Herby Pesiticides

Common herbs and spices show promise as an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional pesticides, scientists have told a major US conference.

They have spent a decade researching the insecticidal properties of rosemary, thyme, clove and mint.

They could become a key weapon against insect pests in organic agriculture, the researchers say, as the industry attempts to satisfy demand.

The "plant essential oils" have a broad range of action against bugs.

Some kill them outright while others repel them.

Source: BBC News

Fight or flight?

What really happens to the body in a life-threatening crisis?

The complicated emotions still felt by the bushfire survivors cannot be explained simply by saying they are in shock, or traumatised, Dr Rob Gordon says. Survivors told The Times that as they fought or fled the fires they felt no fear, but weeks afterwards they were overwhelmed by exhaustion and despair. They found it hard to make any decisions and many could not even fill in the forms to receive aid — a state that Kristine Conron called “bushfire brain”.

This is all the result of the physical state the body goes into during and after a disaster. In a life-threatening crisis, the body goes into the now widely recognised adrenalin mode, energising the body to fight for survival. It is not just a short-term burst of energy as most people believe it to be but a more complex state that can last for months after the immediate threat has passed. In the adrenalin mode other senses and feelings — fatigue, fear, even hunger — are shut down so a person can concentrate on the immediate crisis. “In the adrenal state people are too busy to know how they feel,” Gordon says. Certain thought processes are also shut down, making it difficult for people to absorb complicated information.

Source - Times

Low-carb diets 'damage arteries'

Low-carb slimming diets may clog arteries and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, a study suggests.

Diets based on eating lots of meat, fish and cheese, while restricting carbohydrates have grown in popularity in recent years. But the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the US found such habits caused artery damage in tests on mice. The researchers and independent experts both agreed a balanced diet was the best option.

Low-carb diets have attracted a lot of attention and controversy after a surge in interest in them in the 1990s. The researchers at the Beth Israel institute, which is part of Harvard Medical School, decided to investigate their impact on the cardiovascular system after hearing of reports of people on the diets suffering heart attacks.

They fed the mice three different diets - a standard mouse type, a western diet which was high in fat, and a low-carb, high-protein version, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported.

The low-carb diet did not affect cholesterol levels, but there was a significant difference on the impact on atherosclerosis - the build-up of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

After 12 weeks, the mice eating the low-carb diet had gained less weight, but developed 15% more atherosclerosis than those on the standard mice food. For the western diet group there was 9% more atherosclerosis. The team could not be certain why the effect was seen, but thought low-carb diets may affect the way bone marrow cells effectively clean arteries of fatty deposits.

Source - BBC

Homeopathy not a cure, says WHO

People with conditions such as HIV, TB and malaria should not rely on homeopathic treatments, the World Health Organization has warned.

It was responding to calls from young researchers who fear the promotion of homeopathy in the developing world could put people's lives at risk. The group Voice of Young Science Network has written to health ministers to set out the WHO view.

However practitioners said there were areas where homeopathy could help . In a letter to the WHO in June, the medics from the UK and Africa said: "We are calling on the WHO to condemn the promotion of homeopathy for treating TB, infant diarrhoea, influenza, malaria and HIV. Homeopathy does not protect people from, or treat, these diseases. Those of us working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed. When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost."

Dr Robert Hagan is a researcher in biomolecular science at the University of St Andrews and a member of Voice of Young Science Network, which is part of the charity Sense About Science campaigning for "evidence-based" care.

He said: "We need governments around the world to recognise the dangers of promoting homeopathy for life-threatening illnesses. We hope that by raising awareness of the WHO's position on homeopathy we will be supporting those people who are taking a stand against these potentially disastrous practices."

Source - BBC

Chlorella: the superfood that helps fight disease

You wouldn't exactly call chlorella an overnight success. The health benefits of the green algae that grows in freshwater ponds in the Far East have so far been limited to those in the know, and its progress to British medicine cabinets has been slow. Since it became available in tablet form in the UK three years ago, it has achieved an almost cultish appreciation as a superfood, but now scientific research could catapult it into the mainstream.

New research from Japan suggests that this green algae could be effective in fighting major lifestyle diseases. It has been shown to reduce body-fat percentage and blood-glucose levels and help those suffering from Type 2 diabetes, obesity or heart disease. Its benefits include boosting energy, aiding digestion and fighting depression.

What excited the scientists, including the notable Carnegie Institute in Washington DC, was that this green algae proved to be almost a dream food. It is packed with protein – twice as much as spinach – and about 38 times the quantity of soybeans, and 55 times that of rice. It also contains nine essential amino acids, as well as vitamins and minerals.

These are the latest in a long line of health claims – ranging from boosting the immune system in cancer patients to improving the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Chlorella is a tiny, unicellular green algae, three to eight micrometres in diameter, which when grown in large quantities in South East Asia and Australia gives lakes and rivers a green tint. Before being used as a supplement, it must be gathered, dried to a paste, crushed to a fine emerald green powder, and converted to tiny, soft, crumbly tablets, which smell vaguely of the sea.

Source - Telegraph

Babies' brains are more sophisticated than we ever believed

In the past 30 years we’ve learnt more about babies and young children than in the preceding 2,500 years and that has given us new ideas about human nature itself — about knowledge and imagination, truth and consciousness. Thirty years ago most psychologists and philosophers thought that babies and young children were basically defective adults — irrational and egocentric, unable to think logically, take another person’s perspective or reason causally.

If you just looked cursorily at babies and young children, as generations of philosophers did, you might well conclude that there was not much going on. If you looked carefully, as generations of mothers and the great psychologist Jean Piaget did, you would start to appreciate how philosophically significant, fascinating and profound children are.

It is this sophistication that I hope to reveal in my book, The Philosophical Baby. For those of us who are intrigued but, equally, sometimes frustrated by a baby’s apparent lack of reason or awareness of the outside world, I hope that the latest ground-breaking research will explain just how brilliant a baby’s mind really is. Neither mothers nor even Piaget had the recording tools and experimental techniques that we have now that show babies and young children know much more than we ever believed.

One reaction to this research has been to say that all that knowledge must be built into our genes and that, therefore, experience and learning play only a small part. But studies show that this is not the case. Far from being irrational and illogical, in some ways children are brighter than adults. Even the youngest children turn out to have remarkably sophisticated and powerful learning abilities.

Source - Times

Yoga therapy can counteract stress and depression

For years, yoga devotees have been telling us that bending and twisting our limbs into gravity-defying contortions is a great way to develop the perfect body. Now things have gone one step further, with a new wave of teachers claiming that yoga also offers a fast track to a beautiful mind.

Everyone from fraught mothers to stressed-out hedge-funders is catching on to the benefits of yoga therapy, a fusion of deep breathing, invigorating postures and self-help. This version of the ancient Indian practice is gaining credence within the medical community for helping with a range of issues, such as recession depression and anxiety, through to bipolar disorder and other mental-health problems.

In London, yoga therapy is now being offered at a number of NHS hospitals, while in New York, patients seeking help for depression and anxiety are as likely to find their hard-nosed psychiatrist treating them on a yoga mat as on a couch. It’s not surprising. We might all be sick of hearing about the economic climate, but it is undeniably taking its toll. We are currently in the biggest anxiety matrix the country has seen for more than 50 years. In recent months, mental-health charities have reported a surge in people seeking help for stress and depression. And after all the scare stories about the side effects of antidepressants, patients are increasingly wary of using medication to solve the problem.

Source - Times

How healthy eating can become an illness

An obsession with eating healthily could in fact be bad for your health, scientists warn.

Those who deny themselves entire food groups or worry too much about the 'purity' of their meals are risking their mental and physical wellbeing. Experts have reported a rise in such extreme behaviour, known as orthorexia nervosa. Sufferers or orthorexia nervosa tend to be over 30, middle-class and well-educated.

While anorexia patients restrict the quantity of the food they eat, sufferers of orthorexia, named after the Greek for 'right or true', fixate on quality. The 'rules' vary from person to person, but the drive to eat only the healthiest foods can lead to sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soya, corn and dairy foods being eliminated from the diet. Foods tainted by pesticides or that contain artificial additives such as MSG are often also ditched. One orthorexic is reputed to eat only yellow foods.

While such habits may seem quirky, they can have a serious effect on health. Cutting out entire food groups can leave sufferers malnourished, while rigid rules can make eating out impossible, putting a huge strain on friendships and relationships.

Ursula Philpot, chairman of the British Dietetic Association's mental health group, said: 'I am definitely seeing significantly more orthorexics than just a few years ago.

Source - Daily Mail

Devil's food;The surprising health benefits of the humble spud

A new survey has revealed that after sugar, carbohydrates such as potatoes are one of the first things that those keeping an eye on their weight cut out. Yet far from being the devil's food, a cooked new potato has only 26 calories and is packed with nutrients. Here we reveal the surprising health benefits of the humble spud.

A key to lasting weight loss is eating foods that make you feel full for longer, says Dr Jacquie Lavin, a weight-loss doctor for Slimming World.

'You should eat complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, rather than simple carbohydrates like sugar or biscuits which give a short energy boost followed by hunger pangs,' she says. 'In this way, potatoes can help you reduce binge-eating.'

According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, potatoes are wrongly classified as high on the Glycemic Index, which ranks carbohydrates from one to 100 according to how quickly they are broken down during digestion into basic glucose. Pure glucose scores 100. The lower the rank, the longer it takes for the food to be absorbed, and the longer we feel satiated after eating it. This is why a diet of low GI foods is recommended to those wanting to lose weight.

However, the research revealed that the GI of potatoes varies depending on the type, where it is grown and the preparation methods. For example, the GI may be medium to low when potatoes are eaten cooled, rather than hot, and when boiled and consumed whole, rather than mashed.

Potatoes provide the body with an essential source of fuel and energy, which you need even when dieting. As a rich carbohydrate source, they help to fuel all reactions in the body which you need for movement, thinking, digestion and cellular renewal.

Source - Daily Mail

Charity seeks end to lunchbox ham

Parents have been urged not to put ham and other smoked, salted or cured meat into their children's lunchboxes to help them reduce the risk of cancer.

The World Cancer Research Fund said parents should act now to stop their children developing a taste for processed meat. Eating too much over decades can raise the risk of bowel cancer, they said.

The UK's Food Standards Agency said processed meat was fine for lunchboxes but should not be eaten "too often".

It is only in recent years that the link between processed meats and bowel cancer in adults has been made, with some estimates suggesting that thousands of cases could be prevented if everyone limited intake to 70g a week - equivalent to three rashers of bacon. Even though the available evidence looks only at adult diets, rather than child diets, the World Cancer Research Fund believes that bad eating habits can start in childhood. It says curing, salting or adding preservatives to meat can introduce carcinogenic substances.

It wants the likes of ham and salami given the chop in favour sandwich-fillers such as chicken, fish or cheese.

Source - BBC

Could a fish oil pill add years to your life?

Fish oil supplements - you probably couldn't find three words less likely to stir the imagination, yet Britain has fallen for them hook, line and sinker. We spend an extraordinary £60million a year on fish oil capsules and syrups - around 20 per cent of the total spent on all supplements. So keen are we on the stuff, that manufacturers now add fish oils to all kinds of food - even bread and eggs - confident this will help them sell.

Why? Because of the flood of research suggesting fish oils are the ultimate health elixir, good for the brain, bones and heart, and protective against cancer, eye problems, even back pain.

Just last week, a team of doctors reporting in the Journal Of The America College Of Cardiology suggested that everyone should take omega-3 for their heart. In a review of previous research, they found that patients with heart problems who took fish oils had a 30 per cent lower risk of dying early.

But the researchers said it also protected healthy people.

'We now have compelling evidence from very large studies, some dating back 20 and 30 years, that demonstrates the protective benefits of omega-3 fish oil in multiple aspects of preventative cardiology,' said Dr Carl Lavie, of the Ochsner Cardiology Clinic in
New Orleans.'And it's a very safe and relatively inexpensive therapy.'

But other experts are not convinced. Here, we look at what fish oils can - and can't - do, and whether supplements are worth the money.


They are a type of polyunsaturated fat, the healthiest fat you can eat. There are three types of fat in our diet - saturated (which comes mainly from animal sources and includes cheese, butter and red meat), mono-unsaturated (such as olive oil) and polyunsaturated (found in oily fish, nuts and many vegetable oils).

Source - Daily Mail

How beer could stop your bones going brittle.

Beer could stop bones from going brittle, research has shown.

A study found that the bones of women who drink beer regularly are stronger, meaning they are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis. But wine does little to protect against the disease, the journal Nutrition reports.

It is thought that the high level of silicon in beer slows down the thinning that leads to fractures and boosts the formation of new bone. Beer is also rich in phytoestrogens, plant versions of oestrogen, which keep bones healthy. Bones are made up of a mesh of fibres, minerals, blood vessels and marrow, and healthy ones are denser with smaller spaces between the different parts.

The researchers asked almost 1,700 healthy women with an average age of 48 about their drinking habits. They then underwent ultrasound scans, which showed the bones in the hands of beer drinkers to be denser.

Source - Daily Mail

Why just the thought of a cuppa can make us more cheerful .

In times of crisis, there is nothing like a nice cup of tea. Now scientists believe they know why - and it is not solely down to the drink itself.

Researchers said that although tea leaves are rich in stress-relieving compounds, the simple act of putting on the kettle is calming. It seems that we have become so used to associating the drink with cheering us up that the very expectation of a cuppa is enough to makes us feel better.

Malcolm Cross, of London's City University, said: 'Memory is cued by many things - taste, smell, images. I think we typically associate tea with relaxation and being looked after.'

Dr Cross, a psychologist, gave 42 men and women some complicated mental arithmetic to complete. Afterwards, half drank tea and half had water. Those given water were 25 per cent more stressed at the end than at the start. But the tea drinkers were calmer than when they started out, the research, commissioned by insurance firm Direct Line, found.

Questioning showed that those who had tea felt it had helped them draw a line under the stress of taking part in the experiment. The finding was reinforced by the results of a poll of 3,000 men and women that accompanied the experiment.

Source - Daily Mail

Had a heart attack? Eating chocolate twice a week could save your life

Heart attack survivors who snack on chocolate at least twice a week could slash their risk of dying from heart disease.

New research shows chocolate-loving victims are nearly 70 per cent less likely to die from cardiac problems than those who rarely eat the confectionery. Even a weekly chocolate treat can help, almost halving the risk of death from heart problems, researchers found.

The latest findings, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, are the latest in a long line of studies highlighting the health benefits of chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

Previous investigations have found dark chocolate, which is rich in disease-busting antioxidants called flavonoids, can lower the risk of blood clots, protect against bowel cancer and even help prevent premature births. Antioxidants are compounds that protect against so-called free radicals, molecules which accumulate in the body and damage cells.

Every year, around 270,000 people in Britain suffer a heart attack, and coronary disease remains Britain's biggest killer. About a third die before reaching hospital, often because they have delayed seeking help. If someone is lucky enough to survive a heart attack, they can still be left with severe damage that drastically increases their risk of dying from cardiac problems in the future.

But the latest research, by experts at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, indicates snacking on chocolate could be the perfect remedy.

Source - Daily Mail

Cannabis may prevent osteoporosis

Researchers looking at the effects of cannabis on bones have found its impact varies dramatically with age.

The study found that while the drug may reduce bone strength in the young, it could protect against osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones, in later life.

The results were uncovered by a team at the University of Edinburgh who compared the drug's effects on mice.

Osteoporosis affects up to 30% of women and about 12% of men at some point in their lives. The group found that cannabis can activate a molecule found naturally in the body that is key to the development of osteoporosis. When the type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1) comes into contact with cannabis, it has an impact on bone regeneration.

However, until now, it was not clear whether the drug had a positive or negative effect.

'Early results'

Researchers, funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign, investigated this using mice which lacked the CB1 receptor. The scientists then used compounds - similar to those in cannabis - that activated the CB1 receptor. They found that compounds increased the rate at which bone tissue was destroyed in the young.

Despite this, the study also showed that the same compounds decreased bone loss in older mice and prevented the accumulation of fat in the bones, which is known to occur in humans with osteoporosis.

Source - BBC

Tea helps in a crisis

Britons have known it for years and now the experts agree; having a cup of tea helps in a crisis.

Nearly 70 percent of the UK turns to tea in a dilemma, making the humble brew the UK's most common response to trouble above phoning home. And now tests, conducted at City University in London, showed that even a single cup of tea can significantly reduce anxiety levels.

'Natural high drug should be banned'

A "herbal high" that mimics the effect of cannabis should be banned, the Government's drug adviser said today.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said Spice could be more powerful than cannabis. Pouches of the drug are widely available on the internet and in so-called "head shops" for around £20.

The council's chairman, Professor David Nutt, said although it was sold as a "natural" high, Spice was created using dangerous chemicals. He said: "Spice and other synthetic cannabinoid products are being sold legally as harmless 'herbal legal highs'. However, the herbal content is coated in one or more dangerous chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cannabis. These are not harmless herbal alternatives and have been found to cause paranoia and panic attacks. That is why we are advising the Government to bring a large number of synthetic cannabinoids under the Misuse of Drugs Act."

Spice and other so-called "synthetic cannabinoids" escape existing drugs laws because they do not contain marijuana and are not chemically related to it. But by spraying synthetic additives on to herbs, dealers can create similar intoxication in users to that caused by THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. Analysis of samples of Spice show it has a "higher potency" than THC, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) warned. It said Spice could be "more harmful" because of the quantity of chemicals in the drug is "unknown to the user".

Home Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to legislate later this year to ban Spice. It is likely to be made a class B drug, alongside cannabis.

Source - Independent

Optimistic women 'live longer'

Women who are optimistic have a lower risk of heart disease and death, an American study shows.

The latest study by US investigators mirrors the findings of earlier work by a Dutch team showing optimism reduces heart risk in men. The research on nearly 100,000 women, published in the journal Circulation, found pessimists had higher blood pressure and cholesterol. Even taking these risk factors into account, attitude alone altered risks.

Optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up. In comparison, cynical women who harboured hostile thoughts about others or were generally mistrusting of others were 16% more likely to die over the same time-scale. One possibility is that optimists are better at coping with adversity, and might, for example take better care of themselves when they do fall ill.

In the study, the optimistic women exercised more and were leaner than pessimistic peers.

Lead researcher Dr Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said: "The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health." A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said: "We know that hostile emotions can release certain chemicals in the body which may increase the risk of heart disease, but we don't fully understand how and why."

Source - BBC

You can't beat beetroot juice for boosting stamina

Forget punishing gym workouts and jogging miles uphill.

The key to boosting stamina could be as simple as a glass of beetroot juice. A daily dose apparently allows us to exercise for longer before tiring. Just under a pint of beetroot juice a day also lowers blood pressure, boosting heart health.

With some of the benefits even surpassing those gained from the strict training routines followed by professional sportsmen, the researchers admit to being stunned by the results.

And they say that while the earthy tang of the juice might not be to everyone's taste, it could have a big impact on everyone from athletes training for big events to pensioners who lack the energy to walk to the shops.

The researchers, from the University of Exeter and the Peninsula Medical School, in the same city, recruited eight healthy young men to complete a series of cycling tests. They took them twice - after drinking beetroot juice once a day for six days and after drinking blackcurrant cordial.

When tasked with cycling at an easy pace, the men used less oxygen after drinking beetroot juice, the Journal of Applied Physiology reports.

This indicates that their muscles were able to do the same amount of work while spending less energy. When they were asked to cycle for as long as they could before stopping, the beetroot juice allowed them to pedal an extra minute-and-a-half before running out of energy.

Source - Daily Mail