Monthly Archives: April 2008

Mystics and Medicine

Are we being hoodwinked by alternative medicine? ……Two leading scientists examine the evidence. The first of a two-part extract from Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst:
MIRACLE CURE? Alexander Technique,……… aromatherapy and magnet therapy


Which therapies work and which ones are useless? Which therapies are safe and which ones are dangerous? These are questions that doctors have asked themselves for millennia in relation to all forms of medicine.

And yet it is only comparatively recently that they have developed an approach that allows them to separate the effective from the ineffective, and the safe from the dangerous.

This approach, known as evidence-based medicine, has revolutionised medical practice, transforming it from an industry of charlatans and incompetents into a system of healthcare that can deliver such miracles as transplanting kidneys, removing cataracts, combating childhood diseases, eradicating smallpox and saving millions of lives each year.

Evidence-based medicine is about using the current best evidence — gathered through clinical trials and other scientific investigations — to make medical decisions. Alternative medicine claims to be able to treat the same illnesses and diseases that conventional medicine tries to tackle.

We set out to establish the truth of these claims by using the principles of evidence-based medicine.

Some people will be suspicious of this, perceiving evidence-based medicine as a strategy for allowing the medical establishment to defend its own members and treatment, while excluding outsiders who offer alternative treatments.

In fact, the opposite is often true — evidence-based medicine actually allows outsiders to be heard; it endorses any treatment that turns out to be effective, however strange it may seem.

In the 18th century, for instance, lemon juice as a treatment for scurvy was regarded as implausible but the establishment had to accept it because it was backed up by evidence from trials.

We had no axe to grind — indeed Professor Ernst even practised as a homeopath for many years (as well as receiving treatment as a patient) — and we came to our conclusions based on a fair, thorough and scientific assessment of the evidence.

So what did we find? While some therapies do provide some health benefits (e.g. osteopathy), most have nothing to offer.

Many popular therapies are “effective” only because they are good at eliciting a placebo response; making the patient feel better simply because they believe the treatment will help.

You might feel that as placebos help patients, this alone justifies the use of the therapy. But any treatment that relies on the placebo effect is essentially a bogus treatment. And it’s far from cheap.

If alternative practitioners are making unproven, disproven or vastly exaggerated claims, and if their treatments carry risks, then we are being swindled at the expense of our own good health.

Too many alternative therapists remain uninterested in determining the safety and efficacy of their interventions. These practitioners also fail to see the importance of rigorous clinical trials in establishing proper evidence for or against their treatments — where evidence already exists that treatments are ineffective or unsafe, alternative therapists carry on regardless.

Despite this disturbing situation, the market for alternative treatments is booming, and the public is being misled over and over again, often by misguided therapists; sometimes by exploitative charlatans.

It is time for the tricks to stop, and for the real treatments to take priority. The same scientific standards, evaluation and regulation should be applied to all types of medicine.

If this doesn’t happen, then homeopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, herbalists and many other alternative therapists will continue to prey on the most vulnerable — raiding their wallets, offering false hope and even endangering their health.

ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE:-

WHAT IS IT?….. A technique for relearning correct posture and body movements. Alexander teachers guide their clients through exercise sessions using a gentle, hands-on approach. As plenty of repetition is needed, 30 to 100 such sessions are usually required to master the technique, demanding a considerable level of commitment from the client, in terms of both time and money.

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DOES IT WORK? ……Very little research so far has been conducted on the technique. Some promising findings have emerged in terms of improvement of respiratory function, reduction of anxiety, reduction of disability in Parkinson’s disease and improvement of chronic back pain.

However, for none of these conditions is the evidence sufficient to claim that the Alexander technique is effective.

AROMATHERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT?
Plant essences (known as “essential oils”) are used to treat or prevent illnesses or enhance wellbeing. Most commonly, the diluted oil is applied to the skin via a gentle massage, but it can also be added to a bath or diffused in the air.

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Aromatherapists believe that different essential oils have different specific effects. Aromatherapy is advocated for chronic conditions such as anxiety, tension headache and musculoskeletal pain.

DOES IT WORK? Some clinical trials confirm the relaxing effects of aromatherapy massage. However, this is usually short-lived and therefore of debatable therapeutic value. Some essential oils do seem to have specific effects. For instance, tea tree has anti-microbial properties. However, these effects are far less reliable than those of conventional antibiotics. There is no evidence that aromatherapy can treat specific diseases.


CHIROPRACTIC THERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT? Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to realign the spine to restore mobility. Spinal manipulation can be a fairly aggressive technique, which pushes the spinal joint slightly beyond what it is ordinarily capable of achieving, using a technique called high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust — exerting a relatively strong force in order to move the joint at speed, but the extent of the motion needs to be limited to prevent damage to the joint and its surrounding structures.

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Some chiropractors claim to treat everything from digestive disorders to ear infections, others will treat only back problems.

DOES IT WORK?
There is no evidence to suggest that spinal manipulation is effective for anything but back pain and even then conventional approaches (such as regular exercise and ibuprofen) are just as likely to be effective and are cheaper. Neck manipulation has been linked to neurological complications such as strokes — in 1998, a 20-year-old Canadian woman died after neck manipulation caused a blood clot which led to stroke. We would strongly recommend physiotherapy exercises and osteopathy ahead of chiropractic therapy because they are at least effective and much safer. The dangers of chiropractic therapy to children are particularly worrying because a chiropractor would be manipulating an immature spine.


HYPNOTHERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT? The use of hypnosis, a trance-like state, for therapeutic purposes. Hypnotherapists treat a range of chronic conditions, including pain, anxiety, addictions and phobias.

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DOES IT WORK?
Dozens of clinical trials show that hypnotherapy is effective in reducing pain, anxiety and the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, the evidence is that it’s not effective to help you stop smoking, even though it is frequently promoted in this context.


MAGNET THERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT? The use of magnetic fields from static magnets, which are usually worn on the body, to treat various conditions, most frequently pain. These days rapidly fluctuating magnetic fields are used in conventional medicine in high-tech imaging machines (such as MRI scanners) and for promoting the healing of bone fractures. However, alternative medicine tends to use static magnets, which create a permanent magnetic field, to treat many conditions, mostly to alleviate chronic pain.

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DOES IT WORK? There is no evidence that static magnets offer any medical benefit for pain relief. As they are usually self-administered, there is a danger of missing serious diagnoses and losing valuable time for early treatment of serious diseases.

OSTEOPATHY:-

WHAT IS IT? A manual therapy which focuses on the musculoskeletal system to treat disease. Osteopaths use a range of techniques to mobilise soft tissues, bones and joints. Osteopathy and chiropractic therapy have much in common, but there are also important differences.

Osteopaths tend to use gentler techniques and often employ massage-like treatments. They also place less emphasis on the spine than chiropractors, and they rarely move the vertebral joints beyond their physical range of motion, unlike chiropractors. Therefore osteopathic interventions are less likely to injure.

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In general they treat mainly musculoskeletal problems, but many also claim to treat other conditions such as asthma, ear infection and colic.

DOES IT WORK? There is reasonably good evidence that the osteopathic approach is as effective as conventional treatments for back pain, but there is no good evidence to support the use of osteopathy in nonmusculoskeletal conditions.

People with severe osteoporosis, bone cancer, infections of the bone or bleeding problems should confirm with the osteopath that they will not receive forceful manual treatments.

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP:-


*Advice for anyone considering alternative medicine:

*Consult and inform your GP — the treatment might interfere with any ongoing conventional therapies.

*Do not stop your conventional treatment unless your doctor advises that this is sensible.

*Alternative therapies can be expensive, so make sure there is evidence to support the efficacy of a therapy before spending huge sums of money.

*Every treatment carries risks, so make sure the risks are outweighed by the benefits.

Sources: THe Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Bionic Eye ‘Blindness Cure Hope’

A ‘bionic eye‘ may hold the key to returning sight to people left blind by a hereditary disease, experts believe.

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………………………………The treatment is being tested in clinical trials

A team at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital have carried out the treatment on the UK’s first patients as part of a clinical study into the therapy.

The artificial eye, connected to a camera on a pair of glasses, has been developed by US firm Second Sight.

It said the technique may be able to restore a basic level of vision, but experts warned it was still early days.

The trial aims to help people who have been made blind through retinitis pigmentosa, a group of inherited eye diseases that affects the retina.

The disease progresses over a number of years, normally after people have been diagnosed when they are children.

It is estimated between 20,000 to 25,000 are affected in the UK.

It is not known whether the treatment has helped the two patients to see and any success is only likely to be in the form of light and dark outlines, but doctors are optimistic.

Lyndon da Cruz, the eye surgeon who carried out the operations last week, said the treatment was “exciting”.

“The devices were implanted successfully in both patients and they are recovering well from the operations.”

Other patients across Europe and the US have also been involved in the trial.

Electronic

The bionic eye, known as Argus II, works via the camera which transmits a wireless signal to an ultra-thin electronic receiver and electrode panel that are implanted in the eye and attached to the retina.

The electrodes stimulate the remaining retinal nerves allowing a signal to be passed along the optic nerve to the brain.

David Head, chief executive of the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society, said: “This treatment is very exciting, but it is still early days.

“There is currently no treatment for patients so this device and research into stem cells therapies offers the best hope.”

“This treatment is very exciting, but it is still early days” …. says David Head, of the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society

CLICK TO SEE ALSO :->
Sight-saving injection approved

Woman ‘denied sight-save drugs’

NHS criticised on blindness cure

Man in NHS battle ‘to save sight’

Second Sight

British Retinis Pigmentosa Society

Sources:BBC NEWS:21st. April,’08

Acrocyanosis

Definition
Acrocyanosis is a decrease in the amount of oxygen delivered to the extremities. The hands and feet turn blue because of the lack of oxygen. Decreased blood supply to the affected areas is caused by constriction or spasm of small blood vessels.

Description
Acrocyanosis is a painless disorder caused by constriction or narrowing of small blood vessels in the skin of affected patients. The spasm of the blood vessels decreases the amount of blood that passes through them, resulting in less blood being delivered to the hands and feet. The hands may be the main area affected. The affected areas turn blue and become cold and sweaty. Localized swelling may also occur. Emotion and cold temperatures can worsen the symptoms, while warmth can decrease symptoms. The disease is seen mainly in women and the effect of the disorder is mainly cosmetic. People with the disease tend to be uncomfortable, with sweaty, cold, bluish colored hands and feet.

CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Causes and symptoms
The sympathetic nerves cause constriction or spasms in the peripheral blood vessels that supply blood to the extremities. The spasms are a contraction of the muscles in the walls of the blood vessels. The contraction decreases the internal diameter of the blood vessels, thereby decreasing the amount of blood flow through the affected area. The spasms occur on a persistent basis, resulting in long term reduction of blood supply to the hands and feet. Sufficient blood still passes through the blood vessels so that the tissue in the affected areas does not starve for oxygen or die. Mainly, blood vessels near the surface of the skin are affected.

Diagnosis
Diagnosis is made by observation of the main clinical symptoms, including persistently blue and sweaty hands and/or feet and a lack of pain. Cooling the hands increases the blueness, while warming the hands decreases the blue color. The acrocyanosis patient’s pulse is normal, which rules out obstructive diseases. Raynaud’s disease differs from acrocyanosis in that it causes white and red skin coloration phases, not just bluish discoloration.

Treatment

There is no standard medical or surgical treatment for acrocyanosis, and treatment, other than reassurance and avoidance of cold, is usually unnecessary. The patient is reassured that no serious illness is present. A sympathectomy would alleviate the cyanosis by disrupting the fibers of the sympathetic nervous system to the area.owever, such an extreme procedure would rarely be appropriate. The same effect could be accomplished with a-adrenergic blocking agents or caclium channel blockers

Acrocyanosis usually isn’t treated. Drugs that block the uptake of calcium (calcium channel blockers) and alpha-one antagonists reduce the symptoms in most cases. Drugs that dilate blood vessels are only effective some of the time. Sweating from the affected areas can be profuse and require treatment. Surgery to cut the sympathetic nerves is performed rarely.

Incidence, Prevalence, and Epidemiology
Although there is no definitive reporting on its incidence, acrocyanosis shows prevalence in children and young adults than in patients thirty years of age or older. Epidemiological data suggests that cold climate, outdoor occupation, and low body mass index are significant risk factors for developing acrocyanosis. As expected, acrocyanosis would be more prevalent in women than in men due to differences in BMI. However, the incidence rate of acrocyanosis often decreases with increasing age, regardless of regional climate. Case reports have found acrocyanosis to be more prevalent in patients with autistic disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome.

Prognosis
Acrocyanosis is a benign and persistent disease. The main concern of patients is cosmetic. Left untreated, the disease does not worsen.

Newborn Considerations
Acrocyanosis is common initially after delivery in the preterm and full term newborn Intervention normally is not required, although hospitals opt to provide supplemental oxygen for precautionary measures.

 

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/acrocyanosis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrocyanosis_%28benign%29

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These Germs Eat Antibiotics for Breakfast


click & see

Harvard researchers have discovered hundreds of germs in soil that literally devour antibiotics, and thrive with the drugs as their sole source of nutrition.

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That bacteria can survive on strange “foods” is no surprise; some bacteria can break down oil spills, for instance. And it’s already known that soil bacteria can withstand some antibiotics.

However, what surprised researchers was that so many bacteria were able to not only survive, but flourish, when fed 18 different, common, antibiotics, some at levels 50 to 100 times higher than would be given to a human patient.

Now scientists are racing to figure out just how the bacteria devour antibiotics, since more dangerous germs that sicken people could potentially develop the same ability, and increase the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bugs.

One silver lining to the discovery, however, is that the germs help to prevent big antibiotic buildups in the soil, despite the widespread use of the drugs for livestock and humans.
Sources:
ABC News April 3, 2008
Science April 4, 2008

The Miracle Berry

 

Imagine an extract from a berry that would make sour things taste sweet and help you lose weight. Then imagine not being allowed to take it.

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The berry makes sour things taste sweet

The world is getting fatter. One billion people are overweight, and 300 million of those are clinically obese.

The search is always on for replacements for those things that, eaten in excess, make us obese – fatty and sugary foods. There is no miracle pill that can replace either. Nearly four decades ago one man came close to providing a tablet that could reduce our love of sugar. In the 1960s, Robert Harvey, a biomedical postgraduate student, encountered the miracle berry, an African fruit which turns sour tastes to sweet.

“You can eat a berry and then bite into a lemon,” says Harvey. “It becomes not only sweeter, but it will be the best lemon you’ve tasted in your life.”

FIND OUT MORE…
The Miracle Berry, presented by Tom Mangold, is on Radio 4 at 2100 BST on 28 April
Or listen again on the BBC iPlayer

More importantly, this “miracle” can be used to manufacture sweet tasting foods without sugar or sweeteners, which have always been plagued by an after-taste.

Spotting the potential health benefits, and the healthy profits, that the miracle berry promised, Harvey founded the Miralin Company to grow the berry in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, extract its active ingredient in laboratories in Hudson, Massachusetts, and market it across the United States. At first, Harvey aimed his products at diabetics.

“In market testing, diabetics thought our product, as the name implies, was a miracle.”

But Harvey’s sweet dream of making the world healthier came to an abrupt end. On the eve of the launch in 1974, the US Food and Drugs Administration unexpectedly turned against the product.

Legal advice and contact with the FDA had led Harvey to believe that the extract from the berry would be allowed under the classification “generally recognised as safe”. Having been eaten for centuries in Africa, without anecdotal reports of problems, it could be assumed not to be harmful.

But the FDA decided it would be considered as an additive which required several years more testing. In the poor economic climate of 1974, this could not be funded and the company folded.

“I was in shock,” says Harvey. “We were on very good terms with the FDA and enjoyed their full support. There was no sign of any problem. Without any opportunity to know what the concern was and who raised it, and to respond to it – they just banned the product.”

He remembers a number of strange events leading up to the FDA’s decision, beginning immediately after one particular market research test.

His investors, including Reynolds Metals, Barclays and Prudential, had put up big money. They were looking for big returns.

“From the beginning my interest was in the diabetic market but my backers wanted to put double zeros after the numbers we were projecting.”

So, in the summer of 1974, miracle berry ice lollies, in four different flavours, were compared to similar, sugar-sweetened versions by schoolchildren in Boston. The berry won every time.

Don Emery, then vice president of the Miralin company, recalls the excitement.

“If we had got beyond the diabetic market we could have been a multi-billion dollar company. We’d have displaced maybe millions of tons of sugar and lots of artificial sweeteners as well.”

A few weeks later, things turned sour. A car was spotted driving back and forwards past Miralin’s offices, slowing down as someone took photographs of the building. Then, late one night, Harvey was followed as he drove home.

“I sped up, then he sped up. I pulled into this dirt access road and turned off my lights and the other car went past the end of the road at a very high speed. Clearly I was being monitored.”

Sugar denial:  Finally, at the end of that summer, Harvey and Emery arrived back at the office after dinner to find they were being burgled. The burglars escaped and were never found, but the main FDA file was left lying open on the floor.

A few weeks later the FDA, which had previously been very supportive, wrote to Miralin, effectively banning its product. No co-incidence, according to Don Emery.

Obesity is a massive problem in the West  :  “I honestly believe that we were done in by some industrial interest that did not want to see us survive because we were a threat. Somebody influenced somebody in the FDA to cause the regulatory action that was taken against us.”

The Sugar Association, the trade body representing “Big Sugar” in the US, declined to be interviewed on the subject but flatly denied that the industry had exerted any influence over the FDA.

The Calorie Control Council, which represents artificial sweetener manufacturers in the US, has failed to respond to questions on the issue.

The Food and Drugs Administration also refused to be interviewed and has indicated that a Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation request to look at the relevant FDA files will not be considered for a year. Robert Harvey had requested the same files over 30 years ago.

“We got back the most redacted information I’ve ever seen from FOI. Everything was blacked out. There would have been material in the file that would have embarrassed the FDA, I believe.”

Faced with this silence, it’s virtually impossible to assess what actually happened to prevent the miracle berry’s progress to a sugar-free market.

But one thing is certain, it never got the chance to prove whether it really would have provided a miracle in our ever fattening world. And for Robert Harvey, that’s the biggest shame of all.

“It was a big loss not only for my employees and shareholders but, even more importantly, for diabetics and other people with special dietary needs. It was tragic.”

CLICK TO KNOW MORE ABOUT : MIRACLE BERRY:
*Also known as “miracle fruit” or Synsepalum dulcificum
*Grown in Africa, first documented in 18th Century
*Acts on the sour receptors of the tongue, turning sour tastes sweet
*Effect lasts 30 mins – two hours
*Effect is destroyed in hot foods – eg coffee and baked foods
*Renders an accompanying dry white wine sickly sweet
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Sources: BBC NEWS:28Th. Aptil ’08