Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good bacteria in yogurt may not be as healthy as you think

Probiotic yoghurts and yoghurt drinks may not be as healthy as they are claimed to be - the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found that there is not enough evidence that these products have a positive effect on the immune system and digestive health.

The manufacturers of these products had been claiming that these foods could help relieve digestive irregularity and boost the immune system, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. The food industry's probiotics sector has complained that EFSA uses excessively rigorous scientific standards, similar to those used in the pharmaceutical industry, to assess claims. But their complaints don't help the consumer, who simply wants to know whether probiotic food products, which range from yogurts and yoghurt drinks to dietary supplements, are likely to benefit their health.

Probiotic expert Bob Rastall, head of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading, firmly believes probiotics are useful for health. He stresses that probiotics are considered to be "functional foods" - products that have ingredients or components in them that can improve health or reduce disease risk in humans. Rastall said that by increasing the population of the so-called good bacteria (probiotics), the health of the gut could be improved.

Probiotics have also been found to reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in nursing homes, and the incidence and/or severity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, abdominal pain and flatulence in some people.

"You're not going to do yourself any harm at all by eating a probiotic yoghurt. They're safe," he said. However, he said that probiotics aren't an alternative to a healthy diet. "What I don't want people to think is that they can eat an unhealthy diet and lead an unhealthy lifestyle and then just have a probiotic yoghurt and everything will be fine. "Clearly, that's nonsense - you can't undo the damage done by an unhealthy diet with probiotics, they're not drugs. "A healthy diet is the starting point for everything - and probiotics are part of it," he said.

Meanwhile, gastroenterologist Peter Whorwell of Manchester University, said the problem with probiotics is that they're not strong, so for someone with very bad IBS, for example, they will only "scratch the surface". But for those with less severe IBS, probiotics are probably "quite a good idea", he said. "The good side, for me, is that they're harmless, whereas drugs have side-effects," he added.

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/health

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

EaseMyHealth Doctor in the News!

As a child, Suniti Ghodnadikar never participated in any outdoor sports in school. Unlike her two brothers and sister (who were all well-built), Suniti’s physical growth was stunted and even a small activity would tire her out. “We grew up together and I always used to find Suniti withdrawn and quiet.

Little did I know then that Suniti was a case of Amyloidosis of the heart,” Dr Vijay Surase, cardiologist at Jupiter Hospital.

A Mighty Heart

Suniti was almost leading a normal life till she became a mother in 2000. “A month after my delivery, I almost fainted while doing household chores. I didn’t pay much attention to this episode but the fatigue remained for months.

My legs and abdomen had an abnormal swelling and climbing stairs became impossible. It took immense willpower to reach the terrace of my house.

By then, my neck too became immobile so I started going for the magnet therapy (application of electromagnetic devices to the body for health benefits)” says Suniti.

When it didn’t yield much result, her therapist suggested she get a thorough check-up. After visiting the best cardiologists in Pune and undergoing a battery of tests, she finally approached Dr Surase. “In 2007, I saw her again.

As she walked into my clinic, she stopped for breath after walking a few steps. Her speech was halting and her papers showed she had Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH). It is a rare, dreaded illness and patients suffering from it have a limited lifespan and a troubled life.

Her clinical history was depressing but a glimmer of hope was that she had delivered a baby. Normally PPH patients don’t survive under anesthesia. She did.” After a few tests (abdominal fat biopsy) it was confirmed that Suniti had Amyloidosis and not PPH.

Survival of the fittest
Amyloidosis is a rare but unique group of diseases that share in common the deposition of fibrillar proteins (amyloid) in organs and tissues. “The cause of amyloid disease is related to amino acid substitutions resulting in gene mutations, thus producing defective proteins in tissues.

The amyloid heart looks firm and rubbery and causes different types of rhythm abnormalities,” adds Dr Surase. While the deposition of amyloid is known to occur and presents itself first in other organs of the body, about 50 per cent of patients experience cardiac problems and at least 25 per cent have heart failure.

There is no cure for amyloidosis and most victims die within one-two years. Her doctor says, “The median survival rate is 13 months without treatment and can be extended to 17 months with cyclic oral melphalan and prednisone therapy.

Only 5 per cent of patients survive longer than 10 years and Suniti is one among the few luckier ones. We treated her with Prednisone (steroid) and Melphalan (anticancer drug) and she has developed almost near complete symptom relief. The crucial part is correct diagnosis of the disease.”

A year into her treatment, Suniti underwent a uterus removal operation, as she had another disorder excessive dysfunctional uterine bleeding. If it were PPH, surgery would have been with untoward complications. But now she is fit and active and enjoying life to its fullest.

Her clinical history was depressing but a glimmer of hope was that she had delivered a baby

Signs and symptoms

..of this disease depend on location and size of the amyloid deposits. It may affect any tissue. They may be vague and can include the following:-
- Irregular heart beat (more than one-third of patients have a heart condition)

- Kidney disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders such as perforation, bleeding, slow movement of matter through the GI tract and blockage

- Enlarged liver and diminished function of the spleen

- Diminished function of the adrenal and other endocrine glands

- Skin conditions such as growths, colour changes, purpura (bleeding into the skin) around the eyes and easy bruising

- Enlarged tongue, sometimes with swelling under the jaw, breathing difficulties and sleep apnea

- Lung problems

- Swelling of the shoulder joints (may look like shoulder pads under the skin)

- Bleeding problems

Source: http://www.mumbaimirror.com


Dr. Vijay Surase is a leading Interventional Cardiologist and is also on the Specialist panel at EaseMyHealth.com. You can now consult him at EaseMyDocAdvice (click here for profile & Online/Tele consultation)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fight back pain

Back pain is one of the most common complaints among people of all classes, affecting both men and women. Earlier the vanguard for old age, back pain has now become a major cause for concern for the late 20's to 40's age group. Back pain affects any of the 26 bones connected by muscles, ligaments and discs that constitute the spine.

Back pain is mainly of three types. When the soft tissues in the spinal column get stressed due to poor posture, it is called Postural Syndrome. When the fluid nucleus in the disc gets pushed out of the normal position, or 'slipped disc', the other tissues come under tremendous pressure. This is called Derangement Syndrome. Dysfunction Syndrome is the shortening of the muscles, joints, ligaments and other soft tissues resulting in limited movement and sporadic back pain.

Dr Kaushal Malhan, Joint Replacement Surgeon says, "75 per cent to 80 per cent patients today complain of severe back pain due to poor posture. The changes in occupation, a more sedentary lifestyle, long hours of sitting in offices, minimal exercising are the chief reasons for this ailment. 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the cases involve the overuse of the back." Not surprisingly, office-goers form the bulk of those afflicted. Shalini Chhutani, 24, a bank employee, says "I have been suffering from back pain for the last three months." She agrees that this could be a lifestyle problem.

In addition to this, the weakening of the core muscle group that comprises Transverse Abdominus (TA) and the Multifidus, lessens the stability of the back. "The TA is the deepest layer of muscle in the abdomen and takes maximum weight strain off the spine. When you strengthen this core group, backache reduces," says Dr Crystal, Physiotherapist.

But help is at hand. Most doctors agree that most back pain can be cured by some simple exercises and precautions, along with some clinical guidance. Walking, hip-rolls, stretching help a great deal. Pilates, the choice of stars like Madonna and Melanie Griffith strengthens the abdominal muscles and the spine. "It helps you connect with the muscles close to your spine", says Madhuri Ruia, health expert.

The benefits of a good diet cannot be overlooked. She says, "Calcium and magnesium are key minerals in the strengthening of the bone. Fish, grains, pumpkin, til seeds (sesame) and leafy vegetables are a good source of these. Drinking a lot of water and having a balanced diet go a long way in preventing backache. Naini Setalvad, nutrition expert recommends vitamin D3 and Vitamin C, calcium and phosphate to strengthen the spine. "Ragi or nachni, sesame seeds, dried figs, beet and prunes are all good for the back."

Not to be forgotten, yoga has proven its worth innumerable times. Lal Chhutani, a 67-year-old man, says, "I have been doing yoga since the past 3-4 years. Also, walking for an hour daily and eating meals at the right time helps a lot." Currently, surgeries like the minimally invasive surgery, spine fusion and navigation are recommended by doctors for severe cases of back pain. However, the pros and cons of these surgeries need to be considered. Apart from these, simple stretching exercises can help.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Veggie of the Week: Cabbage

Cabbage, one of the oldest vegetables, continues to be a dietary staple and an inexpensive food. It is easy to grow, tolerates the cold, and keeps well. Cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin C.

Selection: Look for solid, heavy heads of cabbage. Avoid cabbage that has discolored veins or worm damage. Do not buy precut cabbage, the leaves may have already lost their vitamin C. Look for stems that are healthy looking, closely trimmed, and are not dry or split.

Storage: Keep cabbage cold. This helps it retain its vitamin C content. Place the whole head of cabbage in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Once the head has been cut, place the remainder in plastic bags and place in the refrigerator. Try to use the remaining cabbage in the next day or two

Preparation: Do not wash cabbage until you are ready to use it. Avoid slicing or shredding cabbage in advance. This will cause it to lose some of its vitamin C content. If you must prepare it an hour or more in advance before cooking, place it in a plastic bag, seal tightly, and refrigerate.

Varieties: There are at least a hundred different types of cabbage grown throughout the world, but the most common types are the Three types of cabbages, green, purple and white. Cabbage can be steamed, boiled, braised, microwaved, stuffed, or stir-fried.

Benefits of cabbage:
There are a no. of health benefits in consuming raw cabbage from healing infections, treating damaged tissue due to the wound, proved effectively in healing Alzheimer’s disease, cure ulcers, prevent cancer, regularize cholesterol levels, relief from arthritis and much more.
- Cabbage has high content of antioxidants, but green cabbage has the most nutrients. Cabbage is rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, fiber, manganese, foliate thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, protein and magnesium.
- Antioxidants are beneficial to all skin types; it deep cleans, purifies the blood and helps reduce acne. Boil cabbage, the boiled water or cabbage juice has an anti aging effects; it stimulates tired looking complexions. Some evidence indicates these purple pigments might protect our brains as we age. This daily vegetable has so many benefits with no side effects at all.
- Cabbage strengthens the immune system; defeats the effects of aging, and increases vitality. Cabbage contains unique nutrients good for the stomach and digestive tract. Cabbage (especially the purple variety) is an excellent source of vitamin C, is low in calories (16 calories per 1/2 cups cooked cabbage) and is high in fiber. This vegetable helps to lose weight; its juice helps heal peptic ulcers. Drinking a quart of cabbage juice per day helps relief many symptoms. Cabbage cleans the digestive apparatus; helps those suffering from constipation and it cleans the colon.
- The dark pigments with the purplish tones, is a type of plant compound that has the potential for disease-fighting benefits, helps repair body’s cellular levels, it also helps with functions of the body’s nervous system and reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
- Consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, is known to reduce the risk of a number of cancers, especially lung, colon, breast, ovarian and bladder cancer, have a much lower risk for prostate cancer and also provides significant cardiovascular benefits.
- Cabbage is effective in curing joint pains and arthritis. This includes both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Sources: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov, http://healthmad.com

Friday, December 10, 2010

B12 the shield against Alzheimer's!

The humble Vitamin B12 may be able to protect against the debilitating Alzheimer's disease, a Scandinavian study suggests. Senior citizens with more of the active part of the vitamin in their blood have a lower risk of developing the disease. However, the findings don't necessarily mean that taking B vitamin supplements will stave off mental decline.

For the study, the researchers took blood samples from 271 Finnish seniors without dementia. At a second examination about seven years later, they found 17 (six percent) had developed Alzheimer's.

Those who didn't develop the disease had higher levels of holotranscobalamin -- the active portion of vitamin B12 -- and lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid tied to mental decline, stroke and heart disease. Folic acid was not linked to Alzheimer's.

B vitamins decrease homocysteine levels, and so have attracted a lot of attention as a potentially cheap and safe treatment. But it is unclear if they are just a sign of disease or have a causal role. "More research is needed before we can get a conclusion on the role of vitamin B12 supplements on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease," Dr Babak Hooshmand from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, is reported to have said. But he added that many elderly people suffer from B12 deficiency, so the results could turn out to be important. "Our findings indicate that vitamin B12 and related metabolites may have an important role in Alzheimer's disease," Hooshmand told.

Vitamin B12 is found in a variety of foods, including dairy, eggs, fish and meat. Eggs are often mentioned as a good B12 source, but they also contain a factor that blocks absorption. While lacto-ovo vegetarians usually get enough B12 through consuming dairy products, vegans will lack B12 unless they consume multivitamin supplements or B12-fortified foods. Examples of fortified foods include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soy products, fortified energy bars, and fortified nutritional yeast. Excessive alcohol intake lasting longer than two weeks can decrease vitamin B12 absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.

www.EaseMyHealth.com also offers Elderly care services for senior citizens living independently. This includes comprehensive health tests from the convenience of their home, consultations with Specialists and home visits by our Health Manager for preventive care and systematic management of their health.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Exercising? Watch your clothes

Wear loose cottons while doing yoga. Make well- fitting, comfortable attire for gym workouts. For, what you wear while exercising can accentuate the posture and the feel good factor, say fitness experts.

"Wearing appropriate workout clothes can enhance and optimise your workouts and thereby increase your benefits," said Vinita Shetty, a Reebok fitness trainer. "Right clothes give you the comfort and support that is greatly needed in addition to helping you maintain an optimum body temperature during intense workout sessions.

Well-fitting attire can also help accentuate your form and posture so as to be monitored better. The feel good factor of right clothing cannot be underestimated either. All these factors contribute to getting a better performance out of the participant," Shetty added. According to Delhi-based yoga expert Yatharth Sehajpal, uncomfortable clothes are a big no-no for a workout session. "One should avoid stiff and uncomfortable clothing because a session requires performing different and difficult body postures, so one should go in for loose and comfortable clothing that absorbs sweat," he said.

Earlier, people used to wear anything for a workout session and there was less awareness about the right clothes for exercising. However, with changing times more people are getting hooked to the latest fitness outfits available in the market. "People are becoming conscious about fitness and are adopting a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, the demand for sportswear has increased," said Andreas Gellner, managing director, Adidas India.

Also, a fact that has been noticed is that men use fitness clothing more than women."Typically, men indulge more in fitness shopping as they are more involved in sports and related activities. But slowly the trend is changing as more and more women are becoming conscious about their fitness regime and do not mind spending on fitness clothing," added Gellner.

Colours also play an important part while you select your clothes for workout sessions. "Light colours like white, beige, pink etc are ideal for a yoga session since they are pleasing to the eyes and absorb less heat," said Sehajpal. Manufacturers of fitness wear also say that colours like black, blue and white are the basic popular colours, but the demand for bright colours is on a high too.

As far as suitable fabric is concerned, the winner is cotton. Trainers and fitness experts swear by it for a workout session. "It's very important that the clothes you wear while exercising are cotton or semi cotton and not synthetic at all because when you sweat you need to wear something that absorbs the sweat. That is very important," Leena Mogre, fitness expert and director, explained. Mogre has trained Bollywood actresses like Katrina Kaif, Kangana Ranaut and Sameera Reddy among others.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Milk: Healthy and nutritious drink, or fattening, contaminant-filled menace?

You might expect an organization called the Dairy Education Board to promote milk as a good thing. But instead, this advocacy group claims that “Milk is a deadly poison.” Oops. And as Americans have grown more wary of saturated fat, and more concerned about hormones and other substances fed to—and injected into—dairy cows, milk consumption has fallen dramatically. In the post-war days of 1945, the average American was consuming 45 gallons of milk a year. By 2001, per capita consumption was down to just 23 gallons.

But here’s the thing: Plenty of new research says that we should be drinking more milk, not less. In fact, swapping soda, juice, sweetened iced teas, and other beverages for milk might be one major reason why Americans are gaining weight at such a rapid pace. Milk not only helps boost protein intake and cut down on sugar, but consuming calcium through dairy foods such as milk may actually reduce the fat absorption from other foods. Who wouldn’t want that?
Here are four milk myths you might have heard, and why you should consider answering the cowbell more often.

Claim #1: “Milk is a fat-burning food.”
The Truth: Maybe. In a 6-month study, University of Tennessee researchers found that overweight people who downed three servings a day of calcium-rich dairy lost more belly fat than those who followed a similar diet minus two or more of the dairy servings. In addition, the researchers discovered that calcium supplements didn’t work as well as milk. Why? They believe that while calcium may increase the rate at which your body burns fat, other active compounds in dairy (such as milk proteins) provide an additional fat-burning effect.

Claim #2: “Drinking milk builds muscle.”
The Truth: Absolutely. In fact, milk is one of the best muscle foods on the planet. Milk is full of high-quality protein: about 80 percent casein and 20 percent whey. Whey is known as a “fast protein” because it’s quickly broken down into amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream—perfect for post-workout consumption. Casein, on the other hand, is digested more slowly—ideal for providing your body with a steady supply of smaller amounts of protein for a longer period of time, such as between meals or while you sleep.

Claim #3: “Cows are given antibiotics. Doesn’t that make their milk unhealthy?”
The Truth: No one really knows. Some scientists argue that milk from cows given antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance in humans, making these types of drugs less effective when you take them for an infection. But this has never been proven.

Claim #4: “Fat-free milk is much healthier than whole.”
The Truth: Nope. While you’ve probably always been told to drink reduced-fat milk, the majority of scientific studies show that drinking whole milk actually improves cholesterol levels—just not as much as drinking fat-free does. One recent exception: Danish researchers found that men who consumed a diet rich in whole milk experienced a slight increase in LDL cholesterol (six points). However, it’s worth noting that these men drank six 8-ounce glasses a day, an unusually high amount. Even so, their triglycerides—another marker of heart-disease risk—decreased by 22 percent. The bottom line: Drinking two to three glasses of milk a day, whether it’s fat-free, 2%, or whole, lowers the likelihood of both heart attack and stroke—a finding confirmed by British scientists.

Source: http://health.yahoo.net

Reader credit: EaseMyHealth thanks Abhijeet Anand for contributing this interesting 'Health Post'

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A spoonful of sugar may be enough to cool a hot temper

The next time you feel angry, have a glass of lemonade sweetened with sugar or eat a chocolate bar. It may just stop that desire to lash out.

Researchers in the US have found that consuming a spoonful of sugar can curb aggression, at least for a short time.

Researchers believe it all has to do with the glucose, a simple sugar found in the bloodstream that provides energy for the brain. “Avoiding aggressive impulses takes self control, and self control takes a lot of energy. Glucose provides that energy in the brain,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fruit of the Week: Figs!

Figs are one of mankind’s oldest fruits. Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower inverted into itself. They are the only fruit to ripen on the tree. Originally native from Turkey to northern India, the fig fruit spread to many of the Mediterranean countries. The primary producers of dried figs today are the United States, Turkey, Greece, and Spain.

Availability: Fresh figs are available July through September. Dried figs are never out of season, and are available all year. You can find them in your favorite grocery store in the produce or dried fruit section.

Selection: Look for figs that are soft and smell sweet. Handle carefully because their fragile skins bruise easily.

Storage: Store fully ripened figs in the refrigerator up to 2 days; bring to room temperature before serving.

What are the health benefits of figs and why should you find room for them in your diet?
- They build stronger, denser bones: It might surprise you to learn that dried figs have one of the highest calcium contents of any plant based food. In terms of fruits, only the orange is a better source of calcium. Did you know a one-hundred gram serving has twice the calcium of milk? Dried figs are also a good source of magnesium and vitamin K which are important for building denser bones.

- They’re good for the heart: Not only are figs high in fiber, but they’re also a good source of potassium and magnesium which are critical not only for heart health, but for keeping blood pressure levels in the normal range.

- Antioxidant power: A study showed that dried fruits such as figs contain high levels of phenol antioxidants that fight free radical damage. Of the fruits that were tested, dried figs and plums proved superior to all of the other dried fruits in terms of antioxidant content.

- Fiberlicious: Dried figs are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber. The insoluble fiber found in figs helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, while the soluble fiber reduces LDL cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of heart disease.

- They’re good for healthy red blood cells: A 100 gram serving of dried figs supplies sixteen percent of the recommended daily iron requirement – a mineral that’s important for building healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Most premenopausal women don’t get enough iron in their diet – but post-menopausal women and men should limit their iron intake unless they have a known deficiency since too much iron increases the risk of heart disease.

A Word of Caution
Dried figs are high in natural sugars. If you’re watching your weight or your blood sugar levels, look for fresh figs instead which are a less concentrated source of sugar.

Try eating a few dried figs as a quick energy snack instead of a candy bar or cookie or chop them up and add them to cold cereals and oatmeal. You can even use them to make salad dressings and sauces for savory dishes. If you haven’t considered figs lately, maybe it’s time to give them a second look.

Source: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov, http://healthmad.com