Diabetes problems 'vitamin link'

A simple vitamin deficiency may be the cause of many of the side effects of diabetes, a study suggests.
Researchers found people with the disease expelled thiamine - vitamin B1 - from their bodies at 15 times the normal rate in a study of 94 people.

The Warwick University team said thiamine helped ward off complications such as heart disease and eye problems, the Diabetologia journal said.

Experts said diet supplements could potentially help people with diabetes. It is the first time a deficiency of the vitamin, which is found in meat, yeast and grains, has been identified in people with diabetes.

It has been missed in the past because of the way thiamine levels were measured.

Source - BBC

Iron brew for anaemia

Iron-rich waters from the Welsh hills can help your blood to sparkle

When the Roman Tenth Legion was stationed in Trefriw, near Conwy in North Wales, its soldiers went prospecting in the local hills. Sometime in the first two hundred years of the first millennium a Roman stumbled upon a spring trickling out of the Snowdonian hills behind Trefriw.

Both the stalactites and stalagmites, which grew from the dripping walls of the grotto into which the spring flowed, glistened like other stalactites in the torchlight, but they were brown and the water had a metallic taste.

Trefriw soon became a popular Roman bath and a centre for jollity and relaxation.
Like most spas, Trefriw had a resurgence in the Georgian era, and later Victorians dug out the grotto before resurrecting the baths and installing a bathhouse fully equipped with a monstrously ugly tub, footbath and bidet. They realised that the water contained ferrous sulphate, the standard treatment for iron-deficiency anaemia then and now.

Fortunately, those with this condition who are helped by drinking Trefriw waters no longer have to brave the dank, dark spidery walls of the grotto. The Victorians dispatched elegant bottles of the water to all corners of the world. Now anaemic members of the family can nip into Nelsons pharmacies to buy sachets of Spatone, Trefriw water. Spatone is still totally natural and as rich in iron, in the form of ferrous sulphate, as when it came out of the mountains. However, it has been checked and bottled in a modern laboratory.

Although Nelsons is famed for homeopathic medicines, its Trefriw water gives a traditionally medicinal rather than a homeopathic dose of iron. Many people have an iron deficiency without being aware of it. Iron is an essential component of the haemoglobin, the compound in the red blood cells that gives blood its bright red colour and transmits oxygen around the body. Every cell of the body needs oxygen to survive. If someone has an iron deficiency the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is reduced so that the patient is breathless and the heart and lungs have to work harder to compensate for the blood’s poor performance – the heart pumps more blood and the cells suffer from a lack of oxygen.

Anaemia is not a disease, but the name given to any condition in which there are either not enough red blood cells to carry adequate supplies of blood around the body, or the blood cells are deficient in the iron-based haemoglobin.

Anaemia is always secondary to some other disorder that can either be caused by blood loss, blood destruction or impaired blood production, such as when there is a deficiency of iron.
It is always essential to discover the cause of anaemia before treatment is started. Anaemia may first become apparent because of pallor, breathlessness and a faster heart-beat than usual, but its early symptoms also include dizziness and increasing tiredness.

Overeating in pregnancy could lead to child obesity

Pregnant mothers-to-be who "eat for two" by increasing their intake of fatty and sugary food could unwittingly be putting their children at risk of obesity, according to new research.

Unborn babies and developing infants can have their eating habits programmed by their mothers' food choices, according to the findings.

Children exposed to "maternal junk food" in the womb or early in life may find it harder to resist an unhealthy diet as they grow older, say the researchers.

Dr Stephanie Bayol, from the Royal Veterinary College in London, said: "Our study has shown that eating large quantities of junk food when pregnant and breastfeeding could impair the normal control of appetite and promote an exacerbated taste for junk food in offspring.
"This could send offspring on the road to obesity and make the task of teaching healthy eating habits in children even more challenging."

Controlling appetite involves hormones which act on the brain to regulate energy balance, hunger and satiety - the sensation of "feeling full".

However, feeding is not merely mechanical. It is partly governed by "reward centres" in the brain whose pleasure responses may override normal "feeling full" signals. Previous research has shown that junk foods rich in fat and sugar inhibit satiety while promoting hunger and stimulating the mind's reward centres.

The new research, carried out on rats, indicates that even before birth, exposure to junk food may induce an unhealthy taste for fatty, sugary treats.

Source - Independent

Fat 'crucial' in children's diet

While parents may be increasingly worrying about childhood obesity, they must ensure their offspring eat enough fat, research from the US urges.

Concerns about their child becoming overweight means some parents put them on low-fat diets, but the Nutrition Journal study said this was misguided.

Researchers found children burned substantially more fat than adults relative to their calorie intake.

Youngsters needed that fat to grow and thrive, they argued.
Over a third of a child's energy intake should be made up of fat, the researchers at Pennsylvania State University said, a recommendation in line with UK requirements.
"Despite this, many parents and children restrict fat for health reasons," they said. "Sufficient fat must be included in the diet for children to support normal growth and development."
'Absolutely right'

All of the participants - 10 children and 10 adults - were put on the same diet, adjusted to estimated calorie requirements of each one.

Source - BBC

Leeches 'save lorry driver's leg'

An intensive course of leech therapy has helped save the leg of a lorry driver injured in a freak accident.

David Isitt needed more than 30 leeches over a week to suck blood out of a large skin flap on his leg where the skin was struggling to survive.

Mr Isitt, from the Isle of Dogs, faced amputation if the treatment failed - but he is now standing on both legs again, and learning to walk unaided.
The treatment was carried out at the Royal London Hospital.

Source - BBC

Buddha and the bottle

Stephen, 38, works in publishing and, for much of his adult life, like everyone else he knows, he drank. “I wasn’t an alcoholic but every now and then then my social drinking would spiral out of control. At times, I could drink three bottles of wine a day.”

He realised his drinking had got out of control when it hurt the people closest to him. “A relationship broke up,” he says. “Alcohol played a part but I wouldn’t accept that at the time. You lie to yourself. You think you’re OK, you can handle it, but you’re not and you can’t.
“I knew I’d crossed the line when I called my mum when I was drunk. I’d promised myself that I’d never do that. I went into detox, but since then I’ve lapsed a few times.”

Drink was ruining Stephen’s mental health. “By nature, I’m a happy person but after a heavy session, I’d be depressed and feel guilty and angry and disappointed with myself. My father was a heavy drinker. I didn’t want to turn into him. It was like living with a dark cloud.
“Three months ago, I was working in Dublin and drinking. I could see a pattern repeating itself.
Back in London, I went to see my GP and told him I needed help.”

Stephen found himself with a new and perhaps surprising ally in his fight against the bottle – Buddha. Or, more accurately, a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and Buddhist meditation, known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). The six-week course was offered on the NHS by the Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust’s alcohol advisory service in London.

“I’d regarded meditation as a bit arty-farty but, in the context of the NHS, I found it very easy to get into because we were a small group, we gave each other support and we were very focused,” Stephen says. “It taught me to control the negative thoughts that once would have me reaching for a drink.”

Source - Times

Bones offer new hope for diabetes

Bones could play an active role in regulating the body's chemistryBones may play a more active role than previously thought in regulating the body's chemistry, scientists say.

An international team found the molecule osteocalcin, produced by bone cells, is active in helping to regulate blood sugar levels in mice.

This is important in the development of diabetes and obesity, so the findings, in the journal Cell, offer the hope of new ways to treat these conditions.

But experts have warned more research is needed to confirm the link. The researchers looked at two different mice strains, both of which had altered activities of osteocalcin, which is produced by osteoblast cells in bones.

One strain had no osteocalcin gene, and so no osteocalcin, and the other had increased levels of osteocalcin activity.

Lead author Professor Gerard Karsenty of Columbia University said: "Osteocalcin has been known since 1977 to be made by osteoblast cells, but it had no known function."

However, the team found a novel function of the molecule.

Usually, an increase in insulin levels in the blood is accompanied by a decrease in insulin sensitivity. But the authors found osteocalcin boosted both the secretion and the sensitivity to insulin.

Take now, pay later

Antibiotics consumption is rising again, despite warnings over their misuse. Deborah Cohen asks the experts how we can avoid taking them unnecessarily Charlotte Hays is a busy working mother.
She admits that she knows antibiotics don't work for coughs and colds, but that doesn't stop her from going to her GP to get them for minor infections. "I know about antibiotic resistance, but it's a bit like climate change - it's someone else's problem," she says. Hays, it seems, is not alone in this attitude. Despite multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis challenging healthcare workers globally (although it is not yet present in the UK) and evidence that other harmful bacteria are becoming resistant faster than we can create new drugs, antibiotic use is on the rise again.Hays puts her reliance on antibiotics down to her busy schedule. "I can't wait for the illness to take its course. I want antibiotics to make it go away."

Recent research led by Dr Andrew Hayward, a senior lecturer in infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, found that, despite official guidelines, GPs are prescribing too many antibiotics for common infections. His survey, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, showed that antibiotic prescription varied widely according to the condition, with 44% of upper respiratory tract infections (coughs and colds), 64% of sore throats over 80% of chest infections and sinusitis receiving prescriptions for antibiotics.

"The majority of simple coughs, colds and sore throats are viral, and those that are bacterial only benefit a little from antibiotics because they will get better anyway. GPs are prescribing more antibiotics than necessary for these conditions," Hayward says.

Source - Guardian

Obesity 'caused by infectious virus which turns cells into fatty tissue'

Obesity can be caught like a cold, according to a laboratory study showing that a common infectious virus can turn human cells into fatty tissue, scientists said.

It is well established that the human adenovirus-36 causes respiratory and eye infections but now scientists found it can also transform adult stem cells found under the skin into the fat cells of adipose tissue.

The scientists also found there is a specific gene in the virus that appears to control this fatty transformation, which they observed when human stem cells grown in the laboratory became infected.

The findings, presented yesterday to the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, suggest that the growing global epidemic of obesity may involve more than a lack of exercise and a love of high-calorie food.

"We're not saying a virus is the only cause of obesity, but this study provides stronger evidence that some obesity cases may involve viral infections," said Magdalena Pasarica of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

"Not all infected people will develop obesity," she said. "We would like to identify the underlying factors that predispose some obese people to develop this virus and eventually to find a way to treat it."

Previous research on animals suggested that adenovirus-36, and two related viruses known as Ad-37 and Ad-5, can trigger obesity. Another study found a high prevalence of adenovirus in overweight people; some 30 per cent of obese people had Ad-36 compared with 11 per cent of lean people.

This led to suggestions that respiratory viruses may play an important role in triggering the tendency towards obesity in susceptible people with the sort of sedentary lifestyle that favours putting on weight.

The latest study appears to support these claims at the cellular level by looking at how the virus interacts with human stem cells growing outside the body in laboratory cultures.
Dr Pasarica obtained the fatty tissue stem cells from a broad cross-section of patients who had undergone liposuction. She exposed only half of the stem cells to Ad-36.

After a week of growth in the laboratory, most of the virus-infected adult stem cells developed into fat cells but the non-infected stem cells did not, Dr Pasarica told the American Chemical Society. "A common virus appears to target stem cells in humans to generate more and bigger fat cells.

Source - Independent

12 ways to enjoy life for longer

Confused by conflicting health advice for older women, Jan Etherington has come up with her own common-sense guide

There's a perception that getting older is a doddle. "Sixty is the new 40", "50 is the new 21", headlines shout. Look at all the fabulous role models for older women! We can all be like that!No, we can't. Real women don't have an army of people on hand to make them look fabulous. And they don't get air-brushed.

Let's be realistic: we've all got to get older. Even the age-defying superstars can't avoid it. So we have two choices: resent it and moan about it - or try to find a way of staying fit and healthy for as long as we can.

Actually, there is another choice: have work done. But the idea of hacking chunks out of your face and body because you're scared of ageing is just so frighteningly stupid that I will push that suggestion aside with a distasteful sneer and return to common-sense solutions.The biggest problem faced by the babyboomers - those of us born between 1945 and 1965 - is getting us to admit we're growing older. We still think we can do anything. We're fit, fast and most of us are still working. We may be grandparents but we bristle at the assumption that we need to be spoken to very loudly and clearly, and offered a comfort stop and a community sing-song every time we get on a bus. Remember the well-meaning council that got short shrift for offering "tea dances and slipper exchange(!) for the over-fifties".

However lithe we think we look in Lycra, we certainly don't look 18 any more. But if any generation is going to sprint into retirement with 20/20 vision and a perfect smile, it should be us.

Source - Telegraph

Healthier options 'boost brands'

Brands that have responded to consumer demand for healthier products have shown strong UK sales in the past year, a survey suggests.

The study conducted by TNS Worldpanel and Marketing magazine found that Kellogg's was the top grocery brand with sales up 4% to more than £550m.

Walker's Crisps and Coca-Cola - which both launched healthier versions of traditional products also did well.

However, alcohol brands were also among those making the biggest gains.

The report said that there were several examples of "growth following the introduction or repositioning of health benefits". Researchers said that the launch of Coke Zero - a sugar free drink - had helped the Coca-Cola brand boost UK sales by 7% in the year to the week ending April 22 2007.

Walker's reduction of saturated fat and introduction of baked crisps was another "key example" of the trend, adding 5% to sales.

Another snack brand, Pringles, added 17% to sales, partly through the launch of rice crackers and by highlighting that its crisps had lower fat than many of its rivals.

Source - BBC

Middle-age spread 'happens twice'

Researchers have found middle-age spread occurs in two distinct phases - casting doubt on the merits of using weight as a guide to health.

They found a thickening waistline in early middle age is accompanied by a rise in weight.

But although waists continue to expand with age, weight gain levelled off in later years as muscle turned to fat.

The study, by the Medical Research Council, appears in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The findings challenge the wisdom of relying solely on Body Mass Index (BMI) to assess whether a person is a healthy weight.

BMI, now used widely by health workers, is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres.

But it can only measure weight gain, and not deposition of fatty tissue, which, the latest study shows, might not be accompanied by an increase in weight. Muscle loss

Geoff Der, from the MRC's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, said: "As people get older it seems that their bodies change - they lose muscle and get fatter.
"This explains why middle-age spread might not be reflected on the bathroom scales."

He added that BMI was a good measure of lean body tissue, but an expanding waistline might be a more reliable measure of the amount of fatty tissue a person has gained.

"Although the people in the older middle age group in this study appeared to put on less weight than the younger people, their waist circumferences continued to grow over time. What appears to have been happening is that the increase in fat was being obscured by a loss of muscle mass."

Source - BBC

Girl overdoses on espresso coffee

A teenager was taken to hospital after overdosing on espresso coffee.
Jasmine Willis, 17, developed a fever and began hyperventilating after drinking seven double espressos while working at her family's sandwich shop.
The student, of Stanley, County Durham, was taken to the University Hospital of North Durham, where doctors confirmed she had overdosed on caffeine.
She has since made a full recovery and is now warning others about the dangers of excessive coffee drinking.
Ms Willis, who had thought the coffees were single measures, said the effects were so severe that she began laughing and crying for no reason while serving customers at the shop.

Source - BBC

Snoring solutions

If you share a bed with a snorer, this article could very well change your life.In fact, if you've been driven so demented that your concentration is shot to pieces, your eyes red-rimmed and your patience tested to its very limits on a nightly basis, feel free to go straight to the end of this piece, call the telephone number printed and whip out your credit card.
Who cares what it costs? You don't, you're desperate. And I feel your pain.
Adultery is all very well, but snoring must surely be the biggest test of any marriage; I know many a wife who would happily overlook the occasional infidelity, as long as her husband did the decent thing and slept over.
Only someone who has endured life with a snorer can possibly understand the stress, exhaustion and, above all, rage it causes.
As he slumbers like a (very noisy, very annoying) baby, you toss and turn beside him, a toxic cocktail of frustration and anger pumping through your veins.

I had all but given up hope that I could ever get a decent night's sleep, until I came across Aromalites, a herbal snoring remedy that claims a 98 per cent success rate within a month, or your money back.

It comprises two jars of essential oils, one containing lavender, the other marjoram. Lavender is well known as a relaxant, enhancing sleep and relieving insomnia. The marjoram apparently lessens the vibrations in the back of the throat and clears the sinuses, promoting easier breathing.

The idea was to keep both jars open on my husband's bedside table for 30 days and 30 nights, so the room would be suffused with the herbal aromas, and thereafter to close the jars during the day and open them at night. It was worth a try, so I bought the two large jars for £16.

And, dear reader, it is almost a month on, and the snoring has virtually stopped! Not completely - there are still nights when I'm woken up, and, frankly, marjoram can only do so much when confronted with half a gallon of Merlot.

But four nights out of five, I'm getting a full eight hours' rest. The chronic sleep deprivation has lifted and so have my spirits. Not only do I feel much less violent towards my husband when he does snore, but I'll probably stay married long enough to get my own back and start snoring myself.

Source - Telegraph

The acid test for arthritis

Last month, Sarah Gall, a church organist from Rochdale, Lancashire wrote to The Daily Telegraph describing how she believed she had been cured of arthritis in her spine by following a diet that included apple cider vinegar and honey. The Letters page was inundated with dozens of emails, letters and phone calls from readers requesting more information about Gall's regime - which had been first devised by a nurse called Margaret Hills in 1961.

In fact, Hills's use of cider vinegar follows in a long tradition: people have been using natural cider vinegar as a medicine for centuries.
As far back as 3,000 BC, Egyptians were using it for health benefits including weight loss and Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was said to have used cider vinegar for its healing qualities. While doctors remain sceptical, many sufferers have embraced it, including the explorer and adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

And with increasing pressure on the Health Service to fund drugs - last week it was revealed that thousands of severe rheumatoid arthritis sufferers (a type of arthritis in which the immune system starts attacking the joints) may be denied the drug Orencia after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said it should not be available on the NHS due to its annual cost of £10,000 per patient a year - people are increasingly looking to alternative therapies to control their condition.

Source - Telegraph

Beating diabetes with a diet from the dawn of Man

ASCOTTISH businessman believes diet rather than drugs may play a key part in tackling the epidemic of diabetes among Scots. Graeme Chatham was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in January 2002 and was prescribed drugs to lower his blood-sugar levels. But he decided to attempt to control his condition without medication, by following a strict dietary regime.
Chatham would now like to see a major research project carried out to assess the impact of this type of diet in the hope that it could help other diabetics and reduce the NHS drugs bill. "I knew absolutely nothing about the condition, however I had spent my entire business life analysing and solving problems," he explains. "To me, this was just another to take on, if somewhat daunting."

As well as staying active, he started cutting out foods such as white bread, chocolate and processed products from his diet, rejecting anything which contained processed sugar.
He says his weight dropped and his blood-sugar levels remained stable for three years.
But, by 2005, his levels were up again and his GP suggested he start using the medication to control his diabetes. Again, Chatham resisted and further restricted his diet, cutting out all cereals, bread, milk, red meat and dairy products.

Such a regime has been labelled a "hunter-gatherer" diet - returning to what our ancient ancestors would have eaten. Chatham, a company director of car dealership Graeme P Chatham Ltd, says: "Their diet would have consisted, in the main, of fish and shellfish, eggs, game of all kinds, nuts, berries, roots, mushrooms, herbs and leaf vegetables. Life must have been physically demanding, short and brutal. However, whatever they died of, you can be sure it was not diabetes.

Source - Scotsman

£523,000 a day on alternative medicine

PEOPLE in Britain will spend up to £191 million on complementary medicines such as herbal remedies and aromatherapy this year, a report revealed yesterday.

Controversy surrounds complementary therapies, with many in the scientific community doubting they work. Despite these doubts, market analyst Mintel said sales of such medicines have increased by 32 per cent since 2002 - with around £523,000 spent per day.
And by 2011, the market will see sales of more than £250 million a year. Mintel said that almost half of British women (49 per cent) and 28 per cent of men had used a complementary medicine and would use it again.

A further 27 per cent said they had not yet used such products but would consider doing so.
Mintel said as it became increasingly difficult to get a GP appointment, more people were turning to the internet to research their symptoms.

This led to many finding herbal remedies which are readily available without a prescription from supermarkets and high street stores.

Source - Scotsman

Which berries will really benefit you?

No sooner have we grasped the health-protecting, skin-boosting, brain-empowering properties of one super berry than along comes another one, with seemingly superior “supernutrient” virtues.

And yet, to date, much of the research that “reveals” their potential benefits has been carried out in laboratories and on animals, so their real benefits are just that, potential.
“It is possible to show charts and quote figures that reveal, for example, either blueberries or blackcurrants to have more supernutrients simply by testing a specific variety,” says Stephen Taylor, a leading berry grower. “This is confusing and potentially misleading.” So just exactly what can various berries really do for us? What we do know for sure is that berries share some universal nutritional properties.

They are low in calories. You can munch your way through a 200g bowl of strawberries for just 54 calories and the same size bowl of raspberries for 50. All are great too for vitamin C which we know is vital for immunity, the quality of our skin and our ability to absorb iron, needed for energy, from many foods.

Strawberries and raspberries give us more vitamin C than blackberries but less than blackcurrants. But all are very useful for this multifunctional nutrient, as well as for fibre and blood pressure-balancing potassium. So if you’re served gooseberries, mulberries, bilberries or red-currants, then tuck in with gusto.

The fact that we may also derive added benefits from particular varieties should be seen as an added bonus rather than a reason to stick to one to the exclusion of others.

Source - Times

Facing the menopause

Mary Smith was 52 when she first noticed symptoms of the menopause, in 2000. But a bout of hot flushes passed quickly and Smith, a grants administrator for British Arts, soon presumed the worst was over. In 2004, though, the flushes returned with a vengeance; this time she could suffer 30 a day, along with lack of energy, poor concentration and mood swings. “I’d be at meetings when suddenly I’d become totally infused with intense heat,” Smith recalls. “No sooner had I got over one flush than the next would come. I always felt hazy and under par.”

The average age at onset of menopause is 51, and doctors say that about 50 per cent of menopausal women will be sufficiently troubled by symptoms – hot flushes are among the most common – to seek some form of treatment; GPs typically prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Smith, however, didn’t find relief at the hands of a GP, but in a rising alternative treatment: facial reflexology.

Developed by the Danish reflexologist Lone Sorensen Lopez, the discipline borrows the central tenet of traditional reflexology – that areas of the body are “reflected” in the foot – and applies it to the face. The result is a treatment that looks like a face massage but, by targeting the right areas, proponents claim it can help to alleviate digestive complaints, migraines and muscle tension, as well as menopause symptoms.

Smith’s menopause symptoms were troublesome for her not only because of their severity but because of her lifestyle. A fitness enthusiast, Smith combined regular gym visits with weekly yoga and Pilates sessions. Now, hot flushes and the attendant tiredness was making all that too difficult. “They were constant,” says Smith. “At work I was endlessly taking deep breaths and drinking glasses of water. At night they stopped me sleeping. My energy was so low that trips to the gym, and evenings at the theatre, became less frequent. After a while I started to wonder if I’d ever get over it.”

Source - Times

Daily glass of wine increases risk of bowel cancer, scientists find

The argument has raged for decades - is a daily alcoholic drink good for you or not? That pint of beer on the way home may set you up for the evening, but does it set you up for life?

Conventional medical wisdom has been that moderate drinking - a pint of beer or a couple of glasses of wine a day - boosts health by cutting the risk of heart disease. But new research has muddied the water. A study published yesterday suggests that a daily pint of beer or large glass of wine increases the risk of bowel cancer by 10 per cent. Two pints or two large glasses of wine increases the risk by 25 per cent, according to the results of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study, which questioned almost 480,000 people across 10 European countries about their drinking habits.

Cancer and heart charities were left perplexed over how to interpret the findings, published online in the International Journal of Cancer. Weighing up relative risks is tricky and each charity preferred to highlight the dangers or benefits to their chosen disease.

The British Heart Foundation said there was "some evidence" that moderate drinking had a beneficial effect on heart disease, but if it raised the risk of cancer then "it becomes a matter of personal choice".

Cancer Research UK, which part-funded the bowel cancer study, said moderate drinking only caused a small increase in risk. Cat Arney, senior information officer, said: "The key thing is the more you drink the more your risk goes up."

This leaves ordinary drinkers in a difficult position. In addition to bowel cancer, a drink a day is known to increase the risk of breast cancer in women by 7 per cent, and some other cancers. Bowel cancer is the second-most common form of the disease in men and women with 35,000 new cases a year and 16,000 deaths. Breast cancer is the commonest cancer in women with 40,000 new cases and 12,000 deaths. Heart disease and stroke kill more than 200,000 people a year.

A major study published in the British Medical Journal last year found frequent drinking was an effective way of preventing a heart attack - but only if you were a middle-aged man.

Source - Independent

High-stress jobs 'double chances of depression'

It is the curse of the modern world. Too much to do and too little time to do it. And now researchers have demonstrated its harmful effect on health.

A survey of young people in their early thirties has found those in high-stress jobs run twice the risk of suffering serious depression or anxiety as those in lower-stress occupations.
Top of the stress league are men who are head chefs in big restaurants and construction workers under pressure to complete a building on time. They are six times more likely to buckle under stress, researchers report.
Theirs are the most stressful jobs because, in addition to working to deadlines in an environment where failure is publicly visible, they face hard physical labour every day in extremes of heat or cold and frequently without encouragement or support.

Least stressful were those jobs which involved looking after children at home, where there are no deadlines to meet, greater flexibility and no fear of public failure.
Time pressure is the single most important cause of stress and of the illness to which it leads, the researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London say. Physical conditions at work, boredom and relations with bosses and colleagues mattered less.

Overall, more than one in 20 cases of depression or anxiety annually is attributable to high stress at work, causing individual suffering and imposing a substantial burden on the health service and the economy, they say.

The survey, conducted for one year among 1,000 people aged 32 in a wide range of occupations, found 15 per cent of those in high-stress jobs suffered a first episode of clinical depression or anxiety during that year, compared with 8 per cent in low-stress jobs. Women were generally worse affected than men. People who had previously suffered depression or anxiety and those with "negative" personalities who were more likely to complain were eliminated from the study.
Maria Melchior, an epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council's Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre at King's, said: "Even at the beginning of their careers, we can see the effects of stress. It appears to bring on diagnosable forms of depression and anxiety in previously healthy young workers. It is very important these detrimental effects should be prevented."

She added: "There are ways of reducing stress through the organisation of the workplace and through interventions with individuals who can be taught how to cope with demanding jobs."

Source - Independent

Could lentils save your life? Meet the man who became vegan for a month

Fake bacon that tastes like shoes insoles. Meat-free hagggis and turkey made from tofu. When a devoted carnivore agreed to live as a vegan for a month, he was deeply apprehensive. But the effect on his health was simply astonishing

One day I was bemoaning to a female friend that I felt a bit run down and in need of a change of eating habits, while unhelpfully refusing to be drawn into any discussions on faddy diets that she proposed.
Maybe out of desperation, maybe revenge, she suggested I become vegan. I laughed, thought about it, and laughed again.
"Gwyneth Paltrow is a vegan," she said. Maybe I could think of it as an ethical stand rather than a diet, I thought.

"I couldn't," I said. "No, maybe you aren't as strong willed as Gwyneth," she replied. But I am. My decision to go vegan elicited a variety of responses, but not one was enthusiastic.
Meat eaters thought it ludicrous, even vegetarians weren't convinced it was possible, and one person told me he'd rather eat his arm.

With ill-disguised glee they ran through lists of things I wouldn't be able to eat.
It was a depressing list - basically vegetarianism without the eggs, milk, cheese, butter or cream. And for a man whose culinary art could be summed up by 'pierce film and microwave for three minutes, stirring once', how would I deal with ingredients that actually required cooking?
But first, to find out what all this was going to do to my body, I went for a health check at the BUPA Wellness centre in London's King's Cross.

After a thorough, hitherto assiduously avoided blood analysis, body mass indexing, cholesterol and weigh-in, I was informed by the doctor that I was overweight and had a cholesterol level of 6.5 - the recommended upper limit is 5.
The doctor was deeply sceptical that four weeks as a vegan would be enough to see a difference and said he wouldn't recommend veganism as the body needed meat to function.
However, he wished me well and I left, vegan for a month.

I started looking for something to eat. None of the fast food eateries cater for vegans, nor the chain shops unless you count a pot of hummus with a couple of sticks of broccoli as food, which I do not.
Sandwiches which could have been vegan had been sabotaged with butter or lashings of mayonnaise.
Finally I saw a hand-painted store in a sidestreet with a board announcing 'organic cafe' and so it was that my first vegan meal came from Pete's Hemp Store.
The shelves heaved with all the things I would normally eschew - lentils, grains and beans - and had that dreary pall which is endemic to health shops.

Source - Daily Mail

Vitamin breakthrough could cut diabetes deaths

A drug which could cut diabetics' chances of having heart attacks and strokes is being tested by scientists.

The breakthrough follows a study which found diabetics suffer from a lack of vitamin B1, which is important in keeping the body's circulatory system healthy.
This deficiency could increase the chance of heart attacks and strokes, which account for around 80 per cent of diabetes deaths.

Researchers at the Warwick Medical School found the kidneys of diabetics are getting rid of vitamin B1 - also known as thiamine - 15 times more quickly than in healthy people.
They hope high-dose vitamin B1 supplements could therefore reduce the risk of patients developing heart problems. Another option would be to develop drugs to stop the kidneys getting rid of so much of the vitamin. The study, published in the journal Diabetologia, involved 74 diabetics and 20 healthy volunteers.

Source - Daily Mail

Coffee 'protects female memory'

Caffeine may help older women ward off mental decline, research suggests.

French researchers compared women aged 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day with those who drank one cup or less per day.
Those who drank more caffeine showed less decline in memory tests over a four year period.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, raises the possibility that caffeine may even protect against the development of dementia. The results held up even after factors such as education, high blood pressure and disease were taken into account.
Caffeine is a known psychostimulant, but this study appears to suggest its effects may be more profound.

However, lead researcher Dr Karen Ritchie of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research warned against jumping to premature conclusions.
She said: "While we have some ideas as to how this works biologically, we need to have a better understanding of how caffeine affects the brain before we can start promoting caffeine intake as a way to reduce cognitive decline.
"But the results are interesting - caffeine use is already widespread and it has fewer side effects than other treatments for cognitive decline, and it requires a relatively small amount for a beneficial effect."

The study, which involved 7,000 women, did not find that caffeine consumers had lower rates of dementia.

Pupils 'benefit from free fruit'

A national scheme giving primary school children in England a free piece of fruit each day has improved their diet, a study of 5,000 pupils has found.

The number of children who ate fruit every day rose from 46% to 65% as a result of the initiative, researchers at Nottingham University discovered.

The school fruit and vegetable scheme was rolled out nationally in 2002, amid concerns about healthy eating.
It provides a piece of fruit to all those in the first three primary years.

Between 2003 and 2005, reseachers from Nottingham University's division of epidemiology and public health looked at more than 200 primary schools, studying the fruit intake of more than 5,000 children before, during and after taking part in the scheme.
The children were in their reception year - aged four or five - at the beginning of the research project.

Diet food 'may fuel obesity risk'

Diet foods for children may inadvertently lead to overeating and obesity, say researchers.
In tests on young rats, animals given low-calorie versions of foods were induced to overeat, whether they were lean or obese.

The researchers believe low-calorie versions of usually high-calorie foods disrupt the body's ability to use taste to regulate calorific intake.

The University of Alberta study appears in the journal Obesity.Lead researcher Professor David Pierce said: "Based on what we've learned, it is better for children to eat healthy, well-balanced diets with sufficient calories for their daily activities rather than low-calorie snacks or meals."
The researchers found that young rats given low-calorie foods began to overeat during their regular meals.

However, older, adolescent rats also fed diet foods did not show the same tendency to overeat.

Taste cues

The researchers believe the older rats did not overeat because they, unlike the younger rats, were able to rely on a variety of taste-related cues to correctly assess the energy value of their food.
In contrast the younger animals learned to match tastes usually associated with food high in calories with low-fat alternatives, and so carried on eating to try to get their calorie count up when in fact it had already reached a healthy level.

Professor Pierce said the research underlined the importance of promoting a balanced diet and exercise as the best ways to keep children fit and healthy.

He said: "Diet foods are probably not a good idea for growing youngsters."

Talcum powder 'poses cancer risk to women'

The practice of discreetly puffing underwear with a dab of talcum powder may be increasing women's risk of ovarian cancer.

Research shows that women who use talc have a 17 per cent higher risk of getting the cancer. Researchers say using a small amount of talc in the pelvic area may lead to it reaching the ovaries and increasing the risk of the most common gynaecological cancer in the UK, with more than 4,000 deaths a year.

In the research, published in the International Journal of Cancer this week, data on more than 3,000 women was compared. "We confirmed a statistically significant increase in ovarian cancer risk associated with use of talc in the pelvic region," say the researchers, who are from hospitals and centres taking part in the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group.

The increased risk was specifically related to talc use in the pelvic region. Use on other body sites showed no association. "This suggests that use of only a small amount of talc may be required for some talc to reach the ovaries and increase risk of cancer," says the report.

It's not clear how talc could trigger the cancer. One theory is it may be carcinogenic to the covering layer of the ovaries when it get through the vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes to the ovary.

Source - Independent

Warp factor Zen: Meditation machines

Monks spend years learning how to meditate. So can a machine induce similar levels of healthy calm in just 20 minutes?

Think of meditation and images of robed monks or hippies sitting in a pall of incense smoke spring to mind. But finding your inner peace doesn't have to involve contorting your legs into the lotus position. If you're a bit busy to spend years at a mountaintop monastery, there's help at hand.

"With only 15 or 20 minutes use of a meditation machine, you can start to achieve the same deep mental state as a Zen monk." Really? That's the claim made by Meditation UK, which sells an American machine called the MindSpa. The company's website claims the MindSpa can improve memory, creativity, sleep patterns and emotional stability, lower blood pressure and increase brain function. I decide to put it to the test.

My £175 MindSpa Deluxe Package arrives the next day. After a quick flick through the manual, I don the sci-fi glasses and theadphones, and switch on the console. The first of the MindSpa's 12 programmes, called alpha recharge, lasts just 10 minutes. "Try it in place of caffeine for a quick boost," says the manual. I should come out of this feeling "calmer, more focused, and mentally recharged". On a grey Thursday morning after a night on the wine, that sounds appealing.

The programme starts with a 10-second countdown that's supposed to give me time to get comfortable, but instead makes me nervous. Three... two... one... suddenly 12 white LEDs in the glasses start flashing maniacally, while at the same time my ears are bombarded with a rhythmic electronic drone. I feel like I've been locked inside the engine room of the Starship Enterprise. Never mind Zen-like calmness – I fear the MindSpa is going to induce an epileptic fit. I try to relax and focus on my breathing but five minutes in I start feeling queasy. It's time for a break.

According to Dr Ruth Olmstead, a psychologist and expert in "Auditory and Visual Stimulation" (AVS), I've experienced a "guardian response". Olmstead, who developed the MindSpa programs for Californian firm A/V Stim, says: "The first time people try it they're often too busy thinking about it to relax." But she claims a 100 per cent success rate.

Source - Independent

All in the mind: Can laughter cure cancer?

Cancer survivors often claim they beat the disease with positive thinking. They're talking nonsense, says Dr Rob Buckman

Helen, who has breast cancer, put it to me perfectly: "When I heard the word 'cancer', I couldn't understand anything you said to me after it. I was reeling, and all I could think was, 'This can't be happening to me'." That sense of unreality is almost universal. Hundreds of people have told me exactly the same thing, even when, as in Helen's case, they understand clearly that their particular cancer poses a very small threat to health or life. The fact is that "cancer" is the most dreaded word in our language. We all have a tendency to think of it as if it were one single disease that is remorseless and unpredictable, and that almost seems to have "a mind of its own".

It's that "mind of its own" aspect that poses a major problem in itself. It has lent so much support over the last few decades to the idea that any cancer can be controlled, influenced or even cured in some way by the power of the mind of the sufferer. Some theories even proposed that the mind, or attitude, or "negative thoughts" of the patient might have contributed to the cause of the cancer in the first place.

I first realised how damaging this theory could be during the height of Dr Bernie Siegel's popularity in the late 1980s. He is the Yale-trained surgeon who believed that certain types of attitude and personality could make the patient live longer. He called these patients "e-Caps" (for "exceptional cancer patients"), and wrote several books that were immensely popular. In his writings and on television, he suggested that if you had a positive attitude and enough determination, you could control or even defeat your cancer.

In the middle of this surge of enthusiasm for the apparent anti-cancer effects of positive thinking, one of my patients, Dorothy, came into the clinic holding one of his books and on the verge of tears. She was very upset and actually quite bitter: "It says here that if I try hard enough, I could make the cancer go away, and if it doesn't, that's because I don't love my husband and three children enough."

This whole hypothesis – perhaps I can call it the "mind-over-cancer" theory – has actually been disproved in detail, and repeatedly. Even by the early 1990s, four major studies had shown that changing attitudes and the mind, while they certainly helped the patients to cope and to get a higher quality of life, didn't actually prolong survival. These studies involved major complementary medicine centres in California and in Bristol, both of which are flourishing, and continue to give a great deal of care and support to their appreciative patients and families, even without prolonging or saving life.

In addition to those cancer studies, Siegel – to his credit – participated in two other projects, which also showed that positive thinking and becoming one of the e-Caps did not prolong survival or produce extra cures.

Source - Independent

How to have a perfect good health day...

Many of us would like to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but have neither the time nor the energy to start a new regime. The good news is that just a few minor changes to your daily routine can make a difference

7.30am
Get up -Researchers at the University of Westminster found that, regardless of what time they go to bed, people who rise between 5.22am and 7.21am have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstream. Cortisol makes you more prone to stress-induced heart attacks, so waking up after 7.21am could offer protection.
Switch on a light' -Exposing yourself to light as soon as you wake will reset the body clock which governs our sleeping and waking patterns,' says Professor Jim Horne, who runs the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University.
Have a glass of water -Water is needed for thousands of chemical processes in the body. A deficiency can cause headaches, dry skin and sore eyes. A glass in the morning offsets night-time dehydration.
Ditch the lie-in' -You can keep your body clock synchronised and, therefore, sleep better by getting up at the same time each day,' says Prof. Horne.
The U.S. National Institute of Health found that people who sleep at least nine hours a night are almost twice as likely to develop Parkinson's disease as those who get by on six hours or less.


7.30am - 8am
Brush your teeth before breakfast -This prevents dental erosion from food by coating the teeth with protective fluoride. Otherwise, wait half an hour after breakfast, says Gordon Watkins, health and safety adviser to the British Dental Association clinic in London.
'Brushing straight after a meal can do more harm, particularly after acidic foods such as orange juice, as it will wash away tooth enamel that has been weakened by the acid,' he says.

Source - Daily Mail

Can holding magnets against your head end the agony of tinnitus?

Magnetic stimulation of the brain is being used to tackle ringing in the ears.
Doctors have already treated a small group of patients with a treatment known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS.
Now, a larger clinical trial has started in which patients will receive four weeks of therapy.

Tinnitus is the sensation of a sound in the ear, usually a ringing noise. Although it can be triggered by underlying problems, from earwax to high blood pressure, in many cases the cause is unknown.

The noise heard in the ear can be a high-pitched whistling or buzzing, ringing, or hissing sound which may be there all the time, or comes and goes. In some cases, anxiety is thought to play a part.

Researchers say that using magnets to stimulate specific parts of the brain which show a higher rate of blood flow than would usually be expected - something that is associated with tinnitus - may help to alleviate the condition.

According to deaf charity the RNID, a third of all adults report tinnitus at some time. It is estimated that 7 per cent of men and women will visit their GP about the problem, 4 per cent have tinnitus that bothers them moderately or severely, and that the quality of life of one in 100 sufferers is severely affected.

Although tinnitus can be linked to exposure to loud noise, hearing loss, ear or head injuries, some diseases of the ear, ear infections or emotional stress, just why it occurs in some people and not others is unclear.

Human hearing has a complicated filtering system which allows the removal of unimportant sounds. The brain also has systems that help separate sounds.

That's why, for example, you tend to hear your name above all the other noise at a party.
This sound filtering is thought to be involved in tinnitus.

Source - Daily Mail

Exercise 'must be tough to work'

To be healthy, you really do need to break into a sweat when you exercise, say experts.
American College of Sports Medicine members are concerned official advice to do 30 minutes of gentle exercise each day is being misconstrued.

Some may take this to include a mere stroll to the car, Circulation reports.
People should do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, like jogging, three days a week, they say. There is confusion about what is the ideal amount and intensity of exercise to improve health.

All agree that regular exercise is essential. The World Health Organization has said 30 minutes of gentle exercise each day could be enough to sustain a minimum level of fitness.

Confusion

Recently, researchers at Queen's University, Belfast, found walking for half an hour on just three days a week gave similar fitness and blood pressure benefits to walking for 30 minutes five times a week.

The sports scientists, however, say this advice is misleading and could encourage people to do too little exercise.

Source - BBC

Nutrients 'do not cut heart risks among vulnerable'

KEY antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables and nuts do not cut the risk of heart disease in those most vulnerable to it, according to a new study which casts doubt on previous research.
Vitamins C, E and beta carotene - which the body converts into vitamin A - have no effect on lowering the chances of heart disease or death in high-risk women, scientists said last night.

Some previous studies have linked all three to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
The new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved examining data for 8,171 women over the age of 40 who took part in the women's antioxidant cardiovascular study in the US, starting in 1995 or 1996 and ending in 2005.

The women all had a history of cardiovascular disease or had three or more risk factors for developing it, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.
They were randomly split into groups and given either 500 milligrams of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) every day, 600 units of vitamin E every other day or 50 milligrams of beta carotene every other day.

The resulting analysis found that none of the antioxidants, either alone or in combination, had an effect on reducing the risk of a cardiovascular event or death.

The authors of the latest study, led by Nancy Cook, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, concluded there was no benefit in taking the antioxidants to battle heart disease but also no evidence they caused harm.
Ellen Mason, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study adds to the stockpile of evidence suggesting that taking antioxidant supplements in order to protect your heart does not seem to work."

Source - Scotsman

The stone age diet: Why I eat like a caveman

Afew years ago, as I approached 40, I found I couldn't do up the top button of my jeans. Through my twenties and most of my thirties, I'd taken size 32; now, I needed a 36. I was in denial for months.

What stopped this was an unforgiving changing-room mirror. As I stood there without my T-shirt, I was confronted with the harsh reality that I had a spare tyre. There it was; like it or not, I was facing the onset of middle-age spread.

I decided to do something about it. First, I cranked up a serious exercise regime. I jogged every other day and did weights on the days in between, taking Sundays off. Diet-wise, I ate the universally recommended high-carbohydrate, low-fat foods: lots of rice, lentils, pasta, oats, fish, chicken and fruit and veg, but little red meat.

It didn't work. Yes, I felt fitter and was more muscular – but my waistline wasn't going down.
As I was about to give up in despair, I stumbled across the website of Art De Vany www.arthurdevany.com, an economics professor from California. I was dumbfounded. The guy was in his sixties and he looked spectacular. His muscles rippled, but not in the muscle-bound bodybuilder way. What's more, his stomach was flat and he had a genuine six-pack. He put people of 30 and younger to shame.

What was De Vany's secret? For nearly two decades, he'd been eating and exercising as humans did in Paleolithic times – the early Stone Age. He'd come across research suggesting that we should be eating like our hunter-gatherer forebears – lean meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, but no grains, beans or dairy. It had made sense, so he took it up.

As De Vany points out, the fossil record reveals that our cave ancestors were not only slim, lean, fit and healthy, but that they did not generally suffer from many of the diseases that plague us today, such as cancer, allergies and heart disease. What's more, as long as they weren't gored by a wild beast or struck down by infection, they lived as long as we do today. They stayed agile and vigorous until they dropped (no wheelchairs and care homes for them).

I decided to give the idea a month's trial. That way I could assess initial results and check that the diet wasn't hazardous to long-term health. My first port of call was Archers, a good-quality butchers near my home in Norwich, to pick up five pounds of mince to make up bolognese and chilli sauces (without pasta, beans or rice), along with six pork chops, big joints of beef, kidneys and a slice or two of liver. "Dinner-party?" Jamie behind the counter asked. "No," I said, "it's all for me."

Next, I hit the supermarket to pick up 20 cans of tuna in spring water, five cans of corned beef (not ideal due to the salt, but good for emergencies) and olive oil. Other than that, the shelves were off limits; they were lined with cereals, dairy, baked goods or sugary foods – all of which would have been alien to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In a health-food store, I picked up a selection of nuts – brazils, pecans, hazels, almonds and walnuts – and a tub or two of raisins; all staple snack foods for the Stone Age eater.

For me, giving up things like toast, breakfast cereals, dairy products, potatoes, pasta and sugary desserts was easy. After a few weeks, I lost the taste for anything sweet. The only thing I did miss, and still do sometimes, is cheese.

Source - Independent

Aromatherapy really works

Emma Hill is on the scent of the latest massage oils and treatments

As the name suggests, aromatherapy is all about smell. When a fragrance travels up the nose, it triggers a response in the limbic system, the part of the brain linked with memory and emotion. Hence the marvellous feeling we get when we smell something wonderful.

Smells affect different individuals in different ways, as they are closely linked to personal memories.

Yet studies by several French doctors, including aromatherapy pioneer Jean Valnet, illustrate the specific benefits of smelling certain essential oils. Each oil has its own properties.

"Frankincense causes us to breathe more deeply," says Geraldine Howard, co-founder of Aromatherapy Associates. Other stress-relievers include lavender and camomile.

Source - Telegraph

Cannabis

One joint of cannabis could be as harmful to the lungs as five cigarettes.

The research, published in the journal Thorax, said that the impact of cannabis was likely to be due to the way in which joints are smoked - they do not usually have filters, and they reach higher temperatures with users inhaling more deeply and holding their breath for longer than cigarette smokers.

A NATURAL WINNER

When Annabel Croft experienced a throbbing pain in her side and began to faint regularly, she made an appointment with her doctor. “An X-ray showed there was a benign cyst on one of my ovaries and that I would probably need an operation to remove it,” she recalls.Eighteen months on and despite not having any surgery, the cyst and the pain are gone. Annabel was treated with homeopathy.

“I’d been using homeopathic remedies for sports injuries and to improve my health for three years,” says Annabel, 40, a former Junior Wimbledon champion who now works as a TV presenter and tennis commentator.

“Then a friend told me that she knew of a homeopath, Hilery Dorrian, who would be able to treat the cyst naturally. This seemed like a better option to me than going through with an operation.”


During a consultation Hilery, who runs a clinic in Redhill, Surrey, analysed every aspect of Annabel’s physical and emotional health and prescribed a natural remedy known as agnus castus, which comes in tablet form as well as a tincture.

It comes from berries of a plant called vitex agnus castus, which has been used to treat gynaecological problems for 2,500 years. “The extract works by acting on the pituitary gland to balance hormonal fluctuations,” explains Annabel. “It’s used to treat symptoms of PMS, painful periods, the menopause and polycystic ovaries.”

Source - Daily Express

Are herbal diet pills a big fat con?

Slimming pills have an obvious appeal for anyone struggling to lose weight, offering a quick fix with no real hardship.

In the UK we spend £9 million a year on slimming aids, and the market is growing. Herbals diet pills have become increasingly popular, with their promise to help people lose weight 'naturally'.
But, doctors recently warned about the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter herbal remedies for treating illness and some experts are concerned about herbal diet pills, too.
'Some contain stimulants or appetite suppressants, which work on hormoneproducing organs such as the thyroid and hypothalamus, so you should always check with your GP before taking them,' explains Dr Damien Downing, medical director for the Alliance for Natural Health.

In 2005, Chinese herbalist Anna Yang, who had been practising in the UK since 1992, was fined £30,000 after prescribing pills containing fenfluramine hydrochloride. This substance is used to help patients feel fuller, but is potentially fatal, causing constriction of the arteries, high blood pressure, fatigue and shortness of breath. One patient, Paula Williams, was rushed to hospital after taking the pills.

Consumers should avoid taking pills available only online, as their pedigree is dubious at best, and may not comply with EU regulations, says Dr Downing.
But, do over-the-counter herbal diet pills work? We asked Lorraine McCreary, a registered NHS dietician who runs Dietscotland, a clinic specialising in weight loss and eating disorders, and Nargis Ara, a consultant pharmacist, to examine the ingredients to see if they could help you shift pounds more easily. We then rated them.

Source - Daily Mail

Could this bucking bronco cure your back pain?

A machine that simulates horse riding is being used to help people suffering from back pain. Early results from trials using the iJoyRide have shown that the device — a sort of electronic bronco — can help to improve the mobility of sufferers and reduce their dependence on painkillers.

Gary Lutz, an osteopath who is testing the machine with a leading British university, explains: 'It exercises the muscles and structure of the back in a similar way to the work of an osteopath or physiotherapist. It's a bit like having either one of us in your home available to use any time you want.'

People with back pain or those who suffer from the stiffness of hip disease often develop a shortened stride as a result of the associated discomfort.
In trials of the machine, the patients' stride increased by up to ten inches, an indication of improved mobility.

One of those who has benefited from the new treatment is Meriel Pitcher, 53, from High Wycombe, Bucks. She has Stickler Syndrome, which means her body doesn't produce enough of the material that holds bones and joints together.
As a result she has restricted mobility — but within a week of starting to use the machine, she says the back pain from which she has suffered for 14 years has disappeared.
'I've found it very good at loosening the hips and keeping them supple,' she explains.
'It has come a little late for me, because I will still need to have both my hips replaced, but it has brought pain relief.'

The manufacturers claim that users of the electronic bronco will start to feel the benefit to their backs and abdominal muscles after a couple of weeks.

Source - Daily Mail

'Even light exercise' aids health

Even low levels of weekly exercise could help reduce blood pressure and improve fitness, scientists say.

Experts say walking for half an hour, five days a week, is the minimum required to achieve health benefits.
But a Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health report from Northern Ireland found walking on just three days a week gave similar benefits.
The finding could encourage those with sedentary lifestyles to take up exercise gradually, the authors say.

This could be helpful as few people currently meet the minimum recommendations for exercise, with many saying they do not have enough time.

Blood pressure drops

The study, led by researchers at Queen's University, Belfast, looked at 106 healthy but sedentary civil servants aged between 40 and 61.
The participants took part in a 12 week exercise programme - some were assigned to do 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week, others did it three days a week, and the rest did not change their lifestyles.

In all, 93 people completed the study and their blood pressure, weight and hip circumferences, and other indicators of fitness were all measured before and after the 12-week programme.

There were no changes in the non-walking group, but in both walking groups there was a significant drop in blood pressure and waist and hip measurements.
This could reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

All walkers also had improved overall fitness.

Source - BBC

Let your children chew the fat

For well-meaning parents, selecting a diet that will help their child to avoid becoming obese seems pretty straightforward: cut out the junk, pile on the fruit and vegetables. Some gentle persuasion that low fat is good, coupled with limited availability of crisps, chocolates and biscuits, should mean children sail through adolescence without spare tyres.

And yet, parents’ paranoia about the thickening girths of the Play-Station generation has reached fever pitch: more than a quarter of children in English secondary schools are clinically obese, almost double that of a decade ago. But experts are concerned that parents’ attempts to steer children on to a virtuous dietary path can often backfire.

Last week, Dr John Kostyak and a team from the Pennsylvania State University warned in the online magazine Nutrition Journal that so-called “muesli mothers” are taking adult dietary messages to extremes and inflicting them on their children. Of particular concern, Kostyak says, are very low-fat diets consumed by an increasing number of children.

In their study, the Pennsylvania researchers found that children burn considerably more body fat than adults relative to the amount of energy that they use. By cutting out good fats – such as olive oil and sunflower oil – parents are effectively putting their child’s natural development in jeopardy. “Sufficient fat must be included in the diet for children to support normal growth and development,” Kostyak says.

Rachel Cooke, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, says that a healthy diet should consist of about 30 per cent fats, mainly unsaturated from plant sources, and that getting less “might mean that children miss out on vital nutrients, essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E that are vital for good health”.

There are also other, less obvious, risks of limiting fat intake. As unlikely as it seems, it could eventually make children fatter than those who gorge on calorie-dense snacks.

Source - Times

Happiness makes you healthier, says study

Happy people may be protected against disease, according to a study released today.

Researchers found people with a positive mental attitude show different responses to stress.
The findings follow studies showing the same people are less likely to suffer heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Andrew Steptoe, professor of psychology at University College London, who led the study, said happy people rely on a different part of the nervous system, which slows the heart rate, and they recover more quickly from stress.

"The evidence suggests that happier people have a reduced risk of various conditions," he said.
The research was based on reports by men and women on their daily positive feelings since 1985. Researchers also measured blood pressure responses when people were given stressful tasks.

Professor Steptoe said: "We found happier people recover more rapidly from stress than less happy individuals. This may be one of the mechanisms through which happier people are less prone to stress-related illness."

Source - Daily Mail

Want to avoid breast cancer? Get outdoors, say scientists

Almost 30,000 cases of breast and colon cancer a year could be prevented by Britons spending more time in the sun to boost vitamin D levels, say researchers.

A new study claims vitamin D "deficiency" may be to blame for 600,000 cancer cases worldwide each year, particularly in northern European countries where sun exposure levels are relatively low.

The US research - which comes amid the wettest summer since records began in Britain - recommends 10-15 minutes a day in the sun to maximise natural defences against cancer as vitamin D is made in the body in response to solar exposure.

There is mounting evidence that vitamin D could play a vital role in helping prevent disease, with the sun helping top up natural levels more effectively than through diet.
Although most people living in northern Europe are not sufficiently lacking in vitamin D to be classified as deficient, some experts believe blood levels should be higher to optimise health.

In the latest research Dr Cedric Garland and colleagues at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego estimate that 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D3.

Dr Garland, a cancer prevention specialist, said: "For the first time we are saying that 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer could be prevented each year worldwide, including nearly 150,000 in the US alone."

In the UK, which has one-fifth of the US population, a similar prevention strategy would reduce cancer cases by 30,000 a year.

The study combined data from surveys of blood levels of vitamin D during winter from 15 countries, along with satellite measurements of sunshine and cloud cover.

Source - Daily Mail

Wide awake diet

An ancient Indian health system helped one woman to fight fatigue.

Lauren Wilkinson used to find that every day was a battle with fatigue. While she was in her early thirties, pursuing a highflying City career, a constant, nagging tiredness crept up on her. She reached a crunchpoint in 2003. “I’d lost all my energy,” she recalls. “I was sleeping 15 hours a night at weekends and was too tired to see friends. ”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that about one Briton in ten suffers from prolonged fatigue, with the condition more common in women. In fact, being tired all the time - TATT, as doctors call it - is one of the most common reasons for visiting our GPs. In a small number of such cases, physical illnesses such as anaemia, thyroid problems, or diabetes are to blame. A tiny minority - about 150,000 in the UK, according to the NHS - suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, a little-understood disease that causes profound exhaustion, unrelieved by rest. But in about 90 per cent of “tired all the time” patients no cause is found and GPs are likely to advise on ways to decrease stress.

Wilkinson, though, now 40, found an answer in the Indian health system called Ayurveda. With roots in Indian philosophy dating back 2,500 years, Ayurveda teaches that supplements made from herbs, minerals and animal products, as well as dietary changes, can help to balance the five elements - space, air, water, fire, earth – that comprise the human body. The results, practitioners claim, can equal a transformation in health and wellbeing.

By 2003, says Wilkinson, every part of her life was affected by tiredness. She had given up her career and had space to take stock. “In 2004 I began to train as a counsellor; I was used to academic work from university, but now even writing essays felt so hard because of the constant fatigue.” Although medical professionals advise going to see your doctor first, to eliminate anything serious, Lauren didn’t consult her GP: “It didn’t occur to me there might be an answer.”

That was, until she heard friends enthusiastically discussing Ayurveda.
Wilkinson had her first appointment with the Ayurvedic practitioner Sascha Kriese in November 2005. Kriese, who took a degree in Ayurvedic medicine at Thames Valley University, began the session, as always, by taking her pulse, using three fingers placed on her wrist. Pulse reading is a key diagnostic method in Ayurveda. According to a crucial Ayurvedic concept called the tri-dosha system, the human body is governed by three constitutional hu-mours – the manifestations of the five fundamental elements in our body – called doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. In a healthy body, the three doshas are balanced; if they fall out of balance, ill-health will result.

Source - Times

Can’t sleep?

A recent study by America’s National Sleep Foundation revealed that an exhausted 70% of American women frequently have trouble sleeping, compared with just 52% of men. A sorry one-third of the women surveyed complained that they often had to cancel friends, family and exercise, and forego sex due to sleep problems.

Small wonder then, that we keep hearing that sleep is the new sex – it’s fast becoming such an elusive luxury that if a woman is lucky enough to get a lot of it at once, she will brag about it shamelessly.

Professor Gaby Badre, a sleep expert at the London Clinic, is not surprised by the findings. “Women are the most sleep-deprived creatures on earth. Their sleep is often more fragmented than men’s. I see a lot of female professionals who are stressed and can’t unwind when they go to bed. Take a board meeting: men can go in, act aggressively and then switch off. Women are more prone to taking the problem home.”

A classic insomnia scenario is waking up in the early hours of the morning at exactly the same time, say, 4.52am. Insomniacs do this because their body clock becomes sensitised after waking up once or twice at that hour.

“Although early-morning waking can be a symptom of depression, there are lots of other reasons for this, including stress or fluctuating hormones,” says Dr Meir Kryger, the author of Can’t Sleep, Can’t Stay Awake: A Woman’s Guide to Sleep Disorders.

Of course, one of the main factors pushing up the statistics for women’s insomnia is caring for babies. So are women actually hard-wired to wake up when an infant cries, in a way that men are not? “I’m not convinced that it’s an evolutionary quirk,” says Kryger. “I have observed cases in families where the man agrees to share bottle-feeding shifts during the night, and he wakes up perfectly easily. The human brain filters out all noise it subconsciously knows it is safe to ignore. So if the man was home alone with the baby, you can be sure he would wake up.”

The following is a guide to the main factors affecting women’s sleep and what you can do to address the problem.

Source - Times

Brightly coloured fruits could hold the key to fighting cancer

Natural pigments which give certain fruit and vegetables their bright colour can have a dramatic effect in fighting cancer, new research has shown.

Experiments on human cells have shown that anthocyanins, found in food such as red grapes, elderberries and red cabbage, can stop the growth of cancer cells found in the colon and in some cases even destroy them completely.

Purple corn was found to be particularly powerful in attacking cancerous cells. Tests involving the vegetable were found to kill 20 per cent of the cancer cells while having little effect on healthy cells.

Foods that contained smaller amounts of the compounds - such as radishes and black carrots - were able to slow the growth of colon cancer cells by between 50 and 80 per cent.

Other foods found to contain the anti-cancer compounds were chokeberries, bilberries, purple carrots and elderberries.

The study was carried out by scientists led by Dr Monica Giusti, an expert in plant nutrients from Ohio State University in the US. Their finding were presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

They give hope that using anthocyanin-based colourants instead of synthetic food dyes could lead to a dramatic enhancement in the health benefits of some foods.

Source - Daily Mail

What makes us fat?

Genes, lack of sleep, even air conditioning – all sorts of unlikely things can influence your weight.

Lack of sleep

People who sleep for four hours or less per night are 73 per cent more likely to be obese. A team from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York found that, even after factors such as depression, physical activity, alcohol consumption, ethnicity, education, age and gender had been taken into account, people were more likely to be obese the less sleep they had.

Those who got only five hours' sleep were 50 per cent more likely to be obese than those who were getting a full night's rest, and those who slept for just six hours were 23 per cent more likely to be substantially overweight. Dr Stephen Heymsfield, who worked on the study, said it was not as simple as saying that if people were awake for longer, they were likely to eat more. "There's growing scientific evidence that there's a link between sleep and the various neural pathways that regulate food intake." Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation is linked to a decrease in levels of leptin (see Hormones). Levels of the hormone grehlin, which makes people want to eat, have also been seen to increase in people who are sleep-deprived.
Too much choice

Although a varied diet is likely to be rich in nutrients, US scientists found that the availability of lots of different foods can also encourage overeating. Hollie Raynor and Dr Leonard Epstein from the University of Buffalo said that variety decreased the feeling of satisfaction, making people more vulnerable to obesity. "Both people and animals will eat more food when a meal or diet contains a greater variety of food, which can eventually cause weight gain," they said. The research showed that meals composed of foods of a similar shape, taste and colour may curb overeating.

Source - Independent

17th century baldness cure is chicken dung says Ye Olde Men's Goode Health

In our age of gyms and jogging, dental floss and deodorants, mouthwash and moisturisers, a chap can waft along with ease every day feeling fit and fragrant.

But back in 1654, with Oliver Cromwell ruling England, good health and grooming for men was somewhat more basic.

Then, no self-respecting male's medicine chest was apparently complete without liberal supplies of cat's dung, snail's blood and chicken droppings - not to mention arsenic and brimstone. Gruesome as they may sound, they were recommended as remedies for everything from bad breath to baldness, fatness to flatulence.

The fascinating array of potions and lotions is chronicled in The Path-Way To Health, a sort of 17th century version of Men's Health magazine, which has emerged from a private collection of antiquarian books.

One of the earliest medical journals written in English, it will go up for auction in October. These are some of its suggested cures:

BALDNESS
According to the journal's author Peter Levens, the best way to restore growth is to "Take the ashes of Culver-dung in Lye, and wash the head therewith. Also Walnut leaves beaten with Beares suet, restoreth the haire that is plucked away. Also, the leaves and middle rinde of an Oak sodden in water, and the head washed therewith, is very good for this purpose."
For those brave enough to try the cure today, Culver-dung may be translated as chicken dung, while "Lye" is a strong alkaline solution of potassium salts made from ashes and used in soapmaking. Quite where one might acquire "Beares suet" today is open to question.

Source - Daily Mail

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE

THERE'S something about your friends that you should know.

They often deliberately put themselves in situations that will make them suffer a seizure. Sometimes they even make each other have convulsions so strong that their stomach, chest and ribs throb with pain and they become unable to breathe or even speak.But what is really scary is that they’d love you to join in with their bizarre, masochistic behaviour. And often you do.Not that you know what you are doing to yourself, of course.
You are too caught up in the moment to notice that your pulse rate has doubled and your systolic blood pressure has sky-rocketed.You barely realise that respiratory spasms are tying your thoracic muscles in knots or that your vocal cords are so bombarded by conflicting signals, they can’t produce an intelligible sound.Endorphins are surging through your blood vessels, sending your organs into turmoil. But you don’t care – you feel great. You are having a laugh.

It’s a funny thing, laughter. Funny peculiar, I mean. We’re not the only species to do it. Chimpanzees like a good chuckle, especially if you tickle them. But they don’t make jokes at the expense of blonde chimps – that’s a singularly human trait. In fact, our species probably laughs more often and at more things than any other species on the planet.“A lot of scientists think humans learned to laugh as a way of bonding long before we started talking to one another,” says Professor Sophie Scott from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. “Sharing a joke is a way for us‑to relieve tension and stress.”

Source - Daily Express

Hypnosis 'eases cancer op pain'

Breast cancer patients need less anaesthetic during operations if they have been relaxed by hypnosis beforehand, US research suggests.

Patients in the study of 200 women by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine also reported less pain afterwards.

Breast cancer surgery patients often suffer severe side-effects such as pain, nausea and fatigue during and after their operations. UK experts said more research was needed to prove hypnosis worked.

The side-effects from breast cancer surgery can sometimes mean a longer stay in hospital, extra drugs, or even a return to a hospital ward when patients should be recovering at home.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute paper is just the latest to conclude hypnosis can help with operations.

Dr Guy Montgomery, who led the research, recruited 200 women to receive either 15 minutes of hypnosis or just a conversation with a psychologist before their surgery.

The women undergoing hypnosis were given suggestions for relaxation and pleasant mental images, and instructions on how to use hypnosis themselves.

Patients who had received hypnosis needed less anaesthetic than the others, and reported less pain, nausea, fatigue and emotional distress after the operation.

Source - BBC

Coffee intolerance is 'on the rise' following sales boom

Coffee has enjoyed a recent boom in Britain, with 70 million cups drunk daily and a coffee shop on every street corner in the UK.

But the rapid growth in coffee consumption has also caused a growing number of health problems from itchy skin to headaches, an allergy testing company has claimed.

The number of people with "coffee intolerance" has doubled in just four years, according to Yorktest, a company endorsed by Allergy UK.

It reported that the percentage of those diagnosed with the ailment had risen from two per cent to five per cent in just a few years.

A Yorktest spokesman said: "It's obvious we are drinking much more (coffee) than we used to and there appears to be a tipping in the scales in terms of what the body can take."

In a press statement, Yorktest said a spate of "caffeine-related" cases had highlighted the dangers of drinking too much coffee.

Source - Daily Mail

Only ten minutes on a mobile could trigger cancer, scientists believe

Mobile phones can take as little as ten minutes to trigger changes in the brain associated with cancer, scientists claimed yesterday.

They found even low levels of radiation from handsets interfere with the way brain cells divide. Cell division encourages the growth of tumours.

Although the researchers did not come up with evidence that mobile phone signals are harmful, the findings suggest they could be. Several major studies have also found no link between mobile use and brain tumours, nor a dramatic rise in cancer rates. But campaigners insist the discovery undermines official advice that the devices are safe.

The guidance is based on the assumption that the phones emit too little radiation to heat the brain dangerously.

However, the new study by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel suggests "nonthermal" radiation could pose a risk.

The Israeli scientists exposed human and rat cells in a laboratory to low-level radiation at 875 megahertz - a similar frequency to the one used in many mobile phones.

Although the radiation was far weaker than emissions from a typical handset, it began to switch on a chemical signal inside the cells within ten minutes, the researchers report in the Biochemical Journal.

The chemical signals they detected were involved in the division of cells.

Source - Daily Mail