Every year the health news pages are packed with stories – some shocking, some hard to believe, some inspiring and some just down right weird. 2015 has been no exception, so here is a round up of our favourite health news stories from the past year.

Russian man volunteers to become first head transplant patient

world's first head transplantAn Italian surgeon this year announced plans to carry out the world’s first head transplant, and in November a 30-year-old Russian man volunteered to be the first patient to undergo the procedure.

While many researchers have questioned the viability of Dr Sergio Canavero’s plans, for would-be first patient Valery Spiridonov, a computer scientist from Vladimir, Russia, the procedure offers the chance of a normal life. Spiridonov has Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a rare genetic muscle wasting condition. Most people with the disease die before the age of 20. Valery barely has any control over his body and sees the transplant as his only chance.

Children with dogs have less stress

girl and dogJust in case you are looking for an excuse to get a new puppy or rescue dog, research has found that children with a dog in their home are less likely to suffer stress than those with no pet. In the study, 12% of children with a dog tested positive on a screening test for anxiety, while 21% of those without a dog tested positive. Researchers suggested that “interacting with a friendly dog reduces cortisol levels, most likely through oxytocin release, which lessens physiologic responses to stress”.

This is what Coca Cola does to your body

coco-cola effectsIn the summer an infographic showing what happens to your body during the hour after you drink a can of Coca Cola went viral.

Created by British pharmacist Niraj Naik, the infographic states that within 20 minutes of drinking the Coke blood sugar levels increase dramatically, causing a burst of insulin. The liver then turns the high amounts of sugar circulating the body into fat. Within 40 minutes the caffeine in the drink has been absorbed, causing pupils to dilate and blood pressure to increase. The adenosine receptors in the brain have also been blocked, preventing fatigue. Five minutes later, dopamine production has increased – a neurotransmitter that has an effect on pleasure and reward centres in the brain. According to Naik’s infographic, this will make you want another can. An hour after consumption, a sugar crash starts, causing irritability and drowsiness.

There are around ten teaspoons of added sugar in a can of Coca Cola. The World Health Organisation’s sugar guidelines are no more than six teaspoons a day.

Coffee consumption linked to reduced melanoma risk

cup of coffeeGood news for coffee lovers as research suggests that the beverage can reduce the risk of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) by a fifth.

The research found that drinking four cups a day was linked to a 20% reduction in melanoma risk.

Coffee has also been linked to increased fat burning, a lower risk of type II diabetes, protection from Alzheimer’s and dementia, lower risk of Parkinson’s, and a number of other health benefits.

Gene editing cures girl with terminal leukaemia in world-first

cancer cureProbably the best health news story of last year. Baby Layla Richards was months away from dying when chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant failed to treat her very aggressive form of leukaemia.

Doctors described her case as hopeless and told her parents to prepare for the worst. But they refused to give up and begged doctors to try anything – even if it had never been tried before.

Great Ormond Street doctors got permission to use a treatment that had only been tested on mice. Layla was given just one ml of the treatment in a ten minute infusion in June. Within weeks she showed signs of recovery. She is now home and cancer free.