Could your tongue tell the real truth about your health?

As I sit in the bright yellow dentist's chair, a man in surgical gloves and a pink top advances towards me. In his hand is not a drill, but a fan-shaped mirror.

It sounds like the kind of dream you have after too much rich food just before bedtime. Except that this is the middle of the day, and I'm in a large, Victorian mansion on the outskirts of Huddersfield, with my eyes, and mouth, wide open. Why? Because this is the only dental practice in Britain where they don't just fill your teeth; they analyse your tongue.

Of course, most dentists take note of the state of your tongue (and gums) when they're looking inside your mouth, and are well aware that a carpet of yellow fur on your tongue indicates you overdid things last night. However, here at the John Roberts Holistic Dentistry Practice, in West Yorkshire, they draw not just on common sense, but on the specific teaching of traditional Chinese medicine.

Just as Western opticians have now started inspecting the eyes for signs of diabetes, Chinese physicians have for centuries been using a tongue 'map' to chart what's happening in the rest of the body.

'Each area of the tongue corresponds to a different internal organ; which means, basically, the tongue is the window through which one can look into the body,' Dr Roberts explains.

Dr Roberts is looking for, then, is any swelling, discolouration or cracking that will give him a clue about the wider me. He's gazing at the rifts and chasms of my tongue as closely as if this were Crime Scene Investigation.

'This line down the centre of your tongue, not bad at all,' he murmurs appreciatively. 'Not too deep, not too shallow. Not so good, though, is the scalloping on the right-hand side.'

'The what?' I ask, somewhat alarmed. Holding the mirror he offers me up to my mouth, I view my lunar-esque lingual landscape. And those bumps don't look like scallops, more like cocktail sausages.

'Yes, well, the point is, they indicate issues with the gall bladder,' says Dr Roberts.

Issues? I don't like the sound of that. 'We're not talking about serious disease,' he stresses. 'More an imbalance that can be remedied, usually by diet. You've been eating too much hot and spicy food and it could be upsetting your system.'

So what else does my tongue say about me, other than that there's a bit of industrial unrest in the gall bladder department?

Source - Daily Mail

Eat up your crusts, they really are good for you

They certainly can't make your hair curl - but there may be more than a crumb of truth in the claim that bread crusts are good for you.

Scientists say a chemical released during the baking process can protect against bowel cancer. The antioxidant prevents changes in the body that can lead to a tumour. The chemical only develops as a result of a chemical reaction during cooking, and is eight times more abundant in the crust than the rest of the loaf.

Experiments with animals showed regular intake of the chemical, pronyl-lysine, appears to halt the development of pre-cancerous lesions in the colon. Researchers said it is too early to say how much crust needs to be eaten to reap the full benefit. But their results suggest the body needs daily doses of the disease-busting antioxidant in order to protect against cancer.

Bowel tumours are the third most common cancer in the UK, killing around 16,000 people a year. Nine of out ten tumours can be successfully treated if they are detected early but often patients do not report symptoms until the disease is well established. The main warning signs include bleeding, changes in toilet habits and abdominal pain.

Good diet is thought to help protect against the disease. Experts recommend eating high-fibre foods, such as wholemeal bread, to reduce the risks. But the latest study, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, suggests it may be the crusts, rather than the fibre in bread, that offer the greatest benefit.

Their cancer-fighting potential was first discovered in 2002, when German scientists found the chemical reaction that produces the hard brown crust - known as the Maillard reaction - also triggers the release of powerful antioxidants. Now a team of scientists at Annamalai University in India have tested the effects of pronyl-lysine on rats.

Source - Daily Mail

Fish oils could help prevent age-related blindness

Superfoods containing omega 3 and fish oils may help prevent the most common cause of blindness in old age, say scientists.

The benefits of eating oily fish like mackerel and nuts are already recognised in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease and heart attacks. But new US research suggests omega 3 fatty acids can also protect against the loss of vision that develops with age, known as AMD (age-related macular degeneration).

Around 200,000 Britons each year suffer AMD and there is no preventative treatment, although laser surgery and drugs can limit damage caused by the disease. It is the most common cause of sight loss in people over 50 and robs people of the central vision necessary for reading, driving or simply recognising people's faces.

A team at the National Eye Institute in Maryland, US, who fed mice with high levels of Omega 3 found those eating more fish oils had lower levels of AMD.

The condition improved in 57 per cent of mice fed the highest levels for at least 12 weeks, compared with just four per cent on lower levels of omega 3. It is unclear how omega 3 works but the mechanism may be anti-inflammatory.

Source - Daily Mail

Revealed: Why 'superfoods' like cranberry juice and black tea don't live up to the marketing hype

It is often the health claims made for food products that really convince us to buy them. But it seems the promises made for dozens of supermarket items really are too good to be true.

A Europe-wide investigation found that the apparent healthcare benefits of more than 50 food products and supplements, including Ocean Spray cranberry juice and Lipton black tea, were scientifically unproven. Investigators also rejected many of the claims made for fish oil supplements, which promise to improve brain growth in babies and children.

The European Food Safety Authority examined the science behind the health claims made for 66 foods or ingredients. The findings of the study suggest consumers are being fooled into believing the products will improve their diet and could be wasting millions of pounds on them.

The study will send shockwaves through the multi-million pound food and supplements industry, which relies heavily on the assertions made for its products to shift them from the supermarket shelves. The EFSA is to inspect 4,000 more products.

Cocoa supplements could help high blood pressure

Could a cocoa supplement replace statins? Cocoa contains compounds that help dilate the blood vessels.

Researchers are investigating to see if these compounds, taken in supplement form, can help reduce high blood pressure - a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The pill may also prove a more natural way of treating the condition than statins, taken by six million people in Britain alone.

In the trial, at the University of Cologne, 48 men and women with high blood pressure will be given a single capsule containing 1,000 mg cocoa polyphenols.

These are antioxidants that occur naturally in the cocoa bean - it's thought they work by increasing levels of nitric oxide, which in turn widens blood vessels.

Source - Daily Mail

Grapefruit offers a bitter route to beating obesity as 'it makes liver burn fat instead of storing it'

The humble grapefruit could prove to be a mighty - if bitter tasting - weapon in the fight against diabetes, scientists say.

A study found naringenin, a flavonoid found in citrus fruit, makes the liver burn fat instead of storing it after a meal. Researchers believe the chemical would also help obesity sufferers and even fight diabetes, because it also helped balance insulin and glucose levels.

Naringenin gives citrus fruit, in particular grapefruit, its bitter taste. But since the tests involved far higher doses of naringenin than those found naturally in the fruit, anyone interested in its fat-busting benefits will have to wait for scientists to develop a concentrated supplement.

Once available, it could help treat patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes, a main cause of heart disease.

The tests were carried out on mice by a team at the Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario, in Canada, and published in the journal Diabetes-Two groups of mice were both fed the equivalent of a Western diet to speed up their ‘metabolic syndrome’ - the process which leads to Type 2 diabetes in humans.

One of the groups ate food that had been treated with naringenin.

The non-naringenin mice became obese, their cholesterol levels rose and their bodies became resistant to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

The mice given the chemical did not suffer from these ailments, despite eating identical diets to the others.

Source - Daily Mail

Daily dose of baking soda could stop kidney patients needing dialysis

A daily dose of baking soda could transform the lives of patients with failing kidneys, scientists claim.

A British team says the kitchen product - also known as sodium bicarbonate - can dramatically slow the progress of chronic kidney disease. The household staple, used for baking, cleaning, bee stings and acid indigestion, is so effective it could prevent patients from needing dialysis, the results show.

Study leader Magdi Yaqoob, Professor of Renal Medicine at the Royal London Hospital, said: 'It's amazing. This is the first randomised controlled study of its kind. A simple remedy like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), when used appropriately, can be very effective.'

Around three million people in the UK suffer from chronic kidney disease. The condition ranges in severity from a mild degree of poor functioning to complete kidney failure. Seriously affected patients may have to spend time each day on a dialysis machine which takes over the function of the kidneys.

Source - Daily Mail

Miracle of the girl with two hearts

For 10 years, Hannah Clark was known as the girl with two hearts. She was barely a year old when her parents rushed her to hospital because the tiny heart she had been born with simply wasn't strong enough to pump blood around her body.

Faced with certain death, doctors were forced to perform a life-saving transplant when she was aged two. But instead of removing the sick heart altogether, they grafted a donor heart on to her own one, allowing the weaker organ to rest and rebuild inside her body. Life became a constant struggle as Hannah's immune system slowly began to reject her transplant.

But yesterday, in her first public appearance, the healthy 16-year-old from Mountain Ash, South Wales, spoke of her delight at being given her original heart back after becoming the first person in Britain to have an organ transplant reversed.

Source - Independent

How walking can change your body shape

Dubbed the most influential woman in fitness by Cosmopolitan, Joanna Hall is clearly on a mission. "Walking is the main form of exercise for 8.5 million people in Britain," she says, "but 8.5 million people are not doing it properly, so they aren't seeing the benefits."

With this in mind, Hall runs ''Walk off Weight'' weekends at Champneys in Forest Mere, Hampshire. When I book, I assume that I am in for a jolly – a few
strolls then some serious pampering. But the sessions turn out to be hard work, hilarious at times and potentially life-changing.

Techniques include "stimulating your slow twitch'' (not as rude as it sounds, or looks) – where you locate your lower abdominal muscle with your hand so that you can tense it correctly as you walk, thereby toning up your midriff with every step. This, and other postural tips (see box, right), could apparently help you lose up to 10lb and 10 inches in just 28 days.

Taut and springy in spray-on satin jeans, Hall is living proof that this ''walk well'' method works.

Over four one-hour sessions we learn correct foot placement, hip and neck alignment and arm movements. But first, she hands out pedometers. We will use these to log our activity, then go forth into the real world with them, vowing to "move around more" every single day.

Source - Telegraph

The tea spray that can prevent skin cancer

A spray made from green tea could protect your skin against cancer. Experiments have shown the spray reduced the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet light.

Scientists who tested the solution at University Hospitals Case Medical Centre in Cleveland, Ohio, said the tea spray boosts the skin's in-built immune system and helps it fight off the sun's harmful effects.

Powerful disease-fighting chemicals, called polyphenols, are thought to explain tea's beneficial effects on the skin.

The number of Britons diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has topped 10,000 a year, according to recent figures from Cancer Research UK.

Although sunscreens can protect the skin, scientists now believe that tea could help prevent the cellular damage that leads to cancer.

Source - Daily Mail

Should middle-aged women be taking natural HRT?

Oprah Winfrey's a fan - and many doctors say it's safer and more effective. But as millions of women switch to new 'bio-identical' hormone therapy, critics say it's all just flim flam.

When Ivana Daniell was in her mid-40s, she began to notice her body changing. 'I was becoming bloated and puffy and my energy was non-existent,' she says. Disheartening for any woman, but for Ivana it was serious; she runs a Pilates and body conditioning studio for athletes and for people needing rehabilitation after injury - and looking well and fit is essential to her livelihood.

The most likely explanation seemed to be that I was moving into the menopause,' she says. But this presented her with another problem.

'HRT was just not an option. After what had happened to me when I went on the Pill - nausea, headaches and a vanishing sex drive - there was no way I was going to start taking extra oestrogen in this form.'

That was ten years ago and now Ivana is a remarkably sleek and fit 55-year-old. And it's all thanks, she says, to a new form of HRT.

Not only is this new HRT said to be more effective in treating menopausal symptoms, but it's also said to be safer. It contains the same hormones found in regular hormone therapy, but they come in a subtly different form known as 'bio-identical' - which means they have been chemically manufactured to be the same as the ones your body was making until it reached the menopause.

Conventional HRT, on the other hand, uses hormones that are slightly different from the ones found in the body and are designed to achieve the same effect as the body's hormones. It sounds like a subtle difference, but, in fact, this is supposedly what makes bio-identicals safer and more effective.

Ten years ago, bio-identical hormones were offered only by a few specialised clinics around the world, as everyone believed conventional HRT to be safe and effective.

Source - Daily Mail

Meat-free diet 'could reduce cancer risk'

A meat-free diet could reduce the risk of developing cancer, according to a new study.

More than 61,000 people were monitored over 12 years by Cancer Research UK scientists from Oxford, who found that vegetarians were 12% less likely to develop cancer than people who ate meat. The risk was almost halved for cancers of the blood including leukaemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma where vegetarians' risk was 45% lower than meat eaters.

People who ate fish but no meat also had a "significantly lower" chance of developing many cancers, according to the research which was published in the British Journal of Cancer today.

The group which was studied included 32,403 meat eaters, 8,562 people who ate fish but no meat (pescetarians) and 20,601 vegetarians who ate neither. During the study, 3,350 (5.4%) of the participants were diagnosed with cancer. Some 2,204 (6.8%) of the meat eaters were diagnosed with a form of cancer, compared with 317 (3.7%) of pescetarians and 829 (4%) of vegetarians.

Professor Tim Key, the study's author from the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, said: "Our large study looking at cancer risk in vegetarians found the likelihood of people developing some cancers is lower among vegetarians than among people who eat meat. In particular, vegetarians were much less likely to develop cancers of the blood which include leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. More research is needed to substantiate these results and to look for reasons for the differences."

Source - Independent

Coffee 'may reverse Alzheimer's'

Drinking five cups of coffee a day could reverse memory problems seen in Alzheimer's disease, US scientists say.

The Florida research, carried out on mice, also suggested caffeine hampered the production of the protein plaques which are the hallmark of the disease. Previous research has also suggested a protective effect from caffeine. But British experts said the Journal of Alzheimer's disease study did not mean that dementia patients should start using caffeine supplements.

The 55 mice used in the University of South Florida study had been bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

First the researchers used behavioural tests to confirm the mice were exhibiting signs of memory impairment when they were aged 18 to 19 months, the equivalent to humans being about 70. Then they gave half the mice caffeine in their drinking water. The rest were given plain water.

The mice were given the equivalent of five 8 oz (227 grams) cups of coffee a day - about 500 milligrams of caffeine. The researchers say this is the same as is found in two cups of "specialty" coffees such as lattes or cappuccinos from coffee shops, 14 cups of tea, or 20 soft drinks.

When the mice were tested again after two months, those who were given the caffeine performed much better on tests measuring their memory and thinking skills and performed as well as mice of the same age without dementia.

Those drinking plain water continued to do poorly on the tests.

Source - BBC

'Bee sting honey' for arthritis

A New Zealand company is seeking EU approval to market honeybee venom to help people with arthritis ease their pain.

Nelson Honey & Marketing says two teaspoons a day of its honey with added venom milked from honeybees has anti-inflammatory power to soothe joints. The venom concept is not new - some clinics even offer up bee stings. The UK's Food Standards Agency said it would be considering the application in the coming months.

The Manuka honey with added bee venom has been available in New Zealand for 13 years and its makers say although it does contain a venom, it has proved extremely safe. It contains a blend of honey derived from the native New Zealand Manuka tree and dried venom harvested from the Apis mellifera honeybee using electrical milking machines that send impulses to stimulate worker bees to sting through a latex film onto a glass collector plate.

Source - BBC

Self-help 'makes you feel worse'

Bridget Jones is not alone in turning to self-help mantras to boost her spirits, but a study warns they may have the opposite effect.

Canadian researchers found those with low self-esteem actually felt worse after repeating positive statements about themselves. They said phrases such as "I am a lovable person" only helped people with high self-esteem. The study appears in the journal Psychological Science.

A UK psychologist said people based their feelings about themselves on real evidence from their lives. The suggestion people should "help themselves" to feel better was first mooted by Victorian Samuel Smiles 150 years ago. His book, called simply "Self Help", sold a quarter of a million copies and included guidance such as: "Heaven helps those who help themselves". Self-help is now a multi-billion pound global industry.

Source - BBC

More harm than good?

'Rich in antioxidants" is an advertiser's dream slogan. It ensures food and drinks are snapped up in the hope of preventing ageing, cancer or heart disease. Last year, 22 million of us took a supplement and 13% of supplements sold in the UK boasted on the label that they contained antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, are marketed as good for our health but what is the evidence?

The antioxidant story started more than 40 years ago when scientists discovered that chemicals called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) react with components of our cells causing damage, sometimes irreversible. This process is called oxidative stress. ROS refer to any chemical that damages the cell by causing this stress. The "damaging free radicals" you hear about are one kind. Unfortunately, ROS are not avoidable; they are chemicals continually produced within our cells that generate the energy we need to stay alive. So cells also contain a battery of defences to protect us against oxidative stress.

Our cells run into trouble when these defences are overwhelmed, for example when we encounter large amounts of ROS; then oxidative stress is associated with heart disease, cancer and ageing. These insurmountable quantities of ROS may be from the environment, for example from cigarette smoke, or pollution, or they may be produced by our own bodies when we're sick.

Recognition that ROS cause disease was the first step towards our fascination with antioxidants; the substances that mop up ROS. Barry Halliwell, a professor of biochemistry at Singapore University and a world expert in free radicals, says that when research started in the mid-1990s it showed "diets rich in plants were associated with lower risk of developing many age-related diseases and most people would have better health if they ate more fruits and vegetables". Plants contain large amounts of antioxidants to protect them against the ROS they produce during photosynthesis, so scientists concluded fruit and veg were beneficial for us because they contained antioxidants. After this, it was assumed that taking antioxidants in the form of vitamin pills would help prevent disease. "The assumption often was that free radicals cause diseases, and antioxidants will prevent and/or cure them," says Halliwell.

Source - Guardian

Could heartburn drugs cause 'rebound' symptoms?

A group of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are widely prescribed for heartburn, may actually cause heartburn and other 'rebound' symptoms when people stop taking them, researchers suggest. Their study found that healthy volunteers who took a PPI called esomeprazole were at risk of developing heartburn and other acid-related symptoms once they stopped the drug..

The researchers suggest that this could explain why people who are prescribed PPIs end up taking them for long periods, although more research is needed to confirm this.

What do we know already?

Many people take PPIs for frequent heartburn, which is often caused by a condition called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD for short). PPI drugs include omeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeprazole, pantoprazole, and esomeprazole. Most PPIs are only available on prescription, although omeprazole is available over the counter in pharmacies.

PPIs are designed to ease symptoms like heartburn and help heal any soreness or inflammation in the gullet (oesophagus). They work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach, so there is less acid to flow back into the gullet and make it sore. For many people, these drugs are prescribed as a temporary treatment that ends after a month or two, once symptoms are under control. However, studies have shown that increasing numbers of people are continuing to take PPIs long term, without a clear medical reason (such as severe GORD). The reasons for this increase in long-term use aren't clear, although some researchers have reported a 'rebound' increase in the amount of acid being made in the stomach once treatment stops.

Researchers have now done the first large, good-quality study to find out if PPIs increase acid-related symptoms for some people once they stop taking them.

What does the new study say?

The study, which involved 120 healthy volunteers, found that those who took a PPI called esomeprazole for eight weeks, were more likely to develop heartburn, indigestion, and similar symptoms in the weeks after they stopped taking the drug. Overall, 44 percent of people who took the drug reported at least one acid-related symptom after stopping, compared with 15 per cent of volunteers who took an inactive placebo. The symptoms caused mild-to-moderate discomfort.

None of the participants had GORD or related symptoms at the start of the study. This meant that any increase in symptoms during the study could be related to the treatment, rather than to an existing condition.

If PPIs cause 'rebound' symptoms once stopped, it could lead to people becoming dependent on them, say the researchers.

Source - Guardian

Journal - Gastroentorology

Antibiotics may put children at risk of repeated ear infections

Giving children antibiotics for an ear infection could make them more vulnerable to similar infections in future, a new study has found. The researchers say that antibiotics should be used more carefully.

What do we know already?

Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses, affecting almost all children at some point. Simple painkillers, like paracetamol, are the standard treatment.

Antibiotics help children get better more quickly, but there are downsides. These include potential side effects for the child, like diarrhoea, and also a wider risk that bacteria will evolve resistance to commonly used antibiotics, creating 'superbugs' that can't be easily treated.

At the moment, doctors are advised to offer antibiotics to children under 2 and to those with more severe infections. However, not much is known about the long-term consequences of giving antibiotics. A new study followed 168 children for 3 years after treatment to see what the after effects might be.

What does the new study say?

Children who took antibiotics for an ear infection had a higher risk of further infections over the next 3 years.

In the group of children who were originally treated with antibiotics, 63 in 100 went on to get another ear infection. Only 43 in 100 children got another infection if they'd been given an inactive placebo.

There are a couple of possible explanations for the results. Antibiotics could kill off some of the weaker bacteria causing the infection, leaving more space for tougher, antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow. It's also possible that killing bacteria with antibiotics means less work for a child's immune system, leading to weaker protection from infections in future.

Source - Guardian

Vegetarians 'avoid more cancers'

Vegetarians are generally less likely than meat eaters to develop cancer but this does not apply to all forms of the disease, a major study has found.

The study involving 60,000 people found those who followed a vegetarian diet developed notably fewer cancers of the blood, bladder and stomach. But the apparently protective effect of vegetarian did not seem to stretch to bowel cancer, a major killer. The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Researchers from universities in the UK and New Zealand followed 61,566 British men and women. They included meat-eaters, those who ate fish but not meat, and those who ate neither meat nor fish. Overall, their results suggested that while in the general population about 33 people in 100 will develop cancer during their lifetime, for those who do not eat meat that risk is reduced to about 29 in 100.

Source - BBC