Who says fresh is best?


Many people think that the fresh vegetables sold in the supermarket contain far more vitamins and minerals than frozen. Wrong! Studies have found that most ‘fresh’ produce – after sitting for up to a week in a refrigerated truck or railway wagon, then spending several more days in a supermarket’s coldroom – contains significantly lower levels of vitamins A, C and E than its frozen or canned counterpart, even without the canning liquid. This is because produce loses 10 to 50 per cent of some nutrients between the time it is picked in the field and the moment it is served.  But nutrients loss is halted as soon as vegetables are frozen or canned, which usually happens within hours of picking.  With proper storage in a tightly lidded container or a sealed plastic bag, the nutritional value is retained even after a year in the deep freeze. Texture, of course, is altered, but frozen vegetables make fine additions to soups, stews and casseroles – especially when fresh is not available.

            Antioxidant experts also tout dried fruit as a healthy option.  Although some nutrients, especially vitamin C, are lost during drying, the fruit retains a wealth of health-promoting substances, including iron and fibre. As well, it doesn’t spoil easily, isn’t messy and can help satisfy your craving for sweets.

Readers Digest- Strengthen Your Immune System

When you lose weight, Where does it go?


When you lose weight, the fat that disappears has been broken down into usable fuel for bodily activities.               

            Fats exist in chemical form as triglycerides – roughly E-shaped macromolecules with a glycerol molecules linked to three fatty acid chains. When trimming calories or increasing exercise, hormone-sensitive lipase, an enzyme within fat cells, responds to hormonal messages and disassembles triglycerides into their component parts, which then slip into the bloodstream. The liver preferentially absorbs the glycerol and some of the fatty acids; muscle takes in the remainder.

            Inside the muscle and liver cells, the triglyceride pieces are further taken apart, eventually yielding large quantities of compound called acetyl-CoA. Within mitochondria – the powerhouses of the cells – the acetyl-CoA combines with the compound oxaloacetate to form citric acid.  This synthesis kicks off the citric acid cycle, or Krebs cycle, a set of chemical reactions that creates usable energy from fat, protein and carbohydrates. 

             These mitochondrial activities produce numerous products and by-products: carbon dioxide, which the lungs discharge during exhalation; water, which is expelled in urine or perspiration; heat, which helps to maintain a comfortable body temperature; and the energy-carrying molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The ATP powers cellular activities – moving muscles, maintaining the heart’s 100,000 – plus daily beats, digesting food and processing nutrients into bodily tissues.

March 2007, Scientific American

Mushrooms for relief from pain

Mushrooms could provide relief from pain and protect against  solid tumors, a later study has said.

            Scientists from Amala Cancer Research Centre in Thrissur, Kerala have found significant anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour qualities in the extract of morel mushroom, which is the world’s most expensive and delicious mushroom.

            Scientists at the Department of Microbiology at the centre experimented on mice suffering from cancer, using both the extracts and the standard reference drug diclofenac.

            The results showed that the extracts could be put to therapeutic use in chemotherapy.

            The mushroom, which is rare, are found only in Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. The Scientists, K K Janardhanan, C R Meera and B Nitha said, “The mushroom showed significant dose dependent inhibition of both acute and chronic inflammation”. 

            “Anti-tumour activity of the extract was determined using cell line induced solid tumour and cell line induced ascites tumour models in mice,” the study said.

            Inflammation, a fundamental protective response, can be harmful in conditions such as life threatening hypersensitive reactions to insect bite, drugs, toxins and in chronic diseases such as rheumatic arthritis, lung fibrosis and cancer.

April 2007, Health Action

Newly identified protein may inhibit hepatitis virus


A newly identified family of proteins may inhibit replication of the Hepatitis-B (HBV) and C (HCV) viruses say researchers from California. Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) are infecting the liver, and in some cases can cause liver failure requiring a transplant for survival. The protein interferon, produced by animal cells when they invaded by viruses, is  released into the bloodstream or intercellular fluid to induce healthy cells to manufacture an enzyme that counters the infection. One class of interferon’s (alpha) is used to treat chronic infection with HBV and HCV. There is a vaccine available to prevent the spread of HBV but not HCV. In the study, a new class of interferons, interferon lambda, was tested for its ability to inhibit HBV and HCV replication. Results showed 90% inhibition of HBV after twenty-four hours and 90-99% inhibition in HCV five days post treatment. The researchers have demonstrated that replication of HBV and HCV is sensitive to the antiviral activities of interferon lambda. These results suggest the possibility that interferon lambda may be therapeutically useful in the treatment of chronic HBV or HCV infection.

May 2005, Advanced Biotech





Death is in the air


Air pollution in New Zealand claims thousands of lives every year and costs the country billions of dollars, said a recent report.

            A four-year study found that one in 20 people die earlier than they would have since air pollution claims 1,300 lives in New Zealand  each year and costs the country around US $ 1 billion a year . The study was conducted by more than 28 science and health experts from New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand’s Health Research Council and its environment and transport ministries funded around US $800,000 study.

            The Study noted that bad air increased natural death rates per thousand people by nearly 5 percent, with Nelson city the worst-hit area nationally and Christchurch the worst major city in the country. The biggest cause of pollution-related early deaths was said to be home fires except in Auckland where the main cause was vehicular emissions. The report used the 2001 census figures and studied 67 urban areas, covering three-quarters of the population. New-Zealand’s environment minister David Benson-Pope said the report emphasised the need for councils to work toward air quality standards.

August 15, 2007 Down to Earth

Ageing symptoms can mimic thyroid problems


The symptoms of thyroid diseases can be so wide-ranging – specially in the elderly – it is often overlooked by doctors, says US report.

             The report by the Harvard Medical School says hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, leads to symptoms as diverse as depression, hair loss, weight gain, dry skin, feeling cold and continually feeling tired. Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid, can result in a loss of weight, feeling nervous and anxious, being warm and constantly hungry.

            However, many of these symptoms are associated with ageing so some doctors may believe the symptoms indicate heart failure, high cholesterol, or dementia.  In addition, some of the elderly with thyroid problems can also have symptoms not exhibited in younger patients, such as unexplained high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, psychiatric problems, dementia and trouble with balance.                  

           Some physicians check thyroid function periodically; however, routine screening is not universal so if a thyroid problem is suspected, ask the doctor for a thyroid evaluation, advises the report.

September 2007, Dignity Dialogue

Mobile phone use in hospitals poses danger


According to Dutch researchers using mobile phones near hospital beds or important equipment is dangerous and could switch off ventilators or disrupt pacemakers.

            The University of Amsterdam researchers recorded nearly 50 incidents of electromagnetic interference from cell phone use in hospitals and classified 75 percent of them as significant or hazardous.

            Because of this, mobile phones should come no closer than one metre to hospital beds and equipment, said the researchers. "Critical care equipment is vulnerable to electromagnetic interference by new-generation wireless telecommunication technologies with median distances of about 3 centimetres," they wrote.

            The study contradicts a study earlier this year from researchers at the Mayo Clinic who found that 300 tests over a five-month period turned up no noticeable interference with important hospital equipment due to regular mobile phone use.

            The Dutch team -- which tested 61 different medical devices -- found that most of the incidents stemmed from the latest General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) signal, a new-generation technology that allows things such as wireless Internet access.

            Other malfunctions they attributed to electromagnetic interference included complete stops with no alarms in syringe pumps and incorrect pulsing by an external pacemaker.



Blood pressure vaccine


’Protherics’, a pharmaceutical firm based in Cheshire, UK, has developed a vaccine against high blood pressure, which is considered to be an advance over pills that cause side effects.

            The injection uses a protein found in limpets, a common shellfish to attack angiostenin, a hormone produced by the liver that raises blood pressure by narrowing the arteries.

            It is expected that the vaccine will make it much easier for people who until now had a rely on pills with possible side effects to control their  blood pressure. The vaccine would require just three injections with a booster every six months. Prostherics is hoping to put the product onto the market within five years and is planning trials of a new injection which is 10 times better at stimulating the immune system than its original formula.

            According to Professor Graham MacGregon of Britains Blood Pressure Association, high blood pressure is the most important cause of death from strokes and heart attacks in the UK. Blood pressure tablets are habit forming and have to be taken for the rest of the patients life. Finding other methods of lowering blood pressure is therefore very welcome.

August 2007, Wista IPR Biotechnology

Vitamin D and Insulin


If you have high blood sugar, taking vitamin D and calcium may keep it from rising further.

        Researchers randomly assigned 314 people without diabetes to take either a daily placebo or both calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (700 IU) every day for three years as part of a study designed to look at bone strength.

            Among the 92 people who started the study with blood sugar levels in the high-but-not-diabetic range (100 to 125 mg/dL), those who took vitamin D and calcium had a smaller average rise in fasting blood sugar (0.4 mg/dL) than those who took the placebo (6 mg/dL). Insulin resistance also increased less in the vitamin D and calcium takers.

            Vitamin D and calcium had no impact on the blood sugar of the 222 people who had normal fasting blood sugar levels (less than 100 mg/dL) when the study began. If you have higher-than-normal blood sugar, make sure you’re getting enough calcium (1,200 mg a day) and vitamin D (1,000 IU a day) from food and supplements.

July-August 2007, Nutrition Action Healthletter

Mid-day nap may extend your life


Winston Churchill attributed winning the Battle of Britain partly to his regular naps, and Leonardo

da Vinci also believed napping helped his work.

            Although naps benefit everyone, it is the overtired and chronically fatigued who are likely to get the most out of a catch-up nap, suggests a Harvard University scientist and sleep expert.

            The findings have shown that the sleep-deprived are less efficient at work, fatter, more likely to take time off sick, can struggle with relationships and are at increased risk of being involved in traffic or other accidents.  Those who are sleep-deprived are also at greater risk of strokes and depression.

            Sleep-deprivation has been a contributory factor in workplace disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

            An afternoon nap – “a life-saving habit” – can help slim your waist, improve your health and work performance, preventing heart disease and extending your life.

            The ideal time? “Between 1 pm and 3 pm”, says the expert, and the “perfect nap” is 90 minutes; even a 15 to 20 minute nap is enough to be refreshing. “Employers should make it possible for people to have short naps in their lunch hours in areas where it’s quiet.”

September 2007, Health Action

Excess fat in stomach may lead to Cancer

A new study has given people another good reason to lose all that extra weight by finding that fat in the stomach may cause vitamin C to promote the formation of certain cancer causing chemicals rather than preventing it.

            As a part of their study the researchers set out to find the impact of fat and lipid and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on nitrite chemistry in the upper (proximal) stomach.

            The upper stomach is especially vulnerable to pre-cancerous changes and tumour growth. The researchers replicated the chemical conditions of the proximal stomach and measured the formation of nitrosamines, oxygen, and nitric oxide.

            Nitrosamines are cancer causing compounds formed in acidic conditions, such as those afforded by stomach acid. In most circumstances, vitamin C inhibits the formation of nitrosamines by

           However, the study showed that adding ten percent fat had vitamin C boosting the production of nitrosamines between 8 and 140 fold. The findings may be relevant to the recent observations that vitamin C supplements fail to reduce cancer risk.


Smokers’ nicotin pass on to their kids

Parents who smoke pass harmful nicotine by-products to their babies, says a study. Medical research has determined that chronic tobacco smoking is a major contributing factor towards many health problems, particularly lung cancer, emphysema and cardiovascular disease.

            According to the WHO, smoking is a greater cause of death and disability than any other single factor. Infants who slept with their parents tended to have higher nicotine levels, may be because they had greater exposure to parents’ smoke-contaminated clothing, says the study.

August 2007, Health Action

Bad posture plays a vital role in boosting your blood pressure

A new study has found that a bad posture plays a significant role in increasing the blood pressure.

            In their study, Jim Deuchars and colleagues at the University of Leeds, UK, have found a link between the muscles in the neck, blood pressure and the heart rate.

            The researchers say their findings explain why the blood pressure rises when people position their bodies the wrong way, for example hours spent hunched over a computer; or why there is a change in blood pressure and heart rate, when the neck muscles are injured.
            The team suggests that there is a direct neural connection between the neck muscles and a part of the brainstem, called the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), which plays a key role in regulating heart rate and blood pressure.

            For the study, Deuchars's team used mice to examine how the brain reacts to a range of stimulatory and inhibitory proteins. The team observed that a set of brain cells connected to the neck muscles kept firing in response to both types of proteins, signifying that the cells played a very dynamic role in the brain.

           "The cells lit up time and time again, so we looked at what they were doing," New Scientist magazine quoted team member Ian Edwards as saying.

            Tests further showed that these cells are connected to the NTS as well, indicating that they play a crucial role in regulating heart rate and blood pressure.


Reovirus for treatment of Neoplasia

Oncolytics is a biotechnology company focused on the development of REOLYSIN(R), its propriety formulation of the human reovirus, as a potential cancer therapeutic.  Oncolytics’ researchers have demonstrated that the reovirus is able to selectively kill cancer cells and, in vitro, kill human cancer cells that are derived from many types of cancer including breast, prostate, pancreatic, bladder, and brain tumors, and have also demonstrated successful cancer treatment results in a number of animal models.

            This company announced on October 20, 2005, that it has been granted a third patent (No 2283280) entitled “Reovirus for the treatment of neoplasia”. The claims describe the use of a reovirus for the manufacture of a medicament to treat Ras-mediated neoplasia as well as methods of treating various cancers by the administration of the reovirus.

            According to the company, the claims in the Oncolytics’ third Canadian patent provide additional coverage for the use of the reovirus in treating cancers and this patent further broadens its patent coverage in Canada.

December 2005, WISTA IPR Biotechnology


Positive attitude delays ageing

The University of Texas found people with an upbeat view of life were less likely than pessimists to show signs of frailty.

            The researchers say their findings suggest psychosocial factors - as well as genes and physical health - play a role in how quickly we age.

            The Texas team carried out tests on 1,558 older people from the Mexican American community to examine whether there was a link between positive emotions and the onset of frailty.

At the start of the seven year study all the volunteers were in relatively robust good health.

            The researchers assessed the development of frailty during the study by measuring the participants' weight loss, exhaustion, walking speed and grip strength.

            They found that those people who had a positive outlook on life were significantly less likely to become frail.

            The researchers said more research is required to pin down why there should be a link.

            But they speculate that positive emotions may directly affect health by altering the chemical balance of the body.

            Alternatively, it may that an upbeat attitude helps to boost a person's health by making it more likely they will be successful in life.


Benefits of Pineapple

Pineapple enzymes have been used with success to treat rheumatoid arthritis and tospeed tissue repair as a result of injuries, diabetic ulcers and general surgery. Bromelain enzymes are present in raw pineapple or freshly squeezed juice. Pineapple enzymes act specifically to break down protein, helping to ease digestion.

          It reduces blood clotting and helps to remove plaque from arterial walls. Studies suggest that pineapple enzymes may improve circulation in those with narrowed arteries, such as angina sufferers. It is used to help cure bronquitis, throat infections. It has a laxative effect, helps to clear digestive inflammation and intestinal fevers. It is efficient in the treatment of arterioscleroses and anaemia. Pineapple is an excellent cerebral toner; it combats loss of memory, sadness and melancholy.


Painful Protein - found in nerve cells:

Scientists in the US have discovered a protein in nerve cells that can act as a switch for chronic pain.  The switch is called protein kinase G (PKG). This could lead to the development of a new class of drugs for blocking chronic pain.

            The researchers, from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), found that PKG is activated by injury or

inflammation, and passes the pain message to the brain. Turning the PKG off relieves the pain and makes it a good target for therapy. This pathway was described earlier in invertebrates but the Columbia group has worked on rats that have a nervous system that is closer to humans.

            None of the existing drugs are adequate to deal with chronic pain because of side effects, which include getting addicted to them.  Painkillers available in the market target neurons in the spinal cord that relay pain messages to the brain. But this means that the drug has to overcome the blood-brain barrier. The CUMC researchers have focused on the neurons near the skin that send messages to the spinal cord. The group has applied for a patent for the pathway that turns on the PKG, as well as several molecules that inhibit it.

 August 31, 2006 Down to Earth

Another cause of type 2 diabetes found

U.S. scientists have discovered a third abnormality that might play a role in the development of obesity-induced type 2 diabetes.

            In cases of type 2 diabetes, the body's cells fail to appropriately regulate blood glucose levels. Previous research suggested that results from two simultaneous problems: the improper functioning of pancreatic beta cells and the impairment of insulin's actions on target tissues, including the liver, fat and muscles.

            In the new study, scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

and the Oregon Health & Science University identified a previously unrecognized role for glucose-sensing neurons in the onset of the disease.

            "For many years we've known subpopulations of neurons in the brain become 'excited' by glucose," said Dr. Bradford Lowell, a Harvard Medical School professor. "But we haven't understood exactly how or why this is significant.

            "With this study, we show these neurons sense increases in glucose and then initiate responses aimed at returning blood-glucose levels to normal. This is the first demonstration that glucose-sensing by neurons plays an important role in responding to rising blood glucose levels."


Scientists discover 'Homer Simpson gene' that controls our desire for food

Scientists have found the "Homer hormone", which controls our desire for food and leaves the Simpsons character salivating uncontrollably at the mention of doughnuts.

            Scientists at Cambridge University discovered that Leptin, which makes us feel full when we have eaten enough, also affects the brain's pleasure centres.

            In people with a Leptin deficiency this desire for food can be so powerful that it over-rides normal cues, causing them to overeat.

            Dr. Sadaf Farooqi, who led the research, said it would play a key role in treating obesity. He added: "The finding that the liking of food is biologically driven should encourage a more sympathetic attitude to people with weight problems."

            People with Leptin deficiency were shown pictures of chocolate cake

and pizza. Imaging scans showed that several areas of the brain linked to pleasant emotions and desires responded to the images.

            Activity in these areas of the brain was reduced when the patients were treated with Leptin


Do you need to Detoxify?

Detoxification is an amazingly popular health fad. The idea is that we take in so many toxic substances through food, drink and air that our bodies become toxic and our immune systems get overloaded. To restore health, we have to remove toxins by fasting or flushing the colon. Sounds reasonable – but there’s not a shred of fact behind the theory (although detoxification of the liver by nutritional intervention and the use of antioxidants is sometimes necessary).

            While the idea that fasting can cleanse your body of toxins is thousands of years old, medical experts today say that drinking only water or juice for more than a day or so can be  dangerous, especially for those with kidney or liver disease. As for colonics – super-sized enemas that are supposed to remove bacteria and poisons from the colon and solve every health problem from allergies to chronic fatigue to pimples – they’re risky even for people in the best of health. A pump pulses litres of water through a hose-like tube high into your colon. A second tube draws the water out. Within a 45-minute session, the colon is filled and emptied several times over.

            While there are valid reasons to have an occasional enema (to cleanse before the bowel before having a colonoscopy, for instance), getting rid of toxins is not among them. The cells lining the gastrointestinal tract are replaced every two to three days, so toxins have no chance to build up. Finally, there are plenty of reasons not to have colonic cleansing.

  1. The process may trigger irregular heartbeats. It may also slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.

  2. Colonics may worsen real bowel problems, such as diverticulitis (inflammation of small pockets in the wall of the colon) and irritable bowel syndrome.

  3. There’s a slight risk of bowel perforation or infection.

  4. Habitual colonics can render the colon lazy. It is possible to become dependent on colonics to evacuate.

Readers Digest- Strengthen Your Immune System

Edited by Dr. A. M. Mehendale