Mediterranean diet 'extends life'

Drinking red wine and cooking with olive oil may help us to live longer, say scientists.

They have found that key ingredients in both substances can significantly increase the lifespan of yeast.

Since yeast and humans share many genes, scientists have speculated they may have the same effect in people.

The findings provide more evidence to suggest that the Mediterranean diet may be the secret to living a long and healthy life.

Source BBC News

Vitamin cuts passive smoke damage

Vitamin C may help to reduce the risks associated with being exposed to second-hand smoke, a study suggests.

Scientists in the United States have found non-smokers who took daily doses of vitamin C protected themselves against the cell damage that can cause cancer.

Their findings follow a study by researchers at the University of Cambridge three years ago, which found the vitamin can also reduce the risks for smokers.

Scientists believe the vitamin's anti-oxidant properties are responsible.

Source BBC News

Clue to elixir of life

Substances found in food and wine may be able to extend human life, according to new scientific research.

Scientists in the United States found that the substances - called polyphenols - can prolong the life of yeast cells significantly.They seem to work inside human cells too.

Polyphenols are produced by many plants - perhaps the best known is resveratrol, found in red wine.

Scientists have been interested in them for a long time because they seem to reduce a person's chances of developing heart disease and cancer.

Now researchers at Harvard University have discovered that the chemicals can prolong the life of yeast by about 70%.

They do this by a mechanism which was previously unknown, by increasing production of enzymes called sirtuins.

Anti-ageing pill

The researchers also found that resveratrol increases sirtuin production in human cells in the lab; and, most compellingly, that it appears to prolong the life of flies and worms.

"Everyone's been interested in the polyphenols because of their anti-oxidant properties," said Dr Konrad Howitz, one of the team, and director of molecular biology at BIOMOL, a research company also involved in the study.

"But this mechanism with the sirtuins is new and I guess people are going to go back to the epidemiological data on heart disease and cancer and figure out how much is down to the anti-oxidant mechanism and how much to the sirtuins."

It is too early to conclude that the researchers have found an elixir of human life - further work is needed, and the first step is to see if resveratrol can make mice live longer.

That experiment is scheduled to start in a few months' time, and should give results in less than a year.

If polyphenols do give mice extra life, and if that extra life is healthy, the stage will then be set for human trials of something which scientists have dreamed of for centuries - a pill or potion to make us live longer.

Source BBC News

Herb 'does not lower cholesterol'

Scientists say there is no evidence to support claims that a popular herbal supplement reduces cholesterol.

They have suggested that guggul may actually increase cholesterol rather than lower it.

Guggul extract has been used in traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years.

Besides its supposed impact on cholesterol, there have been claims that it protects against heart disease, stroke, tonsillitis and bronchitis.

Dr Philippe Szapary and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine tested the extract on a group of volunteers.

Source BBC News

Sage herb 'can boost memory'

Centuries-old theories that the herb sage can improve memory appear to be borne out by modern research.

Scientists at the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria tested 44 people, who were either given the herb or a dummy placebo pill.

They found that those given the sage oil tablets performed much better in a "word recall test".

Experts believe the active ingredient may boost levels of a chemical that helps transmit messages in the brain.

Source BBC News

Green tea 'can block cancer'

Green tea's ability to fight cancer is even more potent and varied than scientists suspected, research suggests.

Scientists already know that green tea contains anti-oxidants which may have a protective effect against cancer.

But now they have discovered that chemicals in the tea also shut down a key molecule which can play a significant role in the development of cancer.

The molecule, known as the aryl hydrocarbon (AH) receptor, has the ability to activate genes - but not always in a positive way.

Tobacco smoke and dioxins, in particular, disrupt the functioning of the molecule and cause it to trigger potentially harmful gene activity.

The researchers, from Rochester University, found that two chemicals in green tea inhibit AH activity.

Source BBC News