Round-Up of Global News In Health and Complementary Medicine

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The Seeing Stick

Scientists at Leeds University have developed a prototype walking stick that could help blind people to 'see'. The electronic white stick uses a bat-like sonar to detect hazards around them. The technique mimics the natural radar used by bats to enable them to fly in the dark. The device is undergoing trials and could cost as little as £300 if mass-produced.

Daily Express

Clucking About Bugs

Food poisoning bacteria, including salmonella and campylobacter, are found in 16 per cent of chickens bought from supermarkets, according to a report by the Consumers’ Association. In fact the scale of the problem may be even worse since the tests used to detect bacteria were not the most sensitive. The association, which went undercover to slaughterhouses, said: ‘Chickens aren’t born with salmonella or campylobacter they catch it. This can happen at any stage in the food chain. On the farm, infection can spread if chickens are confined in small spaces.’ Chickens from Tesco were found to be contaminated in 6 per cent of cases while 22 per cent of Sainsbury’s chickens were contaminated.

The Guardian

Chewing The Fat

New research suggests that high fat diets during childhood and adolescence may impair brain development. Two scientists at Toronto University compared young rats that received 40 per cent of their calories from fat with those in which only 10 per cent of calories came from fat. Tests revealed that rats fed a high fat diet had impaired memory and concentration. It is believed that fat hinders the brain absorbing glucose. Professor Carol Greenwood, one of the scientists involved in the research, said: ‘Our brain needs glucose – essentially energy – in order to function. When glucose metabolism is impeded by saturated fatty acids, it’s like clogging the brain and starving it of energy.’ The findings may have implications for adolescent children, many of whom get 40 per cent of their calories from fat.

The Daily Telegraph

For more go to The Demon Fat

Fruit For Longer Life

An apple a day could cut the risk of death by 20 per cent, researchers have found. An extra orange or banana could lower the risk by 50 per cent. The research, published in The Lancet, shows that a small change in diet can make a big difference. Scientists measured the level of vitamin C in the blood of nearly 20,000 men and women and found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables were at half the risk of dying early, compared to those who ate the least. The effect of eating a single extra piece of fruit or serving of vegetables is strongest in heart disease but is also significant in cancer, the report found.

Professor Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues from the clinical gerontology unit at Cambridge University based their research on a group of 30,000 men and women aged between 45 and 79 who were asked to fill in a questionnaire about their life styles and eating habits, and had the level of ascorbic acid in their blood measured. After four years, 309 of the men and 187 of the women had died. Those with the highest levels of ascorbic acid in their blood, who ate the most fruit and vegetables, were half as likely to have died as those who ate the least amount. The key message is that small dietary changes can have a big effect. ‘Just one or two extra servings of fruit and vegetables a day made all the difference,’ Professor Khaw said. The effects of a change in diet remained even when smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, age, cholesterol levels and the use of supplements were taken into account. The research’s limitations were that the team did not single out the effects of social class differences and physical activity. On Wednesday the Government revealed its plan to give 80,000 children in 510 schools in the poorest areas of England a free piece of fruit every day. The plan is to cover all children aged four to six by 2004.

The Daily Telegraph

Smoking Bad In Pregnancy Plus

Although most women know the risks of smoking while pregnant, many are not translating this into action, according to the Health Education Authority. Around one in four British women smoke while pregnant despite the estimate that failure to kick the habit kills 400 babies a year. Women who smoke have significantly more stillbirths and babies that die in the first month of infancy. The babies that survive tend to be smaller, at more risk from deformities, more prone to asthma in childhood and lung disease as adults, and may not be as bright as children of non-smokers. There are further adverse effects if the mother smokes while breast-feeding and while her child is growing up. The risk to mothers is also greater as those who smoke may have increased difficulty in delivering their babies, go into premature labour and bleed excessively.

Daily Mail

A Puff Away From Death

Just one cigarette could be enough to trigger a fatal heart attack, doctors have found. New research suggests that every time smokers light up they have an increased risk of seizure over the following hours. A single cigarette can lead to a blood clot large enough to stop the heart.

Doctors have known for years that long-term smokers are more likely to suffer heart attacks, but the study is the first to show there is an immediate effect. Researchers discovered that heart attack victims who smoked a cigarette six hours before their seizure had bigger blood clots in their arteries. While small clots may have no effect, or result in only a minor attack, larger clots can kill by choking off blood from the heart. The study monitored 902 patients at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, and discovered a short-term association between the formation of bigger clots and an increased risk to the heart.

The patients, who had all suffered a heart attack, were given angiograms to highlight any blockage in the arteries. Doctors found a correlation between blood clot size and the length of time since the last cigarette. The average clot size for those who smoked within six hours of the attack was 23 sq millimetres, while clots in those who had smoked between six and 24 hours before the symptoms were half that size. The reasons for the disparity in blood clot size remain unclear. The director of anti-smoking charity ASH said: 'The message has got to be that one cigarette can kill you, and that giving up will give you immediate health benefits and may even save your life.'

Daily Mail

For more go to Smoking Cessation Q&A

Style Before Health?

One woman in five will wear high heels to please a boyfriend, husband or boss, a survey shows. Women of all ages link fashionable footwear with sexuality, status and power. The new survey of women registered with an Oxfordshire family practice shows that women would rather put up with pain and risk serious problems with their feet rather than wear sensible but less sexy shoes.

Head of podiatry services at Oxfordshire Community Health, Mr Philip Joyce interviewed 164 women chosen randomly and divided them into three age groups: 18-23, 38-43 and 68-73. Younger women wore the least sensible shoes, and Mr Joyce said that many women between 68 and 73 still chose their shoes for style, not comfort.

The survey shows that one woman in 10 would wear uncomfortable shoes if they looked good and only one woman in three actually liked wearing heels. But more than 80 per cent of the women interviewed said they would not change their shoe style to improve a foot problem. Mr Joyce believes that three out of four women will have problems with their feet by the time of retirement.

The Daily Telegraph

Health Of Men

The Government has established a new group to examine worrying trends in men’s health. Death rates from heart disease are around five times higher in men than in women, and high blood pressure is twice as common. The number of men who commit suicide has gone up 50 per cent in the last 20 years, and many men are failing to confront health problems quickly enough. Research into exclusively male diseases, such as prostate cancer, receives a small fraction of the funding allocated to research into cervical and breast cancers. The statistics could explain why men have a life expectancy five years shorter than their female counterparts. Peter Baker of the Men’s Health Forum, which is to work in association with the cross-party group of MPs, said policy changes should target younger men in particular.

The Independent on Sunday


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