Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cocoa 'could get rid of the West's top killer diseases'

Not even Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl's eccentric chocolate-maker, could have dreamt that his scrumptious products might one day offer the world a panacea.
But scientists are close to claiming just that. A compound in unrefined cocoa has health benefits that may rival those of penicillin and anaesthesia, they say.
Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has spent years studying the Kuna people in Panama. He found that four of the most common killers - stroke, heart disease, cancer and diabetes - affected fewer than one in 10 of the Kuna.
Unrefined natural cocoa contains high levels of epicatechin, which Professor Hollenberg said was so important it should be considered a vitamin.
He told Chemist and Industry magazine: "If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine. We all agree that penicillin and anaesthesia are enormously important. But epicatechin could potentially get rid of four of the five most common diseases in the Western world. How important does that make epicatechin? I would say very important."
Daniel Fabricant, vice-president at the Natural Products Association, said that the observations might warrant a rethink of how vitamins are defined. There are 13 vitamins that are defined as essential to the normal functioning, metabolism and regulation of cell growth, and deficiency is usually linked to disease.
"The link between high epicatechin consumption and a decreased risk of killer disease is so striking, it should be investigated further. It may be that these diseases are the result of epicatechin deficiency," Mr Fabricant said.

Source - Independent

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

'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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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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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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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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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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Folic acid in all bread 'could put pensioners' health at risk'

All loaves of bread will be treated with vitamins under controversial plans which have been condemned as 'medication of the masses.'

A Government-commissioned report is this week expected to back the compulsory fortification of flour with folic acid to prevent babies being born with spina bifida.

But the move has sparked warnings that it would take away individual choice - and could endanger the health of elderly people by masking vitamin deficiencies.

Around 150 babies are born with birth defects such as spina bifida every year and another 750 pregnancies are terminated after scans reveal the problem in an unborn child.

Folic acid can prevent the problem so women are encouraged to take daily supplements of 400 micrograms from the moment they stop using contraception up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

However as half of all births in the UK are unplanned many fail to do so.

Research suggests that adding folic acid to all white and brown flour, as they do in the USA, would cut cases by more than 40 per cent.

In light of this, a new report by the Scientific Committee Advisory Committee on Nutrition, is this week expected to call for folic acid to be added to flour used in the UK.

When its draft report was published, Professor Sheila Bingham, chair of the committee's subgroup on folate and disease prevention, pointed out that many food and drinks are already fortified.

Source - Daily Mail

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Folic acid may be ‘force fed’ via bread

BRITAIN will take the first step towards mass medication of the population this week with the publication of proposals to add the vitamin folic acid to bread.
A report commissioned by ministers will recommend the compulsory fortification of flour and bread with folic acid to help prevent babies being born with birth defects.

It will say the benefits seen in the United States and Canada, where the strategy has helped reduce birth defects such as spina bifida by as much as 50%, justify such state intervention.

It will, however, be controversial: critics claim it takes away individual choice and could have other health risks, including contributing to neurological damage in the elderly.

In Australia, where a similar proposal is being advocated, there has been vocal opposition from the food industry, which claims it is backed by up to 90% of the public in polls.

In Britain, the move is being proposed by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which was commissioned by ministers to examine the case for adding folic acid to bread.

Source - Times

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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

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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

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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

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Eat More Fruit and Veg to Prevent Gallstone Risk

Women should eat more fruit and veg if they want to cut their chances of developing gallstones, advise researchers at the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

People at risk of developing gallstones should focus mainly on leafy green vegetables and natural foods laden with vitamin C – such as citrus fruits etc. In addition they recommend consuming large amounts of dietary fiber, minerals – especially magnesium - and antioxidant vitamins – including vitamin C to lower the risk of developing gallstones.

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Eating naturally bears fruit in fighting disease

Cranberries combat bacteria and walnuts protect arteries: your food has hidden benefits

The Government’s recommended dose of vegetables and fruits is five helpings a day. This not only sounds disgustingly boring, but often is. But it needn’t be. The average British cook’s mind turns to cabbages, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli and the ubiquitous but useless lettuce. Not dishes that are likely to persuade children to keep away from the school railings to collect food parcels. Tomatoes, dates, dried apricots, figs, bananas, broad beans, peas and carrots add a bit of colour and taste.
One of the ponds at Kew Gardens is now covered with a carpet of bright red cranberries from Massachusetts. They are waiting to be harvested and made into sauce to accompany partridge, pheasant or a turkey, following the advice of the indigenous American Indians who taught their new neighbours to serve cranberry with the game that they ate at the first Thanksgiving dinner.

Cranberry juice is not only rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants but also has antimicrobial powers that inhibit the growth of bacteria on the bladder wall by reducing their adherence to it. It also lessens the number of mouth and gut infections.

Cranberry juice to prevent bladder infections should contain at least 25 per cent cranberry and be taken every eight hours. Blueberries and pomegranate juice are just as delicious, antioxidant-rich and health giving.

Men who eat walnuts as they sip their evening drink may not know that walnuts, like Viagra, reach parts that other foods and medicines don’t. Walnuts contain the amino acid arginine and arginine, like Viagra, causes the release of nitric oxide in the arterial walls.

Source - Times

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Eating naturally bears fruit in fighting disease

Cranberries combat bacteria and walnuts protect arteries: your food has hidden benefits

The Government’s recommended dose of vegetables and fruits is five helpings a day. This not only sounds disgustingly boring, but often is. But it needn’t be. The average British cook’s mind turns to cabbages, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli and the ubiquitous but useless lettuce. Not dishes that are likely to persuade children to keep away from the school railings to collect food parcels. Tomatoes, dates, dried apricots, figs, bananas, broad beans, peas and carrots add a bit of colour and taste.
One of the ponds at Kew Gardens is now covered with a carpet of bright red cranberries from Massachusetts. They are waiting to be harvested and made into sauce to accompany partridge, pheasant or a turkey, following the advice of the indigenous American Indians who taught their new neighbours to serve cranberry with the game that they ate at the first Thanksgiving dinner.

Cranberry juice is not only rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants but also has antimicrobial powers that inhibit the growth of bacteria on the bladder wall by reducing their adherence to it. It also lessens the number of mouth and gut infections.

Cranberry juice to prevent bladder infections should contain at least 25 per cent cranberry and be taken every eight hours. Blueberries and pomegranate juice are just as delicious, antioxidant-rich and health giving.

Source - Times

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Bring some colour to your cheeks

Why should we eat orange food in autumn? Because it’s seasonal and full of immune-building antioxidants, says chef Allegra McEvedy

Why are tomatoes red and what does that redness do for you? Why is a pink grapefruit better for you than a yellow one? Are black grapes really more nutritious than red ones? (Yes.) And what is it that makes pumpkins so vibrantly orange? For most of us, when we sit down to a plate of food our first impressions come from appearance and smell, long before flavour comes into play. The decision about whether we like what we see is determined by several factors, such as texture and complexity of appearance, but far and away the most important is colour.
There are a lot of people in the food-supply business who realised this a long time ago and, unfortunately, they have been trying to dupe us subtly ever since with an assortment of devices such as chemical preservative sprays and even genetic modification. Yet it isn’t just the food suppliers who are at fault. Joe Public has been lazy, choosing to go for the easy option: “Wouldn’t a summer berry pavlova be delicious after the Christmas turkey!” We rarely stop to work out that those strawberries have come a minimum of 4,000 miles and have been squirted with all sorts of funniness to keep them in pristine condition for a scary amount of time.

The tragedy is that strawberries in mid- winter don’t do any kind of justice to their seasonal counterpart when it comes to flavour, nor for that matter do they do your body much good. A strawberry that has been flown in from Morocco, if you’re lucky, or South Africa, if you’re not, will contain less than 10 per cent of the iron, vitamin C and immune-building antioxidants than one bought locally in summer.

Source - Times

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Help keep your brain hot with curry

EATING curry may keep the brain active, a study of elderly Asians suggests. Consumers of curry were found to have sharper brains and better cognitive performance than those who never or seldom ate it.
The magic ingredient may be curcumin, found in the curry spice turmeric, which possesses potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, say the authors of the study, led by Tze-Pin Ng from the National University of Singapore.

It is known that long-term users of anti-inflammatory drugs have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s, while antioxidants, such as vitamin E, have been shown to protect brain cells in laboratory experiments but have had limited success in alleviating cognitive decline in dementia patients.

In their study the team compared scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination for three categories of regular curry consumption in 1,010 Asians who were between 60 and 93 years old in 2003. Most of them ate curry at least occasionally (once every six months), 43 per cent ate it often or very often (between monthly and daily) while 16 per cent said that they never or rarely ate it.

The team report in the American Journal of Epidemiology that people who consumed curry “occasionally” and “often or very often” had significantly better MMSE scores than those who “never or rarely” ate it.

Source - Times

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Catch of the day - Should we be giving our children fish oil supplements? Lucy Atkins examines the evidence

When 12-year-old Thomas Wood was given fish oil supplements last year, the transformation seemed dramatic. "The change in him was amazing," says his father, Frank, a postman. "He became very organised. He started waking up early and was keen to learn. His teacher couldn't believe how well he did in his Sats - he managed to get all fours, which was incredible for him. Seeing him in his last class assembly, we were amazed. Usually you could pick him out because he'd be jumping around, but he was sitting still, calm. Everyone noticed the difference."

Thomas was given the supplements as part of an initiative by Middlesbrough LEA to see whether they could improve the academic performance and concentration of children aged eight to 11. Others have followed. This academic year, education chiefs at Durham county council offered £1m worth of donated Eye Q fish oil supplements to 5,000 GCSE students. Parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dyslexia or dyspraxia may already be aware of promising research into the role of fish oils. But now fish oil supplements are hitting the mainstream as the newest dietary must-have for diligent parents everywhere. Bung your child a brainy pill with his muesli, the hype goes, and he will become serene, reasonable and perform brilliantly in spelling tests. It is a tempting proposition.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found naturally in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or salmon, have long been known to be important for brain function (not to mention heart health). The problem is that our modern diet - even post-Jamie Oliver - contains paltry amounts of oily fish (only fresh, not tinned, tuna counts). Most children are therefore officially deficient in omega-3. Brands such as St Ivel, Flora, Müller or Kingsmill have already cottoned on to this deficit's market potential and are bunging omega-3s in everything from yogurt to sliced bread. But the real revolution is happening in the supplements aisle where vitamin manufacturers from Sanatogen to Bassets are offering chewy, strawberry-flavoured fish oil supplements aimed at kids and their doting parents.

This all sounds quite useful - after all, who wants to force a kipper down their six-year-old's throat twice a week? The only problem is a lack of evidence that fish oils help to develop mentally normal kids.

Here is what we know: scientists have established pretty convincingly that healthy adults who have relatively low levels of omega-3 in their bloodstream are more likely to be mildly depressed, pessimistic and impulsive than those who have high levels of omega-3. There is good evidence to show that omega-3 supplements can reduce the symptoms of depression in adults. Preliminary studies also show that omega-3 could help adults with conditions such as schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. When it comes to children's behaviour and academic performance, however, the evidence is more mixed.

Source - Guardian

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The benefits of strawberries

The beneficial effects that soft berries can have are well-known. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies has discovered that strawberry compound is highly potent in improving long-term memory and protecting against cognitive function decline.

Fisetin, the chemical found in strawberries, belongs to the flavonoids family, a class of naturally occurring plant compounds that function as antioxidants. They are said to enhance the processing of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. And are considered necessary to maintain capillary walls and protect against infections. The fisetin flavonoid is also present in a wide range of fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, apples, onions, tomatoes, peaches, grapes, etc.

Original Photo by

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Vitamin D 'slashes cancer risk'

Taking vitamin D tablets could substantially reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, research suggests.

US scientists found taking the tablets cut the risk of a disease, which has a poor prognosis in almost half of cases.

There are more than 3,600 new cases of pancreatic cancer in women and more than 3,500 in men in the UK each year. Surgery is not often effective.

Vitamin D was examined as it previously showed promise in cutting the risk of prostate, breast and colon cancer.

Source: BBC News

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Low vitamin E linked to asthma

Expectant mums should ensure they get enough vitamin E as low levels during pregnancy increase the risk of asthma in the unborn child, UK experts say.

Children of mothers who had the lowest intake were over five times more likely to have asthma than peers whose mothers had the highest vitamin E intakes.

Vitamin E has a beneficial effect on the developing lung, the University of Aberdeen researchers believe.

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Blackberries fighting cancer

A recent study conducted by researchers at the US Agricultural Research Service and the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that a certain compound in fresh blackberries may reduce the size and spread of cancerous tumors. The particular compound is a flavonoid, the water-soluble flavonoid cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G) more exactly.

Flavonoids are a class of naturally occurring plant compounds that function as antioxidants. They are plant pigments and, even if they are not labeled as essential nutrients, they enhance the processing of vitamin C, which is itself a powerful antioxidant. Flavonoids are also needed to maintain capillary walls and protect against infections. Deficiency of flavonoids may lead to easily bruising.

Earlier studies highlighted the cancer-fighting potential of blueberries and strawberries, and now blackberries (Rubus occidentalis)—also know as black raspberries—have been found to be equally as potent.

The cyanidin-3-glucoside flavonoid in blackberries reduced the growth and inhibited the spreading of malignant tumors in skin and lung cancer.

Source: JBCL

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Vitamin 'may block MS disability'

A recent study suggests that vitamin shots may help protect multiple sclerosis patients from severe long-term disability.

Currently, there is no effective treatment for the chronic progressive phase of MS, when serious disability is most likely to appear.

Researchers cut the risk of nerve degeneration in mice with MS-type symptoms by giving them a form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide.

The Children's Hospital Boston study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Source: BBC News

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Mandarins 'cut liver cancer risk'

Eating mandarins may cut the risk of developing liver cancer and other diseases, research suggests.

Japanese scientists found the key were vitamin A compounds called carotenoids which give the fruit its orange colour.

One study found eating mandarins cut the risk of liver disease, hardened arteries and insulin resistance.

And a second found drinking the fruit's juice cut the risk of patients with chronic viral hepatitis developing liver cancer.

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Vitamin D linked to baby birth weight

Low vitamin D intake during pregnancy is associated with lower birth weights in babies, according to a study.

The research compared babies' birth weights with the amount of vitamin D fortified milk and vitamin D supplements women took while pregnant.

The researchers from McGill University, Canada, suggest the study shows vitamin D may be an important regulator for foetal growth.

The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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Healthy fats 'halve risk of MND'

Eating a high amount of polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E may halve the risk of developing motor neurone disease, a study suggests.

Polyunsaturated fats include omega 3, in fish and leafy vegetables and omega 6, in cereals and whole-grain bread.

Dutch researchers found people who had the highest daily intake of the fats had a 60% lower risk of developing MND compared to those who ate the least.

The study will appear in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

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Watchdog warns over apricot seeds

Apricot stones sold for health benefits could be fatal in high doses, the food safety watchdog has warned.

Apricot kernels are thought to contain high levels of vitamin B17, which is described as an immune system booster and even sold as a cancer treatment.

But the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said they also produce cyanide and can be poisonous in high doses.

It is now recommending that people consume no more than two bitter apricot kernels in a single day.

An FSA spokesman said there were reports from overseas of "very serious health effects" being associated with the consumption of 20 to 30 kernels in a short period of time.

He added: "They could be potentially lethal in high enough doses."

Source: BBC News

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Studies Find B Vitamins Don't Prevent Heart Attacks

A widely promoted B vitamin regimen for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes has shown no beneficial effects in people at high risk, researchers are reporting today.

The hypothesis was that B vitamins — folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 — can protect people against homocysteine, an amino acid that some doctors said was as important and dangerous a risk factor for heart disease as cholesterol.

B vitamins, which are found in a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, have no known harmful effects. And if people take them as supplements, their homocysteine levels plummet.

So it seemed reasonable to many doctors and patients to expect that taking the vitamins would be protective. It might be even better than taking statins, some said, which are well established to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.

It was not, the new studies find.

Source - New York Times

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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Vitamin D 'can lower cancer risk'

High doses of vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing some common cancers by as much as 50%, US scientists claim.

Researchers reviewed 63 old studies and found that the vitamin could reduce the chances of developing breast, ovarian and colon cancer, and others.

Experts said more research was needed to draw firm conclusions.

Source - BBC News

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Vitamin D 'key for healthy lungs'

Vitamin D could play a role in keeping the lungs healthy, research suggests.

Patients with higher vitamin D levels in their blood had significantly better lung function, a University of Auckland team found in a study of 14,091 people.

The difference between the two was more marked than that between smokers and those who had quit, the study published in the journal Chest said.

Dietary supplements could boost lung function, the team suggested, but they added that more research was needed.

Source BBC News

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Vitamins 'do not stop infections'

Infection rates in older people living at home are not helped by taking vitamin or mineral tablets, researchers have found.

The Aberdeen University study looked at the effects of daily multivitamins compared with dummy placebo tablets.

It found that taking supplements seemed to make no difference in infection rates between the groups.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, covered 900 people aged over 65 who were living at home.

Source - BBC News

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Folic acid linked to birth weight

Mothers-to-be with lower levels of the vitamin folate in their body during early pregnancy are more likely to have low weight babies, research suggests.

A team at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne studied nearly 1,000 women and their newborn babies.

Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of serious health problems, including respiratory disorders and diabetes.

The research is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Source - BBC News

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Folic acid 'cuts dementia risk'

Eating plenty of folic acid - found in oranges, lemons and green vegetables - can halve the risk of Alzheimer's disease, a study has suggested.

US National Institute on Aging experts monitored diets over seven years.

They found adults who ate the daily recommended allowance of folates (B vitamin nutrients) had a reduced risk of the disease.

UK researchers said the study added weight to previous suggestions folates could reduce Alzheimer's risk.

The study is published in Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Europe backs vitamin controls

The European Court has decided to tighten rules on the sale of vitamins and minerals.

The proposals will ban around 200 supplements from sale and put restrictions on the upper limits of vitamin doses.

Some health experts wanted to see vitamins and minerals controlled in the same way as conventional medicines.

But critics argued the new rules were unnecessarily restrictive, and would deny consumers choice.

Source - BBC News

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Multivitamin warning for pregnant women

Expectant mothers have been warned that they could be harming their unborn child by taking multivitamins.

Trading Standards watchdogs and charity Birth Defects Foundation Newlife found a third of products do not carry clear labels showing they contain vitamin A.

Too much of this vitamin can interfere with organ formation in the growing foetus and therefore supplements should be avoided during pregnancy.

Mothers-to-be were told to heed the advice from day one of pregnancy.

Source - BBC News

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Vitamin E 'not a heart protector'

Vitamin E provides little protection against heart attacks, strokes and cancer - despite millions of people believing it does, a major study shows.

Some previous trials had suggested it might be beneficial, prompting one in 10 US women to take it as a supplement.

But a Women's Health Study of 40,000 women aged over 45, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, should settle the debate, say experts.

Source - BBC News

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Scientists dispel ageing theory

Drinking gallons of orange juice and popping vitamin pills may not make you live longer, say US researchers, contrary to previous reports.

In the past, scientists have suggested that taking antioxidants to combat free radical cell damage might delay ageing.

But a University of Wisconsin-Madison team has found no proof that highly reactive oxygen molecules are involved.

Instead, cells committing early suicide is key - at least in rodents - they told the journal Science.

Source - BBC News

(OMG kamikaze cells - now that is worrying.)

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Calcium, Vitamin D may reduce PMS

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

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

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

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

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

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Sun 'cuts prostate cancer risk'

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Vitamin E cuts Parkinson's risk

A diet rich in vitamin E could protect against Parkinson's disease, believe researchers.

Good sources of vitamin E include green leafy vegetables, nuts and vegetable oils.

A study in Lancet Neurology pooled available data and found people who ate plenty of these foods in their diet were far less likely to develop Parkinson's.

The authors said it was impossible to tell if supplements would do the same.

Source - BBC News

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Vitamin 'cuts smoke harm to baby'

Vitamin C could counteract some of the harmful effects that smoking during pregnancy can have on unborn babies, scientists say.

High doses of the vitamin protected against nicotine-associated damage in monkeys, the Oregon Health & Science University team found.

Expert advice is still to quit smoking during, and ideally before, pregnancy.

The latest research findings appear in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Source - BBC News

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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Fracture risk same with vitamin D

Taking vitamin D or calcium does not help prevent repeat fractures in elderly people, a study suggests.

Researchers at Aberdeen and York universities looked at people who had already had a fracture due to osteoporosis - thinning of the bones.

Many people take vitamin D and calcium to try to protect their bones, but the study found those taking supplements did not go on to have fewer fractures.

Osteoporosis campaigners said taking supplements would not cause any harm.

However, they advised elderly people concerned about their bone health to eat a healthy balanced diet instead.

Source - BBC News

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Vitamin E may ease period pain

Taking vitamin E eases the severe period pains that affect thousands of teenage girls, research suggested yesterday.

The condition, known as dysmenorrhea, can disrupt the girls' lives, but trials in Iran found that girls given daily doses of about 200mg before periods started and during the early days of menstruation had significantly less pain, spread over a shorter time.

They also experienced less blood loss, according to a report in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Some herbs found to help with period pains include Raspberry leaf, Camomile, Penny royal, Rosemary and Winter Savory. Or you could try taking 500mg calcium and 350mg magnesium daily seven days before you expect a period and for the first day or two. (More than 1000mg calcium daily can be harmful).

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Vitamin D 'aids lung cancer ops'

Lung cancer patients who have surgery in the winter are 40% more likely to die of the disease than those operated on in the summer, a US study suggests.

A study of 456 patients found high levels of vitamin D - from sun exposure and food supplements - had a positive impact on the success of surgery.

The Harvard University team said more research was needed and patients should not expect surgery in the summer.

UK experts said it was interesting but warned sun exposure could be dangerous.

Source BBC News

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Vitamin D could cut elderly falls

Falls and fractures could be a thing of the past if everyone aged 65 and older were to take extra vitamin D, experts believe.

It would be a quick and easy way to cut morbidity and save NHS money, they say.
Mounting evidence suggests the vitamin not only makes bones stronger, but also has a positive affect on the muscles.

Studies have shown elderly people who take vitamin D supplements are more stable on their legs and less likely to fall and hurt themselves.

Source BBC News

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Monday, January 31, 2005

Vitamin warning for liver lovers

People should limit eating liver to once a week and be careful about other sources of vitamin A, say food experts.

Too much is toxic and increases the risk of bone fractures, according to advisers to the Food Standards Agency.

Combining supplements with vitamin A-rich foods such as liver is particularly risky, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition says.

Post-menopausal women and older people at highest risk of fractures should not have more than 1.5mg per day, it says

Source BBC News

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Friday, December 31, 2004

Researchers' diabetic discovery

High doses of vitamin B1 (thiamine) could help prevent heart disease in diabetic patients, researchers claim.

University of Essex researchers say diabetic patients should be given thiamine to reduce blood cholesterol - which is linked to heart disease.

Previous studies have shown that drugs such as statins can also lower the risk of heart disease in diabetics.

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease by two to three times in men and three to five times in women.

Prof Paul J Thornalley, who led the research, said: "There will of course be clinical trials to investigate further the findings we have made using an experimental model of diabetes.
"However, given the continuing toll of heart disease in diabetic patients, and the emerging benefits of thiamine therapy for diabetics suffering from kidney disease... I would strongly suggest that those with diabetes are given thiamine supplements."

Source BBC News

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

High dose vitamin E death warning

Elderly people could be risking their lives if they take even moderately high doses of vitamin E, evidence suggests.

The latest study by Johns Hopkins University found people who took even half of the recommended current maximum dose had an increased risk of death.

The authors told the American Heart Association meeting that policy makers should consider lowering the upper safety limit.

Experts said eating healthily remained the best way to get vital nutrients.

But critics said the findings could be biased because although there are many types of vitamin E that come in tablet form studies, such as this one, tended to focus on synthetic rather than natural vitamin E.

The current study's authors acknowledged that because most of the people involved in the trial were aged 60 and older and had conditions such as heart disease, the findings might not apply to young healthy adults.

Previous studies have suggested high dose vitamins, including vitamin E, can do more harm than good.

Source BBC News

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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Vitamins pills do not stop cancer

Vitamin supplements do nothing to prevent gut cancers and may shorten life expectancy, research suggests.

A review of 14 trials involving more than 170,000 people found antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin E, offered no protection against these cancers.

People taking some supplements died prematurely, the European researchers said in the Lancet.

Cancer Research UK cautioned the findings were preliminary and did not offer convincing proof of hazard.

Source BBC News

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Thursday, September 30, 2004

The truth about vitamins

Every day millions of people in Britain take vitamin supplements.

It is an industry that is worth £300 million a year, but the pills are surrounded by controversy.
Some people claim that by taking them in large doses, they will prevent or even cure illnesses
like cancer and heart disease.

But others fear that taking large doses of some vitamins could in certain cases be dangerous.
"For most people there's absolutely no benefit in taking high dose vitamin supplements," said Catherine Collins, chief dietician at London's St George Hospital.

"At best they are a waste of money and at worst they could seriously affect your health."

Source BBC News

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Vitamin E 'can restore hearing'

Vitamin E can help restore hearing in people who become deaf suddenly for no known reason, research suggests.

This natural antioxidant has already been hailed as a potential cancer therapy by preventing or slowing damage caused by certain oxygen compounds.

A study of 66 patients with sudden hearing loss, by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, found those given vitamin E made the best recovery.

The work was presented at an Ear, Nose and Throat surgery meeting in New York.

Source BBC News

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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

More proof of vitamin-cancer link

It may not only be the lack of vitamin D that increases a woman's breast cancer risk but also the way in which the body utilises it, say researchers.

Studies have shown vitamin D protects against breast cancer and a lack may contribute to the disease.

Now scientists have found women with certain versions of a gene involved in the vitamin's breakdown have a nearly twofold greater risk of breast cancer.

The St George's Hospital findings appear in Clinical Cancer Research.

Dr Michelle Guy and her team, funded by Breast Cancer Campaign and World Cancer Research Fund, looked at the vitamin D receptor which controls the action of vitamin D in the body.

Source BBC News

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