HEALTH & FITNESS

The cures in your kitchen
Anastasia Stephens
Preventive medicines made from rice, berries and red wine could soon be available to help to prevent cancer and other diseases – and pills could be available by 2010. Scientists funded by Cancer Research UK hope the active compounds will be used to create the first products in a family of drugs that stop disease before it takes hold.

Tips to prevent neck pain
Dr Ravinder Chadha
Today’s sedentary lifestyle is the main cause for a large number of people suffering from neck pain. An incorrect posture and long hours spent in front of the TV and the computer play their role. The common postural defect is the forward head movement while working in front of a computer. This increases the load on the upper back and neck muscles.

Obesity can cause disability in elders
New York: Junk food addicts, here’s yet another reason why your mass of fatty tissues should not touch the obesity meter as you age — it can cause disability. Researchers in the United States have carried out a study and found that older obese adults develop disabilities that interfere with daily living than those who are normal weight or slightly overweight, WebMD has reported.

Health Notes

  • Brain scans may reveal OCD chances

  • Smoking leads to baldness in men

  • Wholemeal bread may halve pancreatic cancer risk





 

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The cures in your kitchen
Anastasia Stephens

Preventive medicines made from rice, berries and red wine could soon be available to help to prevent cancer and other diseases – and pills could be available by 2010. Scientists funded by Cancer Research UK hope the active compounds will be used to create the first products in a family of drugs that stop disease before it takes hold. “These agents have proved highly effective in the lab – it is extraordinary,” says Professor Will Steward, a cancer and molecular medicine expert who is involved in the research.

A single plant molecule can have a bewildering array of health-promoting effects – curcumin, for example, obtained from the spice turmeric, doesn’t only protect against cancer, it’s anti-inflammatory and could help combat Alzheimer’s.

Many of the molecules scientists are getting excited about are plant pigments. In nature, these act to neutralise damaging molecules created by ultraviolet light. In the body, they do the same job – they stabilise damaging molecules on everything from cell membranes to the gut lining and blood vessels. By preventing damage, they help to prevent inflammation, cancerous changes and other ageing effects.

Other plant molecules with anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects exist to protect the plant from pathogens, but they have the same effect in the human body.

Drugs companies are looking for the most powerful plant molecules to use alone or in combination with existing drugs.

The only downside is that drugs companies don’t always look to see how plants were used traditionally. In herbal medicine, whole plant extracts are used, rather than a single molecule. In these extracts, you get dozens of beneficial molecules working together in synergy.

While the new drugs are likely to consist of high concentrations of natural “ super-molecules”, you can access their health benefits now, in food or as supplements. So which of today’s foods will be tomorrow’s drugs and how can you use them to stay healthy now?

Broccoli and brussels sprouts

The research combining a potent cocktail of anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties, diindolylmethane from brassica vegetables is set to become one of the leading new phytochemical drugs.

It’s already used for treating respiratory papillomatosis tumours, caused by the HPV virus and is in phase III clinical trials for cervical dysplasia.

Tomatoes

The research Lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, is in clinical trials for cardiovascular diseases and prostate cancer. Studies have demonstrated that lycopene improves blood flow through the heart. Several large clinical studies indicate it holds real potential for preventing and treating prostate cancer. Drugs companies are now racing to discover what doses of lycopene and which drugs combinations will have an optimal therapeutic effect.

Eggs and spinach

The research Keep your eye on lutein, especially if you’re worried about your eyesight. Lutein, a yellow pigment found in green leafy vegetables and eggs, is making headlines as a potential treatment for eye diseases. Clinical trials show it directly improves human visual performance, helping to prevent the onset of macular degeneration and cataracts. One study in the Journal of the American Optometric Association found that in high enough doses it could even reverse some symptoms of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Green tea

The research Concentrated extracts of polyphenols in green tea are likely to lead to a range of anti-ageing and lifestyle drugs. Several US trials have found they effectively lower bad cholesterol and enhance brain as well as heart health. Polyphenols in green tea have also been found to reduce arthritic inflammation.

Turmeric

The research Turmeric, the Indian spice that gives curry its yellow tinge, is a powerful anti-inflammatory with cancer-preventive effects. Used in Ayurvedic medicine, the rush is now on to develop the active molecule, curcumin, as a drug. In the past year, some 256 scientific papers have reported benefits ranging from pain relief to cancer prevention.

Brown rice

The research People in countries where brown rice is a dietary staple have such low rates of colon cancer, so researchers began investigating why. Among other reasons, they discovered that a substance in rice called tricin has anti-cancer effects in the lower gut. Researchers at the University of Leicester are now evaluating it as a potential preventive medicine.

Benefit now: Whenever you cook rice, use brown rice, in which tricin is found. Its protective effect on the bowel will increase the more you eat it. The high-fibre levels in brown rice are also protective against cancers of the gut.

Chilli

The research Capsaicin, the molecule that gives chilli peppers their fiery edge, is the key ingredient in an experimental new painkilling drug, Adlea. Capsaicin has a long-lasting effect in dulling nerve pain and Adlea, which is in phase II trials, is being given as a single injection to dull pain for up to a month. Capsaicin could also prove to be another leading drug in the prevention of cancer – current trials are assessing it for preventive effects on prostate, gut and lung cancers. Researchers in Toronto are also checking it out as a possible treatment for type 1 diabetes.

Benefit now: Thai people are famed for their hot curries and have a lower incidence of prostate and gut cancers. Add as much chilli as you dare to stews, salads and curries.

The Independent
Anastasia Stephens is a medical herbalist at the Hale Clinic, London

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Tips to prevent neck pain
Dr Ravinder Chadha

Today’s sedentary lifestyle is the main cause for a large number of people suffering from neck pain. An incorrect posture and long hours spent in front of the TV and the computer play their role.

The common postural defect is the forward head movement while working in front of a computer. This increases the load on the upper back and neck muscles.

The following corrective measures can help considerably if undertaken properly:

Pillow: Neck is prone to unintentional movements due to foam or rubber pillows, especially while sleeping. It is ideal to use a feather, plastic filled or home-made pillow.

l A small pillow behind the neck should be used to cover the neck curvature and a pillow at the side will limit neck rotation. One should turn the pillow between the shoulder and the chin and NOT under the shoulder to avoid strain on the muscle.

Sitting

  • Keep your chair close to the table, leaning back firmly against the back rest.
  • Chair should have short arm-rest. Without armrest there will be a tendency to cross the arms in front of the chest, causing strain on the chest and shoulder muscles.
  • Chair should have a backrest with a backward slope, i.e. a seat which is slightly hollowed out at the bottom to allow room for the buttocks.
  • Lumbar support placed at the hollow of the back facilitates a good posture.
  • Backrest should support ‘SCAPULA’ or the upper backbone.
  • Feet should be placed flat on the floor or small footrest may be used.
  • Keeping the head forward excessively needs to be corrected. The head needs to be erect, balanced and not projected forward during sitting/standing. Ideally, ears should be in line with the shoulders.
  • While conversing with a person sitting on the side, it is better to turn the chair to face the person or turn the entire body and not just the head.

Computer screen

  • Computer screen reading material should always be at eye-level contact to avoid sustained bending of the head/neck.
  • Adjust the frame of the eyeglasses on the nose in such a way that neck bending is avoided.
  • Nearsightedness should be corrected since it causes a head-forward posture which leads to neck pain. Eyeglasses with adequate focal length should be used so that a person can see clearly with the head in a balanced position.

Telephone: While talking on the telephone for a prolonged period, one should change one’s hand to hold the receiver to vary the tilt of the head. Use of the headset is recommended in such cases.

The TV should be placed on the front side. If it is placed on one side, watching for prolonged periods can cause neck pain/ strain.

Driving — Holding the steering wheel of the car on sides/ top can stress the upper back. Holding at bottom with forearm resting on thighs provides relief.

Other causes — Tight shirt collar and clinching the necktie too tightly can cause neck pain. While selecting a shirt, a finger should fit comfortably inside the collar not only when looking straight but also when looking at the sides.

Tips for relaxation

  • Rotate shoulders in both directions
  • Stand with your feet about four inches apart, arms at the sides, thumbs pointing forward. Rotate your arms and shoulders out and back (thumbs pointing back) while inhaling, squeezing the shoulder blades together in the back. Maintain this position while pulling the shoulders down and exhaling.
  • Gently move the head back to bring the ears in line with the shoulders. This must be accomplished without moving the nose up or down and without opening the mouth.
  • For posture training, place a sandbag on the head for some time.
  • Hands in the pocket relieve upper back tension.
  • During winter, wear high-neck pullover or scarf to keep the neck warm.
  • Warm shower relaxes the neck muscles.

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Obesity can cause disability in elders

New York: Junk food addicts, here’s yet another reason why your mass of fatty tissues should not touch the obesity meter as you age — it can cause disability.

Researchers in the United States have carried out a study and found that older obese adults develop disabilities that interfere with daily living than those who are normal weight or slightly overweight, WebMD has reported.

“It’s not just that obese people have a higher risk (of these disabilities) than normal-weight people. What is new about this research is that the risk is actually increasing in obese people over time.

“Adults aged 60 and over who are slightly overweight do not have much of an increased risk of impairment. But in those who were obese, the risk can rise at a concerning rate. The more obese, the greater the risk,” lead researcher Dawn Alley was quoted as saying. — PTI

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Health Notes

Brain scans may reveal OCD chances

London: Researchers from Cambridge University say that brain scans may be able to detect which people are at genetic risk of developing obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is a psychiatric anxiety disorder in which the person is compelled by irrational fears and thoughts to repeat seemingly needless actions over and over again.

As a part of the study, the researchers scanned the brains of nearly 100 people using magnetic resonance imaging.

The group included people who suffered from OCD and also some who were close relatives of individuals with the disorder.

With an aim to objectively measure ability to stop repetitive behaviours, the volunteers were then asked to complete a computerised test that involved pressing a left or right button as quickly as possible when arrows appeared.

When a beep noise sounded, volunteers had to attempt to stop their responses.

The researchers noted that people with OCD, as well as their close relatives did worse on the test than the control group. — ANI

Smoking leads to baldness in men

London: It is another alarm bell for all male smokers — don’t take that puff otherwise you might end up going bald.

The habit — which is already the cause for 50 different diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease and impotence — can also turn men bald, a new research shows.

Male pattern baldness, which affects two-thirds of men as they grow older, is known to be partly caused by male sex hormones.

The research showed that puffing on cigarettes may worsen age-related hair loss in men because smokers are more likely to lose their hair than others. — UNI

Wholemeal bread may halve pancreatic cancer risk

London: A new research has revealed that having two portions of whole grains such as wholemeal bread and brown rice on a daily basis may almost halve the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

According to the research, carried out by the University of California, San Francisco, a diet rich in these ingredients and other whole grain foods could bring about a substantial reduction in the risk of developing this form of cancer.

In the study of more than 2,000 men and women, a clear link between the amount of whole grains eaten and the chance of developing pancreatic cancer was revealed.

It was found that those who ate at least two helpings of whole grains a day — the equivalent of a cup of brown rice or porridge, or two slices of wholemeal bread — were 40 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who ate less than one portion.

It was also found that those who ate more than 0.9oz (26.5g) of fibre a day were 35 per cent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who ate less than 0.6oz (15.6g). — ANI

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