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All the National Health Service wants for Christmas is tea and biscuits


Three cups of tea, two biscuit packs, and a Christmas study from the BMJ

Warning: The following content may contain excessive Britishness. Continue at your own risk.

It’s no secret that the world economy is in an … interesting spot right now. Belt tightening is occurring around the world despite the holiday season, and hospitals across the pond in Great Britain are no exception.

cup of tea and cookies sitting on a table PxHere

It was a simple sign that prompted the study, published in the Christmas edition of the BMJ: “Please do not take excessive quantities of these refreshments.” And if we all know one thing, you do not get between Brits and their tea and biscuits. So the researchers behind the study drafted a survey and sent it around to nearly 2,000 British health care workers and asked what they considered to be excessive consumption of work-provided hot drinks and biscuits.

In the hot drinks department (tea and coffee, though we appreciate the two people who voiced a preference for free hot whiskey, if it was available) the survey participants decreed that 3.32 drinks was the maximum before consumption became excessive. That’s pretty close to the actual number of hot drinks respondents drank daily (3.04), so it’s pretty fair to say that British health care workers do a good job of self-limiting.

It’s much the same story with biscuits: Health care workers reported that consuming 2.25 packets of free biscuits would be excessive. Notably, doctors would take more than nondoctors (2.35 vs. 2.14 – typical doctor behavior), and those who had been in their role for less than 2 years would consume nearly 3 packets a day before calling it quits.

The study did not include an official cost analysis, but calculations conducted on a biscuit wrapper (that’s not a joke, by the way) estimated that the combined cost for providing every National Health Service employee with three free drinks and two free biscuit packages a day would be about 160 million pounds a year. Now, that’s a lot of money for tea and biscuits, but, they added, it’s a meager 0.1% of the NHS annual budget. They also noted that most employees consider free hot drinks a more valuable workplace perk than free support for mental health.

In conclusion, the authors wrote, “As a target for cost-saving initiatives, limiting free refreshment consumption is really scraping the biscuit barrel (although some limits on hot whiskey availability may be necessary), and implementing, or continuing, perks that improve staff morale seems justifiable. … Healthcare employers should allow biscuits and hot drinks to be freely available to staff, and they should leave these grateful recipients to judge for themselves what constitutes reasonable consumption.”

Now there’s a Christmas sentiment we can all get behind.

We come not to bury sugar, but to improve it

When we think about sugar, healthy isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Research also shows that artificial sweeteners, as well as processed foods in general, are bad for your body and brain. People, however, love the stuff. That’s why one of the leading brands in processed foods, Kraft Heinz, partnered with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard to find a way to reduce consumers’ sugar consumption.

sugar Vassiliy Vassilenko/

The question that Kraft Heinz presented to Wyss was this: How could it reduce the fructose in its products without losing the functionality of regular sugar.

The Wyss team’s approach seems pretty simple: Use a naturally occurring enzyme to convert sugar to fiber. The trick was to add the enzymes into the food so they could convert the sugar to fiber after being consumed. The enzymes also needed to be able to be added to existing food products without changing their existing recipes, Kraft Heinz insisted.

How does it work? The crafted enzyme is encapsulated to remain dormant in the food until exposed to an increased pH level, as is found in the GI tract between the stomach and the intestine. It reduces the amount of sugar absorbed in the bloodstream and creates a healthy prebiotic fiber, the institute explained.

This opens a whole new window for consumers. People with diabetes can enjoy their favorite cookies from time to time, while parents can feel less guilty about their children bathing their chicken nuggets in unholy amounts of ketchup.

New genes, or not new genes? That is the question

… and the police report that no capybaras were harmed in the incident. What a relief. Now Action News 8 brings you Carol Espinosa’s exclusive interview with legendary scientist and zombie, Charles Darwin.

Carol: Thanks, Daryl. Tell us, Prof. Darwin, what have you been up to lately?

genomic analysis Gio_tto/Thinkstock

Prof. Darwin: Please, Carol, call me Chuck. As always, I’ve got my hands full with the whole evolution thing. The big news right now is a study published in Cell Reports that offers evidence of the continuing evolution of humans. Can I eat your brain now?

Carol: No, Chuck, you may not. So people are still evolving? It sure seems like we’ve reverted to survival of the dumbest.

Chuck Darwin: Good one, Carol, but evolution hasn’t stopped. The investigators used a previously published dataset of functionally relevant new genes to create an ancestral tree comparing humans with other vertebrate species. By tracking the genes across evolution, they found 155 from regions of unique DNA that arose from scratch and not from duplication events in the existing genome. That’s a big deal.

Carol: Anything made from scratch is always better. Everyone knows that. What else can you tell us, Chuck?

Chuck Darwin: So these 155 genes didn’t exist when humans separated from chimpanzees nearly 7 million years ago. Turns out that 44 of them are associated with growth defects in cell cultures and three “have disease-associated DNA markers that point to connections with ailments such as muscular dystrophy, retinitis pigmentosa, and Alazami syndrome.” At least that’s what the investigators said in a written statement. I must say, Carol, that your brain is looking particularly delicious tonight.

Carol: Ironic. For years I’ve been hoping a man would appreciate me for my brain, and now I get this. Back to you, Daryl.

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