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Call for Mandatory Salt Curbs

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Forcing food manufacturers to cut salt levels in processed food could help cut heart disease rates, claim Australian researchers.

A high salt food is bad for health

A theoretical study suggests mandatory salt limits could help reduce heart disease rates by 18% – far more than by using existing voluntary measures.

High-salt diets are linked to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Adults are advised to consume a maximum of 6g of salt a day – about a teaspoon.

The study looked at the effectiveness of different strategies around the world for reducing salt in processed foods.

Many countries, including Finland, the US, the UK, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand, have adopted salt reduction programmes based on food labelling and voluntary cuts.

Australia uses a “Tick” programme, where food manufacturers can use a health promotion logo on packaging if they volunteer to cut salt content.

The team calculated that voluntary use of the logo could reduce heart disease rates in Australia by almost 1% – more than twice that of dietary advice alone.

But if all manufacturers were made to use the logo, the health benefits could be 20 times greater, they predict.

“If corporate responsibility fails, maybe there is an ethical justification for government to step in and legislate,” the authors, led by Linda Cobiac, of the University of Queensland, write in the journal Heart.

A UK heart charity said voluntary measures placed on food companies in the UK had made a difference but more could be done.

Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We’re making progress without the need for compulsory limits and as a result we’ve seen a reduction in salt intake.

“But as three quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, we need to build on this work and watch carefully to make sure the food industry doesn’t slip back into old habits.”

Katharine Jenner of Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) said the UK had pioneered a voluntary approach where all food sectors reduce the amount of salt they put in food.

“This cost-effective approach has been very successful and has already led to population average salt intakes falling by 10%,” she said.

Source
:BBC News

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Second Time Dengu Attack Spells Danger

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Scientists now know why a second dengue infection is much more severe than the first.
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The long-kept secrets of the dengue virus — which affects between 50 and 100 million people every year — are tumbling out.

Scientists have long wondered why a re-infection (in the same or subsequent year) causes more complications, even becoming fatal, than when it strikes the first time. The puzzle has been finally solved — by two independent research teams. The knowledge gained by the scientists is expected to help design drugs and vaccines against dengue fever, which currently has no treatment.

Normally, viruses — which have very little genetic material of their own — co-opt the host’s genetic machinery to survive and replicate. More often than not, if the host has an efficient immune system, the invaders are destroyed. In most cases, the antibodies produced by the body stay for long, if not permanently, and fight off any subsequent attack by the same virus. But in the case of dengue, the second infection proves to be much more severe than the first.

Back in the 1970s, US virologist Scott Halstead hypothesised that the dengue virus may be receiving help from the very antibodies that are supposed to fight the infection. Halstead termed the phenomenon antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of infection. He got an inkling of this during his extensive clinical studies in Thailand in the 1960s.

For a good part of the ensuing four decades, Halstead’s assumption remained mere theory. But in February this year, Sujan Shresta, a Nepal-born virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology in California, came up with conclusive proof for Halstead’s hypothesis. “It’s a situation where antibodies can be bad for you — it’s counter to everything we know about the normal function of antibodies,” she says.

Dengue infection is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. There are four known strains of the virus circulating in the world. Infection can cause diseases ranging from dengue fever, a flu-like illness, to the severest form — dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome. The latter can cause the blood vessels to leak, leading to life-threatening shock. It is estimated that 2.5 billion people — that is, two-fifth of the world’s population — live in regions where dengue fever is rampant. While it is more common in South East Asia and South America, the incidence is rising in India too. Since 1996, the country had witnessed a number of dengue outbreaks and a few hundred Indians die of dengue-related complications every year.

Shresta’s team at La Jolla developed the first ever mouse model to study the disease. The scientists conducted experiments to prove that certain antibodies produced by the body against the virus indeed exacerbate the condition. The four strains of the virus circulate simultaneously, says Shresta. Infection with one provides lifelong immunity against that particular strain. In subsequent infections, where a different strain of the virus is involved, the antibodies do not recognise enough of the virus to neutralise it. “This starts a cascade of unusual molecular events — the ADE process — which leads to the antibodies contributing to, rather than fighting, the infection,” she explains.

Taking the research forward, a team of UK and Thai scientists identified specific antibodies involved in the ADE process. The study, reported early this month in the journal Science, showed that the culprits are antibodies against a particular viral protein called precursor membrane protein (prM). According to the researchers, if the antibodies are present in the body, the infection spreads faster with the antibodies against prM helping the virus infect more host cells. In fact, there is a several hundred-fold increase in the number of infected cells in the presence of the antibodies, they say.

“This is a significant piece of work. It shows the exact region for the enhancement — which is the prM, and not the E region of the virus, as we have been thinking so long,” says Shamala Devi Sekaran, a virologist at the University of Malaysia who has been studying the dengue virus for years.

“The study pinpoints the nature of the antibodies that are likely to cause the severest form of the disease in humans,” says Shresta. It will greatly help those trying to develop vaccines against dengue, she adds.

“Our research gives us some key information about what is not likely to work when trying to combat the virus. We hope our findings will bring scientists one step closer to creating an effective vaccine,” says Gavin Screaton, head of medicine, Imperial College London, and lead author of the study.

The biggest challenge is that the dengue vaccine will need to provide immunity against all the four strains of the virus at the same time. “If protection is incomplete, the vaccine can potentially protect against some viruses but leave the individual primed for a more severe outcome if he or she is infected with the others,” Screaton told Knowhow.

In addition to these developments, there have been two recent breakthroughs in controlling the dengue mosquito. Oxford University scientists developed sterile male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which have undergone successful semi-field trials in Asia. And scientists at the University of Queensland developed a mutant strain of a bacterium called Wolbachia, which halves the adult life span of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in laboratory conditions.


Source:
The Teleghraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Oxygen Heals Foot Wounds in Diabetics

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Scientists have claimed that oxygen treatment can help diabetics heal foot wounds and avoid lower limb amputation...

Every 30 seconds a person somewhere in the world loses a lower limb to amputation due to diabetic foot disease. Now, an international team has found in their study that oxygen can heal the debilitating wounds that plague people with diabetes.

In their study, the scientists have modelled the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which is the intermittent exposure of the body to pure oxygen under pressure, to heal the chronic wounds that lead to the need for amputation.

Jennifer Flegg of Queensland University of Technology, who led the team, said a small cut on the foot of a diabetic could have catastrophic effects because their wounds did not heal the same way as normal wounds.

Source: The Times Of India

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Red Wine Beneficial for Health

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A polyphenol present in red wine, called resveratrol, has been found to have a large number of health benefits for drinkers, say researchers.
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Red wine contains a complex mixture of bioactive compounds, including flavonols, monomeric and polymeric flavan-3-ols, highly coloured anthocyanins, as well as phenolic acids and the stilbene polyphenol, resveratrol.

Lindsay Brown, an associate professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland and corresponding author for the study, says that some of these compounds, particularly resveratrol, appear to have health benefits.

“The breadth of benefits is remarkable – cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more,” said Brown.

“It has long been a question as to how such a simple compound could have these effects but now the puzzle is becoming clearer with the discovery of the pathways, especially the sirtuins, a family of enzymes that regulate the production of cellular components by the nucleus. ‘Is resveratrol the only compound with these properties?’ This would seem unlikely, with similar effects reported for other components of wine and for other natural products such as curcumin. However, we know much more about resveratrol relative to these other compounds,” he said.

One of the main points of the review included that resveratrol exhibits therapeutic potential for cancer chemoprevention as well as cardioprotection.

“It sounds contradictory that a single compound can benefit the heart by preventing damage to cells, yet prevent cancer by causing cell death. The most likely explanation for this, still to be rigorously proved in many organs, is that low concentrations activate survival mechanisms of cells while high concentrations turn on the in-built death signals in these cells,” said Brown.

The study suggests that resveratrol may aid in the prevention of age-related disorders, such as neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

“The simplest explanation is that resveratrol turns on the cell’s own survival pathways, preventing damage to individual cells. Further mechanisms help, including removing very reactive oxidants in the body and improving blood supply to cells,” said Brown.

The researchers also said that low doses of resveratrol could improve cell survival as a mechanism of cardio- and neuro-protection, while high doses increase cell death.

“The key difference is probably the result of activation of the sirtuins in the nucleus. Low activation reverses age-associated changes, while high activation increases the process of apoptosis or programmed cell death to remove cellular debris. Similar changes are seen with low-dose versus high-dose resveratrol: low-dose resveratrol produces cellular protection and reduces damage, while high-dose resveratrol prevents cancers,” said Brown.

She concluded that current scientific research is starting to explain reports from the last 200 years that drinking red wine improves health.

However, the researchers added that low to moderate drinking, especially of red wine, appears to reduce all causes of mortality, while too much drinking causes multiple organ damage.

The findings will be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

 

Source: The Times Of India

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Bacteria, Man’s New Ally Against Mosquito

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The research, described in Friday’s issue of Science, illustrates a new strategy of biological warfare against this species of mosquitoes that transmits viruses that cause dengue fever and chikungunya, among other infections.

…….Biological War-

The scientists at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, have shown that mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia live an average of only 27 days in contrast to the average longevity of 61 days for those not infected with the bacteria…..CLICK & SEE

Female mosquitoes infected with the bacteria transmit it to their offspring. “This may allow a small seed population of infected mosquitoes to grow into large numbers over time,” Scott ’Neill, the research team leader, told The Telegraph.

The shortened lives of the infected mosquitoes reduce their opportunity to spread disease-causing viruses. Most viruses transmitted by mosquitoes require about two weeks to incubate inside the insects before they are ready to be spread through bites. Mosquitoes whose life spans have been slashed by half won’t have enough time to spread the infection.

The vertical transmission of Wolbachia from female mosquitoes to offspring will be the key to successful spread of the infected mosquitoes, ’Neill said.

Experiments by ’Neill and his colleagues showed that 99 per cent of larvae from a group of infected females carried the infection.

But the experiments were done in closed environments and scientists are yet to develop an effective mechanism to introduce such infected mosquitoes in the wild.

“Modelling studies suggest that if we can infect about 0.4 per cent of mosquitoes, the infected population will establish itself,” ’Neill said.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)