How a plate of curry can spice up your sex life

Turmeric has been used for centuries in India as a curry ingredient, and as an antiseptic for cuts. Now research shows it also has potential against a wide range of diseases, from cancer to arthritis, and diabetes to dementia.
The main active ingredient of the spice, curcumin, is being used in new clinical trials for the prevention of Alzheimer's and the treatment of psoriasis. It is also on a trial for use in colon cancer.
But turmeric is not the only curry ingredient with health-boosting compounds. New research shows there are ten key ingredients found in popular curries such as Madras, which have been linked to health benefits in conditions as diverse as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, constipation, dementia, period pain, osteoarthritis and even loss of libido.

[ article continues with good list of spices and herbs ]

Source - Daily Mail

Face creams 'in the clear over danger chemicals'

Slapping on your face cream isn't meant to be a risky business.
But reports that the daily ritual leaves the average woman absorbing 5lb of chemicals through her skin every year were enough to make some hardened make-up fans go barefaced.
They have been reassured that face creams still do their skin a favour.
Harley Street dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe discounted the "urban myth" that lotions and potions harm the skin, claiming they could protect against pollution and ultraviolet rays.
Dr Lowe, a spokesman for the British Skin Foundation, said there was simply no evidence that chemicals could seep through the skin.
He spoke out after a study last month claimed man-made compounds in skin products were linked to cancer, while others could irritate the skin or cause it to age prematurely.
He said no recent study claiming cosmetics were dangerous had been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
More trustworthy research had proved that adding antioxidant vitamins A, C or E to creams could protect the skin against irritation and sun damage.
"All well-formulated cosmetics from reliable companies follow stringent guidelines about what ingredients they are allowed to put into creams and lotions," Dr Lowe said.

Source - Daily Mail

Vitamin C: is it all just hokum?

Superstitious? Me? As the Mail's Science Editor, I'd hate to think so - but it seems I may have been deluding myself. While I have always dismissed diet fads and miracle cures as no more than expensive witchcraft, there is one bit of old-wivery I have always sworn by. And that's vitamin C.
At the first tingle of a cold, I guzzle the stuff like it is going out of fashion. Forget the 60 milligram recommended daily allowance: when my nose starts running, I mainline the stuff, taking three, sometimes four, whole grams a day. And you know what? It seems to work.
For me, anyway. Vitamin C does not cure my colds, but it seems to make them go away a day or so faster than otherwise.
It is pretty hard to conduct clinical trials on yourself, of course, but relying purely on instinct, I would have to agree with the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling who, in the 1970s, suggested that taking a gram of vitamin C every day was a sure way of keeping colds at bay.
Well, it seems I - and Pauling - may be wrong. A comprehensive review of research published last week shows that the benefit of taking supplemental vitamin C is so slight that, when it comes to colds, it is simply not worth the effort and expense.
Only marathon runners, energetic skiers and others who put their bodies through periods of extreme stress and cold may benefit. Vitamin C will neither protect you from the bug nor do much to lessen the severity of the infection.
Britons spend enormous sums - about £360million a year - on vitamins. After the study was reported, microbiologist Hugh Pennington said: 'I think the public's faith in vitamins is slightly misplaced.'
It is easy to conclude that when it comes to vitamins and diet supplements, we are being sold a pup. But is this true? In fact, judging whether it is worth taking vitamin supplements is extremely difficult as research is often contradictory.
The public seem to be torn in two as well. Some of the greatest consumers of dietary supplements are often the same people who try to eschew 'chemicals' in their food.
Vitamins certainly are vital. Think of them as the oil that keeps our bodies running smoothly, facilitating the various chemical reactions that take place in our cells. If we don't get enough of them, we are in real trouble.

Source - Daily Mail

Heard about PNEI?

No, it’s not a weird form of PMS, it’s psycho-neuro-endo-immunology, and everybody is talking about it. It’s the branch of science that examines the impact of psychological factors on the nervous, hormonal and immune systems — in other words, how stress affects our minds and bodies. Stress, of course, is fashionable right now, and the latest PNEI findings maintain that diet can play a significant part in improving your emotional and physical wellbeing.
If you think about it, we all “self-medicate” during stressful times — upping caffeine intake to keep wired, stuffing in the sugar for comfort or quaffing wine to calm down. Eating lentils will not solve financial worries, stop the baby crying or repair a broken relationship, but making careful food choices in moments of strength can help your body through times of strife.
So, if stress is turning you into a moody chocoholic insomniac, with no sex drive, constant colds, tummy troubles, dire concentration and heart palpitations, here is what you need to do.

Boost magnesium intake
This “calming” mineral is used by the body to make energy, balance blood-sugar levels and maintain healthy blood pressure — all the things that go haywire when you are under pressure. One sign of a deficiency is anxiety. Found in green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and pulses, magnesium is an underrated and underconsumed nutrient. A UK government survey found that 72% of women do not get the recommended intake. A handful of almonds and a serving of boiled spinach will give you half of what you need a day.

Don’t drink coffee before 10am
The ideal is to drink none at all, but if that is too stressful, have one or two a day, but never on an empty stomach. Having a hit of rocket fuel first thing, when your body is still half asleep, becomes another form of the stress you are trying to combat. What’s more, your body “up regulates” — it becomes immune to the caffeine hit — and needs more of it to have an effect.

Source - Times

Two in three believe radiation from phones damaged their health

Two-thirds of Britons believe radiation from mobile phones and their masts has affected their health, a startling official survey shows. And huge majorities are dissatisfied with government assurances about the potential threat.
The survey is the result of a giant European Union exercise that polled more than 27,000 people across the continent, 1,375 of them in Britain. It shows that concern about the radiation is far greater than even the most ardent campaigners had dared to believe, and that official attempts to downplay the issue have backfired.
It also goes some way to explain the overwhelming public response received by The Independent on Sunday since we started raising questions about the effect of the radiation on people and wildlife in April.
This month, two councils - Haringey in London and Carmarthenshire in Wales - will be considering whether to allow Wi-Fi in their schools, after concern expressed by Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the Health Protection Agency. Sir William told the BBC's Panorama, "I believe that there is a need for a review of the Wi-Fi and other areas ... I think it's timely for it to be done now."
The survey, by the EU's Eurobarometer programme, which samples opinion across the continent, found 65 per cent of Britons believed mobile phones affected their health, and 71 per cent thought the masts did.
Across Europe, the figures were 73 and 76 per cent respectively, sharply up from 55 and 58 per cent five years ago.
Recent years have seen increasing evidence of risks from the phones. Scandinavian studies have suggested that people who have used them for more than 10 years are much more likely to get brain tumours, and thatthe radiation kills brain cells, which could lead to today's young people being senile from their forties.
There is much less evidence on effects from the masts, but studies have revealed a worrying incidence of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea and memory problems. Campaigners also claim they may cause cancers.
The survey shows that more than half of Britons are "very" or "fairly" concerned about such potential health effects, despite efforts at reassurance by ministers, officials and some scientists. Moreover, it reveals great dissatisfaction with the information they are given.
Nearly three-quarters of Britons say they are "not very well" or "not at all" informed about the official "protection framework" against the "potential health risks" from the radiation.

Source - Independent

Sugary cereals 'boost memory'

Eating sugary breakfast cereals can improve the memory of teenagers, scientists claimed today.
Australian researchers found those given high-sugar cereals first thing in the morning performed better in memory tests.
Michael Smith of the University of Western Australia compared the impact of low-GI and high-GI cereals on the ability of healthy adolescents to remember a list of words.
GI stands for glycaemic index and is a measure of how rapidly a carbohydrate breaks down into glucose. High-GI foods break down into glucose rapidly.
Researchers studied 37 students, aged 14 to 17, who ate a popular corn-based cereal (high-GI) or a high fibre bran-based cereal (low-GI).

The students were then tested to see how well they could memorise a list of 20 names of tools, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and kitchen utensils.
The subjects that ate the high-GI cereal remembered on average two more words.
"Those who had consumed the high-GI cereals recalled significantly more words than those who consumed the low-GI breakfast cereal," said Mr Smith.
The research is to be presented to the World Congress of Neuroscience conference in Melbourne later this month.
The participants were distracted by having to make a series of hand movements while trying to memorise words.
Mr Smith said this "divided attention" test, also used in earlier sugary drink studies, better reflects what happens in the real world, especially for adolescents in a busy classroom.
"Very rarely will the students have 100 per cent attention focused on the teacher," he said.
However, experts today warned against giving teens more high-sugar foods and drinks to boost their performance.
"It could be useful," said Dr Janet Bryan, of the University of South Australia in Adelaide. "But I wouldn't advocate sugary drinks in the classroom."

Poor diet in pregnancy can cause child obesity

The diets of pregnant women may have an important role in determining whether their children will be obese later in life, a new study suggests.

The study by New Zealand and British scientists indicates that children born to mothers who ate badly during pregnancy may be more likely to put on weight later in life. Scientists at the University of Auckland's Liggins centre say the way the foetus adapts to the environment in the womb can determine how it reacts to food later in life.

If the womb is low in nutrients, the foetus may predict food supplies will be low later in life and set its metabolism to store and conserve fat, the researchers led by Professor Peter Gluckman said in a statement Tuesday. The study says if this early prediction proves false and food - particularly food high in fat - is readily available, the child may be programmed for adult obesity and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Lots of fruit and veg doesn't stop breast cancer

A diet extra heavy in fruit and vegetables was no better than one with the standard recommended amounts in preventing the recurrence of breast cancer, a recent study found.

The study tracked 3,088 U.S. women. Half followed a diet with the widely recommended five daily servings of vegetables and fruit. The other half ate a diet doubling that intake. Those who consumed twice the vegetables and fruit in a diet also high in fibre and low in fat were no less likely to avoid a recurrence of breast cancer or death than the women who followed the five-a-day diet.

The women, all of whom had been treated successfully for early-stage breast cancer, participated in the study from 1995 to 2000 at seven places in California, Texas, Arizona and Oregon. They were followed for between six and 11 years. The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, come amid a debate among experts over the influence of diet on cancer.

Source - Reuters

Organic food 'better' for the heart

Organic fruit and vegetables may be better for you than conventionally grown crops, US research suggests.

A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found almost double the level of flavonoids - a type of antioxidant.

Flavonoids have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the team said nitrogen in the soil may be the key.

Source - BBC News

Complementary therapy hampers IVF

Women using alternative therapies to boost their chance of getting pregnant may actually be doing the reverse, say UK researchers.

They found women who used complementary therapies while undergoing IVF were 30% less likely to fall pregnant than those who used IVF alone.

The Cardiff University team believe herbal remedies could possibly interfere with IVF drugs, but experts at a fertility conference in Lyon said stress was probably the key.

Diesel pollution 'clogs arteries'

Diesel fumes appear to combine with artery-clogging fats to raise the risk of heart disease, research suggests.
Scientists found the two act in concert to switch on genes that cause potentially dangerous inflammation of the blood vessels.
They hope their work will lead to a simple blood test enabling doctors to evaluate the impact of air pollution on a person's health.
The UCLA study appears in the online journal Genome Biology. Lead researcher Dr André Nel, an expert in nanomedicine, said the impact of diesel particles and cholesterol fats combined was much greater than the impact of each in isolation.
He said: "Their combination creates a dangerous synergy that wreaks cardiovascular havoc far beyond what's caused by the diesel or cholesterol alone."
The researchers focused on the interaction between diesel exhaust particles and fatty acids found in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - the "bad" type of cholesterol that leads to artery blockage.
Both are sources of molecules called free radicals which cause cell and tissue damage, and can trigger the inflammation that leads to artery disease.

Source - BBC

Obesity 'contagious', experts say

Having a friend, sibling or spouse who is overweight raises a person's risk of being obese too, US researchers say.
They said data on more than 12,000 people suggested the risk was increased by 57% if a friend was obese, by 40% if a sibling was and 37% if a spouse was.
They argued this showed social factors, such as the body sizes of other people, were important in developing obesity.
Experts said the New England Journal of Medicine study was not conclusive as other hidden factors could be to blame. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, in San Diego, looked at data collected over 32 years as part of a heart study.
Participants gave personal information, including their body mass index, and the names of friends who could be contacted.

'Causal relationship'
The authors were able to map social connections including both friends and family members.
The effects were generally larger between people of the same sex.
And their analysis suggested that the links could not be solely attributed to similarities in lifestyle and environment, for example the impact of friends existed even where friends lived in different regions.

Source - BBC

How talking therapy can soothe IBS

Treatments that focus on the mind may ease irritable bowel syndrome.

Of all the lifestyle illnesses peculiar to a generation that is stressed-out, tired-out and flaked-out, one has persistently remained an enigma to the medical profession: irritable bowel syndrome.
IBS is thought to affect around eight million Britons, though with no confirmed cause, diagnosis is tricky and treatment of the debilitating symptoms – which include abdominal bloating and cramping, diarrhoea and constipation – even more difficult. But as researchers begin to unravel the complexities of the condition, it emerges that therapies focusing on the mind, not the body, are most effective.
A survey by Bu’Hussain Hayee, a clinical research fellow at University College Hospital, and Dr Ian Forgacs, a consultant gastroenterologist at King’s College Hospital, London, published in the BMJ recently concluded that approaches such as hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and antidepressant drugs could be most helpful.
According to Forgacs, IBS is a “complex mix of physical and emotional factors and people suffer for a variety of different reasons”. Typically, it is diagnosed when X-rays, blood tests, examination of the stool and other tests do not reveal any abnormality; patients are known to be more likely to suffer depression and somatisation (the conversion of mental problems into physical complaints). Yet despite the variation in underlying causes, mind-based treatments seem to help.
Many sufferers report that their IBS starts during or after a stressful period in their lives such as a divorce, sudden unemployment or a bereavement.

In other cases, it is linked to bacterial gastroenteritis – usually food poisoning – or a food intolerance. But so strong are the psychological underpinnings of the illness that Dr Nick Read, medical adviser to the IBS Network, says “it develops in patients with these problems only if something stressful is happening at the same time”. Read adds that the medical profession is increasingly prone to believe that “IBS is a gut reaction to emotional upheaval or upset”.
What is of interest to many researchers, including Forgacs, is how and why this somatisation takes place. One popular, but controversial, theory is that the human body has a second – hidden but powerful – brain known as the enteric nervous system that controls gut functions and reactions. “Certainly, the human body does seem to have both a conscious brain and a subconscious one that controls bodily functions such as hunger,” Forgacs says. “There are so many interactions between the two and it could explain why the majority of patients with anxiety problems will have alterations of gut function too.”

Source - Times

Five ways to stay regular

Constipation affects about a quarter of the population at some point, and is most common in children, older people and women (because of hormonal changes, it can happen before a period, during pregnancy and after childbirth). Sometimes it can be a sign of more serious health problems, so talk to your GP if your bowel habits change or persist. Otherwise, try these simple measures to get things moving:

1 Up your fluid and fibre: most cases of constipation are down to a low-fibre diet or dehydration, or both. Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day, sprinkle wheat bran on your breakfast cereal and include at least one fibre-rich food at every meal (fruit such as dried apricots; vegetables; and wholegrains such as wholewheat bread, rice or bran-rich cereals).

2 Get some exercise: a daily walk, run or other physical activity can do wonders.

3 Chill out: some people buy laxatives because they're not going to the loo every day, but they
may not be constipated at all: "normal" ranges from going once a day to once every three days. Changed routines, a disrupted biological clock, unfamiliar loos and new foods can all mess up bowel habits.

4 Be toilet-trained: don't ignore the urge, make a regular time - the hour after breakfast is good - and if nothing happens after 10 minutes or so, don't worry.

5 Watch your meds: some painkillers, antidepressants, antacids and Parkinson's drugs can bung things up, often because they contain calcium or aluminium. Iron supplements can also constipate, so talk to your GP. Laxatives should be a last resort, ideally with your GP's recommendation.

Herbal cheer

One in five adults uses herbal remedies such as St John's wort or arnica - but products in the UK are not assessed for quality or safety.

Health-store junkies stock up regularly on herbal remedies such as milk thistle to beat hangovers, St John's wort for anxiety and feverfew to prevent migraines. Others are more sceptical about their effects, but a new study published in the Lancet last week provides the strongest evidence yet that echinacea, the controversial herbal remedy, works.

A substantial review of 14 studies found that echinacea can reduce the chance of catching a cold by 58% and, should you get one, shorten its length by 1.4 days. Enough, surely, to plant a smug grin on the face of the estimated one in five adults in the UK who uses herbal medicines.That so many place their trust in herbal remedies is hardly surprising - how much more pleasant to ingest a treatment that is part of a centuries-old tradition, derived from the natural world and named after a plant, than to swallow a capsule of synthetic chemical compounds produced by a faceless, monolithic conglomerate. But while herbal remedy consumers swear by arnica for bruises and insist that valerian is as good as any sleeping pill, they might be less content to learn that the herbal remedies market in the UK is at present almost entirely unregulated. There is no independent assessment of any herbal product's quality and safety before it goes on sale and neither are there any regulations covering the information provided with products.

"At the moment a lot of herbal products are of a low standard," says Dr Dick Middleton, former chairman of the British Herbal Medicine Association and technical director of the herbal remedy company MH Pharma (UK). "There are few checks on the manufacturing process and there is often even no batch-to-batch consistency. It makes it difficult to know or to recommend which products to take, because while there are some high-quality remedies, you don't necessarily know which ones they are."
Medical herbalist and lecturer Daniela Turley says: "I know of tests that have been done on products that sometimes show that the remedy didn't even contain an active ingredient. Sometimes the herb in them isn't even the advertised herb. And big companies can be guilty of this."

Source - Guadian

Stone Age diet may aid diabetics

People with diabetes could improve their condition by forgoing modern foods for a "Stone-Age" diet, a study suggests.
Scientists at Lund University in Sweden found a prehistoric choice of fruit, nuts, vegetables and lean meat better controlled poor blood sugar than recognised contemporary alternatives such as the Mediterranean diet.
Participants in the study suffered from raised blood sugar and most had symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Fourteen copied the diet of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, who lived off the land tens of thousands of years ago. Another group of 15 patients adopted the modern-day Mediterranean diet of whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy products, fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fats.
After 12 weeks, the carbohydrate-linked blood sugar rises had fallen 26 per cent in the Stone Age diet group compared with 7 per cent for the others.
Dr Staffan Lindeberg, who led the study, said: "If you want to prevent, or treat, type 2 diabetes, it may be more efficient to avoid some modern foods than to count calories or carbohydrates."

Sourcee - Independent

Cats can make your allergies worse

Keeping a cat can trigger allergic reactions in more than a quarter of the population, scientists have discovered. British scientists found cats could cause breathing difficulties in people with some of the most common allergies.
The team from Imperial College, London, took samples from the mattresses of almost 2,000 European volunteers with common allergies, including dust mites and timothy grass. They found those exposed to cat allergen had a greater respiratory sensitivity and were more likely to cough and wheeze.
"This was an unexpected finding," said Dr Chinn, lead author of the study at Imperial College.
"Our study suggests that all allergenic individuals have signs of asthmatic responses if exposed to cat allergen, even if blood tests show they are not allergic to cats."
The increased symptoms suggest that a reduced exposure to cats may be beneficial to those with allergies, regardless of what their specific allergy is, the researchers said. However, they added more research would be needed.
"People need to be aware that cats are a problem for more people than we realised," said Dr Chinn.
"If they're thinking of getting a pet and a cat is just one of their options, they might want to pause before choosing."
The report is in this month's issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

A glass of wine 'could cure your sore throat'

A regular glass of wine helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease and sore throats, say researchers.
Both red and white varieties have powerful germ-killing ingredients, claim the Italian scientists.
Their findings add to a growing body of research that demonstrates the health benefits of wine.
Moderate consumption of red is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.
However, the drink's antibacterial qualities, although well- known by the ancient Romans, have been little investigated, said Professor Gabriella Gazzani, writing in the American Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Professor Gazzani's team used bottles of supermarket Valpolicella and Pinot Nero for their research, pouring the wines into bowls containing bacteria.
"Overall, our findings seem to indicate that wine can act as an effective anti-microbial agent against streptococci bacteria and upper respiratory tract infections," she said.
The professor added, however: "We should still drink wine because it tastes good, goes well with food and is a pleasure to share with company. And we should still brush and floss our teeth the accepted way."

Sally Gunnell speaks of her fight against back pain

Whenever hurdler Sally Gunnell sprinted to the finishing line, her superbly fit body set on victory, fans saw only the elation and tears of joy.
What they didn't see were the agonising training sessions and the pain she endured during competitions. While few of us can relate to this, what then happened to her is drearily familiar to millions of Britons.
After the Olympic gold medallist retired in August 1997, the aches, the misery of sore thighs, calves, knees and ankles melted away — but the chronic lower back pain she suffered from worsened over the years.
Every morning she'd wake up stiff, her back so 'jammed' it would take a couple of hours to loosen up.
"The pain was always there, sometimes a dull ache, at others so sharp I'd wince and almost feel my breath taken away."
It was when she started a family that her back pain became really debilitating. Sally, now 40, has three sons (Finley, nine, Luca, six, and Marley, two) and with each pregnancy found herself clutching her back and groaning in pain as the weight of the baby exacerbated the damage to her spine.
"The pain was sometimes agonising. I got really big with my babies and towards the end I had to put up with a continuous dull, throbbing backache. Lifting my children didn't help.
"Even now I try to encourage my youngest to walk as much as possible, but he's going through a clingy phase and wants to be carried around. It can be really painful some days and I know having a toddler sitting on my hip doesn't help my condition."
Pregnancy back pain is often the first manifestation of a pre-existing condition which may, until then, have been symptom-free.
In Sally's case, her back had been wrecked by sport. Sally has facet syndrome, a type of arthritis involving erosion of the joints of two vertebrae at the base of her spine.

Source - Daily Mail

Risky business: Should YOU take HRT?

As doctors say HRT scare stories are putting women's health at risk, a writer who has studied the controversy for years helps you separate the fact from the fiction
On July 9, 2002, American health officials changed the course of thinking about women's health for ever.
At a packed press conference in Washington, they announced with complete confidence that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) used by millions around the globe to cope with debilitating menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, reduced libido and weakened bones, was not safe.
An acrimonious debate erupted among the global scientific community. Meanwhile, women panicked and sales of HRT plummeted.
In the UK alone, the number of women using HRT halved from two million in 2002 to one million in 2005. Only yesterday it was revealed that the number of prescriptions for HRT has fallen by almost half in the past six years.
The source of all this panic was the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a major American government-sponsored study of more than 27,000 women.
It had set out to determine whether HRT helped prevent heart disease, a benefit widely ascribed to its use.
As it turned out, in the first group of 17,000 women to be tracked, HRT hadn't helped.
In fact, women in this study who used the drug had more heart attacks and breast cancer than non-HRT users.
They also had fewer hip fractures and lower risk of colon cancer, but that potential good news was eclipsed by the heart and breast worries.
So American health officials decided the risks to the women in the study outweighed the benefits, prompting them to take the highly unusual step of stopping the main part of the hormone study early and alerting the world to their findings in the most dramatic fashion possible.
Dr Jacques Rossouw, acting director of the WHI at the time, explained that the press conference was arranged with the specific goal of creating "high impact".
The goal, he says, was to shake up the medical establishment and change the thinking about HRT.

Food allergy molecule discovered

A molecule which may protect against food allergy has been identified.
Interleukin-12 has been shown to be "missing" in mice which were bred to be allergic to peanuts.
The results published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggest that the molecule normally stops allergies to food developing.
The Institute of Food Research scientists said the findings offered a potential target for the prevention or treatment of food allergies.
In people who suffer from a food allergy, the immune system responds to a food protein as if it was harmful by producing antibodies. In the most severe cases individuals can suffer life-threatening reactions, including anaphylactic shock.
One of the most well-known food allergies is to peanuts. This problem is becoming increasingly common, affecting one in 70 schoolchildren.
There is currently no way to treat food allergy and the only way for sufferers to manage the problem is to avoid certain foods and make sure they have injectable adrenaline at hand.
Dr Claudio Nicoletti and colleagues had already done research which showed that special types of white blood cells called dendritic cells are important in helping the immune system decide on how to respond to foreign molecules.
They found that in allergic mice the dendritic cells are much longer lasting than normal, which over-stimulates the immune system.

Source - BBC

Nights out 'harm hearing of many'

Nine in 10 young people aged 16-30 experience signs of hearing damage after a night out, research suggests.
The charity RNID found 90% of pub, club and gig-goers experienced dullness of hearing or ringing in the ears after a night on the town.
More than half of the 1,381 surveyed visited a bar where they had to shout to be heard at least once a week.
A quarter said the music in these venues was too loud and a third thought hearing loss would affect their lives. New noise regulations come into force to protect employees in the music and entertainment sectors in April 2008.
But the RNID is calling on the government to establish a recommended noise exposure level for audiences attending music venues and events, and educate young people about noise as a public health risk.
Dr John Low, Chief Executive of RNID, said: "Our research shows most young people have experienced the first signs of permanent hearing damage after a night out, yet have no idea how to prevent it.
"With regular exposure to music at high volumes in clubs, gigs and bars, it's only too easy to clock up noise doses that could damage their hearing forever."

Source - BBC

Chocolate 'lowers' blood pressure

A mouthful of dark chocolate each day could reduce blood pressure, cutting the risk of stroke, research suggests.
Forty-four people with raised blood pressure were put into two groups. One ate six grams of dark chocolate daily, the other the same amount of white.
The first group saw blood pressure fall slightly, but the others saw no change, researchers wrote in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA).

The British Heart Foundation warned chocolate was a "treat not treatment".

Fat and sugar - The suggestion that cocoa has health benefits is not new, and previous research had also suggested it could bring down blood pressure.
This has been attributed to the chemical plant substances known as flavanols which it contains.

Complementary therapy hampers IVF

Women using alternative therapies to boost their chance of getting pregnant may actually be doing the reverse, say UK researchers.
They found women who used complementary therapies while undergoing IVF were 30% less likely to fall pregnant than those who used IVF alone.
The Cardiff University team believe herbal remedies could possibly interfere with IVF drugs.
But experts at a fertility conference in Lyon said stress was probably key.

Indeed, the women who turned to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) had been trying fertility treatments for longer and reported being more stressed by their fertility problems than the other women in the study.

Source - BBC

Mum, nothing works. I can’t move.

At 13 Leo has become used to people asking how he is and recalls his recent response to a friend’s inquiry. “Ask me on a Tuesday . . .” he says affecting the Scottish brogue of David Walliams’s strange hotelier in Little Britain. This is the kind of joke that teenage boys like, but for Leo it is a clear sign of progress because a year or so ago his response was very different.
“Do you know, what I hate more than anything else is when someone asks, ‘how are you feeling?’ It’s kind of a rhetorical question, but I don’t feel fine and I hate telling them that because you don’t know how many times I’ve had to say . . .”
This thought, unconcluded and delivered in a croaky and weary voice, forms part of an audio diary that Leo kept throughout much of the time he has suffered from ME (myalgic encephalitis, otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome). On Friday parts of the diary can be heard on Radio 4 in Leo, Rusty and ME, which tells the story of his illness through his voice and contributions from his parents (both broadcasters), his sister and the professionals who have helped him. At times it is unbearably poignant to hear the family struggle to endure his deteriorating condition, but it is instructive, too, because ME has long had a bad press.
Five years after the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified it as a neurological disorder, it is still little understood. There is no clinical test to diagnose it, no definitive treatment and no cure. The suspicion that those who claim to have it are malingerers who just need to get a grip persists, yet it is known that it commonly affects high achievers and it is now thought that one in 250 of us will have it at some point. As many as 25,000 children in the UK are thought to suffer from it every year.

Leo became ill in November 2005, a day his mother, Jane Ray – who produces the programme – remembers vividly. He had had a chest infection but seemed to be getting better so the family took him to a Harry Potter movie.
“At the end he looked at me and said, ‘Mum, nothing works, I can’t move’. It was as if dementors had swooped over him and scooped him out.”
Ray does not exaggerate. Over the months that followed Leo’s body ached, he had fearsome headaches and described his tiredness as violent. He found swallowing difficult and lost weight rapidly. Much of the time, he slept. Tests for glandular fever and Lyme Disease at the Whittington Hospital in North London were negative and it was not until January 2006, when Dr Andrew Robins, Leo’s consultant paediatrician, diagnosed a postviral syndrome (this was classed as ME three months later) that the family felt they had reached a turning point. “We knew what we were fighting against and stuff like that,” says the admirably succinct Leo.
His mother is more expansive. “Treating ME is the medical equivalent of watching paint dry,” she says. “The usual NHS view is that there’s nothing they can do to treat it, they just manage the symptoms. But here we had an [NHS]consultant paediatrician who was prepared to say, ‘I will see you every week until he’s better. You won’t be passed from pillar to post, and I will get a team together that will support your care’.
“In a practical way that saved us from wasting thousands and thousands of pounds, as other people have done, on crank cures and snake oil and new therapies that seem to attract people who are bewildered and desperate.”
Robins’s collaborative approach to Leo’s care was designed to support his physical, psychological and emotional needs simultaneously. The team consisted of a nutritionist, a physiotherapist, and Robins’s colleague, Dr Sebastian Kraemer, a consultant psychiatrist. “It was quite clear to me when I first saw Leo that it wasn’t going to be possible to do all this on my own,” says Robins.

Source - Times

Phone mast allergy 'in the mind'

Mobile phone masts are not responsible for the symptoms of ill health some blame them for, a major UK study says.
Dozens of people who believed the masts trigger symptoms such as anxiety, nausea and tiredness could not detect if signals were on or off in trials.
But when they believed the signal was on they reported more distress - indicating a psychological problem.
However, the Environmental Health Perspectives study stressed people were nonetheless suffering "real symptoms".
"Belief is a very powerful thing," said Professor Elaine Fox, of the University of Essex, who led the three year study.
"If you really believe something is going to do you some harm, it will."
The study was funded by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme,

Modern appliances
It is unclear how many people in the UK suffer from "electro-sensitivity", an allergy they believe can be triggered by a range of modern day appliances from hair driers to mobile phone masts. In 2005 the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said there was no scientific evidence to link their ill health with electrical equipment, while acknowledging sufferers could have real and unpleasant symptoms.
But the HPA research did not consider the effects of waves from phone masts, as most of the studies looking at electrical sensitivity were carried out before they were widely introduced.
A number of studies subsequently have looked at the mobile effect, but the Essex experiments are some of the largest and most detailed to date.
After 12 of the sufferers dropped out of the trial researchers tested a total of 44 people with a history of symptoms against a control group of 114 people who had never reported ill effects from masts.
When the signal was being emitted, and they were told of this, sensitive individuals reported lower levels of well-being.
This was true for exposure to both forms of mobile systems - GSM and UMTS (3G).
However, when tests were carried out in which neither the experimenter or participant knew if the mast was on or off the number of symptoms reported was not related to whether a signal was being emitted or not.

Source - BBC

£523,000 a day on alternative medicine

PEOPLE in Britain will spend up to £191 million on complementary medicines such as herbal remedies and aromatherapy this year, a report revealed yesterday.
Controversy surrounds complementary therapies, with many in the scientific community doubting they work. Despite these doubts, market analyst Mintel said sales of such medicines have increased by 32 per cent since 2002 - with around £523,000 spent per day.
And by 2011, the market will see sales of more than £250 million a year. Mintel said that almost half of British women (49 per cent) and 28 per cent of men had used a complementary medicine and would use it again.
A further 27 per cent said they had not yet used such products but would consider doing so.
Mintel said as it became increasingly difficult to get a GP appointment, more people were turning to the internet to research their symptoms.

Source - Scotsman

Mothers who diet between pregnancies can affect health of their next baby

Mothers who lose weight between pregnancies through dieting could be putting their babies at risk as well as themselves, medical experts have warned. But women who gain in weight after giving birth also put their next child at risk, according to a report published in the British Medical Journal.
Effects of weight change can include premature birth, greater risk of stillbirth and high blood pressure. Women should therefore try to maintain a healthy and as consistent as possible weight before, during and after pregnancy, the report says.
The report's Irish-based authors, Jennifer Walsh, a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin, and Deirdre Murphy, the professor of obstetrics at Trinity College, University of Dublin, and Coombe Women's Hospital, warn against women's current obsession with weight in the light of the present celebrity culture. "Women of reproductive age are bombarded with messages about diet, weight, and body image," they say.

"There is growing concern on the one hand about an epidemic of obesity, and on the other about a culture that promotes 'size zero' as desirable, irrespective of a woman's natural build. Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding periods of a woman's life, with an adequate supply of nutrients essential to support foetal wellbeing and growth."

The report goes on: "With at least half of all pregnancies unplanned, women need to be aware of the implications of their weight for pregnancy, birth and the health of their babies.
It acknowledges that some advice on weight can be confusing: "[The] potential to provide women with conflicting information about weight, weight gain, and weight loss extends to pregnancy and birth outcomes."

The authors cite two studies which show the effects of weight gain and weight loss. A Swedish study followed 207,534 women from 1992 to 2001 to examine the link between changes in body mass index (BMI) and the impact on a baby and mother's health, assessing the women from the start of their first pregnancy to the start of their second. It found that increasing BMI by just one or two units led to "significantly increased rates" of pre-eclampsia, linked to high blood pressure in pregnancy; increased rates of diabetes in the mother and raised risk of a baby being born with a high birth weight.

The risk of these complications was almost double, and an even higher weight gain increased the risk. Gaining weight equivalent to more than three BMI units "significantly increased the rate of term stillbirth, independent of obesity related diseases", the experts say.

Source - Independent

Why vitamin D is so vital

Grey skies this summer mean that children are more at risk of developing weak bones and other diseases.
After the worst midsummer weather on record, you may feel something is missing - not only the sun but the sunshine vitamin, D.
The action of sun on skin, and of vitamin D on the body as a whole, have been shown to elevate mood as well as protect against disease. If you miss it, what about the children who are growing up without it? How will they get through next winter with what may be the lowest levels of D ever?

Children are at risk of serious diseases caused by insufficient vitamin D because the government's Healthy Start programme is failing to provide promised vitamins. The infant vitamins, which are not reaching the public, contain vitamin D that not only protects against rickets and weak bones but also reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and now, it is suggested, autism, too.

The Department of Health (DH) has developed its own-brand infant vitamin drops under the Healthy Start label and announced that they would be on sale in chemists' shops in March.
But parents seeking to protect their children against vitamin deficiency and its serious consequences have been unable to buy the infant vitamins in many parts of the country. And doctors wanting to prescribe the vitamins have been equally frustrated.

Source - Scotsman

Ghosh, curry could be the new cure for Alzheimer's disease

MOST Scots do not need an excuse to enjoy a good curry. But new research may offer another reason to indulge in their favourite spicy food.

A study has discovered that a substance found in turmeric root could hold a key to tackling Alzheimer's disease. Scientists in the United States discovered the extract may be capable of boosting the immune system to help combat the plaques which form in the brain, leading to the death of brain cells and dementia.
The latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on a substance called bisdemethoxycurcumin, which is found in the turmeric root.
The researchers, from the University of California, Los Angeles, used blood samples from Alzheimer's patients.
When they added the curry substance, it boosted immune cells called macrophages. These helped clear compounds known as amyloid beta, which create the plaques which build up in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers.

The researchers, led by Dr Milan Fiala, also identified the genes linked to this effect.
"The study provides more insight into the role of the immune system in Alzheimer's disease and points to a new treatment approach," the report said.
The findings could lead to blood tests to identify which patients may respond to the substance, allowing treatment to be individualised for them.
And new drugs could be developed using information on how the turmeric substance affects the immune system.
Previous research has suggested that rates of Alzheimer's are much lower among the elderly in India than they are in western countries.

Breathing lessons

Many asthma sufferers would like to reduce their dependence on their inhalers. Vicky Frost looks at the 'natural' options - from herbs to breathing exercises

There are 5.2 million people in the UK currently receiving treatment for asthma - which makes for a lot of inhalers lurking in bathroom cabinets. Inhalers, the most common treatment for asthma, come in two types: preventers, which are taken daily to control inflammation in the airways long-term and usually contain low-dose steroids; and reliever inhalers, which instantly relax the muscles if something triggers symptoms. Most asthmatics agree it's no big deal having to take them. And yes, it's great that they work.

But as with anyone with a long-term reliance on drugs, many asthmatics would like to reduce their reliance on inhalers without increasing the likelihood of a potentially dangerous attack. "Lots of people are very keen to know what they can do about their asthma other than take drugs to control it," says Dr Mike Thomas, a GP and senior research fellow for the charity Asthma UK.
There's a large amount of information out there about "natural" treatments, from avoiding cow's milk to eating more shiitake mushrooms. But as Thomas warns: "There's a fairly low amount of evidence for many of these things because lots of the research is based on drug treatments. It's basically much harder to fund non-drug research - but that has been increasing in the last 10 years, so the evidence is growing."

So what are the alternatives, and how effective are they?

Breathing exercises
Buteyko is the best known of these - and proponents claim it can be beneficial to asthmatics (and those with emphysema or bronchitis). You normally attend a workshop, maybe over a couple of days, but it isn't available on the NHS. So is it worth it? "Quite a lot of people do breathe abnormally," says Thomas. "We think breathing is instinctive, but it's very complex and needs coordination of many muscle groups."
Quiet breathing - ie, when you are at rest - should come from the diaphragm, with little movement of the chest. But some people will breathe largely from their chests. "If people can be encouraged to use quiet natural diaphragmatic breathing, this may lead to improvements in their asthma control," says Thomas. "There are some extravagant claims made about Buteyko, but good-quality studies do show that it can help people, and mean they are less reliant on their reliever - although there's no evidence that it can cure asthma. Breathing normally is probably why it works." But Buteyko isn't the only breathing exercise regime that might help. "It could be the same with yoga - and there are some people who say that singing is very helpful," says Thomas.
A recent study published in the journal Thorax also showed success in controlling asthma with the Papworth technique - a series of breathing and relaxation exercises which may reduce symptoms by as much as a third. The technique encourages breathing from the abdomen, using the diaphragm, rather than taking rapid, shallow breaths.
And if singing, bending or breathing methods don't appeal? Try asking your GP for a referral to an NHS physiotherapist. Some are trained to work with people with respiratory conditions.

Source - Guardian

Cancer scare over food colour added to sausages and burgers

A dye added to sausages and burgers to make them look fresher was at the centre of a cancer scare last night.
A European food watchdog said it was no longer safe to eat products containing the additive Red 2G after tests showed it caused cancer in rats and mice.
The red dye - also known as E128 - is most often used in cheap sausages and burgers to give the impression of a higher meat content.
The warning was issued by the European Food Safety Authority which said the colourant was a "safety concern".
The UK's Food Standards Agency will meet manufacturers today to discuss the extent to which the dye is used in British food.
Industry experts last night warned it could also be found in cheap varieties of jams and preserves.

Under current European Union food laws, limited amounts of Red 2G are permitted for use only in certain types of sausages and burger meat.
But food industry sources said these included nearly all burgers and sausages sold in Britain.
Malcolm Kane, an independent safety consultant, said Red 2G belongs to a group of dyes which have been linked to cancer for a number of years.

Source - Daily Mail

The healthy heart guide

Heart disease is the biggest killer of men and women in the West, accounting for more than 25 per cent of deaths. It remains the UK's single biggest killer, with someone in this country suffering a heart attack every two minutes. Too many of us don't know how to recognise the symptoms, according to a report published last week. And another showed that a significant proportion of people, including women, are more at risk of a heart attack than they believe. But there are plenty of things we can do to keep our hearts healthy.

Know the symptoms
A heart attack happens when a blood clot suddenly and completely blocks one of the arteries around the heart. As a result, part of the heart muscle does not get an adequate blood supply and is starved of oxygen, which can cause permanent damage. Most heart attacks occur as the result of coronary heart disease. The common or classic symptoms of a heart attack are a pain in the centre of the chest that can spread to the arms, neck or jaw. Some people can feel sick or sweaty, while others feel short of breath.
Women often experience less common heart attack symptoms, including a dull pain, ache, or "heavy" feeling in the chest; a mild discomfort and a general feeling of being unwell; a pain in the chest that can spread to the back or stomach; a chest pain that feels like a bad episode of indigestion; or a bout of dizziness. Women, whatever their age, are less likely to have heart attacks than men. But women are more likely than men to die from a heart attack, and those who live through one are more likely than men to have a second within four years. This might be because their heart disease is often more severe by the time they have their first heart attack.
"Far too many people delay calling an ambulance when they have a heart attack," warns Judy O'Sullivan, a cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation. "They either don't recognise the symptoms or think they should be much more severe than they are. The longer it takes you to call an ambulance, the greater your risk of dying. Three out of every 10 people who have a heart attack will be dead before they get to hospital. It is essential that you call an ambulance immediately. Paramedics say they would rather attend a false alarm than arrive and find it's too late to help someone. The life-saving treatment starts as soon as the paramedic arrives at your front door."

A healthy diet can significantly reducing the risk of developing heart disease. Plenty of fruit and vegetables are recommended, as evidence suggests they help to lower the risk of heart disease. Forget your Atkins diet, as starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice should also be included. Too much saturated fat from fatty meats, biscuits, cakes and full-fat dairy products can clog your arteries and put a strain on your heart. Eating oily fish regularly can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the chances of survival after a heart attack. Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish help the heart to beat regularly, reduce triglyceride levels (fatty substances found in the blood) and prevent blood clots from forming in the coronary arteries. "Approximately three out of 10 cases of coronary heart disease in developed countries are due to low levels of fruit and vegetable consumption," says O'Sullivan.

Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Watch out for foods such as crisps, salted nuts, canned and packet soups and sauces, baked beans and canned vegetables, pork pies, pizzas and other ready meals. Three-quarters of a person's dietary salt intake comes from processed foods alone. "Salt is a hidden source of harm. Too many of us see it as a flavouring, rather than something that can potentially damage our health," says O'Sullivan.
(Article continues)

Source - Independent

Naturally dangerous?

It has been claimed that chemicals in beauty products can harm our health. But, say experts, going barefaced may be a far greater hazard.

Lured by the promise of a permanent youthful bloom and blemish-free complexion, we can’t get enough of the “miracle” products peddled at every cosmetics counter in the countrys.
During her lifetime, the average British woman is likely to spend £186,000 on cosmetics, contributing to the coffers of an industry worth an estimated £6.4 billion a year.
But are we wasting our money or, worse, harming our skin by slathering on products that claim to restore and rejuvenate our appearance?
Richard Bence, a chemist, is the latest to suggest that hundreds of chemicals in everyday beauty products could damage rather than protect the skin. After three years of research into the ingredients of popular cosmetics – including foundations, mascaras, moisturisers and even baby lotions – he concluded that many of the man-made compounds they contain can not only irritate skin but even cause it to age prematurely.
His findings come after a report in the industry magazine In-Cosmetics revealed that the average woman absorbs 4lb 6oz (2kg) of chemicals through her skin every year.
Bence (who, it should be noted, founded a website for organic beauty products last year), lists as skin irritants such ingredients as sodium lauryl sulphate (used to make shampoos and shaving foams lather); parabens (added as preservatives to skin and hair products but thought to mimic the effects of oestrogen and linked by some campaigning bodies to breast cancer); and cocamide MEA (which binds ingredients in many moisturisers).

For the skin to absorb such chemicals is, he says, potentially more dangerous than swallowing them. “If your lipstick gets into your mouth it is broken down by the enzymes in saliva,” he says, “but if the chemicals get into your blood-stream there is no protection.”
But some dermatologists dismiss these suggestions as scaremongering, suggesting instead that it is probably better to wear cosmetics than to go barefaced. In fact, they claim, the chemicals in many products – especially moisturisers and night creams – can do much to prevent skin damage caused by exposure to harmful substances in the environment.

Numerous studies have looked at how urban life affects the skin. One, at the University of California, found that air pollution could lead to conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and other ailments characterised by red and scaly skin.
Hairless mice exposed to high ozone levels experienced a 25 per cent drop in levels of vitamin E from the stratum corneum (a thin layer of skin that stops pollutants and other chemicals from entering the body). Although the mice were exposed to greater amounts of ozone than most city dwellers, the length of exposure was only two hours a day for six days, so the overall effect might be similar.

Dr Nick Lowe, a consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic in Harley Street and a professor of dermatology at UCLA School of Medicine, says there is no comparison between the potentially damaging effects of the environment and those of chemicals in make-up and cosmetics. “Pollution, sun exposure and smoking wreak far more havoc on the appearance than any skin product ever could,” he says.

Source - Times

Moles 'good indicator to ageing'

The number of moles may offer an indication of how quickly the body ages, a study suggests.
King's College London scientists compared key ageing DNA with the number of moles in a study of 1,800 twins.
They found the more moles a person had, the more likely their DNA was to have the properties to fight off ageing.
The study, in the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention journal, contrasts with the link between a high mole-count and high skin cancer risk.
Moles appear in childhood and disappear from middle age onwards.
When present in large numbers they can increase the risk of melanoma, a rare form of skin cancer. Moles vary significantly in numbers and size between individuals.

The average number of moles in people with white skin is 30 but some people may have as many as 400.
The reason for such differences between people is unknown as is the function of moles.
Since moles disappear with age, scientists looked at the relationship between the number of moles and telomere length in cells, which is a good indicator of the rate of ageing in organs such as the heart, muscle, bones and arteries.
Telomeres, which get shorter as we age, are bundles of DNA found at the end of chromosomes in all cells and assist in the protection, replication, and stabilisation of the chromosome ends.
They have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other.

Source - BBC

Could a detox massage really help cure ME?

At school, Lizzie Jolley was envied by her classmates for her energy and sporting success. Picked for most sports teams every year, she swam, played netball, hockey and tennis and gained a Duke of Edinburgh gold award.
At university, she added diving and sailing to her list of accomplishments. But within 18 months of graduating in 2001, she was so ill that there were days when she could barely struggle out of bed. Walking was difficult and serious exercise impossible.
"I would wake up feeling really groggy - as if somebody had hit me over the head with a baseball bat - and very depressed, which was really unlike me as I have always been a happy person,' says Lizzie, now 28.
"I knew something was seriously wrong but I had no idea what it was."
Lizzie's GP arranged for her to have some blood tests. When these came back clear, he diagnosed ME by process of elimination, as there is no definitive test for the condition. The symptoms persisted and Lizzie remembers Christmas 2002, one month after her diagnosis, as a low point.
"I could not exercise, go out with my friends or even enjoy a drink without throwing up. I thought this illness would be with me for life."

But by March the following year, Lizzie was on the road to recovery, thanks - she believes - to a technique devised by Manchester osteopath Raymond Perrin.
Perrin - who is not a medical doctor but gained a PhD for his work on ME - believes that the condition is caused by the body's inability to rid itself of harmful organisms and chemicals, including bacteria, viruses and environmental pollutants. He claims that his massage techniques stimulate the lymphatic system - the network of vessels that carry infectionfighting cells round the body and remove foreign bodies - to drain these toxins away.

In one trial, published in the Journal of Medical Engineering And Technology in 1998, the symptoms of 33 patients treated by Perrin improved on average by 40 per cent, while the untreated group deteriorated by an average of 1 per cent.

Source - Daily Mail

For healthier lungs, eat more vegetables

If you needed any more proof that fruit, veg and oily fish work wonders, here it is.

Now there is another good reason to urge your teenagers to eat up their fruit, vegetables and oily fish. Doing so could, according to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, make them less prone to asthma, coughing, wheezing and generally “underperforming” lungs.
But it’s not only youngsters who can benefit. Other work, published recently in the journal Thorax, also revealed that eating a Mediterranean-style diet (which is naturally rich in these foods) has a protective effect on the lung health of men – which suggests that we should all be trying to double our current woeful average of 2.5 servings of fruit and veg a day.
Scientists have yet to discover the exact mechanisms to explain why fruit, vegetables and oily fish manage to have lung-protecting effects, but they have a few ideas about what may well be going on.
Take asthma. This is often triggered when we breathe in irritants in air pollution and tobacco smoke. In an asthma attack the bronchioles (tiny airways in the lungs) constrict, triggering the release of histamine and other chemicals that, in turn, cause inflammation, swelling and the production of extra mucus, making it hard to breathe.

Vitamin C, found in large amounts in many fruits and in vegetables such as peppers, broccoli, peas and even potatoes, is a major antioxidant that should be present in good amounts in the lining of our respiratory tracts. It should spring into action immediately when we breathe in oxidants in smoke and car fumes, helping to disarm them and make an attack less likely. If this vitamin C is lacking in our diets, there may be too little of it in our airways to tackle asthma-causing pollutants.
But the protective effects of fruits and vegetables are unlikely to be down to vitamin C alone. Fruit such as apples, raspberries, bananas and apricots, as well as onions and tomatoes, are good for quercetin. Like vitamin C, quercetin has strong antioxidant properties – but it is also believed to prevent the release of histamine, thus potentially helping to stop inflammation and swelling of airways and the production of excess mucus.
Onions have another potential winning property when it comes to easy breathing. They give us sulphur-based compounds, also found in garlic, shallots, chives and spring onions, which seem to have a mild antibiotic action, helping our bronchioles to relax.

Sports star ice baths questioned

Paula Radcliffe may say they are the secret of her success, but Australian research is questioning the benefits of taking an ice bath after exercise.
Physiotherapists recommend the bath as a way to speed up recovery, claiming the icy cold helps shift lactic acid.
But this is unproven, and a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine now claims the opposite may be true.
Out of 40 volunteers, those who took an icy plunge reported more pain after 24 hours than those who took a tepid bath.

Tepid response
Ice baths have become one of the most fashionable ways of recovering after an intense game or marathon. From rugby to tennis players, the bath has a series of celebrity endorsers.
The theory is that the icy cold causes the blood vessels to tighten, and drains the blood along with waste products such as lactic acid out of the legs.
When Jonny Wilkinson or Paula Radcliffe emerge from the bath, their limbs fill up with fresh blood which invigorates the muscles with oxygen and helps the cells repair.

Although physiotherapists who promote the bath have had little evidence to prove this, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from the athletes themselves that the bath makes them feel better.

Source - BBC

Healthy weight link to longevity

Keeping a healthy weight may help people live longer by limiting brain exposure to insulin, say US scientists.
A study in mice found that reducing insulin signals inside brain cells increased lifespan.
Writing in Science, the researchers said a healthy lifestyle and weight reduce insulin levels in humans and may have the same effect.
Experts said, if proven, insulin would be just one of many factors, such as genes, that influence longevity. Previous research in fruit flies and roundworms has suggested that reducing the activity of the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels, can increase lifespan.
The latest study looked at the effects of a protein, IRS2, which carries the insulin signal in the brain.
Mice who had half the amount of the protein lived 18% longer than normal mice.

Despite being overweight and having high levels of insulin, the mice were more active as they aged, and their glucose metabolism resembled that of younger mice.
The researchers said the engineered mice were living longer because the diseases that kill them, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, were being postponed due to reduced insulin signalling in the brain, even though circulating levels of insulin were high.
They said, in the future, it may be possible to design drugs to reduce IRS2 activity to reproduce the same effect, although they would have to be specific to the brain.

Source - BBC

Coffee and exercise 'save skin'

A cup of coffee could help protect your skin from the sun, US scientists say.

A combination of exercise and caffeinated water reduced the skin-damaging effects of ultra-violet radiation in experiments on mice.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study found the mice's natural defence against pre-cancerous cells was boosted by up to 400%.

But a UK expert warned that coffee was "definitely not a substitute" for sun protection.

Vitamin C 'does not stop colds'

Taking a daily supplement of vitamin C will not protect most people from common colds, scientists say.

A review of 30 studies, involving 11,350 people, also found doses of at least 200mg per day did little to reduce the length or severity of colds.

But people exposed to periods of high stress, like marathon runners, could reduce their risk of catching colds by half if they took the vitamin daily.

The Australian and Finnish team's study is published in the Cochrane Library.

Drinking milk cuts diabetes risk

Drinking a pint of milk a day may protect men against diabetes and heart disease, say UK researchers.

Eating dairy products reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome - a cluster of symptoms which increase likelihood of the conditions - the University of Cardiff team found.

In the 20-year study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, metabolic syndrome increased the risk of death by 50%.

Experts recommended people only eat two or three portions of dairy a day.

Source - BBC News

Grapefruit link to breast cancer

Eating grapefruit every day could raise the risk of developing breast cancer by almost a third, US scientists say.

A study of 50,000 post-menopausal women found eating just a quarter of a grapefruit daily raised the risk by up to 30%.

The fruit is thought to boost levels of oestrogen - the hormone associated with a higher risk of the disease, the British Journal of Cancer reported.

But the researchers and other experts said more research was still needed.

The right foods 'may help drugs work'

Combining medicines with the right food could improve the effectiveness of drugs and reduce the costs of treating patients, experts say.

The comments come after research showed taking a breast cancer drug with fatty food, rather than on an empty stomach, boosted absorption of the drug.

This means patients could take lower doses, which would reduce costs.

The comments were made by oncologists from the University of Chicago in a Journal of Clinical Oncology editorial.

Source - The BBC