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Dec 31
Chew each mouthful for 30 seconds to shed flab
Want to get rid of your flab? Just chew each mouthful for 30 seconds!
Fighting the flab might not be down to what you eat, but how you eat it, according to new research.

Scientists say the secret to beating a bulging seasonal waistline is to chew your food for 30 seconds before swallowing.

Research shows this has a powerful effect on appetite, as it curbs the desire for the chocolates, sweets and snacks that can pile on the pounds.

Volunteers who chewed their lunch in this way during a study carried out by psychologists at the University of Birmingham, ate half as many snacks in the afternoon as those who ate normally.

Although previous studies have shown chewing for longer curbs calorie intake during a meal, researchers wanted to assess how chewing for longer at lunchtime affected "grazing" habits later in the day.

They recruited 43 students, mostly female, and asked them to refrain from eating for two hours before the test. Each student was then presented with a plate of smoked ham and cheese sandwiches, all identical in size and shape.

A third of the students were told to eat as they normally would, another third to pause for ten seconds between swallowing each mouthful and the last group to chew each bite for 30 seconds before swallowing.

Two hours after the experiment, the students were handed a small bowl of Skittles - chewy, fruit flavoured sweets - and a bowl of Minstrels, the candy-coated chocolate treats.

The results showed students who ate at their normal speed and those who stopped for ten seconds between bites ate the same amount of sweets.

However, those who chewed each mouthful of lunch for 30 seconds ate half as many.

"Participants in the prolonged chewing group were less happy after lunch and had reduced ratings of lunch enjoyment, and pleasantness of the texture of lunch, compared with others," researchers said.

"These effects may be due to the novelty of prolonged chewing, or reduced palatability of the food," they said.

One reason it works may be that, by concentrating so much on the process of eating, the brain "remembers" lunch for longer and is less likely to signal the need for more food so soon afterwards, the report said.

Dec 31
New device to evict back pain without invasive surgery
A new device, which is 200 times more powerful than currently used spinal cord stimulators, can rid you off terrible back-pain without a surgery, a new study has found.

US-made Nevro sends a high-frequency electrical pulse through the spine that could revolutionise the treatment of severe back pain, the Daily mail reported.

According to the study, Nevro is 200 times more powerful than presently used National Health Service`s spinal cord stimulators, which use an electrical pulse to combat pain.

The device is deemed less invasive than surgery and also cheaper.

For the first time in the world, a team of doctors at Guy`s and St Thomas Hospital, London have implanted the Nevro spinal cord stimulator in 100 patients who would otherwise need surgery to stop their back pain.

"This new high-frequency version goes beyond what previous devices could do to give immediate pain relief without any tingling," Lead researcher Adnan Al-Kaisy, consultant in pain management said.

"And we used to have to talk to the patient in the middle of the operation to make sure where they were feeling the tingling sensations. With the Nevro device, they can sleep," Al-Kaisy added.

Patients have a wire, connected to a battery pack, inserted into their epidural space.

If the electrical current that is emitted stops their pain, they will have this wire removed and replaced by the full Nevro implant.

The USD 24,230 implant is switched on using a remote control and patients can use it for up to two hours at a time.

"Patients have no idea whether other kinds of surgery will work, whereas with the Nevro they know what to expect," Al-Kaisy said, adding "We give them a trial of the device before going ahead with a permanent implant."

Dec 29
New blood test to tell how long will you live
Researchers claim to have developed a new controversial `lifespan` test that can tell how long a person will live by determining the rate of ageing.
The blood test estimates how fast someone is ageing by measuring the length of microscopic structures at the ends of each chromosome called telomeres, which keep each chromosome from falling apart when cells divide, they said.

Telomeres shorten after each cell division and animal studies have shown that a high percentage of short telomeres in blood cells is associated with a shorter-than-normal life expectancy, which is why blood tests could provide a guide to ageing and life expectancy.

More than 100 Britons have already taken the revolutionary blood test to see how fast they are ageing, and which might be used in the future to indicate statistically how long they have got left to live, `The Independent` reported.

The company behind the test believes that thousands will further take the 650 pounds blood check in UK next year, and millions more worldwide will be tested by the end of the decade.

It also expects the test to be used as part of the standard medical check-up required by insurance companies, just as they now ask about family history of disease and whether someone is a smoker or obese.

"We consider that this will become as standard a medical diagnostic test as cholesterol testing is now," said Stephen Matlin, chief executive of Life Length, which is based in Madrid.

"If you look at cholesterol testing since the early 1980s, in a period of 15 years testing volume went from nothing to about 100 million a year," Matlin said.

However, some experts have warned that there is still not enough known about telomere testing to provide people with any meaningful medical advice, and one Nobel prize-winner has warned that 99 per cent of people who take the test will not gain any benefit.

"Today there are 500 million cholesterol tests a year. If we do one per cent of this, we are doing well. We hope to be testing millions of people by 2020," Matlin said.

The company plans to lower the price of the test by 20 per cent a year for the next five years so that it costs no more than about 65 pounds by 2017, bringing it within the price range of millions of new customers.

Dec 29
New slimming pill includes sticky willy among ingredients.. a century after first being created
A SCOTS herbalist's sticky willy and seaweed pills are set to become the latest slimming craze 100 years on.

William Box first combined the two ingredients when he created his Slimwell anti-fat slimming tablets in 1913.

A century on, his recipe has been awarded a Traditional Herbal Registration licence. It means the slimming pill will be in shops just in time for the annual battle to shift the festive bulge.

Trading under the name Quantrim, the pill's ingredients include bladderwrack a type of seaweed and the commonly found weed cleavers, also known as sticky willies.

Both ingredients have long been known to have health benefits. Seaweed, which is full of nutrients but also suppresses appetite, is a "superfood" popular with celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna.

And cleavers have been used in health recipes dating back to Roman times.

But put together, the two plants combine to raise the body's meta-bolism, helping it to burn more calories naturally.

That's because both are a source of a chemical called chelated iodine, which the body uses to create a thyroid-stimulating hormone.

If the body's level of this hormone is too low, it can lead to weight gain.

A Quantrim spokesperson said: "It's a safe, natural weight-loss aid that will enable everyone to achieve their ideal weight with less struggle than dieting alone.

"Quantrim reduces hunger pains as your appetite is curbed. As your natural energy levels and metabolism increase, it burns fat and cellulite."

Dec 28
Dolphin-therapy helps children with mental disability
A new Dolphin-assisted therapy that helps treat children with mental disabilities is gaining popularity in China, according to a media report.

The technique for children with mental disabilities has already made a splash in the West, and China is now riding the experimental tide.

Fifteen sessions with a pair of bottle-nosed dolphins at Hangzhou Polar Ocean Park have helped a five-year-old autistic kid become "aware" and "alert".

Zheng Jun, father of the boy, believes the dolphin-assisted therapy has been more effective than any other treatment.

"Now, you can`t tell he`s different from his classmates," Zheng said.
Zheng became a believer of the technique after he visited an Australian dolphin-swim programme few years ago. He says his son is elated when he splashes with the creatures in the park in Jiangsu, capital of east China`s Zhejiang province.

More than 80 parents of children with severe mental disabilities have booked all of next year`s spots in the program, the daily said.

Newcomers must now wait until 2014, says Liu Quansheng, manager of the park`s owner, Zhejiang Aquarium Investment Group.

"People with mental disabilities often have short attention spans. Swimming with dolphins helps them relax and focus," Liu said.

"Dolphin therapy is effective because these animals hold the kids` attention better than even the most engaging human therapist," he said.

While the science of dolphin-assisted therapy`s assortment of purported benefits hasn`t been verified, many believe at least some benefits come from the experience`s emotional magic.

Dec 28
Excessive aspirin use can turn you blind
A new study has found that regular aspirin use ten years ago was associated with a small but statistically significant increase in the risk of neovascular age-related macular degeneration.

Barbara E. K. Klein, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, and colleagues conducted a study to examine the association between aspirin use and AMD.

The researchers used data from the Beaver Dam Eye Study, a longitudinal population-based study of age-related eye diseases conducted in Wisconsin. Examinations were performed every 5 years over a 20-year period (1988-1990 through 2008-2010).

Study participants (n = 4,926) were 43 to 86 years of age at entry in the study. At subsequent examinations, participants were asked if they had regularly used aspirin at least twice a week for more than 3 months. The average duration of follow-up was 14.8 years.

For the study, the researchers measured the incidences of different types of AMD (early, late, and 2 subtypes of late AMD [neovascular AMD and pure geographic atrophy]).

There were 512 incident cases of early AMD and 117 incident cases of late AMD over the course of the study.

The researchers found that regular use of aspirin use 10 years prior to the retinal examination was associated with late AMD (age- and sex-adjusted incidence, 1.8 per cent for users vs. 1.0 percent for nonusers).

When examining the relationships by late AMD subtype, neovascular AMD was significantly associated with such use (age-and sex-adjusted incidence, 1.4 per cent for users vs. 0.6 per cent for nonusers), but not for pure geographic atrophy. Aspirin use 5 years or 10 years prior to retinal examination was not associated with incident early AMD.

"Our findings are consistent with a small but statistically significant association between regular aspirin use and incidence of neovascular AMD. Additional replication is required to confirm our observations. If confirmed, defining the causal mechanisms may be important in developing methods to block this effect to prevent or retard the development of neovascular AMD in persons who use aspirin, especially to prevent CVD," the authors conclude.

The study appeared in the latest issue of JAMA.

Dec 27
Too much Internet use may leave kids `brain-dead`: Expert
A `Google generation` which relies on the Internet for everything is in danger of becoming `brain-dead`, a leading UK inventor has warned.

Trevor Baylis, who invented the wind-up radio, said children are losing creativity and practical skills because they spend too much time in front of screens.

The 75-year-old from Twickenham, south-west London, said he fears that the next generation of inventors is being lost, with young people often unable to make anything with their hands, the `Daily Mail` reported.

He said children could rediscover vital skills if schools used practical toys like Meccano, a model construction system.

"Children have got to be taught hands-on, and not to become mobile phone or computer dependent," Baylis said.

"They should use computers as and when, but there are so many people playing with their computers nowadays that spend all their time sitting there with a stomach," he said.

"They are dependent on Google searches. A lot of kids will become fairly brain-dead if they become so dependent on the Internet, because they will not be able to do things the old-fashioned way," he said.

Dec 27
Smokers `failing to kick the butt within 1st 24 hours`
Almost one in five people who have tried to quit smoking failed within 24 hours and more than half lasted less than a week, a new survey has found.

According to a poll of 6,200 current or former smokers, the average smoker tried to quit four times and one in 10 unsuccessfully tried 10 times, but despite the repeated failures, 45 percent of smokers think about giving up every day, the Independent reported.

60 percent smokers plan to stub out their last cigarette in January, according to the survey on behalf of Pfizer's 'Don't Go Cold Turkey' campaign.

The campaign aims to encourage smokers to talk to healthcare workers about how they plan to quit.

Dec 26
Anxiety can trigger heart palpitations: Expert
Anxiety in "young highly-strung personalities" may cause the heart to palpitate, resulting in potentially life-threatening problems, a leading cardiologist has cautioned.

"Anxiety is one of the important causes in young highly-strung personalities and is affected by the state of mind. Psychological problems can thus induce one to palpitate. It is therefore important to consider the psycho-social aspect before coming to a conclusion," said Dr Upendra Kaul, Executive Director and Dean Cardiology, Escorts Heart Institute and Fortis Vasant Kunj.
Dr Kaul, a Padma Shri awardee, explained palpitation as "an abnormality of heartbeat that ranges from often unnoticed skipped beats or accelerated heart rate to very noticeable changes accompanied by dizziness or difficulty breathing."

"It (heart palpitation) is a common cause of seeking medical attention and can range in terms of seriousness from absolutely benign to potentially a life threatening problem," said Dr Kaul.

Heart palpitations are reported by many persons at all ages and both sexes, he wrote in an article `Palpitations of Heart: What can we do about them?`
Palpitations can be attributed to three major causes, anxiety being one of them, Dr Kaul said.

The other is Hyperdynamic circulation caused by leaking heart valves, disorders of thyroid gland, fever, anaemia and pregnancy.

Disorders of the heart rhythm can also cause palpitations and some of these disorders like a ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation can be life threatening if not recognised in time, warned Dr Kaul.

Depending on the type of rhythm problem, these symptoms may be just momentary or more prolonged. Actual blackouts or near blackouts, associated with palpitations, should be taken seriously because they often indicate the presence of an underlying heart disease, he said.

The most important initial clue to the diagnosis is one`s description of the palpitations. The approximate age of the person when first noticed and the circumstances under which they occur are important, as is information about caffeine intake (tea or coffee drinking).

The diagnosis is usually not made by a routine medical examination and electrical tracing of the heart`s activity (ECG), because most people cannot arrange to have their symptoms to be present while visiting the doctor.

Nevertheless, findings such as a heart murmur or an abnormality of the ECG may be discovered, which could point to the probable diagnosis, he said.

Blood tests, particularly tests of thyroid gland function
are also important baseline investigations (an overactive thyroid gland is a potential cause for palpitations; the treatment in that case is to treat the thyroid gland over-activity).

The next level of diagnostic testing is usually 24 hour (or longer) ECG monitoring, using a form of tape recorder called a Holter monitor, which can record the ECG continuously during a 24-hour period.

For this type of monitoring to be helpful, the symptoms must be occurring at least once a day. If they are less frequent, the chances of detecting anything with continuous 24, or even 48-hour monitoring, are substantially lowered.

Other forms of monitoring are available, and these can be useful when symptoms are infrequent. A continuous-loop event recorder monitors the ECG continuously, but only saves the data when the wearer activates it, Dr Kaul said.

Once activated, it will save the ECG data for a period of time before the activation and for a period of time afterwards.
A new type of continuous-loop recorder has been developed recently that may be helpful in people with very infrequent, but disabling symptoms, he added.

This recorder is implanted under the skin on the front of the chest, like a pacemaker. It can be programmed and the data examined using an external device that communicates with it by means of a radio signal.

Investigation of heart structure can also be important in diagnosis of palpitations.

"There are many gratifying treatment modalities available these days to prevent serious events. These include pacemakers, implantable defibrillators which recognise serious arrhythmias and treat them before a nearly fatal event," Kaul said.

"Healthy lifestyle from a young age can go a long way to keep your heart healthy and prevent palpitations and many serious complications," he advised.

Regular exercising, eating a "heart healthy diet," keeping blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels under strict control would help, he said.

Dec 26
Cholesterol important for development and function of brain
Two molecules that play an important role in the survival and production of nerve cells in the brain, including nerve cells that produce dopamine, have been identified by scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

The discovery may be significant in the long term for the treatment of several diseases, such as Parkinson's disease.

The same scientists have previously shown that receptors known as "liver X receptors" or LXR, are necessary for the production of different types of nerve cells, or neurons, in the developing ventral midbrain. One of these types, the midbrain dopamine-producing neurons plays an important role in a number of diseases, such as Parkinson's disease.

What was not known, however, was which molecules stimulate LXR in the midbrain, such that the production of new nerve cells could be initiated.

The scientists have used mass spectrometry and systematic experiments on zebrafish and mice to identify two molecules that bind to LXR and activate it. These two molecules are named cholic acid and 24,25-EC, and are bile acid and a derivate of cholesterol, respectively.

The first molecule, cholic acid, influences the production and survival of neurons in what is known as the "red nucleus", which is important for incoming signals from other parts of the brain. The other molecule, 24,25-EC, influences the generation of new dopamine-producing nerve cells, which are important in controlling movement.

One important conclusion of the study is that 24,25-EC can be used to turn stem cells into midbrain dopamine-producing neurons, the cell type that dies in Parkinson's disease. This finding opens the possibility of using cholesterol derivates in future regenerative medicine, since new dopamine-producing cells created in the laboratory could be used for transplantation to patients with Parkinson's disease.

"We are familiar with the idea of cholesterol as a fuel for cells, and we know that it is harmful for humans to consume too much cholesterol," said Ernest Arenas, Professor of Stem Cell Neurobiology at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet, who led the study.

"What we have shown now is that cholesterol has several functions, and that it is involved in extremely important decisions for neurons. Derivatives of cholesterol control the production of new neurons in the developing brain. When such a decision has been taken, cholesterol aids in the construction of these new cells, and in their survival. Thus cholesterol is extremely important for the body, and in particular for the development and function of the brain."

The study has been published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

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