Cows that eat outdoors produce healthier milk

The benefits of organic milk have been highlighted by a study showing milk from cows which graze outside on grass and clover contains more antioxidants and vitamins than that from conventional dairy farms.

An al fresco diet in cows results in milk with up to 60 per cent higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA9) which has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, according to research from Newcastle University. The same study found 39 per cent more omega-3 fatty acid and 33 per cent more vitamin E, which are also thought to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. During the summer, when there is the most discrepancy between feeding techniques, the widest difference emerges between organic and non-organic milks.

Gillian Butler, the livestock production manager at Nafferton Ecological Farming Group, who led the research, said grazing provided around 84 per cent of food for cows on organic farms in the summer, compared to 37 per cent for conventionally farmed animals. The remaining diet of cows on non-organic farms comprised 29 per cent silage (preserved grass) and 34 per cent concentrate (a mixture including cereals and grains).

"We have known for some time that what cows are fed has a big influence on milk quality," Ms Butler said. "This research shows that on organic farms, letting cows graze naturally is the most important reason for the differences in composition between organic and conventional milk."

Source - Independent

Mediterranean diet cuts risk of diabetes, says study

The Mediterranean diet, with abundant quantities of virgin olive oil, provides strong protection against diabetes, a study has shown.

The diet, which includes high quantities of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain pulses and cereals is already known to protect against cardiovascular disease and, according to some research, against Alzheimer's.

Now scientists in Spain have found that it also offers a defence against the epidemic of diabetes associated with growing rates of obesity and the consumption of high-fat fast foods.

Researchers who monitored the eating habits of 13,000 graduates from the University of Navarra for eight years from 1999 to 2007 found those who stuck closely to a Mediterranean diet had an 83 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes. Those who followed the diet most rigorously had more risk factors for diabetes, such as being older, having a family history of the illness and a history of smoking. Yet they were less likely to develop the disease.

This suggests the protective effect of the diet might be "substantial", the authors report in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal. Professor Martinez-Gonzalez said: "Substantial protection against diabetes can be obtained with the traditional Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, vegetables, fruit, nuts, cereals, legumes and fish, but relatively low in meat and dairy products."

Source - Independent

Fruit and veg keep cancer at bay

From protecting you against cancers to sunburn, scientists can now explain the value of fruit and vegetables in our diet.

Small red tomatoes nestling among green peppers, sliced carrots and spring onions not only brighten up a salad but also give some protection against a wide variety of cancers. They have other more mundane properties as well. Holidaymakers in France and Spain may be less likely to suffer sunburn and prematurely aged skin if they eat tomatoes, rich in lycopene, and other fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids.

Carotenoids are the micronutrients, mainly dark yellow or red, that give some fruits and vegetables their colour and health-giving powers. Tomato juice or ketchup with the fish and salad won't in any way replace a high-factor sunscreen, but it offers some protective action against inflammation, premature skin ageing, photo-sensitivity disorders and some skin cancers.
The carotenoids in tomatoes, peppers and pomegranates once eaten are later widely distributed in the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin. In the skin they help to absorb the light, act as antioxidants and have an anti-inflammatory response to sunburn. They act by increasing the circulation of the blood to the skin and thus its nutrition. The better skin nutrition the less its scaliness and roughness, and more improved its thickness and hydration.

Scientists attending the First International Congress on Nutrition and Cancer in Turkey last week discussed the effect of nutrition on skin health as well as on malignancies. The study of nutrition is increasingly moving from a focus on diet to food science. It is now accepted that the diet enjoyed by those living in the Far East or the Mediterranean countries has advantages over typical Western fare and contributes to a longer life. Scientists can now explain the biochemical mechanism and demonstrate how the micronutrients in the diet can interfere with the body's cellular pathways to help to prevent cancer.

Source - Times

Lead exposure in childhood can turn youngsters into adult criminals

Lead exposure during childhood is associated with brain shrinkage and violent criminal behaviour, research has shown.

Scientists based the conclusion on two US studies of families from a poor area of Cincinnati where many houses were old and contaminated with lead.

In one, blood lead levels of pregnant women and 250 children born in the early 1980s were matched against information from local criminal justice records. The researchers found that higher lead concentrations before birth and during early childhood were associated with a greater number of arrests among young men over the age of 18. For every 5 microgram per decilitre increase in blood lead at six years of age, the risk of being arrested for violent crime as a young adult rose by almost 50 per cent.

Writing in the journal PLoS Medicine, the team led by Dr Kim Dietrich from the University of Cincinnati, said the findings "implicate early exposure to lead as a risk factor for behaviours leading to criminal arrest". Although environmental lead levels and crime rates had dropped in the last 30 years, inner city children remained vulnerable to lead exposure, the scientists pointed out.

Dr Dietrich also took part in another study which looked at 157 teenagers aged 15 to 16 who had grown up in lead-contaminated housing. Scans showed that exposure to lead as a child was linked with brain shrinkage in adulthood, especially among men.

Source - Daily Mail

Farm trips may 'alleviate stress'

Spending time on a farm could alleviate stress and tiredness, a study suggests.

University of Essex scientists said going to the countryside, having contact with farm animals and riding on tractors could be beneficial. The activities could help people shake off feelings of anger, confusion and depression, according to the study.

The research, released by sustainable farming charity Leaf ahead of an annual Open Farm Sunday this weekend, analysed groups of farm visitors aged 18-84.

Scientists said they found that after spending a few hours on a farm, 95% of those analysed were less tired, 91% less tense and 55% felt revitalised. Men and the over-30s benefited most from the few hours outside, the research suggested. Professor Jules Pretty, head of biological sciences at the university, said there was "growing evidence" that exposure to green space and woodlands was good for people.

"This study clearly shows that spending as little as two hours on a farm benefits a person's wellbeing and enables them to connect with nature. In particular stressed out 30-somethings and over-worked men who are looking to recharge their batteries might be advised to ditch the gym workout or snooze on the sofa and get out into the countryside and on to a farm instead."

He said younger people brought up in cities could also improve their health and awareness of environmental issues by "getting close to nature".

Source - BBC

Putting a spring in your step

There's nothing new about doctors recommending their patients take more exercise. But what kind?

You could pay a fortune for gym membership, or you could trudge down to your local swimming pool and spend the rest of the day smelling faintly of chlorine. But the best exercise of all might be the easiest and the cheapest: a stroll in the park, or a country ramble.

The secret ingredient? Greenery. Those of us who live in towns and cities, and even some who live in the countryside, don't get enough of it.

The result for most of us is highly stressful; we get irritable and depressed, and even physically ill (because high levels of stress mean higher risk of things like heart disease and diabetes).

Yet put us in contact with trees and grass and levels of stress fall away.

Source - BBC

Breathe slowly to cut your blood pressure

A device that lowers blood pressure by teaching patients to slow their breathing promises to cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes - without drugs.

The gadget, which looks like a portable CD player, first monitors how many breaths a minute the patient takes. Then it plays musical notes through headphones - the idea is that the patient breathes in on one note, and breathes out on another. The length of each tone is gradually increased so breathing slows down. Tests show slower breathing relaxes the muscles in blood vessel walls, making them more flexible.

This eases the pressure exerted on them when the heart tries to pump blood round the body. High blood pressure - also called hypertension - is one of the major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. It affects one in five people in the UK. Some patients can reduce their blood pressure by cutting down on salt and taking more exercise. But thousands more need pills to control it.

For most people, this involves a daily cocktail of tablets for the rest of their life. This is because the body can easily get round the effects of one pill but, faced with several different types of drug, is much less likely to maintain high pressure. The downside is that the more pills patients take, the higher the risk of side-effects, such as tiredness, leg cramps, insomnia, cold hands and feet, dizziness and constipation.

Although it's long been known that slow breathing and meditation can lower blood pressure, perfecting the technique can take many years.

Source - Daily Mail

Celery could hold the key to treating brain disease

A chemical in celery could help people suffering from brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, according to new research.

Luteolin, a compound found in celery, green pepper and chamomile, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Scientists have now shown that it reduces inflammation in the brains of mice. They believe that in the right doses luteolin could be used to treat patients with a range of brain conditions, including Alzheimer's and Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD). The chemical belongs to a family of plant molecules called flavonoids which are believed to combat dementia linked to brain inflammation.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studied how luteolin acted on immune system cells in the brain called microlegia.

The week of living dangerously

Drinking too much can kill you. Freak weather conditions can kill you. Too much love can kill you, if you can't make up your mind – torn between the lover and the love you leave behind. For the careless and the uninformed, death lurks around every corner. The end of the world is nigh; global warming may be irrevocable; Boris Johnson is the mayor of London. Now, we discover, a simple kebab can be fatal.

The headlines in last week's papers were unequivocal. "Doner Goner" read the Daily Mirror. "Killer Kebabs", warned the Daily Star. Two kebabs a week, they reported, could be fatal. Did they mean that two inadequately-spaced doners are equivalent to an instant overdose? Or are these two specific deadly kebabs, fed into the market weekly by crazed Turkish separatists? Does extra chilli sauce provide no protection?

Leafing through the papers, though, kebab death seemed just the tip of the iceberg. Elsewhere, The Sun revealed that "working in an office may be slowly killing you". The Daily Mail discovered that "desk work can result in fatal DVT". Too much TV is bad for you, as are high heels, flat shoes, fat tummies and joss sticks (they're as bad as passive smoking). But exercise and the pursuit of health are equally risky. Cycling without a helmet is near-suicide, Boris Johnson's advisers have told him, advising a chauffeur-driven limo instead. But traffic fumes are a serious health risk. Going on holiday is bad for you. Going to hospital could prove fatal. So can pole dancing: "Irish performers are being struck down by ugly, blotchy rashes, scales or even warts," seems to be the problem.

This, then, was the week of living dangerously. I had to find out for myself just what kind of dangers we all face. One kebab, apparently, contains the equivalent of a wine glass full of saturated fat, or 1,000 calories. I had my first on Thursday evening, after first lining my stomach with health-giving white wine. Did I feel my pulse quicken – or was that just the raw chilli?

Source - Independent

Veggie sausages contain FIVE TIMES as much salt as a bag of crisps

Many parents regard them as the healthy alternative, but some leading brands of vegetarian burgers and sausages contain higher levels of salt than their meat equivalents.

Just two sausages from one company would provide virtually the entire day's salt ration for an adult and too much for a child.

To coincide with National Vegetarian Week, which begins today, researchers from Consensus Action on Salt and Health analysed a selection of meat-free products. They discovered that some veggie burgers and sausages contain the same amount of salt as five bags of crisps.

The saltiest product was a Fry's Vegetarian Traditional Sausage at 2.8g, which is four times more than the pork equivalent. Two of these would provide 5.6g of salt, which is close to the 6g figure that is the recommended maximum daily intake for an adult. This would exceed the 5g recommended daily maximum for a child aged seven to ten, and be almost double the limit of 3g for those aged four to six.

CASH researchers found large variations in the amount of salt in vegetarian sausages.

For example, a Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausage had 38 per cent more than an equivalent Quorn product. Two Cauldron vegetarian Lincolnshire sausages contain 2g of salt, some 40 per cent more than the 1.2g found in two Asda Meat Free Lincolnshire Sausages.

The saltiest burgers in the survey were Fry's Vegetarian Traditional Burgers and Fry's Vegetarian Spiced Burgers, each with a salt reading of 1.8g. This level was six times higher than the equivalent Asda meat burger.

Source - Daily Mail

Mobile phone danger to unborn child: Use could cause behavioural problems

Pregnant women who use mobile phones are more likely to have children with behavioural problems, a shocking study has found.

Using handsets just two or three times a day is enough to raise the risk of hyperactivity and emotional problems. Letting children use mobiles before the age of seven also puts them at risk, scientists warn.

The research is the latest in a series of health fears linked to mobile phones and yet another worry for expectant mothers, who have already been warned about drinking, smoking, pesticides, food allergies and stress.

The study follows a finding by the official Russian radiation watchdog that the danger posed by mobile phones is "not much lower than the risk to children's health from tobacco or alcohol".

The UK's Health Protection Agency said the study's findings were unexpected and highlighted the need for caution over mobiles. But it stopped short of telling pregnant women not to use them. A spokesman said: "Its findings need to be investigated thoroughly. There may be another cause for the effect observed."

The agency has already warned against "excessive" use of mobile phones by children.

Source - Daily Mail

DNA damage 'caused by pesticides'

New research in India suggests exposure to pesticides could have damaged the DNA of people in farming communities, leading to higher rates of cancer.

Scientists at Patiala University, Punjab state, did the study, tracking a group of farmers for several months. But a spokesman for the crop industry trade association said a causal link between pesticide use and cancer could not be established.

There have been concerns about potential links for several years. This new study discovered that the DNA of farmers in Punjab has been altered, making them susceptible to cancer.

'Significant change'
Professor Satbir Kaur said the study ruled out other factors such as age, alcohol intake and smoking, concluding that the probable cause of this fundamental change in the building block of life was use of pesticide sprays.

"We found significant change in the DNA, so the cancer risk is greatly increased when the extent of DNA damage is very high," he said.

Salil Singhal of the industry trade association, the Crop Care Federation of India, said that this causal link could not be possible.

"There is no pesticide in use today which can cause cancer," he said.

Mr Singhal said farmers use sprays only a few times each season. But this correspondent found farmers who needed to use them far more than that in order to keep ahead of the pests.

Source - BBC

Asthma link to pregnancy stress

Women who are stressed in pregnancy may raise the risk of their child developing asthma or other allergies, a study suggests.

Researchers found higher levels of a chemical linked to allergy in the blood of children of stressed mothers. Levels were high even in those who had not been exposed to high levels of dust mites, a recognised allergies trigger.

Harvard Medical School, which studied 387 babies, will present the study to the American Thoracic Society.

It is thought the risk of asthma and allergy is controlled by a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors. However, researchers suspect the impact of these factors may also in some way be influenced by the environment a foetus is exposed to while still in the uterus.

The Harvard team examined the theory that stress during pregnancy can magnify the effect of foetal exposure to substances which can trigger allergy. The researchers measured levels of Immunoglobulin (IgE) - a chemical linked to allergic responses - in the umbilical cord blood of 387 babies.

Juice 'prevents clogged arteries'

Juices made from apples or purple grapes - and the fruit themselves - protect against developing clogged arteries, a study suggests.

Researchers fed hamsters the fruit and juice or water, plus a fatty diet. The animals who were fed grape juice had the lowest risk of developing artery problems, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reports.

The University of Montpellier team said the juice's benefits came from its high levels of phenols - an antioxidant. Antioxidants in various foods have been regularly cited as being beneficial to heart health.

The French team looked at how juicing affected the phenol content of fruit - because most studies look at raw fruit.

Four glasses a day
They then looked at how being fed various kinds of fruit affected the hamsters' risk of atherosclerosis - the build-up of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. The amount of fruit the hamsters consumed was equivalent to three apples or three bunches of grapes daily for a human. Hamsters given juice drank the equivalent of four glasses daily for a person weighing 70 kilograms (154 pounds).

The apples and grapes had about the same phenol content, while the purple grape juice had 2.5 times more phenols than apple juice. Compared with animals given water, those given fruit or fruit juice had lower cholesterol levels, less oxidative stress, and less fat accumulation in their aorta, the main vessel supplying oxygenated blood to the body.

Purple grape juice had the strongest effect, followed by purple grapes, apple juice and apples.

Source - BBC

Health: Why a spring clean is good for you

A cluttered home does not just look terrible: according to scientists, it can damage your mental health.

'No, don't come over," said my friend, "the place is a mess." Having been locked out of my flat, I needed somewhere to go, so I pleaded. "Oh, don't be silly, I'm sure it's fine."

Once inside, I literally stumbled into the largest, most alarming mess of papers, boxes and "stuff" I've ever seen in human habitation. Items were heaped down the length of the hall, leaving only a precarious line along which to walk. Piles of papers spilled from every surface. Even the bathroom was being used for storage - shower stall included.

It did at least solve the mystery of why my otherwise very sociable friend didn't receive visitors or throw parties: he couldn't. The living space was a firetrap, filled with magazines, books and the sort of unnecessary detritus that a mother would lovingly pass off as "treasures", but the rest of us would send straight to the tip. I felt sorry for him. If his home reflected his state of mind, the poor man was surely in chaos.

Hoarding, I didn't have the heart to tell him, can be fatal. Remember the 59-year-old hoarder in Washington? She was found dead in 2006 after one of the mounds of clutter and clothes that filled her home had collapsed. It took two searches by her husband to find her body. Excessive cluttering can be symptomatic of a range of psychological disorders including attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief.

A recent study conducted by David Tolin, founder of America's Anxiety Disorder Centre at Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living in Conneticut, confirms what most of us knew instinctively: clutter is not only bad for our physical health - breeding mould and bacteria - it also plays havoc with our mental health.

Source - Telegraph

Acupuncture: the lie of the needle

This weekend there was yet another piece of research trumpeting the benefits of acupuncture; in this case, needling was said to relieve hot flushes in breast cancer patients by up to 50 per cent.

The new study, unveiled at a conference in Berlin, follows similar claims that the ancient treatment can benefit those with arthritis, back pain, migraine and infertility. But is acupuncture really the miracle treatment it seems?

It appears to have become a fashionable cure-all, with 3,000 practitioners now regulated by the British Acupuncture Council. Earlier this year the highly respected British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported that acupuncture could increase IVF success rates by 65 per cent, based on analysis of seven separate trials involving 1,366 women. This research put me in an embarrassing position: I had just sent a book about alternative therapies to the printers.
Co-written with Edzard Ernst, the world's first professor of complementary medicine, we had concluded that acupuncture works only as a placebo, except possibly in the treatment of pain and nausea. In the light of the BMJ study, should we be revising our opinion?

According to Chinese philosophy, acupuncture works by interfering at particular points along channels in our bodies, known as meridians, thereby enhancing the flow of life energy, known as Ch'i. Although the concepts of Ch'i and meridians make no sense in terms of science, medical researchers have been interested in testing the claims of acupuncture ever since the 1970s.

Source - Telegraph

Hopi: a candle brought music to my ears

I've always spoken with an adenoidal twang and I liked to think it was part of my northern charm. Two weeks ago, I discovered it wasn't. It was a moment of Damascene significance in my life as, for the first time, I heard my own voice as others hear it (less shrill than I suspected), while everything else around me sounded as if someone had turned up the volume a notch or two.

"London is LOUD, isn't it," I texted a friend. God, I felt good, euphoric almost - as though my brain had been "freed up". This must be how normal people feel all the time, I thought; people whose auditory canals and sinuses are as clear and free-flowing as a mountain stream.

My own anatomy in this region had more in common with the old Leeds and Liverpool Canal - static and stagnant - until a kindly therapist stuck a burning candle in each ear, decongesting them, releasing pressure and triggering a wonderful ripple effect throughout all interconnected tubes and cavities.

Therapist Marie Coudounas was diplomatic. "There's a lot of build-up, particularly in your left ear," she said. "You may need to come again." What she meant was, "You have a disgusting amount of wax and one treatment won't shift it."

I am now addicted to what is known as thermal auricular therapy, or ear candling. Though subsequent treatments have not proved as dramatic as the first, the decongested life is a revelation, and more pleasant than knocking back Sudafed.

Source - Telegraph

Berry interesting

What's small, Scottish and packed with more antioxidants than you can shake a stick at?

No, it's not a gag. The answer is aronia berries and they're being hailed as Scotland's new super-berries.

Already causing quite a stir in the US, the berry only has one commercial source in the UK – a farm in Angus. New this month is a range of juices and smoothies full of the berries from Edinburgh juice bar, Juice Almighty.

Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants and proanthocyanidins – thought to be effective in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells – but the good news is that aronia berries contain more of these health-boosting properties than any other fruit. And if that wasn't enough, they also contain vitamins B2, B6, E, C and folic acid. Drink up!

Source - Scotsman

Are germs good for you?

Two new pieces of research suggest they may be.

Children are less likely to become sensitive to allergens if they have a dog in the home, according to German scientists, while an American study found that regular social interaction reduced children's risk of leukaemia by about 30%.

These findings seem to chime with popular perceptions of "cotton wool kids" and the belief that our increasingly sterile, urban and risk-averse society paradoxically creates new dangers for our children.

The causes of leukaemia are complex, and most childhood leukaemias begin with a genetic mutation, so the US study is far from conclusive. But there's an established hypothesis that if an immune system is not challenged early (our immune responses develop from birth to about age 12), it can increase the risk of developing allergies and illnesses.

Ken Jones, professor of immunology and allergy at the Cardiff School of Health Sciences, explains that our immune response has taken millions of years to develop, so rapid changes - notably, the proliferation of allergies - cannot be genetic.

Source - Guardian

Health scares will do you no good

The papers are full of health scares - but why do we believe contradictory and tenuous stories, while ignoring simple medical advice?

Broccoli fights cancer, says the British Journal of Cancer. This worries me because I remember vividly that once upon a time, circa 2001, broccoli was carcinogenic. Back then, it contained acetaldehyde, which was A Bad Thing Of Some Kind, and quite prominent in health stories until we forgot about it. Luckily, I don't use deodorant or incense, but phone masts, bacon and the rest of the fashionable carcinogens will probably get me if I live long enough.Or they will if the endless health scares in the press are to be believed.

But despite their repetitive, contradictory and medically tenuous nature, people pay attention to these lists of absurd things that are supposedly bad for you; they even act upon them - randomly banning bra underwiring or broccoli from their lives - while remaining resistant to constant, consistent and proven advice to eat, drink and smoke less and exercise more. Why?

Ben Goldacre, who, as well as being a doctor, writes this newspaper's Bad Science column, says the lure of the health scare story for the media lies in that fact that during the "golden age of medicine, miracle cures and sinister hidden scares really were being discovered". Now, "we move ahead by small incremental understandings of large numbers of modest risk factors, but journalists haven't found a way to write about that, so every fractional research finding has to be crowbarred into the 'miracle-cure-hidden-scare' template."

Source - Guardian

Baby-bottle chemicals 'could make children obese for life', say scientists

Chemicals found in baby bottles and other everyday products could be condemning children to a lifetime of obesity, experts have warned.

Three studies suggest that exposure early in life to "gender-bending" chemicals widely used in plastics, non-stick pans and water pipes can lead to fatness in adulthood. It is thought the chemicals alter the genes and hormones involved in maintaining a healthy weight.

Young children and unborn babies are likely to be particularly vulnerable, with just one dose potentially altering metabolism for life, the European Congress of Obesity in Geneva heard yesterday.

The chemicals include bisphenol A - found in plastic baby bottles, water bottles and tin cans - which has already been linked to breast cancer, early puberty, miscarriage and infertility.

The latest finding is likely to strengthen calls for it to be banned.

Last week, the National Childbirth Trust urged manufacturers to put warnings on baby bottles containing the oestrogen-like chemical.

Researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts implicated bisphenol A in obesity after tracking the health of mice whose mothers had been exposed to the chemical while pregnant and nursing them.

They found the babies put on more weight than other mice as they grew up, despite eating the same quantity of food and doing the same amount of exercise.

Although the research does not prove bisphenol A causes obesity in humans, the chemical is known to leach out of plastic bottles and tin cans into food and drink. Most people have some in their blood and it has also been found in breast milk, in amniotic fluid and in the umbilical cord.

Source - Daily Mail

Desk jobs could DOUBLE the risk of potentially fatal DVT, says new study

Desk jobs could double the risk of potentially dangerous blood clots in the legs or lungs, according to a new study.

It shows being desk-bound may lead to workers facing as much of a threat from DVT (deep vein thrombosis) as passengers on long haul flights. It has even been dubbed "e-thrombosis" after the long hours some workers spend in front of their computers.

The study, published yesterday in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, involved 97 patients under the age of 65 attending a hospital outpatient clinic in New Zealand. All had previously been admitted to hospital with a DVT or pulmonary embolism (PE).

DVT is caused by blood clots forming in the deep veins of the legs which if they travel to the lungs may trigger a pulmonary embolism that can cause the lungs to collapse and heart failure.
The condition is caused by blood clots forming in a vein, often as a result of immobility. If part or all of the clot breaks off and lodges in the lung 30 per cent of people will die without treatment. A DVT is a blood clot in the legs or thighs while pulmonary embolism is a highly dangerous clot in the lungs.

The risk of DVT to patients after surgery is well recognised while travel DVT is known to affect airline passengers and even those on long journeys by other forms of transport. But less well publicised is the threat posed by sedentary behaviour.

Source - Daily Mail

Breastfeeding 'may cut arthritis'

Women who breastfeed for more than a year reduce their chance of rheumatoid arthritis by half, research suggests.

Sweden's Malmo University Hospital compared 136 women with the condition to 544 without for the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases study. They found women who had breastfed for 13 months or more were half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as those who had never breastfed.
Those who breastfed for between one and 12 months had a 25% decreased risk.

The study also found that simply having children and not breastfeeding did not seem to protect the women against developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Around 400,000 people in the UK have the condition. The study notes that women have more than a two-fold higher incidence of than men.

It is known that breastfeeding is linked to raised levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which can reduce stress hormone levels, lower blood pressure and induce well-being. However, breastfeeding also raises levels of another hormone - prolactin - which is known to stimulate the immune system, and may actually raise the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

Source - BBC

Pollution 'ups blood clot risk'

Breathing in air pollution from traffic fumes can raise the risk of potentially deadly blood clots, a US study says.

Exposure to small particulates - tiny chemicals caused by burning fossil fuels - is known to increase the chances of heart disease and stroke. But the Harvard School of Public Health found it also affected development of deep vein thrombosis - blood clots in the legs - in a study of 2,000 people. Researchers said the pollution made the blood more sticky and likely to clot.

The team looked at people living in Italy - nearly 900 of whom developed DVT. Blood clots which form in the legs can travel to the lungs, where they can become lodged, triggering a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.

The risk of DVT is known to be increased by long periods of immobility. In particular, passengers on long-haul flights have been shown to be vulnerable, but so are people who spend long periods of time sitting at their office desk without exercising, or walking around. Researchers obtained pollution readings from the areas they lived and found those exposed to higher levels of small particulates in the year before diagnosis were more likely to develop blood clots.

The Archives of Internal Medicine report said for every 10 microgrammes per square metre increase in small particulates, the risk of developing a DVT went up by 70%. Air quality guidelines generally state that small particulate concentrations should not exceed 50 microgrammes.

Source - BBC

Breast vs bottle: the new battleground

Just as the Department of Health is trying to promote breastfeeding, food giant Nestlé, makers of powdered baby milk, is forging links with the Government.

Efforts to encourage more women to breastfeed are being threatened by "aggressive" lobbying directed at the Government by the baby milk manufacturing industry, campaigners warned yesterday.

The powdered milk manufacturer Nestlé has forged formal links with the Department of Health and took a ministerial aide on an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa, The Independent on Sunday has discovered.

To coincide with the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week today, the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, is under pressure to encourage mothers to give their babies breast milk beyond six months. Evidence suggests it helps curb obesity in the poorest families and prevents illness.

Children's charities also want the Government to impose an outright ban on the promotion of powdered formula milk because they claim it encourages women to stop breastfeeding too early.
A ban on advertising infant formula for babies up to six months was introduced in the UK in January. Ministers are considering whether to extend the ban to follow-on formula milk products.

An investigation by the IoS has uncovered strong ties between Nestlé, the world's largest baby milk manufacturer, and the Department of Health. Rosie Cooper, a parliamentary private secretary to the Health minister Ben Bradshaw, is undergoing a year-long Industry and Parliament Trust fellowship with Nestlé, and in February went for a week to South Africa as a guest of the group to oversee its corporate social responsibility activities.

Critics said it was "very worrying" that a member of the Government was working so closely with Nestlé, which is trying to break into the mainstream baby milk market in the UK.

Source - Independent

'Caveman diet' lowers the risk of heart disease, new research shows

Eating like a caveman could reduce the risk of heart disease, according to new research.

Just three weeks on a stone-age diet rich in lean meat, vegetables, berries and nuts was enough to lower the chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden who tested the diet on a group of volunteers found they lost weight, lowered blood pressure and slashed levels of a blood-thickening agent known to cause deadly clots.

The results, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, support earlier findings that the so-called paleolithic diet could protect against diabetes.

For centuries, our ancestors lived only on foods that could be speared or picked from trees and plants. Some scientists argue that the modern human body is still genetically programmed for this type of diet. That means no cereals, bread, milk, butter, cheese or sugar but plenty of lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts.

To test its effect, the Swedish researchers recruited 20 healthy volunteers and put them on caveman rations for three weeks.

Source - Daily Mail

From the Clash to a chiropractor ... Top complementary therapist tells why he changed his tune

I may have played drums with The Clash, Billy Idol and Black Sabbath, but I was never exactly your archetypal rock star. Granted, I loved all the music and the partying, but I was vegetarian, didn't smoke or take drugs and I stopped drinking altogether when I was 26.

Despite the temptations going on around me, I was far more interested in keeping healthy. So it came as little surprise to my bandmates when, in 1989, I told them I was quitting the music industry to become a chiropractor. Some people think my interest in chiropractic - a complementary therapy that treats disorders of the musculo-skeletal system and the effects of those disorders on the body - came from having back pain myself.

Most drummers tend to develop it from years of being hunched over a drum kit. I've never suffered from back problems - not because I sat up straight on the stool but more likely because, although I loved performing live and recording, I hated rehearsing because I found it so monotonous. Far from spending hours perfecting my technique, I would do a quick 30 minutes if I really had to, and then disappear.

As a teenager, I used to think rock bands were the highest form of life and taught myself to play the drums. I thought being in a band would be useful for getting the girls. I considered going to medical school when I was 17 and even went for an interview at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. But I found all those men in suits rather off-putting - it felt more like an interview for the Army. may have played drums with The Clash, Billy Idol and Black Sabbath, but I was never exactly your archetypal rock star.

Granted, I loved all the music and the partying, but I was vegetarian, didn't smoke or take drugs and I stopped drinking altogether when I was 26. Despite the temptations going on around me, I was far more interested in keeping healthy.

So it came as little surprise to my bandmates when, in 1989, I told them I was quitting the music industry to become a chiropractor.

Source - Daily Mail

'Change your lifestyle and cut cancer risk by one third,' say experts

A third of all cancers in the UK could be prevented by changes in diet and lifestyle.

Experts say this amounts to 95,000 people a year, more than enough to fill Wembley. Professor Martin Wiseman of the World Cancer Research Fund said: "When health charities talk about numbers, it can often be difficult to comprehend what that means. We hope that by comparing it to something easier to imagine, like the capacity of Wembley, we can show the scale of the problem."

The WCRF estimate comes amid concern that growing waistlines, coupled with binge-drinking, lack of exercise and poor diet are fuelling cancer.

Cases of womb cancer – which is twice as common in the obese – have risen by a fifth over the past decade while kidney cancer, also linked to obesity, went up by 14 per cent.

Cancer prevention advice includes staying slim, exercising at least half an hour a day and eating more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses.

The WCRF's estimate of the number of preventable cancer cases follows concern that growing waistlines, coupled with lack of exercise and binge drinking, are fuelling the disease.

Cases of mouth cancer, which is associated with smoking and drinking, have increased by almost a quarter in a decade.

The number of cases of womb cancer - which is twice as common in the obese - rose by a fifth in the same period.

Cases of kidney cancer, which is also linked to obesity, went up by 14 per cent, recent figures compiled by Cancer Research UK show.

Almost 285,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year and nearly 155,000 die.

Source - Daily Mail

The alternative therapy that saved my knee

When you've turned 60 and a knee goes, a few things become clear. You can never start talking about the wonky hinge without someone else trumping your tale of loss. Knee-capping, you could call it. Suddenly you are surrounded by experts, some of whom seem to have been struggling with this most wayward of joints since birth. They start by sympathising, which is nice, but end up knowing what is best for you, which is not. When my right knee started to go six years ago, I was 54 and had just gone up a 20,000ft mountain in Ladakh, on the borders of Tibet. More to the point, I'd just come down a 20,000ft mountain in Ladakh, twisting and hammering my legs to find footsteps in the wobbly shale. It seemed to me the diagnosis was stark: I'd torn my cartilage and run out of knee coupons.

I'd also just become a father again and started fretting about how I was going to get down on the carpet with the Lego, never mind provide a stream of inch-perfect crosses to help my son Arthur develop his heading skills. Even the lightest contact with a football sent a bolt of pain into the heart of the joint. My career was over.

Last year I heard about a new treatment, called Fenzian, and decided to give it a go. Pioneered by Eumedic, a Berkshire-based company, it involves a hand-held electronic device that is passed across the afflicted area imparting low-level electromagnetic impulses into the skin. It has been likened to a non-piercing form of acupuncture. While its use is pain-free and takes about 20 minutes a session, it claims to open a dialogue between the damaged part and the central nervous system, enabling the body to target its own healing powers more effectively.
The system is used in the US where certain studies and testimonials suggest astonishing results, particularly in sports injuries; a 27-year-old basketball player who could no longer walk because of chronic foot pain gets eight sessions of Fenzian and is on his feet again; a woman with neuralgia so bad it has resisted all conventional forms of medical attention takes four treatments from the machine and is pain-free in a week.

Source - Times

Is our zeal for cleanliness making us ill?

It is hard to know if the rash of headlines about allergy epidemics is real or hype. Over the past few weeks, anyone reading a variety of quality newspapers would have found themselves thoroughly perplexed.

Last week our news pages quoted a study from the National Research Centre for Environmental Health in Munich saying that children lessen their risk of being sensitive to allergens if they grow up with a dog. Professor Joachim Heinrich and colleagues found that children raised with a dog had fewer allergy markers, such as antibodies to pollen, house-dust mites, cat and dog dander and mould spores. He told the European Respiratory Journal that a dog's presence in early childhood encourages the immune system to develop less sensitivity to allergies such as asthma, eczema and hay fever.

But earlier reports from researchers at Portsmouth University claimed that the incidence of food hypersensitivity - which embraces allergy and intolerance - has not changed in the past 20 years. And they added that parents were too quick to put their children's gripes down to food allergies; people are worrying unduly.

On the letters page of The Times, however, a group of allergists and scientists claimed that we are “in the midst of an allergy epidemic, with about 20 million children and adult allergy sufferers in the UK”.

So what is the truth? There is an idea called the “Hygiene Theory”, or “Hygiene Hypothesis”, which considers whether modern life has become too clean; that in our increasingly sanitised, antibacterial and deodorised age, children's immune systems are not exposed to enough germs to develop normally. According to the market research firm Mintel, Britons spent £612 million on bathing products in 2005; in 2011, the estimated figure will be £709 million.

We have certainly declared war on germs, but has it come at a price? The incidence of certain illnesses - asthma, eczema and respiratory allergy and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis - has soared. Britain now tops the asthma league in Europe. Scientists are still searching for a reason. One clue is that these illnesses afflict only the developed world; they are rare or non-existent in poorer, dirtier countries (where, admittedly, more harmful diseases such as cholera and typhoid are prevalent).

Source - Times

Heal, boy: How pets can keep you healthy

As she makes her way through the hospital wards, Billie-Jean keeps up an impressive pace. She has to if she is going to see all the patients who are waiting for her. Wearing her official uniform, she looks neat and trim, and despite how busy she is, she always has time to stop if someone wants to say hello or slip her a Bonio. You see, Billie-Jean isn't a ward sister doing the rounds or a doctor bringing vital medicine, she's an Irish terrier. But despite the fact she's a canine, not human, carer, her medical value is second-to-none because she is a Pets As Therapy dog.

Pets As Therapy is a charity that takes pet dogs and cats to hospitals, hospices, residential care homes, day centres and special-needs schools. It was formed in 1983, explains chief executive Maureen Hennis, by a group of pet owners who were convinced that their animals could help other people. "At that time, people were moving into residential accommodation and nursing homes, and they had to give up their own pets," she says. "This wasn't only making them sad and depressed, sometimes it was actually making them ill."

The importance of regular contact with domestic animals has been highlighted by recent research conducted by the University of Minnesota. According to the study, having a cat around the house can cut the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke by almost half. After studying nearly 4,500 adults aged between 30 and 75 for 10 years, it was found that cat owners had a 40 per cent lower risk of suffering a fatal heart attack.

"For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks," says Dr Adnan Qureshi, executive director of the Minnesota Stroke Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. According to Qureshi, the research shows that "essentially there is a benefit in relieving those inciting factors from pets". And in a study published last year, Dr Deborah Wells of Queen's University Belfast found that dog owners tend to suffer less from ill health, have lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.

"It is possible that dogs can directly promote our well-being by buffering us from stress," says Dr Wells.

Source - Independent

Why flat-screen TVs are dangerous but frozen peas are a cooling treat

You may never think about this but the neck is highly complex and is one of the body's most important structures.

It is also prone to injury as a result - not surprising given the average human head weighs about 12lb and constitutes around eight per cent of your whole body mass. The neck comprises seven bony vertebrae that sit in concave-shaped and cushioned intervertebral discs. It is one of the most common sites in the body for stress to accumulate. And unfortunately, up to 70 per cent of us will suffer neck pain at some point in our lives - there are a number of potential causes from, simply, poor posture to the more debilitating whiplash.

One of the most common reasons for neck pain is repetitive strain from prolonged sitting where the head is held in a fixed position. I have recently seen a massive surge in patients - young and old - with quite acute neck pain, which isn't necessarily physical in origin.

Neck tension can reflect underlying stress factors caused by today's pressurised lifestyles. And while the neck is a highly erogenous zone, sadly, not all neck pain can be kissed better. The key to effective treatment for neck pain is to be able to isolate which structures are involved in the pain and whether there are any other contributing factors.

It's important to understand how the neck works - it's pretty simple in that it moves in only six directions.
It flexes (bends forward), extends (bends backward), side bends and rotates - left and right.

Source - Daily Mail

Will using hair really raise your risk of leukaemia?

Should we stop dyeing our hair?

That's the question millions of people asked themselves last week after a new study found that using hair dye more than nine times a year increased the risk of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (a form of cancer of the blood cells) by 60 per cent.

The study also found that women who regularly used dyes before the Eighties were at even greater risk because older products contained toxic ingredients not found in today's hair products.

Women who used dark hair dyes were 50 per cent more likely to develop another type of blood cancer - follicular lymphoma. (Colours such as black, brown and red are thought to be more risky because it takes more chemicals to make the darker shades).

So, is the price of our vanity too high? Hair colouring is hugely popular. In the UK, more than 60 per cent of women and around ten per cent of men colour their hair at some point in their lifetime - either at home or in a salon - according to the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association.

Last year, we bought 56 million packs of home hair dye and there were 60 million colouring treatments done in salons. Most people dye their hair between six and eight times a year.

Permanent hair dyes - which don't wash out but leave you with 'regrowth' marks - account for around 80 per cent of the market. The remaining 20 per cent of the market includes non-permanent dyes, such as tints and wash-out colour.

Unlike permanent dyes, which penetrate the hair shaft, non-permanent ones just coat the hair and gradually fade away.

Recently, there were concerns that the widespread use of hair dye - and its consequent presence in the water supply - had increased the risk of bladder cancer in the general population. In a four-year study funded by the EU, scientists at Queen's University in Belfast discovered last year that dangerous elements in the dyes aren't effectively neutralised by water treatment plants - meaning everyone is effectively at risk.

Source - Daily Mail

Revealed: The fascinating facts (and common myths) about our brains

Does a bigger brain make you more intelligent?

Do blind people really hear better than sighted people? And why can't you get that irritating tune out of your head?

There are many myths about our brains — and as many amazing facts, as revealed in a fascinating new book by SANDRA AAMODT and SAM WANG, two leading neuroscientists.
Here, they explain some of the most surprising secrets of our grey matter...

FACT: You can't tickle yourself
When a doctor examines a ticklish patient, they place one of the patient's hands over their own to prevent the tickling sensation.

Why does this work? Because no matter how ticklish you may be, you can't tickle yourself. This is because your brain focuses on what's going on in the outside world — to prevent important signals from being drowned out in the endless buzz of sensations caused by your own actions.

For instance, this means you're unlikely to notice the texture of your socks, but you would feel a tap on the shoulder. The patient doesn't feel the tickling because his brain thinks it's his own hand doing the action.

FACT: Looking at a photograph is harder than playing chess.

Source - Daily Mail

Hooray! Wine CAN be good for are you drinking the right stuff?

One of the more cheering health messages that's emerged over the past ten years is that drinking wine in moderation can be good for your health.

Research has found that red wine in particular can lower the risk of heart disease, provide protection against stroke, prevent pancreatic cancer and even stave off potentially-fatal food poisoning bugs such as e.coli, salmonella and listeria. Yet most of us believe that the health benefits extend to all wine - including white and rosÈ - while others simply assume if it's red, then it must be good.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case, says Professor Roger Corder who conducts research into heart disease at Barts and The London School Of Medicine And Dentistry and is the author of The Wine Diet.

In fact, he says, drink the wrong kind of wine and you could simply be dangerously increasing your alcohol intake - with implications not only for your weight but long term for your liver, and no health benefits.

So which wines are the healthiest? Here, with Prof Corder's help, we identify the ones that are good for you - and how much you should be drinking.

Source - Daily Mail

Tree-lined streets 'cut asthma'

Children who live in tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma, a New York-based study suggests.

Columbia University researchers found that asthma rates among children aged four and five fell by 25% for every extra 343 trees per square kilometre. They believe more trees may aid air quality or simply encourage children to play outside, although they say the true reason for the finding is unclear. The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

US rates of childhood asthma soared 50% between 1980 and 2000, with particularly high rates in poor, urban communities. In New York City, asthma is the leading cause of admission to hospital among children under 15.

The researchers found the city had an average of 613 street trees per square kilometre, and 9% of young children had asthma. The link between numbers of trees and asthma cases held true even after taking into account sources of pollution, levels of affluence and population density, the researchers said.

However, once these factors were taken into account, the number of trees in a street did not appear to have any impact on the number of children whose asthma was so severe that they required hospital treatment.

Source - BBC