Deskercise: The wage slave's workout

Just because you're tied to a workstation, there's no excuse for letting your fitness slide.

Scientists have claimed that it's as risky as smoking, increases obesity, and that it could lead to deep vein thrombosis if you do it for too long. Yet 59 per cent of us do it every day at work. Sitting at a desk, it seems, can be hazardous to your health.

Research carried out by the British Chiropractic Association has found that 32 per cent of us spend 10 hours or more sitting each day – and that half of us don't even take a break to leave our desks at lunchtime. The effects of this sedentary way of working are compounded by the fact that many of us head home to sit in front of the television. According to Professor Marc

Hamilton of the University of Missouri, desk junkies are risking heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and obesity. "The dire concern for the future may rest with growing numbers of people who are unaware of the dangers of sitting down too much," he says. His studies "demonstrate a significant impact of inactivity on a par with smoking".

A study at the Medical Research Institute in Wellington, New Zealand found that in 62 cases of people with DVT, 34 per cent had spent long periods sitting at their desks at work.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that back disorders are the most common form of ill health and disorders at work – and 75 per cent of sick days are due to stress and back pain, resulting in an estimated 4.9 million working days being lost. For those of us consigned to being stuck in front of a screen all day, these findings may be scary, but they are also unavoidable – we're working longer hours than ever and desk jobs have become the norm.

But there are ways of safeguarding yourself against death by desk. As well as taking regular screen breaks, an industry has sprung up around the idea of making the hours spent at the work station as healthy as possible. And the very latest innovation for workaholics in need of a workout is the GZ PC-Sport & Power Stepper. The device, which costs £99.90 and fits under a desk, looks like a regular stepper, but it actually plugs into your PC. If you stop stepping, your mouse or keyboard will stop working.

Source - Independent

Honey can quieten a child's cough better than any medicine, say researchers

When it comes to helping a child fight off a cough, the centuries-old remedy of honey is still the best, researchers said yesterday.

The natural sweetener is a traditional soother and remains better than costly over-the-counter medicines, they said.

In a study, a dose before bedtime easily outperformed a cough suppressant widely used in commercial treatments. Honey was better at cutting the severity, frequency and disturbance from night-time coughs of those suffering upper respiratory infection.

It also helped their sleep, suggesting that parents may be wasting their money on expensive alternatives sold in chemists and supermarkets.

The study compared honey to dextromethorphan (DM), the active ingredient in many cough mixtures.

Scientists in Pennsylvania found that DM made no significant difference to symptoms compared with having no treatment for the 105 children aged two to 18 in the research. They were divided into groups receiving honey, a honey-flavoured DM medicine or no treatment about 30 minutes before bedtime.

Parents rated honey as significantly better than DM or no treatment, according to the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers said that honey offered a "safe and legitimate alternative" to DM, which can occasionally cause severe side-effects in children, including muscle contractions and spasms.

Source - Daily Mail

Catching flu doubles the risk of heart attacks and strokes

Winter infections like flu can double the risk of heart attacks and strokes, a extensive study has found.

Sufferers are twice as likely to be affected in the week after catching a range of common respiratory infections. Significantly, the researchers said the risk did not depend on age or gender.

The comprehensive study was undertaken by scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Medical Statistics Unit who examined two million patients registered with approximately 500 GPs.

The research has renewed calls from experts and campaigners for all those with heart disease to have the flu jab to minimise their risk.

Around 300,000 people have heart attacks in Britain each year, 117,000 of them fatal. Every year more than 130,000 people in England and Wales suffer a stroke.

Flu dislodges fatty deposits that build up in the arteries, leaving them free to move around the body and get stuck in the brain or heart where they block the blood flow.

The researchers found the increased risks associated with flu were a 'substantial public health problem' that is killing thousands of people every year.

Source - Daily Mail

Ketchup with everything: Why tomato sauce helps fight heart disease

Eating tomato ketchup every day can significantly help your heart, according to new research.

Tests carried by Finnish scientists show Britain's favourite sauce could be good for the heart by attacking 'bad' cholesterol, known as low-density lipoprotein.

Volunteers who added a few dollops of ketchup to their breakfast, lunch and tea, or drank a few glasses of tomato juice, saw their LDL levels drop significantly in the space of just three weeks.
Researchers who conducted the study at the University of Oulo in Finland said total cholesterol levels dropped by just under six per cent and LDL levels by almost 13 per cent.

They urged patients with high cholesterol to start eating ketchup or drinking tomato juice to help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

In a report on the findings, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, they said: "The changes we saw can be regarded as significant, considering that the time period was only three weeks and all the volunteers had normal cholesterol levels to start with."

Tomatoes have long been considered a health super-food.

Numerous studies have suggested that lycopene, the pigment that gives them their red colour, can protect against prostate cancer.

Source - Daily Mail

Proof broken hearts can be fatal

It is possible to die from a broken heart, mounting evidence shows.

A review of recent work, published in The Lancet, found that the risk of death increases by up to a fifth following bereavement.

Investigator Margaret Stroebe of Utrecht University, The Netherlands, said the psychological distress caused by the loss played a big part.

Heart experts say people who lose a partner often adopted unhealthy habits such as smoking and poor diet. Indeed, for widowers, the increased death risk will probably be linked with alcohol consumption and the loss of their sole confidante, who would have overseen her husband's health status, the researchers told The Lancet.

In widows, the picture is not as clear, but intense loneliness and the psychological distress caused by the loss could play a large part.

Experts know psychological stress can cause physical changes in the body - stress hormones can disrupt body processes.

Source - BBC

Diesel traffic makes asthma worse

A spot of Christmas shopping in a busy town centre may damage your health as well as your bank balance.

Air pollution from diesel traffic can worsen lung function in people with asthma, a team of international researchers has said.

The first "real-life" study showed lung function was worse in patients who spent two hours on London's Oxford Street compared with nearby Hyde Park. The results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Study leader Dr Paul Cullinan said previous studies had looked at the effects of pollution on a population level, for example comparing air quality with admissions to hospital, or in a laboratory, but not in a real-life scenario.

A total of 60 adults, half of with mild asthma and half with moderate asthma, walked for two hours along Oxford Street, where only buses and taxis are allowed, and then on a separate occasion walked for two hours in traffic-free Hyde Park.

Lung function tests done before and after the walks showed a greater reduction in lung capacity after participants had been exposed to diesel traffic than in the park and more inflammation in the lungs.

The negative effects were greater in those with worse asthma to start with.

Source - BBC

Inactivity link to mental decline

Being a slob puts you at risk of mental health problems, experts have warned.

A lack of physical activity leads to depression and dementia, evidence presented at the British Nutrition Foundation conference shows. It comes as new research from the University of Bristol found that being active cuts the risk of Alzheimer's disease by around a third.

Currently only 35% of men and 24% of women reach the recommended weekly amount of physical activity.

Professor Nanette Mutrie, an expert in exercise and sport psychology at the University of Strathclyde, told the conference that mental health was not a trivial issue. "It's only recently that people have begun to see the link between physical activity and mental health.

"It's important for increasing people's self esteem, general mood, coping with stress and even sleeping better. And we now have very strong evidence that physical activity can prevent depression."

She said inactive people had twice the risk of becoming depressed and there was also very good evidence that exercise is a useful treatment for depression.

Source - BBC

Could simply standing up be as good for you as a workout at the gym?

It's welcome news for those of us who break into a sweat at the mere thought of breaking a sweat. Simply pottering around the house could help keep you fit.

Studies have shown that the body's metabolism reacts differently when people are standing to when they are sitting, with fat more likely to be burned than stored. The sheer effort of standing upright is enough to double the metabolic rate - and the amount of calories burned.

Researchers now say that gentle activity such as pacing around while talking on the phone or tidying cupboards while watching TV is just as important, if not more so, than strenuous exercise.

Professor Marc Hamilton, of the University of Missouri, said: "If you stand up, you are much more likely to end up pacing or pottering around and that seems to make a crucial difference."
In a series of studies, he showed that enzymes responsible for breaking down fat are suppressed when a person is sitting rather than standing, leading to fat being stored, rather than burned off.
"The enzymes in blood vessels of muscles responsible for fat burning are shut off within hours of not standing," he said. "Standing and moving lightly will re-engage the enzymes, but since people are awake 16 hours a day, it stands to reason that when people sit much of that time they are losing the opportunity for optimal metabolism through the day."

Given that few of us exercise vigorously every day, pottering could make an important contribution to a person's weight and fitness, he said.

Source - Daily Mail

Adults who eat lots of peanuts could trigger nut allergies in infants, research suggests

Infants whose family members eat lots of peanuts may be at greater risk of developing allergies to them, new research suggests.

Average weekly household peanut consumption was found to be significantly higher in families of children under one-year-old who later became peanut allergic, a study for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found.

Exposure to peanuts through the skin or via inhalation might be a "significant factor" in a child's allergy development, researchers said. The FSA said very low household consumption may even protect children with egg allergies from becoming allergic to peanuts.

Researchers from Imperial College London found that average weekly household peanut consumption was significantly higher, at 77.2g, in families of children who went on to become peanut allergic.

Source - Daily Mail

Scientist dismisses detox diets

Adopting a detox diet - often popular in January - is a waste of time and money, a leading scientist has said.

Dr Andrew Wadge, of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said regimes purporting to cleanse the body were "nonsense". The detox market - which can include diets, tablets and drinks said to flush out toxins - is thought to be worth tens of millions of pounds. In his blog, Dr Wadge said water and exercise were enough to help the body rid itself of harmful chemicals.

The chief scientist of the government's food watchdog wrote: "There's a lot of nonsense talked about 'detoxing' and most people seem to forget that we are born with a built-in detox mechanism. "It's called the liver. So my advice would be to ditch the detox diets and supplements and buy yourself something nice with the money you've saved."

Detox-based diets, which are sometimes endorsed by celebrities, can include the use of tablets, socks, body wraps, diets, eating nettle root extract or drinking herbal infusions or "oxygenated" water in a bid to make natural procedures more effective. Some products claim to enhance the immune system, relieve pain, flush out toxins and stimulate circulation.

But, urging people to save time and money, Dr Wadge advised: "First, drink a glass or two of water (tap is fine, cheaper and more sustainable than bottled); second, get a little exercise - maybe a walk in the park - and third, enjoy some nice home-cooked food."

Source - BBC

'Medical myths' exposed as untrue

Some claim drinking eight glasses of water a day leads to good health, while reading in dim light damages eyesight.

Others believe we only use 10% of our brains or that shaving legs causes hair to grow back thicker.

But a review of evidence by US researchers surrounding seven commonly-hold beliefs suggests they are actually "medical myths". Some are utterly untrue, while others have no evidential proof, the British Medical Journal reports.

Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis hunted medical literature for evidence on each claim.

They found no evidence supporting the need to drink eight glasses of water a day.

Medical myths
In fact, studies suggest that adequate fluid intake is often met by drinking juice, milk, and even caffeine-rich tea and coffee.

Data also suggests drinking excessive amounts of water can be dangerous.

The belief that we only use 10% of our brains appears to be completely untrue.

Source - BBC

Humour 'comes from testosterone'

Men are naturally more comedic than women because of the male hormone testosterone, an expert claims. Men make more gags than women and their jokes tend to be more aggressive,
Professor Sam Shuster, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says.

The unicycling doctor observed how the genders reacted to his "amusing" hobby. Women tended to make encouraging, praising comments, while men jeered. The most aggressive were young men, he told the British Medical Journal.

Previous findings have suggested women and men differ in how they use and appreciate humour. Women tend to tell fewer jokes than men and male comedians outnumber female ones.

Source - BBC

Single brain cell's power shown

There could be enough computing ability in just one brain cell to allow humans and animals to feel, a study suggests.

The brain has 100 billion neurons but scientists had thought they needed to join forces in larger networks to produce thoughts and sensations.

The Dutch and German study, published in Nature, found that stimulating just one rat neuron could deliver the sensation of touch.

One UK expert said this was the first time this had been measured in mammals. The complexity of the human brain and how it stores countless thoughts, sensations and memories are still not fully understood.

Researchers believe connections between individual neurons, forming networks of at least a thousand, are the key to some of its processing power. However, in some creatures with simpler nervous systems, such as flies, a single neuron can play a more significant role. The latest research suggests this may also be true in "higher" animals.

The team, from the Humboldt University in Germany and the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, stimulated single neurons in rats and found this was enough to trigger a behavioural response when their whiskers were touched.

A second research project from the US suggests the computational ability of the brain cell could be even more complex, with different synapses - the many junctions between neurons and other nerve cells - able to act independently from those found elsewhere on the same cell.

This could mean that, within a single neuron, different synapses could be storing or processing completely different bits of information.

Source - BBC

Death? It's just a state of mind

The question of whether 'a will to live' can influence a patient's survival is rarely publicly discussed by doctors.

One of Hugh Montgomery's first patients, when he started working as an intensive-care doctor in 1989, was a 94-year-old woman who had suffered a heart attack while ballroom dancing. "She was a terrific, feisty old dear and we got on really well," recalls Montgomery. "But she ended up getting complications and falling unconscious. It was just a matter of time before she died."

"Every morning when I came into work, I would ask the nurses if she'd died, and they would say no. Then the thought crossed my mind that maybe she was hanging on for me."So I drew the curtains and said to her: 'I don't know if you can hear me, but if you're hanging on for me, you don't have to.' She stopped breathing right then. Maybe it was a coincidence, but I don't think

Montgomery relates the story because he is convinced that there is such a thing as the will to live and, by extension, a will to die. "I've seen this kind of thing happen so much in my work over the years that I don't believe it is a coincidence."

He tells the story of a church organist he treated. "She had a condition which meant she had to be on a drip, but she kept pulling it out. She told me: 'I don't want a drip any more.' I said: 'Your chances of surviving are very low if you don't keep it.' But she told me that Jesus was waiting on the other side and was calling her. She was with her husband and so I said: 'If you're both comfortable with that, do that. I can give you pain relief.' As I got up to go she said: 'Aren't you going to kiss me goodbye?' and so I gave her a kiss and left. Moments later she was dead."

"What I have found again and again is that dying patients hold on for a loved one to arrive - say for a son to get the visa to fly to London and see mother in hospital for one last time. My father, who was unconscious in hospital for the last couple of days of his life, died at the rare moment when we - my mother, sisters and me - were in the room at the same time."

Source - Guardian

Royal commission to study link between late nights and cancer

Evidence that staying up late and sleeping with the light on can cause cancer is to be examined by a royal commission.

The evidence, reported in The Independent on Sunday 18 months ago, also casts further doubt on the safety of radiation from mobile phones and electric power lines. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is to examine the impact of artificial light on health as part of a short study of its effects on the environment to be launched early next year.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the foremost international body on the disease, is considering officially labelling night-shift work as a "probable" human carcinogen, after a study found that nurses and flight attendants are more likely to develop breast cancer.

The study is only the latest among many to make the link between exposure to light at night and the disease, which affects one in 10 women and whose incidence is doubling every two decades. Besides showing that it is 60 per cent more common among night-shift workers, they have demonstrated a similar rise among women who stay up late more than two or three times a week. Conversely, totally blind women are only half as likely to contract it.

Groundbreaking research by the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Environmental Health in the United States grafted human breast cancer tumours on to rats and infused them with blood taken from women during the day, in the early hours of the morning and after being exposed to light at night. The blood taken in darkness slowed the growth of the tumours by 80 per cent, while that taken after exposure to light accelerated it.

Studies have shown that the light at night interferes with melatonin, "the hormone of darkness" which is secreted by the pineal gland at night and both impedes cancers and boosts the immune system. Electromagnetic radiation, given off by power lines, mobile phones and Wi-Fi, has been found to have a similar effect.

Professor Denis Henshaw of Bristol University said that the radiation "suppresses melatonin in the same way as light does".

Source - Independent

How moods affect our health

Laughing is good for your heart – but anger sends your blood pressure soaring.

As your irritation mounts, you can feel your blood pressure rising. And that's exactly what is happening to your body when you have an argument. The effects, it seems, can be lasting. In the week after the irritating incident, you just need to think about the argument and your blood pressure will rise again, according to research published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology. So if you've recently experienced a dispute, a seething irritation or a simple frustration, you could be best off forgetting about it.

A half-hour argument with your lover can also slow your body's ability to heal by at least a day. In couples who regularly argue, that healing time is doubled again.

Researchers at Ohio State University discovered this by testing married couples with a suction device that created tiny blisters on their arm. When couples were then asked to talk about an area of disagreement that provoked strong emotions, the wounds took around 40 per cent longer to heal. This response, say researchers, was caused by a surge in cytokines – immune-molecules that trigger inflammation. Chronic high levels of these are linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart-disease and cancer.

Researchers at the University of Pavia, in Italy, have found that falling in love raises levels of Nerve Growth Factor for about a year. This hormone-like substance helps to restore the nervous system and improves memory by triggering the growth of new brain cells. It is also associated with the feeling of being "loved-up" and contented, inducing a calming effect on the body and mind. Unfortunately, researchers found levels dropped after about a year – the point at which feelings of romantic love fall away and reality kicks in.

Source - Independent

Eat your greens to reduce cancer risk

Just three servings a month of raw broccoli or cabbage can reduce the risk of bladder cancer by as much as 40 per cent, researchers have found.

The scientists surveyed 275 people who had bladder cancer and 825 people without cancer. They asked especially about cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage.

These foods are rich in compounds called isothiocyanates, which are known to lower cancer risk. The effects were most striking in nonsmokers according to the researchers from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York.

Compared to smokers who ate fewer than three servings of raw cruciferous vegetables, nonsmokers who ate at least three servings a month were almost 73 per cent less likely to be in the bladder cancer group, they found.

Among both smokers and nonsmokers, those who ate this minimal amount of raw veggies had a 40 per cent lower risk. But the team did not find the same effect for cooked vegetables.

Source - Daily Mail

How the Mediterranean diet could help you live longer

More evidence of the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet has emerged in a study involving almost 400,000 patients.

The research suggested that eating lots of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grains extends life expectancy. Over five years, scientists rated the volunteers on how closely they kept to the Mediterranean regime.

Those with higher scores were shown to be less likely to die in that time period of any cause, including cancer and heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet is high in healthy fats such as those in olive oil and low in red meat and dairy products. Alcohol, particularly red wine, is encouraged in moderation.

Research has suggested that the diet may improve the flexibility of cells lining the walls of blood vessels, keeping arteries and lungs healthy.

The study - carried out by the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland - was published yesterday in the journal, Archives of Internal Medicine.

Source - Daily Mail

Hilary Swank swallows 45 food supplements every day

... but dieticians say most of us can get all the nutrients we need from eating a balanced diet, and large doses of some vitamins can be harmful.

It is something of a mystery how Hilary Swank has managed to find the time to forge a Hollywood career and win two Oscars, not to mention fitting in the more everyday business of popping out to the shops or taking her dog for a walk, given the amount of time she must devote to her extensive pill-taking regime.

In a recent cover interview with American style bible, W magazine, the actor breathily regaled the journalist (who was possibly wondering how you steer a Hollywood heavyweight away from the subject of capsules and onto more meaty tell-all celebrity interview fodder) with the finer details of all the brilliant nutritional supplements she relies upon.

"This is my Aloe C," she began (Aloe C, as the name suggests, is a combination of Aloe Vera and vitamin C). "Here's my flax. This one's for my immune system. And this one is my BrainWave." BrainWave is designed to enhance mental function through a balance of "smart nutrients". It hasn't been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration in the US, but Swank is already convinced. "It's great, like if I have a lot of lines to memorise." Or a lot of pills to memorise, since she continues to rattle off a list of the 45 supplements she takes every day.

Source - Guardian

Chocolate: A cure for cancer?

It tastes much too good to be a health food. But can chocolate really prevent cancer, heart disease and depression?

Ever since the Atkins Diet revival made sugar public enemy No 1, confectionery manufacturers have had their work cut out to sweeten up their image. It hasn't been easy: sugar doesn't just make you fat, and thus can contribute to the development of adult-onset diabetes, it also rots your teeth. Willy Wonka would be weeping into his top hat.

But recently, chocolate has been undergoing something of a rehabilitation, and the current thinking is that it may actually be good for you. So, what's going on?

In fact, the idea of chocolate as a health tonic goes back centuries. Long before goji berries, broccoli and tomatoes were hailed as "superfoods", cocoa and chocolate were celebrated as natural remedies. Cocoa and its derivatives have, historically, been prescribed for a range of ailments, including liver disease and kidney disorders, and by the 1600s, chocolate was identified as a mood enhancer.

It is only relatively recently that chocolate fell out of favour with the health lobby. Although cocoa is rich in flavonoids (which promote healthy cellular tissue), the practice of mixing it with saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar made it less friend, more foe. But now chocolate has been thrown a lifeline: antioxidants. An antioxidant is something that slows down, or prevents, the oxidation of cells; oxidation produces free radicals, which damage cells and can lead to heart disease and cancer. The flavonoids in dark chocolate (containing 70 per cent or more cocoa solids) act as antioxidants, and it contains almost five times the flavonol content of apples (though they also have fibre and vitamins). The industrial processes that turn cocoa into chocolate reduce its antioxidant properties, which is why the less-processed dark chocolate has more antioxidants.

Source - Independent

Red meat 'can raise the risk of cancer by 25 per cent'

Eating large amounts of red and processed meat leaves you at greater risk of cancer, a major report has warned.

One in ten cases of both lung and bowel cancer could be prevented if people cut down on beef, lamb, pork, sausages, ham and bacon, scientists say. Red meat also increases the risk of cancers of the liver and oesophagus, the study found. The research, involving nearly 500,000 people, adds to growing evidence that too much meat in the diet can be deadly. Health experts are increasingly concerned at the role of diet - particularly meat - in cancers.

Last month, a report from the World Cancer Research Fund warned that red meat was a major contributor to the disease. Its scientists urged people to stop eating processed bacon, ham and sausages and consume no more than the equivalent of three 6oz steaks a week.

The latest findings, published today in the science journal PLoS Medicine, reach a similar conclusion.

Researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute looked at the records of 494,000 people aged 50 to 71 taking part in an extensive diet and health study. Volunteers filled in detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits over the previous year. That allowed the scientists to work out what proportion of their calories came from red and processed meat.

The researchers then looked at the medical histories of the 20 per cent of volunteers eating the most meat, with the 20 per cent eating the least.

The biggest red meat eaters were 25 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer during the eight-year study, and 20 per cent more likely to develop lung cancer. For processed meat, the increased risk was 20 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

Source - Daily Mail

Lung cancer 'link to lack of sun'

Lack of sunlight may increase the risk of lung cancer, a study suggests.

Researchers found lung cancer rates were highest in countries furthest from the equator, where exposure to sunlight is lowest. It is thought vitamin D - generated by exposure to sunlight - can halt tumour growth by promoting the factors responsible for cell death in the body.

The University of California, San Diego study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Experts warn that exposure to sunlight is still the major cause of skin cancer - a disease which is on the increase around the world.

Lung cancer kills more than one million people every year around the globe.

The researchers examined data from 111 countries across several continents

Source - BBC

Milk bug 'stops our bodies from fighting off Crohn's disease'

A link between a bug found in some fresh milk and Crohn's disease has been established by breakthrough research.

The discovery could bring demands to change milk production methods - perhaps following the common European practice of Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT). It could also provide the key to antibiotic treatments for the condition, which affects approximately 150,000 Britons.

Doctors have long claimed that a bug called Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (MAP), which is found in cattle and some milk, causes Crohn's. But the dairy industry has never accepted the link and researchers had failed to prove a connection.

Now scientists at Liverpool University have identified how MAP weakens the body's defence mechanism and so allows other harmful bugs, specifically e.coli, to thrive.

This e.coli, which is known to be present within Crohn's disease tissue in increased amounts, is believed to cause inflammation and sickness.

Crohn's leads to chronic intestinal inflammation, pain, bleeding and diarrhoea. It is a particularly distressing condition among children.

Professor Jon Rhodes, whose work was published in the journal Gastroenterology, said: "MAP has been found within Crohn's disease tissue but there has been much controversy concerning its role in the disease."

Source - Daily Mail

Juice 'can slow prostate cancer'

Drinking a daily eight ounce (0.24 litre) glass of pomegranate juice can significantly slow the progress of prostate cancer, a study suggests.

Researchers say the effect may be so large that it may help older men outlive the disease.
Pomegranates contain a cocktail of chemicals which minimise cell damage, and potentially kill off cancer cells.

The study, by the University of California in Los Angeles, appears in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. Previous research had indicated that pomegranate juice could have a beneficial effect on prostate cancer in tests on mice. But the latest study has shown that humans can potentially benefit too.

The UCLA team focused on 50 men who had undergone surgery or radiation treatment for prostate cancer - but had shown signs that the disease was rapidly returning. The presence of prostate cancer cells is monitored by measuring levels of a chemical they produce called prostate-specific antigen (PSA).

The researchers measured how long it took for PSA levels to double in individual patients - a short doubling time indicates that the cancer is progressing quickly.

The average doubling time is about 15 months, but in patients who drank pomegranate juice this increased to an average of 54 months.

Some men on the study continue to show suppressed PSA levels after more than three years, even though they are receiving no treatment apart from drinking pomegranate juice.

Source - BBC

Fertility falls with weight gain

An overweight woman's chance of getting pregnant steadily falls as her weight increases, a major study has found.

Among 3,000 women with fertility problems, there was a 4% drop in the chance of pregnancy for every body mass unit (BMI) rise above a certain point.

Dutch scientists, writing for the journal Human Reproduction, said that very obese women fared the worst.

The British Fertility Society says some women weight should be barred from IVF on account of their weight. The level of obesity among would-be mothers is increasing in the UK faster than in almost any other country in the world.

Doctors know that this affects a woman's chances of getting pregnant naturally, but are more worried by the increased risks to her health - and the health of her baby - that the extra weight poses. The study by researchers at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam is the first to follow a large group of women trying for a baby, and to see directly what effect their body mass had on the outcome. The standard unit of weight is body mass index (BMI), which is the weight in kilograms divided by the height squared. Anything above 25 is considered overweight, while exceeding 30 is defined as "obese".

All the women in the study had come to see fertility doctors, but there was no obvious reason for their failure to conceive, as they were still ovulating normally.

Some women with "unexplained infertility" do go on to become pregnant naturally.

Source - BBC

Smoking 'raises risk of diabetes'

Smoking is linked to a significantly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, US research suggests.

The University of Lausanne looked at 25 studies involving 1.2m patients.

They found smokers had a 44% increased risk of type 2 diabetes compared with non-smokers - with the risk rising with the number of cigarettes smoked.

The Journal of the American Medical Association study found the increased risk for those who smoked at least 20 cigarettes a day rose to 61%. For lighter smokers the risk was 29% higher than for a non-smoker. The increased risk of developing diabetes in former smokers was 23%.

The researchers said: "We conclude that the relevant question should no longer be whether this association exists, but rather whether this established connection is causal." They admitted that the research did not prove that smoking contributed to the development of diabetes.

But they suggest the fact that people who smoked most heavily were most at risk is significant.

Previous research has linked smoking to insulin resistance - a condition which often leads to diabetes.

Source - BBC

Obesity 'raises gum disease risk'

The rise in obesity may be going hand-in-hand with increases in severe gum disease, US research suggests.

As many as 40% of adults worldwide have periodontal disease, and tests on mice hint that obesity makes us vulnerable to the bacteria which cause it.

Boston University scientists reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that fat mice had a "blunted" immune system.

This may mean obese humans are more at risk from all bacterial infections. Links between gum disease and other more serious illnesses continue to emerge.

There have even been suggestions of a relationship between gum disease and heart disease risk.
However, the immune changes which might be responsible for this remain poorly understood.

The Boston University study looked in more detail at levels of important immune system chemicals produced by normal, lean mice, and their obese counterparts, when confronted with the P. gingivalis bug that causes periodontal illness. Both types of mouse had bacteria-infused material wrapped around their gums to see if the disease took hold. Tests revealed that the obese mice had higher levels of P. gingivalis in their mouths, and were suffering more bone loss around their teeth, one of the most common side-effects of the infection.

In addition, the obese mice had lower levels of certain immune system chemicals normally released by the body to help fight infection.

Source - BBC

Too hot for your own good

Why turning off the central heating in winter and adding another layer can be beneficial.

My wife and I are having what you might call a heated debate. I like a cold house and a very cold bedroom; she likes a warm house and an oven-hot bedroom. Even though it is December, I am still refusing to put on the central heating; she is refusing to open the window at night. Words have been exchanged. I wait until she's asleep and then let in the fresh air. She gets up and battens down the hatches.

Apparently I am selfish, but in fact I am doing her a favour. You only have to look around you at this time of year when the temperature doesn't drop much below five degrees but doesn't go much above 10 degrees either.

The result? Well, first, comes a national bout of sniffling, followed by sneezing and, then, a sudden rush on hot lemon drinks, throat lozenges and apologies for not turning up for work.
The reason for all of this is not the weather getting colder but people's houses getting artificially warmer. Which is why I won't turn on the central heating until Christmas Eve if I can get away with it.

I admit there have been times recently when we could almost see our own breath (and as I write this my fingers are stiffer than usual) but, overall, it's a warming experience.
Everyone else has runny eyes and crackling voices. Everyone else is coughing. Everyone else has dry, tickly throats. We may be cold but we haven't got a cold. Ask any doctor and he will tell you that the day the central heating goes on is the day their waiting rooms are awash with shivering patients.

Source - Telegraph

Allergy to medicines 'is killing thousands'

Nearly 3,000 patients have died in the past three years as a result of taking medicines intended to help them, official figures show. Thousands more have been hospitalised after suffering harmful side-effects or serious allergic reactions to prescription drugs and other medications.

Almost half of the deaths occurred last year, while the number of reported adverse drug reactions has increased by 45 per cent over a decade. Growing numbers of patients taking aspirin and other medications for chronic illness such as heart disease could be fuelling the trend, experts suggest.

A total of 964 UK patients died because of suspected drug reactions in 2006, more than 200 after lengthy stays in hospital. A further 4,432 patients were also hospitalised but survived, figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show.

Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) describe the unwanted, negative consequences associated with the use of any medications, as a result of medical error or otherwise. They represent a considerable burden on the NHS, accounting for 1 in 16 hospital admissions, at a cost of up to £466 million a year.

Patients admitted because of ADRs stay an average of eight days in hospital, research suggests, meaning that at any one time they take up the equivalent of up to seven 800-bed hospitals in England alone. Over the past three years, 2,846 patients died as a result of a suspected ADR, while 13,643 patients were hospitalised, the figures show.

Drugs most commonly implicated in adverse reactions include low-dose aspirin, diuretics, the anticoagulant drug warfarin and other nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. The most common problem associated with these medications is gastrointestinal bleeding, which can be fatal. But many of the reactions were likely to be because of incorrect dosages or known interactions of the drugs and as such were avoidable, research suggests.

Source - Times

Pregnant women urged to boost vitamin D intake to combat rickets

Pregnant women and mothers breast-feeding their babies are being advised by the Government to boost their intake of vitamin D in the winter to prevent their child suffering rickets or seizures. The alert was issued by the Department of Health after reports by healthcare workers that more children were being seen with a vitamin D deficiency that can lead to bones not developing properly.

The vitamin deficiency was thought to have been eradicated in Britain in the 1950s. But many cases of rickets are being found now in Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern children with some research suggesting it could be as high as one in 100 children in ethnic minority groups.
Vitamin D can be gained from exposure to 15 minutes of sunlight to the arms, head and shoulders during the summer months. Dark-skinned people do not absorb as much sunlight through the skin, and in a number of ethnic groups there is often cultural pressure to keep skin tones pale.

In the winter months, foods such as oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and bread can provide enough of the vitamin alongside the body's own stores. Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under four may also benefit from a supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, the department said. It urged women to contact their GP for a blood test if they think they may be lacking the vitamin.

The Health minister, Dawn Primarolo, said women should check if they are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme, which distributes vitamins to adults and children. "We particularly encourage women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to take vitamin D to protect the health and wellbeing of their baby and help them get the best possible start in life," she said.

Dr Colin Michie, a paediatrician at Ealing Hospital in west London, said the biggest issue regarding rickets was a shortage of vitamin D intake by expectant mothers.

Is stress keeping you fat?

Going for the burn after a hard day's graft can feel great, but it may be stopping you losing weight.

Dalton Wong is one of the world’s leading personal trainers. He works with some of the most driven, wealthy and competitive people on earth. They are often celebrities or big in the City; they head up hedge funds or run their own business.

Yet, despite their hectic lives, dedication to fitness and huge self-discipline, some of them consistently fail to lose weight. The reason? Too much exercise.

“I see it all the time,” Wong says. “These people push themselves relentlessly at the gym, but the numbers on the scales won’t budge. Yet, when I tell them to get off the treadmill, get some rest and eat well, they are often astonished to find they finally start losing weight.”

The reason for this paradox? Stress hormones. “These people run on stress all day, but what they don’t realise is that exercise is also a stress on the body, and causes it to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Normally, this is fine, provided there are also periods of rest. If, however, people have no downtime, levels of cortisol remain high, and that will affect their weight.”

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands as a reaction to stress. One of its main functions is to help the body produce blood sugar from proteins and pour it into your bloodstream, providing energy for the “fight or flight” response. Any excess sugar is then used for fat production.

Dr Henrietta Brain, an endocrinologist, says: “Hormones have a huge influence on our weight. Insulin and cortisol both contribute to fat accumulation, while human growth hormones and oestrogen affect fat mobilisation.”

Says Wong: “Elite athletes always build rest days into their schedule. Many of my clients never have a rest day. Not only do they work in highly pressured environments, they have family duties at the end of the working day, and they take strenuous exercise. Research shows that people with high lifestyle stress will release more cortisol during an intense bout of exercise than someone who has a lower stress level."

Source - Times

Austere lives of Mount Athos monks shown to cut cancer risk

The answer to a life free from cancer may have arrived at last: live like a monk. Research into one of the world's most isolated monastic communities has revealed that only a tiny number of brothers have suffered from the disease in the past decade.

The austere existence of the monks of Mount Athos has been notorious in Greece for generations but, until this week, few beyond the peninsula's monastic walls had considered mimicking their sombre lifestyle.

Now the monks are at the centre of a media frenzy, as health enthusiasts chase the latest cancer-beating fad. But anyone hoping to make a health tourism trip to the mountain should give up now as the monks do not welcome visitors. Their stress-free existence, away from women and the outside world, is one theory as to why the number of them suffering from the disease is so astoundingly low.

The main factor in their low uptake of cancers is their diet. The brothers alternate their meals, and ration olive oil, wine and dairy products on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The 20 different monasteries in the segregated community – which can only be reached by boat from mainland Greece – have varying regimes, but the one thing they all share is an ascetic diet.
Avoiding meat altogether, and subsisting on home grown fruit and vegetables with occasional fish, meals are repetitive and simple.

Haris Aidonopoulos, a urologist at the University of Thessaloniki, explained why the monks' diet was crucial to understanding the remarkably low proportion of sufferers from the disease.

"What seems to be the key is a diet that alternates between olive oil and non olive oil days, and plenty of plant proteins", he said. "It's not only what we call the Mediterranean diet, but also eating the old-fashioned way. Simple meals at regular intervals are very important."

Of the 1,500 monks, only a minute proportion have developed cancer. Since 1994, scientists have regularly tested them for the disease, and found that none developed lung or bowel cancer.

Source - Independent

Revealed: The shocking consequences of frequent sunbed use

In daylight, Lucy Breen looks like any fresh-faced teenager, but the scrutiny of a specialist skin scanner tells a different story.

The harsh and potentially dangerous skin damage from continual sunbed use is shockingly obvious.

Eighteen-year-old Lucy went under the scanner when skin experts came to her school, Archbishop Beck Catholic Sports College. In response to new figures which show that incidences of skin cancer are rising more rapidly in Britain than any other form of the disease, staff wanted to warn pupils of the dangers of sunbeds and sunbathing.

Lucy was shocked to see how UV exposure had already damaged her skin. "I've used sunbeds a lot. I didn't think they would cause so much damage," she says. "I was surprised at how bad my skin looked with the machine. I don't want it to get worse, or by the time I'm 20 I'll look 30."
Lucy says she has already felt the negative effects sunbed use can have. "I've had sunstroke off the sunbed," she admits. "I got really badly burnt and I was throwing up, so I went to the doctor and he said it was sunstroke. "

Source - Daily Mail

A hip remedy that helps joint pain

Home-made rosehip jam has been used as a traditional pain relief remedy in Denmark for many years. If this sounds dotty, let me enlighten you. Based on the jam notion, a supplement of rosehip powder was formulated (Litozin Joint Health), and trials by Danish scientists have shown that it effectively helps joint pain associated with both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

"Three studies on osteoarthritis have shown that patients taking the rosehip supplement could halve medication such as synthetic opiates, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and codeine," explains lead researcher Dr Kaj Winther of the Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen.

Since these drugs all have significant side effects and the rosehip supplement has none (indeed it confers benefits), it is an important finding.

This summer, a breakthrough trial from the same team with the Charité University Medical Centre in Berlin showed rosehip benefited patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The six-month study was comparatively small, with 74 patients in two groups, one taking the supplement and one a placebo. But the first group found that, on average, joint pain and discomfort fell by 40 per cent.

"We were all surprised to see such meaningful results,' said Professor Stefan Willich in Berlin. 'Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most difficult conditions to treat, which makes it all the more remarkable to find such beneficial effects from this remedy."

Rosehips are thought to work by quelling the inflammation that causes swelling, pain and disability. They are one of the highest sources of antioxidant vitamins, which have many health-giving benefits including subduing inflammation. Rosehips have also been found to contain an important anti-inflammatory omega-3-like fatty acid, called Gopo, which has been hailed as a plant version of fish oil.

Source - Daily Mail

Fat 'doubles death risk' in breast cancer

Women who gain weight after being diagnosed with breast cancer could more than double their risk of dying from the disease, say researchers.

They say the danger is 2.4 times higher for an obese woman than one of normal weight and rises 14 per cent for every extra 11lb.

The data was presented yesterday at the American Assocation for Cancer Research's conference in Philadelphia.

Previous research showed weight gain at any stage can increase the risk of breast cancer by up to one and half times, but did not look at the risk of death. The new study involved 4,000 patients taking part in research started in 1988 at centres in three American states. They were surveyed about post-diagnosis weight, weight gain, physical activity and diet.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Boston, identified 121 breast cancer-related deaths.

Source - Daily Mail

Chavutti Thirumal massage is gonna walk all over you

The Chavutti Thirumal massage technique has been practised in southern India for centuries.

I am stark naked, face down on a mat in a brightly lit room wearing what can perhaps best be likened to an extremely skimpy nappy (actually a folded hand towel that has been fashioned into a sort of loincloth). Above me, a rope is suspended from one side of the room to the other.This is my first experience of Chavutti Thirumal, a full-body massage originating in southern India, where practitioners use the rope for balance while they massage you with their feet.

Devotees claim that this provides the deepest, most relaxing massage around. But I am finding it hard to overcome a profound sense of trepidation.

Emma Field, a practitioner with 20 years' experience and Britain's only Chavutti teacher, tries to reassure me as she douses my body with chilly oil. "It is a popular misconception that we walk on people," she says. "In fact, we never walk on people - the rope is just there to aid balance."

Why do Chavutti practitioners use their feet rather than their hands? "With the foot, it is possible to cover the entire body with one single stroke." It is also, Field says, possible to go deeper with the feet.

Source - Telegraph

Osteoporosis 'link to depression'

Depression may increase the risk of the bone disorder osteoporosis in premenopausal women, a study suggests.

A US study found 17% of depressed women but just 2% of those not depressed, had thinner bone in a part of the hip. It found depressed women had overactive immune systems, making too many chemicals that promote inflammation including one that promotes bone loss. The Archives of Internal Medicine study compared 89 depressed women with 44 non-depressed women, all aged 21 to 45. Osteoporosis affects half of all women, and one in five men, over the age of 50.

It is estimated to cause 60,000 broken hips each year in the UK, costing the NHS £1.73bn.

After bone mass reaches its peak in youth, bone-thinning continues throughout life, accelerating after menopause. Hip bones are among the most vulnerable to fracture in osteoporosis patients.

The researchers, from the National Institute of Mental Health, found these bones were particularly susceptible to thinning in depressed premenopausal women.

Dr Richard Nakamura, NIMH deputy director, said: "Osteoporosis is a silent disease. Too often, the first symptom a clinician sees is when a patient shows up with a broken bone."

"Now we know that depression can serve as a red flag - that depressed women are more likely than other women to approach menopause already at higher risk of fractures."

Source - BBC

Mobile phones 'cancer link': Mouth tumours 50% more likely after heavy use

Mobile phone use raises the risk of mouth cancer, researchers claim.

Five years of frequent use increased the chances of developing a tumour by around 50 per cent compared with people who had never used one, scientists found. The result raise concerns that mobiles could be interfering with the body in ways that scientists simply do not understand.

Previous studies into the links between phones and cancer have generated conflicting results.
The vast majority have found no evidence of serious health risks. However, a small number have found links with cancers of the head and ear.

The latest research, carried out in Israel, was published in the respected American Journal of Epidemiology.

The lifestyles of 402 people with benign mouth tumours and 56 with malignant ones were compared to a control group of 1,266 people. Those who used mobiles the most were more likely than normal to develop parotid gland tumours. The parotid is the largest of the salivary glands and sits at the back of the mouth not far from the ear. Long term users of mobiles tended to develop tumours on the same side of the head as the phone was normally held.

People who used mobile phones in rural areas, where the phone has to work harder to make contact with the nearest base station, were found to be at greater risk.

The cause of the heightened risk was not established.

Most studies have looked at the way the electromagnetic fields created by phones warm tissue.
However, the levels of the fields are thought too small to have a heating effect. Instead, some researchers believe the fields have the power to disrupt chemical bonds within cells or damage DNA.

Lead researcher Dr Siegal Sadetzki, from the Chaim Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Hashomer, Israel, was cautious about coming to any conclusions.

Source - Daily Mail

Eat yourself healthy

The right diet can help to protect us from colds and bugs. Find out how to eat to boost your immunity.

Midwinter is traditionally the time for feasting; enjoyed, all too often, to a counterpoint of coughs and sneezes. And seasonal flu often peaks in the final week of the year.

Might there be a connection, then, between the feasts of the winter solstice and the desire to protect against the infections it brings? In the days before antibiotics and flu vaccines, avoiding infections could have been life-preserving. And it is certainly true that the immune system can be fortified by diet.

Serious malnutrition depresses immune function, says Professor Philip Calder, of Southampton University, one of Britain’s leading experts on diet and immunity. “It’s clear that people who are malnourished or suffer nutrient deficiencies have impaired immunity and increased suceptibility to infection,” he says. “If the malnutrition is reversed, the immune system returns to more like normal.”

Last month Professor Calder was awarded the prestigious Nutricia International Award, by the charity the Nutricia Research Foundation, for his pioneering research into nutritional immunology or, put more simply, how diet affects our immune system.

So how much does what we eat affect our response to winter bugs? Quite a lot, according to Professor Calder. “Vitamins and minerals are essential for the immune system, which is particularly sensitive to deficiencies,” he says. In the past few years his work has revealed that the key dietary ingredients for boosting the immune system are zinc, selenium, vitamin D, and the long-chain fatty acids known as omega3s and 6s.

Source - Times

Concern over HIV homeopathy role

Doctors and health charities have expressed concern about a conference which will examine the role of homeopathy in treating HIV.

The event includes discussion of what have been described as "healing remedies" for HIV and AIDS. One of the speakers believes that the treatment, involving flower essences, can be used to halt the AIDS epidemic.

But the event, which marks World AIDS Day, has been criticised by doctors who say the treatment is not effective.

About 80 homeopaths and workers from HIV projects are gathering for the workshop in south London today.

It will include discussion about a remedy for HIV and AIDS which is said to have been used in Africa for five years.

BBC health correspondent, Jane Dreaper explained: "The principle behind homeopathy is that an ailment can be cured by small quantities of substances that produce the same symptoms but some doctors say it's ineffective."

Source - BBC

Coffee 'protects female memory'

French researchers compared women aged 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day with those who drank one cup or less per day.

Those who drank more caffeine showed less decline in memory tests over a four year period.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, raises the possibility that caffeine may even protect against the development of dementia. The results held up even after factors such as education, high blood pressure and disease were taken into account.

Caffeine is a known psychostimulant, but this study appears to suggest its effects may be more profound.

However, lead researcher Dr Karen Ritchie of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research warned against jumping to premature conclusions.

She said: "While we have some ideas as to how this works biologically, we need to have a better understanding of how caffeine affects the brain before we can start promoting caffeine intake as a way to reduce cognitive decline. But the results are interesting - caffeine use is already widespread and it has fewer side effects than other treatments for cognitive decline, and it requires a relatively small amount for a beneficial effect."

The study, which involved 7,000 women, did not find that caffeine consumers had lower rates of dementia.

Source - BBC

Another role for aloe vera: tackling mouth ulcers

Aloe vera is an effective treatment for a skin disorder and could be used to treat mouth ulcers, researchers say.

Gels containing extracts from the plant were found to ease the burning, stinging pain and ulcers associated with oral lichen planus, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the mouth.

Affecting more than 1 in 100 people, persistent mouth ulcers due to lichen planus can give rise to cancerous changes within the ulcer, and so need to be monitored by a doctor. Previously the condition has been hard to treat, but a study in the British Journal of Dermatology confirms anecdotal reports that aloe vera gel could help to soothe symptoms.

A team of Thai dermatologists examined 54 patients, half of whom were treated with a topically applied aloe vera gel while the other half received a placebo.

A total of 81 per cent of the patients treated with aloe vera had a good response after eight weeks of treatment, while only 4 per cent of placebo patients had a similar response.
Where improvement did occur, it was on a significantly greater scale in those treated with aloe vera – symptoms improved by more than 50 per cent in 63 per cent of aloe vera patients, whereas only 7 per cent of the placebo patients had this level of improvement.

Source - Times

Doctors urge folic acid progress

A group of UK doctors has urged the government to proceed with the move towards fortifying flour with folic acid to prevent birth defects.

The Food Standards Agency approved the move in June this year, which is aimed at cutting the number of babies born with conditions such as spina bifida.

But the government called for a further review of recent studies linking folic acid to colon cancer.
Writing in the Lancet, the doctors said there was no evidence of a connection.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin found in a wide variety of foods including liver and green leafy vegetables.

The chief medical officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, sent a letter to the FSA in October to ask them to consider two recent studies on colon cancer and folic acid. One study had looked at the effects of folic acid supplements in the prevention of colorectal adenomas - a type of benign tumour.

According to Professor Roger Bayston, associate professor for surgical infection at Nottingham University, the study found no reduction in adenoma risk but neither did the researchers find an increase.

Professor Bayston, who is also chairman of the medical committee of the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, also criticised suggestions that folic acid fortification in 1998 in the US and in 1999 in Canada had led to a rise in cases of colon cancer. A paper published earlier this year had raised the possibility of a link.

But cases of colon cancer began to rise before the introduction of folic acid into bread flour, he said. And there had been an increase in detection in the number of cancers in the late 1990s because of more widespread screening.

Source - BBC