Above all, avoid miracle cures, cults and quacks

I was approaching my 20th birthday when I had my first full-blown anxiety attack. It was the Easter holidays and I was revising for some tough law exams when I suffered what I thought at first must be a heart attack or a seizure. It began with a sensation similar to that when you expect your foot to land firmly on a step, but instead find empty space. It intensified to the point where I nearly collapsed.
It is difficult without sounding melodramatic to describe how it feels to have an acute anxiety attack. The heart beats increasingly faster as adrenalin pumps into the blood. There is a loss of peripheral vision and hearing becomes distorted – as though listening to the world’s sounds from inside an echo chamber. Palpitations make it impossible to speak, the skin feels numb to the touch and, finally, the victim is fighting for every breath. The immediate assumption is that this is life-threatening.
I managed to convince myself that this first attack, which passed after several minutes (although it left me with an ongoing, low-level anxiety and several phobias), was caused by a virus. It was the late Eighties, the time of “yuppy flu”, and several students at my Oxford college had been struck down by this mysterious debilitating illness. I had never heard of anxiety attacks and had no reason to believe I was suffering a mental health problem.

Is plastic food packaging dangerous?

If you've had to fight though plastic packaging to get to your food you won't be surprised to hear it can raise your blood pressure – but it's the phthalate chemicals used in the packaging rather than the effort involved, that's to blame. These chemicals are generally used to make plastic soft, for example in credit cards or plastic shower curtains. A study of nearly 3,000 children in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children between the ages of six and 19 who had been exposed to phthalates (measured by levels of breakdown products of the chemicals in their urine) had higher levels of blood pressure than those who didn't.
When I asked the lead researcher, Leonardo Trasande from  New York University School of Medicine, if the small, clinically insignificant rise in blood pressure was likely to mean anything, he said it could do so in later life. "We know that phthalates damage the walls of arteries by oxidative stress and they may directly damage heart cells," he says. "We know these chemicals get into food from plastic wrappings and gloves, and that they are in PVC flooring and cosmetics. We think they may have a effect on cardiovascular health and that children and adolescents should have limited exposure."

Are we ignoring the dangers of mobile phones?

In 1996, Neil Whitfield, a sales manager from Wigan, was given his first  mobile phone by his company. “It was introduced as a nice, cuddly friend. It had all of your mates’ contact details on it. It was always in your pocket or pressed against your ear,” he says.
However, within a short space of time Whitfield, a father of six who was then in his late thirties, started suffering terrible headaches. “Then my hearing deteriorated and I kept forgetting things, which was not like me.” A scan revealed he had an acoustic neuroma – a rare brain tumour that grows on a nerve in the brain near the ear. Without surgery, he was told, he had five years to live.
“The specialist asked if I used a mobile a lot. When I said yes, he replied: ‘Mobiles will be the smoking gun of the 21st century.’ He sowed a seed in my mind.” Whitfield, now 56, is one of a growing and vociferous group of people who are convinced that mobile phones are killing us. A phone, they point out, along with cordless phones and Wi-Fi, works in the same way as a miniature microwave, emitting electromagnetic radiation.

Is your caffeine fix making you fat?

Knocking back five cups of coffee per day may lead to weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes, researchers have warned. 
While previous studies have shown coffee in moderation could help weight loss and actually reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, these recent findings suggest that too much coffee could prevent weight loss. Australian researchers found that over- consumption of certain polyphenols found in coffee called chlorogenic acid (CGA) could prevent fat loss and lead to insulin resistance.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistrytested CGA's effects on obese mice, which were given different doses of the compound. The mice that were given doses equivalent to five or six cups of coffee per day showed retention of fat within cells.


Could eating yoghurt help treat depression?

Probiotics found in natural yogurt could help boost a person’s mood because they affect brain function, according to new research.
Previous studies had shown that beneficial bacteria affected the brains of rats but no research has confirmed that the same occurred in human brains. The study found that those who ate probiotic yoghurt twice daily for a month showed altered brain function, both in resting brain activity and in response to an 'emotional attention task', which was designed to monitor how the brain responded to certain emotions.
It has been known for some time that symbiotic gut bacteria, the complex ecosystem of microorganisms that live in the human digestive system, promote health by boosting immunity, aiding digestion, as well as maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.
It has also been known that the brain sends signals to the gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms. This study shows that signals travel the opposite way as well.


Avatars ease voices for schizophrenia patients

Use of an avatar can help treat patients with schizophrenia who hear voices, a UK study suggests.
The trial, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, focused on patients who had not responded to medication. Using customised computer software, the patients created avatars to match the voices they had been hearing. After up to six therapy sessions most patients said their voice had improved. Three said it had stopped entirely.
The study was led by psychiatrist emeritus professor Julian Leff, who spoke to patients through their on-screen avatars in therapy sessions. Gradually he coached patients to stand up to their voices.

Walking works

"It felt like we were marching through a battlefield. People were gasping for breath and shouting for help. Lots didn't make it to the end, either collapsing from exhaustion or unable to take the pain any longer."
That is how one friend dramatically described the 24-hour, 100km  charity walk from London to Brighton. What was I thinking when I signed up? But since making that rash decision last November, I've had little choice but to lace up my first ever pair of walking boots and take to the streets of London. It has been a refreshing – and blistering – experience.
A few years ago, walking was a hot topic, with charities and media commentators encouraging us to get a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps a day. But it seems we didn't listen: according to the historian Joe Moran, walking has declined by 25% in the past quarter of a century in the UK; a YouGov poll recently revealed that as many as a quarter of British adults walk for an hour or less a week – and that includes getting to the door of your car. Two-thirds of adults in the UK don't do nearly enough physical activity. The result is clear: sedentary Britain is facing a public health crisis.
At a recent TED lecture, the author Nilofer Merchant said sitting is the "new smoking of our generation". The phrase has been picked up by public health academics and experts, who warn of a worldwide pandemic of inactivity. Even going to the gym in the evening isn't enough to offset nine hours of sitting still in the office, according to studies. Walking needs to be part of everyday life – your commute to work, your journey home, your visit to the shops, your lunch break, and even the way you work.

Why broad beans are good for you

With their verdant sheen and kidney-shaped curves, few vegetables rival broad beans in the looks department. True, a little effort in the form of double podding is needed to show them off. First you liberate the beans from their outer jackets (a doddle). Next, you immerse the beans in boiling water for two minutes, refresh them in cold, and drain them. Then by squeezing them gently, you can slip the seductive green beans out of their grey, papery skins.
Broad beans are most definitely not fast food, but when you bite through their silky exterior into their sweetly leguminous floury centre, you'll remember why they are worth the bother. They're best when they are relatively small and new; they become duller tasting and more like dried pulses with age. Mint, crispy bacon and pecorino all make perfect companions.

Why are broad beans good for me?

Broad beans are an excellent vegetable source of protein and fibre. This may be a winning combination for weight loss. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 found that overweight women on a high-protein, high-fibre diet lost more weight than those on the standard high-carbohydrate, low-fat regime that currently forms the basis of government "healthy eating" advice. Broad beans are also rich in both folate and B vitamins, which we need for nerve and blood cell development, cognitive function and energy.

Camomile tea 'fights cancer'

A cup of camomile tea could help ward off cancer, researchers say. 
The tea contains a chemical, apigenin, which takes away some of the ‘superpowers’ of cancer cells.
Scientists at Ohio State University found apigenin can block the ability of breast cancer cells to live far longer than normal cells, halting their spread and making them more sensitive to drug therapy.  Camomile tea, parsley and celery are the most abundant sources of apigenin but it is also found in many fruit and vegetables common in a Mediterranean diet.

The chemical, which has also been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory, works in a way that suggests other nutrients could have similar effects in warding off cancer. It helps proteins correct the abnormalities in RNA – molecules carrying genetic information – that are responsible for about 80 per cent of cancers.
Molecular geneticist Professor Andrea Doseff, of Ohio State University, said: 'We know we need to eat healthfully, but in most cases we do not know the actual mechanistic reasons for why we need to do that. We see here the beneficial effect on health is attributed to this dietary nutrient affecting many proteins.'


Source  - Daily Mail

Cannabis linked to prevention of diabetes


Smoking cannabis may prevent the development of diabetes, one of the most rapidly rising chronic disorders in the world.
If the link is proved, it could lead to the development of treatments based on the active ingredient of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), without its intoxicating effects.
Researchers have found that regular users of the drug had lower levels of the hormone insulin after fasting – a signal that they are protected against diabetes. They also had reduced  insulin resistance. Cannabis is widely smoked in the United States with over 17 million current users of whom more than four million smoke it on a daily basis. In the UK latest figures show  2.3 million people used cannabis in the last year, but the numbers have declined in the last decade.
Two US states have recently legalised its recreational use and 19 others have legalised it for medical purposes by patients with one of several conditions including multiple sclerosis and cancer. THC has already been approved to treat the side effects of chemotherapy, nausea in cancer patients, anorexia associated with AIDS and other conditions.

DANGER: Reading articles about health and disease can make you feel ill


Scare stories about illnesses may trigger symptoms in some people, according to a new study.
Researchers found that media reports about substances that are supposedly dangerous to health may cause ‘suggestible’ people to develop symptoms - even though there is no objective reason for them to do so.
Researchers studied the phenomenon known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which is associated with mobile phone use.
Doctor Michael Witthvft, of Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, said: ‘There is a considerable body of evidence that electromagnetic hypersensitivity might actually be the result of a so-called “nocebo” effect. The mere anticipation of possible injury may actually trigger pain or disorders. This is the opposite of the analgesic effects we know can be associated with exposure to placebos.’ The study illustrates how media reports about health hazards may trigger or amplify 'nocebo' effects in some people.

Source  - Daily Mail

Children who play outside have better eyesight than those who spend more time indoors


Children who spend more time playing outside are less likely to suffer from short-sightedness. 
Two new studies have added to the body of evidence that daylight plays an important role in preventing the condition. It is not known why daylight is important but some experts believe levels of the brain chemical  dopamine play a role. High levels of dopamine in the eyeball have been associated with a lower risk of short-sightedness.
Short-sightedness, or myopia, is an eye condition that causes a person to see things clearly close-up but struggle to see things when they are far away. In childhood it is correctable, but it is also linked to the development of severe forms of the eye disorder in adulthood, which increases the risks for potentially blinding diseases such as glaucoma and retinal detachment.
Research on short-sightedness is intensifying as the condition nears epidemic status in Asia and other regions, primarily in developed countries.  Shockingly, it has increased by more than 65 per cent since 1970 in the U.S.. Although it often inherited, researchers are now assessing environmental factors to help explain why rates are rising so rapidly in some populations.



Healthiest children are those who eat the same as their parents


If you're ever tempted to give in  to your children’s demands for chicken nuggets and chips for tea, bear this in mind.
Children who eat the same food as their parents rather than being indulged with 'kids' meals' are far more likely to have healthy diets, research has found. In fact, eating adult meals is the most important factor in determining whether a child's diet will be healthy - far more so than whether they snack between meals, skip dinner, or insist on eating in the living room in front of the television.
'Offering separate "children's food" for a main meal may often result in children missing out nutritionally, for example if vegetables are omitted,' said Valeria Skafida, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Research for Families and Relationships'It is likely that in cases where children eat different foods, they are eating a less nutritious option.'



Nuts could be just as important for child bone health


Parents have long been advised to feed their children enough milk and other calcium-rich foods for good bone health, but new research has shown that pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, salmon and almonds may be just as important.
The study, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington DC, found that foods rich in magnesium play an important role in building bones.
'Lots of nutrients are key for children to have healthy bones and one of these appears to be magnesium,' said lead author Steven Abrams, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. 'Calcium is important, but, except for those children and adolescents with very low intakes, may not be more important than magnesium.'
While it is known that magnesium is important for bone health in adults, few studies have looked at whether magnesium intake is related to bone mineral content in young children.



Millions of us - including children - are wrongly labelled with psychiatric problems


From depression to anxiety and ADHD, more of us now suffer from mental health problems and need pills to treat them — or so we’re told. But in this shocking indictment of modern psychiatry, JAMES DAVIES suggests that this rise in mental illness is down to the greed of drug companies and the pursuit of medical status. The author is a psychological therapist who has worked for the NHS and the mental health charity Mind.
When I meet Sarah Jones, a mother of two and a care worker in West London, her love for her family and work clearly shine through. But when we talk about her seven-year-old son Dominic, she seems overcome with anxiety. 
‘Dominic is a lovely boy, but last year he started getting agitated and aggressive. He was doing badly at school and then he got into a fight,’ she says. The school psychologist wanted Dominic to have a doctor’s assessment. After seeing the boy for 25 minutes, the doctor said he was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.



Drinking alcohol regularly could LOWER your risk of arthritis


Drinking alcohol in moderation could slash the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, according to new research.
Some regular drinkers were nearly half as likely to develop the crippling condition as teetotallers or those who rarely drank. Researchers discovered the connection after carrying out an extensive review of previous studies that looked into the role of alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis.
The results, published in the journal Rheumatology, suggest a few drinks a week could have a protective effect against a disease that affects around 600,000 people in the UK. Although the latest investigation did not look at the reasons why a regular tipple might offer some protection, earlier research suggested it could be because alcohol appears to dampen down inflammation in the body and also has a mild pain-killing effect.
Rheumatoid arthritis is triggered when the immune system, the body's in-built defence mechanism, goes into action unnecessarily, attacking joints and sometimes other parts of the body.
The reasons why remain a mystery but some evidence suggests exposure to mild infection may be enough to launch this over-reaction. As a result, joints become inflamed and swollen, causing pain or stiffness, and many sufferers also experience flu-like symptoms.

Source  - Daily Mail