Health shops give bad advice on depression

Only one in 13 drugs recommended by health shops to treat depression is proven to work, according to a survey published today based on health food shops in a city centre. Staff were more likely to prescribe multivitamins than St John's Wort, the only alternative medicine scientifically proved to have an effect.
Ginseng, liquid tonic, cat's claw, ginkgo biloba and royal jelly were also suggested as treatments, despite some having "potentially serious drug interactions".


The findings, published today in Psychiatric Bulletin, the journal from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, emerged after Joyce Reed, a junior doctor at St James's university hospital in Leeds, surveyed staff at 10 health food shops within three miles of Leeds city centre. Dr Reed turned up or rang as a customer with a range of symptoms typical of moderate depression, including lethargy, poor concentration, weight loss and weepiness.
Most of the staff asked extra questions but only two asked if a GP had been consulted, and only three asked about depression. Only one pointed out she was not medically trained. They made no response when Dr Reed claimed to be taking oral contraceptives, despite evidence that St John's wort can affect the pill.

Dr Reed, and her co-author Peter Trigwell, a consultant psychiatrist at Leeds general infirmary, admit that the "public nature" of health food shops may lead staff to avoid asking personal questions. But they were concerned that "staff are unlikely to warn customers about potential interactions and adverse side effects".

Last month the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warned that alternative remedies used to treat menopausal symptoms could cause problems. Difficulties include interacting with the blood-thinning agent warfarin and anti-depressants.

Source - Guardian

NITS are the bane of every parent's life

NITS are the bane of every parent's life, but there are some extremely effective natural solutions.

Head lice lay their eggs very close to the scalp, but attached to the hairs so that, as the hair grows, the egg is moved away from the scalp. The 'glue' is extremely strong: the eggs cannot simply be combed out of untreated hair.
A simple base shampoo with tea tree and lavender essential oils added is useful, but washing the hair is not enough. To get rid of lice, massage rosemary and cedarwood hair treatment (£7 for 75g) into the hair.

And coconut oil makes the hair smooth and slippery so the lice lose their grip. After applying, comb through the hair with a fine nit comb and again one hour later. It takes seven to ten days for lice to hatch from their eggs, so it is important to repeat this treatment on a weekly basis until no more lice are present. Bug Buster combs (£1.75) are recommended by the Department of Health.

If the lice are very persistent, boil up some Quassia chips (75p for 25g) and, after allowing to cool a little, use the warm infusion as a final rinse. It tastes very bitter, so don't get any in your mouth.

Source - Scotsman

Pomegranate - Food for the Brain


A new US study conducted by researchers at the Loma Linda University in California found that pomegranate juice is very beneficial for preserving the health of the brain and keeping Alzheimer's at a distance, they allege that a daily glass of antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice could halve the build-up of harmful proteins linked to Alzheimer's.

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.

Latitude granted to homeopathy infuriates medical establishment

New regulations allowing homeopathic remedies to put therapeutic claims on labels must be annulled, says the medical establishment. Lord Taverne, chairman of the charity Sense About Science, tabled a debate yesterday in the Lords on the rules, which he described as "disgraceful".
The rules allow remedies to be licensed based on observed symptoms and to be labelled to indicate what ailments they purport to treat. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the rules could improve consumer information. But hundreds of scientists, doctors and scientific societies have expressed concern. "It has come as a shock to the medical and scientific world," said Lord Taverne: "What is at issue here is the notion of trust between the public and drug regulation."

Source Guardian

Curry spice 'help for arthritis'

Extract of a spice used in curry could help prevent rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, US research suggests.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Asian medicine to treat inflammatory disorders and its extract can be found in western dietary supplements.

Now lab work by University of Arizona researchers, in Arthritis & Rheumatism, shows just how the spice's curcuminoid extracts have a therapeutic effect.

Experts say new drugs may be found, but eating more spices is unlikely to work.

The researchers said clinical trials were needed before turmeric supplements could be recommended for medicinal use.

Source - BBC

Alarm as homeopathic treatments are free to make health claims without trials

Lives will be put at risk by a controversial law which allows homeopathic medicines to make unproven scientific claims, leading doctors have warned.

More than 700 medics, scientists and members of the public have signed a statement criticising a new law which they say makes a mockery out of conventional medicine.

The Government's medicines safety watchdog says the change gives patients clearer information. But critics fear that giving legitimacy to pills and potions that are based on 'magic' rather than science will cost lives.

One expert likened the change to categorising Smarties as a medicine, on the basis that chocolate makes you feel better.

Homeopathy, which has won the backing of Prince Charles, claims to prevent diseases such as malaria by using dilute forms of herbs, minerals and other materials that in higher concentrations could produce the symptoms of the condition.

Popular treatments include arnica, a plant-based remedy used to treat cuts and bruises, and malaria nosode, anti-malaria tablets made from African swamp water, rotting plants and mosquito eggs and larvae.

However, a recent study published in the Lancet suggested that the benefits of homeopathy are all in the imagination, with alternative remedies performing no better than dummy pills in clinical trials.

Until recently, homeopathic medicine manufacturers were banned from claiming new products could treat specific ailments.

But regulations introduced last month by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency allow the manufacturers to make such claims, as long as they can prove the remedy is safe.

Source - Daily Mail

Ginger to boost your immune system

SOME foodstuffs act as positive guards to our health. You can use more of them in your diet or introduce them in a number of other ways

Ginger is stimulating and warming, and also boosts the immune system. You can use it fresh or powdered in food and drinks. Winter Warmer Tea Blend (£2.95 for 50g), which contains ginger slices, warms and soothes aching joints. A little fresh ginger grated into hot water makes a safe and pleasant remedy for morning sickness during pregnancy, while ginger essential oil (£10 for 10ml) can be blended in a base oil and massaged over the kidney area to stimulate the immune system. Rubbing the oil or a warming salve (£7 for 45g) on the feet can aid circulation and has a warming effect.


Source - Scotsman

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

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

Can a beam of light cure chronic pain?

Laser therapy is something normally associated with beauty treatments such as hair removal - but now a new form of it, low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is being used to help reduce pain, heal wounds and even knit broken bones.

We are all exposed to light every day without these apparently extraordinary benefits - what makes LLLT different, explains Professor Mary Dyson, former director of the Tissue Repair Unit of Guy's hospital in London, is that this particular light operates at a wavelength which encourages the body to start healing itself.

'It stimulates the cells to start producing all sorts of growth factors, which is why it can help with wound healing and bone repair,' she says. 'It also has an effect similar to an anti-inflammatory drug — hence the pain relief.'

Speeding up bone healing by beaming light onto it may sound a bit flaky, but American researchers are taking it very seriously.

In fact, it may even help regrow spines one day, according to Dr Juanita Anders of the Uniformed Services University in Maryland, who has been testing its effects on the damaged spinal cords of rats. Besides causing the nerves to regrow to some extent, it reduces inflammation.

At the Medical College of Wisconsin, researchers have been using LLLT to restore the vision of rats whose retinas have been deliberately damaged. They reported that 95 per cent of the injuries were repaired.

Source - Daily Mail

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

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

Eating bread 'raises cancer risk'

People who eat a lot of bread are at greater risk of kidney cancer, Italian research has suggested.

The study of more than 2,300 people also claimed pasta and rice could moderately raise the risk, while vegetables and poultry reduced it.

Cancer Research UK said it was the first time such a claim had been made and warned people not to be alarmed.

A spokesman for the charity said smoking and being overweight were the only well-established avoidable causes.

Folic acid 'hinders malaria drug'

Pregnant women taking folic acid to protect their baby's development may be at greater risk of malaria as a result, Kenyan research suggests.

The supplement interacts with a common antimalarial drug, rendering it less effective, the work shows.

Expectant mums on high dose folic acid, as recommended in Kenya, were twice as likely as others to fail treatment with sulfacoxine-pyrimethamine (SP).

The study appears in Public Library of Science Clinical Trials.

Berry juice may be a heart tonic

Scientists in India have developed a way to extract juice effectively for the first time from a berry which is thought to be good for the heart.

Sea buckthorn is a known source of cholesterol-lowering compounds which could prevent clogging of the arteries.

It is used in Tibet, Mongolia, China and Russia for health drinks.

But the researchers, writing in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, report current extraction methods produce juice of poor quality.

Source - BBC News

Pregnant women 'oily fish alert'

Eating too much oily fish during pregnancy may increase the risk of delivering the baby too early, scientists believe.
The researchers told New Scientist magazine the harm is probably caused by high mercury levels in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines.

But experts warn it is important for pregnant women, and indeed everyone, to eat enough fish to keep healthy.

Pregnant women should eat fish twice a week, says the Food Standards Agency.

Source - BBC

Alcoholic milk 'cuts allergies'

Ingredients of a mildly alcoholic milk drink could help protect children from food allergies, research has suggested.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from live bacteria cultures which is credited with having health benefits in parts of eastern Europe.

Research published by the Society of Chemical Industry reports kefir contains bacteria which could help reduce allergic responses.

Experts warned that much more testing needed to be done on the product.

Source - BBC

One of natures great protectors.

ONE of nature's great protectors, propolis is a natural antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Used by the Soviet Union to treat battle wounds and fever during the Second World War, it is the brown, sticky substance that bees use to build ramparts to defend their hive's entrance. It also forms an antiseptic barrier from bacterial or viral attack. The entire inside of the hive is coated with propolis, creating one of nature's most sterile environments.

Just as it creates a hive's auto-immune system, propolis is similarly believed to strengthen the human immune system by encouraging the thymus gland to produce extra white blood cells. Known as nature's penicillin, propolis is a natural antibiotic without side-effects, and it has also been known to fight bacterial strains that have become resistant to synthetic antibiotics.

Propolis repels bacterial and fungal infections on the skin, such as herpes, and treats infections of the mouth and throat. It's a great winter remedy. For coughs, colds and sore throats, take ten drops in a little water three times a day


Source - Scotsman

One of natures great protectors.

ONE of nature's great protectors, propolis is a natural antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Used by the Soviet Union to treat battle wounds and fever during the Second World War, it is the brown, sticky substance that bees use to build ramparts to defend their hive's entrance. It also forms an antiseptic barrier from bacterial or viral attack. The entire inside of the hive is coated with propolis, creating one of nature's most sterile environments.

Just as it creates a hive's auto-immune system, propolis is similarly believed to strengthen the human immune system by encouraging the thymus gland to produce extra white blood cells. Known as nature's penicillin, propolis is a natural antibiotic without side-effects, and it has also been known to fight bacterial strains that have become resistant to synthetic antibiotics.

Propolis repels bacterial and fungal infections on the skin, such as herpes, and treats infections of the mouth and throat. It's a great winter remedy. For coughs, colds and sore throats, take ten drops in a little water three times a day


Source - Scotsman

A very painful chapter - The novelist Michael Arditti turned to cranial osteopathy for back ache. It nearly killed him

In my late twenties, I gave up dairy products.
I also gave up meat, wheat, alcohol, tea, coffee, processed food and as many E-numbers as I could without becoming a hermit, but it’s the dairy products that are pertinent here.



I had suffered from depressive illness for years and had failed to respond to a plethora of drugs. An open-minded doctor encouraged me to visit a dietary therapist, who turned out to be inspirational. Refreshingly free of any “Your body is a temple” cant, she explained how the toxins in food generated toxins in the brain, an insight which, though lost to the Tesco generation, stretched back to Hippocrates, who said: “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”

So it proved for me. The change of diet combined with psychotherapy set me well on the road to recovery and I happily threw away my pills. Over the next decade, I worked as a theatre critic and wrote three novels, bolstered by a weekly regimen of yoga, aromatherapy and reflexology. I stuck religiously to my diet, issuing indulgent friends and hostesses with lengthy lists of requirements. At home I enjoyed regular goat and sheep cheeses brought by a friend from France.

Although the use of unpasteurised milk made them more flavoursome than their English counterparts, it also made them potentially lethal. Indeed, one contained a bug, which changed — and almost destroyed — my life.

My earliest intimation that something was wrong came with a series of stabbing pains at the base of my spine. At first I attributed them to posture and the hours spent hunched over a computer but after a couple of days the pains grew so intense that I could barely move, let alone leave the house. I rang and spoke to my doctor for the first time in a decade. She said simply: “You’re very tall, Michael. Tall people get sciatica. You’ve got sciatica,” before prescribing a week in bed.

Meanwhile, a friend urged me to call a husband-and-wife team of cranial osteopaths. Their willingness to visit me contrasted with my doctor’s phone diagnosis and confirmed my faith in holistic medicine. The couple appeared to be affable, down-to-earth and, above all, effective. On the first visit, as on all later ones, it was the man who took the lead, applying gentle pressure to various points of my body and rebalancing my energies. His wife, who was heavily pregnant, lent advice and the occasional hand. At the end of the initial treatment the pain had dwindled and I felt full of hope.

Source - Times

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

Severely troubled boys 'soothed by fish oils'

· School findings warrant more research, say experts
· Big improvement seen in behaviour after 20 weeks

Experts on omega-3 fatty acids said yesterday there was an urgent need for properly conducted scientific research on the impact of diet on the brain, amid claims that fish oils have dramatically improved the behaviour of boys with some of the UK's most severe emotional and social problems.
The Cotswold community school in Wiltshire, a residential school for boys who cannot be handled in mainstream care homes and schools, has treated its children with fish oil supplements for 20 weeks and measured changes in their behaviour. A nutritionist, Jackie Stordy, analysed records of the boys' behaviour, using school logs of the number of times the children had to be restrained.

The children's scores for hyperactivity, impulsiveness and oppositional behaviour were also compared before and after.
After 20 weeks the number of times staff had to restrain the boys had dropped by 46%. The length of time they had to be restrained dropped by 42% and their scores for impulsiveness and hyperactivity improved by 20%, said Dr Stordy.

For nearly all the boys there was a small but significant improvement, except two who did not take the fish oil and showed no improvement. Three showed dramatic improvements. "Their scores moved into the normal range for the population, which is remarkable," Dr Stordy said.

Source - Guardian

Sleepy in the car?

I always keep a bottle of Litsea Essential Oil (£4.35 for 10ml) in the car, as I find it more effective than coffee in helping me stay alert behind the wheel. I put about four drops on a hankie and inhale from time to time. It can also be used in a burner, diluted in a massage oil or added to a warm bath.

Litsea essential oil is steam-distilled from the small, pepper-like fruits of a plant commonly called may chang, which grows wild from north-east India to south Vietnam. It is a non-toxic and non-irritant oil that is soothing and uplifting. It is used to treat stress-related tension, which may cause conditions such as headaches, high blood pressure, travel sickness, indigestion, flatulence and muscular aches. It has similarly been used to ease arrhythmias.

Source - Scotsman

Can exercise beat cancer?

Simply keeping active as a teenager is the new hope in preventing breast cancer. Simon Crompton reports


Some scary figures were released last week: the number of women with breast cancer has risen by 81 per cent in the past 33 years. Although breast cancer death rates are also falling, the statistics are deeply worrying for women, not least because scientists says that it’s hard to pin down the exact cause of the rise.
However, a more hopeful message will emerge at the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in Birmingham next week. The conference will hear that there is something women can do to reduce the risk of breast cancer: exercise. The message will be made in a keynote speech supported by the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and will mark a new era in official acknowledgement from cancer research bodies that there is a clear link between activity and a reduction in breast cancer.



Professor Leslie Bernstein, the chair in cancer research at the University of California, will draw on 20 years’ research into the effect of exercise on breast cancer rates and will conclude that young girls can significantly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer as they get older if they exercise regularly in their teens. And both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal adults can improve their odds of staying clear of the disease by keeping active.

Her research indicates that exercising over a lifetime seems to have the strongest protective effect; young women who exercise for just four hours a week over their entire reproductive years experience more than a 50 per cent reduction in breast cancer risk. But exercising in adolescence may be particularly crucial; another of her studies showed that breast cancer risk was reduced by 30 per cent among women who exercised for two hours or more every week during their teens. It all gives extra cause for concern over Britain’s couch-potato youth.



Source - Times

How coffee keeps you young

Drinking coffee can keep the brain healthy, according to new research.

A ten-year study found that men who drank three cups of coffee a day had the smallest mental decline as they got older.

Researchers at the National Institute For Public Health And The Environment in the Netherlands analysed cognitive decline in elderly men over ten years.

A total of 676 men from a number of countries in Europe took tests that measured the effect of coffee on their cognitive performance.

The mental decline in non-drinkers was more than four times greater than in those who drank three cups.

One theory for this is that caffeine might boost memory by having an effect on brain receptors.

Patients with high blood pressure are being prescribed cocoa.

A study by the U.S. National Institute Of Health is examining whether drinking two cups of cocoa a day lowers blood pressure.

Doctors say the cocoa will affect the way patients with hypertension respond to insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels.

How cocoa works is not clear, but laboratory studies suggest that flavanols, naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa, have beneficial effects on the vascular system, and improve insulin sensitivity.

Source - Daily Mail

White bread increases cancer risk

Eating lots of white bread raises the risk of a cancer that kills thousands of Britons every year, according to new research.

Those who eat five slices a day are almost twice as likely to develop the most common form of kidney cancer compared to those who have one and a half slices.

Scientists put the cause down to refined cereals triggering a surge in blood sugar and insulin levels, which is thought to fuel cancer cell growth.

People should particularly cut down on white bread, which causes the biggest rise in blood glucose levels, and opt for wholemeal varieties instead.

The study also adds to the mounting evidence of the health benefits of following a low GI diet.

This involves avoiding processed and refined foods, such as white bread which have a high Glycaemic Index.

Whole grain foods are classed as having a low GI value as they lead to slower release of sugar into the blood stream.

The new study published in the International Journal of Cancer set out to investigate potential triggers of Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Source - Daily Mail

New treatment gave sufferer her life back

FOR 17 years, Anne Duck couldn't lead a normal lifestyle. Even holding her newborn son was a problem for the 51-year-old teacher.

Everyday tasks others took for granted, such as vacuuming, dusting, shopping, even pushing a shopping trolley, were difficult and painful. And travelling long-haul was out. The reason? Back pain.

"It started after the birth of my child Colin 17 years ago," recalls Anne. "My back felt weak after the birth and one day I was trying to get out of the car carrying the baby and I got stuck. I couldn't move. I couldn't get out or back in the car. My lower back just gave in.

"The pain initially was sporadic but it developed into being pretty constant after a while. It was a dull pain that increased in intensity as the day went on. A lot of people have isolated episodes but my pain was there all the time." Anne's back pain developed into a disc problem and, after an examination 12 years ago it was discovered she suffered from spina bifida occulta - a weakness in the spine - which had caused a disc lesion.

She continues: "Everything became difficult, even travelling in the car, and I had to make lifestyle changes. I had to give up cycling and exercise in general as it absolutely crippled me. Luckily my work meant I could move around or otherwise there would have been no way I could continue working."

Anne is not alone. Back pain affects some 17.3 million people in the UK, and every year an additional 3.5 million new sufferers succumb to the problem, costing the country £6 billion every year in benefits, treatments and lost working hours.

"Back problems are very, very common," says Jeffrey Knox of 21st Century Back Care in Mansfield Place. "There's not many people who go through life without any back problems, and many don't do anything about it."

Source - Scotsman

Eating well can put you in good humour

A Cotswolds special school has shown that a change of diet can alter behaviour


Until the 18th century doctors classified people according to the amount of the four humours they experienced: phlegm, blood, choler and black bile. A person’s character was determined by which of these humours was predominant.
The humours not only decided someone’s personality, whether sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic or melancholic, but also diseases to which they might be prone. Choleric people are aggressive, irascible, irritable and impulsive, and the melancholic are depressed pessimists who have to drag themselves out of bed each morning.



Sanguine and phlegmatic now mean much the same thing but a purist would describe the sanguine as an overconfident optimist and the phlegmatic as laid-back, unexcitable and calm. Scientists no longer believe in humours but still debate the extent to which personality, genetic inheritance and environment (including diet) influence disease patterns.

Earlier doctors tried to restore health by rebalancing humours that were out of kilter by blood-letting and with herbal remedies. More effective and standardised drugs are now prescribed according to their pharmacological action, but just as when patients were ill or disturbed in the 17th century, doctors still believe that their equilibrium can sometimes be rebalanced by changing their diet.

These principles prevail at a special school in the Cotswolds, a therapeutic community and residential school for boys suffering severe behavioural, emotional and social problems who were previously considered unteachable. It uses dietary methods, as well as drugs, to control some of its wilder pupils.

The effect of supplementing a good diet and appropriate drugs with omega-3 and 6 fatty acids on those with severe behavioural problems has been carefully charted over four months. A surprising number became better socialised, co-operative and took part in carpentry, art, or learnt basic office skills.



Source - Times

Waking up to a healthier way of fasting

Ramadan is taking a toll on Murad Ahmed, what with starving during daylight and bingeing at night. It’s time to call in a nutritionist


I love fasting. Every year during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, now about halfway through, Muslims fast between dawn and dusk, which means that not a drop of water or a morsel of food passes the lips during day- light hours.
The month provides a kind of spiritual detox, providing a reason to control the excesses of your life and helping you to understand, and so not to forget, the suffering of the poor. But, in all honesty, I love it most because of the piles of food that you get to eat at night.



I should tell you that it is distinctly unIslamic to stuff your face during the hours when eating is allowed because Ramadan is all about showing self-restraint. Not eating during the day is suprisingly easy because you make a conscious effort to take things easy. As the month goes on, your body grows accustomed to working on lower reserves of energy. Rejecting the offer of a crisp is the worst of it.

However, like millions of Muslims, I find fasting during the day is a good excuse to overindulge after the sun sets, currently at about 6.10pm. So, perversely, though Ramadan may seem the ideal opportunity to lose weight, I have ended up loosening my belt buckle by a notch.

There are other side-effects to fasting of this kind. Not drinking throughout the day leaves you dehydrated, with gradual loss of energy, resulting in poor concentration. This was fine when I was at university and could nod off during afternoon lectures, but since getting my first job on The Times recently, I have been eager to impress my boss and would rather not have him find me face down, drooling on my keyboard.

Opting out of Ramadan is out of the question for me, so to reconcile it with a nine-to-five office routine I took expert advice from the nutritionist Amanda Ursell about how best to cope. And it turned out that the best way to counteract the effects of not eating by day was to go on a diet by night.



Source - Times

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sysy81/

Turmeric is at it again

Turmeric extract in curry spice has been shown to be very effective against joint inflammation and arthritis by a recent lab study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Arizona. Turmeric main chemical in the popular spice has been used in Asian traditional medicine for centuries now against inflammatory disorders and trials on mice proved that the compound can be beneficial for people who suffer from arthritis.

Turmeric is commonly known as one of the cheapest spices, and has been used since antiquity. Turmeric contains curcuminoids and studies have found that curcuminoids have antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects upon the human body, including the potential to block the uncontrollable growth of melanoma tumour cells.

Silymarin herb and Type 2 Diabetes

According to a recent study the silymarin herb is very beneficial for individuals who suffer from type 2 diabetes. Seemingly it can control levels of sugar in patients' blood.

Researchers at the Institute of Medicinal Plants in Tehran, Iran pointed out the fact that the silymarin herb's potency to control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes sufferers must be mainly due to its rich content of antioxidant compounds. However, the exact chemical(s) which regulate sugar levels in diabetics and how they 'work' is still a mystery. Fallah Huseini, the leading author of the study, said: “We don't know the exact mechanism of action for this effect, but this work shows that silymarin could play an important role in treating type II diabetes.”

Speedy recovery

Can yoga or Pilates help back pain? Should you go for the burn when you've got a cold? Peta Bee on how to exercise with an illness or injury

Gym junkies swear that working out is a hard-core cure-all - it keeps the blood circulating to areas that need healing and sweats out severe colds. Are they aware, however, that exercise-related injuries are on the increase?
According to figures from Bupa Sports Injury clinics, up to 50,000 people suffer some form of sports injury every day, while research at the University of Arkansas revealed that there has been a 35% rise in gym injuries since the 80s. And with the flu season now upon us, many of even the most enthusiastic exercisers will be deliberating whether or not to hit the treadmill.

In some cases, experts say, persevering with your workouts can enhance recovery from illness and injury; in others, it can hamper it.
How to negotiate this minefield? Professor Thomas Weidner, director of athletic training at Ball State university, Indiana and a leading researcher in the effect of exercise on colds (and vice versa), says a consistent gym programme "pumps the immune system" and keeps us from getting colds in the first place. But if you do get a bout of the sniffles, should you forgo your gym sessions until you recover? Weidner says the decision should initially depend on how poorly you are feeling and "always listen to your body".

A useful strategy is to assess the severity of your cold. If you have a runny nose, sneezing or a sore throat (what Weidner calls "above-the-neck" symptoms), it is probably safe to exercise at a low intensity - walking, cycling or yoga - and it may even boost the activity of illness-fighting white blood cells. If, however, you are suffering from extreme tiredness, muscle-aches or feverish symptoms (below-the-neck), stay at home with a hot-water bottle.

According to guidelines from the American Council on Exercise - a consumer watchdog on the fitness industry - allow at least two weeks for a full recovery if you have flu-like symptoms. Mild colds, though, are different. In various recent studies, Weidner and his colleagues inoculated subjects with rhinovirus and then asked them to follow either a moderate exercise regime (half-hour workouts at 70% of their maximum heart rates on treadmills, bikes or steppers for five days a week), or to remain mostly sedentary, except for a shortish walk to work. While the exercisers said they felt better after their gym sessions, there was no difference in symptoms between the groups.

"Nobody feels good when they have a head cold, but research says people can exercise," Weidner says. "It found that cold symptoms do not get worse after working out and that athletic performance does not suffer during light to moderate exercise. Neither the severity nor duration of symptoms seem to be affected."

Among the most common injuries to sporty types are pulled or torn leg muscles. Claire Small, a spokeswoman for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, who specialises in treating musculoskeletal problems, says laying off workouts for a few days after pulling a muscle is essential: the healing process begins with an inflammatory response that can last for three to five days. "This is a crucial time during which rest - protection of the injured muscle is vital in order to prevent any further damage," Small says. "During the inflammatory reaction, the body produces chemicals and cells that remove dead muscle fibres and start the repair process."

Source - Guardian