Need for Vitamin D in pregnancy not proven

There is “insufficient” evidence to recommend vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy, an international study has concluded.
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Vitamin D helps maintain calcium levels in the body to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

A number of studies also suggest that taking vitamin D supplements may also help protect against heart disease, cancer, respiratory infections and asthma, as well as conditions related to pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.

But advice on supplementation to date is conflicting, say Canadian researchers.

To investigate the evidence researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto reviewed 43 randomised controlled trials involving more than 8000 women.

Their study, published in The British Medical Journal (The BMJ), assessed the effects of taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy on various maternal and child outcomes.

The results show that taking supplements during pregnancy increased vitamin D levels in both the mother’s bloodstream and umbilical cord blood.

But the researchers did not consistently find that higher doses of vitamin D led to healthier women and babies.

They found that vitamin D did increase the average birth weight of a baby by 58g, and reduced the risk of babies being born small.

But more detailed analysis weakened the statistical significance of these findings.

There appeared to be no effect on whether or not babies were born before their due date.

The researchers did find that mothers who took vitamin D supplements in pregnancy were less likely to have children with a wheeze when they were aged three.

Due to the inconclusive evidence on the effectiveness of taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy the issue “will probably remain unanswered in the foreseeable future”, the authors said.

“Cautious projections for the next decade suggest that we will eventually know more about vitamin D in pregnancy than we do now, but in the absence of a coordinated effort and funding to conduct large new trials, some of the most critical questions about the effectiveness of prenatal vitamin D supplementation will probably remain unanswered in the foreseeable future,” they concluded.

The authors have called for new larger trials on the vitamin’s use in pregnancy to measure the health outcomes.

‘Unrecognisable’: Robots will run mines within a decade

Some mines in the next decade will run without humans and instead rely on robots, virtual models and sensors, according to Anglo American.
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Anglo is betting on technology, such as computerised drills with “chiselling ability as good as a human” to increase productivity, cut costs and reduce environmental impact, Tony O’Neill, technical director at Anglo, said at the Mines and Money conference in London.

“The industry that everybody currently knows will be unrecognisable” in five to seven years, O’Neill said. With mining processes automated, Anglo’s “employee of the future” will only need to focus on managing the company’s relations with governments and communities that live near its mines, he said.

Anglo operates some of the world’s most valuable copper deposits and employs 87,000 workers from South Africa to Chile.

Bots, or software that can execute instructions, will be increasingly important in underground mining, O’Neill said. Small and self-learning, the technology requires less infrastructure than current methods, and commercial application is five to seven years away.

Anglo isn’t the first to invest in automation. In WA’s Pilbara iron ore region, BHP Billiton has begun work aimed at implementing autonomous trains along its 1,300-kilometre rail network.

Barrick Gold is a year into the gold mining industry’s most ambitious experiment to modernise digging, using thousands of sensors at and around the Cortez mine in Nevada.

Other technology uses real-time, virtual models of physical processes to prevent problems before they occur and can be deployed to monitor the mine, processing and distribution, O’Neill said.

The systems, borrowed from the aerospace industry, could increase productivity by about 20 per cent and lower costs by 15 per cent, he said.

The company plans to use so-called “dry water” for cooling and other processes that use lots of liquid. It also aims to reduce mine waste, which would make tailings dams unnecessary.

Bloomberg

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Useless aerosols: Cancer Council says best place for spray sunscreen is the bin

Bueti family used Cancer Council spray sunscreen but still got burnt.If you own an aerosol sunscreen, throw it away.
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After a string of consumer complaints about the mists offering no protection, the Cancer Council has changed its tune and says it will strongly recommend against using aerosol sunscreens this year.

Australia’s peak independent cancer authority has sold its own range of aerosol sunscreens at supermarkets and pharmacies for years.

But the council’s leadership has grown so concerned about how difficult they are to use effectively that they have stopped manufacturing them and are in the process of phasing them off shelves.

“We don’t recommend this summer the use of aerosol sunscreens,” Professor Sanchia Aranda, the Cancer Council Australia’s chief executive, says.

“We have identified that Australians are not using them correctly. People seem to be using them a bit like a mosquito repellent.”

The problem is not with the sunscreen’s ingredients, which are effective, but with how difficult it is to use them to apply the correct amount of sunscreen.

A person in a bathing suit needs to apply about 35 millilitres of sunscreen every two hours for full coverage – that’s the size of a whole mini-tube. Each limb needs a full teaspoon of sunscreen.

“It’s a lot more than people think,” says Professor Aranda.

The council has found many people use aerosols to lightly mist sunscreen on, and end up unprotected.

About a quarter of an average bottle of aerosol sunscreen needs to be applied every two hours to ensure you are fully protected.

Adding to the difficulty of judging how much sunscreen has been applied, consumer watchdog Choice says only 40 to 60 per cent of a typical can is sunscreen. The rest is propellant.

Fairfax has reported on several complaints from people who say they liberally applied aerosol sunscreens but ended up horribly burnt anyway.

The council says after decades of education and health warnings, Australians are now quite good at making sure they put sunscreen on.

The problem is about 85 per cent of Australians aren’t applying it correctly. Even among Cancer Council staff there were a few technique issues, Professor Aranda says.

Sunscreen consists of active UV-blocking ingredients suspended in liquid. When you put sunscreen on your skin, the ingredients don’t activate until the liquid evaporates, leaving you unprotected for up to 20 minutes after first application.

If you jump in the water during those 20 minutes, the sunscreen washes straight off.

“You’re just wasting your money,” says Professor Aranda.

About 17 per cent of Australians report getting sunburnt on summer weekends.

A spokeswoman for Edgewell Personal Care Australia, Banana Boat’s parent company, said aerosol sunscreens were effective “when used according to their label instructions”.

“Spray sunscreens are a reliable and effective sun protection method that consumers continue to rapidly adopt around the world.

“Given consumers’ propensity to avoid the inconvenience of sunscreen lotion application, we view continuous sprays as a convenient format that will encourage regular use of sunscreens and help to defend against sun burns,” she said.

“Using clear spray sunscreen, an average adult still needs to apply approximately 35ml of sunscreen for each application.

That’s the equivalent of four applications, per bottle, for an adult.”

The company behind NIVEA sunscreens has been contacted for comment.

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China Energy makes $430m takeover bid for AWE gas

China Energy Reserve and Chemical Group Australia has made a $430 million takeover offer for Sydney-based gas company AWE.
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The Chinese-owned firm has made an unsolicited, non-binding, indicative and conditional proposal at 71 cents a share.

AWE’s board has not rejected the offer, but said “its initial reaction is that the indicative proposal is not sufficiently attractive to provide access to due diligence”.

The Chinese company’s offer is a 31 per cent premium on AWE’s Wednesday closing price of 54 cents a share. The proposal also includes shares issued under AWE’s current Share Purchase Plan, which is slated to run until 14 December.

Whilst above the market price, the offer is well below recent analyst valuations, which have strenghtened recently due to AWE’s Waitsia project’s 78 per cent increase in proven and probable reserves to 811 petajoules.

RBC Capital Markets has placed a valuation of 91 cents a share for AWE, an upgrade from its previous valuation of 68 cents a share.

Its analyst Ben Wilson concurred with the board’s assessment of the offer.

“While any bid from a company associated with [China Energy parent China National Petroleum Corporation] must be taken seriously, we think the bid pricing needs to be higher to engage the board and major shareholders,” Mr Wilson said.

“This could be an exercise in price discovery from the bidding party and an attempt to compel the board to engage with major shareholders, particularly if more hedge funds come on the register.”

He said a recent share offer in AWE had been well taken up by long-term existing shareholders, “which suggests shareholders may not be easily budged particularly given the strong progress made on delineating a large Waitsia gas resource.”

Mr Wilson also stated that obtaining Foreign Investment Review Board approvals would be difficult due to the potential importance of Waitsia to Western Australia.

“We think FIRB approval could be a major issue given the source of the bid and the emerging status of Waitsia as an important strategic asset within the WA domestic gas market,” he said.

However, Fat Prophets’ analyst David Lennox said the perception in the market was that AWE had missed the LNG boom, and this approach may be an appropriate offer.

“It’s always been viewed as a sleepy hollow, rightly or wrongly,” Mr Lennox said.

“They’ve stuck at the Perth Basin, at the Waitsia field, and it looks like it is paying off now.

“At this sort of price, one would suggest it’s a good offer.”

This is the third takeover bid for AWE in four years.

In May last year, it rejected an unsolicited $421 million cash takeover proposal from US private equity fund Lone Star Funds.

Senex also made a cash and share offer for AWE in 2013.

Mr Wilson said continued interest in acquiring control of AWE reinforces his firm’s positive outlook on the Waitsia asset.

AWE has appointed UBS Australia as a financial advisor and Allens as its legal advisor.

AWE’s share price shot up 19 per cent to 65 cents by mid-morning.

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Next step in Newcastle’s tourist trade

NEW ERA: Gus Maher, a former Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association leader, is the new general manager of the Newcastle Tourism Industry Group. Picture: Simone De Peak
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HE led the first trips for tour behemoth Contiki into new nations including New Zealand and the United States, but Gus Maher is now turning his attention to helping Newcastle tourism take the next step.

The Hunter Valley Events doyen,63, has stepped in as the Newcastle Tourism Industry Group’s general manager, and says the next five years will be pivotal in bringing the city’s new tools for tourism online.

“It’s not like Newcastle is trying to find itself,” Mr Maher said. “Newcastle has indeed found itself froma tourism and visitor economy perspective.”

“I think at the moment we are recognised for a whole lot of diverse things that can add up to a very large sum.

“I think our diversity is already there.”

Mr Maher pointed to aboom in infrastructure as a guide to the city’s next steps, including the mooted beginning of international flightsout of Williamtown.

“The cruise terminal will open soon and that’s from a period of hard work in the last five years,” he said.

“If you look at wherethe airport was 10 years ago, we are in an unbelievable space now.What we’ve got to do in the next five is capitalise on all of it.”

Mr Maher said he saw the next stage as broadening the city’s definition oftourism to fully value visitors drawn here formedical appointments, education and business travel as well as visiting friends and relatives.

In turn, he said that would increase literacy about exactly what served as a drawcard for eachbreed of traveller.

“The first thing I’d like to do is better engage the local industry and have everyone who benefits from the broadness of the visitor economy understand that and work as a team to promote the city,” he said.

“I’d like everyone to know it’s not just about camera-toting international visitors, it’s anyone who comes here.”

Mr Maher described Supercars asan “easy” tourism win but flagged plans to talk with traders whose trade was down,suggesting afood truck alley as a way to offset lost foot traffic.

“Now we know what [Supercars weekend] looks like, let’s redraw the picture a little bit,” he said.