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Feb 28
Sprouting garlic has more heart-healthy antioxidants than fresher counterparts
Researchers have found that old garlic bulbs with bright green shoots have even more heart-healthy antioxidant activity than its fresher counterparts and are therefore goof for heart health.

Eating garlic or taking garlic supplements is touted as a natural way to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart disease risk. It even may boost the immune system and help fight cancer.

But those benefits are for fresh, raw garlic. Sprouted garlic has received much less attention.

When seedlings grow into green plants, they make many new compounds, including those that protect the young plant against pathogens.

Jong-Sang Kim and his group reasoned that the same thing might be happening when green shoots grow from old heads of garlic.

They found that garlic sprouted for five days had higher antioxidant activity than fresher, younger bulbs, and it had different metabolites, suggesting that it also makes different substances.

Extracts from this garlic even protected cells in a laboratory dish from certain types of damage. "Therefore, sprouting may be a useful way to improve the antioxidant potential of garlic," they conclude.

The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Feb 28
Breastfeeding may boost IQ in babies
Children who are breastfed score higher on IQ tests and perform better in school, scientists say.

A new study by sociologists at Brigham Young University pinpoints two parenting skills as the real source of this cognitive boost: Responding to children's emotional cues and reading to children starting at 9 months of age.

Breastfeeding mothers tend to do both of those things, said lead study author Ben Gibbs.

"It's really the parenting that makes the difference," said Gibbs.

"Breastfeeding matters in others ways, but this actually gives us a better mechanism and can shape our confidence about interventions that promote school readiness," said Gibbs.

According to the analysis, improvements in sensitivity to emotional cues and time reading to children could yield 2-3 months' worth of brain development by age 4 (as measured by math and reading readiness assessments).

"Because these are four-year-olds, a month or two represents a non-trivial chunk of time," Gibbs said.

"And if a child is on the edge of needing special education, even a small boost across some eligibility line could shape a child's educational trajectory," said Gibbs.

Researchers utilised a national data set that followed 7,500 mothers and their children from birth to five years of age.

The data set is rich with information on the home environment, including how early and how often parents read to their kids.

Additionally, each of the mothers in the study also participated in video-taped activities with their children.

As the child tried to complete a challenging task, the mother's supportiveness and sensitivity to their child's emotional cues were measured.

Sandra Jacobson of Wayne State University School of Medicine noted that children in the study who were breastfed for 6 months or longer performed the best on reading assessments because they also "experienced the most optimal parenting practices.

"Gibbs and Forste found that reading to an infant every day as early as age 9 months and sensitivity to the child's cues during social interactions, rather than breastfeeding per se, were significant predictors of reading readiness at age 4 years," said Jacobson.

The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Feb 27
The better your mood the healthier you eat!
Emotional eating is something we're all familiar with. Happy or sad, up or down, there's a plethora of media in the world that tells us our moods often dictate the foods we choose to eat.

A study by University of Delaware associate professor Meryl Gardner finds that there's more to stress eating than simply emotion and in fact, thinking about the future may help people make better food choices.

Gardner tried to find out why when someone is in a bad mood will they choose to eat junk food and why when someone is in a good mood will they make healthier food choices?

"In an evolutionary sense, it makes sense that when we feel uncomfortable or are in a bad mood, we know something is wrong and focus on what is close to us physically and what is close in time, in the here and now," said Gardner.

The researchers conducted four laboratory experiments to examine whether people in a positive mood would prefer healthy food to indulgent food for long-term health and well-being benefits and those in a negative mood would prefer indulgent foods to healthy foods for immediate, hedonistic mood management benefits.

The findings of all the studies combined contribute to current research by demonstrating that individuals can select healthy or indulgent foods depending on their moods, an area previously under-represented in past clinical research on the role of healthy foods.

The findings also indicate the integral aspect of the time horizon, showing that individuals in positive moods who make healthier food choices are often thinking more about future health benefits than those in negative moods, who focus more on the immediate taste and sensory experience.

Feb 27
Eat strawberries to lower bad cholesterol
A rich source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, strawberries offer a range of health benefits.

Adding to the long list is a recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, which found that incorporating strawberries into your daily diet could help lower cholesterol and boost cardiovascular health.

Researchers from the Universita Politecnica delle Marche, Italy and their colleagues from the Universities of Salamanca, Granada and Seville (Spain) studied 23 healthy volunteers over a month. 500g of strawberries were added to their daily diets and blood samples were taken before and after the experiment.

At the end of the study, the high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) levels remained unchanged, whereas low-density lipoproteins (LDL or bad cholesterol) and the quantity of triglycerides fell to 8.78 percent, 13.72 percent and 20.8 percent respectively.

Other parameters such as the general plasma lipid profile, antioxidant biomarkers (such as vitamin C or oxygen radical absorbance capacity), antihemolytic defences and platelet function also improved at the end of the study. However, all parameters returned to their initial values 15 days after abandoning the 'treatment' with strawberries.

The flavonoids and antioxidants in the fruit prevent buildup of bad cholesterol which can clog the arteries among other cardiovascular benefits.

Including this power packed fruit in your daily diet helps boost immunity, protects against infections, regulates blood sugar levels, suppresses growth of cancer cells, slows down ageing process, prevents hair loss and boosts brain power.

So if you're not already a fan of red, juicy, heart-shaped delights, then it's high time that you add it to your daily diet.

Feb 26
Obesity epidemic in Europe fuelled by lack of exercise and high fat diet
Obesity epidemic is slowly taking over the world. The fast paced lifestyle and careless way of living has further pushed up this epidemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that lack of physical activity and diets high in fats, salts and sugars has led to obesity and overweight is becoming "the new norm" throughout Europe.

Ahead of EU summit in Greece, the officials informed that up to 27 percent of Europe's 13-year-olds and 33 percent of 11-year-olds are overweight. Seeing the data, childhood obesity poses the gravest challenge.

As per reports, countries with the highest proportion of overweight 11-year-olds included Greece, with 33 percent, Portugal (32 percent), and Ireland and Spain, both with 30 percent.

The WHO's regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said that Europeans' "perception of what is normal has shifted".Obesity is no longer seen as unnatural and overweight is now more common than unusual.

Lack of physical activity, listed by the WHO as the fourth leading cause of death globally, is now viewed as one of the major health threats affecting developed countries.

More than two thirds of people in UK over the age of 15 were insufficiently active, according to the WHO's latest data, from 2008.

According to international guidelines ,it is recommended that adults get 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise per week, while children and adolescents should have an hour per day.

Feb 26
'Body shape index' more accurate predictor of mortality than 'body mass index'
Beware if you have excess belly fat as that might put you in danger.

A new study reveals that "body shape index" is a more accurate predictor of mortality than "body mass index" (BMI).

Nir Krakauer, an assistant professor of civil engineering in City College of New York's Grove School of Engineering, and his father, Jesse Krakauer, MD, developed a new method- A Body Shape Index (ABSI) in 2012- to determine the risk specifically associated with abdominal obesity.

Now, a follow-up study, published on February 20 by the online journal PLOS ONE, supports the father-son duo technique and confirmed that A Body Shape Index (ABSI) is a more effective predictor of mortality than body mass index, the most common measure used to define obesity.

The results tracked closely with the earlier study, which used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted in the US between 1999 and 2004.

This provides stronger evidence that ABSI is a valid indicator of the risk of premature death across different populations.

The study also showed that unlike BMI, ABSI incorporates waist circumference into its calculations, which helps account for the increased health risks of carrying excess weight in the lower abdomen.

Also, because the data came from two surveys seven years apart, the researchers were able to assess the effect of change in ABSI on mortality.

The researchers found an increase in ABSI correlated with increased risk of death, and that the more recent ABSI measurement was a more reliable predictor.

Feb 25
Mixed evidence over Echinacea being useful treatment for colds
A new study has found that for people seeking a natural treatment for the common cold, some preparations containing the plant Echinacea work better than nothing, yet "evidence is weak".

The evidence review revealed no significant reductions in preventing illness, but didn't rule out "small preventive effects."

The six authors conducted reviews on this subject in 1998, 2006 and 2008 and wanted to do an update to include several new trials conducted since then.

"We've been doing this for so long and are very familiar with past research- which has been mixed from the very beginning," author Bruce Barrett , M.D., Ph.D. in the department of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said.

The research team reviewed 24 randomized controlled trials to determine whether Echinacea was a safe and effective cold prevention and treatment.

Trials included 4631 participants and 33 preparations, along with placebo. Echinacea products studied in these trials varied widely according to characteristics of three different plant species, the part of the plant used and method of manufacturing.

Barrett added that "it looks like taking Echinacea may reduce the incidence of colds. For those who take it as a treatment, some of the trials report real effects-but many do not. Bottom line: Echinacea may have small preventive or treatment effects, but the evidence is mixed."

The study was published in the journal Cochrane Library.

Feb 25
Mysterious polio-like disease reported in California
As many as 20 kids have been affected by a mysterious polio-like syndrome in California since 2012, leaving them with paralysed limbs.

The state public health officials and physicians have been investigating the illness since a doctor recommended a polio testing for a child with severe paralysis in 2012, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Dr Carol Glaser, leader of a California Department of Public Health team investigating the illnesses said that a virus may be behind the disease, which is occurring sporadically throughout the state.

Symptoms have ranged from restricted movement in one limb to severe weakness in both legs and arms, and sometimes a mild respiratory illness.

Glaser said two of the affected kids tested positive for enterovirus-68, a virus that is usually associated with respiratory illness but which has been linked to polio-like illnesses as well.

Dr. Keith Van Haren, a paediatric neurologist at Stanford University's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital who has worked with Glaser's team, will present the cases of five of the children at the American Academy of Neurology's upcoming annual meeting in Philadelphia.

He said all five patients had paralysis in one or more arms or legs that reached its full severity within two days. None had recovered limb function after six months.

"We know definitively that it isn't polio," Van Haren added, noting that all had been vaccinated against that disease.

While the infection remains rare, doctors say they do not expect an epidemic of the polio-like virus.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus, mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

Feb 24
Women more prone to heart attacks than men
Women are more prone to heart attacks than men, says a new study.

The research led by Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, Director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health, revealed that there are significant differences between men's and women's hearts and both experience varying heart attack symptoms.

The hallmark chest pain is more likely to be felt by men, whereas women may experience less obvious symptoms like trouble sleeping, nausea, indigestion, fatigue and jaw pain.

The study showed that men and women have substantive, clinically important differences in their bodies in all of health, from how their organs are structured to how they function.

One major difference is how the blood vessels of women with heart disease look compared to those of men.

Coronary heart disease is caused by plaque- made by cholesterol, fat and other substances- building up in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.

Clayton explained that in women, this buildup lines the walls of the blood vessels evenly- like the inside of a straw getting more narrow because the wall is thickening.

However, in men, this plaque buildup can be more concentrated in one area, as if a section of the straw is pinched.

The study was published in the journal of the American Medical Association.

Feb 24
Healthy liver cells created in lab
In a path-breaking research, scientists have discovered a way to transform skin cells into mature, fully functioning liver cells that flourish on their own.

The technique could serve as an alternative for liver-failure patients who do not require full-organ replacement or who do not have access to a transplant owing to limited donor organ availability.

Researchers at Gladstone Institutes and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) revealed a new cellular reprogramming method that transforms human skin cells into liver cells that are virtually indistinguishable from the cells that make up liver tissue.

"Earlier studies tried to reprogramme skin cells back into a stem cell-like state in order to then grow liver cells. However, generating these pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, and then transforming them into liver cells was not always resulting in complete transformation," explained Sheng Ding, senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes.

"So we thought that, rather than taking these skin cells all the way back to a stem cell-like state, perhaps we could take them to an intermediate phase," he added.

Instead of taking the skin cells back to the beginning, the scientists took them only part way, creating endoderm-like cells.

Endoderm cells are cells that eventually mature into many of the body`s major organs - including the liver.

This step allowed them to generate a large reservoir of cells that could more readily be coaxed into becoming liver cells.

Next, the researchers discovered a set of genes and compounds that can transform these cells into functioning liver cells.

After just a few weeks, the team began to notice a transformation.

"The cells began to take on the shape of liver cells and even started to perform regular liver-cell functions," said Milad Rezvani from University of California.

They transplanted these early-stage liver cells into the livers of mice.

Two months post-transplantation, the team noticed a boost in human liver protein levels in the mice.

Nine months later, cell growth had shown no signs of slowing down.

These results offer new hope for the millions of people suffering from, or at risk of developing, liver failure.

At present, the only option is a costly liver transplant.

The power of regenerative medicine already allows scientists to transform skin cells into cells that closely resemble heart cells, pancreas cells and even neurons, concluded the study that appeared in the journal Nature.

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