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

Acupuncture 'pregnancy pain cure'

Acupuncture is effective at relieving pelvic pain during pregnancy, a study says.

Pelvic girdle pain is common among pregnant women with one in three affected suffering severe pain.

Researchers found acupuncture was better at easing the pain than standard and specialised exercising.

The team from Gothenburg's Institute for the Health of Women and Children said the medical profession should be more open to using acupuncture.

Report co-author Helen Elden, a midwife at the institute, said: "The study shows that methods other than structured physiotherapy may be effective in treating pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy and that acupuncture represents an effective alternative."

Source BBC News

Chewing gum can 'enhance breasts'

A chewing gum which the makers say can help enhance the size, shape and tone of the breasts has proved to be a big hit in Japan.

B2Up says its Bust-Up gum, when chewed three or four times a day, can also help improve circulation, reduce stress and fight ageing.

The gum works by slowly releasing compounds contained in an extract from a plant called Pueraria mirifica.

In theory, this helps to keep the muscle tissue in good order.

Pueraria mirifica, also known as Kwao Krua, is a species found in Thailand and Burma.
It has long been used by indigenous hill tribe people as a traditional medicine.

Source BBC News.

(Just don't let Jordan near it!)

Acupuncture 'cuts blood pressure'

Acupuncture combined with electronic stimulation can lower high blood pressure, US researchers say.

In tests on rats, the treatment lowered raised blood pressure by as much as 50%, the University of California team at Irvine found.

They are now testing to see whether the technique will have the same effect in people with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Their early findings in animals appear in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Source BBC News

Migraine herb may help fight cancer

Better treatments for leukaemia could be on the horizon thanks to the feverfew, a daisy-like plant traditionally used to treat migraines and arthritis.

The plant yields a substance that kills the rogue stem cells that give rise to all leukaemia cells. Because these stem cells divide slowly, they often survive conventional treatments. But parthenolide, the substance found in feverfew.

Source New Scientist

Natural yoghurt beats bad breath

Sugarless yoghurt could help beat bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease, say scientists.

Japanese researchers found eating the yoghurt reduced levels of hydrogen sulphide - a major cause of bad breath - in 80% of volunteers.

The key are active bacteria in yogurt, specifically Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Details were presented at a meeting of the International Association for Dental Research.

Source BBC News

Mountain life is good for you

If you want to live longer and lower the risk of heart disease, a move to the mountains may help. Greek scientists publishing in today's issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health say that living in the mountains lowers your odds of dying from heart disease compared with living closer to sea level.

The increased exercise from walking up mountainous terrain gives the heart a good workout and enables it to cope with lower levels of oxygen, the researchers say.

"Residence in mountainous areas seems to have a 'protective effect' from total and coronary mortality," says lead author Dr Nikos Baibas of the University of Athens.

Source - ABC Net

Cancer hope for green tea extract

My second favourite beverage (after coffee) is proving its worth once again as reported by the BBC:-

A chemical extracted from green tea could help scientists to develop new drugs to fight cancer.
Tests by UK and Spanish researchers showed polyphenol EGCG taken from green tea leaves inhibits cancer cell growth.

The effect was seen even at low concentrations, equivalent to drinking two or three cups of green tea a day.

However, the study, published in Cancer Research, also found high concentrations of the chemical may increase the risk of birth defects.

Previous research has suggested that drinking green tea helps to cut the risk of certain forms of cancer.

The latest study found that EGCG binds to a key enzyme - dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) - that is targeted by established anti-cancer drugs.

This stops the enzyme from triggering the manufacture of new DNA in tumour cells.

It appears to work in the same way as the cancer drug methotrexate - but in practice would probably have fewer side effects.

Prevent diabetes by eating chocolate

Chocolate could be an unlikely new weapon in the battle against diabetes, one of Britain's fastest growing illnesses.

New research shows that eating dark chocolate reduces the risk of damaging changes in the body that can lead to the condition.

But it works only if you eat plain, dark chocolate high in disease-fighting chemicals called flavanols. Milk or white chocolate is unlikely to have the same effect.

The findings, by a group of Italian researchers, reveal that snacking regularly on the equivalent of one medium sized bar a day protects against a condition called insulin resistance.

Source The Daily Mail

Garlic

I have just completed a new page for Complete Herbal on garlic. A medicinal and culinary delight with a facinating history.

Apples give cancer the pip

An apple a day could keep carcinoma away, according to new research at Cornell University, in New York state. Rai Hai Liu fed cancer-prone laboratory rats the human equivalent of one, three and six apples a day for 24 weeks, he will report in the next Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Tumour incidence was reduced by 17%, 39% and 44% respectively. His team also fed apples or apple extracts to rats with breast cancer and the same regime reduced tumours by 25%, 25% and 61%. Five years ago Dr Liu reported in Nature that antioxidants in fresh apples inhibited the growth of human liver and colon cancer cells.

Apple-rich diets have already been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's, cataracts and even macular degeneration. "Risk of many chronic diseases in modern life appears to be reduced by whole foods, not by isolated large doses of selected food compounds," says David Jacobs of Minnesota University. Keep eating the fruit and veg.

Source The Guardian

Oily fish helps cut inflammation

Scientists have discovered why a diet high in oily fish like salmon and mackerel may help improve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

They have found a key anti-inflammatory fat in humans is derived from a fatty acid found in fish oil.

The researchers, from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, found the diet worked best when combined with low aspirin doses.

Details are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

A herb in the balance

Two years ago, the UK government banned kava, a herbal remedy for treating anxiety. A suspicion had emerged that it might cause liver damage. The ban incensed proponents, some of whom decided to take the government to court over the matter. Now the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is reconsidering the decision; the organisation has recently invited interested parties to submit new evidence.

Kava is a plant (Piper methysticum) from the South Sea, where it has been used as a medicine for centuries. Rigorous clinical trials over the past two decades have demonstrated that it is effective in reducing anxiety. Kava therefore had become very popular. But the "kava-boom" came to a halt when cases of severe liver problems emerged. Eighty-four cases have now been associated with kava worldwide. Nine patients have suffered irreversible liver failure, and six individuals have died. None the less, proponents, including those organised in the International Kava Executive Council, insist that the evidence is inconclusive, pointing out that such adverse effects are extremely rare - only about one case per 50 million kava users.

Several new theories might explain what is really going on. In most of the cases, experts identified other possible causes for the liver damage. Many of the affected patients also consumed alcohol or took drugs known to damage the liver. The other patients could have suffered from liver conditions related to diseases such as infectious hepatitis. And some people will always experience liver problems apparently out of the blue.

Another theory holds that the modern manufacturing process for kava supplements is to blame. Natives from the South Sea make their kava drink essentially by dissolving the root in water. Kava supplements, however, are extracted with solvents which take out toxic constituents from the plant which are absent in the traditional kava drink. New evidence suggests that habitual kava users in the South Sea show no signs of liver problems even though they take rather high doses.

Other experts suspect that the huge popularity of kava supplements created so much demand that people started processing parts of the plant that were never meant to be used. This mistake, they think, led to products with toxic constituents not normally contained in quality products. This theory could explain why kava was used for such a long time without problems, and only when sales boomed did problems emerge.

Finally, some researchers believe that there could be a genetic explanation. Natives of the South Sea might be protected from liver damage simply because they are genetically different from us. In fact, the vast majority of Caucasians have nothing to fear. According to this school of thought, only a very small group of people afflicted with a genetic abnormality are at risk.

Meanwhile, three new clinical trials confirm the effectiveness of kava in relieving anxiety, which brings the total number of trials to 12. Several independent experts are now sure that the benefits of kava outweigh its risks. They also point out that conventional drugs with similar anxiolytic properties, such as Valium, are at least as harmful as kava.

In the coming months, the kava debate is set to reignite. The MHRA has already stated that kava poses "a rare but serious risk to public health". The First International Kava Conference, which took place in December 2004 in Fiji, arrived at the opposite conclusion: "We see no grounds for continuing bans and restrictions [and] call for their immediate removal." Watch this space.

· Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula medicine school at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Source The Guardian
Edzard ErnstTuesday