Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Salsa is an answer to the blues

An epidemic is sweeping the Western world. One in five of us is already suffering the symptoms and the numbers are set to grow. And what is this rampant disease? Bird flu? Obesity? No. Depression. Russell Jones, a mental health nurse writing in Nursing Times (Sept 26), says that dire warnings from the World Health Organisation about the growing prevalence of depression mean that nurses must be extra vigilant about screening patients.

But he questions whether we are right to be so alarmed. Pharmaceutical companies make huge profits from anti-depressants, he says, while research creates ever more complex types of depression.

“Surely the key should be to look at the whole person over time and accept the vital roles that friends, family, faith, music, art and exercise can play in recovery.”

Acknowledging the distressing nature of depression, he points out that in a society obsessed with quick fixes, “the pressure to diagnose and prescribe often prevails”.

But a study at the University of Derby recenlty showed that Salsa dancing may help tackle depression. After nine weeks of dance classes participants recorded lower depression scores. Matt Birks, senior lecturer in mental health said salso could be an alternative therapy.

Source - Times

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High-fibre diet 'can cut cancer risk for women under 50'

A breakfast bowl of muesli, wholemeal sandwiches at lunch and fruit in the evening could halve a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers have found that younger women who eat a high-fibre diet appear to be protected against the disease - at least until the menopause.

A study of 35,000 women over seven years found those with the highest fibre intake of 30 grams a day had a 50 per cent lower incidence of breast cancer than those eating 20 grams a day. But the effect was only seen in pre-menopausal women up to the age of about 50. In post-menopausal women, a high-fibre diet offered no protection.

Source - Independent

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Equine therapy: The answer to emotional issues and addictions?

am standing next to a mare who is nudging her velvety nostrils at me. The last time I was this close to a horse, I was eating one at a restaurant in Kazakhstan. But now we are at a farm in east London, and Annie doesn't know that.

I have come to the Mudchute Equestrian Centre to to sample equine-utilised psychotherapy. With me is Don Lavender, an American psychotherapist who has been using horses to help treat addicts for 16 years. The therapy can be used for eating disorders, relationship issues and "any activity that a human engages in where they are distanced from themselves emotionally".

Lavender has worked at the Sierra Tucson treatment centre in Arizona, which pioneered the therapy. He sets the client tasks and notes their reactions. "The way that I treat myself and other people in relationships is often the way I'll wind up treating the horse," says Lavender, who works with a horse handler. "It's up to the horse professional to observe the behaviour of the horse, and the mental health professional to observe what's going on with the human.

"One of the things that assists with the pychotherapeutic component is identifying the anthropomorphisms that happen - people applying human qualities to the animal. Maybe the horse turns away, and they say it's just like their partner, or their parents who won't deal with them. People will believe that the horse turns away because it doesn't like them."

Lavender believes that horses are an important tool in teaching clients to communicate. Addicts, he says, are preoccupied with fulfilling their own desires. "They're basically operating from a narcissistic posture and if they're going to get anything accomplished with the horse they're going to have to step outside of themselves and interact, communicate and be open to another creature."

The therapy, said to have helped Sophie Anderton and Robert Downey Jnr, can also be used for couples and small groups. Individuals may have six to 12 sessions as part of regular therapy.

Source - Independent

No evidence organic food is better for our health, says Minister

Highly-priced organic food is no better for us than conventionally-grown farm produce, a Minister claimed.

Environment Secretary David Miliband said consumers who opted for chemical-free, naturally-produced food did so as a 'lifestyle choice' rather than because science had proved it was healthier.

Organic food accounts for only 4 per cent of farm produce. But sales have doubled in six years to £1.6billion last year and are forecast to be worth £2.7billion by 2010.

Many consumers say the food tastes better, but it is more expensive. For example, an organic chicken costs around £8.50 in a supermarket, almost three times the price of a more conventionally-reared bird. Mr

Miliband said the rise of organic food was 'exciting' but produce grown using pesticides and other chemicals should not be regarded as 'second best'.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, the Minister said: 'It's a lifestyle choice that people can make. There isn't any conclusive evidence either way.

'It's only 4 per cent of total farm produce, not 40 per cent, and I would not want to say that 96 per cent of our farm produce is inferior because it's not organic.'

Around 350 pesticides are allowed in conventional farming, and an estimated 4.5bil-lion litres of chemicals are used on British farms each year.

The Soil Association, the leading representative of organic producers, admitted there was a lack of studies showing how organic food could be healthier

But its campaigns director Robin Maynard said tests found higher levels of vitamin C in organic produce, and recent research into organic milk had proved it contained more omega 3.

Source - Daily Mail

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Folic acid might help to combat Alzheimer's

The risk of developing Alzheimer's might be lowered by the consumption of a higher level of folic acid through diet and supplements, say researchers.

A study of around 1,000 elderly people found that those with higher than normal levels of the B vitamin are less likely to suffer mental deterioration.

It adds to mounting evidence that folic acid plays an important role in preventing or alleviating many disorders including heart disease and strokes.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York looked over six years at the diet and progress of 965 healthy people who had an average age of 75.

Around one in five, 192, developed Alzheimer's disease - but those with the highest intake of folic acid had the lowest risk.

Previous research has suggested that folic acid may improve the memory of people over 50 and cut the chances of developing Alzheimer's, but this is the largest study to find a reduced risk.

Source - Daily Mail

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Milk in tea 'blocks health gains'

Adding milk to a cup of tea can destroy its ability to protect against heart disease, according to research.
A small German study found drinking black tea significantly improved the ability of arteries to relax and expand to keep blood pressure healthy.

But the European Heart Journal paper also found proteins in milk, called caseins, blocked this effect.

It is estimated as many as 98% of UK tea-drinkers prefer milk in their favourite cuppa.

The researchers tested the effects of tea in 16 humans and on rat tissue.

They showed molecules in the tea called catechins helped dilate the blood vessels by producing a chemical called nitric oxide. The caseins in milk prevented this effect by reducing the concentration of catechins in the tea.

Senior researcher Dr Verena Stangl, professor of cardiology at the Charite Hospital, in Berlin, said: "Our results thus provide a possible explanation for the lack of beneficial effects of tea on the risk of heart disease in the UK, a country where milk is usually added."

Source - BBC


How spicy foods can kill cancers

Scientists have discovered the key to the ability of spicy foods to kill cancer cells.
They found capsaicin, an ingredient of jalapeno peppers, triggers cancer cell death by attacking mitochondria - the cells' energy-generating boiler rooms.

The research raises the possibility that other cancer drugs could be developed to target mitochondria.

The Nottingham University study features in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

The study showed that the family of molecules to which capsaicin belongs, the vanilloids, bind to proteins in the cancer cell mitochondria to trigger apoptosis, or cell death, without harming surrounding healthy cells.

Capsaicin was tested on cultures of human lung cancer cells and on pancreatic cancers.

Lead researcher Dr Timothy Bates said: "As these compounds attack the very heart of the tumour cells, we believe that we have in effect discovered a fundamental 'Achilles heel' for all cancers.

"The biochemistry of the mitochondria in cancer cells is very different from that in normal cells.

"This is an innate selective vulnerability of cancer cells."

He said a dose of capsaicin that could cause a cancer cell to enter apoptosis, would not have the same effect on a normal cell.

Source - BBC


To be Organic or not?

In a recent interview in the Sunday Times food, environment secretary David Miliband stated, that no evidence exists that organic food is better for you than conventional, he added that it was more a lifestyle choice that people can make.

Self Hypnosis Treats Anxiety

Research suggests that self hypnosis could be useful in aiding treatment for children suffering from anxiety.

A small study, conducted at Hampshire Hypnotherapy Centre, found that hypnotherapy helped psychological treatment in reducing anxiety and feelings of helplessness in students. The effects were found to be greater than those of more traditional relaxation techniques.

Source - BBC News

Folic acid sets back effects of ageing on the brain by five years, says study

Folic acid, the vitamin prescribed to pregnant women, could be a brain saver, a study has found.

People who took high dose supplements of folic acid did significantly better in tests of memory and cognitive performance than those given a placebo, researchers report.

The vitamin is found in green leafy vegetables, beans and liver but few people in the UK and northern Europe obtain high enough levels from diet alone. Average intake is around 200 micrograms a day, half the recommended amount.

Folic acid plays a crucial role in the development of the embryo and some countries such as the US now fortify flour with the vitamin. As a result the incidence of spina bifida and similar birth defects has declined. Low folate levels have also been linked with poor cognitive performance, but research has failed to show a benefit among people given supplements.

Now scientists from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands have demonstrated with the use of more sensitive tests of cognitive performance that high dose folic acid supplements taken over a long period slow the effect of ageing on the brain.

Source - Independent

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Spoonful of the sorcerer's art

Some ridicule the naturopath's remedies, others say she turns their lives around. Rory Ross plays the patient

Had Elizabeth Peyton-Jones lived 500 years ago, she would have been burnt at the stake or tied to weights and hurled into a river to see if she floated. These days, her ilk goes by the name of "naturopath" and "herbalist". Even so, a scientist might struggle to understand some of her mystical powers.

Peyton-Jones, whose sister, Julia, is the director of the Serpentine Gallery, infuses natural therapies with uncanny herbal wisdom in order to cure everything from ME and gout to irritable bowel syndrome and depression.

She practises something called Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET), a procedure for spotting and removing allergies, also used for testing organs and clearing emotional "blockages".

"Everyone can achieve good health, but I teach people how," she says, when we meet at her London flat. "I pick up where Jamie Oliver signs off. Using parsley as a garnish is a short step from using the herb as a diuretic or to prevent bruising. The knowledge is there. What's missing is our willingness to identify problems and take the time to help ourselves."

Natural help-yourself therapies are back in fashion. The zeitgeist is telling us that, when healing ourselves, the less we fiddle with Nature's bounty, the better for us all and the NHS.

Source - Telegraph

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Mobile phone use 'linked to tumour'

Long-term users of mobile phones are significantly more likely to develop a certain type of brain tumour on the side of the head where they hold their handsets, according to new research.
A large-scale study found that those who had regularly used mobiles for longer than 10 years were almost 40 per cent more likely to develop nervous system tumours called gliomas near to where they hold their phones.

The new research, to be published later this year in the International Journal of Cancer, is the second study to suggest increased risks of specific types of brain tumours in regions close to where mobile phone emissions enter the head.

However, a number of other studies have found no increased health risks associated with mobile phone use.

Prof Lawrie Challis, the chairman of the government-funded Mobile Telecommunications Health Research (MTHR) programme, said last week that most research had shown that mobiles were safe in the short term but that there was a "hint of something" for longer-term
Prof Challis, who is negotiating funding for a long-term international study, said last night: "I agree with the authors that this is a hint that needs further exploration. It's further reason why a long-term study is necessary."

Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News, a US newsletter on radiation and health that reported the new study, said: "We now have two tumour types found among people who use mobiles for more than 10 years shown by two different research groups. That is compelling evidence."

Researchers from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland compared the mobile phone use of 1,521 people with gliomas with that of 3,301 people without the cancers.

Source - Telegraph


Folic acid can cut risk of a harelip

Pregnant women who take folic acid can dramatically cut the chances of their baby having a harelip, say researchers.

Mothers-to-be are already advised to take supplements of the B vitamin to help prevent conditions such as spina bifida.

But a study has found folic acid was more effective than previously thought, reducing the risk of facial clefts by a third.

One in 1,000 babies born in the UK has the condition, but researchers found the lowest risk was among women who combined a folate-rich diet, multivitamins and daily folic acid supplement.

The Department of Health recommends women planning a pregnancy increase their intake of folic acid and also take a daily supplement. They are advised to continue taking folic acid for the first three months of a pregnancy.

Researchers examined the effects of folic acid on facial clefts in Norway, which has one of the highest rates in Europe. They studied babies born between 1996 and 2001, of whom 377 had a harelip, 196 had a cleft palate only and 763 were healthy controls.

The study found that taking folic acid supplements reduced the risk of a harelip, with or without a cleft palate, by a third.

Diets rich in high-folate foods such as fruit and vegetables also helped reduce the risk, according to the study, published online in the British Medical Journal.

Source - Daily Mail

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Coffee may help relieve gym pain

Drinking coffee could help reduce the post-workout pain that puts many people off exercise, a small study suggests.

The study found moderate doses of caffeine, roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee, can cut muscle pain by up to 48%.

But researchers at the University of Georgia warned their findings may not be applicable to regular caffeine users who are less sensitive to its effects.

The report was published in The Journal of Pain.

Source - BBC News


Fibre 'lowers breast cancer risk'

Pre-menopausal women who eat large amounts of fibre could halve their breast cancer risk, a UK study has suggested.

The University of Leeds researchers, who studied 35,000 women, found those who ate 30g of fibre a day had half the risk of those who ate less than 20g.

They said women should try to increase their fibre intake.

Experts said the International Journal of Epidemiology study was more evidence of the benefits of a healthy diet.

Source - BBC News


Cloudy apple juice 'healthier'

Cloudy apple juice is better for you than clear varieties, say researchers.

Polish scientists found the levels of antioxidants which protect against heart disease and cancer are almost double in cloudy apple juice.

The antioxidants, called polyphenols, are also found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate.

In the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the researchers said the manufacturing process led to fewer polyphenols in clear apple juice.

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