Category Archives: Health

Love or Hate Marmite? It’s genetic…

In a landmark scientific study, Marmite has discovered the reason why we love it or hate it – proving that the answer is in our genes. Over the past 12 months, Marmite has worked with one of the UK’s leading genetic testing centres – DNAFit – to conduct a clinical trial to determine whether there is a biological link to people’s taste preference for loving or hating Marmite.

Coined ‘The Marmite Gene Project’, the ground-breaking study has scientifically shown that people are born genetically more likely to be lovers or more likely to be haters of Marmite and conclusively shows that there is a genetic foundation to Marmite taste preference.

Cementing its reputation as the most loved and hated product of our generation, the genetic study recruited more than 260 healthy adults, with an equal split of men and women taking part across the UK.

Study participants were first asked to taste a 2g serving of Marmite on their tongue for 10 seconds, filling out a questionnaire to identify their assumed ‘love or hate’ Marmite taste preference and their reaction to Marmite once tasted.

Saliva cheek swabs were then taken from each participant to obtain DNA samples that were sent for genetic analysis to identify SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) associated with Marmite taste preference. More commonly known as ‘snips’, SNPs are single DNA building blocks that have an impact on specific traits.

A whopping 8,760 hours were spent swabbing, analysing and interpreting results. The Marmite Gene Project has identified 15 candidate SNPs that are linked to Marmite taste preference.

Thomas Roos (MSc Biology & MSc Clinical Research, Stanford University), Principal Investigator of The Marmite Gene Project at DNAFit, said: “Our research indicates that Marmite taste preference can in large parts be attributed to our genetic blueprint, which shows that each of us is born with a tendency to be either a ‘lover’ or a ‘hater’. Our data reveals that there are multiple genes that contribute towards this, and it is a really exciting discovery.”

However, Roos also offers hope for all Marmite lovers hoping to convert friends and families to the ‘love’ side of the spectrum.

 “Like anything in genetics, taste preference is dictated by both nature and nurture. Our environment can impact our taste preference as much as the genes we are born with.”

A scientific White Paper is available from today detailing the full findings. Gene Test Kits will be available to buy from so people can discover for themselves whether they were born Marmite lovers or haters.

Philippa Atkinson, Marmite Brand Manager, said: “For over a century we too have been questioning why the nation is so clearly divided between love or hate for Marmite. Finally, we have the answers. The DNA data provides a glimpse into our taste preferences. While it’s fascinating looking at the data on this scale, the fun really starts when you test your own DNA and begin to delve into your own genetic make-up and see if you were born a lover or hater of Marmite.”

Avi Lasarow, CEO of DNAFit, said: “Advancing technology means we live in a world of increased appetite for highly personalised food and fitness information. These fascinating findings show again how each day we are understanding more and more about the role that genetics play in our daily lives. The mystery around Marmite is one of the great British food debates, and we are proud to have led this exciting research project.”

Join the conversation using #MarmiteGene.


GP and TV presenter Dr Dawn Harper has launched a new campaign to educate parents on the benefits of giving kids nuts as a snack.

A new survey has identified that only 1 in 10 (14%) of parents are aware of the high nutritional value of nuts. This may explain why three-quarters of parents (74%) say they don’t regularly give them to their kids as a snack; instead choosing to give their child crisps at least once a week (92%).

The study of 1,000 parents with children aged 5-12 found that one of the biggest reasons parents say they don’t give their children nuts is that they think they’re too salty (30%) – this is despite a 20g bag of plain almonds containing 64% less salt than a portion of ready salted crisps at the same weight.

As part of her new campaign, Dr Dawn Harper wants to help change these perceptions and educate parents on why nuts should be considered as a healthy part of a child’s diet. Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and cashews are a natural source of protein and many other nutrients for muscle and bone development, aiding energy release and helping build a healthy immune system.

Dr Dawn Harper said: “Despite the fact almost a quarter of parents say they give their children a snack as a way of getting extra nutrients into their diet, they also reveal that they prefer to give their child sugary and salty snacks like crisps and cereal bars than nuts as a snack. We want to change that. Nuts are a great, tasty way of getting good fats, and key vitamins and minerals into the diet which can help children’s growth, development, and cognitive function.”

The survey (conducted by Censuswide) also shows that allergies are a concern – with a fifth (19%) of parents giving it as a key reason to not give nuts to their children.

While nut allergies can be very serious, they are not common affecting just 2% of children, with most allergic to peanuts specifically, which means for the majority of kids they are a great option. For safety, if you are giving your child nuts to eat outside of the home always check that they will not be in the company of anyone with a nut allergy.

we love Pip and Nut butters

A spokesperson for the BDA said: “Obesity and salt intake are really important issues we are facing as a society, so it’s alarming to see that many healthy foods such as nuts aren’t getting the airtime they need to ensure parents are aware of the benefits they can have for their children. While it’s absolutely important to ensure nuts are unsalted and are small, or halved to avoid choking, primary aged children would benefit massively from adding more unsalted nuts, and fewer crisps, sweets, and chocolate to their diets.”

Advice from the NHS advises that as long as there’s no diagnosed nut or other allergy or history of nut or other allergies in the immediate family, you can give babies nuts once they’re six months old, as long as they’re crushed or ground into nut butter and children over the age of five are able to eat whole nuts.

Highland Spring’s #BraveByNature project encourages us to stay hydrated

image: The Grocer

Highland Spring have worked with the National Hydration Council to raise awareness of the fact that optimum hydration helps families boost attention and generally achieve more.

Sound like common sense, sure… But how many of us just forget to take a sip of water because we are rushing around packing swimming kit or tying shoelaces for our kids. How many times have you reminded your children to sip water today? Probably none because you’ve been too busy going bananas that they’ve emptied the LEGO box out for the millionth time.

Seemingly though, you don’t have to consume Gwyneth-like quantities of water to boost concentration but start by popping a bottle of two in your changing bag and see if you notice the difference.

Here are the National Hydration Council’s findings:

  • A recent study carried out by psychologists at the University of East London and the University of Westminster shows that drinking just 300ml of water (slightly over half a small bottle of water) can boost attention by almost 25%.
  • After drinking 300ml, thirst was satisfied and reports of “good mood” increased by almost 20%.
  • A similar study in 2012 found that University foundation year students who took a bottle of water into an exam scored an average of 5% higher than those who did not have water. Only 25% of students in the study entered the exam hall with a bottle of water.
  • Kids need more water in relation to their body size than bigger people.
  • Kids don’t always recognise when they’re thirsty, so it’s best to encourage good drinking habits early.
  • Sipping throughout the day is the best way to ensure hydration needs are met.
  • It can be harder for kids to concentrate when they’re dehydrated.
  • Studies have shown that kids who drink a litre of water over the course of a school day have better short-term memory and generally perform better than those who don’t.
  • And apparently… Water at mealtimes can help children tolerate vegetables!

Lovely Little Things: Rubis Elephant Pouch Swiss Scissors

Who would have thought that novelty scissors would suddenly be on our ‘must have’ list? These children’s nail scissors – made by Swiss brand Rubis – are not only delightfully quirky (in a sort of ‘Fantasia meets the inside of Bjork’s head kinda way) but also cut with samurai precision. The rounded tips mean there’s no fear of ouchies and TBH your child will just play with the pouch for the 30 seconds (yes, really!) it will now take to trim their nails.

Available from Fenwicks and Harvey Nicks RRP £30.50

The best sun protection for babies and toddlers

The general advice is to keep pre-6-monthers out of the sun. But of course that’s not always possible so a good sun cream is a must, even in the British Summer (although the NHS recommends children wear sunscreen from March thru October, which might be a little optimistic!)

Even for bigger ones, a gentle, mineral based option is preferable; here are our protection picks for holiday packing (or backyard paddling-pooling)
Clarins Sun Care Milk for Children 100% Mineral Screen UVA/UVB 50+, 150 ml

Clarins Sun Care Milk for Children is 100% mineral and active ingredients include aloe vera, kiwi and olive. It comes in a spray dispenser, so easy to apply – although it is quite thick consistency – and the waterproof formula is factor 50.

Banana Boat Mini Kids Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50, 60ml

Ultra water resistant and sand repellent, this one is fab for junior surfers and little beach bunnies. A cheaper option than some, but the UVA/B protection is highly photostable (ie it won’t break down in the sun).


Badger Balm SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen
Badger’s SPF30 Baby Sunscreen Cream contains non-nano Zinc Oxide, plus organic Sunflower Oil, Beeswax & Vitamin E – making it a great choice for sensitive skins (plus there’s a cute badger on the tube!)


Green People Organic Children Sun Lotion SPF 25 ‘no scent’ (150ml)
Green People support the Marine Conservation Society, so each purchase helps to protect the oceans, as well as delicate skin. Scent free (if you find some of them a bit potent) and a good option if your child suffers from prickly heat too.



Childs Farm Sunny day SPF50+ Suncream
Dermatologist approved for sensitive and eczema prone skin, this one is suitable for over 6 month old babies. It’s a non-sting formula (handy if your kids are in and out of the pool with goggles on) which moisturises whilst it protects.


Need a fab sun hat that also shields from the rays? Try Little Hotdog Watson’s Children’s Bucket Sunhat with UV Protection

Stay Sun Safe.

Tommy’s launch their #AlwaysAsk campaign

Each day in the UK, 10 babies are stillborn and 152 babies are born preterm, causing untold heartache to parents and extended families.

Tommy’s, with King’s College London and BabyCentre, has launched a safer pregnancy campaign to empower pregnant women to overcome fears about speaking to professionals about health concerns.

The aim of the campaign is to reduce the number of women who end up with serious pregnancy complications or loss. A body of research from King’s College London has shown that women’s knowledge about their own changing body is invaluable in contributing to safer pregnancies but that they often struggle to voice their instincts and concerns.

‘Always Ask’ challenges the fears that prevent women from seeking information on how to recognise potential problems and gives them tips on how to manage the appointment, get listened to and taken seriously by healthcare professionals.

Find out more here.

SM reviews… Vitamin Injections Vitamin B Complex Patches

Headed by experienced IV/IM practitioner and skin specialist Bianca Estelle, the Vitamin Injections London clinic provides IV doses that do everything from burning fat to curing hangovers.

Their Vitamin Skin Patches can be used on the go and provide 12 hour continual doses of essential vits – apparently a much better way to absorb them than in tablet form.

We tested the Vitamin B complex 30 day supply, RRP £45

SM Tester writes: “Vitamin B boosts brain and metabolism; ie it is the one that helps you remember where you left the car keys and stops you falling asleep face down in a bowl of yoghurt. So the more the merrier, right? Well, apparently it’s all about getting a constant dose, rather than one big hit washed down with your morning OJ. 

These patches are little brown plasters you stick on your skin. You’ll start off putting them somewhere obvious and channeling your ‘inner Britney’ – but after a few cries of ‘Mum, it’s not fair, I wanna plaster tooooo…’ you’ll start sticking them in less visible spots. Suffice to say it is that simple; they stay on in the shower if you are careful and if you stuck one on your bum you will get funny looks in the gym )

Personally, I go weeks forgetting to take vitamin pills, so this format works well as I can keep them in my handbag (30 days’ supply is roughly the size of a travel card) and stick them on between meetings or on those rare occasions I’m ten mins early at the school gates (although on these occasions I might stick them on my arm not my derriere..)”

 Order online at Vitamin Injections London

Salt Awareness Week: Children getting a third of their salt before school

DW Fitness Clubs has found that children could be getting a third of their recommended salt allowance before they even get to school.

For children aged 4-6, the NHS recommends no more than 3g of salt per day.

Snap, Crackle, Pop…and Salt!

A serving of 30g of cereal contains:

  • Kelloggs Krave = 12% of your child’s recommended salt intake (6% for adults)
  • Rice Krispies  = 12% of your child’s recommended salt intake (6% for adults)
  • Cheerios = 10% of your child’s recommended salt intake (5% for adults)
  • Coco Krispies = 8% of your recommended salt intake (4% for adults)

Manufacturers list salt content per 30g, but that’s a very modest portion size, for a hungry child (and aren’t they all?) It would be very easy to eat two or three times that.

So if a child had a large bowl of Rice Krispies (100g) that would be 1.13g of salt, over a third of their daily allowance. Scary, huh? has time in the mornings!

We all know that ‘good energy’ basics like porridge, bananas, sugar free peanut butter, Greek yoghurt with berries or dippy eggs would be a better option here, it’s obviously just a case of having ten minutes more in the morning (as with most things…)

But worth flagging this story up if your child gets a bowl of cereal at pre-school Breakfast Club…


Sleep deprived? Us too…

If night feeds, sleepwalking kids or bedwetting toddlers are intruding on your shut eye time, we can’t promise a quick solution. But hopefully some of the below tips might help you maximise the forty winks you do manage to sneak…

Cyberjammies PJ set

Atomik Research conducted a study for Drift Sleep and the findings included scoffing nuts and fish. Salmon, rice, spinach, milk and almonds all promote sleep.  The magnesium found in spinach in particular plays a key role in deactivating adrenaline, whilst typtophan in milk and almonds is an amino acid which converts first into seratonin and then into melatonin which helps regulate sleep.  If you happen to own a cow, try milking it at night as it contains 24% more tryptophan than the day.

They also recommend a decent pair of cotton PJs. We love Cyberjammies, whose range is so pretty you could wear them in the daytime or on the beach too. And don’t forget to upgrade your sheets too – The Secret Linen Store has lots of elegant Egyptian cotton options at a reduced price. Shhh…

There’s so much hype about Vitamin D at the moment, it’s a wonder the human race survived without supplements. And apparently it is essential to a decent kip as well.  If you’re struggling to get out in the sun try Vega Vitamins Everyday-D 10mg (from £5.95, which is available in a tasty orange spray, or as blackcurrant chewable tablets.

And we don’t really need to be told twice that phones and tablets in the bedroom aren’t a great idea. Superfood UK nutritionist Shona Wilkinson explains, “Two hours before your proposed bedtime turn off all electrical gadgets such as computers, notebooks and phones as these emit a blue light which confuses the brain and reduces the release of melatonin, the chemical which induces sleepiness.” Go retro and find yourself a decent book (ie not your child’s reader from school or the Argos catalogue…)

Finally, a little lavender can go a long way when it comes to the transition into slumber. Angela Flanders’ pillow spray has calming chamomile too, to ease the day’s stresses (and doubles up as a daytime perfume, if you feel like your waking hours need some additional ‘inner calm’ too…)

Dr Sally Norton’s guide to Nut Butters…

Comment by Dr Sally Norton, NHS weight loss consultant surgeon.  UK health expert.  Founder of 

Not that long ago, the only choice when it came to nut butters was smooth or crunchy peanut butter. Now the preserves shelves in health food shops are offering a choice of almond, cashew and brazil alternatives – but what are the health benefits?

While nuts may contain a seemingly high amount of calories and fat – they can play a role (in the right portions!)  in a well-balanced, healthy diet. Most of the fat in nuts is the healthy unsaturated type, plus they are a fabulously well-rounded source of protein, vitamins  E and B group, minerals including copper, zinc and magnesium and fibre. They are a great on-the-go snack with a low glycaemic index to help you feel fuller for longer and help suppress appetite. You can easily make your own, just by blitzing nuts (pre-roast for a few minutes if you like) in a food processor until the natural oils are released to form a buttery texture. But if you go for shop-bought, check the label to find one that has no hidden nasties like sugar or palm oil.

Here’s our breakdown of the pros and cons of the nut butter aisle:

Peanut (not a true nut, but a legume, we have included it here as it is conventionally grouped with other tree nuts to consumers):

Pros: A good source of protein; highest folic acid content (useful during pregnancy) as well as being high in healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin E.

Cons: Some brands have a little added sugar but these days many have none added.


Pros: Highest in zinc, copper and iron – naturally sweeter than many other nut butters.

Cons: Less protein than other nuts.

Pros: One of the lowest in calories and the highest in protein, fibre and calcium.

Cons: Relatively few, although some brands can have a bitter aftertaste.


Pros: Good for men, as 1-2 nuts nut delivers your recommended daily intake of the mineral selenium, which may help protect against prostate cancer and heart disease.

Cons: The most expensive option when it comes to nut butters.


Pros: One of the few vegetarian sources of the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA  some of which can be converted to long chain omega 3 known to be involved in heart health.

Cons: Bitter aftertaste, slightly lower protein and slightly higher in fat than some other nut butters.


Pros: One of the lowest percentages of saturated fat (along with pine nuts and almonds); highest proanthocyanidins (PACs) content of all nut butters. The antioxidant capabilities of PACs are likely to be 20 times more potent than vitamin C and 50 times more potent than Vitamin E.

Cons: Often found to be coupled with chocolate spreads so read the label carefully!

TIP: Most nut butters characteristically separate when stored, this doesn’t affect their nutritional value, simply stir to combine before eating.