Three daily cups of tea can reduce risk of stroke

The great British cuppa can protect against stroke, a study suggests.

Drinking three cups of tea a day cuts the risk of brain clots by 21 per cent, say scientists from the American Heart Association who analysed 10 studies in China, Japan, Finland, Holland, Australia and the U.S.

It is thought that tea may help by reducing blood pressure. Other possibilities are that chemicals present in tea - catechins and theanins - contribute to improved blood vessel function.

'Tea drinking may be one of the most actionable lifestyle changes to significantly reduce the risk of stroke,' said the study.

Dr Catherine Hood of the Tea Advisory Panel said: 'These latest health findings are really exciting for all of us tea drinkers. Despite different countries studied and the different tea drinking customs represented across the studies, the meta-analysis showed that tea consumption was associated with reduced risk for stroke and reduced risk of death from stroke.'

The study found that the risk of a fatal or non-fatal stroke in people drinking three or more cups a day was reduced by 21 per cent compared to those who did not drink tea.

Source - Daily Mail

It's official: Anger really CAN kill you, new study shows

Anger really can kill, doctors have warned.

Feelings of rage can trigger potentially deadly irregular heart rhythms, research shows. The finding, from a study of patients with cardiac problems, could explain other studies which have linked the anger sparked by world events - from the loss of a World Cup match to a war - with heart attacks.

'When you put a whole population under a stress factor, sudden death will increase,' said researcher Dr Rachel Lampert. 'Our study starts to look at how does this really affect the electrical system of the heart.'

Dr Lampert, of Yale University in the U.S., studied 62 adults being treated for an irregular heartbeat - a common condition which raises the risk of heart attack.

She said: 'We found in the lab setting that yes, anger did increase this electrical instability in these patients.'

Patients in the study took part in an exercise in which they recounted a recent angry episode while Dr Lampert's team did a test called T-Wave Alternans that measures electrical instability in the heart.

Source - Daily Mail

The healthy seed snacks that harbour killer bugs

Health-conscious shoppers who opt for ready-to-eat seeds could be putting themselves at risk of food poisoning.

A small proportion of the snacks have been found to be contaminated with salmonella or E.coli, which can pose a particular threat to the elderly. The Health Protection Agency said it was a 'serious' concern. Unlike other foods that can harbour germs, such as chicken, seeds are uncooked and therefore the bugs are not killed off before they are eaten. Experts from local councils and the HPA examined 3,735 packets of seeds between October 2007 and March last year. Twenty-two were unsafe because of salmonella contamination and 56 contained 'unsatisfactory' levels of E.coli.

The figures suggest that one in every 50 people who eats one of the products tested could fall ill.

Source - Daily Mail

Drink a day increases cancer risk

A glass of wine each evening is enough to increase your risk of developing cancer, women are being warned.

Consuming just one drink a day causes an extra 7,000 cancer cases - mostly breast cancer - in UK women each year, Cancer Research UK scientists say. The risk goes up the more you drink, whether spirits, wine or beer, the data on over a million women suggests.

Overall, alcohol is to blame for about 13% of breast, liver, rectum, mouth and throat cancers, the researchers say. They estimate that about 5,000 cases of breast cancer in the UK - 11% of the 45,000 cases diagnosed each year - can be attributed to women's consumption of alcohol. The study looked specifically at women who consumed low to moderate levels of alcohol - defined as three drinks a day or fewer.

Over the seven years of the study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a quarter of the 1.3 million women reported drinking no alcohol. Of those who did drink, virtually all consumed fewer than 21 drinks per week, and an average of 10g of alcohol per day, which is equivalent to just over one unit of alcohol found in half a pint of lager, a 125ml glass of wine or a single measure of spirits.

Nearly 70,000 of the middle-aged women developed cancer and a pattern emerged with alcohol consumption.

Source - BBC

Clean living way to beat cancer

Over 40% of breast and bowel cancer cases in rich countries are preventable through diet, physical activity and weight control alone, experts say.

Simple measures like cycling to work and swapping fatty foods for fruit can make all the difference for these and many other cancers, they say.

Globally, each year there are millions of these preventable cancer cases, the World Cancer Research Fund estimates.

Its report makes recommendations for "clean living" policies. According to the report, about a third of the 12 most common cancers in high-income countries and about a quarter in lower income countries could be prevented through diet, exercise and weight control. This include cancers of the throat, lung and bowel. The figures do not take into account the impact of smoking, which alone accounts for about a third of cancers.

The panel of 23 experts who compiled the report say urgent action is needed to avert a crisis, with cancer rates set to increase.

Source - BBC

How an egg a day could keep your blood pressure DOWN

Starting the day on an egg could keep your blood pressure in check, research suggests.

Scientists have shown that eggs produce proteins that mimic the action of powerful blood pressure-lowering drugs. The finding comes a few days after a study exploded the myth that they can increase the danger of heart attacks. It now appears that eggs may be good for the heart, lowering blood pressure in the same way as Ace inhibitors, prescription-only pills taken by millions around the world. The drugs lower blood pressure by stopping the hormone angiotensin narrowing the body's blood vessels.

The researchers, from the University of Alberta in Canada, showed that when eggs come in contact with stomach enzymes they produce a protein that acts in the same way. Fried eggs proved particularly successful at blocking angiotensin, lab-based tests showed, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports.

But the researchers, whose study was funded by the poultry industry, said more work was needed to show the effects outside a lab and in the human body.

Earlier this month, British researchers proclaimed that, contrary to popular perception, it is healthy to go to work on an egg. Researchers for the British Nutrition Foundation - part-funded by the poultry industry - concluded that the type of cholesterol found in eggs has minimal effect on raising heart disease risks.

Source - Daily Mail

Children cured of peanut allergy

Allergy to peanuts may be curable following positive results from the world's first successful desensitisation programme for peanut allergy, scientists say today. Children who risked suffering anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal reaction, if they encountered a single peanut have been protected so that they are able to eat without fear.

The finding will bring hope to thousands of families whose lives have been blighted by the allergy, one of the fastest growing in Britain. It is estimated one in 50 young people are affected by peanut allergy and cases have more than doubled in four years.

The desensitisation programme at Addenbrooke's Hospital involved 22 children aged seven to 17, who were given tiny 5mg starting doses of peanut flour. Gradually over six months the daily dose was built up to 800mgs a day, equivalent to five peanuts. Twelve children have reached the highest dose level and can tolerate twice as much, equivalent to 10 peanuts, without suffering side effects. For the first time their families know they can lead a normal life and be safe.

Andy Clark, who led the research, said: "Every time people with a peanut allergy eat something, they're frightened that it might kill them. Our motivation was to find a treatment that would change that and give them the confidence to eat what they like." He added: "It's not a permanent cure but as long as they go on taking a daily dose they should maintain their tolerance."

All 12 children are keeping up their tolerance by taking the equivalent of up to five peanuts a day. Dr Clark said: "At the moment we know that if they continue to eat five peanuts a day, their tolerance is maintained."

Dr Clark said the children would be followed for the next three or four years to monitor their tolerance levels and future studies would assess whether the dose could be given as a daily pill. After three or four years, the body may have adjusted and there could be a more "permanent cure", he said.

Details of the first four patients are published today in the journal Allergy. Professor Pam Ewan, head of allergy at Addenbrooke's, who oversaw the research, said the technique had not been tried before because researchers had been afraid it was too dangerous and scientists warned parents not to try the technique at home.

Source - Independent

India protects traditional remedies against bio prospecting.

In the first step by a developing country to stop multinational companies patenting traditional remedies from local plants and animals, the Indian government has effectively licensed 200,000 local treatments as "public property" free for anyone to use but no one to sell as a "brand".

The move comes after scientists in Delhi noticed an alarming trend – the "bio-prospecting" of natural remedies by companies abroad. After trawling through the records of the global trademark offices, officials found 5,000 patents had been issued — at a cost of at least $150m (£104m) — for "medical plants and traditional systems".

"More than 2,000 of these belong to the Indian systems of medicine ... We began to ask why multinational companies were spending millions of dollars to patent treatments that so many lobbies in Europe deny work at all," said Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, who heads the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which lists in encyclopaedic detail the 200,000 treatments.

The database, which took 200 researchers eight years to compile by meticulously translating ancient Indian texts, will now be used by the European Patent Office to check against "bio-prospectors".

Source - The Guardian

Drinking two cups of coffee a day 'cuts stroke risk by 20 per cent'

A study involving more than 80,000 women over a period of more than 20 years showed those who consumed several cups a day were much less likely to suffer a clot on the brain. The finding came as a surprise to researchers who had originally set out to investigate reports that the beverage increased the risk of a stroke.

In a report on their findings, published in the journal Circulation, they said: "Long-term coffee consumption was not associated with an increased risk of stroke in women. In contrast, it may modestly reduce the risk."

Although the study was carried out in women, it is thought that the benefits would probably apply to men too. Experts are not sure why coffee has its protective effect but say it could be due to the antioxidant content of the drink. Researchers stressed that the protective effect of coffee is only found in those who are already relatively healthy. Patients with existing heart disease or blood pressure problems are unlikely to benefit by drinking more coffee, they said.

Every year an estimated 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke, with about a third of them dying within the first 10 days and another third likely to be left disabled and needing rehabilitation. A quarter of a million people are living with long-term disability as a result of stroke in the UK and strokes are estimated to cost the NHS £2.3 billion a year.

Previous studies have shown coffee can protect against gout, memory loss, liver disease and even some cancers. But it has in the past been linked with heart disease and can also raise the risk of miscarriages in pregnant women.

In the latest study, experts at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, analysed the drinking habits of 83,000 women who were tracked for 24 years. The results showed the more coffee the women drank, the lower their risk of suffering a stroke.

Source - Telegraph

Alternative approach to arthritis: the facts Britons spend millions of pounds on them each year, but how good are complementary medicines at easing ac

Arthritis is one of the cornerstones of the market for complementary medicines. The British public spends hundreds of millions of pounds a year on a burgeoning range of supplements that claim to ease aches and pains. But do they work?

This is a question the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC) hopes to answer with the first comprehensive, evidence-based report on the use of complementary medicines in patients with arthritis. The full, 80-page report can be downloaded free of charge from, but below are some of the findings that caught my eye.

Before we get into which remedies work best, I have focused on self-help measures for people with the “wear and tear” type osteoarthritis (OA) that typically affects the hands, knees, hips and spine, as opposed to the less common but often more severe inflammatory form of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

It is thought that there are at least six million people in the UK with painful OA in one or both knees. At least two million people show signs of arthritic change in their hips, and close to ten million have OA of the spine. And many more will have minor changes in small joints of the hand, particularly the thumb. Conventional treatment centres on the use of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and diclofenac to control symptoms until such time as joint replacement may become necessary. But lots of patients also turn to complementary approaches.

Source - Times

As low levels of vitamin D are linked to a growing range of health problems... Could sunshine save your life?

Evidence is growing that we all need more vitamin D - and that low levels of it are causing serious and widespread health problems.

Only last week, research from Bristol University revealed that pregnant women who had higher levels of the vitamin produced taller and stronger-boned children. Other recent research suggests a deficiency of vitamin D in pregnancy and childhood could increase the risk of a child developing multiple sclerosis. Researchers have also linked insufficient vitamin D to heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, various forms of cancer, diabetes and arthritis. Low levels of vitamin D are thought to increase the likelihood of inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's, and there is even some evidence that the number of people getting colds and flu might be reduced each winter if they raised their vitamin D levels.

'Vitamin D plays a vital role in the diet,' says Bridget Benelam, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. 'It is easily absorbed by the body and is needed for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, both bone-building nutrients.'

Our main source of vitamin D is the sun. An inactive form of the vitamin, called cholecalciterol, is triggered when the skin is exposed to sunlight. This is then taken by the bloodstream and stored in the muscles or in body fat, or it is passed through the liver and kidneys to become an active form of vitamin D.

The problem is that we are not getting enough sun. In Britain almost no vitamin D is generated in the skin during the winter months because the solar radiation contains too little ultraviolet light.

Source - Daily Mail

Health News: Hopes the humble mushroom could stop cancer recurring

In more health stories this week, experts test whether mushrooms could stop cancer coming back

Button mushrooms are being tested as a treatment to stop breast and prostate cancers recurring. Researchers believe that extract of the fungi may prevent or delay the development of further cancers. Previous studies have shown that the extract acts in a similar way to antibreast cancer drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase is an enzyme that helps the body to make oestrogen, a hormone most breast tumours require to grow.

The mushroom extract also contains a natural compound known as conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, which may help block the damage which leads to prostate cancer.

In two trials at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in California, prostate cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer survivors will take the extract twice a day for a month. If there has been no progression of the disease, they will continue with the treatment.

Source - Daily Mail

Loneliness is as bad for health as smoking or obesity, experts warn

Being lonely is as bad for your health as smoking or obesity, experts have warned.

Being cut off from friends and family can raise blood pressure and weaken the immune system, the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference heard. It can also make it harder to sleep and even speed the progression of dementia, according to psychologist John Cacioppo.

He found loneliness raises levels of the hormone cortisol and can push blood pressure up into the danger zone for heart attacks and strokes. Research showed the difference in health between the lonely and the most socially active could be as great as that between smokers and non-smokers and the obese and those of normal weight.

Professor Cacioppo said: 'When time takes its toll on the body, loneliness steepens that slope of descent.'

In his study, the loneliest people had blood pressure readings up to 30 points higher than those with the most active social lives, making them three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke and twice as likely to die from them as people with normal blood pressure.

High levels of cortisol can also suppress the immune system, raising a person's vulnerability to disease. The lonely also sleep more fitfully, feel lethargic during the day and are more likely to rely on sleeping tablets. Loneliness also has numerous other effects on health, including accelerating the pace of dementia. It is not clear why this is but it may be their brains lack the suppleness of those who socialise regularly.

When researchers compared the health of people who shut themselves away with from the world with gregarious types they found the difference as great as that between smokers and non-smokers, the obese and the normal weight or those who exercised and those who didn't.

Source - Daily Mail

Drinking just one glass of wine a day can INCREASE risk of cancer by 168%, finds shock new study

Drinking even a single glass of wine a day can increase the risk of cancer by 168 per cent, a shocking new French study has found.

Researchers in Paris have destroyed the myth that drinking moderate amounts of red wine can be good for the health. Instead, experts at the country's National Cancer Institute have warned that even repeated small doses of alcohol can massively increase the risk of getting cancer. The Institute's president Dominique Maraninchi said: 'Small daily doses of alcohol are the most harmful. There is no amount, however small, which is good for you.'

Even drinking one unit of alcohol per day - a glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a single measure of spirits - can send the risk of mouth or throat cancer soaring by a massive 168 per cent. It can also raise the risk of colonic cancer by nine per cent.

The study said alcohol was now the second most avoidable cause of death after tobacco. The findings contradict numerous other studies which have found that the antioxidants in red wine actually reduced the risk of cancer, and that a single glass a day was also good for the liver.

Source - Daily Mail

Big chill: the hidden medical benefits of cryotherapy

Exposing your body to temperatures of -110C can be an excellent tonic.

During the so-called Big Freeze that paralysed parts of the country last week, night-time lows reached -9C. Pah! I’m about to experience temperatures more than 100C lower than that – and while wearing little more than a swimsuit.

The reason? Because chilling out in an oversized deep-freeze – or cryotherapy as it is known to spa-goers – is an extreme pick-me-up. More than that, it is said to work wonders for the skin, can boost your immune response, ease chronic pain, heal nerve damage, and even improve sporting performance.

Whoever thought that walking half-naked into a sealed, icy chamber with a pair of knee-high socks, gloves and ski mask could be good for you? The Japanese, as it happens, who came up with the idea of “whole-body cryotherapy” in the 1970s. But it was Polish scientists who embraced it as a way to relieve chronic pain, helping to popularise it in sanatoriums across eastern Europe.

Whole-body cryotherapy is currently only available in one UK resort – Champney’s in Tring – but devotees say that the massive hormone rush from the freezing temperatures can benefit anyone suffering from stress, burn-out, insomnia or depression. It’s good for skin conditions like psoriasis. It is also an effective analgesia; your body is so busy focusing on the cold, it forgets everything else.

As well as easing the effects of arthritis, rheumatism and multiple sclerosis, it has been shown to boost sporting performance; the Olympic rehabilitation centre in Spala, Poland, has a cryotherapy chamber used by sports teams from around the world. Many athletes record a remarkable 10 per cent improvement in performance after a dip in the deep freeze. Jockey Tony McCoy used it a couple of years ago to recover from serious back injury in time for Cheltenham, and the Irish rugby team have been enduring cryotherapy sessions for almost a decade, believing it to limit muscle damage and as an aid to recovery.

Source - Telegraph

Vitamin D deficiency may increase MS risk

Vitamin D deficiency before and after birth may increase the risk of multiple sclerosis in some individuals, a study has shown. Scientists have found evidence that MS susceptibility is influenced by vitamin D levels coupled with a common genetic variant.

Children with the gene mutation may be more at risk of developing the disease if they lack vitamin D while growing in the womb or during their early years of life. The researchers suggest that as a precaution mothers should take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy or give them to their young children.

MS is the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young adults. More than 85,000 people in the UK and 2.5 million worldwide are thought to suffer from the condition, which results from the loss of nerve fibres and their protective myelin sheath "insulation". Although the causes of MS are unclear, experts believe both environmental and genetic factors play a role.

Previous studies have shown that populations from northern Europe are more at risk of MS if they live in areas with little sunshine. This could be explained by the link with vitamin D, which is produced in the skin through the action of sunlight.

The largest genetic influence on MS is known to arise from a gene variant called DRB1*1501 and neighbouring DNA sequences. While one in 1,000 people in the UK is likely to develop MS, the incidence rises to around one in 300 for those carrying a single copy of the variant. People with two variant copies of the gene pair have a one in 100 chance of developing the disease.

Researchers at Oxford University and the University of British Columbia in Canada established a direct relationship between DRB1*1501 and vitamin D.

Source - Independent

Multivitamin supplements a 'waste of time'

Healthy diet provides all the vitamins needed to prevent serious deficiencies.

Middle-aged women who swallow multivitamin supplements are not doing their health any favours – and are just creating expensive urine, according to the world's largest study into the subject.

Researchers who examined the pill-popping habits of nearly 162,000 American women aged 50 to 79 found that although they swallowed dietary supplements by the bucketload, there was no sign that they reduced common cancers, heart disease or deaths.

People who eat a healthy diet get all the vitamins they need from their food. Any excess of vitamins (the water soluble C, B1, B2 and B6), whether in the food or in dietary supplements, is excreted. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) are stored in the liver and an excess can result in side effects.

"Based on our results, if you fall into the category of the women described here and you do in fact have an adequate diet, there really is no reason to take a multivitamin," said Dr Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, professor of epidemiology at Albert Einstein College, Yeshiva University.

Around half of Americans use vitamin supplements, spending $20bn (£13.4bn) a year on the pills which are believed to improve health and longevity. In Britain, a Food Standards Agency survey last year found 31 per cent of adults claimed to be taking the supplements, which typically cost £7 for a month's supply. The market in the UK is estimated to be worth over £330m a year.

The researchers recorded around 10,000 cases of cancer, 9,000 heart attacks and 10,000 deaths, and compared the incidence among the women who took supplements with those who did not. Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, who led the study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, said: "To our surprise we found that multivitamins did not lower the risk of the most common cancers and also had no impact on heart disease."

Source - Independent

Can our natural rhythm heal us?

Could a natural rhythm - which some experts believe we all possess - be a cure for a variety of health problems?

Some certainly think so. Musician Simon Lee, from Kent, is called on to teach drumming to patients with problems ranging from addiction to autism, and learning difficulties to mental health issues. He has even offered help to terminally ill patients needing palliative care.

And he says the results are amazing.

Experts believe that rhythmic drumming can aid health by inducing a deep sense of relaxation, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure.

Drumming health benefits

"Drumming has a number of benefits," said Simon. "It can energise or relax. It can foster a sense of playfulness or release anger and tension. It can also help in the conquering of social isolation and the building of positive relationships."

One patient, an alcoholic, told Simon her drumming sessions had helped her so much it had given her the inspiration to continue with a gruelling detox course.

Source - BBC

Arthritis therapies 'ineffective'

Most complementary therapies used by people with rheumatoid arthritis are not effective, a study has suggested.

The Arthritis Research Campaign looked at the scientific evidence available for 40 treatments. Two thirds of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and a fifth of treatments for osteoarthritis were found to be ineffective by the researchers. The Arthritis Research Campaign said it wanted people who used the therapies to know what evidence was available.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by inflammation of the lining (synovium) of the joints.

Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of protective tissue called cartilage in the joints. Inflammation results when the unprotected bones of the joint begin to rub together. It most commonly affects the joints of the fingers, knees, hips, and spine.

In total, 60% of people with arthritis are thought to use some form of complementary medicine.

Source - BBC

Alternative health capital turns its 'negative energy' on pioneering wi-fi system

It is regarded as an oasis of calm and tranquility, and the nation's capital for alternative health therapies and spiritual healing remedies, but now the residents of Glastonbury, which has long been a favoured destination for pilgrims, are at the centre of a bitter row in which many blame the town's new wireless computer network - known as wi-fi - for a spate of health problems. Some healers even hold that electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) generated by the wi-fi system are responsible for upsetting positive energy fields of the body, which are known as chakras, and positive energy fields of the earth, which are known as ley lines.

There are now calls for the project, the first of its kind in Britain, to be "unplugged" and for wi-fi masts in the centre of the Somerset market town to be removed just seven months into its experimental run.

Meanwhile soothsayers, astrologers and other opponents of the wi-fi system have resorted to an alternative technology - known as "orgone" - to combat the alleged negative effects of the high-tech system.

In May, Glastonbury - which has a population of 9,000 and which lends its name to the country's largest rock festival, staged on a farm six miles outside the town - became the first place in the country to have a free wi-fi network installed in its town centre. The £34,000 project is financed by county council and regional development agency funding,

At a public meeting to discuss alleged health problems in the Somerset town, residents complained of numerous symptoms including headaches, dizziness, rashes and even pneumonia. Protesters claim that radiation associated with the wi-fi network suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone which helps to control sleep patterns, regulates the body's metabolic rate and boosts the immune system.

Source - Telegraph

Medicinal plants in danger of dying out, according to conservationists

The decimation of wild medicinal plants could threaten the health of millions of people around the world who rely on traditional medicine to treat serious illness, according to scientists.

Plantlife, the conservation charity, point out that traditional medicine is the primary source of health care for more people worldwide than western medicine – often because it is the only affordable treatment available. For example plants in east Africa are used to treat malaria and opportunistic infections caused by HIV Aids.

However around 15,000 species are under threat from pollution, over-harvesting and habitat loss, including Himalayan Yew, known as a source of anti-cancer drugs. The decimation of the plants is not only leading to a loss of traditional knowledge but could prevent a breakthrough in treating conditions like migraines, fever and even cancer.

Plantlife have compiled a report on the best way to protect plants for the future, following a three-year study of projects around the world involving medicinal plants. Projects included developing medicinal first aid kits in Uganda, establishing China's first ever community nature reserve for wild medicinal plants and promoting the cultivation of medicinal plants by local farmers in Nepal.

Alan Hamilton, the author of the report, said protecting medicinal plants is not only important for human health but for the surrounding ecosystem.

Source - Telegraph

Do energy healers have special powers?

It's a heart-warming story for a grim time of year. After being plagued by a mystery virus for the past two years, Irish dancing supremo Michael Flatley is now back on stage. Not because of a good dose of vitamin C, yoga or osteopathy, but, intriguingly, thanks to a "bio-energy healer" called Michael O'Doherty.

Bio-energy healing sounds a lot more up to date than hands-on healing or faith-healing, which is what this sort of thing used to be called, except that now, you don't have to be part of any particular belief system in order to benefit.

If you ask a healer what they're actually doing, they'll say they're "channelling energy" in order to "realign" or "clear" the chakras (the body's multiple, invisible energy centres, according to ancient Hindu texts) and coax the body back to working at its full potential. Ask where this energy comes from and you'll be told anything from "a higher power" to "the universal source" or "pure white light", which doesn't really help.

But then the real issue with energy healers is not so much what they do, or how, but whether it has any effect. Because their work is inexact and unscientific, most traditional medical doctors take a dim view of it.

"It does seem that some healers have extraordinary powers," says Dr Guy Staight, a GP practising in London. ''But the problem is that in the world of evidence-based medicine, there isn't much evidence that energy healing works, aside from anecdotes. Healing tends to get used in conditions where there might be a natural resolution, so it is hard to know whether it is the treatment that has done the trick. And it can cost a lot of money."

One of the most intriguing aspects of energy healing is that anyone can learn to do it. According to the experts, it's like singing. Everyone can do it, but only a few people are really brilliant at it.

Source - Telegraph

Snow, the unlikeliest superfood

Before the great thaw begins, save as much snow as you can – eating it can be good for you.

As child labour goes, it's hardly like being shoved up a chimney. But in between hurling snowballs and apparently competing to make the most lopsided, physically handicapped snowman, my children were put to work in the fields yesterday.

We might be approaching the "hungry gap", the early spring months when nothing much edible grows, but this week most of us have been surrounded by one of nature's most bountiful fruits: snow. Before the great thaw begins, it's time to get harvesting. The savvy gastronome will already have plenty of recipes for snow – marshmallow snowmen, snow biscuits and, of course, snow ice-cream. And if bars serve snowballs, why not make a real snow cocktail?

But all of this is merely icing on the cake. The real use for snow is as naturally filtered and chilled drinking water. We profess to be green and recycle everything from cars to cornflake packets, yet are only too delighted to watch huge quantities of the cold stuff melt. Why? Many experts believe it is far purer than water from tap or bottle; it is readily available; and it's free.

Just as mineral water became an 80s status symbol, in America swish restaurants are already serving rainwater, as it said to be softer than tap, while fashionistas sip bottles of the stuff. In Britain, too, a small but growing band of eco-worriers is buying the kit – cost: £400 – that is required to collect enough drizzle, hail and snowflakes to keep a household in water. After all, no matter how squeezed we are for liquid cash, rain is one commodity we Brits will never lack. Hey, Manchester could make an industry out of the stuff.

But is it actually good for you? The latest issue of Psychologies Magazine – the women's wellbeing magazine that, according to the tagline, helps you "make sense of your world" – reports that rainwater's "slightly acidic chemistry may assist kidney function and remove toxins, alleviating arthritis and gallstones". It also suggests it can protect us from stomach upsets, citing a University of Western Australia study that found children who drank rainwater were less likely to contract gastroenteritis.

Source - Telegraph

Chemicals in packaging 'lower fertility of women'

Chemicals used in a wide range of products may make it more difficult for women to become pregnant, researchers have found. It is the first evidence of a link between infertility and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are found in food packaging, pesticides, clothing, upholstery, carpets and cosmetics.

The U.S. study found that women with higher levels of two types of PFCs in their blood took longer to conceive than women with lower levels. Previous research had suggested that high levels of the chemicals, which persist in the environment for decades, may harm unborn babies.

The researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles say the biological mechanisms by which exposure to PFCs might reduce fertility are unknown, but they may interfere with hormones involved in reproduction.

Women with more of the chemicals on their blood were more likely to report irregular menstrual cycles.

Source - Daily Mail

Salty soups can increase cancer risk, says expert

People who regularly have soup with a high salt content could be increasing their risk of stomach cancer, according to an expert.

Soups are one of the 'worst culprits' for hidden salt, she said, and a single serving of some leading brands contains half the recommended daily maximum intake. Dr Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommended making low-salt versions at home. She also suggested reducing intake of salt-preserved foods, such as ham and sausages, as well as pizza, some ready meals and breakfast cereals.

Salt is known to increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart disease, but scientists also believe it is a cause of stomach cancer. The recommended intake of salt for adults is no more than 6g a day although the current average consumption is 8.6g daily.

Dr Thompson said: 'Fresh vegetable-based soups tend to have less salt than tinned cream-based soups which include bacon or ham, but even some of the healthier brands of vegetable soups still contain over a third of our recommended daily intake. This should be no more than 6g but we actually need far less. It is commonly known that salt increases risk of high blood pressure, but people are less aware that it also probably increases risk of stomach cancer. Even taking small steps to reduce your salt intake, such as always checking labels or making your own soup from scratch, is something positive you can do to help reduce your risk of cancer.'

According to the WCRF, the salt levels in Batchelors Soupfulls, for example, vary from 1.9g to 3g per single serving, which is 32 per cent to 50 per cent of the recommended intake, while Heinz Classic Vegetable soup contains 2g of salt per serving (33 per cent).

Source - Daily Mail

Is your make-up killing you? The deadly poisons lurking in your handbag

The British cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery industry is worth more than £6.5 billion a year.

Yet just this week, research was published showing that common chemicals used in toiletries may make women more likely to be infertile.

Indeed, inside all those gleaming bottles and tubes we take for granted lurks a cocktail of dangerous synthetic chemicals that research suggests may be responsible for everything from reproductive complications to allergies and cancer.


Contact dermatitis is a form of skin inflammation related to eczema that is caused by external substances coming into contact with the skin.

One incredibly potent source of allergic contact dermatitis in humans is the hair colourant paraphenylenediamine (PPD), also referred to as p-phenylenediamine.

PPD is still used in some permanent hair dyes in Britain and the U.S. - despite being prohibited for use in hair dyes in Germany, France and Sweden many years ago because concerns developed about its damaging health effects.

PPD is not approved for direct application to the skin, yet when hair dye is applied it usually does come into contact with the scalp and often the forehead and ears.

A survey of one London contact-dermatitis clinic, where eczema patients were tested for reactions to PPD, found that allergy to the substance had risen from 4.2 per cent in January 1999 to 7.1 per cent in December 2004.

The study's authors state that the 'disturbing' increase in positive reactions to PPD 'may be due to subjects dyeing hair in increasing numbers and at an earlier age'.

One recent study of 55 people with adverse reactions to hair colours concluded that PPD presents a significant health risk for people, yet it is still authorised in hair dyes in concentrations of up to 6 per cent in the EU and 4 per cent in the U.S.


If you colour your hair regularly, try natural dyes. Dark hair dyes in particular seem to have more question marks about their safety, so consider a lighter shade or learn to love your natural colour.

Vegetable dyes are a far safer option than those packed with synthetic chemicals - and are much less likely to cause allergic reactions.

Plums are new super-food and full of disease-fighting antioxidants, says experts

Plums are being heralded as the new 'super-food' by scientists. They found the purple fruit matched or exceeded blueberries in antioxidants and phytonutrients, which help prevent disease.

Researcher Dr David Byrne, of AgriLife Research, said tests revealed one plum contains about the same amount of antioxidants as a handful of blueberries. Antioxidants are molecules that sweep through a body looking for free radicals to knock out. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that lurk where diseases like cancer and heart disease are found.

Fellow scientist Dr Luis Cisneros, who helped with the Texas-based research, said: 'Blueberries have some stiff competition. People tend to eat just a few blueberries at a time - a few on their cereal or maybe as an ingredient mixed with other fruit in a fruit salad. But people will eat a whole plum at once and get the full benefit.'

Catherine Collins, principal dietition at London's St George's Hospital, welcomed the research.

She said: 'Plums are very good for us and because they tend to come in punnets for about £1 they are fairly cheap. If everyone was eating two or three small plums a day that would be great. Many of the healthy chemicals and antioxidants in fruit and vegetables are in the different colour agents and so people should try to eat a rainbow of different coloured fruit. Plums are also low in calories and fat free. The important thing is not to peel your plums - you must eat the skin because that's where many of the colour agents and antioxidants are.'

Source - Daily Mail

Is your manuka honey really worth the money?

Over the past few years, manuka honey from New Zealand has earned a reputation as a bit of a wonder treatment.

Research has shown that the honey - produced by bees who feed off the manuka bush - has powerful antibiotic properties and can help combat MRSA, fight infections, reduce wound inflammation and help with skin conditions such as acne and eczema.

But there are so many brands available, at vastly different prices (you can pay anything from £5 to £35 for a pot), how do you know which one really packs a good bacterial punch? And does spending more guarantee a better product?

Until about a year ago, the solution would have been to rely on the honey's Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating (they range from 10 to 25). The higher the rating, the more potent - and usually more expensive - the honey. But according to some manuka honey manufacturers, this UMF system is unreliable. The ratings are made by the Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) which compares a batch of honey against the bacteria-killing ability of different concentrations of a standard disinfectant.

'But two tests done at different times on the same batch of honey can give very different results,' alleges Kerry Paul, chief executive of Manuka Health, one of the 'rebel' honey manufacturers. The AMHA retorts that results vary only by a few points and, anyway, it takes this into account when rating the honey.

But Mr Paul believes there's a better way - by measuring methylglyoxal (MGO) content. This compound is found in high concentrations in manuka honey - up to 100 times greater than ordinary honey - according to German researchers, and is thought to give it its antiseptic edge.

Source - Daily Mail

Magnets stop the nightmare of tinnitus, researchers say

Brain stimulation is being used to ease symptoms of tinnitus.

A study has found that all patients given the treatment experienced some improvement; a year afterwards, some patients were still tinnitus-free in one or both ears. Tinnitus is the sensation of a sound in the ear, usually a ringing noise, though it can be a high-pitched whistling or buzzing or hissing.

It can be triggered by underlying problems, including diminished hearing, earwax, high blood pressure and anxiety, but in many cases the cause is unknown.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People says up to a third of adults report some tinnitus at some time. And for a number of sufferers their quality of life is severely affected. Although there have been many treatments over the years, including devices to mask the noise, distracters, anti-depressants and behaviour therapy, no cure has been found.

The new treatment, known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), uses an electromagnet to generate pulses which stimulate part of the brain. This is based on the theory that people with tinnitus are thought to have overactivity in the temporoparietal cortex involved in processing sounds. The rTMS is thought to reduce this, and hence the perception of tinnitus.

Another theory is that the stimulation interferes with the tinnitus signals travelling along pathways in the auditory part of the brain.

Source - Daily Mail