New mental health 'bible' will lead to almost everyone having a disorder, warn experts

An updated edition of a mental health bible for doctors could mean that soon no-one will be classed as normal, experts warned today. Diagnoses for 'disorders' could be based on symptoms including toddler tantrums, mild mood swings and binge eating.

Sweeping changes are being made to the U.S Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which influences practitioners around the world. However, leading British mental health experts have warned the revisions could devalue the seriousness of mental illness and label almost everyone as having some kind of disorder.

One suggestion of the American authors is a new diagnosis of 'Psychosis Risk Syndrome' which singles out people thought to be at risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. Individuals falling into this category might experience occasional mood changes, feelings of distress, anxiety or paranoia, or fleeting episodes of hearing voices. In the past they might have been considered difficult or eccentric. Under the new proposals they could receive a diagnosis that affects their future lives and job prospects. Yet they may never develop 'full blown' psychosis.

Other diagnoses under consideration include 'mixed anxiety depression', 'binge eating', and 'temper dysregulation disorder with dysphoria'. In addition, the bar could be lowered on some common existing disorders, such as depression, so that more people are considered to have symptoms that warrant a diagnosis.

Professor Til Wykes from Kings College London, said: 'It's leaking into normality. It is shrinking the pool of what is normal to a puddle.' Professor Wykes edits the Journal of Mental Health which carries a "health warning" about the proposals in its latest issue.

Source - Daily Mail

New super-strong painkiller developed from snail spit

Scientists have developed a new pain-relief pill from a chemical used by sea snails to catch their prey.

It was found to be as effective as morphine for relieving the most severe forms of pain but without the added risk of addiction. Marine cone snails produce a saliva that contains a deadly dose of peptide toxins to help the slow-moving creatures catch prey. They inject passing victims with needle-like teeth that shoot out of their mouths.

Scientists have already transformed one of the chemicals into a pain-reliever for humans. However, it has to be injected directly into the spinal cord which limits how much it can be used.

Now researchers in Australia, led by David Craik of the University of Queensland, have developed a form of the painkiller that can be taken orally.

Source - Daily Mail

Women who take calcium supplements 'increase risk of heart attack by up to 30%'

Women who take calcium supplements to improve bone strength in middle-age could risk a 30 per cent higher risk of heart attacks, warn researchers.

A review of 11 trials suggests extra calcium can do more harm than good, even though broken bones account for thousands of deaths each year. Hundreds of thousands of women take supplements either prescribed by their doctor for osteoporosis or bought over the counter as ‘bone insurance’.

But the latest research involving 12,000 people found those taking supplements had a greater chance of suffering a heart attack. Treatment of 1,000 people with calcium for five years would cause an additional 14 heart attacks, 10 strokes and 13 deaths, and prevent 26 fractures.

In the study, published online in the British Medical Journal, people taking supplements equal to 500mg or more per day were compared with people not taking them. Those eating high-calcium diets were not at extra risk, said researchers from the universities of Aberdeen and Auckland, in New Zealand.

It was the way supplements increase the levels of calcium circulating in the blood which appeared to have an adverse effect on the cardiovascular system. Experts believe higher blood levels lead to hardening of the arteries, which can cause heart attacks. The Food Standards Agency recommends adults have 700mg of calcium a day, which should come from dietary sources including milk, cheese and green, leafy vegetables.

Source - Daily Mail

Drinking alcohol can 'reduce severity' of arthritis

Drinking alcohol can not only ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis it appears to reduce disease severity too, research suggests.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield asked two groups of patients with and without the disease to provide details of their drinking habits. They found that patients who had drunk alcohol most frequently experienced less joint pain and swelling. Experts say this should not be taken as a green light for drinking more.

In the study, 873 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were compared to 1,004 people who did not have it. Both groups were asked how often they had drunk alcohol in the month running up to the start of the study. Patients completed a detailed questionnaire, had X-rays and blood tests, and a nurse examined their joints.

Source - BBC

How much milk should you drink? For years we've been told it's good for bones, now studies show prostate cancer link

Milk is often described as nature's most wholesome food. It contains no additives, artificial colourings or preservatives - and is packed with vitamins and minerals. It provides a unique blend of protein, magnesium, potassium and B-vitamins, not to mention the calcium required for bones.

But is it really the elixir we believe it to be? Some experts believe that, in some cases, high consumption might not protect against disease - but cause it.

Two new studies - an Italian one published this month, and earlier Canadian research - have linked milk consumption to a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer. The Canadian research, published in The Prostate journal, found that men who drank four 200ml glasses of milk had double the risk of the disease.

Over recent decades, there have been other studies linking milk consumption to rheumatoid arthritis, acne, asthma, heart disease and multiple sclerosis. One early Nineties study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggested proteins in milk upset the production of insulin, the hormone that stabilises blood sugar, raising the risk of diabetes.

Source - Daily Mail

Mother's heartbeat 'synchronises with foetus'

The heartbeats of a mother and her unborn foetus synchronise when she breathes rhythmically, researchers have said.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen claim the connection paves the way for a new technique to detect development problems during pregnancy.

They said if this synchronisation did not happen it could signal something might be wrong. This, the researchers suggest, could allow early medical intervention.

Dr Marco Thiel, one of a team of physicists from the University of Aberdeen who worked on the study, said: "Pregnant mothers often report an awareness of a bond with their child. But until now there has been no hard evidence to suggest this bond is reflected in the interaction of their heartbeats. Our findings reveal that synchronisation between the heartbeat of a mother and foetus does actually occur - but only when the mother is breathing in a rhythmical fashion. The foetus can sense the rhythmical shift in the mother's heartbeat and adapts its own heartbeat accordingly."

Source - BBC

'Cut down on meat to lose weight'

Eating less meat may be the key to keeping a healthy weight, say researchers.

A European study of almost 400,000 adults found that eating meat was linked with weight gain, even in people taking in the same number of calories. The strongest association was found with processed meat, such as sausages and ham, the Imperial College London team reported.

It suggests that high-protein diets may not help slimmers in the long run. The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also support public health messages advocating cutting down on the amount of meat we eat, the researchers said.

The study looked at data from adults taking part in a large project looking at the link between diet and cancer. Participants from 10 European countries, including the UK, were weighed and measured at the start and then asked to report their weight five years later. They also filled in a detailed food questionnaire.

Source - BBC

Jasmine 'as good as valium' claim

"The sweet smell of jasmine is as good as valium at calming the nerves, with none of its side-effects," reported The Daily Telegraph. It said that the fragrance and its chemical substitute caused lab mice to stop all activity and lie quietly in a corner.

The research paper showed that certain scented chemicals, including one from the Gardenia plant family, could enhance the activity of GABA (a chemical that helps to regulate over-excitement in the brain) in frog and rodent cells in the laboratory. No mention is made of behavioural experiments in humans and mice, and this aspect of the news report is likely to have originated from a press release from the researchers’ university and so cannot be verified here.

Although some anti-anxiety medications are also known to interact with GABA receptors, it is far too soon to suggest that the effects of jasmine are similar to a recognised treatment for anxiety such as valium. People taking prescribed medication for anxiety should not change their treatment based on this study.

Source - Scotsman

Cherry juice for insomnia

"Cherry juice could hold the cure to a good night's sleep," according to the Daily Mail. It said that volunteers with insomnia enjoyed more sleep after drinking cherry juice than when they drank other juices.

The story is based on a pilot study of 15 elderly adults with chronic insomnia that found that drinking cherry juice had a small beneficial effect on their sleep patterns. Although well designed and carefully carried out, this pilot study was small and the treatment period was only two weeks. As the authors point out, the alleged effects of cherry juice were so slight that people in the study continued to have significant sleep disturbance. Overall, this study, which was funded by a cherry juice manufacturer, cannot provide any firm evidence that cherry juice can ease insomnia.

People with problems going to sleep or staying asleep are normally advised to adopt good sleep hygiene, such as having a fixed time to go to bed, avoiding caffeine and winding down before going to bed. A number of treatments are available for more severe or persistent problems.

Source - Scotsman

Homeopathy and Dr James Le Fanu: if this is a witch hunt, help me find my torch

Dr. James Le Fanu's description of a 'witch hunt against homeopathy' echoes comments made by the British Medical Association (BMA)’s deputy chairman, who described homeopathy as ‘witchcraft’ , but is unlikely to play well with witches already offended by the comparison with an “ethically dubious” alternative medicine.

Dr Le Fanu is confused by the sudden interest in attacking homeopathy, after the BMA voted to stop providing it on the NHS, and cites two possible reasons for it. It could, he suggests, be a cunning NHS PR stunt to divert attention from other criticism. Or it could be part of a devilish conspiracy by the medical establishment to seize some prime property in London. As someone involved in these attacks I can offer a third reason, one that seems to have escaped the doctor - ordinary people are fed up with the absurd sight of taxpayers’ money being wasted on magical pills from the 18th century.

Homeopathy claims to work through the following process: when you’re feeling ill, find a substance that causes the same symptoms – so for example if you can’t sleep, then get some coffee. Take your coffee and put it in a cup of water. At this point you just have a cold cup of coffee, but here’s the clever part – take a drop of the coffee, put it in a new cup, and add 100 drops of water to it before giving it a good shake. Then repeat this process about thirty times – popping down to Argos to pick up more cups as needed – until in the end you have a single mug of ‘coffee’ so heavily diluted that there’s probably not a single actual molecule of coffee in it.

Source - Telegraph

'I lost four stone after a hypnotist convinced me to have a gastric band'

As gastric band operations go, it was surprisingly straightforward and pleasant.

There was no pain, no risk of infection, no anaesthetic, no recovery period afterwards, and all at only a fraction of the £7,000 such surgery would usually cost. That's because the patient, company director Emma Eveleigh-Anderton, 36, never actually had a gastric band fitted, but was just hypnotised into thinking she had.

The mother-of-two paid £980 for four sessions over a one-month period, starting with a 45-minute 'virtual' surgery where therapist Russell Hemmings talked her through every step of the medical procedure as though she was actually in the operating theatre.

She said: 'It was as if I was having the operation, except I was in an office rather than a theatre. After the first session I felt hopeful. But after the second I really felt positive and much more controlled about my eating. It has actually re-educated my mind. I was starting to feel fuller quicker and was eating much less.'

Source - Daily Mail

Walnuts improve learning and memory in mice study claims

Eating walnuts significantly improves brain function in mice with Alzheimer's disease a new study has claimed.

The New York based study was presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD) today (Sunday, 11 July 2010).

Researchers fed the mice a diet containing 6-9 per cent and examined them nine to 15 months later. They found the mice on the walnut diet showed significant improvement in learning, memory, emotional regulation and motor coordination compared to the mice with no walnuts in their diet.

Alzheimer's Society comment:

'Walnuts are often branded as a 'super food' because they are high in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. Now this study suggests they could have particular benefits for improving brain function.. However as this research is carried out on mice, we cannot say for certain that the benefits of a walnut-rich diet would be in the same for humans. This study also does not show if improving brain function reduces risk of dementia. One in three people over 65 will die with dementia. More research is now needed to see if specific foods can be beneficial. The best way to reduce your risk of dementia is to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and not smoke.'

Source - Alzheimer's Society

Food firms take over anti-obesity campaign

The Government is to hand over the funding of its public health programme aimed at curbing obesity to food firms including Mars, Cadbury and Coca-Cola. Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said public funding for the Change4Life campaign launched in January 2009 would be withdrawn and private firms invited to fill the gap, along with charities and local authorities.

In his first speech on public health, Mr Lansley said he was impressed by how much Change4life had achieved in promoting healthy lifestyles but was opposed to "burdensome regulation" of industry over matters such as food labelling.

"We need a new approach. We have to make Change4life less a government campaign, more a social movement... Less about costly advertising, more about supporting family and individual responses."

Health organisations reacted with disbelief. Betty McBride, director of policy and communications at the British Heart Foundation, said: "We wait with bated breath for the fast food merchants, chocolate bar makers and fizzy drink vendors to beat a path to the public health door. Meanwhile, parents and children continue to be faced with the bewildering kaleidoscope of confusing food labels and pre-watershed junk food ads."

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said he was "horror-struck" at Mr Lansley's remarks. "[This is] nothing other than a bare-faced request for cash from a rich food and drink industry to bail out a cash-starved Department of Health campaign. The quid pro quo is that the Department gives industry an assurance that there will be no regulation or legislation over its activities."

Source - Independent

Fish supplements may reduce risk of cancer

The health benefits of oily fish have been advocated for 20 years. Adding one or two servings a week of mackerel or salmon to the household shopping list is believed to help fend off heart disease and has been claimed to ease the symptoms of asthma and bowel disease, prevent premature birth, boost memory, and cure depression.

Now US researchers say that taking fish oil supplements may cut the risk of breast cancer. Previous dietary studies have been inconsistent, possibly because few people meet the recommended target for oily fish consumption. Taking supplements could result in higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids that bring the benefit, they say.

Among 35,000 middle-aged women who took the supplements regularly over six years the incidence of breast cancer was reduced by almost a third (32 per cent), the researchers found.

The results, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, are likely to further boost the booming market for the supplements, worth about $2bn (£1.31bn) globally in 2007, doubling since 2003. Euromonitor, which published the figures, predicted fish oil sales would reach $2.5bn by 2012.

Source - Independent

EU health food claims law begins to bite

Health foods would be nothing without the claims they make on the packaging.

But some claims might soon vanish, due to a European regulation which demands that health food companies come up with the scientific evidence to back their labelling. The regulation extends to a vast range of products - from multi-vitamins and slimming pills to margarine and yoghurt.

Of the claims so far considered, the overwhelming majority have been rejected, leaving many health food manufacturers with a very bad case of indigestion.

Probiotics scrutinised

The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation was adopted back in 2006 "to ensure that consumers are not misled by unsubstantiated, exaggerated or untruthful claims about foodstuffs", but it is only now that it is beginning to bite.

European Union member states have together submitted over 44,000 'general function' health claims on the part of manufacturers. These were boiled down to 4,637 claims for consideration by the Parma-based European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Of around 900 claims so far examined, a massive 80% have been rejected.

Source - BBC

Aromatherapy offered to pregnant women during birth as 'natural pain relief'

Around 750,000 pregnant women are offered NHS screening every year in an attempt to detect those babies most likely to have Down's syndrome. Women in labour will now be offered relaxation and massage using essential oils to help ease labour pains, sickness, muscle aches and anxiety. Midwives at North Bristol NHS Trust, who have been trained in aromatherapy, are offering the services.

The therapy has been offered at Southmead Hospital's birth suite, in Bristol, during home births and will be offered at Cossham Birth Centre, the city’s first midwife-led birth centre, when it opens in the autumn of next year.

If successful the technique could rolled out to other parts of the country.

Source - Telegraph

Olive oil protects against breast cancer by launching multiple attacks against tumours

A drizzle of olive oil a day could help keep breast cancer at bay.

Research shows that the Mediterranean oil mounts a multi-pronged attack on the tumours, stunting their growth, driving their cells to implode and protecting against potentially-cancerous damage to DNA.

The Spanish scientists, from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, set out to find out why previous studies had linked an olive oil-rich diet, to lower odds of various cancers.

In experiments on rats, they showed that olive oil thwarts a gene that drives the growth of breast tumours. The oil, a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, also switched off proteins that cancer cells rely on to stay alive. If that isn't enough, it also protects DNA from damage that can lead to cancer, the journal Carcinogenesis reports.

Source - Daily Mail

Magnetic brain stimulation shows promise for Alzheimer's

Stimulating the brain with magnetic pulses might help people with Alzheimer's disease improve their use of language, new research suggests. However, this treatment is still highly experimental and has been tested on very few people.

What do we know already?

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 400,000 people in the UK. Over time, it damages people's ability to think, remember things, and use language. There are several drugs that can slow down the progress of the disease, but there's no cure, and most treatments have fairly small effects. Alzheimer's charities stress the importance of practical support to help patients and carers cope, and to help people live independently for as long as possible.

In recent years, researchers have developed techniques that use magnetic pulses to influence the electrical activity in people's brains. The magnetic pulses travel through the skull, so there's no need for surgery.

Small-scale studies have looked at using magnetic stimulation for several conditions, including migraine, Parkinson's disease, and depression. A new study has now looked at magnetic stimulation as a treatment for people with Alzheimer's disease.

What does the new study say?

People who had magnetic stimulation showed a small, short-term improvement in their ability to use language. For two weeks, half the people in the study had magnetic stimulation, and the other half had sham treatment with an inactive device. People had five sessions a week, each one lasting 25 minutes.

Over the two weeks, people who'd had magnetic stimulation improved their scores on a language test looking at sentence comprehension. The average starting score was 67, which increased to 77 after treatment. People who had sham stimulation scored an average of 66 points at the start of the study, and didn't improve over the two weeks.

Source - Guardian