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News That Matters

23/02/2023 ---- 07/03/2023

The ketogenic diet, or keto diet for short, is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has gained popularity recently as a weight loss and health improvement strategy. The diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fats to put the body into ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body burns fat for energy instead of glucose, leading to weight loss. However, recent evidence highlights the negative impact that this diet can have on human health.

A recent research led by Dr Iulia Iatan with the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic, St. Paul’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Heart Lung Innovation in Vancouver found that regular consumption of a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat was associated with increased levels of LDL cholesterol – or “bad” cholesterol – and a higher risk of heart disease. This study contributes to the scientific literature and suggests the harms outweigh the benefits. In the study, researchers defined a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet as 45% of total daily calories from fat and 25% from carbohydrates. The researchers compared the diets of 305 people eating an LCHF diet with about 1,200 people eating a standard diet, using health information from the United Kingdom database UK Biobank, which followed people for at least a decade. The researchers found that people on the LCHF diet had higher levels of low-density lipoprotein, also known as LDL, cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B. Apolipoprotein B is a protein that coats LDL cholesterol proteins and can predict heart disease better than elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can. The researchers also noticed that the LCHF diet participants’ total fat intake was higher in saturated fat and had double the consumption of animal sources (33%) compared to those in the control group (16%).

After an average of 11.8 years of follow-up and after adjustment for other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking, people on an LCHF diet had more than two times higher risk of having several major cardiovascular events, such as blockages in the arteries that needed to be opened with stenting procedures, heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. It is essential to highlight that this study can only show an association between the diet and an increased risk for major cardiac events, not a causal relationship because it was observational. However, their findings are worth further study, especially when approximately 1 in 5 Americans report being on a low-carb, keto-like or full keto diet.

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It is a scientific fact that human life depends on oceans and their biodiversity. In the last decades, an incredible number of species in the sea have reduced in number so much that they are now at risk of extinction. The scientific community found that under business-as-usual global temperature increases, marine systems will likely experience mass extinctions on par with past great extinctions. Therefore, protecting the biodiversity created in the seas in the last 50 million years is now a critical and urgent global matter. In late August, a fifth round of negotiations for a UN ocean treaty to protect and manage the high seas failed in New York. However, last Saturday, March 4, these negotiations concluded positively. For the first time, the United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas. This marks the end of 15 years of arduous negotiations and a historic moment for our species' future survival.

The exact content of the treaty has yet to be released. Still, the negotiations focused on four key areas: (1) Establishing marine protected areas for more than 30% of the earth's surface; (2) Improving environmental impact assessments; (3) Providing finance and capacity building to developing countries; (4) Sharing of marine genetic resources - biological material from plants and animals in the ocean that can have benefits for society, such as pharmaceuticals, industrial processes and food. One of the most sensitive issues revolves around sharing possible profits gained from developing genetic resources in international waters, where pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic companies hope to find miracle drugs, products or cures. Such costly research at sea is primarily the prerogative of wealthy nations. Still, developing countries want to be included in potential windfall profits drawn from marine resources that belong to no one. Similar issues of equity between the Global North and South arise in other international negotiations, such as on climate change, where developing nations feel outsized harms from global warming and try in vain to get wealthier countries to help pay to offset those impacts.

The treaty now aims to protect the high seas, which begin at a maximum of 200 nautical miles, or 370 kilometres, from the coastline and are not under the jurisdiction of any state. Those waters, representing more than 60% of oceans, have long been ignored in environmental regulations. And only around 1% of the high seas are currently subject to conservation measures. Once enacted, the new agreement will create a new body to manage the conservation of ocean life and establish marine protected areas on the high seas. During the conference, global powers also pledged billions of euros worth of funds to help protect the world's oceans. The European Union promised 40 million euros to facilitate the treaty's ratification and to help with its implementation. Beyond that, it has also pledged more than €800 million for ocean protection in general by 2023. There were "341 new commitments" worth nearly €18 billion made at the conference, including almost €5 billion from the United States. Despite the breakthrough in agreeing on the treaty, there is still a long way to go before it is legally agreed upon. The treaty must first be formally adopted at a later session. Then it only enters "into force" once enough countries have signed up and legally passed it in their own countries. Russia was one of the countries that registered concerns over the final text. Governments have to start looking at practically how these measures would be implemented and managed.

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Nigeria's importance to the world lies in its vast natural resources, its position as a regional power in Africa, and its potential for growth and development. Nigeria is a country located in West Africa, and it is the most populous nation on the African continent. Its history is rich and diverse, from pre-colonial times to its current state as an independent nation. Various indigenous tribes initially inhabited the country. Over time, different groups migrated and settled in Nigeria, including the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo people. Nigeria was colonized by the British in the late 19th century. It remained under colonial rule until 1960 when it gained independence—the period of colonial rule significantly impacted the country's development, as the British implemented policies that favoured their economic interests and disrupted the social and political structures of the Nigerian people. Following independence, Nigeria struggled to establish a stable and democratic government. The country was plagued by political instability, coups, and civil war, which led to a cycle of military dictatorship and civilian rule. In 1999, Nigeria returned to democratic governance with the election of Olusegun Obasanjo as president. Nigeria has vast natural resources, including oil and gas. Still, its political history has been marred by corruption, tribalism, and religious conflicts. These factors have contributed to the country's economic underdevelopment and slow progress towards social and political stability.

Currently, Nigeria is facing significant political and social challenges. The country's economy has been hit hard by falling oil prices, and corruption remains a pervasive issue. The current president of Nigeria is Muhammadu Buhari, re-elected in 2019 for a second term in office. Buhari is a retired major general in the Nigerian Army and served as military ruler of Nigeria from 1983 to 1985. He won the 2019 presidential election defeating his primary challenger Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). His campaign focused on his track record of fighting corruption and promoting security and his plans to improve the economy and create jobs. During his time in office, Buhari has implemented various policies to strengthen the economy, such as diversifying the country's revenue sources away from oil, investing in infrastructure, and promoting agricultural development.

However, Buhari's administration has faced criticism for handling social and political issues, particularly regarding human rights and press freedom. The government has been accused of clamping down on dissenting voices and failing to protect citizens from violent attacks by criminal groups. The government has been criticized for handling security issues, particularly in the country's northeastern part. The Boko Haram insurgency has caused widespread destruction and displacement of people. Additionally, there have been increasing tensions between various ethnic and religious groups in Nigeria, leading to violent conflicts in some areas. The government has responded to these challenges by implementing different policies promoting peace and development, but progress has needed to be faster. In recent years, the country has seen a surge in youth-led protests calling for an end to police brutality and corruption. The #EndSARS movement, which began in 2020, was a nationwide protest against the brutality of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police force. The protests sparked a conversation about governance and accountability in Nigeria. They highlighted the frustrations of young Nigerians with the current political system.

On February 25, 2023, more than 93 million voters were called to elect the country's next president and their representatives in Parliament. At only three weeks from the elections, two major crises have impacted the vote considerably. The Central Bank of Nigeria introduced the redesigned notes and new limits on large cash withdrawals to help curb money laundering and make digital payments the norm. The push to replace the old banknotes with new ones has left minimal cash in circulation, causing frustration and anger for many people who spend hours at the banks attempting to withdraw their money and the possibility of theft for business-owner. On top of this, in the same days, an oil shortage also forced car owners to have extremely long queues to buy fuel.

After eight years in office, Muhammadu Buhari will be stepping down as president. Bola Tinubu from the ruling All Progressives Congress Party is the new president to replace him. Tinubu received 37% of the vote, or nearly 8.8 million while leading opposition candidate Abubakar won 29% with almost 7 million. Third-place finisher Obi took 25% with about 6.1 million, according to the results announced on live television by the Independent National Electoral Commission. During the votes counting, several party agents, including those from the main opposition PDP and Peter Obi's Labour Party, alleged over-voting and disparities between results announced from some states and what electoral officials uploaded on the election commission's result portal. Tinubu's ruling All Progressives Congress party urged the opposition to accept defeat and not cause trouble after they demanded a revote for irregularities. The president-elect thanked his supporters in the capital, Abuja, after his victory was announced and struck a reconciliatory tone in a message directed at his political adversaries. "I take this opportunity to appeal to my fellow contestants to let us team up together," Tinubu said. "It is the only nation we have. It is one country, and we must build together." The new government inherits a critical situation of long-term underfunded public services, widespread corruption, meagre salaries (a teacher earns about $65/month) and significant tax evasion. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of a new era for Nigeria.

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Northern Ireland is a region in the northeast of the island of Ireland that has been a part of the United Kingdom since its creation in 1921. The region was created due to the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which partitioned Ireland into two separate entities: Northern Ireland, which remained part of the UK, and the Irish Free State, which later became the Republic of Ireland. The partition of Ireland was a contentious issue, with many Irish nationalists opposing it and seeking a united Ireland. This led to a conflict known as the Troubles, which lasted from the late 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The conflict was primarily between Irish nationalists, who wanted Northern Ireland reunited with the rest of Ireland, and unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK. The Good Friday Agreement established a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, with representatives from both nationalist and unionist parties. The agreement also included provisions for decommissioning paramilitary weapons and prisoners' early release.

Brexit has had significant implications for Northern Ireland, as it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. The UK's decision to leave the EU meant that a border would need to be established between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which raised concerns about the potential impact on the peace process. The Northern Ireland Protocol, included in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland aligned with some EU rules, which has led to some trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The Protocol has been a contentious issue in Northern Ireland, with some unionists opposing it and some nationalists supporting it.

On Monday, February 27, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EU Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen sealed a deal to resolve their strained post-Brexit trade dispute over Northern Ireland. The critical point of the agreement is the definition of two different lanes for good export from the UK to Ireland. Goods from Britain destined for Northern Ireland will travel through a new "green lane, " with reduced checks and paperwork. A separate "red lane" is instead for goods at risk of moving into the EU, which will be subject to usual checks according to the EU regulations. Under the new deal, UK VAT and excise rules will apply to Northern Ireland for alcoholic drinks for immediate consumption and immovable goods such as heat pumps - EU VAT rules will still apply for other items. A procedure is also agreed on to allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to object to new EU rules that introduce substantial changes. Finally, it will be easier for pet owners to travel between the UK and Northern Ireland. Monday's outcome has been primarily hailed positively between Dublin, Belfast, London and Brussels. But the deal is not yet entirely over the line, as Sunak still needs to appease and get the backing from some Conservative party members and Northern Ireland's politicians – especially the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) members.

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Ginger is a flowering plant whose root is used as a spice and herbal remedy. It's native to Southeast Asia but is now cultivated in many other parts of the world, including India, China, and the Caribbean. Ginger is a versatile and flavorful ingredient with a long history of culinary and medical use. It has a spicy, savoury flavour and warming quality, making it a popular ingredient in many cuisines, especially in Asian and Indian dishes. It's often used in teas, soups, curries, and desserts.

Beyond its culinary uses, ginger has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. It's believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-nausea effects, among other health benefits. Some people use ginger to alleviate symptoms of conditions such as nausea, vomiting, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. Ginger is becoming increasingly popular in Germany as a medicinal plant or as food. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, the annual import volume of the fruity-hot root has almost quadrupled over the last ten years to around 31,600 tons.

A team led by Veronika Somoza, director of the Leibniz Institute in Freising, Germany, conducted extensive research to clarify if normal ginger consumption levels are sufficient to achieve health effects. The starting point was a result of a pilot study which showed significant amounts of aromatic ginger compounds enter the blood about 30 to 60 minutes after consuming one litre of ginger tea. The study results suggest that ginger stimulates the functionality of our immune system. Small amounts of an aromatic ginger constituent in laboratory tests put specific immune cells - white blood cells - on heightened alert. These cells are mainly involved in the protection against bacterial infection. The study also shows that this process consists of a type of receptor that plays a role in the perception of painful heat stimuli and the sensation of spiciness in food. Although more research is needed to understand its full potential for therapeutic applications, it is now demonstrated that the typical ginger intake may benefit our immune system's functionality, particularly against bacterial infection. Nevertheless, many unanswered questions at the epidemiological and medical levels still need to be addressed.

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