Dangerous herbal pills used to treat menopausal symptoms

Health watchdogs have warned of the potential danger of a herbal remedy used to  treat menopausal symptoms – after one woman became so ill that she needed a liver transplant.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is concerned about products containing black cohosh, a native American plant. It is understood the woman, who has not been named, developed liver failure after starting to use it. It has not been confirmed how much she consumed before becoming ill.
Black cohosh is the second most popular herbal ingredient in the UK and is used to treat symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep, mood changes and irritability.
It is also often recommended as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy – and is available in capsules in most high street chemists, health food shops and supermarkets.
Richard Woodfield, the MHRA’s head of herbal policy, said: ‘It is important people with a history of liver problems do not use black cohosh herbal products.’

Source  - Daily Mail 

Brain scans reveal French monk has 'abnormally large capacity' for joy

A French genetic scientist may seem like an unusual person to hold the title - but Matthieu Ricard is the world's happiest man, according to researchers.
The 66-year-old turned his back on Parisian intellectual life 40 years ago and moved to India to study Buddhism. He is now a close confidante of the Dalai Lama and respected western scholar of religion. Now it seems daily meditation has had other benefits - enhancing Mr Ricard's capacity for joy.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up the monk's skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin as part of research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.
The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard's brain produces a level of gamma waves - those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory - 'never reported before in the neuroscience literature', Davidson said. The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain's left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe.
Research into the phenomenon, known as "neuroplasticity", is in its infancy and Ricard has been at the forefront of ground-breaking experiments along with other leading scientists across the world.

Source  - Daily Mail

Fish oil supplements won't keep the doctor away

Eating two portions of oily fish a week could help ward off a stroke, research suggests.

Scientists have found that eating two helpings of oily fish - such as salmon, trout or mackerel - every week could moderately reduce risk of a stroke. However, fish oil supplements do not have the same beneficial effect as oily fish such as kippers, sardines, fresh tuna or whitebait, the study found.
An international team of researchers, including Cambridge-based academic Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, examined the association between oily fish, which are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, and the risk of strokes or mini-strokes.
They looked at 38 studies involving almost 800,000 people across 15 countries, and examined participants' fish and long chain omega 3 fatty acid consumption. During the studies, a total of 34,817 strokes and mini strokes were recorded. After adjusting for several risk factors, participants eating two to four servings a week had a 6% lower risk of stroke compared with those who consumed one portion or less every week, the study found.

Source  - Independent

How magnets could halt Alzheimer’s

Magnets that boost the brain could be used to ease the pain of Alzheimer’s, researchers believe.
Small-scale studies have shown that using a magnetic coil to stimulate the parts of the brain involved in memory and learning can improve symptoms. It is hoped that used early in the course of the disease, it would give patients precious extra months of independent living, as well as time with their loved ones before their physical and mental health deteriorates.
The technology had already been tried on Alzheimer’s patients, with promising results, and is now being tested in Manchester. Six patients in the early stages of the disease will be have a magnetic coil held over their scalp while they answer questions, identify shapes and solve puzzles. It is hoped that as the magnetic field passes into key brain areas it will strengthen vital connections between cells.
In tests on mice, the technique, known as trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, also boosted the growth of cells in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory hub and one of the first areas to be destroyed by Alzheimer’s.
Brain scans at Manchester University will aim to find out more about how it works. In a small-scale trial in Israel, it proved to be both safe and effective, with significant improvements in some, but not all, tests of memory.

Source  - Daily Mail

How being hypnotised can reduce menopausal symptoms by 75%

From cooling pillows to a dazzling array of supplements, there are many treatments purporting to help relieve hot flushes.
Now U.S scientists say hypnosis could also be remarkably effective, reducing the number of episodes by as much as 75 per cent.
The study, published in the journal Menopause, was the first proper trial to look at hypnosis as a method of helping control hot flushes.
In the study, undertaken by researchers at University of Texas and Baylor University, in the U.S,  the women who were treated with hypnosis had five sessions a week.  During each session they were given suggestions for mental images of coolness, a safe place or relaxation, depending on their preference.  They also received an audio recording of a hypnotic induction and were asked to listen to it each day.

Source  - Daily Mail

Herbal supplements such as echinacea and St John's Wort could make medication dangerous

Taking herbal or dietary supplements like echinacea , calcium or iron alongside prescription drugs could cause adverse side effects, as study warned.
Other remedies such as St John's Wort, flaxseed, magnesium or ginkgo could also be bad for you when mixed with these medicines, it is believed.
The research suggest combining the popular alternative remedies may cause mild-to-severe heart problems, chest pain, abdominal pain and headache, particularly among people receiving medication for problems with their central nervous or cardiovascular systems.
Those taking Warfarin, insulin, aspirin, digoxin and ticlopidine had the greatest number of reported adverse interactions with the remedies or supplements. Combining the two affects the process by which some types of drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolised and eliminated by the body, the study warned . Yet scientists said the findings may just be the tip of the iceberg and said people needed to be aware of the health risks involved.
But it pointed out herbal and botanical remedies were more likely to have adverse effects than the other dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Source  - Daily Mail

Placebo effect may be 'down to genes'

Why some people respond to treatments that have no active ingredients in them may be down to their genes, a study in the journal PLoS ONE suggests.
The so-called "placebo effect" was examined in 104 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the
US. Those with a particular version of the COMT gene saw an improvement in their health after placebo acupuncture.
The scientists warn that while they hope their findings will be seen in other conditions, more work is needed.
Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, said: "This is a fascinating but very preliminary result. It could solve the age-old question of why some individuals respond to placebo, while others do not. And if so, it could impact importantly on clinical practice. But we should be cautious - the study was small, we need independent replications, and we need to know whether the phenomenon applies just to IBS or to all diseases."

Source  - BBC

Breathe easy to combat anxiety

More than 870,000 Britons suffer from anxiety, a condition that triggers unnecessary feelings of uneasiness  and worry.
Increasingly, mindfulness – a psychological therapy with roots in Buddhist meditation – is being used by the NHS to help alleviate the symptoms.
Here, in the final extract from his book The Mindful Manifesto,Dr Jonty Heversedge explains how it can help.
  • Before directing your mind towards the anxiety you are experiencing, focus on your breathing – the sensation of air slowly flowing into your nostrils, streaming down the back of your throat and into your lungs. Feel the beating of your heart and imagine how it pumps oxygenated blood around your body. Continue until you’re ready to meditate.
  • Now, shift your attention to your anxious thoughts. What thoughts are present in your mind right now? Are there many moving quickly or does each one remain for a while? Consider the thoughts objectively rather than reacting to them emotionally.  
  •  Source:  Daily Mail

    Eat, meditate and be merry

    Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Gere and Orlando Bloom are already devotees – and now it seems an altogether less worldly figure has joined the ranks of those who swear by the joys of meditation.
    Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, last week called for more people to try this centuries-old practice as an antidote to our “insane” consumerist society and the “chaotic” emotions it causes. He was speaking in a religious context but nevertheless, his basic premise – that meditation can protect against the pressures of modern life – is one many secular experts would happily endorse.
    Meditation may have its roots in the world’s great religions but nowadays it is increasingly used to treat distinctly modern ills. Research from the University of Exeter from 2008 has shown it works as well as drugs for chronic depression. It lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, while a US study, published in 2011, suggested that meditating for just over an hour could relieve chronic pain. MRI scans of Buddhist monks indicate it may even alter the brain’s structure (its neuroplasticity).
    So what exactly does meditation involve? Buttoned up types will be reassured to learn it has little to do with hippies or chakras. Essentially, meditation – or “mindfulness practice”, as psychologists call it – is a way of “being in the moment”, which enables people to let go of the brain’s “busyness”. The result is a state of deep relaxation and a tranquil mind.

    Source  - Telegraph

    Mobile phones can cause brain tumours, court rules.

    Innocente Marcolini, 60, an Italian businessman, fell ill after using a handset at work for up to six hours every day for 12 years.
    Now Italy's Supreme Court in Rome has blamed his phone saying there is a "causal link" between his illness and phone use, the Sun has reported.
    Mr Marcolini said: "This is significant for very many people. I wanted this problem to become public because many people still do not know the risks. I was on the phone, usually the mobile, for at least five or six hours every day at work. I wanted it recognised that there was a link between my illness and the use of mobile and cordless phones. Parents need to know their children are at risk of this illness."
    British scientists have claimed there is insufficient evidence to prove any link to mobiles. But the respected oncologist and professor of environmental mutagenesis Angelo Gino Levis gave evidence for Mr Marcolini — along with neurosurgeon Dr Giuseppe Grasso.
    They said electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile and cordless phones can damage cells, making tumours more likely.
    Prof Levis told The Sun: "The court decision is extremely important. It finally officially recognises the link. It'll open not a road but a motorway to legal actions by victims. We're considering a class action."
    Mr Marcolini's tumour was discovered in the trigeminal nerve — close to where the phone touched his head.

    Source  - Telegraph

    Low calcium thyroid disorder link

    Having too little calcium in the diet increases women's risk of a hormone condition that can cause bone fractures and kidney stones, scientists suggest.
    Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) affects around one in 800 people during their lifetime and is most common in post-menopausal women.
    Writing in the British Medical Journal, the team suggest increasing calcium intake cuts the risk of the disease.
    Adults need around 700g of calcium a day. Milk and other dairy foods, nuts and fish such as sardines and pilchards (where the bones are eaten) are some dietary sources of calcium. Taking too much could cause stomach pains and diarrhoea.
    PHPT is caused by overactive parathyroid glands secreting too much parathyroid hormone. As well as bone and kidney problems, there have also been suggestions it is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

    Source  - BBC

    Cranberry juice is not effective against cystitis, say scientists

    Cranberry juice provides no meaningful protection against cystitis, contrary to the belief of large numbers of women, say scientists.

    A review of findings from 24 studies involving 4,473 participants found no evidence that cranberry juice, or supplements, can be used to prevent bladder and kidney infections.
    Cystitis is a stinging inflammation of the bladder usually caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI). It can also be triggered by irritation during sexual intercourse, leading to its nickname the "honeymoon disease". For decades countless women have used cranberry juice to treat mild cystitis or prevent recurring infection.
    Experts have suggested that compounds in cranberries may stop bacteria sticking to cells lining the walls of the urinary tract.
    Numerous websites and many GPs encourage women troubled by cystitis to try the cranberry treatment on the basis that it might help and will do them no harm. In 2008, a review of 10 trials found that women who drank the juice or took cranberry supplements had fewer UTIs that those who did not.

    Source  - Independent

    Vitamins may reduce cancer risk in men, study finds

    Taking a daily multivitamin pill may lower the risk of developing cancer in men, US researchers have claimed.
    Their study followed nearly 15,000 men, aged over 50, for more than a decade.
    The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported a small reduction in cancer cases in men taking vitamin pills. But experts warned that other studies had found the opposite effect and that eating a diet packed with fruit and vegetables was a safer bet.
    Vitamin supplements are  recommended for some groups of people, such as vitamin D in the over 65s.
    However, the benefits of multivitamins cause more harm than good when taken by healthy people while others have shown no benefit in cancer.
    Doctors at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School analysed data from men who were given either a multivitamin or a sugar pill every day.

    Source  - BBC

    Is chronic back pain all in the mind?

    No one, it seems, is immune from back pain.
    It was reported last week that the Queen had to pull out of an investiture ceremony because of the problem.
    She has apparently suffered from excruciating back pain for years — in 2006, she was laid up for several weeks with sciatica (pain caused by pressure on the nerve that runs from the lower back down the legs). The miserable fact is that 80 per cent of us will suffer from back pain at some point, and for many it becomes a long-term problem.
    Most will see their GP, then take painkillers and anti-inflammatories, and somehow get on with their lives. Some eventually get an X-ray or MRI scan that may confirm structural damage or wear and tear, and surgery may be offered as an option. However, despite huge advances in diagnostics and surgical techniques, many people with back pain are never completely free of pain.
    An estimated 1.6 million Britons develop chronic back pain each year and, for around half of them, studies show the pain is disabling.
    There is a wide acceptance among pain specialists that when pain drifts from an acute, short-term problem into a chronic one, psychological factors come into play — often making the pain much worse.
    In fact, under guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), physiotherapists treating long-term back pain are meant to incorporate some of the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy into their treatment plan, educating patients about the role the mind can play in exacerbating their problem — for instance, using relaxation and breathing exercises.

    Source  - Daily Mail

    Sitting for long periods 'is bad for your health'

    Sitting for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, researchers suggest.
    The scientists from Leicester and Loughborough Universities say harm is done even if people also exercise.
    The study, published in Diabetologia, analysed 18 existing studies involving almost 800,000 people.  Diabetes UK said anyone who spent a lot of time sitting or lying down would "obviously benefit" from moving more.
    The researchers say the opportunities for sedentary behaviour in modern society such as watching TV, sitting in a car or using a computer are "ubiquitous".
    Of course, in modern society many people head to the gym for a burst of exercise to redress the balance.
    But the research team, led by Dr Emma Wilmot from the Diabetes Group at the University of Leicester, says while going to the gym or pool after work is better than heading straight for the sofa, spending a long time sitting down remains bad for you.

    Source  - BBC

    Cure or no cure, we’ll keep taking the tablets

    Is there anyone who has never overheard the complaint on a bus or train that “they can cure a lot of things, but they can’t cure the common cold”?
    The slightly reproachful tone with which the complaint is uttered suggests that “they” are not really trying very hard, that “they” could find a cure for it if “they” really wanted to. But there is also just a hint of satisfaction, too, because we don’t want “them” to know everything and get swollen heads thereby. We do not want “them” to pluck out the heart of every mystery. We want our illnesses, provided they are not too serious, to elude their understanding.
    The incurability of the common cold is our secret weapon against the pretensions to omniscience of the medical profession. The common cold humbles the doctor. But all that might now change.
    A study by the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff has found that the popular cold remedy echinacea can not only prevent colds but also shorten them once they start. If you take three daily doses for four months, your chances of catching a cold and the length of time you spend with it declines by 26 per cent, or 60 per cent if you are particularly susceptible to colds. Whether the benefit is large enough for people to take echinacea three times a day for four months is something for each person to decide: no answer is right for everyone.

    Powerful magnets that cause cancer cells to 'self-destruct' could offer targeted treatment for tumours

    Magnets that cause tumours to 'self-destruct' could be a revolutionary new weapon in the fight against cancer.
    Scientists in South Korea have developed the method, which uses a magnetic field to trigger the cells to effectively kill themselves. The researchers have demonstrated that the process works in bowel cancer cells and living laboratory fish.  They now plan to test the technique on a range of cancers to see if it can destroy other tumours.
    Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, as it is known, is one of the body's ways of getting rid of old, faulty or infected cells. In response to certain signals, the doomed cell shrinks and breaks into fragments. These are then engulfed and consumed by amoeba-like immune cells. But with cancer, this cell-death process often fails, so cells are allowed to keep dividing uncontrollably.
    The new magnetic therapy involves creating tiny iron nanoparticles attached to antibodies - proteins produced by the body's immune system when it detects harmful substances.  These iron nanoparticles then bind to the molecules on tumour cells. When the magnetic field is applied, the molecules cluster together, automatically triggering the 'death signal'.
    The process raises the hope of new targeted treatments that could kill tumour cells resistant to the usual process of cell death.

     

    Largest ever clinical study into echinacea finds herbal remedy CAN protect against colds

    The herbal remedy echinacea can prevent colds and is of most benefit to people who are prone to them, according to the largest ever clinical study of the herbal medicine.
    Researchers found that taking three daily doses of the common remedy for four months reduced the number of colds. The duration of the illness suffered by patients also went down by an average of 26 per cent.
    According to the results of tests on 750 people, the treatment also cut the number of recurrent colds suffered by those with weak immune systems or a history of catching several bouts each year by 60 per cent.
    Several previous studies, including an overview of evidence by the highly respected Cochrane Library, had suggested that echinacea could soothe symptoms and cut colds short, but there was only limited evidence it could prevent the illness from ever taking hold.
    The most recent major paper into the therapy, by the American College of Physicians, had found that it did not prevent colds or significantly reduce the length or severity symptoms.

    Source  - Daily Mail

    Women's hearts 'get twice the benefit from fish oil than men's

    Eating oily fish may boost women’s heart health more than men’s, claim researchers.
    The oils - found in fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna - are known to improve chances of surviving a repeat heart attack. But a new study suggests women could benefit more from their effect on the heart.
    Researchers at the University of Reading found fish oils have a direct impact on the muscle cells that control the elasticity of our blood vessels. In tests, women got double the benefit compared with men as elasticity improved four-fold in women compared with two-fold in men.
    In fact the beneficial effect of the fish oil in women was as potent as that of drugs that are prescribed to people with poor blood vessel elasticity, such as those with diabetes. At least 39,000 women a year in the UK suffer heart attacks and their chances of dying are higher than a man’s.

    Source  - Daily Mail



    Drinking a litre of mineral water every day 'can prevent Alzheimer's memory loss'

    Drinking a litre of mineral water every day can prevent cognitive decline in Alzheimer's sufferers by removing aluminium from their bodies, a study found yesterday.
    British researchers found drinking silicon-rich mineral water 'significantly reduced' the levels of neurotoxin aluminium in the body. Aluminium has long been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s but no scientific relationship has yet been proved.
    Drinking a litre of mineral water every day can prevent cognitive decline in Alzheimer's sufferers by removing aluminium from their bodies, a study found yesterday. British researchers found drinking silicon-rich mineral water 'significantly reduced' the levels of neurotoxin aluminium in the body.

    Source  - Daily Mail

    Tomatoes are 'stroke preventers'

    A diet rich in tomatoes may reduce the risk of having a stroke, according to researchers in Finland.
    They were investigating the impact of lycopene - a bright red chemical found in tomatoes, peppers and water-melons.
    A study of 1,031 men, published in the journal Neurology, showed those with the most lycopene in their bloodstream were the least likely to have a stroke. The Stroke Association called for more research into why lycopene seemed to have this effect. The levels of lycopene in the blood were assessed at the beginning of the study, which then followed the men for the next 12 years.
    They were split into four groups based on the amount of lycopene in their blood. There were 25 strokes in the 258 men in the low lycopene group and 11 strokes out of the 259 men in the high lycopene group. The study said the risk of stroke was cut by 55% by having a diet rich in lycopene.

    Source  - BBC

    A spiritual approach to health

    Spirituality is the key to staying healthy. Are you envisaging a group of crystal-gazing New Age revellers? Well, don’t: spirituality embraces all religions and none, and has everything to do with how you approach life, stay fit and keep well.
    Stress, inner anger and frustration trigger illness. Expectation is usually the key to disappointment. If you have your heart set on a new house and it goes to someone else or your job interview is a disaster - what happens? You feel angry or unhappy. You may drown your sorrows in a bottle of wine but unhappiness gnaws away at you inside.
    Imagine instead that you have no expectation; that you accept there is a reason for everything you experience in life. Every moment becomes an opportunity. My niece had her heart set on buying a little house with a tiny garden for her and her two boys. The sale fell through three times and she was desperately disappointed. But that was someone else’s house. Soon afterwards, she found a small flat that opened onto a huge communal garden-- a fabulous and safe space for her sons to play in. If you don’t receive the job offer you thought you wanted, think about what you learnt from the experience, and who you met along the way.

    Source  - Telegraph

    How an apple a day could keep the cardiologist away

    A new study suggests that eating apples each day could significantly improve the heart health of middle-aged adults in just one month.
    Those who ate a daily apple over four weeks lowered 'bad' cholesterol in the blood by 40 per cent - a substance linked to hardening of the arteries. Taking capsules containing polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in apples, had a similar, but not as large, effect.  'Bad' cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can interact with free radicals to become oxidized, which can trigger inflammation and can cause tissue damage. 
    Research leader, Professor Robert DiSilvestro, from Ohio State University, said: 'When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
    'We got a tremendous effect against LDL being oxidized with just one apple a day for four weeks. The difference was similar to that found between people with normal coronary arteries versus those with coronary artery disease, he said.
    The study, funded by an apple industry group, is published online in the Journal of Functional Foods and will appear in a future print edition.

    Source  - Daily Mail

    Black mamba venom is 'better painkiller' than morphine

    A painkiller as powerful as morphine, but without most of the side-effects, has been found in the deadly venom of the black mamba, say French scientists.
    The predator, which uses neurotoxins to paralyse and kill small animals, is one of the fastest and most dangerous snakes in Africa. However, tests on mice, reported in the journal Nature, showed its venom also contained a potent painkiller. They admit to being completely baffled about why the mamba would produce it.
    The researchers looked at venom from 50 species before they found the black mamba's pain-killing proteins - called mambalgins. Dr Eric Lingueglia, from the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology near Nice, told the BBC: "When it was tested in mice, the analgesia was as strong as morphine, but you don't have most of the side-effects."

    Source  - BBC

    How an apple a day could keep the cardiologist away

    A new study suggests that eating apples each day could significantly improve the heart health of middle-aged adults in just one month.
    Those who ate a daily apple over four weeks lowered 'bad' cholesterol in the blood by 40 per cent - a substance linked to hardening of the arteries. Taking capsules containing polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in apples, had a similar, but not as large, effect. 
    'Bad' cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can interact with free radicals to become oxidized, which can trigger inflammation and can cause tissue damage. 
    Research leader, Professor Robert DiSilvestro, from Ohio State University, said: 'When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. We got a tremendous effect against LDL being oxidized with just one apple a day for four weeks.'
    The difference was similar to that found between people with normal coronary arteries versus those with coronary artery disease, he said. The study, funded by an apple industry group, is published online in the Journal of Functional Foods and will appear in a future print edition.

    Source  - Daily Mail

    'No proof' vitamin D stops colds

    Scientists say they can find no convincing evidence to show that taking vitamin D supplements will fend off a cold.
    A New Zealand team did the "gold standard" of tests - a randomised placebo-controlled trial - to see what impact the supplements would have. The 161 people who took daily vitamin D for 18 months caught as many colds as the 161 who took fake pills. The study was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
    But a leading UK cold expert said vitamin D was useful. Prof Ronald Eccles, of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, said it can give the immune system a much-needed boost during winter when vitamin D reserves may be low.

    Source  - BBC