Vitamin D deficiency linked to strokes, heart disease: study

Insufficient intake of vitamin D, long known to play a key role in bone health, may significantly increase a person's risk of stroke, heart disease and even death, a US study said Monday.

Examining 27,686 Utah patients aged 50 or older with no history of cardiovascular disease, the study found those with very low vitamin D levels were 77 percent more likely to die early than those with normal levels. They were also found to be 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease and 78 percent were more likely to have a stroke, said the research by the Heart Institute at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

Those with very low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to develop heart failure, said the study which was due to be presented later Monday at a conference organized by the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida.

"If increasing levels of vitamin D can decrease some risk associated with these cardiovascular diseases, it could have a significant public health impact," said study co-author Heidi May, noting that vitamin D deficiency is easily treatable. When you consider that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America, you understand how this research can help improve the length and quality of people's lives."

Source - Independent

Drink half a dozen beers every day and have a healthier heart

Drinking a bottle of wine a day, or half a dozen beers, cuts the risk of heart disease by more than half in men, it has been shown.

In one of the largest studies of the link between alcohol and heart disease, researchers have found that the protective effects of a daily tipple are not limited to those who drink moderately but also extend to those who consume at what are conventionally considered to be dangerously high levels.

The researchers, who are from the public health department of the Basque government in San Sebastian, a region with one of the highest drinking rates in Europe, warned that alcohol caused millions of deaths a year around the world from other causes and their findings should not be taken as a licence to drink to oblivion. British scientists said the study, published in the journal Heart, was "flawed". The research was conducted among 15,000 men and 26,000 women aged from 29 to 69 who were followed for 10 years.

The results showed that those who drank a little – a glass of wine or a bottle of beer every other day – had a 35 per cent lower risk of a heart attack than those who never drank. Moderate drinkers, consuming up to a couple of glasses of wine a day or a couple of pints of ordinary bitter, had a 54 per cent lower risk.

The surprise was that heavy drinkers consuming up to a bottle of wine or six pints of ordinary bitter had a similar 50 per cent reduction in risk of a heart attack to moderate drinkers. Those drinking at even higher levels were still half as likely to suffer a heart attack as the teetotallers.

Source - Independent

Dirt can be good for children, say scientists

Children should be allowed to get dirty, according to scientists who have found being too clean can impair the skin's ability to heal.

Normal bacteria living on the skin trigger a pathway that helps prevent inflammation when we get hurt, the US team discovered. The bugs dampen down overactive immune responses that can cause cuts and grazes to swell, they say. Their work is published in the online edition of Nature Medicine.

Experts said the findings provided an explanation for the "hygiene hypothesis", which holds that exposure to germs during early childhood primes the body against allergies. Many believe our obsession with cleanliness is to blame for the recent boom in allergies in developed countries.

'Good' bacteria

Researchers from the School of Medicine at University of California, San Diego, found a common bacterial species, known as Staphylococci, blocked a vital step in a cascade of events that led to inflammation.

Source - BBC

Plastic chemicals 'feminise boys'

Chemicals in plastics alter the brains of baby boys, making them "more feminine", say US researchers.

Males exposed to high doses in the womb went on to be less likely to play with boys' toys like cars or to join in rough and tumble games, they found. The University of Rochester team's latest work adds to concerns about the safety of phthalates, found in vinyl flooring and PVC shower curtains.

The findings are reported in the International Journal of Andrology.

Plastic furniture

Phthalates have the ability to disrupt hormones, and have been banned in toys in the EU for some years. However, they are still widely used in many different household items, including plastic furniture and packaging. There are many different types and some mimic the female hormone oestrogen.

The same researchers have already shown that this can mean boys are born with genital abnormalities. Now they say certain phthalates also impact on the developing brain, by knocking out the action of the male hormone testosterone.

Dr Shanna Swan and her team tested urine samples from mothers over midway through pregnancy for traces of phthalates. The women, who gave birth to 74 boys and 71 girls, were followed up when their children were aged four to seven and asked about the toys the youngsters played with and the games they enjoyed.

Source - BBC

Meditation 'eases heart disease'

Heart disease patients who practise Transcendental Meditation have reduced death rates, US researchers have said.

At a meeting of the American Heart Association they said they had randomly assigned 201 African Americans to meditate or to make lifestyle changes. After nine years, the meditation group had a 47% reduction in deaths, heart attacks and strokes.

The research was carried out by the Medical College in Wisconsin with the Maharishi University in Iowa.

It was funded by a £2.3m grant from the National Institute of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

'Significant benefits'

The African American men and women had an average age of 59 years and a narrowing of the arteries in their hearts. he meditation group were asked to practise for 20 minutes twice a day. The lifestyle change group received education classes in traditional risk factors, including dietary modification and exercise.

Over 9 years, there were 20 events (heart attacks, strokes or death) in the meditation group and 31 in the health education group.

Dr Robert Schneider, lead author and director of the Centre for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the Maharishi University in Iowa said:

"At the end of the 9 years, 80% of the meditation group were still practising at least once a day. But there was very little change in the health education group. Their lifestyle was much the same in terms of diet and exercise - it's a very difficult thing to make those changes."

Source - BBC

Noise 'worse for dyslexic pupils'

Children with dyslexia find it harder to hear in noisy classrooms than those without the condition, a US study says.

Pupils with poor reading skills were also more likely to struggle to retain information when there was background noise, researchers reported in Neuron. They said the findings, based on tests on 30 children, might help to develop new ways to diagnose the condition.

The team from Northwestern University, in Chicago, said pupils with dyslexia might also need extra support in class.

Wireless technology

They said placing children with dyslexia in front of the teacher could make a big difference. And they suggested other steps, such as providing such pupils with wireless technologies and noise-reducing headphones to pick up information better.

Dyslexia is a neurological disorder which affects reading and spelling skills in between 5% to 10% of children.

Source - BBC

Hypnosis has 'real' brain effect

Hypnosis has a "very real" effect that can be picked up on brain scans, say Hull University researchers.

An imaging study of hypnotised participants showed decreased activity in the parts of the brain linked with daydreaming or letting the mind wander. The same brain patterns were absent in people who had the tests but who were not susceptible to being hypnotised. One psychologist said the study backed the theory that hypnosis "primes" the brain to be open to suggestion.

Hypnosis is increasingly being used to help people stop smoking or lose weight and advisers recently recommended its use on the NHS to treat irritable bowel syndrome. It is not the first time researchers have tried to use imaging studies to monitor brain activity in people under hypnosis.

But the Hull team said these had been done while people had been asked to carry out tasks, so it was not clear whether the changes in the brain were due to the act of doing the task or an effect of hypnosis.

In the latest study, the team first tested how people responded to hypnosis and selected 10 individuals who were "highly suggestible" and seven people who did not really respond to the technique other than becoming more relaxed.

The participants were asked to do a task under hypnosis, such as listening to non-existent music, but unknown to them the brain activity was being monitored in the rest periods in between tasks, the team reported in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

Source - BBC

Warning over 'herbal Valium'

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said people should be on their guard over unlicensed herbal medicines containing the plant aconite.

Aconite, also known as monkshood, is "extremely poisonous" and could be fatal or cause serious illness, it said. The watchdog has received two reports of suspected serious side effects, with one person suffering kidney problems and another suffering dizziness and paresthesia, which is an abnormal sensation of skin numbness or tingling.

Richard Woodfield, head of herbal policy at the MHRA, said it was vital people did not confuse herbal medicines and homeopathic ones.

"Registered homeopathic products that contain aconite are considered acceptably safe as the active ingredient, aconite, is sufficiently diluted," he said. "Herbal medicines are made from plants and so can have a very significant effect on the body. In certain cases, such as with aconite, the medicine can be extremely potent. This is a classic case where 'natural' does not mean 'safe'."

Source - Telegraph

Zero Balancing: reclaim your body's natural balance

Zero Balancing is a hands-on therapy that claims to fix body and mind.

Good bodywork can soothe away the strains of modern life. It can unravel taut muscles, banish backache and even soften emotional stress. Yet many people flinch at the intimacy or intrusiveness.

Lying stark naked on the floor or having probing fingers dive under the ribs is a touch too much for those with a bashful disposition or a low pain threshold. So three cheers for Zero Balancing, a highly effective bodywork system tailor-made for the shy and retiring.

Zero Balancing (ZB) was developed by Dr Fritz Smith, an American doctor, acupuncturist and osteopath, who investigated a wide range of bodywork therapies and "energy healing" techniques. In 1973 he introduced his new form of therapy, describing it as "a blending of Eastern and Western ideas in terms of body and structure. It brings energy concepts into touch, or body handling".

Its practitioners train for two and a half years and are already healthcare professionals. In Britain, they tend to be doctors, nurses, osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and acupuncturists. Sessions are pragmatic and non-invasive. You won't have to spill your deepest feelings or strip off.

I first experienced ZB about 17 years ago and was very impressed, but there weren't many practitioners around. Now there are more than 200 in Britain and I visited Richard Walters, near Exeter, to refresh my memory.

We chatted a little and Walters asked if there was anything that needed attention. I had the usual neck and back strain of the habitual desk-wallah, plus my knee had turned nasty and I was limping badly. Walters nodded and made me take off my shoes and sit on the couch, so he could evaluate my spine. Then I simply lay back and relaxed for the rest of the session.

The Zero Balance touch is quite deep (it works on the bone, rather than the soft tissue) but not unpleasant. "It doesn't make demands on the body," says Walters. "We don't have an opinion of how a body should be. We just find places that are tight and see what the body wants to do."

Source - Telegraph

How would you cope on a silent retreat?

Charmian Evans turned her back on her busy, urban life and spent three days on a silent retreat. f Harry Potter had walked in and yelled “Expelliarmus!”, the effect could not have been more dramatic. At the ting of a tiny gong, 30 chattering strangers – a doctor, bank manager, farmer, builder, solicitor, nurse – became mute, and remained like that for an entire weekend. They shut up as part of a three-day retreat to get away from the ever noisier world.

“A silent retreat?” shrieked friends when I told them where I was going. I grinned sheepishly knowing that it would be a bit like trying to muzzle me. I didn’t care; I could do with some peace and quiet. For townies, at least, this is the noisiest time of the year, with Diwali firecrackers and Bonfire Night fireworks providing a nightly chorus that lasts for weeks.

So when that gong sounded, I was relieved. The tranquility of this Buddhist retreat – held at Gaia House, an imposing Georgian house near Newton Abbott in Devon, set in acres of beautiful gardens – would be good enough for Buddha himself.

Previously a convent, what used to be the nun’s chapel is now the main hall, where we had our introduction to meditation. No previous experience was necessary, though I noted that as we sat down for a 10-minute welcome speech, several people folded themselves up in yoga-like positions that would make a chiropractor proud. I plumped for a chair with a big cushion.

Based on a Burmese technique called Mahasi, which teaches you to be aware of your every action, right down to the way you walk, the retreat was lead by a cheery Buddhist monk, Bhante Bodhidhamma, from the Satipanya Buddhist Retreat near Shrewsbury.

He showed us a breathing pattern to lull us into a meditative state, and soon his reassuring tones began to make me unfurl from the day, glad to be rid of the phones, the car and the computer. Life seemed to slow, like a gramophone record played at the wrong speed, and before I knew it we were shaking ourselves down in readiness for bed.

Source - Telegraph

Just how safe are herbal medicines?

While many of us believe that "herbal" is synonymous with "safe", herbal remedies can in fact be deadly

Herbal remedies made from plant leaves, bark, berries, flowers, and roots have been used to heal illnesses, diseases, and psychological disorders for centuries. Today, with the ease of the internet, you can self-diagnose, order next day delivery, and even learn how to make your own. Last year three million Britons took herbal remedies to treat everything from fever to joint pain.

But renewed debate about the safety of these remedies was sparked last week following the news of an EU crackdown on herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners who operate unregulated at present. Under the new law, from 2011 sales of all herbal remedies except for a small number of products for minor ailments will also be banned. Regulators warn that many of us believe that "herbal" is synonymous with "safe", whereas herbal remedies can be deadly.

"Research we conducted last year found a significant proportion of people believed 'herbal' means 'benign'," says Richard Woodfield, Head of Herbal Policy at the Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). "That means people are more liable to self-medicate, and to neglect to inform their doctors, even though there's a risk that the herbal remedy will react with any prescription drugs. They're also more vulnerable to fraudulent, even criminal operators who put products out which are heavily adulterated with dangerous pharmaceuticals."

The actress Sophie Winkleman is reported to have taken aconite, or monkshood, found in some 'herbal Valium' last month to calm her nerves prior to her wedding to Freddie Windsor. The plant while relatively harmless in licensed homeopathic remedies in which it is rigorously diluted, can be extremely dangerous, in herbal remedies, even lethal.

"If you were to buy aconite root, which is banned from licensed herbal products in the UK, but can still be found in products bought over the internet, and make yourself a herbal tea with it, you'd be dead within five minutes," says Dr Linda Anderson, Pharmaceutical Assessor of the MHRA.

Last year, scientists at Boston University found that a fifth of Ayurvedic medicines – popular traditional Indian herbal remedies – bought over the internet contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury or arsenic, which could cause stomach pains, vomiting or liver problems.

Source - Telegraph

Is lack of sleep taking its toll on children?

How many hours of sleep does a five-year-old need? Does the time at which a child sleeps matter? What hormones are produced only during sleep? If, as a parent, you don’t know the answers, you are not alone. According to a new survey by the Sleep Council, most parents cannot answer these or even more basic questions about children’s sleep. Neither can most GPs, health visitors or teachers — and children are paying the price in health problems.

Mandy Gurney, an expert on children’s sleep, says that an increasing number of children spend their formative years “chronically sleep-deprived”. As a result they are not only tired, ratty and inattentive but are more prone to a spectrum of health problems including obesity, hypertension and clinical depression.

Gurney has been asked to set up a sleep clinic by a North London health authority because it recognises that simply getting children to sleep better will produce huge cost savings in health treatments over their lifetimes.

Why is the problem not more widely recognised? Because sleep is seen as something that we “just do”, says Gurney. “It is seen as organic rather than a medical issue, and people looking after children don’t connect the chronic and often serious symptoms with simple lack of sleep. Children are even less likely to see the connection.”

Which is why the Sleep Council is calling for sleep to be taught in schools.

Source - Times

Is your mobile phone bad for you?

Some overseas studies have rekindled fears of a link to brain tumours.

With its 12.1-megapixel camera and sleek touchscreen, the Sony Ericsson Satio is one of the most desirable mobile phones you could buy this Christmas. You may recognise it from its high-profile advertising campaign: carefree twentysomethings bouncing on colourful spacehoppers. But one thing the advert fails to tell the viewer is that the Satio is one of the highest emitters of low-level radio waves on the mobile phone market.

Different models record different levels of radiation, and some experts want radio wave readings advertised as prominently as are the salt and fat content on food labelling. Professor Denis Henshaw, head of radiation research at the University of Bristol, says: “While we don’t have an advanced state of knowledge about the harmful effects of mobile phones, a number attached to a phone is at least a start in giving the consumer an informed choice.”

The reading is recorded as a specific absorption rate (SAR): the rate at which head tissue absorbs the phone’s radiation. The higher the reading, the more radiation is emitted. Nine years ago Henshaw advised the Stewart Report, the UK’s first committee to tackle the issue in depth. It failed to find concrete evidence of adverse effects, but it did recommend that radiation readings be displayed on the back of mobile phone boxes and as a menu option. (The Mobile Manufacturers Forum claims that it is “impractical” to put these figures on packaging, but they can usually be seen on the manufacturers’ websites.) The European guideline for maximum radiation exposure is 2W/kg in 10g of body tissue. The Satio’s reading is 1.58W/kg. The LG Crystal’s is 1.47W/kg. Samsung phones record consistently low SAR values, while the Apple iPhone 3GS is between the two extremes with 1.1W/kg. All these models fall safely within the guidelines, so should you worry about SAR? Perhaps yes, if the preliminary findings of the Interphone study, the biggest of its kind, are to be believed. It is conducted under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its conclusions will be drawn from research by scientists in 13 countries.

Source - Times

Could tomato pips protect you from a heart attack?

A syrup extracted from tomato pips is the latest treatment for preventing blood clots.

As well as cutting the risk of heart attacks and stroke, the food supplement may have advantages over a standard drug treatment, low-dose aspirin. Aspirin is taken by millions of otherwise healthy people to thin their blood and lower the risk of dangerous clots.

No, probiotics aren't a waste of money - and here's why...

Are probiotics good for you or a complete waste of money? There are so many apparently contradictory stories about probiotics you'd be right to be confused.
Probiotics are the 'good' strains of gut bacteria that are important to digestive health and our immune system.

Recently there has been a slew of studies showing the health benefits of them. Yet many probiotic products themselves have been criticised.

Only recently scientists at the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) threw out 180 health claims made for probiotics (such as 'maintains digestive comfort' or 'boost defences') on the basis that there simply wasn't enough evidence.

Yet nearly 60 per cent of UK households regularly buy probiotic drinks, supplements and yoghurts, so are they wasting money?

While there may be erroneous or unvalidated claims for specific products, many experts disagree with the EFSA stance, says Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbiology at Reading University, a leading authority on gut bacteria.

'There's convincing evidence that the right products will do us good,' he says. Specifically, 'a properly formulated probiotic drink or pills should benefit people who are travelling abroad and coming into contact with different bugs that might upset their system'.

Probiotics will also help anyone taking antibiotics, which kill good bacteria as well as bad, 'or people going into hospital where gut infections are rife'.

Source Daily Mail

How a bar of dark chocolate a day could cut your stress levels

A small bar of dark chocolate a day helps keep stress at bay, say researchers.

It cuts levels of stress hormones and rebalances other chemicals in the body during times of high anxiety, a study found.

A group of men and women ate 20g of dark chocolate - roughly half a small bar - morning and evening and scientists monitored their stress hormone production. The high hormone levels in those under the most pressure fell after just two weeks of chocolate therapy, the Journal of Proteome Research reports.

Researcher Sunil Kochhar, who works for Nestle, said the study by Dutch and Swiss scientists 'provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40g is sufficient to modify the metabolism of healthy volunteers'.

He added that stress reduction has long-term health benefits.

Other recent research has shown that just a 6.7g chunk of dark chocolate a day - a quarter of an ounce - could cut the risk of heart disease by up to a third.

The benefits were attributed to flavanols, plant chemicals that cut inflammation linked to heart disease, as well as reducing blood clots and helping to keep diabetes and high blood pressure in check.

Dieticians recommend caution, however, stressing that chocolate is high in fat and sugar and should be eaten only as part of a balanced diet.

Source - Daily Mail

Brazil nuts 'could raise the risk of heart disease'

Brazil nuts have been hailed as a tasty way of building up the immune system and even protecting against cancer.

But the health-boosting mineral they contain may also push up cholesterol levels and raise the risk of heart disease, researchers claim. The findings came in a study suggesting that a high level in the blood of selenium - a trace mineral found naturally in Brazil nuts, grain, fish and meat - increases cholesterol levels.

Those found in tests to have the highest level of the mineral in their blood were regularly taking dietary supplements containing selenium. However, eating large quantities of Brazil nuts and selenium-rich foods might have the same effect.

Researchers at Warwick University say they have discovered that high selenium levels are 'associated' with a 10 per cent rise in cholesterol. The warning emerges from data on 1,042 people aged 19 to 64 who took part in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey between 2000 and 2001.

In those with blood selenium concentrations higher than 1.20micromoles per litre, the levels of total cholesterol were raised by an average of 8 per cent. Levels of a 'bad' type of cholesterol associated with heart disease were increased by 10 per cent.

The study did not take account of the health of individuals or whether they were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Source - Daily Mail

Just how safe are herbal medicines?

Herbal remedies made from plant leaves, bark, berries, flowers, and roots have been used to heal illnesses, diseases, and psychological disorders for centuries. Today, with the ease of the internet, you can self-diagnose, order next day delivery, and even learn how to make your own. Last year three million Britons took herbal remedies to treat everything from fever to joint pain.

But renewed debate about the safety of these remedies was sparked last week following the news of an EU crackdown on herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners who operate unregulated at present. Under the new law, from 2011 sales of all herbal remedies except for a small number of products for minor ailments will also be banned. Regulators warn that many of us believe that "herbal" is synonymous with "safe", whereas herbal remedies can be deadly.

"Research we conducted last year found a significant proportion of people believed 'herbal' means 'benign'," says Richard Woodfield, Head of Herbal Policy at the Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). "That means people are more liable to self-medicate, and to neglect to inform their doctors, even though there's a risk that the herbal remedy will react with any prescription drugs. They're also more vulnerable to fraudulent, even criminal operators who put products out which are heavily adulterated with dangerous pharmaceuticals."

The actress Sophie Winkleman is reported to have taken aconite, or monkshood, found in some 'herbal Valium' last month to calm her nerves prior to her wedding to Freddie Windsor. The plant while relatively harmless in licensed homeopathic remedies in which it is rigorously diluted, can be extremely dangerous, in herbal remedies, even lethal.

"If you were to buy aconite root, which is banned from licensed herbal products in the UK, but can still be found in products bought over the internet, and make yourself a herbal tea with it, you'd be dead within five minutes," says Dr Linda Anderson, Pharmaceutical Assessor of the MHRA.

Last year, scientists at Boston University found that a fifth of Ayurvedic medicines – popular traditional Indian herbal remedies – bought over the internet contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury or arsenic, which could cause stomach pains, vomiting or liver problems.

Source - Telegraph

Eat your way to happiness

It’s the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness — and comfort food. But try to resist — or, at least, don’t go for the traditional, stodgy, fat-laden offerings. Research published last week in the British Journal of Psychiatry (BJP) showed that people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet (fruit, vegetables, pulses, cereals and olive oil) were 30 per cent less likely to get depressed than those whose diet was laden with processed and high-fat foods. And since the No 1 rule for keeping your mood on an even keel is to eat regularly during the day, you can take comfort from the fact that the research doesn’t advocate starving yourself.

Just the simple task of eating the right breakfast after a night’s fast will boost not only mood, but also memory, learning power and concentration, probably by increasing production of the nerve transmitter acetylcholine. The key is to stay off fast-release carbohydrates such as croissants with jam, cereal bars, muffins, sugary cereals and sweet drinks. These are digested rapidly, giving your blood glucose an exaggerated spike, which is swiftly followed by a low.

Instead, opt for slow-release glucose found in foods such as sugar-free muesli with berries, porridge or sourdough toast with peanut butter — choices that are more likely to keep moods level by delivering a stable and steady flow of energy to the brain and by keeping you feeling full for the morning ahead.

At lunchtime, concentrate more on protein. This seems to make us feel more mentally alert, and serotonin, the neurotransmitter in our brains that makes us feel happy, is made from tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as fish and meat. Try a good-sized serving of lean chicken, turkey, fish or pulses with salad or vegetables, rather than your usual sandwich, to avoid that afternoon slump. Fish is particularly good since it contains gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA), which provides mood-elevating effects by blocking anxiety and stress (mackerel has particularly high levels). Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on your salad and you’ll put an extra spring in your step; these are one of the best sources of the essential amino acid threonine, low levels of which are associated with depression.

Source - Times

How junk food diet 'can give you depression'

Eating junk food can make you depressed, doctors have warned.

Those who regularly eat high-fat foods, processed meals, desserts and sweets are almost 60 per cent more likely to suffer depression than those who choose fruit, vegetables and fish. Researchers claim their study is the first to investigate the link between overall diet and mental health, rather than the effects of individual foods.

Dr Eric Brunner, one of the researchers from University College London, said: 'There seem to be various aspects of lifestyle such as taking exercise which also matter, but it appears that diet is playing an independent role.'

The study, in the British Journal of Psychiatry, used data on 3,486 male and female civil servants aged around 55.

Each participant completed a questionnaire about their eating habits and a self-report assessment for depression five years later. The researchers found that those with the highest consumption of processed food were 58 per cent more likely to be depressed five years later than those eating the least amount. The researchers suggest several reasons for the protective effect of a healthy diet.

They believe that high levels of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables protect against depression, as does the folate found in broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lentils and chickpeas.

Source - Daily Mail

Milking it: Are 'healthier' rivals really any better than our traditional pint? We look at what's available

Gone are the days when the only milk available was full-fat or skimmed. Supermarket shelves are now heaving under the weight of everything from rice to soya to buffalo milk.

As a result, we're all drinking less cow's milk than we were a decade ago, amid fears about allergies and health scares such as BSE that have been linked to dairy foods.

'Many people are also put off whole cow's milk because they think - wrongly - that it's highly calorific,' says Lisa Miles, nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation.

'If you're looking to reduce fat in your diet, simply switch from whole milk to semi or 1 per cent-fat milk - this will reduce your saturated fat intake which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease,' she says. 'Despite this, it's important to remember that whole milk isn't classed as a high-fat product and is a highly nutritious drink.'

Lactose intolerance - an inability to absorb lactose, the main sugar in milk - is another reason why some switch to non-dairy milk options. Up to 15 per cent of people in the UK suffer from the condition, which causes abdominal pain and bloating.

There are now many varieties of lactose-free milk on the market. 'But if you are replacing cow's milk, for whatever reason, you need to check that the alternative has added vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, to make up for those in dairy,' says Sian Porter from the British Dietetic Society.


Source - Daily Mail

Vitamin E can help your new hip last longer

A vitamin found in avocados could transform hip replacement surgery, enabling one replacement to last a lifetime.

Vitamin E works by preserving the protective lining of the joint which tends to wear out, often requiring patients to have revision surgery.

Around 70,000 hip replacements are carried out in England and Wales each year. They are usually necessary because osteoarthritis has caused wear and tear on the original joint. The operation replaces both the natural socket and the rounded ball at the head of the thigh-bone with a prosthetic version. The head fits into a prosthetic shell, with a cushioning plastic liner in between the two parts.

Replacement hip joints typically wear out in ten to 15 years, because tiny pieces of this cushioning plastic liner break off as they combine with oxygen inside the body, causing the liner to become progressively thinner.

Over time, these loose fragments also wear away the surrounding bone, and replacing the hip joint becomes harder each time as there's less to attach it to.

As a result, people in their 30s and 40s are often told they are too young for a hip replacement, as a new joint would need several revisions. Instead they face years of pain.

Source - Daily Mail

As new evidence links mobile phones to a greater risk of tumours, could using one cost your child their life?

Mobile phones, just how did we live without them? At about 80 million, there are now more mobiles than people in the UK. But since the Nineties, when their use became more widespread, there have been nagging doubts about their safety.

For many people these were resolved two years ago with a report from the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme.

The programme, jointly funded by the Government and the industry, concluded that mobile phones, base stations and masts 'have not been found to be associated with any biological or adverse health effects'.

However, according to a decade-long study, due out in the coming weeks, people who used mobiles for a decade or more had a 'significantly increased risk' of developing some types of brain tumours.

The Interphone study, partly funded by the mobile phone industry, found an increased risk of glioma - the most common brain tumour. This follows the results of an American-Korean study published a fortnight ago which showed that mobile use increases brain tumour risk by around 25 per cent. And a similar report from Australian scientists in July showed double the risk after ten years' use.

However, none of these reports included children - and they are the group experts are most worried about.

Source - Daily Mail

Eight cups of tea a day are good for you, says nutrition expert

Drinking up to eight cups of tea a day offers 'significant health benefits', according to a new expert report.

Britain's favourite drink can help fight heart disease, improve brain power and lead to longer lives, the study has shown. The report's author, nutrition expert Dr Carrie Ruxton, said her work 'debunked' some of the myths around caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee and cocoa. She compared the results of 47 independent studies to reach her conclusions.

Dr Ruxton found the caffeine contained in drinks can lead to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as making drinkers feel more alert and cheerful and improve. She said the optimum caffeine intake for an adult was 400mg a day, equivalent to eight cups of tea or four coffees.

That amount gave drinkers the best levels of the health-giving antioxidants and flavanoids contained in caffeinated drinks. Dr Ruxton said the drinks were also healthy for children but should be limited to 95mg a day, equivalent to two small cups of tea or one small, weak coffee.

Source - Daily Mail

Drinking diet sodas could harm kidneys over the long term

Women who think sugar-free beverages are a "safe" food might want to think again when popping open another can of diet soda.

A US health study has found that regular consumption of artificially sweetened sodas can affect kidney function over time.

A study of over 3,000 women over 11 years by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston compared the long-term effects of artificially sweetened drinks on kidney function. They found an increase in the likelihood of kidney decline in those who consumed between two or more servings per day of artificially sweetened soda.

There was no relation between intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and kidney decline, the researchers said.

And even after adjusting for other risk factors such as age, lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the relation persisted, according to the study, which was presented October 31 at the American Society of Nephrology's annual meeting in San Diego.

The researchers said the findings of the study could point to the risks of drinking diet beverages. Sugar-free beverages are often considered healthier than those containing large amounts of sugar, but previous studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can trigger high insulin levels, which promotes the storage of fat.

Artificial sweeteners have also been associated with higher cancer risk, as well as having averse effects on liver function and causing gastrointestinal problems and headaches.

Too much white wine could ruin teeth, researchers say

Drinking white wine regularly could do damage to your pearly whites -- more so than drinking red wine, says a team of German researchers reporting in the journal Nutrition Research.

Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz analyzed the effects of eight different varieties of red and white wines and their effects on extracted adult teeth that were soaked for 24 hours.

White wine was found to do the most damage to the protective layer of the teeth because of its high acidic content, which lowers calcium and mineral levels and erodes the enamel. Based on their findings, the researchers said that frequent consumption of white wine could lead to severe dental erosion.

Riesling, a white grape varietal, was found to have the lowest pH content, or the highest acidity, the researchers said. They also noted that the custom of eating cheese has some scientific foundation and could counter the acidic effects of wine because the high amounts of calcium in cheese neutralizes saliva and staves off damage from the acid.

"The tradition of enjoying different cheeses for dessert, or in combination with drinking wine, might have a beneficial effect on preventing dental erosion since cheeses contain calcium in a high concentration," they wrote.

The findings should be considered with skepticism, according to the UK's National Health Service. Because the study was based on prolonged exposure to acid of extracted teeth in a laboratory setting, the results are not conclusive. Other beverages such as fruit juices, sugary sodas, liqueurs and spirits are likely to produce similar results, it said on its Behind the Headlines website, which monitors health studies reported in the media.

Source - Independent

Australian study links folic acid intake to asthma

Women who take folic acid supplements during the later months of pregnancy may be increasing their baby's risk of developing asthma, according to an Australian study released Wednesday.

Found in its natural form in leafy green vegetables, legumes and some nuts, folic acid is commonly recommended to women trying to conceive to prevent neural defects in the first weeks of pregnancy. But the Australian study found that women who continue to take folic acid late into pregnancy were 30 percent more likely to give birth to a child which would develop asthma.

"We see a substantial proportion of women taking these folate supplements throughout pregnancy, and it may be because people think it is entirely benign," said Michael Davies, associate professor at Adelaide University. "Folate is incredibly important because of its role in preventing neural tube defects (like spina bifida). But because it is so important, and so bioactive, it needs to be treated with some respect as well."

Of the 550 women studied, those who took the folic acid supplements before conception and not more than several weeks into their pregnancy had no increased risk of asthma in their children.

But women who took it during weeks 16 to 30 of the pregnancy increased their risk of having a child with asthma by about 30 percent, according to the research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"Our finding should be reassuring to women who take folate for the purpose of preventing neural tube defects because we found no evidence of early supplementation (leading to asthma)," Davies told newswire AAP.

Davies said a diet rich in natural folate carried no increased risk of asthma for the baby.

Source - Independent

Confused? Try our A-Z of conflicting health advice

Every week, it seems a scientific study appears disproving what last week's study showed. Yesterday saw a classic medical volte face: aspirin, which has been prescribed to millions of people over the decades as a protective measure against heart disease, may have more drawbacks than benefits, according to a review in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.

Although a daily aspirin helps prevent a second heart attack or stroke in people who have already had one, in healthy people any protection against cardiovascular disease may be outweighed by an increased risk of internal bleeding, researchers say. Bleeding is a well-known side effect of aspirin and similar drugs that act as irritants to the stomach lining.

After years of headlines about the benefits of aspirin, yesterday's read: "Aspirin is bad for you". In the last couple of weeks, we have also learnt that a father's presence at childbirth is bad for the mother, that drinking three cups of coffee a day protects against liver disease (for people with hepatitis C) and that consuming alcohol cuts a woman's chances of conceiving by IVF. Yet fathers have been encouraged to attend childbirth for decades, coffee has been implicated in umpteen health scares, and alcohol is known to be good for the heart.

A - Z

Source - Independent

Feeling grumpy 'is good for you'

In a bad mood? Don't worry - according to research, it's good for you.

An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly. In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.

While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking, Professor Joe Forgas told Australian Science Magazine.

'Eeyore days'

The University of New South Wales researcher says a grumpy person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain "promotes information processing strategies".

Source - BBC

Babies 'cry in mother's tongue'

German researchers say babies begin to pick up the nuances of their parents' accents while still in the womb.

The researchers studied the cries of 60 healthy babies born to families speaking French and German.

The French newborns cried with a rising "accent" while the German babies' cries had a falling inflection.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, they say the babies are probably trying to form a bond with their mothers by imitating them. The findings suggest that unborn babies are influenced by the sound of the first language that penetrates the womb.

Source - BBC

A Choccy a Day Keeps the Wrinkles Away

According to research by a private Harley Street skin clinic, European Dermatology London, a daily portion of dark chocolate could protect the skin against the ageing effects of the sun. Yes, simply nibbling on a couple of squares every day helps to prevent wrinkles caused by ultraviolet light in the sun's rays.

But note - this is proper chocolate - dark chocolate, not the brown coloured fat sold in most sweet shops.

Source: Daily Mail

Abandon Hope - You'll be Happier

According to research from the University of Michigan Centre for Behavioural and Decision Sciences in Medicine, giving up hope can make people living with a serious illness happier.

Researchers warned of the 'dark side of hope' which they observed among a group of adults who had their colons removed. Out of 71 patients, 41 were told they could have surgery to reconnect their bowels, while the others were given the grim prognosis that nothing further could be done. For the next six months those patients who resigned themselves to living with colostomy bags ended up being happier than those with a chance of recovery.

Source: Daily Mail