The Plain Truth

The Plain Truth
God's Hand Behind the News

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fructose Tied to Higher Blood Pressure

A diet high in a form of sugar found in sweetened soft drinks and junk food raises blood pressure among men, according to research likely to mean more bad news for beverage companies and restaurant chains.

One of two studies released on Wednesday provided the first evidence that fructose helps raise blood pressure. It also found that the drug allopurinol, used to treat gout, can alleviate the effect by reducing uric acid levels in the body.

The second study, which measured fructose intake in mice, suggested that people who consume junk foods and sweetened soft drinks at night could gain weight faster than those who don't.

"These results suggest that excessive fructose intake may have a role in the worldwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes," said Dr. Richard Johnson of the University of Colorado-Denver, who studied the link between blood pressure and men.

The findings provide the latest evidence of ties between sugar-rich diets and health problems that have prompted some experts to call for a tax on sugary soft drinks. MORE>>>>>>>>

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chemical Pollutants Lead to Fewer Female Births

High exposure to certain now-banned industrial chemicals may lead to fewer female births, a new study suggests.

The findings, reported in the journal Environmental Health, add to evidence that the two groups of related chemicals -- polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) -- may affect human reproduction.

PBBs were once widely used as flame retardants in plastics, electronic and textiles, while PCBs were used in everything from appliances and fluorescent lighting to insulation and insecticides.

While the chemicals were banned in the 1970s as potential health hazards, they remain a public-health concern because they linger in the environment and accumulate in the fat of fish, mammals and birds.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Traffic Noise Raises Blood Pressure

Traffic noise raises blood pressure. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health have found that people exposed to high levels of noise from nearby roads are more likely to report suffering from hypertension.

Theo Bodin worked with a team or researchers from Lund University Hospital, Sweden, to investigate the association between living close to noisy roads and having raised blood pressure. He said, "Road traffic is the most important source of community noise. Non-auditory physical health effects that are biologically plausible in relation to noise exposure include changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones. We found that exposure above 60 decibels was associated with high blood pressure among the relatively young and middle-aged, an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke".


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A cornucopia of drugs will soon be on sale to improve everything from our memories to our trust in others

On 6th December 2004 a baby girl named Yan was born. Her father, an internet entrepreneur, is called Shen Tong. Yan was Shen’s first child, and you might have expected him to have an excitable, sleepless night. But oddly the opposite occurred. He slept better than he had done for 15 years, six months and two days. It’s possible to be exact about the timing because 15 years, six months and two days earlier was 4th June 1989 and on that day Shen had been on a boulevard just off Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He was a 20-year-old student, and like thousands of others he was demonstrating in favour of political reform.

After martial law was declared, Shen watched as the army drove through the city. Between outbursts of shooting, students tried to reason with the military. Shen approached a truckload of soldiers; he wanted, he says, to calm the surrounding crowd. Suddenly an officer pulled out a pistol. Parts of the rest of the story are hazy. Shen was dragged back by others. A shot was fired, and a female student, roughly Shen’s age and standing just behind him, was hit in the face. She died. Shen remembers her covered in blood. He is convinced that the bullet was intended for him. Shen moved to the US, but violent images recurred in his dreams for many years—until, that is, the arrival of Yan. Not only did he sleep well that night, but the following night, and the night after that.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can occur after a distressing event. It involves a traumatic memory which comes back to mind repeatedly and involuntarily. It’s associated with chronic anxiety and hyper vigilance. The numbers affected are contentious. By one mid-range estimate tens of thousands of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from it. As do British veterans of the Falklands war—more of whom have committed suicide than died in active service. The Pentagon has sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into PTSD research. But of course, as Shen Tong knows, you don’t have to be a soldier to experience it.


A history of healing herbs

I now know you can't judge a book by its cover. I almost managed to overlook my review copy of "Backyard Medicine"by Julie Bruton-Seal and...

Scripps Howard News Service

I now know you can't judge a book by its cover. I almost managed to overlook my review copy of "Backyard Medicine"by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009); however, one evening I sat down to give it a look and was pleasantly surprised to discover a first-class read.

I learned it was originally published in Britain as "Hedgerow Medicine,"a tome devoted to helping readers find real medicine in the plants of both the gardens and weeds of wayside places.

What the British knew about useful plants our colonists inherited to apply in the New World, and therein lies the root of our American herbal traditions — the value of eons of ancient English cottage herbalism.

As I browsed through, I found a lovely blend of superior photography, close-up details that tell a deeper story and wonderful old botanical prints. These all help to augment a running text that, unlike other herb books, deals with the facts, not remnants of old herbalism based on magic and philosophy. Furthermore, the language is both concise and conversational.

The sidebars featuring specific plants are particularly striking, packed with interesting and useful tidbits. Included in the plant information are the botanical descriptions, habitat, distribution, related species and the parts used. The useful bullet points make it easy to extract information, such as maladies treated by the plant. Special tips and boxes that warn against toxicity, allergy and other such caveats are found in contrasting ink. Quotes from English herbalists who solidified the foundation of modern botanical medicine provide vital context and link the contemporary text with its historic roots.

I was also happy to see mullein discussed in these pages; it's one of my favorite herbs. According to this book, mullein leaves were popular as toilet paper and were traditionally grown outside pits or privies. The leaves, often the size of a human foot, were also used to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the muscles of the foot. Layering a mullein leaf inside a shoe became one of the first medicated orthotics.

Even more admirable are the recipes throughout the book that discuss how to harvest and prepare the plants for use as medicine — too many publications lack these important how-to details. For mullein, the instructions include detailed descriptions of how to make dried mullein tea for coughs and colds. It challenges the reader with the more complex recipe of mullein-flower oil as an earache remedy. There's also a how-to on making and using a mullein poultice to draw out splinters.

The book covers an astonishing variety of plants. One of the best sections addresses common elder, detailing uses of its flower and berries. Other extensive write-ups deal with commonly found wayside weeds such as red clover, nettle, wormwood, mallow, dandelion and dock. Some widely cultivated garden plants common in English hedgerows include hawthorn, briar rose and St. John's wort.

"Backyard Medicine"is an affordable starter book for the new gardener or first-time homeowner, and it makes a superior foraging guide for the gutsy urbanite. Whether you grow your plants or gather from field, fen or roadside, every page is highly useful.

And there are great ideas for herbal holiday gifts made from free wayside weeds.

Don't let the rather pedestrian cover throw you, because the wisdom of the ages is beautifully shared inside.

Maureen Gilmer is a horticulturist. Her blog, the MoZone, offers ideas for cash-strapped families. Read the blog at E-mail her at

scientists turn liposuction leftovers into embryonic-like stem cells

In medicine's version of winning the daily double, Stanford University researchers took ordinary fat cells and transformed them into what are effectively embryonic stem cells — those versatile cellular building blocks that can morph into a variety of tissues.

Scientists warn it's too soon to use excess fat to cure disease. But in theory, it would allow people to grow personalized replacement parts for ailing organs. And it avoids the use of embryos, which has embroiled the field in political and ethical debates.

"Thirty to 40 percent of adults in this country are obese," said cardiologist Joseph Wu, senior author of the paper published in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"But all of us have fat in our bodies," he said. "We just need a little bit."

In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University in Japan made a landmark discovery by turning skin cells into embryoniclike stem cells, sending waves of relief through a field that had faced much resistance. Because these cells don't come from embryos, they are called "induced pluripotent stem cells," or IPS cells.

Stanford researchers took a similar approach. But fat cells seem more flexible and versatile than skin cells, so they can be reprogrammed more quickly and easily, making them potentially more useful in building colonies of IPS cells.

The procedure is not yet ready for clinical application because it relies on genetically engineered


Prostate Cancer Caused By a Virus?

Researchers reporting online in yesterday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences think prostate cancer may be related to a virus. Scientists at Columbia University and the University of Utah have determined that a virus that's already known to cause certain other cancers in animals is present in human prostate cancer cells.

Comparing more than 200 human prostate cancers to more than 100 non-cancerous prostate-tissue samples, they found that 27 percent of the cancers contained the virus known as XMRV, which was found in only 6 percent of the benign tissues. XMRV has been under investigation for its potential role in causing cancer for some time; this new study strengthens the link and also dispels the previous belief that certain people with genetic mutations are more susceptible than others the XMRV infection.

There's no evidence yet that XMRV causes prostate cancer. But should such a relationship emerge, the discovery might lead to new ways to diagnose, treat or even prevent the disease, which affects nearly 200,000 men each year in the U.S.

Other viruses are known to cause cancer in humans. For instance, the human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes cervical cancer in women. The Gardasil vaccine targets HPV and thus wards off that form of cancer.

A prostate cancer vaccine is still a distant prospect, though. And researchers point out that much remains to be learned about XMRV. Does it affect women? Is it sexually transmitted? How common is it? And does it cause cancer elsewhere in the body, other than in the prostate?

"We have many questions right now," said lead researcher Ila Singh of the University of Utah in a press release, "and we believe this merits further investigation."