Taste buds in lungs discovery could ease asthma

The discovery of "taste receptors" in the lungs rather than on the tongue could point the way to new medicines for asthma, it is suggested.

Experiments in mice revealed that bombarding the receptors with bitter-tasting compounds helped open the airways, which could ease breathing. The University of Maryland study, published in Nature Medicine, may have implications for other lung diseases.

Asthma UK warned that any new drug would not arrive for some time.

The "taste receptors" discovered in the smooth muscle of the lungs are not the same as those clustered in taste buds in the mouth. They do not send signals to the brain, and yet, when exposed to bitter substances, they still respond. It was the nature of that response that surprised researchers, who assumed their presence was as a defence against noxious gases, triggering a tightening of the airways and coughing.

In fact, the mouse experiments revealed that exactly the reverse was true.

Source - BBC

Walking could protect brain against shrinking, US research says

The historian George Macaulay Trevelyan wrote in 1913 that he had two doctors: "My left leg and my right".

Now a report appears to show that the simple medicine of putting one foot in front of another is a potential defence against dementia and Alzheimer's. Walking may protect the brain against shrinking and preserve memory in the elderly, according to research by US neurologists who monitored 300 volunteers over 13 years.

The data lends statistical authority to anecdotal findings, including the legendary perambulations of Alfred Wainwright, Benny Rothman and the Guardian's Harry Griffin.

Although very different in character – a grump, a communist warrior and an ex-brigadier – they lived for a combined total of 268 years thanks, in their own estimation, to lives spent largely on foot and outdoors.

The US study bears this out, with neurological tests on dementia-free people in Pittsburgh who agreed to log their walks and accept brain monitoring in 1995. Tests nine years later, followed by a further round in 2008, showed that those who walked the most cut their risk of developing memory problems by half. The study suggest that nine miles a week – or in the urban US terms of the data, 72 Pittsburgh city blocks – is the optimum distance for "neurological exercise".

The paper, published in Neurology, the online medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found no discernible bonus in going the extra mile after that.

Source - Guardian

Dozens killed by incorrectly placed acupuncture needles

Eighty-six people have been accidentally killed by badly trained acupuncturists over the past 45 years, according to Britain's leading expert on alternative medicine .

A review of patients who died soon after acupuncture found a history of punctured hearts and lungs, damaged arteries and livers, nerve problems, shock, infection and haemorrhage, largely caused by practitioners placing their needles incorrectly or failing to sterilise their equipment.

Many of the 86 patients, aged between 26 and 82 years old, died after being treated by acupuncturists in China or Japan, but a handful of fatalities were recorded in the US, Germany and Australia. The most recent death, of a 26-year-old woman in China, occurred last year.

The most common cause of death was a condition called pneumothorax, where air finds its way between the membranes that separate the lungs from the chest wall and causes the lungs to collapse.

Source - Guardian

Should we be worried about early puberty?

Hannah only turned eight a couple of months ago – but she has already started puberty. Her mother, Liz, is shocked. "Over the last few weeks her nipples have suddenly become swollen. They're really painful for her – she finds it hard to put on a T-shirt or to hug people. We went to the doctor and he said it was hormonal changes linked to the onset of puberty. I was horrified. Hannah's a skinny little thing and I hadn't anticipated puberty for at least three more years."

Yet puberty is arriving earlier and earlier. Last week it was reported boys' choirs were finding it hard to maintain their standards because they now lose experienced choristers much earlier – trebles who used to sing until the age of 15 or 16 are now having to stop at 12 or 13, because their voices are breaking.

Peter Hindmarsh, professor of paediatric endocrinology at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, says it's harder to collect data on male puberty, and that reports of puberty starting earlier in boys are anecdotal. But for girls, the evidence is conclusive.

"Between 1958 and 2005, breast development – the sign that puberty is starting in girls – moved about nine months ahead of where it used to be," he says. "Interestingly, though, the age at menarche (first period) hasn't moved much – from about 13 to about 12.8."

Source - Guardian

Why probiotic drinks may not improve your health: Watchdog rules that yoghurts do not keep their promises

They claim to boost your immune system and help digestion.

But probiotic yoghurt drinks and supplements don’t live up to their promises, according to an EU watchdog.It concluded there is no scientific proof that products such as Yakult have any health benefits at all.

The watchdog dismissed more than 800 claims regarding the increasingly popular probiotic drinks, yoghurts and whey proteins, vitamins, supplements, ruling that suggestions the products could strengthen the body’s natural defences and reduce gut problems were either too general or could not be proven.

The supposed health benefits of probiotic goods enable manufacturers to sell them at much higher prices than normal yoghurts and milkshakes. For example, a packet of seven 65ml bottles of Yakult costs up to £2.50 – double the price of the same quantity of chocolate milk.

Earlier this year, the Advertising Standards Authority watchdog banned a TV advert for Actimel, manufactured by Danone, which suggested it stopped children falling ill.

Source - Daily Mail

Bedroom chemicals 'raise child's allergy risk by up to 180%'

Children are up to three times more likely to develop conditions like asthma and hayfever due to chemicals found in some wall paints and cleansers.

Researchers from Karlstad University in Sweden found youngsters had up to 180 per cent greater risk of developing allergies if they were exposed to chemicals known as PGEs in their bedrooms.

Study leader Professor Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, said: 'The study shows for the first time that the concentration of PGEs, propylene glycol and glycol ethers, in bedroom air was linked to an increased risk of developing asthma, rhinitis and eczema in children.

'The increase in risk varied between 50 and 180 per cent. It was also found that a higher concentration of PGEs in indoor air was associated with children evincing antibodies (IgE) against allergens such as cats, dogs, pollen.

'Our analyses also revealed that the use of water-based paint in the dwelling, as well as water-based cleansers, was linked to a higher concentration of PGEs in bedroom air.'

The chemicals can also be found in some plastic toys and packaging.

Source - Daily Mail

Why modern life DOES cause cancer: The fascinating research which backs what we all feared

Cancer is often regarded in our society as a natural, if grim, part of the human ­condition — a dark shadow that hangs over our health. This is hardly surprising, given that one in three people develop cancer at some stage in their lives, with the disease ultimately responsible for a quarter of all deaths in Britain.

Yet it is possible that cancer is not nearly as natural as we might think.

Through research with fellow scientist Professor Michael Zimmerman, I have uncovered powerful ­evidence to suggest that cancer could largely be a modern phenomenon linked to our diet, ­environment and lifestyles.

Over the past 30 years, we have ­conducted an extensive study into ancient mummified bodies, skeletal remains and classical literature from ancient societies. If cancer had always been ­prevalent in humans, we would have expected to find a large number of cases of it.

But what we discovered was striking. In all these studies, involving tens of thousands of ­individuals, we found hardly any. Among the hundreds of mummies we examined, only three definite ­incidences of cancer were detected: one from Chile, one from 14th-century Italy and one from ancient Egypt.

Source - Daily Mail

Painkiller that changes form once it's inside the body

The name "codeine" comes from the Greek word kodeia, meaning "poppy head". It has been traditionally prepared from the opium poppy for many centuries and it was first isolated as a discrete chemical compound in 1832 by the French chemist and pharmacist Pierre Robiquet.

Although codeine can be extracted directly from the opium poppy, most commercially available products are made by altering the chemical structure of morphine to produce purified codeine for use as a general painkiller.

Codeine is classed as a "prodrug", meaning that it does not directly affect the body but is broken down by the liver to produce morphine, the opiod drug that is the effective painkiller. This is also highly addictive when taken repeatedly.

In 2005, the pharmaceuticals industry brought in voluntary guidelines for over-the-counter medicines containing codeine. These involved the addition of addiction warnings to packets which advised patients not to take codeine-containing pills for more than three consecutive days without talking a doctor.

Source - Independent

Do the dangers of codeine outweigh the benefits?

Scientists have raised serious concerns about the widespread use of one of the world's most common painkillers after studies showing that codeine may be unsafe, ineffective and potentially addictive for the millions of people who take it regularly.

The Government's independent watchdog on the safety of medicines has withdrawn codeine-containing cough mixtures for children after hard-hitting criticism by two Canadian experts suggesting that the drug should be phased out in painkillers meant for either children or adults.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued its warning about cough medicines containing codeine after receiving fresh advice from its committee of independent experts on the Commission on Human Medicines. The Independent has learnt that the commission had advance notice of a forthcoming editorial in a Canadian medical journal denouncing the widespread use of codeine in painkillers, especially for children.

Source - Indpendent

Moisturisers 'can aggravate eczema'

Using moisturiser to treat eczema could make the condition worse, scientists have claimed. Ointments such as aqueous cream BP reduce the thickness of healthy skin, aiding irritation, research from Bath University found.

Aqueous cream BP is the most widely prescribed moisturiser for the treatment of dry skin conditions. However, it contains a detergent, sodium lauryl sulphate, which can increase the permeability of the skin barrier. The study found that when healthy volunteers applied the cream daily over four weeks, it made their skin more susceptible to irritation by chemicals.

Manda Tsang, a researcher on the project, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, said: "Our study suggests that it might be better for eczema patients to use oil-based ointments on damaged skin."

Source - Independent

Excessive meat-eating 'kills 45,000 each year'

Lowering meat consumption in the UK would prevent about 45,000 premature deaths a year, according to a new study.

Oxford University's heart unit analysed the health consequences of a range of diets, concluding that eating meat no more than three times a week would prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from strokes each year, saving the NHS £1.2bn.

Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the research for its Healthy Planet Eating report, published today, said reducing meat consumption would also help slow the rates of climate change and deforestation.

Population growth, rising affluence and factory farming have helped to quadruple global meat consumption since 1961, with the average Briton now consuming 125kg of meat a year. According to the report, average intake represents 17 per cent of calories, a third more than the Food Standards Agency's recommendation of 12 per cent.

In health terms, red meat is strongly linked with bowel cancer, while meat and dairy products high in saturated fat are causes of obesity and heart disease. Environmentally, South American rainforests are being cleared – releasing climate change emissions – to grow animal feed and rear cattle for export to Europe.

The former Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has urged the public to eat less meat, saying in a 2010 report: "Our diet is warming the planet. It is also damaging our health." He calculated that cutting consumption by 30 per cent would prevent 18,000 premature deaths a year.

Source - Independent

Chance of allergy 'depends on season of birth'

A child's chance of developing an allergy could depend on the season in which the youngster was conceived, experts said today.

Babies whose first three months in the womb occurred in springtime are more likely to suffer from food allergies, such as to milk and eggs. About 11% of children whose 11th week of development in the womb was in April or May were more likely to suffer food allergy, a study found. This compared with 6% of children whose 11th week was in December or January.

Overall, the April/May group was three times more likely to be sensitive to milk and eggs than the December/January group.

Experts have already shown a link between pollen and food allergies, and the latest study supports this association. Checks on pollen levels over the study period showed that levels of birch and alder pollen peaked during April and May.

The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, involved 5,973 children born between April 2001 and March 2006 who lived in south-east Finland. Of this group, 18% had tested positive for food allergies by the time they were four.

The results showed that by this age, sensitivity to food allergy varied according to month of birth, from 5% of children born in June/July to 10% for October/November.

Source - Independent

'Unsafe' drug found in herbal tea

Herbal medicines marketed as weight loss aids have been found to include a drug withdrawn in Europe and US on safety grounds.

Analysis of Payouji tea and Pai You Guo Slim capsules by the UK medicines watchdog revealed they contained diet drug sibutramine. It was taken off the market in January 2010 over fears it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Anyone taking the drug was urged to stop and consult their doctor.

Sibutramine was first approved as an anti-obesity drug in 1997, but data from recent studies suggests a higher rate of heart attacks and strokes among people taking it. While it was withdrawn in Europe in January, it was only withdrawn in the US earlier this month. Various herbal products in the US have been recalled because they were found to contain the drug.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority, which oversees medicines in the UK, said that any product containing the drug was considered "harmful to human health".

Source - BBC

Tennis elbow injections do 'more harm than good'

Using steroid injections for tendon problems like tennis elbow could do more harm than good, says a study in The Lancet. It found that injections reduced pain for the first few weeks, but made the condition worse in the long term.

University of Queensland researchers analysed the treatment of tendinopathy in more than 2,600 patients from 41 previous studies. Experts say exercising the affected area is preferable.

In the study, Australian researchers looked at past randomised trials comparing steroid injections into the tendon with placebo, which is equivalent to no treatment at all. When analysing the trials, they assessed the clinical efficacy of the treatments in the short term, intermediate and long term.

They also analysed different areas of tendinopathy, like rotator cuff tendinopathy (shoulder) and jumper's knee.

Source - BBC

Aspirin 'helps protect against bowel cancer'

A daily aspirin tablet may help prevent bowel cancer, a study suggests. Oxford University found it cut cases by a quarter and deaths by more than a third in a review of 14,000 patients.

Aspirins are already widely used to help protect people against strokes and heart problems, although many healthy middle-aged people do not take them because of the risk of side-effects. But researchers said their findings - published by the Lancet - "tipped the balance" in favour of taking them.

They followed up four study groups over a period of 20 years to identify the impact of regular small doses of of the drug - the tablets given for medical reasons are often a quarter of a strength of those used to treat headaches. They found it reduced the risk of the incidence of bowel cancer by 24% and of dying from the disease by 35%.

And even though regular aspirin use can have side-effects, the researchers said it was still worthwhile as on such low doses these tended to be relatively minor, such as bruising or nose bleeds.

Source - BBC

Children's computer and television time linked to psychological problems

Children who spend more than two hours a day at a computer or watching television are more likely than others to have psychological problems, scientists claim.

Researchers found that 11-year-olds who clocked up several hours in front of a screen each day scored worse on questionnaires designed to measure psychological health, regardless of how much physical exercise they got.

Angie Page, who led the study at the University of Bristol, said that as a precaution parents might consider limiting how long their children spend in front of a screen to no more than two hours a day.

The study of 1,013 children in the Bristol area found no evidence that sitting in front of a screen actually causes mental health problems. Alternatively, the findings might be a result of children with psychological difficulties, such as extreme shyness, being more likely to choose TV or computer games over more sociable activities.

"There's no evidence one way or the other and it could be either," Dr Page told the Guardian. But she added that some healthy children might be at greater risk of developing psychological problems if they increased their viewing time.

In the study, children were asked whether they agreed, disagreed or partially agreed with a list of statements, including, "I generally play alone or keep to myself" and, "I am often unhappy, downhearted or tearful". They then added details of how much exercise they took and how long they spent at a TV or computer screen. Their levels of exercise were verified by activity monitors worn on their belts for a week.

Writing in the journal Pediatrics, the team explain that while children who did little exercise fared well on the psychological assessments, those who filled their inactive time watching television or at a computer scored badly.

Source - Guardian

Watermelon pill 'lowers blood pressure and could prevent strokes'

A dose of watermelon a day could help keep high blood pressure at bay.

Researchers have discovered that the fruit is rich in compounds that widen blood vessels - and may cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And a daily fix of its juices could be enough to lower blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertension, according to a study.

High blood pressure, which affects more than 16million men and women in the UK, doubles the risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke and is blamed for more than 60,000 deaths a year.

But watermelon is an edible source of L- citrulline - a compound vital in the production of nitric oxide, a gas that widens blood vessels.

Source - Daily Mail

Yoga 'provides pain relief for chronic muscle ache'

Patients with a common condition that causes pain throughout the body could ease their symptoms by practising yoga, a study has found.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disorder causing widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue that is thought to affect nearly two million adults in the UK. Patients struggle with aching muscles and drug therapies are only around 30 per cent effective in relieving symptoms.

A team from Oregon Health & Science University studied whether patients taking a 'Yoga Awareness' programme alongside their standard treatment showed more improvement compared to a control group of sufferers.

Study leader Dr James Carson, said: 'Although yoga has been practiced for millennia, only recently have researchers begun to demonstrate yoga's effects on people suffering from persistent pain.'

The researchers conducted an all-woman study because 80 per cent of FM patients are women. While 25 participated in the Yoga of Awareness program, 28 received standard care. The yoga was tailored to address pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and emotional distress in FM. Each class included gentle stretching poses, mindfulness meditation and breathing techniques. Both groups were then assessed for fibromyalgia symptoms alongside physical tests.

Following treatment, women assigned to the yoga programme showed far greater improvements in their symptoms and general mood.

Source - Daily Mail

Walking 'could ward off dementia and mental decline'

Elderly people who get about by walking are less likely to suffer mental decline or even dementia, a study says.

Brain scans revealed that older people walking between six and nine miles a week appeared to have more brain tissue in key areas. The Pittsburgh University study of 299 people suggested they had less "brain shrinkage", which is linked to memory problems. The research was reported in the journal Neurology.

The volunteers, who had an average age of 78, were checked for signs of "cognitive impairment" or even dementia. The Pittsburgh team also had access to brain scan results from four years previously which measured the amount of "grey matter" in their brains.

Brain health

This is found at various parts of the brain and is known to diminish in many people as they get older. Each of them had been quizzed in their 60s about the number of city blocks they walked each week as part of their normal routine.

The results showed that those who walked at least 72 blocks - six to nine miles - a week had a greater volume of grey matter.

Four years after the scans, 40% of the group had measurable cognitive impairment or even dementia.

Those who walked the most were half as likely to have these problems compared with those who walked the least.

Source - BBC

Amino Acid Cocktail

Scientists at the University of Milan think they may have found the elixir of life.  By feeding mice a cocktail of amino acids (aminoisohezoic acid, isoleucine and valine) they prolonged their lives "significantly". 

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. And the mice fed this cocktail didn't just live longer, they also benefited from an increase in the energy intake of their cells and an overall decrease in oxidation damage caused by free radicals. Their stamina also increased and coordination of their muscles improved.

Just my cup of tea

According to new research from researchers at the University of Western Australia, drinking just three cups of tea a day can protect against heart attacks and stroke.  Drinking either black or green tea cuts the build-up of plaque in the arteries - a combination of dangerous fat and cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart problems by 11 per cent. Interestingly they found that the flavonoid content of black tea is equal to that of green tea, so that's one in the eye for all those green tea drinkers who shake their heads when offered a proper cuppa, and luckily for me adding milk to tea doesn’t affect the absorption of said flavonoids. 

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1318884/Three-cups-tea-day-protect-heart-attack.html#ixzz11qlxdUJK

Laptop Thigh

If you're reading this blog on your laptop, I hope your using protection.  No, not that kind of protection, just something to protect your lap from the heat generated by the underside of your computer.    According to the journal Pediatrics, laptops can heat up to a high enough temperature to cause a nasty rash, especially if you have it against your  bare skin for hours at a time, basically cooking your flesh.

It's very easy to guard against this, (after all prevention is better than a cure) use a flat cushion, or if you're like me, buy a laptop stand from Ikea, it's very comfy and gives your computer a nice even surface to sit on.   (And no, I'm not on commission.)