Round-Up of Global News In Health and Complementary Medicine
WEEK BEGINNING MAY 21
Greater Risks For Female Smokers
Smoking may have greater risks for women than men. Women who smoke the same number of cigarettes as men are twice as likely to develop lung cancer, an American expert said yesterday. The head of the lung unit at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, Professor Diane Stover, said that horrifying data indicated that women smokers were very susceptible to lung cancer even though they smoked less, inhaled less deeply and started smoking at a later age than men.
This week Professor Stover advised the American Thoracic Society that women were more vulnerable because of the differences between men and womens lung tissue, the way they process cancer-causing agents, the presence of the female hormone oestrogen and the X-chromosome. Professor Stover said: Men and women tend to deal with carcinogens differently. Men tend to detoxify them and excrete them in their urine, whereas in women the carcinogens take a different pathway: they are transformed into other carcinogenic substances. Female cancer cases in the US and Europe were significantly higher than the number of women smokers would suggest. In Japan, a study of 1000 male smokers and 700 female smokers found women developed lung cancer two years earlier than men.
In spite of this evidence, many UK experts are rather sceptical of the Professor Stovers data. Indeed, a spokesperson for the Cancer Research Campaign said: There is some evidence that women may be more susceptible to lung cancer than men, but the underlying reasons need to be researched in more depth. The Imperial Cancer Research Fund is also cautious about the findings. A spokesperson said: We know of no evidence. If women smoke like men, they die like men.
The Daily Telegraph
An Apple A Day Helps Asthmatics
Apples are great for healthier lungs. Medical researchers at Nottingham University have found that five apples each week can significantly improve lung function. The results, published by Dr Sarah Lewis and her team at the division of respiratory medicine, were presented to the American Thoracic Society conference in San Francisco. People who ate the most apples did the best in the lung function tests, followed by tomato-eaters. A reduction in wheezing was also seen in people that ate apples, tomatoes and bananas. Dr Lewis said that the protective ingredient in the tomatoes and apples was unknown.
Toughen Teeth With Tea
The British are renowned for their love of tea but would you believe but a cup of tea could be the latest weapon in the fight against tooth decay. Ordinary black tea, with or without milk, can help suppress bacteria that lead to plaque and gum disease. Scientists have identified one element of tea, called polyphenols, which is most effective in killing bacteria. The study was based at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry, and is one of the first to find a link between black tea and oral health. Previous research has usually focused on the effects of Japanese green teas. Dr Christina Wu, who led the study, said: We found that black tea infusion can inhibit or suppress the growth of bacteria that promotes cavities and affect their ability to attach to tooth surfaces. Tea is also one of the few natural sources of fluoride, which is beneficial to oral health.
Health Harmed By Text Messages
More controversy surrounding the mobile phone phenomenon this week. New medical evidence suggests that children who send text messages to each other could be damaging their health. Doctors have now called for further research into the effects on soft tissue of the radio frequency radiation that is emitted by the handsets. According to figures released by the BMA (British Medical Association), schoolchildren are particularly likely to text each other, with more than 900 million short messages sent in January this year alone. Until now, public concern has been over the use of mobile telephones when the user is actually speaking to another person where they hold the transmitter next to their head. These new calls for research are targeted at the possibility that the radio waves might damage a persons kidneys or gonads (ovaries or testicles). The fears have been raised because of the likely position that the handset is held in when writing a message. The BMAs report says: Since the handset is normally held near to waist level for this activity, research is necessary into whether mobile phone radiation may affect different parts of the body in different ways and hence whether there are any additional health risks associated with text messaging.
A Federation of the Electronics Industry spokesman emphasised that while the message is being written, no radiation is emitted from the handset: The phone only emits radiation for a very short time when the message is being sent.
A further report by the BMA announces that mobile phones even with a hands-free kit are not safe to use by the driver of a car. The BMA has called on the government to change its advice to motorists to never use a hands-free phone while driving. There were 14 deaths associated with mobile phone use last year. There may be many more but precise figures are impossible to obtain, says the report.
Pets Help With Allergies
Good news for pet lovers. New research has suggested that having a dog or a cat in the home can make babies less likely to develop allergies or asthma. Scientists in the US studied 833 boys and girls from their birth to the age of seven. They found that children aged seven were less than half as likely to react to allergens if they had been exposed to two or more pets in the household. Some of the boys also showed better lung function. The research was presented to the American Thoracic Society conference in San Francisco yesterday. One of its authors said: We think exposure to cats and dogs early in life somehow affects the development of the immune system, so that a child may end up with a lower risk of allergic disease. The findings reopen the debate over what kind of environment is best for young children: a sterilised, germ-free environment, or one which allows some contact with germs and dirt to enable children to build up their immunity. Recent research has linked allergic conditions like asthma to the increasingly sterile surroundings of modern households. However, another US study published in March argued the opposite, claiming that having a pet in the home can increase the risk of developing asthma.
Hereditary Basis For Bad Eyesight
Having to wear glasses isnt just down to bad luck it seems. A new study suggests that poor eyesight is in fact largely inherited from your parents. However, eye strain from close work or poor lighting can help develop eyesight problems. The new research was based on a study of 500 pairs of twins at Guys and St Thomass Hospital in London. Scientists were keen to settle the long-standing debate over nature against nurture, and it seems that both genetics and environmental factors play a part. Identical twins were more likely to have the same genes and share the same eyesight problems than non-identical twins. The team concluded that incidence of poor eyesight both long and short sight is around 85 per cent inherited. However, too much reading and hard work can induce the condition. Co-author of the study, Dr Christopher Hammond, said: It seems that developing short sight depends on two things: possessing the genes that predispose to it, and becoming involved in a lot of close work, which brings it on. This explanation may account for rising levels of poor eyesight in the Far East, where it affects nearly two-thirds of teenagers. In Britain around 20 per cent of people have eyesight problems. Now it is hoped that if the particular genes responsible for developing the condition can be identified, new treatments may be found.
The Plant Hormone With The Answer To Cancer
Plants are continuously offering up gifts to mankind. Now researchers have identified a hormone used by plants to help them grow towards the sun as a possible treatment for cancer. Almost all of the cancerous cells in a test were killed by the chemical indole acetic acid (IAA). Scientists led by the Cancer research campaign have produced a synthetic version of IAA, and hope to begin trials with it within a few years. Cancer cells are notoriously hard to kill, because they are versions of normal human cells that multiply rapidly. Because they are so similar to normal human cells, killing them is difficult without damaging the ordinary cells of the body. The researchers, form the Gray Cancer Institute in north-west London say that IAA is more selective for the cancer cells, and damages the normal cells of the body less than traditional chemotherapy thus causing less side-effects. Prof Peter Wardman said: We are really excited that a common or garden plant hormone could fulfil one of the ultimate aims of cancer research by providing a drug that only attacks cancer cells and leaves the rest of the body untouched.
The Daily Telegraph
The Impulsive Brain
A major study may have located that part of the human brain that governs impulsive behaviour. High tech research indicates that brain damage may be behind peoples impulses towards things such as sweet foods and drug addiction. Severed connections in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens may have key effects on the chemical messenger dopamine. Tests on the rats found that those with damage to the nucleus accumbens acted impulsively when given the choice between an instant reward of food or a more generous reward later. Rats without damage to the nucleus accumbens showed a tendency to wait for the bigger reward. Scientists believe this severed connection in the brain could explain the urges behind drug addiction and attention deficit disorder.
Whats In A Placebo?
According to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the placebo, where a patient is given a dummy pill instead of a real drug in an attempt to make them believe they are better, does not work,. The placebo effect is well documented and has been used by doctors for years. Medical researchers, Dr Asbjorn Hrobjartsson and Dr Peter Gotzche, say that they have analysed the results from over 45 years of research, and claim that if a patient says that they are feeling better after taking a placebo, it is probably the natural course for the disease. Placebos are used to make drug trials fair by comparing the effect of the new drug to that of the dummy drug, any placebo effect of the new drug can be measured. Medical textbooks say that as many as 35 per cent of patients respond to placebo. In each of the 114 studies used in the report, there was the group given the new drug, the control group given a placebo, and a third group given nothing at all many patients in the third group reported an improvement in their symptoms. Dr Hrobjartsson said that any improvement in this group could be due to researchers seeing results because they wanted to, or patients trying to please the researcher. The idea that placebo causes a dramatic improvement in patients is a myth. There are just as many trials where there is a negative effect
.as where there is a positive effect, said Dr Hrobjartsson.
The Love Of A Good Women For Blood Pressure Health
A research team in New York has published ground-breaking research which suggests that while talking to your spouse, your blood pressure actually drops. Raised blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. The effect of talking to ones spouse is even the same for people that do not have a good relationship with their partner. The research showed that during any conversation, blood pressure rose, but it raised less when people were speaking to their partner. Dr Brook Gump said: Given that most interactions with a well-established partner are safe or predictable, a partners presence may act as a classically conditioned safety signal. Non-partner interactions, however, because they may occur less frequently and involve greater uncertainty, may be more likely to be associated with a defence reaction or heightened vigilance.
Naughty Little Bleeders
A study developed at the Michigan State University has shown that babies born very small are more likely to be badly-behaved when they grow up. The study, published in the Lancet, showed that problems were often encountered with children born with an extremely low birth weight (ELBW). The study was conducted over four countries, and showed that despite cultural differences, similar results occurred between them all. Dr Nigel Paneth said that the occurrence of internalised behaviours, such as loneliness, and external behaviours, such as aggression, were the same in children born with a normal birth weight when compared to ELBW children. But in the middle ground of general behaviour problems, the incidence was markedly higher in ELBW children. The reason for the findings is unknown, but it is thought that injuries to the central nervous system can occur at birth, and when added to the delicate nature of such small babies (less than two pounds), problems are likely to occur.
Warning About NutraSweet
Millions of slimmers could risk blindness and infertility by using Britains top sugar substitute, a new book claims. The scientific work entitled Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, was comiled by Dr Hyman Roberts, director of the Palm Beach Institute for Chemical Research. It catalogues a host of adverse reactions to the popular NutraSweet and Candarel. The chemical aspartame, which is added to thousands of soft drinks and diet foods, is being linked with brain tumours, blindness, arthritis and infertility. However, manufacturers Ajinomoto insist there is no evidence to suggest the chemical poses a risk.
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