Thursday, June 30, 2005

Acupuncture is effective against osteoarthritis

A new study published in the British Medical journal suggests that acupuncture as a complementary therapy to drug treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee, is more effective than drug treatment alone.

A total of 88 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly divided into two groups, one receiving acupuncture plus diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory drug) and the other dummy (placebo) acupuncture plus diclofenac.

Treatment lasted 12 weeks and levels of pain, stiffness, and physical function were monitored using recognised scales. The acupuncture group had a greater reduction in pain and stiffness, improved physical functioning and quality of life than the placebo group.

Although the 12-week monitoring period may be insufficient to evaluate the effects of treatment in the medium term, acupuncture as a complementary therapy to drug treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee is more effective than drug treatment alone, say the authors.

Source - Asian News International

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Cranberries can fight tooth decay

Get ready to pamper your taste buds and protect your teeth against decay at the same time as a new research has revealed that cranberries are an important weapon in fighting tooth decay.

The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has said that cranberries can prevent a host of oral health problems, including gum disease and tooth decay.

Following up on a research carried out by the University of Rochester in New York, the BDHF discovered that cranberry juice stopped harmful bacteria sticking to the teeth. Cranberry juice also ensures that plaque never gets a chance to form.

"Cranberry juice is naturally very acidic. Every time you drink something acidic the enamel on your teeth is softened temporarily.If given time to recover, then your saliva will neutralise this acidity in your mouth and restore it to its natural balance,"Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, was quoted by the Daily Mail, as saying.

However, the researchers have cautioned that the intake of cranberries should be limited to only the meal times as its excess can have some harmful effects.

"However, if this attack happens too often the mouth does not have the chance to repair itself and tiny particles of enamel can be brushed away. This is called erosion. Erosion can cause pain and sensitivity in the teeth, and once the enamel has worn away can also leave your teeth open to decay too - so try to keep cranberry juice to mealtimes only," he added.

Source Asian News International

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Herbal remedies do have 'real benefits

Researchers from King's College in London have said that scientific tests on a range of herbal remedies have shown that they do have 'real benefits'.

The researchers said that herbal treatments from around the world had properties, which may help treat conditions such as diabetes and cancer.

The researchers examined Indian diabetes treatments, Ghanaian wound healing agents and cancer treatments used in China and Thailand.

One of the plants examined was the curry-leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) from India, which is reputed to have potential benefits in treating diabetes.

The researchers discovered that extracts from the curry-leaf tree appeared to restrict the action of a digestive enzyme called pancreatic alpha-amylase, which is involved in the breakdown of dietary starch to glucose. They are now looking at which compound in the curry-leaf tree has this effect, and claim that once it is identified, it should be possible to evaluate if it could be better than existing anti-diabetic drugs.

The researchers while working with experts from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, also looked at plants used by the Ashanti ethnic group.

They found that an extract of the Commelina diffusa, or climbing dayflower, had both antibacterial and anti-fungal activity, which could help heal wounds and also stop them getting infected.

In a third study, the researchers studied Thai and Chinese plants used as traditional remedies in the treatment of cancer, and found promising activity against lung cancer cells, particularly in tests of the Thai plant Ammannia baccifera, an aquatic weed and the Chinese plant Illicium verum, star anise.

"This research is very interesting, very promising. We need much more research of this sort. More and more research of this kind is coming out. It is no surprise to those who work in this field," the BBC quoted Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, as saying.

Ernst, however, added in the same vein, "This type of study can only be the first step in a line of research and at the end of this line, it's necessary to have good clinical proof that this works."

Source - Hindustan Times

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Calcium, Vitamin D may reduce PMS

Women searching for ways to ward off the anxiety and irritability caused by premenstrual syndrome may be able to find answers as nearby as their local supermarket.

A study published Monday finds that a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D -- available in milk, cheese, yogurt and fortified orange juice -- appears to help women reduce the risk of PMS symptoms.

The findings support earlier research indicating calcium seems to help women cope with PMS. But the new study also suggests that when calcium is combined with enough vitamin D, it may help prevent PMS altogether.

"It seems that women who eat more foods high in calcium and vitamin D have less risk of experiencing PMS," said the study's lead author, Dr. Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson of the University of Massachusetts. "It's very exciting, and could end up being good news for many women out there."

She said, however, that the research is too preliminary to recommend diet changes for women in general and that more thorough studies are needed.

Source -

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Egyptians ate lettuce to boost sex drive

The ancient Egyptians used lettuce as an aphrodisiac, according to an Italian researcher who claims to have solved a century-old archaeological puzzle.

Lettuce has been known for its mild sedative and painkilling effects since Greek and Roman times.

It owes its Latin name lactuca to lac or milk, the plant's bitter white sap or latex, which is mentioned in many ancient treatises.

As early as 430 BC, Greek physician Hippocrates described the opium-like effects of the sap.

And according to Dioscorides Pedanios, a Greek naturalist and military surgeon to the armies of the Roman emperor Nero in the 1st century AD, lettuce would drive out libidinous images of dreams.

Pliny the Elder, in the 2nd century AD, also wrote about lettuce's ability to dampen sexual desire. He wrote in his Natural History that lettuce is "sleep-inducing, can cool sexual appetite as well as a feverish body, purge the stomach, and increase the volume of blood".

Yet Egyptian bas reliefs put a different spin on the use of lettuce: the plant appears as an offering to the ancient Egyptian deity Min.

Invariably depicted with a large, erect penis, Min was the god of fertility and sexuality. For more than a century, archaeologists have wondered why a vegetable used to calm dreams was associated with the exuberant Min.

Source - ABC Net

Sun 'cuts prostate cancer risk'

Sunlight can reduce a man's risk of prostate cancer, a study suggests.

Researchers from three US centres found men exposed to a high amount of sun had half the risk of the disease than those exposed to a low amount.

Writing in Cancer Research, they suggest that the protection was a result of the body's manufacture of vitamin D after sun exposure.

But men were warned not to sunbathe excessively because of the risk of developing skin cancer.

Vitamin D is also found in foods such as oily fish.

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Potato health benefits discovered

Potatoes may be healthier to eat than previously thought, after scientists found them to contain chemicals which lower blood pressure.

The independent Institute of Food Research says the chemicals, called kukoamines, occurred naturally in many common types of potato.

Scientists at the Norwich Institute stumbled upon the chemicals while studying potatoes for other reasons.

They say boiling potatoes may preserve the health benefits better than frying.

Source - BBC News

Natural is best as doubts are cast over eye antibiotic

The first antibiotic to be sold by pharmacies without prescription has little effect, a study says.

One in eight children develop the eye condition conjunctivitis each year and in many cases family doctors use chloramphenicol to treat it.

But an Oxford University study in the Lancet said the cure rate was nearly the same if the drops were used or not.

Researchers urged parents to wash children's eyes with warm water rather than use the drops.

Source - BBC News

'Avoid soya if you want a baby'

Women should avoid eating too much soya if they are trying for a baby, a UK fertility expert believes.

A study in humans has shown a compound in soya called genistein sabotages the sperm as it swims towards the egg.

Professor Lynn Fraser, from King's College London, said even tiny doses in the female tract could burn sperm out.

She told a European fertility conference that avoiding soya around women's most fertile days of the month might aid conception.

Meditation 'brain training' clues

Meditating monks are giving clues about how the brain's basic responses can be overridden, researchers say.

Australian scientists gave Buddhist monks vision tests, where each eye was concurrently shown a different image.

Most people's attention would automatically fluctuate - but the monks were able to focus on just one image.

Writing in Current Biology, the scientists say their ability to override this basic mental response indicates how the brain can be trained.

Body's own 'cannabis' helps pain

I have never had the guts to try cannabis, but now I know I haven't missed out:-

A cannabis-like chemical produced naturally in the brain aids pain relief, researchers have found.

The US scientists said the finding may lead to new drugs which can stimulate this natural response.

Research has so far concentrated on developing compounds in cannabis itself into medications.

But, writing in Nature, the team said their new understanding of how the brain chemical works could lead to drugs with fewer side-effects.

Source BBC News

Cannabis' may help mentally ill

Chemicals found in cannabis could be used to relieve symptoms of severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, researchers have claimed.

The drug itself has previously been linked to an increased risk of developing such conditions.

But a University of Newcastle team, writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology said cannabinoids might help.

Source BBC News


Fish oil hope for breast cancer

A combination of the fatty oils found in fish and a commonly used anaesthetic may form the basis of effective new drugs to treat breast cancer.

Researchers from Indiana University mixed compounds from omega-3 fatty acids with the anaesthetic propofol.

Together they appeared to reduce the growth of breast cancer cells, their ability to spread around the body and to form secondary tumours.

The research is published in the journal Breast Cancer Research.

Source - BBC News

Fungus 'may help malaria fight'

A common fungus could be the newest weapon in the fight against malaria, researchers have suggested.

A UK team found that it can prove fatal to mosquitoes which come into contact with the fungus when it is sprayed onto surfaces.

The study in Science showed over 90% of mosquitoes were killed within 14 days of being infected.

However, other experts cautioned there would be difficulties in ensuring the fungus was widely used.

Source - BBC News

'No proof' detoxing diets work

Detox diets do no more than the body's own natural system to get rid of toxins, US researchers claim.

People have been "detoxing" for thousands of years, but the scientists say there is no proof that such bodily purges work.

And they say most modern books and detox kits serve up "empty promises".

Writing in Food Technology, experts from the University of Southern California repeat the advice that a balanced diet is best.

Keeping fit may only take minutes

Keeping fit and healthy may not require hours of physical exercise every week, research suggests.

Canada's McMaster University found just six minutes of intense exercise a week could be as effective as six hours of moderate activity.

The Journal of Applied Physiology study showed short bursts of very intense exercise improved muscle capacity, and improved endurance.

However, experts warn it might be too much for people not already fit.

Cranberries 'block gut viruses'

Cranberry juice may help to combat viruses that cause gut disorders, research suggests.

Drinking the juice is already recommended as a way to cut the risk of urinary tract infections.

Scientists found adding cranberry juice to intestinal viruses in laboratory conditions blocked their ability to infect intestinal cells.

The research, by St Francis College in New York, was presented to the American Society for Microbiology.

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Smoking and obesity 'age people'

Being overweight and a smoker makes a person biologically older than slim non-smokers of the same birth age, UK and US researchers have found.

Smoking accelerated the ageing of key pieces of a person's DNA by about 4.6 years. For obesity it was nine years.

These genetic codes are important for regulating cell division and have been linked to age-related diseases.

The study in the Lancet was based on 1,122 twins from a database held by St Thomas' Hospital in London.

Source - BBC News

Red meat 'linked to cancer risk'

A major study has found fresh evidence of a link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, scientists say.

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) looked at the dietary habits of over 500,000 people across Europe over 10 years.

Bowel cancer risk was a third higher for those who regularly ate over two 80g portions of red or processed meat a day, compared to less than one a week.

EPIC's study is reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Friends 'help people live longer'

Good friends promise to be there for you, and their presence can actually help you live longer, researchers say.

Australian scientists said having friends around in old age can do more for life expectancy than having family members around.

The team looked at how a range of social, health and lifestyle factors affected the survival rates of more than 1,500 people over 70.

The research is in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Curvier women 'will live longer'

Curvy women are more likely to live longer than their slimmer counterparts, researchers have found.

Institute of Preventative Medicine in Copenhagen researchers found those with wider hips also appeared to be protected against heart conditions.

Women with a hip measurement smaller than 40 inches, or a size 14 would not have this protection, they said.

The researchers say hip fat contains a beneficial natural anti-inflammatory.