Will the real superfoods please stand up?

When we think superfoods, we generally conjure up images of exotic berries, green and blue algae, weirdly-shaped mushrooms, and above all expensive price tags. Sadly, we get so caught up in the hype surrounding these unusual food items (not to deny their place, their health benefits are proven) that we forget some of the simpler superfoods that lie right in front of us.
Given that winter is fast approaching, and our seasonal menu is in full swing (we can’t get enough of the lentil and green soups at the UR HQ), we thought we’d share some of these everyday superfoods with you. Sounds like a contradiction in terms doesn’t it? It’s not. They may be all around us but these everyday superfoods hide a veritable plethora of nutrients and health benefits.
Check out these bad boys:
High in vitamins A, C and K, as well as folate and chlorophyll. The fibre in asparagus has a very mild laxative effect, and can benefit the gastrointestinal tract and colon when consumed regularly. This little green shoot also contains glutathione, a clever phytochemical that helps reduce the risk of cancer.

Source  - Wellbeing

My new favourite super-herbs!

These four little herbs have some pretty noteworthy health benefits. Check them out:
Digestive aid: relieves bloating, nausea, indigestion, cramps, spasms and IBS
Antispasmodic: relaxes smooth muscle in the GIT
Anti-microbial: wages war on germs and nasties
Anti-allergic: helps prevent histamine release
Analgesic: helps reduce pain – great for tension headaches!
Respiratory aid: clears and soothes the respiratory tract
Stimulant and cognitive aid: mint tea is a good alternative to caffeine when you need your brain cells to get their busy on in the evening but still want to fall asleep afterwards!
Antioxidant (oh yes, we all love a bit of anti-ageing, cell-protecting goodness)

Source  - Wellbeing

How ancient Chinese medicine predicts health seeing tongue appearance

Since 5,000 years, Chinese have used a system of medicine that measures the appearance of the tongue to classify the overall physical status of the body, or zheng.

Now, University of Missouri researchers have developed a computer software that combines the ancient practices and modern medicine by providing an automated system for analysing images of the tongue.

“Knowing your zheng classification can serve as a pre-screening tool and help with preventive medicine,” said Dong Xu, chair of MU’s computer science department in the College of Engineering and study co-author.

“Our software helps bridge Eastern and Western medicine, since an imbalance in zheng could serve as a warning to go see a doctor. Within a year, our ultimate goal is to create an application for smartphones that will allow anyone to take a photo of their tongue and learn the status of their zheng,” he stated.

The software analyses images based on the tongue’s colour and coating to distinguish between tongues showing signs of “hot” or “cold” zheng. Shades of red and yellow are associated with hot zheng, whereas a white coating on the tongue is a sign of cold zheng.

“Hot and cold zheng doesn’t refer directly to body temperature. Rather, it refers to a suite of symptoms associated with the state of the body as a whole,” said Xu, who is also on the faculty of the Bond Life Sciences Center.

Source  - Ayurveda

Herbs: healthy or harmful?

Herbs have long been part of our history. In homes long ago shining bush, zepapeak, Christmas bush, bois cano were chosen over conventional medication, to treat ailments.
The rise in the number of people with lifestyle diseases and the long list of side effects tagged to conventional medicines, have forced consumers back to basics—alternative medicine.
Recently Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan referred to local herbalists as con men and called for a ban on what he called their misleading claims and advertisements. Senator Ramkhelawan also asked that herbalists provide customers with a list of side effects for the herbs sold.
The senator's comments have sparked a debate between those pro and anti-herbalists. And while the debate rages on in the letters pages of the newspapers, local herbalists Trevor Sayers and Michael John maintain that herbs require no side effect list and that they both have cured customers with cancer and AIDS.

Source  - Trinidad Express

How reading about coffee may harm your health

If you scanned yesterday’s headlines while sipping your morning coffee, you must have felt smug about your choice of beverage. A new prospective study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that there seems to be an “inverse association between coffee drinking and total and cause-specific mortality.” In other words, scientists looked at individuals over time and noticed an association between drinking coffee and a longer life.
Now, because of the nature of this “observational study”—where no intervention is introduced, where subjects aren’t randomized, where researchers just look at the link between an exposure to something and a certain outcome—the authors of the article were careful to acknowledge that, “Whether this was a causal or associational finding cannot be determined from our data.” Yet, this brief but crucial note seemed to be lost in some of the reporting on the subject or referenced only several paragraphs after hyperbolic headlines and opening sentences.
Inspired by the great  review of U.S. coverage by Gary Schwitzer, Science-ish looked at how the big coffee study was packaged—headline and leading paragraphs—in our nation’s newspapers:
From the Vancouver Sun: “Coffee drinkers live longer, big study finds”
“One of life’s simple pleasures just got a little sweeter. After years of waffling research on coffee and health, even some fear that java might raise the risk of heart disease, a big study finds the opposite: Coffee drinkers are a little more likely to live longer. Regular or decaf doesn’t matter.”

Source  - Macleans CA

How some supplements can work wonders for certain ailments

When my grandmother suffered a fall and broke her pelvis, her GP advised her to take supplements to help speed healing.
Initially I was sceptical – these things are not part of medical training and I assumed the herbal remedies and vitamin pills in health food shops were little more than placebos. But I was wrong.
With some research I discovered many supplements have a good evidence base to support their use in specific conditions.
Together, my grandmother’s GP and I came up with ‘bone juice’ – a soluble mix of Vitamins C and D, zinc and calcium.  She was on her feet in no time and she felt she was helping herself by taking the juice. She would call me each day to say she had drunk it all.
My only concern is that people don’t treat themselves without a doctor’s guidance and that supplements should not be used instead of prescribed medication. But, as Gran showed me, there are times when they can have real benefit.
Here is my guide to some that have been proven to help maintain health and even treat disease, that I, and other doctors, recommend.

Source  - Daily Mail 

Eating curry every day can 'stave off infections'

It’s the perfect excuse for a take-away – experts say a curry a day could keep infections at bay.
U.S. research has shown that curcumin, which is found in the popular curry spice turmeric, causes a sizeable increase in a protein that boosts the immune system. It helps the body to fight bacteria and viruses, including those that cause tuberculosis, even if it has not encountered them before, the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reports.
Professor Adrian Gombart of Oregon State University, who found that curcumin caused levels of the protein, cathelicidin anti-microbial peptide, to almost triple, said: ‘Curcumin is generally consumed in the diet at fairly low levels. '

Source  - Daily Mail

Alternative medicines can't escape the long arm of the law

Alternative medicine has been in the firing line for a very long time. By and large, the critics are healthcare professionals who argue that the therapeutic claims made for alternative treatments are neither evidence-based nor plausible.
In recent years, their arguments have been increasingly adopted by the legal profession and the battles over alternative medicine are increasingly fought in the courts. In the UK, Simon Singh famously won the libel case brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association. Ever since Simon was sued, many of my articles for medical journals have had to be scrutinised by libel lawyers before being published.
In the US, a patient has accused Stanislaw R Burzynski, a proponent of alternative cancer cures, of swindling her out of nearly $100,000 (£63,000) by using "false and misleading tactics". The case is ongoing. Also in the US, a woman was awarded $7.4m (£4.7m) after suffering a stroke following the intake of a herbal supplement.

Source  -  Guardian

Could seaweed-based face ash be the cure for acne?

Brown seaweed may not look like the answer to a spotty teenager’s problems, but scientists say it can banish the bugs that trigger acne.
An active ingredient from brown seaweed found only off the coast of Brittany, France, can cut spots by nearly two thirds. A new clinical trial of treatments containing the ingredient showed the number of spots fell by 64 per cent and blackheads by 60 per cent after just eight weeks.
The trial is the first cosmetics clinical study in acne to be published in an official dermatology journal.The study investigated products from a range of OXY treatments using the active compound called Phycosaccharide ACP.
They are mainly aimed at teenage boys and young men, with nine out of 10 suffering problem skin triggered by the male hormone testosterone.

Source  - Daily Mail 

Why daily vitamin pills can INCREASE your risk of disease

Did you take your vitamins today?
Many of us have been so seduced by the idea that supplements help protect us against ill health that we happily pop one, two or even more a day — and feel guilty if we forget.
In the UK alone, we spend more than £300 million on supplements every year.
But while this might be keeping the manufacturers in a healthy state, are vitamin pills really so good for us? 
 For decades the message has been clear: supplements deliver vital nutrients often missing from our diets, particularly antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, which help fight the damaging action of free radicals.  These molecules are derived from oxygen and are produced by factors as varied as pollution and breathing.
Worryingly, free radicals have been linked to a host of serious ailments, including cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autoimmune conditions, diabetes and cancer.

Source  - Daily Mail

Calcium pills pose 'heart risk'

People who take calcium supplements could be increasing their risk of having a heart attack, according to researchers in Germany.
Calcium is often taken by older people to strengthen bones and prevent fractures.  But the study, published in the journal Heart, said the supplements "should be taken with caution". Experts say promoting a balanced diet including calcium would be a better strategy.
The researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre, in Heidelberg, followed 23,980 people for more than a decade. They compared the number of heart attacks in people who were taking calcium supplements with those who did not.

Apigenin, Found In Celery And Parsley, Could Help Fight Breast Cancer

A substance found in celery and parsley could pack a powerful punch against breast cancer, according to a new study in mice.
Researchers from the University of Missouri found that apigenin seems to have an effect on certain kinds of breast cancer tumors associated with the hormone progestin given along with estrogen to women as part of hormone replacement therapy for menopause, and is known to increase the risk of breast cancer.
"We do know that apigenin slowed the progression of human breast cancer cells in three ways: by inducing cell death, by inhibiting cell proliferation, and by reducing expression of a gene associated with cancer growth," study researcher Salman Hyder, a professor of biomedical sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Missouri, said in a statement.

Source  - Huffington Post

Working out with a partner can double your motivation

Those who are struggling to keep going to the gym should think about recruiting an exercise partner - as long as they are a little fitter than you.
Scientists found working out with someone else was the key to staying motivated - even if the partner was virtual.
A team from Michigan State University recruited 58 young women to take part in a six sessions on an exercise bike. All of them were told to cycle for as long as they felt comfortable.
One group cycled alone while another cycled with a virtual partner who they first 'met' via a pre-recorded video chat. They were told that the 'virtually present partner' would be riding at the same time on a similar bike in another lab.
During the exercise sessions, participants with a partner were able to track their progress by watching what looked like a live feed but was in fact a recording. The scientists told these participants that their partner's performance was a little better than their own.

Source  - Daily Mail

Caffeine fix it

Too much caffeine used to be considered a bad thing. Now researchers say drinking coffee could extend your life.
They found following a study of 400,000 aged between 50 and 71,  the more coffee you drink, the less likely you are to die from a number of different ailments. These include heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries, accidents, diabetes and infections, but not cancer.
The US research published in The New England Journal of Medicine adds to evidence that coffee drinkers appear to enjoy better health.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Maryland, say they cannot establish whether coffee is the cause of a lowered risk of death, but they found a link.

Source  - Daily Mail

Walking for up to two and a half hours a week can slash risks of hypertension

Walking briskly for two and a half hours a week can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, claim scientists.
A new study has revealed how even moderate exercise can reduce the risk of high blood pressure - known as hypertension - in people with a family history of the disease by 26 per cent. Previous studies have shown parental history accounts for about 35 per cent to 65 per cent of the variability in blood pressure among offspring, with varying levels of risk on which parent developed it and the age of onset.
Researchers followed a group of 6,278 adults aged 20 to 80 for an average 4.7 years, with 33 per cent reporting a parent had hypertension. When the study began, all participants were healthy, reported no diagnosis of hypertension and achieved an exercise test score of at least 85 per cent of their age-predicted heart rate.
Researchers also determined their cardio-respiratory fitness using a treadmill exercise test. During the study, 1,545 participants reported they had developed hypertension.

Source  - Daily Mail

The 8.15 train to Nirvana

Last summer I bumped into an old colleague.  We hadn’t seen each other for years and it transpired that in the previous 18 months, her mother had died of cancer, her father had moved in with her and she had been made redundant.
Yet she seemed remarkably calm. How on earth was she coping? After joking about the healing power  of gin, she admitted her secret: she had learned how to meditate.
We have all read about the healing powers of meditation. Medical research has found that it can reduce the risk of everything from heart disease to strokes, depression and insomnia – but this was the first time I had seen its benefits up close.  Soon I was meditating twice a day, too, even learning to fit it into train journeys to work or sneaking a few quiet minutes in a bathroom cubicle at the office.
Before I bumped into my colleague I was running on empty. By day I was stressed by silly things that made me snap at people.  By night I would try to unwind with too many hours of television and too many glasses of wine before lying awake in bed stewing over all my worries. 

Source  - Daily Mail

Alternative medicines 'may be dangerous'

Alternative treatments may appear safer then they actually are, because studies fail to report adverse effects, according to the UK's only professor of complementary medicine.
Professor Edzard Ernst, from Exeter University, said too often the results from medical trials on therapies such as chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture were not reported correctly. He said this was because they were often run by 'enthusiastic amateurs' more concerned about promoting their treatments rather than testing hypotheses. Chiropractors use their hands to manipulate the spine to treat a range of musculoskeletal problems. The alternative therapy has been approved by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence as a treatment for lower back pain. However, Professor Ernst estimated as many as half of patients experience at least mild adverse effects, such as pain in the area of manipulation.
He added there are around 700 case studies where severe complications had been reported. Yet he told The Guardian: 'When you read the literature, you see proclamations that spinal manipulation, according to chiropractors, is 100 per cent safe.'

Source  - Daily Mail

Chemical found in apples, onions and green tea can help beat blood clots

Chemicals found in apples, oranges and onions could prevent blood clots, claim scientists.
They believe that rutin - also present in black and green tea - could be used in future treatments to protect against heart attacks and strokes. Harvard researchers found that the chemical helped block a potentially dangerous enzyme involved in the formation of blood clots.This enzyme - called protein disulfide isomerase - is released very quickly when blood clots form in the arteries and veins.
The researchers tested the ability of 500 different chemicals -including rutin- to block PDI using scientific models on computers. They found that rutin was by far the most effective. The scientists - whose paper is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation - discovered that it could protect blood clots that occur in both the arteries and veins.

Source  - Daily Mail

Hot sauce ingredient reduces 'beer belly' fat

The ingredient that gives hot sauce its heat could play a role in the future of weight loss, say scientists.
Unfortunately it's not as simple as simply eating more chillies at dinner. Instead the ingredient capsaicin - which gives peppers their burning sensation - has been used to improve a slimming surgery technique.
Scientists at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston were studying whether they could find an alternative to vagatomy - where the vagus nerve that connects the gut and the brain is cut.
The surgery, which is used to treat ulcers, has the added benefit of reducing the risk of obesity-related diseases. However, it has never been used specifically for weight-loss due to the number of possible side-effects such as delayed gastric emptying.

Source  - Daily Mail

Alternative medicine needs to be studied

Last week’s issue of Journal of the American Medical Association includes an editorial suggesting that the budget of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine might be used more productively elsewhere at the National Institutes of Health.

Its author runs through a litany of negative study outcomes and implausible interventions to make his case: The $130 million annual budget of the center is of suspect utility. One might think that arguments against faith-based practice are preferential arguments against the complementary and alternative medicine , but that’s not so. Much of what is done in conventional medicine is simply time-honored, but not truly tested. When time-honored practices are put to exacting tests of evidence, they often fail.

I was taught — adamantly — through all my training years that drugs called beta-blockers, which reduce the force of the heart’s contraction, would be harmful in congestive heart failure. It turns out, at odds with time-honored practice, tradition and intuition alike, these drugs reduce mortality in heart failure, and are now used routinely.

Source  - New Haven Register

Vitamin C lowers blood pressure

This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms this important effect of vitamin C.
However, higher doses may be even better. In one study, those given 2 grams of vitamin C a day for 30 days had a 10 point drop in systolic blood pressure. This is comparable to the effect you can get with hypertensive drugs such as ACE inhibitors.
Taking high- dose vitamin C makes a lot of sense if you have heart disease, because it does lower LDL cholesterol when given to healthy people, diabetics and people on kidney dialysis, and it has also been shown to reduce arterial thickening.  It is also an anti-inflammatory and may help, together with vitamin E, to stop the oxidation, or damage, of cholesterol. 
A recent study of almost 60,000 people in Japan reports that vitamin C intake is strongly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, especially in women, cutting risk by a third.  Another reports that vitamin C, with vitamin E, slows down atherosclerosis.  Many diet studies also find that the higher your dietary intake of vitamin C the lower your risk. It also lowers risk of diabetes by 62%, if you consume at least 1 gram a day. Diabetics given 1g of vit C have a significant decrease in both their blood sugar levels and glycosylated haemoglobin, as well as triglycerides and cholesterol.

Source  - Patrick Holford

Zinc tablets may shorten the duration of a cold

It is one of medicine's most sought-after remedies: a cure for the common cold.
Scientists have now found taking zinc tablets may shorten the duration of the cold – but the side-effects scarcely make it worthwhile.
Researchers, who examined 17 randomised controlled trials involving 2,100 patients, concluded high doses of zinc were more effective than low doses, but the strength of the evidence was "moderate", they say. Larger trials are needed to confirm the findings before it is possible to give medical advice. Adults have up to four colds a year on average and children up to 10.
Zinc can inhibit replication of rhinoviruses, a key cause of the common cold. But, unlike in adults, there was no apparent effect from taking zinc in children. And patients who took zinc were more likely to suffer side-effects, such as nausea and diarrhoea, than those who took nothing.
Michelle Science, of the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, who led the study, published in the Canadian Medical Journal, said: "Until further evidence, there is only a weak rationale for physicians to recommend it."

Source  - Independent

Curry's ability to fight cancer put to the test

A chemical found in curry is to be tested for its ability to kill bowel cancer tumours in patients.
Curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, has been linked to a range of health benefits.
Studies have already shown that it can beat cancer cells grown in a laboratory and benefits have been suggested in stroke and dementia patients as well.
Now a trial at hospitals in Leicester will investigating giving curcumin alongside chemotherapy drugs. About 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year. If the disease spreads around the body, patients are normally given a combination of three chemotherapy drugs, but about half will not respond.
Forty patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General Hospital will take part in the trial, which will compare the effects of giving curcumin pills seven days before starting standard chemotherapy treatment.

Source  - BBC

How garlic can prevent a dicky tummy

A key ingredient in garlic is 100 times more powerful than two popular antibiotics at fighting a leading cause of food poisoning, scientists have found.
Tests discovered that the  compound, diallyl sulphide, can easily breach a slimy protective biofilm employed by the bug to make it harder to destroy. Not only is it a lot more powerful than antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin, it also takes a fraction of the time to work.
The discovery, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, could open the door to new treatments for raw and processed meats, and food preparation surfaces, that would reduce the toll of Campylobacter food poisoning.
Dr Michael Konkel, from Washington State University, said: 'This work is very exciting because it shows this compound has the potential to reduce disease- causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply.

Source  - Daily Mail

When a good fat goes bad

Omega-3 fatty acids are firmly entrenched as health promoting agents that most people consuming a Western style diet will need. Although algae and such like are emerging as sources for these omega-3s including DHA and EPA, the dominant sources in the market remain fish oil and, to an emerging degree, krill oil. Although the benefits of omega-3s are undoubted, the issue not always spoken about is the quality of the omega-3 supplements available in the marketplace. A new report has highlighted the vast diversity in quality and freshness of omega-3 products available.
, The latest report questioning the quality and freshness of some omega-3 supplements has been published in the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa. The article is based on a survey of 46 omega-3 products on the South African market. Given the global nature of markets in this field the research has implications for markets everywhere. The survey found that half of the products tested contained less than 89 per cent of the amount of EPA and DHA claimed on the label. The authors suggested that the reasons for this could include oxidation of the fatty acids, inappropriate handling of fish at harvest, and ineffective quality assurance.

Source  - Wellbeing

Sugar Tax

Tax has traditionally been used as a way to discourage consumption (or on occasion to wickedly extort the good gentlefolk of their hard-earned possessions for the benefit of the self-serving overlords). Examples of this can be found in the tax on tobacco or Australia’s carbon tax (or in the evil Prince John of Robin Hood fame). The latest cab off the rank to be floated as warranting a tax to discourage consumption is sugar and the case is convincing.
Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Centre and the University of California have done extensive analysis to see what effect a tax on sugar would have. The figures are reflective of the American context but they have lessons for the wider world.
The researchers calculated that if sugar were taxed at the rate of a penny-per-ounce tax and if this tax were imposed on sugar-sweetened beverages only it would result in fifteen per cent reduction in consumption and reduce the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Source  - Wellbeinghttp://www.wellbeing.com.au/newsdetail/Sugar-Tax_000653

Integrating conventional and complementary medicine

Whether you think the techniques are motivated by profit-making, cater to desperate and gullible people and could even be harmful, or that they relieve pain and cure illness, save lives and are suppressed by physicians who fear competition, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is definitely here to stay.

An impressive new English-language book, written by a veteran Hebrew University professor (emerita) of sociology and a young HU researcher with a newly minted doctorate in the field, is the result of a decade of joint research.

Titled Alternative and Bio-Medicine in Israel: Boundaries and Bridges, the volume does not judge whether CAM is effective or has been proven by scientific evidence. Instead, Prof. Judith Shuval and Dr. Emma Averbuch – supplemented by nine academic contributors – provides a fascinating historical analysis of CAM in pre-state and contemporary Israel. It is also a formidable examination of how CAM is carried out by physicians and those without formal medical credentials; the cultural and political context; conflicts and partnerships; and recommendations of where to go in the future.

Source  - Jerusalem Post

Mich. woman concocts 'Mother' of alternative medicines

She was born before parents took their kids to the doctor for an earache or a runny nose. She was born before you could go to WebMD to research different diseases or buy cough medicine at 7-Eleven.
"You had to live off the land," she said.
And that is why this 92-year-old great-great-grandmother -- whose first name is Jessie, though no one calls her that -- stands in front of a stove, stirring a secret potion in an old metal pot. The recipe has been passed down for at least three generations, originating on a cotton plantation in Georgia and ending up in this small kitchen in a tidy two-story home on the west side of Detroit.
Supporters of alternative medicine say that more than 50% of Americans go outside traditional medicine to treat illness -- such as using herbal therapy -- although many never tell their doctors.
Critics say that the homemade remedies might seem to work because of the placebo effect. And the Food and Drug Administration cautions that a doctor should be consulted before taking any supplement.

For Back Pain, Steroid Shots No More Effective Than Placebo

A randomized trial of steroid injections for back pain has shown that they are no more effective than a placebo.
Because the long-term benefits of surgery remain unproven and pain medicines often have serious side effects, doctors have increasingly turned to steroid injections to treat lumbosacral radiculopathy, a common cause of back pain. The condition stems from damage to the discs between the vertebrae that often leads to sciatica, numbness or pain in the legs.
Researchers tested 84 adults with back pain of less than six months’ duration, dividing them into three groups. They received either steroids, etanercept (an arthritis medicine) or an inactive saline solution in two injections given two weeks apart. At the end of one month, they were assessed for pain.
Leg and back pain decreased in all three groups, but there were no statistically significant differences among them. The researchers conclude that steroids may provide some short-term analgesic effect, but that the improvement in all of the patients was mainly due to normal healing.

Source  - New York Times

Yoga: it's never too late to reap the benefits

Looking at the famous photographs of BKS Iyengar - the grey-haired, bendy-bodied yoga guru (born, so we're told, in 1918) – might have one of two effects. First, to inspire awe at how this form of physical exercise, popularised in the west in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, can keep an individual strong and flexible, never mind at fortysomething but nudging towards a century old.
Those who can't even touch their toes, however, may equally take one look and despair. Because at 80-plus, Iyengar (who's still going strong) is still effortlessly touching his toes - not by bending forwards, but backwards, like a scarily supple Cirque de Soleil act.
It's unlikely, of course, that anyone who embraces yoga in mid-life is ever going to be able to pipe-cleaner themselves into Iyengar-esque backbends. But there is certainly evidence that yoga can help fight all manner of challenges that ageing bodies (not to mention minds) face: loss of bone density, stiffness, hardening of the arteries, hormonal fluctuations, mild depression ... If yoga's starting to sound like a universal panacea – well, there are plenty of yoga teachers who'd argue it is indeed just that.

Source  - Guardian

Hallucogenic Devil's Snare

Police and health experts warned today that a "Harry Potter" plant which gives an instant high but which can also kill is gaining a foothold on the British countryside.

The warning came after a teenager chewed on one of the plants growing on a roadside in Sussex.
It so intoxicated him that he stripped off all his clothes and rode naked on his bicycle, weaving in and out of traffic as startled drivers braked and swerved to avoid him. Police who rushed to the scene near Brighton at first feared the 18-year-old youth had embarked on the bizarre bike ride after ingesting hallucogenic "magic mushrooms".
But it transpired he had eaten a plant called Devil's Snare or Datura Stramonium. The plant is depicted as a "magical trap" in the Harry Potter books and is striking looking and incredibly dangerous - but only if eaten. 

What's the best yoghurt for your ailment?

A pot of yoghurt counts as one of the two or three dairy portions a day needed for healthy bones. But which is the best choice for you?
A bout of gastroenteritis can affect the intestinal cells that produce lactase, the enzyme that helps digest dairy food. Swapping to soya yoghurt (which is as calcium-rich as its dairy counterpart) for a couple of weeks after a stomach upset is a good idea, allowing the gut time to heal.
This brand contains a specific strain of friendly bacteria that speeds up the rate of food transit through the gut. In a group of women with IBS, bloating and constipation were improved when they ate a couple of pots a day. 
Low-fat yoghurts are recommended as part of a diet to lower blood pressure, but choose one with 20 per cent blueberries and add another handful of fresh fruit. Blueberries are packed with proanthocyanidins, which help keep blood vessels relaxed (in turn, lowering blood pressure).

Source  - Daily Mail