Vitamin pills can lead you to take health risks

We all have irrational fears – flying is plainly scarier than getting in a car – and we all have odd rituals that we use to manage them. But what if we believed our own hype about these rituals and became cocksure, perhaps even harming ourselves?

Here is a concrete example. In the study of risk perception, people talk about "the licensing effect": when you take a vitamin pill, for example, you think you've done something healthy and wholesome, so you permit yourself to eat more chips and have a cigarette. It sounds like a nice idea, but a bit vague.

Two new experiments put flesh on these bones. Firstly, researchers took 74 undergraduates who were daily smokers, and divided them into two groups at random. The first group were given a dummy pill, a placebo, and were told just that: you're in the control group, taking a dummy pill, with no active ingredient. The other participants were in the vitamin pill group: you've been given a vitamin pill, they were told.

But in fact, the researchers had lied. Everyone in the study got the same dummy pill, with no active ingredient. Half of them thought they'd had a health-giving vitamin pill, because the intention was to see whether people's health behaviours change if they think they've had a nice, healthy vitamin pill.

Source - Guardian

Detox: flushing out poison or absorbing dangerous claptrap?

Colonic irrigation has been the subject of many newspaper articles in recent weeks. So one might think the debate about this subject has come and gone. But, as so often when it comes to alternative medicine, much of what was written did not make a lot of sense. Time, perhaps, to look at this treatment and any new evidence in some detail.

Colonic irrigation is, of course, a "detox" therapy. In medicine, the term detox is used in two different ways. In conventional medicine, it describes a programme of weaning drug-dependent patients off their addiction. In alternative medicine, the term is used for treatments allegedly ridding the body of toxins.

Alternative detox is all the rage and comes in many guises – anything from diet or supplements to steam-baths or ear-candles. The common denominator is that, allegedly, the body is stimulated to eliminate poisonous substances. The claim is that, if we are not treated in this way, such toxins would cause ill health in all of us. Yet, these assumptions are both wrong and dangerous.

Source - Guardian

Om in the army: the US military gets yoga

Is yoga just for suburban baby-boomers and urban stress junkies seeking a hipper way to stay youthful and fit? Not if a growing number of yoga fanatics inside the US military get their way.

That's right, everyone from grunts in basic training to elite warrior units like the US Navy Seals have caught the yoga bug, and now some top commanders are planning to incorporate the ancient mind-body practice into the military's official training. The US Training and Doctrine Command (Tradoc), which oversees instruction of soldiers in everything from how to salute to the right way to hold a rifle, is proposing the largest overhaul of military fitness training in more than 30 years– and for the first time, yoga, as well as Pilates and martial arts, are being highlighted.

Tradoc commanders, joined by military health experts, say that traditional exercise models may make soldiers "fit" in the sense of more muscular, but often leave them too bulked up and vulnerable to injuries that yoga, which emphasises flexibility, helps prevent. And yoga's focus on meditation and maintaining calm, they say, fits perfectly with the military's broad new emphasis on instilling "mental toughness", as well as physical strength, to ensure that soldiers can succeed on the modern technology-intensive battlefield pursuing elusive and nerve-wracking adversaries.

Source - Guardian

How reflexology helped heal my facial scar

Just over a year ago, I had a malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer, dug out of my face. It left me shattered and with a hole about the size of a 50p piece in my left cheek. Initially, I had a skin graft, followed by reconstructive surgery, and waited for the scar to settle down.

After nine months, I still had a hard, two-inch Z-shape on my cheekbone, while the area underneath was raised and puffy. The healing process seemed to have ground to a halt. It was then that a friend suggested I try facial reflexology.

Reflexology gets a mixed reception in this country, particularly from doctors. This is understandable, given the lack of evidence in its favour: one review of the research from 2009 could find no studies to “demonstrate convincingly” its effectiveness for any medical condition.

It was used by the ancient Egyptians and Chinese, and the theory is that applying pressure to certain points on the feet can trigger a healing process in corresponding areas of the body, although there is no scientific explanation as to why this technique might work. As the name implies, facial reflexology concentrates on the face rather than the feet.

Source - Telegraph

Probiotic yoghurt could help treat depression, scientists say

Probiotic yoghurt is renowned for aiding intestinal health, but now scientists believe that it may also help treat depression.

A new study found that bacteria in the gut had a direct effect on the brains of mice, which is thought to also be the case in humans. If humans’ brains are influenced in the same way, researchers think it could stem a host of new ways to manage depression and also anxiety disorders.

Bowel disorders have been related with stress-related psychiatric disorders in the past, which inspired the researchers to study the link further. While experimenting on mice, the scientists fed them a broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 (a species that naturally lives in our digestive system).

Poor sleep 'poses health risks'

Poor sleep quality greatly increases the risk of high blood pressure in older men, a study has found.

A lack of deep sleep was found to raise the risk by 80% over a period of 3.4 years. Researchers measured how long 784 men with an average age of 75 spent in "slow wave sleep" (SWS), a deep stage of sleep from which it is difficult to awaken. Those for whom SWS took up less than 4% of sleep time were significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure, or hypertension.They also had generally poorer sleep quality as measured by shorter sleep duration, more awakenings at night, and more severe sleep apnoea - a sleep-related breathing problem.

The findings, reported in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, were not influenced by body weight despite many of the men being overweight or obese. Obesity is a well-recognised risk factor for high blood pressure.

Source - Independent

Chocolate may protect the brain and heart

Eating high levels of chocolate could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, according to a review of previous research.

Data from 114,009 patients suggested risk was cut by about a third, according to a study published on the BMJ website. But the researchers warned that excessive consumption would result in other illnesses. The British Heart Foundation said there were better ways to protect the heart.

The analysis, conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge, compared the risk to the brain and heart in groups of people who reported eating low levels of chocolate, fewer than two bars per week, with those eating high levels - more than two bars per week.

Source - BBC

Cycling to work can add five years to your life

Cycling might be hailed as a great form of exercise, but a new study now says that it’s not the duration but the intensity that determines how beneficial it is.

A study on cyclists in Denmark has found that men who cycled fast and intensely survived 5.3 years longer, while men with average intensity survived 2.9 years longer than men who cycle slowly. For women studied in Copenhagen the respective figures were 3.9 years and 2.2 years.

Professor Peter Schnor, of the European Society of Cardiology, conducted the research on cyclists and compared their cycling records to their health.

Cycling was found to lower mortality rates as a whole, and was most pronounced at lowering coronary heart disease. Current recommendations suggest 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity each day to lower the risk of heart problems.

Source - BBC

Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5

Vitamin A supplementation is associated with large reductions in mortality, morbidity, and vision problems in a range of settings, and these results cannot be explained by bias. Further placebo controlled trials of vitamin A supplementation in children between 6 and 59 months of age are not required. However, there is a need for further studies comparing different doses and delivery mechanisms (for example, fortification). Until other sources are available, vitamin A supplements should be given to all children at risk of deficiency, particularly in low and middle income countries.

Source - BMJ

Tropical plants could be used to fight cancer

The extracts, blends of chemicals and other ingredients found inside several plants from tropical regions, could form the base ingredients of new medicines to combat the disease, experts said.

Prof Ian Cree of the University of Portsmouth, who led the research, said: "This is a first – no one has managed to use cells obtained directly from cancers to screen an entire library of plant extracts and we are very excited by the results obtained. The key now will be to obtain further funding to produce drugs from those samples showing that they can kill cancer cells. It should be stressed that drug development is a very lengthy process and that these results, though exciting, are a long way from being used in patients."

Prof Cree is now working with University of Strathclyde researchers to develop a programme aimed at identifying other plant extracts with cancer-fighting properties.

Source - Telegraph

Salt link to dementia

Too much salt could be bad for your brain as well as your heart, doctors have warned.

Elderly people who have salt-rich diets and do little exercise suffer a quicker mental decline than those who are more prudent with their intake, a study has found. Worryingly, just over a teaspoon of salt a day could dull the mind and raise the risk of Alzheimer’s, the study suggests. Salt’s danger to the heart is well known but the latest study is the first to link it to deterioration of brain health in the elderly.

The Canadian team tracked the salt consumption and levels of physical activity of 1,262 healthy men and women aged between 67 and 84 over a three-year period. They also assessed the mental health of the participants at the start of the study and once a year for the duration, using a battery of tests more commonly used to diagnose Alzheimer’s.

‘The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,’ said Dr Alexandra Fiocco from the University of Toronto.

Source - Daily Mail

One or two drinks a day 'can protect against dementia' especially in older people

Drinking could reduce the risk of dementia, especially in older people, according to two new reviews.

Experts claim social drinkers may be less likely to suffer mental decline, with a 23 per cent reduction in risk. US researchers claim middle-aged and older adults who drink moderate amounts – around one to two drinks a day – get protection against suffering Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

An analysis of 143 studies by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine researchers looked at the effect of drinking on 365,000 paLinkrticipants.

It found moderate drinkers were 23 per cent less likely to develop cognitive impairment or dementia. Wine was more beneficial than beer, and there was no difference in the effects for men and women.

But heavy drinking – defined as more than three to five drinks a day – was linked to dementia, although the finding was not statistically significant. The analysis calculated the risk ratio between drinkers and non-drinkers of developing dementia in studies dating back to 1977.

Source - Daily Mail

Tai chi may lessen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

Practicing tai chi on a regular basis may significantly improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. There have been a number of studies demonstrating the benefits of tai chi for the symptoms of osteoarthritis including joint pain, stiffness and weakness. A recent medical study demonstrated that the benefits of tai chi extend beyond simply reducing symptoms.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by significant joint pain, fatigue and weakness. Over time the destruction of the joints can become so severe as to cause significant deformity. Although most patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience primarily joint pain, other organs in the body can be affected. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 50 years old and affects about 1 percent of the population.

Women are usually affected three to four times more often than men. Destruction of the joint and weakening of the muscles ligaments and tendons surrounding the joint is common. Ultimately the joint becomes too weak for normal activity and, if untreated, the patient is eventually incapacitated.

Balance training in rheumatoid arthritis

It is not clear how effective and safe balance training is for people with rheumatoid arthritis. This review looked at the latest evidence

Review question

What is the effectiveness and safety of balance training in improving functional capacity of patients with rheumatoid arthritis?

Nursing implications

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis find their daily living activities are limited if their lower extremity joints are impaired. Another significant problem for these patients is they are at risk of falls because they have problems with their balance and posture.

Balance training aims to help people maintain balance when they have visual and other problems. Evidence has suggested that combining balance training with visual and auditory inputs can improve spatial perception, which may improve stability in body posture.

However, information about how effective and safe balance training is for patients with rheumatoid arthritis is limited.

Source - Nursing Times

A good nights sleep? Dream on!

Sleep is vital for our health. Our physical and mental well-being hinge on the amount of sleep we get – and yet more people are suffering from sleep problems than ever before.

In fact, figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that more than 440,000 of us are affected by poor sleep -- and it’s making us ill. Author June Whittle has carried out in-depth studies to help the nation get some shut-eye.

For many people, falling asleep is not the problem. That’s the easy part! It’s waking in the early hours, unable to fall back to sleep that causes nightmares. Most people who struggle to sleep have no sleeping strategy. They do nothing about it and suffer daily.

Let me share with you seven sleeping tips that can change your life forever. When you read them, be open-minded. Some of these tips might seem simple – even obvious. Have you tried them though?

Source - Mature Times

Who we gonna call? Quackbuster!

Fortified with a nip of papaya leaf extract – the latest essential ingredient for boosting the immune system – I meet Prof Edzard Ernst. As Britain’s foremost “quackbuster”, I feel sure he will have views on such elixirs. I am right.

The world’s first professor of complementary medicine looks at me despairingly as I admit to taking unproven remedies. I may be gullible, but I am not alone. Roughly 100 per cent of cancer patients (I have lung cancer) use alternative therapies, and so do millions of others, including the Prince of Wales. Almost invariably, we are wasting our money, in his opinion.

“If there was good evidence that the immune system was depleted by the cancer or the treatment, there might be a case for something like papaya leaves,” he sighs. “But it is naive to think that the immune system fights the cancer cells, and naive to think that boosting the immune system is the answer to everything.”

What about the Bemer pulsating magnetic field machine, which I used for a while to boost my microcirculation and hence, the manufacturer claims, my ability to fight cancer? “Magnetic treatments are mainstream for non-healing bone fractures, but where is the placebo trial evidence for other applications?”

Small companies say they cannot afford to fund such trials. He snorts. “A trial like that could be done for less than £100,000.”

Source - Telegraph

Coriander oil could be used to cure food poisoning and MRSA

Coriander oil could be used to cure a host of infections including food poisoning and the superbug MRSA, say researchers.

The herb extract is resistant to a range of toxic bacteria which cause infections that are resistant to drugs, a study has found. Portuguese scientists tested samples of the oil – taken from the seeds of a coriander plant – against 12 lethal bacteria. All showed reduced growth and most were killed by a solution containing less than 1.6 per cent of the oil.

The team from the University of Beira Interior found the oil attacks and kills the outer membrane of bacteria cells, including salmonella, E.coli and MRSA. Dr Fernanda Domingues, who co-authored the study, said coriander oil could help the millions who suffer from food-borne illnesses every year.

‘It could become a natural alternative to common antibiotics,’ she said. ‘We envisage the use of coriander in lotions, mouth rinses and even pills, to fight multidrug-resistant bacterial infections that otherwise could not be treated.

Source - Daily Mail

Just make sure you get plenty of oats

Eating more nuts and oats – rather than simply avoiding fatty foods – could boost efforts to reduce cholesterol, say scientists.

They found a diet rich in foods known to lower cholesterol levels was more effective than cutting out saturated fats alone. The diet that worked best in the study also included soy products such as milk, tofu and meat substitutes, while eating more peas, beans and lentils was encouraged.

Canadian researchers discovered that a six-month change to the diet could result in a ‘meaningful’ 13 per cent reduction in blood levels of LDL cholesterol, often known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. Following the diet for longer would give a predicted reduction of almost 11 per cent in heart disease risk over a ten-year period.

In the study, 345 patients, all of whom suffered from high cholesterol, were split into three groups, one of which was merely recommended to adopt a low-fat diet that included fruit and vegetables.

Source - Daily Mail

A handful of prunes a day could help prevent fractures

They may be known for helping you over an embarrassing episode of constipation but prunes have another very useful effect.

Scientists have found that post-menopausal women can protect themselves against osteoporosis and bone fractures by simply eating around 10 of them a day. Florida State and Oklahoma State academics proved that dried plums are far better than figs, dates, dried strawberries, dried apples, and raisins for improving bone density. It appears they suppress the breakdown of bones, which tends to speed as people age.

A glass or two of wine or beer a day can help to stave off Alzheimer's, biggest ever study finds

A glass or two of wine each day can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's, the biggest ever study has found.

Researchers discovered those who indulged in light to moderate social drinking were 23 per cent less likely to develop forms of dementia and cognitive impairment.

'It is well accepted that a glass of wine is good for your heart and reduces coronary artery and cardiovascular diseases,' said Edward J Neafsey, a co-author of the study carried out at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

He added that moderate alcohol consumption had the same effect on the brain. Scientists analysed more than 140 studies, dating back to 1977, and involving more than 365,000 people.

Source - Daily Mail

A glass of wine a day can stop people piling on the pounds and even help you LOSE weight

A glass of wine a day can actually stop people from getting fat and may even help people to lose weight, say scientists.

Alcohol has always been thought to trigger weight gain because of its high sugar content, but new research suggests a glass a day could form part of any diet plan. Looking at past studies they found that, while heavy drinkers do put on weight, those who drink in moderation can actually lose weight.

A spokesman for the research team at the Navarro University in Spain said: 'Light-to-moderate alcohol intake, especially of wine, may be more likely to protect against, rather than promote, weight gain. As positive associations between alcohol and weight gain were mainly found in studies with data on higher levels of drinking, it is possible an effect on weight gain or abdominal adiposity may only be experienced by heavy drinkers.'

Source - Daily Mail

Coffee suncream could slow skin cancer

Applying caffeine to the skin in sunny weather may protect against a type of skin cancer, US researchers hope.

Experiments on mice, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , suggest that caffeine prevents UV damage. Tumours took longer to develop and there were fewer of them, the study reports.

But other experts warned there could be an adverse affect on other cancers by using caffeine in this way.

The researchers did not apply caffeine to the mice, instead they genetically modified the animals.

Caffeine is known to interfere with a protein involved in detecting DNA damage called ATR. Scientists modified the mice so they did not produce any ATR in the skin.

Source - BBC

Sniffer dogs detect lung cancer

Sniffer dogs can be used to reliably detect lung cancer, according to researchers in Germany Writing in the European Respiratory Journal, they found that trained dogs could detect a tumour in 71% of patients.

However, scientists do not know which chemical the dogs are detecting, which is what they say they need to know to develop a screening programme. Cancer Research UK said that was still a "long way" off. It was first suggested that dogs could "sniff out" cancer in 1989 and further studies have shown that dogs can detect some cancers such as those of the skin, bladder, bowel and breast.

Source - BBC

Just 15 minutes of exercise a day can boost life expectancy by three years and cut death risk by 14%, research from Taiwan suggests.

Experts in The Lancet say this is the least amount of activity an adult can do to gain any health benefit. This is about half the quantity currently recommended in the UK. Meanwhile, work in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests a couch potato lifestyle with six hours of TV a day cuts lifespan by five years.

The UK government recently updated its exercise advice to have a more flexible approach, recommending adults get 150 minutes of activity a week. This could be a couple of 10-minute bouts of activity every day or 30-minute exercise sessions, five times a week, for example.

Experts say this advice still stands, but that a minimum of 15 minutes a day is a good place to start for those who currently do little or no exercise.

Source - BBC

Why sunshine could ease Multiple Sclerosis symptoms

Sun exposure may help ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

New research has found a link between hospital emergency admissions among MS patients and low Vitamin D levels. The findings, based on a study of some 70,000 admissions over more than a decade, suggest that the vitamin – which is produced by the skin in response to sunlight – plays an important role in the disease.

Seasonality is also thought to be a key feature of the complex neurological disorder: other research has shown that a person born in the spring – and therefore with mother and baby exposed to low levels of sunshine during the pregnancy – has a significantly higher risk of MS later in life.

Further studies have shown that fewer people with MS are born in November and more in May, again implicating a lack of sunshine during pregnancy.

‘Our work strongly suggests that low Vitamin D levels are associated with the risk of MS relapse,’ says Dr Sreeram Ramagopalan, who led the Oxford University study.

Source - Daily Mail

Are 'too clean' lives causing rise in child diet allergies?

Increasing numbers of children need hospital treatment for gut allergies caused by reactions to everyday foods such as milk and bread, claims a leading doctor.

Some experts believe over-hygienic lifestyles are driving the rise in allergies and asthma. Previous generations were exposed to more dirt and microorganisms, which kickstarted their immune systems. Other causes could include Caesarean births, which may affect the immune system, and early use of antibiotics.

Gut allergies are difficult to pinpoint. Some sufferers have to wait years to get a proper diagnosis, suffering pain and losing valuable time at school, according to Dr Nikhil Thapar of Great Ormond Street Hospital, London.

Dr Thapar, a consultant gastroenterologist and clinician scientist, hopes tests will be developed within a ‘couple of years’ that are faster and more sophisticated than existing methods which include endoscopy and eliminating certain foods. He said his unit investigates hundreds of children a year with gut allergies.

Source - Daily Mail

Warning over herbal slimming aids

People are being warned against buying "dangerous" herbal slimming aids online.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there were concerns about some products, including Instant Slim and Sport Burner, being sold on websites and shipped around the world. Some contain the prescription-only drug sibutramine, which has been withdrawn across Europe due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Safety warnings about herbal slimming aids have been issued by several international agencies.

The Swedish Medical Products Agency has issued warnings over Slimline Soft Gel, Acai Berry ABC, Hygia Fit, Sport Burner, Health Slimming Coffee, Instant Slim, 3X Slimming Powder, Li D Daidaihua and Botanical Slimming.

Source - BBC

Eating meals laced with paprika and cinnamon 'protects your body from effects of fatty foods'

Eating a diet rich in spices such as turmeric and cinnamon can protect you from the physical damage caused by fatty meals, say scientists.

A team from Penn State University has found a blend of antioxidant spices can reduce the stress that high-fat foods can place on the heart. When we eat, our bodies use carbohydrate calories for energy and turn leftover calories into triglycerides that are stored in fat cells for later use.

Study leader, Sheila West, said: 'Normally, when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood. If this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased. We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 per cent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added.'

Source - Daily Mail

Mothers who want their children to like vegetables 'should eat them during pregnancy'

Many a parent has struggled to get their children to eat their greens. Now scientists think mothers can make a difference by starting them early - very early.

Researchers from Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, found babies can build up a taste for healthy foods in the womb.

In a study, published in the journal Pediatrics, they found flavours were passed from mother to baby via the amniotic fluid.

'Things like vanilla, carrot, garlic, anise, mint — these are some of the flavors that have been shown to be transmitted to amniotic fluid or mother's milk,' study leader Julie Mennella told NPR News.

To test the theory, researchers gave women garlic capsules or sugar capsules before taking a routine sample of their amniotic fluid. They then asked a panel of people to smell the samples.

'They could pick out the samples easily from the women who ate garlic',' Dr Mennella said.

Source - Daily Mail

Eating curry could cure your tennis elbow by reducing inflammation

Eating curry could offer new hope for sufferers of tennis elbow and other forms of tendinitis, says new research.

A key ingredient found in Indian curries blocks tendon inflammation in the joints, which causes pain and misery for thousands. The discovery could eventually lead to the development of a remedy for a painful condition which is on the increase, according to an international team of researchers.

They have shown that curcumin, which gives the spice turmeric its trademark bright yellow colouring, can be used to suppress biological mechanisms that spark inflammation in tendon diseases.

In a paper due to be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers at The University of Nottingham and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich described laboratory experiments that show the ingredient can switch off the inflammatory cell cycle involved.

Dr Ali Mobasheri of the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, who co-led the research, said: ‘Our research is not suggesting that curry, turmeric or curcumin are cures for inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis."

Source - Daily Mail

Herbal remedies lack safety warnings

Some herbal remedies still lack clear safety information on side-effects despite new EU rules earlier this year that they should carry warnings. New research shows that even products that fall under these new rules are available online and in shops without the safety information, and old stock is still on sale.

The study looked for information on precautions (such as Asian ginseng not being suitable for people with diabetes), interactions with conventional medicines (such as St John's wort not to be used with the contraceptive pill and warfarin) and any side-effects (such as ginkgo leading to possible allergic reactions).

Writing in BMC Medicine, the researchers led by David K Raynor, of the University of Leeds, said that 75 per cent of the products examined contained none of the key safety messages.

Source - Independent

Soy 'does not ease the menopause'

Soy appears to do nothing to relieve the symptoms of menopause, scientists say, despite the high hopes of many.

A controlled study involving nearly 250 US women going through "the change" found soy tablets did not abate hot flushes or bone density loss. The tablets were no better than placebo over the two-year-long investigation, Archives of Internal Medicine reports. But experts said other studies have shown soy can ease menopause symptoms.

The dose given in the latest trial was twice that normally ingested by people with soy-rich diets. Soy products like tofu contain natural plant oestrogens and experts have suggested that these might help women going through the menopause whose own oestrogen levels are dwindling.

Source - BBC

Allergies and lifestyle factors

There has been much interest in whether the way we live influences our chance of developing allergies. Two particular areas under scrutiny are diet and hygiene.

Probiotics and allergies

Probiotics are harmless micro-organisms that live in our bowel. Synbiotics are a combination of probiotics and special sugars called prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of probiotics.

Studies show allergy-prone children have fewer probiotics in their bowel than non-allergic children.

(article continues)

Hygiene hypothesis

Our contemporary clean lifestyles and reduced exposure to infectious diseases meanLink our immune systems are less occupied and more likely to react to otherwise harmless allergens.

Allergic sensitisation seems to occur mainly in the first year of life, when the immature immune system switches on TH2 white blood cells.

(article continues)

Source - BBC

Back pain and disc health 'linked' to lack of nutrients

Heavy lifting, twisting and bending can do damage to the discs in the back by reducing the flow of nutrients to the disc cells, a study says. Disturbing the balance of nutrients in the discs can then lead to the onset of degenerative disease.

Writing in PLoS Computational Biology, Spanish experts say a normal level of physical activity helps cell nutrition.

Lower back pain, which is linked to degenerative spinal discs, could be caused by this lack of nutrients. Previous research has shown that 80% of the active population suffers from low back pain at some point in their lives. But little was known about the chain of events which changes normal, healthy ageing discs into degenerative discs.

Using computer models of the human disc in their study, a team of scientists from Barcelona's Institute for Bioengineering looked at the nutritional and mechanical effects of stress on the discs of the lower back. By using the models, the researchers were able to see what happened when they changed disc height, cell density and made degenerative changes to the disc. It would not have been possible to carry out this quality of research in a living person.

Source - BBC

Lentils and kidney beans 'cut bowel cancer risk' by up to a third

Eating pulses, brown rice, green vegetables and dried fruit could cut the risk of bowel cancer.

People who consume pulses such as kidney beans or lentils at least three times a week reduce their risk of developing polyps – small growths in the lining of the bowel which can become cancerous – by a third, researchers say.

Eating brown rice once a week cuts the risk by two fifths, while having cooked green vegetables at least once a day reduces it by a quarter.

Source - Daily Mail

The scientists from Loma Linda University in California also found eating dried fruit at least three times a week cuts the risk of developing the growths by a similar amount.

The study is one of the first to look at which specific foods can cut the risk of bowel cancer. It used data from a survey of nearly 3,000 people 25 years ago who were asked how often they ate certain foods.

Mediterranean diet can add 15 years to your life

Female non-smokers who eat a Mediterranean diet, exercise and keep a healthy weight could live up to 15 years longer, researchers say. Meanwhile, men who follow a similarly healthy regime could add eight years to their lifespans, according to academics at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.Link

A Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, olive oil, fruit, nuts, fish and whole grains but low in meat and alcohol. Combining that with exercise, a healthy weight and avoiding smoking could "substantially reduce" the risks of dying young, researchers reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers looked at 120,000 men and women who were aged 55 to 69 in 1986 and followed the group until 1996. The team calculated a "healthy lifestyle score" based on smoking, exercise, weight and diet. Piet van den Brandt, a Professor of epidemiology at Maastricht University who worked on the study, said: "Very few research studies worldwide have analysed the relationship between a combination of lifestyle factors and mortality in this way."

Source - Independent

Could eating grapes save you from skin cancer?

Grapes could protect against skin cancer and prevent premature ageing, research has revealed.

A study has shown that compounds found in the fruit protect cells from the ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun – the leading environmental cause of skin cancer. UV rays increase the levels of reactive oxygen species – harmful molecules which damage the cells – in the skin.

Scientists from the University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council have shown that substances called flavonoids extracted from grapes can prevent these from forming in cells exposed to UV rays.

Source - Daily Mail

Pylons linked to babies' asthma: Hairdryers, vacuum cleaners

Pregnant women who use hairdryers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners or who live near pylons could be putting their babies at risk of asthma, claim scientists.

They warn that exposing unborn children to potentially harmful magnetic energy produced by household appliances and power lines could treble their child’s chances of suffering from the condition.

Experts believe that the finding could partly explain why asthma rates in children have increased so dramatically in the last few decades.

Scientists in California looked at 800 mothers-to-be and worked out the levels of magnetic energy – known as electromagnetic fields – to which they were exposed.

Their babies were followed for the next 13 years to find out how many developed asthma.

Source - Daily Mail

Bear chemical brings heart hope

A synthesised compound also found in bear bile may help the recovery of some people whoLink have had a heart attack.

Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is already used to reduce cholesterol production, and to dissolve gallstones. Now a study by London's Imperial College has shown it could also treat potentially dangerous abnormal heart rhythms.

Bear bile is used in many traditional Chinese medicines, but critics say the way it is collected is cruel.

Source - BBC

Spare me the positive energy – please just fetch a doctor

Here's what I want to find in my local NHS hospital: tip-top technology, well-trained doctors, kind nurses, efficient administrators, clean floors, and one of those anti-bacterial hand-wash dispensers at every door.

But if I found Voodoo dolls, snakes and shamans, I'd rather die at home. Thanks to the National Lottery, this prospect is no longer far-fetched: at the Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, it is paying for alternative healers to run their hands over patients for 20 minutes in the hope that "positive energy" will cure them.

I can see that I would relish having 20 minutes of someone's undivided attention if I were lying on my back in a bustling NHS ward. When the nurse is too busy to fetch my water and the consultant too self-important to engage in conversation about my condition, a bit of human contact, even with someone muttering mumbo-jumbo, is welcome. The alternative healing industry cannot rely on scientific evidence to support its lucrative claims; but it can count on patients' need for one-on-one time.

I came away from my one and only session with an alternative therapist purring with contentment: for a full hour someone had asked me about my wellbeing, my diet, my family life, and then probed my body and massaged my limbs. The fact that my sore throat, which I'd hoped he would cure, was still burning, didn't seem very important. I never doubted that it was all hocus-pocus – but hey, I felt more relaxed. I didn't mind the £50 fee.

Source - Telegraph

Omega-3 can reduce risk of colds in babies

A study of more than 800 babies showed that mothers who took supplements of a particular Omega-3 acid during the second half of their pregnancy had healthier babies.

Infants whose mothers had taken 400mg Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) capsules each day had fewer colds at the age of one month than a control group, although they had longer-lasting rashes. After three months those whose parents had taken the supplements spent 14 per cent less time ill, and at six months they had less fever, breathing problems, rashes and other illnesses but significantly higher levels of vomiting.

Researchers from Emory University in Georgia, America said the trials conducted in Mexico showed that infants in the group whose mothers had taken DHA were healthier overall.

In a study published in the Pediatrics, they said DHA influenced the duration of illness symptoms and reduced the infants' chances of catching colds.

Source - Telegraph

Music therapy may help depression

Music therapy can be used to improve treatment of depression, at least in the short term, say researchers in Finland.

The technique used non-verbal communication to help patients express their emotions. A study on 79 people, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed a greater improvement than in patients receiving standard therapy. British experts said music may engage people in ways that words cannot.

Music therapists are used, including by the NHS, to help children who struggle to communicate. Playing instruments and singing with a trained music therapist is supposed to help children express themselves.

Source - BBC