Coffee and a park... the British recipe for happiness?

Britons have been giving their personal definitions of well-being as part of an ambitious project to gauge the nation’s happiness.

In acknowledgement of the fact that there is more to life than money, ministers last year asked the Office for National Statistics to devise new questions for its large household surveys that would assess people’s satisfaction with life. The intention is to come up with a “well-being index” to be published alongside traditional economic indicators.

But before well-being can be measured it must be defined, so the independent statisticians have been asking people what they think the term means at public events and in online surveys. Early responses published in January suggested that job security, personal health and relationships with family members matter more than anything else in life.

Source - Telegraph

The health benefits of saffron

Cancer suppressor

Crocin, Safranal and Picrocrocin from saffron may be involved in anti-cancer activity by inhibiting the growth of human cancer cells.

Anti-Depressant

Saffron tea has been used to treat depression. Ingesting large amounts of the tea and spice has been reported to cause feelings of happiness and joy.

Source - Telegraph

A cuppa is as good for you as water

Drinking four to six mugs of tea a day is as good for keeping yourself hydrated as a litre of water, a study has found.

The finding disproves the idea that regular tea drinking can dehydrate the body because of its caffeine content. The research also found no negative health effects from drinking that amount of tea.

In the high quality UK clinical trial 21 volunteers drank either four 240ml mugs of tea over a 12-hour period – equivalent to just under one litre of tea in total – or a similar amount of plain, boiled water served warm. The tea included 20ml of semi-skimmed milk but no sugar.

Source - Daily Mail



ust seven walnuts a day 'protects against heart disease'

Walnuts are top of the tree when it comes to heart-healthy superfoods, research has shown.

The Christmas favourite is packed with more potent and abundant antioxidants than any other popular nut, as well as healthy fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Tree and ground nuts are generally said to be among nature's most perfect ready-made foods.

As well as having all the nutritious elements necessary for a healthy diet, they also contain high levels of protective antioxidants which counter the effects of harmful molecules. Research suggests regular consumption of nuts can reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and type-2 diabetes. But until now it was not known which had the most health-giving properties.

To answer this question, scientists analysed the antioxidant content of nine different types of nut: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias and pecans. Study leader Dr Joe Vinson, from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, US, said: 'Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts.'

Source - Daily Mail

Can you eat your way to better sight?

The eyes are not just a window to the soul; they may be a surprisingly reliable guide to how healthily you eat. While there is no correlation between refusing to eat your carrots and actual night vision, nutrition and optical health are closely linked, with scientists currently looking at the role played by vitamins and minerals in the prevention of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

That a link exists has long been understood: the eye condition xerophthalmia, a common cause of blindness in developing countries, is known to be caused by a lack of vitamin A, which is found in sources such as meat and fresh vegetables.

In fact, vitamins and minerals are crucial to eye health, as they are constantly required to help ward off damage caused by UV light rays. A healthy blood supply is necessary to supply nutrients and oxygen to the eye. So, conditions such as high cholesterol, which clog arteries elsewhere in the body, are also important in the eye region.

Professor Ian Grierson, head of ophthalmology at the University of Liverpool, is one of the pioneers in nutritional research. He says: “It is quite difficult to show real benefit to an individual, that by changing their diet it will benefit their sight – the studies needed would be too big and expensive.”

Source - Telegraph

How losing just a few hours of sleep can take YEARS off your life

How do you feel this morning? Well-rested? Looking forward to the weekend? Or did you wake, as I did half-way through last week, feeling even more exhausted than when you fell asleep?

The tiredness was just the start of it. I was also achy, cold and bewildered. My skin — normally perfectly healthy — was greasy and gritty. Though I’d had nothing to drink the night before, it felt like I had a thumping hangover.

These things, I half expected. But the mood swings I didn’t see coming. Normally, I am a resolutely chin-up sort of guy. When faced with life’s miseries, I am resilient to the point of shallowness. Not now. I was suddenly gripped by the fact that my pet cat was at the end of his middle years and one day he wouldn’t be with us at all. I was overtaken by despair, an intense desolation that quite destabilised my temperament. I felt utterly inconsolable.

It was the first of a series of powerful undertows of depression that swept over me unexpectedly in the days that followed. Everyday upsets could send my morale plummeting: the story of a vandalised bus shelter in my local paper or finding that all the pens on my desk had dried up.

Sometimes it took nothing at all to set me off, just the sudden sense that a yawning dark chasm had opened beneath me, echoing with the question: ‘What’s the point of anything?’

Gardening makes you happy ... and can even keep you healthy

After a tough day getting the garden ready for spring, you may beg to differ.

Yet that aching back and those stiff muscles are, apparently, a good sign because a physical workout in the garden is said to help you feel younger. Researchers in two new studies reckon that tending your plot exercises the brain, giving you more energy and a ‘zest for life’.

Over-50s who enjoy digging, planting and pruning are more likely to be organised and optimistic than non-gardeners. They have healthier lifestyles and eat more vegetables, whether or not they grow them.

Previous research has shown that gardening is one of the best ways of keeping active in later life. But among the less well-known benefits is that people who garden feel they have a better quality of life.

Researchers from two universities in Texas analysed the activity and attitudes of almost 300 men and women over 50, splitting them into gardeners and non-gardeners.

Source - Daily Mail

The ankle zap that fixed my waterworks

It is an excruciatingly embarrassing and distressing condition, yet an incredibly common one - affecting five million British women and almost two million men.

For sufferers of urinary incontinence, this often sniggered-at problem can impact on almost every daily activity and interaction. Many treatments are available but few last or work well, and they come with unwanted side effects. The causes of a leaky bladder range from pregnancy to muscle weakness and poor nerve communication, and the lengths people go to rid themselves of it are equally extensive.

There are muscle-strengthening exercises, muscle-relaxant patches, medications including antidepressants, surgery to insert a catheter and injections of Botox in the bladder. But now a new treatment called percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation, which involves an electrical current being channelled through the ankle, is having remarkable results with those who suffer a type of incontinence known as overactive bladder (OAB).

Source - Daily Mail

Food allergies

Common food allergies

In children, common allergy-provoking foods include cow's milk protein, egg white from hens, wheat, soya bean, cod fish and peanuts.

In adults, nuts including Brazil, almond, hazelnut, peanut and walnut are common allergens. Seafood such as fish, mussels, crab, prawn, shrimp and squid may also cause allergic reactions.

Localised oral allergies may occur in young adults in association with silver birch tree pollen allergy. They get an itchy mouth and throat on eating certain fresh fruit (apple, cherry, peach and nectarine), raw vegetables (carrot, celery and potato) and nuts.

Source - BBC

Herbal medicines to be 'kitemarked'

Products which meet new official standards will be adorned with a leaf and the letters THR denoting they are on the Traditional Herbal Registry.

The scheme, run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), goes live on May 1. Herbal medicines will also have to be sold with an information leaflet giving advice on subjects including how to take it and possible side effects. The scheme has been instigated to meet the demands of a 2004 European directive to make herbal and traditional Chinese medicines safer.

While nine in 10 people believe such medicines are safe, some have dangerous levels of heavy metals, while others contain toxic plant extracts or banned pharmaceutical substances. n one case, more than 100 people in Belgium suffered kidney failure and 18 developed cancer after taking a Chinese medicine in which the plant Aristolochia fangchi had been substituted for another. Others have been found to contain dangerous heavy metal compounds like arsenic chloride - often called 'realgar' on the label, and mercuric chloride - called 'calomel'.

Richard Woodfield, head of herbal medicine policy at the MHRA, said the new measures were necessary because many people were "under a misapprehension that all herbal medicines are safe".

Source - Telegraph

Why business should be involved in public health

The government's decision to involve major food producers of goods ranging from fruit juice and cereal to crisps and chocolate, in public health planning has come under fire from health campaigners.

But in this week's Scrubbing Up column, Richard Evans, head of PepsiCo in the UK argues it's better for them to be "at the table".

Getting the food industry involved in improving public health has attracted criticism. But it's important for companies like ours to be part of the solution instead of being written off as the cause of the problem.

At face value, it might look counter-intuitive to ask food companies to help devise solutions for obesity but at the end of the day we have resources and expertise that can make a profound difference.

Our industry has the know-how to help improve people's diets; improving the formulation of products will change the salt, fat, sugar and fibre intakes of hundreds of thousands of people. And that is what we are doing. Like government, non-governmental organisations, the public and our industry peers, we are acutely aware of current public health issues.

We believe there is shared responsibility to take positive action that will instigate change and that this is not only the right thing to do but also the commercially savvy thing to do.

Source - BBC

Eating fish can reduce risk of blindness

Research shows that eating omega-3 fatty acids – most commonly found in oily fish such as tinned salmon and tuna – can help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that leads to the gradual loss of vision.

They found that having just one to two portions of fish a week could reduce the risk of sight loss by up to 42 per cent in older women, according to a new study. This finding backs up previous research which showed similar results in men.

The lead author Dr William Christen, of Harvard Medical School, said that “dark meat” fish appeared to help the most.

He said: "This lower risk appeared to be due primarily to consumption of canned tuna fish and dark-meat fish."

More than 500,000 people in Britain suffer from AMD which is caused by the deterioration and death of the cells in the macula, a part of the retina used to see straight ahead.

The disease, which mainly effects people over 40, robs sufferers of their sight by creating a black spot in the centre of their vision which slowly gets bigger.

With numbers of AMD sufferers expected to treble in the next 25 years as the population ages, there is an urgent need for a breakthrough. The team at Harvard Medical School piggybacked on a another study of more than 38,000 women to obtain the findings.

Source - Telegraph

Don't sit next to the photocopier

The main trigger for a heart attack is not vigorous exercise or stress — it’s air pollution, according to a study published in The Lancet this month.

Researchers found spending time in traffic, whether as a driver or pedestrian, tops the list of ‘last straw’ risk factors that bring on a heart attack. Polluted air contains particles of dust and soot less than ten microns wide (one micron is a millionth of a metre) which get into the lungs and cause inflammation.

Jon Ayres, professor of environmental and respiratory medicine at the University of Birmingham, says: ‘Particles raise the risk of respiratory problems and also seem to increase the stickiness of the blood. So, if you’ve got coronary heart disease, it may contribute to causing a heart attack.’

Air pollution is not only linked to strokes, heart attacks and cancer — it has a profound effect on those with existing respiratory conditions. Asthmatics are more likely to have an asthma attack on days when pollution is high.

So how can you minimise the damage? We asked the experts for their tips on breathing easy.


Laughing 'better than latest technology for leg ulcers'

A good old belly laugh can help heal leg ulcers, experts say.

The Leeds University team said good nursing and the occasional laugh was a better way to get the body healing than using the latest technology. Hospitals and health clinics are increasingly using low-dose ultrasound for leg ulcers.

But the five-year study of 337 patients found it did nothing to speed up recovery, the British Medical Journal reported.

Source - BBC

Dog owners 'are healthier than people without pets'

Man's best friend may be more than just a faithful companion.

A new study has revealed dog owners are more likely to reach recommended fitness levels than people without a pet. Researchers say people who own and walk their dogs regularly are 34 per cent more likely to hit exercise targets.

The results, said study co-author Mathew Reeves, from Michigan State University, show that promoting dog ownership and dog walking could help many people become healthier. Using data from the Michigan Department of Community Health, researchers found that not only did owning and walking a dog affect the amount of walking a person does but also that dog walkers were more active overall.

The study showed people who walked their dogs generally walked about an hour longer per week than people who owned dogs but did not walk them.

Source - Daily Mail


'Text don't call' Government tells mobile phone users for first time

Mobile phone users have been advised by the Government for the first time to text or use hands free kits rather than make calls. The Department of Health said this would reduce the user's exposure to radiation.

In the first update to the UK Mobile Phones and Health leaflet since 2005, health officials added that further research is needed into the long-term effects of using mobile phones. It stated there had been no 'clear evidence of adverse health effects' from the use of mobiles or from phone masts. However, it added: 'As people have only been using mobile phones for relatively few years, the HPA advises that more research be carried out, especially to investigate whether there might be longer term effects.'

The UK Chief Medical Officer restated previous advice that children under the age of 16 should only use mobile phones for 'essential purposes' and should 'keep calls short.' This was described as a 'precautionary' move as teenagers' body and nervous systems are still developing.

The latest advice comes just weeks after a £15m Interphone study, that found radio waves from mobiles appear to boost activity in parts of the brain closest to the devices' antennas.

Source - Daily Mail


A coffee a day ‘cuts stroke risk by 25%’

A morning caffeine fix might do more than perk you up – it could save your life.

Women who drink more than a cup of coffee a day can lower their risk of having a stroke by 25 per cent, research shows. Those with little or no coffee intake, however, are more likely to suffer from the condition. The findings are the latest to challenge a common belief that coffee is bad for people’s health.

Scientists stress they have yet to prove it reduces stroke risk, but their work could have major public health implications.

Researcher Dr Susanna Larsson, of the National Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said coffee was one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world.

‘Therefore, even small health effects of substances in coffee may have large public health consequences,’ she said.

Source - Daily Mail



Laughter IS the best cure

It’s no joke being stuck in a hospital bed.

But it seems that the old adage is true – laughter really is the best medicine. It is likely to put you on the road to recovery more quickly than any hi-tech treatment, simply by increasing your circulation, researchers have found. A five-year study of patients with leg ulcers has established that a hearty chuckle stimulates the diaphragm which, in turn, plays a vital part in moving blood around the body.

It actually speeds recovery from leg ulcers, said the report by the University of Leeds’ School of Healthcare. In contrast, expensive ultrasound therapy does little to help, contrary to what the researchers had expected to find. Traditional nursing care is also effective and this human contact is likely to lead to jokes and banter which is where the laughter therapy comes in.

The research, published by the British Medical Journal, said: ‘Forget technology. The best prescription for patients with venous leg ulcers is good quality nursing care and the occasional belly laugh!’

Source - Daily Mail


Health fears over recycled food packaging

The cereal packet on your breakfast table could be a health hazard, according to scientists. Swiss researchers have found that when old paper is used to make recycled cardboard, mineral oils in the printing ink may contaminate food stuffs packed inside it.

More than half the cardboard in Europe is recycled and mineral oils have been found in the packaged foods at up to 100 times permitted levels. In one scientific paper, researchers described the potential for the oils to migrate into foodstuffs as "frightening".

The oils leak out of the cardboard in the form of a gas and even the presence of a plastic inner bag is not enough to prevent contamination.

Source - Independent

Mediterranean diet 'cuts risk of heart disease'

A review of 50 existing academic papers, which looked at half a million people, found that those who ate the traditional meals served in Greece or Italy were less likely to have the health problems that can lead to heart disease. It follows previous claims that eating meals rich in olive oil, fresh vegetables, fruit and fish - rather than red meat and dairy products - is effective in protecting against cancer and dementia.

In the latest study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers at Harokopio University of Athens looked at the effects of the Mediterranean diet on “metabolic syndrome”, a combination of disorders such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure that often lead to heart disease or stroke.

They found that existing studies showed that a Mediterranean diet has “proven beneficial effects” in reducing metabolic syndrome itself and its constituent parts, such as a large waist, high blood pressure and high levels of fat known as triglycerides in the bloodstream.

Source - Telegraph


Which kind of tea is best for your health?

To perk you up or calm you down, nothing fits the bill better than a refreshing cuppa. But with so many different types promising health benefits, which one should you choose?

BEST FOR SKIN: WHITE

White tea — which is made from only the delicate buds of the tea plant — has the highest levels of antioxidants, which protect against harmful free radicals. Researchers from Kingston University in Surrey found white tea also had high amounts of substances that protect elastin and collagen, proteins in our skin that maintain skin elasticity.

BEST FOR ENERGY: ROOIBOS

THE tannin in standard black tea can reduce iron absorption from foods, so anaemia sufferers are advised not to drink it with meals. But South African rooibos (close in taste to black tea) can be drunk safely as it doesn’t impair iron uptake as much as traditional tea.

Source - Daily Mail


Acupuncture, the new weapon to cool down those hot flushes

Acupuncture can help women suffering from the most common symptoms of the menopause, it is claimed.

A study suggests the ancient Chinese needle therapy can curb the severity of hot flushes and also relieve mood swings among women receiving it regularly. Hot flushes can suddenly produce an uncomfortable feeling of intense heat, while frequent flushes at night can disrupt sleep.

The symptoms are caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the skin and are linked to hormone imbalances, but they are still not fully understood. Medication proven to combat flushes includes Hormone Replacement Therapy and some antidepressants, which appear to damp down the body’s blood vessel system.

In the study, which was published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, Turkish researchers looked at 53 menopausal women.

Source - Daily Mail


Happiness 'helps you live longer'

Researchers found "clear and compelling evidence" that happiness paves the way to better health and longer lifespans.

The review of more than 160 studies found the evidence connecting an upbeat outlook to a healthier life was even stronger than that linking obesity to reduced longevity. It backed previous studies that found a “glass half full” approach was good for your health.

Scientists from the University of Illinois found positive moods reduced stress-related hormones and increased immune function.

Their study, published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing, found happiness lead to quicker recovery from exercise.

Source - Telegraph

Burn calories with chilli chocs!

It sounds just too good to be true – the prospect of cakes and chocolate bars that help you burn off calories.

But manufacturers claim to have discovered an ingredient derived from chilli peppers that could be added to any pudding or treat to make the red hot idea a reality. This ‘miracle’ extract – known as dihydrocapsiate (DHC) – speeds up the body’s metabolism, helping it use up more calories. It is already sold in the form of diet supplement pills in the U.S. and Japan, but it could be about to be used as a food additive in Britain. The ingredient, which is tasteless, is one of several chemical compounds known as capsinoids found in a particular variety of chilli.

Now a Japanese food firm has submitted plans to the Food Standards Agency watchdog with the aim of adding it to chocolate bars, desserts and ready meals targeted towards slimmers.

Source - Daily Mail


Could apples hold the secret of longer life?

An apple a day could keep the undertaker away. Scientists have linked the fruit with a longer life – at least in flies.

Fruit flies, which share many genes with humans despite their tiny size, were either fed normally or had an apple extract added. Those fed normally lived an average of 50 days – five days fewer than those whose food was supplemented with apple, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports.

Not only did the flies given the apple extract live ten per cent longer, they also found it easier to walk, climb and move about as they aged. The apple extract also cut levels of various biochemicals found in older fruit flies and linked to age-related deterioration.

Source - Daily Mail


Tomatoes combat killer diseases - and are even more potent when cooked

Eating tomatoes can help reduce the risk of cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, scientists have revealed. Not only that but cooked or processed tomatoes are actually better for you than raw ones.

U.S researchers found the juicy vegetable is the biggest source of powerful antioxidant dietary lycopene, and unlike other fruit and vegetables it has greater potency after it is cooked.

Scientists at the National Centre of Food and Safety in Illinois said the nutrient contains protective mechanisms that help prevent inflammation and blood clots. A strong link has already been established between the wonder veg and a lower risk of certain diseases such as prostate cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Source - Daily Mail

Exercise cuts risk of developing bowel cancer polyps

People who lead an active lifestyle are up to three times less likely to develop polyps which can develop into bowel cancer, according to a study.

The report pulls together 20 previous studies looking at the link between exercise and the development of large polyps. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. More than 38,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.

The work was done by scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis in the US.

Publishing their findings in the British Journal of Cancer, they say they have produced the most accurate figures yet that show low exercise levels are linked to bowel polyps. They found that people who take regular exercise were 16% less likely to develop bowel polyps and 30% less likely to develop large or advanced polyps.

Source - BBC

Scientists say homeopathy is undiluted hogwash.

Just what is it that makes so many people so angry about homeopathy? I’ve been using it on and off for years — arnica tablets for when the kids fall over, a magic box of special remedies which helped cure my hay-fever. I’ve always thought it was something harmless, something all of us did now and again.

Apparently not, though. In the past few months, whenever I’ve mentioned my guilty homeopathy secret to friends, it’s as if I’ve confessed to a penchant for child sacrifice.

‘What?’ the general reaction has been. ‘Don’t you realise all homeopaths are charlatans; their remedies are nothing more than sugar pills; they’re a drain on the NHS; they’ve resulted in the deaths of gullible innocents all over the world?’

This surprises and saddens me, for there have been times in my life when I’ve found homeopathy beneficial. I wouldn’t class myself as an ardent believer — I won’t shun coffee or mint toothpaste, or any of those other boring things you’re supposed to do if your remedies are to work properly. But I’m not a virulent sceptic, either.

Probably the greatest success I’ve had has been with my hayfever. It made my childhood summers a misery of itchy eyes, sneezing and almost flu-like debilitation.

Source - Daily Mail


Sugary soft drinks linked to high blood pressure

Drinking too many sugary beverages appears to raise the risk of high blood pressure, experts are warning. Findings suggest blood pressure goes up incrementally for every extra can of sugary drink consumed per day.

Drinking more than 355ml a day of sugar-sweetened fruit juice or carbonated drink can be enough to upset the balance, data on over 2,500 people reveals. The study by UK and US researchers appears in the journal Hypertension.

The precise mechanism behind the link is unclear, but scientists believe too much sugar in the blood disrupts blood vessel tone and salt levels in the body. Non-sugar sweetened diet drinks did not carry the same risk. The soft drink industry maintains that the beverages are safe to drink "in moderation".

The American Heart Association says people should drink no more than three 355ml cans of soda a week.

Source - BBC