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May 31
Pan masala ban: A great gift to Kerala people
This open letter is to express our gratitude for the landmark decision to ban the sale of pan masala, gutka and all sorts of smokeless tobacco in our state. This is especially welcome as the ban has come on the eve of 'World No-Tobacco Day' which falls on May 31. This is a gift to our fellow human beings, the children, young adults and even unborn new generation of our beloved state. Tobacco is the only product which has the ability to kill 60 percent of its consumers and patrons. Millions die across the globe due to the ill-effects of tobacco, including cancer, heart attacks, angina, high blood pressure, cerebrovascular accidents, cerebral arteriosclerosis and chronic respiratory diseases, chronic bronchitis.

It has also the capacity to produce impotence in males, lack of sperm counts, infertility in females and still births in pregnant mothers.Tobacco kills 10-15 lakh persons annually in India (more than TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria combined) 2,500 deaths daily. It causes 50 percent of cancers in men and 25 percent in women. India has got the highest incidence of oral cancer and other head and neck cancers in the world.

The Director General WHO has said that "The tobacco industry subverted science, economics and political process to market lethal and inherently defective products that impose a massive burden of disease and death on the countries.''Tobacco killed one person every eight seconds. That made it 4 million preventable deaths.

If one product is banned, it indirectly promotes another product with similar contents and that is human tendency. Why not ban the sale of the old Kerala -style pan ("Murukkan") the usage of which is rampant among the low socio- economic strata in our state from time immemorial as well?

Pan /gutka kills only the consumer but cigarette destroys the innocent people around as well. Looking at the quantum of diseases cigarettes can induce as mentioned earlier, why we only target pan and gutka. It is the right of non-smokers and un-born children in the womb of mothers to enjoy fresh air. Why should we not take action or help to reduce that menace also?

There is a regulation and law regarding explicit display of smoking scenes in cinemas and serials.(COTPA-2003). But as we look around we can see it is grossly violated by film makers. When superstars perform any vices, the fans and children will try to emulate them. You could see such huge hoardings across Kerala of several movie stars of Malayalam filmdom with burning cigarettes on their lip. Can you not give stricter instructions to the Censor Board not to sanction release of such movies?

I have direct knowledge from the community survey conducted in Ernakulam district that schoolgoing children are lured into pan chewing by peers and elders. Majority of brands even add ganja and glass pieces to get the "kick" faster and to adhere to one.

Why not educate children on the ill- effects of tobacco through curriculum? If properly taught and if the teachers do not show double standard (tobacco usage among teachers will have negative impact). Will it not add more credibility to the ban?

May 31
Sleepy drivers almost as dangerous as drunken drivers: study
Being sleepy behind the wheel is almost as dangerous as drinking and driving, according to a study from France, with drivers who were either drunk or sleepy at least twice as likely to cause a vehicle accident as their sober or well-rested counterparts.

For the study, researchers under the direction of Nicholas Moore at the Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de Bordeaux analyzed information from 679 drivers admitted to a hospital in southwestern France for more than 24 hours because of a serious accident between 2007 and 2009.

"Sleepiness carried almost as much risk as alcohol ingestion," wrote Moore and his colleagues in a letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers used information from driver questionnaires and police reports to determine what may have contributed to the accidents. Drivers reported what medications they were on, their alcohol use and how sleepy they had been before the crash, while patient files provided information on blood alcohol levels.

The majority of the injured drivers were under 55 years old and men. Over half were on a motorcycle, about one-third in a car and 10 percent on a bicycle at the time of the accident.

The police determined that 355 of the drivers were responsible for their crash. From that, Moore and his colleagues found that being between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, driving a car, drinking alcohol and being sleepy were all tied to an increased risk of causing an accident.

"We know from experimental studies that just four hours of sleep loss will produce as much impairment as a six pack (of beer)," said Christopher Drake, an associate scientist at the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit.

"If you have a whole night of sleep loss, that's equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.19," said Drake, who was not involved in the study.

A blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent is considered legally drunk in most U.S. states.

May 30
NASA's 'space drink' helps reduce wrinkles
A "space drink" concocted by NASA to protect astronauts from radiation has been found to be effective against wrinkles, blemishes and other skin damage from the sun.

According to University of Utah researchers, the drink known as AS10 has shown miraculous results on the 180 skin-damaged
participants in their human trials.

They found that after just four months of drinking two shots of the potion daily, UV spots were reduced by 30 percent and wrinkles by 17 percent, the New York Daily News reported.

The drink is a blend of exotic fruits, including acai, acerola, prickly pear, yumberry, grape, green tea, pomegranate and Brazil's cupuacu.

The ingredients provide high amounts of vitamins and phytochemicals that block harmful effects of radiation, the researchers said.

It also has plenty of antioxidants that ward off oxidative stress, or "free radicals" that damage skin cells.

"The skin is the first body tissue to be exposed to UV rays and we know it is sensitive to oxidative stress," explained Dr. Aaron Barson, a nutritional scientist at the University of Utah.

"Our study shows it greatly benefits from a reduction in this stress. The effects of oxidative stress on the skin can be quickly modified and the skin can heal itself by drinking AS10," said Barson, who is planning a larger study this summer.

Participants, mostly women, drank a little over 2 ounces of AS10 a day.

A 25-ounce bottle of AS10 cost about 50 dollars.

May 30
Now, a helpline to help you quit tobacco
Quitting tobacco could become easier from this May 31 on World No Tobacco Day, with a prominent tobacco cessation company Nicorette starting a helpline that provides techniques to get rid of the addiction.

Tushar Murdeshwar, vice-president marketing at the consumer division of Nicorette's parent company, Johnson & Johnson India, said on Tuesday: "We want to partner with quitters through their entire journey by providing them the entire infrastructure and support that is needed to quit."

"We are confident our tobacco cessation infrastructure will help tobacco users struggling to quit by guiding them on effective tobacco cessation techniques, and providing encouragement through various touch points," he added.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), such helplines are essential for any tobacco-control effort due to their easy accessibility and cost-effectiveness as tools to increase the quit success rate.

Murdeshwar added that the helpline is the latest addition to Nicorette's Tobacco Cessation Infrastructure, which already has a Facebook page and an SMS-based text-to-quit service.

The company manufactures nicotine-based chewing gums that help in quitting tobacco. The gums include small quantities of medicinal nicotine, that satiate a tobacco user's nicotine craving without the harmful effects of smoking.

The helpline, called National Tobacco Cessation Quit Line, will be accessible from May 31, from 9am to 9pm at the toll-free number: 1800-227787.

Tobacco cessation counselling will be provided in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali. Also, callers wanting on-ground support will be referred to a local Tobacco Intervention Initiative (TII) centre of the Indian Dental Association (IDA). Currently there are 500 TII centres across India.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (2009-2010) shows that one-third of all adults in India use tobacco in some form or the other, and over 35 percent of them want to quit this habit. However, inaccessibility to treatment, lack of support and low levels of awareness has been the major hindrances in determining low success rates.

May 29
Protein 'helps body attack cancer'
Scientists claim to have engineered a protein which allows the body`s immune cells to get inside tumours and attack cancer cells.


The pioneering experiment, published in the `Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences` journal, was carried out by an international team led by Prof Ruth Ganss at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research.

"Until now, immunotherapy has not been very successful in treating cancer because tumours are very resistant to immune cells," said Dr Anna Johansson, from The University of Western Australia, a team member.

"As a cancerous tumour grows, it forms a solid ball which is difficult for immune cells to get into and even if they can penetrate the tumour, the environment inside it either kills the cells or makes it difficult for them to function.

"We engineered a protein called TNF-Alpha so that it went straight to a pancreatic tumour and stayed there without toxic side effects outside the tumour. TNF-Alpha affected the blood vessels in the tumour in a surprising way which opened the solid ball so that immune cells could get inside.

"We thought it might damage the blood vessels because TNF-Alpha can be very toxic, but in low doses it actually improved them and increased healthy blood flow, helping immune cells to get inside the cancer," she said in a release.

TNF-Alpha has been shown to enhance the tumour`s response to chemotherapy but until now researchers did not understand why. This study provides insights on how low-dose TNF-Alpha works in tumour and also shows for the first time that it can be combined with immunotherapy.

May 29
'Soy supplement shows no blood pressure benefit'
Soy-rich diets have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, but soy supplements alone may not do anything for older women's blood pressure, according to a U.S. study.
The findings, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, add to the mixed evidence on the health benefits of soy isoflavones - compounds that are thought to have weak estrogen-like effects in some body tissue.
Researchers have long known that Asian populations with soy-rich diets have lower rates of heart disease compared with people who eat "Western" diets, but it has not been clear whether soy isoflavone supplements have cardiovascular benefits, such as cutting blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
A number of studies have found that intravenous infusions of soy isoflavones may boost the body's production of nitric oxide and help blood vessels dilate.
"But we don't take soy by infusion," said William Wong, a nutrition researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who led the study.
On top of that, he told Reuters Health, those studies looked at short-term effects on blood vessel function, and not whether there are "sustained" benefits for blood pressure.
So for their study, Wong and his colleagues randomly assigned 24 menopausal women to take either soy isoflavones or placebo tablets for six weeks. The supplement gave a daily dose of 80 milligrams of isoflavones.
All of the women started the study with moderately elevated blood pressure. After six weeks, Wong's team found that women on the soy supplement were faring no better than those on the placebo.
On average, systolic blood pressure was 136 mm/Hg in the placebo group, and 137 mm/Hg in the soy group. Systolic blood pressure is the first number in a blood-pressure reading, and levels of 140 mm/Hg or above are considered high.
As for diastolic blood pressure, the average in both groups landed at about 80 mm/Hg, or the upper threshold of "normal."
Wong's team also did special blood tests to see whether the soy supplement affected the women's production of nitric oxide, a chemical that dilates blood vessels. They found no effect.
"It was disappointing," Wong said.
While the study only lasted for six weeks, Wong said that the time period should have been long enough to detect blood pressure benefits if there were any.
"If we didn't see anything in six weeks, we doubt there would be effects (longer term)," he said.
He said that the health benefits linked to soy in Asian populations may be the result of a lifetime of eating those foods and taking supplements later in life may simply not have enough of an impact.
"I think that if people are looking for a magic bullet against high blood pressure, this is not it," he added.

May 28
No respite from dengue cases
Fifteen more persons with suspected dengue fever have been admitted to hospitals in Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore districts even as health authorities carried out fogging and spraying operations to contain the spread of the disease.

In Chennai, three more cases were reported taking the total number of cases detected in the city to 129 this year. Health officials said that the patients were responding to treatment. Screening camps have been organised at major railway stations as the authorities were worried that people from the southern region coming to city could be bringing the virus along with them.

In Madurai, seven new dengue positive patients were admitted to the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) on Saturday.

Dr A Pragadeshwaran, Resident Medical Officer (RMO), GRH, said one of the patients was from Madurai district while the others were from neighbouring Theni and Virudhunagar districts.

The RMO said that all the patients were stable and they were recovering well from dengue.

Meanwhile, Madurai Mayor V V Rajan Chellappa and Corporation Commissioner R. Nanthagopal visited a few areas, including Subramaniyapuram, Mela Anuppanadi Housing Board, Ellis Nagar and Sellur Market, where fogging and spraying were being done to control the dengue causing mosquito.

The scene is not very different in Coimbatore where, despite claims of adequate preventive measures by health authorities, five more persons with symptoms of dengue have been admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital in the past two days.

With this, sources said, there were seven person undergoing treatment at the hospital for the deadly viral infection.

One patient was from the city and the rest from neighbouring districts. Four of the cases were from the Tirupur district while Erode and Karur districts have accounted for one case each.

Strikingly, most of the admitted persons were in the age group of 16 to 28 years.

"Fever, coupled with headache, especially beneath the eyes, and pain in the bones are the early symptoms of dengue," said P Ravi Kumar of Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.

"People should go for a blood test immediately after they betray such symptoms for early detection," Ravi Kumar added.

Health officials said prevention of water stagnation was of paramount importance to preventing the spread of the disease.

"Aedes aegypti mosquitoes breed only in fresh water and spread disease only during the day time," said Deputy Director of Public Health, S Senthilkumar.

"People should make sure that there is no water stagnation around their houses. Even a disposed water cup could be a source for the mosquitoes to breed," Senthilkumar added.

Meanwhile, the city corporation has started fogging operations in areas prone to acute mosquito breeding.

May 28
Thyroid cancer curable if detected early
Lack of awareness and a delay in diagnosis can prove costly for those suffering from thyroid cancer, a condition that has till date affected about 42 million people in India, according to medical experts.

Thyroid cancer proves a paradox to the medical fraternity because it is one of the deadliest yet most curable form of cancer in the world according to doctors.

"According to official statistics, the number of thyroid patients in India is one-tenth of 48,000 Americans who are suffering from thyroid cancer. So, we can officially put around 5000 to 6000 patients in India are suffering from thyroid cancer," says Dr C S Bal, Professor in Nuclear Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Science.

Bal points out that this is simply the data that has been made available to doctors by government hospitals.

"The unaccounted number of patients who are being treated in private hospitals may be even more which puts the number at one to two cases per 10,000 Indians," says Bal.

Thyroid cancer starts in the thyroid gland that produces thyroid hormones which are important in the normal regulation of the metabolism of the body.

The exact cause of thyroid cancer remains unknown and the common symptoms include a lump or thyroid nodule in the neck, trouble with swallowing, throat or neck pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, persistent cough and vocal changes.

"Initially I saw small nodules in my neck and later when I was pregnant I went to the Amritsar Cancer Hospital to get it checked thoroughly where the doctor declared that I had thyroid cancer," says 40-year Kuldeep Kaur whose life was turned upside down after she discovered small nodules on her neck after she underwent surgery after a bike accident and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

A delay in the investigation procedure proved detrimental for Kaur, mother to a young child who found that she was already in the second stage of the cancer.

"It was quite shocking for me. I did not want to go in for an operation as I was thinking about my child. For a year I opted for ayurvedic treatment which did not help me and the condition got worse.

May 26
70% women would sacrifice sex for perfect bikini body
With the arrival of spring season, women are feeling overly pressured to slim down and shape up to fit into a bikini.

And a new survey has revealed 68% of women would give up sex for at least a month in exchange for their ideal, 'summer ready' beach body.

About 82% of women say the feel overly pressured to slim down before summer, according to the survey conduced jointly by Shape magazine and FitSugar.

More than 50% of women say they hate their abs, while 29% revealed they are most insecure about their thighs, the Daily Mail reported.

When it comes to working out, 47% admit to working on their abs more than any other muscle group.

Women who feel pressured to slim down cite Facebook as a large contributor.

90% of readers said that they would never 'like' a photo of themselves tagged wearing a bikini, and 44% would remove the tag or ask their friend to take down the photo.

Shedding the 'last stubborn pounds' before hitting the beach was also a big concern, with 79% of respondents saying they want to lose at least five pounds this summer.

60% of women admitted to dieting in anticipation of bikini season, with 53% cutting calories, 22% forgoing carbs, and 15% trying other strategies.

Most women however are embarking on their diets using healthy meals and exercise - with only 1% using juice fasts, and 3% relying on detox diets to meet their weight-loss goals.

May 26
Seminar on tobacco awareness
The tobacco industry has been using covert ways to disrupt public health policies, and there is a conflicting mandate within government," opined Upendra Bhojani, member, Consortium for Tobacco Control, Karnataka.
To create awareness on tobacco and to advocate for strong tobacco control measures, the District Anti Tobacco Cell, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, is organising a workshop on May 31, on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).
"The Health Ministry is taking measures to curb tobacco menace, while the Commerce Ministry is promoting tobacco trade and industry development through the Indian Tobacco Board. The state government in the last budget, raised taxes on cigarettes and beedis, but rolled back the prices later," Bhojani said.
He said ITC was the biggest player in cigarette industry in India.