Friday, June 23, 2017

Yoga and meditation reduce the risk of cancer by changing our DNA


Yoga and meditation reduce our risk of cancer by changing our DNA, new research reveals.

People who practice so-called mind-body interventions (MBI), such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi, produce significantly lower amounts of molecules that activate inflammation-causing genes, a study review found.

Inflammation has been linked to cancer, accelerated aging and poor mental health.

Lead investigator Ivana Buric from the University of Coventry, said: 'Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of MBIs like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don't realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business.

'Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.' 

Researchers from the universities of Coventry and Radboud analysed 18 studies with 846 participants conducted over 11 years.

Studies were included in the analysis if they measured gene expression after a MBI.

Results revealed people who practice MBIs produce significantly lower amounts of molecules that activate inflammation-causing genes.

These molecules are released after a stressful event due to the 'fight or flight' response.

Inflammation has been linked to cancer, accelerated ageing and poor mental health. 

Ms Buric said: 'Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don't realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business.

'These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. 

'Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.' 

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

The researchers believe the inflammation-causing fight-or-flight response, which is involved in wound healing, would have played an important role when we were hunter-gatherers due to there being a higher risk of infection from wounds.

Today, however, when stress is often long term and more internal than injury-related, inflammation-causing gene expression can be persistent and cause medical problems.

Ms Buric said: 'More needs to be done to understand these effects in greater depth, for example how they compare with other healthy interventions like exercise or nutrition.

'But this is an important foundation to build on to help future researchers explore the benefits of increasingly popular mind-body activities.' 


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Friday, June 16, 2017

Organic IS healthier: Vegetables grown without pesticides have higher antioxidant levels


Products grown without using toxic chemicals, which can cost twice as much as a result, contain higher levels of flavonols. These vegetables have 20 per cent more of the antioxidants, which prevent damage to the body, an Irish study suggests.

It comes five years after a major review of more than 200 studies concluded that organic food offered no nutritional benefit.  

However, the new Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, investigation is the longest-running study to address the issue.

The findings will be welcomed by organic farmers, whose claims their food is more nutritious have previously been rubbished by the government watchdog.

How was the study carried out?

Researchers assessed the levels of flavonoids and antioxidants in 'Red Baron' and 'Hyskin' onions between 2009 and 2014.

These forms of the vegetable are known to be high in quercetin - hailed by scientists for its cancer-fighting properties. 

A range of crops, grown either organically or using pesticides, were measured for their levels of the compounds, according to the report published in the ACS' Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

What did they find? 

As well as being higher in flavonoids, the researchers also found that antioxidant activity was higher in both varieties of organic onions.

To be certified as organic, farmers are unable to use the strong chemical weedkillers and pesticides on their vegetables. 

Instead, they use natural forms of growing crops in time for their harvest, such as biological pest control and rotation. 

However, due to this method of farming being less efficient, it costs more to produce - explaining the higher price of such vegetables.


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Friday, June 2, 2017

Transfusions of young blood may protect against Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer


It appears Dracula may have been onto something when he drank the blood of young maidens to stop him aging.

Older people given transfusions of blood from younger adults are at a lower risk of cancer, dementia and heart disease, new research shows.

In groundbreaking trials on humans, scientists appear to have confirmed the long-standing myth that such injections can reverse aging. 

Ambrosia, a start-up firm based in San Francisco, has been testing the horror-movie inspired technique to assess its benefits.

It is similar to that of former North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung who was said to take blood from people in their twenties to try to live to 100. 

Jesse Karmazin, founder of the company, told New Scientist: 'I don't want to say the word panacea, but there's something about teenagers.

'Whatever is in young blood is causing changes that appear to make the aging process reverse.'

How did they carry out the study? 
The findings came from blood tests that were taken both before and a month after 70 participants were given the radical treatment.

All of those involved were at least 35 and had paid $8,000 (£6,200) to be part of the experiment out of their own pocket.

They were given plasma - the main component of blood - from volunteers aged between 16 and 25.

What did they find? 

Researchers noted improvements in biomarkers of various major diseases, also known of indicators
for certain conditions. This included a 10 per cent reduction in blood cholesterol, of which high levels are known to lead to heart disease.

Other effects noted by the scientists were a 20 per cent reduction in proteins called carcinoembryonic antigens. These can be seen in high quantities in people who have various forms of cancer, the website reports, but it remains to be seen whether.

The younger blood also helped to slash amyloid protein levels, which forms toxic clumps in the brains of dementia patients, by a fifth.  

In particular, one 55-year-old patient with early onset Alzheimer's began to show improvements in his condition after just one transfusion. Mr Karmazin said that another, slightly older, woman affected worse by the disease is showing similar improvements. He reported some of the firm's findings, which suggested people will receive the most benefit from two injections a year, at the Recode conference in Los Angeles yesterday.  

However, he hinted it's possible some of the effects of could have been imagined by those who were desperate to see results after paying so much. 

Scientists have long studied the effects of young blood on animals, but have come across a mixed bag of results.

Just last month US research suggested that the blood from human umbilical cords could be the key ingredient for a ‘fountain of youth’ drug.

The Stanford University team discovered a protein found with the plasma can reverse the effects of age-related mental decline.

However, experts at The Ottawa Hospital made a much different finding last July. They noted how blood donations from young women may be linked to poorer survival rates in recipients. 


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Going to the beach changes your brain for the better


You've probably noticed how spending a day at the water can make you feel more relaxed, rested and re-energized. That feeling is not all in your head, scientists say when we spend time by the water, our brain actually changes.

Our minds are sent into a restful almost hypnotic space thanks to the soothing smells and sounds of the water. Researchers refer to this as "blue space."

Here's what a visit at the beach, or really a trip to the lake or any other body of water, can do:

Boosts creativity

Being in a blue space makes you more creative, because 
it allows your brain to become relaxed, so you are more likely to drift off and imagine than you would be when thrust in the middle of the often chaotic day-to-day world.

Stress melts away

If you put your toes in the water, or go for a swim, that water is filled with naturally occurring positive ions that are known to help relieve stress and boost your mood. Some scientists believe that the positive ions given off by the many appliances we use on a regular basis can leave us feeling angry, cranky, and overworked. Naturally occurring negative ions counteract all of this.

It reduces depression

The sounds of the waves can put you into a meditative state which has been associated with reduced depression and better mental clarity.

Your perspective is changed for the better

Being in a place surrounded by beautiful scenery, the sounds of the water and simply the presence of nature is incredibly soothing to the soul. It reminds us that there are things bigger on this planet than a traffic jam or a snarky co-worker.


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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Is this the fountain of youth? Methylene blue shows promise reversing aging in human skin


Don't be surprised if in a few years television commercials for skin cream start touting that they are "now formulated with methylene blue." That's because research out of the University of Maryland (UMD) has shown that the common antioxidant can reverse the effects of aging on our skin.

The dye has been used in medicine for more than 140 years for a variety of things - from staining bodily tissue during surgery to killing bacteria in urinary tract infections. It works by destroying disease-causing free radicals. Recently it's shown promise in fighting Alzheimer's disease. 

And now scientists at the University of Maryland have found another use: anti-aging.  

Lead author Professor Zheng-Mei Xiong said: 'Methylene blue demonstrates a great potential to delay skin aging for all ages.'

The researchers tested it for four weeks in skin cells from healthy middle-aged donors and octogenarians as well as patients diagnosed with progeria - a rare genetic disease that ages them quickly.

Methylene blue - first synthesized in 1876 - out-performed three other antioxidants N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), MitoQ and MitoTEMPO (mTEM).

Fibroblasts - skin cells that produce the structural protein collagen - experienced a decrease in damaging reactive oxygen species, a reduced rate of death and an increase in the rate of cell division throughout the treatment.

Anything that helps maintain collagen levels in the skin will keep it looking younger as natural levels of start to fall in your mid-30s. By the age of 55 they may have fallen by 40 percent. Less collagen means skin that sags and wrinkles.

Prof Kan Cao said: 'Our work suggests methylene blue could be a powerful antioxidant for use in skin care products.

'The effects we are seeing are not temporary. Methylene blue appears to make fundamental, long-term changes to skin cells.'

Antioxidants help counteract the effects of free radicals - unstable molecules in our body's cells which help speed up the ageing process,

The expression of two genes commonly used as indicators of cellular aging - senescence-associated beta-galactosidase and p16 - were decreased in the cells from older donors.

Prof Xiong said: 'I was encouraged and excited to see skin fibroblasts, derived from individuals more than 80 years old, grow much better in methylene blue-containing medium with reduced cellular senescence markers.'

The researchers whose findings are published in Scientific Reports then used simulated human skin they themselves developed to perform several more experiments.

The 3D model made of living skin cells includes all the major layers and structures of with the exception of hair follicles and sweat glands.

Prof Cao said it could also be used in skin irritation tests required by the Food and Drug Administration for the approval of new cosmetic products.

She said: 'This system allowed us to test a range of aging symptoms that we can't replicate in cultured cells alone.

'Most surprisingly we saw model skin treated with methylene blue retained more water and increased in thickness - both of which are features typical of younger skin.'

When methylene blue was added to cosmetic creams it caused little to no irritation - even at high concentrations. The researchers plan to develop safe and effective ways for consumers to benefit from its properties.

Prof Cao said: 'We have already begun formulating cosmetics that contain methylene blue. Now we are looking to translate this into marketable products..

'Perhaps down the road we can customize the system with bioprinting, such that we might be able to use a patient's own cells to provide a tailor-made testing platform specific to their needs.' 


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Just 10 minutes of meditation does wonders for your brain


Sitting down to clear your mind for just 10 minutes is enough to overcome stress and anxiety, a study claims.

New research revealed that a short stint of meditation will help block out the internal thoughts of restless people and allow them to concentrate.

The report from the University of Waterloo in Canada is the latest to demonstrate the benefits of meditation. Past studies have found self-reflection and deep thinking can even slow aging and help to fight off disease.

According to Mengran Xu, a researcher and PhD candidate at the university, taking a few minutes a day to meditate will allow for more concentration.

He said: 'Mind wandering accounts for nearly half of any person's daily stream of consciousness. For people with anxiety, repetitive off-task thoughts can negatively affect their ability to learn, to complete tasks, or even function safely.' 

The study asked 82 people who describe themselves as anxious to perform a task on a computer with random interruptions throughout the assignment.

Those who had a short meditation beforehand outperformed the other half who didn't.

Xu added: 'We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand.'

Meditation has been linked with beneficiary health results in the past, including fighting off diseases, and reducing stress and depression.

The popular exercise instructs people to focus on their present emotions and current sensations. 

Women experienced significant improvements in their emotional state, compared to men who had much lower results.


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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The remarkable health benefits of grape seeds


Grapes are one of the most popular fruits in the U.S., but many people neglect to eat what is perhaps their healthiest feature — the seeds. Grape seeds are rich in powerful antioxidants and natural plant compounds called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs).

OPCs are most well known for their antioxidant activity, which means, at the very least, grape seed may help to destroy free radicals in your body, which in turn may help you avoid premature aging and certain chronic diseases.

However, OPCs also demonstrate a host of other beneficial activities in the body, which may explain why grape seed extract appears to help so many different health conditions while exerting its effects body-wide.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH):

"Today, grape seed extract is used as a folk or traditional remedy for conditions related to the heart and blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poor circulation …

…  [C]omplications related to diabetes, such as nerve and eye damage; vision problems, such as macular degeneration (which can cause blindness); swelling after an injury or surgery; cancer prevention; and wound healing.

The grape seeds used to produce grape seed extract are generally obtained from wine manufacturers."

OPCs Help make grape seed extract a health superstar

One of grape seed extract's claims to fame is OPCs, which are related to the much more well-known compound resveratrol (found in grape skins). According to the journal Alternative Medicine Review, OPCs not only have antioxidant activity but are also:

  • Antibacterial
  • Antiviral
  • Anti-carcinogenic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-allergic
  • Vasodilatory actions

In addition, the journal reported OPCs "have been found to inhibit lipid peroxidation, platelet aggregation, capillary permeability and fragility, and to affect enzyme systems … Based on these reported findings, OPCs may be a useful component in the treatment of a number of conditions."

OPCs may even play a role in cancer prevention. Research published in the journal Prostate found OPCs helped stop the spread of prostate cancer cells and also caused apoptosis (cell death) among prostate cancer cells. Further, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center:

"Studies have found that grape seed extracts may prevent the growth of breast, stomach, colon, prostate, and lung cancer cells in test tubes. However, there is no clear evidence whether it works in humans.

Antioxidants, such as those found in grape seed extract, may help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Grape seed extract may also help prevent damage to human liver cells caused by chemotherapy medications."

Grape seed extract also contains high levels of compounds (procyanidin dimers) that act as aromatase inhibitors. This is likely another way grape seeds may help prevent and treat cancer, specifically hormone-dependent breast cancer.

Aromatase, an enzyme, converts androgen to estrogen and is expressed at higher levels in breast cancer tissues than normal tissues.

Many types of breast cancer are fueled by estrogen, which is why some chemotherapy drugs work by inhibiting the activity of aromatase. Grape seed extract may exert similar effects naturally.

Grape seed for your heart health, skin and brain

The more research that emerges on grape seeds, the more it becomes clear they have wide-reaching health benefits. Grape seeds have been shown to improve flexibility in joints, arteries and body tissues such as your heart, for instance.

Grape seed also helps improve blood circulation by strengthening capillaries, arteries and veins. Additional health benefits include those that follow.

High blood pressure

The antioxidants, including flavonoids, linoleic acid, and phenolic procyanidins, in grape seed extract help protect your blood vessels from damage, which may help prevent high blood pressure.

Grape seed extract has previously been shown to help dilate blood vessels and was shown to lower blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome (most of whom also had prehypertension).

Another study found that a grape seed extract beverage improved blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension, while a single dose of grape seed extract improved blood pressure in hypertensive rats.

Chronic venous insufficiency

The OPCs in grape seed extract may benefit this condition. About 80 percent of those who consumed OPCs had an improvement in symptoms after the first 10 days of treatment. Feelings of heaviness, itching, and pain were reduced significantly.

Bone strength

Grape seed extract has been shown to improve bone formation and bone strength in animal studies.

Swelling (edema)

Grape seed extract has been found to inhibit leg swelling that can occur during prolonged sitting. In addition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center:

"Edema is common after breast cancer surgery, and one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that breast cancer patients who took 600 mg of grape seed extract daily after surgery for six months had less edema and pain than those who took placebo.

Another study found that people who took grape seed extract after experiencing a sports injury had less swelling than those who took placebo."

Cognitive decline

Animal studies suggest grape seed extract may reverse hippocampal dysfunction in the brain by reducing oxidative stress and preserving mitochondrial function. Grape seed extract may even be useful as a preventative or therapeutic agent in Alzheimer's disease.

Oral health

Grape seed extract solution led to less demineralization and more remineralization of cavities in one lab study. Since remineralization is an effective treatment that may stop or reverse early tooth decay, grape seed extract could play a beneficial role in oral health.

Diabetes

Grape seed extract administered along with exercise training improved lipid profile, weight loss, blood pressure and other diabetic complications better than either intervention administered alone.

According to researchers, "This [grape seed extract and exercise training] may constitute a convenient and inexpensive therapeutic approach to diabetic complications."

Slight evidence suggests grape seed extract may also be beneficial for:
  • Improving night vision
  • Protecting collagen and elastin in your skin (for anti-aging effects)
  • Treating hemorrhoids
  • Protecting against oxidative rancidity and bacterial pathogens

Can you get the benefits of grape seeds from eating grapes?

If you enjoy snacking on grapes, there's no reason to spit out the seeds (and may be some benefit from eating them). However, to reach therapeutic quantities of grape seeds you'd need to eat a lot of grapes — and this is not recommended since grapes are one of the highest-fructose fruits.

Most grape-seed extract comes from ground-up seeds from grapes used to make red wine. In fact, grape seeds and their extract are considered a byproduct of the wine and grape juice industries.

While you can purchase whole grape seeds to consume for health purposes, they're very bitter. This is actually a good thing, as polyphenols, flavonoids, and other beneficial plant compounds almost always taste bitter — it's a sign they're good for you.

Unfortunately, since most people find them to be unpalatable, "the food industry routinely removes these compounds from plant foods through selective breeding and a variety of debittering processes."If you're willing to get past the bitter taste, then whole grape seeds are an option.

If not, grape seed and grape seed extract is available in supplement form. There is no daily recommended amount at this time, but some studies used doses of between 100 to 300 milligrams/day. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends looking for products that are standardized to 40 percent to 80 percent proanthocyanidins, or an OPC content of not less than 95 percent.


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