January, 2006 Visit Website
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In This Issue

Does green tea fight cancer?

Are there any natural supplements that will help fight the flu?

Think before you binge drink

Did you know?

Does green tea fight cancer?

Green Tea has been called an herbal panacea, able to help people who drink it regularly to lose weight, lower cholesterol and generally safeguard their health. But when it comes to one of the most cited benefits of green tea, i.e. its ability to fight cancer, studies have found plenty of promise and not a lot of evidence.

Researchers say that the benefit comes from the tea's polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that studies have shown can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in animals. But the evidence has been sparse when researchers have tried to determine if the findings carry over into humans.

One study, in Los Angeles in 2003, found significantly lower rates of breast cancer among women who drank green tea.

Are there any natural supplements that will help fight the flu?

Richard Harkness, consultant pharmacist and specialist in natural therapies tells us that there's some promising evidence for Elderberry, n-acetylcysteine, and American Ginseng. The studies mentioned below are double-blind, placebo trials. Elderberry has been used for centuries to treat the seasonal flu and colds. It appears to boost the immune system and has been shown to inhibit various influenza virus strains in laboratory experiments. Benefits have been found for a standardized elderberry extract syrup (Sambucol).

One study consisted of 60 patients who had suffered from flu-like symptoms for 48 hours or less. They took either 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of the elderberry syrup or placebo four times daily for five days. Those taking elderberry reported that their symptoms were relieved about four days earlier than those on placebo.

In another study, symptoms in the group taking elderberry syrup significantly improved within two days, compared with six days for the placebo group.

N-acetylcysteine is an antioxidant that seems to have anti-inflammatory effects. It also may thin the blood. A study of 262 people, mainly elderly, found that n acetylcysteine tablets (600 mg) taken twice daily for six months helped prevent flu-like illness and reduced the severity and duration of illness when it occurred. The prescription form of n-acetylcysteine, called Mucomyst, is used for acetaminophen poisoning and for respiratory conditions.

American ginseng is thought to boost the immune system. Two studies involving 198 people suggest that a proprietary extract of North American Ginseng helped prevent the flu in elderly residents of long-term care or assisted-living facilities. Residents receiving 200 mg of the ginseng formulation twice daily for 12 weeks during flu season had a substantially lower risk of getting laboratory-confirmed influenza, compared with placebo users.

A study of 279 people found that two capsules (400 mg) daily of an extract of North American Ginseng root taken over four months during flu season helped prevent the common cold and - reduced its severity and its duration by 2.4 days.

Think before you binge drink

One to two servings of alcoholic beverages can be good for health. Very heavy drinking during a short period of time, however, is a health hazard.

Michael Woods tells us that studies link binge drinking to a list of perils that includes death and serious injury in highway crashes and other accidents; child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, suicide, and other kinds of violent behavior, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy.

Binge drinking also increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and certain kinds of cancer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls binge drinking a leading preventable cause of death. Binges kill about 37,000 people each year. For men, binge drinking is the consumption of five or more beers, glasses of wine, or servings of hard liquor on one occasion. For women (who feel alcohol's effects faster), binge drinking is four or more drinks on one occasion.

CDC researchers started hearing reports a few years ago about heavier drinking among adults and underage young people. To see what was going on, they compared drinking habits of 102,000 people questioned in a 1993 health survey to those of 213,000 people questioned in 2001. Their study found a 30 percent increase in binge drinking among adults during that period. Other studies have reported increases among underage drinkers, especially on college campuses, where students may guzzle 10 or more drinks a night.

Did you know?

People who exercise can add three years to their lives.

Their hearts reap benefits from something as simple as brisk walking a half an hour a day.

Researchers at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, analyzed more than four decades of data from the Framingham Heart Study, a long running health analysis of suburban Boston residents. They grouped 4,121 people into three levels of physical activity: low, medium and high. The volunteers, who had kept track of how long they spent doing various activities each day, received scores based on the estimated oxygen consumed for their activities.

  • Life expectancy at age 50 for the medium activity group was 1.5 years longer than for the low activity group.
  • The high activity group lived 3.5 years longer.
  • The extra years were lived mostly free from heart disease.

The study didn't give details quantifying high, medium or low activity.

In the second, smaller study, researchers examined what type of real-world walking program would improve heart health.

They found several routines worked:

  • Walking for 30 minutes five or more days a week, either moderately or briskly, improved cardio-respiratory fitness. It worked just as well to walk briskly three to four days a week.
  • Only fast paced walking on five or more days a week also led to short-term progress in cholesterol levels.

Researcher Michael Perri, University of Florida, relates a study of 492 sedentary adults that was conducted outside the lab, where real world demands on people's time and energy got in the way of their walking goal. That led to one of the study's most important findings, Perri said: People who were supposed to walk 150 minutes a week actually were walking only 90 minutes a week - and still achieving health benefits.

In Good Health.
Pamela Nathan

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