Preventing Colds May be Easy

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Fluff up the pillows and pull up the covers. Preventing the common cold may be as easy as getting more sleep. Researchers paid healthy  adults $800 to have cold viruses sprayed up their noses, then wait five days in a hotel to see if they got sick. Habitual eight-hour sleepers were much less likely to get sick than those who slept less than seven hours or slept fitfully.

“The longer you sleep, the better off you are, the less susceptible you are to colds,” said lead author Sheldon Cohen, who studies the effects of stress on health at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University.

Prior research has suggested that sleep boosts the immune system at the cell level. This is the first study to show small sleep disturbances increasing the risk of getting sick, said Dr. Michael Irwin, who researches immune response at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The message is to maintain regular sleep habits because those are really critical for health,” Irwin said.

The people who slept less than seven hours a night in the weeks before they were exposed to the virus were three times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept eight hours or more. To find willing cold victims, researchers placed ads and recruited 78 men and 75 women, all healthy and willing to go one-on-one against the virus. They ranged in age from 21 to 55.

First, their sleep habits were recorded for two weeks. Every evening, researchers interviewed them by phone about their sleep the night before. Subjects were asked what time they went to bed, what time they got up, how much time they spent awake during the night and if they felt rested in the morning.

Then they checked into a hotel where the virus was squirted up their noses. After five days, the virus had done its work, infecting 135 of the 153 volunteers. But only 54 people got sick. Researchers measured their runny noses by weighing their used tissues. They tested for congestion by squirting dye in the subjects’ noses to see how long it took to get to the back of their throats.

Surprisingly, feeling rested was not linked to staying well. Cohen said he’s not sure why that is, other than feeling rested is more subjective than recalling bedtime and wake-up time. The researchers took into account other factors that make people more susceptible such as stress, smoking and drinking, and lack of exercise, and they still saw a connection between sleep and resisting a cold.

Dr Daniel Buysse, a sleep researcher at the University of Pittsburgh said, “Spending too much time in bed can lead to more interrupted sleep, which in this study “seems to be even worse than short sleep” for increasing the risk of catching a cold.”

Sources:The Times Of India

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A Calculus Affair

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Roundworms seem to be indulging in some serious mathematical calculations in their hunt for food, find scientists.

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In their search for food, tiny roundworms — no larger than a few centimetres — appear to be engaging in a bit of senior school mathematics. A team of US-based researchers has found that two distinct cells in the brains of roundworms make up a specialised, miniature computer that guides the worm’s food-finding behaviour through functions that mimic calculus.

Biologist Shawn Lockery at the University of Oregon and his colleagues have shown how the two cells work in tandem to guide a worm towards food. The researchers believe that the computational mechanism that occurs in the roundworm’s brain is similar to what drives a person to the aroma of a meal in the making in the kitchen. Their findings appeared last week in the journal Nature.

“We’ve discovered a tiny, specialised computer inside the primitive roundworm,” said Lockery. “The computer calculates the rate of change of the strengths or concentrations of various tastes.” The analysis of the rate of change is done by a process called differentiation — a key element of calculus, a mathematical discipline typically introduced in senior school.

“The worm uses this information to find food and avoid poisons,” said Lockery, who had first predicted the existence of such a mechanism in the roundworm brain in 1999 after observing how the worms change directions based on taste and smell.

The two neurons make up the antagonistic sensory cues (ASE) system, and function just as two nostrils or two eyes. The left neuron controls an on switch, while the right neuron controls an off switch.

In their experiments, the researchers exposed the roundworms to salt and pepper. They showed that the left neuron is active when the worms move forward, and the right neuron is active when the worms begin a turn or searching motion.

The scientists reasoned that artificial activation of the left neuron ought to make the worms move straight ahead, while activation of the right neuron would make them turn to find something, or avoid something. That’s exactly what their experiments with pepper have revealed. Which way a roundworm turns will depend on which neuron has been turned on.

Researchers believe the finding could help research aimed at the treatment of people who have problems involving smell or taste. But that’s a long-term goal. For now, it’s just an insight into how even roundworms do some calculus.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Blood Group For Lower Malaria Risk


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The most common blood type in Indians seems to provide better protection against the most deadly form of malaria. British scientists have found that people with blood group O – around 38% of the Indian population – are naturally protected from some of the most severe forms of the disease, which kills around two million people annually across the globe……  & see

A team from Edinburgh University, with researchers in the US, Mali and Kenya, studied African children and found that those with this blood type were two-thirds less likely to experience coma or life-threatening anaemia conditions synonymous with severe malaria.

This discovery now brings hope of developing drugs which mimic the properties of red cells. In fatal malaria, it is often found that red blood cells infected by parasites block blood vessels which supply oxygen to the brain.

The malarial parasites arm the blood cells  surface with proteins which stick to blood vessel walls. O and B are the commonest blood group among Indians. Nearly 32% of north Indians and 38% south Indians have O blood group.

“The finding that red cells present in O group blood play the major role in preventing malaria from worsening is a significant finding for India. Blood is made of antigens or proteins, some of which show protection against certain diseases. Why that occurs has not been scientifically proven yet but statistically, they have shown significant protection rates,” blood safety specialist Dr Debasish Gupta said.

Edinburgh University’s Dr Alex Rowe, whose finding was published in the journal ‘PNAS’ on Tuesday, said, “This explains why some people are less likely to suffer from life-threatening malaria than others and tells us that if we can develop a drug to reduce rosetting and mimic the effect of being blood group O, we may reduce the number of children dying from severe malaria.”

The scientists found that malaria parasites recruit healthy RBCs to stick to the parasite, encasing the infected RBC inside a so-called rosette. It makes the blockage, and the disease, worse.

However, the team’s findings suggest that group O RBCs do not easily join rosettes as the cells surface structure prevents it from sticking. The study suggests that reduced rosetting of malaria parasites is the reason why people with group O blood are less likely to suffer severe malaria.

ABO blood group types were assessed on 567 blood samples from Malian children. We found that blood group O was present in only 21% of the severe malaria cases compared to 45% of other blood groups. Rosetting was shown to be significantly lower in parasite isolates from patients with blood group O compared to non-O blood groups,” the study said.

Source: The Times Of India

Suppliments our body needs


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What is iron?

Iron is an important trace mineral found in every cell of the body, usually in combination with protein. Depending on the level of iron in the body, it can act either as an antioxidant, or it can stimulate the formation of free radicals.

Why do you need it?

Iron is an essential nutrient because it is a vital part of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all body cells. Iron is essential to the formation of hemoglobin and myoglobin, which carries the oxygen in the blood and muscles. It makes up part of many proteins and enzymes in the body.

How much iron should you take?

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron is as follows:

* Adult men: between 10-12 milligrams/day
* Adult women: 15 milligrams/day
* Children aged 7-10: 10 milligrams/day
* Infants: 10 milligrams/day
* Pregnant/lactating women: 30 milligrams/day

What are some good sources of iron?

Red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes and fortified cereals are all good sources of iron. Other sources include oysters, dried fruits, molasses, and dark, leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach.

The best food sources of easily absorbed iron are animal products. Iron from vegetables, fruits, grains, and supplements is harder for the body to absorb. Mixing lean meat, fish, or poultry with beans or dark leafy greens at a meal can improve absorption of vegetable sources of iron up to three times. Foods rich in vitamin C also increase iron absorption.

What can happen if you don’t get enough iron?

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. Deficiency occurs in the form of iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency and anemia can occur during periods of rapid growth, during pregnancy, and among women who are menstruating more than usual. It can be associated with any type of intestinal loss of blood, frequent donation of blood, or from the inability to absorb iron efficiently. Initial symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are fatigue and lack of energy. Dizziness, weight loss, headaches and lowered immunity can also occur.

What can happen if you take too much?

Iron toxicity rarely develops from an increased intake of dietary iron alone; however, increased intake of iron supplements may lead to toxicity. Symptoms include fatigue, anorexia, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, weight loss, shortness of breath, and possibly a grayish color to the skin.