What is gout? What you need to know about this painful disease – National


What is gout? What you need to know about this painful disease – National

by BBG Hub

If you have gout, you’ll know it.

Shannon Youn, a chiropodist at Feet First Clinic in Toronto, tells Global News gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by hyperuricemia — high levels of uric acid in the blood.

“Chronically-elevated levels of uric acid can lead to the formation of crystals which deposit into a joint, resulting in the joint becoming red, hot, swollen, and painful,” she said.

“Hyperuricemia can develop if your body either produces too much uric acid or does not excrete enough through the kidneys.”

Assia Abibsi, a doctor of podiatric medicine and chiropodist at the Ottawa Foot Clinic, adds uric acid is a compound that appears in our bodies after eating certain foods. These can include red meat, seafood and the consumption of alcohol.

READ MORE: ‘Some days it’s debilitating’: When joint pain takes over your life

“Like any chemistry concept, if there is too much of something in a given quantity of liquid, it becomes too concentrated,” Abibsi said.

Gout has been seen as a “man’s disease” or one that only effects people who drink too much alcohol or consume too much meat. But it is also on the rise, experts add.

Dr. Debra Dye-Torrington, who works in the rheumatology department at Scarborough Health Network in Scarborough, Ont., added this reflects changes in demographic factors.

“These changes affect both modifiable and non-modifiable factors,” she said.

“Examples of modifiable rise factors are obesity, alcohol consumption and diet. Examples of non-modifiable factors are increasing longevity and age-associated diseases.”

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Most menstrual cycles aren’t 28 days — and that’s normal – National

by BBG Hub

Many believe the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but new research has found only a small percentage of women fall within that range.

Research out of Sweden and the U.K. recently published in the journal npj Digital Medicine found that only 13 per cent of cycles are 28 days in length. Instead, the study concluded the average cycle is 29.3 days long.

Using a menstrual tracking app, researchers studied more than 600,000 ovulatory cycles from 124,648 users based in the U.K., U.S. and Sweden. They also found that despite the common belief that ovulation usually occurs on day 14 of a cycle, this is not the reality for most women.

READ MORE: All about your period — what’s normal, and when you should see a doctor

The follicular phase — which is when follicles in the ovary mature, resulting in ovulation — can range from 12 days to 19 days, researchers wrote.

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This variation in cycle length is completely normal, says Dr. Yolanda Kirkham, an OBGYN at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Toronto and Women’s College Hospital.

“Not everybody is 28 days,” Kirkham said. “Twenty-eight is an average, but [cycles] can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days.”

Why menstrual cycles vary

Your cycle length depends on when you ovulate, Kirkham said. That’s what triggers your cycle.

“What happens is the ovary releases the egg… and then two weeks later, if there’s no pregnancy, that’s when people bleed,” Kirkham said.

Period myths debunked

Period myths debunked

That means if someone ovulates on day 14, their period will likely come on day 28, she said. But if a person ovulates earlier that month on day 10, their period would come sooner.

What’s more, cycles can vary from month to month. This means even if you had a 30-day cycle one month, you could have a 28-day cycle the next, Kirkham said.

Aside from the physiological trigger of ovulation, there are other factors that affect menstrual cycle length. This can include things like stress, nutrition and changes in weight, Kirkham said.

Hormonal conditions, like polycystic ovarian syndrome, can affect one’s cycle, too. So can chronic diseases.

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READ MORE: Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women – here’s how to recognize the symptoms

“If someone is quite ill, it’s not going to be their bodies’ priority to have pregnancy, so their periods can disappear,” Kirkham said.

“And then there’s also structural things, like if people grow polyps, fibroids, or they have infections or cancer.”

Age is another factor. When a person first gets their period, it can take two to three years for their cycles to regulate, Kirkham said.

“It’s very normal for young women to sometimes have skipped cycles or bleed excessively as well, because the ovulation process is not in order yet,” she said.

Women need twice as many public washrooms as men: U.K. report

Women need twice as many public washrooms as men: U.K. report

Once people hit reproductive age, cycles are more regular, Kirkham said. This means cycles can be anywhere from 21 to 35 days.

“In the perimenopause time — so the late 40s, early 50s — it’s kind of like puberty and again we’re losing some of that ovulation,” she said. “You lose the proper timing of the periods.”

If people are on the birth control pill, their periods become much more regulated and predictable. This is because the pill causes “withdrawal bleeds,” Kirkham said, which are caused by a drop in hormones.

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READ MORE: ‘My mood plummets’ — When PMS symptoms could be something more

“Withdrawal bleeds doesn’t mean they’re not healthy or safe,” she added. “I call them ‘period control pills’ because they are actually very effective for reducing flow and reducing pain — especially in light of abnormal periods.”

What’s abnormal?

Kirkham says people should see their doctors if they experience excessive bleeding, go more than three months without a period and are not pregnant, or have severe period-related pain.

“A little bit of mild cramps —  something some over-the-counter painkillers can help with — is normal, but anything where you have to continuously take painkillers or you’re missing school or work is abnormal,” she said.

What are menstrual cups?

What are menstrual cups?

People should also seek medical advice if they are concerned about fibroids or polyps.

“These types of things can be checked out by your doctor with an ultrasound,” Kirkham said. “They may not necessarily need to do an invasive examination.”

Kirkham also recommends women read more about menstrual cycles on the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada’s website.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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What it’s like living with the BRCA gene mutation: ‘It’s just so hard’ – National

by BBG Hub

Jackie O’Grady was 54 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast. But she had a plan to fight it: a double mastectomy and radiation, to lessen the chances of it coming back.

Then, in the midst of her treatment, she received more bad news: she had tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation.

“I was way, way more upset than I was about having the cancer diagnosis.”

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“Because I have children. I have a granddaughter, and I can pass it on.”

Jackie O’Grady has had numerous health concerns after multiple surgeries because of her BRCA2 gene mutation.

Jackie O’Grady has had numerous health concerns after multiple surgeries because of her BRCA2 gene mutation.

Photo by Ima Ortega, art by Laura Whelan

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are a change in chromosomes that make your chances of getting cancer higher. Canadians can have their blood tested at the recommendation of a genetic counselor or family doctor if they have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in the family.

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They are passed from parent to child — from both the mother or the father to a child of either gender. The chances a child has the gene mutation one of their parents has is 50 per cent.

Identifying the signs of breast cancer

Identifying the signs of breast cancer

It means people carrying the gene are more likely to get breast and ovarian cancer — and other related cancers — than the average person. For women with a gene mutation, it can mean she has up to 80 per cent chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime. The average woman has a one in eight (12.5 per cent) chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime.

Men with the BRCA2 gene mutation are eight times more likely to get breast cancer before they are 80 years old, and men with the BRCA1 mutation have an increased chance of getting prostate cancer.

Melanoma and pancreatic cancer are also associated with the gene.

O’Grady — who also has had treatments for melanoma — is taking precautions as much as she can to mitigate her risks: she says she’s eating healthier and exercising more, as well as wearing sunscreen and using a topical CBD oil to mitigate the melanoma risks.

But there’s always a worry in the back of her mind about her health.

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“You don’t know if it’s ever gonna be gone for good, or where it’s going to turn up next,” she told Global News.

Doctors recommend more intense screening for those with the gene mutation: in Ontario, women over 30 with the gene are able to get mammograms once a year, as well as a breast MRI and ultrasounds, which isn’t part of the screening for the average woman. Each province has it’s own set of regulations, but they are similar.

The emotional toll of breast cancer

The emotional toll of breast cancer

For men, more regular prostate exams are recommended.

Since ovarian cancer is harder to diagnose, and many are late-stage diagnosis, doctors recommend women who have already had children to get an oophorectomy — where they remove the ovaries and Fallopian tubes, but not the uterus.

That comes with its own set of side-effects, including induced menopause, and along with it symptoms like hot flashes, a decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness and mood swings. While there are hormone replacement medications, the symptoms can persist.

‘I’m not just one gene’

That was a concern for Lauralyn Johnston of Toronto — who found out she had an aggressive version of the BRCA1 gene in 2017. While she didn’t have cancer, she got tested because a family member tested positive for the gene mutation.

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But since her family has a history of dementia after menopause, inducing that was something she didn’t want to start early.

“I’m not just one gene,” she said. “Explaining to my medical professional that I’m not just my (gene mutation) was kind of a recurring theme.”

She did her own research and decided to get a salpingectomy, removing the Fallopian tubes and leaving the ovaries.

Lauralyn Johnston, who has the BRCA1 gene mutation, and her daugher Eria Byrne.

Lauralyn Johnston, who has the BRCA1 gene mutation, and her daugher Eria Byrne.

Handout. Artwork by Laura Whelan

At the moment, this is not a standard,” said Dr. Christine Elser, a medical oncologist at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

“We don’t know if it is as effective as removing the ovaries as well. But that is a procedure that once we learn more about, may have a role in a better quality of life.”

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Johnston said she wanted to balance her quality of life with her life expectancy — and has come to terms with the fact that her lifespan may not be as long as 84 years old, the average age of a Canadian woman according to Statistics Canada.

So while there may still be a risk of ovarian cancer because she still has her ovaries, she believes her life will be better because of it.

For Maja Adolfo-Piwek of Toronto, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39, the side effects of her two mastectomies and oophorectomy are constant.

“You can go back to your life, but you can never really go back to your life,” Adolfo-Piwek said.

Her side effects include hair loss, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness, which she says is “quite painful.”

“They told me about the hot flashes, but they never told me about all the other stuff.”

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I think is there is a gap in the system, in the medical system where the oncologists, all they want you to do is just remove (your ovaries and breast) because they want to save your life. But they do not prepare you for what’s to come after that.

“And it’s just so hard.

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Maja Adolfo-Piwek was found out she had the BRCA2 gene at age 39.

Maja Adolfo-Piwek was found out she had the BRCA2 gene at age 39.

But in the end, Adolfo-Piwek called it a blessing in disguise, because now she’s forewarned.

“I can remove my ovaries and remove my other breast and lower my chance of having cancer. I mean, obviously, nothing is ever 100 per cent, but it will help me,” she said.

Moving forward

What’s most concerning for the women Global News spoke to is the risk to their children.

Adolfo-Piwek has a son with autism. O’Grady has two sons and a granddaughter. Johnston has a 17-year-old daughter. They all say they worry about what it means for them.

What it’s like to get cancer as a parent: ‘I began planning out my next 5 years’

But we’ve known about the BRCA gene mutations for decades now, and the science is only getting clearer as we learn more about the gene mutation.

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Johnston’s daughter Erya Byrne is in her first-year university, studying biochemistry. She said she was affected by watching her mom go through the surgeries she did.

In the end, she’s hopeful for the future.

“In the next 10 years, there’s so much happening in gene therapy and so much happening in cancer treatment,” Byrne said.

READ MORE: Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it?

While she was always interested in biochemistry, Byrne said the experience has pushed her to look into studying oncology.

What does prevention look like? 

Dr. Elser, along with geneticist Dr. Raymond Kim of the Princess Margaret Cancer centre, said there are trials into how to prevent breast cancer going currently going on — including testing of PARP inhibitors. (Read more about what a PARP inhibitor is at the U.S. National Cancer Institute here.) 

Adolfo-Piwek is currently on one of those trials, saying she just wants to help people in the future.

Dr. Kim says the increased awareness and testing for the gene means they can proactively tackle it.

“A lot of young women who are concerned about their next generation too,” he said

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“What’s been available for decades is that we can engineer embryos to not carry the genetic mutation and put those back into the women so their daughters or son don’t carry that genetic change. So what we hope, if genetic testing was very pervasive in a family then the subsequent generations wouldn’t need to worry about that.”

Author chronicles family’s legacy of hereditary cancer

Author chronicles family’s legacy of hereditary cancer

As for the women themselves? They say they won’t let the gene stop them from living their lives.

I can’t let things ruin my life like that. I need to like my life,” O’Grady said. “I had a little bit of a pity party and then moved forward to smile again and have fun again and be strong.”

For Aldofo-Piwek, she calls every day with her son a blessing.

And for Johnston, the positive mutation diagnosis offered her a chance to do some things on her to-do list: “After a long engagement, I actually got married this summer. I ran for council.” (Unfortunately, the changes to the Toronto city districts meant her campaign for council didn’t go through to a vote.)

I just wanted to do something to make [the world] better. If every single person on earth just kind of goes with ‘I’ll leave things in better shape than I started with, we’ll do a lot better in the world.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Skin tags may be annoying, but are they dangerous? – National

by BBG Hub

Those soft, small pieces of skin that dangle under your armpits have a name: skin tags.

While often harmless, skin tags most commonly appear where skin creases or folds, like on the neck, armpits, around the groin or under breasts.

“They are typically slightly elevated, and may appear as stalk-like or pedunculated lesions,” said Dr. Sonya Cook, a dermatologist at Toronto’s Compass Dermatology.

READ MORE: Warts — What to know about the ‘mushroom-like’ growths on your skin

About one in four Canadians have skin tags, and they are among the most common benign skin tumours seen by family doctors, according to an article in medical journal Canadian Family Physician.

Skin tags vary in shape and can range in size from a few millimetres to the size of a pea. They are often skin-coloured or slightly pigmented, Cook said.

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What causes skin tags?

There’s no clear research explaining why skin tags occur, Cook said, but they typically appear in places where skin rubs against itself. The constant friction is believed to play a role in their development.

Skin tags are loose collagen fibres and blood vessels surrounded by skin, the U.K.’s National Health Service says. People who have Type 2 diabetes or are obese are more prone to developing them, as are pregnant women due to hormonal changes.

What is impetigo?

What is impetigo?

There may also be a genetic component to skin tags, said Dr. Anatoli Freiman, a dermatologist at the Toronto Dermatology Centre.

“Some people are just more predisposed to getting them,” he said, highlighting the fact that they are very common.

But unlike warts, these soft lesions are not contagious.

How can you get rid of skin tags?

You don’t really need to get rid of skin tags unless they are bothering you. Some people choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons, or because they are in uncomfortable places.

READ MORE: More pregnant women are using cannabis despite its dangers

If you do want a skin tag removed, it’s best to talk to your health-care provider, said Freiman. Self-removal runs the risk of infection and scarring, he said.

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People can also mistake skin cancer growths for skin tags, Freiman pointed out, making it very important for people to seek medical advice for a proper diagnosis.

There are a few ways to remove skin tags.

Cook said small skin tags may be removed with electrocautery, which is done by medical professionals and uses an electrical current to create heat to remove the skin tag.

These are some of the best sources of B vitamins

These are some of the best sources of B vitamins

Cryotherapy is another treatment option, which freezes the skin tag for removal.

“We can sometimes snip them off with certain instruments,” Freiman added.

The cost of removing skin tags can range from $100 to $300 depending on treatment and how many skin tags you have, Freiman said.

READ MORE: Fatty liver isn’t just the result of too much alcohol. Here’s how to prevent it

The important thing is you don’t cut off skin tags at home with scissors, for example, or rip them off with your hands. Freiman stresses this can be dangerous.

“We see patients at least a few times a month who try an at-home method of removing the skin tags and they run into problems such as bleeding, complications and pigmentation changes — which are very difficult to reverse.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Does banning cellphones help students focus? Experts are divided – National

by BBG Hub

Students in schools across Ontario are now prohibited from using cellphones during class.

The ban, which went into effect on Monday, added students can only use cellphones for educational purposes under an educator’s instructions, for health or medical purposes or for special needs.

“Our government heard clearly from parents and educators about the growing challenge related to distracted students in the classroom. When in class, students should be focused on their studies and not on social media,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement.

READ MORE: Ontario-wide cellphone restrictions in classrooms now in effect

“The cellphone restrictions coming into force on Monday is another step forward in providing a focused and academically-enriched learning environment for our students.”

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Ontario isn’t the first jurisdiction to institute such a ban. One Alberta school division started enforcing the rule in September, as did an individual school in Montreal.

Cellphone bans in schools are becoming more common, likely due to the ubiquity of cellphone ownership among school-aged children. According to a recent Canadian survey by the Vanier Institute, 24 per cent of Grade 4 students, 52 per cent of Grade 7 students and 85 per cent of Grade 11 students report owning a phone.

Emergency room staff caution against taking photos there

Emergency room staff caution against taking photos there

There’s also plenty of data to suggest cellphones can be a distraction during school.

A 2018 study found exam performance was “significantly worse” for students who had a cellphone compared to “no-device” students, and another 2015 paper found “student performance in high stakes exams significantly increases” with a ban on mobile phones.

The case for banning cellphones

As both a parent and a professor, David Chorney has seen the the power of a cellphone firsthand. He works as an associate professor in the faculty of education at the University of Alberta.

“There’s no doubt it’s a distraction,” he said. “When it’s in a school environment, it’s a negative. It’s not a positive.”

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Chorney is currently conducting a survey about cellphone use with Grade 5 students at a local elementary school. He hopes the data will show how cellphone ownership can harm a child’s school experience.

READ MORE: Alberta school division bans cellphones

“I want to get the data from real kids … to share with educational stakeholders, principals, parents and everybody,” he said.

“I have 100 per cent support for all those teachers and school boards who are saying ‘take the phones away from from the kids during the day’ unless [it’s for] pedagogical [reasons],” he said.

For him, the onus is on the parents to make smart decisions about when to give their child a phone and what to teach them about appropriate use.

Should Alberta follow Ontario’s lead and ban cellphones in classrooms?

Should Alberta follow Ontario’s lead and ban cellphones in classrooms?

Monitor your kids. Put a restriction on time [spent on the phone] during the day. Don’t let [kids] have [cellphones] the in the bedroom,” he said.

Parenting expert Judy Arnall agrees — the classroom and cellphones don’t mix.

“Phones are a distraction. It’s a problem for everyone,” she said. “What we know from brains is that the ability to focus is part of the executive function development of the prefrontal cortex.

“Kids are all over the map in their ability to focus … they have varying degrees of focus.”

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Specifically, Arnall worries about the kids with trouble focusing as it is, even without a cellphone on-hand.

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READ MORE: Should Quebec ban cellphones in classrooms like Ontario just did?

“An outright ban helps those kids without stigmatizing them, because everyone is on the same page regarding cellphones,” she said.

She also believes cellphone bans are an efficient way to teach kids “good digital habits.”

“There are times when it’s not appropriate for cellphones, like a funeral or a job interview,” she said. “Kids need to know and be able to handle that fact.”

However, whether the technology should be banned outright is up for debate.

‘Missing the point’

Nancy Walton agrees that cellphones can be distracting, but she’s not sure an outright ban is the right move.

Previously the director of e-learning at Ryerson University in Toronto, Walton is now the director of the school of nursing. She believes banning cellphones could be missing the point.

Referring to the Ontario government’s concerns about student distraction and lack of focus, Walton said “an outright ban doesn’t actually address those problems… In fact, it creates a different set of problems.”

N.B. students wonder if cellphone ban in classrooms could happen

N.B. students wonder if cellphone ban in classrooms could happen

That students struggle to pay attention in school could have more to do with a teaching style that needs updating, in Walton’s view.

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“In high schools [and in] lots of places, teachers stand at the front of the room and talk, and that’s been going on for many, many years,” said Walton. “Maybe we need to look … [for] different and innovative ways to engage.”

“One of the challenges I have as an educator is to be more interesting than [Instagram] or … whatever it is.”

Walton recommends field trips and group work as effective ways to keep students engaged for long periods of time.

“There’s lots of other learning strategies you can use,” she said. “You’re never going to solve the problem that some students are not going to be engaged. […] Hopefully, you’re capturing everybody at some point for a little bit.”

READ MORE: Juul still a favourite among teens as vaping numbers rise in the U.S.

Walton says cellphones present an opportunity to teach students how to use technology in a “thoughtful, responsible, accountable” way.

“We know that students will do better when you’re engaging them in ‘real life’ kinds of things,” she said. “They’re using their phone in everyday life to solve problems, to see information. One of the things [educators] can do is to teach students how to sort good information from bad, how to be critical.”

“If you’re not integrating the technology into what you’re [teaching], it’s unrealistic.”

— With files from Travis Dhanraj

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Queen will no longer wear real fur: Buckingham Palace – National

by BBG Hub

Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II will no longer wear new outfits made with real fur.

The palace made the announcement on Wednesday, adding that this doesn’t imply the Queen will get rid of her current fur pieces.

“The queen will continue to re-wear existing outfits in her wardrobe,” the palace said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

READ MORE: Girl who lost toy monkey at Buckingham Palace visit has it returned by the Queen

Angela Kelly, a former senior dresser with the royal household for 25 years, recently published her book, The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe.

In one section, she noted that the monarch stopped wearing real fur in 2019, CNN reported.

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“If Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onwards, fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm,” Kelly wrote.

READ MORE: Who pays for the Royal Family’s lavish lifestyle?

While the switch to faux fur wasn’t based on animal rights — the palace didn’t give an exact reasoning — many animal rights activists were happy with the decision.

In the past, CNN added, the Queen had been criticized for her fur looks by animal rights organizations like PETA.

Fashion world adopts Queen Elizabeth II’s style

Fashion world adopts Queen Elizabeth II’s style

“Queen Elizabeth’s decision to ‘go faux’ is the perfect reflection of the mood of the British public, the vast majority of whom detest cruel fur and want nothing to do with it,” said Claire Bass, director of the Humane Society International/U.K. in a statement to the U.K.’s PA news agency.

READ MORE:  Meghan Markle, Prince Harry split from joint charity with Prince William, Kate Middleton

She added the switch sends “a powerful message that fur is firmly out of fashion.”

Ethical decisions in the Royal Family

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, also enjoys wearing fur, the Telegraph reported, as long as it comes from ethical sources.

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“One of her favourite items, in which she has been seen multiple times, is a brown hat made from the pelts of alpacas which died of natural causes,” the site added.

The U.K. became the first country to ban fur farming based on ethical grounds.

The Queen’s news comes months after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they plan to only have two children “maximum” over concerns about climate change.

Harry shared the news in an interview with renowned primatologist Jane Goodall for the September issue of British Vogue.

He said becoming a father to baby Archie Harrison changed his point of view.

“I view it differently now, without question,” the Duke of Sussex said.

— With files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Meghan Collie 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Single by choice: Why these Canadians don’t date – National

by BBG Hub

Actor Emma Watson recently opened up to British Vogue about being happily single.

The 29-year-old acknowledged the social pressure to be partnered up by her age, but told the outlet she’s come to a place of self-acceptance.

“I never believed the whole ‘I’m happy single’ spiel,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is totally spiel.’ It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single].

“I call it being self-partnered.”

Watson’s remarks sparked debate online, with some taking issue with the term “self-partnered.” Jezebel even published an article questioning why Watson simply can’t call herself single.

READ MORE: The millennials who have never been in a relationship

In the piece, writer Hazel Cills argues the term “self-partnered” stigmatizes the idea “that a woman could be alone forever and be okay with it.”

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Others applauded Watson for her comments and said they, too, will co-opt the term.

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When being single is a choice

But for some Canadians, being happily single is not only a mindset — it’s a deliberate choice.

“I’m 100 per cent honestly not dating because I don’t want to at all,” said Vanessa Vakharia, founder of the Toronto-based tutoring service The Math Guru.

“I have no interest in being in a relationship whatsoever.”

Dating apps can exacerbate unhealthy habits

Dating apps can exacerbate unhealthy habits

Vakharia, who is in her 30s, says she is happy focusing on her career and genuinely enjoys spending time doing things that matter to her most. Between work, hosting a podcast and being in a band, Vakharia carefully considers what she puts her energy into.

Dating is not high on her priority list.

“Any time I evaluate whether I want to take on a new project or not, one of the main questions I ask is, ‘Do I have time?’” she said.

“I have made the decision not to take on a relationship because I know that to be a good partner, that means diverting the time I spend on the current projects that fill my schedule to that relationship.”

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READ MORE: Why some people have sex even when they aren’t in the mood

While Vakharia is happy with her lifestyle, she says others often have a hard time believing she is OK with her single status. Whenever people ask her about her love life, she often feels pressure to justify her situation.

“People make you to feel like you should be on the defensive, like you’re supposed to be like, ‘Oh, I’m not dating, but I’m fine!’ or, ‘I’m not dating but I just met this [person],’” she said.

“We act like our goal [in society] is to meet this dream person and have this fairy-tale ending and settle down — especially at my age.”

According to Laura Bilotta, a Toronto-based dating coach at Single in the City and host of The Dating and Relationship Show on Global News radio, there’s many reasons why people opt not to date.

These reasons can include wanting to spend time on themselves, focus on their careers or because they feel exhausted from a previous break-up.

The current landscape of online dating isn’t always appealing, either.

Are you digitally cheating? Here’s what an online dating expert has to say

Are you digitally cheating? Here’s what an online dating expert has to say

“In the online dating world, so many people play games and that gets really annoying and frustrating,” Bilotta said.

“And eventually you just take a break and say, ‘You know what? I’m better off being single right now.’”

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Twenty-nine-year-old Sasha Ruddock says women are often raised to believe that happiness is directly linked to marriage and kids.

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The Toronto-based body-positivity activist believes this can cause people to spend less time on themselves, and more time looking for a relationship.

“I believe it’s normal to want companionship, but we have to question our need for it,” Ruddock said.

“Do you know yourself? Do you like yourself? What are your heart’s desires? We weren’t taught self-love.”

READ MORE: Own a house with your partner? Here’s what happens if you break up

Despite all the valid reasons for staying single, the societal expectation that people should be in relationships by a certain age still harms single folks, Bilotta said.

One of the first questions people ask is, “Why are you single?” Bilotta said, which can make people feel like they should date, even if they don’t want to.

Carolyn Van, 34, has experienced this first-hand.

The Toronto-based educator and business consultant says she loves her life and happily chooses to be single. She is grateful for her life and feels no void.

When it comes to others accepting her situation, however, it’s often a different story.

“People have a tough time believing that I’m happy  — and then I’m treated like a lab subject,” she said.

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Lack of friendships impacts men’s mental health — here’s how to deal with it

Lack of friendships impacts men’s mental health — here’s how to deal with it

“I get a lot of questions. A lot of skepticism. A lot of assumptions of my life experiences.

“If anything, I think this reveals much more about those who ask these questions, so I mostly observe and take it as an opportunity to learn about people.”

Sometimes Van says she will challenge people and ask them questions back about their decisions to be in a relationship. Some folks get the hint.

“I say cheeky things like, ‘Maybe one day, you learn that you don’t want to be a partner or parent anymore. You should just keep your options open!’” she said.

“They aren’t used to getting these questions and comments. It’s my way of putting a mirror in front of them.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Consent may not be ‘truly possible’ in some office romances: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Workplace couples are often romanticized — think Bill and Melinda Gates or Michelle and Barack Obama. But when the relationship involves two people with unequal power, it can also be fraught with peril, especially in the #MeToo era.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook is only the latest chief executive to be ousted over a consensual relationship with an employee. Increasingly, U.S. companies are adopting policies addressing workplace romances, a trend that began well before the #MeToo movement galvanized a national conversation surrounding sexual misconduct.

Addressing workplace romance can be complicated, but many companies remove any grey areas by forbidding managers, especially C-suite executives, from having relationships with subordinates given the potential for favouritism or lawsuits if the relationship sours.

READ MORE: Second McDonald’s exec leaves after CEO was fired over consensual relationship with employee

There are questions about whether consent is truly possible when the power imbalance is especially great. Many women who have come forward to share their #MeToo stories have said that they feared the consequences of saying no to a powerful person who could influence their careers.

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“That power difference can create a dynamic where the relationship can never truly be consensual,” said Debra Katz, a founder partner of the law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks who has represented women in several prominent sexual harassment cases.

“The #MeToo movement has shown how quickly it can go from consensual in the beginning to a huge problem when the relationship goes awry.”

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Easterbrook’s departure comes as McDonald’s steps up its efforts to stop sexual harassment after dozens of employee complaints.

McDonald’s CEO parts ways with company after breaking policy

McDonald’s CEO parts ways with company after breaking policy

A timeline for McDonald’s

Over the last three years, more than 50 McDonald’s employees have filed cases alleging sexual harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in state courts, according to Fight for $15, a labour advocacy group.

In August, the hamburger chain unveiled a program to teach its 850,000 U.S. employees how to recognize and report harassment and bullying. Franchisees — who own 95 per cent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants — aren’t required to offer the training, but the company expects them to provide it.

READ MORE: McDonald’s CEO resigns over consensual relationship with employee

McDonald’s said Easterbrook violated company policy forbidding managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect subordinates. In an email to employees, Easterbrook said the relationship was a mistake and he agreed “it is time for me to move on.” He was replaced by Chris Kempczinski, who recently served as president of McDonald’s USA.

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Time’s Up, a group that fights harassment and has been supporting workers’ legal cases, said Easterbrook’s departure should provide an opportunity for McDonald’s to do more, including making sexual harassment training mandatory.

“Under the new leadership of Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s has an opportunity, and obligation, to act to ensure that all of its locations are safe and equitable for all,” said Jennifer Klein, chief strategy and policy officer at Time’s Up.

Complications around policy

Easterbrook followed in the footsteps of Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich, who resigned last year after the chipmaker found he engaged in a relationship that violated a “non-fraternization” policy that applies to all managers.

Other CEOs who have been pushed out over consensual relationships include Darren Huston of online travel company Priceline, Brian Dunn of Best Buy and Harry Stonecipher of aerospace company Boeing.

READ MORE: The ins and outs of dating a co-worker

In 2005 — the year Stonecipher was pushed out — just a quarter of U.S. workplaces had policies addressing consensual relationships, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the world’s largest group of human resources professionals.

By 2013, the number had jumped to 42 per cent, according to an SHRM survey that year of 384 of its members. Of those workplaces, 99 per cent prohibited romance between a supervisor and a direct report.

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SHRM has not conducted a more recent survey on the issue, but other research suggests such policies are even more common now. In a 2018 survey of 150 human resources executives, the executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 78 per cent of companies had policies discouraging dating between subordinates and managers.

Much more complicated is how far to go with such policies. Not all policies pertain just to bosses and their underlings.

The SHRM study found that 45 per cent of employers with workplace romance policies forbid relationships between employees of significant rank differences, while 35 per cent prohibited them between employees who report to the same supervisor.

Many human resources professionals, however, believe it’s unrealistic to adopt a blanket ban on workplace romance.

Office holiday parties in the #MeToo era

Office holiday parties in the #MeToo era

An SHRM survey from January 2019 found that one-third of American adults have been in a romantic relationship with someone at work.

“People meet at work. It’s not an uncommon place for romantic relationships to start,” said John Gannon, an employment law attorney with Skoler Abbott in Springfield, Mass.

A growing trend among small companies is to sponsor happy hours for their staffers to increase camaraderie, said David Lewis, CEO of HR provider OperationsInc, based in Norwalk, Conn. Those events can be fertile ground for romantic relationships so it’s hard for a business owner to then tell staffers to break up or quit, he said.

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Some companies have what are known as “love contract,” which require disclosing relationships to the company and agreeing to act appropriately.

Lewis said he has seen a big increase in business owners asking for on-site training sessions for employees to raise their awareness on what constitutes harassment. Those sessions discuss relationships between staffers and warn that both partners in a relationship must act professionally with no public displays of affection. And they’re expected to remain professional if they break up.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Sweeteners can be ‘hidden’ in your kids’ food — and parents may not even know – National

by BBG Hub

Allidina says these sweeteners can be found in a variety of products children consume, including everything from Jell-O to some juices like Sunny D to ice cream. Other items include pop, cereal bars, yogurt and more.

She says anytime you see labels like “low sugar,” “reduced sugar” or “no sugar” should be a red flag.

“Technically, artificial sweeteners are not sugar and sometimes food companies mix them with real sugar to decrease the total sugar in the food.”

When your child loves sweetness

But some children just love sugar and sweet-flavoured food and often, parents struggle to remove it from their diet. And when sugar or sweetness is hidden, it can be even harder to monitor what your child eats.

“Navigating sugar with kids is tricky, but not impossible,” Allidina said.

“Skip the artificial stuff — especially for kids. We get the sweetness but with 0 calories, which can lead to more sugar cravings to fill the void.”

Parents should also focus on introducing whole foods without packaging or wrappers.

“These foods include, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and lean protein as much as possible.”

READ MORE: What happens to your body when you stop eating sugar?

And besides carefully reading labels, look at the ingredient list.

“Try to stay clear of foods that have sugar listed as the first three ingredients – sugar has many names,” Allidina continued. “If these foods are your kid’s favourite, you can still offer it but less frequently.”

When you can, be a role model yourself.  “If your child sees you consuming soft drinks and sugary foods daily, then you need to change,” she stressed.

“Remember, kids learn by example. So make sure you are doing your part.”

Sometimes, though, you can’t escape sugar. Children end up consuming sugar at school or at birthday parties with friends. It’s important to look at a child’s diet overall, Allidina said.

“Start with simple swaps such as replacing or diluting juice for water or milk and cut back on the frequency of sugary treats.”

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Eating alone may not be good for your health: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Plenty of people eat lunch at their desk or gobble down a takeout dinner between driving their kids to extracurricular activities.

More Canadians are living alone than ever before, too, government data shows, meaning many home-cooked meals are eaten solo.

While attention is often focused on seniors eating and living alone, Kate Mulligan, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health, says the issue affects everyone.

“We see younger people — millennials, for example, or even younger — who are ordering in a lot or may not even have cooking facilities in their apartments,” Mulligan said.

READ MORE: Why aren’t Canadians cooking anymore?

But is eating alone actually that bad for your health? According to research, the harms may outweigh the benefits.

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How eating alone can harm you

“Eating alone is associated with a whole range of poor outcomes, and they’re correlated with similar outcomes for loneliness in general,” Mulligan said.

“When you eat alone, you’re more likely to eat standing up, you’re more likely to eat junk food and you’re less likely to think about mindful consumption.”

Benefits of shopping for your own food

Benefits of shopping for your own food

Because food can be a social experience, missing out on eating with others can make people feel isolated. One study out of Japan found that living and eating alone may increase the risk of depression in older adults.

Canada’s Food Guide also encourages people to eat with others. The guide says eating alone can lead to feelings of loneliness, especially for seniors.

The physical implications vary, but research suggests solo dining habits can negatively impact a person’s health.

One Korean report concluded that eating alone may be a potential risk factor for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems including too much fat around the waist and elevated blood pressure. The condition — which can be caused by poor diet and lack of exercise — increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, HealthLink BC points out.

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READ MORE: Spending time alone isn’t weird or sad — it’s actually healthy

Eating alone can also affect what you eat.

A U.K. study found that older adults were at risk of having a lower-quality diet if they lived and ate alone.

Researchers found that being single or widowed was associated with a lower food variety score, especially for men. The study also found that lower levels of friend contact were linked to eating a reduced variety of fruits and vegetables.

Another Korean study concluded that people who eat alone have a nutritional intake below the recommended amount.

Easy meal prep for students

Easy meal prep for students

According to Mulligan, people may be more inclined to mindlessly eat or snack when they are by themselves compared to when they’re enjoying food with others. This can result in poorer food choices.

“We’re less conscious of what we’re doing when we’re alone or when we’re in a rush or in transit,” Mulligan said.

“With isolated seniors, for example, they often just don’t feel it is worth the effort to go through and prepare healthier foods when they’re alone.”

There’s also the impact on the planet. A recent article published in Quartz pointed out that solo eating can contribute to food waste.

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Research shows that more than half of food produced in Canada is wasted. Furthermore, avoidable food waste in the country produces more than 22 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions.

How eating alone can benefit you

There are certainly benefits to spending time alone and learning to enjoy your own company.

A recent article published in the New York Times unpacked the ways people can enjoy eating alone and highlighted its benefits: a sense of self-indulgence and needed quiet time.

READ MORE: Men struggle to keep friends — and it’s hurting their mental health

Eating alone while travelling is often unavoidable and can be a great opportunity to connect with others.

Mulligan says for parents with young children, a meal alone can be an enjoyable break.

Still, this doesn’t mean solo dining should be the norm.

10 things you need to know before buying a meal kit

10 things you need to know before buying a meal kit

“I’m sure for some people and in some circumstances, it can be quite joyful to eat alone,” she said. “But that doesn’t make it healthier in the long run.”

To combat the effects of eating alone, Canada’s Food Guide suggests making plans to meet with friends or family members for meals and participating in community celebrations. It’s also a good idea to organize a rotating dinner event where people take turns hosting meals.

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At work, try to eat lunch in a common space with a colleague.

Mulligan puts it this way: “The evidence is pretty clear: in general, eating with other people is good for us.”

[email protected]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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