HEALTH & FITNESS

Aloe vera — a natural healer
Aloe barbadensis miller, also known as aloe vera, is cultivated for its thick fleshy leaves from which many substances are obtained. Starting more than 50 years ago, the gel in the parenchyma cells of the leaf was being processed and marketed as a drinking product. Today, the industry is flourishing and the gel is used in many formulations for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It is probably one of the most discussed but least understood medicinal plants in history.

Lose weight by abdominal exercises
Shah Rukh Khan may have developed six-pack abs (abdomen) for a particular role in a film or to maintain his top status in the film industry as an actor, but in doing so he has sent out a strong message to the public at large. This has inspired a large number of individuals in their forties into initiating the process of losing weight and attaining optimum levels of fitness, including developing six-pack abs.

Doctors also say it's good to be fat 
New York: A startling new study by medical researchers in the United States has caused consternation among public health professionals by suggesting that, contrary to conventional wisdom, being overweight might actually be beneficial for health.

Bat-inspired tumour-detecting device on the anvil
London: Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland are hoping to create a diagnostic device that mimics the way bats recognise objects to identify tumours hidden deep inside the body.

Obesity “doubles prostate cancer risk”
Washington: Piling on the pounds is certainly not a good thing for men, for a new study at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has found that obese men when diagnosed with prostate cancer witness a higher mortality rate.

Health Notes

  • Oz gyms to impose standards for teaching of yoga
  • Anti-inflammation protein may harbour multiple sclerosis cure
  • Drugs not the answer to ADHD

  • New guidelines to prevent asthma attacks listed

 

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Aloe vera — a natural healer
Dr H.S. Bhatia

Aloe barbadensis miller, also known as aloe vera, is cultivated for its thick fleshy leaves from which many substances are obtained. Starting more than 50 years ago, the gel in the parenchyma cells of the leaf was being processed and marketed as a drinking product. Today, the industry is flourishing and the gel is used in many formulations for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It is probably one of the most discussed but least understood medicinal plants in history.

The virtues of aloe vera have been recorded by many ancient civilisations, including those of Iran, (Persia), Egypt, Greece, Italy and India.

There are many fables and myths surrounding aloe vera’s history. Egyptian queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti were thought to have used aloe as part of their beauty regimes. Alexander the Great, after conquering Persia in 333 BC, was said to have been persuaded by his mentor Aristotle to capture the island of scrota in the Indian Ocean. This battle was fought in order to secure the island’s famed aloe supplies that were needed to treat Alexander’s wounded soldiers.

The leaves of the aloe vera plant grow from the base in the rosette pattern. Mature plants can grow as tall as two and one and a half inches to four feet with the average being around 28-38 inches in length. Each plant usually has 12-16 leaves that, when mature, may weigh up to three pounds. The plants can be harvested every six-eight weeks by removing three to four leaves per plant.

Aloe vera contains nearly 98 per cent water, and the total solid fraction varies from 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent. These constituents are derived from the aloe leaf which consists of three primary sections:

* The rind (photosynthesis takes place in it) with sap contained in the pericyclic transport tubules (xylem and phloem)

* The mucilage (container) layer.

* The parenchyma or gel fillet (storage) layer.

Most researchers claim that the effects that are observed may be due to the synergistic actions of the 75 known ingredients vitamins A, C, E, B, choline, B12, folic acid), sugar (monosaccharides: glucose and fructose), polysaccarides (gluco-mannans/polymannose), sterols (provides four main plant steroids: cholesterol, campesterol, lupeol and B sitosterol), saponins (glycosides), salicylic acid (aspirin like compound), minerals (provides nine minerals: calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, zinc), lignin (cellulose-based substance), hormones (auxins and gibberellins), enzymes (provides eight enzymes: aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, peroxidase), anthraquinones (provides 12 anthraquinones: aloe emodin, aloetic acid, aloin, anthracine, antranol, barbaloin, chrysophanic acid, emodin, ethereal oil, ester of cinnamonic acid, isobarbaloin, resistannol), amino acids (provides 20 of the 22 human-required amino acids and seven of the eight essential ones).

As far as the use of this plant is concerned, it accelerates wound healing, helps reduce inflammation, pain and itching. It is a wonderful moisturising agent and penetrates all skin types, quickly and deeply. It is naturally hypoallergenic (does not cause allergic response in most people), has about the same PH balance as the skin and stimulates the body’s immune system. Aloe vera is said to encourage skin rejuvenation, the healing of wounds and the treatment of sunburn.

It is not recommended for pregnant women.

Cultivation of this plant is not a very tedious process. It can be cultivated in a variety of soils. However, it thrives best in sandy loam soil. No major pest or diseases are reported but water logging can be harmful.

The oldest trick for selling any valuable product in solution is to dilute it with more water. In the case of aloe vera, it seems that the consumer is very insensitive to noticing the effects of dilution. Lee Ritter, in his book “Aloe Vera — a Mission Discovered”, quotes one Dr R. McDaniel as having tested over 200 aloe vera beverages in the mid-1980s (presumably in the United States) and having found that of these, only three “contained sufficient aloe to be of any medical value to the consumer”. He goes on to say that at the time of writing (1993), according to his own tests, “less than one per cent of readily available brands contain acceptable levels of aloe vera”.

Over the years this plant has displayed enormous business potential and with an ever-increasing demand of its products in European countries, it has made the people to run after it. The government should have a regulated plan to monitor these activities.

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Lose weight by abdominal exercises
Dr Ravinder Chadha

Shah Rukh Khan may have developed six-pack abs (abdomen) for a particular role in a film or to maintain his top status in the film industry as an actor, but in doing so he has sent out a strong message to the public at large. This has inspired a large number of individuals in their forties into initiating the process of losing weight and attaining optimum levels of fitness, including developing six-pack abs.

What once seemed almost impossible to many people now appears achievable.

The usual worry is: why is it so hard to develop six- pack abs in spite of undertaking regular abdominal exercises. Abdomen muscles are invisible as they are covered by fat. The crux of the matter is to burn out fat from the abdomen with aerobic activities. Males have the tendency to gain and store fat in the stomach area. It is usual for the abdomen to lose fat the last when one starts to lose weight.

The second frequently asked question is not getting the six-pack abs even after doing more than 100 sit-ups a day. In such cases, the important point is to analyze the quality of the exercises undertaken and the load exerted on the different abdominal muscles. Ensuring that all abdominal muscles are exercised from different angles is of vital importance. Effective workout from each exercise is more important than performing more than 100 repetitions of the same exercise with negligible effect.

Attaining perfect abs entails keeping in mind the following important instructions:

1. Five minutes WARMING UP in the form of light jogging, five minutes of stretching of the muscles followed by 30-45 minutes walking at a brisk pace or jogging/cycling. Running on alternate days with three days of brisk walking is a better alternative.

2. One day of complete rest should also be kept mandatory.

3. During the first week each set of abdomen exercises should constitute 10-15 reps. In the ensuing second and third weeks increase it to two sets and go on to three sets. One set of exercise for a particular muscle followed by a one set for the other muscle. This is followed by a repetition of the first avoid overloading the muscles.

4. No pain no gain: After achieving the goal of performing three sets each abdominal exercise, one should increase the repetitions till the time there is soreness in the abdominal muscles.

5. Go slow: Each repetition of the abdomen exercise should last five seconds. Performing exercises rapidly does not facilitate muscle development. The slower one goes the higher the intensity and stronger the muscles.

6.While undertaking abdominal exercises inhale before the start, hold breath during the upward movement, then forcefully exhale at the top. On returning to the initial position, begin to inhale. Lungs should be full by the time one is ready to start the next repetition.

Exercises

* Sit ups - Lie on the back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands at opposite shoulders. Lift the upper body to a 45 degree angle, and then lower it. After a few days hold a light weight on the chest supported by both hands.

* Toe touching- Lie on the back with legs and arms extended towards the ceiling. Slowly lift the head and shoulders as high as possible. Return back.

* lReverse crunch - Lie on the back, knees bent, feet parallel to the floor, and arms outstretched. Lift your hips up towards the chest, and then lower them. After a few days hold a medicine ball between the knees or ankles.

* Oblique crunch- Lie on the back with the knees bent, the arms at the sides, feet resting on the floor. Raise both hands and try to touch the right hand to the right heel followed by the left hand touching the left foot. Continue in a rhythmic motion.

* Leg throws -In a supine position raise both legs until the feet are above the head. Ask your partner to hold ankles and push them towards the floor. Allow your legs to go down but stop just before the heels hit the floor. Now move your legs at the starting position. Continue this pendulum- like movement till getting tired.

* Bicycle crunches — Start with the hands behind the head, the thighs in a vertical position. Move the right knee towards the opposite shoulder followed by the left knee towards the right shoulder in a rhythmic motion.

To derive optimal benefit from abdominal exercises, it is important to undertake low-back stretching to ease muscle soreness.

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Doctors also say it's good to be fat 
David Usborne

New York: A startling new study by medical researchers in the United States has caused consternation among public health professionals by suggesting that, contrary to conventional wisdom, being overweight might actually be beneficial for health.

The study, published in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association, runs counter to almost all other advice to consumers by saying that carrying a little extra flab — though not too much — might help people to live longer.

Struggling dieters, used to being told that staying thin is the best prescription for longevity, are likely to be confused this morning if not heartily relieved.

While being a bit overweight may indeed increase your chances of dying from diabetes and kidney disease — conditions that are often linked with one another — the same is not true for a host of other ailments, including cancer and heart disease, the report suggests.

In fact, scanning the whole gamut of diseases that could curtail your life, being over weight is, on balance, a good thing. The bottom line, the scientists say, is that modestly overweight people demonstrate a lower death rate than their peers who are underweight, obese or — most surprisingly — normal weight.

The findings will be hard to dismiss. They are the result of analysis of decades of data by federal researchers at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. This is not a study from a fringe group of scientists or sponsored by a fast-food chain.

Being overweight, the report asserts in its conclusions, "was associated with significantly decreased all-cause mortality overall". "The take-home message is that the relationship between fat and mortality is more complicated than we tend to think," said Katherine Flegal, the lead researcher. "It's not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all situation where excess weight just increases your mortality risk for any and all causes of death."

That the CDC has even published the report and thus threatened to muffle years of propaganda as to the health benefits of staying slender has enraged some medical experts.

"It's just rubbish," fumed Walter Willett, the professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It's just ludicrous to say there is no increased risk of mortality from being overweight."

Not that the CDC results are an invitation to throw caution to the winds and take cream with everything. The scientists are careful to stress that the benefits they are describing are limited to those people who are merely overweight — which generally means being no more than 30 pounds heavier than is recommended for your height — and certainly do not carry over to those who fall into the category of obese.

Obesity has been declared one of the main threats to health in the US, including among children. Those considered obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, continue to run a higher risk of death, the study says, from a variety of ailments, including numerous cancers and heart disease. It said that being underweight increases the risk of ailments not including heart disease or cancer.

The scientists at the CDC first hinted at the upside of being overweight a few years ago. Since then, however, they have expanded the base of their analysis, with data that includes mortality figures from 2004, the last year for which numbers were available, for no fewer than 2.3 million American adults.

Highlighting how a bit of bulge might help you, the scientists said that in 2004 there were 100,000 fewer deaths among the overweight in the US than would have been expected if they were all considered to be of normal weight.

Put slightly differently, those Americans who were merely overweight were up to about 40 per cent less likely than normal-weight people to die from a whole range of diseases and risks including emphysema, pneumonia, Alzheimer's, injuries and various infections. — The Independent

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Bat-inspired tumour-detecting device on the anvil

London: Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland are hoping to create a diagnostic device that mimics the way bats recognise objects to identify tumours hidden deep inside the body.

Writing about their project in The Engineer magazine, the researchers have revealed that they are trying to harness the same kind of ability to detect tumours by which bats, dolphins and whales tailor their ultrasound signals to identify different kinds of objects.

Bats emit “acoustic codes” that are specifically coded for prey. Its echo tells them that they have has detected a flying insect, rather than a falling leaf.

“Bats, dolphins and whales use complex acoustic waveforms for object identification and navigation,” the BBC quoted Professor Gordon Hayward, who is heading the research, as saying.

His team is working on collaboration with mathematicians to develop acoustic codes for a wide variety of targets, including cancer cells. The researchers hope to complete their work in the next three years. — ANI

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Obesity “doubles prostate cancer risk”

Washington: Piling on the pounds is certainly not a good thing for men, for a new study at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has found that obese men when diagnosed with prostate cancer witness a higher mortality rate.

The research discovered that an increased body mass index (BMI) at the time of diagnosis was an independent risk factor for prostate cancer mortality.

Overweight and obese men (men with BMI ¡Ý25 kg/m2) at the time of diagnosis were nearly twice as likely to die from locally advanced prostate cancer as patients who had a normal BMI at diagnosis

The survey conducted in 2007 states that of over 218,000 American men likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, 27,000 died from prostate cancer.

With obesity as identified as a risk factor for prostate cancer the impact of obesity on survival treatment is less understood. The treatments include the complete surgical removal of the prostate, external beam radiation, and hormonal therapy. 
— ANI

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Health Notes
Oz gyms to impose standards for teaching of yoga

Melbourne: Yoga teachers in Australia will soon have to have a minimum qualification before they can teach the practice in gyms across the country.

The move comes with Fitness Australia, the exercise industry peak body agreeing that a qualification was need to prevent people from being injured by unqualified instructors after being approached by the Yoga Teachers Association of Australia (YTAA) over complaints of injuries caused.

A 2004 report by Medibank Private has come up with the fact that a quarter of yoga pupils had been injured as a result of their exercise. — ANI

Anti-inflammation protein may harbour multiple sclerosis cure

Washington: A recent study has found that an anti-inflammation protein molecule interkeukin-27 (IL-27) prevents multiple sclerosis (MS) like diseases.

The study at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and the Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Philadelphia has claimed that the immune system messenger molecule may be an effective tool against MS as it blocks the onset or reverses systems in animals with MS-like diseases.

The research involved an animal model of MS called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) for investigation. — ANI

Drugs not the answer to ADHD

London: Treating kids suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with drugs, is not effective in the long run, a new study has found.

The study by researchers at the University of Buffalo, USA, states that drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta work no better than therapy after three years of treatment.

The findings by an influential US study also suggested long-term use of the drugs could stunt children’s growth.

The report’s co-author, Professor William Pelham of the University of Buffalo, said: “I think that we exaggerated the beneficial impact of medication in the first study.

“We had thought that the children who medicated longer would have better outcomes. That didn’t happen to be the case.

“The children had a substantial decrease in their rate of growth so they weren’t growing as much as other kids both in terms of their height and weight.

“And the second was that there were no beneficial effects --- none,” BBC quoted him as saying. — ANI

New guidelines to prevent asthma attacks listed

Washington: Asthma patients can avoid serious symptoms and disability if they follow the latest guidelines to keep their disease under control.The guidelines come from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP).

The main highlights of the 2007 asthma guidelines were presented during the Annual Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in an attempt not only to increase awareness of the new recommendations, but also to help make sure they get put into practice. — ANI

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