Thursday, November 30, 2006

Vitamin link to bone loss probed

Scientists in Northern Ireland are to investigate if B-vitamin supplements can help prevent osteoporosis.

The University of Ulster scientists are based at the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) at the Coleraine campus.

They are recruiting healthy post-menopausal women, aged 45 and over, for the bone study.

Osteoporosis - loss of bone density, mass and strength - affects about three million people in the UK.

Source - BBC News

Labels: ,

Natural chemical 'beats morphine'

The human body produces a natural painkiller several times more potent than morphine, research suggests.

When given to rats, the chemical, called opiorphin, was able to curb pain at much lower concentration than the powerful painkiller morphine.

The French team said their findings could be lead to new pain treatments.

But other scientists were unsure of the significance of the work, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source - BBC News

Good old Cranberries

Research has shown that cranberries have multiple benefits on human health, the benefits range from increased HDL and reduced LDL, and in lab tests it can kill H. pylori bacteria, which can cause stomach cancer and ulcers. In addition, a compound in cranberries prevents plaque formation on teeth, and extracts of chemicals in cranberries also appear to prevent breast cancer cells from multiplying in a test tube. It is possible that it protects body cells against free radicals and oxidation, conditions related to high levels of 'bad' cholesterol in the blood, ulcers, stroke and a wide range of cancers, including stomach cancer breast cancer. It also prevents or treats urinary infections.

Research has so far found that cranberry juice can be used by women as a natural medicine and antibiotic to prevent or treat urinary infections, like cystitis. The juice contains “antibiotic” compounds called proanthocyanidins that annihilate the Escherichia coli bacteria which cause urinary tract infections and it prevents these bacteria from adhering to the mucosal cells which line the urinary tract.

Labels: , ,

Red wine molecule helps mice live longer

A compound in red wine and grapes can extend the life span of obese mice and help them enjoy a healthier old age, scientists say.

The molecule known as resveratrol not only enabled the mice to live longer than other overweight rodents, it also reduced the negative health effects of eating a high-calorie diet.

Resveratrol has been shown to have same effect in studies on yeast, flies and worms. But the scientists say their research is the first to show it works in mammals.

"It is possible to find a molecule that activates the body's natural defences against ageing. You can use it to enhance the health of a mouse or mammal. That is unprecedented," says Associate Professor David Sinclair, of Harvard Medical School.

He adds that the study, reported online today in the journal Nature, is proof of the principle that it works in mammals.

But the real test will be to develop formulations or find other molecules to treat age-related illnesses such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer in humans.

Researchers already know that restricting calories can prolong life in mice and other organisms.

Resveratrol seems to mimic the beneficial effects of eating less without the hassle of dieting.

Source - News in science

Labels: ,

Parents told to massage babies for good night's sleep

Parents who want to ensure their newborn baby sleeps at night should try giving their child a massage.

Researchers have found it can be as good as rocking at lowering stress levels in infants, helping them sleep better and cry less.

It can also promote and strengthen the bonds between parents and their new baby.

They concluded that massage could be a useful technique for parents who want to find ways to improve their babies' sleep and ability to relax.

Infant massage has traditionally been used in some parts of the world including Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Union.

It is also increasingly being recommended to UK parents in antenatal or special baby massage classes. In each case the parents giving the massage had been trained by health workers.

Overall the research showed infants benefited from massage as they tended to cry less, sleep better and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to those who did not receive massages.

Labels: ,

Garlic as an effective medicine

GARLIC is an effective medicine. It has antimicrobial properties and works well to combat congestion and the build-up of catarrh.

Garlic has other uses as a medicinal herb. It lowers cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, and is used to treat diabetes. Its effect on lowering blood sugar appears to be due to increased hepatic metabolism, an increased release of insulin, or an insulin-sparing effect.

A clove of raw garlic finely chopped and added to vegetables at the last minute is a great way to include it in your evening meal. Consider taking supplementary garlic capsules if you need an extra boost. Try Viridian garlic capsules (£8.05 for 30).

Source - Scotsman

Labels: , ,

Crackdown on deadly Chinese imports

DEADLY fake medicines, including tablets made with yellow road paint and unhygienic pregnancy testing kits, are part of a tide of counterfeit goods from China posing a danger to health, consumers were warned yesterday.

Heart pills coated with furniture polish and bottles of bogus shampoo which caused skin damage were among five million items seized by customs officials at ports, including those in Scotland, in the past year.

The EU Tax and Customs Commissioner, Laszlo Kovacs, said the fakes, which cost European Union countries £336 million a year, were "a growing danger for the health and safety and lives of our citizens".

He said counterfeit goods no longer involve imitation luxury watches, but condoms and HIV and pregnancy testing kits manufactured under unhygienic conditions.

Source - Scotsman

Labels: ,

The English patient

Film director Anthony Minghella is never in one place for too long and the hectic pace takes a toll on his health. Here he explains why traditional Chinese medicine plays such a key role in his life

There’s a good deal of irony in my heralding a terrific book about traditional Chinese medicine. First, because it’s almost exclusively aimed at women and, secondly, because I am far from an example of good health and fitness. But I’m convinced that the alternative treatments I pursue, from Pilates to Thai yoga massage and, in particular, the visits to a couple of great practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, have enabled me to manage a hectic transatlantic career that makes unreasonable demands on my stamina and focus.
As a film director, it’s not unusual for me to get off a plane in another country and start work as if no journey had occurred. The toll of these schedules is hard to quantify but, without maintenance, the body soon complains and fails. Typically, Western medicine is called on at the failure stage. Other forms of healthcare can start earlier, at the complaint stage.

Xiaolan Zhao lives in Toronto. Her book, Traditional Chinese Medicine for Women: Reflections of the Moon on Water, is constructed in chapters that take women through the stages of their lives. She writes about how traditional Chinese medicine began more than 5,000 years ago, 4,500 years before the scientific traditions of the West, in a culture that forbade human dissection. Practitioners relied on their powers of observation, developing a different understanding of the body and disease compared with the West. Dr Xiaolan worked as a surgeon in China, but also trained as a doctor of herbal medicine and acupuncture. She champions an integrated approach to health that is balanced between the traditions of the East and West.

I suffer from a chronically underactive thyroid gland, a condition shared by several members of my family. This results in a lack of the hormone thyroxine which, among other functions, regulates the pace of our metabolism. Thyroid deficiency affects many sites in the body, such as the skin, joints and hair. It also contributes to weight gain, tiredness and depression. None of these things is serious in itself; collectively they can be disabling. I can monitor my condition by how much my hands claw in the mornings, my joints ache, my waistline thickens or I am suddenly poleaxed with exhaustion at almost exactly four o’clock in the afternoon.

Since my condition was diagnosed by my GP in the early Nineties, I’ve been taking thyroxine in increasing dosages. Five or six years ago, on a visit to Toronto, I heard about Dr Xiaolan from my friend Michael Ondaatje, the author of The English Patient (Minghella directed the film). He spoke of her as a great spirit, suggesting that she had saved many of his friends from invasive surgery by using traditional Chinese medicine. I went to see her. And I found her to be remarkable.

Source - Times

Labels: ,

Finding the eczema factor

Steroid creams couldn't help one woman's skin condition, says David Mattin, but homoeopathy changed her life.

Caroline Grime has no memory of a life without eczema. According to her mother, the chronic condition started when Grime was 2. The accounting officer from Manchester, now 28, was always self-conscious about the inflamed, broken skin on her arms and legs, on her torso and around her neck and hairline.

Then there was the constant, maddening itch. “Eventually, I became used to always scratching and my sleep being interrupted,” she says. “I went to my doctor on numerous occasions. But in my mid-20s, my eczema became worse than ever. I scratched so much that my arms and legs bled and I developed an infection, for which I had to take antibiotics and days off work.”

The National Eczema Society claims that one in 12 adults in the UK suffers from eczema, a form of dermatitis that affects the upper layers of the skin. In atopic eczema, the skin develops a hypersensitive reaction to allergens, either airborne or consumed; the disorder is thought to run in families and is linked to other atopic (that is, allergic) conditions such as hay fever and asthma.

Although no one else in her family has eczema, Grime also suffers from both hayfever and asthma. Over the years, she was often prescribed the steroid cream Betnovate; although it helped to reduce the inflammation, it did not clear up the eczema. It was only after Grime suffered her worst flare-up three years ago that she decided to look elsewhere for a remedy. “A friend had had success with homoeopathy and she suggested Annie Hirsch’s clinic.”

Homoeopaths treat like with like. An illness, then, is treated with an ultra-diluted dose of a natural substance that will, in a healthy person, cause that illness to arise. Homoeopaths claim such medicines can stimulate the body’s own healing power. Most scientists, however, are sceptical about the effectiveness of homoeopathic remedies, and many say they work no better than placebos.

Although Grime was aware of the scientific criticisms, it didn’t deter her. She arrived at Hirsch’s clinic in Manchester in April 2004, she says, with an open mind. And she admits: “I was desperate to find an effective treatment.”

Source - Times

It's hot to be cold

Cold spells can boost your immunity and help muscle pain and depression. But is plunging into an ice bath or a freezing chamber going too far? A sceptical Ellie Levenson examines the evidence
I'm not good at being cold: a fondness for moaning and a tendency to be pathetic rather put me off the winter months. When I was in Berlin one December and temperatures plunged below -12°C, the only way I could cope was by eating fried food on the hour and drinking hot wine on the half hour. I own more fleeces than I've had hot dinners and I've had quite a lot of those. My hot water bottle is currently one of my most treasured possessions.

Article continues


But snuggling up, it seems, is no longer the way to get through winter. Not only has recent research from the Scripps Research Institute in California shown that reducing the core body temperature of mice makes them live for longer, but cryotherapy, where people are exposed for short bursts of time to extremely cold temperatures, is the latest treatment fad. Right now being cold is very hot indeed.
Cryotherapy - which is popular in Poland, where it is available in many conventional hospitals - involves standing in chambers filled with cold, dry air at temperatures as low as -135°C. The London Kriotherapy Centre (which uses the Polish spelling) claims this treatment can help a range of ailments from muscular injuries to depression. Cryotherapy is also used by sports teams to decrease the amount of time needed for muscles to recover between training sessions.

The exposure to extreme cold is supposed to stimulate the temperature receptors in the skin to tell the brain to withdraw blood to the body's core. Once this is over, blood is pumped vigorously back around the body, stimulating oxygen and nutrient supply to areas that need revitalising. "Our motto is that you don't have to feel bad to feel better." says Charlie Brooks, director of the centre, who recommends taking 10 two-minute treatments (at £30 a time) over a two-week period.

Tony Wilson, a physiotherapist at the University of Southampton, says that in theory these claims for cold are true but that such extreme temperatures are not necessary. "What they say about the treatment is correct but you might as well just get in a cold bath and save your money," he says. This is what the marathon runner Paula Radcliffe does before a race, describing on her website her pre-race routine: "... five hours before the start of the race, I eat my last meal. Another big bowl of porridge, some banana, some biscuits, a yoghurt and a little chocolate: fuel for later in the day. After eating, I relax again, take a shower and then go for my pre-race ice bath. Athletes mix the ice and water depending on their appetite for discomfort. Some like it colder than others. I like it very cold."

Source - Guardian

Labels: , ,

Depressive Realism

Here's a depressing thought: what if being depressed, at least a little bit, is actually a good thing? And if it is - if being generally pessimistic is a useful personality trait to have - then isn't that a cause for optimism? In which case, is it really a depressing thought after all? Shouldn't it make you happy about being depressed, in fact, and therefore not depressed? Recently, I have been attempting to resolve this paradox, but my brain just locks up, rendering all further thought or action impossible, like whenever I try to use those self-service checkouts at Sainsbury's.

Article continues


The cause of all this trauma was discovering "depressive realism" - the theory that people suffering from depression might have a less distorted picture of the world than the non-depressed. This has been controversial ever since it was first proposed in the 1970s, when two psychologists, Lyn Abramson and Lauren Alloy, recruited groups of non-depressed and mildly depressed people and sat them in front of a light bulb and a button. The subject pressed the button, and the bulb either came on or it didn't. In fact, the button didn't control the bulb at all, but the non-depressed people were much more likely to believe they were in charge of events. The non-depressed people, it seemed, were too caught up in protecting their self-esteem to make accurate judgments.
Recent research has thrown doubt on some aspects of this downbeat conclusion, but not on the general point that happiness may be largely a matter of delusion. We're rubbish, for example, at predicting what will make us happy in the future, as Daniel Gilbert points out in Stumbling On Happiness, which became a bestseller this year, presumably because people thought reading it would make them happy. (Presumably it didn't.) We treat our future selves like beloved children, Gilbert writes, dedicating our lives to making them happy - and they respond like rebellious teenagers, throwing it back in our faces.

Source - Guardian


Warm milk and garlic? It might sound vile — but it'll beat the bugs

Is there anything I can do to strengthen my immune system? I usually get two or three colds every winter and am keen to try to avoid this.

First, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables — at least five portions a day. This will ensure you get adequate supplies of vitamin C, the antioxidant that keeps your immune system strong.

As I've said before, food is the best source of nutrients such as vitamin C. Even supermarket produce, despite being transported over great distances and then kept in cold storage, still provides enough of the vitamin C and other essential nutrients the body needs.

I never take supplements but make sure I eat lots of good fresh fruit and veg. And if I can't get fresh produce, I'm happy to use frozen because it's picked and packaged so quickly it retains much of its nutrient content.

Frozen ready-meals are not great, but when it comes to berries and vegetables, they're a good alternative to fresh.

When you don't manage five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and are keen to take a supplement, I'd suggest 250mg of vitamin C, but that's all.

An adult's daily requirement is only 60mg, so this gives you more than enough — the body excretes the surplus. (Children under the age of ten need only 30mg which they can easily get from their diet.)

Larger doses than these can cause gastric upset and stomach bleeding. Some people believe taking large doses of Vitamin C — ie 1-2g — can help stop a cold or flu in its tracks, but I am not convinced the evidence for this is strong.

Source - Daily Mail

Labels: , ,

Good for stress.

IF THE Christmas party season is filling you with dread, try Rhodiola rosea, a plant indigenous to Siberia. It's a powerful herb that helps the body adapt to physical, mental or emotional stress. It is also excellent for improving mental and physical performance and for centuries has been prized as a powerful stimulant - it is the major ingredient in many love potions of folklore. Research and anecdotal evidence have shown that it can help men suffering from erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.

Viridian sells rhodiola in capsule form (£9.60 for 30), with a bilberry, alfalfa and spirulina base. See for more information.

Gill Hames is at Neal's Yard Remedies, 102 Hanover Street, Edinburgh (0131 226 3223,

Source - Scotsman

Labels: , , ,

How to cope with the misery of backache

BACK problems crept up on me slowly. There was no dramatic incident, just a gradual ache which spread across my lower back and gradually got worse. Since then, despite the best efforts of top-notch osteopaths, physios and complementary practitioners, my bad back has become a fact of life. At times, I have cried with rage and frustration.

The problem seems to be a weak link in the lower vertebrae, where a disc can start to bulge out from its moorings (it has never, thank goodness, actually "slipped"), exacerbated by a sedentary office-based job and the fact that I clench my jaws tightly all night when I should be relaxed.

As anyone with a bad back will know (and this includes the Queen, recently crippled by sciatica, in which the pain from the back shoots down the leg), whenever it "goes" there's a dreadful split second of realisation as you feel the ripple or crunch of the thing giving way, before the searing pain of muscle spasm sets in.

Along with the ruined holidays, there have been the interviews that I have conducted lying down, and long meetings around boardroom tables where, obliged to sit upright, I've been so distracted by pain that I could barely concentrate on the business in hand.

I think I have now worked out what needs to be done to keep the thing in check - enough exercises to maintain sufficient strength in the "core muscles" of the stomach and back. But it's never quite that simple. An incautious piece of lifting, or something out of the usual range of movement patterns, can still throw the blasted thing even when I'm feeling strong and - theoretically - less vulnerable.

The thing is not to panic; it will, gradually, get better. There are, however, many remedies and treatments that can either protect you or get rid of the pain more quickly. Over the years, this is what I've tried.
( Alice Hart-Davis' article goes on to list various terapies and her reaction to them. )

Source - Scotsman

Labels: ,

Nature 'can help people keep fit'

Getting in touch with nature can help keep people fit, reducing the burden of sickness on the health service, conservation experts say.

Natural England is launching a campaign to get people to spend more time outside among the country's wildlife and natural environment.

It said being close to nature could cut stress and increase physical activity.

The conservation agency said the aim was to help prevent ill-health, such as obesity, rather than treat it.

Natural England health adviser Dr William Bird said: "Increasing evidence suggests that both physical and mental health are improved through contact with nature.

Source: BBC News


Eat Chocolate for a Healthy Heart

A few squares of dark chocolate a day could cut your risk of heart attack, say scientists.

A new study has found those who regularly eat chocolate have a lower risk of blood clotting problems which can trigger a deadly heart problems.

The researchers are advising people that eating a little bit of chocolate, especially the dark kind, or drinking hot cocoa regularly could be good for your health.

It is a message that will be welcomed by many Britons given that we are the biggest chocolate eaters in Europe.

Typically we munch our way through an average 22lb of chocolate per year, costing each of us around £72 annually.

The latest study, which could further boost sales, actually arose by accident out of other research into aspirin.

The trial by John Hopkins University involved hundreds of people who were asked to embark on exercise, stop smoking and cut out foods such as wine, chocolate and caffeine prior to the start of the trial.

Unfortunately 139 people were unable to give up their regular chocolate treat and when they admitted their 'crime' had to be excluded from the trial.

However lead researcher Diane Becker decided to monitor their blood anyway to see if the chocolate had any effect on them.

She looked at the activity of platelets, which can clump together and so cause clots.

If one of these clots leads to a blockage it can trigger a heart attack.

The team found the blood of those who were having a regular nibble of chocolate typically took an average of 130 seconds to clot when placed in a special hair-thin tube.

By contrast those who stayed away from chocolate had blood that clotted within 123 seconds.

Source - Daily Mail

Labels: , ,

Stronger than morphine

According to new research, the human body produces a painkiller that could be several times more powerful than morphine. Opiorphine is a natural painkiller found in human saliva.

Source: The Free Dictionary

I was frozen to improve my health

The latest alternative health fad is ‘whole body cryotherapy’.

This rather bizarre sounding treatment involves exposing yourself to extremely cold, dry air in a sealed room for up to three minutes at a time.

In Poland cryotherapy has become a popular treatment for rejuvenating and revitalising the body. It is also widely used by eastern European athletes as an alternative to the ‘ice bath’ to aid post-training recovery.

But it seems there could be also serious medical uses for the treatment. Some experts claim it can alleviate the painful symptoms of everything from rheumatism and osteoporosis to multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and depression, and even suggest it as an anti-cellulite and skin-firming treatment.

Cryotherapy apparently shrinks the molecules in the body and then, when you emerge from the cold, the molecules then expand, increasing the blood flow which then helps ease pain and swelling, as well as fighting inflammation.

Source - Daily Mail

Labels: ,

Monday, November 27, 2006


Now is the time to be enjoying the jewel-like pomegranate. Each fruit contains around 800 juicy red seeds packed with vitamin C - one fruit contains approximately 40% of an adult's daily requirement - as well as vitamins A and E, fibre, iron and potassium. In addition, pomegranates contain powerful antioxidants, such as ellagic acid, which help protect healthy cells from damage by potentially destructive groups of atoms called free radicals.

Recent Israeli studies show that the antioxidants found in pomegranate juice may help reduce the build up of fatty deposits in our arteries. In the US, links are also being made between the pomegranate's antioxidant polyphenol levels and reducing the build up of harmful proteins linked to Alzheimer's disease.
To prepare the fruit, cut it in half , then hold it cut-side down and bash it with a wooden spoon. The seeds should fall out, leaving most of the bitter white membrane behind. Sprinkle them over muesli, add to fruit puddings, or mix with tropical fruits.

Pomegranate juice is widely available and particularly good for children because of its immune-boosting properties (my kids prefer the juice mixed with others as it can be quite tart). Pomegranate molasses is also worth looking out for; add it to savoury dishes such as quail and other game.

Source - Guardian

Labels: , ,