Why leeks are good for you

The homely leek is a biddable, accommodating vegetable, but the cooking method is critical. An encounter with leek that's squeakily undercooked can be quite off-putting, and apart from soups, where the thinly sliced green flags add a characteristic whiff and bright colour, leeks are generally best kept away from water.
Fried leeks make a crisp, interesting garnish for bowls of Asian noodles or simple risottos. Cook them down slowly with butter and they swoon into a fondant state, while developing a savoury sweetness. At which point, they can bring another layer of flavour and a gooey thickness to ingredients such as ham, cheese, potato and pasta, or served as a bed of puree under grilled sausages and fish.
Why are leeks good for me? 
Leeks contain significant amounts of the flavonoid kaempferol. Many studies suggest it reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases – cancer in particular. It also appears to support our cardiovascular system by protecting our blood vessel linings.
Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin A, which aids vision and supports the immune system, and bone-building vitamin K and manganese. They also contain vitamin B6, which appears to reduce homocysteine in the blood; elevated levels of this amino acid are associated with a greater risk of heart disease, blood clots and strokes.
Source  - Guardian

Why taking vitamin D is 'pointless'

Scientists claim there is no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to stave off chronic disease and early death - and results of several multi-million dollar trials currently under way are unlikely to alter this view.
A new review examines existing evidence from 40 randomised controlled trials - the gold standard for proving cause and effect - and concludes that vitamin D supplementation does not prevent heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or bone fractures in the general population by more than 15 per cent.
In fact, vitamin D supplements probably provide little, if any, health benefit, according to the study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.
In Britain, the supplements market is worth £700 million a year - a growth of 16 per cent in five years - and the most popular pills are multi-vitamins and fish oils, which contain vitamin D.
Some scientists assumed vitamin D, which is produced naturally by exposure to sunlight, could protect against disease because patients with cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s, or who died prematurely, often had very low levels of the nutrient.
However, evidence from some trials suggests that rather than vitamin D deficiency leading to disease, these illnesses stop the body from producing vitamin D - so sufferers have lower levels.
Last month, a review of 462 studies involving more than a million adults said a lack of vitamin D was not a trigger for many common illnesses.

Source  - Daily Mail

Making music videos 'helps young cancer patients cope'

Music therapy can help teenagers and young people cope better when faced with treatment for cancer, a study in Cancer journal suggests.
American researchers followed the experiences of a group of patients aged 11-24 as they produced a music video over three weeks. They found the patients gained resilience and improved relationships with family and friends. All the patients were undergoing high-risk stem-cell transplant treatments.
To produce their music videos, the young patients were asked to write song lyrics, record sounds and collect video images to create their story. They were guided by a qualified music therapist who helped the patients identify what was important to them and how to communicate their ideas. When completed, the videos were shared with family and friends through "premieres".
Positive effectAfter the sessions, the researchers found that the group that made music videos reported feeling more resilient and better able to cope with their treatment than another group not offered music therapy.

Info-graphic on supplements

Very interesting. All the supplements I take are in the lower regions! I will continue to take them though.

Snake oil?

Why watercress is good for you

Overshadowed by rocket, which is so tediously ubiquitous, watercress struggles to get a look-in. 
Curious that, because the latter is by far the superior leaf. With watercress you get that reliable, but not overbearing pepperiness, all bound up in juicy, sappy succulence. It's a two-in-one vegetable: the leaves have the velvety floppiness of lamb's lettuce, while the stalks have the snap of beansprouts. To salads, a tangle of watercress lends a blast of deepest green taste and bouncy volume. It makes sandwiches (rare roast beef, egg mayonnaise) lively and fresh. Providing you have a blender, no soup is simpler than watercress.
Why is watercress good for me?
There's a stack of good nutrition packed in this watery plant, especially if you eat it raw. It is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, but contains particularly high levels of bone-building and strengthening vitamin K, and vitamin A, which is important for eye health.
Watercress also contains significant levels of glucosinolate compounds and many studies now suggest that these have anti-cancer effects. Eating these compounds appears to help inhibit breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancers. Flavonoid antioxidants in watercress (carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin) also support good vision, have benefits for the cardiovascular system, and help protect cells against damage from free radicals.

Can reading make you smarter?

When I was eight years old, I still couldn't read. I remember my teacher Mrs Browning walking over to my desk and asking me to read a few sentences from a Dick and Jane book. She pointed to a word. "Tuh-hee," I said, trying to pronounce it. "The," she said, correcting me, and that's when it clicked – the moment when I learned to read the word "the".
Growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey, in the 1960s, I was what Mrs Browning called "slow". During a parent-teacher meeting, she told my mother: "Daniel is a slow learner." I sat during lunch in the gymnasium with the – forgive the term – dumb kids. I was grouped with them during reading and maths: the "slow group".
And then, a year later, I was rescued by Spider-Man. My best friend Dan, who was reading chapter books by kindergarten, had started reading Spider-Man and other comics with some other kid, and together they began drawing and writing their own comics. In response to this loathsome intruder's kidnapping of my best friend, I began reading comics, too, and then began scrawling and scribbling my own. Soon, Dan and I were happily spending every afternoon on our masterworks, while the interloper was never heard from again. We even convinced Dan's father, Dr. Feigelson (rest his soul), to film a Super-8 movie that we scripted: "Bob Cat and Bat v Disappearo!"
By age 11, I was getting straight As. Later in my teens, I took a college admissions course in the US, and scored the equivalent of 136 on an IQ test. So what happened? Was Mrs Browning right – was I actually "slow" when I was eight – and did I somehow become smarter because I immersed myself in reading and writing comic books?

Eggs contain formaldehyde

They sound like horrific chemicals you'd find in processed food.
But aspartic acid, isoleucine and ethyl butanoate are in fact found in a banana.
Likewise - did you know that when you eat an egg, you're eating glutamic acid, E160e and even formaldehyde?
'I wanted to erode the fear that many people have of ‘chemicals’, and demonstrate that nature evolves compounds, mechanisms and structures far more complicated and unpredictable than anything we can produce in the lab. These posters aim to show that chemistry isn't artificial and dangerous; but that chemistry is natural and everywhere. The chemistry of fun, friendly, everyday objects like bananas is more complicated and more fascinating than that of, say, a bomb.'
He added that chemistry has suffered in recent years from a negative image. 
'Pesticides, poisons, drugs and explosives seem to dominate the public's perceptions of Chemistry while the other sciences bask in a much more positive light.

Source  - Daily Mail

Fish oil could help prevent Alzheimer's

Eating more fish could give you a bigger brain - and greater protection against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, claim researchers.
They found people with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have larger brain volumes in old age. This would be the equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health, says a new study published in the journal Neurology.
Shrinking brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease as well as normal ageing. Britons are currently advised to eat fish at least twice a week, including one portion of oily fish.
One of the key omega-3 fatty acids is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is thought to help nerve cells communicate with each other. The richest source of the nutrient is oily fish, such as herring, mackerel and sardines.

Source  - Daily Mail

Lingonberries 'halt the effects of high-fat diet'

The researchers, at Lund University, discovered the berries almost completely prevent weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet.
They discovered the Scandinavian berries – which are sometimes known as cowberries in the UK - also lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. However, their results also showed the ‘super berry’ acai can lead to weight gain.
The research team conducted their study using a type of mouse that easily stores fat and, therefore, can be regarded as a model for humans who are overweight and at risk of diabetes.  Some of the mice were fed a low-fat diet, while the majority of the animals were fed a diet high in fat. 
They were then divided into groups, where all except a control group were fed a type of berry – lingonberry, bilberry, raspberry, crowberry, blackberry, prune, blackcurrant or acai berry.

Source  - Daily Mail

How just THINKING you've had a good night's sleep can help you function better

Feeling tired after a bad night's sleep?
The good news is that simply being told you've slept well could help perk you up.  The phenomenon - coined placebo sleep - involves telling people they've been in a deep sleep even when they haven't. 
Students who were told they got a good night’s sleep performed better on tests measuring their attention and memory skills than those who thought they slept poorly.
Researchers at Colorado College in the U.S. devised a ruse in which students were told that a new technique – which doesn’t actually exist – could measure their sleep quality from the night before. They were connected to a machine that measured brainwave frequency and shown dense spreadsheets and formulas. 
Some were informed that their deep, or REM, sleep had been above average the night before, a sign that they were mentally alert.

Source  - Daily Mail

Migraine sufferers 'may benefit from magnet therapy'

A magnet device can be used to treat some types of migraine, new UK guidance advises.
The watchdog NICE says although there is limited evidence, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may help ease symptoms in some patients. It says that the procedure is still relatively new and that more data is needed about its long-term safety and efficacy. But it may be useful for patients for whom other treatments have failed.Migraine is common - it affects about one in four women and one in 12 men in the UK.
There are several types - with and without aura and with or without headache - and several treatment options, including common painkillers, such as paracetamol. Although there is no cure for migraine, it is often possible to prevent or lessen the severity of attacks.
NICE recommends various medications, as well as acupuncture, and now also TMS, under the supervision of a specialist doctor - although it has not assessed whether it would be a cost effective therapy for the NHS. TMS involves using a portable device that is placed on the scalp to deliver a brief magnetic pulse. NICE says doctors and patients might wish to try TMS, but they should be aware about the treatment's uncertainties. Reduction in migraine symptoms may be moderate, it says.
Prof Peter Goadsby, chairman of the British Association for the Study of Headache, said many migraine patients stood to benefit from trying TMS.

Why oranges are good for you

The zesty, citrus whiff of oranges freshens up the January kitchen, drawing a line under heavy celebratory food, and lighting up the virtuous, but enticing path to a lighter, healthier diet. With the European citrus season in full swing, the art is choosing fruits that haven't been chemically waxed in preparation for storage and so retain some of their just-picked freshness.
Avoid the hard, immature fruits that are inflicted on the UK market, and home in on those that are softer, with matt, untreated, fungicide-free skins. Sicilian blood oranges (moro, tarocco), with their sumptuous purple juice, are the cream of the crop, and in my experience, rarely waxed with pesticides, because they are generally sold out within a couple of months. But any organic oranges will also have a soft skin and, with a bit of luck, some of that tree-ripe fragrance.

Can yoga really cleanse the liver?

If there’s one word that seems ubiquitous every January, it’s "detox". Anyone hoping to wash away the excesses of the holiday season will look for ways to be better and healthier, at least than they were the year before. The fact is, detoxing isn’t a thing. It is well dressed (and well marketed) pseudoscience. It is hard to pinpoint a single culprit responsible for this piece of bad physiology that persists. Who knows where the origins of this misnomer lay, but recently it’s been seen more and more in the ever-growing yoga industry. 
Madonna’s triceps and Sting’s bedroom habits aside, yoga has been steadily increasing in popularity since the 1990s. A 2008 study in Yoga Journal reported the worth of the yoga industry to be $5.7bn, and today there are approximately 4,500 yoga-based businesses in the UK alone. 
One benefit of yoga’s visibility and popularity is the variety of styles and methods available for one to get a stretch on.

Do 'superfoods' really exist?

In the early 1990s, a cookbook called Superfoods appeared in the bookshops. It was co-written by the alternative medicine practitioner, Michael Van Straten, who is one of a handful of people said to have coined what has become one of the most spuriously bandied-about marketing terms of our times.
The book revealed Straten's "four-star superfoods", which "supply the vital bricks that build your body's resistance to stress, disease and infection". The list held few surprises, consisting of, you know, stuff that's good for you: common fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts. Foods we're especially keen on eating in January, as an antidote to Christmas excesses. Wouldn't these foods be more accurately described as simply "food" (as opposed to junk food)? Nevertheless, the notion of superfoods was, and still is appealing. Except this century, the term is now used to assign near-magical powers to overpriced, exotic foodstuffs. It's promotional potency went into turbo boost when the theories about antioxidants – probably the most successful "the science bit" spiel of all time – hit the public consciousness. Ever since, food sellers have clambered to keep "discovering" novel, unparalleled sources of "extraordinary nutrients". Waitrose recently introduced yuzu juice to stores as a gourmet ingredient/superfruit. Coffee fruit is the next big super, along with monk fruit, which is sweeter than sugar but with less calories. Both promise antioxidants in abundance.
A review paper on vitamin supplements recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine says not. One of the authors, Edgar Miller of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that while supplement suppliers advocate that we have many nutritional deficiencies, in truth, "we are in general overfed, our diet is completely adequate".

Green tea can make blood pressure drugs 'less effective'

It is the healthy choice of many people with high blood pressure. But green tea could actually stop their pills from working properly.
The blood pressure-lowering drug nadolol is less effective after drinking green tea, a study found. The researchers advised those taking nadolol to avoid green tea – and warned that the popular drink may also dilute the effect of some other medicines.
The warning is particularly pertinent to blood pressure patients, as some may switched to green tea in a bid to lower their intake of caffeine. In addition, some studies have credited green tea with lowering blood pressure.
Japanese researchers measured the blood pressure of ten healthy men and women after taking nadolol. They were given the drug twice, once after drinking around two cups of green tea a day for two weeks and again after drinking water. Drinking green tea cut the amount of drug that made its way into the bloodstream by three-quarters.
It also meant that the drug, which is also taken to treat angina and irregular heartbeats and to prevent migraines, was less effective at lowering blood pressure. It is thought that plant chemicals in green tea stop nadolol from being ferried from the gut into the bloodstream, where it can get to work on reducing blood pressure.

Source  - Daily Mail

Will taking a probiotic pill make you feel less anxious?

Claire Parkinson was desperate to find something to help her young son, Giovanni, cope with his constant digestive gripes, such as painful stomach upsets and wind that had afflicted him since babyhood. 
Despite her initial scepticism, Claire, 31, a mother of three from Lewisham, South-East London, decided to try giving Giovanni, who was 11 at the time, a dietary supplement containing probiotic bacteria, having read about their claimed benefits on the internet. 
Probiotics are live bacteria which, when consumed, are thought to colonise the stomach with bugs that help digestion. Their beneficial effects are not wholly proven, although there is some evidence they might help with a range of problems, including diarrhoea and food allergies.
Claire says the probiotic supplements, provided by OptiBac Probiotics, quickly made a substantial difference to the frequency and intensity of her son's tummy upsets.  But something unexpected also happened. 
The behavioural problems linked to her son's Asperger's syndrome were also significantly reduced, she says.
Asperger's is a form of autism that causes difficulties with communication, interaction and imagination. Asperger's children may have problems relating to others, and have narrow and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.

Source  - Daily Mail

Cooked tomatoes found to cut heart disease

A dollop or two of fresh tomato sauce may lower the risk of heart disease. 
Twenty men are taking part in a trial in which half will have tomato sauce following a high-fat meal, while the others will have the meal without the sauce. 
The researchers, from the University of Verona, believe that 80g a day of tomato sauce can improve the ill-effects of a high-fat meal on the lining of blood vessels and prevent endothelial dysfunction, a condition which precedes atherosclerosis, or furring up of the arteries.

The antioxidant lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red colour and has been found to have various health benefits, is found in higher quantities in cooked, rather than  raw, tomatoes.

Source  - Daily Mail

Alternative 'tapping' therapy

Lily Allen is reported to use it to help control her eating habits and Dutch pole vaulter Rens Blom credited his Gold medal at the 2005 World Championship to it.
Now, experts are calling on the NHS to start using a new self-help technique, called tapping, after its effectiveness in treating a number of conditions was proved. The technique, which involves tapping acupressure points on the head and hands, is showing promise as an effective form of therapy for anxiety, depression and anger. It is also known as the emotional freedom technique (EFT).
Researchers at Staffordshire University are leading research into the effectiveness of EFT in the UK.
Professor Tony Stewart, who led a trial of the treatment in the Birmingham area, said: ‘EFT is a new and emerging therapy that can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Patients gently tap with their fingertips on acupressure points, mainly on the head and hands, and relate this to the voicing of specific statements. A growing number of studies suggest EFT is an effective and safe treatment, and with the predicted sharp increase in the demand for mental health services – and a corresponding decrease in NHS resources - we feel that the use of EFT should now be extended.’

Source  - Daily Mail

Yoga 'can ease pain of arthritis'

Yoga can help relieve both the pain and psychological distress suffered by patients with arthritis, according to new research.
Patients with osteoarthritis and those with rheumatoid arthritis both frequently see benefits from the activity, it found. Around 1.5million people in the UK see their GP every year about osteoarthritis, which mainly affects the knees, hips, spine and hands, while rheumatoid arthritis - which is common in hands, feet and wrists - affects more than 580,000 people.
The US research, published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, involved a review of nine previous studies carried out between 2010 and June 2013.
The studies involved hundreds of patients who took up yoga and showed evidence of reductions in pain, less morning stiffness, improved physical function and reduced levels of depression. Participants performed yoga for various periods ranging from twice a day for one week to once a week for up to 16 weeks.
The authors, from the University of Cincinnati's Health Promotion and Education Program, wrote: 'By stretching the muscles, yoga can provide physical relief of symptoms around the affected joints. Yoga reduces stress which is known to exacerbate arthritis. Yoga can improve coping and by altering perspective toward life provide spiritual solace.'

Source  - Daily Mail

Green spaces have lasting positive effect on well-being

Living in an urban area with green spaces has a long-lasting positive impact on people's mental well-being, a study has suggested.
UK researchers found moving to a green space had a sustained positive effect, unlike pay rises or promotions, which only provided a short-term boost. The authors said the results indicated that access to good quality urban parks was beneficial to public health. The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Co-author Mathew White, from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, UK, explained the study built on the findings of a study that showed people living in greener urban areas were displaying fewer signs of depression or anxiety.

Caffeine pill 'could boost memory'

A US study has raised the possibility that we may one day rely on caffeine to boost memory as well as to wake up.
The research, published in Nature Neuroscience, tested the memories of 160 people over 24 hours. It found those who took caffeine tablets, rather than dummy pills, fared better on the memory tests. But experts warned people to remember caffeine could cause negative effects, such as jitteriness and anxiety.
The Johns Hopkins University study involved people who did not regularly eat or drink caffeinated products. Saliva samples were taken, to check base levels of caffeine, then participants were asked to look at a series of images. Five minutes later they were given either a 200-milligram caffeine tablet - equivalent to the caffeine in a large cup of coffee, according to the researchers - or a dummy pill. Saliva samples were taken again one, three and 24 hours later.
The next day, both groups were also tested on their ability to recognise the previous day's images.

Meditation 'works just as well as anti-depressants'

Meditation for just half an hour can relieve depression as much as popping a pill, claim researchers. They found regular meditation could also relieve anxiety, pain and stress. In a U.S. study of previously published research involving 3,500 people, meditation alleviated symptoms of depression on a par with conventional anti-depressants.
Meditation, which has a long history in Eastern traditions, is one of many 'mindfulness' techniques that have grown in popularity in the West over the last 30 years. It is typically practised for 30 to 40 minutes a day with the aim of encouraging acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment, and relaxing body and mind.
Study leader Dr Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, said 'A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing. 'But that's not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programmes approach this in different ways.'
He said thousands of people use meditation for stress busting and personal growth, 'but it's not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything.' He said 'In our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants. These patients did not typically have full-blown anxiety or depression.' Overall, depression affects one in 10 adults in the UK at any one time.
There has been a big rise in the use of antidepressants in the last 20 years, particularly among women, with prescriptions in England reaching a record 50 million in 2012.

Asthma: Altering diet may ease symptoms

Fruits, vegetables and whole-grains might be an unlikely treatment for asthma according to animal studies.
Tests on mice, published in the journal Nature Medicine, showed that a high-fibre diet could reduce inflammation in the lungs. The extra fibre changed the nutrients being absorbed from the gut, which in turn altered the immune system. The researchers argue the shift to processed foods may explain why more people are developing asthma.
The airways are more sensitive to irritation and more likely to become inflamed in people with asthma. It leads to a narrowing of the airways that make it harder to breathe. However, a possible solution may lie in another organ, the gut, and the bacteria which live there.
The cells of the human body are vastly outnumbered by the trillions of microbes that live in and on it. There is growing evidence that these bacteria have a significant impact on health.

Could chronic pain be treated with a poppy plant used in ancient Chinese medicine?

An ancient Chinese herbal remedy could be used to fight chronic pain, new research has revealed.
The roots of the flowering plant Corydalis – a member of the poppy family - have been used for centuries as a pain reliever. Now scientists have found they contain a key pain-relieving ingredient known as dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) and that they do not lose effectiveness over time like traditional opiate drugs.
The chemical acts not through the morphine receptor but through other receptors, in particular one that binds dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centres and also helps regulate movement and emotional responses.
Olivier Civelli of the University of California, Irvine, said: ‘Our study reports the discovery of a new natural product that can relieve pain.  This analgesic acts in animal assays against the three types of pain that afflict humans, including acute, inflammatory, and neuropathic or chronic pain.’
He made the discovery as part of the ‘herbalome’ project, an effort to catalogue all of the chemical components of traditional Chinese medicine. 
The Corydalis plants that were the focus of the new study grow mainly in central eastern China, where underground tubers are harvested, ground, and boiled in hot vinegar.  Those concoctions are often prescribed to treat pain, including headaches and back pain.

Source  - Daily Mail

Vitamin D 'boosts child muscles'

Higher levels of maternal vitamin D during pregnancy have been linked to better muscle development in children, say researchers.
The study on 678 children, published in Endocrine Research,  showed vitamin D levels in the womb were linked to grip strength at the age of four. The team at the University of Southampton say the muscle boost could persist throughout life. Trials are taking place to see how effective pregnancy supplements are.
Most vitamin D is made by the skin when exposed to sunlight and supplements are offered during pregnancy.Some doctors have  voiced concerns about vitamin D deficiency as people become more "sun aware" and have linked it with a range of health problems.
The team at the University of Southampton investigated the impact of the vitamin in pregnancy. Blood samples were taken 34 weeks into the pregnancy and the vitamin D levels were compared with how tightly their children could squeeze a device in their hand at the age of four. The results showed that women with high levels of vitamin D in the late stages of pregnancy were more likely to have children with greater muscle strength.
Dr Nicholas Harvey told the BBC that: "There's some evidence that 'fast' muscle fibres go down in vitamin D deficiency and you get more fat in muscle. If there is deficiency in utero then they may end up with a lower number of numbers of these 'fast' muscle fibres."