Garlic 'protects against cancer'

Scientists have uncovered fresh evidence that garlic can protect against some forms of cancer.

The research, by a team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shows that people who eat raw or cooked garlic regularly cut their risk of stomach cancer by about a half compared with those who eat none.

They also cut their risk of colorectal cancer by as much as two-thirds.


Lead researcher Professor Lenore Arab said: "There seems to be a strong, consistent protective effect for people who are regular garlic consumers.

"It doesn't matter if they're consuming garlic in China or in the United States, the effect is still there."

However, the researchers found no such benefit from taking garlic supplements.

Source BBC News

Organic food 'no healthier'

Organic food is no safer or more nutritious than conventionally grown food, according to Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the Food Standards Agency.

However, his comments have provoked protest from environmental groups.

Sir John's comments contradict research carried out by the organic farming pressure group the Soil Association, which found that organic crops contain more nutrients than conventionally grown plants.

Olive oil 'protects against bowel cancer'

Evidence is growing that olive oil can protect against bowel cancer.

Research carried out by doctors at Oxford University has found that olive oil has protective benefits.

They found that it reacts with acid in the stomach to prevent the onset of bowel and rectum cancers.

Bowel cancer is the second-most common cancer in the UK and kills nearly 20,000 people every year. However, if it is diagnosed early it is easily treatable.

Research carried out in Spain on rats last year also suggested that olive oil could protect against the disease.

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Red wine 'can stop herpes'

An ingredient of red wine could prevent the spread of herpes, according to scientists.

Research carried out in the US has found that the compound in red wine, when daubed on infectious sores, can stop a sufferer passing it on and could even lessen the chance of sores developing fully.

The scientists suggest this compound could also be used to treat facial cold sores if rubbed onto the affected area before the sores appear.

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Herb 'as effective as antidepressants'

The herb St John's wort is as effective as standard antidepressant therapy, according to a major research trial.

They found that an extract of the herb, known technically as Hypericum perforatum, was as effective at easing the symptoms of depression as the commonly used drug imipramine.

Scientists from the University of Giessen in Germany, are recommending that the herb should be considered as a first line treatment for patients with mild to moderate depression.
Britons spend around £5m a year on St John's wort and an estimated two million people have tried it.

However, the use of the herb to treat depression has been controversial.

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) in the UK issued a warning earlier this year advising that the herb should not be used by women taking the contraceptive pill and patients on HIV, depression and migraine treatments.

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Scientists tackle herb's side-effects

Scientists are working to develop a synthetic version of the popular herbal remedy St John's wort so that it does not affect other treatments.

The Department of Health issued advice earlier this year warning patients with certain conditions not to use the supplement.

It followed research which found that St John's wort could interfere with some prescription medicines, including birth control and antibiotics.

But scientists at Cambridge University believe they may be able to develop a form of the herb that will not have these side-effects.

They discovered that hyperforin, the key ingredient of St John's wort, stimulated the production of a liver enzyme called CYP3A.

This means that it causes some drugs to be broken down too fast to be effective.

The enzyme is responsible for the proper metabolism of the body's hormones. It also affects the breakdown of synthetic steroids and many drugs.

The production of this enzyme increases when substances bind themselves to a receptor - the steroid x receptor - within liver cells.

Krishna Chatterjee of Cambridge University said the herbal remedy can affect other drugs because it out performs them within the body.

"It can out-compete other drugs that normally bind to the steroid x receptor."

The team's findings match those of another study, carried out by researchers from the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome.

Scientists at the company's laboratories in South Carolina in the US recorded similar results.
The Cambridge team is now working with Glaxo Wellcome to develop a synthetic version of hyperforin.

According to New Scientist magazine, they hope to manufacture a form of the herbal remedy that will retain its anti-depressant activities but won't increase the production of the CYP3A liver enzyme and so won't out-compete other drugs.

Steven Kliewer, one of Glaxo Wellcome's scientists, said they will have to carry out more research into St John's wort before they can begin.

"It won't be easy. We first need a better understanding of St John's wort."

St John's wort has been prescribed by doctors in Europe as an effective anti-depressant for many years.

Source BBC News

Researchers target garlic mystery

Scientists are to attempt to discover once and for all whether garlic does protect against heart disease and cancer.

If they can verify anecdotal evidence that garlic can protect against Europe's two biggest killers, they will then attempt to pin down the chemical process by which this is achieved.

For years there has been a widespread belief that garlic promotes good health. But, there is little scientific data to support these stories.

The new four-year, pan-European study will attempt to remedy this.

Most tests will be carried out on human cell cultures and animals.

However, some tests, for instance on how garlic is absorbed into the gut, will be carried out on volunteers.

Dr Brian Thomas, of the UK-based Horticulture Research International (HRI), will play a leading role in the study.

He said: "Once we can identify the compounds that help prevent these two diseases within the garlic plant, we can maximise their potential."

"We are focusing on the interaction between the sulphur compounds within the garlic and human cardiovascular disease and cancer.

"When we are able to pinpoint the specific sulphur compounds and the genes that are responsible, we should be in a position to breed new garlic plants that can provide the ingredients for high quality health care.'

Source BBC News

Hidden benefits for apple-eaters

There may be more reasons than simply vitamin C to eat an apple a day, according to researchers.

Scientists have examined the cancer-fighting potential of various chemicals found in the flesh and skin of the fruit.

And they have found that together, these chemicals have an effect which far outweighs that of taking only vitamin C.

The chemicals involved are called flavanoids and polyphenols, and the research study, published in Nature magazine, look at their combined "anti-oxidant" ability.

Anti-oxidants are thought to possibly protect from cancer by "mopping up" molecules responsible for cell damage, which can trigger the disease.

The researchers, from Cornell University in New York, found that eating just 100g of apple gave an anti-oxidant effect equivalent to taking some 1,500mg of vitamin C.

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Litre of beer 'is good for you'

Researchers have shown that all types of alcohol can help to reduce the risk of heart disease - if you drink it little and often.

The best strategy is to drink up to a litre of beer a day.

Many studies have shown a link between alcohol consumption and reduced levels of coronary heart disease.


However, it is unclear whether the protective effect is confined to specific drinks such as red wine, or relates to the ethanol in all alcoholic drinks.

Dr Martin Bobak and colleagues from the International Centre for Health and Society, University College, London, examined whether beer could protect against heart disease by going to the Czech Republic - a country where beer is almost universally the drink of choice.

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Common herb 'fights' cancer

A common herb may be an effective weapon in the fight against cancer, say researchers.
Borage, also known as the starflower, has been used in medicine for more than 700 years.
It contains a substance known as gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

Work being carried out in the Netherlands shows that a diet rich in GLA reduces the risk of prostate tumours.

Lab tests in America and South Africa show GLA can kill brain and prostate cancer cells.
And in Wales, researchers have discovered that the chemical can inhibit the spread of maligant tumours by restricting growth of the blood vessels that supply them with vital nutrients.
Now research published in the Journal of Cancer indicates that GLA can also boost the impact of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen.

Source BBC News

Olive oil 'wards off skin cancer'

Scientists have uncovered a new weapon in the fight against skin cancer - olive oil.

Japanese researchers have found that applying high quality olive oil to the skin after sunbathing reduces the risk of developing tumours.

The theory was tested on genetically modified hairless mice.

The researchers found that high-grade, virgin olive oil smeared on the skin delayed the appearance of tumours and reduced their size.

However, Dr Kate Law from The Cancer Research Campaign said, "to suggest you can go out in the sun and frazzle, and then undo some of the damage using olive oil does not seem terribly scientific to me".

Source BBC News

Moderate drinking 'protects bones'

A diet rich in calcium - and the occasional glass of wine - could protect some women from dangerous bone-thinning.

Seven units of alcohol a week, equivalent to a glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a measure of spirits every night, can help reduce bone loss at the hip, researchers say.

However, osteoporosis experts have warned that heavy drinkers are actually running a higher risk of the devastating bone condition.

One in three women in the UK suffer from osteoporosis at some point in their lives.

The thinning of the bones can lead to leg, hip and wrist fractures, leaving women permanently disabled.

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Beer 'may be good for you'

A pint of beer may help protect against heart disease more effectively than red wine or spirits, researchers have found.

While the health benefits of red wine have long been touted by scientists, a letter in medical journal The Lancet suggests that the odd pint may also be a good idea.

Beer contains vitamin B6 which prevents the build up in the body of a chemical called homocysteine - thought to be linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease.

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Herbal remedies 'boost brain power'

A combination of two ancient herbal remedies can dramatically boost brain power and may have applications in medicine, say scientists.

Researchers showed that ginkgo biloba can improve the power of concentration, while ginseng sharpens up the memory.

The effect was even more powerful if the two herbs were taken together.

Source - BBC News

Hunting the best herbs

Once upon a time, folk wisdom dictated the harvesting of certain herbs under the light of a full moon - now technology is taking over with the development of handheld devices that measure the potency of the plant in the field.

The old tales were based on the true phenomenon that plants with medicinal effects have maximum potency at particular times. Modern growers of plants which contain compounds beneficial to health also need to know when this is - if their products are to be effective.

Paul LaChance, Executive Director of the Nutraceuticals Institute at Rutgers University, told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that his team was developing handheld bioassay devices that could measure the levels of a bioactive compound in just 20 minutes.

Perfect moment

"We've been developing rapid amino assays. With these, a farmer can know where in the field, what part of the plant and when best to pick it," he said.

"It also means he gets a better yield of his crop and a better price for it."

The key part, according to Dr LaChance, is that: "You have to agree on the biomarker - the chemical which signifies the presence of the active ingredient."

Bamboo to blueberry

The team is developing a number of bioassays. One spots the active ingredient of blueberries: "Blueberries have similar properties as cranberries in reducing urinary tract infections."

Another identifies a compound in bamboo shoots believed to lower blood cholesterol.

Some of the bioassays have other purposes such as the one that detects the presence of a virus in blueberry plants.

"It can tell you before the plant flowers - which is the way it is identified now - which plants have the problem and where," he said.

Source BBC News

Olive oil 'reduces cancer risk'

Using olive oil in cooking may prevent the development of bowel cancer, research shows.

Writing in the medical journal Gut, a team from Barcelona say their findings suggest that olive oil may have some protective qualities. Their findings may explain why a Mediterranean diet appears to be so healthy. The researcher was carried out on rats who were fed a diet rich in olive, fish, or safflower oil. Each group was then divided into two and half of the animals were given a cancer-causing agent. Four months later the researchers found those rats on the olive oil diet had less pre-cancerous tissue and fewer tumours than those fed the other oils.

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Apples 'protect the lungs'

Eating an apple a day may be good for the lungs, researchers have discovered.

A team from St George's Hospital Medical School, London, studied the diets and lung function of more than 2,500 men aged 45-49.

The researchers measured the ability to breathe out sharply using a special test called an FEV1.

They found that good lung function was associated with high intakes of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, citrus fruits, apples, and fruit juices.

However, after they took into consideration factors such as body mass, smoking history and exercise the only food that seemed to make a significant difference was apples.

It was found that eating five or more apples a week was linked to a slightly better lung function. Those who ate apples had a lung capacity 138 millilitres higher than those who did not.

There was no evidence to suggest that the natural decline in lung function with age could be slowed by short term increases in the number of apples eaten. But the fruit might slow deterioration caused by other factors such as pollutants.

Eating a lot of apples might simply reflect a healthy diet, suggest the authors.

Source BBC News

Apple a day adage proves true

Scientists conducting a study in Wales have found there is some truth in the old adage - an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

It is certainly proving true for 2,500 Caerphilly men.

Scientists have discovered that those men who ate five or more apples a week improved their lung capacity. Professor Peter Elwood and his research team have been following the men's eating and lifestyle habits for the last 20 years.

Link

The link between apples and lung capacity came out from a five year study into their eating habits - they were not looking for the link.

Professor Elwood said it was first time that a link between antioxidants and improved lung performacne had been established.

"Apples contain antioxidants in particular richness," said Prof Elwood.

"I think the overall message is that we are not eating enough fruit and vegetables. "It is worth following up the research and looking at the extend of these benefits."

Healthy lungs

The conclusion about the benefits of apples to healthy lungs was just one of many findings the Cardiff University team found that influenced the group's health.

Professor Elwood said it was probably the first time that a link between antioxidants and improved lung performance had been established. "Apples contain antioxidants in particular richness," said Prof Elwood.

"I think the overall message is that we are not eating enough fruit and vegetables. "It is worth following up the research and looking at the extend of these benefits."

They discovered early on that aspirin was good in preventing heart attacks as was quitting smoking and taking more exercise.

Professor Elwood believes that it is the antioxidant properties in all fruit and vegetables that has a postive impact on health.

Source BBC News