Round-Up of Global News In Health and Complementary Medicine

Monthly Archive


Swingin’ Proteins

A biochemist from Exeter University has found a way to make proteins sing. Dr Linda Long uses computers to generate music from the three-dimensional structures of proteins - molecules such as hormones and enzymes - that control most biological processes. Dr Long has won an award of �,000 from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to develop her work as a tool for teaching and analysing complex biological structures and to make music for therapeutic purposes. The technique generates musical notes from the position in space of amino acids, the chemical building blocks that make up a protein molecule. These co-ordinates can then be fed into a music synthesiser or played by musicians. The note sequences are derived from the natural protein structure without manipulation. Dr Long hopes to license the technology and concentrate on its educational and musical potential.

Financial Times

Smoking Raises Arthritis Risks

A recent study has found that heavy smokers are at greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The research, which was published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases yesterday, found that people who smoked 20 cigarettes a day for more than 40 years were more than 13 times more likely to develop this debilitating joint disease. In addition, heavy smokers were more likely to develop the disease in its most severe form. The link established by this particular study is so strong, researchers suggest that heavy smoking could in itself be a major cause of rheumatoid arthritis. However, although the data was collated from several British centres, further investigation is required.

The Times

For more go to Arthritis

Herbal Remedies for Arthritis Q&A

Smoking Cessation Q&A

Latest Obesity Research

Women in the lowest socio-economic groups are nearly three times as likely to be obese as those in higher groups, a study has reported. Scientists based at University College, London, surveyed 1,890 men and women and asked them to decide whether they thought they were obese, underweight, or about the right weight. They found that more people in the higher social groups believed they were overweight even when they were not. The figures recorded that 7.3 per cent of women in the highest group actually were obese, compared with 18.5 per cent in the fourth and fifth social groups. Prof. Jane Wardle, who led the survey, said: ‘What we need to see now is how closely people’s attitudes to their weight influence the weight they are.’

The Daily Telegraph

For more go to Obesity

Healthy Nutrition series

Daily Bread And Headaches

A report in the journal Neurology has said that cutting out bread and other foods with cereal grains could help stop recurring headaches. A trial involving ten patients found that when they stopped eating grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats, nine of them found partial or total pain relief. Researchers believe their headaches may have been caused by gluten in the food. However, they stressed that medical advice should be sought before turning to a gluten-free diet.

Daily Mail

For more go to Headaches and Migraines

Not Just Holier Than Thou

People who regularly attend church have longer and healthier lives, according to new research. Churchgoers consume less alcohol, take regular exercise, smoke less and maintain stable marriages. Their better lifestyles mean that they experience less depression and anxiety, have lower blood pressure and stronger immune systems than non-churchgoers. Analysis of the results suggests that frequent attendance at religious services promotes a more abstemious lifestyle rather than simply attracting people who already have good health behaviour. It has previously been speculated that the friendship and social support associated with being a member of a church was responsible for the health benefits.

Daily Mail

Anti-Aging Controversy

Suppliers of face creams have been banned from advertising that their products reverse the signs of ageing. The Advertising Standards Authority examined trial data for creams containing retinol, a pure form of vitamin A that manufacturers say reduces the appearance of wrinkles, and decided that their claims cannot be substantiated. However, Will Finn, the UK marketing director of Johnson & Johnson which makes Roc Actif Pu Eye Contour Cream, said: ‘It is our belief that the product does all of the things we claim it does.’ Over �6 million is spent on anti-ageing creams in the UK each year.

Daily Mail

Obesity Epidemic

Obesity is costing the UK �5 billion a year according to a report that warns the problem has reached epidemic proportions. Figures form the National Audit Office show that one in five adults is dangerously overweight. Illnesses associated with obesity, such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and osteoarthritis, cost the NHS at least �0 million each year. Obesity accounted for 18 million days of sick leave and 30,000 premature deaths in 1998 and this costs another �billion. The popularity of fatty, high-calorie foods coupled to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle was identified as the major cause of the problem.

Director of Health Value for Money at the National Audit Office, Dr James Robertson, said that he hoped the report would raise awareness of the problem and suggested that doctors should be offered guidance on when to intervene with anti-obesity treatments. Services within the NHS for treating obesity are described as ‘patchy’. Dr Robertson said: ‘This report is intended to start the debate. We will not turn everyone who is obese into their ideal body weight overnight. But even a 10 per cent reduction in weight can cause quite dramatic health improvements.’

The Daily Telegraph

Something For The Bald Pate

Scientists may have found the key to baldness. They have discovered a protein, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, that increases blood circulation to the scalp, improving the health of the hair follicle and boosting hair growth. Professor of Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Professor Michael Detmar, said: ‘In male pattern hair loss, it’s not that the follicles are gone – they’ve just become miniature follicles. If we can make the follicles bigger, men can grow hair again.’ The researchers hope to produce an ointment containing the protein that can be rubbed on the scalp.

Daily Mail

For more go to Baldness

Late To Rise And Stroke Risks

Scientists have found that sleeping for more than eight hours a night may increase the risk of suffering from a stroke. This maybe due to a reduced blood supply to the brain if someone regularly spends a long time asleep. In addition the researchers from the University of Buffalo in New York State found that those who snore or often feel drowsy during the day also have an increased stroke risk. The US scientists investigated over 1300 adults' stroke history. The scientists said that the three sleeping patterns, long sleeping hours, snoring and drowsiness were not necessarily linked and could be independent causes of strokes. However, both severe snoring and drowsiness can be a sign of sleep apnoea, where sufferers stop breathing for a short time during sleep causing a lack of oxygen to their brain and other organs. Apnoea can cause snoring or sudden awakening, which may lead to drowsiness during the day. Consultants of stroke medicine have stressed that this study has only highlighted new areas that should be investigated more carefully.

Daily Mail

Diet Linked To Alzheimer’s

Research into Alzheimer’s has found that diet plays a major role in causing the disease. Scientist from the US and Nigeria have been studying two groups of elderly people, African Americans and Nigerians, in the hope of revealing further information on what causes the disease. Their research has show African Americans are more than twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s. One possible explanation is the mainly vegetarian diet of Nigerians compared to the fatty, high cholesterol diet of Americans. The report went on to make a connection between heart disease and Alzheimer’s. It said: ‘Vascular disease may contribute both to dementia and to the development, progression, and clinical severity of Alzheimer’s.’ Other research has speculated over the link between heart disease and Alzheimer’s; this report is further proof of the possible connection.

The Guardian

For more go to Alzheimers Disease

More From Those Vikings

The Vikings, who raped and pillaged their way across northern and eastern Britain for nearly 300 years, may have unwittingly left a deadly legacy. In the first ever study of family heart disease, sponsored by the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council researchers, have uncovered a series of genetic anomalies in the north east of England. Experts believe it could be a deadly inheritance resulting from three centuries of Nordic interbreeding.

Professor Alistair Hall, a consultant cardiologist and joint leader of the �5 million Family Heart Study, believes that enduring Viking genes partially explain the high level of heart disease in the north east. Cardiovascular problems, especially coronary artery problems, are prevalent in northern Europe, and clusters of heart disease coincide with certain patterns of invasion. Genetic disorders that can cause heart disease, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia caused by the hyper cholesterol gene are passed down through the generations in areas where the gene pool remains relatively undiluted.

Populations that remain isolated do not produce strong genes because there is no ‘free mix’. A lack of inter-marriage in the north east could help explain the high incidence of heart disease. Increased demographic movements in the south, greater inter-marriage, and a series of genetic invasions - particularly by the Romans and Normans, who failed to reach more inaccessible parts of the country - created a stronger gene pool. The aim of the Family Heart Study, which began four years ago, is to challenge the idea that lifestyle is the only cause of early heart disease.

The Independent on Sunday

Not A Time Team Find

Archaeologists working in the grounds of Oxford University's History of Science Museum have found the remains of people who were dissected by doctors over 200 years ago. Graham Hull, who led the excavation, said that many of the bones showed signs of having been sawed and subjected to chemical treatment. He said: 'The find shows the kind of work carried out on corpses by students in a period when medicine was making great strides.' Most of the bodies would have been deposited in pit between 1752 and 1767. An Act of Parliament allowed dissection to be added as an additional punishment following execution so that 'some further Terror and peculiar mark of Infamy be added to the Punishment of Death'. Matthew Kaufman, a professor of anatomy at Edinburgh University, said: 'People believed that the soul would be in limbo unless the body was properly buried. Therefore the idea of dissection was horrifying.'
The Sunday Telegraph


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