Breakthroughs, tips and trends: October 25th

( I've chosen my favourite three! - there are others: follow the link)

Everything you need to know about the latest research, the newest discoveries and the strangest science

Healed by eel
ELECTRIC eels could offer a new way to power medical implants, say American scientists who have found how to build a body battery based on a blueprint of the creature's shocking secret.

Researchers based at Yale University say that they have created a natural cell that copies and improves on the original: it can generate 28 per cent more electricity than the eel's electrocyte battery. And it is nearly a third more efficient at converting chemical energy (derived from the eel's food) into electricity.

David LaVan, one of the team, says that four of the cells would be sufficient to power a medical device. The natural, non-toxic battery would be less than 1cm thick, and may use glucose from a patient's blood as fuel.

Stronger swan
WANT to get super-fit? Taking to your toes and learning ballet will get you far more toned than swimming at the highest competitive levels, according to a study by Hertfordshire University.

The report compared members of the Royal Ballet with a squad of British national and international swimmers, including members of the Olympic squad.

The dancers scored higher than the swimmers in seven out of ten crucial areas of fitness, including strength, endurance, psychological state, flexibility and balance. The ballet dancers were predictably better in the balance tests, but they also scored 25 per cent stronger when tested for grip strength, says Professor Tim Watson, who revealed the results at Hertfordshire University's Health and Human Sciences Research Institute Showcase this week.

Beer therapy
BEER drinkers could get many of the health benefits that wine sippers enjoy, thanks to genetic-engineering students at Rice University, Texas.

They are adding genes to brewer's yeast, so that during the brewing process the fungi should produce resveratrol, the chemical in wine that has been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease in lab tests.

The “BioBeer” is an entrant in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Prize in Massachusetts next month. A few problems need to be ironed before the beer is delicious as well as healthy - it contains some unappetising chemical additives. But that doesn't bother the student team: most aren't legally old enough to drink in America.

Source - Times

Are nuts safe for children to eat?

When and how should you introduce nuts into your child's diet is a question that mums frequently ask me. Here is a quick guide to current guidelines

What is a nut allergy?
Food allergies involve our bodies being flooded by the substance histamine (plus other inflammatory chemicals) in response to proteins we have eaten. Nut proteins are a common cause of allergy and can occur at any age but appear to be increasingly common among infants and young children up to the age of 3. Once a child has a nut allergy it is unlikely that they will grow out of it. Children may be encountering nuts from an earlier age in cakes and biscuits and via breast milk , and this could be causing “sensitisation”. Why take nut allergies seriously?
Symptoms are often fairly mild and include tingling of the mouth and lips, facial swelling, nausea and tightness of the throat. However, in some cases, even a tiny amount of nut can trigger severe swelling of airways and obstruct breathing, with a sudden drop in blood pressure, followed by collapse and unconsciousness.

When are nuts safe?
No child under 5 should be given whole nuts because of the risk of choking. This point aside, if a close member of your family has any allergy or asthma, or gets hay fever (collectively known as atopy), foods containing nuts should be avoided until your child is 3, as this may have a protective effect. Once he or she reaches 3, nuts can be introduced in a controlled way and the child observed for reactions. Introduce them via peanut butter, ground up in stews and casseroles, or in satay sauces. Children who don't have atopic family members on the mother or father's side can have nuts from weaning.

Source - Times

Do five simple things a day to stay sane, say scientists

Simple activities such as gardening or mending a bicycle can protect mental health and help people to lead more fulfilled and productive lives, a panel of scientists has found.

A “five-a-day” programme of social and personal activities can improve mental wellbeing, much as eating fruit and vegetables enhances physical health, according to Foresight, the government think-tank.

Its Mental Capital and Wellbeing report, which was compiled by more than 400 scientists, proposes a campaign modelled on the nutrition initiative, to encourage behaviour that will make people feel better about themselves.

People should try to connect with others, to be active, to take notice of their surroundings, to keep learning and to give to their neighbours and communities, the document says.

Its advice to “take notice” includes suggestions such as “catch sight of the beautiful” and “savour the moment, whether walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends”. Examples of learning include mending a bike or trying to play a musical instrument.

“A big question in mental wellbeing is what individuals can do,” Felicia Huppert, Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, who led part of the project, said. “We found there are five categories of things that can make a profound difference to people’s wellbeing. Each has evidence behind it.”

These actions are so simple that everyone should aim to do them daily, she said, just as they are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables.

Source - Times

Want a long life? The secret is working hard and being conscientious, study finds

All work and no play might make Jack a dull boy - but it will help him live longer.

For the secret to a long life is to be conscientious, scientists claimed yesterday. Diligent, industrious and emotionally stable people live up to four years longer than those who are slapdash and complacent, according to their report.

Co-author Margaret Kern told New Scientist magazine: 'These individuals are hardworking, resourceful, confident and ambitious.'

The findings add to growing evidence that links our health with our temperament.

Dr Howard Friedman, of the University of California, Riverside, led the study into the personality and lifespan of 8,900 people. He said: 'Highly conscientious people live on average two to four years longer. There is evidence for several sorts of reasons. Conscientious folks are less likely to smoke, drink to excess or take too many risk. But it is also true that conscientious folks lead life patterns that are more stable and less stressful. '

'Finally, there is evidence that biological factors are relevant, affecting both personality and health.'

Dr Friedman pooled the results of 20 studies comparing length of life with a standard psychological test before publishing the findings in the journal Health Psychology.

People who were the least conscientious were 50 per cent more likely to die at any given age than those who scored highly.

Source - Daily Mail

Brain is fastest at 39... but it's all downhill from there

Life does not begin at 40 - it just slows down a lot.

According to the latest research, our brain is fastest at 39 and afterwards declines 'at an accelerating rate.'The slowdown occurs because of the loss of a fatty sheath which coats the nerve cells, called neurons, during middle age, experts say.

The coating acts as insulation, similar to the plastic covering on an electrical cable, and allows for fast bursts of signals around the body and brain. When the sheath deteriorates, signals passing along the neurons in the brain slow down. This means reaction times in the body are slower too.

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, say that after 40 the body 'loses the battle' to repair the protective sheaths.

Source - Daily Mail

The secret to happiness? Having at least 10 good friends

In love, two is company and three's a crowd. But in friendship, ten is the magic number.

Being able to count at least ten people as friends makes us happy, researchers say. But those with five or fewer are likely to be miserable with their lot, they claim.

Their study of hundreds of men and women also found that contented sorts tend to have lots of close friends and regularly make new ones. While it is not clear whether our friends make us happy or we make friends because we are happy, the researchers say it is clear we should nourish our friendships.

Psychologist Richard Tunney said: 'Whatever the reason, actively working on friendships in the same way as to maintain a marriage is a prerequisite to happiness.' Dr Tunney, of Nottingham University, quizzed more than 1,700 people about their satisfaction with their lives and the state of their friendships.

Those with five friends or fewer had just a 40 per cent chance of being happy. In other words, they were more likely to be unhappy than happy. Ten was the first number at which people were more likely to be happy than unhappy.

Happiest of the lot were those with dozens of friends, according to the study, which was carried out for the National Lottery. For women, this meant having 33 friends; for men, the figure was 49.

Source - Daily Mail

Almonds ... you'd be nuts not to eat them

Despite its high fat and calorie content, the almond is starting to emerge as one of nature's so-called 'superfoods'.

'Most of the fats in almonds are monounsaturated. It has been shown this can lower cholesterol and so reduce the risk of heart disease,' explains Dr Joanne Lunn, of the British Nutrition Foundation.

According to the University of Toronto, almonds help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and atherosclerosis - the narrowing of the arteries due to a build-up of fatty deposits - as much as a statin drug.

A 15g (1/2oz) handful of almonds contains 92 calories, but can also provide 50 per cent of our daily intake of Vitamin B6, essential to maintain our nervous and immune systems. The handful also provides nearly three-quarters of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin E, important for maintaining a healthy heart.

'According to a study by King's College in London, it seems that their fibre structure may help block absorption of fat and carbohydrates and improve satiety - which could help prevent weight gain and stave off the onset of diseases such as type 2 diabetes,' explains nutritionist Fiona Kirk, who says almonds can aid weight loss despite their high calorie content.

Source - Daily Mail

Pensioners should walk to cheer themselves up, say Government advisers

Pensioners should be prescribed long walks to make them feel happier, Government advisers said yesterday.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) wants GPs to persuade the elderly to enrol on local walking schemes.

Over-65s could also be sent on dance classes and swimming sessions to make them fitter as well as less depressed. The guidelines are being brought in to address the fact that, despite older people being better off than 50 years ago, they are unhappier.

The decline of family networks means that many feel isolated, and increasing life expectancy means more are living with illnesses.

The new guidance says GPs should be able to offer a range of walking schemes of low to moderate intensity with a choice of routes to suit different abilities. The walks should be led by people trained in first aid and should take place at least three times a week. Doctors should also advise pensioners how to exercise safely for 30 minutes a day, in ten-minute bursts, on at least five days a week.

Source - Daily Mail

The eye disease drug that gives you longer lashes

A drug that combats a debilitating eye disease could see mascara consigned to the dustbin after tests found it also doubles eyelash growth.

So convincing are the side-effects of Glaucoma treatment Lumigan that its maker plans to apply for a cosmetic licence in the U.S. It means sales in Britain could start as early as next year - allowing Allergan to compete for a share of the £2billion spent on mascara each year worldwide.

Interest in the cosmetic potential of Lumigan was sparked by the observation that the lashes of many patients being treated for glaucoma grew more quickly than expected. The effect was most obvious in those being treated in one eye, with the lashes becoming noticeably thicker, longer and darker.

In a trial at Miami University, the drug, also known as bimatoprost, was mixed with a gel. Those taking part were given two gels, one containing bimatoprost and the other a dummy drug, and told to regularly apply one to each eye.

The eyelashes treated with bimatoprost grew around 2mm in six weeks - twice as quickly as those coated with the dummy solution.

How to wake up to the sun without being late for work

The turning back of the clocks tonight marks the descent into winter, bringing with it shorter days, darker evenings, and a condition that a rapidly increasing number of people now dread all year: seasonal affective disorder – SAD.

Figures reveal that up to four million people in the UK may now be affected by SAD – up from 500,000 a decade ago. That, even with a recession descending, has sparked a spending boom among those desperate to find a way to lift the gloom.

Light boxes and timed devices that mimic the effects of sunrise are selling fast, while increasing numbers are signing up for recommended exercise classes. Some are even turning to more dramatic means.

Prescriptions of antidepressants have tripled since the early Nineties, and it is thought many of those turning to them believe their condition is driven – or at least made worse – by seasonal factors.

This month the Government announced a £173m programme to improve access to mental health clinics. Meanwhile, the number of doctors prescribing exercise to cure depression has risen four-fold since 2005. "GPs are noticing many more people coming in with symptoms related to SAD," said Sarah Jarvis, a family doctor. "Partly that's because we're more aware of it, partly there's less stigma attached to it, and partly more people are getting it."

Source - Independent

Speed of eating 'key to obesity'

Wolfing down meals may be enough to nearly double a person's risk of being overweight, Japanese research suggests.

Osaka University scientists looked at the eating habits of 3,000 people and reported their findings in the British Medical Journal.

Problems in signalling systems which tell the body when to stop eating may be partly responsible, said a UK nutrition expert. He said deliberately slowing down at mealtimes might impact on weight. The latest study looked at the relationship between eating speed, feelings of "fullness" and being overweight.

Just under half of the 3,000 volunteers told researchers they tended to eat quickly. Compared with those who did not eat quickly, fast-eating men were 84% more likely to be overweight, and women were just over twice as likely.

Those, who, in addition to wolfing down their meals, tended to eat until they felt full, were more than three times more likely to be overweight.

Source - BBC

'Fart gas' link to blood pressure

The gas best known for being used in many stink bombs may also control blood pressure, say US researchers.

Small amounts of hydrogen sulphide - a toxic gas generated by bacteria living in the human gut - are responsible for the foul odour of flatulence. But it seems the gas is also produced by an enzyme in blood vessels where it relaxes them and lowers blood pressure. The findings in mice may lead to new treatments for high blood pressure, the Science journal reported.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, found that the gas is produced in the cells lining blood vessels by an enzyme called CSE. In mice engineered to be deficient in this enzyme, levels of hydrogen sulphide were almost depleted compared with levels in normal mice.
The CSE-deficient mice also had blood pressure measurements about 20% higher than the normal mice, comparable to serious hypertension in humans.

When the engineered mice were given a drug which relaxes normal blood vessels - methacholine - there was no difference, indicating the gas is responsible for the relaxation.

Source - BBC

Purple tomato 'may boost health'

Scientists have developed purple tomatoes which they hope may be able to keep cancer at bay.

The fruit are rich in an antioxidant pigment called anthocyanin which is thought to have anti-cancer properties. A team from the John Innes Centre, Norwich, created the tomatoes by incorporating genes from the snapdragon flower, which is high in anthocyanin.

The study, published in Nature Biotechnology, found mice who ate the tomatoes lived longer. Anthocyanins, found in particularly high levels in berries such as blackberry, cranberry and chokeberry, have been shown to help significantly slow the growth of colon cancer cells. They are also thought to offer protection against cardiovascular disease and age-related degenerative diseases. There is also evidence that the pigments have anti-inflammatory properties, help boost eyesight, and may help stave off obesity and diabetes.

The John Innes team is investigating ways to increase the levels of health-promoting compounds in more commonly eaten fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes already contain high levels of beneficial antioxidant compounds, such as lycopene and flavonoids.

Source - BBC

What you eat 'could raise your risk of Alzheimer's' as discovery paves way for treatment

Eating the wrong diet could increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's, a study claims.

Scientists have found a link between the degenerative brain disease and raised levels of an omega-6 fatty acid found in red meat, poultry, cereals, eggs, nuts and most vegetable oils. The discovery may open the door to a way of treating dementia with drugs.

Researchers compared the brains of mice bred with a condition that mimics Alzheimer's to those of normal mice. They found higher levels of a fatty acid called arachidonic acid in mice with memory loss and confused behaviour. The mice also had more metabolites, the by-product of arachidonic acid that has been broken down. The acid is essential for a healthy brain, where it is incorporated into fats that form the membranes that protect brain cells.

Study leader Dr Rene Sanches-Mejia, of the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Diseases in San Francisco, said: 'The most striking change was an increase in arachidonic acid and metabolites in the hippocampus, a memory centre affected severely by Alzheimer's.'

By altering the genetic make-up of the Alzheimer's mice, the scientists lowered the levels of the fatty acid and improved the mice's memory, the team report today in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The researchers believe that the substance interferes with the brain's nerve cells, or neurons.

Source - Daily Mail

Revealed: The 20 'functional foods' you should be eating for a long and active life

They are the foods you need for a long and active life - and it will not be much of a surprise that most are fruit and vegetables. But there are still some everyday pleasures, such as tea, coffee and chocolate, on a list of the foodstuffs which could help you live to a ripe old age.

The 20 types of food and drink have been identified by Gary Williamson, professor of 'functional foods' at Leeds University, and he recommends that we should all make them part of our diets. He has coined the phrase ' lifespanessential' to describe the key foodstuffs, all of which contain chemicals called polyphenols. The chemicals are produced by plants and are known for their antioxidant properties, helping prevent cancer and heart disease.

On his list, alongside such familiar 'superfoods' as broccoli, blueberries and spinach, are black or green tea, dark chocolate and coffee.

Some processed versions are also allowable - along with whole oranges, freshly-squeezed orange juice retains many of the same health benefits. The same also applies to red grapes and red wine, meaning a little luxury is compatible with living for as long as possible.

Source - Daily Mail

Magnetic field 'aids coma victim'

A US patient left in a coma-like state after a road accident recovered the ability to speak after repeated exposure to a magnetic field.

Josh Villa had not been expected to recover from massive head injuries.

When "transcranial magnetic stimulation" was aimed at his brain, he could speak simple words, and respond to commands, New Scientist reports. The Chicago-based scientists now plan further research to see if therapy works in other patients. It is hard for doctors to predict the extent to which brain-damaged patients will recover after falling into a coma, or a "persistent vegetative state".

Josh Villa was 26 when he was thrown through the windscreen of his car, and, almost a year later, he was able to open his eyes, but was unresponsive to any kind of external stimulus. Dr Theresa Pape, from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, enrolled him in a six-week study in which an electromagnetic coil was held over the front of his head. The idea is to stimulate activity in brain cells, in this case, the cells of the "dorsolateral cortex", a part of the brain which sends stimulating messages to other parts of the brain.

After approximately 15 sessions, he would turn his head and look at the person talking to him. Then he started obeying simple commands, such as following the movement of a thumb and finger when asked, and could produce single words, such as "help" or "erm". After 30 sessions there was no further improvement, and he was sent home to be cared for by his mother. She says that the treatment has made it far easier to look after him.

Dr Pape is now hoping to begin a similar treatment programme in a second patient in a coma-like state.

Source - BBC

Mind power moves paralysed limbs

Scientists have shown it is possible to harness brain signals and redirect them to make paralysed limbs move.

The technology bypasses injuries that stop nerve signals travelling from the brain to the muscles, offering hope for people with spinal damage. So far the US team from the University of Washington have only tested their "brain-machine interfaces" in monkeys. The hope is to develop implantable circuits for humans without the need for robotic limbs, Nature reports.

Wired up
Spinal cord injuries impair the nerve pathways between the brain and the limbs but spare both the limb muscles and the part of the brain that controls movement - the motor cortex. Recent studies have shown that quadriplegic patients - people who have paralysis in all four limbs - can consciously control the activity of nerve cells or neurons in the motor cortex that command hand movements, even after several years of paralysis.

Using a gadget called a brain-machine interface, Dr Chet Moritz and colleagues re-routed motor cortex control signals from the brains of temporarily paralysed monkeys directly to their arm muscles.

The gadget, which is the size of a mobile phone, interprets the brain signals and converts them into electrical impulses that can then stimulate muscle to contract. By wiring up artificial pathways for the signals to pass down, muscles that lacked natural stimulation after paralysis with a local anaesthetic regained a flow of electrical signals from the brain.

Source - BBC

Pectin Power

Jelly and jam could help prevent the spread of cancer, according to new research.

They both contain a gelling ingredient that is believed to block a key cancer progression pathway in the body.

Pectin, a natural fibre product found in fruits and vegetables, is widely used in food processing.

New research carried out at the Institute of Food Research, has shown that under the right conditions it releases a molecular fragment with anti-cancer properties.

Source: ITN News

Mediterranean diet 'halves' risk of skin cancer

Regular intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts and fish may protect against malignant melanoma.

Although exposure to the sun's rays is still the biggest cause of this type of skin cancer, the latest study suggests poor diet could also be a factor. Recent studies have shown Mediterranean foods can protect against other forms of cancer, as well as heart disease, asthma and diabetes. But this is believed to be the first time scientists have found a benefit in terms of melanoma, an often lethal cancer that strikes more than 9,000 people a year in the UK and kills around 1,700 annually.

The findings, by a team of researchers at a skin disease hospital in Rome called the Dermopathic Institute of the Immaculate, could explain why skin cancer rates are so much lower in Mediterranean populations than those in northern Europe, the US and Australia. Only around three in every 100,000 people living in Mediterranean countries develop malignant melanoma, compared with up to 22 per 100,000 in Scandinavia and 50 per 100,000 in Australia.

The latest research, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, concludes that eating foods like oranges, lemons, carrots, spinach, nuts, oily fish, fresh rosemary and olive oil could significantly reduce the chances of the disease.

But the study did have some good news for tea-loving Brits. The nation's favourite hot beverage was also found to halve cancer risk, while other drinks, including coffee and wine, appeared to offer no benefit.

Malignant melanomas develop when cells within moles become cancerous and start to divide uncontrollably, eventually spreading through the body. Some evidence suggests even a few early bouts of sunburn in childhood can be enough to trigger the cellular changes in moles that lead to skin cancer later in life.

Source - Telegraph

Reset your body clock this autumn

When British Summer Time ends later this month, seize the chance to cure bad bedtime habits.

Autumn is the season for regaining your balance, however, your sleep patterns may be thrown by the clock change on October 26. One in five of us sleeps poorly, grabbing a few hours each night but waking early, unrefreshed, irritable and tired before the day even begins. Experts have coined a term to describe this unsatisfactory state – “junk sleep”.

Like junk food, junk sleep mimics the real thing but doesn’t supply long-lasting sustenance. According to a recent survey, 46 per cent of people said they got six hours or less each night, while 20 per cent survived on less than five. Seven and a half hours is seen by experts as the minimum, and the latest research is nudging towards nine hours a night as the optimum.

Without enough good-quality sleep, it’s impossible for us to be productive at work, or stay on an emotional even-keel. Sleeplessness might even be making us fat, as doctors report that those who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to be overweight. What is certain is that without sleep we age faster. One study found that when sleep was restricted to four to six hours, there were changes in hormone function which mimicked those that come with ageing.

But we’re not born with good sleeping habits. Babies have to be taught to go to sleep, and it is a lesson that some of us need to keep learning throughout our lives. This bedtime ritual, developed by experts at Champneys health resorts, may help. Follow it religiously for a week.

Source - Telegraph

Fighting chronic back pain

Back pain affects seven in ten people at some time in their lives. But there is plenty you can do to stop aches and twinges.

Chronic back pain is said to cause more disability and days off work than any other health condition. For many, the problems are caused simply by too much time sitting down, which leads to a stiffened and immobile spine.

According to the exercise physiologist Michael Bracko, a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine, a strong, healthy back can be achieved through a routine of regular exercises that work not only the muscles supporting the spine but also the abdominal and oblique muscles that wrap around the trunk like a corset.

Bracko recommends the following exercises, with the office versions performed every day at your desk and the advanced moves done every other day (work up to these if you are a beginner to exercise). Do 10-15 repetitions and try to hold each position for a count of 15.

Source - Times

How to tackle Crohn's Disease without the help of drugs

When John Maffioli first fell ill at 19, he put it down to the excesses of his life as a university student. But after six months of acute stomach cramps he had lost almost two stone and was suffering extreme fatigue.

He was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, where the body's immune system attacks the digestive tract, causing damage and inflammation. And he feared the debilitating gut condition would mean a lifetime of medication and even surgery, with an increased risk of cancer. Remarkably, eight years after his diagnosis, John, who is one of 60,000 Crohn's sufferers in the UK, is free of symptoms - yet has never had a single drug treatment. He has run the New York Marathon, regularly plays club rugby, and achieved this medical breakthrough thanks to a simple diet.

John, a 28-year-old accountant, is one of about 1,000 patients who have taken part in a continuing medical trial at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

Source - Daily Mail

Your MP3 player could make you deaf in five years, warn scientists

Music lovers who listen to their MP3 players at high volumes risk permanent hearing loss in just five years, scientists warned today.

Up to 10million people could be at risk, said the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). The quality of music reproduction on the personal stereos is now so good that more people are turning up the volume. A report from SCENIHR estimated that five to 10 per cent of personal music player users risk permanent deafness if they listen for more than an hour a day at high volume settings for at least five years.

And if that sounds like a low risk, European Commission officials pointed to the rising numbers of people who plug themselves into loud music every day just for journeys to and from school or work. Add up the hours and the decibels, they said, and the number in the EU risking some permanent hearing loss is put at between 2.5 and 10million people.

An EU safety standard already exists restricting the noise level of personal music players to 100 decibels, but the scientists said the danger level is long-term exposure to music pumped into the ears above 89 decibels. At that level, users of personal music players are exposed to higher noise levels than currently allowed in factories after just five hours listening.

Source - Daily Mail

Common fibre a 'true superfood'

A fibre found in most fruit and vegetables may help ward off cancer, experts believe.

An ongoing study by the Institute of Food Research suggested pectin, a fibre found in everything from potato to plums, helped to fight the disease. Lead researcher Professor Vic Morris said the likely effect of the fibre meant there was no need for people to rely on so-called superfoods. Foods such as blueberries and spinach have been linked to a host of benefits.

But Professor Morris said it was probably better to eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables. He has been leading research on pectin with lab work using hi-tech microscopes suggesting the fibre inhibits a cancer-causing protein called Gal3.

He is still carrying out more research into this area, but said there was enough evidence to point to cancer-protecting properties in many types of fruit and vegetables. The amount of pectin in fruit and vegetables varies with apples and oranges having particularly high amounts and strawberries and grapes low.

But Professor Morris said: "We hear so much about 'superfoods' like blueberries, but for a combination of different effects it may be better to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.
"I am not saying don't eat superfoods, but just make sure you eat others as well."

Source - BBC

Kitchen honey better at healing burns than standard NHS treatments, say scientists

Treating a burn with honey from the kitchen cupboard may promote faster healing than a surgical dressing.

Honey has been found to be better at aiding burn recovery than standard treatments used by the NHS, a study claims.

Scientists pooled data from 19 trials involving more than 2,500 patients with a range of wounds.
They found that honey was better at reducing the time it takes to recover from mild to moderate burns than some widely used gauze and film dressings. 'We're treating these results with caution, but it looks like honey can help speed up healing in some burns,' said chief researcher Dr Andrew Jull, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

How honey works is unclear, but it appears to fight infection and help the body remove dead tissue. The findings were published by the Cochrane Library, which provides systematic reviews of research studies.

Source - Daily Mail

Snacking on nuts or avocado helps curb appetite with their healthy oils, finds study

A fat found in olive oil, nuts and avocados could help naturally curb weight gain.

Scientists found the 'anti-snacking' fat known as oleic acid triggers a reaction in the body that staves off hunger pangs. It activates a brain area that increases the feeling of satiety, sending out the message: 'I feel full.' The discovery that it regulates food consumption and prolongs the time between meals could lead to the development of a new generation of anti-obesity drugs.

It could also be among the reasons why a Mediterranean diet which contains high levels of unsaturated fat found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and food such as avocados is so good for us. The research was carried out by U.S. scientists and published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Source - Daily Mail

Talking to old people like children cuts eight years off their lives, says Yale study

Calling elderly people 'sweetie' or 'dear' could have a detrimental effect on their health, a report has warned.

A study by Yale University in the U.S. warned of the dangers of what it calls 'elderspeak' - patronising language used by the young.

The researchers pointed to words which paint the elderly as similar to small children - such as 'sweetie' and 'dear'. They also criticised the habit of speaking needlessly slowly and loudly. The scientists said that such behaviour can be distressing and can even affect health. They said that the worst offenders are often healthcare workers who think they are being kind.

The research also revealed that many older patients are annoyed by doctors who address their children rather than them. They are also infuriated by people who automatically assume they do not know how to use computers, mobile phones, or other modern gadgets. The report's author, psychologist Professor Becca Levy, said: 'Those little insults can lead to more negative images of ageing."

Source - Daily Mail

More than 25% of takeaway curries are laced with illegal quantities of dangerous food colouring

The prospect of a takeaway curry can brighten up a quiet night in.

But the vivid yellows and reds of some of the nation's favourite dishes could be bad for our health. More than one in four takeaway curries is laced with illegal and potentially harmful levels of laboratory-created chemicals, a survey found.Experts identified large amounts of artificial colourings such as tartrazine, ponceau 4R and sunset yellow in a random test of curry house dishes.

The chemicals are subject to legal limits because they are linked to allergic reactions such as rashes and breathing difficulties.

More recently, a study by experts at the University of Southampton linked such chemical cocktails to hyperactive behaviour in children. As a result, the Food Standards Agency wants manufacturers to remove the artificial colours from their products by the end of next year.

Source - Daily Mail

'St John's Wort plant as effective as Prozac for treating depression', say scientists

It has long been a happy alternative for those reluctant to pop pills for depression. But the herbal extract St John's Wort now has more than just cheerful converts to testify to its mood-lifting powers.

In what is billed as the most thorough study of the plant, scientists have found it is just as effective as Prozac at treating depression. It also had fewer side effects than many standard drugs used to help those battling despair.

Researchers compared the effects of the plant hypericum perforatum - popularly known as St John's Wort - with placebos or a wide range of old and new anti-depressants, including those from the new generation of SSRI drugs, such as Prozac and Seroxat. The findings could prompt more GPs to prescribe St John's Wort. In Germany, it is commonly given to children and teenagers.

Experts do not know exactly how the plant lifts depression, although most believe it probably works by keeping the chemical serotonin, which is linked to positive moods, in the brain for longer.

The study's lead author, Dr Klaus Linde, from the Centre for Complementary Medicine in Munich, pooled data from 29 studies involving 5,489 patients with mild to moderately severe depression.

Source - Daily Mail

Sick leave 'link to early death'

People who have long spells of sick leave for psychiatric reasons are twice as likely to die from cancer as healthier employees, research suggests.

The "unexpected" finding could help pick out at-risk groups, the University College London researchers reported in the British Medical Journal.

Among 6,500 civil servants, those who had taken a long period of sick leave had a 66% higher risk of early death. The cancer risk may be due to depressed people not seeing a doctor soon enough. Sickness records were assessed from London-based employees in 20 Whitehall departments between 1985 and 1988 and compared with mortality up until 2004. Overall 288 people died during the study.

The 30% of people who had one or more stints of at least seven days off work had a 66% increased risk of premature death compared to those who had not had any long periods of sick leave, it was found.

The highest mortality risk was seen in those who had been off work with heart disease, stroke or related conditions who had more than four times the risk of premature death than those who had no long sickness absences.

Perhaps more surprisingly, absences due to common respiratory conditions and infections were also associated with an increased risk of death, the researchers said.

Source - BBC

Meat 'ups prostate cancer risk'

Eating meat and dairy products may increase the risk of prostate cancer, research suggests. Such a diet raises levels of a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) which promotes cell growth.

A University of Oxford team examined the results of 12 studies, featuring a total of nearly 9,000 men. They found men with high blood levels of IGF-1 were up to 40% more likely to develop prostate cancer than those with low levels. The study appears in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

IGF-1 plays a key role in the growth and development of children and adolescents. In adults it continues to regulate cell growth and death, but it can also inhibit the death of cells which have come to the end of their natural life cycle.

Extent unclear
Lead researcher Dr Andrew Roddam said the degree to which diet influenced IGF-1 levels was unclear. But he said levels could be up to 15% higher in people who ate a lot of meat and dairy products.

Source - BBC

Probiotics 'worthless' for eczema

'Friendly' bacteria found in yoghurt and health drinks have no effect on the symptoms of eczema and may occasionally cause gut problems, evidence suggests.

Researchers reviewed 12 studies involving nearly 800 children with eczema and found probiotics did nothing to ease itching and the rash. And in separate studies 46 patients reported side effects including infection and bowel damage.

Experts said more trials were needed into the long-term safety of their use. Eczema affects one in 20 people at some time in their lives and is increasingly common among children - a fifth of children in the UK now has eczema.

The causes are complex, but the finding that people with eczema have different bacteria in their guts from others has led to some doctors recommending probiotics to treat this skin problem.

No benefit
But NIHR researcher Dr Robert Boyle, of Imperial College London, who carried out the review for the Cochrane Collaboration, says this is pointless.

Source - BBC