Chinese medicine 'eases eczema'

A traditional Chinese herbal medicine consisting of five herbs may ease eczema symptoms, a study suggests.

Researchers found the treatment reduced the need for conventional medicines, and improved the quality of life for young patients with atopic eczema. The study of 85 patients by the Chinese University of Hong Kong is reported in the British Journal of Dermatology.

However, UK experts warned against using Chinese herbal medicine without first consulting a doctor. Eczema is a group of inflammatory skin disorders that make the skin dry, itchy, flaky, red and sore. In more severe forms the skin can become broken and weep or bleed.

The Hong Kong team assessed the effects of the "pentaherbs formulation" on patients with atopic eczema - the most common type of the disease which affects at least one in ten children.
The capsules contained extracts of five raw herbs based on a widely used ancestral Chinese concoction.

In the study, 85 patients were either given the medicine, or a placebo. Patients who took the medicine reported that their quality of life improved by a third, while those who took the placebo reported no improvement.

The researchers also found the herbal remedy reduced patients' needs for the conventional treatment of topical steroids by an average of four days a month, compared to just one day a month in the placebo group.

Source - BBC

Vitamin E supplements 'could cause up to 27 per cent increase in lung cancer'

Vitamin E supplements may raise the risk of lung cancer, doctors have warned.

A study of more than 77,000 people found that taking moderate to high doses of vitamin E led to a "slight but significant" increase in risk of the cancer that kills on Briton every 15 minutes.
Although the link was strongest among smokers, the "anti-ageing" vitamin also appeared to raise the risk of the cancer among non-smokers.

The study is not the first to link vitamin supplements to lung cancer, with previous research showing that beta carotene, a building block of vitamin A, can raise the risk by as much as 18 per cent.

Lung cancer claims more than 33,000 lives a year - the most of any cancer in Britain - with only five per cent of patients still alive five years after diagnosis.

The latest research, carried out at the University of Washington in Seattle, adds to growing evidence that vitamin supplements are a poor substitute to a diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
The researchers monitored the health and vitamin intake of 77,126 men and women between the ages of 50 and 76 for four years, recording how many of them developed lung cancer. By the end of the study, 521 had been diagnosed with the disease, the American Journal of Respiratory Care and Critical Care Medicine reports.

Analysis found unsurprising links between lung cancer risk and smoking, family history of the disease, and age. But in addition to these, they uncovered the unexpected association with vitamin E.

Source - Daily Mail

The truth about ginkgo: Health risks of the brain-boosting herb

Many thousands of Britons rely on vitamins and herbal supplements for protection against the ravages of ageing.

Opinion has long been divided on whether such supplements can actually improve well-being - but now there is evidence that some could actually be damaging it. As the Mail reported last week, a new study has shown that ginkgo biloba, the popular Chinese herbal extract thought by many to ward off dementia, could increase the risk of stroke. Scientists investigating the ancient herb's brain-boosting properties discovered a higher rate of strokes in those taking it daily than among those who were on a placebo, or dummy pill. The findings have naturally raised alarm among the many Britons who take the herb.

In fact, last week's research is just one of several recent studies that have raised questions about supplements used to ward off age-related problems.

A study at Homerton University Hospital in London three years ago found cancer patients taking supplements such as cod liver oil and St John's Wort (dubbed "Nature's Prozac" due to its anti-depressant properties) risked dangerous side-effects from their interaction with anti-cancer drugs.

In fact, although this study highlighted cancer treatment, there is general concern over the risk of interaction between herbal supplements and medication. Patients are advised to seek their doctor's advice before using them.

But in some cases, there may be a direct health risk from the supplement involved.

Source - Daily Mail

We love our mobiles... but are we being told all the facts about how safe they are?

They are both fashion accessories and an essential part of our lives. Yet since they first became widely available in the 1990s, there have been nagging doubts about just how safe they are.
Could they cause cancers in the brain? Does living near a mobile phone mast raise your risk of other cancers? Despite official reassurances, we still don't seem to be any closer to a definite answer.

Last September, the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) programme, which is funded jointly by the Government and the industry, concluded that mobile phones, base stations and masts "have not been found to be associated with any biological or adverse health effects".

This conclusion was based on the findings of the working of the cells in our bodies. A major UK report eight years ago warned that children could be especially vulnerable to mobile phone emissions because of their thinner skulls and developing nervous system.

However, the Health Protection Agency, which is responsible for safety in this area, has stated that as far as adults are concerned, wi-fi, phones and radio masts all operate on a power level that is well within the accepted guidelines, and that there is no evidence that they pose a threat to people's health.

Speaking last September, the chairman of the MTHR programme, Professor Lawrie Challis, said: "There is no evidence for immediate or short-term health effects" — though he added there was a "slight hint" of increased risk of brain tumour among long term users.

There have not been any official studies on children, but because children have been shown to react differently to environmental stimuli, Professor Challis said it was "possible that they were at greater risk".

The advice to parents is to limit children's use of mobiles, and ensure that those under the age of eight do not use them at all.

For some experts, this warning does not go nearly far enough. Professor Denis Henshaw, head of the human radiation effects group at Bristol University, says: "We are steeped in denial over the safety of mobile phones and related technologies."

Source - Daily Mail

Ignorance blinds us to the real risks in our food, study claims

If you enjoyed a joint of roast beef yesterday then you are among those who have overcome the decade-old scare about BSE in beef and concluded that the traditional Sunday lunch is too good to miss – reassured, presumably, by scientific evidence showing it is safe to eat.

But over many other food risks, public perceptions fly in the face of science and are instead driven by prejudice, superstition and the often misleading advice of friends, a survey has found.
An investigation by the Food Standards Agency which compared the risks perceived by the public with the scientific evidence behind them concluded that there was often no link between the two. As a result people are needlessly avoiding certain foodstuffs while putting themselves at risk by consuming others, the agency said.

Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of those surveyed said they were worried about the safety of genetically modified foods, despite scientific evidence showing GM foods were no more risky than non-GM foods.

The agency's board concluded in 2000 that the safety assessment procedures for GM foods were "sufficiently robust and rigorous" to ensure that they posed "no additional risk".
On bird flu, nine out of 10 people questioned said they would be concerned about eating chicken from a factory contaminated with the disease, despite evidence showing the illness cannot be contracted from consuming properly cooked poultry. Bird flu is a respiratory condition transmitted during close contact with birds.

Yet when a real risk presents itself, many ignore it. One in four of those questioned assumed there was little or no risk from consuming raw (unpasteurised) milk, despite evidence that it is frequently contaminated with faecal matter and contains harmful bacteria.

The survey was conducted to mark the launch of the Independent General Advisory Committee on Science, intended to increase public trust in science by advising how the FSA collects and uses scientific evidence.

Professor Colin Blakemore, chairman of the committee, said: "This survey is just a snapshot of people's opinions about food and risk but it prompts some interesting questions about how and why we judge some food to be risky.

"The good news is that people are clearly more aware of some risks to their health – particularly too much salt in the diet. However, it also seems to show that people are more likely to listen to advice about risk from friends than from scientists. Scientists need to communicate reliable evidence in a way that everyone can understand."

Source - Independent

Broccoli 'may slow down effects of ageing'

Broccoli is known for its anticancer properties but it could also boost the immune system in older people and slow down the effects of ageing, according to new research.

A chemical found in cruciferous vegetables called sulforaphane was found to activate a number of antioxidant genes and enzymes in immune cells. These prevent free radicals from damaging cells.

Free radicals are byproducts of normal body processes, such as the conversion of food into energy. They are a supercharged form of oxygen, which can cause oxidative tissue damage leading to disease - for example, triggering the inflammation process that causes clogged arteries. Oxidative damage to body tissues and organs is thought to be one of the major causes of ageing.

"The mysteries of ageing have always intrigued man," wrote chief author Dr Andre Nel, from UCLA in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"While we have known for some time that free radicals are important in ageing, most of the past attention has focused on the mechanisms that produce free radicals rather than addressing the pathways used by the body to suppress their production. Our study contributes to the growing understanding of the importance of these antioxidant defence pathways that the body uses to fight free radicals," said Dr Nel.

Source - Daily Mail

A medical maestro: Can Mozart treat heart disease

Listening to Mozart can reduce stress, boost intelligence and treat heart disease. Doctors could soon be prescribing his music for epilepsy too.

Every treatment had been tried for the patient's severe epilepsy. Seven epileptic drugs, and brain surgery, had failed to have any effect on the seizures and fits he had suffered daily for much of his 46 years. With no sign of any improvement, and with tests confirming a deterioration in learning skills and memory over a nine-year period, surgeons decided that he should be assessed for further brain surgery.

But, shortly before the patient was scheduled for tests, there was a remarkable improvement. The gelastic (or laughing) fits he had suffered up to six times day subsided. Instead of uncontrollable laughing fits, they became six- to nine-second-long involuntary smiles that he was able to control. He had also been having about seven generalised seizures a month, but he had had none in three months.

When doctors investigated, they found that the transformation was down to a lifestyle change. He had started to listen to Mozart for 45 minutes a day.

The case of the 46-year-old man, being reported by doctors at the Institute of Neurology in London, is the latest success put down to the "Mozart effect", which has been linked to benefits as diverse as improved mathematical skills, enhanced foetal brain development, reduced stress, improved learning and IQ, less arthritis pain, and improved performance on eye tests. Rats exposed to the music also perform better in maze tests, while fish appeared to be happier and healthier.

Source - Independent

Folate 'may keep sperm healthy'

A diet rich in the vitamin folate may protect men against producing abnormal sperm and children with genetic abnormalities, a study suggests.

Researchers found high dietary folate was linked to lower levels of sperm with the wrong number of chromosomes. Folate, also protective against birth defects, is found in leafy green vegetables, fruit and pulses.

The study, by the University of California Berkeley, features in the journal Human Reproduction.

It is estimated that up to 4% of sperm in a healthy man carry either too many or too few chromosomes - a condition known as aneuploidy.

Aneuploidy is linked to failure to conceive, miscarriages, and children born with conditions such as Down's syndrome, Turner's syndrome and Klinefelter's syndrome.

However, the reason why sperm become mutated in this way is poorly understood. The Berkeley team analysed sperm samples from 89 healthy, non-smoking men, and quizzed them about their intake of zinc, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene. Folate either came from the men's diet, or in the synthetic, folic acid form, which is found in dietary supplements.

The researchers found a statistically significant association between folate intake and lower sperm aneuploidy.

Source - BBC

Vegan diet 'help' for arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis patients may be able to reduce their high risk of heart attacks and strokes with a gluten-free, vegan diet, a study suggests.

Heart attacks and strokes are among the leading causes of death for sufferers, as the inflammation caused by the disease impacts upon the arteries.

But an Arthritis Research and Therapy study found those who pursued a vegan regime had less "bad" cholesterol. By clogging arteries, this is seen as a key risk factor for heart problems.
Rheumatoid Arthritis affects around 350,000 people in the UK.

Millet and sesame

But researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm say this risk could be reduced through a diet which excludes animal products and gluten - found in wheat, oats, rye and barley. They placed 38 volunteers on the diet, in which protein accounted for 10% of daily energy intake, carbohydrate 60% and fat for 30%. It included nuts, sunflower seeds, fruit and vegetables, millet and corn. Sesame milk provided a daily source of calcium.

A further 28 volunteers followed a healthy diet with approximately the same proportions of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Saturated fats were not to make up more than 10% of daily energy intake, and wholegrain products were to be chosen as often as possible.

Those on the vegan diet showed a decrease in the total level of cholesterol and specifically a reduction in the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad cholesterol".
In contrast, those on the non-vegan diet showed no significant variations in these levels.

Source - BBC

Religion 'linked to happy life'

A belief in God could lead to a more contented life, research suggests.

Religious people are better able to cope with shocks such as losing a job or divorce, claims the study presented to a Royal Economic Society conference.

Data from thousands of Europeans revealed higher levels of "life satisfaction" in believers.
However, researcher Professor Andrew Clark said other aspects of a religious upbringing unrelated to belief may influence future happiness. This is not the first study to draw links between religion and happiness, with a belief among many psychologists that some factor in either belief, or its observance, offering benefits.

Professor Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and co-author Dr Orsolya Lelkes from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, used information from household surveys to analyse the attitudes of Christians - both Catholic and Protestant - not only to their own happiness, but also to issues such as unemployment. Their findings, they said, suggested that religion could offer a "buffer" which protected from life's disappointments.

Professor Clark said: "We originally started the research to work out why some European countries had more generous unemployment benefits than others, but our analysis suggested that religious people suffered less psychological harm from unemployment than the non-religious.

"They had higher levels of life satisfaction".

Source - BBC

Vitamin D 'cuts risk of diabetes'

Giving young children vitamin D supplements may reduce their risk of developing type 1 diabetes later in life, research suggests.

Children who took supplements were around 30% less likely to develop the condition than those who did not.

Type 1 diabetes results from the immune system destruction of pancreatic cells which produce the hormone insulin.

The study, by St Mary's Hospital for Women and Children, Manchester, appears in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Source - BBC News

Meditation can alter brain structure

Kathy Sykes, a Bristol University professor, has long known that if she does not find at least 30 minutes a day in her frantically overcrowded schedule to lie down and listen to music, she is grumpier, more tired and less able to concentrate.

What Professor Sykes, who holds the chair in the Public Engagement of Science and Engineering at Bristol, did not realise until recently is that she was, in effect, practising a fairly crude form of meditation. She also didn't know that there was growing evidence to show that this ancient practice can make people healthier and happier. It may even increase life span, alter brain structure and change personality.

Ancient traditional therapies do not always stand up to close scientific scrutiny. But when Professor Sykes put meditation under the metaphorical microscope for the second series of Alternative Therapies: The Evidence, which she is presenting on BBC Two on Monday, she was surprised to find that the saffron-robed monks of Kathmandu and the white-coated scientists of Harvard shared more common ground than might have been expected.

“Several people have told me that meditation can affect your emotions,” she says, “and one of the areas of the brain that scientists are finding may be affected by meditation is involved in processing emotions, among other things. These are early days and we need more trials, but this is potentially very exciting.”

There are signs that mainstream medicine has already started to sit up and take notice of meditation. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which is about 80 per cent meditation, has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for use with people who have experienced three or more episodes of depression. And MBCT is now offered by some UK primary care trusts.

Source - Times

EU rejects plea to outlaw 'dangerous' food colours that lead to hyperactive children

EU food chiefs have rejected calls to ban additives which trigger hyperactive behaviour in children.

The decision has appalled UK campaigners who insist millions of youngsters will be left exposed to harm.

A link between hyperactive behaviour and the substances used to colour sweets, drinks and medicines was established in a British study published last year. University of Southampton researchers warned the additives "damage the psychological health" of children. The study was funded and designed by scientists from Britain's Food Standards Agency.

However, the European Food Safety Authority has decided flaws in the way the research was drawn up mean it does not offer definitive evidence of a risk to the general population. This means there is no legal reason for manufacturers to remove the suspect additives.

Products known to include the additives range from Cadbury Creme Eggs to Fanta and Calpol.
The Southampton research team is adamant it identified "significant adverse effects" among healthy children given drinks containing a cocktail of additives.

The campaigning food and health group, Sustain, condemned the European authority's stance and called on Britain to impose a unilateral ban. Campaigns director Richard Watts said: "No one now disputes these artificial additives pose a threat to children's health and well being. Given EFSA has let down consumers, our own FSA must now act to remove them from the food chain."
The additives linked to hyperactive behaviour are the colours Tartrazine (E102); Quinoline Yellow (E104); Sunset Yellow (E110); Carmoisine (E122); Ponceau 4R (E124); and Allura Red (E129). The preservative Sodium Benzoate(E211) is also implicated.

The authority found the study "provided limited evidence that the mixtures of additives tested had a small effect on the activity and attention of some children". But it cited "considerable uncertainties", including a lack of consistency and the absence of information-on the clinical significance of the behaviour changes observed.

The findings amount to an indictment of the FSA, which appears to have failed to ensure the research was properly designed.

Source - Daily Mail

Magic manuka ... the honey healer that's being sent in to fight hospital superbugs

Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks treated sores with it and soldiers in the Second World War wrapped bandages in it to heal their wounds. Today, honey can be found in wound dressings, creams, lozenges, tablets and in a jar.

Manuka honey, made from the flowers of the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) found only in New Zealand, contains ingredients that scientists believe boost its antibacterial properties. It has been licensed for use in NHS hospitals, after Christie Hospital in Manchester trialled the use of honey under dressings on postoperative wounds, to fight the MRSA superbug in mouth and throat cancer patients in 2004.

“All honey contains hydrogen peroxide, a disinfectant once used to clean wounds in hospitals. It is produced from the glucose oxidase enzyme that bees add to nectar,” says Professor Peter Molan, at the Honey Research Unit of the University of Waikato, New Zealand. But a unique active chemical compound, methylglyoxal, gives manuka more antibacterial activity than other honeys.

The UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor, indicates antibacterial activity. The UMF rating can range from UMF 5, equal to five per cent solution in water of the standard antiseptic carbolic or phenol, to UMF 30 - 30 per cent solution.

Professor Molan says: “UMF 10 to UMF 15 can be used to ease indigestion, heartburn and diarrhoea. In tests, UMF was found to inhibit the growth of the bacteria H. pylori, believed to cause stomach ulcers.”

As well as taking it internally, sterilised manuka honey can be applied topically, either neat or in cream form to soothe eczema, dermatitis, acne and sunburn. Studies show manuka's antibacterial properties fight the S. pyogenes bacteria, which causes sore throats. Professor Molan says: “A teaspoonful kept in the mouth until it dissolves, three times a day, is an effective cure for sore throats.

A study published in the European Journal Of Medical Research in 2003 claimed manuka honey used under dressings on post-operative wounds had an 85 per cent success rate in clearing up infections, compared with 50 per cent for normal antibiotic creams.

Source - Daily Mail

Pollution 'alters brain function'

An hour sniffing exhaust fumes may not just give you a headache - it could even alter the way the brain functions, Dutch researchers have suggested.

Scientists have known nanoparticles reach the brain when inhaled, but this is the first time they have been shown to affect how we process information. Researchers sought to replicate the environment experienced by those who work in a garage or by the roadside. Their findings were published in the journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology.

A team at Zuyd University in the Netherlands persuaded 10 volunteers to spend an hour in a room filled either with clean air or exhaust from a diesel engine.

They were wired up to an electroencephalograph (EEG), a device that records the electrical signals of the brain. They were monitored during the period of exposure and for an hour after they left the room. After about 30 minutes, the brains of those in the exhaust rooms displayed a stress response on the EEG, which is indicative of a change in the way information is being processed in the brain cortex. This effect continued after they were no longer in the room.

"We can only speculate what these effects may mean for the chronic exposure to air pollution encountered in busy cities where the levels of such soot particles can be very high," said lead researcher Paul Borm.

"It is conceivable that the long-term effects of exposure to traffic nanoparticles may interfere with normal brain function and information processing. Further studies are necessary to explore this effect."

Source - BBC

8,000 killed in ten years by drugs intended to cure them

More than 8,000 people have died in the past decade as a result of taking medicines intended to help them, figures have revealed. Almost 42,000 other patients have been hospitalised after suffering harmful side-effects or serious allergic reactions to prescription drugs and other medication.

The number of deaths from adverse drug reactions - negative responses to medicines resulting from medical error or side-effects - has more than doubled since 1997, rising by 131 per cent.
In the same period, the number of prolonged hospitalisations caused by medicines was up 82 per cent.

It costs the NHS as much as £466million a year to treat those who respond badly to medication.
Figures out yesterday show the annual number of adverse reactions since 1997 has risen by 30 per cent from 16,627 to 21,600.

There were 1,031 deaths last year thought to be caused by adverse drug reactions - the highest figure yet - up from 447 in 1997. Over the decade 8,077 deaths were reported.

Meanwhile, the number of reports of prolonged hospitalisation - around eight days on average - rose from 2,484 to 4,545, according to figures revealed in answer to parliamentary questions. The total for the past ten years was 41,935.

This period also saw the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency and the Commission for Human Medicines improve their systems for registering and analysing incidents

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "There may be some improvements in reporting, but these figures show a worrying trend towards more serious drug reactions leading to hospitalisation and a sharp increase in the number of deaths."

Source - Daily Mail

The dose of worms that could cure MS

Could drinking a cocktail of worm eggs help patients with multiple sclerosis? It sounds like medieval witchcraft, but the Food and Drug Administration, which vets all drug trials in the U.S., has just sanctioned a study to see if the gruesome mixture can ease the symptoms of the disease.
Once the eggs are inside the body, they will hatch into worms that live in the gut. It is hoped they will then stimulate the release of a certain type of immune system cell that will allow the body to heal the damage done by MS.

The trial was given the go ahead after a study last year in Argentina revealed that MS patients who had parasitic worms living in their intestines suffered significantly fewer relapses in their condition than a separate group that was worm-free.

Multiple sclerosis affects an estimated 85,000 people in the UK and is incurable. The disease appears to be caused by a chemical found naturally in the body, called interferon gamma. Under normal circumstances, this chemical helps to activate the immune system to attack foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. But for reasons which remain unclear, in people with MS, the chemical can also cause the immune system to turn against the very body it is supposed to protect.

As a result, the immune system goes into overdrive, attacking nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Gradually, the protective coating which shields these nerves - called the myelin sheath - starts to break down and the transmission of signals between nerve cells slows down and becomes irregular.

Source - Daily Mail

Wheeze 'link' to baby milk powder

Prolonged exposure to baby milk powder increases the risk of breathing problems, including wheezing and breathlessness, a study has found.

It looked at 170 Thai factory workers who made the powder, but the team from University of Birmingham says the risk could also apply to nannies. Mothers and babies are safe, because they have relatively little exposure.

But the study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, says at-risk workers should be monitored. It is already known that consuming milk powder can lead to the development of an allergy if a child has an intolerance to cow's milk but the potential risks of inhaling milk powder have never before been studied.

In this research, a team from the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Birmingham and Thailand's Mahidol University looked at just under 170 workers in a Thai baby milk factory. The factory had high hygiene standards, and concentrations of milk powder dust were relatively low.

The majority - 130 - were directly involved in manufacturing and packaging baby milk. Another 22 were responsible for adding vitamins to the milk and 15 were quality controllers. The researchers compared these workers' health with that of 76 office workers using a questionnaire and lung function tests.

Source - BBC

Cod oil 'cuts arthritis drug use'

A daily dose of cod liver oil can cut painkiller use in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a study suggests.

Taking 10g of cod liver oil a day reduced the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by 30%, Dundee University researchers say.

Concerns about side-effects of NSAIDs has prompted research into alternative.

Rheumatologists said the study, in Rheumatology journal, funded by Seven Seas, was small but showed fish oil could benefit some patients.

Patients in the trial were either given cod liver oil or placebo and after 12 weeks asked to gradually reduce their use of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen. Almost 60 patients completed the nine-month trial which found 39% taking cod liver oil reduced their daily dose of NSAIDs compared with 10% taking a placebo.

The reduction in drug use was not associated with any worsening of pain or the disease, the researchers reported.

The research team at the University of Dundee, aided by colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, have now completed three studies which have all shown patients are able to cut down their NSAID use when taking cod liver oil.

It is thought fatty acids in the fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties.

Source - BBC

The curry spice that can help mend an unhealthy heart

The secret to a healthy heart could lie in your spice rack.

Research shows that the curry spice turmeric can help prevent heart failure and repair damaged hearts. Although the tests were carried out in mice, scientists are hopeful the findings could apply to humans.

Heart failure, in which the heart, damaged by heart attack or disease, gradually loses the ability to pump blood round the body, typically kills 40 per cent of victims within a year of onset.
Symptoms include tiredness, swollen ankles and breathlessness. Although there are drugs that can control the condition, there is no way of repairing the scarring and damage suffered by heart muscles.

The study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggests turmeric could help. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has been used in Asian medicine for centuries to treat inflammatory disorders and is linked with a wide range of health benefits.

When experts at Toronto General Hospital in Canada tested the spice on mice, they found the creatures' damaged hearts became more efficient at pumping blood and scars healed up after just a few doses.

Source - Daily Mail

Snoring linked to heart disease

New research suggests there is a strong link between loud snoring and both heart disease and strokes.

Hungarian scientists did interviews with more than 12,000 patients. They concluded that heavy snorers were significantly more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to the rest of the population.

This new data, published in the Journal Sleep, adds weight to existing theories about the link between snoring and cardiovascular disease.

We all snore at some stage in our lives. And while it is more common in people who are overweight it is estimated that about 40% of adult males and 24% of adult females are habitual snorers.

For several years now, scientists have been aware of a relationship between snoring and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. But this new study from Hungary adds more weight to the idea.

Source - BBC

'Healthier hearts' for cat owners

Cat owners appear to have a much lower risk of dying from a heart attack than their feline-spurning counterparts, a study suggests. Researchers looked at nearly 4,500 adults and found that cat ownership was related to a 40% lower risk of suffering a fatal heart attack.

The team speculated that having a cat may reduce stress and anxiety, and so protect against cardiovascular disease. The findings of the study were unveiled at the International Stroke Conference.

The study, led by Professor Adnan Qureshi at the University of Minnesota, suggested that even those who no longer owned a cat benefited from these protective effects. But specifically, some 3.4% of those who owned a cat during the duration of the study died from a heart attack, compared with 5.8% of those who did not.

The benefits held true even after the researchers adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol. However the authors warned against impulsive cat purchases.

They said while cats may indeed have a calming effect, it was unclear whether the kind of people who opted for a cat in the first place may have a lower risk of heart attack.

"Research has also shown that pet owners make fewer annual visits to the doctors than non pet owners proving the saying, 'a pet all day keeps the doctor away'."

Source - BBC

Reiki healing for children

Using an ancient healing art, one mother says she found a way to calm her boisterous son.

By the age of 4, Jake’s life was pretty stressful. His parents had broken up when he was 18 months old and he was spending half the week with his father and half with his mother, Kerry Geldart. He had never slept well, but now he was waking three or four times every night, calling anxiously for his mum.

“He was very nervy, but at times overly boisterous. He had a lot of insecurities due to a lack of a structured routine in terms of shared parenting,” says Geldart, 37, who at the time was a part-time finance manager living in Brighton.

They seemed stuck in a rut. But, when Jake broke his wrist after falling off a climbing frame at the park, Geldart’s friend Rifa Bhunnoo, a practitioner of reiki, which claims to direct healing energy via the hands, offered to treat him. “I had my doubts,” Geldart recalls. “Jake was asleep when Rifa arrived. She didn’t disturb him, but spent about 40 minutes placing her hands on his head, body and wrist cast. “When he awoke he was in the sunniest of moods. It was stunning.”
From that point on, she says, Jake no longer needed painkillers. Geldart had also noticed how calm and relaxed he had seemed after the session and it spurred her on to learn reiki so she could treat Jake at home.

Reiki works by intention, through the desire of one person to ease the burdens of another, which is why a parent performing reiki on a child works so well,” claims Geldart. “As well as improving my own wellbeing by using it on myself to destress, relax and think clearly, I soon saw the positive effects it was having on Jake. I started using reiki at bedtime by placing a hand on his forehead,” she says. “He would tell me that he loved the warm feeling it gave him. More importantly, he began to sleep through the night, which was a huge relief and meant that we were both more energised. He also had an increased attention span and was much less boisterous.”

Source - Times

Is this frog the answer to diabetes?

The treatment of diabetes could be about to take a leap forward with the help of a South American frog.

A compound found on the skin of the paradoxical frog - so called because the tadpole is much larger than the adult - boosts the production of insulin.

Scientists have made a synthetic version of the compound which they hope to turn into a pill to treat Britain's two million sufferers of type 2 diabetes. The most common form of diabetes, it usually occurs after the age of 40. Sufferers do not make enough insulin, a hormone key in converting sugar into energy, or make insulin that doesn't work properly.

Blood sugar levels are initially kept in check through a tightly-controlled diet and exercise regime. But worsening of the condition over time means most suffers will need tablets or insulin injections as they get older. With not all tablets suiting everyone, the paradoxical frog - found in ponds, lakes and lagoons in the Amazon and Trinidad - could provide an alternative.

Study of the frog at Ulster University has revealed that the skin on its back contains a compound that boosts insulin production.

Source - Daily Mail

My life as a guinea pig

( Not exactly blogggy - but interesting! )

Medical researchers have tracked David Ward since his birth in 1946. The findings shed fascinating light on the impact of childhood on health in later years It's my birthday this week and any minute a card from London will drop on to the doormat. It's always the first to arrive; it will be tasteful and carry a greeting from the medical researchers who have tracked me since birth. It will also remind me that I'm turning 62.

Age is a terrible thing. Eight years ago I could easily balance on one leg with my eyes closed. OK, so I wobbled and eventually groped for a chair, but the nurse said I had stayed upright longer than anyone else she had tested. But when challenged again late last year, I staggered uncontrollably round the room."I don't think we can allow hopping," said the nurse, noting my abject failure on my file.

This information will be relayed to records held on me by the National Survey of Health and Development, the world's longest-running survey of its kind. It began with 13,687 babies born in 1946 and has been tailing me ever since.

It wins a mention in David Kynaston's book Austerity Britain, and was intended by its founder Dr James Douglas (one of only three directors of the study) to investigate the declining national birthrate. But once the war was over and the nation began breeding again, Douglas decided to follow 5,362 of us to study differences in health and survival among different social groups; more than 3,000 of us are still on the books.

The study's findings are now a unique record of the impact of childhood on later life: in the latest round of tests, they measured my grip, the strength of which has been clearly shown to be directly related to birth weight.

Similarly, the timing of the menopause is directly affected by childhood factors. "What we have shown in our study," says Professor Diana Kuh, current director of the ongoing survey, "is that various developmental and early life markers are associated with age at menopause. For example, we found that women in the study who were the lightest at two years old or who experienced parental divorce by age 15 had an earlier age at menopause than women who were heavier at two, did not experience parental divorce, and who had mothers with a later menopause.

"In contrast, we found that being breast-fed, higher childhood cognitive ability and increasing parity [the number of times a woman gives birth] were associated with a delayed onset of menopause. These results did not appear to be explained by later risk factors such as smoking, which we know brings forward the age of menopause. We are currentlyinvestigating whether early environmental or genetic programming may explain these associations."
Using your brain has, once again, been shown to be good for you. Survey members who went to adult education classes (or received job training) achieved higher scores in memory and word recognition tests than those whose education stopped in their 20s.

Source - Independent

It REALLY is better to give than to receive, say scientists

We're often told money can't buy us happiness. But now scientists beg to differ. They say it can make us happy – as long as we spend it on someone else.

Giving to charity, or buying presents for friends and family, is the secret to contentment. In tests, those who gave money away were far happier than others who spent the same cash on holidays, cars and luxuries for themselves.

Giving away as little as a couple of pounds every day is enough to significantly boost happiness levels, the researchers found. Their study helps explain polls which have shown that although we have far higher disposable incomes than our grandparents did 50 years ago, we are no more happy. And it also suggests that philanthropists such as Microsoft boss Bill Gates, who has given away billions, must be astonishingly content.

Professor Elizabeth Dunn, of the University of British Columbia in Canada, said: "We wanted to test our theory that how people spend their money is at least as important as how much money they earn."

Her team conducted three studies. In one, they asked 632 respondents to rate their general happiness, reveal their annual income and provide a detailed breakdown of their monthly spending - including how much they spend on themselves, gave to charity and spent on presents.

Professor Dunn said: "Regardless of income, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not."

Source - Daily Mail

Virtual massage 'could relieve phantom limb pain for amputees'

Amputees who experience phantom limb pain could find relief in a surprisingly simple way - by watching someone else rub their hands together.

The treatment seems to fool the brain that it is their missing hand being massaged, according to the American researchers, who worked with combat veterans. Phantom limbs occur when an amputee feels the often painful sensation of touch arising from a limb that is no longer present.

Lead researcher Vilayanur Ramachandran from the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, used newly discovered properties of mirror neurons to soothe the ache.

Mirror neurons fire when a person performs an intentional action - such as waving - and also when they observe someone else performing the same action. They are thought to help us predict the intentions of others by creating a "virtual reality" simulation of the action in our minds.

"You also find cells like this for touch," says Ramachandran. "They fire when you touch yourself and when you watch someone else being touched in the same location."

Ramachandran and his colleague and wife Diane Rogers-Ramachandran used a "mirror box" - a tool that creates the visual illusion of two hands for people who actually only have one. By placing an amputee's arms either side of a mirror - with the missing limb on the non-reflective side, the amputee sees the reflection of their normal hand superimposed on the location of their missing hand.

Two amputees watched their normal hand being prodded, and both felt the remarkable sensation of "being prodded" in their missing hand. In another experiment, when the amputees watched a volunteer's hand being stroked, they too began to experience a stroking sensation arising from their missing limb.

Source - Daily Mail

How the herb Charles II used to keep royal mistresses in shape could help fight today's obesity epidemic

It is an ancient slimming remedy with a royal seal of approval.

Now a traditional herb used by King Charles II to help his mistresses lose weight could be used in the modern day battle against obesity. Experts want to re-establish the humble heath pea to fight the nation's weight crisis after evidence of its use was discovered during an archaeological dig.

Heath pea, which is also known as bitter vetch, was used in medieval times as a hunger suppressant when the crops failed. It was also passed around the court of King Charles, who gave it to his lovers who had a propensity for plumpness.

Monks used the plant to treat patients in the 14th century Soutra Aisle monastery near Edinburgh, which is currently being excavated.

Dr Brian Moffat, an expert on medieval remedies, said the idea to promote heath pea as a slimming aid had been developed after he came across the remedy during the dig at the Soutra site. Dr Moffat, who is director of the dig, said it appeared the monks cut up the tubers of the plant to make a potion. He said the tubers - which have a "leathery liquorice" taste - had the effect of making people forget to eat.

Speaking on a BBC Radio Scotland documentary to be broadcast next month, he said: "We have been dealing with some anonymous little tubers, which have been chopped up in to quarters. The tubers are of heath pea or bitter vetch. If you ate one of these pea sized tubers you are meant to 'not eat, not want to eat and not miss eating for weeks and even in to months'. They were actually used as a measure to ward off hunger once crops had failed in the fields. We thought we must take this further because the plants seemed to become obsolete really at the time when mass potato cultivation came in. "

Source - Daily Mail

Source - Daily Mail

Women drinkers 'face cancer risk'

Women who drink above the government's recommended limit are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer, the Department of Health has said.

A £10m advertising campaign has been launched targeting middle-aged women who might underestimate their drinking. A health department report, which has yet to be published, says women who drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week are at increased risk.

Cancer Research says alcohol causes about 2,000 breast cancer cases a year.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Women who regularly drink too much are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer. And many drink too much simply because they have no idea how many alcohol units they are consuming.

"After the campaign no-one will be in any doubt as to how many units they're drinking and the impact that can have on their health."

Source - BBC

Will taking an aspirin a day cut the risk of breast cancer?

Women could soon be advised that taking aspirin every day will cut their risk of developing breast cancer, scientists said today.

Experts analysed 21 studies and found that non- steroidal antiinflammatory drugs - the class of common painkiller which also includes ibuprofen - could ward off the disease. The research also suggested that these drugs could help treat women already diagnosed with breast cancer.

However, the scientists warned that more research is needed to discover whether the potential benefits outweigh side-effects such as stomach ulcers and even heart disease. They added that it is important to establish the ideal dose and duration before starting a nationwide push to get women to take the drugs, usually known by the acronym NSAIDs.

Ian Fentiman, a professor of oncology at Guy's and St Thomas' hospital trust in London, carried out the study, which was published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

He said: "Our review of research published over the last 27 years suggests that, in addition to possible prevention, there may also be a role for NSAIDs in the treatment of women with established breast cancer.

"NSAID use could be combined with hormone therapy or used to relieve symptoms. Having weighed up the findings from over 20 studies, we have concluded that NSAIDs may well offer significant protection against developing breast cancer in the first place and may provide a useful addition to the treatment currently available to women who already have the disease."

Source - Daily Mail

Alcohol 'quickly' cuts heart risk

Middle-aged non-drinkers can quickly reduce their risk of heart disease by introducing a daily tipple to their diet, South Carolina researchers say.

New moderate drinkers were 38% less likely to develop heart disease than those who stayed tee-total, a four-year study involving 7,500 people found. Those who drank only wine showed the most benefit, the researchers reported in the American Medical Journal.

But cardiac experts warned alcohol was not a panacea for good heart health.

The results came from a study of 7,500 people taking part in a trial to look at risk factors for atherosclerosis - hardening of the arteries. None of them drank alcohol at the start of the study but 6% began to drink moderate amounts - one drink per day or fewer for women and two drinks per day or fewer for men - during the course of the research.

The reduced cardiovascular risk remained when the researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina took into account physical activity, body mass index, demographic and cardiac risk factors.

There was no difference in deaths over the four-year follow up.

Source - BBC

Vitamin E linked to lung cancer

Taking high doses of vitamin E supplements can increase the risk of lung cancer, research suggests.

The US study of 77,000 people found taking 400 milligrams per day long-term increased cancer risk by 28% - with smokers at particular risk. It follows warnings about similar risks of excessive beta-carotene use.

Writing in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, an expert said people should get their vitamins from fruit and veg. Dr Tim Byers, from the University of Colorado, said a healthy, balanced diet meant people took in a whole range of beneficial nutrients and minerals, which might help to reduce cancer risk.

The researchers followed people aged between 50 and 76 for four years and looked at their average daily use of vitamin C and folic acid, and vitamin E supplements. Over the course of the study, 521 people developed lung cancer. Smoking, family history and age all had unsurprisingly strong links to cancer risk. And while neither vitamin C or folic acid use had any effect on lung cancer risk, vitamin E use did.

The researchers extrapolated their findings, and concluded that over a decade, there was an additional 7% increase in risk for every 100 milligrams taken per day.

The vitamin E trend was most prominent among smokers, but was not confined to them. Vitamin E is known to be an antioxidant - protecting cells from molecules called free radicals. But the US researchers speculate that, in high doses, it may also act as a pro-oxidant - causing oxidation and therefore damage to cells.

Source - BBC