Is ibuprofen a killer?

Stomach haemorrhages kill as many as 2,500 people in the UK every year, and leave thousands needing hospital treatment.

A line in this column questioning why vaccine-related side-effects receive so much media coverage while thousands of deaths caused by the ibuprofen family of anti-inflammatory drugs go almost unreported has prompted a huge response from readers wanting to know more — so here is the story in more detail.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alleviate pain, soothe inflammation and reduce fevers, making them a popular choice for treating everything from flu to back pain and arthritis. Aspirin was the first member of the family to be identified but today the most widely used NSAIDs are ibuprofen (in Nurofen, Brufen and Anadin Ultra) and diclofenac (Voltarol and Fenactol).

NSAIDs work by blocking the production of chemical messengers (prostaglandins) that prompt an inflammatory response when the body is attacked or injured. They moderate this response without seeming to have a significant adverse effect on the body’s ability to defend and repair itself — or, to put it another way, taking ibuprofen for your back pain won’t slow your recovery.

But prostaglandins play a crucial role in other processes in the body, particularly in the upper part of the gut, where they help to protect the stomach lining against corrosive digestive juices. And herein lies the problem: they weaken the stomach’s defences, leading to ulceration and stomach haemorrhages that kill as many as 2,500 people in the UK every year and put many thousands more in hospital.

Source - Times

The Salt Cave: an alternative way to breathe easier

People in Eastern Europe have used halotherapy for respiratory complaints. Can a man-made cave in London do the same?

The latest technique for combating cold and flu season should be taken with not just a grain of salt but a whole roomful. After all, that's the way it works.

The Salt Cave in Wandsworth, south London, is a man-made salt cave where visitors relax and breathe in a dry saline aerosol, devised to relieve respiratory conditions such as asthma, smoker's cough, sinusitis, hay fever, and other ailments. Salt therapy or halotherapy has a long history, and not just because food tastes better with it. Salt has known antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Certain places such as Germany and Eastern Europe place great stock in the benefits of it, with people visiting natural salt caves to breathe in the salty air.

The Salt Cave uses a machine, housed separately from the therapy room, that produces a microclimate of very fine salt particles, so small you can't see them, taste them or use them to coat the rim of your margarita glass. There's no noticeable difference to the air when you first enter the room, but your bootie-covered feet shuffle through a blanket of salt and the walls are rough and textured, coated with the stuff.

During an hour long session, I sat on one of the padded chairs, propped up my feet on the footrest and read. Two other clients dozed and flipped through a magazine. It's a strange experience - the room is almost entirely white and the sound is muffled, as it would be if the drifts were made of snow rather than NaCl. The light is slightly dim, yet it's easily bright enough to read by. The atmosphere was tranquil, quiet and soothing, as we all breathed deep and relaxed. If I had any complaint at all about the experience in the room it was that the chair - it looked like an Ikea staple - was thin on padding on the back of my legs. I tucked one of the throws available underneath my thighs to cushion them.

Source - Times

Is salt really the Devil's ingredient?

The Government wants us to reduce our sodium intake, but studies show that this advice should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Salt: is your food full of it? That is the question posed by Jenny Eclair in the Food Standards Agency's recent TV ad for its latest salt awareness campaign. Salt, we are told, pervades every aspect of our diet, from the bowl of cereal we had at breakfast, to the sandwich we ate at lunchtime to the takeaway curry we’re planning tonight.

Too much of the white stuff will our raise blood pressure and increase the likelihood of heart disease and strokes. Like its evil twin, saturated fat, it seems logical that our goal should be to cut down on it, but now a growing number of experts claim that salt is not the devil’s ingredient we have been lead to believe it.

This month researchers from the department of nutrition at the University of California found compelling evidence that it may even be difficult to consume too much salt. Professor David McCarron measured salt losses in the urine of almost 20,000 people in 33 countries worldwide and his findings indicated that the complex interplay between our brains and organs naturally regulates salt intake.

Reporting in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Professor McCarron said: “It is unrealistic to attempt to regulate sodium consumption through public policy when it appears that our bodies naturally dictate how much sodium we consume to maintain a physiologically set normal range.”

Source - Times

Is 24-hour lighting putting us on a path to depression?



Bright street lighting and office blocks that remain lit all night could be affecting our mental health, scientists have warned.

Researchers said too much light at night can be linked to depression. Those living in cities have long complained that fluorescent street lights affect their ability to sleep and can alter their mood.

Now psychologists have confirmed that being unable to escape to the dark can have a harmful effect on someone's personality.

In tests on mice, the study authors found that those kept in a lit room 24 hours a day showed more depressive symptoms than those that had a normal light-dark cycle. Mice that lived in constant light, but could escape into a dark tube when they wanted showed less evidence of depressive symptoms than those who had no escape.

Laura Fonken, who led the study at Ohio State University in the U.S., said: 'The ability to escape light seemed to quell the depressive effects. But constant light with no chance of escape increased depressive symptoms.'

Co-author Professor Randy Nelson said the results suggested more attention needed to be focused on how artificial lighting affects emotional health in people.

He said: 'The increasing rate of depressive disorders in humans corresponds with the increasing use of light at night in modern society. Many people are now exposed to unnatural light cycles, and that may have real consequences for our health.'

The study, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, involved 24 male laboratory mice.

Source - Daily Mail

Guinness isn't that good for you, and other dietary myths exposed

As an NHS dietician I regularly hear diet myths used to justify eating habits.

Sometimes these notions have a basis in fact, but more often they're based on outmoded beliefs that don't bear any relation to the way our bodies actually work.

Food myths come from a variety of sources, but a common theme is that people believe them to be true - and then alter their diet accordingly.

Here are the most common myths and a scientific explanation of why they are flawed...

MYTH: Eating late at night makes you put on weight

It is a commonly held view that a late meal eaten before going to bed leaves calories unused and promotes weight gain. Research shows that eating late at night does not pile on the weight - as long as your daily calorie needs match your body's requirements.

A calorie is a calorie, it doesn't matter when you eat it - but the total number of calories eaten daily does matter. If you eat late at night there's a temptation to fit in an early-evening snack to control hunger, so boosting daily energy intake overall. But an identical meal eaten at 5pm or at 10pm has exactly the same effect, calorie-wise, in the body.

MYTH: You should not exercise immediately after eating

After a meal some ten to 15 per cent of our usual hourly blood flow is directed to the gut to aid digestion. When we exercise, muscles require more blood, too, to supply oxygen and nutrients. Both exercise and eating make competing demands on our circulation - the basis of this myth.

It's fine to exercise immediately after eating, so long as it is not so intense that the muscles take so much oxygen that the stomach struggles - leading to cramps.

So, no need to delay that after-dinner brisk walk or swim, although probably best not to start heavy exercise immediately after Sunday lunch. It will slow digestion and the food will slosh around in your stomach for longer.

Long-term mobile phone use 'significantly increases risk' of brain tumours, landmark study finds

Long-term mobile phone use could increase the risk of developing cancer, according to a decade-long landmark study.

The investigation by the World Health Organisation analysed studies of 12,800 people in 13 countries.

It found people who used mobiles for a decade or more had a 'significantly increased risk' of developing some types of brain tumours. Six of the eight Interphone studies found an increased risk of glioma - the most common brain tumour - among mobile phone users, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The head of the WHO study, Dr Elisabeth Cardis, said the report would recommend young children should have restricted access to mobile phones. She said it will also include a 'public health message.' Dr Cardis added that although the study was not definitive, precautions were important.

Some critics said the report may have underplayed the results because it did not study any children. They pointed out that the Interphone investigation was also partly funded by the mobile phone industry.

A few coffees a day keep liver disease at bay

Researchers in the United States have found another good reason to go to the local espresso bar: several cups of coffee a day could halt the progression of liver disease, a study showed Wednesday.

Sufferers of chronic hepatitis C and advanced liver disease who drank three or more cups of coffee per day slashed their risk of the disease progressing by 53 percent compared to patients who drank no coffee, the study led by Neal Freedman of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) showed.

For the study, 766 participants enrolled in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) trial -- all of whom had hepatitis C which had not responded to treatment with anti-viral drugs -- were asked to report how many cups of coffee they drank every day. The patients were seen every three months during the 3.8-year study and liver biopsies were taken at 1.5 and 3.5 five years to determine the progression of liver disease.

"We observed an inverse association between coffee intake and liver disease progression," meaning patients who drank three or more cups of java were less likely to see their liver disease worsen than non-drinkers, wrote the authors of the study, which will be published in the November issue of Hepatology.

The researchers put forward several ways in which coffee intake might protect against liver disease, including by reducing the risk of type two diabetes, which has been associated with liver illness; or by reducing inflammation, which is thought to cause fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver.

Even caffeine, the chemical that gives a cup of coffee its oomph, came under the spotlight, having been found in previous studies to inhibit liver cancer in rats. But drinking black or green tea, which also contain caffeine, had little impact on the progression of liver disease, although there were few tea drinkers in the study.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) three to four million people contract hepatitis C each year. Seventy percent of cases become chronic and can cause cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Source - BBC

A chemical in olive oil could ward off Alzheimer's disease

Olive oil has many proven health benefits -- from neutralizing cancer-causing free radicals and preventing heart disease, to strengthening bones and reducing inflammation and healing wounds. And it now may hold clues to finding treatments for Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests.

US scientists have identified a naturally occurring compound in extra virgin olive oil that's been found to prevent cell damage that leads to dementia in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

The antioxidant compound, called oleocanthal and which gives the oil its peppery taste, was found to prevent the destruction of synapses in the the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory and the first area to be affected by the disease.

Whether eating more olive oil will protect people from developing Alzheimer's disease is not clear from the research, but the results could point the way towards developing new drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer's, the scientists said.

"The findings may help identify effective preventative measures and lead to improved therapeutics in the fight against Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Paul Breslin, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and lead author of the investigation in a statement.

Source - BBC

Curry spice 'kills cancer cells'

An extract found in the bright yellow curry spice turmeric can kill off cancer cells, scientists have shown.

The chemical - curcumin - has long been thought to have healing powers and is already being tested as a treatment for arthritis and even dementia. Now tests by a team at the Cork Cancer Research Centre show it can destroy gullet cancer cells in the lab.

Cancer experts said the findings in the British Journal of Cancer could help doctors find new treatments. Dr Sharon McKenna and her team found that curcumin started to kill cancer cells within 24 hours.

'Natural' remedy

The cells also began to digest themselves, after the curcumin triggered lethal cell death signals.

Dr McKenna said: "Scientists have known for a long time that natural compounds have the potential to treat faulty cells that have become cancerous and we suspected that curcumin might have therapeutic value."

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "This is interesting research which opens up the possibility that natural chemicals found in turmeric could be developed into new treatments for oesophageal cancer.

Source - BBC

White wine is 'bad for your teeth'

Enjoying a glass of white wine on a frequent basis can damage the teeth, something many wine makers and tasters will know first-hand, experts say.

Pale plonk packs an acidic punch that erodes enamel far more than red wine, Nutritional Research reports.

It is not the wine's vintage, origin or alcohol that are key but its pH and duration of contact with the teeth.

Eating cheese at the same time could counter the effects, because it is rich in calcium, the German authors say.

Source: BBC News

Consultation on how to regulate complementary and alternative therapies

Practitioners of acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicines and other forms of herbal remedies are being invited to suggest how they should be regulated under a new Government consultation.

The Department of Health is to seek views on whether a UK-wide system should be created, as at present there is no statutory regulation of practitioners who offer such treatments.

Ann Keen, the Health Minister, said: “Patient safety is paramount, whether people are accessing orthodox health service treatments or using alternative treatments, privately or through the NHS. This UK-wide consultation will help us find the best and most appropriate ways of ensuring that those who choose to receive acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine can be reassured that those practitioners meet professional standards of care and safety.”

The consultation follows publication last month of a report from the Extending Professional Regulation (EPR) Working Group, which looked at currently unregulated roles.

Source - Times

Vitamin D ‘may cut premature birth risk and protect newborn babies’

Powerful new evidence about the way that vitamin D can reduce the risk of premature births and boost the health of newborn babies has emerged from an international research conference in Bruges. Delegates were told that mothers who were given ten times the usual dose of vitamin D during pregnancy had their risk of premature birth reduced by half and had fewer small babies.

The findings emerge after evidence, revealed in The Times, that vitamin D — the “sunshine vitamin” — could have a dramatic effect in combating Scotland’s appalling health record. Statistics showing that Scots — particularly in the west — are exposed to less sunshine than those living farther south correlate exactly with higher incidences of heart disease, some cancers and multiple sclerosis. The Times has campaigned to have vitamin D recommended and prescribed as part of a national health programme.

The vitamin’s benefits have been observed previously in uncontrolled studies of pregnant women and babies, but this is the first time they have been found in a scientific trial which met the most stringent criteria for “evidence-based inquiry”. The findings may make it necessary for health departments to revise advice presently given to pregnant and breastfeeding women in the UK.

The investigators, Dr Bruce Hollis and Dr Carol Wagner of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, met rigorous safety tests which were required by the Federal Drug Administration. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The women, who all lived around Charleston, South Carolina, began taking 4,000 IUs per day of vitamin D after their first clinic visit at about three months of pregnancy. (4,000 IUs or international units equals 100 microgms). A control group took 400 IUs,equivalent to the normal recommended dose in the US and UK. The women had their blood and urine tested monthly to ensure calcium and vitamin D levels were within safe limits.

Source - Times

Placebo effect starts in the spine – not just the mind

If you thought the placebo effect was all in the mind, think again. Scientists have solved the mystery of why some people benefit from remedies that do not contain any active pain-relief ingredients. Research suggests that placebos work, in part, by blocking pain signals in the spinal cord from arriving at the brain in the first place.

When patients expect a treatment to be effective the brain area responsible for pain control is activated, causing the release of natural endorphins. The endorphins send a cascade of instructions down to the spinal cord to suppress incoming pain signals and patients feel better whether or not the treatment had any direct effect.

The sequence of events in the brain closely mirrors the way opioid drugs, such as morphine, work — adding weight to the view that the placebo effect is grounded in physiology.

The finding strengthens the argument that many established medical treatments derive part of their effectiveness from the patients’ expectation that the drugs will make them better.

Source - Times

Cut yourself? Tribal remedy of sprinkling SUGAR on wound heals it faster

Rubbing sugar into wounds could cure painful infections including bedsores, research shows.

The traditional African remedy is being trialled in British hospitals after a study led by a senior nurse raised in Zimbabwe.

As a child, Moses Murandu watched his father put crushed sugar cane on villagers' wounds and grew up thinking it was a widely used treatment. When he moved to England he was surprised to find doctors did not use it. His six-month study involved 21 patients at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham whose wounds had not responded to conventional treatment.

Oh no! Work is good for you, especially after you've retired

Ground down by the daily grind? Dreaming of the day when you can give it all up for a life of leisure, long holidays and pottering about in the garden.

Well, researchers have some bad news for you. Workers who drop everything at retirement age are at greater risk of heart attacks, cancer and other major diseases than those who ease their way into old age by taking a part-time job. As well as boosting their bank balance, people who carry on working part time in jobs related to their previous career also fare better mentally than those who retire fully.

The study confirms the long-held view that those whose working lives end abruptly at retirement can die soon afterwards. Study leader Dr Mo Wang called on employers to help staff make the transition from working to retirement by offering 'bridge employment'.

'Given the economic-recession, we will probably see more people considering post-retirement employment,' said Dr Wang. 'These findings highlight bridge employment's potential benefits.'

The researchers looked at data from more than 12,000 taking part in a health and retirement study, run by the U.S. National Institute on Ageing.

The volunteers, who were aged between 51 and 61 at the start of the study, were interviewed every two years over a six-year period starting in 1992 about their health, money, employment history and work or retirement. Their average retirement age was 58.

Dr Wang, from the University of Maryland, and his colleagues also looked at the incidence of medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, strokes and mental problems.

Source - Daily Mail

Positive thinking is positively bad for you so always look on the glum slide of life

There's an ad for Volkswagen being shown in cinemas at the moment. A good-looking man is driving an elegant car; in the background the soundtrack plays a song saying: 'With positive thinking, life won't let you down.'

Harmless enough, you may think, but what makes the advertisement suddenly sickening is when the car passes a load of sheep on their way to the abattoir - they are all nodding their heads cheerfully in time to the music. Yes, I know it's a joke, but there is still the implication that if you look on the bright side you, too, will be able to have a glamorous VW like the man in the ad, and, even if you're on your way to be slaughtered, a positive mind-set will make that jolly, too.

You're as old as you eat... Our guide to foods that fight off age

Keeping in peak condition in old age can be boosted by nutrition, which scientists are proving is a powerful weapon in fighting off diseases. As new research shows that olive oil could play a vital role in protecting against dementia, we look at the key foods that have shown to be an ally against ageing.


Using olive oil as much as possible could preserve your memory and your heart. Oleocanthal, a compound in olive oil, has been found to slow down changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer's. Researchers believe it will become a key ingredient in medicines designed to combat the disease.

Alzheimer's disease is thought to occur when a protein called ADDL attacks brain cells. Scientists at the University of Philadelphia discovered that oleocanthal in olive oil changes ADDL in a way that makes it harmless.

Oleocanthal, a key component of the Mediterranean diet, is already known to be an anti-inflammatory and is thought to protect against heart disease by raising levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol while lowering levels of damaging LDL cholesterol.

Self-styled mediums thrive in modern Singapore

Clad in ornate headgear and a black robe, Tay Kim Huat wielded a mock sword and mimicked the pose of a Taoist deity's statue perched on the altar in front of him.

Swaying back and forth with his eyes closed as devotees sang prayers over him at the An Ren Gong Temple, the car parts delivery man appeared oblivious to the chants and incense smoke -- as well as his wife and children waiting outside. They're used to it. After all, being a "dangkee" or medium runs in the family.

"My dad was a dangkee, and so was my grandfather," said Tay, 49, who is continuing the legacy together with his brother Tay Kim Sing, 41, a wharf storeman.

Dangkees say they allow deities to possess their bodies to perform rituals and dispense advice to other Taoist believers.

"It is like falling asleep, I don't know anything that is going on," Tay said.

In affluent and technologically advanced Singapore, belief in spirituality persists and traditional religious practices are considered essential to good luck and prosperity, whether it involves health, love, a job or the lottery. Government estimates place the number of active Taoist mediums at 1,000, with the actual number likely to be higher because the practice is unregulated.

Dangkees have generated renewed public attention in recent weeks after coroners ruled that a 16-year-old self-proclaimed medium and his friend had committed suicide by jumping from a ninth-storey flat last year. They were convinced the world was ending and they would be resurrected as demon slayers, local media said.

The Straits Times newspaper reported this week that the local Taoist Federation was planning to launch a voluntary registry of dangkees operating in some 300 temples, with the possibility of a licensing scheme in the future.

Source - Independent

Green spaces 'improve health'

There is more evidence that living near a 'green space' has health benefits.

Research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says the impact is particularly noticeable in reducing rates of mental ill health. The annual rates of 15 out of 24 major physical diseases were also significantly lower among those living closer to green spaces. One environmental expert said the study confirmed that green spaces create 'oases' of improved health around them.

The researchers from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam looked at the health records of 350,000 people registered with 195 family doctors across the Netherlands.

Only people who had been registered with their GP for longer than 12 months were included because the study assumed this was the minimum amount of time people would have to live in an environment before any effect of it would be noticeable.

Source - BBC

Simply because it works better: Exploring motives for the use of medical herbalism in contemporary U.K. health care


To clarify the reasons underlying people's use of medical herbalism in the context of contemporary U.K. health care.


Few of the participants had initially set out to try herbalism, most looking for ‘an alternative’ to conventional health care. The main reason for exploring non-conventional options was to seek out health care that would more effectively meet their self-perceived needs in the treatment of a chronic condition. As a result of favourable outcomes from their initial treatment, participants subsequently continued to use herbalism for the management of more general, everyday health problems.

Source - Complementary Therapies in Medicine

Bracelets 'useless' in arthritis

Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps are useless for relieving pain in people with arthritis, say University of York researchers.

In the first tightly controlled trial to look at both alternative therapies, there was no benefit to their use for pain or stiffness. All 45 patients tested a copper bracelet, two different magnetic wrist straps, and a demagnetised version.

An arthritis charity said people should not waste their money on the therapies.

Study leader Stewart Richmond, a research fellow in the Department of Health Sciences, said there had only been one other randomised controlled trial - comparing the treatment with placebo - on copper bracelets and that was done in the 1970s. The market - particularly in magnetic devices which can cost £25 and £65 for the wrist straps - is worth billions of dollars worldwide.

In the trial, 45 people aged 50 or over, who were all diagnosed as suffering from osteoarthritis wore each of the four devices in a random order over a 16-week period.

They were all ineffective in terms of pain, stiffness and physical function, the researchers reported in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

Source - BBC

How a chunk of chocolate can melt away your pain

Nibbling on chocolate or even sipping a glass of water can relieve aches and pains, a study has shown.

A team of researchers says the distraction of eating or drinking for pleasure acts as a natural painkiller. Although the findings come from studies on animals, the scientists believe the same effect takes place in people.

Dr Peggy Mason, of Chicago University, found that rats were less bothered by pain if they were eating a chocolate chip or drinking water. 'It's a strong, strong effect, but it's not about hunger or appetite,' she said. 'If you have all this food in front of you that's easily available to reach out and get, you're not going to stop eating, for basically almost any reason.' Past studies have shown that eating can ease pain.

However, the latest study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to show that food and drink act as a painkiller in the absence of hunger or thirst.

In the experiments, rats were given either chocolate, sugar water or plain water while the floor of their cage was heated with a light bulb positioned underneath. The animals reacted to the heat by raising a paw off the floor. But the animals were much slower to raise their feet when they were eating or drinking than when they were not occupied with food and drink.

It made no difference whether the rats were eating chocolate or drinking water, despite past studies which found that only sugary food and drink protects against pain.

'This really shows it has nothing to do with calories,' Dr Mason said. 'Water has no calories, saccharine has no sugar, but both have the same effect as a chocolate chip. It's really shocking.'

When the experiment was repeated with quinine - a bitter drink that rats find unpleasant - the animals reacted to heat as quickly as when they were not eating.

Source - Daily Mail

Award for cancer patients' garden

A hospital garden transformed by former cancer patients has been given a special award to recognise their work.

The garden at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff was set up for people who have to spend time in isolation after radioactive treatment. The patients themselves decided to tackle the weeds and plant flowers within a controlled access zone. It has been given this year's Cardiff in Bloom award for a community building garden with limited access.

The hospital's two shielded rooms are used by patients with thyroid cancer following treatment with radioactive iodine. As the hospital's principal physicist for nuclear medicine Sue Hooper explains, they can be in isolation for an extended period.

"They have to stay in those rooms for several days until the radioactivity levels in their body are safe enough to return to their homes and their family members," she said. "Whilst patients can receive meals and are able to have visitors, they can only speak to them through a glass partition, as access around the area has to be restricted. It made it very difficult for the hospital gardeners to maintain the area outside," explains Ms Hooper, "and we ended up with 6ft high weeds and a lot of grass."

Cy Davies from Pontypool, Torfaen, was one of the patients who decided to tackle the garden, having spent several days in isolation at the hospital himself eight years ago.

"You're in the room and you've only got your future to think about following a diagnosis of cancer," Mr Davies explains "Originally we were looking out from the room on to this area which was totally overgrown."

He joined together with other former patients to create Thyroid Cancer Support Group - and set about fundraising.

Source - BBC

Physical problems 'often mental'

The true burden of mental ill health is unrecognised since many "physical" problems, like cancer and obesity, are really "mind" problems, say experts.

Most lung cancers are caused by addiction to smoking, and some obesity by a brain-driven compulsion to eat, says UK psychiatrist Dr Peter Jones. And to tackle such problems experts need to go back to delving the mind. He and other leading mental health experts are calling for a trebling of funding to £200m a year for research.

The Research Mental Health initiative, along with public figures including Alistair Campbell, Jo Brand and Stephen Fry, are taking their declaration to Downing Street.

Mental illness in its "classic" sense, including depression and schizophrenia, affects one in four people in the UK each year but receives just 5% of total health research spending. Currently, around £74 million a year is spent on researching mental illness. Yet the economic, social and human cost of mental illness totals £100 billion a year in the UK alone.

And many "physical" health problems involve a strong mental component, they say.

Source - BBC

Holistic therapies: the Grinberg Method

Still almost unknown in Britain, the Grinberg Method is the ultimate in holistic therapies – curing chronic pain, heavy scarring and deep emotional wounds.

Victoria Oldham is telling me how she too used to be a sceptic. 'When I first went and saw a Grinberg Method practitioner I wasn’t into that sort of thing at all. I was incredibly sceptical, but I was also curious. I went because I had had neck ache for a long time and then one morning I couldn’t turn my head one way. I was in Switzerland at the time, and someone told me to try the Grinberg Method, which is very well known over there. And I went and saw this person, and she gave me a foot analysis, and I was quite blown away by the things she said to me and the insight she had into my life.’

After two sessions Oldham’s neck pain had disappeared, and then she 'carried on going because my whole life started to take a different shape. I found myself seeing things differently. I found myself more aware of what I wanted in my life.’ Which meant abandoning her career as an artist and retraining as a Grinberg practitioner herself.

A decade on and it was I who was in the position of sceptic, with Oldham the practitioner. I had never heard of the Grinberg Method, and when I learnt that it was based, at its simplest, on 'reading’ the feet, not in the same way as reflexology but holistically – identifying patterns of tension or of energy rather than the state of specific organs – I was prepared to be unimpressed. But I went along to see Oldham anyway, and like her and many others before me was 'blown away’. She did indeed examine and manipulate my feet while asking me questions about physical symptoms and my more general wellbeing. Quickly she was pinpointing exact periods in my life when a significant event had happened – not the event itself but the impact it had had on me; she was disentangling assorted different versions of 'me’, some intrinsic to my character, some constructed and therefore unhelpful; she was identifying destructive patterns of behaviour and relationships. And on a practical level she was diagnosing how all these tendencies were being played out within my body – how physical and emotional experiences from my past were being held, locked almost, inside me. Then, over the course of the ensuing sessions, she showed me how we could work together – through breathing, through exercises, through her manipulations of my body – in order to unlock these long-held patterns.

Source - Telegraph

Treat people with kindness and they will be more responsive

10-minute relationship therapy: if you want to improve relations with somebody, treat them with kindness and respect.

We all want love and respect but sometimes we don't want to give love and respect, especially when we are at odds with someone and we're feeling hurt and angry.

If you want a better relationship with anyone "Stroking" is mandatory. If you look down on people and treat them badly, they'll retaliate and appear just as annoying and hostile as you expected. If, in contrast, you treat people with kindness and respect in spite of your anger, they'll nearly always be far more flexible and responsive to your feelings and point of view. Some people are resistant to this technique. " I shouldn't have to be nice to him. He doesn't deserve it." is a common opinon. Others are "I'm just too angry to be nice to her", "I can't think of anything positive to say about him", and " Why should I be nice to her when she's treated me like this". But if you decide to convey genuine respect in the heat of battle, your efforst will be far more effective.

Source - Telegraph

Herbal valium could prove deadly, medicines watchdog warns

An extremely toxic plant is in some 'herbal valium' drugs and should be avoided, a medicines watchdog has warned today.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said people should be on their guard over unlicensed herbal medicines containing the plant aconite.

Aconite, also known as monkshood, is 'extremely poisonous' and could be fatal or cause serious illness, it said.

The watchdog has received two reports of suspected serious side effects, with one person suffering kidney problems and another suffering dizziness and paresthesia, which is an abnormal sensation of skin numbness or tingling. The warning comes after some reports that an actress took aconite to calm her nerves before her wedding day.

Air pollution link to appendicitis

Air pollution may trigger appendicitis, research suggests.

Scientists made the discovery after comparing local pollution data with hospital admissions in Calgary, Canada. They found correlations between high levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide and appendicitis incidence. More men than women were found to be affected.

The researchers looked at data on 5,191 adult patients admitted to hospital with appendicitis in Calgary. More than half occurred between April and September, the warmest months of the year in Canada when people are most likely to be outside.

The findings, reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, may help explain historic appendicitis trends, the scientists believe.

Appendicitis incidence soared in industrialised countries during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but decreased with the introduction of laws to improve air quality. However, it has been growing in developing countries as they become more industrialised.

Dr Gilaad Kaplan, one of the researchers from the University of Calgary, said: "For unexplained reasons, men are more likely than women to have appendicitis. Men may be more susceptible to the effects of outdoor air pollution because they are more likely to be employed in outdoor occupations."

Inflammation triggered by pollutants may be one reason why air quality can affect the appendix, say the researchers. The appendix is a worm-like organ attached to the large intestine with no known function in humans. Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes swollen and inflamed, causing acute pain, fever and vomiting.

Source - Independent

Med-style diet 'can battle blues'

The Mediterranean diet, already thought to protect against heart disease and cancer, may also help to prevent depression, Spanish researchers say.

They found depression was more than 30% less likely to develop in people who followed a diet high in vegetables, fruit and cereals, and low in red meat. They studied 10,094 healthy adults over four years, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports.

However, the team stressed additional, larger-scale studies were required.

Researchers at the Universities of Las Palmas and Navarra recruited university graduates to take part.

Dietary patterns

They completed questionnaires and the researchers calculated their adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern (MDP) for an average of four-and-a-half years.

Source - BBC

Jail terms for faith healing pair

A US couple who prayed rather than seeking medical attention for their dying daughter have been sentenced to six months in jail.

Dale and Leilani Neumann, of Wisconsin, could have received up to 25 years in prison over the 2008 death of Madeline Neumann, who was known as Kara. The 11-year-old died of an undiagnosed but treatable form of diabetes.

Judge Vincent Howard ordered the couple to serve one month in jail each year for the next six years. One parent will serve the term in March and the other in September.

The judge told the Neumanns this would give them time to "think about Kara and what God wants you to learn from this". He added that they were "very good people, raising their family, who made a bad decision, a reckless decision". He added: "God probably works through other people, some of them doctors."

In addition to the custodial sentence, the Neumanns were also put on 10 years' probation, as part of which they must allow a nurse to examine their two youngest surviving children at least once every three months, and must immediately take their children to a doctor in case of any serious injuries.

Source - BBC

Sage herb 'can boost memory'

Centuries-old theories that the herb sage can improve memory appear to be borne out by modern research.

Scientists at the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria tested 44 people, who were either given the herb or a dummy placebo pill. They found that those given the sage oil tablets performed much better in a "word recall test". Experts believe the active ingredient may boost levels of a chemical that helps transmit messages in the brain.

The Medicinal Plant Research Centre (MPRC) at the universities are testing many old-fashioned claims about the healing powers of herbs and flowers.

Sage is often referred to in ancient texts - in 1597 the herbalist John Gerard said that it was "singularly good for the head and quickeneth the nerves and memory." Researcher Nicola Tildsley said the results of the study proved that, in some cases at least, the herbalists should be taken seriously.

She said: "This proves how valuable the work by the old herbalists was, and that they shouldn't just be ignored because they were writing centuries ago."

There are still question marks over the herb's ability to boost long-term memory, she said.

"Tests would need to be carried out on people over a longer period of time to prove that sage improves exam performance - but we don't have any plans to do this at present."

Source - BBC

Vitamin D 'can help balance'

People aged 65 and over should take high-dose vitamin D to help stop them falling over, according to research.

They can cut their chance of falls by 19 per cent if they take 700- 1,000IU (17.5-25 micrograms) of the vitamin as a daily supplement, according to research published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). It found a dose lower than 700IU per day had no effect.

Eight clinical trials on more than 2,400 people were included in the review of studies. It concluded that vitamin D2 at high doses could cut the risk of falling by 19 per cent while vitamin D3 could lead to a possible 26 per cent reduction.

The vitamins began to have an effect within two to five months of starting treatment and were still effective after a year, it found. Previous research has shown that vitamin D improves strength and balance among older people, while other studies have found no significant effect on the risk of falling. Severe deficiency of vitamin D has been shown to cause muscle weakness.

Source - Independent

Probiotic health claims dismissed

General health claims for "probiotic" drinks and yogurts have been dismissed by a team of experts from the European Union.

Their opinions will now be voted on by an EU Committee which is drawing up a list of permitted health claims.

Scientists at the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) looked at 180 health claims for the supplements. They rejected 10 claims and said a further 170 had not provided enough evidence of their effects. The manufacturers of best-selling yogurt drinks Actimel and Yakult have submitted claims that will be considered at a later stage.

EFSA is reviewing all health claims made for food products following the introduction of a new EU law in 2006 which stipulated that all medical-sounding marketing claims must be verified.

The European Commission will eventually consider the list drawn up by the EU committee and develop legislation which will be voted on by member states. No products or health claims will change until that legislation is published.

Albert Flynn, who chairs the EFSA panel which looked at these claims, said the first stage had been to look at general health claims for the products.

Source - BBC