From Punk to acupunture

For every rocker who, in true rock'n'roll style, fails to make it beyond his or her twenties, there are many more who defy Roger Daltrey's early wish and do get old before they die. Many of those who reach middle age admit to owing their survival to some form of therapy. And for a notable few, it's the giving, not receiving, of such therapies that underpins their endurance.

Take Terry Chimes, formerly of punk band the Clash. He is more likely to be manipulating spines at his Essex chiropractic clinic than playing drums.

Similarly, Steve Guthrie, of the post-punk group Theatre of Hate, runs an acupuncture practice in Brighton. It is also where Matt Irving, a psychologist, and his wife Liz Morris, an osteopath, also have a clinic, having both worked in the music industry for years - Morris was a US record company executive; Irving a musician who recorded and toured with many bands.

What prompted them to take up such altruistic second careers?Susan Hallam, a psychologist and former musician, believes musicians are generally more tuned into their emotions. “It's this and the desire that many have to change things for the better.” Kevin Porée, who runs London's Berry Street recording studio, and has worked with James Brown and Radiohead, adds: “Despite the caricature of a musician as self-absorbed egoist, many are selfless people who are driven to make the world a better place.”

Providing therapy, it seems, is one way they can do this.

Source - Times

If music be the food of love ... then it also lowers cholesterol

Take a tune and come back to see me in the morning. Doctors have found that prescribing music can improve heart health and lower cholesterol levels.

Their research found that if a patient listens to 30 minutes a day of their favourite music, it does more than relaxing them mentally – it also benefits them physically by expanding and clearing blood vessels.

Doctors have tried the method on some patients in America and it has been welcomed by British experts. It is believed to work by triggering the release into the bloodstream of nitric oxide, which helps to prevent the build-up of blood clots and harmful cholesterol. The findings are part of a growing body of research into the effects of music on the human body. Scientists have found that songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Madonna can improve endurance, while 18th-century symphonies can improve mental focus.

When it comes to the effect on the bloodstream, however, the key is not the type of music but what the listener prefers. The same is true of volume and tempo.

“The music effect lasts in the bloodstream for only a few seconds but the accumulative benefit of favourite tunes lasts and can be very positive in people of all ages,” said Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at Maryland University, who carried out the research. He added: “We were looking for cheaper, nonpharmacological aids to help us improve our patients’ heart health and we think this is the prescription.”

The Maryland study, based on healthy nonsmoking men and women with an average age of 36, found the diameter of blood vessels in the upper arm expanded by 26% in volunteers listening to music they found enjoyable.

Miller said blood vessel expansion indicated that nitric oxide was being released throughout the body, reducing clots and LDL, a form of cholesterol linked to heart attacks. He also warned that listening to stressful music, which for many in the experiments included heavy metal and rap, can shrink blood vessels by 6% – the same effect, according to previous experiments, as eating a large hamburger.

Source - Times

Vitamin pill could reverse hearing loss caused by loud noise

Scientists have formulated a pill that could prevent or even reverse hearing loss caused by loud noise.

Clinical trials of the pill are about to start, but early research suggests it can reverse the damage up to three days after it occurs. Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common reason people lose their hearing. It has been estimated that 15 per cent of those between the ages of 20 and 60 have hearing loss caused by personal stereos, rock concerts or factory machinery. The damage can be caused by a single exposure to a very loud noise, such as an explosion, but more often it is caused by continuous or chronic exposure to loud sounds over time.

Exposure to these affects the delicate hair cells in the ear. The cells convert sound into electrical signals which then travel to the brain. Once damaged, hair cells cannot grow back, so hearing is reduced. One theory is that the force of vibrations from the noise damages the cells. The new pill is based on the idea that these vibrations cause the release of destructive molecules called free radicals into the bloodstream. These free radicals damage the hair cells.

Researchers had thought that antioxidants - chemicals that protect against this cell damage - might prevent hearing loss only if the antioxidants were given before noise exposure.

But research at Michigan University has shown that when the antioxidants were given up to three days after noise exposure, hearing loss was significantly reduced.

Source - Daily Mail

Women lacking vitamin D are more likely to need a Caesarean, says report

Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to need a Caesarean, say researchers.

The reason the deficiency causes problems in childbirth is unknown but could be related to the fact that lack of vitamin D is linked to poor muscle strength. In the latest study, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Centre checked the blood levels of vitamin D in pregnant women.

In total, 253 women were enrolled in the study, of whom 43 (17 per cent) had a Caesarean section. Some 28 per cent of women with low levels of vitamin D had to have a surgical delivery, compared with 14 per cent of women with high levels, according to the study published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Source - Daily Mail

Cheers! Now they tell us beer and wine give us cancer

Just one pint of beer a day increases the risk of liver and bowel cancer by a fifth, drinkers have been warned.

A large glass of wine or a double measure of vodka or gin can have the same damaging effect and zero alcohol is the safest way to avoid cancer, say scientists.

Figures from the World Cancer Research Fund show two units of alcohol a day increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent and liver cancer by 20 per cent. The assessment comes from detailed analysis of data first presented in a report last year which also concluded that processed meats including ham and bacon should be avoided to cut the risk of bowel cancer.

Dr Rachel Thompson, from the WCRF, said: ‘When you consider how many cases of these types of cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year, it is clear that drinking even relatively small amounts of alcohol can make a significant difference. Yet despite strong evidence, most people still do not know that alcohol increases risk of cancer so it is clear we need to do more to get this message across.’

Source - Daily Mail

Sleepers who hit out 'prone to dementia'

People who punch or kick out in their sleep are more likely to develop dementia or Parkinson's disease, research revealed today.

Scientists studied 93 people with "REM sleep behaviour disorder", the symptoms of which can include lashing out during dreams. The study found 26 patients went on to be diagnosed with a degenerative brain condition over the next five years.

Of those, 14 developed Parkinson's Disease, seven developed a rare form of dementia called Lewy body dementia and five standard dementia. The other patient developed multiple system atrophy, which involves both Parkinson's and dementia symptoms.

During the dream state REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, a person's muscles normally relax but people with certain sleep disorders can lash or cry out. Sufferers of certain degenerative brain diseases, including Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia, can also exhibit similar symptoms.

The Canadian study concluded: "Although we have found a slightly lower risk than other reports, the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease in REM sleep behaviour disorder is substantial, with the majority of patients developing Parkinson disease and Lewy body dementia."

Volunteers for the tests, published in US publication Neurology, were aged on average 65 years old.

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said the research could help doctors to predict the onset of dementia, which an estimated 700,000 people in the UK currently suffer from.

Source - Independent

A glass of wine with your fish 'increases the benefits to your heart'

Drinking wine with your fish boosts the benefits to your heart, a new study suggests.

A glass or two of wine per day increases the amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in a person's blood, the researchers said. The study found that those who drank in moderation had higher blood levels of omega-3 - even when intake of fish, the major dietary source of the fats, was taken into account. The link was strongest among wine drinkers, compared with those who favoured beer and spirits.

The findings suggest that wine, in particular, may affect the body's metabolism of omega-3 fats, according to the researchers, led by Dr Romina di Giuseppe of Catholic University in Campobasso, Italy.

The results also help explain why wine drinking, in moderation, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source - Daily Mail

The Big Question: Can Cognitive Behavioural Therapy help people with eating disorders?

Why are we asking this now?

An estimated one million people in Britain suffer from eating disorders which are notoriously difficult to treat. They have the highest death rate of any mental disorder, either from suicide or form the effects of starvation.

Researchers have developed a new form of psychotherapy which they say has the potential to treat more than eight out of ten adults with eating disorders. The therapy is an "enhanced" form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which was tested on 154 patients in Oxfordshire and Leicestershire. Two thirds showed a "complete and lasting response", sustained over the following year, and many of the rest showed substantial improvement, according to the researchers from the University of Oxford. The results are published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

What is cognitive behaviour therapy?

At its simplest, it is a technique for helping people replace habitual negative thinking with positive thinking, by getting them to see the glass as half full not half empty. The aim is to help the individual replace dysfunctional thoughts such as "I knew I would never be able to cope with this job" with alternatives such as, "The job is not going well but I can work out a plan to deal with the problems." Negative thinking is very prevalent in western societies with their emphasis on competition and success. The problem is getting people into treatment.

How does it differ from other forms of therapy?

It is brief, it is direct and it works. It is one of the few therapies for which there is good clinical evidence of its effectiveness. CBT has revolutionised the way doctors approach the treatment of depression. Whereas in the past they might have prescribed Prozac or other antidepressant drugs, CBT is now the treatment of first choice – where it is available.

Instead of focusing on the causes of distress or symptoms, that may lie buried in the past, the therapy examines ways to improve the patient's state of mind now. A course of treatment would usually last for six to eight half hour sessions with a trained counsellor who would offer practical help to the individual to alter ways of thinking to challenge feelings of hopelessness.

Source - Independent

Here's to the wine that clears your arteries

Australian doctor ups the antioxidants for a tipple that's good for blood vessels

It sounds too good to be true, but an Australian doctor insists he has created the world's healthiest tipple: a wine that cleans the arteries as you drink it, reducing the risk of heart attack.

Philip Norrie, who owns a vineyard in New South Wales, is producing wines with up to 100 times the antioxidant content of a standard drop. He calls them "vascular pipe-cleaners", saying the antioxidant they contain – resveratrol, which occurs naturally in grapes – helps to keep blood vessels free of fatty deposits.

Dr Norrie said yesterday that while the positive effects of moderate wine consumption had long been documented, "the inclusion of such large quantities of this beneficial antioxidant is very good news for wine drinkers". He added: "What we've been able to do is boost the amount of resveratrol in wine – and you won't even know it's there. You're effectively clearing your arteries while you drink."

The GP, who works in Sydney's northern beaches area, points to Australia's long tradition of wine-making doctors, with some of its best-known vineyards – including Penfolds and Lindemans – founded by medical practitioners who accompanied the convict ships to Britain's new penal colony. Wine, claims Dr Norrie, is man's oldest medicine.

As for resveratrol, it helps maintain blood flow by keeping the arteries free of the fatty deposits known as atherosclerotic plaque. Since it is an odourless and tasteless substance, the flavour and bouquet of wines are not affected. And lovers of semillon and sauvignon blanc will be pleased to learn that whites have the antioxidant, too, although in smaller quantities than red wine.

Source - Independent

Dieter died after drinking too much water

A company behind a meal replacement diet today defended their programme after it emerged that a woman died after drinking four litres of water in under two hours.

LighterLife said the death of Jacqueline Henson, 40, was a tragic accident and stressed she had been given proper advice on how much water to consume. Mrs Henson, who weighed about 14st at the start of the diet, collapsed in the bathroom of her home in Almondbury, Huddersfield, last year after consuming the water. Death was caused by cerebral oedema - swelling of the brain.

Huddersfield Coroner's Court was told the mother-of-five died three weeks into the diet. West Yorkshire Coroner Roger Whittaker recorded a verdict of accidental death at yesterday's inquest and said he was satisfied that the company had given clear guidance on how much water to consume. He said no-one should drink water in the quantities involved over such a short period.

A spokesman for LighterLife said: "We were so sorry to hear about Jacqueline and extend our sympathies to her family.

"Our programme gives clear guidance that water should be consumed regularly over the course of the day, and the coroner confirmed that the events were a tragic accident."

The diet is aimed at people who are three or more stones overweight and involves dieters consuming just 500 calories a day for 12 weeks by replacing meals with shakes, soups and bars, as well as drinking water.

Source - Independent

Study finds hot drinks help colds

Granny's advice about taking a hot drink to fight the effects of a cold was correct all along, say experts.

Researchers at Cardiff University's Common Cold Centre found a hot mug of fruit cordial could help ease the coughs and splutters of a cold or flu. They believe the research, published in the latest edition of clinical journal Rhinology, is the first of its kind.

The effect of an apple and blackcurrant drink served at room temperature or hot was monitored on 30 volunteers. Centre director Professor Ron Eccles urged anyone suffering from a cold or flu to have a hot drink to help reduce their symptoms.

"It is surprising that this is the first scientific research on the benefit of a hot drink for treating cold and flu symptoms," he said. "With temperatures falling and Christmas just round the corner, cold viruses love this time of year. Having a bottle of fruit cordial in the cupboard and making a hot drink could help fight off the symptoms of festive cold and flu."

Source - BBC

Daily nuts may help boost health

Adding nuts to a healthy diet may help release people from a dangerous combination of health problems.

Up to 25% of people in the UK are thought to have "metabolic syndrome", which includes obesity and high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

A Mediterranean diet of vegetables, fruit and fish plus daily nuts boosted health in more than one in eight at-risk volunteers, a Spanish study found. The research was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.

Disease risk

The healthy properties of certain kinds of nuts, eaten in moderation, has been noted before. However, the researchers from the University of Rovira i Virgili in Spain, tested more than 1,200 volunteers with metabolic syndrome to see if adding nuts could boost existing healthy diets.

People with metabolic syndrome are at greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The group was split into thirds, the first of which were just given advice on low-fat eating.

Source - BBC

How teaching children to eat more slowly 'cuts cancer risk'

Teaching children to savour their food could help combat cancer, experts believe.

A study of British youngsters showed that the faster children eat, the fatter they are. As obesity raises the risk of at least five forms of cancer, something as simple as teaching children to eat slowly could have a huge impact on public health.

The researchers videoed more than 120 sets of twins between ten and 12 as they ate sandwiches and fruit salad. They worked out how many bites a minute the children took and compared this with their weight. Fastest eaters were the overweight children, at 4.3 bites a minute. Next came those on the heavy side of normal with 4.1 bites a minute. The thinnest youngsters took only 3.8 bites a minute, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports.

The study by Cancer Research UK's health behaviour research centre also suggested that genes influence our eating rates more than upbringing.

Professor Jane Wardle, the lead researcher, said: 'We are all different and the more we understand about our funny little propensities the better.'

Source - Daily Mail

Can red wine mimic the health effect of oily fish?

A glass or two of wine a day helps the body make oils that are good for the heart, research suggests.

A study of hundreds of couples revealed that drinking small amounts of alcohol boosts levels of omega 3. The oils, which are more usually associated with eating oily fish, are credited with a host of health benefits, from cutting the risk of heart disease to boosting brain power.

It is thought that alcoholic drinks enhance the production of the fats in the body, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports.

Most effective of all is red wine, with one small glass a day for women and two for men providing optimum benefit, the Italian study found. The researchers made the link after studying the health of around 800 couples from London, Belgium and Italy. The analysis showed that those who drank small amounts of alcohol had higher levels of omega 3 in their blood, even when the amount of fish they ate was taken into account.

The researchers, from the Catholic University of Campobasso, said the finding could help explain how red wine protects against heart disease. Researcher Dr Licia Iacoviello said: 'We consider these data to be a major finding.'

Source - Daily Mail

Happiness 'rubs off on others'

Happiness is infectious and can "ripple" through social groups, according to US researchers.

A study of 5,000 adults suggests a person's happiness is dependent on the happiness of those around them. A friend who becomes happy and lives less than a mile away increases your likelihood of happiness by 25%, the British Medical Journal reported.

But the mood of work colleagues did not have an effect, the Harvard Medical School-led study found.

The researchers used data on adults who took part in the US Framingham Heart Study - set up to look at the risks leading to future heart disease - between 1971 and 2003. Participants were asked to identify their relatives, close friends, place of residence, and place of work and were followed up every two to four years. They were also asked whether they agreed with statements on whether they enjoyed life, felt hopeful about the future, were happy and felt they were just as good as other people.

It was found that live-in partners who become happy increased the likelihood of their partner being happy by 8% and similar effects were found for siblings living close by (14%) and neighbours (34%). The relationship between people's happiness levels seemed to extend up to three degrees of separation - to the friend of a friend of a friend.

Source - BBC

It's not just the power of suggestion: 'Placebo effect' is in the genes

Why some people miraculously get better when given a placebo has baffled doctors for years.

But scientists have now linked the mysterious phenomenon to a gene. Placebos are usually sugar-coated pills that doctors give patients in clinical studies to compare the response to the actual drug and sham treatment. Until now, most people put the surprise effect down to the power of suggestion.

But Tomas Furmark, of Uppsala University in Sweden, has now pinned the placebo effect of people with an exaggerated fear of public humiliation to the gene for tryptophan hydroxylase-2, which makes the brain chemical, serotonin.

They studied 25 people with the condition, known as social anxiety disorder. Volunteers had to challenge their fear by giving two speeches, before and after a ‘treatment’ period of eight weeks. Participants believed they were given an active drug when they actually received the placebo.

Ten people ‘responded’ to the sham treatment. They felt half as anxious during the second speech while the others were just as nervous.

Source - Daily Mail

Wartime diet of regular fasting slashes prostate cancer risk

Rationing food intake every few weeks could slash men's risk of prostate cancer, scientists believe.

Men who halve the amount they normally eat for a week or two once a month could markedly lower their chances of a tumour at a young age. Animal studies carried out at the University of Minnesota showed wartime eating habits significantly delayed the onset of cancer.

In human terms, researchers said, it was the equivalent of men getting cancer in their seventies or eighties rather than their fifties. But the study showed going on a permanent low-calorie diet did not have the same powerful effect. Scientists think occasional rationing may ward off cancer by constantly adjusting the balance of certain fat hormones.

High levels of leptin, a hormone released by fat cells, have been found to stimulate cancer cell growth, while high levels of another hormone, called adinopectin, appear to have a protective effect. The latest findings, published in the journal Prostate, suggest frequent rationing cuts leptin levels and boosts those of adinopectin.

Several other studies have suggested limiting calories could be crucial to good health and a longer life.

In 2004, experts at Harvard Medical School in Boston, found women who regularly rationed their food were half as likely to get breast cancer as those who always ate until they were full.

More recently, researchers studying daughters of women caught in the Dutch famine of 1944-45 found they were more fertile and had a higher number of pregnancies than those born to mothers with better food supplies.

In Australia, meanwhile, scientists have recently embarked on a clinical trial to see if depriving cancer patients of food for a couple of days before chemotherapy treatment can protect the body against its toxic effects.

Source - Daily Mail

Increase in asthma linked to Caesareans

The rise in asthma in industrialised countries over the past 30 years may have been driven by an increase in Caesarean births, researchers report.

Babies born by Caesarean delivery are more likely to develop asthma than those delivered naturally, doctors say. Exposure to bacteria in the vagina during birth is thought to play a key role in priming the immune system, providing a defence against the development of allergies. In Caesarean children, exposure to bacteria happens later and research has shown they have different intestinal flora – gut bacteria – suggesting the maturation of their immune systems is delayed.

A study of 3,000 children in the Netherlands who were followed until they were eight years old showed those born by Caesarean delivery were 80 per cent more likely to have developed asthma than those delivered traditionally. Among the one in 10 children with two allergic parents, the incidence of asthma was three times higher among those born by Caesarean. These children have a strong inherited predisposition to the disease.

Caesarean rates have risen from 5 per cent of all births in the 1970s to more than 30 per cent in some regions of the world, as doctors have sought to reduce the risks of childbirth. In the UK the current Caesarean rate is around 22 per cent of all births.

Over the same period, asthma rates rose strongly until the mid-1990s. Official figures show the prevalence has since remained stable in many European countries, but some experts have disputed the accuracy of the data and claimed the condition is still increasing but the definition has changed.

Source - Independent

Is technology rewiring our brains?

What does a teenage brain on Google look like? Do all those hours spent online rewire the circuitry? Could these kids even relate better to emoticons than to real people?

These sound like concerns from worried parents. But they're coming from brain scientists.

While violent video games have gotten a lot of public attention, some current concerns go well beyond that. Some scientists think the wired world may be changing the way we read, learn and interact with each other. There are no firm answers yet. But Dr. Gary Small, a psychiatrist at UCLA, argues that daily exposure to digital technologies such as the internet and smart phones can alter how the brain works.

When the brain spends more time on technology-related tasks and less time exposed to other people, it drifts away from fundamental social skills like reading facial expressions during conversation, Small asserts. So brain circuits involved in face-to-face contact can become weaker, he suggests. That may lead to social awkwardness, an inability to interpret nonverbal messages, isolation and less interest in traditional classroom learning.

Small says the effect is strongest in so-called digital natives - people in their teens and 20s who have been "digitally hard-wired since toddlerhood." He thinks it's important to help the digital natives improve their social skills and older people - digital immigrants - improve their technology skills.

At least one 19-year-old internet enthusiast gives Small's idea a mixed review. John Rowe, who lives near Pasadena, California, spends six to 12 hours online a day. He flits from instant messaging his friends to games like Cyber Nations and Galaxies Ablaze to online forums for game players and disc jockeys.

Social skills? Rowe figures he and his buddies are doing just fine in that department, thank you. But he thinks Small may have a point about some other people he knows.

"If I didn't actively go out and try to spend time with friends, I wouldn't have the social skills that I do," said Rowe, who reckons he spends three or four nights a week out with his pals. "You can't just give up on having normal friends that you see on a day-to-day basis."

Source - Independent

Putting pain into perspective - breakthroughs, tips and trends: November 29th

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

THROW out those painkillers: the secret to salving physical aches may lie in using a pair of binoculars the wrong way round, claims research performed at Oxford University. The study, published in Current Biology, reveals how powerfully pain and even swelling can be a product of our mental attitude.

Researchers asked ten people who suffered chronic pain in one arm to move the limb around while looking at it through a pair of binoculars that were either the right or wrong way round.When they saw their arm magnified to double its size, the patients reported that their levels of pain increased, but when they exercised the arm while watching a minimised image of it through inverted binoculars, their pain levels were cut significantly.

But it was not only their perceived pain levels that changed, says the lead researcher, G. Lorimer Moseley. Their levels of physical swelling in the affected areas were also reduced through using the backwards-binocular trick.

Moseley says he is not sure how this phenomenon works in terms of specific neurons firing, but he believes that the brain changes its protective responses according to its perception of danger levels. “If it looks bigger, it looks sorer, therefore the brain acts to protect it,” he explains.

Moseley hopes that the optical-trick discovery will lead to a practical method for lowering pain and trauma levels in hospitals.

Source - Times

How to keep your gut in mint condition

Even as far back as ancient Greece, herbal practitioners have pointed towards the peppermint plant - mentha piperita - as a cure for digestive disorders. Now scientific research is backing up some of their claims.

Last week, the British Medical Journal reported that almost half of sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) found their symptoms disappeared after taking peppermint oil.

Symptoms of IBS include severe abdominal cramps as well as gastric problems and the condition affects about eight million people in the UK. But because the exact cause is not understood, it is often difficult to treat.

Peppermint oil is a pure oil extracted from the peppermint plant. Its constituents include the organic compounds menthol, menthone and eucalyptol, which have a wide range of pharmaceutical uses - as topical pain relievers and decongestants, among others. It can be taken as neat oil in water or as Colpermin, a prescription or over-the-counter drug with an enteric coating so that it dissolves in the intestines rather than the stomach.

Source - Daily Mail

Dying for a burger: Eating junk food may raise your risk of getting Alzheimer’s

Eating junk food could increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests.

Scientists found that eating meals rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol triggered changes in the brain associated with the early stages of the debilitating disease. Their study adds to the growing evidence that eating healthily can cut the odds of developing Alzheimer’s, a dementia affecting 400,000 Britons. The number is forecast to double within a generation, so any method of cutting the number of cases would have a huge impact on public health.

Researchers in Sweden looked at the effect of a junk food diet on mice genetically altered to be prone to Alzheimer’s. The creatures’ brains were tested after they were fed a diet laden in fat, sugar and cholesterol for nine months.

Researcher Susanne Akterin, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said: ‘On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain.’ Her tests showed the food altered the formation of a protein called tau which forms tangles inside the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, causing brain cells to shrink and die.

The study also suggested that cholesterol cut levels of a brain protein called arc that is key in storing memories.

Source - Daily Mail

We took up to £20 of vitamins a month - then went cold turkey

They are believed by millions to be an easy way to maintain health. In the UK alone, one third of the population pops at least one vitamin pill a day, and the supplements industry is worth in excess of £330million a year.

Yet studies now suggest vitamin supplements are ineffective and may even increase the risk of illness.A recent review by Copenhagen University found 'no convincing evidence' that supplements helped keep disease at bay.

Researchers also concluded that taking supplements of Vitamins A and E 'significantly increased mortality'. Vitamin A was linked to a 16 per cent increased risk of dying, and Vitamin E to a four per cent increased risk. Taking Vitamin C or selenium didn't seem either to prolong or to diminish life.

Scientists at the University of Washington also reported this year that taking daily supplements of Vitamin E for ten years may increase the risk of lung cancer. And New Zealand researchers suggested calcium supplements, often prescribed after the menopause to counter the loss of bone density, raised the risk of a heart attack in older women.

So, just how effective are vitamin pills? To find out, we asked three devotees who spend up to £200 a year on supplements, to stop taking them for a month, while not making any changes to their diet.

Source - Daily Mail

Pregnant women warned off make-up

Spare a thought for the mum-to-be: no booze; no fags; no pâté; no fancy cheese; no eggs; and, probably, a wild craving for coal. Now pregnant woman have been told they have to make do without beauty products.

Growing concerns over the exposure of pregnant women to chemicals that may lead to birth defects have prompted calls for a new EU-wide cosmetics labelling system which would mark out some products as off-limits to mothers-to-be.

The move follows the publication of a study which found that women exposed to high levels of hairspray during pregnancy were twice as likely to have babies born with hypospadias, a condition in which the urinary tract grows on the underside of the penis. The Imperial College London study suggested that the birth defects were linked to chemicals in hairspray shown to disrupt the hormonal systems in the body and affect reproductive development.

Fears over the effects of chemicals such as parabens, commonly used in cosmetics as a preservative, and phthalates, used in hairspray, have led to calls for closer monitoring of cosmetics. High levels of phthalates, also used to soften plastics such as PVC, have been found to affect hormone levels, while parabens have been the subject of concern since 2004, when a study claimed to have detected parabens from deodorants in cancerous breast tissue.

The French health minister Roselyne Bachelot sparked debate last week by announcing that the French health authorities were considering a labelling system for cosmetics that would indicate whether or not products were safe for pregnant women. But the UK government said that the EU should address the issue as a whole, adding it to a range of changes currently being made to the European Cosmetics Directive.

Source - Independent

Blueberries 'reverse memory loss'

Eating blueberries can reverse memory loss and may have implications in the treatment of diseases like Alzheimer's, University of Reading scientists claim.

Scientists found adding foods like blueberries to a regular diet, resulted in improvements in memory. The foods, known as flavonoids, were historically believed to act as antioxidants in human bodies.

But the study indicates they also activate the part of the brain which controls learning and memory.

Dr Jeremy Spencer, from the department of food biosciences at the university, said: "Scientists have known of the potential health benefits of diets rich in fresh fruits for a long time.

Source - BBC

Group therapy 'beats depression'

Group-taught meditation is as effective as staying on drug treatments for stopping people slipping back into depression, say UK scientists.

Compared to one-to-one sessions, or medication, "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy" (MBCT) is cheaper for the NHS, they say. The trial of 123 people found similar relapse rates in those having group therapy and those taking drugs. The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Recent years have seen much more evidence that so-called "talking therapies" can be as effective as drugs in alleviating mild to moderate depression, and health secretary Alan Johnson recently announced millions in new funding for the treatments. However, this is the first time, according to its authors, that a group therapy has been shown as an alternative to a prescription.

The study, funded by the Medical Research Council, found MBCT, developed in 2002 by a team of psychologists from Canada, Oxford, and Cambridge, was actually more effective than medication in improving patients' quality of life. The sessions involve the teaching of meditation techniques based on some found in Buddhism.

The aim is to teach skills which help patients recognise and cope with their tendency towards depression.

Source - BBC

Web searches feed health fears

Health information online is breeding a generation of cyberchondriacs - people who needlessly fear the worst diagnosis after surfing the net, say researchers.

A team at Microsoft studied health-related Web searches on popular search engines and surveyed 515 employees about their health-related searching. Web searches had the potential to escalate fears - like a headache was caused by a brain tumour, for example.

Experts said people concerned about their health should see a doctor.

Self-diagnosis by search engine

Microsoft conducted the study to improve its own search engine.

Roughly 2% of all the Web queries were health-related, and about 250,000 users, or a quarter of the sample, engaged in a least one medical search during the study.

Source - BBC

Antioxidants 'cannot slow ageing'

Diets and creams claiming their antioxidant properties could cheat ageing may be worthless, a study says.

Using Nematode worms, scientists found even those given enhanced antioxidant powers to deal with tissue damaging "free radicals" did not live longer. The team from University College London said, in the Genes and Development journal, there was "no clear evidence" they could slow ageing.

Antioxidants are a staple of the beauty and health industries. This has been based on a 50-year-old theory.

In 1956, it was suggested that ageing was caused by a build-up of molecular damage caused by reactive forms of oxygen, called superoxides or free radicals, circulating in the body. This is known as oxidative stress. Antioxidants supposedly worked to mop up these free radicals, minimising their damage.

This week's study, however, could explain why many studies aimed at proving the theory have been inconclusive.

Source - BBC