Vitamin D hope in prostate cancer

Vitamin D is an effective treatment for prostate cancer in some patients, a UK study suggests.

A once daily dose reduced PSA level - an indicator of severity of disease - by as much as half in 20% of patients.

There has been much interest in vitamin D in prostate cancer after studies linking risk of the disease to sunlight exposure, the researchers said. One expert agreed the findings were encouraging but said it needed to be tested in a bigger population.

The trial - results of which are due to be published in the journal BJU International - was set up after one patient got better when his wife bought him some vitamin D tablets. Professor Jonathan Waxman, said the example had prompted him to assess the effects in a wider group of patients.

Out of 26 men with recurrent prostate cancer, who took a daily dose of vitamin D2 bought from the chemist, five responded to the treatment. In two the PSA level, fell by more than half, in two by 25-50% and in one man it fell by less than 25%. The effects in one man were sustained for 36 months.

Source - BBC

Complementary therapies snubbed

Use of complementary therapies is "surprisingly" low among British cancer patients, a study suggests.

A survey of 200 patients in London found only one in five used alternative medicine and most of those did not think it would cure them. Similar studies from the US had shown use was as high as 80%, the researchers at Hammersmith Hospital said. The study also found patients have a high level of faith in their doctors and their treatment.

Study leader Professor Jonathan Waxman said because of the widespread publicity around complementary medicine he would have expected to see a much higher take up. Yet only 22% of people questioned - across a wide range of ages and cancer types - had supplemented their conventional treatments. Among those who had tried alternative therapies, the most common were multivitamins, with selenium, omega-3 preparations and homeopathy also popular choices, the Quarterly Journal of Medicine reported.

Patients surveyed rarely spend more than £100 in total on complementary medicine and most of those who used it said it should be available on the NHS. Of those using complementary therapies, 61% thought there was more evidence for conventional medicine and two-thirds thought that it would be conventional medicine that cured them.

Source - BBC

Does it work for you? Acupuncture for runners

What is it?

Serious runners will leave no stone unturned in their quest for speed, and the latest trend is acupuncture to ease weary limbs, niggling injuries and post-race fatigue. According to the ancient theories of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is vital in clearing blockages and helping to balance the body's yin and yang, as imbalances manifest themselves as illness or pain. It involves practitioners placing a thin, disposable needle into one of more than 2,000 specific points on the body.

Who's it aimed at?

Any of the 40,000 runners preparing to cover the 26.2 miles from Greenwich to the Mall in the Flora London Marathon next Saturday.

What's the idea?

It is thought that the needles stimulate the brain to release endorphins, boosting mood and relieving tiredness, and trigger the immune system to help to ward off injuries, soreness and joint pain. Several small studies have suggested that it works for runners. One published last year in the journal Chinese Medicine found “significant differences” in muscle soreness among those who had acupuncture during an exhaustive training regimen compared with those who didn't.

Who uses it?

The marathon superwoman, Paula Radcliffe, admits to being a fan. Athletes in other sports, including the tennis player Maria Sharapova, also use it.

Source - Times

How thinking young can help to boost your memory

It's not good news for those who fear that old age and a failing memory come hand-in-hand.

Scientists say that pensioners who believe the elderly should perform poorly on memory tests are much more likely to score badly. On the other hand, those who don't buy into negative stereotypes about ageing and memory loss tend to do better. The U.S. study found that pensioners' ability to remember suffers when negative stereotypes are 'activated'.

Professor Tom Hess, of North Carolina State University, said: 'Older adults will perform more poorly on a memory test if they are told older folks do poorly on that particular type of memory test.'

Their memory also suffers if they think they are being stigmatised by the young who look down on them because of their age.

Source - Daily Mail

The yoga supergran who can still assume the lotus position... at the age of 83

Yoga instructor Bette Calman may be 83, but she's still bending over backwards to spread the benefits of the ancient Indian discipline.

The nimble grandmother can really pull some shapes and with her set hair and pearl earrings she looks as glamorous as Greta Garbo in a pink jumpsuit. With 40 years of teaching under her belt, the Australian wonder is living proof that a lifetime's dedication to yoga will keep you flexible as a rubber band. While others her age complain about aches and pains, Mrs Calman focuses on getting tough balancing manoeuvres right.

Mrs Calman from Williamstown, southeast Australia, can do all the difficult moves including the agonising 'peacock' where the body is held in a horizontal position by the strength of the arms alone. The bendy granny can also pull off a tricky raised 'lotus', 'bridge' and a headstand with ease. She can also put her head between her knees and hold her ankles putting her inflexible grandchildren to shame.

'I'm proof that if you keep at it, you'll get there. I can do more now than I could 50 years ago,' Mrs Calman said.

So when will she give it up?

'You're never too old. The body is a remarkable instrument. It can stretch and stretch, and get better all the time. Forget age,' said Mrs Calman, the author of three yoga books including one called Yoga for Arthritis. Even a basic posture, or just going to a window and breathing deeply, can have big benefits.'

It's that spirit that has made Mrs Calman a legend.

Source - Daily Mail

Sleeping too much or too little increases your risk of diabetes

People who get too little sleep, or too much, are far more likely to develop diabetes, say scientists.

A study has found that those who did not enjoy the optimum level of seven to eight hours sleep a night were two and a half times more likely to develop a blood sugar abnormality linked to type 2 diabetes. Researchers who studied the habits of 276 volunteers over a six-year period said they did not know the cause. The findings, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, suggest seven to eight hours' sleep a night seems to be the ideal amount for adults to protect against common diseases and premature death.

Scientists say they do not know the cause, but previous studies have shown a link between sleep patterns and obesity, cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. Obesity is known to be linked to diabetes, but the greater risk of diabetes due to sleeping habits remained even when obesity was taken into account. Previous research suggests sleep loss could disturb the production of hormones that control the desire for calorie-rich foods, hunger and energy expenditure.

Source - Daily Mail

Why soya may not be such a super food after all

It was hailed as a superfood that could fight breast cancer, strengthen bones and ease the menopause. Once thought of as exotic, today soya can be found in a variety of guises on supermarket shelves, from dairy-free milk and yogurt to vegan cheese and tofu.

Soya was first cultivated in China, where it was used as medicine and in cooking. Last year, more than one million tons of it were imported to the UK. However, there is mounting evidence that soya could, in fact, pose a serious health risk. Experts claim soya foods might lower testosterone levels in men, hamper thyroid function, cause weight gain and disrupt hormones.

Hailing from the same family as beans, peas and lentils, soybeans are crushed to form soybean meal, which is then used to make edible soya products. It contains all the essential amino acids to build protein in our bodies, and many vegetarians opt for soy products as a way of upping their daily protein intake. Surprisingly, according to food-industry estimates, it is also found in 60 per cent of processed foods, adding bulk, flavour and texture.

Breakfast cereals, cereal bars and biscuits, cheese, cakes, dairy desserts, gravies, noodles, pastries, soups, sausage casings, sauces and sandwich spreads, to name just a few, often contain soya. It appears on food labels as 'soya flour', 'hydrolysed vegetable protein', 'soy protein isolate', 'protein concentrate', 'textured vegetable protein', 'vegetable oil', 'plant sterols', or the emulsifier 'lecithin'.

Millions believe it to be a healthy option, providing protein with no saturated fat and without the risk of raising cholesterol levels. Yet it seems the very properties that made soya so attractive could also make it a health threat.

Source - Daily Mail

Medics baffled as woman's killer cancer disappears

A Northern Ireland woman who was diagnosed with terminal cancer before the tumour miraculously disappeared may have been saved by her own immune system.

Sharyn Mackay, from Newcastle, Co Down, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour on her kidney which was so rare that doctors at Craigavon Area Hospital sent samples of it for examination by specialists in London, Glasgow and Harvard. The mother-of-four was then dealt a further devastating blow by doctors — the cancer was inoperable and chemotherapy, even if it worked, would only add a few weeks to her life.

“They said it was spindle cell sarcoma which is normally a bone cancer,” she explained. “I was one of only 10 known cases where it had become a kidney tumour. The surgeon kept a watch on my kidney but in April 2004 he told me the cancer had rattled through my kidneys and lungs and I was a terminal case. The hospital said treatment was an option, but not a cure, and that I had a year to live at best.”

The mother was left stunned, however, when further scans to see how the cancer was progressing showed that it had inexplicably disappeared.

“The doctors were astonished and said it could not have been due to anything they’d done,” she added. “Four radiographers studied the scans and none of them could quite believe it. The tumours had gone and I was told to leave the hospital and live a full life. The cancer has never come back and I have never felt better.”

While Mrs Mackay attributed her recovery to the power of prayer, medical experts are now considering the possibility that her immune system played a vital role in destroying the tumour.

Source - Independent

Why holidays can be bad for your health

Travel is said to broaden the mind – but it can also damage it, experts say.

In an unprecedented move, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a warning that the stress of international travel can lead to mental disorder in vulnerable people. For the first time, the global health agency has included detailed guidance on the psychological impact of travel in its annual publication International Travel And Health.

Almost one billion people leave home to venture abroad each year, just over half of them tourists going on holiday, and mental problems are "among the leading causes of ill-health among travellers", it says.

"Psychiatric emergency" is one of the most common medical reasons for evacuation by air ambulance, along with injury and heart disease, the WHO report says. Up to 100 patients a week are brought back to the UK by air ambulance, according to the British Ambulance Association, and many more are returned on commercial aircraft, mostly accompanied by medical staff.

FlyMeNow, an air charter company based in York, said it had flown a man with bipolar disorder from Egypt back to Manchester last October, after he became manic while on holiday with his wife. "He had to be sedated for the flight; he was stretchered on to the plane and police were waiting when it landed in Manchester. He was taken to hospital where he was stabilised on drugs and discharged the next day," said Andrew Whitney, the commercial director. The cost of £25,000 was paid by the family, who did not have travel insurance.

Dan Sanders, of Oxford-based Air Medical, said the company had flown a woman from Ireland back to Germany last year accompanied by "four to five" security escorts. "There had been some violence on an earlier flight but when she got in a light plane she was fine. I think she realised no one was watching – she had no audience," he added.

Extreme anxiety such as phobia of flying is a key problem faced by travellers, and is involved in 3.5 per cent of all medical in-flight emergencies. People who suffer panic attacks may feel more comfortable in an aisle seat when travelling by plane, the WHO adds. It warns anxiety sufferers to avoid caffeine, certain over-the-counter cold medications and the anti-malarial drug mefloquine (brand name Lariam), which has been linked with psychotic episodes in some people.

Source - Independent

Walnuts may prevent breast cancer

Eating walnuts may help to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, research suggests.

The nuts contain ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols that may all reduce the risk of the disease. Mice fed the human equivalent of two ounces (56.7g) of walnuts per day developed fewer and smaller tumours. The US study was presented to the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting.

Researcher Dr Elaine Hardman, of Marshall University School of Medicine, said although the study was carried out in mice, the beneficial effect of walnuts was likely to apply to humans too. She said: "We know that a healthy diet overall prevents all manner of chronic diseases. It is clear that walnuts contribute to a healthy diet that can reduce breast cancer."

Previous research has suggested eating walnuts at the end of a meal may help cut the damage that fatty food can do to the arteries. It is thought that the nuts are rich in compounds that reduce hardening of the arteries, and keep them flexible. In the latest study mice were either fed a standard diet, or the walnut-based diet.

The animals fed walnuts developed fewer tumours, and those that did arise took longer to develop and were smaller. Molecular analysis showed that omega-3 fatty acids played a key role - but other parts of the walnut contributed as well.

Source - BBC

Honey: the sweetest cure for hayfever

Under a microscope, pollen looks charming – little spiky balls like those used in Pilates classes. Up the nose, however, it is such a menace that a fifth of the population dreads the coming of summer. Dry, sunny days when the pollen count is high make their noses run and eyes stream.

Most of the remedies for hay fever aren't very attractive either. You can lock yourself indoors next to an air-conditioning unit, feel drowsy on anti-histamines, or worry about what steroids are doing to your body. So, swallowing a spoonful of honey a day is a delightful alternative.

Thousands of people swear by it, saying that a spoonful a day, preferably starting well before the pollen season, has transformed their lives. The principle behind it is desensitisation. The pollen that bees collect is the heavy-grained variety that doesn't cause problems.

But, honey being sticky, it may also contain small amounts of the lighter, wind-blown pollens that inflame the lining of the nose and eyes. These are chiefly from grass and trees such as birch, which normally begin to blossom around the third week of April and trigger allergies in a quarter of hay-fever sufferers.

John Howat, secretary of the Bee Farmers Association of the UK, says: "I used to suffer dreadfully myself until I had been keeping bees for a couple of years. Since then, hardly ever. I don't eat much honey, so the effect could be related to all the stings I've had, or to burying my head in beehives every week."

But is there any evidence that honey is an effective anti-allergen? It certainly appears to have some medicinal properties. Studies have shown that as an antibacterial and healing agent it is better than over-the-counter remedies for coughs, colds and sore throats.

Source - Telegraph

Porridge: the king of superfoods

There is only so much rampant masculinity you can take over breakfast and, for my money, it is reassuringly confined to the man on the packet of Scott's Porage Oats. The image of that testosterone-packed Scotsman, shot-putting his way through our childhoods and still poised today, muscles rippling, with the breeze up his kilt, lifted the grey Bank Holiday Monday morning, confirming that all is well with the world. Even a recessionary one.

When the athletic Highlander was adopted as a symbol of the original Porage Oats in 1924, porridge was an austerity food, associated with prisons and cold winter mornings. Cooked with water or milk and a pinch of salt, it was Good For You in a robust, no-nonsense sort of way because it filled you up cheaply. Every mother knew that. There was no suspicion of the miraculous properties now being ascribed to it. And certainly no hint, other than subliminally, that the virile shot-putter in his white vest and big socks had breakfasted on nature's own Viagra. Now it looks as though he was fulfilling his symbolism all along. Better sex, sharper brains, longevity, lower cholesterol levels, weight loss... there is practically no modern health obsession that the humble oat does not address. As I ladled oats and nuts into a mixing bowl yesterday – the first stage of a recession-busting muesli – my eye was caught by yet another fantastic claim by scientists: porridge oats help children to concentrate at school.

Source - Telegraph

How a sitcom a day can keep the doctor away

As anyone who has had a giggling fit can attest, laughter is good for the soul.

But a growing body of research suggests it could be a tonic for the body too. The latest finding is that watching just half an hour of comedy a day slashes levels of stress hormones and compounds linked to heart disease. While the study focused on diabetes sufferers, researcher Dr Lee Berk believes most of us could benefit from a daily dose of humour.

Dr Berk, of Loma Linda University in California, studied 20 men and women taking medication for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All took their tablets as usual but half were also prescribed 'mirthful laughter' in the form of 30 minutes of comedy every day.

Stress hormone levels fell in the comedy viewers after two months, the American Physiological Society's annual conference heard.

By four months, levels of compounds linked to hardening of the arteries and other cardiac problems had also dropped, while levels of 'good' cholesterol - thought to protect against heart disease - rose.

Source - Daily Mail

Eat your greens if you want to avoid asthma

Telling children to eat up their greens – and giving them a helping of liver – may be the best way to prevent them from developing asthma.

Researchers who examined the influence of diet on asthma found that people who did not get enough vitamin A or C from their food had a higher risk of becoming asthmatic. Vitamin A is found in dark green and yellow vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and turnip greens, carrots, squash and sweet potatoes. It is also found in liver, milk, butter, cheese and eggs. Vitamin C is found in many of the same vegetables and in fruits including oranges, lemons, pineapple and strawberries.

Low levels of vitamin C in the blood were associated with a 12 per cent rise in incidence of the disease. Analysis also showed that those with asthma had an average daily intake of vitamin A which was between a quarter and a third of the recommended level.

Those with severe asthma had the lowest levels of vitamin A. No association was found with vitamin E.

The findings are from one of the largest reviews of research into the link. Scientists from the University of Nottingham found 40 relevant studies conducted around the world between 1980 and 2007.

Jo Leonardi-Bee, from the university's Department of Public Health, who led the study published in the journal Thorax, said: "It does appear that there is a link between diet and respiratory disease. It is unclear what the link is but it is probably to do with the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamins."

Asthma, which affects an estimated five million people in Britain, is characterised by oversensitive airways in the lungs which react to irritants in the air such as pollution and tobacco smoke.

Source - Independent

Having your head stroked creates pleasure - but only at 4cm per second

A gentle rub of the head has long been used by parents to soothe children.

Researchers have found that some nerves in the skin send 'feel good' signals to the brain when activated by just the right amount of stroking. he 'C fibre' nerves usually transmit messages of pain but record pleasure when the skin is stroked at about four centimetres per second, according to the study carried out by scientists in Britain, Germany and the United States and is published in the journal, Nature Neuroscience.

Researchers demonstrated the effect of C-fibres on volunteers using a 'robotic tactile stimulator' – a mechanical arm fitted with soft brush. Sensually caressed by the robot, the volunteers produced C-fibre signals that could be recorded.

Source - Telegraph

Pollution link with birth weight

Exposure to traffic pollution could affect the development of babies in the womb, US researchers have warned.

They found the higher a mother's level of exposure in early and late pregnancy, the more likely it was that the baby would not grow properly. The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at 336,000 babies born in New Jersey between 1999 and 2003

UK experts said much more detailed research into a link was needed.


The researchers, from the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, used information from birth certificates and hospital discharge records. They recorded details including each mother's ethnicity, marital status, education, whether or not she was a smoker - as well as where she lived when her baby was born.

Daily readings of air pollution from monitoring points around the state of New Jersey were taken from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Source - BBC

City air pollution 'shortens life'

It has taken a quarter of a century, but US researchers say their work has finally enabled them to determine to what extent city air pollution impacts on average life expectancy.

The project tracked the change of air quality in 51 American cities since the 1980s. During that time general life expectancy increased by more than two and half years, much due to improved lifestyles, diet and healthcare. But the researchers calculated more than 15% of that extra time was due to cleaner air.

"We think about five months of that is due to the improvement of air quality," said Dr Douglas Dockery, head of the Environmental Health Department at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, which undertook the research. He added that, due to the relatively clean air in the US, the impact was far larger than anticipated.

Dr Dockery said there were many factors which had an impact on life expectancy. But he added: "Clean or dirty air is something that is being imposed on you. You do have a choice on whether you smoke, drink, exercise or what type of food you eat. But you do not have a choice on what air you breathe."

Dr Dockery believes that if his research was transposed onto the heavily polluted cities of the developing world, such as Beijing or Mexico City, the life expectancy impact would be far greater.

Source -BBC

How to beat insomnia

Mental preparation, not drugs, is the key to a good night's sleep.

Which would you rather have: sex or a good night's sleep? According to a recent survey, 80 per cent of us would choose sleep. The question is how to get it in an age of unrelenting pressure where, no longer able to crash in a cave after a day spent chasing mastodons, half the adult population suffers from restless nights.

Gregg D Jacobs of Massachusetts University Medical School believes that he has the answer. His book Say Goodnight to Insomnia, published in the UK this month, sets out a six-week programme which, he boasts, is the first viable alternative to sleeping pills. The statistics from trials in the US are impressive: 90 per cent of users reduced their dependence on drugs and 75 per cent became normal sleepers.

The programme aims to teach relaxation and change your attitude toward sleep. Nothing aggravates insomnia, Dr Jacobs argues, as much as worrying about it: this makes your bed a battleground rather than a snooze-inducing haven. ''Having the right mattress may make a small difference,'' he says, ''but behavioural factors are the critical ones.'' By training your mind to reject negative thoughts and habits, you cannot only escape sleeplessness but discover a new life of ''energy and joy''.

Jacobs began to formulate his theory on a visit to Sikkim in India, where he saw monks preparing to meditate by wrapping themselves in sheets soaked with icy water. To his amazement, instead of catching cold, they were able to dry the sheets by raising their body temperature. "It became clear to me," he says, "that the mind has the ability to control the body, and therefore to control sleep."

If the monks are the heroes of Say Goodnight to Insomnia, the villains are drug manufacturers. Jacobs believes that pills can only prevent sleeplessness in the short term; eventually the brain becomes inured to them and the side effects are pernicious. Patients may think they're sleeping better, but this is largely because the drugs cause memory loss and users simply forget that they've woken in the night.

Source - Telegraph

Salvia: more powerful than LSD, and legal

In a cluttered living room in south London, Lee Hogan, a sound engineer and part-time disc jockey, perches on the edge of a cheap leather armchair and bends his head towards a glass water pipe. A friend, kneeling on the floor, holds the stem of the pipe and uses a cigarette lighter to burn a tea-smelling herb. The herb glows red, and as it does so, Hogan places his mouth over the aperture of the pipe (better known as a 'bong' to those in the know). He breathes in deeply, taking a lung-full of smoke.

It's the way that many people choose to inhale marijuana, but this weed is far more potent and far more harmful. Hogan is smoking salvia divinorum, a species of sage that also happens to be the most powerful hallucinogenic herb known to man. It's also perfectly legal.

It doesn't take long for the effects to take hold. Seconds after breathing in the smoke, Hogan leans back in his chair and lets out a deep, slightly manic laugh. He hugs himself and starts to giggle. The giggle then transforms into a whimper, which, in turn, becomes a series of high-pitched squeaks. He is trying to talk, but makes no sense whatsoever. Then, mouth hanging wide open, he looks around the room. His eyes have glazed over and he doesn't seem to know where he is. As he slowly manoeuvres himself in his chair, his head rocking from side to side, he looks like a man who has just been hit over the skull by an iron bar.

Later he tells me that, by this stage, he had started to imagine he was a toy soldier carrying a rifle and dressed in a tall black hat, red coat, white trousers and black boots. His friends, known in salvia-speak as 'sitters' – present to make sure that the user does not harm himself or others – looked like enemies on his imaginary battlefield. After a minute, he falls out of his chair and shuffles along the floor on his knees. He clumsily removes his top – he is wearing a shiny hooded jacket with oversized earflaps and large sunglasses – and nearly sprawls across a table in the process, then sinks back into the chair, his head in his hands, his T-shirt pulled up to his chest, a rumpled, incoherent mess.

Source - Telegraph

Could taking Vitamin E harm your baby's heart?

Pregnant women have been warned that taking even modest amounts of vitamin E can dramatically increase the risk of heart defects in babies.

Expectant mothers who consume only three-quarters of the recommended daily amount of the vitamin, either through food or supplements, have up to nine times the risk that their child will be born suffering a heart abnormality, a study showed. The same link between heart damage and vitamin E was seen in women who had taken similar levels of the vitamin in the month preceding conception.

Last night leading obstetricians said women should avoid vitamin E supplements if they are planning to conceive or are pregnant.

Vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and eggs, is an antioxidant and is thought to help skin stay healthy and ease the misery of premenstrual syndrome.

During pregnancy it was previously thought to help protect against miscarriage.

The recommended daily intake, according to EU rules, is 20mg a day. However researchers from the Erasmus MC, University Medical Centre, in Rotterdam found women who had taken over 14.9mg a day during the first two months of pregnancy were up to nine times more likely to have a child with a heart defect.

Source - Daily Mail

Chinese herbs ease psoriasis

A dark blue ointment based on a traditional Chinese remedy is effective in treating psoriasis.

The cream, containing Indigo naturalis powder, triggered significant improvements in the debilitating skin condition. In the Chinese study, 75 per cent of patients found all, or nearly all, of their inflamed red lesions disappeared after daily treatment with the blue ointment after 12 weeks of use.

Psoriasis is a condition that affects around 2 per cent of people in the UK. It's believed to occur when faulty signals in the immune system cause skin cells to grow too rapidly. This results in a build up of cells on the surface of the skin, in the form of a psoriatic plaque.

It's believed one of the herb's active components, indirubin, stops cells multiplying, which may prevent the overproduction of skin cells.

Source - Daily Mail

Caffeine helps you exercise

Drinking a cup of coffee before exercising could make your workout easier, say U.S. scientists.

They studied the effects of caffeine on two groups of male exercisers: those who usually consumed little caffeine and those with an average intake of four cups a day. Both groups were asked to perform 30-minute workouts on an exercise bike while the amount of pain they felt in their leg muscles was monitored.

The scientists, based at the University of Illinois, found that those who had consumed caffeine felt less pain. It’s thought that caffeine helps stop the pain processing nerves in the brain and spinal cord from working.

Robert Motl, a professor in community health who lead the study, said that, in theory, drinking caffeine could also boost your sports performance and encourage weight loss.

‘If you go to the gym to exercise and it hurts, you might stop,’ he says. ‘So if a little caffeine reduces the pain, it might help more people stick with it and achieve their fitness goals.’

Source - Daily Mail

Eat broccoli every day for two months to help prevent stomach cancer, scientists claim

Eating two handfuls of baby broccoli a day for two months can protect your from stomach cancer, a new study has found.

Fresh sprouts of the vegetable contain plenty of a natural biochemical called sulforaphane. This appears to trigger the production of enzymes in the gut that protect against DNA-damaging chemicals, and inflammation. Eating two and a half ounces of baby broccoli a day seemed to give some cancer protection, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research,

'We identified a food that, if eaten regularly, might potentially have an effect on the cause of a lot of gastric problems and perhaps even ultimately help prevent stomach cancer,' wrote Jed Fahey from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It has long been known that sulforaphane is a potent antibiotic against Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer. But this is the first trial showing the effects of the compound on people.

In the study, an international team gave half the group a daily portion of broccoli sprouts and the rest alfalfa sprouts, which do not contain sulforaphane.

Source - Daily Mail

Patients 'are not lab rats'

Combining complementary and orthodox medicine into what is called integrated health is a controversial idea - criticised recently in the Scrubbing Up health column by Professor Edzard Ernst.

In this week's column, Dr Michael Dixon, medical director of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, says patients should be able to choose what works for them.

Integrated health is not a new concept - the best doctors and their clinical colleagues have practised it for years. It means treating patients as whole human beings - paying attention to body, mind and soul - instead of regarding them as nothing more than a set of symptoms to be got out the door as quickly as possible.

But according to a small number of vociferous opponents, it is a "smokescreen for unproven treatments".

The objection seems to be that many of us who practice integrated health include some complementary treatments in our repertoire. They claim there is no evidence for them and that medicine must always be based on scientific evidence.

Of course we should always use the best evidence that is available, but the patient and his or her views are also an essential part of the equation.

I am a doctor - a GP - and, like many of my colleagues, I will recommend complementary treatments to suitable patients depending on that patient's clinical condition, on whether there is an effective conventional treatment available and - crucially - on the patient's own wishes.

'Wonderfully rosy view'

As medical director of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, I encourage other doctors and health professionals to do the same. Am I going against evidence-based medicine? Certainly not.

It is wrong to say there is no evidence for complementary therapies.

For instance, the British Medical Journal recently published a study demonstrating that the Alexander Technique was more effective in treating lower back pain than either pain relief drugs or physiotherapy.

Source - BBC

Test 'sheds light on back pain'

A simple technique could help doctors differentiate between patients with different causes of back pain and thus improve treatment, a study suggests.

Researchers writing in PLoS Medicine have devised "bedside" tests which distinguish between neuropathic - nerve damage - and other causes of pain. Neuropathic pain is commonly described as "burning" or "stabbing" but it is often difficult to formally diagnose.

Back pain is the most commonly cited reason for being absent from work.

A team from Massachusetts General Hospital in the US and Addenbrooke's in the UK recruited more than 300 patients with chronic back pain. Some had a known history of nerve damage caused by diabetes or shingles, while others had low back pain with or without evidence of spinal nerve root damage.

Question time

By carrying out detailed comparisons of the patients, researchers were able to formulate a set of six questions and 10 physical tests which distinguished between the two groups.

Source - BBC

Pomegranate juice advert banned

An advertisement for pomegranate juice over-hyped its health benefits and must not be shown again, the UK regulator has ruled.

The poster, for POM Wonderful, featured a noose round a bottle of juice, and suggested drinking it would help consumers "cheat death".

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concluded that the advert had been "misleading". The makers argued the claim was a deliberate exaggeration for effect.

Pomegranates are high in antioxidant molecules, which are thought to reduce damage to the body's tissues. There is also research to suggest that the fruit can help slow the development of some tumours, such as prostate cancer, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

But the ASA received 23 complaints that the slogan was misleading and exaggerated the health benefits likely to be achieved by drinking the product.

Source - BBC

Study finds stress link to asthma

Pregnant women who suffer from stress are more likely to have a child with asthma, according to research from Children of the 90s study.

Researchers working with about 6,000 families in Bristol found anxious mums-to-be were 60% more likely to have a baby who would develop the illness. The findings show 16% of asthmatic children had mothers who reported high anxiety while pregnant.

Mothers-to-be who were less stressed had a lower incidence rate.

Key findings

Professor John Henderson, from the Children of the 90s team, said: "Perhaps the natural response to stress which produces a variety of hormones in the body may have an influence on the developing infant and their developing immune system that manifests itself later on."

The Children of the 90s study - carried out by the University of Bristol - has been following 14,000 children.

Source - BBC

How much water should we drink?

With spring in the air, thoughts turn to marathons, heat - and dehydration. So how much liquid do we need?

If you are confused about how much water we should really be drinking, then you are not alone. I am often asked: is it two litres? Four litres? Does a can of diet cola count?

According to the UK Food Standards Agency, what we need is about six to eight glasses of fluids a day - about 1.2 litres in total. This will help your body to carry out myriad roles, from helping us to keep the body temperature steady and stable to protecting sensitive tissues such as the spine and keeping up water levels in the brain.

What is crucial here, however, is the word “fluid” because, physiologically speaking, this can be from any fluid source including tea, coffee, squashes, juices, diet or standard fizzy drinks and, to a certain extent, alcohol. Many foods provide fluids as well; watermelon provides 185ml (about a small yoghurt pot's worth) of fluid per 200g slice. Even an average 100g banana provides about 75ml of water.

Scientists say that there is no convincing medical research to prove that glugging litres of water on top of these needs will improve the elimination of toxins by your kidneys, improve skin tone or reduce your appetite or the frequency of headaches.

Responding to your body's thirst mechanism is apparently the best way to remain properly hydrated - and this goes for everyone, including those of us embarking on marathons and fun runs. While amateur runners often believe they should drink as much water as possible during long runs, the reality is that too much can in a substantial fraction of runners be dangerous to health and in rare cases, fatal.

Source - Times

Grapefruit diet warning after blood clot scare

Doctors are warning of the dangers of the grapefruit diet after a woman almost lost a leg three days into the eating regime.

The 42-year-old developed a blood clot in her left leg after the fruit interacted with the contraceptive Pill she was taking. A scan found a clot from the hip all the way down to her calf. Surgeons said she was in danger of losing the leg to gangrene, and injected a clot-busting medication directly into the blockage.

The grapefruit diet involves eating just 800 calories and having at least one grapefruit a day. It is claimed the enzymes in the fruit help the body burn fat.

In the American woman's case the fruit blocked the action of an enzyme that normally breaks down oestrogen in the Pill. Too much oestrogen in the blood raises the risk of blood clots. The woman had been on a long car journey, after which she felt pain from her lower back to her left ankle. By the following morning her leg had turned purple. She had only started the diet three days earlier. Previously she had rarely eaten grapefruit.

Writing in the Lancet medical journal, doctors said that the car journey was a factor, as was a mutated gene she carried that increases the risk of clots. But they said three days of grapefruit for breakfast 'may have tipped the balance'.

The woman made a full recovery after a taking the blood-thinning drug warfarin and stopping the Pill.

Source - Daily Mail

How a cup of hot chocolate could boost brain power and stave off fatigue

It is supposed to be the perfect bedtime drink to send you off to sleep. But in fact, a cup of hot chocolate could be just the thing to peep you up, scientists say.

Research shows that flavanols - plant chemicals abundant in dark chocolate - stave off fatigue and boost mental sharpness. It is thought that they widen blood vessels, boosting blood flow to the brain.

Psychologists asked 30 people to carry out a battery of mental arithmetic tests before and after having a flavanol-rich chocolate drink or a dummy beverage. They found the sweet drink boosted performance on one of the tests, which involved repeatedly subtracting the number three from a start point of between 800 and 999.

The flavanols also appeared to counteract the tiredness brought on by doing the intensive arithmetic, the British Psychological Society's annual conference heard.

Researcher Crystal Haskell (CORR) said: 'We asked them about their mental fatigue and that increased but the cocoa offset that increase.'

The study, carried out at the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Centre at Northumbria University, also found that a 500mg dose of flavanols was more effective than a higher one.

Source - Daily Mail

Sight-savers - We list the foods that can keep your eyes healthy

Maintaining good eye health isn't just about having an annual examination and looking after your contact lenses or spectacles. You can take a much more active role in protecting your eyes.

Nutrients such as Vitamin C, omega-3 oils and key plant molecules are so important that you really can eat your way to better vision, says leading eye researcher Professor Ian Grierson, Head of Ophthalmology at the University of Liverpool.

'Eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, are all affected by what we eat,' says Prof Grierson. 'Adding a little more fruit and vegetables to your meals could dramatically reduce eye disease in future.'

So, what key foods should you focus on to keep your eyesight sharp and healthy?

Source - Daily Mail

Vinyl flooring 'doubles chances of children being autistic', study shows

Children who live in homes with vinyl flooring have double the chance of being autistic, research has discovered. The finding – which amazed even the scientists conducting the study – provides one of the first clues as to a possible cause of the condition.

The study, by scientists in Sweden, Denmark and the United States, stumbled across the connection almost by accident. It is being taken seriously because autism has long been thought to result from environmental factors. Between 133,000 and 200,000 British children are thought to be autistic, but nobody knows for sure, or whether their numbers are increasing, because they are not counted. But the numbers of babies born with the condition in California has risen more than seven times in the past two decades, convincing scientists that pollution must be to blame.

The new research, which traced nearly 5,000 Swedish children from infancy to at least six years old, set out to investigate links between air pollution and asthma and other allergies. The scientists – from Karlstad University in Sweden, the universities of Rochester and Texas in America, and the Technical University of Denmark – identified the type of flooring in each home at the start of the study, but only started to look at autism later.

Their paper, published in the journal Neurotoxicity, describes the findings as "puzzling, even baffling, and not readily explicable at this time". But it adds: "Because they are among few clues that have emerged about possible environmental contributions to autistic disorders, we believe that they should be weighed carefully and warrant further study".

Source - Independent

Lavender 'takes edge off horror'

Taking a deep sniff of lavender before you settle down for a horror film might stop you getting so scared - but only if you are a woman, a study has found.

Men should avoid the smell unless they crave a more unsettling experience, a paper being presented to the British Psychological Society suggests.

Volunteers were given either capsules containing lavender or a placebo. Their physiological responses to neutral, scary and light-hearted film clips were then observed. Women who took lavender had an increased heart rate variation - an indicator of a more relaxed state - during all three films. But men in fact displayed more symptoms of stress - including sweaty palms - during the scary film if they had taken a capsule containing lavender.

Ingesting rather than inhaling lavender was chosen as it would be impossible to provide a placebo if people could smell what they were taking, said lead researcher Belinda Bradely from the University of Central Lancashire.

Source - BBC

Steam therapy to cure sinusitis

A towel and a bowl of steaming water may be a more effective way to tackle sinusitis than drugs.

In a new trial, up to 300 patients will use steam inhalation to treat a condition that is often tackled with antibiotics. It comes in the wake of research showing that the amount of patients who recovered in ten days was about the same, whether they took an antibiotic or a placebo.

Acute sinusitis - inflammation of the linings of the sinuses - affects up to five per cent of adults. Symptoms include headache, sore face and a blocked nose.

In the trial, at Southampton University, researchers will compare steam inhalation and nasal irrigation, where patients flush 150ml of saline though each nostril daily for six months. The hot steam is thought to help clear the airways, which improves breathing and mucus flow.

Source - Daily Mail

Hot chilli can ease painful shingles

Chilli peppers help shingles

A patch based on hot chilli peppers can zap the pain of shingles.

The skin patch contains a high concentration of a man-made version of capsaicin, which gives chilli its heat. Patients who wore it showed a 33 per cent reduction in pain compared with four per cent in those with a placebo in a trial at the University of Wisconsin.

Shingles is a painful infection of the nerves and skin around them. It is caused by a virus, which also causes chickenpox. Treatment usually includes repeated doses of antiviral medication or painkillers. However, just one application of the new patch, known as NGX-4010, may provide three months of constant pain relief.

Capsaicin it thought to reduce levels of a compound known as substance P in nerves. Substance P is associated with the transmission of painful messages.

Source - Daily Mail

The health commandments all women should know based on research examining more than a MILLION of us

Even a small glass of wine a day increases the risk of breast cancer. That was the shocking news for women earlier this month from the Million Women Study, a survey of female health involving 1.3 million British women aged 50 and over.

Run by Oxford University scientists, it was set up in 1996 to examine the effects of HRT and possible links to cancer and other diseases. Already the study has produced key findings about health issues - from the Pill to alcohol consumption and childbearing.

Combined with other women's health research, all this information works as a blueprint for women's future wellbeing.


Around 30 per cent of British women don't wash their hands enough for good hygiene, according to studies by the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

However, soap and water are sufficient - and using too many high-tech anti-bacterial products can be counter-productive. Not only will they not stop colds and flu (which are transmitted by viruses, not bacteria), but they could affect the delicate balance of bacteria in our bodies, allowing stronger bugs to become dominant, says leading American microbiologist Dr Mary Ruebush, author of Why Dirt Is Good.

Most micro-organisms cause no problem, and many, like the ones that normally live in the digestive tract and produce life-sustaining nutrients, are essential to good health - these are the ones, she says, that are usually wiped out by anti-bacterial agents.


It will dramatically cut your risk of ovarian cancer, the silent killer, as the Million Women Study found. Furthermore, you will continue to be protected for at least 30 years after you stop. The study has shown that for every five years a woman has been on the Pill, her relative risk of ovarian cancer is cut by 20 per cent.

Those who take it for 15 years cut their risk by half.


Gum disease is emerging as a major factor in heart disease. The germs in the mouth create thousands of tiny blood clots, which can cause a narrowing of the arteries, a common cause of heart attacks.

With cardiovascular disease killing more women a year than breast cancer, it's essential to keep gum disease at bay. One of the best ways to fight cavities and reduce plaque - a precursor to gum disease - is drinking black tea. American researchers have found compounds in it not only kill cavity-causing bacteria in dental plaque, but affect an enzyme - glucosyltranferase - which helps convert sugars into the sticky material plaque uses to stick to teeth.

On exposure to black tea, bacteria also lose their ability to form clumps with other bacteria in plaque, thereby reducing the total mass of the dental plaque.


It's a supplement most women associate with preventing birth defects - you should take 400 mcgs for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But it also reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women. AMD is a progressive eye disorder which is often untreatable, and leads to blindness.

Now the world-renowned Harvard Medical School has shown folic acid taken with vitamins B6 and B12 reduced the risk of this debilitating condition by a staggering 41 per cent. 'The beneficial effect of treatment began to emerge at approximately two years of follow-up and persisted throughout the sevenyear trial,' said the researchers.

In the trial, participants (who were aged over 40) took a daily 2.5 milligrams of folic acid, 50 mgs of vitamin B6 and 1 mg of vitamin B12.

Source - Daily Mail

A glass of red wine? It's the drink to help you think

It's the perfect excuse to have another glass of Chianti - research has shown that drinking red wine helps you think.

Men and women did better in mental arithmetic tests after being given resveratrol, the 'wonder ingredient' in red wine. It is thought that the plant chemical - said to have abilities from burning off junk food to warding off heart disease - increases blood flow to the brain.

Northumbria University researchers set 24 healthy adults a series of tests before giving them a resveratrol pill or a dummy tablet. When they were tested again, those that had taken resveratrol performed better, the British Psychological Society's annual conference will hear today.

Other tests confirmed that the drug, which is found in grape skins as well as raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and peanuts, widened blood vessels, boosting the brain's blood supply. Researcher Emma Wightman said: 'It is interesting that a component you come across in many everyday foods can have a positive effect on brain function.'

Source - BBC

Sisters 'make people happy'

Sisters spread happiness while brothers breed distress, experts believe.

Researchers quizzed 571 people aged 17 to 25 about their lives and found those who grew up with sisters were more likely to be happy and balanced.

The Ulster University team said having daughters in a family made people more open and willing to discuss feelings. They said the influence of girls was particularly important after distressing family events such as marital break-ups. The findings are due to be presented at the British Psychological Society in Brighton on Thursday.

During the study, participants filled in psychological questionnaires which researchers used to assess a range of issues, including whether they had a positive outlook and any mental health problems. Lead researcher Professor Tony Cassidy said:"Sisters appear to encourage more open communication and cohesion in families. However, brothers seemed to have the alternative effect. Emotional expression is fundamental to good psychological health and having sisters promotes this in families."

He said many of the participants had been brought up in families where parents had split and the impact of sisters was even more marked in these circumstances.

"I think these findings could be used by people offering support to families and children during distressing times.

Source - BBC