Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lose Weight With Green Tea

Now the same soothing beverage that warms your heart can also
help burn off excess calories.

If you enjoy starting your day with a cup of green tea, you'll
be happy to know that it can help to remove some of the extra
pounds that have accumulated over the years. According to the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, green tea extract can
increase your metabolism rate by 4%. So while you're sipping
your tea, you're also burning fat.

The study attributes this fat-burning quality of green tea to
high concentrations of catechin polyphenols. These chemicals
intensify fat oxidation and thermogenesis, the rate at which
your body burns calories.

The catechins in green tea also help to decrease fat absorption
and regulate glucose by inhibiting the movement of glucose into
fat cells. The tea also helps to slow the increase in blood
sugar after meals, preventing high insulin spikes and
subsequent fat storage.

Green tea can affect your appetite, thus further assisting in
your weight loss regime. Studies conducted at the University
of Chicago showed that test rats consumed up to 60 percent less
food after seven days of daily green tea injections. This
decreased appetite may be due to green tea's effect on blood
sugar regulation.

Green tea can be a beneficial option to coffee. By switching
to green tea, you will lower your calorie intake while keeping
your daily caffeine pick-me-up. People with high blood
pressure, heart trouble or stimulant sensitivities should use
caution when drinking green tea. In these cases, a better
alternative might be to take green tea extract, usually made
from decaffeinated green tea. Green tea extract offers the
weight loss benefits without the high caffeine. Women who are
pregnant or nursing should also consult their doctors before
switching to green tea.

Green tea works best as a weight loss aid when it is consumed
in the right amounts. It is suggested that the optimal intake
is three to five cups of green tea per day. This amount will
help you burn an extra 70 calories per day, amounting to 7
pounds per year. If three to five cups are too much for you,
consider green tea extract, green tea pills or a green tea

Remember, there is no magical formula for weight loss. While
green tea can be an effective part of your diet plan, remember
that healthy, low fat meals, and an active lifestyle are still
your best options for losing weight.


About The Author: Linda Davis contributes to several web sites,
including http://tocip. com and http://yetra. com

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Tea 'controls female hair growth'

Spearmint tea may help to control excessive hair growth in women, say Turkish researchers.

Drinking the tea twice a day, reduced levels of male sex hormones, which can cause excessive hair growth (hirsutism) on the stomach, breasts and face.

Treatment for hirsutism, usually involves drugs to reduce the levels of androgen or male hormones in the body.

Source: BBC News

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Low-fat dairy infertility warning

A diet rich on low-fat dairy food may make it harder for some women to conceive, according to a study involving thousands of US women.
Harvard researchers found women who frequently ate these foods were 85% more likely to have ovulation problems.
In contrast, the Human Reproduction study found eating full-fat dairy foods, including ice cream, cut the risk of this type of infertility.
However, UK experts insist there is scant evidence of a link.
The research used a database of 116,000 US nurses which is regularly updated with information about their lifestyle, diet and health. They were asked whether they had been trying, and failing, to conceive, and whether a diagnosis of 'ovulatory failure' - infertility due to irregularity in the normal monthly cycle - had been made.
Over an eight year period between 1991 and 1999, 438 women reported this set of circumstances, and their answers to questions about their diet were analysed.
If the women ate two or more portions of low-fat dairy produce a a week, the risk of infertility due to ovulatory failure appeared to be 85% higher.
When women eating two or more portions of full-fat dairy produce such as whole milk or ice cream were compared with those eating one or fewer, they had a 27% lower risk of infertility due to lack of ovulation.

Source - BBC

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Tea tree oil could make superbugs stronger

A common ingredient in many beauty products can increase the users chances of suffering from "superbug" infections including MRSA, it has been warned.
Scientists have discovered that repeated exposure to low doses of tea tree oil could endanger people.
The experts from the University of Ulster revealed exposure to low doses of the oil made pathogens such as MRSA, E.coli and salmonella more resistant to antibiotics, and capable of causing more serious infections.
Tea tree oil is commonly used in many products including shampoos, body lotions and toiletries, but there is no legislation requiring manufacturers to state the concentration of the oil in any of the products.
Professor David McDowell, of the university's Food and Microbiology Research Group, said: "We have been growing pathogens such as MRSA, E.coli and salmonella in low concentrations of tea tree oil.
"These pathogens are not sufficient to kill the bacteria, but can switch on their defence mechanisms.
"Unfortunately these defence mechanisms have the added effect of making bacteria more resistant to antibiotics and are able to cause 'harder to treat' infections."

Source - Daily Mail

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The Big Question: What are superfoods, and are they really so good for our health?

Why are we asking this question now?
The term superfoods entered the language in the 1990s to denote foods packed with nutrients that supposedly have health-giving properties. Some are exotic, such as alfa alfa, spirulina and wheatgrass, and some prosaic such as broccoli, beans and beetroot.
The latest addition to the pantheon - watercress - was announced by scientists yesterday. Researchers at the University of Ulster, who fed large quantities of the peppery salad leaf to 60 men and women daily for eight weeks, showed it increased antioxidants in their blood and decreased DNA damage to their white blood cells. They concluded, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The results support the theory that consumption of watercress can be linked to a reduced risk of cancer."
Are the watercress claims credible?
Not really. The research was funded by British watercress suppliers. Karol Sikora, professor of cancer medicine at Imperial College, delivered a delicious putdown yesterday.
He said: "The real problem is that it's not watercress specific - there's nothing magic there. The press release, from what is essentially a marketing association, is grossly overstated. We know that fruits and vegetables all do affect DNA damage, hence the five-a-day strategy to prevent cancer. There is absolutely nothing special about watercress."
What does the term superfood mean?
There is no definition of a superfood - and no definitive list. New candidates are regularly put forward, usually backed by a large dollop of marketing hype. Among the best known are oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, etc) for omega 3 fatty acids, blueberries for vitamin C, brazil nuts for selenium, carrots for beta-carotene, tomatoes for lycopene, olive oil for the anti-inflammatory compound oleocanthal, red wine for resveratrol and garlic.
Health claims range from improving IQ to preventing cancer and heart disease, increasing sporting ability and enhancing appearance. Although their benefits are often overstated there is little doubt that they are a worthwhile addition to any diet.
Why not take vitamin pills and nutritional supplements instead?
Because eating is a pleasure - swallowing pills is not. Research on vitamins has also yielded confusing results with claims showing they protect against heart disease or cancer soon contradicted by new studies showing the opposite.
The argument for superfoods, which contain the vitamins in their raw unprocessed state, is that they are natural food sources, safe and easily absorbed. Calcium, for example, sold as calcium carbonate - chalk - is difficult to digest. In a glass of (low-fat) milk it is easily absorbed.
Does designating something as a superfood have an effect?
Yes. Sales of blueberries soared a couple of years ago after claims the fruit could help protect the body from a range of illnesses. Nutritionists say blueberries are bursting with vitamin C and offer one of the best sources of the antioxidant anthocyanin, believed to help keep the heart healthy and maintain youthful skin. In summer 2004, the US Department of Agriculture researchers revealed blueberries contained pterostilbene, which could be as effective as prescription drugs in helping lower cholesterol. Blackcurrant growers in the UK hit back with a campaign to promote the benefits of their "forgotten fruit", saying the berries contained more antioxidants than their foreign-grown rivals.

Source - Independent

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Sugar rush

From fresh fruit to ready meals, from baby formula to sausages, the food we eat is getting sweeter. Why? And should we be worried? Felicity Lawrence examines the sugaring of the British palate

Once, sugar was all delight: from the land of milk and honey to Shakespearean innocence - "white-handed mistress, one sweet word with thee ... honey, milk and sugar, there is three". But now it's the devil incarnate; or, at least, the new nicotine.
"Sugar is as dangerous as tobacco [and] should be classified as a hard drug, for it is harmful and addictive," according to a recent article in the British Medical Journal. Sugars in all forms are seen by many as dangerous to health and our food is packed full of them: not just sucrose (plain sugar as we know it) but other forms of refined sugars from cane, beet and corn.

Eat too much of them and you may become fat, sick and miserable. Sugars rot your teeth and encourage a calorie-rich but nutrient-low diet that contributes to obesity - and obesity is a high-risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
The rhetoric from the government's food standards agency is more muted but the aim is the same: having waged a successful war against excess salt, next on the watchdog's agenda is shifting the balance of our diets away from processed sugars and fats to less energy-dense and more nutritious foods. It has begun the drawn-out process of consulting industry and health groups on what should be done and is expected to ratchet up the campaign over the next few months.
The watchdog is focusing on both sugar and fat because they are closely linked in food manufacturing: reduce one and the other has a tendency to go up. The health-conscious have been reducing their fat consumption for a while, but if they've been doing it by eating more reduced-fat products, such as low-fat yoghurts, or "lite" mayonnaise, or reduced-fat biscuits, then they will be eating more sugars instead.
But how have we become so devoted to sugar? And what has the sweetening of our diets done to our palates along the way?
At East Malling research station in Kent, Vicky Knight is a raspberry plant breeder, Dave Simpson a strawberry expert and Ken Tobutt an apple, cherry and rootstock man. I took them a bag of supermarket fruit and they used a Brix refractometer, an instrument used by industry to measure sweetness, to test the sugar content of my purchases.
Foods are definitely getting sweeter and our palates altering, say the East Malling plant breeders, but when it comes to fresh produce the change is more subtle than just upping the sugar content. "Our perception of fruit varieties and their taste is affected by acid levels. People tend to talk about things being sweeter but sometimes what's actually happened is they've become blander. You can eat blander fruit in larger quantities, you come back for more of it than of the richer varieties, and that can increase sales," Tobutt explains.
Apples and strawberries, for example, have been bred to taste sweeter by greatly reducing their acid levels. The problem is that if acidity is too low, the fruit is left with little flavour at all - just sweetness.

Source - Guardian

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How eating fish during pregnancy could make baby brainier. (Just stay off the shark)

Study of 9,000 families points to value of seafood·
Finding contradicts official advice to limit intake

A study of 9,000 British families suggests that women who eat seafood during pregnancy could have brainier children. The research suggests that those who avoid fish or do not eat enough of it risk depriving their unborn children of important nutrients that are needed to help brain development.
The advice contradicts previous warnings by health experts suggesting pregnant women should limit the amount of fish they consume because of potentially dangerous pollutants in seafood.

In the US the government advises women to limit their intake of seafood to 12 ounces (340gm) a week, to protect the unborn child from pollutants such as methyl mercury, which can affect the development of the brain.
Jean Golding, one of the scientists at Bristol University who conducted the study, said setting limits on the amount of fish women should consume could be problematic. "It can be very confusing. [When limits are set] the assumption is sometimes made that the less you eat the better. In the US particularly some women stopped eating fish altogether."
She said the only fish that women should avoid were swordfish, shark and fresh tuna, as these could contain greater quantities of pollutants. "These fish are at the top of the food chain, so they have been eating other fish and storing pollutants throughout their life."
She added that children with mothers who during pregnancy had cut out fish were "less likely to fulfil their potential in terms of behaviour and skills".
Professor Golding advised women who felt they did not like fish to take omega-3 supplements as an alternative.
The Food Standards Agency advises mothers to avoid shark, swordfish and marlin, and to limit consumption of fresh tuna. The FSA website says mothers-to-be need have no more than two portions of oily fish, such as fresh tuna, mackerel and sardines, a week, but it also urges that enough fish is eaten during the course of the pregnancy. The website states: "Remember that eating fish is good for your health and the development of your baby, so you should still aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish."

Source - Guardian

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Diet high in cholesterol can trigger onset of Alzheimer's, warn scientists

An unhealthy diet filled with high-cholesterol foods can increase your risk of Alzheimer's Disease, say scientists.

Studies have found that eating lots of foods containing saturated fats, such as butter and red meat, can boost levels of proteins in the brain linked to dementia. Now scientists have discovered this may be because such a diet affects cholesterol-clearing substances in the brain.

They hope the discovery could lead to new drugs which allow the clogging fats to be cleared more effectively and so help slow down the progression of the debilitating brain condition.

In Britain 500,000 people have Alzheimer's Disease in which the progressive loss of their brain cells leads to memory loss, mood changes and eventually death.
One of the key characteristics of people with the condition is the formation of clumps, or 'plaques' of beta amyloid proteins which are thought to destroy brain cells.

Scientists increasingly believe diet and lifestyle may affect the build up of these damaging proteins.

Studies have found a Mediterranean-style diet rich in plant foods and fish and low in red meat cuts the risk of developing the brain disease by up to two-thirds.
Research in mice has also found that those given high-cholesterol diets have more amyloid beta proteins in their brain.

And there is growing evidence that taking cholesterol-lowering statins makes people less likely to develop Alzheimer's later in life.

Source - Daily Mail

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Not feeling well? Then try some medicine tailored just for you

Traditional Chinese medicine is now one of the UK’s most popular alternative treatments. Our correspondent explains the philosophy behind it and how it can be practised safely

It is a healing system that is reputed to be 3,000 years old but which holds undoubted appeal for modern living. With more than 1,000 clinics employing 3,000 practitioners, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is now one of the most popular alternative treatment approaches in the UK. Advocates claim that it works for a vast number of conditions including migraines, skin diseases, hormonal problems, sexual dysfunction and infertility, stress and depression. In fact, they say, virtually the only conditions it cannot treat are acute, life- threatening ones or something requiring surgery.
In the simplest terms, the theory behind TCM is that illness is caused by an imbalance in the body between the two opposite yet complementary energies of yin and yang, or a blockage along one of the meridians or pathways associated with various organs through which flows the vital energy of qi (pronounced “chee”).
“The philosophy of TCM is important and states that yang is external, representing heat, hyperactivity, light and dryness, while yin is internal and is associated with night, quietness, dampness and cold,” says Dr Ming Cheng, head of the TCM degree programme at Middlesex University. “To be healthy, yin and yang must be balanced.” According to the Ancient Chinese, the body also has an internal climate and, as drought causes plants to wilt, so inner dryness is thought to cause chapped skin and so on. Each of the body’s organs is linked directly to a particular element: fire for the heart, earth for the spleen, water for the kidneys, metal for the lungs and wood for the liver. By interacting in a number of ways, they, too, affect the health — for instance, the kidneys (water) nourish the liver (wood).
“Everything from the way a patient carries himself to his posture and even the way he talks will offer valuable indicators to his state of wellbeing,” says Cheng. “Undoubtedly his tongue will be examined: size, shape, moisture, colour and coating are all believed to be an external reflection of the state of someone’s internal organs.”
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Only once all these factors have been considered and a far more detailed analysis of a patient’s history than required in Western medicine has been made — patients are asked about their medical history and emotional state as well as any physical symptoms — can a diagnosis be reached. Problems are then corrected through a combination of herbal remedies containing a bewildering array of ingredients — more than 6,000 medicinal substances are listed, 300 of which are in everyday use — which are usually boiled into a tea or sometimes applied topically. Acupuncture (or acupressure) is also considered vital in clearing blockages and helping to balance the body’s yin and yang — imbalances which manifest themselves as illness or pain can be treated by placing a thin, disposable needle into one of more than 2,000 specific points on the body.
“TCM is an approach that is always tailored for the individual and combines several different elements in treatment,” says Dr Jidong Wu, a spokesperson for the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM). “What works for one person’s illness may not be right for another’s.”

(article continues)

Even in China, where the industry is worth an estimated £15.2 billion, the merits of TCM are being questioned. Last year an eminent doctor, Professor Zhang Gongyao, caused uproar by describing the traditional approach as “untrustworthy” and “pseudo-science” and launching an online petition to have TCM replaced with Western medicine in hospitals.
“TCM doesn’t match the key elements of what we call science,” he says. “There’s no reasonable logic to it, no solid evidence for it and it has no consistent effects.”
The number of TCM doctors in China is falling too, down to 219,000 from 480,000 in 1949. To rub salt into the wounds of those who hold it in high regard, a survey by the national newspaper China Youth Daily recently found that 72 per cent would choose Western medicine ahead of TCM.
Ironically, as faith in TCM remedies appears to be temporarily on the wane in China, it is thriving in the West. Several European drugs companies are trying to deploy the ancient techniques of TCM to develop pioneering products in both medical and cosmetic arenas.
One small London-based pharmaceutical company, ChiMed, which specialises in TCM-related research and employs China’s first Harvard scholar, Wei Guo So, is already conducting advanced trials on a drug made from Chinese herbs to help people with neck and head cancer and has signed separate deals with the drug giants Procter and Gamble and Merck. Plans for a TCM development centre in Cambridge are also being drawn up by investment agencies.
McIntyre believes that making the industry accountable for itself will mean further huge strides forward. “TCM can offer many things to many people, but at present there are loopholes that allow for bad practice,” he says. “When there is official regulation, the few bogus practitioners will be eliminated and the public will feel confident that a TCM practitioner is answerable to an official body.”

(article conyinues)

Source - Times

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Superfoods: are they merely a fad?

FROM blueberries and broccoli to tea and tomatoes, the widely-lauded "superfoods" are credited with a host of amazing powers - from helping us look younger to protecting us from deadly cancers and heart disease. But does the constant expansion of the list of must-eat items compromise the claims of food manufacturers that these should be an essential part of a healthy diet?
A study by researchers at Ulster University yesterday revealed that the watercress diet, favoured by celebrities such as Liz Hurley, can dramatically cut the risk of cancer.
The research - funded by the Watercress Alliance - found the salad leaf can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and even kill them. But nutritionists yesterday expressed scepticism that the results were any use to shoppers. The trial involved 60 men and women eating an 85g bag (a cereal-bowlful) of watercress a day for eight weeks.
"That's completely impractical for a normal person," said Carina Norris, a Fife-based nutritionist. "Watercress has quite a peppery taste, so while it might work as an extra ingredient in a salad or a sandwich, there is no way any sensible person would consume that much. You are better getting your nutrients and vitamins from a range of sources."
She added: "The worrying aspect of this obsession with superfoods is that consumers hear too many claims of this kind and will simply get bored of the notion and go back to eating less healthy food."
Karol Sikora, professor of cancer medicine at Imperial College, said the watercress claims were "grossly overstated". He added: "Fruits and vegetables all affect DNA damage, hence the five-a-day strategy to prevent cancer. There is nothing special about watercress.
"I don't think people will seriously convert to eating 85g of the stuff each day. That's an awful lot of cress! You might even turn green. Much better to look holistically at your diet and ensure that there's plenty of fruit and vegetables, fibre and as little fat as possible.
"The other weakness in the study is that it doesn't actually show a reduction in cancer incidence - it's only a long-term surrogate that's changed." He said a long-term study would take 20 years, "by which time the investigators and their subjects would be rather bored".
Although their benefits can be overstated - a large dollop of retailer marketing goes towards promoting them - superfoods are a worthwhile addition to any diet.

Source - Scotsman

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'I would become a raging monster'

For two weeks every month Sue Scarlett used to become what she calls a "raging monster". Normally laid back, Sue, 37, from Essex, became terrified by the changes that came over her for half her life. She would spend days weeping for no reason, flying into irrational rages and even contemplated suicide. "My symptoms started getting really bad when I was 27, but I thought it was the relationship that I was in that was making me feel weepy, anxious and generally very sensitive at certain times," she said.

Dan managed to get Sue home and together they researched natural remedies. They discovered that eating carbohydrates every two-and-a half hours helped balance her moods and increase her serotonin production. Vitamin B12 was also a great help in keeping her nervous system balanced. She also asked her GP for a mild anti-depressant, avoided alcohol, exercised more, took multi-vitamins and ensured she got a good night's sleep. Sue says the results have been dramatic. "I have managed to reclaim most of my life. "I do still have severe PMS at times but generally only for about five days, and nowhere as bad as previously. I can still get ratty, but it has been made bearable." Sue and Dan have stayed together throughout her ordeal and plan to marry later this year.

Source - BBC

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Back pain linked to brain changes

Chronic back pain is linked to physical changes in the brain, according to researchers in Germany.
A team found patients with the condition also had microstructural changes in the pain-processing areas of their brains.
The scientists said the work provided evidence that the condition was real and it could aid treatment research.
The research was presented at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting, in Chicago.
To study the condition, the researchers used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to look at the differences between sufferers' and healthy volunteers' brains.
They discovered the brains of patients with chronic back pain had a more complex and active microstructure compared with the healthy volunteers' brains.
The changes occurred in regions of the brain associated with pain-processing, emotion and stress response.

Source - BBC


We are more than our individual parts

Psychoanalyst Darian Leader says doctors need to treat more than the physical symptoms. "Doctors don’t listen to us. That’s one of the reasons for the growth in complementary medicines. No matter what their medical benefits, they treat patients as individuals and not just the sum of their parts. What concerns me is that by not listening to patients, doctors and other health professionals are not only making patients feel excluded, they are missing out on information about their history that could reveal the true root of their medical problem."

One bestselling textbook for medical students pays lip service to the doctor-patient relationship, telling doctors to indicate to the patient that they recognise their experiences. Then it explains why: “Otherwise the patient may tend to believe that the clinician has not got things right, which increases the risk of the patient not adhering to the recommendations that follow.” In other words, it makes it more likely that the doctor will be obeyed.

It wasn’t always like this. Just before the Second World War doctors were lamenting how the study of disease had begun to overshadow the study of the patient. They recognised that illness was not an isolated physical problem but something that concerned the whole person and his or her relationships with others. Then, but not now.

Now patients are shunted from consultant to consultant, each one unable to follow a patient for long, removing any possibility of learning about their ways of coping, reacting and dealing with their lives. The patient is alienated in a chain of medical procedures, and any chance of studying the relationship between illness and the person as a whole has been lost.

Until the mid1950s, it was not uncommon for a psychotherapist or psychiatrist to receive referrals from a dentist. Yet today this would be a newsworthy event. What happened? In a series of papers in learned dentistry books and journals in the 1940s, psychological factors were recognised as bringing about changes in the saliva and gums that encourage bacterial activity.

Medical students, for example, have higher rates of dental decay after exam time than at other less tense moments. Nighttime gnashing of teeth has been linked to a psychological state in hundreds of studies.

Yet, today, teeth problems simply mean a trip to the dentist. Case closed. Does the patient lose out here? I heard about a dentist who diagnosed constant clamping of the jaw at night in a patient who was an artist, a painter. The dentist advised on dental procedures but didn’t ask any questions of the patient. So he was unaware that the symptoms had started when the painter knew that a canvas she was particularly attached to was going to be sold. Once she realised that it was her wish not to part with the painting that produced her jaw clamping, the nocturnal symptoms disappeared.

It’s a similar tale with eyes. Psychiatrists once received many referrals from ophthalmologists, yet today this would be seen as bizarre. In 1960, a paper in Psychosomatic Medicine estimated that between 40 and 100 per cent of recorded eye disorders were influenced by psychological factors. Intraocular pressure, for example, can be associated with states of anxiety, and may influence conditions such as glaucoma. But today, drug treatments are applied almost automatically.
The move away from listening to patients to looking at bare physical facts is reflected in the way that we now regard the only authoritative research as being about numbers, not people.

Source - Times

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Tapping away at the fear

One man who was terrified of flying found relief in a gentle therapy, says Emma Mahony
Andrew Balfour, 48, a sales manager from Barnes in southwest London, is not the sort of man who enjoys delving into his psyche. So when he considers why his fear of flying crept up on him, it seems out of character to hear him say: “Perhaps it’s because I am a bit of a control freak. I don’t like being out of control.”
He is not alone. An estimated ten million people in the UK have some fear of flying, despite claims from the aviation industry that it is the safest way to travel. And figures indicate that it is getting safer; in 1979 there were three fatal accidents per million flights, compared with only one per million today. But people who suffer from aviophobia are not swayed by statistics, and, as in Balfour’s case, it can threaten their livelihoods, if not govern their lives.
Balfour’s fear of flying began on a work trip to Brussels 12 years ago. “I’d been in the job for about a year-and-a-half and I don’t know why but on this particular flight the turbulence really began to get to me. I started to sweat and to think paranoid thoughts, such as how easy it was for a plane to fall out of the sky, and what if there was mechanical failure.”
An optimist by nature, he hoped that on each subsequent trip his fears would improve, but with an average of 40 business trips to make every year his unease about flying deepened, making his working life difficult. “I tried anything that anyone recommended: a couple of brandies before getting on the plane, pain-killers, Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, but nothing seemed to help.” At the check-in desk, he would mention his nervousness to staff, and was often allowed to sit at the front of the plane, near or alongside the pilot (before 9/11) because “talking to someone helped”.
Emotional freedom techniques (EFT), or tapping, was developed in the US in the 1990s. Like acupuncture, it works on the meridian system (“energy channels”) in the body, stimulating eight major meridian points by tapping or massaging them lightly. At the same time, the client talks about the problem or issue to release its intensity, described as “tearless trauma”.
Balfour heard about EFT from his wife, who had been seeing an EFT practitioner, Nichola Schwarz, in Acton, West London, “to help her shift 13 years of emotional clutter”. He says: “She said it was helping her and it was good for phobias. I thought, ‘I’m open to new ideas’.”

Source - Scotsman

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Vitamins 'could shorten lifespan'

Taking certain vitamin supplements may adversely affect people's lifespan, researchers have suggested.
Millions worldwide use antioxidant supplements such as vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene.
Looking at dozens of previous studies, Copenhagen University researchers suggested these appeared to raise, not lower, the risk of early death.
A supplements industry expert said the Journal of the American Medical Association study was fatally flawed.
But nutritionists said it reinforced the need to eat a balanced diet, rather than relying on supplements.
While vitamin supplements have been popular for decades, the precise benefits they offer - if any - remain uncertain, despite hundreds of research projects.
More recent theories suggest that certain vitamins consumed as part of a healthy diet - and perhaps taken in supplement form - may be able to prevent damage to the body's tissues called 'oxidative stress' by eliminating the molecules called 'free radicals' which are said to cause it.
This damage has been implicated in several major diseases including cancer and heart disease, yet the implication that vitamin supplements might protect people from these illnesses is controversial.

Source - BBC

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Car drivers 'risking skin cancer'

Drivers who spend a lot of time behind the wheel increase their risk of skin cancer, US work suggests. Experts say repeated sun exposure through the car's side windows is to blame, and drivers who roll down the window are at even greater risk.

Most glass used for windows blocks UVB rays that cause sunburn but not deeper penetrating UVA rays.

The Saint Louis University School of Medicine team presented their work to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Source - BBC

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Watercress 'may cut cancer risk'

Eating watercress regularly could help cut the chances of developing cancer, research suggests.

The University of Ulster work suggests it cuts DNA damage to white blood cells - considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer.

Watercress appears to raise levels of beneficial compounds, and cut levels of harmful compounds in the blood.

The study is funded by the Watercress Alliance, but is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source - BBC News

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Gut feeling for a good remedy

Targeting stress was key to curing a painful bowel complaint, says Emma Mahony

It wasn’t until Melanie Smith sought help from a homoeopath a year ago to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that she was able to look back on seven years of suffering and see it for what it was: stress-related. “Just discovering that I was pregnant, with the stress of a major life change, triggered a flare-up,” says Smith, 35, mother of two boys, 3 and 18 months.

Like many of the million sufferers in the UK, Smith was in the dark as to why she was afflicted until that realisation. But while the cause of IBS, the most common of all diseases diagnosed by gastroenterologists, is often hard to pinpoint, the symptoms follow a traditional pattern: swelling, soreness and bloating in the stomach, either constipation or diarrhoea, and occasional blood and mucus. The unpleasant condition had dogged Smith since the age of 27, but she had learnt to live with it while holding down a demanding job as a modern-languages teacher at a secondary school in Surrey.

Conventional medicine did not help. She visited her GP twice at the onset, and was referred to a specialist gastroenterologist, a surgical consultant and a medical consultant, as well as having a colonoscopy to check for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. “The colonoscopy showed inflammation,” Smith recalls, “but it was inconclusive and I found it an ordeal.” While IBS affects between 10 and 20 per cent of the UK’s population at any given time, treating it is not always effective. People with IBS have what appears to be a disturbance in the interaction between the gut, the brain and the autonomic nervous system that regulates the bowels, and anything from diet, levels of serotonin (the mood-controlling hormone) to emotional factors are cited as the cause.

Before she became pregnant four years ago, Smith had tried dietary changes to improve her symptoms, preparing fruit and vegetable juices. But as a vegetarian who ate some fish, she considered her diet to be good. At the same time, she was given medication prescribed by the hospital. “I had blind faith in my treatment,” she says, “and I didn’t see it as a long-term problem.”

That all changed after the pregnancy and birth of her first child. “I had been told by a GP that during pregnancy the condition can get better, but mine was bad throughout. Then, postnatally, I had a huge flare-up, and was prescribed a high dosage of steroids, which gave me steroid psychosis in which I ballooned up and I went a bit loopy.” Coming off the steroids, Smith began to question her treatment, particularly because she was seeing a lot of different specialists.

When she fell pregnant and gave birth for the second time a year later, the condition flared up again, and again she was prescribed steroids. “I thought that they must know what they were doing,” says Smith. But she had chronic diarrhoea, requiring about 20 visits to the bathroom day and night, and she started losing weight. “I was breast-feeding, but all I could do was lie on the sofa with my two-year-old reading, cuddling the baby, while my mother cooked and cleaned.”

Feeling deeply depressed, Smith agreed to a friend’s suggestion of homoeopathy. And so, seven months after the birth of her second child, she went to see Kate Mead, a London-based homoeopath, last February. Nothing could have prepared her for the transformation. “She looked washed out,” recalls Mead, who had worked in the NHS for ten years as an auxiliary nurse before qualifying as a homoeopath from the Contemporary College of Homoeopathy in Exeter.

Source - Times

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Black soya 'cuts diabetes risk'

Eating black soya beans could lower fat and cholesterol levels and may help prevent diabetes, a study suggests.
Yellow soya is already known to lower cholesterol, but black soya is used in traditional oriental medicine as a treatment for diabetes.
The Korean study found rats who got 10% of their energy from black soya gained half the weight of those who had none, Chemistry and Industry reports.
UK diabetes experts warned black soya alone would not prevent the condition. In the study, also reported in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the researchers from Hanyang University, Seoul, fed 32 rats a high-fat diet.
The animals were divided into four groups. One group was given no black soya protein while the other groups derived either two, six or 10% of their energy from the food.
After 28 days, it was found that the animals which ate the most black soya had gained half as much weight as those who had had none.
The group who had eaten most black soya also levels of total blood cholesterol that were 25% lower and of LDL "bad" cholesterol that were 60% lower than those who ate none.
The researchers, led by Shin Joung Rho, said the study showed that eating black soya prevented weight gain and improved cholesterol levels, but did not suggest why the food might have the effects.

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Garlic cannot cut your cholesterol, says study

This is bound to cause a stink among those who adhere to the centuriesold belief that garlic is good for the heart.
According to the latest research, consuming the wonder bulb makes no difference whatsoever to cholesterol levels. Almost 200 volunteers were put on a garlic-rich diet for six months, but the only notable change was an increase in bad breath and body odour.
The study by researchers at Stanford University's school of medicine in California, assessed the effects of raw garlic and two commercial garlic supplements on LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and HDL, the "good' variety".
Dr Christopher Gardner, who led the team, said: "There were no statistically significant effects of the three forms of garlic on LDL cholesterol concentrations." Levels of other types of cholesterol were also unaffected, he said.
Garlic has long been thought to have benefits ranging from the prevention of colds to cutting the risk of developing cancer. Previous tests found the plant could "reverse" fatty build-up in the arteries.
Dr Gardner warned the lack of benefit found in this trial did not mean garlic did not have other healthy effects.

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How a spoonful of honey can make toast of the superbugs

Honey could be the latest weapon in the battle against hospital superbugs.
It has long been used to dress wounds by the Aborigines, who trusted its anti-bacterial powers.
And after watching them at work, doctors have combined sterile honey from Australian bees with seaweed to clean wounds infected after heart surgery.

Medihoney is already being used on patients at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
It is combined with a gum extracted from the seaweed, which helps draw out and absorb harmful bacteria. The ingredients are then placed on dressings which are applied to the wound.
If successful, the treatment could eventually be used in hospitals to help fight bugs such as MRSA that claim around 5,000 lives and cost the Health Service £1 billion a year.
Previously, honey has been combined with anti-bacterial compounds and used on patients with catheter infections in a kidney unit at a hospital in Brisbane.
Doctors found that as well as fighting bacteria the mixture was not met with the resistance commonly seen when conventional anti-bacterial medicines are used. All honey contains hydrogen peroxide from an enzyme that bees add to nectar. The chemical is known to kill bacteria.
Honey also contains a substance called glucose oxidase which increases its anti-bacterial properties.
This particular product, from a specially selected bee colony in Australia, is more effective, because the bees visit plants with more powerful anti-bacterial qualities.
Chris Brayshay, 56, from Darlington, was treated with honey when a wound left by a quintuple heart bypass became infected.
He said: "I am living proof that this ancient-sounding cure really works.

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The ten top ways to beat stress

We're feeling the strain more than ever, new research shows. But don't worry, says Jeremy Laurance; here are some simple ways to stay calm
Half the British population feels more stressed today than they did five years ago, according to a survey commissioned by the Samaritans. More than one-tenth of people say they have felt suicidal - twice the proportion in 2002. But there are ways to reduce your levels of stress - and to improve the quality of your working life. Here are 10 tips.
Stress is defined as what happens when the demands made on a person exceed that person's ability to cope. The word is derived from the Latin stringere - "to draw tight". Some stress is good - it keeps us on our toes and driving onwards. Its origin lies in the "fight or flight" response that evolved in our ancestors and was essential for survival in prehistoric times.
Today, the same fight or flight response - triggering the release of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol and marked by a pounding heart or sweaty brow - cannot be discharged by running or fighting as our ancestors did. It has physical and emotional effects, increasing blood pressure and putting a strain on the heart, until we face overload.
We do not want to eliminate stress, but we need to manage it so that it doesn't dominate our lives.
Long hours and a macho culture are among the chief causes of workplace stress. The Health and Safety Executive launched a tough new code to reduce stress at work in December 2004. The code sets six standards, including increasing support and giving staff more control. Employers who ignore the standards are at risk of legal action.
Alan Barber, a former head of maths at East Bridgewater secondary school in Somerset, was awarded £70,000 after leaving with a stress-related illness. The case, which went to the House of Lords, established that an "autocratic and bullying style of leadership" that is "unsympathetic" to complaints of occupational stress is a factor that courts can take into account in deciding claims.
A survey by the mental health charity Mind found that the most stressed workers were teachers, social workers, call-centre workers, prison officers and the police. Public-sector workers suffered more stress than those in the private sector.
The single most popular response to stress is to have a drink. This was mentioned by one respondent in three in the Samaritans survey, up from one in four in 2003. Similar proportions say that they watch television or listen to music.
While these may be pleasurable and relaxing at the end of the day, they are not the most effective remedies for stress. "Going for a short walk, doing stretching or breathing exercises, or just getting away from your desk would have a greater impact," says Neil Shah, the director of the Stress Management Society. Exercise also produces endorphins, the body's natural opiates, which boost mood.
Other measures include changing your attitudes, such as learning to accept what you cannot change, managing your time and agreeing with people some of the time. There are no pills or potions or magic cures for stress - notwithstanding the claims of some companies that sell them.

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Risky alternative?

More and more parents are taking their children to complementary therapists. But just how safe and effective are such treatments?

There's a baby boom in the world of complementary medicine. Therapists are treating more and more infants, as many parents abandon long waits at the doctor's surgery in favour of costly visits to alternative practitioners.
"There's much more of an awareness of what we do," says June Tranmer, who specialises in paediatric acupuncture at the Healing Clinic in York. "We have had hundreds of children coming through our doors and the numbers keep going up."

Probably the most popular treatments are baby massage and yoga - the infant Leo Blair was reputedly taken to baby massage sessions run by beauty therapist Bharti Vyas - as well as homeopathy and even acupuncture, kinesiology (which claims to diagnose imbalances through analysing movement) and chiropractic. But why is the next generation having these treatments? Alternative therapists usually spend longer with their patients and claim remarkable results. So for parents with money and initiative, they are an attractive option.
Caroline Hind took her twins, Corem and Jaimie, to see Tranmer at the end of last year. The boys, who turn two at the end of this month, had whooping cough. "There was nothing the doctor could do, as it was really a nursing issue," says Hind. "We suffered broken nights with the boys coughing so much they were sick." Tranmer spent an hour with the family, before carrying out acupressure and cupping treatments. "It was a really calming experience for them, and for us," says Hind. "Everything was so gentle. Afterwards both babies slept through the night." The whooping cough didn't go away completely, but Hind is sure the treatments helped. "I suppose you never know for sure, but it did seem to make a difference," she says. "I think doctors are very good at serious illnesses, but for allergies, migraines and the sorts of things where they're at a bit of a loose end, this is a good option. Medicine is so reliant on drugs. This is a gentler alternative."
Many medical professionals, however, disagree. "I remain sceptical until there's good evidence," says paediatrician Jethro Herberg. "My antagonism is proportional to the degree of harm they can do. At best they are benign and, at worst, can do an awful lot of harm. Herbal remedies are littered with case studies where they have done damage. People have an inconsistent view ... If they go to the doctor, they demand an extremely high level of proof that what they're getting is efficient and not harmful. But they'll go and see an alternative practitioner, with no idea whether it could be harmful, or not."
Tranmer admits there is not a "huge body" of research, but questions who would finance it. "You can't do research for nothing, and drug companies won't fund us," she says. "Anyway, if you see a child screaming in pain, and they're better after you treat them, how do you deny it is working?"
Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, agrees that more evidence is needed. "Without proof, we only have hearsay and clinical experience, which can be misleading," he says. "Little children are very fragile and, to me, there is an ethical imperative to find more evidence. The official bodies - the NHS or Wellcome Trust, which have no commercial interest - should fund research."

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Common scents for healing

Aromatherapy can significantly lift anxiety and depression. It’s the sort of statement you see on alternative-therapy websites and pamphlets for practitioners who massage fragrant oils into people’s skin. And you’ve probably always suspected that there was little to back it up.
Today all that changes. According to an authoritative study by Cancer Research UK, in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, that assertion is true. The new study is significant, and not just because it indicates that after chemotherapy and other treatment, aromatherapy helps to relieve anxiety and depression much quicker than other approaches.
The researchers believe it is the first large randomised controlled trial (the highest standard of research, which doctors take most seriously) to be conducted on a complementary therapy in several centres in the NHS. And it indicates that health service workers and research funders are beginning to take seriously the potential contribution of complementary medicines. “I think it’s enormously exciting,” says the lead researcher, Amanda Ramirez, the director of the Cancer Research UK London Psychosocial Group at King’s College London. “I’m unaware of other treatments, including talking therapies, that can achieve such fast improvements in people with cancer who are anxious or depressed.”
The study, which cost £300,000 (most multi-centre trials cost £500,000), examined 288 people with all types of cancer and at various stages of the disease who had had anxiety or depression diagnosed after treatment. Many had severe symptoms such as panic attacks, inability to sleep and needle phobia. Recent studies have indicated that about half of cancer sufferers get some such problems in the first year. Half of the subjects in the trial received a course of weekly aromatherapy massage and half received normal support services, such as counselling and, in severe cases, psychotherapy and medication. Their symptoms were monitored for 12 weeks.
The results were so clear that they surprised Ramirez, a professor of psychiatry. Symptoms lifted far earlier in the aromatherapy group than in the nonaromatherapy group; within two weeks of the treatment beginning as opposed to six weeks. And although by ten weeks after the trial started the two groups showed equal alleviation of symptoms, members of the group receiving aromatherapy consistently reported more improvement in anxiety than the other group right though the trial. However, aromatherapy seemed to bring no significant improvement to pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Superfoods: Oats

Rolled oats and also oatmeal, the milled grain, are both high in protein, contain essential fats and are rich in minerals including zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron. Vitamin C, found in orange juice for example, assists the absorption of iron, so a bowl of muesli or steaming porridge and a glass of orange juice make an ideal breakfast.
B vitamins, also found in oats, are needed not just for healthy skin, nails and hair but also to nourish nervous systems and to help keep energy levels up - particularly useful for stressed or grumpy teenagers.

Oats are also a wonderful source of soluble fibre, essential for ensuring that our digestive systems work efficiently. This is particularly important with constipation becoming increasingly problematic among young children. The soluble fibre also helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
Oats have a very low glycaemic index, which means that they release sugar into the blood very slowly. This can have a positive impact on how we feel and behave and it can improve our concentration levels. It also means that oats can play a key role in the active prevention of diabetes, a condition we are now seeing in growing numbers of young people. In fact oats have such a remarkable impact on stabilising blood sugar levels that before insulin was discovered, oats were used as one of the few effective treatments for diabetes.
As oats take a long time to digest, they are an ideal food for anyone trying to lose weight as they leave you feeling satisfied for longer. Oats can also help skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis. For these conditions, put four tablespoons of oats in a muslin bag whenever you have a bath. You can also use the bag as a sponge and it can be re-used about four or five times.
I prefer to eat my oats and I cook a big pan of creamy porridge most mornings and vary the toppings. A handful of frozen berries are always popular with children as they cool the porridge down slightly and turn it a pale shade of pink or blue. Chopped dried fruits, pureed apple or chopped banana are quick and easy too. You can also add oats to crumble toppings, biscuits and flapjack-style bars, and use them as a coating for oily fish.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Slimming while you work? It's worth thinking about

Simply believing you are exercising can help you become thinner, researchers say.
Those who do physically demanding jobs and are aware of the potential health benefits of their work lose more weight and have lower blood pressure than those who do the same jobs but do not realise the positive side-effects.

Researchers concluded this was because some benefits of exercise are down to the placebo effect, which is often seen in medical trials when patients respond to dummy pills as if they were taking the real drug.

Psychologists at Harvard University studied 84 women who worked as hotel housekeepers, cleaning rooms and changing sheets.

They found many were worried that they were not doing enough exercise, even though their jobs are physically demanding. The researchers pointed this out to half the women, telling them they were doing enough exercise through their job to lose weight and stay healthy.

The housekeepers were even told how many calories they were burning doing specific tasks.
For example, changing linens for 15 minutes burned 40 calories, vacuuming for 15 minutes burned 50 calories and cleaning bathrooms for 15 minutes burned 60 calories.

The other half were told nothing about the health benefits of their daily chores. After four weeks, those told they were doing lots of exercise at work had lost two pounds on average, lowered their blood pressure by almost 10 per cent, and shed almost 0.5 per cent of their body fat.

The other group experienced no noticeable changes in their health or physique, according to the study published in the journal Psychological Science.

Source: Daily Mail

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How three cups of coffee can cut Alzheimer's risk

DRINKING three cups of coffee a day can significantly reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer's disease, say researchers.
A ten-year study of 600 elderly men found those getting a regular caffeine fix experienced a much smaller decline in their mental abilities than non coffee-drinkers. Researchers believe caffeine may trigger a chain reaction in the brain that prevents the damage of Alzheimer's.
In a report on their findings, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they raised the possibility that doctors may one day recommend coffee to the elderly.
"Drinking three cups a day was associated with the smallest cognitive decline," they said."
Alzheimer's affects an estimated 750,000 people in the UK.
Most die within ten years of being diagnosed, and the cost of caring for victims is more than for stroke, heart disease and cancer put together.

Source - Scotsman

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