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Black rice is low in sugar but packed with healthy fibre and plant compounds that combat heart disease and cancer, according to scientists.

Black rice – revered in ancient China but overlooked in the West – could be the greatest ‘superfoods’, scientists revealed today.  The cereal is low in sugar but packed with healthy fibre and plant compounds that combat heart disease and cancer, say experts.

Scientists from Louisiana State University analysed samples of bran from black rice grown in the southern U.S.   They found boosted levels of water-soluble anthocyanin antioxidants.  Anthocyanins provide the dark colours of many fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries and red peppers. They are what makes black rice ‘black’.

Research suggests that the dark plant antioxidants, which mop up harmful molecules, can help protect arteries and prevent the DNA damage that leads to cancer.

Food scientist Dr Zhimin Xu said: ‘Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar, and more fibre and vitamin E antioxidants.

‘If berries are used to boost health, why not black rice and black rice bran? Especially, black rice bran would be a unique and economical material to increase consumption of health-promoting antioxidants.’

Centuries ago black rice was known as ‘Forbidden Rice’ in ancient China because only nobles were allowed to eat it.  Today black rice is mainly used in Asia for food decoration, noodles, sushi and desserts.  But food manufacturers could potentially use black rice bran or bran extracts to make breakfast cereals, beverages, cakes, biscuits and other foods healthier, said Dr Xu.

When rice is processed, millers remove the outer layers of the grains to produce brown rice or more refined white rice – the kind most widely consumed in the West.

Brown rice is said to be more nutritious because it has higher levels of healthy vitamin E compounds and antioxidants.  But according to Dr Xu’s team, varieties of rice that are black or purple in colour are healthier still.  They added that black rice could also be used to provide healthier, natural colourants.

Studies linked some artificial colourants to cancer and behavioural problems in children.

The scientists presented their findings today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.  Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘In reality, it’s unlikely there’s a single food out there that will have a great impact on lowering your risk of heart disease. Healthy eating is about a balanced diet overall.

‘It’s great if you can eat more of some groups of healthy foods, like having five portions of fruit and vegetable a day, but there is still no conclusive evidence that ‘super foods’ alone make a real difference to your heart health.’

(Source: Daily Mail, UK, 27 August 2010 –
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1306356/Black-rice-new-cancer-fighting-superfood-claim-scientists.html)

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Teenagers who are addicted to the internet show signs of brain changes  similar to those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, a study suggests.

Chinese researchers used MRI scans to look at the brain structure of 17 young people with “internet addiction disorder” attending the Shanghai Mental Health Centre and compared them with those of 16 healthy volunteers.

In the internet-addicted teens, the scans showed changes to the white matter fibres which connect the regions of the brain involved in emotional processing, attention and decision-making.

Other research has found similar white matter changes in the brains of people addicted to alcohol,  cocaine, cannabis and other drugs.

The researchers, led by Dr Hao Lei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, wrote in the journal Plos One: “The findings suggest that white matter integrity may serve as a potential new treatment target in internet addiction disorder.”

However, the study findings cannot say whether internet addiction causes the brain changes seen in the study. Some people may already have brains which make them more likely to become addicts.

Commenting on the study, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a consultant psychiatrist at Imperial College London, said: “This type of research exploring the differences between normal brains of people who suffer from internet addictions is groundbreaking, as it makes clear neuroimaging links between internet addiction and other addictions such as alcohol, cocaine and cannabis among others.”

“We are finally being told what clinicians suspected for some time now, that white matter abnormalities in the orbito-frontal cortex and other truly significant brain areas are present not only in addictions where substances are involved but also in behavioural ones such as internet addiction.”

How do you know if you’re already addicted or rapidly tumbling toward trouble? you can stop….
Identify yourself with this video

(Source: Yahoo Group)

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“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
–   by His Holiness the Dalai Lama   –  

Poor people are quicker than middle-class or rich individuals to recognize the suffering of others and to show compassion, according to a new study.

It included more than 300 young adults who were divided into groups that took part in three experiments designed to assess their levels of empathy and compassion.

The findings challenge previous research that concluded lower-class people are more likely to react with anxiety and hostility when faced with adversity, said the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

“These latest results indicate that there’s a culture of compassion and cooperation among lower-class individuals that may be born out of threats to their well-being,” study author and social psychologist Jennifer Stellar said in a university news release.

“It’s not that the upper classes are cold-hearted. They may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven’t had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives,” she explained.

The findings, published online on 12 December 2011 in the Journal Emotion, suggest a scientific basis for emotional differences between the rich and poor that are depicted in such Charles Dickens classics as “A Christmas Carol” and “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The results also indicate that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may do better in cooperative settings than those who are wealthy.

“Upper-class individuals appear to be more self-focused, they’ve grown up with more freedom and autonomy,” Stellar said. “They may do better in an individualist, competitive environment.”

For more information on compassion, go to the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University.

(Source: HealthDayNews, 27 December 2011)

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ANOTHER REASON TO PRACTICE YOGA

A lifetime of walking, standing, lifting, and twisting causes significant low back pain in 80% of all adults. And as our population continues to age, osteoporosis becomes an increasingly widespread problem.

If you have chronic lower back pain and are looking for relief, you may want to try yoga. According to a new study from India, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Volume 14, page 637), one week of intensive yoga practice may reduce chronic low back pain and improve spinal flexibility better than a simple physical exercise program.

In the study eighty adults with low back pain for more than three months attended a residential healthcare center for one week. Researchers randomly assigned them to eight hours a day of yoga or general physical exercises like hamstring stretches.

The yoga group practised meditation, breathing and chanting, deep-relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, and yoga postures designed to relax muscles in the spine and strengthen back and abdominal muscles. The physical exercise group also did breathing exercises (non-yoga based), received information about causes of back pain, the benefits of exercise and stress reduction, and they performed standard stretching and strengthening exercises.

At week’s end, the yoga group had a 49% reduction in disability and a significant increase in spinal flexibility. The physical exercise group also had a reduction in disability and better spinal flexibility, but improvements were not as great as those in the yoga group.

ADVICE:
If you want to try yoga, check with your doctor first. If you get the okay, be sure the yoga teacher is knowledgeable about low back pain.

(From the John Hopkins Health Alerts, 25 December 2009)

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It’s long been thought that broccoli is good for your heart, and now British scientists think they know why.

Researchers at Imperial College London have found evidence a chemical in broccoli and other green leafy vegetables could boost a natural defense mechanism that protects arteries from the clogging that can cause heart attacks.

In a study funded by the British Heart Foundation charity and conducted on mice, the researchers found that sulforaphane – a compound occurring naturally in broccoli and other brassicas – could “switch on” a protective protein which is inactive in parts of the arteries vulnerable to clogging.

“We know that vegetables are clearly good for you, but surprisingly the molecular mechanisms of why they are good for you have remained unknown for many years,” said Paul Evans of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College.

“This study provides a possible explanation for how green vegetable consumption can promote a healthy heart.”

Scientists already know that arteries don’t clog up in a uniform way, but that there are bends and branches of blood vessels – where blood flow is disrupted or slower – which are much more prone to the build-up of fatty plaques that cause heart disease.

Evans said his research found that in the more vulnerable areas, a normally protective protein known as Nrf2 is inactive.

“What our study showed was that sulforaphane can protect those regions by switching on the Nrf2,” he said.

The research, reported in the Journal Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, was conducted using purified sulforaphane, not broccoli. Researchers said the next step was to test the effect of the chemical as it is found in vegetables.

“We now need to go and test this with broccoli smoothies, as it were, and compare that with the effect of purified sulforaphane,” Evans said, adding that if the vegetable form proved less effective, there could be an argument for taking sulforaphane in pill form.

(Source: Reuters, September 4, 2009)

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Cutting calories may delay the aging process and reduce the risk of disease, a long-term study of monkeys suggests.

The benefits of calorie restriction are well documented in animals, but now the results have been replicated in a close relative of man over a lengthy period.

Over 20 years, monkeys whose diets were not restricted were nearly three times more likely to have died than those whose calories were counted.

Writing in Science, the US researchers hailed the “major effect” of the diet.

It involved reducing calorie intake by 30% while maintaining nutrition and appeared to impact upon many forms of age-related disease seen in monkeys, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and brain atrophy.

Whether the same effects would be seen in humans is unclear, although anecdotal evidence so far suggests people on a long-term calorie-restricted diet have better cardiovascular health.

The precise mechanism is yet to be established: theories involve changes in the body’s metabolism or a reduction in the production of “free radical” chemicals which can cause damage.

Seventy-six rhesus monkeys were involved in the trial, which began in 1989 and was expanded in 1994.

Half had their diets restricted, half were given free rein at feeding time.

The rate of cancers and cardiovascular disease in dieting animals was less than half of those permitted to eat freely.

While diabetes and problems with glucose regulation were common in monkeys who ate what they wanted, there were no cases in the calorie controlled group.

In addition, while most brains shrink with age, the restricted diet appeared to maintain the volume of the brain at least in some regions.

In particular, the areas associated with movement and memory seemed to be better preserved.

“Both motor speed and mental speed slow down with ageing,” said Sterling Johnson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine.

“Those are the areas which we found to be better preserved. We can’t yet make the claim that a difference in diet is associated with functional change because those studies are still ongoing.

“What we know so far is that there are regional differences in brain mass that appear to be related to diet.”

Earlier this year, German Researchers published findings from their study of elderly people which suggested that calorie reduction appeared to improve memory over a period of just three months.

Various studies on the positive effects of calorie restriction on the life spans of various organisms – from yeast to dogs – have been published over the last 70 years

But Dieticians sounded a note of warning.

“Monkeys may be a close relation but there are significant differences which means not everything we see in them can be translated to humans,” said Catherine Collins, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association.

“And there should be some serious reservations about cutting calories so dramatically, particularly for anyone under the age of 30. Any such diet would need to be very balanced to avoid malnutrition, and it would be a long-term commitment.”

“People would have to weigh up whether they are prepared to compromise their enjoyment of food for the uncertain promise of a longer life, and a life which could be dogged by all sorts of problems – including osteoporosis.”

(Source: BBC News, July 9, 2009)

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The Charles M. and Marilyn Newman Professor and Chairman of Radiology at Mount Sinai, Drayer has been a radiologist specializing in the brain and spine for 30 years.

WHO’S AT RISK:

Thanks to advances in MRI and CT technology, doctors can get highly detailed images of the brain, a procedure used for patients with a wide variety of conditions. “Any patients with neurological or psychiatric symptoms might require an image of their brain, including patients [suffering from] stroke, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, brain infections, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and head injury,” says Drayer.

As for groups at risk, “The same group at risk of heart attack is at risk of stroke, which some people call a ‘brain attack,’ ” says Drayer. “The warning signs of stroke are called TIA [transient ischemic attack], and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and a history of smoking are at higher risk.” Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are associated with advancing age, while brain-tumor and head-trauma patients can be any age, including children, teenagers and otherwise healthy young adults.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:

Doctors have identified a cluster of symptoms that most often bring people in for brain imaging. “Key signs are weakness or numbness, often on one side of the body, loss of speech, vision or hearing, dementia or loss of memory, confusion, involuntary movements and headaches,” says Drayer. “Anyone who is acutely becoming weak or losing their speech should immediately come to an ER in a stroke center that is equipped to prevent the more severe consequences.”

Many neurological conditions will affect one side of the body more than the other. “That’s because a condition affecting one side of the brain usually causes symptoms on the other side of the body,” says Drayer. “For instance, if the tumor is on the right side of the brain, they might have symptoms in the left arm or leg.”

The standard test for people who have suffered head trauma is a CT scan. “That’s now routine,” says Drayer. “If you’ve had severe head trauma, we scan to see if there’s blood on the brain.” Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients most often present with symptoms such as memory loss and tremors or other involuntary movement.

Some patients pick up on their own symptoms, and sometimes doctors or family members note them. “Some patients have chronic problems, others subacute problems, others acute problems — for example, after an auto accident or a stroke,” says Drayer. “At some point they need an image, an MRI or CT scan, to help determine their course of treatment.”

TRADITIONAL TREATMENT:

Modern brain imaging is light-years ahead of the technology in use as recently as 1970. “Traditionally, imaging of the brain was very invasive and difficult,” says Drayer. “For example, for the brain you would do a pneumoencephalogram, where doctors did a spinal tap and inserted air into spinal fluid.

“It was kind of barbaric,” says Drayer, “but it was the best thing we had in 1970.” The patient often had to be hospitalized for a week to recuperate from this diagnostic procedure.

New technology is fast, noninvasive and usually painless. “Now we do an MRI or CT scan to image the brain or spine,” says Drayer. “It takes five minutes for a CT scan or 45 for an MRI. What used to take a week in the hospital and wasn’t as accurate, now takes only 45 minutes and is accurate to millimeter resolution.” The images are now digital, and instead of running X-ray films around the hospital, doctors can read them immediately at work stations and share them with referring physicians or the patient.

In the past, imaging was only diagnostic. “We used it to find out: ‘Do you have a disease or don’t you have a disease?’ ” says Drayer. “Now we use imaging for prevention and therapy as well. Interventional neuroradiologists are treating disease rather than just diagnosing it. … Imaging is giving information at the molecular level to see biochemical and physiological events in the brain,” says Drayer. “This helps us understand the underpinning of the disease.”

“CT scans are extremely quick and simple,” says Drayer. “There is radiation involved, so we try to keep the dose as low as possible.” These scans are good for very sick and unresponsive patients and are especially good for determining if there is acute blood on the brain, which is why they are standard in cases of head trauma. CT is also used during the acute stroke phase.

The highly sensitive MRI is the scan familiar from television; the patient lies down and enters a tubular chamber. “The MRI can be a little claustrophobic, but 95% of patients handle it well,” says Drayer. “It provides much more elegant and complete information.” Doctors choose MRI scans — which usually last about 45 minutes — for what Drayer calls “healthy sick people,” such as those with a neurological or psychiatric problem who are otherwise healthy — for example, a young woman with transient weakness or loss of vision being checked for multiple sclerosis.

PET scans are becoming more important in brain imaging. “This is molecular imaging — it defines the biochemistry of the disease,” says Drayer, who explains the scans are commonly used for following the progress of brain tumors and Alzheimer’s disease.

These tests are also extremely accurate: “We can see things in the brain that are a millimeter in size.”

RESEARCH BREAKTHROUGHS:

Now that the technology for CT, MRI and PET scans is so advanced, doctors think the next big breakthroughs will be in understanding how the brain works. “Eventually, we’ll be able to look at the brain not just when it has a disease — like stroke, Alzheimer’s — but when it is normal and we understand how it works,” says Drayer. “Already we use functional MRI to show for example, that if you’re a professional musician, your brain works differently from a nonmusician; if you’re a professional golfer, your brain works differently when you hit a golf ball than a less experienced golfer.”

The next steps for brain imaging will be for doctors to determine individuals who are more prone to developing chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; they can then lay the groundwork for preventing or delaying the onset of these debilitating disorders.

QUESTIONS FOR YOUR DOCTOR:

A good question to start with is, “Could I benefit from a CT or MRI scan?” Your internist, neurologist or neurosurgeon will determine whether you are a good candidate.

Another good question is, “What are the risks?” For MRI, there is no risk except the discomfort of lying in the MRI machine. “In cases of severe claustrophobia, some people need to be sedated to help them through the exam,” says Drayer. For CT scans, the risk is the radiation intrinsic to the exam, but most centers are very diligent about using the lowest possible dose.

(Source: CNN DailyNews, June 3, 2009)

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