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Apr 30
Peppermint tea boosts memory in adults!
A new study suggests that drinking peppermint tea can improve long-term and working memory in healthy adults.

For the research, the team randomly allocated a total of 180 participants to take a drink of peppermint tea, chamomile tea or hot water.

They found that participants who took peppermint tea showed significant improvement in long term memory, working memory and alertness.

However, participants who took chamomile tea exhibited slowed memory and attention speed compared to both who took peppermint and hot water.

"It's interesting to see the contrasting effects on mood and cognition of the two different herbal teas. The enhancing and arousing effects of peppermint and the calming/sedative effects of chamomile observed in this study are in keeping with the claimed properties of these herbs and suggest beneficial effects can be drawn from their use," said Mark Moss, researcher at Northumbria University in Britain.

Before the participants consumed their drink they completed questionnaires relating to their mood.

After a twenty minute rest the participants completed tests that assessed their memory and a range of other cognitive functions.

The findings have been presented recently at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Nottingham.

Apr 29
Sniffing rosemary helps improve brain power of old people
Do you think sniffing rosemary is beneficial for us?

Well, a new study have shown that sniffing the aroma of rosemary could be beneficial for elderly people as it can help improve the brain power.

Researcher Lauren Bussey of Northumbria University said that during the study, they focused on the prospective memory that involves the ability to remember to complete tasks at particular times and also to remember events that will occur in the future.

Around 150 people aged over 65 took part in the study and were randomly allocated to either the rosemary or lavender-scented room or to another room with no scent.

Before the participants entered the testing room, rosemary and lavender essential oil were diffused in the room by placing four drops on an aroma stream fan diffuser and switching this on five minutes.

Once in the room, they undertook tests designed to assess their prospective memory functions. These included remembering to pass on a message at a given time during the procedure, and switching tasks when a specific event occurred. These tasks represent the two components of prospective memory: time-based and event-based.

Participants also completed mood assessment before and after undertaking tests in the scented or non-scented rooms.

Analysis of the results showed that the rosemary aroma significantly enhanced prospective memory compared to the room with no aroma. In terms of mood, rosemary significantly increased alertness and lavender significantly increased calmness and contentedness compared to the no aroma control condition

Bussey noted that further investigation is required to understand the potential benefits of these aromas throughout the life span.

The study has been presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Nottingham.

Apr 27
Combined dietary supplement likely to help fight heart disease
A new study was found by a team of researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist which suggests that combining a marine fish oil, cocoa extract and phytosterols into a dietary supplement may cut down the risk of developing heart disease.

The researchers examined that the potential of combining dietary supplement as a means of preventing atherosclerosis or 'furring' of the arteries.

Dipak Ramji from Cardiff University in Britain, one of the researchers said that a variety of active food ingredients have been shown to impart beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease although little is known regarding their actions when taken in combination.

The findingd showed that in cell-based models, combining the three ingredients could, potentially, help halt the key processes associated with the progression of atherosclerosis.

It was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Using a series of cell-based experimental models, the team examined what happens when omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in marine fish oil), flavanols (found in cocoa) and phytosterols are combined.

"The challenge now is to take our findings and examine whether they translate into humans," researchers suggested.

Atherosclerosis is the major cause of heart disease, killing approximately one individual every 34 seconds and responsible for around a third of all deaths worldwide.

Current therapies against atherosclerosis are not fully effective and there have been numerous recent disappointments on promising agents that have been identified through various drug discovery programs.

Apr 25
Novel method to track autism in boys identified
Researchers have developed a new method to map and track the function of brain circuits affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD), especially in boys and identify the most effective treatment for an individual.

The functional biomarker physically measures the progress of patients with behavioural problems -- a tool that has been elusive in autism treatment.

"This is significant because biomarkers give us a 'why' for understanding autism in boys that we haven't had before," said one of the researchers Kevin Pelphrey, professor and director of the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute at the George Washington University in the US.

The team found that the brain scan data could be an effective indicator of the function of the circuit in younger children and older patients alike.

It is particularly relevant for ASD patients who are difficult to diagnose and treat by providing a more definitive diagnosis and in developing a treatment programme when it is not clear if behavioural, drug or a combination of the treatments will be most effective.

"The behavioural symptoms of ASD are so complex and varied it is difficult to determine whether a new treatment is effective, especially within a realistic time frame," said led author Malin Bjornsdotter, assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

"Brain function markers may provide the specific and objective measures required to bridge this gap," she added in the paper published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

In addition, the study also provides evidence that brain imaging is an important intervention tool for autism than the currently used functional MRI.

The team analysed a series of 164 images from each of 114 individuals and discovered the brain scans of the social perception circuits only indicated ASD in boys.

As the method only works for boys with autism, the researchers are leading a large-scale, nationwide study of girls with autism to identify equivalent techniques that will work for them.

Apr 20
Blocking a hormone may help treat type 1 diabetes: Study
Blocking the hormone that raises sugar levels in the blood could increase insulin levels while keeping blood sugar levels down, which may help treat type 1 diabetes, a new study has found.

The findings point to a novel way to treat diabetes - but only in some patients, researchers said.

"Inhibiting the hormone glucagon has recently been explored as an alternative or supplement to insulin injection, but it has limitations," said Pedro Herrera from the University of Geneva.

"Our research reveals why - the body needs to have some residual insulin production in order for a treatment blocking glucagon to work," said Herrera.

Other recent studies have suggested that diabetes is caused solely by an excess of glucagon rather than a deficiency of insulin. These studies found that blocking glucagon prevents excessively high blood glucose levels, despite a complete lack of insulin.

They suggested that blocking glucagon rather than regularly injecting insulin could be a treatment for hyperglycemia. However, the current findings indicate that the models used were not totally lacking in insulin and that just blocking glucagon was only effective if some insulin was still being produced.

For the new research, scientists used transgenic mice in which insulin could be more efficiently eliminated. These mice became severely diabetic.

Around three quarters of patients with type 1 diabetes possess a small number of the beta cells needed to produce insulin. In these patients, blocking glucagon, in addition to insulin replacement, could help keep blood sugar levels in check.

It could also result in some glucagon-producing alpha cells converting into beta cells and producing more insulin.

Sugar accumulates in the blood after a meal, triggering the release of insulin from the pancreas to allow tissues to use and store it. During fasting or exercising, glucagon is released and opposes the action of insulin, researchers said.

The balance between the two pancreatic hormones keeps blood sugar levels steady, they said. Using insulin therapy and blocking glucagon as a combined treatment could in some cases provide a more effective and safer way to maintain a healthy balance and avoid the peaks and troughs of blood sugar levels, researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal eLife.

Apr 19
Waist not weight puts you at greater liver disease risk
Washington: When it comes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease complications, it is waist that matters, not the weight, according to a recent study.

The study demonstrated that a build-up of fat around the waist can cause more serious complications than obesity in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

While NAFLD is commonly associated with obesity, research has highlighted that a percentage of patients are not actually obese, said lead author Dr Rosa Lombardi from the University of Milan.

Lombardi added that this is the first study to show that patients with lean-NAFLD who have increased levels of waist fat can in fact be at greater risk than obese patients with NAFLD.

The researchers in the Italian study evaluated the features of lean-NAFLD in 323 patients with biopsy-proven NAFLD. Subjects were divided according to BMI, waist circumference and abdominal fat.

The research also suggested that metabolic, cardiovascular and tissue complications caused by NAFLD can be more effectively detected by combining Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist measurements.

Professor Frank Tacke, EASL Governing Board Member, said that the results have highlighted the need for additional research into why analysing someone's waist, and not just their weight, is important in detecting individuals at risk for complications associated with this disease.

The study was presented at The International Liver CongressTM 2016 in Barcelona, Spain

Apr 18
Cartilage protein may lead to breast cancer development
Swedish researchers have identified a protein commonly found in connective tissue that contributes to the development as well as spread of breast cancer.

Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein (COMP) is a protein that has been found in cartilage -- a connective tissue found in many areas of the body including joints between bones of elbows, knees and ankles.

"We did not expect to find COMP in connection with breast cancer, and we were also surprised by the strong effect it had on the development of breast cancer in mice," said Emelie Englund, researcher at Lund University in Sweden.

The findings revealed that women, who had higher levels of COMP, experienced an increase in the spread of breast cancer, to the surrounding tissues and also showed an increase in the mortality rate.

COMP not only contributed to a more rapid growth of the primary tumour, but also to the formation of metastases.

Further, COMP affects the cell metabolism and makes the breast environment less favourable to healthy cells.

It makes the cancer cells more resistant to natural cell death.

"We saw a clear association between high levels of COMP and a worse breast cancer prognosis", explained Anna Blom, professor, in the paper published in the journal Oncogene.

Various amounts of COMP were found in both the tumours and the surrounding tissue, but never in healthy breast tissue.

With more research, COMP has the potential of becoming an indicator of aggressive breast cancer, and thereby providing early and valuable information before deciding on an appropriate treatment, the researchers indicated.

The results are based on a clinical study of breast tissue from a little more than 600 women with breast cancer.

Apr 16
Teenage obesity can kill you in midlife
Teen BMI can predict the risk of cardiovascular death in adulthood, according to a recent study.

In light of the worldwide increase in childhood obesity, Hebrew University's Jeremy Kark, together with Dr. Gilad Twig of the Sheba Medical Center, Dr. Hagai Levine of the Braun School and other colleagues in Israel, set out to determine the association between body-mass index (BMI) in late adolescence and death from cardiovascular causes in adulthood.

Their study was based on a national database of 2.3 million Israeli 17 year olds in whom height and weight were measured between 1967 and 2010. The researchers assessed the association between BMI in late adolescence and death from coronary heart disease, stroke, and sudden death in adulthood by mid-2011.

The results showed an increase in the risk of cardiovascular death in the group that was considered within the "accepted normal" range of BMI, in the 50th to 74th percentiles, and of death from coronary heart disease at BMI values above 20.

The researchers concluded that even BMI considered "normal" during adolescence was associated with a graded increase in cardiovascular and all-cause mortality during the 40 years of follow-up. This included increased rates of death from coronary heart disease, stroke, and total cardiovascular causes among participants.

As BMI scores increased into the 75th to 84th percentiles, adolescent obesity was associated with elevated risk of death from coronary heart disease, stroke, sudden death from unknown causes, and death from total cardiovascular causes, as well as death from non-cardiovascular causes and death from all causes. Participants also had an increased risk of sudden death.

Kark said that the findings appear to provide a link between the trends in adolescent overweight during the past decades and coronary mortality in midlife. The continuing increase in adolescent BMI, and the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescents, may account for a substantial and growing future burden of cardiovascular disease, particularly coronary heart disease.

The study appears in New England Journal of Medicine.

Apr 15
Fast food may expose you to harmful chemicals
New York: Love to binge on burgers, pizzas and French fries? Beware, as consuming fast food can expose you to higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates, which are used in food packaging, warns a new study.

Phthalates belong to a class of industrial chemicals used to make food packaging materials, tubing for dairy products, and other items used in the production of fast food.

The findings showed that people who ate the most fast food had phthalate levels in their urine that was 24 percent to 40 percent higher than those who rarely ate junk food.

"Our findings raise concerns because phthalates have been linked to a number of serious health problems in children and adults," said lead author Ami Zota, assistant professor at George Washington University in US.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, analysed the effect of two phthalates di(2-ethylexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP) in use despite concerns that they leach out of products and get into the human body.

Exposure to these chemicals can damage the reproductive system and may even lead to infertility, the authors warned.

They also discovered that grain and meat items were the most significant contributors to phthalate exposure.

The grain category contained a wide variety of items including bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice dishes and noodles.

The team looked at data on 8,877 participants who had answered detailed questions about their diet in the past 24 hours, including consumption of fast food.

They also took urinary samples that could be tested for the breakdown products of two specific phthalates -- DEHP and DiNP.

In addition, the researchers also looked for exposure to another chemical found in plastic food packaging -- Bisphenol A or BPA.

Exposure to BPA can lead to health and behaviour problems, especially for young children, but the study found no association between total fast food intake and BPA.

However, the result so revealed that people who ate fast food meat products had higher levels of BPA than people who reported no fast food consumption.

Apr 14
Combined HIV, hepatitis C vaccination a possibility soon
Researchers have for the first time found it possible to generate simultaneous immune response against diseases such as Hepatitis C virus and HIV, raising the possibility of a combined vaccination.

An estimated 2.3 million people globally are co-infected with HIV and HCV. HCV is the leading cause of non-AIDS deaths in co-infected individuals.

"While we have drugs to treat both HIV and HCV, these are out of reach for many and do not prevent reinfection," said lead researcher Lucy Dorrell, professor at University of Oxford in London.

"Knowing that it may be possible to vaccinate a single individual against both diseases opens up huge possibilities for rolling back epidemics of disease and co-infection," added one of the researchers Ellie Barnes, professor.

The findings showed that vaccine priming against HCV and HIV induced immune response in the body, measured by the number of HIV and HCV specific T-cells found in a sample of blood.

These immune responses were further increased following the boost vaccination.

In addition, co-administration of HCV and HIV components of the boost did not impair the magnitude or breadth of either HCV or HIV specific T-cell responses compared to each alone.

All vaccines were given as an intramuscular injection and both were well tolerated.

The study showed that the 'prime boost' approach is compatible with co-administration of vectors encoding for HIV and HCV antigens -- molecules capable of inducing an immune response to the immune system.

Following this, booster vaccinations are given with the same combination of HCV and HIV fragments.

The Phase 1 study enrolled 32 healthy volunteers in three groups. Group one received only HCV investigational vaccines at weeks 0 and 8.

The second group received only HIV investigational vaccines following the same dosing schedule.

The final group received both HCV and HIV investigational vaccines that were co-administered.

The study was presented at The International Liver Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.