Don't dismiss 'cyberchondriacs'

As the internet becomes more and more easily accessible it is perhaps inevitable that patients should try to self-diagnose.

In this week's health opinion column Scrubbing Up, medical law expert Dr Anthea Martin warns doctors against dismissing all web-wise patients as 'cyberchondriacs'.

Picture the scene. A man walks into a GP's consultation room and the doctor's eye is immediately drawn to a 10-page print-out in his hand. The GP suspects the patient has spent hours researching all of his symptoms on the internet before arriving at the appointment, armed with his dossier of medical information.

It's possible he has diagnosed himself with anything ranging from a simple cold or flu to some exotic disease such as dengue fever. So, what would be the GP's initial reaction? Does she welcome the chance to discuss her patient's health, or does a look of panic cross her face while she gazes anxiously at the clock wondering how long the consultation will take?

For doctors who fall into the latter category, it is possible to feel some sympathy. According to a new study, many GPs feel intimidated by the increasing numbers of web-wise patients arriving in surgeries.

Results showed that doctors experienced "considerable anxiety" when faced with a patient bringing information from the web to a consultation, while others admitted to feeling threatened and challenged.

Source - BBC

Acupuncture 'helps depression' in pregnancy

Acupuncture may offer a drug-free alternative for treating depression in pregnant women, researchers have found.

A study found that more pregnant women with depression benefited from acupuncture than those who had a sham treatment with needles or an ordinary massage. Two thirds of women who had the real acupuncture reported a significant improvement of their symptoms, compared to less than half of those who had the other treatments.

The study of 150 women with depression was conducted by a team at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California and is published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

The approach may be particularly beneficial as depression in pregnancy can cause serious complications if left untreated and yet women are reluctant to take drugs while carrying their child, the researchers said.

Lead author Dr Rachel Manber, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, said: "This standardised acupuncture protocol could be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy.

"Because there is this concern about medication among pregnant women and their physicians, it's important to find an alternative,"

Source - Telegraph

Boy, 8, whose hip condition stopped him from walking makes dramatic recovery... after taking up snowboarding

He's a little young to feature at the Winter Olympics right now, but snowboard prodigy Thomas Robinson could one day be representing his country against the best in the world.

The eight-year-old took up the sport to help tackle a severe hip disorder which made it difficult for him to walk without falling over. His mother booked a course of lessons in the hope that it would improve his movement and strengthen his legs, and six months later his progress has been dramatic.

As well as getting about more easily, he has already won medals in national competitions for his age group and has been invited to race in France later this month.

His mother Lynda, 37, said: 'We cannot believe how well Thomas has done given that he used to find it very difficult to walk. His walking is so much better now. He's falling over much less. He's also much more confident in himself, he's top of the class at school now.'

How a happy marriage can cut stroke risk for men

Happily-married men are much less likely to suffer a stroke than their single or unhappily married friends, according to research.

Single men and those in unsuccessful marriages were 64 per cent more likely to have a stroke than men in successful marriages. Scientists said having an unhappy marriage or being single was as big a risk to men's chances of having a stroke as suffering from diabetes. Their research followed 10,059 civil servants and council workers who completed the Israeli Ischaemic Heart Disease Study in 1963.

They tracked the men to 1997 to check their cause of death. In 1965, two years after the first study, the participants were asked to rate their marriages as successful or unsuccessful, or to say if they have never married.

Dr Uri Goldbourt, of Tel Aviv University, who carried out the study, said: 'An analysis of the 3.6 per cent of men who had reported dissatisfaction in their marriage found the adjusted risk of a fatal stroke was 64 per cent higher, compared with men who considered their marriages very successful.

'I had not expected that unsuccessful marriage would be of this statistical importance.'

Dr Goldbourt said the risk of stroke was just as high for single men as it was for those stuck in dead end marriages.

Source - Daily Mail

Virtual reality games may help stroke victims recover: study

Playing on a virtual reality gaming system may help stroke patients improve their motor function, according to a small study presented Thursday at a conference of the American Stroke Association.

"This is the first randomized clinical study showing that virtual reality using Wii gaming technology is feasible and safe and is potentially effective in enhancing motor function following a stroke," said Gustavo Saposnik, who led the study.

Twenty stroke survivors were randomly assigned to play either two Wii games - Wii tennis and Wii "Cooking Mama," in which players simulate cutting a potato, peeling an onion, slicing meat and shredding cheese - or to play cards or a game called Jenga, which involves stacking and balancing wooden blocks.

Both groups played eight hour-long sessions of Wii, or cards and blocks, over the period of two weeks. Participants had suffered a stroke around two months previous. No one in the Wii group suffered adverse effects in the study, while one person in the card or block-stacking group had nausea or dizziness during the study.

Source - Independent

Homeopathy: Tinctures or a trick of the mind?

This week, a Commons committee declared that the NHS should stop funding homeopathy, describing its remedies as no better than a placebo.

The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital may be under siege but the staff and patients remain relaxed. There has been no run on Gelsemium, the homeopathic remedy of choice for people paralysed by fear, in the pharmacy. Indeed, the only sign of trouble is the poster affixed to a pillar in the third floor waiting area alongside the stall selling Tick Tock redbush tea – the kind Precious Ramotswe drinks in The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

"Save NHS homeopathy", it says. Another poster urges supporters to join a lobby of parliament. Long before MPs from the cross party Commons committee on science and technology gave the thumbs down to homeopathy on Monday, people here knew what was coming. The remedies worked no better than a placebo, the committee said, and the NHS should cease funding.

It was a withering verdict but the hospital remains undaunted. There are no placards or demonstrators here. Just the usual crowd of patients – predominantly middle aged and female – that you find in any hospital waiting area. Supporters of homeopathy – practitioners and patients alike – are used to controversy and another bout of negative publicity, of which there is never a shortage, is not going to change their minds.

Source - Independent

Extracts of bitter melon 'can block breast cancer'

Extracts of a fruit grown on tropical vines appears to have breast cancer blocking powers, say researchers.

Scientists found key ingredients of the green and knobbly bitter melon fruit interfered with chemical pathways involved in cancer growth. It turned off signals telling the breast cancer cells to divide and switched on signals encouraging them to commit suicide. Experts told Cancer Research journal more trials were needed.

Although promising as an anti-cancer agent, trials in animals and then humans are still needed, study co-author Dr Rajesh Agarwal from the University of Colorado, US, said. And there is no proof that eating lots of bitter melon would offer any cancer protection, he said.

Source - BBC

Back pain 'eased by group therapy sessions'

A form of group "talking therapy" is a cheap, effective way to alleviate low back pain, a UK trial has shown. The positive effect was still seen a year after the short six-session therapy programme, The Lancet reported.

The 600 patients taking part in the trial were also offered standard GP treatment including pain medication. The sessions were designed to tackle "unhelpful" beliefs around back pain and physical activity and help patients better manage their condition.

Usually people with low back pain - one of the most common complaints GPs deal with - are advised to keep active, offered pain relief where needed and possibly other treatments such as acupuncture. In the study, 400 people being treated in general practice were offered the six group therapy sessions and 200 people receiving standard care were monitored for a year.

The sessions - based loosely around a technique called cognitive behaviour therapy - were set up to discuss beliefs around doing physical activity and counter negative thoughts about back pain and its restrictions as well as relaxation techniques. The one-and-a-half-hour sessions were also designed to help people overcome "fear" of hurting themselves more and how to get active again whilst avoiding flare-ups.

A year later, the people who underwent therapy scored significantly more highly on questionnaires designed to measure pain and disability.

Source - BBC

High street food allergy tests mislead consumers

HEALTH tests available at private clinics and high street shops, including Holland & Barrett, are misleading consumers by convincing them they have “allergies” that may not exist.

A Sunday Times investigation has found that people are needlessly being told to cut out dozens of products, including oranges, sugar and white wine, after taking so-called food intolerance tests costing up to £265. Critics say the tests — some of which are available over the internet — are trading on people’s obsession with their diet.

Some doctors now believe the tests could do more harm than good and have seen several patients suffering from serious illnesses, such as rickets, because they have been advised to give up so many foodstuffs.

A healthy undercover reporter took part in seven common tests over a fortnight. In one, a consultant connected the reporter’s hands and feet to an electrical circuit to see how she reacted to various foods. At the start of each test the reporter — who had been found to be allergy-free by a specialist — complained of occasional tiredness and feeling bloated after eating.

At a branch of Holland & Barrett near Charing Cross station in central London, the reporter was checked for food sensitivities in a “Vega” test costing £49. She was asked to grip a metal cylinder wired to a meter while a metal rod was pressed against the fingers of her other hand. Tiny phials of food were held next to the meter to test for a reaction.

The consultant said the reporter was “intolerant” to sugar, oranges and wheat-based products, such as bread and pasta, and recommended abstaining from these foods for at least a month. The consultant pointed out that Holland & Barrett stocked many wheat-free products, although she said similar foods could also be bought elsewhere.

Source - Daily Mail

How schools fail to protect pupils from asbestos danger

Three out of four schools contain asbestos, which could be putting children at risk of cancer, a damning report warns. Many do not have appropriate protection measures in place, while management of the substance is 'ineffective and at times dangerous'.

These schools do not comply with their legal duty to protect those who use the buildings from the hidden killer and training about it is poor or non- existent, the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association found. Steps must be taken to stop pupils and teachers from developing mesothelioma, a cancer contracted from asbestos exposure, or other related illnesses, it added.

The Government's policy on asbestos in schools is to leave it in place and make sure it is not exposed - rather than remove it. Stringent regulations exist to manage asbestos effectively. But the report argues many schools do not have the resources to properly protect pupils and staff.

Paul Rowen, chairman of the Campaign Against Asbestos in Schools and LibDem health and safety spokesman, said the study confirmed his fears about the mismanagement of asbestos.

'This is a major risk to both pupils and staff, and we have already seen too many deaths as a result of poor asbestos management,' he said. The Government needs to renew their efforts in tackling this problem, and ensure training is in place to allow school staff to deal with the problem quickly and safely.'

The findings were based on 16 schools which agreed to be inspected. None were found to be fully compliant with asbestos guidoneance and just four had an adequate standard of asbestos management.

The Assessment of Asbestos Management in Schools report concluded: 'The majority had unacceptable standards which were ineffective or unworkable and with the potential to cause contamination or exposure incident.

Source - Daily Mail

Middle aged and elderly need just as much sleep as younger people

The idea that people need less sleep as they get older is a myth, a study has found.

Researchers found that middle aged and elderly people need as much shut-eye as younger people if they want to keep a clear head the next day. However, they are more likely to suffer from an interrupted night's sleep because of health problems - and are forced to adapt by catnapping, or coping with tiredness in the day, the research showed. The findings to challenge the long established belief that the amount of sleep we need falls as we approach middle and old age.

Dr Sean Drummond, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, said: 'It's a fallacy. The quantity of sleep that we need does not go down as we age, but the ability to sleep in one chunk does get lost. It is a myth that older people need less sleep. As people age they as much sleep as they did when they were young, but they often find that health problems impact on their sleep.'

Source - Daily Mail

NHS money 'wasted' on homeopathy

The NHS should stop funding homeopathy, MPs say.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said using public money on the highly-diluted remedies could not be justified. The cross-party group said there was no evidence beyond a placebo effect, when a patient gets better because of their belief that the treatment works. But manufacturers and supporters of homeopathy disputed the report, saying the MPs had ignored important evidence. It is thought about £4m a year is spent on homeopathy by the NHS, helping to fund four homeopathic hospitals in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow and numerous prescriptions.

Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of treatment that uses highly diluted substances - sometimes so none of the original product is left - that are given orally in the belief that it will stimulate the body's self-healing mechanism.

Supporters believe the remedies help relieve a range of minor ailments from bruising and swelling to constipation and insomnia. But the MPs said homeopathy was basically sugar pills that only worked because of faith.

Source - BBC

Peanut allergies tackled in largest ever trial

Doctors in Cambridge believe they may soon have a cure for peanut allergies.

The largest ever trial to find a treatment for potentially fatal peanut allergies is to give sufferers tiny amounts daily to build up tolerance.

The Addenbrookes team will give increasing doses of peanut flour to 104 British children, up to the equivalent of five nuts a day. Twenty out of 23 sufferers in an earlier study became able to eat more than 30 peanuts safely. The new £1m three-year trial could lead to a widely available treatment.

About one in 50 young people in the UK suffers from peanut allergies which can cause breathing problems, itching and, in severe cases, a potentially fatal inflammatory reaction called anaphylaxis. The new trial funded by the Department of Health's Institute of Health Research will involve more than 100 seven to 17-year-olds.

Source - BBC

Singing 'rewires' damaged brain

Teaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech, say scientists.

By singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech. If a person's "speech centre" is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their "singing centre" instead.

Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.

An ongoing clinical trial, they said, has shown how the brain responds to this "melodic intonation therapy". Gottfried Schlaug, a neurology professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, led the trial.

The therapy is already established as a medical technique. Researchers first used it when it was discovered that stroke patients with brain damage that left them unable to speak were still able to sing. Professor Schlaug explained that his was the first study to combine this therapy with brain imaging - "to show what is actually going on in the brain" as patients learn to sing their words.

Source - BBC

'Myth-busting' pregnancy advice given by NHS

Pregnant women do not need to "eat for two", drink full fat milk or even alter how much food they eat for the first six months, NHS experts say.

In the last three months they only need an extra 200 calories a day, draft advice from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says.

It also urges women to have a "realistic expectation" of how long it will take to lose weight after birth. The myth-busting guidance is now out for consultation.

Women trying to get pregnant who are obese - body mass index over 30 - should be advised about the increased risk to themselves and their babies, the guidelines, which are aimed at GPs, health visitors, midwives, and other health professionals, state. Encouragement and advice on losing weight before pregnancy should be offered for this group, it says.

Pregnant women, especially those who are overweight or obese, should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet and do exercise. But weight loss during pregnancy should not be advocated.

Women need to be aware that a moderate amount of exercise will not harm their baby and women who did exercise, such as running or aerobics, before pregnancy should be able to continue with no adverse effects.

Source - BBC

Nap 'boosts' brain learning power

A nap during the day doesn't just beat tiredness, but actually improves the brain's ability to absorb new information, claim US scientists.

Volunteers who slept for 90 minutes during the day did better at cognitive tests than those who were kept awake. The results were presented at a conference in California.

A UK-based expert said it was hard to separate the pure "memory boosting" effects of sleep from those of simply being less tired. The wealth of study into the science of sleep in recent years has so far failed to come up with conclusive evidence as to the value of a quick "siesta" during the day. The latest study, from the University of California at Berkeley, suggests that the brain may need sleep to process short-term memories, creating "space" for new facts to be learned.

In their experiment, 39 healthy adults were given a hard learning task in the morning - with broadly similar results, before half of them were sent for their siesta. When the tests were repeated, the nappers outperformed those who had carried on without sleep.

Checks on brain electrical activity suggested that this process might be happening in a sleep phase between deep sleep, and dreaming sleep, called stage 2 non-rapid eye movement sleep, when fact-based memories are moved from "temporary storage" in the brain's hippocampus to another area called the pre-frontal cortex.

Source - BBC

The happiest men in the world

A Buddhist monk and a British peer have very different views on the secrets of a contented life. Were they still smiling after East met West?

It is a most unlikely scene. I am in an elegant sitting room in the Royal Society of Arts. Opposite me, sitting uncomfortably side-by-side on a too-low leather sofa, are an English peer and a French Buddhist monk. The contrast is striking. Lord Layard is white-haired, well-dressed and unobtrusive; the Venerable Matthieu Ricard is larger than life in flowing, burgundy robes. Yet despite their differences, these men have a common denominator: both have devoted their lives to the study of happiness.

Layard is the UK’s leading happiness economist. In his book Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, Layard — a devotee of the 18th-century Utilitarian thinker Jer-emy Bentham — argues that governments need to take their responsibilities for our happiness seriously. “We need a wider debate about what lifestyles are conducive to happiness,” he says.

“Far more public funding should be allocated to mental-health services, parenting support networks, and positive-living education in schools. Everyone is concerned with avoiding poverty, ill health, conflict and enslavement. But these things are nothing but versions of unhappiness. So what we’re all really concerned with, although we might be afraid of the simplicity of the term, is happiness.”

Ricard, on the other hand, a celibate monk who lives in a Himalayan hermitage, has a different perspective. He is a proponent of the Buddhist theory that cultural change can start only with the individual. His latest book, The Art of Meditation, which came out last month, focuses on matters of the mind, such as meditation and altruism. Whereas Layard believes that there are seven areas of life — family, work, health, mental attitude and so on — that influence fulfilment and happiness, Ricard believes that the mind trumps all. “If you have inner peace,” he says, “then whatever happens, you are going to be fine.”

Source - Times

Does your baby know best when it comes to food?

As a nutritionist I have been giving food advice for many years so it came as a shock when my own daughter, Coco, 2, went from eating everything put in front of her as a baby to refusing food at about 14 months. Previous favourites, such as broccoli, anchovies and olives, were rejected in favour of a diet that comprised only plain pasta, peas and yoghurt.

Why, I wanted to know, do children have phases of “fussy eating”?

Judy More, a paediatric dietitian, explained to me: “This stage often develops soon after toddlers have begun walking and can roam farther to investigate their environment.” Children are, quite naturally, afraid of new things at this stage. “The fear of new foods is probably a survival mechanism to prevent mobile young toddlers from harming themselves. If they were to have tasted any interestinglooking berry on a bush they could well have poisoned themselves.”

It took me a while to grasp the idea that my baby was actually drawing on ancient survival techniques rather than deliberately winding me up by refusing nutritious meals, but understanding that did make our lives easier. However tempting force-feeding may seem, it can be counter-productive. I found that being patient was the best approach. Toddlers are not programmed to let themselves starve and if all they are eating is plain pasta, fromage frais and the odd pea, they will eat enough to survive, as monotonous as it seems to a parent at the time.

Source - Times

High levels of vitamin D halve the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes

People with high levels of vitamin D almost halve their risk of developing heart disease or diabetes, claim researchers. They found those with lowest levels of the vitamin in their blood were at greater risk of a range of serious disorders.

The findings come from a review of 28 existing studies involving almost 100,000 people which looked at vitamin D levels among the middle-aged and elderly.

The research team from Warwick Medical School discovered a 43 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome among people with high levels of vitamin D. They claim most people can boost their vitamin D intake through diet and sun exposure - at lest 30 minutes twice a week.

There is mounting evidence that vitamin D could play a vital role in helping prevent disease and stopping elderly people suffering falls.

US researchers last year claimed vitamin D 'deficiency' may be to blame for 600,000 cancer cases worldwide each year, particularly in northern European countries where sun exposure levels are relatively low.

The latest study published in the medical journal Maturitas found those with high levels of vitamin D were 33 per cent less at risk of having cardiovascular disease compared to those with low levels. There was a 55 per cent reduction in risk of Type 2 diabetes and the risk of metabolic syndrome was halved.

'Overall, we found that high levels of vitamin D are associated with a 43 per cent reduction in cardiometabolic disorders,' said the researchers.

Source - Daily Mail

Cocktail of five vitamins may give cancer patients an extra two years

Cancer patients with terminal disease who take a daily cocktail of vitamins could extend their lives by two years or even longer, claim researchers.

Three out of four in a pilot study survived an average of five months longer than the expected one year, and some were still alive three years after treatment started. Dr Bob Lister, co-author of the study by British and Danish researchers, said the results were similar to the survival gains from new drugs and in some cases better.

But the important difference was there were no side effects reported by patients taking vitamins, he said.

Dr Lister, chairman of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University, said: 'We believe these results are meaningful and justify trying to get backing for a proper clinical trial.

'People with cancer are constantly asking what can we do, not necessarily to beat the cancer but to have a better quality of life whatever the length of survival. Most importantly, taking these supplements is extremely safe, and there were no adverse reactions among the patients.'

The study followed patients suffering from breast, lung, brain, colon and other forms of cancer in Denmark between 1990 and 1999 who continued taking conventional cancer medication.

Source - Daily Mail

Babies who can't sit up at 9 months 'struggle at school'

Babies who are unable to crawl at nine months face falling behind at school and struggle to get on with their classmates, a study has revealed.

It found that an inability to reach milestones such as sitting upright or crawling is linked to learning and behaviour problems. The researchers, who tracked 15,000 children over the first five years of their lives, said a simple screening test before a child reaches their first birthday could prove crucial in preventing youngsters falling behind.

The finding comes from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is looking at 18,818 babies born between 2000 and 2001. The study by the University of London, Institute of Education, has already shown children from poor families are a year behind their wealthier counterparts when they start school.

Now it has revealed for the first time in the UK that developmental problems are directly linked to success at school, and can be identified at a young age.

Academics performed a series of simple tests on babies aged nine months to check both their gross and fine motor skills.

Source - Daily Mail

Psychiatrists want to call being angry a mental illness. How utterly mad!

Do you live surrounded by clutter - ancient copies of magazines, your children’s old toys, articles you’ve clipped out of newspapers over the years? If you find it hard to throw out things of limited or no value, you could be suffering from hoarding disorder.

‘Hoarding’ is just one of the new mental conditions being added to the psychiatrists’ bible, or the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM), to give it its proper name.

Other new conditions identified as possibly needing professional help include binge eating - which is said to affect many people who are seriously obese - and ‘cognitive tempo disorder’, which seems very like laziness (symptoms include dreaminess and sluggishness).

There’s also ‘intermittent explosive disorder’, which involves occasionally becoming very angry suddenly. Most bizarre of the proposed additions is one defined as ‘getting a thrill at being outraged by pornography’. It was also described as Whitehouse syndrome after the campaigner Mary Whitehouse, who objected to sexual content on TV.

The DSM is a large book that lists all psychiatric disorders and describes their symptoms. If a condition is in there, it means it’s considered a mental illness. But some of the new entries are controversial, not least because of fears they will result in many more people being put on drugs that could be ineffective or dangerous.

The DSM is produced by the American Psychiatric Association and is hugely influential worldwide.

‘Once a condition has got a label you’ve got a better chance of being treated and researchers are more likely to investigate it,’ explains Professor David Cottrell, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Leeds.

Source - Daily Mail

Optimists 'are less likely to get heart disease'

Being happy and naturally optimistic cuts the risk of developing heart problems, say researchers.

They found that those who are enthusiastic, contented and believe the glass is half full rather than half empty have a better chance of keeping their heart healthy. It is the first study to find such a strong link between positive emotions and a lower risk of heart disease.

Findings published in the European Heart Journal reveal the potentially damaging effects of pessimistic thoughts and long-term negativity.

Lead researcher Dr Karina Davidson said it might be possible to help prevent heart disease by boosting positive emotions and called for more clinical trials in the area. She said: 'If the trials support our findings, then these results will be incredibly important in describing specifically what clinicians and patients could do to improve health.'

The U.S. study focused on 1,739 healthy adults over ten years. Nurses assessed participants' risk of heart disease and measured symptoms of depression, hostility, anxiety and the degree of expression of positive feelings, or 'positive affect'.

Positive affect is the experience of pleasurable emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment.

Source - Daily Mail

Jeremy Laurance: Humble painkiller that can protect you from everything

Aspirin is the original wonder drug. More than a century after its discovery, new uses for the humble painkiller – still the most widely consumed medicine in the world – continue to emerge.

The disclosure that it can halve deaths from breast cancer in women who have received early treatment for the disease will add to its reputation.

Heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, diabetes, deep vein thrombosis – you name it and aspirin can protect you from it. Evidence suggests that regular use of aspirin for at least five years reduces the risk of bowel cancer by 40 per cent. It is an established preventive treatment for people at high risk of a heart attack or stroke and is also thought to ward off many other conditions.

For the first 70 years of its existence, aspirin was known only as a painkiller, the ubiquitous drug kept in handbags and medicine cabinets the world over to ward off headaches, period pains and hangovers. It became the world's best-selling drug.

Source - Independent

'Aspirin may help breast cancer women live longer'

Aspirin may halve the risk of death from breast cancer in women who have had early treatment for the disease, researchers have found.

The effect was revealed in an analysis of data from the US Nurses' Health Study, which followed 238,000 nurses in the US for more than 30 years. It is the first time aspirin has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of death from breast cancer in women who have already been treated for the disease.

Michelle Holmes, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School, who led the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, said: "If these findings are confirmed in other clinical trials, taking aspirin may become another simple, low-cost and relatively safe tool to help women with breast cancer live longer, healthier lives."

Previous studies have suggested aspirin has a protective effect against breast cancer, as well as at least two other types of cancer: prostate and colon. Researchers on the latest study say it is not clear how it affects cancer cells but it may curb the spread of the disease by reducing inflammation, which is a key factor in cancer development.

The results showed that in addition to halving the risk of death, it also reduces metastases – spread of the cancer to other areas of the body – by a similar margin. Laboratory studies indicate that aspirin reduces the growth and invasiveness of breast cancer cells.

Source - Independent

Cooking with gas raises risk of lung cancer

The aroma of seared meat as your pan-fried steak is prepared may set your tastebuds tingling – but it may also give the chef cancer, especially if they are using a gas cooker.

Cooking fumes produced during high-temperature frying are already known to cause cancer. In China, high lung cancer rates among chefs have been linked to the practice of tossing food in a wok, often in a confined space, which increases the concentration of hot oil in the breathing zone of the cook.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has also classified cooking fumes as "probably carcinogenic". Now researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim have compared gas and electric cooking methods, and found that gas produces higher levels of the cancer-causing fumes.

They measured the fumes produced when frying 17 pieces of steak for 15 minutes each in conditions typical of Western restaurants, using margarine or two different brands of soya oil. The results showed more naphthalene – a banned substance contained in traditional mothballs – and mutagenic aldehydes were produced when cooking with gas. Higher levels of ultrafine particles, which penetrate deeper into the lung, were also produced on the gas hob than on the electric one.

The authors, whose study is published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, point out that the levels of the chemicals and particulates found in their study were below accepted occupational safety thresholds. But they add that cooking fumes contain other harmful components for which there is no safety threshold, as yet, and which appear to be higher with gas cooking. "Exposure to cooking fumes should be reduced as much as possible," they say.

Source - Independent

Guilty plea in Chinese herbal 'cancer' case

A practitioner of Chinese medicine has pleaded guilty to selling a banned substance to a woman who went on to develop kidney failure and cancer.

Ying "Susan" Wu, 48, of Holland-on-Sea in Essex, has been on trial at the Old Bailey for selling pills containing aristolochic acid to a civil servant.

The judge said he accepted Ms Wu had not meant to harm, and that the case highlighted the need for regulation. Ms Wu has now been given a conditional discharge.

Patricia Booth, 58, took the pills, bought at Chelmsford's Chinese Herbal Medical Centre, for over five years. She was in her mid-40s when she first sought help from the centre in 1997 for stubborn patches of spots on her face. The Old Bailey heard the products had been advertised as "safe and natural".

But they contained a substance - aristolochic acid - which when she was first sold them, should only have been given under prescription, and which was later banned.

Source - BBC

Happiness wards off heart disease, study suggests

Being happy and staying positive may help ward off heart disease, a study suggests.

US researchers monitored the health of 1,700 people over 10 years, finding the most anxious and depressed were at the highest risk of the disease. They could not categorically prove happiness was protective, but said people should try to enjoy themselves. But experts suggested the findings may be of limited use as an individual's approach to life was often ingrained.

At the start of the study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, participants were assessed for emotions ranging from hostility and anxiousness to joy, enthusiasm and contentment. They were given a rating on a five-point scale to score their level of positive emotions. By the end of the analysis, some 145 had developed heart disease - fewer than one in 10.

But for each rise in the happiness scale there was a 22% lower risk of developing heart disease.

Source - BBC

Tapping therapy: curing physical and mental problems

Singer Michael Ball was seen doing it on a daytime TV chat show. He learnt it from the late singer, Stephen Gately, who used it to calm his own performance nerves. Lily Allen's weight loss was attributed to its efficacy. American PGA players have been spotted doing it around the golf course. And Norwegian pole-vaulter Rens Blom credited his unexpected 2005 World Championship Gold to its powers. The internet reveals millions of anecdotal accounts of its success on phobias, addictions and anxiety. So nearing the end of my own two-year psychotherapy training, I wanted to discover what this mysterious "tapping" business is all about.

So I signed up for a day course at the EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Academy in London's Regent's College, with Richard Mark, an advanced EFT practitioner and certified trainer, who has worked as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist for 12 years. My fellow students are a mixed bunch of mental health professionals, lawyers, physiotherapists, trainee counsellors and full-time parents. Unafraid to challenge, the students are surprisingly curious and sceptical rather than gullibile. There isn't a sandal or kaftan among them.

Source - BBC

Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known to Promote Inflammation, Study Shows

Regularly practicing yoga exercises may lower a number of compounds in the blood and reduce the level of inflammation that normally rises because of both normal aging and stress, a new study has shown.

The study, done by Ohio State University researchers and just reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, showed that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower amounts of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. The women also showed smaller increases in IL-6 after stressful experiences than did women who were the same age and weight but who were not yoga practitioners.

IL-6 is an important part of the body's inflammatory response and has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related debilitating diseases. Reducing inflammation may provide substantial short- and long-term health benefits, the researchers suggest.

"In addition to having lower levels of inflammation before they were stressed, we also saw lower inflammatory responses to stress among the expert yoga practitioners in the study," explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology and lead author of the study. Hopefully, this means that people can eventually learn to respond less strongly to stressors in their everyday lives by using yoga and other stress-reducing modalities."

Source - Science Daily

Ginkgo Herbal Medicines May Increase Seizures in People With Epilepsy

Restrictions should be placed on the use of Ginkgo biloba (G. biloba) -- a top-selling herbal remedy -- because of growing scientific evidence that Ginkgo may increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy and could reduce the effectiveness of anti-seizure drugs, a new report concludes. The article appears in ACS' Journal of Natural Products.

It also suggests that Ginkgo may have harmful effects in other people after eating raw or roasted Ginkgo seed or drinking tea prepared from Ginkgo leaves.

Eckhard Leistner and Christel Drewke note that consumers use pills, teas, and other products prepared from leaves of the Ginkgo tree to treat a wide array of health problems. Those include Alzheimer's disease and other memory loss, clinical depression, headache, irritable bladder, alcohol abuse, blockages in blood vessels, poor concentration, and dizziness. Scientific concern focuses mainly on one chemical compound in the herb. It is a potentially toxic material known as ginkgotoxin.

Source - Science Daily

Study Maps Effects of Acupuncture on the Brain

Important new research about the effects of acupuncture on the brain may provide an understanding of the complex mechanisms of acupuncture and could lead to a wider acceptability of the treatment.

The study, by researchers at the University of York and the Hull York Medical School published in Brain Research, indicates that acupuncture has a significant effect on specific neural structures. When a patient receives acupuncture treatment, a sensation called deqi can be obtained; scientific analysis shows that this deactivates areas within the brain that are associated with the processing of pain.

Dr Hugh MacPherson, of the Complementary Medicine Research Group in the University's Department of Health Sciences, says: "These results provide objective scientific evidence that acupuncture has specific effects within the brain which hopefully will lead to a better understanding of how acupuncture works."

Neuroscientist Dr Aziz Asghar, of the York Neuroimaging Centre and the Hull York Medical School, adds: "The results are fascinating. Whether such brain deactivations constitute a mechanism which underlies or contributes to the therapeutic effect of acupuncture is an intriguing possibility which requires further research."

Source - Science Daily

St. John's Wort Not Helpful Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Researchers Say

A Mayo Clinic research study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology finds that St. John's wort is not an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While antidepressants are frequently used to treat IBS, to date, no study has examined the success of using the herbal supplement St. John's wort in treating IBS.

"Our study investigated if herbal antidepressants such as St. John's wort could benefit irritable bowel disease patients," says Yuri Saito, M.D., M.P.H., gastroenterologist and lead physician scientist on the study. "Several of the chemical neurotransmitters that are in the brain are also in the colon. Therefore, it's been thought that antidepressants may affect sensation in the colon in a similar way to how they affect sensation in the brain. Our goal was to evaluate the usefulness of St John's wort in treating IBS."

In this placebo-controlled trial, 70 participants with IBS were randomized where half the patients received St. John's wort and the other half received a placebo for three months. In all, 86 percent of the participants were women, and the median age was 42 years. After three months of observing symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and bloating, Mayo researchers found that the placebo group had a better response than the group taking the herbal supplement, St. John's wort.

Source - Science Daily

Green Tea Could Modify the Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Lung Cancer Risk

Drinking green tea could modulate the effect of smoking on lung cancer.

Results of this hospital-based, randomized study conducted in Taiwan were presented at the AACR-IASLC Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer, held here from Jan. 11-14, 2010.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths in Taiwan," said I-Hsin Lin, M.S., a student at Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan. "Tea, particularly green tea, has received a great deal of attention because tea polyphenols are strong antioxidants, and tea preparations have shown inhibitory activity against tumorigenesis."

However, previous studies of green tea have been inhibited by the flaws of the epidemiologic model with its inherent biases.

Lin and colleagues enrolled 170 patients with lung cancer and 340 healthy patients as controls. The researchers administered questionnaires to obtain demographic characteristics, cigarette smoking habits, green tea consumption, dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, cooking practices and family history of lung cancer. They also performed genotyping on insulin-like growth factors as polymorphisms on the following insulin-like growth factors: IGF1, IGF2 and IGFBP3, which have all been reported to be associated with cancer risk.

Source - Science Daily

Acupuncture Found Effective Against Depression During Pregnancy

In a study to be presented February 4 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's (SMFM) annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting ™, in Chicago, researchers will unveil findings that show that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for depression during pregnancy.

"Depression during pregnancy is an issue of concern because it has negative effects on both the mother and the baby as well as the rest of the family," said Dr. Schnyer, one of the study's authors.

About 10% of pregnant women meet criteria for major depression and almost 20% have increased symptoms of depression during pregnancy. The rates of depression in pregnant women are comparable to rates seen among similarly aged non-pregnant women and among women during the postpartum period, but there are far fewer treatment studies of depression during pregnancy than during the postpartum period.

Dealing with depression is difficult for pregnant women because the use of anti-depressants poses concerns to the developing fetus and women are reluctant to take medications during pregnancy.

Source - Science Daily

Young Patients With Chronic Illnesses Find Relief in Acupuncture

Doctors at Rush University Medical Center are offering pediatric patients diagnosed with chronic illnesses acupuncture therapy to help ease the pain and negative side effects like nausea, fatigue, and vomiting caused by chronic health conditions and intensive treatments. The confluence of Chinese and Western medicine at Rush Children's Hospital is part of a study to analyze and document how acupuncture might help in reducing pain in children and increase quality of life.

"Treating children with acupuncture is a new frontier," said Dr. Paul Kent, pediatric hematology and oncology expert, Rush Children's Hospital. "We are looking to see if there is an effective pain management therapy we can offer that does not have the serious side effects that can be caused by narcotics and other serious pain medications."

The lack of options for pain management in children has been reported as one of the most difficult aspects of providing care to pediatric patients. Research indicates that up to 70 percent of pediatric patients experience pain and those with chronic illnesses often do not have adequate relief or prevention of pain.

"Acupuncture could be a potential solution to this dilemma of controlling pain in pediatric patients," said Angela Johnson, Chinese medicine practitioner at Rush.

Source - Science Daily

Herbal Medicines Can Be Lethal, Pathologist Warns

A University of Adelaide forensic pathologist has sounded a worldwide warning of the potential lethal dangers of herbal medicines if taken in large quantities, injected, or combined with prescription drugs.

A paper by Professor Roger Byard published in the US-based Journal of Forensic Sciences outlines the highly toxic nature of many herbal substances, which a large percentage of users around the world mistakenly believe are safe.

"There's a false perception that herbal remedies are safer than manufactured medicines, when in fact many contain potentially lethal concentrations of arsenic, mercury and lead," Professor Byard says. These substances may cause serious illnesses, exacerbate pre-existing health problems or result in death, particularly if taken in excess or injected rather than ingested."

Professor Byard says there can also be fatal consequences when some herbal medicines interact with prescription drugs.

Source - Science Daily

Quack medicine: Disabled boy, 4, learns to walk after copying lame duckling

A four-year-old boy who was told he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life has miraculously learned to walk by copying a disabled duckling.

Finlay Lomax suffered a stroke as a baby and developed cerebral palsy which affects the way the brain co-ordinates movement in the body. The family were told Finlay would never walk because of the condition, but defying the odds he has now learned to stand on his own two feet after he began studying a day-old duckling.

Beware a single espresso: Just one caffeine-packed cup can slow the blood flow to your heart

It may be the perfect morning pick-me-up. But a single espresso could be bad for your heart, research suggests.

Just one cup of the caffeine-laden drink cut blood flow to the heart by more than a fifth, a study found. Decaffeinated coffee, in contrast, boosted blood flow.

The researchers said the high amount of caffeine found in a single espresso had 'unfavourable cardiovascular effects'. The popularity of such drinks has risen sharply, in line with the greater variety of coffees on offer. But there have been concerns about the consequences of drinking too many at one time, with the Department of Health advising us not to have more than five a day.

A single espresso contains up to 130milligrammes of caffeine, compared to 75mg in a cup of instant. Filter coffee contains around 120mg per cup. The Italian researchers from the University of Palermo examined the blood flow of 20 adults who drank a single espresso, compared to a decaffeinated alternative.

The caffeinated variety narrowed blood vessels, cutting blood flow to the heart by an average of 22 per cent within an hour, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports. This is because caffeine acts to block a chemical which keeps blood vessels expanded. But when the volunteers drank a decaf espresso, the flow improved slightly. Blood pressure also rose significantly after a normal espresso but not a decaf.

Source - Daily Mail

Red wine and dark chocolate cancer killers: researcher

Cabernet and chocolate are potent medicine for killing cancer, according to research presented here Wednesday.

Red grapes and dark chocolate join blueberries, garlic, soy, and teas as ingredients that starve cancer while feeding bodies, Angiogenesis Foundation head William Li said at a prestigious TED Conference. (see this Wiki link for more info)

"We are rating foods based on their cancer-fighting qualities," Li said. "What we eat is really our chemotherapy three times a day."

The Massachusetts-based foundation is identifying foods containing chemicals that evidently choke-off blood supplies to tumors, starving them to death. Li cited a Harvard Medical School study showing that men who ate cooked tomatoes several times weekly were 30 to 50 percent less likely to have prostate cancer.

"There is a medical revolution happening all around us," Li said. "If we're right, it could impact on consumer education, food service, public health, and even insurance agencies."

About a dozen drugs are already in use to deprive tumors of blood supplies in a treatment tactic called "anti-angiogenesis. The foundation pitted some foods against approved drugs and found that soy, parsley, red grapes, berries and other comestibles were either as effective or more potent in battling cancer cells.

Eaten together, the foods were even more effective in fighting cancer.

Source - Independent

Psychiatrists' bible to get new conditions, names

If your child is often grumpy and throws fits, they could soon be diagnosed with TDD, or temper dysregulation with dysphoria to give it its full name. If they have Asperger's syndrome, you might have to stop calling it that and switch to "mild autism spectrum disorder." And if getting a handle on math is their problem, they could have "dyscalcula."

Those are just some of the new names and mental disorders released Friday by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that could be included in the next edition of mental health practitioners' tome of reference, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, usually called the DSM.

If all the proposed changes make it into the new DSM, which is due to be released in three years, "mental retardation" will become the more politically correct "intellectual disability," and conditions such as binge eating will be recognized as bona-fide mental disorders.

Pathological gamblers will get their very own category - behavioral addictions. But if you're looking for a classification for kids of all ages who lock themselves in their rooms and spend hours on end on the Internet, you'll have to wait.

"Internet addiction" was considered for inclusion in the same behavioral addiction category as pathological gambling, but the work group decided there was insufficient research data to do so.

Source - Independent

Snack stand-off: Banana v KitKat

From chocolate-coated wafer biscuit snack to the bendy that comes with its own packaging - the prime minister is reportedly changing his snack of choice.

It's been reported that Gordon Brown habitually ate three or four KitKats a day until his wife put her foot down and nudged him on a healthier diet. Downing Street will neither confirm nor deny the PM's switch in snacking allegiance. "The numbers are a matter of speculation," says his official spokesman, who does, however, add that bananas help ensure "good health and radiance".

Both are giants of the snack world, but how do they measure up?

Source - BBC

Baked South Yorkshire rhubarb may aid cancer fight

Eating baked rhubarb could help fight cancer, new research has shown.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found baking British garden rhubarb for 20 minutes boosted its levels of anti-cancerous chemicals. The findings showed the polyphenols could kill or prevent the growth of cancer cells and could be used to develop new, less toxic treatments.

It is the first study of the benefits of British rhubarb, specifically a variety grown in South Yorkshire. Previous research focused on Oriental medicinal rhubarb, which has been recognised for its health benefits and used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Source - BBC

Sugary Drinks Risk

According to a large-scale health study in Singapore, enjoying a sugary soft drink just twice a week could almost double the risk of pancreatic cancer.

People who drank two or more soft drinks per week had an 87% increased risk compared to those who did not, and the researchers believe that the high levels of sugar in soft drinks may increase the level of insulin in the body, which could contribute to pancreatic cancer cell growth.

Source: Sky News

Beer can help prevent weak bones

According to researchers at the University of California, beer is a rich source of a nutrient that can help prevent weak bones - but it depends what type you drink.

Beer is a rich source of dietary silicon, which can help cut the chance of developing diseases like osteoporosis, but beers containing malted barley and hops having higher silicon content than beers made from wheat.

Body language: the tell-tale signs that betray us all

It was one of the most extraordinary cabarets of affection since Richard Gere took out a full page newspaper advertisement claiming his marriage to Cindy Crawford was rock solid. At last month's Golden Globes, George Clooney and his new paramour, Italian presenter Elisabetta Canalis, were entwined like love-smitten teenagers. But whereas Gere's proclamation was followed rather swiftly by a divorce announcement, Clooney and Canalis are set to stay the course. That's if you believe their body language.

This "silent" language never lies, according to James Borg, a leading expert in the subject and author of a best-selling "how to" book.

"They're genuinely in love," he says. "The way they are smiling, the look in the eyes, and the nature of their proximity all give them away." Borg makes it his business to read the unconscious movements and postures of others. In his world, the curve of a smile, the blink of an eye, the position of the hands or feet are all of great significance.

"We're all constantly judged on first impressions," says Borg. "People are making snap decisions as to whether they trust us, like us, want to work with us, or have an affair with us. But words alone don't provide the whole picture. More than 90 per cent of meaning in any interaction is derived from non-verbal clues – the manner in which our body 'talks' and the way that we say things – and a mere seven per cent from the words that are actually spoken. The overwhelming meaning of a message, when communicating with others, comes from an unconscious display of the 'silent' language; which either reinforces or detracts from the words being used," he says.

Source - Telegraph

Herbal remedies 'can work against heart disease drugs'

Herbal remedies taken by millions of Britons can pose a serious risk to health by interfering with medicines commonly prescribed for heart disease, doctors say.

Warnings that supplements such as St John’s wort, ginkgo biloba and garlic can diminish the effectiveness of drugs or cause dangerous side-effects for certain patients have been restated by researchers in the United States. Interactions with medicines could cause “devastating effects” in vulnerable patients such as the elderly, people with liver or kidney problems, or those at greater risk of bleeding, they said.

Writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers added that patients did not always inform their doctors if they were taking herbal supplements, and doctors did not always ask.

Arshad Jahangir, Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic Arizona, who reviewed studies published from 1966 to 2008 on the interactions between herbal remedies and drugs, said: “Many people have a false sense of security about these herbal products because they are seen as ‘natural’. But ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean they are safe.”

Source - Times

Forgetful mums can no longer 'blame it on the bump'

Just for my daughter - who is going to make me a Grandmother!

Pregnant women who suffer lapses in memory or concentration may no longer be able to blame it on “the bump”. The idea that bearing children affects one’s brain power — the “baby brain” — is a myth, researchers say.

Their study found no difference in how pregnant women or new mothers scored on tests of thinking speed and memory compared with those who were childless. Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the authors said that pregnant women should be encouraged to stop attributing lapses in memory or logical thinking to their growing baby.

The findings contradict previous studies that claimed that women’s brains decline in size by up to 4 per cent while they are pregnant, potentially leading to worse performance on tests of memory and verbal skills.

Helen Christensen, of the Australian National University in Canberra, author of the latest study, said that the effect was “a myth”. Professor Christensen’s team recruited 1,241 women aged 20-24 in 1999 and 2003 and asked them to perform a series of tasks. The women were followed up at four-year intervals and asked to perform the same cognitive tests. A total of 77 women were pregnant at the follow-up assessments, 188 had become mothers and 542 remained childless.

Source - Times

Positive thinking makes me sick: JENNI MURRAY on why she hates the self-help industry

Someone I'd thought of as a good friend first encouraged me to embrace what she described as 'The Power of Positive Thinking'. I'd just told her about what I saw as really rather bad news. I had breast cancer.

Her rebuttal of my justification for feeling a bit down in the mouth about it - I would have to undergo surgery and then either radio- or chemotherapy to control or maybe even cure a disease which is generally feared as a killer - was swift and uncompromising. I must not, she told me, have such negative thoughts. It was probably pessimistic thinking which had caused it in the first place. I must now be positive and heal myself.

I dismissed what she was saying as nonsense. No one knows what causes so many of us - around 44,000 a year in the UK alone - to develop this disease, but there were a few strong hints coming out of scientific research.

Top of the list for women like me who'd passed the menopause is an excess of the hormone oestrogen and I had been taking HRT for a few years so I was awash with the stuff. What I must do, she advised, was feel happy - she had read that happiness can cut breast cancer risk by a quarter. I must eliminate all negativity in relationships from my life, stop watching depressing news on TV and begin a programme of 'visualisation' and imagine the white cells in my immune system fighting off all the nasty cancer cells.

Trust a mother's instinct on sick children, GPs told

A mother's instinct is usually right if she believes her child may be dangerously ill, say experts.

Doctors are being told to treat parents' fears and concerns seriously because they know their child best. In fact, a parent's instinct that something is wrong has been added to a list of signs that every doctor should look for when dealing with sick children.

'As a GP, it's important to always be alert to parents who are especially concerned about their child,' said researcher Dr Matthew Thompson, one of a team of doctors who flagged up the warning signs. 'We should usually trust parents' instincts. After all, they will have nursed their child through many minor illnesses before and often can tell when something is different.'

Doctors should also trust their own gut feeling when trying to identify between a child with a serious infection and those with just a cold or cough, according to the advice. The advice, published in The Lancet medical journal, says serious infections-such as meningitis, pneumonia or sepsis are rare in developed countries and difficult to diagnose.

Source - Daily Mail

They should always check a sick child's temperature - a once basic procedure which is not always carried out.

Fish oil supplements 'beat psychotic mental illness'

Taking a daily fish oil capsule can stave off mental illness in those at highest risk, trial findings suggest.

A three-month course of the supplement appeared to be as effective as drugs, cutting the rate of psychotic illness like schizophrenia by a quarter. The researchers believe it is the omega-3 in fish oil - already hailed for promoting healthy hearts - that has beneficial effects in the brain. A "natural" remedy would be welcomed, Archives of General Psychiatry says.

"The finding that treatment with a natural substance may prevent, or at least delay, the onset of psychotic disorder gives hope that there may be alternatives to antipsychotic drugs," the study authors said.

Antipsychotic drugs are potent and can have serious side effects, which puts some people off taking them. Fish oil supplements, on the other hand, are generally well tolerated and easy to take, say the scientists. The international team from Austria, Australia and Switzerland tested the treatment in 81 people deemed to be at particularly high risk of developing psychosis.

Source - BBC

Heart Pictures

I thought some of these were lovely!

Heart Health Pictures

Sceptics stage homeopathy 'overdose'

Homeopathy sceptics have staged a mass "overdose" of homeopathic remedies, in a bid to prove they have no effect.

Protesters ate whole bottles of tablets at branches of Boots in places such as Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, London, Leicester, Edinburgh and Birmingham. They have asked the pharmacy chain to stop selling the remedies, which they call "scientifically absurd".

The Society of Homeopaths called it a "stunt". Boots said it followed industry guidelines on homeopathy. From 2005 to 2008 the NHS spent almost £12m on homeopathic treatments, according to a 2009 Freedom Of Information request by Channel 4 News.

'Placebo effect'

Supporters of homeopathy say it is a system that uses very highly diluted substances to trigger the body to heal itself, but critics argue there is no evidence they work. The demonstrations were organised by the Merseyside Skeptics Society (MSS).

Michael Marshall, from the MSS, said: "We believe that they shouldn't be selling sugar pills to people who are sick. Homeopathy never works any better than a placebo. The remedies are diluted so much that there is nothing in them." Mr Marshall said demonstrations were also planned in Canada, Spain, the US and Australia.

The Society of Homeopaths said it did not expect the protesters to suffer any adverse reactions from taking large quantities of the remedies.

Source - BBC