• Meditation really reduces stress

    Everyone knows that mindfulness meditation makes people calmer and reduces feelings of anxiety and stress, but the effect is also physical, and biomarkers are changing as well. Meditators produce fewer stress hormones and inflammatory responses when they’re in a stressful situation, researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Centre have discovered. By comparison, people who go on stress management courses are actually seeing their stress hormones increase.

    The two approaches have been tested on 89 people with general anxiety disorder, which involves chronic and excessive worrying and affects around 7 million Americans every year. Half took an eight-week mindfulness course, and the rest spent the time at stress management education sessions. The management courses focused on good nutrition and healthy sleeping habits. All the participants took a stress test before and after the sessions had finished, which included blood tests for biomarkers and signs of inflammation. Those who had undergone the management course showed small increases in both markers, suggesting their response to stress was worse, while the markers in the meditation group had dropped dramatically.

    The meditators also reported that they were better able to deal with stressful situations. The researchers want to test mindfulness on other psychiatric conditions, and to compare it against standard psychiatric drugs.

    Source: Psychiatry Research, 2017;

  • Fever? Eat more nutritious food

    We’re always told to feed a cold and starve a fever, but that may not always be the best advice. An infection can spread if we don’t eat, for example, researchers have discovered this week. Although eating less when we’re ill can sometimes help achieve a faster recovery, a loss of appetite when we have an infection is a biological ‘trick’ that allows bacteria to spread. Instead, eating some nutritious foods when we have an infection can reduce its severity and recovery time, say researchers from the Salk Institute.

    They tracked the health of laboratory mice that had been infected with Salmonella bacteria, and discovered that the natural loss of appetite helped the bacteria spread from the intestines to other tissues. By comparison, mice fed extra calories lived longer. The discovery could lead to [highlight]new ways of tackling bacterial infections that don’t rely on antibiotics.[/highlight] The timing couldn’t be better: around 2 million Americans are each year infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and around 23,000 of these die as a result.

    Source: Cell, 2017; 168 (3): 503 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.01.006

  • Guided imagery can help with pain, anxiety and insomnia

    Guided imagery can help people overcome pain, anxiety and insomnia, especially when they’re in hospital. That, coupled with massage, is an inexpensive and effective therapy, say researchers.

    Significant improvements
    A simple 30-minute recording had a dramatic effect on the 288 patients who listened to it when they were in hospital. They reported ‘significant improvements’ in levels of pain, anxiety and insomnia, researchers from the Beaumont Health System in the US discovered.

    Swedish massage
    They used guided imagery alongside Swedish massage, which involved hand and foot or scalp and neck massages. The massages halved the pain score reported by the patients, and 80 per cent said their pain had decreased, and their anxiety levels dropped dramatically.

    Guided imagery achieved similar results, with 80 per cent of the patients saying they had been helped. Guided imagery is a meditation technique that uses positive messages and symbols to help people overcome problems.

    Source: Critical Care Nurse, 2017 Feb;37(1):62-69. doi: 10.4037/ccn2017282

  • Vitamin C cuts sepsis death rate by 500 per cent

    Intravenous (IV) vitamin C can counter the deadly effects of sepsis (blood poisoning), which kills up to 60 per cent of sufferers, a new study has discovered. The [highlight]vitamin reduces the rate of death five-fold, or 500 per cent, if it’s given as an IV infusion for just two days[/highlight], say researchers from Eastern Virginia Medical School.

    Medicine doesn’t have a good response to sepsis, which kills around 11 million people a year. The average mortality rate, especially in low-income countries, can be 60 per cent. The disease causes organ dysfunction, acute kidney injury and, eventually, death.

    But sepsis doesn’t have to be a death sentence. The researchers compared the outcomes of 47 sepsis patients who had been treated in the medical school’s intensive care unit, and 47 other patients who were instead given IV vitamin C. Just 8.5 per cent, or four patients, died from sepsis after having vitamin C therapy compared to 40.4 per cent, or 19 patients, in the group given standard care. The vitamin C group was also given corticosteroids and thiamine (vitamin B1).

    Source: Chest Journal, 2017;151(6):1229-1238. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2016.11.036

  • Pollutants in fish could be causing irregular heart beat

    Eating healthily but suffering from irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)? The answer could be the fish in your diet. They are getting contaminated from oil spills, and the oil has a pollutant that can affect heart health. The oil contains phenanthrene, a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH).

    Most scientists had linked PAHs to cancer, but a team from Stanford University has discovered that they also damage the human heart. The PAH [highlight]causes irregular heartbeat and weaker contractions of heart cells[/highlight].

    It’s been [highlight]discovered in bluefin and yellowfin tuna and mackerel[/highlight] they tested, which came from crude oil spills. Phenanthrene is also found in soil, storm water run-offs, derelict industrial sites and in the air.

    It’s an unrecognised threat to global health, say the researchers, brought about by the widespread use of petroleum.

    Source: Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 41476; doi: 10.1038/srep41476

  • Peppermint oil and cinnamon are effective wound healers

    Peppermint oil and cinnamon can help heal bad wounds. They are a natural antibiotic that can keep wounds clean and kill any surrounding bacteria, even a ‘super-bug’ that’s resistant to all current antibiotics, a new study has found.

    It’s a genuine alternative to current wound treatment, which can involve antibiotics and the cutting away of any infected flesh. But antibiotics are over-used and surgery is expensive, say researchers from the University of Massachusetts.

    The researchers have found a way of packaging the compounds from peppermint and cinnamon into tiny capsules that are applied directly onto the skin surrounding wounds. In laboratory tests, [highlight]they have found the two are effective against four types of bacteria, including one ‘super bug’ that is resistant to all current antibiotics[/highlight]. The compounds also encouraged the growth of fibroblasts, cell types that are important in wound healing.

    Bron: American Chemical Society Nano, 2015; 150706010055006; doi: 10.1021/acsnano.5b01696

  • Daily cup of tea cuts dementia risk by 50 per cent

    Drinking at least one cup of tea a day can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s as we get older, a new study has found. Tea reduces the chances of mental decline by 50 per cent, and by as much as 86 per cent in those who are genetically predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s, researchers from the National University of Singapore say.

    Tea that is brewed from the leaves
    They tested the protective qualities of tea on a group of 957 Chinese people who were aged 55 and older. The greatest protection is derived from tea that is brewed from the leaves, but the actual type used, whether black, green or oolong, didn’t seem to matter. The [highlight]protective effects come from bioactive compounds in the tea[/highlight], such as catechins, theflavins, thearubigins and L-theanines. The [highlight]compounds are anti-inflammatory and antioxidants that protect the brain[/highlight], the researchers say. The greatest protection was among those who were APOE e4 gene carriers, which increases their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

    Source: The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 2016; 20 (10): 1002 DOI: 10.1007/s12603-016-0687-0

  • Curcumine better for dementia than an antipsychotic drug

    What’s better for dementia: an antipsychotic drug or an Indian curry? The curry wins hands down, the curcumin in the dish is a natural preventative of dementia and Alzheimer’s, while the drugs are killing a high percentage of dementia patients, two new studies have discovered this week. Rates of dementia are lower among the elderly in India, and scientists now think they know why: curcumin, the key ingredient in turmeric, the spice that is the staple of all curries, [highlight]encourages the growth of new nerve fibres in the brain[/highlight]. These bypass the brain’s existing ‘wiring’, which, in Alzheimer’s disease, is damaged by a protein called amyloid plaques, say researchers from Linkoping University in Sweden.

    Some [highlight]antipsychotic drugs, often given to dementia patients as a ‘chemical cosh’, are killing 1 per cent of those taking them[/highlight]. Around 180,000 people in a UK care home or hospital are given an antipsychotic, and 1800 are dying from the drugs each year.

    A new study from Harvard Medical School has drawn up a list of the most lethal antipsychotics. The worst appears to be haloperidol, marketed as Haldol, while the most benign of a bad bunch is quetiapine (Seroquel).

    Source: PLoS ONE, 2012;7(2):e31424. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031424

  • Pregnant women who take multivitamins give their child a head start at school

    Women who take multivitamins when they’re pregnant could give their child a head start at school. It can accelerate the child’s cognitive abilities by a year when they reach the age of nine, say researchers. A nurturing environment in the home is also important, and helps a child develop good intellectual ability, achieve better at school and have good motor dexterity.

    The benefits of taking a multivitamin are greatest in women who are anaemic when they become pregnant. For them, the vitamins give the child learning and memorisation abilities that are the equivalent of an extra year’s schooling. But even for women who aren’t anaemic, the vitamins give their child abilities that are six months beyond where they should be, say researchers from Harvard University.

    Their findings, based on a study of 3,000 Indonesian children aged between nine and 12, contradict a study last year that concluded that multivitamins taken while pregnant were a waste of money. The researchers were “surprised” by their findings, and they [highlight]underline the importance of nutrition, which seems to be almost as important as a nurturing home environment[/highlight]. But the most important factors are still nurturing and love, maternal depression, parental education and socio-economic status.

    The women took a multivitamin that contained iron, folic acid, retinol, vitamin D, vitamin E, ascorbic acid, vitamin B, niacin, zinc, copper selenium and iodine.

    Source: The Lancet Global Health, 2017; 5 (2): e217 DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30354-0

  • Study to show chair yoga as effective treatment for osteoarthritis

    Doing yoga while sitting, known as chair yoga, can ease the pain of osteoarthritis in the lower part of the body, such as the hip, knee, ankle or foot.

    It’s an effective alternative for people who cannot perform the usual yoga positions, say researchers at Florida Atlantic University who tested the effects of chair yoga on a group of 131 people with osteoarthritis. Those who participated in the eight-week class[highlight] reported greater flexibility, less pain and improved quality of life overall[/highlight] than those who instead took part in a health education programme.

    Chair yoga was developed by Kristine Lee for people with mobility and flexibility problems. People can perform the positions while seated or while standing and holding a chair for support.

    Source: Journal of American Geriatric Society, 2016; doi: 10.1111/jgs.14717

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