Why red wine is healthier

Scientists may have discovered the reason why red wine appears to protect the heart.
Numerous studies have suggested that moderate alcohol drinking helps to reduce the likelihood of heart disease.

The so-called "Mediterranean diet", which includes a larger intake of wine, has been credited with lower rates of heart disease in those countries, despite a higher intake of saturated fats. However, there is no clear evidence that red wine is any better than any other alcoholic drink.

But a team of scientists from Barts and the London School of Medicine, and the Queen Mary University in London, may have found a mechanism which points to the benefits of red wine.
They say it appears to interfere with the production of a body chemical which is vital to the process which clogs up arteries and increases the risk of a heart attack.

Source BBC News

Safety fears over herbal remedy

A popular herbal remedy could be removed from shelves across the UK following fears over its safety.
The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) has written to associations representing herbal practitioners asking them if they will agree to stop selling and supplying Kava-kava temporarily.
It follows the withdrawal of the product in Germany and reports that it has been linked with six cases of liver failure and one death on mainland Europe.

Kava-kava is used extensively as a treatment for anxiety and ailments affecting the bladder and digestive tracts.

The MCA is currently considering whether the product should be banned in the UK but has asked all those who may sell or supply Kava-kava to agree to a temporary withdrawal while it considers its position.

According to the MCA, several UK companies have agreed to voluntarily suspend marketing of the product as a precautionary measure.

Source BBC News

Garlic 'fights malaria'

Compounds in garlic have been shown to be an effective treatment for malaria.

The finding provides yet more evidence that eating the humble bulb is an effective way to ward off a range of diseases.

Research has shown that garlic may tackle heart disease, cancer, the common cold and fungal infections.

The new work was carried out by a team from the University of Toronto.

Researcher Dr Ian Crandall said: "Does eating garlic influence the outcome of malaria? There is evidence that yes, it may."

The compounds, called disulfides, occur naturally in garlic, onions and mahogany trees, and are known to have antifungal, anticancer and antibacterial properties.

Source BBC News

Curry 'may slow Alzheimer's'

A spicy ingredient of many curries may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease, say researchers.

A team from the University of California at Los Angeles believes that turmeric may play a role in slowing down the progression of the neurodegenerative disease.

The finding may help to explain why rates of Alzheimer's are much lower among the elderly in India than in their Western peers.

Previous studies have found that Alzheimer's affects just 1% of people over the age of 65 living in some Indian villages.

Clove extract neutralises asbestos fibres

Cloves are legendary for their power to numb toothache and, unlikely as it seems, the aromatic spice looks destined for a role in removing asbestos, the fibrous mineral once used routinely to fireproof buildings.

Alternatives to conventional techniques are desperately needed. Usually buildings have to be sealed off during mechanical removal, with air pressure differentials imposed to stop the deadly fibres escaping into the air.

Workers must wear protective clothing to avoid breathing in the lethal fibres, which cause lung cancer and mesothelioma - a cancer of the lung cavity. Even with these precautions, fibres can linger in the air for more than four years, according to research by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Now Italian chemists have neutralised the lethal fibres using an extract of cloves. When the liquid extract touches the surface of asbestos, it instantly hardens into a polymer similar to lignin, which gives wood its strength. All the potentially hazardous fibres are harmlessly embedded in the polymer and can't float off into the air.

Source New Scientist

Pine cone source for stroke drug

A molecule extracted from green tea leaves or pine cones may be able to reduce the brain damage from strokes, say scientists.

Gallotannin, and nobotanin B - found in a Japanese flower - both cut the damage from a simulated stroke in mouse brain cells grown in the laboratory.

However, there is no guarantee that they will work as well in a real patient.

The hours following a stroke are crucial to the future prospects, or even survival of the patient.
The stroke itself is caused by a halt to the blood flow to brain cells, either caused by bleeding on the brain, or by a blood clot lodged in a vessel.

However, although this kills some brain cells, once the blood supply is restored in the subsequent hours, many more cells tend to die.

This destructive reaction is still not fully understood, although scientists have found that a chemical signalling system has a role.

Source BBC News

Caffeine 'can ease headaches'

A cup of tea or coffee might be able to tackle certain types of headache, say researchers.

The caffeine it contains could help a higher number of people gain complete relief from "tension headaches".

Caffeine is already routinely added to many painkilling medications, including some which can be bought over the counter at chemists, and the latest research confirms that it has therapeutic value against conventional headache symptoms.

But researchers at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago also found that giving caffeine in isolation appeared to be as useful as giving standard pain relief.

In all, 58% of headache sufferers said that taking caffeine capsules was completely successful, the same proportion as in those taking ibruprofen only - and many said they felt better more swiftly.

Tension headaches involve constant, dull pain, although not generally as excrutiating as a migraine.

Source BBC News

Garlic 'prevents common cold'

People who take a garlic supplement each day are far less likely to fall victim to the common cold than those who do not, research suggests.

Although garlic has been traditionally used to fight off and treat the symptoms of the common cold, this is the first hard evidence of its medicinal properties.

However, more research will be needed to corroborate the data.

Source BBC News

Wine prevents repeat heart attack

Scientists say they have found a way for coronary patients to minimise the risk of a second heart attack - drink wine every day.

Previous research has shown that drinking wine in sensible amounts may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

But the new research suggests that it might also be an effective way to reduce the risk for people who have already had one heart attack.

French researchers found that middle-aged men who had had one heart attack and who drank two or more glasses of wine regularly were 50% less likely than non-drinkers to have a second attack.

Dr Michel de Lorgeril, of the Joseph Fourier University of Grenoble, France, and colleagues studied 353 men aged 40 to 60 who had just had heart attacks.

There were no significant differences in how severe their heart attacks had been, what drugs they used to treat heart disease or what they ate. The main differences lay in whether the men drank wine.

Between them, the men had 104 cardiovascular complications such as a heart attack or stroke over the next year.

Thirty-six of the complications occurred among men who abstained from alcohol, 34 among men who drank fewer than two glasses of wine a day, 18 among those who drank about two glasses a day, and 16 among men who drank an average of four to five glasses of wine a day.

Source BBC News

Lemon tea 'fights skin cancer'

Drinking hot tea with citrus peel could protect the body against skin cancer, US scientists say.
The researchers studied 450 people, half of whom had suffered a particular type of skin cancer, and quizzed them about their tea-drinking habits.

They found that those who developed skin cancer drank significantly less hot tea.

Citrus peel in the tea was found to have more than a 70% reduced risk for skin squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), whereas black tea alone meant a 40% reduction.

Researchers Iman Hakim and Robin Harris, of the University of Arizona, hope the study will help them develop food supplements to help prevent skin cancer.

Cancer charities have welcomed the research but want further studies.

They said that until there is more evidence people should continue following the safe sun message.

Source BBC News

Herbal remedy linked to birth defects

Pregnant women are being warned that birth defects could be linked to a commonly used herbal supplement.

American scientists have discovered that women taking one type of the supplement Ginkgo biloba had high levels of the toxin colchicine.

Colchicine is found naturally in a number of plants and is sometimes used to treat gout, but scientists said it does interfere with cell division and can prove fatal at very high doses.

Dr Howard Petty and his colleagues at Wayne State University, Detroit, studied routine tests of placental blood from 24 pregnant women and found five of them had "entirely unanticipated" levels.

Further studies showed that these women had been taking Ginkgo biloba, which is normally used to treat Alzheimer's and memory loss in older people.

Dr Petty said his team had only tested one type of Ginko biloba supplement, but declined to say which brand.

"It would be premature to generalise this to all manufacturers," but he said the problem could apply to other herbal medicines.

"Such supplements should be avoided by women who are pregnant or trying to conceive," said the report.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Royal College of Midwives said women must never assume that because remedies are "traditional" that they are necessarily safe.

Source BBC News

Catnip's powerful pong repels mosquitoes

Mosquitoes hate the aroma of common garden catnip, new research shows. And not only are the extracts safe, they are more effective than Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET, the chemical used in most commercial insect repellents.

Catnip is one of several plants used in folk medicine to ward off insects, but most people turn to DEET when they want serious deterrence. Now researchers at Iowa State University, Ames, have shown that a relatively weak solution of catnip extract repels mosquitoes as effectively as a DEET solution ten times more concentrated.

Source New Scientist

Good news for tea drinkers

Tea is good for the heart, scientists have found.

They have discovered that drinking tea protects against heart disease by improving the function of the artery walls.

Tea contains antioxidants called flavonoids that may help prevent cholesterol damaging arteries.
But the new research suggests that might not be the only possible benefit from the drink.

It appears to improve the function of the linings of the artery wall - but only if you drink four cups of black tea a day.

Source BBC News

Herbal remedies 'pose surgery risk'

Patients are being warned that herbal medications can increase the risk of serious complications during surgery.

The preparations can speed up or slow down the heart rate, inhibit blood clotting, alter the immune system and change the effects and duration of anaesthesia.

And scientists have found some preparations have an impact if taken up to a week before a patient goes under the knife.

Among the popular herbs studied were echinacea, gingko biloba, garlic, St John's wort and valerian - all widely-available in tablet form.

The researchers, from the University of Chicago, have published guidelines on when patients should stop taking herbal medicines in the influential Journal of the American Medical Association.

They hope that their work will encourage doctors to discuss the potential dangers with patients.

Source BBC News

Herb offers malaria treatment hope

The World Health Organization estimates malaria affects 300m people a year across the world.

Professor Nick White, who runs the Wellcome Trust's south-east Asia unit, told BBC News Online how rates of malaria were reduced by 90% - using a drug made from a Chinese herb.

The community of 120,000 displaced Burmese, living in camps on the north-west border of Thailand have many battles to fight.

In the past, malaria was one of those. The drugs which doctors would normally use were failing because the type of malaria prevalent in the camps was resistant to them.
But Professor Nick White, along with other doctors, heard about a drug used in China to treat malaria called quinghaosu.

Quinghaosu, or artemisinin - also known as sweet wormwood - provides a possible solution to the ever growing problem of salic falicparum - drug resistant malaria.

Professor White, who has worked in south-east Asia for over 20 years, says the discovery provides a new weapon in the drugs arsenal against malaria.

In total, around 25,000 people have been involved in trials in Thailand and Africa.

Source BBC News

Tea 'good for teeth'

Scientists believe that drinking tea may be a good way to keep your teeth healthy.

They have discovered that compounds found in black tea may attack harmful bacteria in the mouth that cause gum disease and cavities.

Researchers have previously focused on the possible health benefits of green teas.

But a team from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry studied the black teas more commonly consumed in the West.

They found that compounds in black tea were capable of killing or suppressing growth and acid production of cavity-causing bacteria in dental plaque.

Source BBC News

Apples and tomatoes 'good for lungs'

Scientists have found that if you want to have healthy lungs you should eat apples and tomatoes.
It has been established that eating fresh fruit and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of asthma and chronic lung diseases.
But a new study by Nottingham University suggests that apples and tomatoes may have the biggest beneficial impact.

Researchers quizzed 2,633 adults who had problems with wheezing, asthma or other lung complaints about their diet, and asked them to complete a test designed to measure their lung capacity.

Five a day
They found people who had the greatest lung capacity were those who ate more than five apples a week, or who ate tomatoes at least every other day.

Wheezing was also less common in people who ate a lot of apples.

Apples contain high levels of an antioxidant flavonoid called quercetin which is also found abundantly in onions, tea and red wine, and may be important in protecting the lungs from the harmful effects of atmospheric pollutants and cigarette smoke.

Dr John Harvey, of the British Thoracic Society (BTS), said: "This is an interesting study which shows that 'a tomato and an apple a day' might help people breathe easier.

"We have known for some time that a healthy diet - rich in antioxidants - can have a positive effect on lung function; this is a ripe area for research."

National Asthma Campaign chief medical adviser Dr Martyn Partridge said: "Alteration in the oxidant/anti oxidant ration in the diet can alter susceptibility to asthma and other lung diseases.
"This latest study confirms that regular intake of fresh fruit reduces the risk of developing respiratory disease and represents a simple effective intervention that everyone can adopt to help keep themselves fit."

The research was presented to the American Thoracic Society's annual conference.

Source BBC News

St John's wort used in cancer fight

A light sensitive substance taken from the herb St John's wort is being used to treat cancer.

Belgian scientists have already used the substance, hypericin, to detect cancer cells.

But they also believe hypericin could be used to actually kill off cancerous tumours.

Professor Peter de Witte, from Leuven University in Belgium, has been perfecting a technique known as Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for the last nine years.

It works by utilising the light sensitive properties of hypericin to show up the presence of cancer cells.

He said: "We've discovered that especially bladder tumours that can't be detected through endoscopy, can be detected with hypericin."

The technique is currently being used to treat 100 patients in Belgium.

At present, surgery is required to remove cancer cells once they have been located.
But Prof de Witte is working on a new application of PDT to destroy tumours.

Source BBC News

Garlic tackles child infections

South African researchers may have found a simple and effective way of tackling dangerous infections - garlic.

The Child's Health Institute in Cape Town has found that garlic has antifungal and antibiotic powers.

Sid Cywes, Professor of paediatrics at the Red Cross Children's Hospital, discovered the garlic's power by chance while indulging in his favourite pastime, breeding and hybridising disas, an orchid type plant common on Table Mountain and the environs of Cape Town.

The beakers storing his cuttings became infected with a fungus. Consulting an old reference book, he tried garlic solution to control it.

Astonishing result

The effect was astonishing and he immediately wanted to try it on human infections.

He and colleague Peter de Vet are now ready to try the formula on the hospital ward.
Mr de Vet said: "I make it two parts water to one part garlic, and then put it in the centrifuge to get rid of the lumps."

"The aqueous solution is then administered to babies and children either mixed in with their milk bottle or some orange juice."

Source BBC News

Apple juice 'protects the heart'

An apple juice a day could keep a trip to the heart doctor away, says new research.

A team of researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine in the US have found that drinking apple juice appears to slow down a process that can lead to heart disease.

Compounds in apples and apple juice called phytonutrients act in much the same way that red wine and tea do to delay the break down of LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

When LDL oxidises, or deteriorates in the blood, plaque accumulates along the walls of the coronary artery and causes atherosclerosis (a dangerous thickening of the artery).

Source BBC News

Fruit extract helps beat period blues

A herbal remedy made from dried fruit extract could help ease the unpleasant period symptoms women suffer each month.

In the days leading up to their periods, millions of women suffer mood swings, headaches and sore breasts.

But scientists think a fruit extract first discovered by Greek sages nearly 2,500 years ago can be used to beat the period blues.

Up to 40% of women suffer from pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) so badly that they need to go to their GP and up to 2% have to take two days off a month sick.

Dieticians have given the research cautious support, but say they will be recommending women suffering from PMS try the extract.

German Researcher Rued Schellenberg from the Institute of Care and Science, near Frankfurt, found that women taking the fruit extract over three months suffered less from mood swings, anger, headaches and sore breasts than those who did not.

Agnus Castus

Better known as the fruit of the Chaste Tree.
Grows in valleys and riverbanks of the Mediterranean and Central Asia.
Has delicate violet flowers and finger shaped leaves.
Fruit is the size of a peppercorn and it has the taste and smell of pepper.

Source BBC News