Alcohol-free wine 'just as healthy'

Removing the alcohol content of red wine does not reduce its health-giving properties, suggest experts.

In fact, the alcohol may actually shorten the benefits.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, measured the amount of substances called catechins in blood plasma.

These are thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

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Herb 'helps ease depression'

An extract from the herb St John's Wort is just as effective as a drug commonly used to treat depression, according to medical researchers.

A German study compared the effect of hypericum extract and the drug imipramine on 263 moderately depressed patients.

The researchers, led by Professor Michael Philipp from Landshut district hospital, found that hypericum was as effective as the drug and had fewer side effects.

Quality of life, both physical and mental, was significantly improved after the patients had been taking hypericum for eight weeks.

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Wine drinkers think positive

Positive thinking could be responsible for the health benefits associated with drinking wine, according to a study that found people who drink wine consider themselves healthier.

The researchers in Denmark said it was well established that believing oneself to be healthy leads to a reduced chance of dying from heart disease or other causes.

They looked at drinking habits of more than 12,000 adults as part of the World Health Organisation 1991 Copenhagen Healthy City Survey and asked them how healthy they considered themselves.

Those who drank moderate amounts of wine were more likely to consider themselves healthier while those who drank beer or spirits thought their health was worse.

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The uppa in the cuppa

Caffeine-filled cups of tea and coffee do not really provide the boost to mood and alertness that people think - they just beat withdrawal symptoms.

New research by Dr Peter Rogers, a psychologist from the University of Bristol, shows that caffeinated drinks have a "pick-me-up" effect only because they counter the tiredness, headaches, and slowing of reactions caused by withdrawal from caffeine in the first place.

Dr Rogers and his team found that caffeine gave the biggest lift when people were suffering from overnight caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

They conducted studies in which they gave people fruit juices with caffeine, and compared this with what happened when people were given a drink with no caffeine.

Not surprisingly, when they felt the caffeine-induced lift, people preferred the drink.

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Onions 'prevent brittle bones'

Onions, garlic and a range of other salad goods may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis - the crippling bone disease that affects one in three women, usually after the menopause.

The claim comes from researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland who conducted experiments on rats.

They said that 1g of onion a day can help prevent the process that causes the condition - resorption, where calcium seeps from the bones making them brittle.

And 500mg mixed with garlic, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, rocket and parsley had a similar result.

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Chocolate 'is good for you'

Chocolate may be better for your health than tea because it contains more of a chemical that could prevent cancer and heart disease, researchers have said.

The findings follow earlier research revealing that moderate chocolate consumption offers health benefits.

The new research measures the amount of catechins - the chemical thought to be behind the benefits - in different types of chocolate.

The substance is also found in tea - leading the researchers to recommend a cup of tea with a chocolate biscuit as one way to help maintain good health.

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Anti-depressant herb may harm sight

St John's wort, hailed as a natural remedy for depression, could cause cataracts in some patients, says US research.

It is just the latest report of side effects associated with the herb and its active ingredient hypericin.

Joan Roberts, of Fordham University, New York, showed in laboratory experiments that the drug reacts with light, both visible and ultraviolet, to produce free radicals, molecules that can damage the cells of the body.

These, the scientists found, can react with vital proteins in the eye.

Roberts said: "If the proteins are damaged, they precipitate out of solution and make the lens cloudy. That's what a cataract is."

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Fruit tea linked to Parkinsonism

Tea made from tropical fruits such as the pawpaw has been linked to a higher rate of a condition with similar symptoms to Parkinson's Disease.

A study carried out in the French West Indies, where the drink is popular, found many patients with "atypical parkinsonism" as a result.

The conditions found were often as deadly as the progressive brain disorder, but started at an earlier age, and were resistant to standard Parkinson's Disease treatments.

Some patients' conditions improved when they stopped drinking the tea.

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Tea prevents heart attacks

Farmers seek herbal remedy

Scottish farmers have begun growing an ancient mythical herb in the latest attempts to cure some of the industry's ills.

Farmers in the Borders, which have been hit by job losses and the downturn in livestock prices, have turned to the commercial harvesting of borage.

The plant, which normally grows to around 60cm and has loose clusters of purple star-like flowers, was reputed to "drive away all sadness and quieteth the lunatic person".

The first recorded use of borage was in Syria more than 2,000 years ago and was favoured as a drink by Celtic tribes who believed it had health-giving properties.

Now there is increasing demand for borage oil for the pharmaceutical market and for use in evening primrose oil.

Medical scientists have also been testing borage as a possible cure for pancreatic cancer and Alzheimer's disease and it is also an ingredient in Pimms.

About 20 farmers have been involved in commercial trials of the plant, which is also known as blue starflower, but it is extremely difficult to harvest and is likely to remain a specialist market.

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Medicinal hopes for mushrooms

Scientists in Britain believe that research into mushrooms could make them a popular medical treatment in future.

Medicines from herbs and mushrooms were once used widely in the West.

Over the past decade, there has been a resurgence in herbal medicines. In countries like Britain and the US, herbs like slippery elm are used to treat stomach upsets, and evening primrose oil is an accepted treatment for pre-menstrual tension and breast tenderness in women.

But mushrooms have been largely ignored.

In Asia, however, they have never gone out of fashion. Reishi mushrooms, for example, have been used for over 2,000 years in China and Japan to relieve the swelling and pain associated with arthritis.

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Raw garlic tackles cancer

Doctors have suggested how much garlic they think a person would have to eat each day to gain from its anti-cancer properties - half a clove.

It should be served raw to have maximum effect, they said.

Previous studies had suggested that a human would have to eat their own weight in garlic before gaining any benefits.

But the new research suggests half a raw clove would be enough, rising to four and half cloves if cooked.

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Drinking fluids cuts bladder cancer risk

Drinking more fluid can lower the risk of bladder cancer, scientists have claimed.

A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that men who drank at least 11 eight-ounce glasses of fluids such as water, fruit juice, milk or coffee cut their risk of two common types of bladder cancer - papillary and flat transitional cell carcinomas - in half.
Men who drank at least six glasses of water a day cut their risk of bladder cancer in half compared with men who had less than one glass, regardless of how much they drank in total liquids.

Bladder cancer strikes an estimated 310,000 people worldwide each year.

Researchers believe the bladder lining suffers less exposure to cancer-causing substances in urine when the urine is diluted and urination is more frequent.

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Vitamin supplements combat cancer

Vitamin supplements may help to slow the progress of some forms of cancer, scientists have claimed.

Several studies presented at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research show that supplements - ranging from ordinary multivitamins to specially formulated vegetable-based capsules - can have a positive impact in combating the disease.

In one study, Dr Omar Kucuk and colleagues at the LycoRed Natural Products in Beersheva, Israel, contained lycopene, the chemical that makes tomatoes red.

Lycopene, which survives cooking and is especially concentrated in tomato sauce and tomato paste, is a known antioxidant and a member of the carotenoid family of nutrients that include beta-carotene and vitamin A.

It cancels out the effects of free radicals, charged particles which damage the body's genetic material and can lead to cancer.

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Cabernet 'best for the heart'

A doctor has named what he thinks is the best wine for a healthy heart - Cabernet Sauvignon.

Scientists have long suggested that red wine can help cut the risk of heart disease, although the benefits seem to apply only to men over 40 and women after the menopause.

One study, however, suggests people as young as 33 can benefit from moderate alcohol consumption.

Dr Jean-Paul Broustet, of Haut Leveque Hospital in Pessac, southern France, made his claim in the UK medical journal, Heart.

He comes from the Bordeaux region - famed for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
He said the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes had high levels of resveratrol - which increases levels of "good" cholesterol and slows production of "bad" cholesterol.

"Bad" cholesterol - or low density lipoprotein - can block arteries and cause heart disease.

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Contraceptive in a cuppa?

Scientists at the University of Western Australia in Perth believe they've discovered a male contraceptive based on traditional Indonesian herbal tea.

Research is continuing to isolate the active ingredient in the tea which is prepared from leaves of the mangosteen fruit tree.

The researchers say the tea has been used for centuries as a contraceptive by some Indonesian women but tests on rats showed that the tea works just as well on the males.

The researchers say it destroys the sperm but has no effect on the sex drive.

When the treatment ended, normal fertility in the male rats returned.

The researchers warn that a commercial drug based on the tea could be at least five years away.

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Green tea beneficial in fight against cancer

Scientists in Sweden say they have discovered why green tea, a popular drink in China and Japan, has a protective effect against some forms of cancer.

A report by researchers in Stockholm, published in the scientific journal 'Nature', says that a substance in green tea slows down or stops the growth of new blood vessels.

A BBC science correspondent says that as cancer tumours are dependent on a constantly growing network of blood vessels to supply them with food and oxygen, they will shrink and may even disappear, if the network stops growing.

He says its now clear why moderate consumption of green tea can be beneficial. He says that unlike black tea, green tea is not squashed to rupture its cells and cause fermentation reactions as it dries.

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Herbal medicine fights for its future

Herbal practitioners and consumer groups have warned the government that heavy handed regulation of the industry poses a serious threat to jobs.

The warning comes as Lords Health Minister Baroness Hayman pledged to tighten controls to ensure only quality products were available to the public.

Industry representatives said European Commission proposals to licence all herbal remedies would drive hundreds of products off the shelves, and threaten the livelihood of many businesses.

At present, some herbal remedies which contain only natural ingredients are unlicensed and do not have to comply with any safety or quality standards.

Source - BBC News

Drink wine and be healthy

Consumers in the United States will soon be seeing messages on wine bottles praising the health benefits of drinking wine.

The federal authorities haveapproved the use of a voluntary label alluding to the positive effects of drinking wine in moderation.

The message will appear alongside a government-mandated warning about the detrimental effects of alcohol consumption.

Winemakers in California, who have long sought a way to distance themselves from products like cigarettes, have welcomed the new guidelines.

But the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence fears the message could be taken as encouragement to drink more, with potentially disastrous consequences for people's health.

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A daily dose of wine could improve the brain

A glass and a half of wine a day could help improve the little grey cells and stop the progression of brain disorders, according to new research.

Scientists at the Human Institute at the University of Milan say a chemical produced by wine could help a brain enzyme to function by up to seven fold.

According to the New Scientist, Alberto Bertelli and his colleagues have found that the chemical resveratrol, found in grapes and wine which fights infection in vines, helps the enzyme Map-kinase to regenerate neural cells.

They tested the chemical on human neural cells in laboratory conditions and found it made them grow extensions which helped them to connect up with each other.

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Two bananas a day keep blood pressure at bay

Two bananas a day can help control high blood pressure, offering a cheap alternative to expensive drugs, according to scientists.

The finding supports earlier research that potassium-rich food such as bananas could play a role in controlling blood pressure.

A 1997 study suggested people would have to eat five bananas a day to have half the effect of a blood pressure-controlling pill.

Now researchers in India have reported that blood pressure fell by 10% in people who ate two bananas daily for a week.

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