteria. Or at least it was at first. The drug was a phenomenon. It registered sales of $1bn in its first year. And it seemed to drive some people just a little mad.
A chef was arrested in France after serving his customers a dish entitled beef piccata in Viagra sauce with fig vinegar and fine herbs. In Taiwan, a prostitute was arrested for killing a 74-year-old client who forced himself on her having already had sex once. And in Israel it was said that four Viagra pills had gone missing during a meeting of a five-member science committee in the Knesset.
Until the arrival of Viagra, the treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) involved penile pumps or injections, neither of which, perhaps unsurprisingly, ever captured the male imagination. And probably did little for the female imagination either.
Now, suddenly, here was a drug for the problem-solving era, a drug that fitted the impatient acceleration of time in the personal computer age, a drug that, as the joke went, turned your floppy disc into a hard drive.
The research that underpinned the creation of Viagra itself stemmed from the work by three American scientists who would go on to win the Nobel prize for medicine in, coincidentally enough, 1998, the year of Viagras birth. The scientists discovered that the body uses nitric oxide to make blood vessels widen. Sildenafil citrate, the compound of which Viagra is the trademark, helps bind nitric oxide to receptors that enable relaxation of the helicine arteries, which, in turn, increases blood flow into the soft tissue of the penis, and results as long as no one spoils the mood in an erection.
Last week, it was announced that Britain would become the first country to make Viagra available over the counter. The move was initiated by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the hope that it would prevent men using unregulated websites, where drugs for ED form a large and lucrative black market.
The legitimate market is already, as it were, huge and growing. Prescriptions have trebled over the past decade to almost 3m. But the sales of unlicensed ED drugs remain a profitable and unscrupulous business: among the 50m worth of counterfeit Viagra and other similar drugs seized over the past five years in Britain, some have been found to contain plaster of Paris, printer ink and even arsenic.
Two reasons have accounted for the illegal market. First, the high price Viagra was originally sold at. That dropped significantly in 2013, when Pfizers 15-year exclusive patent ran out. The other reason why men have preferred the sometimes dubious anonymity of the internet to the prescriptive dependability of a GP is that if Viagra increases blood flow to the very core of male identity, its also a matter that brings blood to the facial cheeks.
Despite the apparent ubiquity of the small blue, diamond-shaped pill, the issue it addresses impotency remains a subject of no little embarrassment.
And where there is embarrassment, humour is seldom far behind. When Viagra launched almost 20 years ago, some of the first beneficiaries of the drug were comedians and chatshow hosts. Not necessarily because they were users of it, but because it formed the punchline to so many of their jokes: Did you hear about the first Viagra overdose? A guy took 12 pills and his wife died.
By all accounts, Pfizer was a little downhearted that its star turn had become a laughing matter. After all, it had used the conservative figure of Bob Dole, former Republican leader of the Senate, to front its very sober advertising campaign.
But the truth is that while ED is undoubtedly a serious issue, the vulnerability of the penis remains an inescapably comic idea manhood reduced to the unreliable dimensions of a fickle extremity.
Even celebrity endorsements could not shift the image of Viagra. Hugh Hefner referred to the drug as Gods little helper, but then, given that the dressing-gowned one was dating young Barbie-style twins at the time, his approval was never likely to normalise the drug or render it as unnoteworthy as, say, aspirin or indigestion tablets.
David Bailey (79) recently said that he had no problem getting old because Jack Nicholson had introduced him to Viagra. Michael Douglas has also lent his support, calling Viagra a wonderful enhancement that can make us all feel younger. Disinterested observers might note that his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones is 25 years his junior, just as Baileys spouse, Catherine Dyer, is 23 years younger than the photographer.
For all their promotional benefits, such testaments ultimately serve to highlight an imbalance: namely that a much younger female partner necessitates a certain chemical help. And yet there are reports of young men taking Viagra to improve sexual performance or to counteract the effects of overexposure to pornography. In both cases, it seems that the effects are perhaps more psychological than physiological. Pfizer has long insisted that the drug has no effect on those who dont suffer from ED, just as taking an aspirin will have no noticeable effect on someone without a headache.
Anecdotal evidence contradicts this view, but Pfizer points out the increased placebo effect of ED drugs. One executive said that in studies 20% of the men taking a sugar pill placebo reported rip-snorting erections. The mind can play tricks, especially on the penis, arguably the most gullible part of a man.
Another aspect of Viagras pulsating success story is its name. Rhyming almost with Niagara, it manages to conjure up an image of something vital and potent. But originally the brand name, which came out of Pfizers name bank (made up of invented words that have no meaning in any major language) was assigned to a drug for shrinking swollen prostate glands. It was only because the marketing people didnt like it for that product that it was returned to the name bank ready for its adoption by sildenafil citrate.
Apparently, another option was Alond. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but its fair to say that that rule does not apply to erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical treatments. Alond is just, well, limp. However, some names you cant make up, and one of them is Ringaskiddy, the village in County Cork, where Viagra is produced at the chemical plant. Nicknamed Viagra Falls, the village is rumoured to have love, or at least sex, in the air.
Across the water in Britain, the quality of aphrodisiacal air is open to debate, but the distribution of Viagra users is not. Figures show that men in Bradford are more likely to be prescribed the drug, or similar alternatives, than are those from anywhere else in the country. Blackpool comes second. The lowest prescription rates are in Richmond and Kingston upon Thames.
One explanation is a north-south class divide that health accompanies wealth and the southern middle classes are in a better physical shape and therefore less susceptible to the various complaints that cause ED.
Another is that there is a higher premium on having a good time in the north and that, as the Royal College of General Practitioners has found, an ageing population still expects an active sex life and just possibly the citizens of Bradford and Backpool are a little less inhibited about asking for it than their countrymen down south.
As they say in the pharmaceutical business, more research is needed. Until then, the only way for the drug formerly known as UK-92480 is up.
Born April 1998 in the US, although conceived six years earlier in the UK.
Best of times Its been an almost unrelenting success story, although the first year stands out for its billion-dollar arrival – almost unheralded in a new drug.
Worst of times In the early days, 130 people in the US were reported to have died after taking Viagra. Eventually, no causal link was found, but the scare threatened to derail a stunning campaign.
What they say People are strange when it comes to sex. David Brinkley, former head of Pfizers Team Viagra.
What others say I like to date a nice range of women each year, but I only use Viagra when I am with more than one. Jack Nicholson
Film-maker James Cameron and environmentalist Suzy Amis Cameron writes that to preserve Americas majestic national parks, clean air and water for future generations leaders must be pressed to address foods environmental impact
Our collective minds are stuck on this idea that talking about foods environmental impact risks taking something very intimate away from us. In fact its just the opposite. Reconsidering how we eat offers us hope, and empowers us with choice over what our future planet will look like. And we can ask our local leaders from city mayors to school district boards to hospital management to help, by widening our food options.
On Monday and Tuesday, the city of Chicago is hosting a summit for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to discuss climate solutions cities can undertake. Strategies to address and lower foods impact should be front and center.
Animal agriculture is choking the Earth, and the longer we turn a blind eye, the more we limit our ability to nourish ourselves, protect waterways and habitats, and pursue other uses of our precious natural resources. Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk generates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the second highest source of emissions and greater than all transportation combined. It also uses about 70% of agricultural land, and is one of theleading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.
On top of this, eating too much meat and dairy is making us sick, greatlyincreasing our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several major cancers (including breast, liver and prostate) and obesity. Diets optimal for human health vary, according to David Katz, of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, but all of them are made up mostly of whole, wholesome plant foods.
So what gives? Why cant we see the forest for the bacon? The truth can be hard to swallow: that we simply need less meat and dairy and more plant-based options in our food system if were to reach our climate goals.
I refuse to be the stereotypical bitter single mum. Her age makes it easier. She has middle-aged spread and a lived-in face and he will probably end up caring for her in a few years
Perhaps I should find it harder knowing that my husband would prefer to be with a woman more than 10 years older than me. A woman who is not far off her 60th birthday. A woman still reaching forthe henna hair dye despite her advancing years.
She is old enough to be my daughters grandmother, never mind potential stepmother. How insulting, right? And what an outrage! Im younger, a toned size 10 and I look after my appearance. The humiliation should be devastating.
But, perhaps surprisingly, it makes things a whole lot easier.
There is absolutely nothing for me to be jealous about. No stereotypical younger woman with a pre-baby bodyand not a grey hair in sight. My husbands mistress has middle-aged spread and a lived-in face. When friends first spotted them together, they reassured me that he must be telling the truth when he said nothing was happening between them. There was no way they could be romantically together as she was so old. How wrong we all were.
He still denies an affair even now, despite the overwhelming evidence tothe contrary, claiming they formed arelationship after we had split up. But the signs of an affair were there long before the sickening suspicion and then, finally, the confirmation.
I can pretty much pinpoint when itstarted. From being my husbands everything, it was as if a switch had flicked off overnight. Cold and distant, he took up golf and disappeared forhours at a time. His phone was permanently clamped in his hand, and he would need to make private work calls at weekends and when we were on family trips. All affection was withdrawn and his hair-trigger temper became apocalyptic as he clearly resented every second he spent in mycompany.
With hindsight, it doesnt take apsychologist to work it out. He felt trapped in our marriage: we had two preschool-age daughters and he wanted his carefree life back. His mistresss children are grown up, so she and he are free of responsibility or restrictions. A holiday touring around south-east Asia? No problem. A music festival in New Orleans? Lets book it. Midlife crisis complete he has even started dressing like he did 25 years ago.
I dont blame his mistress one bit. She must have thought it was her luckyday when a handsome, younger man showed an interest. Maybe she thought she was destined for a life alone, or to be stuck with men of herown generation with prostate problems and a cosy pair ofslippers.
If it hadnt been her, it would have been someone else. It is not as if he met the love of his life and had to betrue to himself. She was just an escape route out of a life he viewed as mundane and humdrum until he didnt have it any more and realised the grass isnt always greener. Of course, life with two small children is hard throw in a long daily commute and it isdownright tough. But you deal with it and know that, for a short time, you might have to come a bit further down the priority list. Instead of which, he threw it all away for a woman he will probably end up caring for in a few years.
There were weeks of him sobbing and begging to come back, calling it the biggest mistake of his life but, by then, I had begun to experience how life could be, should be fun, light-hearted and not living in fear of someone elsesmood swings. The cloud of doomhad left the building and I was not going to let it back in.
Now things have calmed down andwe are a few years down the line, Iam glad he is with an older woman. He andI arent right together, and my daughters seem to like her. Because she is a mum herself, I trust her with my children and am happy there is someone else looking out for them when they visit their dad. Better they are staying in her beautiful home than a depressing bedsit.
Granted, this wasnt the life I had imagined. The Richard Curtis world ofhappy ever after with a mum and adad in a rambling house hosting big parties filled with children running in and out. We had talked about moving out to the countryside one day dreams that were all whipped away pretty much overnight, leaving a void of uncertainty. But one thing I know is how unhappy the girls and I would be if their dad and I still shared a home.
Yes, things such as parents evenings, sports days and school shows can be hard when you are surrounded by other parents with their partners. Orwhen one of the girls has done something particularly funny or clever and you long to be able to exchange that proud look with someone who loves them just as much as you.
But the reality is, even if we were still together, those situations would not happen like that. He would be scowling and surly at parents evening, or he would refuse to talk ormake eye contact with me at sports day. It would not have been the normal interaction I see with other couples. And, anyway, the older I get, the more I realise that quite often the happy facade many couples present is very different from the reality when the front door is closed.
I refuse to be the stereotypical bitter single mum: I am a professional fortysomething mother with a very busy, joy-filled life who just happens to be parenting alone. I dont sit around swigging chardonnay and slagging off men. I love men I have three brothers and lots of male friends. One bad marriage doesnt mean its game over. Perhaps surprisingly, I dont regret my choice of husband. We were deeply in love once and shared many special times. We also created two perfect little people. One day, I hope that I will find love again, but perhaps this time Iwill choose someone who has put their midlife crisis far behind them.
Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimers and what you can do about it
Matthew Walker has learned to dread the question What do you do? At parties, it signals the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will inevitably cling to him like ivy. On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will find himself running an hours-long salon for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. Ive begun to lie, he says. Seriously. I just tell people Im a dolphin trainer. Its better for everyone.
Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute whose goal possibly unachievable is to understand everything about sleeps impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel. As the line between work and leisure grows ever more blurred, rare is the person who doesnt worry about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the shadows beneath our eyes, most of us dont know the half of it and perhaps this is the real reason he has stopped telling strangers how he makes his living. When Walker talks about sleep he cant, in all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths. Its his conviction that we are in the midst of a catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. This situation, he believes, is only likely to change if government gets involved.
Walker has spent the last four and a half years writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book that examines the effects of this epidemic close up, the idea being that once people know of the powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimers disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try harder to get the recommended eight hours a night (sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than seven hours). But, in the end, the individual can achieve only so much. Walker wants major institutions and law-makers to take up his ideas, too. No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation, he says. It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything about it. Things have to change: in the workplace and our communities, our homes and families. But when did you ever see an NHS poster urging sleep on people? When did a doctor prescribe, not sleeping pills, but sleep itself? It needs to be prioritised, even incentivised. Sleep loss costs the UK economy over 30bn a year in lost revenue, or 2% of GDP. I could double the NHS budget if only they would institute policies to mandate or powerfully encourage sleep.
Why, exactly, are we so sleep-deprived? What has happened over the course of the last 75 years? In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are seemingly obvious. First, we electrified the night, Walker says. Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. Were a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.
But Walker believes, too, that in the developed world sleep is strongly associated with weakness, even shame. We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep were getting. Its a badge of honour. When I give lectures, people will wait behind until there is no one around and then tell me quietly: I seem to be one of those people who need eight or nine hours sleep. Its embarrassing to say it in public. They would rather wait 45 minutes for the confessional. Theyre convinced that theyre abnormal, and why wouldnt they be? We chastise people for sleeping what are, after all, only sufficient amounts. We think of them as slothful. No one would look at an infant baby asleep, and say What a lazy baby! We know sleeping is non-negotiable for a baby. But that notion is quickly abandoned [as we grow up]. Humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason. In case youre wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero.
The world of sleep science is still relatively small. But it is growing exponentially, thanks both to demand (the multifarious and growing pressures caused by the epidemic) and to new technology (such as electrical and magnetic brain stimulators), which enables researchers to have what Walker describes as VIP access to the sleeping brain. Walker, who is 44 and was born in Liverpool, has been in the field for more than 20 years, having published his first research paper at the age of just 21. I would love to tell you that I was fascinated by conscious states from childhood, he says. But in truth, it was accidental. He started out studying for a medical degree in Nottingham. But having discovered that doctoring wasnt for him he was more enthralled by questions than by answers he switched to neuroscience, and after graduation, began a PhD in neurophysiology supported by the Medical Research Council. It was while working on this that he stumbled into the realm of sleep.
UN health body says bacon, sausages and ham among most carcinogenic substances along with cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos and arsenic
Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organisation has said, placing cured and processed meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.
The report from the WHOs International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer.
It places red meat in group 2A, as probably carcinogenic to humans. Eating red meat is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer, the IARC says.
The IARCs experts concluded that each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed, said Dr Kurt Straif, head of the IARC monographs programme. In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.
The decision from the IARC, after a year of deliberations by international scientists, will be welcomed by cancer researchers but it triggered an immediate and furious response from the industry, and the scientists it funds, who rejected any comparison between cigarettes and meat.
What we do know is that avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer, said Robert Pickard, a member of the Meat Advisory Panel and emeritus professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University. The top priorities for cancer prevention remain smoking cessation, maintenance of normal body weight and avoidance of high alcohol intakes..
But the writing has been on the wall for ham, bacon and sausages for several years. The World Cancer Research Fund has long been advising people that processed meat is a cancer hazard. It advises eating products such as ham, bacon and salami as little as possible and having no more than 500g a week of red meat, including beef, pork and lamb.
Prof Tim Key, Cancer Research UKs epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said: Cancer Research UK supports IARCs decision that theres strong enough evidence to classify processed meat as a cause of cancer, and red meat as a probable cause of cancer.
Weve known for some time about the probable link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, which is backed by substantial evidence.
This decision doesnt mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat. But if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down. You could try having fish for your dinner rather than sausages, or choosing to have a bean salad for lunch over a BLT.
The statement from the IARC, published as an article in the journal Lancet Oncology, substantially toughens the line, especially against processed meat. But while cancer scientists are concerned about the risks of eating too much meat, some nutritionists maintain that the extra risk is relatively small and that meat has other benefits.
Dr Elizabeth Lund an independent consultant in nutritional and gastrointestinal health, and a former research leader at the Institute of Food Research, who acknowledges she did some work for the meat industry in 2010 said red meat was linked to about three extra cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 adults in developed countries.
A much bigger risk factor is obesity and lack of exercise, she said. Overall, I feel that eating meat once a day combined with plenty of fruit, vegetables and cereal fibre, plus exercise and weight control, will allow for a low risk of colorectal cancer and a more balanced diet.
Prof Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at the Institute of Food Research, also said the effect was small. It is certainly very inappropriate to suggest that any adverse effect of bacon and sausages on the risk of bowel cancer is comparable to the dangers of tobacco smoke, which is loaded with known chemical carcinogens and increases the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers by around twentyfold.
The North American Meat Institute said defining red meat as a cancer hazard defied common sense.
It was clear, sitting in the IARC meeting, that many of the panellists were aiming for a specific result despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data, said Betsy Booren, the institutes vice-president of scientific affairs. They tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome.
Red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by the IARC and found to pose some level of theoretical hazard. Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by the IARC not to cause cancer.
The IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but dont breathe air (class 1 carcinogen), sit near a sun-filled window (class 1), apply aloe vera (class 2B) if you get a sunburn, drink wine or coffee (class 1 and class 2B), or eat grilled food (class 2A). And if you are a hairdresser or do shift work (both class 2A), you should seek a new career.
Talking about abortion reversal, which is not evidence-based, could sow more confusion exactly the intended effect by anti-abortion forces
For years, the anti-abortion movement has popularized the myth that patients regret their abortion, or are somehow coerced into having the procedure before they are ready. This falsehood forms the foundation for many restrictive laws that states have enacted in recent years, including requirements to make an extra visit to the clinic before the procedure, or wait up to 72 hours after receiving counseling before the abortion can be performed.
The latest tactic to advance this argument is the so-called abortion reversal an unproven treatment that supposedly counters the effect of mifepristone, the first pill used in the two-drug regimen of medication abortion. Reversal advocates claim this therapy can give patients a second chance to keep their baby.
Despite the hype, there is no evidence that flooding the body with progesterone a hormone pregnant patients already have a lot of increases the chance of continuing the pregnancy. In fact, in the extremely rare case that a patient changes their mind before taking the second pill, watchful waiting and inaction appears to be just as effective as the reversal treatment.
The single published report documenting the experience of just six women who underwent this therapy was not done with the oversight of an ethical review committee, which is standard for this kind of research. Yet due to the advocacy efforts of anti-abortion forces, doctors in Arkansas, South Dakota and Utah are required by law to tell patients seeking abortion about this unproven therapy, essentially encouraging them to participate in an unmonitored research project.
Such laws are a troubling intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship, and are gaining traction in conservative state legislatures.
Despite the stories of indecisiveness and regret around abortion that form the cornerstone of anti-abortion rhetoric, evidence from published research indicates that most women are very sure of their decision. A recent study led by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco found that women seeking abortion had high levels of certainty around their decision as measured by a scale that has been used in other healthcare settings. In fact, patients seeking abortion were more certain than those making decisions about reconstructive knee surgery or prostate cancer treatment.
Many abortion patients would recognize themselves in Kelsea McLain, who first realized she was pregnant in 2010. She immediately knew she wanted an abortion. She called a nearby Florida clinic to schedule a medication abortion, which would give her the ability to terminate safely in the privacy of her own home. But she was unemployed, on a fixed income and couldnt afford the $500 cost. Her health insurance wouldnt pay for the abortion.
Afraid to tell her family, McLain looked into other options. On a friends suggestion, McLain tried taking vitamin C and dong quai root for a week. I drank a lot of orange juice and it didnt do anything except for make me feel like I was destroying my stomach, she said. She finally turned to family members who helped her pay for the abortion.
When McLain, now 31, became pregnant in 2016, she knew medication abortion was again the right decision for her. I absolutely knew what I wanted to do both times, said McLain. There was no hesitation, or even a pause when I was at the clinic both times. I was eager to take my medication.
At the core of abortion reversal is a desire to undermine the high level of decision certainty among people seeking the service. And lets not forget who abortion patients are: nationally, three-fourths are low-income and the majority are women of color. Our nation has a shameful history of medical experimentation on poor black and Latina women, and it is particularly concerning that some state governments are promoting another experimental therapy in these same populations.
Additionally, discussing the theoretical option of abortion reversal with patients subverts the counseling process, which is aimed at ensuring that patients will only proceed with abortion once they are certain of their decision. Talking about abortion reversal, which is not evidence-based, could sow more confusion exactly the intended effect by anti-abortion forces. It is dangerous and unethical.
The anti-abortion movement may also be promoting this spurious science because of its fear of the abortion pill. Use of medication abortion has steadily risen in the US, now representing almost half of all eligible procedures. It has the potential to radically transform the way patients access and experience abortion by moving it out of a clinic and more directly into the hands of the user. It also challenges the anti-abortion movements longstanding strategy of demonizing clinicians who perform surgical abortion and the instruments they use.
Inspired by the care she says she received during her first abortion, McLain began volunteering and now works at a North Carolina independent abortion clinic where she counsels their 20-40 medication abortion patients a week. Medication abortion is really a magical solution for a lot of people, McLain said. Medication reversal is just another tool used to confuse and manipulate people.
Over the past five years working at the clinic, she has seen only one patient express remorse immediately after swallowing the abortion pill. McLain and the clinic staff helped the young woman to vomit the medication and counseled her on what to do if she began to abort.
McLain says she did hear from the patient again: one week later when she came back to the clinic for a surgical abortion.
Renee Bracey Sherman is a member of Echoing Ida, a black womens writing collective, and the senior public affairs manager at the National Network of Abortion Funds. Daniel Grossman is a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California San Francisco, and the director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health
Dan, 34, youth service manager, meets Chris, 28, charity worker
What were you hoping for?
I went in without expectation, while ready for anything positive that might unfold.
Punctual, chirpy, cute.
What did you talk about?
Middle Eastern politics, doing a triathlon, Provence and the prostate.
Any awkward moments?
I think we stopped talking to come up for air a couple of times. The lulls felt a little nervous.
Good table manners?
Chopsticks are always going to catch out the infrequent user at some point.
Best thing about Chris?
He has lots of verve in his passions for politics and music.
Would you introduce him to your friends?
Sure. Theyre an eclectic bunch with passion aplenty, too.
Describe him in three words
Animated, principled, green.
What do you think he made of you?
I think he was a bit stunned by my taste for strong cocktails and disco classics in the kitsch bar we went on to. And I think he liked it.
Did you go on somewhere?
The kitsch bar. Then calmed down with a peppermint tea.
And… did you kiss?
No kiss, but a hearty hug.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
To have been outside.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
Yep, as friends.
What were you hoping for?
Someone who wouldnt try and swipe left on my face, ideally.
Charming, a dashing smile.
What did you talk about?
Working for charities, the highs and lows of being a Tefl teacher, being Jeremy Corbyn enthusiasts.
Any awkward moments?
I recommended a bar that was closed by the time we arrived. Rookie error.
Good table manners?
Impeccable. I had chopstick malfunctions, however.
Best thing about Dan?
Would you introduce him to your friends?
Describe him in three words
Intelligent, kind, funny.
What do you think he made of you?
Not entirely awful company, Im hoping.
Did you go on somewhere?
A bar in Soho.
And… did you kiss?
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
A quieter bar after dinner.
Marks out of 10?
A solid 7.5
Would you meet again?
As friends, sure
Every day millions of internet users ask Google lifes most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries
Because women are simply not allowed to have something special all to themselves, no sooner had the female G-spot been first mentioned in the 1940s than men started mithering and muttering: But wheres ours? We want a G-spot too. Envy, like fear, is such a great motivator.
Of course men want a G-spot too. The G-spot or Grfenberg spot is a sweet little site, off the beaten track, tucked away, a bit of a trek to get to but an absolute delight when reached. A bit like the Isle of Skye. But with fewer sheep. Probably. It is a hidden gem, an unadulterated pleasure-dispenser.
Pleasure, you say? Great shuddering waves of pleasure? In stark contrast to most mens laissez-faire attitude to other traditionally female activities child-rearing, say why wouldnt men want a piece of this initially female-focused action? Men rigorously and vigorously investigated and explored and embarked on expeditions akin to those undertaken by Victorian adventurers. Except these missions were to somewhere more intimidating than darkest Peru. Because the search for the male G-spot led men up their own arse and to the prostate. For pleasure, penetration. As you know if you pay attention to fairytales, you should be careful what you wish for.
While not quite the Manhattan Project, the same principle applies: you cant unring a bell. And thus, the G-spot represents a point at which two of mens most perplexing issues intersect their relationship with their body and their relationship with their feelings.
If men have an uneasy relationship with their body as a whole is it too skinny or too flabby, too hairy or too smooth? its with one hole in their body that they have the oddest relationship of all. Especially straight men. Because straight men were once straight boys and while not all straight boys called gay boys (like me) bum bandit on a fairly regular basis, a fair few of them did or at least didnt take a stand against those that were.
Bums, sticking things up them, and the pleasure subsequently derived from such an activity was gay. Consequently, it was also dirty and immoral. Any interaction, therefore, between arsehole and finger beyond what was absolutely necessary that could inadvertently lead to confusing feelings of pleasure must be avoided or at least never spoken about lest everyone think that youre gay.
This is, very simply, how guilt and shame are propagated, how you can alienate people from their own bodies, and how everybody ends up miserable. From the gay boys who are bullied even before they know theyre gay through to the straight boys who like anal play but are terrified that they might be gay, to the bullies themselves who are unnaturally obsessed with what other people might be doing with their own bodies.
Of course, those of us who grew up to be gay worked out that such pleasure wasnt dirty or immoral even if at the time I recall being aghast that up the bum was the norm for my people. We blessed homosexuals further worked out that we could rid ourselves of the shame so assiduously shoved our way because it wasnt ours to begin with. It was theirs.
For there are certain straight people who are more obsessed with gay sex than gay people are. This is particularly true when it comes to anal sex. While certain religiously conservative people would have you believe that homosexuals are rampantly sodomising each other at every available opportunity, believe me, we are not. The proportion of my time I spend engaging in anal sex is less time than I spend doing the washing-up every week. Can you imagine? Id have to get a dishwasher.
The point is that gay men can be comfortable that their arse is a significant erogenous zone. Straight men have, until very recently, been unable to admit that they might heaven forfend, Muriel! enjoy a bit of anal play. Because, you know, it can feel nice. Its worth pointing out that straight men are victims of a simplistic approach to sexuality too, the view that sexuality is binary and not what it actually is a spectrum. You need only look at the distrust and scepticism with which both straight people and gay people view male bisexuality especially to see how ingrained that erroneous belief in the binary is. Lets call this the Bi Now, Gay Later Hypothesis.
This brings us neatly to that other erstwhile verboten area for men feeling their feelings. In a way, its strange that there should be so much attention paid to the search for the male G-spot, given how men have, historically, been unwilling to feel and discouraged from feeling their feelings. That men have, slowly but surely, started to open themselves up emotionally and otherwise to feeling pleasure and giving pleasure to others can only be A Good Thing. After all, what is feeling but feeling vulnerable? (I refer you to the excellent Bren Browns TED talk on the subject of vulnerability, which should be required, repeated viewing in schools and on ITV between Coronation Street double bills). Admitting that you have feelings and then feeling them is an admission that you can be hurt and any step in that direction is a positive one for all concerned.
Truly, we should not underestimate what progress this is, and it is progress represented by the search for, acknowledgement of and discussion around the male G-spot. As a man who has spent a fair amount of his (leisure) time looking for it my own and other peoples and had varying degrees of success, I can honestly say that its time well spent. Even if the dishes do start piling up if you spend too long on expedition.
Lest we forget, it was not so long ago that men not only kept their socks on to have sex but barely removed their trousers, desperately trying to impregnate a thoroughly delighted wife in order that they could have yet another pair of hands to put to work on the land. That the pursuit of pure pleasure recreationally and/or as part of a loving relationship can be acknowledged as a legitimate pastime may soon be a decadence that humanity can no longer afford but were not there yet. So, before Armageddon, do indulge. It may be the only pleasure you have left come Brexit. Rejoice at the existence of a male G-spot and the successful search for it.
Equally, you might see the dogged search for the male G-spot as akin to the Nazis search for the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark and point, not unreasonably, to how that worked out. You are entitled to that if-I-may-say-rather-gloomy view. But thats life all about perspective. As perspectives go, flat on your back with your ankles behind your ears isnt a bad one.
Stories of older celebrity fathers belie the truth. There is a male biological clock, and we have to break the taboo around it
Infertility has for far too long been treated as an all-female issue. Yet in about half of the cases for the one in six couples in this country who are experiencing problems conceiving, it is the mans infertility that is the problem. So why is it in my fertility clinic practices both NHS and private I meet men every week who have no idea of the vital role their age and lifestyle choices will play in whether they and their partner can have a healthy baby.
Reports about celebrity fathers in their 50s, 60s and older, have blinded many men to the reality that they, too, have a biological clock. For every Ronnie Wood or Rupert Murdoch fathering a child in their 60s or 70s, there are many, many more men like the barrister who came to me, a widower with grownup children who was desperate to start a new chapter in life.
He and his new partner were very much in love and planned to have a baby, but after trying unsuccessfully, fertility tests revealed that his sperm quality and quantity had already declined and that it was too late for natural conception. As a result, his wife had to undergo IVF treatment, despite the fact that she did not have a fertility issue herself. Having tried treatment, the couple eventually gave up on the idea of having a child together.
The headlines dont tell the real story:the likelihood that fertility treatment may have played a role. Theconcept of the ticking biological clock is a well-worn cliche when appliedto women, but men need to wake up to their ownclock.
Advancing paternal age is linked with an increased risk of psychiatric and academic morbidity. Scientific papers underline that, from the age of 40, and especially from the age of 45, the quantity and quality of a mans sperm decline. In this age range we see an increasing number of genetic mutations in sperm. This means it takes longer for a man and his partner to conceive, and there is a higher chance of miscarriage. The actual figures come as a great shock to many men. It can take five times as long to conceive where a woman has a male partner over 45, and the risk of miscarriage is twice as high in women with male partners over 45 compared tothose with partners under 25.
There is also a greater risk of conditions that include dwarfism, while children born to men over 45 are five times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder and 13 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
We need to break down the silence, improve education and give men the opportunity to open up and discuss a topic that can be as painful for them as itis for their female partners.
Outside of the effect of age on fertility, men must understand the role played by lifestyle choices. Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, using recreational drugs, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and being overweightall have a bearing on spermquality and quantity. And while many men attempt to live a healthier lifestyle once they and a partner start trying for a baby, it takes the body three months to create new sperm, so to guarantee their efforts are worthwhile they should be making changes many months ahead of time.
When it occurs, infertility is as devastating for men as it is for women. What do we need to do to make sure those men get early advice and to try to reduce the number of men who have to go through this heartbreak?
Ive long campaigned for better fertility education for both men and women. I have pushed for fertility to be added to the secondary school curriculum so that young people men and women understand the factors that affect their future fertility and will be in a position to make informed choices to protect it.
We know sex education works, weve seen levels of teenage pregnancy plummet as a result of good sex education. Now we need to apply the same principle to fertility. So we must keep challenging government and educators to also include information on fertility female and male in the curriculum.
We also have to remove the stigma attached to male infertility. High profile, global campaigns like Movember have done stellar work in raising awareness of prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems. Mens fertility issues need the same attention.
We have to open up the conversation provide information and normalise thetopic as one that men can talk to each other about, devoid of embarrassment or shame. Theres still a misguided macho kudos attached to the idea of the60-year-old new father whos still got it in him we need mento know that this is not the norm, and the risks that late fatherhood can bring. The impact of a mans age at conception on the health of the offspring cannot beignored.