HEALTH & FITNESS

Chocolate: a cure for cancer?
Esther Walker
Chocolate 'addicts' won't be surprised at the growing evidence that it is a mood enhancer
Ever since the Atkins Diet revival made sugar public enemy No 1, confectionery manufacturers have had their work cut out to sweeten up their image. It hasn't been easy: sugar doesn't just make you fat, and thus can contribute to the development of adult-onset diabetes, it also rots your teeth. Willy Wonka would be weeping into his top hat.

EYESIGHT
Bulging eyes: it may be thyroid
Dr Mahipal Sachdev
H
AVE you noticed those staring/prominent bulging eyes? Or, people with puffy swollen eyes like that of a crocodile. The person is suffering from thyroid problem. Thyroid is one of the important glands of the body, which secretes thyroid harmone. Thyroid harmone commands the rate of production and use of energy in our body.

Psoriasis: treating winter flare-ups
Dr Vikas sharma
W
INTER is not a good season for those who suffer from skin ailments. Some skin disorders tend to increase or get triggered during the cold weather. One such skin disorder is psoriasis. Quite a few of the patients who suffer from psoriasis have this tendency to develop flare-ups (increase in their symptoms) in winters.

Health Notes
Toxic shampoo may be seeping into drinking water
London: They may leave you feeling clean and refreshed, but it seems that all that chemicals in body wash, shampoo and soap you use may be seeping into your drinking water.

  • Cancer: psychological support vital

  • Lack of sleep raises obesity risk





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Chocolate: a cure for cancer?
Esther Walker

Chocolate 'addicts' won't be surprised at the growing evidence that it is a mood enhancer

Ever since the Atkins Diet revival made sugar public enemy No 1, confectionery manufacturers have had their work cut out to sweeten up their image. It hasn't been easy: sugar doesn't just make you fat, and thus can contribute to the development of adult-onset diabetes, it also rots your teeth. Willy Wonka would be weeping into his top hat.

But recently, chocolate has been undergoing something of a rehabilitation, and the current thinking is that it may actually be good for you. So, what's going on?

In fact, the idea of chocolate as a health tonic goes back centuries. Long before goji berries, broccoli and tomatoes were hailed as "superfoods", cocoa and chocolate were celebrated as natural remedies. Cocoa and its derivatives have, historically, been prescribed for a range of ailments, including liver disease and kidney disorders, and by the 1600s, chocolate was identified as a mood enhancer.

It is only relatively recently that chocolate fell out of favour with the health lobby. Although cocoa is rich in flavonoids (which promote healthy cellular tissue), the practice of mixing it with saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar made it less friend, more foe. But now chocolate has been thrown a lifeline: antioxidants. An antioxidant is something that slows down, or prevents, the oxidation of cells; oxidation produces free radicals, which damage cells and can lead to heart disease and cancer.

The flavonoids in dark chocolate (containing 70 per cent or more cocoa solids) act as antioxidants, and it contains almost five times the flavonol content of apples (though they also have fibre and vitamins). The industrial processes that turn cocoa into chocolate reduce its antioxidant properties, which is why the less-processed dark chocolate has more antioxidants.

What may come as less of a surprise to chocolate addicts is the growing evidence that chocolate is a mood enhancer. Chocolate contains as many as 400 different compounds that promote a better mood and alleviate anxiety, which helps to explain why so many people experience cravings for it. Serotonin, endorphins and phenylethylamine are all found in chocolate and can lift the mood; it also contains the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, and the amphetamine-like compounds tyramine and phenyletylamine.

However, one set of researchers found that cocoa-filled capsules were unable to satisfy the cravings of chocolate "addicts" in the same way as chocolate itself, so it seems that the sensory experience of eating chocolate, its sweetness and melting softness, contribute to its uplifting effects.

Perhaps most surprisingly, chocolate even works effectively as a cough remedy. Scientists at Imperial College, London, discovered that theobromine, one of the stimulants in chocolate, is a third more effective in stopping persistent coughs than codeine, the medicine most commonly used. The theobromine suppresses the nerve activity that causes coughing, and it is thought that the viscous quality of melted chocolate could help soothe tickly coughs.

The health benefits of chocolate have not gone unnoticed by its manufacturers. Prestat, for example, has come up with a new product called Choxi+, saying that two squares per day contain the recommended daily dose of antioxidants, while having fewer calories than an apple. And the Japanese company Glico makes a chocolate called GABA, marketed as an anti-stress product, and Japanese businessmen can't get enough of it.

Chocolate's mood-enhancing qualities are given a turboboost by the addition of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that occurs naturally in the brain, so GABA acts as an inhibitor and has anti-anxiety properties. People who eat GABA report reduced stress levels and an enhanced feeling of relaxation.

Clearly, chocolate also contains fat and sugar, but it is worth noting that the nation with the lowest incidence of obesity and coronary heart disease in western Europe is also the one with the highest per capita chocolate consumption: Switzerland.

— The Independent

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EYESIGHT
Bulging eyes: it may be thyroid
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

HAVE you noticed those staring/prominent bulging eyes? Or, people with puffy swollen eyes like that of a crocodile. The person is suffering from thyroid problem.

Thyroid is one of the important glands of the body, which secretes thyroid harmone. Thyroid harmone commands the rate of production and use of energy in our body. If the harmone level goes too high, it leads to over-stimulation and eventually produces a variety of symptoms. It includes nervousness, restlessness, fatigue, sweaty, sleeplessness, abnormal heart rhythm, trembling hands, etc. Any low levels of thyroid harmone cause symptoms like lethargy, fatigue, weakness, weight gain, cold intolerance, muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches, constipation and depression.

Thyroid used to present usually at the middle age, but nowadays many get it at a young age. Eyes do get affected in thyroid patients. The eye problem occurs in about 1 out of 20 hyperthyroid patient. It can also rarely occur in those who are hypothyroid and even when there is an absence of thyroid abnormalities in the body.

Thyroid disease can cause many different eye problems. These include

  • Itchy/dry eyes
  • Redness and lid swelling
  • Double vision
  • Decreased vision
  • Eyelid retraction
  • Protrusion of the eye

It is important to realise that if one of these occurs, this does not mean others will occur. Eye problems will usually occur and frequently change in type or severity between six months and two years. Once stabilised, it is unusual for the eyes to start changing again.

The most common problem in thyroid patients is dry eyes. They have a feeling of grittiness, irritation or foreign body sensation in the eyes. This is usually due to the retraction of the eyelids and protrusion of the eyes. Coupled with eyelids that do not close completely at night, the cornea dries out and becomes quite uncomfortable. The dryness is also due to reduced tear secretions as a response to the immune changes in a few cases of thyroiditis. The use of a lubricating ointment for the eye at night and artificial tears during the day can provide a great deal of relief. There are immuno-modulator drops which help in the cases not responding to just the lubricating eye-drops.

Many people with thyroid problem have eyes that appear to have prematurely aged. Swelling of the eyelids is one of the reasons for this. Additionally, a fluid accumulation in the normal fat around the eyes causes this fat to bulge outward, becoming visible as “bags” of the eyelids. If this does not go away on its own it can be surgically removed.

Most of the eye problems develop in those with abnormal harmone levels. However, eyes may be affected while the thyroid continues to release normal amounts of thyroid hormone. Thus, thyroid-associated eye problems can occur before, during, or after the thyroid problem.

Complete recovery is infrequent but often this is good-to-excellent improvement. In the majority of cases, treatment is successful in preventing any serious damage to the eye. The important message is that one should be aware of these eye problems associated with thyroid disease and that they are treatable.

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi. Email: msachdev@bol.net.in

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Psoriasis: treating winter flare-ups
Dr Vikas sharma

WINTER is not a good season for those who suffer from skin ailments. Some skin disorders tend to increase or get triggered during the cold weather. One such skin disorder is psoriasis. Quite a few of the patients who suffer from psoriasis have this tendency to develop flare-ups (increase in their symptoms) in winters.

These winter flare-ups in psoriasis can range from mild to very severe. For some patients winter is the only time when they suffer from psoriasis; summers can be totally free from such problems. Homeopathy offers a very effective treatment for eradicating the tendency to develop psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder which can last for years together. Although there are many forms of psoriasis, the most common is the Plaque Psoriasis. In this form, skin lesions are in patches, which are red at the base and are covered by silvery scales. Shiny and silvery scales are typical of psoriasis. This is usually accompanied by itching, soreness and cracks. It varies in severity from small local patches to complete body coverage. Nails of fingers or toes are also affected.

Psoriasis occurs when immature skin cells from the lower layer of the skin surface move upwards even before they have matured. This leads to profuse scaling of skin. Under normal circumstances the skin cells take about a month to mature, but in psoriasis it takes just a few days for them to come up to the surface of the skin. Psoriasis has a strong genetic angle to it; about one-third of the cases have a family history of it. Psoriasis is a immune system-driven disorder. The “t cells” (one of our body’s defence cells) that are usually responsible for protecting our body against infections, by mistake, start an auto immune process which leads to inflammation and rapid production of immature skin cells.

Psoriasis, like many other skin disorders, tends to increase in winters. This is due to the fact that cold weather leads to dry skin. Also in winters, indoor heating arrangements can further rob the skin of the moisture leading to an increase in the symptoms of psoriasis. Hot and sunny climate helps the skin to become better and moisturising the skin can also help.

Homoeopathy has a very effective solution for psoriasis that aggravates during the cold weather. There are medicines that are there specially for treating winter flare-ups. Not only do they treat the “winter increase” in psoriasis but also help in stopping the recurrence of psoriasis. Homoeopathic medicines help in permanently eradicating the disorder from the body. This is possible because homoeopathy works by optimising the body’s defence system, and as psoriasis is also a result of an overreaction of an immune response, homoeopathy cures it by optimising our defence system. The safety aspect also strengthens the case for homoeopathic medicines to be used for treating psoriasis. While using them, the patient is not exposed to the risk of toxicity, as homoeopathic medicines are highly diluted and side-effects are very uncommon. Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder. Its treatment usually requires a careful and thorough case study by a professional homoeopath, which should not be substituted by self-medication.

The author is a Chandigarh-based homoeopath

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Health Notes
Toxic shampoo may be seeping into drinking water

London: They may leave you feeling clean and refreshed, but it seems that all that chemicals in body wash, shampoo and soap you use may be seeping into your drinking water. The caution has come after a report revealed that chemicals from consumer products such as shampoos, perfumes and drugs could be breaking down and recombining into a harmful cocktail in water supplies. The report by the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) revealed that synthetic chemicals from these consumer products and other healthcare products that are washed down the drain are sneaking through the filters at water purification plants. — ANI

Cancer: psychological support vital

Washington: Women suffering from advanced or metastatic breast cancer (MBC) need as much psychological support as they do information regarding disease and treatment, reveals a new survey. The survey was conducted by Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization and involved around 367 women with advanced breast cancer. It also highlighted the increasing importance of the Internet as a source of information for the patients. It was disclosed that patients with MBC feel that healthcare professionals and patient advocates can effectively use the Internet. — ANI

Lack of sleep raises obesity risk

Washington: A new study has revealed that short sleep times in patients with chronic medical diagnoses increases the risk of obesity. Researchers surveyed 200 patients attending internal medicine clinics to determine their sleep habits, lifestyle characteristics, and medical diagnoses. It was found that people with a sleep time of less than seven hours had a significantly increased possibility of obesity defined by a body mass index greater than 30 kg/meters2 when compared to the reference group of eight to nine hours. There was a U-shaped relationship between obesity and sleep time in women suggesting that women who had both short and long sleep times were more likely to be obese. — ANI

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