News on Health & Science

The colour brown

It’s not just the fibre and vitamins; wholegrain brown rice has a compound that may protect you from high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

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Replacing that familiar mound of white on your plate with a brown variety may do a world of good to your heart. Nutritionists have known for a while that brown rice is healthier, and been exhorting rice eaters to choose the wholegrain brown type instead of polished white ones. Brown rice, they said, is rich in certain minerals and vitamins and dietary fibre, which are lost in white rice following milling and polishing.

But that’s not the end of its goodness, it now emerges. A recent study by a team of US and Japanese scientists points to the “clinical significance” of brown rice. The researchers have found that brown rice contains a compound — which is, however, yet to be isolated and identified — that offers protection against high blood pressure and cardiovascular ailments. The compound is located in a layer surrounding the grain, called subaleurone layer, which is stripped off when the milled grain is polished to a shine. This layer lies between the white centre of the grain and the brown fibrous outer layer, and is abundant in certain beneficial carbohydrates and dietary fibre. It also accounts for a good measure of nutrients such as magnesium and iron, and vitamins like niacin, vitamin B1 and vitamin B6.

More significantly, the scientists found that a new milling process developed by a Japanese firm three years ago allows the rice to retain the subaleurone layer. Thisrice, available only in Japan, has a golden tinge and appears similar to brown rice, but tastes more like white rice as it is not tough and chewy like the other.

The scientists, led by Satoru Eguchi of the Cardiovascular Research Center at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, found that when an extract of subaleurone compounds dissolved in ethyl acetate was applied to vascular smooth muscle cells cultured in a dish, it inhibited the activity of angiotensin II, a hormone strongly implicated in hypertension and atherosclerosis. Vascular smooth muscle cells are typical cells found in the walls of blood vessels. Their contraction and relaxation in tune with the local blood pressure and blood volume is responsible for the distribution of blood to different organs in the body. Excessive constriction of smooth muscle cells in normal blood vessels leads to hypertension, while in the case of heart muscles it leads to a hardening of the arteries.

“We strongly believe the compound may be present in all rice varieties (including those consumed in India), even though its strength may vary,” says Eguchi.

The researchers say that the compound apparently inhibits the production of angiotensin II by interfering with the body’s signalling mechanism that orders its conversion from angiotensin I, which is relatively harmless. Many modern drugs for blood pressure already target enzymes that trigger the production of angiotensin II.

“Our research suggests that there is a potential ingredient in rice that may be a good starting point for looking into preventive medicine for cardiovascular diseases,” says Eguchi. Such health benefits may accrue if half-milled or brown rice is included in the diet, he adds.

“Studies in the past have only partly answered what the mechanism behind this is. The particular compound which offers the benefit is yet to be identified,” Eguchi told KnowHow. The Japan-born scientist, who has been studying the beneficial effects of the subaleurone layer of rice for the last three years, says work is on to identify the compound and elucidate its chemical composition.

“This is an interesting find,” says Kanwaljit Chopra, associate professor at the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Punjab University, Chandigarh. “The study indicates the possibility of a promising drug molecule from rice for cardiovascular protection.” Chopra herself has worked on a compound called tocotrienol, which is abundant in rice and oil palm and has shown that it may have potential benefits for people suffering from diabetes-related kidney problems.

“Angiotensin II is a big villain when it comes to atherosclerosis,” she says. The Punjab University professor, however, feels there is a need for the scientists to identify the compound and repeat similar results in animals and humans before claiming that the study is a success.

Another study by a team of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health last year had shown that eating two servings of brown rice every week lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 16 per cent. The research, led by Qi Sun — who subsequently moved to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston — showed that dietary fibre, found abundantly in brown rice, helps deter diabetes by slowing the rush of sugar into the blood stream.

White rice comparison:
Brown rice and white rice have similar amounts of calories, carbohydrates, and protein. The main differences between the two forms of rice lie in processing and nutritional content.

When only the outermost layer of a grain of rice (the husk) is removed, brown rice is produced. To produce white rice, the next layers underneath the husk (the bran layer and the germ) are removed, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm.

Several vitamins and dietary minerals are lost in this removal and the subsequent polishing process. A part of these missing nutrients, such as vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and iron are sometimes added back into the white rice making it “enriched”, as food suppliers in the US are required to do by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

One mineral not added back into white rice is magnesium; one cup (195 g) of cooked long grain brown rice contains 84 mg of magnesium while one cup of white rice contains 19 mg.

When the bran layer is removed to make white rice, the oil in the bran is also removed. Rice bran oil may help lower LDL cholesterol.

Among other key sources of nutrition lost are small amounts of fatty acids and fiber.

You may click to see:Neutrition facts & analysis of brown rice

This leaves no room for doubt that brown is better.

Source : The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Why Scratching Brings Relief ?

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Oh, it brings such blessed relief and now scientists can tell you why   scratching an itch temporarily shuts off areas in the brain linked with unpleasant feelings and memories.

click & see

“Our study shows for the first time how scratching may relieve itch,” Dr Gil Yosipovitch, a dermatologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said in a statement.

Prior studies have shown that pain, including vigorous scratching, inhibit the need to itch. Yosipovitch and colleagues looked at what goes on in the brain when a person is scratched.

He and colleagues used a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging to see which areas of the brain are active during scratching. They scratched 13 healthy people with a soft brush on the lower leg on and off in 30-second intervals for a total of five minutes.

Scratching reduced activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex — areas linked with pain aversion and memory. And the more intensely a person was scratched, the less activity they found in these areas of the brain.

“It’s possible that scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about relief,” Yosipovitch said. But they also found why one scratch often begets another.

Scratching increased activity in the secondary somatosensory cortex, a pain center, and in the prefrontal cortex, which is linked with compulsive behaviour.

“This could explain the compulsion to continue scratching,” Yosipovitch said. The researchers noted that the study is limited because people were not scratching in response to an actual itch.

But they said understanding what goes on in the brain may lend clues about how to treat people tormented by chronic itch, including people with eczema and many kidney dialysis patients. The study, which appears online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, was paid for by the National Institutes of Health.

Sources: The Times Of India

Health Alert

Being Fat Starts Early

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When you think of a 3-year-old, the words “obese” and “overweight” probably do not come to mind.
But this may be the age when many children’s problems with weight begin, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study by Rachel Kimbro and her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin in Madison looked at nearly 2,300 urban low-income families.
They found that 35 percent of the 3-year-olds studied were overweight or obese. In addition, Hispanic children were twice as likely as either black or white children to be overweight or obese, suggesting ethnic differences play a big part in childhood obesity.
“There are very few studies of obesity in children this young,” said Gary Foster, director of the obesity research center at Temple University School of Medicine. “This study is very important.”
Foster said the study addresses some of the factors that put children at risk for obesity at such a young age. “We have known for a long time that obesity is disproportionately related to income,” he said. “The poorer you are, the more likely that you are obese.”

Among the other child obesity risk factors suggested by the study are high birth weight, taking a bottle to bed and whether or not a child’s mother is obese.

But researchers were not able to fully explain all of the differences. For example, the differences in childhood obesity rates between racial groups could not be entirely blamed on economic status, overall health or parenting habits, the study said.

No Need for Alarm, Some Experts Say
Other experts argue that the study results are not new and just confirm previous data.
“The finding that we can identify different prevalence rate of obesity in different ethnic groups is not particularly surprising,” said Dr. Darwin Deen, professor of family and social medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “It correlates well with other data that have shown the same thing.
“The bigger question is whether 3-year-olds in certain ethnic groups are more likely to remain obese as they get older.”

While the idea of overweight and obese 3-year-olds is a concern, experts said a majority of children who are overweight at this age outgrow it.

“The 3 to 5 age group is not predictive of being obese as an adult,” said Deen. “It’s more the older group such as adolescents [that predicts adult obesity].”

But while parents should not necessarily be alarmed if their child is on the heavy side, they should realize the need to change the way they are feeding their child.

Many Parents Overfeed Their Children
“The bottom line is that you can’t become overweight without an energy imbalance,” said Foster. “And the easiest way is by an imbalance on the intake side.
“It’s much easier to increase intake by 500 calories than it is to increase your activity by that much.”
Foster said the study findings suggest parents should pay more attention to both the quantity and the quality of food they feed their kids.

And at the earliest ages, breast-feeding seems to be of utmost importance.
“Breast-feeding is extraordinarily important,” Deen said. “It’s one of the things that plays an important role in preventing obesity.
“This does not mean that most formula-fed babies will become obese or that formula shouldn’t be used, but breast-feeding is sort of tailor-made for the child.”
Monitoring the child’s calorie intake, whether from breast milk or formula, is also important to maintain a healthy weight.
Deen explained that while the study also raises some important concerns about racial differences, it does not change the overall approach to obesity.
“What we are talking about are moderate prevalence rate differences among different ethnic groups,” he said. “I don’t think it helps me much as a practitioner if I know that one group of my patients has more obesity than another group.
“When I have a patient in front of me, my advice about healthy choices remains the same, regardless of what their race is.”
Deen added that as rates of childhood obesity rise, changing kids’ behavior towards food will become more and more crucial.

“I think we need to worry because there clearly is an epidemic of childhood obesity in the country,” said Deen.
The take-home message from this study should be that what we do with children, even in the early years of life, has an impact on their future.”

Source:ABC News