News on Health & Science

Clean Living ‘Slows Cell Ageing’

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Taking more exercise and eating the right foods may help increase levels of an enzyme vital for guarding against age-related cell damage, work suggests.
………………….CLICK & SEE
Among 24 men asked to adopt healthy lifestyle changes for a US study in The Lancet Oncology, levels of telomerase increased by 29% on average.

Telomerase repairs and lengthens telomeres, which cap and protect the ends of chromosomes housing DNA.

As people age, telomeres shorten and cells become more susceptible to dying.

It is the damage and death of cells that causes ageing and disease in people.

Several factors such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with shorter-than-average telomeres.

Professor Dean Ornish, from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California, and his team wanted to find out if improvements in diet and lifestyle might have the opposite effect.

They asked 30 men, all with low-risk prostate cancers, to take part in a three-month trial of comprehensive lifestyle changes.

These consisted of a diet high in fruit and vegetables, supplements of vitamins and fish oils, an exercise regimen and classes in stress management, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.

Telomerase activity was measured at the beginning of the trial and again at the end.

Among the 24 men who had sufficient data for analysis, blood levels of telomerase increased by 29% on average.

Increases in telomerase activity were linked with decreases in “bad” LDL cholesterol and decreases in one measure of stress – intrusive thoughts.

The researchers say it is too early to tell if the boost in telomerase levels will translate to a change in telomere length.

But there is evidence to suggest that telomere shortness and low telomerase activity might be important risk factors for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

“This might be a powerful motivator for many people to beneficially change their diet and lifestyle,” they told The Lancet Oncology.

Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, who has been researching ageing and telomeres, said: “This work builds on what we already know.

“Lifestyle can affect your telomeres. It would be interesting to find out whether it is diet, stress or both that is important.”

“This might be a powerful motivator for many people to beneficially change their diet and lifestyle ”

The study authors

Source: BBC NEWS:15th. Sept. ’08

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Featured Herbs & Plants

Garlic Tales

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Scientists are continuously trying to unvail  the secrets of the garlic, to zero in on what makes the herb so beneficial.

…………………………..CLICK & SEE.

A herb that is a part of almost every Indian kitchen continues to make news. Garlic, or Allium sativum, one of the oldest medicinal herbs known to human beings, is now in laboratories, while scientists look at what makes it so beneficial.

Indeed, garlic seems to possess near-magical health properties. Yet science has not found it an easy herb to understand. Despite tall claims from practitioners of alternative medicine, no one clearly knows how good garlic is and why it is considered to be so beneficial. But now scientists are rapidly unravelling its secrets.

Over the years, people with varying backgrounds have claimed that the bulb is good for controlling blood pressure and reducing cholesterol. It is supposed to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant and anticoagulant properties, apart from a few other benefits. There is now good evidence that most of these claims are true. And scientists have recently discovered new properties as well: it can reduce blood sugar levels, and is thus good for controlling diabetes. Yet conventional wisdom is not always right: it may not, after all, reduce cholesterol.

While evidence on the utility mounts, scientists are also beginning to understand why. For example, garlic’s antioxidant properties have been a mystery to scientists. It has been known to be a powerful antioxidant (a compound that destroys damaging free radicals); in fact a bit too powerful for comfort. It has a compound called allicin that is an antioxidant, but its structure could not explain its power. Till now, that is.

Derek Pratt, professor of chemistry at Queen’s University in Canada, has found out why garlic is so powerful.

A compound akin to allicin is found in other plants of the family alliaceae — such as shallots, onions and leeks. However, none of these plants has garlic’s beneficial powers. This is because the allicin found in garlic breaks down into another compound called sulphenic acid, which rapidly cleans up free radicals in its path. Without this breakdown, allicin cannot be so effective an antioxidant.

“This compound is the most powerful antioxidant known to us,” says Pratt, who published his results last week in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

While its efficacy in dealing with free radicals is now beyond doubt, garlic is probably not so effective in reducing bad cholesterol, the Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL). Several studies on its effect on blood cholesterol led to conflicting results, but one in Stanford University more than a year ago was probably the most conclusive. This six-month-long study found no correlation between consumption of garlic and reduction of LDL. “We are convinced now that garlic does not reduce bad cholesterol,” Christopher Gardner, the Stanford professor who led the research, had told Knowhow soon after publishing the results of the study.

But that does not mean it is not useful in treating high cholesterol. Its antioxidant properties are useful in treating cardiovascular diseases in general, and even for treating high cholesterol. This is because garlic suppresses the oxidation of LDL in the blood. LDL is called bad cholesterol because it sticks to the artery walls and clogs the arteries. However, it is not LDL that actually does the damage but oxidised LDL. Several studies have shown that garlic suppresses oxidation of LDL and thus prevents the formation of plaques in the arteries. It makes bad cholesterol not so bad.

“Garlic does reduce LDL oxidation,” stresses Khalid Rahman, reader in the physiological biochemistry at Liverpool University in the UK, who has conducted several lab and clinical studies on the herb.

There is increasing evidence that it can lower blood pressure, particularly when BP is elevated only mildly. A recent meta-analysis (analysis of all published literature) by scientists at the University of Adelaide showed that it does lower blood pressure. However, the scientists also warn that the evidence is not strong enough to use garlic as the only means of therapy.

These results are from clinical studies, which mean that they have been done on people. The results are equally encouraging in pre-clinical studies done in the laboratory. There, the herb has been shown to be anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant. It may be able to help dissolve clots and improve blood circulation. A few months ago, Japanese scientists (at the RIKEN and other institutions) showed that it could lower blood glucose levels in rats.

The list of beneficial properties is actually lengthening every day, but the topic is not without its controversy either.

This is because there are some studies showing that garlic had no effect on lowering blood pressure or reducing cholesterol, while some others showed that it did do so. This variability, fortunately, is not hard to explain. Scientists explain this contradiction through differences in the duration of the trials, and also on the variability in the properties of garlic. “The factors influencing a clinical study with garlic are difficult to control,” says Pratt.

Although we know that it is beneficial, not all kinds of garlic may act in the same manner. “In my view there is a group of people who are non-responders to garlic, like to any other medication,” says Rahman.

However, garlic has caught the attention of hundreds of scientists throughout the world. We will learn more about this wonder herb in the coming years.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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News on Health & Science

Alternative Medicine is Way Cool, Mom

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Roughly 2.8 million children use herbal remedies, a study suggests. Adults play a key role: Kids are five times more likely to use nontraditional therapies if a parent or other relative did……….CLICK & SEE

Reporting from Atlanta — Just like their parents, kids are taking herbal supplements including fish oil and ginseng, a sign of just how mainstream alternative medicine has become.

More than 1 in 9 children and teens try those remedies and other nontraditional options, the government said Wednesday in its first national study of young people’s use of these mostly unproven treatments.

Given that children are generally healthy, the finding that so many of them use alternative medicine is “pretty amazing,” said one of the study’s authors, Richard Nahin of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The sweeping study suggests about 2.8 million young people use supplements.

Their parents’ practices played a big role. Kids were five times more likely to use alternative therapies if a parent or other relative did. The same study showed that more than a third of adults use alternative treatments, roughly the same as in a 2002 survey.

The researchers used a big umbrella in defining alternative medicine: Acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic care, traditional healing, yoga, Pilates, deep breathing, massage and even dieting were included.

Vitamin and mineral supplements are not considered alternative medicine, nor are prayer or folk medicine practices.

Herbal remedies were the leading type of alternative therapy for both adults and those younger than 18. Among children, such therapies were most often given for head or neck pain, colds and anxiety. Body aches and insomnia were other top reasons they were given alternative therapies, the study found.

Fish oil for hyperactivity and echinacea for colds were the most popular supplements, although there’s no proof such treatments work for those conditions, nor have they been tested in children.

Nahin cited the lack of rigorous scientific testing in declining to call such widespread use harmful or beneficial. Unlike federally regulated medicines, herbal remedies don’t have to be proven safe or effective to be sold. And studies that have been done on them have focused on adults, not children.

But some doctors are troubled that parents may be giving children alternative therapies in place of proven clinical treatments, said Dr. Wallace Sampson, an emeritus clinical professor of medicine at Stanford University.

“The reality is none of these things work, including some of the more popular ones. They’re placebos,” said Sampson, who was a founding editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.

The study was done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is based on a 2007 survey of more than 23,000 adults who were speaking about themselves and more than 9,000 who were speaking on behalf of a child in their household.

Medical doctors need to be careful about attacking alternative medicine because some long-endorsed pharmaceutical products have turned out to be treatment failures, noted Dr. Kathi Kemper, a pediatrician at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

For example, drug makers in October announced they no longer would recommend cough and cold medicines for children younger than 4, acknowledging there is scant evidence that they work in children and that in some cases, they might be dangerous.

“We have a pretty spotty history of being evidence-based ourselves,” said Kemper, who chairs an American Academy of Pediatrics committee on complementary and integrative medicine.

The cough medicine debacle is no rationale for embracing alternative medicine, said Dr. Seth Asser, who consults with a nonprofit organization opposed to faith healing and other religious practices used in lieu of conventional medicine.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said, adding that he believes there’s a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality toward alternative medicine among some doctors and hospital administrators.

There were some differences in how the 2002 and 2007 surveys were done. On the topic of herbal remedies, the 2007 study asked people whether they had used such a product in the previous 30 days, while the 2002 study asked if they had taken it in the last year.

That change may partly explain why adult use of some herbal remedies shifted significantly from 2002 to 2007. For example, echinacea use declined, but most people don’t suffer colds year-round. But news of the scientific failures of some remedies may also have an effect. A rigorous study in 2005 found that echinacea failed to prevent or treat colds.

Fish oil use was up. Some recent studies have suggested it can reduce heart disease risks, protect the eyes and provide other benefits.

“We think the public is listening to this data,” Nahin said.

Sources: Los Angles Times

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Healthy People May Benefit From Statins Too

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In results from an eagerly anticipated study that could dramatically change the treatment of cardiovascular disease, researchers have found that statin drugs — now given to millions of people with high cholesterol — can halve the risk of heart attacks and stroke in seemingly healthy patients as well.

The drugs, currently given to people with high cholesterol, could also reduce risk of heart attacks and strokes for those with normal levels, researchers say. Costs and side effects would have to be w

The study of nearly 18,000 people with normal cholesterol found that the drugs, already among the most widely prescribed in the country, also lowered the risk of death from heart disease by 20%, suggesting that millions more people should be put on a daily regimen.

The effects were so beneficial that the planned four-year study was halted after less than two years, researchers said today at a New Orleans meeting of the American Heart Assn.

“These are very, very dramatic findings,” said Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Nabel, who was not involved in the research, noted that the institute already had an expert panel revising guidelines for treatment and prevention of heart disease and that the new results were likely to be included in their recommendations.

The revision would most likely call for testing a wide range of healthy people with a simple blood test for above-normal levels of a compound called C-reactive protein, which indicates increased arterial inflammation that can be treated with statins.

The new study focused on a specific drug — rosuvastatin, sold as Crestor by drug maker AstraZeneca, which funded the research.

But Dr. Tim Gardner of the Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, Del., and president of the American Heart Assn., said, “This is likely to be a class effect, not a specific drug effect. This is a win for all statins, I would say.”

The new treatment could prevent 50,000 heart attacks, strokes and deaths each year if it were widely adopted, experts said.

The findings “really change what we are going to do in the future,” said Dr. W. Douglas Weaver of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, president of the American College of Cardiology. “This targets a patient group that normally would not be screened or treated to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

Critics, however, charged that such wide use would cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $9 billion a year at a time when healthcare costs are climbing dramatically and could expose large numbers of people to potential side effects. Crestor is one of the most expensive statins, costing about $3.45 a day, but generic statins typically sell for less than $1.

About 120 people would have to take the drugs for two years to prevent one heart attack, stroke or death, Dr. Mark Hlatky of Stanford University wrote in an editorial accompanying the report, which was published online today by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Nonetheless, the findings will most likely be widely adopted soon, Gardner said. “It will be incorporated into practice guidelines after all the nuances are sorted out,” he said.

Statins, first introduced in 1987, block the production of cholesterol in the liver. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart attacks and stroke because it contributes to the buildup of plaque that blocks arteries, preventing oxygenated blood from reaching the heart and brain.

An estimated 450,000 Americans die of heart disease each year and an additional 150,000 from strokes.

More than 13 million Americans take statins regularly, and worldwide sales total more than $22 billion a year, the bulk of that in the United States.

But doctors have long been mystified by the fact that about half of heart attacks occur in patients with normal cholesterol levels and researchers have been looking for other important risk factors.

Three years ago, Dr. Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and his colleagues studied results from clinical trials in which statins had been used to treat high cholesterol levels and concluded that, in addition to their cholesterol-lowering ability, the drugs also reduced arterial inflammation, which can lead to the buildup of plaque.

The finding was part of a series of studies that showed statins have a number of beneficial effects beyond their ability to reduce cholesterol. Several reports have shown that they also help prevent glaucoma and cataracts and inhibit dementia. Others suggest that they also moderate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and increase bone density. These benefits may be related to their ability to reduce inflammation.

C-reactive protein, or CRP, has long been associated with inflammation. Very high levels of CRP are associated with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. But slightly elevated levels — about a hundredth of the levels seen in arthritis — have been linked to inflammation in the arteries that causes cardiovascular diseases.

In the new trial, called Jupiter, Ridker and his colleagues studied 17,802 patients with normal cholesterol levels and elevated CRP, as measured by a test called high-sensitivity CRP, which Ridker and his hospital hold the patent on.

Men in the study were over 50, women were over 60. About 7,000 of the patients were women and 5,000 were minorities — both groups that have not received much attention in previous statin trials.

Half of the patients received 20 milligrams of rosuvastatin and half a placebo. “We specifically chose rosuvastatin because it is the most potent of the statins,” said Ridker, who has worked as a consultant to AstraZeneca and other pharmaceutical companies. “We got very large effects on both [cholesterol] and CRP.”

Low-density lipoproteins, the so-called bad cholesterol, were reduced by 50%, and CRP was reduced by 37%.

Patients receiving rosuvastatin had a 54% lower risk of a heart attack, a 48% lower risk of stroke and a 46% lower risk of requiring either angioplasty or bypass surgery, Ridker said.

There were 136 heart-related problems a year for every 10,000 people taking the placebo compared with 77 for those taking rosuvastatin. “This is very good news for these populations,” Ridker said.

The primary side effect was a slight increase in newly diagnosed diabetes among those taking the drug, an increase that has also been noted in previous trials of statins.

“This will become an important part of the armamentarium of the primary care doctor,” Weaver said. “I see this as being part of that panel of preventions that they will be applying in men over 50 and women over 60.”

The CRP test costs about $80.

Dr. James Stein and Dr. Jon Keevil of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, estimate that about 4% of the adult U.S. population, about 7.4 million people, fit the criteria to receive the test.

Sources: Los Angles Times

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How to Live Till a 100

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Want to live till 100 years of age? Well, do regular exercises, be married, wash hands and brush your teeth everyday.


That’s what a new book, ‘The Long Life Equation’, by Dr Trisha Macnair suggests. In the book, the author has listed activities that add years to your life.

Macnair said washing your hands adds two years, and good dental hygiene can add six more years in your life.

But smoking, fast food, no exercise and a stressful life can strip away 20 years.

“There’s no doubt younger people take life and health for granted – more than any generation before, they idle time away watching TV or playing computer games, ignoring the activities that keep them healthy or develop meaning in their lives,” Courier Mail quoted Macnair, as saying.

“As we get older and start to feel the years slipping away, we suddenly realise how precious it is.

“But by then we may have already established habits (smoking, drinking, obesity, lack of exercise, stressful occupations) which take their toll and are difficult to reverse.

“Still, it’s never too late to change. Also, our attitudes to older age are changing so there is more freedom now to do things later in life if we are healthy and able,” she added.

A 2006 study from University of California in Los Angeles showed that men and women live healthier, wealthier, happier and longer lives when they are in a stable partnership

The study confirmed that married couples were more likely to live to an old age than their divorced, widowed or unmarried counterparts.

A stable partnership can actually add on seven years to life.

Regular exercise also adds as much as two or more years to your life.

A Harvard Alumni Study, which took into account more than 71,000 men who had graduated from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania between 1916 and 1954, found that those men who regularly burned 8400kJ a week while exercising lived, on average, two years longer than sedentary types.

But cigarette smoking can actually reduce 8 years from your life

Tobacco smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, many of which are highly toxic.

A divorce can also strip away 3 years from your life, as it takes longer-lasting, emotional and physical toll on former spouses than virtually any other life stress.

Recent studies indicate that divorced adults have higher rates of emotional disturbance, accidental death and death from heart disease.

The divorced also have higher rates of admission to psychiatric facilities and make more visits to doctors than people who are married, single or widowed.

Sources: The Times Of India

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