Disarming back pain

Diana Butterworth, a district nurse, is robustly sceptical of complementary medicine, preferring to stick to mainstream treatments. So she did not expect much from the kinesiologist (a practitioner of the alternative therapy that studies body movement) whom her inlaws suggested she consult about her back pain.

Butterworth arrived at the home of her husband’s parents near Andover, Hampshire, three years ago “somewhat crooked” after spending three days replanting her garden. “It must have been obvious to them as I got out of the car that I was in pain,” recalls Butterworth, 36, who lives in Bedfordshire with her husband William and three young sons. “I am fairly sure that I injured my upper spine lifting a patient badly during my nursing training, and my lower back stiffness could be to do with the fact that I’m 5ft 10in. Things have got worse since I turned 30. I began to have a sharp pain that took my breath away when I made a sudden movement; for example, when I was changing nappies, or unloading the dishwasher.”

Butterworth had visited her GP, who referred her to a physiotherapist. Six sessions brought the pain under control, but within a year she was stiffening up again. “The pain kept me awake at night and my back felt sore as I put my feet on the ground in the morning.” She felt she had little to lose when her inlaws suggested a visit to the kinesiologist Katharine Graves, who lives near by.

Medical practitioners tend to regard it as among the wackier complementary therapies and rigorous clinical trials have failed to prove that it works. At the core of the therapy lies the concept of muscle testing. According to kinesiologists, the behaviour of certain muscles can reveal where a patient’s problems lie and give clues as to how he or she should be treated.

“Everybody who comes to see me says it is weird,” admits Graves. “And if they don’t say it, I do, because it needs to be said. But I see it work every day and sometimes the results seem miraculous. Just one session can be enough to resolve problems that have gone on for years.”
Having established that Butterworth was suffering from back pain, Graves used muscle testing to determine how best to treat it. Applying light pressure to her patient’s outstretched right arm with one hand, she touched the thumb of her other hand to each of her fingers in turn. When Graves’s thumb and second finger met, Butterworth’s arm involuntarily dropped down, indicating that her pain had an emotional component. “The amazing thing about kinesiology is that it tells you with complete precision where the problem is and what the body needs to treat it,” says Graves. “If you have had a bad back for a while, there may well be worries and tensions going on that are emotional.”

Allowing the energy to flow

With her patient lying on the couch fully clothed, Graves tested the 14 meridians (energy points) in Butterworth’s body, touching them to check whether energy was flowing through them freely. Where she felt blockages, she applied gentle pressure to known acupressure points.

“Different muscles relate to each meridian. With one hand, you hold the acupressure point on a meridian that lacks energy and link it via the other hand to a meridian that has energy: it’s rather like jump-starting a car. When the meridians come into synchronicity, you know the job is done. There’s usually some little sign such as a sigh, or a tummy rumble. When you check the body again, the arm will not drop.”

Butterworth admits that she found the whole process extraordinary. “My arm would suddenly drop as if I had no control over it. At the beginning of the treatment I felt quite sharp pain when Katharine asked me to put my head in certain positions. After she had worked her way around my body, the pain had gone.

“Normally after a long bout of gardening I would expect my back to go into spasm and be even more painful than usual, but seeing Katharine was like taking antiinflammatories. I had no trouble at all afterwards and the treatment was incredibly relaxing.”

Source - Times

Deodorant 'may be linked to breast cancer'

A link has been found between aluminium in deodorants and cancer, according to British scientists.

Tests found that women who used deodorants had deposits of aluminium in their outer breasts. The samples were taken from women who had undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer.

Aluminium is not normally found in the human body and scientists are reasonably convinced the presence of the metal means it is being absorbed from anti-perspirant sprays or roll ons. Most deodorants contain aluminium salts, because the metal is effective at stopping skin sweating.

Dr Chris Exley, from Keele University, who carried out the tests, has already raised concern about the aluminium content of sun creams, fearing it could put users at increased risk of developing skin cancer and Alzheimer's.

His small study involved measuring how much metal was found in breast tissue taken from 17 breast cancer patients who had mastectomies at Wythenshaw Hospital, Manchester.
He found that the aluminium content of breast tissue was significantly higher in the outer breast.

Dr Exley's study received funding from Genesis, a UK charity dedicated to preventing breast cancer. A report into his findings is to be published in the November issue of the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry.
Dr Exley said: "We found there was a wide variation in concentrations of aluminium. Some patients had low concentrations while others had quite high concentrations. What we found among all the women is that they all had higher concentrations in the breast tissue closest to the underarm compared to more central tissue, for example below the nipple. "

Source - Daily Mail

Reduce the juice

Drinking smoothies instead of eating the fruit is no quick nutrition fix.
There’s nothing like a fruit juice to leave you feeling cleansed, nutrient-pumped and virtuous.

Yes, mineral water is calorie-free, but it does not have the detoxing, immune system-boosting properties that you are supposed to get from a glass or bottle of something that has been freshly squeezed, pulped or pressed. So taken are we with the concept of juicing our way to looking and feeling good that we collectively guzzled our way through 34m litres of smoothies last year.

This sounds like good news for a nation that persistently fails to meet the recommended target of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, managing, on average, only a paltry two servings. Surely our juiceaholic tendencies are a step in the right direction? Some experts think not, claiming instead that we are being misled by the marketing practices of the soft-drinks industry into thinking the more smoothies and juices we drink, the better.

“It is a misconception to think that these drinks make up for other dietary failings,” says Catherine Collins, the chief dietician at St George’s hospital in south London. “Actually, they are nowhere near as good for you as consuming a fruit or vegetable in its whole, unaltered state.”

During the juicing process, fibre, pith and sometimes skin are removed. “These are important, nutrient-rich parts of a fruit or vegetable, and one of the reasons they are so good for us,” says Anna Denny, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. “A whole apple or mango is far more beneficial than a juiced one.” It is for this reason that guidelines produced by the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health state that a smoothie or glass of juice should constitute no more than one of the recommended daily fruit and vegetable servings.

Source - Times

Cutting down on sleep 'a recipe for heart disease'

People who deprive themselves of sleep may be more likely to die of heart disease, researchers have found.

A new study has identified a link between lack of sleep, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

An analysis of more than 6,500 people also found that women getting less than five hours' sleep were twice as likely to have hypertension as men. Hypertension - chronically high blood pressure - is a risk factor for heart disease, Britain's biggest killer.

Researchers said the results were "highly suggestive" that sleep deprivation may be also linked to death from cardiovascular disease.

Almost one in three people gets less than five hours' sleep a night, while half the population gets less than seven hours.

Francesco Cappuccio, professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Warwick Medical School, said: "We found lack of sleep is not only linked to a greater chance of developing high blood pressure but is also linked to increased death from cardiovascular causes. It is a stark finding but the results are highly suggestive of a causal link."

He will present his research later this month at the British Sleep Society's annual meeting in Cambridge.

Source - Daily Mail

'My son's diet made him hyperactive'

Helen Buniak describes her son Lee as a "Jekyll and Hyde" character. "He'd be a lovely, good little boy most of the time, but then he would become suddenly very aggressive, with these massive tantrums."

For the first eight years of his life, she said, she had no idea of the reason behind it. Then she noticed a coincidence.

Lee had five "episodes" in close succession, and Helen, from London, realised that each one had followed the birthday of a classmate - which meant the handing out of sweets by parents at the school gate. "I realised that there was something in those sweets that was making him behave like that," she says.

Complete change

No-one had mentioned the possibility that food additives or ingredients might be to blame, and she turned to the Hyperactive Children's Support Group for health.

They recommended a diet which involved removing foods which included additives, then gradually reintroducing them.

"Lee had a normal diet, but there were so many things that had additives - meat pies and bacon as well as sweets, fizzy drinks and crisps."

The effect was immediate, she says.

Source - BBC

Natural deodorants: Scent packing

The battle to smell fresh has raged for centuries. The ancient Egyptians shaved underarm then slapped on citrus oils and spices. The Greeks and Romans blended deodorising perfumes.

Nowadays we have a full arsenal of chemicals at our disposal - chemicals that do not just mask the smell of sweat, but block the ducts and prevent perspiration from emerging in the first place. Have we gone too far?

A recent study found high levels of aluminium - a common ingredient in modern anti-perspirants - in the breast tissue of cancer patients who had undergone mastectomies.
Cancer Research UK maintains that there is absolutely no link between deodorants and breast cancer but I cannot help regarding my chemical-packed antiperspirant with some ill-informed distrust. It could be time to get less high-tech about smelling good.

Body odour is caused not by perspiration itself but by the bacterial breakdown of it. Deodorants simply mask the pong. Antiperspirants go a step further, plugging the ducts to stop the perspiration from emerging (aluminium compounds react with the electrolytes in perspiration to form a gel plug in the duct of the sweat gland).

Source - Telegraph

An hour down the salt mine is like a day at the seaside

On first impressions, Britain's first therapeutic "salt cave" – designed to alleviate a range of respiratory and skin conditions, including asthma and psoriasis, and to reduce the effects of stress – seems rather incongruous.It isn't just the location, on the ground floor of a square 1970s building in a modern part of Bath, far from any natural geological feature.

Nor is it just the touch of Disney in the appearance – it is lined with pink, white and grey translucent salt rocks lit from behind and patterned like Palaeolithic paintings, with plaster stalactites on the ceiling and a water feature to one side.

No, for me, the oddest thing was the deckchairs. They looked out of place in the sombrely lit room, so far from any sunshine. "But they were really comfortable," one customer told me later: a frazzled mother from York who booked a 45-minute session with a friend for a bit of pampering.

The chairs were nearly my nemesis. A CD of repetitively calming music came on, the lights behind the salt rock panels became more intense, and gentle snoring filled the room as my companions-in-salt dozed off, tucked up in large blankets in case we got cold in the salt-air micro-climate that would swirl around us for the next 45 minutes.

Source - Telegraph

Subtracting the additives

Parents and experts want food without additives to protect children’s health. So what will the manufacturers do?

The lemonade bottle had been squatting at the bottom of my fridge, supposedly on hand for an emergency Pimm’s. It shivered there for about four months, only a quarter of it drunk, before I decided to tip the contents down the sink (I prefer emergency Bellinis). That’s when I noticed the sell-by date: June 2008.

Without sodium benzoate, otherwise known as E211, my lemonade would have gone off more quickly, perhaps a couple of weeks after I purchased it in early 2007. In fact, I may not have been able to buy it at all.

“If we got rid of preservatives, we might not have the same range of products on the supermarket shelf,” says Christine Welberry, from the Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers. “It might not be viable to manufacture a product and put it in the shops if it has only a few days before it goes off.

“Shelf life is a consumer convenience, as well as being part and parcel of the food chain. The consumer wants the product in her store cupboard for long enough to be useful to her. And all manufacturers make products based on consumer demand, so people obviously want to buy these products.”

Source - Times

Asthma risks ‘double’ during menopause

Women who go through the menopause have nearly double the risk of suffering respiratory diseases such as asthma, but could protect themselves by taking HRT, research suggests.

Rates of asthma were found to nearly double in menopausal women compared with normally menstruating women, an effect attributed to falling oestrogen levels during and after the menopause.

The studies, presented yesterday to the annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society in Stockholm, are the first to show that the hormone has an important role to play in lung protection and repair. Problems with breathing and reduced lung function were particularly pronounced for those women who were very thin or overweight.

Although the exact protective role of oestrogen is not yet known, the findings suggest that women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may avoid some of the problems.

Francisco Gomez Real from the University of Bergen, Norway, who led the research, said: “Women who have not menstruated in more than six months have more respiratory symptoms and lower lung function.” This can be explained by the fact that although oestrogen is reduced in all women following menopause, thinner women have the lowest amounts.

Source - Times

Do square meals create well-rounded pupils?

A year-long pilot study to ascertain the effect of healthy school meals on children’s behaviour and performance is starting today.

Pupils at eight primary schools are being given free, nutritious breakfasts, lunches or snacks for the rest of the academic year while researchers analyse the children’s weight, achievement, motivation, ability to concentrate and level of illness.

The results from the schools in North Tyneside will be compared with students from ten nearby schools that will not be offering free food.

A dramatic difference in behaviour and attendance was noticed when schools in Hull decided to offer free meals to all children in an attempt to remove the stigma and improve uptake of the scheme, which is normally available only to children from poor backgrounds. But the policy was scrapped this month for cost reasons and the number of pupils having a school meal has reportedly slumped.

Under the new £250,000 scheme, the schools will serve healthy food at different times, with researchers studying the children from the start of the day. Two schools each will offer breakfast, morning snacks, lunch or morning and afternoon snacks.

Leaders of North Tyneside Council intend to introduce the most successful option into all of its primary schools from next September, as obesity affects 15 per cent of under11s in the borough. For breakfast the children can have cereal, toast and spread, a piece of fruit and orange juice or milk. The mid-morning snack choices will include a cheese-topped bun, sultana bun, date whirl, fruit and orange juice. Those having two snacks a day will have fruit and milk in the morning, with the same choice as above in the afternoon. The pupils having school lunches will eat meals such as low-fat sausage in onion gravy with parsley potatoes, plus vegetables or salad and pudding or fresh fruit.

Source - Times

Consumers 'confused about diet'

Many Britons are unaware how to follow a healthy, balanced diet, the official food watchdog has said.

A survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests widespread ignorance about how much starchy food like rice, bread and pasta should be eaten. And there is confusion over what can contribute towards the target "five a day" intake of fruit and vegetables.

Conflicting messages from different weight-loss diets could be responsible for the misconceptions, says the FSA.

Only 11% of people correctly said it was important to eat lots of starchy foods, the survey of 2,094 people found. The FSA has re-designed the image it uses to show what makes up a healthy diet - the newly-designed "eatwell plate" uses photos of different foods and renames some food groups.

Source - BBC

Mixing coffee and paracetamol 'could cause liver damage'

Coffee addicts are being warned against mixing the drink with paracetamol.

Caffeine can react with the painkiller to cause liver damage, say scientists. In large amounts, for susceptible people, the effects could be fatal.

Overdoses of paracetamol are well-known to cause potentiallyfatal liver damage, but now scientists have shown that combining coffee with the drug could also prove deadly. The danger from paracetamol, the world's most popular painkiller, comes from a toxic enzyme created when the drug is broken down by the liver.

In their experiments, U.S. scientists created this enzyme artificially using geneticallyengineered bacteria, then added caffeine to the mix. They found levels of the dangerous toxin tripled when caffeine was present. The toxin also causes potentially-fatal liver damage when the painkiller is taken with large amounts of alcohol.

Researcher Dr Sidney Nelson, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said: 'People should be informed about this potentially harmful interaction.

'The bottom line is that you don't have to stop taking paracetamol or caffeine products, but you do need to monitor your intake more carefully when taking them together, especially if you drink alcohol.'

He said a normal person would suffer adverse effects only if they drank 20 to 30 cups of strong coffee a day while taking the painkiller.

However, some people would be more susceptible, such as those taking anti-epilepsy medicines, or St John's wort, a herbal antidepressant. Both of these boost levels of the enzyme involved.

Source - Daily Mail

E-numbers 'can do psychological harm to children'

The food watchdog was accused yesterday of "chickening out" of tough action on additives.

In the face of unequivocal evidence of the potential harm to children, delivered in person by an eminent university researcher, the Food Standards Agency fudged a decision on what to do next.

Professor Jim Stevenson, author of a breakthrough study on additives, told the FSA board yesterday that additives used in thousands of sweets, cakes and processed foods "damage the psychological health of children".

His research at Southampton University found that healthy children become hyperactive after consuming a mix of artificial colours and preservatives. He made it clear that the evidence is strong enough to justify a ban under European law, which requires a country to show that a food product constitutes "a serious or imminent risk to human health".

Asked if the evidence shows a serious risk to human health, Professor Stevenson said: "I think in terms of psychological health it does. We know that hyperactivity in a young child is a risk factor for, for example, later difficulties in school. Certainly it is associated with difficulties in learning to read. It is also associated with wider behavioural difficulties in middle childhood, such as conduct disorder. "

"I feel that the effects we are seeing here are sufficiently great to represent a threat to health."

Source Daily Mail

Using your mobile over an hour a day 'can harm hearing'

Using a mobile phone for more than hour a day could damage hearing, experts have warned.

Research shows that those who regularly use their mobile for longer than an hour a day find it harder to hear - with words starting with the letters s, f, h, t and z proving particularly troublesome.

The study, presented to an ear, nose and throat conference in the U.S. this week, comes as mobile phone use in Britain soars to record levels.

There are 70 million handsets in use in the UK, which are used to make a third of all calls. The latest research compared the hearing of 100 mobile phone users aged between 18 and 25 with that of 50 others who did not use mobiles.

This showed a link between longterm regular usage and hearing loss, with those who used their mobile for more than an hour a day for more than four years tending to find it harder to distinguish sounds.

The problem was particularly noticeable in the right ear, to which most people hold their phone.
High-frequency sounds, such as those made by the letters s, f, h, t and z, were most likely to pose a difficulty, making it hard to distinguish between words such as hill, fill and till.

Source - Daily Mail

Starchy diet 'may damage liver'

A diet rich in potatoes, white bread and white rice may be contributing to a "silent epidemic" of a dangerous liver condition.

"High-glycaemic" foods - rapidly digested by the body - could be causing "fatty liver", increasing the risk of serious illness. Boston-based researchers, writing in the journal Obesity, found mice fed starchy foods developed the disease.

Those those fed a similar quantity of other foods did not.

One obesity expert said fatty liver in today's children was "a tragedy of the future". Fatty liver is exactly as it sounds - a build-up over time of fat deposits around the organ.

At the time, no ill-effects are felt, but it has been linked with a higher risk of potentially fatal liver failure later in life.

The study, carried out at Boston Children's Hospital, looked at the effect of diets with precisely the same calorific content, but very different ingredients when measured using the glycaemic index (GI).

Source - BBC

Avocados 'could prevent mouth cancer'

Avocados may prevent mouth cancer and reduce the rate of cancer cell growth, new research suggests.

Extracts from Hass avocados, readily available in supermarkets, were able to kill some oral cancer cells and prevented pre-cancerous cells from developing, according to scientists at Ohio State University.

They believe the fruit works because of its high level of phytochemicals - plant compounds thought to have health-protecting qualities, and often found in dark coloured fruit and vegetables.

Lead author, Steven D'Ambrosio, said their study was the first of its kind. "We think these phytochemicals either stop the growth of precancerous cells in the body or they kill the precancerous cells without affecting normal cells," he said.

Avocados are also full of beneficial antioxidants, including vitamin C, folate, vitamin E and unsaturated fats.

Mr D'Ambrosio said more research was needed into the benefits of avocados and other fruits on cancer cells.

"The future is ripe for identifying fruits and vegetables and individual phytonutrients with cancer preventing activity," he said.

The study will be published in the journal Seminars in Cancer Biology.

Source - Daily Mail

Home mould removal 'eases asthma'

Asthma sufferers who remove mould from their homes could see an improvement in their symptoms, a Cardiff University study has found.

Half of the south Wales homes used in the research were cleaned of mould and ventilation was improved, and the other half were left mouldy for 12 months.

Asthma patients in the mould-free homes used their inhalers less and symptoms like sneezing lessened, said experts.

Charity Asthma UK said it wanted more research before conclusions were drawn.

Researchers at Cardiff University's School of Medicine studied 182 people with asthma living in 164 mouldy houses in two locations in south Wales.

Michael Burr, of the department for primary care said the removal of mould in half of the houses led to improvements in asthma symptoms, including runny or blocked noses and itchy-watery eyes.

Source - BBC

Parents warned of additives link

Parents have been warned of the effects of food additives on their children's behaviour after new research found a possible link to hyperactivity.

A Food Standards Agency (FSA) study of 300 random children found they behaved impulsively and lost concentration after a drink containing additives. The FSA now says hyperactive children might benefit from fewer additives. But experts said drugs rather than diet changes could improve behaviour more effectively in the most severe cases.

Dr Andrew Wadge, the FSA's chief scientist, said: "We have revised our advice to consumers: if a child shows signs of hyperactivity or ADHD then eliminating the colours used in the... study from their diet might have some beneficial effects."

He did say though there were many factors associated with hyperactivity including genes, being born prematurely, environment and upbringing. The FAS has met representatives of the UK food industry to talk about the study's implications, but food safety campaigners say it has not gone far enough.

Emma Hockridge, of the Soil Association, said the FSA should be taking a leading role in addressing the issue by undertaking initiatives to prevent the development of hyperactive disorders, through new policies to limit food additives.

The Food Commission called on food manufacturers to voluntarily remove additives from their products.

A spokesman said: "These artificial colourings may brighten up processed foods and drinks but it appears they have the potential to play havoc with some children's behaviour."

Source - BBC

Bad sleeping 'doubles heart risk'

Researchers say both too much and too little sleep is linked to a doubled risk of fatal cardiovascular disease.

Teams from the University of Warwick and University College London examined sleep patterns and death rates over two decades among 10,308 civil servants.

They found a doubled risk among those who cut their sleeping from seven to five hours a night compared to those who stuck to seven hours a night.

But the risk was similar for those who increased to at least eight hours.

Source BBC News

Remember, remember...

My mountain of shopping had just started along the conveyor belt towards the supermarket checkout when I realised I'd forgotten my purse. Oh, the pitying looks, as I piled it all back in the trolley and muttered an excuse – "I've just returned from holiday" – but I could hardly claim jet-lag from Venice. It was more proof that my brain is crumbling to mush.

I can't remember a time when I walked purposefully into a room and headed straight for the object I wanted. Being scatty does have its advantages. The cardiovascular workout that I get running up and down stairs, forgetting what I came for, means that I am fizzingly fit.

"But it's your brain that needs a workout," muttered a still, small voice. Yes, I'm talking to myself as well.

I'm a computer-literate, working grandmother but I'm useless at sudoku and easily bored with crosswords. So how fit is my brain?

A 40-year-old friend had tested his with Nintendo's multi-million-selling Brain Training computer program. This gives a sensational instant assessment of your "brain age".

"The trouble is," he told me, "one day it told me my brain age was 85 and the next day, on a different test, it was 25."

I'd read Telegraph science editor Roger Highfield's recent article about MindFit, the "mental gym" computer program. He described a two-year clinical trial which assigned 121 volunteers, aged 50-plus, to use either MindFit or a variety of other "brain games".

MindFit users experienced a significantly greater improvement than others, and in a variety of areas, such as short-term memory (15 per cent improvement) and simple reaction time (19 per cent improvement).

That's the "science bit", as Jennifer Aniston used to say in the shampoo commercial. But for fiftysomething babyboomers like me, MindFit looks like a practical and positive way to fight off those "what was I saying?" moments, when names, places and reading glasses prove hard to locate.

Source - Telegraph

Children with dyspraxia 'falsely labelled naughty'

Thousands of children who have dyspraxia are misunderstood and unfairly labelled, according to a survey published today.

Sometimes unkindly referred to as "clumsy child" syndrome, developmental dyspraxia is an impairment of the organisation of movement which can lead to problems with coordination and simple day-to-day tasks many people take for granted.

But almost three-quarters of people questioned in a nationwide poll admitted that they thought behavioural and learning problems, common to conditions such as dyspraxia, were simply an excuse for naughty or disruptive children.

The survey was published to launch Dyspraxia Awareness Week, which starts today, and was commissioned by the Dyspraxia Foundation, which this year marks its 20th anniversary.
About half of the respondents said they had heard of dyspraxia - but when questioned further, less than a third (31 per cent) said they actually knew or understood what the condition was and how the daily lives of sufferers were affected.

Familiar symptoms of dyspraxia include frequent falling over, difficulty walking up and down stairs, problems in dressing, and lack of spatial awareness.

Source - Daily Mail

Bad sleeping 'doubles heart risk'

Researchers say both too much and too little sleep is linked to a doubled risk of fatal cardiovascular disease.

Teams from the University of Warwick and University College London examined sleep patterns and death rates among 10,308 civil servants.

They found a doubled risk among those who cut their sleeping from seven to five hours a night compared to those who stuck to seven hours a night. But the risk was similar for those who increased to at least eight hours. The research, to be presented to the British Sleep Society, was based on data taken in 1985-88 and on follow up information collected in 1992-93.

The researchers took into account other possible factors such age, sex, marital status, employment grade, smoking status and physical activity. Once they had adjusted for those factors they were able to isolate the effect that changes in sleep patterns over five years had on mortality rates 11-17 years later.

Those who cut their sleeping from seven to five hours a night had twice the risk of a fatal cardiovascular problem of those who stuck to the recommended seven hours a night - and a 1.7 increased risk of death from all causes.

Source - BBC

Bordeaux benefits

Health-giving antioxidants exist not only in the region’s wine but also in the bark of its local pines

About 120 people will go to Château Rauzan-Ségla in Bordeaux within the next ten days to pick its grapes. Eighty per cent of the pickers will be regulars and none will be holidaymakers keen to lark around in vats while they squeeze grape juice between their feet and nibble the fruit. Vats are now glistening metallic tanks, as shiny and clean as a guardsman’s cap badge. Successful vinification, the production of the wine, and viticulture, the growing of the grapes, is now a matter of balancing nature and science. The days of including sweat and skin from holidaymakers’ feet in a grand crû classe wine have passed.

Had it not been for the marriage of science with years of experience, this year’s grape harvest could have been a disaster, without even one bottle of wine being produced on some estates. This has happened at one château where everything is so organic that nature is unfettered.

At Château Rauzan-Ségla the vineyard and the vinification has become a model of what vine-growing and wine-making should be since it was bought by Chanel in 1994. The pruning, cultivation and harvesting are carefully controlled, but chemicals are used as little as possible. This year, without any sprays, the mildew would have rotted the grapes. As it is, the château will have a reasonable harvest and although the vintage is unlikely to be exceptional it will still be drunk with pleasure in years to come.

Research reported this week at the annual science conference in York confirmed the value to health of a modest intake of wine.There are endless examples of the value of the vitamins, antioxidants and trace elements in fruit and vegetables, but doctors remain chary of recommending supplements.

Yet natural substances are important. For example, an analysis published in The Archives of Internal Medicine by scientists working in Lyons and Milan, who are studying cancer, compared the results from 57,000 people involved in 18 surveys, and concluded that those who have vitamin D supplements have a 7 per cent lower death rate than those who don’t. The supplements of the vitamin folic acid are now known to be essential for women expecting to become pregnant if they are to lower their risk of having a baby with neurological abnormalities. Recently research has shown that if the incidence of macular degeneration of the eye is to be reduced, vitamin supplements, rather than a well-balanced diet, will be needed

Source - Times

Pregnant women told 'eat peanuts to protect your babies from allergies'

Mothers who shield their babies from peanut products may be doing more harm than good, a major report will warn next week.

It suggests that Britain's allergy epidemic is being fuelled by Government advice which has led many mothers to stop eating peanuts during pregnancy and to avoid giving them to children at an early age.

The dramatic findings of a House of Lords committee follow a series of authoritative studies showing that allergy rates are low, or non-existent, in countries where babies are weaned on peanuts.

In contrast, Britain has witnessed a surge in childhood allergies in the last decade, with up to eight per cent of youngsters experiencing a reaction before they go to school.

The science and technology committee's allergy report is expected to call on the Department of Health to change its official advice.

Ministers have admitted that their guidelines – which state that babies may be at higher risk of developing a nut allergy if the mother or father have a history of asthma, eczema or hay fever – may be 'entirely wrong and counter-productive'.

Source - Daily Mail

Diesel fumes trigger heart attacks and strokes, researchers find

Scientists have discovered how air pollution triggers heart attacks, which cause thousands of deaths each year.

Diesel exhaust fumes increase the stress on the heart during exercise and may account for the rise in heart deaths on days when pollution from traffic fumes is high, they say.

The World Health Organisation estimates that air pollution causes 800,000 premature deaths worldwide and a recent US study suggested long-term exposure to traffic fumes increases the risk of death from heart disease and stroke by 76 per cent.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that inhaling diesel fumes caused a threefold increase in stress on the heart by altering its electrical activity. The risk of blood clots was also increased.

Source - Independent

100 apples a day could keep the doctor away

The adage goes that an apple a day keeps the doctor away - but it could be closer to 100 apples according to a new study.

People who overdo exercise often fall victim to illness but American researchers found that giving them quercetin, which is found in apples, could help protect them.

DARPA, the Pentagon's research arm, has been sponsoring studies into whether quercetin could be used to help protect US troops.

The latest trial saw 40 male cyclists either given one gram of the flavenoid every day - equal to eating 100 apples - or a placebo for three weeks.

According to an article in the New Scientist journal, the cyclists spent a three-day period training at maximum intensity for three hours a day. Two weeks later, nine of the cyclists in the placebo group had chest infections while only one of the quercetin group was ill.

Source - Daily Mail

Why loneliness may damage health

US scientists may have uncovered a genetic reason why lonely people may have poorer health.

The UCLA research, published in Genome Biology, found certain genes were more active in people who reported feelings of social isolation. Many of the genes identified have links to the immune system and tissue inflammation - which may be damaging.

Other studies have shown clear links between lack of social support and illnesses such as heart disease. The researchers said that quality, not quantity, of friendships, appeared to be important.

The link between genes and loneliness has been explored before - a recent Dutch study of 8,000 twins also pointed to the connection. The UCLA research looked in more detail at which genes might be involved.

They took 14 volunteers and assessed their level of social interaction using a scoring system.
They then looked at genetic activity in their white blood cells and tried to compare the results.

In their "lonely" volunteers, various genes tended to be "over expressed" compared with those at the opposite end of the scoring scale.

Source - BBC

How one household kicked the sugar habit

It rots your teeth, wrecks your heart and even causes mood swings - yet a typical family eats an astonishing FIFTY POUNDS of sugar a month. So what happened when we asked one household to end its addiction?

We are a nation of sugar junkies: sugar now makes up more than 30 per cent of the average diet, three times the recommended intake set by the World Health Organisation. Many of us scoff 150lb of pure sugar a year, that's more than 12lb of sugar in a month. The typical family might have 52lb a month - the equivalent of 26 large bags of sugar.

And the toll on our health is devastating. As well as causing dental decay. Too much sugar can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke. According to Jane Clarke, the Mail's nutritionist, sugar is the real dietary evil. "It is much worse than fat - it has so little in its favour nutritionally and it's very hard for the body to tell when it's had enough; you can just keep eating and eating it. The problem is compounded by the fact that it's 'hidden' in so many foods, including even frozen pizza, so many of us are eating more than we suspect."

And it's affecting more than just our health. As Dr Alex Richardson, a leading authority on how nutrition affects children's conduct and learning, explains:

"Although there is no definitive evidence that sugar causes bad behaviour in children, many experts have noticed a pattern that can build over time. Highly refined, sweetened foods dump sugar too quickly into the bloodstream, delivering no nutrients but causing blood sugar levels to rise very quickly.

Many 'imagine' food intolerance

Millions of people in the UK have self-diagnosed a food intolerance and may be avoiding key foods as a result, a poll by a testing firm suggests.

Less than a quarter of the 12m people who claim to be food intolerant have had their condition formally diagnosed. While many of the nine million who also claim to be intolerant may well be so, it is suggested they may just be fussy.

Nearly 40% of the 1,500 people polled by Yorktest thought it trendy to be intolerant and many blamed celebrities.

Actress Rachel Weisz for instance has a well-publicised wheat intolerance, TV presenter Carol Vorderman a gluten one, and Rod Stewart's former wife, Rachel Hunter, a lactose intolerance.

Vague symptoms
The range of foods people declared themselves intolerant of was diverse, but grapefruit and sushi were declared by those polled to be key culprits.

Source - BBC

Why it pays to know your onions if you want to beat brain drain

CHOPPING them may make you cry and they can leave you with pungent breath, but onions may also improve your memory, scientists said today.

Researchers at Hokkaido Tokai University in Japan have found that people suffering from memory loss who ate the vegetable, which had been lightly cooked, found it improved their recall abilities. Experts believe the findings could be important in the fight against brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The researchers discovered an antioxidant in onions that binds with harmful toxins in the brain and flushes them out of the body. The compound, which contains sulphur, is found in many members of the allum family, including garlic.

Ian Marber, a health journalist and author, said: "Onions are one of the richest and most readily available sources of sulphur-containing compounds which have been shown to slow down the deterioration of memory usually associated with ageing. "Onion extract has also been shown to maintain the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is involved in processing emotions as well as memory."

But he warned that onions that are over-cooked may lose their memory-helping properties. They should instead be cooked on a low heat.

Jim Jackson, the chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said he was not convinced that eating onions would have an impact on the disease.

Source - Scotsman

Audio healing

Recently, I've been testing a series of self-improvement CDs called Paraliminals, which claim to use state-of-the-art methods to give you, among other things, "instantaneous personal magnetism". The problem with evaluating them, though, is that you can't really go around asking friends and colleagues whether they think you've been demonstrating instantaneous personal magnetism over the past few weeks.

Actually, that's not true. You can. I did. Uniformly, they gave me a slightly scared look, which made it clear that they agreed I was indeed demonstrating a new personality trait, no doubt about it. Just maybe not the one I'd intended.Paraliminals' selling point is that they're not meant to be hypnotic, but nor do you process them consciously. You can't: you're instructed to listen wearing headphones, and a syrupy-voiced American named Paul Scheele speaks two different scripts, one in each ear, at the same time. "Your conscious mind finds it difficult to process two voices simultaneously, so it shuts down," Scheele explains.

(Afterwards, I made the following transcript: "Your image of yourself and there was a special delight notice your potential has always been on occasion that image of you leaking springs and weedy patches...")

At first, it made me feel car-sick. But then further thought did become impossible, which is definitely relaxing, whether or not it instils the promised benefits .

Source - Guardian

The spray that has 'cured' my thinning hair

Theresa Smith started losing her hair following her father's death - within months it was so bad she was reduced to colouring-in her bald patches with a felt-tip.

"When my father died it was a very traumatic time for me," says Theresa, 61. "About a month after his death (in 2004) I was in the bathroom brushing my hair after my morning shower when I noticed that clumps of it were falling out. My hairbrush was covered in hair and more fell out on the floor as I ran my fingers over my scalp. I looked in the shower and there was yet more hair around the plug-hole. I was terrified there was something seriously wrong with me."

Theresa sought advice from her GP, who suspected she was suffering from a form of stress-related alopecia and prescribed a course of steroids. Such types of alopecia are caused by an auto-immune response, in which the immune system attacks the body. Steroids work by suppressing the immune system to allow the hair follicle to recover. However these had no effect and her hair continued to thin dramatically.

"I had always had strong, healthy hair," says Theresa, "so to find myself with bald patches and thin, weak hair was a nightmare. I wouldn't leave the house unless I absolutely had to. I used to colour-in the patches to try to disguise them. I lost all my self-confidence and became a bit of a recluse." After trying a variety of over-thecounter hair thickening products with no success, Theresa had given up hope of her hair ever growing back. Then she saw an ad in her local paper looking for volunteers to try a new hair loss treatment spray.

The product - Boots Expert Hair Loss Treatment Spray for Women - apparently stops hair from thinning by increasing the thickness and health of each strand of hair.

Its creators claim the ingredients, which include green coffee beans and a medicinal plant called the Indian pennywort, work by calming the immune system.

Source - Daily Mail

Could a pillow you wear cure snoring?

A simple device to stop you sleeping on your back may be a new treatment for sleep apnoea.
New research shows that after three months, six out of ten patients who used the device had fewer symptoms.

In sleep apnoea, which affects up to a million people in the UK, the upper airway or pharynx collapses repeatedly at irregular intervals during sleep. These events - known as apnoeas - can occur hundreds of time a night.

During an apnoea, the muscles in the soft palate, tongue and other tissue relax to the point where the airways close completely. As a result, breathing stops for about ten seconds, sometimes longer, until the brain senses what is happening and wakes up the sufferer.
People who have the condition may complain of excessive daytime tiredness which results in falling asleep at work, while driving, during a conversation or when watching television.

Other symptoms include loud, heavy snoring, often interrupted by pauses and gasps, irritability, restlessness and morning headaches.

The condition may also be linked to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

Researchers at the State University of New York found that body position during sleep can affect the frequency of apnoeas.

In up to half of cases, lying on the back may increase the problem.

Source - Daily Mail

Why painkillers could be the problem, not the cure

For many years, Margaret Kember would reach for the painkillers to cure her migranes. But as the dosages increased, it gradually emerged that the painkillers could be worsening the headaches rather than curing them

For Margaret Kember, reaching for her painkillers every morning was as much of a habit as turning off the alarm clock. "I would reach for my painkillers the minute I got downstairs to put the kettle on. It was the only way I could begin to function. "The first few seconds when I woke up would be fine, but then the feeling that a ton of weight was crashing down on my head would begin again," says the 53-year-old from Stowmarket, Suffolk.

Margaret first started suffering from migraines and headaches as a child but these became worse in her 20s. She started taking Veganin - a painkiller comprising paracetamol, codeine and aspirin. "The amount I took gradually increased over the years - it seemed the more I took, the more I needed to take. I was even waking up in the night to have them. I'd feel OK before bed but wake up feeling ghastly and would reach for the painkillers - it was like an addiction."

What she didn't realise was that the very drugs promising to ease her agony were in fact causing and prolonging it.

Until she successfully sought treatment last year, Margaret was one of the estimated 500,000 women and 100,000 men in the UK who suffer daily headaches caused by the overuse of painkillers.

Research suggests the frequent use of drugs such as codeine, paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin can often be the main reason people suffer from repeated headaches - and have shown that between a quarter and two-thirds of headache sufferers overuse painkillers.

They are not overdosing on their medication; they are simply taking the pills for long periods of time.

But the more a painkiller is taken, the more resistant the body becomes to it.

So the sufferer has then to resort to a stronger painkiller.

When the medication wears off, they can get a withdrawal reaction - known as a 'rebound' headache - prompting them to take more medication.

Source - Daily Mail

The deodorant safety guide: How picking the right brand could save your life

Most women have used deodorant for years without a second thought, yet following research published last week many might now be thinking twice before applying it.

A potential link between aluminium - commonly found in the form of aluminium salts in anti-perspirants - and breast cancer was found in the study by Chris Exley, at Keele University.

A higher content of aluminium was found in breast tissue samples - taken from 17 women with breast cancer who had mastectomies at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester - near the underarm area where anti-perspirants and deodorants are applied. "Although the presence of aluminium in the breast does not, in itself, imply any causal link to breast cancer, it does underline the need for more research, especially in view of the known toxicity of aluminium," says Dr Exley.

Aluminum salts are a form of metal and work by blocking the pores that produce perspiration, hence their use in anti-perspirants. They may be listed in the ingredients on the bottle as aluminium chlorohydrate or aluminium zirconium.

"We know from research that aluminium applied under the arm appears in the urine, so it does permeate through the skin," says Dr Exley, the lead researcher in the Keele study.

Some natural deodorants also use a crystal form of aluminium (known as ammonium alum).
Although these are sold as deodorants rather than anti-perspirants - the ammonium alum is supposed to control the growth of bacteria rather than block the pores - "aluminium found in breast tissue is as likely to come from these aluminium-based natural products as it is from conventional anti-perspirants," says Dr Exley.

Deodorants do not usually contain aluminium as they are designed to prevent odour by using fragrance as well as reducing the levels of underarm bacteria. They may, however, contain parabens, a preservative also found in other cosmetics such as shampoos, body lotions and liquid soaps.

A 2004 study by Dr Philippa Darbre, a senior lecturer in oncology at the University of Reading, found evidence of parabens in breast tumours. "Parabens can mimic the action of oestrogen and there is a link between oestrogen and breast cancer," she says.

Many products act as both antiperspirants and deodorants so may contain both aluminium salts and parabens.

Source - Daily Mail

Pesticides can 'double' the risk of asthma

Exposure to pesticidal chemical sprays doubles the risk of developing asthma, researchers have found.

In the first study of its kind, scientists discovered adults who come into contact with pesticides are at a higher risk of developing respiratory problems. The findings will further heighten concerns about the impact of chemical sprays on food and the proximity of schools and homes to farms where they are used.

Last week, an official report showed 2 per cent of food sold in Britain contains illegal levels of chemical pesticides. Traces were also found in a third of fruit, vegetables, milk and meat.
Five million Britons suffer from asthma and the number is growing. The condition afflicts nearly a million children, around one in ten.

Past studies have linked asthma to second-hand tobacco smoke, poor diet and obesity. Traffic fumes and smoke have also been shown to worsen symptoms.

The study of 20,000 American farmers was presented yesterday at the European Respiratory Society's annual congress in Stockholm.

Source - Daily Mail

Fish and 'fruity' veg cuts asthma in children

A diet of fish and "fruity" vegetables can help reduce asthma and allergies in children, according to the results of a seven-year study released today.

Researchers in Spain discovered that the eating habits of expectant mothers and their offspring affected childhood wheeze and allergic reaction. Children who consumed more than 60g (2.12oz) of fish and and 40g (1.41oz) of "fruity" vegetables a day, such as tomatoes and aubergines, were found to be less likely to suffer from asthma and allergies.

The study, which is included in the latest edition of the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, charted the progress of 232 boys and 228 girls from the womb to age six and a half.

Researchers found that just under 9 per cent of the children suffered from some degree of wheezing, including around 6% with allergy-related asthma. In addition, 17 per cent reacted to at least one of the allergens in a skin prick test.

But those with a diet high in fish and "fruity" vegetables were less prone to suffer, the study found.

Source - Daily Mail

Look after your heart: eat chocolate

IT HAS already been credited with improving life expectancy and slowing down the growth of cancer. Now an expert says gourmet chocolate is better than prescription medicine when it comes to reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Professor Roger Corder, a food scientist, says eating small amounts of chocolate each day has "considerable potential to improve health and wellbeing". Cocoa flavonoids in quality dark chocolate have a range of beneficial effects on the blood and circulation system, and Prof Corder said the best products to buy were those with at least 70 per cent cocoa, as they were the most likely to have high levels of flavonoids.

His research has confirmed that these improve the elasticity of blood cells, so reducing the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes and heart disease.

Source - Scotsman

Starch 'fuel of human evolution'

Man's ability to digest starchy foods like the potato may explain our success on the planet, genetic work suggests.

Compared with primates, humans have many more copies of a gene essential for breaking down calorie-rich starches, Nature Genetics reports. And these extra calories may have been crucial for feeding the larger brains of humans, speculate the University of California Santa Cruz authors. Previously, experts had wondered if meat in the diet was the answer.

Brain food

However, Dr Nathaniel Dominy and colleagues argue this is improbable.
"Even when you look at modern human hunter-gatherers, meat is a relatively small fraction of their diet. "To think that, two to four million years ago, a small-brained, awkwardly bipedal animal could efficiently acquire meat, even by scavenging, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

They discovered humans carry extra copies of a gene, called AMY1, which is essential for making the salivary enzyme amylase that digests starch.

Survival benefit

Next the team studied groups of humans with differing diets and found those with high-starch diets tended to have more copies of AMY1 than individuals from populations with low-starch diets.

For example, the Yakut of the Arctic, whose traditional diet centres around fish, had fewer copies than the related Japanese, whose diet includes starchy foods like rice.

Source - BBC

Quest for a miracle cure

These parents believe horses and shamans can unlock their son’s autistic mind. This is their journey of discovery

A child is born, and the child seems blessed. He lives in the richest nation on Earth, at a time of greater wealth and understanding than any in history. The infant even has interesting parents: one British, one American, each a little famous in their own right.

But then something disquieting happens. Perhaps this was your child, too.

He starts to go backwards. First he loses his language, then he enters a solitary hell. He turns away when touched and arches his back when held. He lines up his toys in rows, and seems afraid of things that should hold no fear. He appears not to notice you, and his indifference makes you feel snubbed.

Soon the real heartache starts. You see other children play together in a sandpit while yours is to one side, obsessively pouring and repouring sand through his fingers. Sudden firestorms run through his nervous system, making him scream in panic and pain. Later, in the calmer years when he is four or five, other children’s attempts at friendship are rebuffed. This is not because your child wants no companions: the truth might be that he yearns for them. But he is mystified by social interaction, and conversation makes him nervous, as he has no idea how to respond. So he turns away with a distant expression, seeming cold and weird. This is autism. Your lovely offspring looks condemned to what, in 1943, Leo Kanner first described as "extreme autistic loneliness", and many readers of this magazine will know a family that is affected. In the UK, 1 in 100 children is on the autistic spectrum.

It is a mystifying disorder. But on a farm in Texas, a British father thinks he has found a way into the mind of his autistic son. The boy has learnt to talk thanks to his relationship with a horse. He can quell his tantrums, express his feelings, even do maths and spelling — all because of a horse. He is the Horse Boy, and the loss of his symptoms is a challenge to conventional thought on how to handle his condition.

Source - Times

Breast-feeding does not protect babies from asthma

Breast-feeding does not protect children against developing asthma or allergies, a study suggests. A large trial involving more than 13,000 women and children found no evidence of a protective effect.

Previous research has suggested that breast-feeding helps to boost a baby’s immune system and can protect against respiratory infections. Figures released in May showed that fewer than 1 per cent of women in Britain follow government advice to breast-feed exclusively for the first six months.

The Infant Feeding Survey revealed that 76 per cent of women in 2005 started out breast-feeding, up 7 per cent from 2000. But most had resorted to formula milk within weeks and fewer than half were still breast-feeding by the time their baby was six weeks old. Only one in four women was still breast-feeding at six months.

The new study is published today in the British Medical Journal and involved babies born in 1996-7. Mothers and babies were split into two groups, with the first having breast-feeding promoted and supported in hospitals and polyclinics the women and children attended. In the control group, the hospitals and clinics continued with their normal practices and policies.

Source - Times

Germany warns citizens to avoid using Wi-Fi

Environment Ministry's verdict on the health risks from wireless technology puts the British government to shame.

People should avoid using Wi-Fi wherever possible because of the risks it may pose to health, the German government has said.

Its surprise ruling – the most damning made by any government on the fast-growing technology – will shake the industry and British ministers, and vindicates the questions that The Independent on Sunday has been raising over the past four months.

And Germany's official radiation protection body also advises its citizens to use landlines instead of mobile phones, and warns of "electrosmog" from a wide range of other everyday products, from baby monitors to electric blankets.

The German government's ruling – which contrasts sharply with the unquestioning promotion of the technology by British officials – was made in response to a series of questions by Green members of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament.

The Environment Ministry recommended that people should keep their exposure to radiation from Wi-Fi "as low as possible" by choosing "conventional wired connections". It added that it is "actively informing people about possibilities for reducing personal exposure".

Its actions will provide vital support for Sir William Stewart, Britain's official health protection watchdog, who has produced two reports calling for caution in using mobile phones and who has also called for a review of the use of Wi-Fi in schools. His warnings have so far been ignored by ministers and even played down by the Health Protection Agency, which he chairs.

By contrast the agency's German equivalent – the Federal Office for Radiation Protection – is leading the calls for caution.

Florian Emrich, for the office, says Wi-Fi should be avoided "because people receive exposures from many sources and because it is a new technology and all the research into its health effects has not yet been carried out".

Source - Independent

Tangerine peel 'kills cancer'

A compound extracted from tangerine peel can kill certain human cancer cells, research shows.

A team from Leicester School of Pharmacy found Salvestrol Q40 was turned into a toxic compound in cancer cells, destroying them.

Salvestrol Q40 is found at higher concentrations in tangerine peel, than in the flesh of the fruit.
The researchers suggest the modern trend to throw away peel may have contributed to a rise in some cancers. Lead researcher Dr Hoon Tan said his work was still at an early stage, but together with his colleagues he has formed a company to investigate further the potential to develop natural anti-cancer therapies.

He said: "It is very exciting to find a compound in food that can target cancers specifically."

Source - BBC

Cancer doubt remains over mobiles

The long-term cancer risk of mobile phone use cannot be ruled out, experts have concluded. A major six-year research programme found a "hint" of a higher cancer risk.

But the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHRP) did rule out short-term adverse effects to brain and cell function.

Researchers are now expanding the programme to look at phone use over ten years, and the specific impact on children, which has not been studied. Programme chairman Professor Lawrie Challis said it was now up to the government to offer advice.

The team found that there was a slight excess reporting of brain and acoustic neuroma (ear) cancers. Researchers said this was on the borderline of statistical significance.

Professor Challis said that it was only responsible to do more research, citing the way smoking was not linked to lung cancer at first.

Source - BBC

Could a good night's sleep help fight Alzheimer's?

Melatonin is known as the hormone that is vital for sleep, but it may also cut your risk of cancer, help prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and reduce the sagging skin and thinning hair that accompany ageing.

Melatonin works by helping to break down the body's active and energetic hormones, slowing brain activity and allowing us to rest.

But researchers now believe the hormone - found in walnuts, grapes and porridge - could protect against the potentially harmful magnetic fields created by power cables, reduce cholesterol, boost the immune system and help children suffering from autism.

You don't hear much about melatonin's bid for super hormone status in Britain because, unlike in the U.S., where it can be bought over the counter in supplement form, here, the drugs watchdog, the MHRA, has ruled it should be prescription only.

However, from this month, you will be able to buy a weaker melatonin herbal supplement.
But you may not need supplements: keeping artificial light to a minimum in the bedroom could do the trick. The hormone, made by the pineal gland in the brain, can be produced only in darkness.

Female night shift workers have low levels of melatonin and a significantly raised risk of breast cancer. So do airline stewardesses, whose rhythms of sleeping and waking are disturbed.
On the other hand, blind women, who can't see light, are 50 per cent less likely to have breast cancer.

Melatonin's anti-cancer effect may be down to the fact it is a powerful antioxidant - five times more potent than vitamin C - that mops up free radicals linked to cancer.

Experts have found there is something in the blood of women who have had a good night's sleep that can slow tumour growth dramatically.

And there's mounting evidence to suggest disruption of the melatonin rhythm may also lead to chronic fatigue and depression.

NHS trust stops homeopathy funds

Health bosses have recommended that NHS funding for a homeopathic hospital in Kent should be stopped.

West Kent Primary Care Trust has been conducting a review of all its funding.

Up until now, part of it has been paying for patients to be treated at the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital, or at a clinic in Bromley. Spokeswoman Emma Burns said the move was because "the NHS has to decide the best use of money on the evidence of clinical effectiveness".

Trust executives recommended to board members at a meeting that the £160,000 spent on treatments each year could be better spent elsewhere. It follows a lengthy and extensive public consultation.

Decision on future

The clinic treats up to 1,000 patients a year, and is one of just five in the UK to provide homeopathic treatment on the NHS.

Source - BBC

Keeping your teeth clean could help prevent a heart attack, claim doctors

Brushing and flossing your teeth could save you from a heart attack, claim experts.
Doctors found those with the worst blockages in their arteries had the most severe gum disease.
There is mounting evidence of a link between gum disease and heart disease, but a study claims to be the first to show that the severity of each disease may also be connected.

Chronic gum disease is called periodontitis, which occurs when waste material or plaque collects around the teeth and irritates the gums. Plaque is removed when teeth are looked after properly.

However, failure to brush and floss can lead to the irritated gums becoming infected. Teeth become loose and can even fall out.

It is not clear how gum disease may trigger heart problems, although it is thought that bacteria released from the infected gums are the key.

The bacteria enter the bloodstream where they may activate the immune system, making artery walls inflamed and narrowed, or attach directly to fatty deposits already present in the arteries which causes further narrowing.

French cardiologists and dentists looked at 131 patients referred to hospital for an X-ray examination of the arteries. All were examined for gum disease and had their blood checked for inflammation.

Patients with artery disease had more severe periodontitis than those without, said study leader Dr Nicolas Amabile.

Source - Daily Mail

Is organic food really better for you?

By picking up a food labelled "organic" you might assume you're taking a positive step towards a more nutritious and healthy diet.

Indeed, an Organic Market report by the Soil Association revealed that annual spending on organic food, cosmetics and clothes is £2bn, and that health is the prime motivation for buying organic.

But while the sustainable farming methods used to produce organic foods make them kinder to the environment, they are not necessarily kinder to your health or waistline. In fact, many products carrying the organic label are packed full of fat, sugar and salt and are no better than regular varieties of the same food.

A recent report highlighted the confusion surrounding organic food labels designed to woo health-conscious shoppers.

Source - Daily Mail

Zero tolerance: Is food sensitivity a fad?

Cutting out milk or wheat seems to be the one-stop cure for modern ailments. But is food sensitivity more than just a fad?

Food intolerances are sometimes given short shrift, being dismissed as picky eating, hypochondria or faddishness – particularly as more celebrities announce that they are wheat intolerant, like Rachel Weisz, or dairy intolerant, like Victoria Beckham and Orlando Bloom.

A survey last week found that 12 million people in Britain believe they have a food intolerance, although less than a quarter of them have been formally diagnosed. Previous studies have put the real number of sufferers as low as 2 per cent of the population. But while many people wrongly believe they are sensitive to certain foods, there are also millions of us who have genuine food intolerances – but don't know it.

The charity Allergy UK claims that 45 per cent of Britons suffer from some kind of food intolerance, but experts remain sceptical. "I would be very surprised if the figure was as high as 45 per cent," says Ruth Towell, who is chair of the food allergy and intolerance group and a senior research dietician at St Thomas's Hospital. "Working out the prevalence of food intolerance is very difficult. Diagnosing an allergy is usually straightforward, but often people will prefer to blame certain health problems on a food intolerance rather than a bad diet or an unhealthy lifestyle, which can produce the same symptoms."

Patrick Holford, co-author of Hidden Food Allergies says: "The figure for how many people have a food intolerance is not going to be very low; I would estimate that one in three people suffers from one." So how can you tell if you've got a food intolerance – and what can you do about it?

Source - Independent

Could gold dust help beat cancer?

Gold dust could be a valuable new weapon against cancer - helping to "smuggle" drugs past the body's immune system and into tumours.

Scientists have succeeded in attaching molecules of an anticancer drug to gold particles just a fraction of the width of a human hair. The particles are so small they can sneak past the body's defence mechanisms without being destroyed and deliver the cancer-killing medicine to the heart of the tumour. The new technique, being developed at Rice University in Houston, Texas, could reduce some of the more unpleasant side-effects suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Many suffer hair loss, nausea and are at increased risk from infections because the toxic drugs suppress their immune system. This happens because chemotherapy drugs injected into the body attack healthy as well as cancerous tissues.

Scientists hope the gold dust therapy will reduce the amount of toxic medicine affecting the body by delivering more of it to the tumour itself.

Source - Daily Mail

Beat pain with the power of positive thought

A hi-tech brain imaging scan is being used to help patients "wish away" chronic pain.

The technology, which relies on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, is aimed at treating a range of pain problems, from backache and neuralgia, to nerve pain and migraine. It allows patients to see where the pain is coming from — then watch as their own positive thoughts drive it away.

Results from a pilot study show patients had a 64 per cent reduction in pain after having the therapy. Estimates of the numbers of people suffering chronic pain vary widely, from seven to 55 per cent of the population.

It is defined as continuous or intermittent pain or discomfort which lasts longer than three months. In some cases, the exact cause is not known.

Chronic pain is often unresponsive to conventional treatments such as conventional treatments such painkillers. However, studies have shown that it's possible to "think away" some chronic pain, or be distracted from it.

People with chronic pain who continue to socialise, for example, have fewer symptoms than those who withdraw from social interaction. But most people find it difficult to distract themselves and, instead, tend to concentrate on the pain, which makes symptoms worse.

The new treatment uses MRI scans to monitor blood flow in the brain — this identifies activity levels in the area involved in pain.

The patient is then given special goggles — similar to virtual reality goggles used in computer games — which show this area of activity, represented by the image of a burning flame. The greater the pain, the greater the blood flow, and the bigger the flame.

Source - Daily Mail

Acupuncture 'best for back pain'

Acupuncture is more effective at treating back pain than conventional therapies, research suggests.

A German study found almost half the patients treated with acupuncture needles felt pain relief that lasted for months.

In contrast, only about a quarter who received drugs and other Western therapies felt better.
The Archives of Internal Medicine study also found fake acupuncture to work nearly as well as the real thing. The researchers, from the Ruhr University Bochum, say their findings suggest that the body may react positively to any thin needle prick - or that acupuncture may simply trigger a placebo effect.

One theory is that pain messages to the brain can be blocked by competing stimuli.
Researcher Dr Heinz Endres said: "Acupuncture represents a highly promising and effective treatment option for chronic back pain.

"Patients experienced not only reduced pain intensity, but also reported improvements in the disability that often results from back pain and therefore in their quality of life."

Source - BBC

Queen's doctor warns of homoeopathy crisis

A leaked memo reveals that there is 'a co-ordinated campaign' to derail alternative therapies on the NHS

The Queen's personal physician and Britain's leading homoeopath yesterday warned of a "co-ordinated campaign to derail complementary therapies in the NHS".

A leaked memo seen by The Independent on Sunday identifies several influential groups working together for the removal of homoeopathy from the NHS.

According to Dr Peter Fisher, clinical director of the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, there has been a 20 per cent reduction in referrals to the hospital in the past year, as new patients are refused funding by a growing number of primary care trusts.

The hospital – an NHS centre of excellence – could be forced drastically to cut services if other PCTs introduce the same system and if funding for patients currently undergoing treatment is withdrawn.

Dr Fisher, whose patients include the supermodel Claudia Schiffer, pointed to the fact that some six million people in the UK use complementary therapies each year. Advocates include David Beckham and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Source - Independent

Barefoot running: Lose those shoes

Running barefoot isn’t just for Zola Budd any more. Those who take to the latest exercise trend from the US say it feels more natural, improves your technique and can even cure injury niggles.

There is hardness and there is foolhardiness.

Hardiness is when you look out of the window at the miserable weather and, with joyous cries, change into your kit and head off for a run.

Foolhardiness is the same, but without shoes on. Or socks.

Barefoot running is an insane-sounding joggers’ fad that started in the US but is spreading over here.

Steve Hammond, 53, ran the entire 2005 London Marathon in his bare tootsies after training shoeless in the Welsh hills. Marathon director Dave Bedford isn’t surprised by this novelty. “Running barefoot can actually improve running proficiency by five per cent,” he says. “There is extra skin exposed that increases the body’s access to oxygen.”

Source - Telegraph

Breathe easy

Presentations play a crucial role in Nick Janvier’s job. The 36-year-old NHS statistical analyst has long delivered talks to rooms full of colleagues. But in February last year that suddenly changed. As Janvier started a presentation he was overcome by anxiety so severe that his heart started to pound and his voice shook. He stumbled on for about a minute, but eventually had to ask a colleague to take over.

“I was completely gripped by panic,” he recalls. “I was sweating, and I lost any hold on my thoughts. I left the meeting feeling really bad about myself.”

According to the NHS, panic attacks affect one in ten of us, and 2 per cent of Britons will suffer frequent bouts known as panic disorder. In addition to the acute feeling of fear, attacks are characterised by rapid heartbeat, fast breathing and nausea, and while most last only a few minutes, they can continue for an hour or more. GPs faced with panic disorder will typically advise on a course of the talking treatment cognitive behavioural therapy, or may prescribe one of the family of depression and anxiety drugs known as selection serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

But Janvier found help in a drug-free noninvasive treatment called biofeedback. Here, patients are connected to instruments that measure heartbeat, muscle tension and breathing rate, and then display this information in an immediately accessible form, usually via graphs on a computer screen. Practitioners say that the experience can cause patients to learn a new level of control over their bodies, with therapeutic benefits for conditions from epilepsy to migraines and irritable bowel syndrome.

Janvier, who is single, says he suspects that stress in a personal relationship may have been part of the reason that he suddenly fell prey to the attacks. “A panic attack occurred again at the next big meeting, and the next.”

He heard about biofeedback through friends, and arrived for his first session with Glyn Blackett, of the York Biofeedback Centre, in June last year. The treatment dates back to work by psychologists and neuroscientists in the 1940s. “Biofeedback is based on a simple idea: learning control of the body,” says Blackett, a trained psychotherapist. “In anxiety cases by far the most useful physical parameter to concentrate on is the breath, and I focus solely on that. If patients can start to control the breath, they can halt the downward spiral into a panic attack.

Source - Times

Wine, beer and spirits equally bad for breast cancer

WOMEN who drink wine as a healthier alternative to beer are mistaken, researchers warned yesterday, with all alcohol adding equally to the risk of developing breast cancer.

Previous studies have shown a link between consuming alcohol and developing the disease but there have been conflicting messages about whether different kinds of drink were more dangerous than others. The latest research has found that all forms of alcohol carry an equal risk.

"This is a hugely underestimated risk factor," said Dr Patrick Maisonneuve, the head of epidemiology at the European Institute of Oncology in Italy.

"Women drinking wine because they think it is healthier than beer are wrong. It's about the amount of alcohol consumed, not the type."

Source - Scotsman

Sleep takes root

Late-night revision for looming exams can trigger a relentless pattern of sleepless nights, but for Mandi Jones, 27 from London, lack of sleep was leaving her so emotionally drained that she had to seek professional advice. She was studying for her part-time masters degree in human resource management and organisational analysis, while also working as a management consultant, and found the pressure of work was making it progressively more difficult to get to sleep.

“GPs tend not to be very helpful with insomnia and sometimes advise warm baths,” she says. But this time her GP suggested that she take sleeping pills. “I didn’t want to take sleeping pills,” she says. “I’d tried them when I was a management consultant in London and although they work, I got very drowsy the next day and found that I couldn’t think straight.”

So Jones was faced with either staring at the ceiling all night or turning up to exams groggy and only half-conscious. Then her sister told her about an insomniac friend who had found relief in valerian root, a herbal remedy used in traditional medicine to help with sleep problems and anxiety. Jones visited her local health-food shop and began taking valerian capsules before she went to bed. Within days her symptoms became less severe and she began to feel more rested.

“The valerian worked quickly and soon I felt back to my normal self,” she says.

Source - Times

Sleepless nights 'can make you grow up fat'

Children who don't get enough sleep are more likely to become obese when they grow up, scientists say.

Research has found that a lack of sleep prevents the body from producing sufficient quantities of a hormone that suppresses the appetite.

Australian experts looking at young children said those who had problems sleeping were almost twice as likely to be obese young adults as those who had little trouble. Dr Abdullah Al Mamun, of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, studied 2,500 children from birth to 21. Analysis revealed that poor sleep quality when very young was a significant risk factor for obesity in early adulthood, regardless of lifestyle or diet.

Only 13 per cent of those who rarely had irregular sleeping habits at two and four were obese.

But this rose to 23 per cent among those who often had problems sleeping.

According to Dr Mamun's research, the lack of rest means the body secretes less of the appetite suppressant leptin and increaseslevels of the appetite stimulant ghrelin.

Too little sleep may also disrupt the metabolism and change the way the body reacts to insulin, a hormone linked to the speed at which the body puts on fat.

Source - Daily Mail

You are how you sleep: what 40 winks can reveal about you (or your partner)

As you lay your head on your pillow tonight, spare a thought for anyone who might share your bed – particularly if you're selfish, intolerant or anarchic.

Most of us would deny being any of these while awake, but the way people behave as they snooze is an entirely different matter. A new report in the journal Sociology says people often behave in ways that are out of character while asleep.

Research by Dr Simon Williams of the University of Warwick divides sleepers into eight categories, from the socially attentive, intolerant, selfish and anarchic to the snoozers, nappers, feigners and deviants.

The socially attentive are easily roused. "Parents' sleep, particularly mothers', may also be 'retuned', such that the slightest cry of the newborn infant awakens them," writes Dr Williams.

Intolerant sleepers prioritise their own sleep to the detriment of significant others. The selfish include snorers, sleepwalkers who fail to seek treatment, and men who on hearing the baby crying just turn over. Anarchic sleepers fail to conform to convention regarding the proper time and place for sleep.

Snoozers include commuters on trains who are able to sleep without missing their stop.

Nappers no longer have to be furtive. "The nap is now becoming an acceptable part of the working day. Some companies are building dedicated 'nap rooms' for employees."

Sleep feigners tend to be women, although there are also men who pretend to be asleep.

Deviants are people who do not sleep at night. "All sorts of weird and wonderful things can happen while we sleep," the report suggests. It cites dieters caught on camera making trips to the kitchen in the night to gorge. In extreme circumstances, it adds: "Murders have been committed by people while asleep."

Source - Independent

Nutrition: Let’s eat seaweed

It’s good for the thyroid, nutrient-rich and can even help to fight fat

It is green, slimy, and currently the food favoured by those on a mission to be slender. With Victoria Beckham reportedly encouraging her fellow Spice Girls to knock back a seaweed-based shake each morning, to help them get into shape for their forthcoming tour, and with “macrobiotic” dieters such as Madonna and Cindy Crawford consuming it by the bucketful, the sea vegetable has become inextricably linked with svelteness in celebrity circles. But even scientists agree that it could be more than the latest fad.

Japanese researchers recently identified seaweed as an unlikely weapon in the war against obesity. They found that rats given fucoxanthin – a pigment in brown kelp – lost up to 10% of their body weight, mainly from around their midriffs. This led researchers to believe that the pigment could be developed into a slimming pill.

Although brown kelp is a key ingredient of Japanese miso soup, the researchers at Hokkaido University say that drinking large quantities in an effort to shed pounds won’t work, as the active ingredient is not easily absorbed in its natural form. However, they reckon a seaweed slimming supplement should be available within three years.

Source - Times

Migraine cures 'give women headaches'

Half a million women experience headaches brought on by drugs they take to cure them, scientists revealed.

Sufferers overdose on common painkillers such as aspirin or paracetamol and eventually the body stops producing its own painkilling systems.

This in turn leads to so-called "rebound" headaches, according to Dr Anne MacGregor, director of clinical research at the City of London Migraine Clinic.

She said a fifth of her clients had headaches caused by taking too many painkillers and she is now calling for a national campaign to warn people of the risks.

Many of the rebound headaches happen when her patients begin using analgesics such as paracetamol, or triptans --drugs that treat migraine. "They start off taking aspirin or paracetamol for two or three days a week, and then start getting more headaches," Dr MacGregor said.

Source - Daily Mail

How bee venom could be used to fight UK's allergy epidemic

A treatment abandoned by the NHS 30 years ago could be brought back to fight the allergy epidemic.

Immunotherapy involves repeated doses of bee or wasp venom, grass pollen or extract of dust mite to build up tolerance.

It would help thousands of patients, despite safety fears following a series of deaths in the 1980s, according to a House of Lords inquiry. Severe reactions could now be handled by specialist staff, the Science and Technology Committee has said.

Millions of patients across Europe receive immunotherapy each year and the UK has become a 'laughing stock' for turning its back on the treatment, said a report. The cost of allergies now tops £1 billion a year in NHS treatments alone, the peers say. They call for a network of specialist centres to help millions of allergy sufferers being failed by the system.

But there is a severe shortage of specialists - fewer than 30 doctors compared with as many as 450 in other countries - and only eight trainees in the pipeline. The peers say there are only eight paediatric allergists in the country and poor training of GPs means many are unable to diagnose and manage allergic disorders.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who chaired the sub-committee which produced the report, said there is a lack of awareness in all walks of life to the 'potentially catastrophic effects of severe allergic reaction'.

Children are increasingly affected - teenagers suffering hay fever could drop an exam grade. And there are countless victims of occupational allergies who had been forced out of work, she said.

Evidence about immunotherapy suggested it works and could save money, yet the Government's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence had no plans to appraise its use within the NHS.

"By failing to make use of this potentially life-saving and cost-effective treatment, the short- sighted approach of the Department of Health is not only wasting money but is also subjecting a large number of allergy patients to an impaired quality of life," she said.

Source - Daily Mail

Tea health benefits 'exaggerated'

An advertising campaign highlighting the health benefits of tea was guilty of exaggeration, a watchdog has ruled.

The Advertising Standards Authority criticised a UK Tea Council poster which recommended drinking four cups a day as part of a healthy diet.

The council said its campaign that tea was rich in beneficial antioxidants also found in fruit and vegetables was backed by scientific papers.

But the ASA said there was no evidence to "firmly substantiate" the claims.

The watchdog also criticised the UK Tea Council for making reference to the government's campaign to encourage people to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

The poster read: "Five portions of fruit and veg plus four cups of tea. It all adds up to a healthy diet."

The ASA said the reference could mislead readers into thinking the poster was linked to the government's health drive.

Source - BBC