Friday, September 30, 2005

Spouse support cuts job stresses

Going home to a hug from a supportive spouse - male or female - brings down blood pressure boosted by a nightmare day at work, a study finds.

The University of Toronto study, presented to an American Heart Association meeting, monitored 216 men and women for a year.

Those with stressful jobs but close relationships saw blood pressure fall. #

Source - BBC News

Positive thinking a pain reliever

US experts say they have strong scientific proof that mind over matter works for relieving pain.

Positive thinking was as powerful as a shot of morphine for relieving pain and reduced activity in parts of the brain that process pain information.

The Wake Forest University researchers say their findings show that by merely expecting pain to be less it will be less.

Their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Anti-HIV drug from rainforest almost lost before its discovery

Rainforest plants have long been recognized for their potential to provide healing compounds. Indigenous peoples of the rainforest have used medicinal plants for treating a wide variety of health conditions while western pharmacologists have derived a number of drugs from such plants.

However, as forests around the world continue to fall -- the Amazon alone has lost more than 200,000 miles of forest since the 1970s -- there is a real risk that pharmaceutically-useful plants will disappear before they are examined for their chemical properties. Increasingly, it is becoming a race against time to collect and screen plants before their native habitats are destroyed. One near miss occurred recently with a compound that has shown significant anti-HIV effects, Calanolide A.

Calanolide A is derived from Calophyllum lanigerum var austrocoriaceum, an exceedingly rare member of the Guttiferae or mangosteen family. Samples of Calophyllum lanigerum var austrocoriaceum were first collected in 1987 on an National Cancer Institute (NCI)-sponsored expedition in Sarawak, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. Once scientists determined that Calophyllum lanigerum var austrocoriaceum showed activity against HIV, researchers returned to the original kerangas forest near Lundu (Sarawak, Malaysia) to gather more plant matter for isolating the active compound. The tree was gone -- likely felled by locals for fuelwood or building material. The disappearance of the tree lead to mad search by botanists for further specimen. Good news finally came from the Singapore Botanic Garden which had several plants collected by the British over 100 years earlier. Sarawak banned the felling and export of Calophyllum shortly thereafter.


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Rock pool sponge may fight cancer

Sponges collected from rock pools in south Wales could be a source of new drugs to combat breast and lung cancer, say researchers.

A team from the Welsh School of Pharmacy found extracts from the Hymeniacidon sponge contain compounds which can block cancer growth.

Medicinal compounds from marine organisms have traditionally been found in species in warm or tropical seas.

Details were presented to the British Pharmaceutical Conference.


Burgers' seaweed 'health boost'

Adding a seaweed extract to junk food could make it healthier without changing the taste, scientists say.

Newcastle University researchers say adding the tasteless extract, called alginate, would increase the fibre content of pies, burgers and cakes.

This, they say, would mean people could still enjoy the foods they like, but eat more healthily.

The research has been published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

Source - BBC News

'Eat more beans' to stop cancer

A diet rich in beans, nuts and cereals could be a way to prevent cancer, believe UK researchers.

Scientists at University College London have discovered that these everyday foods contain a potent anti-cancer compound.

This blocks a key enzyme involved in tumour growth, they told Cancer Research journal.

The researchers say, in the future, it might be possible to mimic this compound in an anti-cancer drug.


Worms to help combat allergies

Irish scientists are investigating parasitic worms to try to find new ways to prevent asthma and reduce allergies.

Dr Padraic Fallon, from Trinity College Dublin, and colleagues have already managed to cure asthma in lab mice by infecting them with the tiny creatures. The team now has to explain how the parasites achieve this feat at a molecular level.

If they can do that, they should then be able to synthesise a new drug compound to treat asthma in people.

B vitamins do not protect hearts

Taking B vitamins to ward off heart attacks and stroke does no good and may even be harmful, say experts.

Scientists had thought that these drugs might be useful by lowering levels of a blood substance called homocysteine which has been linked heart risk.

However, a large study looking at this has found no benefit even though homocysteine went down with these supplement pills.

The work was revealed in Stockholm at a European Society of Cardiology meeting.

Pomegranates 'slow tumour growth'

Pomegranate juice may help to slow down the progress of prostate cancer, research suggests.

Tests on mice showed the juice dramatically slowed down prostate cancer cell growth.

Pomegranates, native to the Middle East, are packed with healthy anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

The study, by the University of Wisconsin, appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Olive oil 'acts like painkiller'

Good quality olive oil contains a natural chemical that acts in a similar way to a painkiller, a US study says.

Researchers found 50g of extra-virgin olive oil was equivalent to about a tenth of a dose of ibuprofen.

A Monell Chemical Senses Centre team in Philadelphia said an ingredient in the oil acted as an anti-inflammatory, the Nature journal reported.

The team said while the effect was not strong enough to cure headaches, it may explain the Mediterranean diet benefit.

Source - BBC News

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Iron absorption mystery 'solved'

Scientists say they have worked out how the gut absorbs iron from meat into the blood - a discovery they hope could lead to new treatments for anaemia.

A key protein appears to control the process in mice, the King's College London team told the journal Cell.

Mutations in the protein could affect the ability to absorb iron, they said.

Iron deficiency, which causes tiredness, is the world's most common nutritional problem. In the UK around 20% of women are anaemic.

Iron is the least plentiful nutrient in the typical British diet.

Source - BBC News