Puppy to sniff out cancer

A police puppy which will be trained to “sniff out” cancer has been gifted to a charity.

Copper, a cocker spaniel, was given to Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs, which trains dogs to detect the scent of cancer from urine samples. The dogs can also be trained to help people with diabetes by picking up the odour of changes in insulin levels before alerting owners to potential hypoglycaemic attacks.

Copper was born as part of Strathclyde Police’s puppy breeding programme and begins her new life with the Buckinghamshire-based charity today. She is one of a litter of seven pups and her brothers and sisters will begin their regular police dog training in a year.

Strathclyde Police dog training sergeant Tracy Reid said: “Our breeding programme has been very successful. We have had 14 puppies born this year alone including this litter, so we are pleased to be in a position to contribute to a worthy cause by donating one of our dogs. Copper is inquisitive and has lots of energy so we hope she sails through the training.”

Claire Guest, founder of Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs, said: “We are very grateful for the support Strathclyde Police has given to our charity and the force’s generous offer of a working cocker spaniel from the breeding programme.”

The charity published a joint study in the British Medical Journal in 2004 which showed for the first time that dogs can be trained to identify the odour of bladder cancer within urine. The finding opened the way for the new method of diagnosing bladder cancer, which was simple, quick and non-invasive.

Source - Independent

How to beat back pain

Every day of the year, the number of Britons who are off work with back pain would fill London's new Olympic stadium. Yes, Britain's got backache – and in a very big way. Yet rather surprisingly, a lot of people have no idea about what causes back pain, or of how to avoid it, or how to treat it. Many of them think, "Oh, it won't happen to me". But it probably will. So here are 10 things not a lot of people know about back pain. Reading it might just save you from a lot of discomfort in the future.

Back pain is often preventable

Back pain doesn't just happen out of the blue. Very frequently, it's caused by doing something that is distinctly unwise. Common examples include: leaning forward to pick something up, without bending your knees – this puts a big strain on your lumbar region; lifting something that's far too heavy for you; carrying something weighty, but holding it away from your body – a load that is held tight against the body will put much less stress on the back; twisting round suddenly – for instance, to get something off the back seat of the car; continuing with what you were doing when the back pain started – if you suddenly feel pain while gardening, golfing, working out in the gym, carrying a toddler or sitting in an uncomfortable chair, then stop. Alas, the British have an endearing tendency to carry on, in the hope that it will all be OK. It probably won't.

You should take care of your sacro-iliacs

Most British people have never heard of the sacro-iliac joints. This is in sharp contrast to Americans, who are forever staggering into their doctors' offices muttering, "I guess it's my S-I joints again, Doc." The sacro-iliacs are a fairly common source of low back pain. There are two of them, and they are located just under the pair of dimples many people have at the top of their buttocks.

They are easily thrown out of kilter by sudden or awkward bending forward. Thus, the last time I had trouble with mine was on the day I tried to trim the lawn using a cheap, nasty, unwieldy strimmer that was much too short for my height.

Bending forward to vacuum the floor is another common cause of S-I joint pain. Typically, this is a dull ache that gets worse whenever you try to stand up from a chair. Happily, it gets better with rest. Manipulation often helps.

Source - Independent

Alcohol link to one in 25 deaths

One in 25 deaths across the world are linked to alcohol consumption, Canadian experts have suggested.

Writing in the Lancet, the team from the University of Toronto added that the level of disease linked to drinking affects poorest people the most.

Worldwide, average alcohol consumption is around 12 units a week - but in Europe that soars to 21.5. The report authors warn the effect of alcohol disease is similar to that of smoking a decade ago. The analysis also found that 5% of years lived with disability are attributable to alcohol consumption.

The paper says that, although there have been some benefits of moderate drinking in relation to cardiovascular disease, these are far outweighed by the detrimental effects of alcohol on disease and injury.

In addition to diseases directly caused by drinking, such as liver disorders, a wide range of other conditions such as mouth and throat cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, depression and stroke are linked to drinking.

Drinking patterns do vary around the world, and the researchers point out that most of the adult population - 45% of men and 66% of women - abstain from drinking alcohol for most of them for their life.

Across the Americas, average consumption is 17 units per week, while the Middle East was the lowest at 1.3 units per week.

Source - BBC

Annabel Croft: Why I have come to rely on homeopathic medicine

Aconite, gelsemiun, ignatia… just a few things you might want to have handy when Andy Murray steps out at Wimbledon this week. For these homeopathic remedies can be helpful if, in respective order, you're feeling anxious and fearful, suffering pre-match nerves in the stands at Centre Court or, worse still, concerned that you might be grief-stricken when the umpire calls game, set and match.

You won't be alone in relying on homeopathic help; in the commentary box, former England women's number one Annabel Croft, now a TV presenter and mother of three, will be reaching for a cocktail of remedies to see her through the tournament. Annabel, who is reporting from Wimbledon for BBC Radio 5 Live and GMTV, has been taking homeopathic medicine in advance of the competition to prepare for whatever comes her way this week.

But her first encounter with homeopathy – a form of complementary treatment based on the premise that tiny quantities of certain substances can stimulate the body's natural forces of recovery – came in rather more dramatic circumstances.

In 2003, Annabel, now 42, began suffering throbbing pains on her lower left-hand side. The pain was sometimes so intense that, on several occasions, it caused her to faint. At one point, her daughter Amber, now 15, was so frightened she was on the verge of calling an ambulance.

After referral from a GP, an ultrasound scan from a private doctor showed that Annabel had developed a cyst on her left ovary. While ovarian cysts – fluid-filled sacs – are common and usually painless, if they swell, they can cause acute pain and may need to be removed. Annabel's pain was "unbearable", she says, and her GP thought she would need an operation.

Source - Telegraph

Are lentils the perfect food?

Hate at first sight can often turn into love. I remember meeting my husband in someone else's house, taking one look and asking when he was leaving. Three years later, I arrived horribly late at Hawling Church, all dressed up to marry him.

Sixteen years on from that date, and the man I married has revived a teenage ambition to ride as an amateur jockey, losing several stone to reach the ideal racing weight. Lentils, something else with which I began an ambiguous relationship, play a vital part in the diet.

Being his stablemate, it is only fair to follow the regime with him and not sit there downing bottles of Tariquet in his presence. Consequently, we are eating lentils noon and night. I should be bored, but oddly, never am.

Scroll back to a much longer time ago and this would have been unthinkable. I can still remember the first time my mother made lentils and served them with boiled ox tongue.

As a teenager I was horror-struck. Ox tongue I could cope with (she was brilliant at cooking it) but these lentil things, I decided, were much worse than the dreaded grey peas they gave us at school. Earthy, slightly floury, I laboured to swallow a single mouthful.

I did not know that my mother was ahead of her time, cooking little green lentilles de Puy long before they were discovered by modern British chefs in the Eighties, nor did I ever expect to love them.

Source - Telegraph

A few extra pounds helps you live longer, study finds

While the obese or underweight are at greater risk of death, people marginally overweight have longer lifespans than those considered to be of "healthy" weight, researchers claim.

The findings defy the commonly held belief that staying slim is the secret to healthy and long life. Scientists examined the relationship between body mass index and death among 11,326 adults in Canada over a 12-year period. They discovered that underweight people were 70 per cent more likely than people of normal weight to die, and extremely obese people were 36 per cent more likely to die.

However, modestly overweight individuals were 17 per cent less likely to die, the study showed. The relative risk for obese people was nearly the same as for people of normal weight, the report concluded.

The research was conducted by experts at Statistics Canada, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and McGill University.

Commenting on the findings, David Feeny from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, said: "It's not surprising that extreme underweight and extreme obesity increase the risk of dying. But it is surprising that carrying a little extra weight may give people a longevity advantage."

However, the researchers also warned people of normal weight not to try to put on extra pounds in the hope of improving their health.

Source - Telegraph

Mobile phones for children: a boon or a peril?

In a world where everyone is busy texting and chatting, more and more parents believe that their little ones should join the fun. In spite of dire warnings about the long-term harm that mobile phone use may wreak on young children’s mental and physical health, we have just passed the tipping point: more than half of British children aged between 5 and 9 own a mobile phone.

Now, in this rapidly expanding market, a major network is about to adopt a range of kiddie-phones designed for children as young as 4, with claims that its handsets are safer and smarter. But can there be any sense in texting toddlers?

Health concerns about the impact of mobile phone use on adults’ brains may have largely subsided but government guidelines still warn that children’s vulnerable grey matter should be protected. Professor Lawrie Challis, an emeritus professor of physics who has led the Government’s mobile-phone safety research, says that parents should not give children phones before secondary school. After that, they should encourage them to text rather than to make calls, as texting exposes their brains to lower levels of electromagnetic radiation.

“We have no idea if they are different in reaction to this sort of radio frequency,” says Challis, “but there are reasons why they may be — children react differently to ionising radiation, radioactivity and gamma rays. If you are exposed to too much sunlight as a child, you are far more likely to get skin cancer than if you are exposed as an adult.”

A disturbing study by researchers at Örebro University Hospital in Sweden last year indicated that children may be five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones.

Source - Times

Aspartame to be investigated after decade of claims it harms health

Allegations that the artificial sweetener aspartame is linked to headaches and stomach upsets are to be investigated.

The Food Standards Agency say the sweetener, marketed as Nutrasweet and Canderel, is safe. However it has ordered a probe into consumer concerns.

The Agency's chief scientist Andrew Wadge, said: 'This research is not to test the safety of aspartame – that is already established. The study will address consumer concerns, including anecdotal reports that have linked a range of conditions to aspartame. The Agency’s view remains that aspartame can be consumed safely and we are not recommending any changes to its current use. However, we know that some people consider they react badly to consuming this sweetener so we think it is important to increase our knowledge about what is happening.’

The pilot study will start next month and will be used to inform the design and feasibility of a proposed study led by the European Food Safety Authority.

In May 2006, EFSA rejected a study by Italian scientists which named aspartame as a cancer risk. The watchdog said the study identifying a risk of leukaemia, kidney and other cancers was flawed. Subsequently, the author of the research, Dr Morandi Soffritti of the Ramazzini Foundation, stood by his team's findings and called for further research.

Source - Daily Mail

Why apples, avocados and a glass of red wine could ease your arthritis

Arthritis is the term used for nearly 200 painful conditions of the joints and bones. It affects about 7million people in the UK and all types have similar symptoms of swelling, inflammation of joints, stiffness and restriction of movement.

Many of us take our joints for granted until they start playing up, by which time significant damage may already have occurred. But the sooner you start looking after your joints, the better. The good news is that many cases of arthritis can be relieved, postponed or even prevented by good joint care.

Research shows a definite link between the food you eat and the severity of your symptoms. Like your heart, your joints thrive best on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Try to eat at least five (and preferably eight or more) servings a day. Fruit and vegetables provide an array of antioxidants that reduce the rate at which cartilage breaks down, helping to slow the process of osteoarthritis. Antioxidants can also reduce inflammation and help combat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout.

Apples and avocados are anti-inflammatory superfoods. Don't peel your apples - the skin contains five times more antioxidants than the flesh. Oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids that oil the joints and damp down inflammation. Research shows that omega-3 can reduce the long-term need for painkillers in those with joint problems. You should aim to eat oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herrings and mackerel two to four times a week. You can also take an omega-3 fish oil supplement.

Drink plenty of fluids - approximately three to five pints (two to three litres) - a day to maintain good hydration and a steady flow of nutrients to your joints. Choose from water, soups, tea and juices.

You may find your symptoms are triggered by particular foods. Culprit foods vary, so it's important to keep a food-and-symptom diary to help pinpoint the foods that irritate. This is not always easy, as symptoms can worsen up to 36 hours after eating a trigger food.

Source - Daily Mail

Opera 'is music for the heart'

Listening to the right kind of music can slow the heart and lower blood pressure, a study has revealed.

Rousing operatic music, like Puccini's Nessun Dorma, full of crescendos and diminuendos is best and could help stroke rehabilitation, say the authors. Music is already used holistically at the bedside in many hospitals. Not only is it cheap and easy to administer, music has discernible physical effects on the body as well as mood, Circulation journal reports.

Music with a faster tempo increases breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, while slower-pace music does the reverse.

Dr Luciano Bernardi and colleagues, from Italy's Pavia University, asked 24 healthy volunteers to listen to five random tracks of classical music and monitored how their bodies responded. They included selections from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, an aria from Puccini's Turandot, Bach's cantata No 169, Va Pensiero from Nabucco and Libiam Nei Lieti Calici from La Traviata.

Every musical crescendo - a gradual volume increase - "aroused" the body and led to narrowing of blood vessels under the skin, increased blood pressure and heart rate and increased respiratory rates. Conversely, the diminuendos - gradual volume decreases - caused relaxation, which slowed heart rate and lowered blood pressure.

Source -BBC

Green tea 'slows prostate cancer'

A chemical found in green tea appears to slow the progression of prostate cancer, a study has suggested.

Green tea has been linked to a positive effect on a wide range of conditions, including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. The research, in the US journal Cancer Prevention Research, found a significant fall in certain markers which indicate cancer development. A UK charity said the tea might help men manage low-risk tumours.

Although previous studies have shown benefits from drinking green tea - including some positive findings in relation to prostate cancer, there have been mixed results. In this study, Philadelphia-based researchers tested a compound called Polyphenon E.

They were looking for a number of biomarkers - molecules - including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) which are indicators of developing cancer. They also looked for prostate specific antigen (PSA) - a protein only found in the prostate. Levels can rise if cancer is present.

Source - BBC

Time to chop and change

According to Danish researchers, cooking carrots whole before chopping them has been shown to preserve more of the potentially cancer-busting supernutrient falcarinol. But carrots are not the only vegetable that can benefit from some special treatment in the kitchen. The same guidelines apply to preparing and cooking everything from garlic to broccoli, says Amanda Ursell

Sweetcorn

Cooking for the shortest possible time, in minimal water, preserves the folate, which, as well as keeping the nervous system in good shape, for pregnant women reduces the risk of babies being born with spina bifida. In some people it also lowers homocysteine, a substance in the blood which, like cholesterol, helps to block arteries and cause heart disease. Stir-frying, microwaving and short steaming are the best options.

Tomatoes

Boiling tomatoes down to a rich sauce has been shown to release the nutrient lycopene — which studies have shown is linked with lower levels of prostate and lung cancer. Our bodies find it hard to extract the lycopene from raw tomatoes because it is bound up in the plants’ cell walls and fibres. Adding a little oil will further increase the body’s ability to absorb lycopene.

Broccoli

Raw broccoli may not be to everyone’s taste but cooking destroys the enzyme myrosinase, which converts supernutrients into sinigrin. Studies have suggested that this chemical triggers pre-cancerous cells to, effectively, commit hara-kiri. Even if you do cook broccoli, our bodies have digestive enzymes that can take over this conversion process.

Garlic

Health-wise, it is better to crush raw garlic cloves between your teeth than it is to cook them. When the raw bulb is crushed or chewed, the sulphurous supernutrient alliin is converted into allicin, which appears to make our blood less sticky and therefore less likely to clot.

Asparagus

Asparagus is an excellent food for the B vitamin folate, which we need for a healthy nervous system. You can conserve maximum amounts of folate by steaming the asparagus upright in a little water, in a pan with the lid on, until just tender. Thankfully, cooking does not destroy fructo-oligosaccharides, a special type of fibre that helps to produce good probiotic bacteria, which aid digestion.

Lettuce

To get the most from your lettuce, tear rather than chop it, preferably just before eating it. Cutting with a knife damages the cellular structure, releasing oxidising enzymes which destroy vitamin C. This is true of most salad leaves — avoid pre-packed salads that contain chopped leaves. Lollo Rosso is one of the most nutrient-rich lettuce varieties. With its red “frill” at the top of the leaves, it delivers high levels of the supernutrient quercetin, which is linked to lowering bad cholesterol, and vitamin K, which is needed for strong bones.

Source - Times

St John's Wort helps cold hands

St John's Wort, the herb widely used to treat depression, may help patients with Raynaud's syndrome, a condition that makes sufferers' fingers and toes go white and numb.

In a new Canadian trial, patients will take three 300mg tablets, three times a day for six weeks. It is hoped the herb will not only decrease the frequency of attacks, but also the duration and severity.

Raynaud's is thought to affect around 10 million Britons. It occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the skin temporarily narrow. In some cases it may be linked to medication such as beta-blockers, but mostly there is no apparent cause.

Treatments often include antidepressants. These act on the brain chemical serotonin, which is known to narrow blood vessels.

Source - Daily Mail

St John's Wort also acts on serotonin.

Shock of grandmother's death restores sight of teenage girl blinded in windsurfing accident

A blind teenage windsurfer has had her sight restored - by the trauma of her grandmother's death.

Charly Sissons went blind from shock after a windsurfing accident last summer triggered a repressed memory of her being bullied and held underwater when she was a child. But this year, her grandmother Dorothy's death restored the 15-year-old's sight. Charly said: 'It was amazing. I was crying over Nan dying, and then I was crying tears of joy that I could see again.'

Charly was plunged into a world of darkness last August after she was trapped under her board while windsurfing. The accident triggered memories of being bullied when she was four years old when another girl held her underwater during a swimming lesson.

She said: 'The details of who did it and what happened after are hazy, but I have vivid memories of thinking I was going to die. When I was out windsurfing last year, I suddenly lost it and fell into the water. The board was on top of me and I was tangled underneath the sail. For a few seconds, I panicked. All of a sudden I suffered a flashback to being four years old.'

The next day her eyesight started to fail. She said: 'It was as if I was looking through two black rings. I was very frightened.' Days later, she had lost all the sight in her right eye and could only make out fuzzy shapes in her other.

Her mother Gill, 53, drove her straight to the nearest accident and emergency unit where she immediately referred to a specialist eye clinic.

The next day. Charly went totally blind.

Source - Daily Mail

Can lack of sleep drive you mad?

How long could you manage without sleep? The current record-holder is Randy Gardner, who as a 17-year-old Californian high-school student back in 1964 managed a staggering 265 hours – or 11 days – without so much as a nap.

“I wanted to prove that bad things didn’t happen if you went without sleep,” Gardner explained. In fact, by the time he finally broke the record, Gardner had endured crippling exhaustion, forgetfulness, dizziness, slurred speech and blurred vision. He’d been moody and irritable, and unable to concentrate on the simplest tasks. He’d even experienced hallucinations and delusions (on one occasion, for instance, imagining that he was the legendary San Diego Chargers’ running back Paul Lowe). “We got halfway through the damn thing and I thought, ‘This is tough. I don’t want to do this any more,’ ” Gardner recalled in 2006. “But everybody was looking at me so I couldn’t quit.”

Of course, you don’t need to have made an attempt on Randy Gardner’s record to know that lack of sleep can have some pretty unwelcome consequences. Anyone who has ever had to suffer a sleepless night will know just how disruptive it can be. The following day we’re tired, irritable, a little miserable, and generally out of sorts. And the longer sleep problems go on, the more wretched we feel.

The consequences don’t end there. It’s long been known that people with psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) don’t sleep well. Until recently, it was assumed their sleep difficulties were a product of the psychological problem. But research suggests that the process may also work in the opposite direction: persistent sleep problems may help cause and exacerbate a number of common mental illnesses.

Source - Independent

Hope for test to measure ageing

Scientists are developing a simple blood test to measure how fast the body's tissues are ageing at a molecular level.

They have found that as tissue ages, concentrations of a protein called p16INK4a dramatically increases. Measuring levels of the protein could potentially provide a way to assess how healthy the tissues are, and how they will respond to surgery or drugs.

The University of North Carolina study appears in the journal Aging Cell.

Scientists are already interested in p16INK4a because it is known to play a role in suppressing the development of cancer. The protein is present in the T-cells of the immune system, which play a key role in fighting disease, and repairing tissue damage.

Source - BBC

Cancer boost from whole carrots

The anti-cancer properties of carrots are more potent if the vegetable is not cut up before cooking, research shows.

Scientists found "boiled before cut" carrots contained 25% more of the anti-cancer compound falcarinol than those chopped up first. Experiments on rats fed falcarinol have shown they develop fewer tumours.

The Newcastle University study will be presented at NutrEvent, a conference on nutrition and health, to be held in France.

Lead researcher Dr Kirsten Brandt, from Newcastle University's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, said: "Chopping up your carrots increases the surface area so more of the nutrients leach out into the water while they are cooked. By keeping them whole and chopping them up afterwards you are locking in nutrients and the taste, so the carrot is better for you all round."

The Newcastle scientist, along with colleagues at the University of Denmark, discovered the health benefits of falcarinol in carrots four years ago.

Source - BBC

ADHD: the tale of one boy and a dog

Liam Creed is not the most voluble of 17-year-olds. No small talk, speaks to a visitor when spoken to, and in that sense he is entirely normal. Yet for him to spend 90 minutes without swearing, kicking anything or exploding out of the room is considerable progress, and that is the level of calm that I witnessed . As a child Liam was naughty and difficult. He pulled up plants, broke things, scratched cars, was excluded from school and had no friends. He was 8 when a psychiatrist said he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Did it make a difference to have an explanation, I ask. “Not really. I just used it as an excuse for everything,” Liam replies with a grin.

This is an honest answer, and gratifyingly off-script. I am talking to Liam because his name is on the cover of a book that charts the story of a 14-year-old boy who has ADHD and has reached the last-chance saloon at school, when he is invited to spend one day a week working for a charity called Canine Partners (www.caninepartners.co.uk), which trains dogs to help disabled people. He meets a lovable and mischievous 14-month-old labrador called Aero and over six months the boy learns to take charge of the dog. In due course, a brilliantly trained Aero bounds off to his new owner, and the boy into the sunset, his ADHD under control and with a dream of working with dogs burning in his heart.

The book is based on an outline provided by Liam and his mum; the saccharine-loaded brush strokes have been crafted by a ghost writer. This is not to underestimate the difficulties that Liam and his parents have faced, and his experiences are instructive. So are his responses because he has a habit of inadvertently putting his finger on the controversy that surrounds ADHD. As often happens with recently medicalised conditions — attention deficit disorder became ADHD in the 1980s and can be treated with drugs — the number of diagnoses has risen rapidly. It is estimated that up to 5 per cent of school-age children have the condition and sceptics regard it as a convenient label for anti-social children who have grown up without structure and can’t pass exams.

“I got into trouble a lot, just did things before I thought about them, probably because I wanted attention,” Liam says. “We didn’t know what to do until I was told what I had and was given Ritalin. The head teacher didn’t even believe in ADHD. Before I met Aero I didn’t think I was good at anything. After I met him I was like, I’m doing something with my life.”

Source - Times

Gossip is good for you: Women who chat regularly are happier and healthier

Their menfolk might argue that the last thing women need is another reason to gossip. But it actually makes them healthier, scientists claim.

Research shows gossiping boosts levels of progesterone, a hormone which reduces anxiety and stress. It also plays an important part in social bonding, making women happier.

Researchers at the University of Michigan put 160 female students in pairs, and half were given questions to ask each other designed to bring them closer together. These included 'Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?' and 'What has been your greatest accomplishment?' The remaining pairs were asked to proof-read a research paper on botany.

After 20 minutes, the students who got to know each other through 'chatty' questions saw progesterone levels stay the same or increase. But in the other group, progesterone declined.

Professor Stephanie Brown, who led the research, which was published in the journal Hormones and Behaviour, said: 'Many of the hormones involved in bonding and helping behaviour lead to reductions in stress and anxiety.'

Source - Daily Mail

It's official, stress CAN make your hair go grey (but it also protects against cancer)

Stress really can make your hair go grey, scientists have found.

As the pressure builds, the stem cells that replenish your hair colour become damaged, leaving the tell-tale silver crown, a study has shown. But the very visible sign of ageing appears to also have a beneficial effect - reducing the risk of cancer, a leading expert has claimed.

When scientists from Kanazawa University in Japan studied the effects of radiation and other chemicals on the fur of mice, they found that their coats greyed early. This is because stem cells in their hair follicles were forced to mature, slashing the production of melanin - the chemical that gives colour to the hair and skin, the team explains in the journal Cell.

But Dr David Fisher, chief of the department of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, said that blocking these stem cells, which have damaged DNA, from dividing is also beneficial. It could stop you developing a tumour, which is a ball of damaged cells that grow out of control.

‘Greying may actually be a safety mechanism,’ said Dr Fisher. ‘They’ve shown that this mechanism is actually removing damaged stem cells. The good news is if you do find yourself greying, you’re probably better off not having those cells persist.’

Source - Daily Mail

Lung patients get singing therapy

Doctors in London are investigating how singing can help seriously ill patients improve their breathing control.

Regular classes are being held at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Hundreds of patients have joined the sessions, and 60 have been enrolled in a clinical trial which is expected to publish results by the end of the year. Some patients who have joined the sessions say singing has transformed their lives.

Visitors to the Royal Brompton's Victoria Ward may be taken aback to hear the sound of music wafting down the corridor, together with banter, laughter and a cacophony of oral exercises. This is a place that specialises in high-dependency care for patients with severe lung disease.But it is also the venue for regular singing classes.

The voice trainer, Phoene Cave, says she is seeing improvements in breathing control even within one session.

"I'm helping them to become aware of their bodies in a way that they're not used to," she said. "I'm helping them become aware of their breathing patterns in a way they're not used to, and I'm helping them to relax and expand and have fun and to laugh and to connect with other people. "

The class begins with some vocal limbering up, including collective sighing, buzzing noises and ha-ha sounds up and down the scales. Then they move on to songs including "Drunken Sailor", "Cockles and Mussels" and "Kiss Me Honey Honey Kiss Me".

Source - BBC

Oily fish 'can halt eye disease'

People with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) should eat oily fish at least twice a week to keep their eye disease at bay, say scientists.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in abundance in fish like mackerel and salmon appear to slow or even halt the progress of both early and late stage disease.

The researchers base their findings on almost 3,000 people taking part in a trial of vitamins and supplements.

The findings are published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

An estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffer from AMD, which destroys central vision.

Source: BBC News

Alcohol: Is it really good for you?

Alcohol is bad for you. Red wine is good for the heart. It's all about moderation… Confused? You're not alone.

Government guidelines state that men and women should not consume more than 21 or 14 alcoholic drinks each week. Yet the Million Women study reported that just one drink a week increases your risk of breast, pharynx and liver cancer.

No wonder a recent UK survey for the World Cancer Research Fund found that people are deeply sceptical about claims for what causes or prevents cancer. In exploring the alcohol-cancer connection, Radio 4's Frontiers reveals a frightening lack of knowledge about how alcohol interacts with the body.

Toxic compounds

Scientists do not know definitively why we get hangovers or how alcohol may be causing cancer. Alcohol is metabolised in the body into toxic compounds - but how these compounds cause damage is unknown. Since genetics, gender and age play an important role in how we interact with alcohol, a safe amount for one is not safe for another.

The negative effects of alcohol on health and the economy are reported regularly in the media and highlighted by the government. But despite the link between alcohol and cancer being known for over 100 years, it is an area of research that is little understood and, according to many scientists, underfunded.

Source - BBC

Gum disease care 'aids arthritis'

People who have both gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis can relieve both conditions by treating their mouth infection, US researchers have found.

Patients who had treatments such as scaling and improved oral hygiene also saw their arthritis symptoms lessened. Gum care plus arthritis drugs was the best combination, the Journal of Periodontology study found.

Dental experts said the work supported previous research which found removing teeth could relieve arthritic pain. Gum disease is prevalent in people with rheumatoid arthritis - and vice versa. In both conditions, soft and hard tissues are destroyed due to inflammation caused by toxins from bacterial infection.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an incurable disease affecting mainly the small joints such as hands and feet, and affects around half a million people in the UK.

'Eliminated'

The researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland studied 40 patients who had both moderate to severe periodontal disease and a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis.

Source - BBC

The yoga miracle man who broke his back yet walks again

It was a spur-of-the-moment mistake and one that nearly cost Professor John Aplin his life. While out hill-walking in the Peak District in 1996, his two young sons Daniel, then 11, and Matthew, six, got stuck on rocks above a ravine and called for help.

In a panic, John attempted to climb a cliff to reach them, only to fall 30ft on to rocks. He suffered fractures to three vertebrae, a punctured lung, a broken wrist, several broken ribs, fingers and toes, and doctors feared he might never walk again. Yet despite his horrific injuries John was out of hospital in six weeks and back at work full-time within three months.

Twelve years on and he is as fit as ever. Last year he went climbing in the Dolomites in Italy as well as running in the Great Manchester 10km Run, his first long-distance competitive race.

John, a 56-year-old professor of reproductive biomedicine at Manchester University, credits his swift recovery to a special yoga programme he devised himself and now he is hopeful his experience could soon be helping others.

The first large-scale study of yoga as a treatment for back pain was completed last December. Before his accident John was a yoga enthusiast and took a course to enable him to run classes part-time. Those running the new trial, funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC), heard about his experiences and asked him to help lead the study. The final results will not be published until 2010.

However, if the positive early indications are right, GPs could soon be prescribing yoga classes rather than painkillers.

Source - Daily Mail

Manuka honey is the bees knees

The anti-bacterial properties of Manuka honey are so potent that it can heal wounds, treat stomach ulcers – and even fight MRSA.

Manuka honey is a sticky golden indulgence that doesn't just taste delicious on your toast, it can also boost your health. Originally produced in New Zealand, Britain's first Mauka maker, Tregothnan, based in Cornwall, is now offering pots of its honey for £55 a jar. Manufactured in special beehives costing £5000 each, the Manuka commands a high price because it possesses proven medicinal qualities – as well as being a treat for those with a sweet tooth.

What exactly is manuka honey?

Manuka is a mono-floral honey, so-called because the bees that make that it only gather pollen from the Manuka bush (Leptospermum Scoparium). The plant is indigenous to New Zealand but Britain and the USA are both beginning to grow it as well. Not all Manuka honey has healing properties – the type to keep in the medicine cupboard is that which has an "active" quality, meaning that its enzymes create chemical reactions within the honey. This quality is detected through laboratory testing in order to gain the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) rating which adorns jars of medical-grade honey.

Professor Peter Molan of the Honey Research Unit of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, says "Manuka has a very broad spectrum of action. It works on bacteria, fungi and protozoa. We haven't found anything it doesn't work on among infectious organisms."

Why is it so potent?

One of the most radical uses of Manuka is as a preventative for MRSA in open wounds. The sugars present in the honey create the effect of osmosis; whereby sugars in the honey attract all the water particles in the wound, depriving infectious bacteria of their vital source for growth. This reduces the likeliness of the infection spreading. Hydrogen Peroxide has also been found within the honey and acts as a anti-bacterial substance. The bees release an enzyme which in water converts sugar and oxygen to glucoronic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Manuka honey has a pH of 3.2 – 4.5 which is low enough to reduce the development of many pathogens. Manuka was licensed for use by the NHS to fight MRSA in cancer patients in 2004 after trials in Manchester's Christie Hospital.

Source - Independent

The 10 Best Herbal Remedies

You might think it's a load of mumbo jumbo but you won't know until you've tried.

Here's a list of ten alternatives to chemical-laden, expensive products that will often do the same job - if not better. Most of these herbal remedies and natural products have been around almost as long as religion - but if you’re sceptical about that too you might be pleased to know there’s some science behind a number of these natural alternatives.

Witch Hazel

There's no need to buy expensive products that contain Witch Hazel - although they're more likely to be better for the skin than most - a bottle of distilled witch hazel from any chemist lasts ages and should cost about £1.20.

It is a strong anti-oxidant and astringent, which makes it great for fighting acne. You can use daily as a skin cleanser, but depends on skin-type as for some it dries out the skin. Witch Hazel can also help with bruising, sores, cuts and swelling.

Eucalyptus

As Eucalyptus is a decongestant, it can often be found in cough sweets and lozenges. A small bottle costs £1 and I recommend putting a few drops around a pillow at night if you're feeling blocked up. Though best not to put it where your face/mouth will directly touch as it might sting a little.

Source - Independent

Natural bleach 'key to healing'

A natural bleach produced by the body appears to play a key role in marshalling the immune system to fight off infection and heal wounds.

US scientists, working on zebrafish, which have similar genes to humans, found a burst of hydrogen peroxide is released following a tissue injury. This seems to be the signal for white blood cells to converge at the site of damage and begin the healing process. The Nature study may help explain conditions such as asthma.

Asthma, obstruction in the lungs and some inflammatory gut diseases have all been linked to high levels of white blood cells. Although zebrafish would at first appear to have nothing in common with humans, they do have similar genes and are widely used to investigate biological processes.

The researchers, from Harvard Medical School, inserted into the fish a gene that glows in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. They discovered that when the tail fins of these fish were injured, a burst of hydrogen peroxide was released from the wound and into the surrounding tissue. Teams of white blood cells appeared to respond to this chemical signal, arriving at the site of the wound to begin the healing process.

When the researchers blocked the ability to produce hydrogen peroxide, white blood cells failed to respond to the injury.

Source - BBC

Why putting your feet up could make a bad back worse

Putting your feet up when you have a bad back will make your condition worse, experts warned yesterday.

Instead, the best way to soothe pain and improve mobility is to work out in the gym as often as four times a week, they claim. The research casts doubt on the widely held assumption that resting will reduce chronic back pain - suggesting this weakens muscles and could make the problem worse. It also contradicts guidance issued by the Government's rationing watchdog NICE last week.

This said there was little evidence that exercise helps relieve pain any more than 'traditional' treatments such as acupuncture. Instead, it urged doctors to give patients the choice of acupuncture or chiropracty, treatments dismissed as useless by most medical experts.

For the latest study, Canadian researchers followed 240 patients with chronic lower back pain. Resistance training with weights brought dramatic improvements in quality of life in only a few weeks. Those exercising four times a week reported 28 per cent less pain and 36 per cent less disability than the patients who rested.

Assistant professor Robert Kell, of the University of Alberta in Canada, said: 'If a person with a bad back doesn't go to a physician for advice, what they generally do is nothing. They say, my back hurts and I need to rest it. But actually it will become worse because their back muscles weaken. They actually aggravate the situation. Our research shows the opposite is the best policy, and exercise is good for your back.'

Source - Daily Mail

How the humble hydrangea shrub could hold the key to curing MS, diabetes and arthritis

It's bright and beautiful flowers bring a splash of colour to gardens all over Britain. But it seems the hydrangea is more than just a pretty bloom.

A drug made from its roots could be used to treat a raft of common diseases, researchers say.

The colourful shrub - a staple of Chinese medicine - has the power to 'revolutionise' the treatment of multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and some forms of diabetes and arthritis, scientists claimed yesterday. These diseases occur when the immune system attacks the body. Existing treatments are expensive, have to be injected, and do not address the biological cause of the problem.

Powerful drugs which suppress the immune system can be used as a last resort but leave patients at risk of infections and other serious side-effects. Now it appears that a medicine derived from the hydrangea's root could offer an alternative. Experiments found that it blocked the formation of a type of white blood cell involved in autoimmune disease.

Crucially, the drug does not seem to affect other kinds of cell vital to the body's defences - meaning it does not otherwise inhibit the immune system. Mice with a multiple sclerosis-like disease were far less severely affected when given low doses of the hydrangea-based drug, which is called halofuginone, the journal Science reported. Halofuginone is already used to treat a rare autoimmune disease which affects the skin and internal organs.

Source - BBC

Insomnia? Well, here's a few ideas for you to sleep on

THE worst thing in the world," wrote F Scott Fitzgerald, "is to try to sleep and not to".

If you're fortunate enough to enjoy a regular eight hours, that assertion may not cut much ice, but it's certainly likely to strike a chord if you're one of the 16 million people in the UK who had difficulty sleeping last night – or the parent of one of the 25 per cent of children who at some stage suffer from sleep problems.

The occasional bad night isn't anything to worry about. We may feel out of sorts the following day, but studies indicate we can function pretty well. However, if we're regularly going without sufficient sleep – running up a sleep debt, to use the jargon – some serious consequences can follow. And that holds for adults and children.

Last month, for example, a team of Finnish researchers published a study suggesting kids who get relatively little sleep (less than 7.7 hours a night in their sample of 280 aged seven to eight) are more likely to display behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity, restlessness, impulsiveness and lack of concentration. This sort of behaviour, when severe and prolonged, can be an indication of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Source - Scotsman

Tai chi could end pain of arthritis sufferers

Arthritis sufferers could end years of agonising pain by taking up lessons in tai chi, scientists have claimed.

Researchers say the Far Eastern exercise routine has a marked effect on cutting pain among people with arthritis. Specifically, it was shown to decrease pain with trends towards improving overall physical health, level of tension and satisfaction with health status. Musculoskeletal pain, such as that experienced by people with arthritis, places a severe burden on the patient and community and is recognised as an international health priority.

Exercise therapy including such as strengthening, stretching and aerobic programmes, have been shown to be effective for arthritic pain. Tai chi is a form of exercise that is regularly practised in China to improve overall health and wellbeing. It is usually preformed in a group, but is also practised individually at one's leisure, which differs from traditional exercise therapy approaches used in the clinic.

Source - Telegraph

Warning: brain overload

Scientists fear that a digital flood of 24-hour rolling news and infotainment is putting our primitive grey matter under such stress that we can no longer think wisely or empathise with others

Every day, just to keep up to date, that grey lump between your ears has to shovel ever bigger piles of infotainment — tottering jumbles of global-warming updates, web gossip, refugee crises, e-mails, fashion alerts, Twitters and advertisements. Now research suggests that we may have reached an historic point in human evolution, where the digital world we have created has begun to outpace our neurons’ processing abilities.

The result is that our data-numbed brains increasingly say “whatever” to the world’s troubles. The trauma we witness on our screens — and the indignation that it should spark — goes unprocessed as our minds seek refuge in simpler things, such as whether Su-Bo should have won Britain’s Got Talent. But the sense of mind-lag and unease that result from info-overload may be causing significant levels of anxiety and depression.

The concerns have been raised by two newly published studies which indicate that streaming digital news may now run faster than our ability to make moral judgments. Rapid info-bursts of stabbings, suffering, eco-threat and war are consumed on a “yes-blah” level but don’t make us indignant, compassionate or inspired. It seems that the quicker we know, the less we may care — and the less humane we become.

One fear is that habitual rapid media-browsing can, ironically, block our ability to develop wisdom. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, announced recently that they had compiled compelling evidence that even the universal traits of human wisdom — empathy, compassion, altruism, tolerance and emotional stability — are hard-wired into our brains. In Archives of General Psychiatry, Professor Dilip Jeste says that neurons associated with those attributes seem to be sited primarily in areas of the prefrontal cortex — the slower-acting, recently evolved regions of our brain that are bypassed when the world feels stressful and our primitive survival instincts grab the controls.

Source - Times

Yoga reduces asthma attacks, say researchers

Yoga can almost halve the symptoms of asthma after just ten weeks, say researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine.

They put a group of asthmatics through two yoga classes a week and asked them to practise for an extra 30 minutes at home once a week.

At the end of the trial, the subjects - all yoga novices - reported that the severity and frequency of their symptoms had reduced, while their quality of life had improved by more than 40 per cent. It's thought that the deep breathing involved in holding yoga postures causes similar respiratory stress as in an asthma attack - as the subjects became used to this, they were better able to deal with their asthma.

Source - Daily Mail

The shoes that heal: They claim to ease back pain, burn calories and tone your bottom. But do they live up to their promise?

They're the latest thing in health and fitness - shoes that are 'functional'. These promise a whole range of benefits from improving your posture and soothing arthritic feet to toning your bottom muscles. But does such footwear live up to the hype? We asked Emma Supple and Lorraine Jones of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists to review some of the newest products on the market.

Source - Daily Mail

Green tea health claim lands Tetley in hot water

An advert for Tetley tea has been banned because it misled viewers into thinking that a cuppa has health benefits.

The TV commercial shows a young woman who decides not to go jogging and instead drinks a cup of green tea. A voiceover says: 'For an easy way to help look after yourself, pick up Tetley Green Tea. It's full of antioxidants.'

The advertising watchdog ruled that this implied the tea was beneficial to health, when in fact there is no evidence to suggest it is better for you than water.

Four viewers complained that the advert suggested Tetley Green Tea had the same or similar health benefits as exercise. In the commercial the woman is seen warming up for exercise. She opens her front door, as if to go for a jog, but sees it is raining she goes back inside. She is then seen making a cup of tea as the voiceover is heard and the words 'As part of a healthy diet and lifestyle' appear on screen.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the commercial breached codes dealing with evidence and accuracy.

Source - Daily Mail

Weekly curry 'may fight dementia'

Eating a curry once or twice a week could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, a US researcher suggests.

The key ingredient is curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric. Curcumin appears to prevent the spread of amyloid protein plaques - thought to cause dementia - in the brain. But the theory, presented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists' annual meeting, has been given a lukewarm reception by UK experts.

Amyloid plaques, along with tangles of nerve fibres, are thought to contribute to the degradation of the wiring in brain cells, eventually leading to symptoms of dementia. Professor Murali Doraiswamy, of Duke University in North Carolina, said there was evidence that people who eat a curry meal two or three times a week have a lower risk of dementia.

He said researchers were testing the impact of higher doses - the equivalent of going on a curry spree for a week - to see if they could maximise the effect.

Source - BBC

ME: Proof that it isn't all in the mind?

Anna's deterioration was rapid and unrelenting. One moment the pretty, young Scandinavian woman was at the peak of youthful vitality, newly married and excited about the future. The next, that future was much diminished, her life limited to the environs of her bedroom, and dictated to by the illness that had overwhelmed her.

It had started with persistent fatigue, muscle pain, and a growing sensitivity to light after a honeymoon trip to Mexico in the summer of 2006. By December, she was in a wheelchair. Three months later she was bedridden, her face pale, her features shrunken, barely able to move or talk, and being fed through a naso-gastric tube.

Anna – not her real name as her identity is being protected at the request of her family – was the subject of a short film shown at a conference in London last week. Her case, according to Professor Kenny De Meirleir of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, illustrates the worst ravages of myalgic encephalomyelitis/encephalopathy or ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome or post viral fatigue syndrome.

Once it was derided as "yuppie flu" because, following its emergence in the early Eighties, its "typical" victim was, supposedly, a high-achieving young professional. ME was also assumed by many doctors, and much of the public, to be psychosomatic in origin – if it existed at all.

In more enlightened times, ME is now accepted by the World Health Organisation, and Britain's medical royal colleges, as a complex, chronic disease of varying severity characterised by a complex set of symptoms. (In addition to extreme fatigue, and general malaise, there are musco-skeletal symptoms, especially muscle pain, brain and central nervous symptoms, evidence of immune system dysfunction, mood swings, depression etc.) According to the ME Association, there are 250,000 sufferers in Britain.

Source - Telegraph

Why the benefits of massage may be a myth

To top athletes and anyone else who exercises a lot or has put him or herself through the rigours of a marathon or triathlon, a regular massage is considered almost as essential to keeping the body in condition as diet and training. After all, the kind of deep-tissue massage practised by registered sports massage therapists promises to increase blood flow to aching muscles and flush out metabolic waste products such as lactic acid after a hard workout.

Nothing could be better for your aching limbs. Or could it? In a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual conference in Seattle this week, researchers claimed to have blown the myth that massage speeds up recovery from exercise. Professor Michael Tschavovsky of the health studies department at Queens University in Ontario, Canada, says that while most massage therapists believe that their work boosts circulation to the muscles and reduces fatigue, no study before his had tested the validity of this theory.

Tschavovsky asked 12 healthy male subjects to perform isometric hand-grip exercises for two minutes at a time while he and his team measured blood flow and lactic acid build-up every 30 seconds and for ten minutes after the exercise had finished. They also took the same measurements during rest, when the subjects had massage and during “active recovery” such as gentle jogging, walking or stretching. What they found was that massage did not increase — but decreased — blood flow to the muscles and hindered rather than improved the removal of lactic acid and other waste materials by as much as 25 per cent compared to “active recovery”.

Source - Times

Doctors condemn homeopathic treatments for Aids and malaria

Homeopathic treatments continue to be sold as treatments for HIV/Aids, malaria and other serious diseases, despite containing no active ingredients, doctors and medical researchers say.

Campaigners want the World Health Organisation (WHO) to publicly condemn the “highly unethical” use of the treatments, which they say give patients false hope and put lives at risk.

The Voice of Young Science Network, an association of young doctors and scientists, called on the WHO to act amid fears that vulnerable patients are dying after turning to homeopathic preparations for HIV, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, influenza and infant diarrhoea, instead of medicines which are proven to be effective.

In an open letter to the WHO today, the researchers — many of whom have worked in developing countries — urge the UN’s health body to make clear that homeopathy cannot prevent or treat these five conditions.

Source - Times

New cost-cutting NHS guidelines on back pain 'will lead to more surgery'

Thousands of patients could undergo unnecessary spinal operations because of new NHS guidelines on treatments for lower back pain, warn experts.

Dozens of hospital consultants say the ‘cost- cutting’ restrictions mean more patients will end up having major surgery. They claim less risky procedures using spinal injections have been wrongly dismissed as ineffective, even though they help hundreds of thousands of patients with chronic back pain each year.

Guidelines issued earlier this week by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) set out permitted treatments for patients whose back pain has lasted for at least six weeks but less than a year. They endorsed widespread use of ‘alternative’ therapy, letting patients opt for a three-month course of acupuncture, manual therapy such as physiotherapy, or exercise.

Described as a ‘sea-change’ for back pain sufferers, the guidelines also told doctors not to recommend therapies with ‘little evidence’ to support them, controversially including injections of small amounts of steroids into the back, MRI scans, X-rays and ultrasound. Now, many patients who fail to respond to initial treatment could miss out this intermediate stage and proceed straight to risky spinal fusion operations.

NICE estimates the NHS will make annual savings of £33million on back injections and £11million on MRI scans. However, it will spend £24million extra on acupuncture and £16million extra on manual therapy, making the cost-cutting aspect negligible.

Around 50 specialists belonging to the Interventional Pain Medicine Group of the British Pain Society are writing to NICE, claiming it has dismissed good evidence about spinal injections, which do not cure pack pain but give a period of relief from chronic pain.

Source - Daily Mail

A glass of wine a day 'can cut gallstone risk'

A pint of beer or a glass of wine a day can protect against gallstones, scientists have found.

Drinking two units a day reduces the risk of developing the painful stones by a third.
It had long been known that moderate drinking can reduce the chances of gallstone formation, but this is the first study to show how much was required. It is the latest evidence that consumption of small amounts of alcohol can be beneficial to your health. Other studies have linked it to lower rates of heart attack or stroke.

Dr Andrew Hart, from the University of East Anglia, said the new study may now allow doctors to offer specific guidance on avoiding the formation or growth of gallstones, without introducing the risk of excessive alcohol consumption.

His team examined the dietary habits of 25,639 people with questionnaires over a 10-year period, during which time 267 patients developed gallstones. Results showed that those who consumed two units of alcohol per day had a one-third reduction in their risk of developing gallstones. Two units is equal to a pint of beer, a medium-sized glass of wine, or a double shot of whisky.

For every unit of alcohol consumed per week the chances of developing a gallstone decreased by three per cent.

Dr Hart, senior lecturer in gastroenterology at UEA's school of medicine, health policy and practice, in Norwich, said the findings were an important step towards finding a way to stop the formation of gallstones.

Source - Daily Mail

Mood music can help babies cope with pain

Playing music to babies in hospital can ease their pain and help with feeding, according to research published today.

An analysis of nine clinical trials found that music had a beneficial effect on lessening pain when premature babies were subject to procedures such as heel prick blood tests. Babies born at full-term also appeared to experience less pain when they underwent operations such as circumcision. Some of the studies showed music could help premature babies who struggled with feeding. However, the authors called for more rigorous studies before recommendations are made on the use of music to help babies develop.

The research, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, was carried out by experts at the University of Alberta in Canada. The music played included live music, classical, female vocalists, recorded lullabies and recorded nursery rhymes.

They reviewed trials published between 1989 and 2006. Many of the studies found that music helped babies, shown through measurements of heart rate, oxygen saturation and pain levels.

Source - Independent

Revealed: the best protection against cancer

Boosting levels of vitamin D could cut the incidence of breast cancer by a quarter, bowel cancer by a third and it should be offered to the population as part of a public health drive, scientists say.

The finding is based on a review of 2,750 research studies involving vitamin D, sometimes called "bottled sunshine", which show that taking daily supplements of the vitamin could do more for cancer prevention than a library full of lifestyle advice.

Vitamin D is made by the action of sunlight on the skin but the gloomy weather and long winter in countries north of 30 degrees latitude, such as the UK, means that a large part of the earth's population is deficient between October and March.

Vitamin D has attracted increasing attention in recent years as its role in preventing cancer and other conditions including heart disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, has been revealed. The weight of evidence has grown so dramatically that governments around the world are reviewing their recommendations. The US and Canadian governments have set up a taskforce on vitamin D, and the Scottish government is taking expert advice. The pressure is now on the Department of Health in England to respond.

Scotland's chief medical officer, Harry Burns, attended a conference last November convened by the Scottish government at which international experts recommended randomised trials be established in the wake of strong evidence that increased intake could improve health.

High rates of heart disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis in Scotland have been blamed on the weak sunlight and short summers. Some experts believe the benefits of the Mediterranean diet have as much to do with the sun as with the regional food. However, too much sun exposure leading to sunburn is damaging to the skin and a cause of malignant melanoma, one of the most rapidly growing – and deadly – cancers. Figures published this month show cases of melanoma have topped 10,000 annually for the first time.

Now scientists at the University of Edinburgh have been awarded a £225,000 grant to investigate the link between low levels of vitamin D in Scotland and bowel cancer.

The US and Canadian government taskforce is examining whether the current recommendation for people to achieve a blood level of vitamin D equivalent to taking 200-600 international units (IU) a day, depending on their age, should be increased. The recommended level was set in 1997 and is based on what was necessary for bone health, not cancer prevention.

Source - Independent

Routine aspirin benefits queried

Low-dose aspirin should not routinely be used to prevent heart attacks and strokes, contrary to official guidance, say UK researchers.

Analysis of data from over 100,000 clinical trial participants found the risk of harm largely cancelled out the benefits of taking the drug. Only those who have already had a heart attack or stroke should be advised to take a daily aspirin, they found. The Lancet study should help clarify a "confusing" issue, GPs said.

The NHS drugs watchdog, the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), has not made a ruling in this area. But experts in the UK, US and Europe recommend aspirin for people who have not already had a heart attack or stroke, but are at high risk of cardiovascular disease because of factors such as age, blood pressure and cholesterol level.

This strategy, known as primary prevention, is based on the result of studies looking at predicted risks and benefits in this population. But the latest research provides clearer evidence because it is based on data from individuals, the researchers said.

They looked at heart attacks and strokes and major bleeds - a potential side effect of aspirin - in six primary prevention trials, involving 95,000 people at low to average risk and 16 trials involving 17,000 people at high risk - because they had already had a heart attack or stroke.

Use of aspirin in the lower-risk group was found to reduce non-fatal heart attacks by around a fifth, with no difference in the risk of stroke or deaths from vascular causes. But it also increased the risk of internal bleeding by around a third.

Source - BBC

Tomato pill 'beats heart disease'

Scientists say a natural supplement made from tomatoes, taken daily, can stave off heart disease and strokes.

The tomato pill contains an active ingredient from the Mediterranean diet - lycopene - that blocks "bad" LDL cholesterol that can clog the arteries. Ateronon, made by a biotechnology spin-out company of Cambridge University, is being launched as a dietary supplement and will be sold on the high street. Experts said more trials were needed to see how effective the treatment is.

Preliminary trials involving around 150 people with heart disease indicate that Ateronon can reduce the oxidation of harmful fats in the blood to almost zero within eight weeks, a meeting of the British Cardiovascular Society will be told at Ateronon's launch on Monday.

Neuroscientist Peter Kirkpatrick, who will lead a further research project at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge on behalf of Cambridge Theranostics Ltd, said the supplement could be much more effective than statin drugs that are currently used by doctors to treat high cholesterol.

But Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation said: "As always, we caution people to wait for any new drug or modified 'natural' product to be clinically proven to offer benefits before taking it.

Source - BBC