Healthy living 'can add 14 years'

Taking exercise, not drinking too much alcohol, eating enough fruit and vegetables and not smoking can add up to 14 years to your life, a study says.

Research involving 20,000 people over a decade found those who failed on all criteria were four times more likely to have died than those who succeeded. The findings held true regardless of how overweight or poor they were.

The Public Library of Science Medicine study suggests many could increase their lifespan through simple changes.

The research was carried out by the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council in the English county of Norfolk between 1993 and 2006.

Participants were aged between 45 and 79. They were socially mixed although overwhelmingly white, and as far as they were aware at the time, did not have cancer or any heart problems.

Source - BBC

Mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep

Radiation from mobile phones delays and reduces sleep, and causes headaches and confusion, according to a new study.

The research, sponsored by the mobile phone companies themselves, shows that using the handsets before bed causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them, interfering with the body's ability to repair damage suffered during the day.

The findings are especially alarming for children and teenagers, most of whom – surveys suggest – use their phones late at night and who especially need sleep. Their failure to get enough can lead to mood and personality changes, ADHD-like symptoms, depression, lack of concentration and poor academic performance.

The study – carried out by scientists from the blue-chip Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University in Sweden and from Wayne State University in Michigan, USA – is thought to be the most comprehensive of its kind.

Published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium and funded by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, representing the main handset companies, it has caused serious concern among top sleep experts, one of whom said that there was now "more than sufficient evidence" to show that the radiation "affects deep sleep".

The scientists studied 35 men and 36 women aged between 18 and 45. Some were exposed to radiation that exactly mimicked what is received when using mobile phones; others were placed in precisely the same conditions, but given only "sham" exposure, receiving no radiation at all.

The people who had received the radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one. The scientists concluded: "The study indicates that during laboratory exposure to 884 MHz wireless signals components of sleep believed to be important for recovery from daily wear and tear are adversely affected."

The embarrassed Mobile Manufacturers Forum played down the results, insisting – at apparent variance with this published conclusion – that its "results were inconclusive" and that "the researchers did not claim that exposure caused sleep disturbance".

Source - Independent

Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies 'could be fatal for toddlers and babies'

Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies can cause "serious and potentially life-threatening side-effects" in young children, drug experts warned last night.

America's Food and Drug Administration said the remedies should not be given to toddlers under the age of two because of safety fears.

The regulator, which provides safety information on medicines, said its warning followed reports of deaths, convulsions and rapid heart rates among children given overdoses. Dr Charles Ganley, director of the FDA's Office of Non-Prescription Products, said: "The FDA strongly recommends to parents and caregivers that OTC cough and cold medicines not be used for children younger than two.

"These medicines, which treat symptoms and not the underlying condition, have not been shown to be safe or effective in children under two."

The body representing UK drugs companies confirmed that some of the ingredients causing concern in America were found in best-selling British products - including some brands of Tixylix, Benylin and Calpol.

However, it stressed that none had been shown to be dangerous when used correctly and that parents could continue to use them with confidence if they followed the instructions closely.

Concerns have been growing in America about over-the-counter children's medicines. Last year, the American College of Chest Physicians said cough mixtures were of little use to adults and could harm children.

Source - Daily Mail

Medical plants 'face extinction'

Hundreds of medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease, according to experts.

Over 50% of prescription drugs are derived from chemicals first identified in plants. But the Botanic Gardens Conservation International said many were at risk from over-collection and deforestation.

Researchers warned the cures for things such as cancer and HIV may become "extinct before they are ever found".

The group, which represents botanic gardens across 120 countries, surveyed over 600 of its members as well as leading university experts. They identified 400 plants that were at risk of extinction.

These included yew trees, the bark of which forms the basis for one of the world's most widely used cancer drugs, paclitaxel.

Hoodia, which originally comes from Namibia and is attracting interest from drug firms looking into developing weight loss drugs, is on the verge of extinction, the report said. And half of the world's species of magnolias are also under threat.

The plant contains the chemical honokiol, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat cancers and slow down the onset of heart disease.

The report also said autumn crocus, which is a natural treatment for gout and has been linked to helping fight leukaemia, is at risk of over-harvest as it is popular with the horticultural trade because of its stunning petals.

Souce - BBC

Supermarket food 'contains more fat and salt than quoted on label'

Ready meals and breakfast cereals often contain far more fat and salt than claimed on their packaging, according to new research that may make shoppers think twice about eating convenience food.

Laboratory tests found manufacturers of processed food often misled consumers, with some products having up to 91 per cent more fat than was stated on the label. Unrealistically small portion sizes encouraged people to underestimate the calories they were consuming, while some "healthy" supermarket products had more salt or sugar than economy ranges.

An investigation by Channel 4's Dispatches programme, which goes out tomorrow night, looks at Britain's £70bn-a-year food industry.

According to figures it obtained from the Government, the British have the worst diet in Europe and each year around 70,000 people die prematurely. Dispatches established that there is no legal stipulation on the accuracy of labels stating levels of fat, sugar and salt.

Instead, guidelines allow manufacturers a margin of error of up to 30 per cent on fat or salt content.

However, laboratory analysis showed some products substantially exceeded even these margins. Six samples of a Waitrose chocolate pudding contained an average of 45 per cent more fat than was stated on the label, with one sample exceeding the amount quoted on the label by 64 per cent.

Two out of six samples of Sainsbury's chicken curry ready meals were much fattier than shoppers were led to believe. One had a third more fat, whilst another had 91 per cent more fat.
A fifth of 43 products exceeded the margin for error on fat content.

Source - Independent

Coffee 'raises miscarriage risk'

Pregnant women should consider avoiding caffeine, say researchers who found even moderate consumption in early pregnancy raises the miscarriage risk.

Currently, the Food Standards Agency sets an upper limit during pregnancy of 300mg - or four cups of coffee a day. But an American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology study found more than 200mg of caffeine a day doubled the risk compared to abstainers.

Experts said they would review the data to see if advice needed changing. Pat O'Brien, consultant obstetrician and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said based on the findings he would now be advising women in their first 12 weeks of pregnancy to abstain from caffeine altogether.

"The first 12 weeks is a very vulnerable time for the baby. It's when most miscarriages occur," he explained.

He said most women in early pregnancy went off the taste of caffeinated drinks anyway and so should not find abstaining from them too difficult. But he said it was unclear whether pregnant women needed to avoid caffeine in later pregnancy.

Source - BBC

A little alcohol 'can be healthy'

A little alcohol combined with a healthy active lifestyle may be the best recipe for a longer life.

A European Heart Journal study suggests the combination can cut the risk of heart disease. A Danish team found people who led an active lifestyle were less prone to heart disease - but the risk was cut still further if they drank moderately.

However, UK experts warned people should not be encouraged to drink, as too much alcohol can be very damaging. The researchers followed nearly 12,000 men and women for nearly 20 years, during which 1,242 died from ischaemic heart disease (IHD). Overall, they found people who did not drink or take any exercise had the highest risk of heart disease - 49% higher than people who either drank, exercised or did both.

When comparing people who took similar levels of exercise, they found that those who drank moderately - one to 14 units of alcohol a week - were around 30% less likely to develop heart disease than non-drinkers.

This finding held good for people who were completely inactive, through to those who took vigorous regular exercise - with the overall risk declining as exercise levels increased.
Non-drinkers who were physically active had a 31%-33% reduced risk of IHD compared to physically inactive non-drinkers.

But their reduced risk was dwarfed by physically active people who drank at least one drink a week - their risk was up to 50% lower than that of physically inactive non-drinkers.

Source - BBC

Do relaxation lessons for hyped-up kids work?

In a community hall in Chingford, East London, a small group of teenagers are lying on mats on the floor. Covered in blankets and clutching teddy bears, they, to the uninformed eye, look as if they went for a kip at nap time in playgroup ten years ago and never quite got around to waking up. After all, teens don’t usually “do” teddy bears in group settings.

But they are not sleeping. They are in a state of deep relaxation, induced by the tranquil tones of Usha Chudasama, who is running stress-busting workshops for children and teenagers called The Healing Feeling 4 Kids. This particular workshop consists of five, three-hour sessions of various therapeutic techniques, based on the teachings of Louise Hay, the Heal Your Life self-help guru. Hay’s work focuses on the body-mind connection, linking physical ailments with emotional states, asserting that meditation, affirmations and visualisation exercises can lead to wellness and inner tranquillity.

By the end of the morning they are clearly blissed out. Hudisi, 15, sums up the feelgood factor: “My mum suggested I come here because I have a problem expressing my emotions. But I feel very relaxed now.”

Tools to deal with future stresses

While it is tempting to dismiss releasing feelings to the elements as New Age crankiness, if it works for teenagers, whose hormonally charged moods can lead to much family disharmony, why knock it? Indeed, The Healing Feeling is one of several workshops and lessons geared specifically to destressing overwrought children and teens. Others include Relax Kids, a class and home-based series of guided relaxation sessions for children, and YogaBugs, which runs classes based on yoga postures, breathing and meditations for children. Both cater for stressed-out children, though neither would say that is a unique selling point. Rather, they are giving children the tools to deal with future stresses, and showing them that there is more to downtime than slumping in front of the telly.

Barbara Herts, the chief executive of the young people’s mental health charity Young-Minds, says: “Today’s fast pace and often confusing world can have a real and lasting effect on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people. With increases in stressful events such as exam pressure, family breakdown and bullying, we are experiencing more triggers to stress and anxiety in young people.”

Source - Times

Sleep disorders: Don't take it lying down

Getting to sleep tonight will be a big problem for millions of Britons.

Insomnia affects one in four of us at some time, but it's far from the only disorder that spoils our sleep – researchers have now identified 75 such conditions, from snoring, sleep apnoea, restless legs, bruxism and nocturnal cramps, to sleep-talking, rhythmic movement disorder and confusional arousal. Some 31 per cent of people, including children and teenagers, have one or more of these disorders at some time. They can severely affect everyday life.

"Most of those with sleeping problems considered them to have an impact on their daily functioning, with family life most affected," say Paris University researchers who quizzed 10,000 men and women in the UK and other countries.

The research shows that many people don't seek help with their problems. "Almost half had never taken any steps to resolving them, and the majority had not spoken to a physician about their problems," researchers found. Yet treatments exist for many of the conditions that work well for large numbers of patients. Although half of those who see a doctor are prescribed drugs, other treatments and lifestyle changes can work, too. [ article continues with hints and ideas ]

Source - Independent

Homeopathy treatments flounder as NHS trusts cancel contracts

NHS trusts are dropping homeopathic treatments following controversy over whether they work, it has been revealed today.

A study found that only 37 per cent of 132 primary care trusts still had contracts for homeopathic services. More than a quarter of trusts had stopped or reduced funding for the therapies over the past two years.

Homeopathy is based on diluting substances - that could otherwise be poisonous - in water or alcohol. Some scientists argue homeopathic solutions are diluted so many times that they are unlikely to contain any active ingredients at all. There has also been controversy surrounding regulation of who can give the treatments.

Today an investigation by the GP newspaper Pulse said homeopathic clinics in the UK "are in crisis". It said the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital was fighting for survival after eight trusts cancelled contracts over the past year and a further six reduced referrals. An investigation by the newspaper found that referrals to the hospital were down by a fifth in a year.

Dr Tim Robinson, a GP who provides a local homeopathic service in Dorset, told Pulse that patients denied the treatments on the NHS may take risks by consulting non-medical homeopathic practitioners.

He said: "They will have to pay someone and go to a non-doctor and there are potential risks with that."

Richard Hoey, deputy editor of Pulse, said: "Homeopathy is a highly controversial treatment with all sorts of doubts over its evidence base, but it is popular with patients and has traditionally always had a place in general practice. If the NHS is now going to stop providing homeopathy, that needs to be a decision taken in the full glare of public debate, and not made in the committee rooms of cash-strapped trusts."

Source - Daily Mail

Deep stimulation 'boosts memory'

Electrical stimulation of areas deep within the brain could improve memory, early research suggests.

A team of doctors in Canada stumbled upon the finding while attempting to treat a morbidly obese man through deep brain stimulation (DBS). The electrical stimulation caused the patient to experience vivid memories.

The findings, reported in the Annals of Neurology, potentially pave the way for electrical stimulation to treat disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Lead researcher Professor Andres Lozano, of the Toronto Western Hospital, said: "This is a single case that was totally unexpected. We knew immediately this was important. We are sufficiently intrigued to see if this could help people with memory disorders."

The team had been trying to help a 50-year-old obese man with type 2 diabetes and sleeping disorders who had failed to respond to diet, medications and psychological help.

He had refused gastric surgery, and doctors decided deep brain stimulation, although experimental, was his best option. It has been found to have an impact on appetite in animal tests, but has not been widely tested as a treatment for obesity in humans. However, it has been used to treat Parkinson's disease, chronic pain, severe cluster headaches and even depression with some success. The technique involves implanting electrodes into the brain: in this case into an area in the limbic system called the hypothalamus, which is thought to control the appetite.

When the electrodes were stimulated by electrical impulses the patient began to experience feelings of deja vu. He then had a sudden perception of being in a park with friends.

He felt younger, thought he was around 20-years-old, and his girlfriend of the time was there. He was an observer, and saw the scene in colour.

As the intensity of the stimulation increased, details in the scene became more vivid.

Source - BBC

Eating too much red meat 'is bad for the heart'

People who eat two or more servings of red meat a day are much more likely to develop conditions leading to heart disease and diabetes, U.S. researchers have found.

They found eating lots of red meat increased a person's risk of suffering from a cluster of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome by 25 per cent compared to those who had only two servings of meat a week, the researchers reported in the journal Circulation.

The symptoms of metabolic syndrome include excessive fat around the waist, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure.

The study also found that diet soda consumption was linked to these elevated risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, echoing the findings of a study published in July.

"When we found that diet soda promoted risk we were surprised," said Dr Lyn Steffen, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota.

Source - Daily Mail

Fish Oil Supplements - benfits and drawbacks

A new review of evidence compiled by St. Michael's Hospital and University of Toronto researchers suggests that fish oil supplements may help some cardiac patients while harming others.

The review, appeared in the January 15 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, indicates that further research and trials are needed before long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are used in patients with heart failure and angina.

Vitamin E 'may ward off decline'

Vitamin E may ward off physical decline in elderly people, research suggests.

Researchers found people aged over 65 who had lower levels of vitamin E performed worse on tests of basic physical ability. The key may be that vitamin E is an antioxidant, protecting the body's tissues from damage caused by charged particles called free radicals.

The Yale University School of Medicine study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers measured levels of vitamins in the blood of 698 volunteers from areas around the Italian city of Florence. The volunteers' performance on three physical tests - a short walk, balance and standing up from a seated position - were monitored over a three-year period.

While the researchers found an association between vitamin E and performance, their work suggested no such link with other essential vitamins, such as folate, B6, B12 and D.

Source - BBC

Work stress 'changes your body'

A stressful job has a direct biological impact on the body, raising the risk of heart disease, research has indicated.

The study reported in the European Heart Journal focused on more than 10,000 British civil servants. Those under 50 who said their work was stressful were nearly 70% more likely to develop heart disease than the stress-free. The stressed had less time to exercise and eat well - but they also showed signs of important biochemical changes.

The studies of Whitehall employees - from mandarins to messengers - started in the 1960s, but this particular cohort has been followed since 1985.

As well as documenting how workers felt about their job, researchers monitored heart rate variability, blood pressure, and the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. They also took notes about diet, exercise, smoking and drinking. Then they found out how many people had developed coronary heart disease (CHD) or suffered a heart attack and how many had died of it.

Lead researcher Dr Tarani Chandola, of University College London, said: "During 12 years of follow up, we found that chronic work stress was associated with CHD and this association was stronger both among men and women aged under 50. Among people of retirement age - and therefore less likely to be exposed to work stress - the effect on CHD was less strong."

Source - BBC

Scientists unveil 'supercarrot'

Scientists in the US say they have created a genetically-engineered carrot that provides extra calcium.

They hope that adding the vegetable to a normal diet could help ward off conditions such as brittle bone disease and osteoporosis.

Someone eating the new carrot absorbs 41% more calcium than if they ate the old, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study suggests. The calcium-charged vegetable still needs to go through many safety trials.

"These carrots were grown in carefully monitored and controlled environments," said Professor Kendal Hirschi, part of the team at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. "Much more research needs to be conducted before this would be available to consumers."

But the scientists nonetheless hope their carrot could ultimately offer a healthier way of consuming sufficient quantities of the mineral. Dairy foods are the primary dietary source of calcium but some are allergic to these while others are told to avoid consuming too much due to their high fat content.

A gene has been altered in the carrot which allows the calcium within it to cross more easily over the plant membranes. On its own, the carrot would not meet the daily requirement of 1,000mg of calcium, but if other vegetables were similarly engineered, intake could be increased dramatically.

Source - BBC

The hidden salt putting you children in danger of high blood pressure and strokes

Children are being put at risk of suffering high blood pressure and strokes in later life by the hidden salt content of many popular foods.

Some brands of baked beans, sausages, breaded chicken and noodles have been labelled potential health hazards. Some desserts also contain alarmingly high levels of salt.

Certain products contain virtually the entire daily limit for salt for a six year old in a single serving, according to research published today by campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health. The Department of Health recommends an upper limit of 5g of salt per day for a child aged seven to ten, 3g for those aged four to six and just 2g for those aged one to three.

A portion of Morrisons Southern Fried chicken - one drumstick and one thigh - contains 2.8g of salt, 93 per cent of the maximum amount for a sixyearold for an entire day, as does half a can of the supermarket's own label baked

Three Marks & Spencer potato croquettes contain 1.9g of salt, while just two slices of Kingsmill Great Everyday thick white bread contain 1.06g.

Sweet products with high salt levels include Asda's Roly Poly Pudding, which has 1.1g of salt per serving, and Tesco's Banana Flavour Delight with 1g.

Source - Daily Mail

How safe are your daily supplements?

Many of us pop vitamin pills in the belief that we are safeguarding our health. But,Nutritional supplements have come a long way since the cod liver oil and fortified bread of the postwar years.

More than 40 per cent of us now pop a pill once a day and the industry is booming. Britons spent about £360million on supplements last year and in America the annual spend was a massive $6billion. Last Friday, a report extolled the benefits of a cocktail of vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. We tend to see supplements as a harmless way of making sure we're fully stocked with all the nutrients we need; but a growing body of research is beginning to challenge this view.

A different study published last week found that about a million women taking calcium supplements to combat osteoporosis were 50 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those on placebos. Recent US research suggested that men taking multivitamins have a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer, while beta-carotene supplements were linked to an increase in the ominously non-specific "overall risk of dying".

Patients prescribed supplements on medical grounds must balance these risks with the beneficial impact they might have, but we should all be aware of the risks. Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's hospital in London and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, talked me through six of our favourite supplements. some could be doing more harm than good.

Source - Telegraph

The death-defying diet

Calorie restriction claims to help you live longer and avoid old-age - But does it work?

My last supper as a mortal took place on Hallowe’en at Florent, a French diner in New York’s meat-packing district. The parade was in full swing and waiters in drag served tables of clowns. Olivia Newton-John (emphasis on John) circa Physical in leggings and an off-the-shoulder T-shirt recommended the steak frites with green beans followed by cheesecake and ice cream. It all sounded good to me.

I love food and have never really taken much interest in the calories it contains. I vaguely remember that Tic Tacs have two calories (Tic Tac two) but I could be wrong and, until recently, I haven’t given a monkey’s. For the past 10 years, I have weighed 12 stone 5lb, give or take a few pounds. I’m 41, 5ft 11in and neither thin nor fat. I’m a small large. I eat an average amount for my size – about 2,500 calories a day.

My body mass index (BMI), the calculation many doctors use to assess weight, is 24.4, the high end of normal. Add a few pounds and I would be overweight but I’d have to slap on well over a stone to be “obese”. Most importantly, I weigh less than most of my male friends. Now, this laissez-faire attitude to food is going to stop. From the stroke of midnight I am going to retrain my body to live on 1,800 calories a day on a diet that, a growing body of evidence is showing, will increase my life span, reduce my chances of serious diseases like cancer and may even give me a shot at cheating death.

In 1991, Dr Roy Walford, an expert on ageing and a Korean-war veteran, was sealed inside Biosphere 2 with seven other “crew” members. Among other delights, the 3.14-acre site contained a rainforest, an 850-square-metre ocean with a coral reef, and mangrove wetlands.

For two years, they were supposed to support themselves on food they would grow themselves, to test the feasibility of setting up such sites on distant planets. The crew found they could not grow enough food and the experiment almost had to be cancelled. Solving the food dilemma led to an experiment that convinced Walford he had found a way to extend human life.

Walford convinced the crew to follow a nutrient-rich diet of between 1,400 and 2,000 calories a day. Within six months the crew’s weight had, unsurprisingly, fallen 14% – but they also showed dramatic falls in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin. Did the Biosphere contain the fountain of youth? diseases.

Source - Times

Regulation plans for homeopathy

A range of complementary therapies such as homeopathy and aromatherapy are to be regulated by a new body.

The Natural HealthCare Council is due to begin work in April. Currently, anyone can offer a complementary medicine service.

The watchdog will set standards and have the power to strike off those deemed incompetent, although membership of the body will be voluntary. The Patients Association said the move to regulate was "welcome and overdue".

A spokeswoman for the charity, which provides patients with a forum to share experiences of healthcare, said the fact that anyone can provide complementary medicines and treatment had been a "a source of concern".

"Patients will feel more secure as a result of this new body and they will know who to contact if they are unhappy with their treatment," she said.

Source - BBC

Breast milk 'may be allergy key'

A study may have discovered why breastfeeding might help protect children against allergies such as asthma, scientists have said.

The French research, published in Nature Medicine, shows female mice exposed to allergens can pass them directly to their offspring in milk. This allows the newborns to become "tolerant" of the substance.

However, in humans, the link between breastfeeding and reduced asthma risk remains unproven, say experts. There is some research evidence that being breastfed lowers the risk of becoming asthmatic but other studies have failed to find this.

More than 300 million people worldwide have allergic asthma and some scientists believe exposure to allergens, or a lack of exposure, at a very young age may be important in its development.

Asthma happens when the body's own immune system recognises as "foreign" a common and harmless substance found in the environment, such as dust mite faeces. When this substance is inhaled, the immune reaction can cause inflammation in the airways, narrowing them and making it harder to breathe. For many sufferers, this can mean a lifetime of drugs, both to damp down the immune reaction and to re-open their constricted airways during an attack.

The researchers, from the INSERM institute in France, used an allergen called ovalbumin - a protein found in egg whites. They allowed the mothers of newborn mice to breathe in the protein but not their offspring.

Tests confirmed the allergen was then transferred to the baby mice via breast milk and that the baby mice developed an immune system tolerance to it. This effect happened independently of the mother's own immune system.

Well seasoned: How salt can actually be good for you

Health campaigners reckon that it's a recipe for high blood pressure – but some mineral-rich varieties can actually benefit our health.

When it comes to matters of health, salt has got bad press. It's that cheap condiment and hidden food flavouring with the hidden health risks. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it can strain your heart and blood pressure, bringing that fateful day a little closer. Studies indicate it might also increase your risk of brittle bones and other ailments.

But some experts argue that salt could be just what we need for healing, health and longevity.

Modern salt, they agree, is unhealthy. But common table salt has almost nothing in common with traditional salt, say the salt connoisseurs. Just look at the rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt, or the grey texture of Celtic salt – both pride themselves on traditional harvesting, avoiding heat treatment or refining methods – and you know you're getting something special, not least that when you taste them, they actually have flavour.

And unlike the sodium chloride you find on most kitchen tables, unrefined rock salt contains more than 84 different minerals.

"These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated," argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. "We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid."

Historically, these mineral salts were the commodities that trade routes and cities such as Saltzberg grew up around. Once known as "white gold", salt was, and still is, essential for virtually all biological processes. Without mineral salts, says Dr Hendel, there would be no movement, memory or thought and your heart wouldn't beat.

"In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions," explains Dr Hendel. "These conduct electrical nerve impulses that drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions that come from mineral ions. They're also needed to balance PH levels in the body."

Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions, remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long been recognised in central Europe. At Wieliczka in Poland, a hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms in 90 per cent of cases.

Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much salt, may be to blame for health problems. It's a view that is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon Health Sciences University in the US.

Source - Independent

Coffee may make diabetes worse

Daily consumption of caffeine in coffee, tea or soft drinks increases blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes, research suggests.

Caffeine pills equivalent to four cups of coffee a day increased blood sugar levels by 8% over the day, US researchers report in Diabetes Care. Cutting caffeine out of the diet may help diabetics control their blood sugar levels, the team said. But UK experts said more research was needed before advice could be given.

The ten people who took part in the study were monitored with a tiny glucose monitor embedded under the skin. The device meant that the researchers could track the effects of caffeine over 72-hours as the patients with type 2 diabetes went about their normal lives.

Previous studies had shown that caffeine increases the body's resistance to insulin, the hormone responsible for managing the response to glucose levels in the blood.

But in healthy people this is not really a problem, said study leader Dr James Lane from Duke University Medical School.

In the diabetic patients, who took caffeine pills on one day and a placebo the next, caffeine caused blood sugar levels to rise.

The effect was particularly strong after meals with a rise of 9% after breakfast, 15% after lunch and 26% after dinner.

Source - BBC

Three cups of coffee a day 'can cut the risk of ovarian cancer'

Three cups of coffee a day can help prevent ovarian cancer, research suggests.

A study found that caffeine reduces the risk of the disease by a fifth. The risk is even less for women who do not take the Pill or do not use hormone replacement therapy. Researchers in the U.S. investigated the links between lifestyle and health of 122,000 American nurses.

As part of the study, which ran from 1976 to 2004, Dr Shelley Tworoger of Harvard Medical School compared the diets of 80,000 of these women with the incidence of ovarian cancer. During this time 737 of the women developed ovarian cancer.

Women who had at least three cups of coffee a day were 20 per cent less likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who drank none. Among women who had never taken the Pill, coffee drinking cut the risk of ovarian cancer by 35 per cent. And for those who had not had hormone replacement therapy, the risk was 43 per cent less.

"We observed a significant inverse trend of ovarian cancer risk with caffeine intake," Dr Tworoger wrote in the American medical journal Cancer.

The reasons why caffeine protects against ovarian cancer is not clear and further studies will be carried out, added Dr Tworoger.

Josephine Querido, of Cancer Research UK, said: "The jury is still out as to whether or not caffeine affects the risk of ovarian cancer because evidence from previous studies looking at this link has been inconsistent."

The benefits and risks of drinking coffee continue to be the subject of much debate.

Source - Daily Mail

How DIRT can protect you against cancer

The idea that we're too clean for our own good will be familiar to many. Scientists call it the hygiene hypothesis, and the theory is that far from benefiting our health, our obsession with cleanliness and hygiene is actually bad for us.

It's said that exposure to dirt and germs early in life 'primes' the immune system so it is prepared for any future threat - and that our constant wiping and sterilising of everything from kitchen work tops to children's toys may be undermining this important mechanism.

Last year, UK consumers spent £610 million on household cleaning products, up 16 per cent over a five-year period, according to market research experts Mintel. And the result of all this cleaning, according to proponents of the hygiene hypothesis, is an exponential growth in allergies.

The UK has one of the highest rates of allergy in the world - around 6,000 people a year need hospital treatment for potentially life-threatening reactions to animals, bee stings and foods such as peanuts.

Previously, researchers have focused mainly on allergies, asthma and eczema. Numerous studies show children raised on farms are less likely to get these diseases, either because they inhale all kinds of toxins or drink raw milk packed with bugs. Youngsters raised with cats or dogs also seem to be protected.

But now scientists believe the hygiene hypothesis could also explain the rising incidence of cancer.

Since the mid-Seventies, the number of people in the UK annually diagnosed with cancer has risen by 25 per cent, according to Cancer Research UK.

According to the hygiene hypothesis, repeated exposure to allergens, bacteria or certain toxins keeps the immune system on 'red alert', suppressing cancer cells in the earliest stages of development. Studies suggest that the more germs you get into your body, the less likely you are to get certain tumours.

Source - Daily Mail

Could the pregnancy vitamin help men beat depression?

A vitamin used to lower the risk of birth defects may also be an effective treatment for depression.

Research shows that men with high levels of folate in their diets were up to 50 per cent less likely to have symptoms of depression than those with the lowest amounts.

Now a £1million clinical trial is under way in Britain looking at whether giving folate can help tackle the condition by boosting the effects of drug treatment.

Folate, one of the B vitamins, is found naturally in some foods, including leafy vegetables, beans, citrus fruits and wholegrains. As a supplement, folic acid - the synthetic form of the vitamin - has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of birth defects. Research shows it can lower the chances of neural tube defects, including spina bifida, where the spine is incorrectly developed, by up to 70 per cent. The vitamin is involved in the process of making healthy new cells. Both adults and children need folate to make normal red blood cells and prevent anaemia.

One in five people experience depression at some point, but scientists say only half of those treated with antidepressants will get better; and many others experience symptoms for long periods. Now researchers have found that the more folate in the diet, the less severe the symptoms of depression.

Symptoms can include low mood, irritability, loss of selfconfidence, lack of energy, insomnia and low libido.

A study by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan found that men with the highest folate levels had 50 per cent fewer symptoms of depression compared to those with the least amounts in their diets.

A second study, at the Centre de Recherche de Jouyen- Josas, in France, found folate protected against recurrent bouts of depression in men over an eight-year period.

A third study, at the University of Kuopio, in Finland, based on 2,682 men aged 42 to 60, found that those with the lowest levels of folate had a 67 per cent higher risk of being depressed than those who had the highest.

Modern life upsets nature’s balance

The natural form of vitamin D is either produced by exposure to sunlight or taken in the diet by eating oily fish, meat or foods to which it has been added artificially.

For thousands of years human skin evolved so that people could absorb enough sunlight to make vitamin D, which strengthens bones. More than 63 reputable scientific studies have shown that vitamin D reduces the risk of developing prostate cancer (especially the more malignant forms) and breast, ovarian and colon cancers, as well as preventing weak bones. Although sun in excess increases the risk of skin cancers the higher the vitamin D levels the lower the incidence of many other malignancies.

However, modern life has upset nature’s delicate balance. The skin that was honed to protect someone from sunburn and skin cancers, not just melanomas but also epitheliomas and rodent ulcers, is now having to cope with life in northern climates where the benefit of sunlight is seasonal. Even if the Sun has not been obscured by low clouds and drizzle it is not effective at stimulating the body to manufacture vitamin D in winter once it is low in the sky. In Britain from October to May the Sun’s rays are filtered by the atmosphere and little vitamin D is manufactured.

It is already known that people with dark skin, if they move away from tropical and equatorial areas, need 30 times as much exposure to the Sun as do the fair-skinned people whose vitamin D manufacturing process has evolved so as to muddle through dank, dark winters. A dark-skinned person would have to drink ten tumblers of milk a day, an impossible and undesirable intention, or take generous helpings of oily fish daily to compensate for the lack of sun. Similarly, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, red or blond-haired northern Europeans are at risk of developing skin cancers if they burn in the sun, especially as children or young adults, as their skin did not evolve to withstand tropical sunrays.

Source - Times

Broccoli 'fights' heart disease

Eating broccoli may protect against heart disease, US research suggests.

Rats were fed an extract of the vegetable for a month, and the effect on their heart muscle was measured.

Compared with animals whose diet did not change, the hearts of the broccoli rats functioned better and displayed less damage when deprived of oxygen.

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study suggests broccoli may trigger production of proteins which protect against heart damage. The health benefits of broccoli have been widely touted, particularly in regard to its potentially protective qualities against cancer.

But working out both if and how this may be the case has proved a challenge.

Now researchers at the cardiovascular research centre at the University of Connecticut believe they have at least shown how the benefits may work in animal hearts.

Source - BBC

Harmful food additives that trigger hyperactive behaviour in children must be banned, say MPs

A legal ban on artificial food additives which trigger hyperactive behaviour in children has been demanded by peers and MPs from all parties.

The Parliamentary Food and Health Forum published a report arguing the action is vital to protect children's health. The committee highlighted research showing that the suspect additives can prevent children's bodies from absorbing nutrients which are key to physical and brain development, and pointed out that some are already banned in the US and some Scandinavian countries.

The politicians accused the Government's Food Standards Agency of failing adequately to protect youngsters from harm caused by the chemicals in sweets, cakes and drinks. They want the FSA to issue an immediate warning to all parents to avoid artificial colours and preservatives that have been identified as a risk.

The forum, chaired by Labour peer Lord Rea, a former GP, took evidence from the country's leading nutrition experts. Member Dr Ian Gibson MP, a former chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, said:
"The evidence that we got suggested there were harmful effects on behaviour. The FSA has got much more to do on this in terms of taking precautions to protect children. Food is not only important in the context of obesity, we also need to take account of the effects on behaviour.
The food industry has made some welcome voluntary measures to reduce additive use, but that is not enough. We need Government action."

Source - Daily Mail

Sunday 'worst sleep' of the week

Sunday is the hardest night of the week to get a good, undisturbed sleep, research suggests.

The study of 3,500 adults, commissioned by the hotel chain Travelodge, found nearly 60% of workers have their worst night's sleep on a Sunday. More than a quarter of those surveyed admitted to calling in sick on Monday after having a dreadful night's sleep.

The survey also found as many as 80% of people slept soundest on a Friday night, at the end of the working week. Disrupted sleep has been blamed for a lack of concentration at work, increased irritability towards bosses and even for falling asleep at the desk.

Nearly half of those questioned said they suffered from a lack of concentration which lead to mistakes, one in three became irritable with their boss and colleagues and a fifth said they had nodded off at some point.

Up to 23 million British workers claim to lose an hour's sleep every night because they dread going to work the next day, research has shown.

Dealing with a difficult boss, having to give an important presentation and missing a work deadline were all given as causes of disrupted sleep in by respondents to the latest survey.

Source - BBC

Folic acid 'could prevent thousands of early births'

Thousands of premature births could be prevented if the mothers took folic acid for at least a year before getting pregnant, doctors have found.

A major study has shown that extra supplies of the B vitamin cut the risk of premature babies by 50 to 70 per cent.

Doctors are now advising young women to add folic acid supplements to their daily diet - to get into the habit of taking it before they start planning a family.

Those in the UK hoping to become pregnant are already advised to take a 0.4mg supplement of folic acid every day after stopping contraception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Taking folic acid at this dose helps prevent severe brain and spinal birth defects.

But the latest study backed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows long spells of taking folic acid could reduce premature birth rates, including those born very early who are most at risk of dying or suffering long-term disabilities.

Source - Daily Mail

Food allergy guidance published

Restaurants and cafes should take steps to warn diners about possible allergens in food, a watchdog has said.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said products made with ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction should have them listed on a card, label or menu.

Its new voluntary guidelines are backed by an advice booklet which warns that "eating even a small bit of food" can cause illness or death. Allergic reactions can be caused by nuts, milk, soya, shellfish or eggs. Mustard, gluten and celery can also have an adverse effect when consumed.

The advice booklet says: "When someone has a food allergy, eating even a small bit of that food can make them very ill. Sometimes they could even die." The FSA said staff should always check whether a products contains a potential allergen when asked by a customer. And up-to-date lists of ingredients for ready-made foods, such as sandwich fillings, should also be kept to hand.

The introduction of new guidelines follows evidence that food allergies are becoming more common.

Under the current approach, firms which sell food prepared or wrapped on their own premises are not legally required to say whether their products contain potential allergens.

Source - BBC

Probiotics 'have effects on gut'

Scientists say they have hard evidence foods containing "friendly bacteria" do have a tangible effect on the body.

The journal Molecular Systems Biology reports that mice fed probiotic drinks had different levels of key chemicals in their blood and urine.

The Imperial College London research - which was part-funded by food giant Nestle - also suggested they could change fat digestion. But dieticians say they work only for relatively small numbers of people. The science of probiotics has been controversial, with suggestions that even the billions of bacteria in a pot of yoghurt could not possibly influence the trillions already found in our guts. However, the mouse research does offer some evidence of an measurable effect, say the researchers.

They fed some mice a normal diet, but added a drink containing "friendly bacteria" to the diet of others.

Screening the blood, urine, faeces and livers of the mice revealed that levels of several key chemicals related to important processes in the body were altered in the probiotic-treated animals.

Source - BBC

Calcium pills 'raise heart risk'

Calcium supplements may increase the risk of a heart attack in older women, New Zealand research suggests.

The supplements are often prescribed to postmenopausal women to help counter loss of bone density. Previous research suggested they might also protect against vascular disease by cutting blood cholesterol levels.

However, the latest British Medical Journal study found the opposite to be true, although UK experts warned women not to stop taking medication.

The University of Auckland team followed 1,471 healthy postmenopausal women for five years.
Each woman either took a daily calcium supplement, or a dummy pill. Heart attacks were more common in the group who took the supplements.

After a careful analysis of the data, the researchers confirmed 36 heart attacks in 31 women who took the supplements, compared with 22 heart attacks in 21 women who took the placebo.

Rates of stroke and sudden death were also higher in the supplement group - although not conclusively.

Source - BBC

Women with long ring fingers could be at greater arthritis risk

Women with long ring fingers may be at greater risk of developing arthritis in their knees, researchers say.

Typically, women's index and ring fingers are a similar length. Men tend to have longer ring fingers. But scientists have found that women with uncommonly long ring fingers had almost double the risk of osteoarthritis in the knee when compared to those with fingers of similar length.

Lead researcher Professor Michael Doherty said it was a new risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis.

"Specifically, women with the male pattern of length ratio - that is, ring finger relatively longer than the index finger - are more likely to develop knee osteoathritis. The underlying mechanism of the risk is unclear and merits further exploration."

For the research, the team from Nottingham University analysed the hands of 2,000 arthritis patients and 1,000 without arthritis in their sixties. Researchers, whose findings are published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, took X-rays of both hands of the patients and assessed the length of fingers using three methods.

These included a direct visual comparison of the two finger ends, the measured ratio from base to the tip of the upper finger joints and the measured ratio of the bone lengths.

Even after risk factors such as joint injury and a lack of exercise were taken into account, the higher risk of arthritis remained for women with long ring fingers.

Source - Daily Mail

Low-energy bulbs 'cause migraine'

Energy-saving light bulbs could trigger migraines, say campaigners.

The Migraine Action Association says members have told them how fluorescent bulbs have led to attacks.

The government is set to prevent the sale of conventional light bulbs within the next four years in a bid to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Concerns have already been raised by epilepsy charities about an increased risk of seizures from energy-saving bulbs. Some bulbs use similar technology to fluorescent strip lights, and some users have complained that there can be a "flickering" effect.

They use approximately a quarter of the energy of conventional bulbs, and in September, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said that a voluntary agreement with retailers would remove all conventional bulbs from the shops by December 2011.

However, Karen Manning, from the Migraine Action Association, said this could be damaging to some sufferers. She said that up to six million people in the UK suffer from some sort of migraine attack.

"These bulbs do trigger migraines for some of our members - it's either the flickering, or the low intensity of the light, causing eye strain. We would ask the government to avoid banning them completely, and still leave some opportunity for conventional bulbs to be purchased."

Source - BBC

Smoking link to hearing problems

Teenagers who smoke, or whose mother smoked in pregnancy, are at higher risk of hearing problems and understanding what is being said, a US study says.

In tests on 67 teenagers, Yale University found those exposed to smoke had trouble focusing and interpreting sounds when there was a distraction. And the team said scans showed exposure changed the brain's white matter, responsible for transmitting messages. The findings were reported in New Scientist magazine.

The team carried out brain scans on the teenagers and found those exposed to smoke were more likely to have more white matter. Previous research has shown that children with overdeveloped white matter have problems transmitting and interpreting sound because the white matter it is out of sync with the rest of the brain.

The researchers believe the over-production of the white matter is caused by nicotine stimulating a chemical compound called acetylcholine. Further evidence was also provided by the computer tests the teenagers, aged 13 to 18, completed where they were asked to recognise words while being distracted by visual images or background noise.

Among the boys who were tested, those exposed to smoke got 77% right, whereas those not exposed got 85% right. In girls, the breakdown was 84% to 90%. The researchers said the results were "quite significant".

Source - BBC

Sweetener in chewing gum can damage your health

A sweetener used in sugar-free chewing gum, some toothpastes and thousands of other products could be a severe health risk, doctors warned.

Sorbitol, also known as E 420, can trigger severe weight loss, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

A report in the British Medical Journal today highlights the cases of patients who lost up to a fifth of their bodyweight. The cause was eventually traced to excess intake of sorbitol - one was eating 14-20 sticks of gum a day.

Dentists recommend chewing sugarfree gum to increase saliva production, which reduces cavities and strengthens teeth. Wrigley, which owns many of the brands sold in the UK, has seen its sales in Europe grow by a third since Sorbitol is also used in sugar-free sweets, some cereals and foods aimed at diabetics.

But gastroenterology experts in Germany say many consumers - and even some doctors - are unaware of the laxative side-effects of sorbitol, which can also hinder the absorption of nutrients into the small intestine.

Professor Herbert Lochs and Dr Juergen Bauditz, from the University of Berlin studied two patients with chronic diarrhoea, abdominal pain and substantial weight loss. They underwent extensive investigation before a detailed analysis of their eating was undertaken. It found both had been consuming large amounts of sugarfree gum and sweets.

The first, a 21-year-old woman, chewed around 15 sticks of gum a day. Her weight plunged by almost 2st to just 6st 6lb.

The second patient, a 46-year-old man, chewed 20 sticks of gum and ate up to 200g of sweets each day. He lost more than 3st in a year.

After they started a sorbitol-free diet, their diarrhoea stopped and they gained weight.

Source - Daily Mail

Prison study to investigate link between junk food and violence

Some of Britain's most challenging young prisoners are to be given food supplements in a study aimed at curbing violent behaviour.

Scientists from Oxford University say the effect of nutrition on behaviour has been underestimated. They say increases in consumption of "junk" food over the past 50 years have contributed to a rise in violence.

The university will lead the £1.4m study in which 1,000 males aged 16 to 21 from three young offenders' institutions in England and Scotland will be randomly allocated either the vitamin-and-mineral supplements or a placebo, and followed over 12 months.

In a pilot study of 231 prisoners by the same researchers, published in 2002, violent incidents while in custody were cut by a more than a third among those given the supplements. Overall, offences recorded by the prison authorities fell by a quarter.

John Stein, professor of physiology at Oxford University, said: "If you could extrapolate from those results you would see a reduction of a quarter to a third in violent offences in prison. You could reduce violent offences in the community by a third. That would have a huge economic benefit."

"Our initial findings indicated that improving what people eat could lead them to behave more sociably as well as improving their health. This is not an area currently considered in standards of dietary adequacy. We are not saying nutrition is the only influence on behaviour but we seem to have seriously underestimated its importance."

Mark Walport, head of the Wellcome Trust, which is funding the three-year study, said: "If this study shows that nutritional supplementation affects behaviour it could have profound significance for nutritional guidelines, not only within the criminal justice system but in the wider community – in schools, for example. We are all used to nutritional guidelines for our physical health but this study could lead to revisions taking account of our mental health."

The theory behind the trial is that when the brain is starved of essential nutrients, especially omega-3 fatty acids, which are a central building block of brain neurons, it loses "flexibility". This shortens attention spans and undermines self-control. Even though prison food is nutritious, prisoners tend to make unhealthy choices and need supplements, the researchers say.

Source - Independent

Smoking cannabis 'far more likely to cause lung cancer than tobacco'

Smoking a joint is equivalent to 20 cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk, scientists in New Zealand have found, as they warned of an "epidemic" of lung cancers linked to cannabis.

Studies in the past have demonstrated that cannabis can cause cancer, but few have established a strong link between cannabis use and the actual incidence of lung cancer.

In an article published in the European Respiratory Journal, the scientists said cannabis could be expected to harm the airways more than tobacco as its smoke contained twice the level of carcinogens, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, compared with tobacco cigarettes.

The method of smoking also increases the risk, since joints are typically smoked without a proper filter and almost to the very tip, which increases the amount of smoke inhaled. The cannabis smoker inhales more deeply and for longer, facilitating the deposition of carcinogens in the airways.

"Cannabis smokers end up with five times more carbon monoxide in their bloodstream (than tobacco smokers)," team leader Richard Beasley, at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, said in a telephone interview.

"There are higher concentrations of carcinogens in cannabis smoke...what is intriguing to us is there is so little work done on cannabis when there is so much done on tobacco."

Source - Daily Mail

Cannabis link to 80 per cent of new mental cases

Eighty per cent of patients newly-diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses are heavy users of cannabis, scientists have warned ministers.

The shocking figure emerged in a dossier submitted to Whitehall drug advisers as Gordon Brown weighs up whether or not to reverse Labour's "softly-softly" policy of downgrading cannabis.
Campaigners have pointed to a flood of scientific evidence on the devastating damage the drug can do to mental and physical health.

Much of it has come in the four years since David Blunkett decided to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C, so that most users caught by police no longer face arrest or a criminal record.

The Prime Minister ordered a review of that policy last summer following years of warnings that stronger "skunk" varieties of cannabis are wreaking havoc on users' mental health.

The Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will take evidence from leading academics next week before sending its latest official advice to ministers.

Psychiatrist Professor Peter Jones, of Cambridge University, says in the dossier that eight out of ten newly-diagnosed psychiatric disorders affect heavy or dependent cannabis users.

He warns that children who are starting to smoke cannabis as young as ten or 11 could be trebling their risk of schizophrenia.

Source - Daily Mail

So-called 'friendly' bacteria may be dangerous, according to new research - so which should you be taking?

With their promise to rid the body of the "bad bacteria" that make us ill, it's no wonder so many of us are buying probiotic dietary supplements.

Two million Britons now regularly consume these "friendly" bacteria in the form of drinks, yoghurts, powders and capsules. "Friendly bacteria" sound so harmless. So what then are we to make of the story last week that patients with pancreatic disease had died as a result of being given them?

Doctors at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, Holland, reported that 24 out of 296 patients died during a study to find out whether friendly bacteria - known as probiotics - affected inflammation of the pancreas.

The researchers said their results were proof that "extremely ill" people should avoid probiotics, and the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority has ruled that supplements should not be given to patients in intensive care, those with organ failure or anyone being fed through a drip.

So should we be concerned about the new findings?

In fact, when it comes to seriously ill patients, many UK hospitals already follow the approach being adopted by the Dutch, says Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's Hospital in London.

In unhealthy people with weakened immunity the so-called friendly bacteria, such as lactobacillus casei or bifidobacteria, which make up probiotics, are treated as hostile invaders.

Source - Daily Mail

Sedentary life 'speeds up ageing'

Leading a sedentary lifestyle may make us genetically old before our time, a study suggests.

A study of twins found those who were physically active during their leisure time appeared biologically younger than their sedentary peers.

The researchers found key pieces of DNA called telomeres shortened more quickly in inactive people. It is thought that could signify faster cellular ageing.

The King's College London study appears in Archives of Internal Medicine. An active lifestyle has been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. However, the latest research suggests that inactivity not only makes people more vulnerable to disease, but may actually speed up the ageing process itself.

The King's team studied 2,401 white twins, asking them to fill out questionnaires on their level of physical activity, and taking a blood sample from which DNA was extracted. They particularly focused on telomeres, the repeat sequences of DNA that sit on the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from damage. As people age, their telomeres become shorter, leaving cells more susceptible to damage and death.

Examining white blood cells from the immune system in particular, the researchers found that, on average, telomeres lost 21 component parts - called nucleotides - every year. But men and women who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter leukocyte telomeres compared to those who were more active.

The average telomere length in those who took the least amount of exercise - 16 minutes of physical activity a week - was 200 nucleotides shorter than those who took the most exercise - 199 minutes of physical activity a week, such as running, tennis or aerobics.

The most active people had telomeres of a length comparable to those found in inactive people who were up to 10 years' younger, on average.

Direct comparison of twins who had different levels of physical activity produced similar results.

Source - BBC

Jumping into therapy, feet first

The treatment that got to the heart and sole of a problem - Grinberg is a holistic therapy based on "reading" the feet to discover underlying problems in the body. It sounds a bit wacko, but the treatment actually takes the form of gentle manipulation, breathing exercises and talking. Victoria Oldham is the only practitioner in the UK but she is training new therapists.

The Grinberg Method was developed by Avi Grinberg, originally a reflexologist, who believes that because we spend most of our day on our feet, it follows that problems in the way our body functions will be reflected there. By addressing these issues the theory is the body will heal itself.

Oldham began by examining my bare feet. The most obvious thing she "saw" was a curved, constricted area around my upper chest, which was affecting my breathing. The shape, which she outlined with a finger, echoed precisely the sideways spinal curvature (scoliosis) I've had since childhood, which causes constant pain.She also diagnosed a reluctance to speak my mind – evidenced by a build up of hard skin on my big toes – and abdominal or digestive discomfort. It was all spot on.

We discussed what situations could have elicited the emotional responses behind my back problems. Extreme shyness as a child and being uncomfortable with my height – I've been 5ft 9in since I was 11 – could have led to me trying to "shrink" creating muscle tension and spinal curvature.She suggested the same process was responsible for my reluctance to fully express myself.

Learning to break the connection between emotional and physical responses would be the first step in my healing process.Oldham used her hands to locate sources of physical tension in my body.

She then talked me through how to recognise the feeling associated with tension and how to "breathe it out". She went on to work on my back around the upper spine. Within a f
ew minutes she had totally dissolved the pain I normally feel with every breath, leaving me feeling remarkably liberated.

Source - Scotsman

The good, the bad and the healthy

For cancer-fighting antioxidants, stroke-reducing flavonoids and a cocktail of vitamins, reach for beer, wine, steak and even chocolate

BEER: bad. Fruit: good. That's the common wisdom, but scientists are discovering that the truth behind many of our long-held attitudes towards food is not quite so clear-cut, and that many of the things we traditionally consider unhealthy actually have health benefits.So before you empty that last can of beer down the sink or give up your weekly chocolate treat for good, do your body a favour and consider this: beer contains antioxidants, which can cut your risk of cancer and heart disease. Just don't use that as your excuse to overindulge – because three beers rather than just one are more likely to have the opposite effect, according to researchers.

If your tastes tend towards the grape rather than the grain, red wine delivers the goods. Flavonoids, especially resveratrol, and the tannins it contains are thought to increase your 'good' cholesterol and decrease the 'bad'. Resveratrol has also been proven to improve blood flow in the brain by 30%, reducing the risk of stroke.As if that wasn't a good enough excuse to uncork the merlot, red wine can help keep gums healthy and may even reduce the risk of lung cancer – particularly among men. You're allowed one or two glasses a day – so don't go knocking back the whole bottle.

While we're on the drink, a pint of Guinness is an excellent source of iron. And even the dreaded cola may not be quite as bad for us as we think. Flat coke has been said to settle an upset stomach (don't use the fresh, fizzy stuff, though, as that could make matters worse). And it is also regularly consumed by army frogmen after a dive in potentially dirty seawater as it is said to kill all the bugs in their stomachs.

Lately we've been told to lay off the eggs because of their high level of cholesterol levels. But one egg provides 12% of your daily recommended protein, along with a cocktail of other goodies including vitamins A, B6, B12 and D, folate, iron, phosphorus and zinc.Check your cholesterol before increasing your egg intake because you could be suffering from high levels and not know it. Otherwise, two or three a week boiled, poached or scrambled (not fried) could give your health a real boost.

Beef, too, has been off the menu for a few years in many homes. But don't write off that juicy steak just yet. Beef is a good source of iron, protein and vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12. It also provides two fifths of your daily needs for zinc – important for maintaining a healthy immune system. And, depending on the cut, it could even be lower in fat than chicken.

When it comes to good 'bad' food, however, chocolate is the daddy of them all. Like red wine, it contains flavonoids, which lower blood pressure and help prevent deep-vein thrombosis. It could also, ironically, help prevent tooth decay. Research at Osaka University in Japan has found the husks of the cocoa bean contain an antibacterial agent that fights plaque.
Unfortunately, these husks tend to be removed during the production of commercial chocolate bars, but at some point in the future they could be added back to make them tooth-friendly.

Source - Scotsman

Cranberry juice can prevent flu and stomach ulcers...but only in women

Drinking two glasses of cranberry juice a day can ward off flu, stops teeth from rotting and keep away bladder infections and stomach ulcers - but only in women. Researchers have proved that the red berry has anti-viral properties but the healing powers of the fruit only applies to women.

Cranberries contain a molecule called non-dialyzable material, or NDM, which coats some bodily surfaces with a Teflon-like substance and prevents infection-causing agents from taking root. The substance has no effect on the good bacteria.

Back in 1991 researchers found that the berries could protect against bacterial invasion in the bladder - they then decided to see where else the healing properties would work. They discovered that the same substance that prevented urinary infections also stopped oral bacteria forming on the surface of teeth and reduced the cavities formed in the mouth. After the clinical trial the scientists at the Tel Aviv University's medical school patented a mouthwash based on cranberries. They also found that the molecule inhibits the flu virus from attaching to cells and inhibits two-thirds of the 'unhealthy' bacteria that cling to gastric cells, which lead to ulcers.

Professor Itzhak Ofek said: "The results were very interesting. Cranberry helped reduce the load of this bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, in the gut. In combination with antibiotics, it reduced repeat ulcers from approximately 15 per cent to about five per cent."

But Professor Ofek added: "The whole thing with cranberries seems to be female-oriented."

Source - Daily Mail

Is pain all in the mind?

Two London doctors underwent a hair-raising experiment to see if other cultures offer something more effective than popping pills.

It can be sharp or dull; it can last for a few seconds or for a lifetime. If it's bad it can make you vomit, and we spend millions a year trying to make it go away. Pain affects us all at some point.

In the West, the traditional treatment is a bottle of pills, in the form of analgesics such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. But painkillers can have unpleasant side effects, including addiction.

Is there an alternative to drugs? Two London doctors, Chris and Alexander ("Xand") van Tulleken, who are also identical twins, set out to investigate if we can learn anything about pain relief from other cultures.

Both twins, 29, studied medicine at Oxford University and trained at the city's Radcliffe Camera Hospital. They believe that Western medicine is missing a trick, so they teamed up with Channel 4 to do a series about alternatives to Western medicine, called Medicine Men; the second episode in the series examines pain.

"We heard about a Hindu festival in Malaysia, where people pierce themselves and claim to feel no pain," says Xand. "We wanted to learn whether there are ways of controlling extreme pain just with your mind."

So they decided to perform an experiment: they'd both get pierced at the festival, but one of them would prepare for it and the other wouldn't. Because Chris and Xand are identical twins, they are ideal subjects: one can be a control, the other a variable.


Source - Independent

Med diet 'cuts baby asthma risk'

Pregnant women who eat a Mediterranean diet may help protect their children from asthma and other allergies, researchers say. The Crete team studied 468 mothers and their children from pregnancy to six and a half years after the birth.

They found asthma and allergies were significantly less common in children whose mothers ate lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish during pregnancy.

The Thorax study also found eating high levels of red meat increased the risk.

It made that conclusion in cases where red meat was being eaten more than three to four times a week. More than five million people in the UK have asthma, and one in 10 children is affected.
Previous work by the same team, from the University of Crete, found that children who ate a Mediterranean diet appeared to be protected from asthma and allergies. The latest study suggests that the protective effect of the diet may kick in an even earlier stage.

The researchers found that by the time the children were six-and-a-half years old their diet appeared to have little impact on their risk of asthma and allergy.

However, their mother's diet during pregnancy appeared to be much more important.

Source - BBC