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Shopping in ‘unhealthy’ locales ups BP risk says study

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People who frequently indulge in shopping in “unhealthy” areas as compared to those who visiting “healthy” retail stores, were more likely to be at risk of high blood pressure, say researchers.

The study using Pop-up health check stations in England found a possible link between “unhealthy’ shopping centres and the number of cases of suspected or diagnosed high blood pressure.

The research team classified retail outlets as “unhealthy” if they either had a fast-food takeaway, a bookmaker, a tanning salon or a payday loan business.

The health check stations found 72 per cent of those frequenting “unhealthy” shopping centres with high BP.

“The least healthy shopping centres are all within some of the most socially-deprived areas of the country, so the results of this study exemplify the stark health inequalities that are entrenched across the UK,” said Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health.

To reach this conclusion, the team from City, University of London set up the one day Pop-Up health check stations in seven shopping centres across England.

Blood pressure readings were offered 50 per cent of the time to attract potential volunteers with a more comprehensive and familiar health screening.

The difference in the proportion of readings of high blood pressure was also a statistically significant result, translating into a 72 per cent increased likelihood of suspected or diagnosed high blood pressure being reported in an ‘unhealthy’ shopping centre relative to a ‘healthy’ shopping centre.

“The British Heart Foundation also recently called for NHS health staff to take blood pressure checks at gyms, barbershops and football stadiums and offer blood pressure checks in the workplace,” said David Crabb, Professor of Statistics and Vision Research who led the research team.

“In our study, over half those recorded as having high blood pressure were aware of having the condition or reported a history of high blood pressure,” said the team in a paper published in the journal BMC Public Health.

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Eat with It and Then Eat It – Meet the Man Who Introduced Edible Cutlery to the World

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When Narayana Peesapati became aware of the harmful effects of plastic, not only to the environment but also to our health when used as cutlery, he was stunned. But he did not stop there. He came up with a solution that most of us wouldn’t have thought of, and actually made it happen!

“Whenever I travelled, I used to feel terribly guilty about using plastic cutlery because it created so much plastic waste. Why couldn’t we create an alternative?” asks 48-year-old Narayana Peesapati, the founder and Managing Director of Bakey’s Food Private Limited. Today, he has found a way to replace plastic cutlery with edible cutlery.

Ok, so plastic is bad for the environment. Everyone knows that. But what’s wrong with not washing plastic cutlery and putting it in one’s mouth? Narayana says it is because we “abuse and misuse plastic; plastic should not be applied to food.” He has said as much in this talk, where he gives many reasons as to why plastic, especially cutlery, should be taken out of our lives. Some of these reasons have to do with the manufacturing process for plastic cutlery  and others with hygiene.

Bakey’s edible cutlery is made from a mix of jowar (sorghum), rice and wheat flour. The spoons and chopsticks do not get soggy if placed in water and food. They only soften after some time (10-15 minutes), and thus can be eaten easily at the end of the meal. Even if discarded, they decompose within five to six days, if not eaten by insects or rodents.

The idea about how to make the cutlery struck Narayana during a flight from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad when he saw a passenger using a piece of Gujarati khakra as a spoon to eat dessert.

“The irony is that there are very stringent food safety norms in India. But there are no norms when it comes to manufacturing the utensils in which we consume food,” he says.

Plastic consists of many chemical components which are toxic and carcinogenic and can leech into food. Narayana, who has been to several manufacturing units of plastic cutlery in the country, has observed that the way in which it is manufactured is not very safe for use with food.

In this very competitive market, he says, hygiene has become the first casualty of cost-cutting. The process of cleaning the cutlery by manufacturing units in India that he visited, involved just a rag of cloth being used to wipe the final products that came out of the mold in which molten plastic was injected.

Prior to becoming a manufacturer of edible cutlery, Narayana was a researcher at the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad. Here, he undertook research on groundwater management, studying why groundwater levels were reducing. He concluded that producing less rice and more dry land crops like jowar would help stabilize the levels of groundwater. It was soon after this that he started thinking about creating a huge market for jowar, and this is one of the main reasons why jowar is the chief ingredients in edible cutlery.

With the product being widely acclaimed, Narayana has been able to communicate the ill effects of plastic to a wide audience.

Being a new concept, working on the idea was a challenge initially, as there was no established technology. Everything had to be developed with learning and research. According to this report, it cost Narayana more than Rs. 60 lakhs to develop the prototype machines and molds and get started (he had to sell two homes he owned to raise the money). But one of the bigger challenges now is to create awareness about the harmful health effects of plastic. The use of plastic is also a behavioral issue according to Narayana—people accustomed to using plastic products will not find it easy to switch to edible cutlery.

Other than selling the cutlery directly from their website, Bakey’s also sets up stalls at places like organic bazaars and exhibitions. The company is only breaking even as of now and has not started making a profit, says Narayana.

Based out of Hyderabad, the manufacturing unit is an all-women enterprise, which Narayana’s wife, who is currently working as a director in the company, will soon be taking over.

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