Doing good leads to strong immune cells

American scientists have found different types of happiness have surprisingly contrary effects on our genes. 
UCLA research found that people who derive their happiness from helping others have strong antibody genes, while people who get their kicks from self-gratification can suffer from low antiviral and anitbody gene expression.
The study, which also involved the University of North Carolina, is the first of its kind to examine how positive psychology impacts human gene expression. People who are do-gooders have high levels of 'eudaimonic well-being'. They derive their happiness from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life showed favourable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. Those studied from this happiness group had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong antibody and antiviral genes.
However, individuals who have high levels of 'hedonic well-being' - the type of happiness that comes from consuming goods and self-gratification - showed the opposite. This group of people showed high inflammation and weak antibody and antiviral genes.
The study's findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research, led by Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and Barbara L. Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, has taken a decade. The scientists have looked at how the human genome responds to fear, stress, misery and other negative mental states, but focused on how human genes might respond to positive psychology in this study.

Source  - Daily Mail

The GPs who say wacky alternative cures like herbs ... AREN'T hokum

Recent reports that Prince Charles had been lobbying the Health Secretary to back homeopathic medicine provoked howls of protest. Critics pointed out there was no scientific evidence it actually worked.
Indeed, both the British Medical Association and the Commons Science and Technology Committee have said the NHS should stop funding homeopathic treatments. 
Sceptics say the therapies are no better than placebos, yet some medics argue they are backed by strong evidence. And a report from website NetDoctor says half of all GPs are thought to provide access to 'therapy outside conventional medicine', including osteopathy and acupuncture. There are also 400 GP members of the Faculty of Homeopathy, and 900 GP members of the British Medical Acupuncture Society.
GPs are the most likely of all doctors to want to fit in with patients' agendas and beliefs, says Dr Michael Dixon, an NHS GP and chairman of the NHS Alliance, which campaigns to improve healthcare within the service. 
'But more and more, we are also recognising that conventional medicine doesn't have all the answers,' he adds. 'It is great for diagnosing patients, but not always able to treat the problems it identifies. 'At our practice (in Cullompton, Devon) we refer patients for osteopathy, hypnosis, massage, acupuncture and reflexology. And we frequently recommend herbal remedies. The main criticism levelled against alternative medicine is that it lacks evidence to support it, but some herbs have a lot of evidence to back them up. For example, St John's Wort is well-proven to treat mild to medium depression, and peppermint has long been used (and prescribed by GPs as Colpermin) for bowel spasms.

Source  - Daily Mail

Why blackcurrants are good for you

Blackcurrants are much too good to be relegated to jams and cordials. In all their purple might, they have an intensely punchy flavour, unmatched even by damsons or raspberries. And while those ubiquitous blueberries often disappoint, blackcurrants always deliver. Just a handful brings colour and a tangy tart edge to everything from summer pudding to creamy fool. One blackcurrant leaf adds a blousy perfume to a glass of chilled Pimm's.
It's criminal that fresh British blackcurrants are given so little retail shelf space during their season. They only need a quick pick over, and the results are an ample reward. The ready-to-use frozen sort is not to be sniffed at, either. Blackcurrants freeze well and make a fantastic, near instant compote. They're wonderful in porridge too.
Why are blackcurrants good for me?
Blackcurrants contain sumptuously rich levels of health-promoting micronutrients, even compared with other "superfood" berries. They are an exceptionally rich source of vitamin C – containing three times more than oranges – and natural phenolic compounds, notably anthocyanins. This winning combination appears to bestow an anti-inflammatory effect, promoting cardiovascular and brain health, and offering some protection against age-related eye problems. Some research suggests the phenolic compounds help prevent urinary tract infections and relieve the symptoms.

Sweeteners are not bad for you

Aspartame, xylitol and Stevia might sound like Doctor Who villains, but in fact they are sugar substitutes, or sweeteners. 
Most of us have been consuming them in some form since the first of them, saccharin – dubbed ‘the poor man’s sugar’ – was formulated by German chemists more than 100 years  ago. And fears about their potentially toxic effects date back almost as far.
Diabetes, cancer, strokes, seizures, hypertension, vomiting, dizziness – all have been cited as risks from sweetener consumption.  Yet none of these claims has stuck, and today sweeteners are a global industry worth hundreds of millions of pounds.  They are found in more than 6,000 products from drinks and desserts  to cakes, chewing gum and  ready meals.
Last week a new study emerged, with Purdue University in Indiana claiming that diet drinks containing the artificial sweetener aspartame (such as Coke Zero) are no healthier than their full-sugar counterparts and could contribute to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. 
The report author, Professor Susan Swithers, suggested this could be because the chemical fails to trigger the ‘full’ feeling in our brain, so we over-indulge elsewhere.  She also proposed  a link between aspartame and metabolic syndrome, a much-disputed term denoting a combination of symptoms that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
So are there really dangers involved in swapping sugar with manufactured alternatives? Have we all been misled? We asked  the experts:

Source  - Daily Mail

Write your own recovery

Writing about your problems could boost your immune system and speed  up wound healing, new research suggests.
Skin healed three times faster in people who wrote about their traumatic life experiences, compared with those who simply documented daily activities, in a study by the University of AucklandThe 50 participants, both men and women, were asked to write for 20 minutes daily, for three consecutive days. Half the group wrote about upsetting experiences and expressed their deepest emotions, while the rest wrote about their planned activities for the next day, without mentioning emotions. 
Two weeks later, all participants had a 4mm skin biopsy taken from their arm and their healing rates were monitored and compared. After 11 days, 76 per cent of the expressive group’s wounds had healed, compared with just  42 per cent of the others.
‘Our study helps demonstrate the mind-body relationship  and how we could use psychological interventions to improve physiological outcomes,’ says Dr Elizabeth Broadbent, who led the study.

Source  - Daily Mail

Listening to a melody reduces physical pain

Listening to music makes people feel less pain, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Alberta have found more evidence to suggest that music decreases people’s perceived sense of pain. Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry researcher Dr Lisa Hartling led a research team that conducted a clinical research trial of 42 children between the ages of three and 11.
All of the children were seen at the paediatric emergency department at the Stollery Children's Hospital, in Alberta, and needed IVs.  Some of the children listened to music while getting an IV, while others did not. 
Researchers measured the children's distress, perceived pain levels, and heart rates. They also measured the satisfaction levels of parents, and the satisfaction levels of the healthcare providers who administered the IVs. 
‘We did find a difference in the children's reported pain – the children in the music group had less pain immediately after the procedure,’ said Dr Hartling.  ‘The finding is clinically important and it's a simple intervention that can make a big difference. Playing music for kids during painful medical procedures would be an inexpensive and easy-to-use intervention in clinical settings.’
The research showed that the children who listened to music reported significantly less pain, some demonstrated significantly less distress, and the children's parents were more satisfied with care.

Source  - Daily Mail

Cranberry juice really does prevent bladder infections

Drinking cranberry juice really can cure bladder infections, according to new research. And extracts from the fruit could even keep medical devices free of bacteria, say scientists.
Thousands of patients develop complications from catheters, thin tubes that deliver fluids or drain urine, because they allow bugs on the skin to easily enter the body and infect tissue or blood.
A study has now found how chemicals in cranberries alter bacterial behaviour, pointing to a potential role for derivatives in implantable devices. Consuming the fruit has been associated with prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs) for more than a hundred years, although some experts have claimed it is a myth with no basis in fact.
Some studies have suggested cranberries work by hindering bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, thanks to chemicals known as PACs (proanthocyanidins). Now experiments have found that cranberry powder stopped Proteus mirabilis, a bacterium frequently implicated in complicated bladder infections, from colonising and swimming together

Source  - Daily Mail
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Outrageous attacks on science

The year 2012 brought with it many opportunities for wielding a big, debunking stick and pointing it towards outrageous attacks on science. From the Science-ish archives, to be read with a festive beverage, here are the worst offenders from 2012:
1. DR. OZ, FAITH HEALER  Though he may have started out as one of America’s most-trusted MDs after earning a seal of approval from none other than Oprah Winfrey, the medical community has long known that Dr. Mehmet Oz can be a font of pseudoscience. This year, when he was in Toronto to give a motivational lecture about the “biology of blubber,” I had a chance to sit-down with Oz and grill him about his use of medical evidence. In particular, when asked about his promotion of raspberry ketones for weight loss—a dubious supplement—he said it was “an example of where I’m trying to give you hope.” Needless to say, he didn’t pass the evidence test. I’m pretty sure I was the only reporter in the room he didn’t hug that day.

Why cherries are good for you

Anthocyanins in cherries appear to have a marked anti-inflammatory action. Specifically, these compounds seem to be highly effective in treating gout, a condition that causes painful swelling in joints. Last year, a Boston Medical Center study reported that eating cherries reduces gout attacks by 35%. Cherries are also one of the few food sources of the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep patterns.
 A study published in 2011 in the European Journal of Nutrition, reported that eating tart montmorency (or morello) cherries significantly raised levels of melatonin and improved sleep. Compared to most other fruits, cherries are low in sugar, which makes them an ideal choice for people who want to lose weight.

Source  - Guardian

Chinese herbal medicines contain pesticide residue

Many traditional Chinese herbal medicines sold in western countries contain a "cocktail" of pesticide residues which exceed safe levels, research by  Greenpeace suggests.
Testing of 36 samples of herbal products imported from China, including chrysanthemum, wolfberry, honeysuckle, dried lily bulb, san qi, Chinese date and rosebud, found 32 contained residues of three or more pesticides. A report by Greenpeace said traditional Chinese herbs were becoming increasingly known and accepted in the west, where they were purchased for medicinal use, and the export market was worth £1.5bn in 2011.
But almost half the samples (17) collected in the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands had residues of pesticides considered highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation, although in low concentrations. Of 29 samples of products bought in European countries including the UK, 26 showed pesticide residues in quantities exceeding maximum safe levels set by EU authorities, Greenpeace said.
Tests on chrysanthemum bought in the UK detected 15 pesticides, eight of which exceeded EU residue levels, according to the report by the environmental group.

Why no meat, no dairy and meditation every day COULD be the key to conquering MS

Every year, more than 2,500 Britons are told they have multiple sclerosis. If they ask what it means, they’re likely to be given the textbook definition: it’s a progressively disabling, incurable, neurological illness.
They’ll be told that pain, disability and a range of distressing symptoms are in their future. How bad it gets, how quickly it happens it’s not possible to predict. But there’s not a lot they can do, except take the drugs available.
That was the experience of my husband, Jon, when he was diagnosed ten years ago. He has relapsing-remitting MS, which means symptoms appear during a relapse, then fade partially or completely. We were 24, boyfriend and girlfriend, and the shock we felt at hearing the news became, over time, a kind of 
self-preservatory denial of its possible implications.
There is almost no end to the list of symptoms MS can cause, but in Jon’s case it manifests as general, sometimes debilitating, fatigue, spasms and pain in his arms and legs, and numbness in hands and feet. That could change at any time to include problems with his vision, balance and speech, bowel and bladder function, among other things.