Round-Up of Global News In Health and Complementary Medicine

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Slaving Britons

Britons are working too hard and their home lives are suffering, according to a new survey. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has found that one-fifth of people are working over 48 hours a week, despite a European Union working time directive to fight excessive hours. Britain has an average working week of 43.6 hours, the longest in the EU. Of those who worked over 48 hours a week, two-fifths said it had caused them to argue with their partner, and 34 per cent said it made them shout at their children. Over half of those interviewed said their sex lives suffered from hard work. Self-employed people, office managers, and professionals were found to be spending the most time at work. Mental exhaustion and difficulty sleeping were the most common illnesses in people who worked long hours. The report's author, Melissa Compton-Edwards, said that many people had entered into a 'Faustian' pact over their working hours. While people would prefer their partner to work less, long hours were considered 'a price worth paying if it guarantees a decent standard of living'.

The Guardian

Healthy Fruit & Veg

Fruit and vegetables contain lower amounts of minerals than they did 50 years ago, according to a new study. David Thomas, a nutritionist, compared data from a study called The Composition of Foods, which dates back to 1940. He found that broccoli has 75 per cent less calcium, spinach has 60 per cent less iron, and watercress has 93 per cent less copper than they did five decades ago. Mr Thomas said that modern intensive farming methods, which concentrate on size, shape and shelf life rather than nutritional content, could be to blame for the trends.

Daily Mail

For more go to Healthy Nutrition series

Calming Smell Of Babes

Men who display high levels of aggression may be calmed down by the smell of chemicals secreted by newborn babies. Researchers have shown that men can determine whether a T-shirt has been worn by a newborn baby by detecting an odour secreted by them. In Stone Age times this may have protected the babies by pacifying cavemen who may otherwise have imperilled the lives of the most defenceless members of the clan. The scientists at the universities of Munich in Germany and Lund in Sweden hope to develop a spray containing the smell to calm violent criminals.

Daily Express

Women Stressed Out

A British breast cancer specialist has said that stress in women may be linked to the development of breast cancer. Scientists have found that they can increase the rate of growth of human breast cancer cells by exposing them to the hormone prolactin, which is found at higher levels in people who feel stressed. Professor Ian Fentiman of Guy’s Hospital, London, said: ‘What we can say is that it’s quite possible that stress might speed up the growth of their breast cancer, though it probably doesn’t cause it.’ Researchers at the University of Toronto have reported that 42 per cent of breast cancer sufferers believe that stress is to blame for their illness. Professor Fentiman said: ‘They make the link because breast cancer often strikes at the age when women are getting divorced or being bereaved or experiencing other major life events that are extremely stressful.’

Meanwhile, other research suggests that suffering stress makes women more vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes. Women who are under mental pressure during their pre-menopausal years have reduced levels of oestrogen, a hormone that protects them against hardened arteries. Normally oestrogen protects women against heart disease until levels fall after the menopause. Although men are five times as likely to develop heart disease as pre-menopausal women, young career women who work long hours, consume too much alcohol and suffer stress are beginning to catch up.

Daily Mail

For more go to Natural Hormone feature

Breast Cancer

Stressbuster series

Food & Breast Cancer

Researchers suggest that eating less and taking more exercise may decrease a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Scientists in Poland have found an important link between the disease and nutrition, which could explain why women in developing countries have lower rates of breast cancer. The number of calories consumed and spent in exercise can affect hormone levels in the body, which in turn influence breast cancer risk. The hormones oestrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries every month and govern a woman’s menstrual cycle. Researchers found that the more a woman eats, or lives a sedentary life, the higher the concentrations of hormones in her body.

Women from industrialised countries have higher hormone levels and are also more at risk of getting breast cancer. In a report published in the British Medical Journal, Professor Grazyna Jasienska of the Institute of Public Health at Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland, says there is an important link between the risk of breast cancer and nutrition. She added:‘The risk of breast cancer may be modified if changes are made in a woman’s lifestyle. An increase in physical activity and decrease in caloric intake may thus lead to lower concentrations of progesterone and oestrogen, resulting in a reduction in breast cancer.’

Prof Jasienska agreed that dieting could reduce the risk of breast cancer but added:‘ Dieting increases the risk of osteoporosis whereas exercise strengthens the bones. We know that exercise lowers hormone levels – but we don’t know how much exercise or what kind.’

Dr Tim Key, expert on lifestyle factors at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, warned: ‘The strength of the association may not be as great as the authors suggest because some of the low breast cancer risk in poor countries. But there is already reasonably good evidence that even moderate levels of physical activity can reduce breast cancer risk.’

The Independent

For more go to Breast Cancer

How’s The Weather, Doc?

The Meteorological Office and Department of Health are to extend a collaborative project following a pilot study in five areas during the winter. The project, called Forecasting the Nation’s Health, aims at giving GPs and hospitals advance warning of surges in demand. By combining different types of information –National Health Service workload, levels of disease and infection, weather forecasts and historical data – the project tries to predict the ebb and flow of patients into hospitals and surgeries. The Met Office’s resident GP, Dr William Bird, reported that the initial feedback from the pilot study during the winter was very positive. A full evaluation will be completed by June.

Financial Times

Beating The Big Snore

A new treatment that could relieve the misery caused by snoring has been launched in the UK. Dentists have hailed the Zx device as a breakthrough in alleviating sleepless nights as well as the potentially more serious health consequences for the 40 per cent of Britons affected. Snoring occurs when the throat relaxes during sleep. This restricts the airway so that fatty tissue in the throat vibrates when air is drawn in through the mouth, causing the distinctive noise. The removable Zx device works by moving the jaw forward during sleep to allow the free flow of air between the mouth and the throat. It can be fitted by a dentist in minutes and costs around £225.

While the device could prove to be good news for long-suffering partners, it could also prevent the more serious complications of sleep apnoea, in which breathing stops completely for a few seconds. The condition has been linked to high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. Dr David Bloom, an expert in preventive dentistry, said: ‘[The device] is good for snoring but is even better for sleep apnoea, which can lead to daytime sleepiness, morning headaches and poor memory.’

The Sunday Telegraph


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