Confusion on acupuncture benefit

A major review of the effectiveness of acupuncture has concluded that it is hard to find a difference between "true" and "sham" versions.

The research comes just a week after a similar review suggested that both could prevent headache. It looked at trials involving 3,000 patients with arthritis, migraine, low back pain and post-operative pain. The results questioned the "traditional foundation" of acupuncture, the British Medical Journal study concluded. The value of acupuncture remains highly controversial, with conflicting results from many studies.

Much of the argument surrounds the status of "sham" acupuncture, which is frequently used in trials against traditional acupuncture.

While traditional acupuncturists insert needles in acupuncture points located along what they describe as "energy meridians" - a concept for which many scientists say there is no evidence - sham acupuncture places needles away from these points.

However, the needles are still inserted beneath the skin in both varieties, and proponents of non-traditional acupuncture suggest that both varieties may be having a physiological effect - just not in the manner suggested by traditionalists.

The latest review, compiled by the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, found no "clinical relevance" to the differences between traditional and "sham" acupuncture, but found that patients given "sham" acupuncture did experience a small amount pain relief compared to those who had received no treatment.

Source - BBC

Chemicals 'may reduce fertility'

Chemicals commonly found in food packaging, upholstery and carpets may be damaging women's fertility, say US scientists.

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction measured levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the blood of 1,240 women. Those with higher levels were more likely to take longer to become pregnant. UK experts said more research was needed to confirm a link.

PFCs are useful in industry because they are resistant to heat, and have the ability to repel water and oil. However, high concentrations have been linked to organ damage in animals, and the chemicals have the ability to persist for long periods in the body. he researchers, from the University of California in Los Angeles, analysed blood samples taken at the time of the woman's first antenatal visit, then interviewed the women about whether the pregnancy was planned, and how long it had taken them to get pregnant.

The levels of the chemicals varied from 6.4 nanograms per millilitre of blood - a nanogram is a billionth of a gram - to 106.4 nanograms per ml.

When the group of women were divided into four groups depending on these levels, they found that, compared to women in the group with the lowest readings, the likelihood of infertility - taking more than a year or IVF to get pregnant - was significantly higher for women with higher levels of PFCs in their bloodstream. Dr Chunyuan Fei, one of the researchers, said that earlier studies had suggested that PFCs might impair the growth of babies in the womb.

She said that more women in the groups with higher exposure to PFCs had problems with irregular menstrual cycles , which might suggest that interference with hormones was the reason.

Source - BBC

Spotlight on Rosemary

The section on Rosemary has been completed.

Detox debunked

The idea that 'detox' regimes will help your body rid itself of 'toxins' is nothing more than a marketing invention

It’s January; the detox fantasies are in full force. One-week regimes, 24-hour plans, pills, potions, kits, devices and diets. Programmes from a bizarre array of “authority” figures, presented by the media as immaculate experts, despite their correspondence-course qualifications. And a barrage of sciencey-sounding claims, the majority revolving around short-term health drives that make no lasting difference.

The notion of detox is medically meaningless. A vast army of marketers and lifestyle gurus has erected an entirely new physiological system. Look at a metabolic flow chart, the wall-sized maps of all the molecules in your body: you can see the way food is broken down into its constituent parts, and the way those components are converted between each other, and the way those new building blocks are then assembled into muscle and bone and everything else you are made of.

It is impossible from this chart to pick out the “detox system”. There is nothing on the subject in a medical textbook. That burgers and beer can have negative effects on your body is certainly true, for any number of fascinating reasons; but the notion that they leave a specific residue — “toxins” — that can be extruded by a specific physiological mechanism is nothing more than a marketing invention.

Source - Times

How a thigh 'tingler' helps beat arthritic pain

A thigh 'tingler' is the latest treatment being developed for arthritic knees. Researchers say the device could be an alternative to knee-replacement surgery for younger people with osteoarthritis - and it could also be used to delay the need for surgery in others.

The device works by electrically stimulating the muscles around the knee - this reduces the pain and helps strengthen the muscles, taking some of the load off the joint and increasing movement.

Up to seven million people in Britain have long-term health problems linked to arthritis; the Arthritis Research Campaign estimates that more than 550,000 men and women have moderate-to-severe disease of the knees.

With osteoarthritis, the cartilage that cushions and protects the bone gradually wears away, leading to the painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints. This can occur in people as young as 30, although it generally affects the over-50s.

Risk factors include age, being overweight, previous joint injury and a family history of the disease. Many sufferers eventually need a knee replacement - more than 60,000 are carried out per year.

Source - Daily Mail

Fitness News: Exercise helps you sleep

Sleepless nights caused by restless leg syndrome could be prevented by regular exercise, according to Brazilian scientists.

Researchers asked one group of patients to exercise three days a week for six months and to see if a long-term exercise programme helped. Another group had their symptoms assessed after one gym session to see if high-intensity exercise had an effect.

Both groups reported sleeping for longer afterwards, and tests revealed their quality of sleep was also better. It's thought the endorphins released during exercise made patients sleep better, preventing them from waking up when their legs moved.

Andrea Maculano Evans, who led the study, said:

'These results show exercise has immediate benefits and is a real alternative to drug treatment for treating restless legs.'

Source - Daily Mail

Why choosing a window seat on your next flight could be fatal

Choosing a window seat on the plane increases the chance of deep vein thrombosis, it is claimed.

Research suggests those sitting by the window face double the risk of a potentially deadly blood clot. The dangers are even greater for obese passengers, who are six times more likely to develop a blockage than if they sit next to the aisle. One theory for this is that passengers find it easier to fall asleep by a window.

Sleeping for several hours at a time during long-haul flights is known to raise the chances of a blood clot. The problems come if the clot travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, where it can cause a pulmonary embolism.

In a report, the researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands said: 'Passengers in a window seat had a two-fold increase in risk compared to those in an aisle seat, while there was no increase in risk in those in middle seats.

'One explanation may be that passengers are in a more cramped position in a window seat.'

Source - Daily Mail

s there really any point to acupuncture?

Acupunture's benefits are all in the mind, according to a new report.

Researchers found that fake acupuncture is as effective as the real thing at relieving headaches, suggesting the effects are psychological.

Here, a sceptic and a proponent explain their opposing views.

When I started looking into acupuncture, I remember hearing someone say: ‘There must be something to acupuncture. After all, you never see any sick porcupines.’

Unfortunately, when I examined the research, it became clear that sticking needles in patients is not as effective as many clinics claim. Indeed, research published last week reinforced the notion that the philosophy of Chinese acupuncture is mumbo-jumbo of the highest quality. The most recent research was based on looking at several clinical trials in which acupuncturists treated patients with headaches.

According to Chinese philosophy, such complaints are due to imbalances in the flow of Ch’i (a supposed life energy) within meridians (channels that supposedly run through our bodies). Inserting needles at the right points along the meridians is meant to affect the Ch’i and cure the patient.

The recent research reviewed two types of acupuncture, namely real and fake. This means that one set of patients had needles inserted at key points along the meridians, while another set of patients had the needles inserted more or less anywhere.

On average, the patients receiving real acupuncture showed significant levels of improvement, but the patients receiving fake acupuncture typically showed similar levels of improvement. In other words, the benefits of acupuncture have nothing to do with meridians of Ch’i, but are merely associated with sticking needles into the body willy-nilly.

This is not shocking news, because several pieces of research have shown that fake acupuncture is often just as effective as real acupuncture. So what’s going on?

Source - Daily Mail

Single cell 'can store memories'

Just one brain cell is capable of holding fleeting memories vital for our everyday life, according to US scientists.

A study of mouse brain cells revealed how they could keep information stored for as long as a minute. A UK specialist said that understanding these short-term memories might help unlock the secrets of Alzheimer's Disease. The finding was reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The difference between the brain's long-term and short-term memory has been likened to the RAM of a computer and the hard-drive. To perform normal functions, we need the ability to store, quickly and reliably, large amounts of data, but only a small amount of this needs to be retained in the longer term.

Scientists have spent decades working out which parts of the brain are responsible for these functions, and how cells manage this feat. Original theories suggested the memories were retained by multiple cells forming "circuits" around which electrical impulses were fired for the necessary period. More recent ideas have centred around the concept that even an individual cell could somehow hold on to information.

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern looked at brain cells taken from mice using tiny electrodes to measure their function. They found that a particular component of the cells in question, a chemical receptor, which, when switched on, tells the cell to start an internal signal system that holds the "memory" in place.

Source - BBC

Cutting calories 'boosts memory'

Reducing what you eat by nearly a third may improve memory, according to German researchers.

They introduced the diet to 50 elderly volunteers, then gave them a memory test three months later. The study, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found significant improvements.

However, a dietician said the reduction could harm health unless care was taken. There is growing interest in the potential benefits of calorie restricted diets, after research in animals suggested they might be able to improve lifespan and delay the onset of age-related disease. However, it is still not certain whether this would be the case in humans - and the the levels of "caloric restriction" involved are severe.

The precise mechanism which may deliver these benefits is still being investigated, with theories ranging from a reduction in the production of "free radical" chemicals which can cause damage, to a fall in inflammation which can have the same result.

The researchers from the University of Munster carried out the human study after results in rats suggested that memory could be boosted by a diet containing 30% fewer calories than normal.

The study volunteers, who had an average age of 60, were split into three groups - the first had a balanced diet containing the normal number of calories, the second had a similar diet but with a higher proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in olive oil and fish. The final group were given the calorie restricted diet.

After three months, there was no difference in memory scores in the first two groups, but the 50 in the third group performed better.

Source - BBC

Diverse roots of human disease

I'm just putting the link to this article as it's not strictly herbal, but is extremely interesting!

Diverse roots of human disease

Vitamin D 'is mental health aid'

Vitamin D, found in fish and produced by sun exposure, can help stave off the mental decline that can affect people in old age, a study has suggested.

UK and US researchers looked at 2,000 people aged 65 and over. They found that compared to those with the highest vitamin D levels, those with the lowest were more than twice as likely to have impaired understanding.

Alzheimer's charities said the research was interesting, but more work was needed to understand vitamin D's role. Vitamin D is important in maintaining bone health, in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and in helping the immune system.

The body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, or it can be obtained from foods such as oily fish, and those fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, cereals, and soya drinks. But older people's skin is less able to absorb vitamin D from sunlight so they are more reliant on obtaining it from other sources.

Source - BBC

How wine can turn you into a werewolf

When he developed a striking suntan after a Caribbean holiday, KEN WALKER was rather pleased with himself. But when his nails and skin started working loose and he began sprouting strange facial hair, he realised something was terribly wrong.

Although a doctor himself, the 45-year-old was shocked to be told his wine drinking was having a nightmarish effect on his body...

With hindsight, it didn't start on holiday, but that's when it started to raise its ugly head. It was the final day of a fortnight spent on the Caribbean island of Tobago, and my wife and I were waiting for a taxi to the airport.

Along the side of my forefinger I noticed five or six tense blisters, each one about a quarter of an inch across. I put it down to having touched some coral when snorkelling the day before. At least the rest of me looked healthy.

As someone with a Scottish heritage (not quite the red hair and freckles, but with a definite luminosity) I wasn't used to looking like Dale Winton just after a re-spray - my suntan was unexpectedly spectacular. Even my wife was impressed.

About a week after getting home, I noticed something very weird happening with my big toenails. There seemed to be fluid underneath the nails and they were working loose. I figured my toenails could have been damaged by wearing flippers while snorkelling and diving on holiday.

When the same thing started happening to a few of my fingernails, it was less easy to explain. The final straw came when I bought a new pair of shoes and tried to put them on.

When I hooked my finger into the shoe and pulled, the skin on the back of the finger simply got scraped away from the gentle rub on my heel, leaving a bleeding, raw stripe.

Source - Daily Mail

You don't have to diet to lose weight... just relax instead, say experts

Women who want to lose weight should ditch their diets and learn to relax instead, research shows.

At the end of a two-year study, women who followed a programme of yoga and meditation had lost weight and kept it off, while those who focused purely on exercise and nutrition had not. The 'relaxed' women were also generally happier and healthier at the end of the study. Experts believe that reducing stress stops cravings for fatty foods and sweets.

The team at the University of Otago in New Zealand divided 225 overweight women into three groups, according to the paper in the journal Preventive Medicine.

The first group took part in yoga, meditation, and positive visualisation. The second group focused on physical exercise and nutrition, while the third received nutrition information in the post. Study co-author Dr Caroline Horwath said all three groups of women had successfully prevented any weight gain.

But 'the most striking results' were in the first group --they had an average weight loss of five and a half pounds (2.5kg). Dr Horwath added: 'At the two-year mark, these women were the only ones to maintain the psychological and medical symptom improvements. The positive results are exciting, given the limited long-term success of traditional dieting approaches.'

'By learning and practising relaxation techniques as part of a wider lifestyle change programme, women have effective tools to manage stress and emotions without resorting to unhealthy eating.'

The study suggests dieting may not be the best way to lose weight.

Source - Daily Mail

Alternative therapy 'crackdown'

The head of the UK's first regulator for complementary medicine has promised to get tough with the industry and drive out cowboy therapists.

Maggie Dunn, co-chairman of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), said it was time customers were given proper assurances.

She said the regulator, which is being launched on Monday, would clean up the industry used by one in five people. And she estimated thousands of clinics may go out of business in the process. The main plank of the council's work will be to operate a register of practitioners. It will not judge clinics on whether therapies are effective, but rather on whether they operate a professional and safe business.

To get on to the government-backed register, therapists will have to show they have the right training and experience, abide by a code of conduct and ensure they have insurance in place. Ms Dunn told the BBC News website: "I think most of the profession is operating to good standards, but we know not everyone will be able to register. If that means that people who are not up to scratch are driven out of business, I will not cry for them."

There are over 150,000 complementary medicine therapists working in the UK. Ms Dunn said she suspected between half and two thirds of them would make it on to the register which would allow them to use the regulator logo on literature and display in shops. Of the rest, some would just need a little extra training to make the grade, but that would still leave many thousands who were not good enough.

Source - BBC

Restrictions urged on painkillers

Painkillers containing codeine should be sold in smaller packets and available only after consultation, a parliamentary report has recommended.

The cross-party inquiry into painkiller dependency said drugs such as Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine Plus should come with a warning about addiction risks. Any advertising of this class of painkiller should stop, it recommended. The report also urged better monitoring of patients on prescription painkillers and anti-depressants - and their GPs.

The Department of Health needed to set up procedures to ensure that GPs were not prescribing opiates and tranquilisers without good cause, the All Party Parliamentary Drug Misuse Group concluded after a year-long inquiry. Pharmacists should be encouraged to report GPs who appeared to be prescribing outside of guidelines to the local Primary Care Trust.

Source - BBC

Staying calm 'prevents dementia'

People who are more laid back are less likely to develop dementia in old age, a study has suggested.

Research published in the journal Neurology asked 500 healthy elderly people to fill out questionnaires about their personalities. Those who were calm and relaxed had a 50% lower risk of developing dementia during the six years of the study. UK experts said it offered "compelling evidence" of the need to be "socially active throughout life". There are 700,000 people with dementia in the UK. That number is expected to rise to over one million by 2025 and 1.7 million by 2051.

The personality questionnaires measured neuroticism - a term meaning easily distressed, and extraversion - or openness to talking to people. Those who were not easily distressed were calm and self-satisfied, whereas people who were easily distressed were emotionally unstable, negative and nervous.

The study of people aged 78 and over found that people who were socially inactive but calm and relaxed had a 50% lower risk of developing dementia compared with people who were socially isolated and prone to distress. The dementia risk was also 50% lower for people who were outgoing and calm compared to those who were outgoing and prone to distress.

The lifestyle questionnaire determined how often each person regularly participated in leisure activities and the richness of their social network. During that period they were studied, 144 people developed dementia.

Source - BBC

Acupuncture 'works for headaches'

Traditional acupuncture is effective at preventing headaches, a scientific review finds - but so is a sham form.

The Cochrane Review reviewed 33 separate trials into acupuncture and its so-called "sham" counterpart. The latter also involves the insertion of needles - but not into traditional "energy points".

The scientist leading the review said the results showed that putting needles into particular locations might not be that important. Acupuncture is still regarded as a "complementary" therapy, but is increasingly being viewed as a potential mainstream treatment for certain conditions, such as chronic pain.

The endorsement by the Cochrane Collaboration is likely to lead to further calls for it to be made more widely available on the NHS.

The traditional explanation of its effects involves tapping into a network of "meridians" around the body to regulate the flow of an energy called "chi". Acupuncture points are located at various positions along these meridians.

However, many modern acupuncture specialists believe that the insertion of needles actually cause subtle changes in the nervous system and brain activity which can be beneficial - and place needles in other parts of the body rather than concentrating solely on traditional acupuncture points.

The Cochrane reviews involved a total of 6,736 patients, who were given acupuncture to prevent either mild to moderate "tension" headaches, or migraine attacks. Following a course of at least eight weeks, acupuncture patients suffered fewer headaches than those given only painkillers.

Source - BBC

Start drinking coffee and cut your risk of Alzheimer's disease

Drinking three to five coffees daily in middle age cuts the risk of developing the disease in old age by two-thirds, a study has found.

Other studies have hinted that caffeine can protect against dementia, but the latest research stands out because it charted people's consumption over the decades before dementia appeared rather than relying on them to remember their intake.

Dr Susanne Sorensen, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'For years we've treated coffee as nothing more than a pleasant pick-me-up.This is exciting as it indicates drinking coffee in midlife can actually reduce your risk.'

Swedish and Finnish researchers questioned 1,500 middle-aged men and women about their tea and coffee drinking. Twenty-one years later, there were 61 dementia cases in the group.

Source - Daily Mail

Taking the Pill and HRT 'undermines women's natural defences against cancerTaking the Pill and HRT 'undermines women's natural defences against cancer

Taking the Pill or having hormone replacement therapy can trigger cancer-causing gene mutations, say scientists.

A study to be published tomorrow has identified how the hormone oestrogen in oral contraceptives and HRT pills can start a biochemical chain reaction that undermines women’s natural defences against cancer. Researchers found oestrogen plays a key role in fighting off infections such as the common cold.

However, they also discovered that exposure to high levels can trigger genetic mutations that can cause cancer. While an association between oestrogen and cancer has long been known, the new finding provides the first clear evidence of how they are linked and could help scientists develop new ways to treat the disease.

Dr Svend Petersen-Mahrt, at Cancer Research UK’s Clare Hall Laboratories in South Mimms, Hertfordshire, said: 'We found oestrogen plays an important role in generating the diversity in the immune system that helps our bodies fight off a range of infections.

Source - Daily Mail

'Visions link' to coffee intake

People who drink too much coffee could start seeing ghosts or hearing strange voices, UK research has suggested.

People who drank more than seven cups of instant coffee a day were three times more likely to hallucinate than those who took just one, a study found. A Durham University team questioned 200 students about their caffeine intake, the journal Personality and Individual Differences reported.

However, academics say the findings do not prove a "causal link". They also stress that experiencing hallucinations is not a definite sign of mental illness and that about 3% of people regularly hear voices.

"This is the first step toward looking at the wider factors associated with hallucinations," said psychology PhD student Simon Jones, who led the study.

Source - BBC

Finger size link to earning power

The length of a man's fingers may predict his success in the City, research findings suggest.

Scientists at Cambridge University found that financial traders whose ring fingers are longer than their index fingers make the most money. The link could be down to testosterone exposure in the womb, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says.

This exposure may improve rapid decision-making skills and has been linked with aggression. The same ring-to-index finger ratio, which is determined in the womb, has previously been associated with success in competitive sports.

Researcher John Coates and his team reported last year that testosterone seemed to boost short term success at finance after they found City traders with higher levels of the male hormone in the morning were more likely to make an unusually big profit that day.

Source - BBC

Herbal menopause cures lack proof

There is no convincing evidence that herbal remedies commonly taken to relieve troublesome menopausal symptoms actually work, say experts.

And some 'natural' treatments, like black cohosh, can cause serious harm, says the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB).

But herbalists said a lack of proof did not mean the treatments lacked effect. Polls suggest 40% of UK women have used complementary and alternative therapies for their menopausal symptoms. Common remedies include red clover, Dong quai and evening primrose oil. Others include ginseng, wild yam extract, chaste tree, hops, sage leaf, and kava kava.

The DTB says little good quality evidence on the effectiveness of these herbal medicines, or how they might react with prescription medicines is available. There was some clinical trial data on black cohosh, but the results were "equivocal", with some studies suggesting that the remedy works well, while others suggested that it did not relieve symptoms effectively.

And, in general, the safety of herbal remedies has been under researched, which is a major concern given that these products are often assumed to be "safe" just on the grounds that they are "natural," says the DTB.

Black cohosh in particular has been linked with liver damage, although this is rare.

Source - BBC

Is love just a chemical cocktail?

It is said that love is a drug. But is it just a drug?

That is the contention of Larry Young, a professor of neuroscience at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Writing in the respected scientific journal Nature, Professor Young argues that love can be explained by a series of neurochemical events in specific brain areas. If it is true, he says, people will no longer have to rely on oysters or chocolates to create a loving mood.

Instead, it will be possible for scientists to develop aphrodisiacs - chemicals that would make people fall in love with the first person they see. And for those who have fallen in love with someone they shouldn't have, there could be an antidote to unrequited love. There is even the prospect of a genetic "love test" to assess whether two potential love-birds are predisposed to a happy married life.

Not poetry

Poets would have us believe that love is one of those things that are beyond understanding.

But that concept is anathema to Professor Young.

Seaweed pill that works like a gastric band and is pharmaceutical-free

An expanding pill that tricks the brain into thinking the stomach is full could help in the battle against obesity.

The pill is taken at least half an hour before meals and works by reducing appetite so that smaller portions are eaten. As it swells, the pill, called Appesat, stretches the stomach wall, stimulating receptors that send a signal to the brain to say that the stomach is full.

The effects are similar to those of a gastric balloon, an inflatable implant surgically inserted into the stomach and then filled with saline solution. The new pill simply needs to be swallowed with water. After a few hours, it gets broken down by acid in the stomach and is flushed out of the body as waste.

It has been approved as a medical device by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, the government body that vets new treatments.

Recent research predicted one in three adults in the UK will be obese by the time London stages the Olympic Games in 2012. A range of anti-obesity pharmaceutical drugs have been licensed in recent years. These include Xenical, which works by reducing the amount of fat absorbed by the gut, and Rimonabant, which acts on the brain to suppress appetite.

Source - Daily Mail

Study confirms obesity link to ovarian cancer

A link between obesity and ovarian cancer has been highlighted by a study of almost 95,000 women.

Researchers in the US found that among women aged 50 to 71 being obese raised the risk of the disease by almost 80 per cent. An association between high body mass and ovarian cancer was already known, but the new study provides powerful confirmation of the link. The research also underlines the way hormones play a role in the way body fat influences cancer risk.

The association was only seen in women who had never used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after the menopause. No link between body weight and ovarian cancer was evident among women who had been on HRT.

The findings, reported in the journal Cancer, support the hypothesis that obesity may enhance ovarian cancer risk through hormonal effects.

Dr Michael Leitzmann, from the US National Cancer Institute, and colleagues wrote: "The observed relations between obesity and ovarian cancer risk have relevance for public health programmes aimed at reducing obesity in the population."

A total of 303 women in the study group developed ovarian cancer over a period of seven years. Among women who had never taken hormones after the menopause, obesity increased the risk of the disease by almost 80 per cent.

Source - Independent

Scientists dismiss 'detox myth'

There is no evidence that products widely promoted to help the body "detox" work, scientists warn.

The charitable trust Sense About Science reviewed 15 products, from bottled water to face scrub, and found many detox claims were "meaningless". Anyone worried about the after-effects of Christmas overindulgence would get the same benefits from eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep, they said. Advertising regulators said they looked at such issues on a case-by-case basis.

The investigation, done by research members of the Voice of Young Science network, was kicked off by a campaign to unpick "dodgy" science claims - where companies use phrases that sound scientific but do not actually mean anything.

They challenged the companies behind products such as vitamins, shampoo, detox patches and a body brush on the evidence they had to support the detox claims made. No two companies seemed to use the same definition of detox - defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the removal of toxic substances or qualities.

In the majority of cases, producers and retailers were forced to admit that they had simply renamed processes like cleaning or brushing, as detox, the scientists said.

Source - BBC

Tetris 'helps to reduce trauma'

Playing the computer puzzle game Tetris could help reduce the effects of traumatic stress, UK researchers say.

Volunteers were exposed to distressing images, with some given the game to play 30 minutes later, the PLoS One journal reported.

Players had fewer "flashbacks", perhaps because it helped disrupt the laying down of memories, said the scientists. However, another specialist said no study could match the intensity of a real-life traumatic experience.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often associated with experiences during conflict, can affect anyone who has suffered a sudden and shocking incident. One of its main features is the "flashback", in which the distressing sights, sounds or smells of the incident can return in everyday life.

The Oxford University experiment works on the principle that it may be possible to modify the way in which the brain forms memories in the hours after an event. A total of 40 healthy volunteers were enrolled, and shown a film which included traumatic images of injuries.

Half of the group were then given the game to play while the other half did nothing. The number of "flashbacks" experienced by each group was then reported and recorded over the next week, and those who played Tetris had significantly fewer.

Source - BBC

How gardening helps people with dementia

On a crisp, bright morning, Bob Newell, 77, from Wokingham, Berkshire, plucks a sprig of rosemary from a pot, smiles, and says it reminds him of roast lamb. Memories are precious to the retired metallurgist; he had Alzheimer's diagnosed ten years ago.

He is walking through a kitchen garden on a country estate just outside Reading, but this is a garden with a difference, one that is designed to evoke fond memories. It is decorated with wind chimes, water features and old-fashioned washing lines.

The garden is part of a network of plots and farmland at the charity Thrive, an organisation that promotes therapeutic gardening at its headquarters, set in 130 acres. It aims to improve wellbeing and independence in dementia sufferers by engaging them in horticulture.

Thrive takes about ten people a day. They do everything from planting seedlings in the glasshouse, to working on their individual plots of ground, in which they can grow whatever they like, from hollyhock and sweet peas to lavender and potatoes. Newell started attending the Thrive project five years ago after a family friend recommended it, knowing that he was a keen gardener.

Val, Newell's wife, says they couldn't have imagined how positive the experience would be: “We've never looked back. It has done wonders and came just at the right time.” Alzheimer's is a cruel disease, slowly eating away at personalities and stealing independence. Val believes that the gardening project has helped Bob to hold on to his sense of self. When someone loses so much, finding something that they can do, and enjoy, means an awful lot,” she says.

Nicola Carruthers, the chief executive of Thrive, says that the simple act of planting, nurturing and growing a plant can be surprisingly empowering to someone who is struggling with dementia. “It's all about ownership. It's so you can say that's mine; that's what I worked on. The disease causes a massive sense of isolation. As people decline, they lose themselves. They may have previously been high-fliers, but after the diagnosis people start talking to the person next to them, not to them directly,” Carruthers says.

Source - Times

How healthy are 'vitamin' waters?

You may have noticed a growing number of functional water-based drinks in cool cabinets recently. Some are simply spring water with added fruits; others are ordinary water with nutrients and herbal extracts that promise everything from fabulous skin to detoxing and saving you from your hangover. You won't overdose drinking two or three a day, but are they good for a new year health kick? Personally, I'll be sticking with water, but here is what you get for your money:

Source - Times

The secret to being positive, successful and happy - by the world's leading thinkers

From Malcolm Gladwell to Alain de Bottom - leading thinkers share their secrets of success

"Take the risk of giving; something will come back"

Camila Batmanghelidjh Founder of children's charity Kids' Company

You have to think of the challenges as obstacles that you can have fun overcoming, rather than as impenetrable brick walls.

It's important, too, to have a sense of urgency: you have to work out how to get things done. If that does not happen, you have to keep the art of responding to the situation gracefully without feeling dramatic or victimised.

To have resilience you have to visit your dreadful bottom line. What's the worst thing that could happen? To face it and work it through, rather than always being scared of it?

It's a great help if you can be kind and not underestimate the energising capacities of kindness.

We're in a climate that might make you want to hoard, but you should take the risk of giving out. Something always comes back to you from it. The art of giving is to share the important things that you have, rather than just giving what you can spare.

Don't take yourself seriously: our ancestors lived in caves with little to survive on. What we're going through is no big deal.

I am going into 2009 with a totally fun attitude. The economic situation will make it very difficult for us to raise funds. My team and I are trying to think of really creative ways to do this with fun events and activities. We have many thousands of children reliant on our charity so downsizing is not an option.

You are always inspired if you are surrounded by children who have experienced huge trauma. It takes a lot for them to get up each morning and be hopeful for the next day.

If they can still hold on to hope, then the rest of us can learn from their example.

"Exercise every day, regardless of how tired you feel"

Source - Times

Dreaming of a good night's sleep: Unravelling the insomnia 'cures' to find the best way to nod off

Millions of Britons are missing out on a good night's sleep as a result of insomnia - an estimated one-third of all adults suffer from it at some point in their lives. Desperate for rest, they face a bewildering choice of treatments, from talking therapies, to pills and herbs.

But what really works - or are sleeping pills the only solution?

Researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) believe they now have the answer. They have reviewed all the studies on the more popular treatments to see which ones do actually work, which might work, and which are a waste of time and money.


THE THEORY: Also known as talking therapy, CBT is based on trying to change the actions or thoughts that stop you sleeping well - for example, tackling anxiety or stress. You're also taught to stop behaviour that hinders sleep, such as going to bed too early, or watching TV in bed.

The treatment itself involves a number of sessions - depending on the individual - with a trained counsellor to tackle the negative thinking.

The main advantage is that unlike most other therapies for insomnia, it tackles the underlying problem and not just the symptoms.

THE EVIDENCE: U.S. research has shown that CBT is a very effective treatment for insomnia and in some studies worked better than sleeping pills.

One study, at Duke University found that patients who had CBT slept twice as long as they had before treatment. Those in a placebo group experienced only 12 per cent more sleep.

The good results of CBT could be seen after six weeks and remained even six months later.

CONCLUSION: Behavioural therapy is effective and long-lasting.

Source - Daily Mail

Additives used in bacon, ham and chicken 'could make cancers grow'

A common additive used in bacon and ham could fuel the growth of cancers, research suggests. High doses of inorganic phosphate salts – which are used to enhance the texture and flavour of processed meats – increased the size of tumours in mice.

The chemicals are also added to bread, cakes and cheeses. The research will increase concerns that additives used to boost food industry profits could be contributing to cancer rates.

Eating large amounts of processed meats has already been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer. The latest findings come from a Seoul National University study into the impact of phosphates on mice which were bred to be vulnerable to lung cancer.

The creatures were fed a diet containing 0.5 or 1 per cent phosphate – roughly equivalent to the amount found in human diets.

Those on the high additive diet developed tumours more quickly than those on a conventional diet, the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Source - Daily Mail

Taking vitamins 'fails to lower risk of getting cancer'

Taking vitamin supplements for years fails to lower your overall risk of suffering cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers also found that beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E supplements had no effect on preventing cancer. The findings, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, followed two other important studies that also concluded that antioxidant supplements did not prevent cancer.

Dr JoAnn Manson, who carried out the research for Harvard Medical School in Boston, America, said: 'Although a healthful dietary pattern rich in fruits and vegetables may lower cancer risk, such benefits cannot be mimicked by simply popping a few vitamin supplements.'

The study tracked 7,627 women who were of an average age of 60 years and had taken supplements for more than nine years. The experiment saw patients take 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily, vitamin E tablets every other day or 50 milligrams of beta carotene every other day - or various combinations of the three supplements. Others were given placebos to act as a yardstick compared to the patients given vitamins.

The findings showed that women who took the supplements had similar rates of cancer and cancer deaths compared to those who took a placebo. But the study suggested that vitamin E supplements might reduce colon cancer risk and that beta carotene supplements might modestly raise lung cancer risk.

However, medical experts acknowledged that while the women took the supplements for almost a decade, the study may not be long enough to measure the full effects against cancer.

Source - Daily Mail

Grape extract could fight cancer

A supplement made from grape seeds can destroy leukaemia cells, according to scientists at the University of Kentucky in Philadelphia.

In laboratory experiments, grapeseed extract forced the cancer cells to self-destruct. Within 24 hours, 76 per cent of leukaemia cells exposed to the extract died through a process called apoptosis. Healthy cells were unharmed. The researchers believe the discovery could lead to promising new treatments, but warned it was too early to justify recommending that people take grapeseed extract to stave off cancer.

Grape seeds contain a number of antioxidant plant chemicals including resveratrol, which is known to have anti-cancer properties.

Professor Xianglin Shi, who led the research, published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, said: "These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grapeseed extract into prevention or treatment of haematological [blood] malignancies. What everyone seeks is an agent that has an effect on cancer cells but leaves normal cells alone, and this shows that grapeseed extract fits into this category."

Source - Independent