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GET DIRTY AND CHEER UP People who suffer from depression could benefit from getting "dirty", according to new British research. A "friendly" bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae) found in soil has the same uplifting effects as those produced by anti-depressant drugs, the study found. Scientists found it stimulated the immune system and activated neurons in the brain which produce the mood enhancing chemical seratonin. "These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health," Dr. Chris Lowry told Neuroscience journal. "They also leave us wondering if we shouldn't ALL spend more time playing in the dirt."

HIGH FIVE TO VEGETABLES Scientists have identified 5 super-vegetables that can unclog your arteries and keep your bones, teeth and skin healthy. CORRTS, PEAS, GREEN BEANS, CORN and BROCCOLI are being hailed as part of a diet that can reverse heart disease. New research has found the antioxidant effects from the five vegetables can reduce the hardening of arteries by 38% compared with people who eat few vegetables. The findings, reported in the US-based Journal of Nutrition, are the first to link vegetables with preventing atherosclerosis, a potentially lethal disease that occurs when blood vessels get clogged. (Source: Melbourne Sun-Herald, June 25, 2006)

PUMP IT DOWN Physical activity reduces blood pressure in patients with raised blood pressure, even when they're taking medication to address the problem, a study reveals. After the exercise program, the average top blood-pressure reading fell from 143.1 to 135.5 while the lower reading dropped from 91.1 to 84.8. Researchers in Italy said the results supported exercise as an important part of the treatment of people with mild elevations in blood pressure. (Source: Melbourne Sun-Herald, June 30, 2006)

CANCER HOPE AMONG THISTLES A drug derived from milk thistle destroys lung cancer in mice, scientists have found. Mice induced with lung cancer and then treated with the thistle component, silibinin, had fewer large lung tumours than did untreated mice. It seems to reduce the number of blood vessels that provide nutrients to the tumours and allow them to grow. Further studies were being done, researchers at the University of Colorado, Denver, reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Human trials of silibinin for prostate cancer are already under way. (Source: Melbourne Sun-Herald, June 29, 2006)

SEA WATER is rich in minerals, which are inhaled from the air and also absorbed through the skin when bathing. You don't have to live near the sea to benefit from the health-giving properties of sea-water. Make reconstituted sea water by dissolving 1 or 2 kgs of sea salt (from health food shops) in half a tub of cool water. Soak in your tub for 15 minutes or so, then dry your body briskly with a coarse towel. Or, you can make a sea water substitute by adding to the water 2 kgs of common salt, 250 grams or magnesium chloride and 250 grams of Epsom salts. (Source: Good Old Days, Good Old Ways, Reader's Digest)

BAD BREATH While treating the underlying problem is essential (dental hygiene, mouth infection, respiratory infection, constipation, etc), try one of these for sweetening the breath: chew parsley, wintergreen, mint or peppermint leaves, drink peppermint or fenugreek tea, add a few drops of vinegar to water and gargle each morning, add 30 drops of tincture of myrrh to a glass of warm water and use as a mouthwash, or chew dill, cardamom, or caraway seeds, or a couple of coffee beans. (Source: Good Old Days, Good Old Ways, Reader's Digest)

ALFALFA could help treat tinea or athlete's foot. British Scientists found chemicals in aflalfa protected against fungal attacks and could be made into a cream. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

CAVEMAN diets which involved eating unprocessed natural foods could help prevent modern chronic illnesses including obesity, diabetes abd heart disease. International collaborative research said modern human genes were still based on the dietary patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors millions of years ago. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

DUCT TAPE could be a more effective treatment for warts than the common freezing therapy. Harvard University scientists found 85% of patients got rid of their warts by applying patches of duct tape for 2 months, compared with 60% of those who had the freezing treatment. They suggested that skin didn't like duct tape and immune cells were called to get rid of it, attacking the wart. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

KIWI FRUIT could be as effective as taking blood-thinning aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes without side-effects such as gastro-intestinal bleeding. Studies show 2 pieces a day have more vitamin C than oranges and contain phytonutrients, chemicals that protect DNA in cells from damage that can lead to diseases. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

NOTEBOOK COMPUTERS could damage young men's ability to father children. U.S. doctors found balancing laptops on things raised sperm temperature by almost 3 degrees celsius, enough to trigger fertility problems with frequent exposure. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

PLAGUE from the middle ages may explain why 10% of Europeans are able to resist HIV. British researchers found Europeans had a high frequency of a mutation that prevented HIV from entering immune cells, which might have also protected against haemorrhagic fever believed to be the true cause of Black Death. Descendants of survivors of plagues might have increased the mutation frequency from one in 20,000 to one in 10 today. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

QIGONG and other traditional Chinese exercises such as tai chi could help control diabetes. Queensland researchers found the 5,000 year old self-healing arts significantly improved several indicators of metabolic syndrome including high blood pressure, body weight and waist circumference. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

ROSEMARY flavoured meat dishes could help reduce the risk of cancer. U.S. researchers found antioxidants in rosmarinic acid and rosemary extract reduced the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds formed when beef, chicken, pork and fish were cooked at high temperatures. HCAs caused genetic mutations that could increase the risk of colorectal, esophegeal, prostate and breast cancers. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

ULTRAVIOLET LIGHT shone up the nose can help control hayfever. Researchers found three sessions a week of "rhino-phototherapy" using a combination of UVA, UVB and visible light improved sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose and the emount of mucous within three weeks. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

YOGA is a more effective treatment for low back pain than exercise or painkillers. U.S. researchers found 12 weeks of 75-minute yoga classes later practised at home were more effective in reducing back pain than 12 weeks of 75-minute sessions of aerobic, strengthening, and stretching exercises. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 6 January 2006)

CHINESE REMEDY Traditional Chinese exercises such as qigong and tai chi could help control diabetes. Queensland researchers found the 5,000-year-old self-healing arts - a combination of movement, breathing and mind training - significantly improved several indicators of metabolic syndrome including high blood pressure, body weight and waist circumference.(Melbourne Herald Sun, December 23, 2005)

NUT RANKING Sunflower kernels and pistachios have the highest levels of cholesterol-LOWERING phytosterols of all conventionally eaten nuts and seeds. After analysing 27 nut and seed products, U.S. chemists found sesame seeds and wheat germ ranked highest but were rarely consumed individually, while brazil nuts and walnuts were lowest. (Melbourne Herald Sun, December 23, 2005)

JOGGING A SMART MOVE Jogging is not just good for the body, it helps keep your brain in shape! Researchers found that 2 half-hour runs a week increased concentration and improved visual memory. And while German scientists stopped short of claiming jogging makes you smarter, they said it certainly provided intellectual stimulus. Experts at Ulm University had volunteers jog twice a week for 30 minutes. Tests revealed their ability to recall images was substantially improved. (Melbourne Herald Sun, December 23, 2005)

WAVE OF DISCOVERY Aussie surfers with cystic fibrosis who said they felt better after riding the waves have inspired a treatment for the incurable disease. Respiratory physician Peter Bye used their experience and his expertise to develop a cheap, natural therapy based on inhaled salt water. A 12-month trial found sufferers on the concentrated saline solution delivered in a mist had better lung function and half the number of lung disease flare-ups. (Melbourne Herald Sun, November 29, 2005)

DOLPHIN SWIM CURE Patients with mild or moderate depression can be successfully treated by swimming with the dolphins. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that swimming with the creatures led to falling levels of depressive symptoms in patients. The findings support the theory of biophilia - showing how human health and well-being are dependent on relationships with the natural environment. (Melbourne Herald Sun, November 26, 2005)

HONEY OF A CURE Honey is mentioned in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah as being used for healing purposes. Now, Australian researchers have found it is just as effective as an antibiotic cream to prevent infections in catheter sites in kidney dialysis patients. Kidney specialist David Johnson said honey also had an advantage over a commonly used antibiotic ointment in that hospital 'superbugs' had not developed resistance to it. The scientists compared a specially formulated honey, sold as Medi-honey, with mupirocin cream in a 2-year trial. (Melbourne Herald Sun, August 27, 2005)

ZINC A LIFESAVER Babies in developing countries who take a weekly dose of zinc can boost their chances of avoiding fatal pneumonia and diarrhoea, according to a study published by the British journal, The Lancet. Bangladeshi doctors tested 1621 children aged 2 months to a year, half of whom were given a weekly 700mg dose of zinc, while the other half were given a placebo. The death rate in the zinc group was 85% lower than in the placebo group. The zinc-taking infants were also slightly taller. (Melbourne Herald Sun, August 24, 2005)

SUNFLOWER OIL FOR SKIN INFECTIONS Rubbing sunflower oil on premature babies helps protect them from infection, a study has found. Premature babies, particularly in developing countries, often die from infections caused by the immature skin, says a US study published in The Lancet. The article said evidence was emerging that the skin was much more important as a barrier to infection than previously recognised, particularly in pre-term infants whose skin was underdeveloped. The effect was greatest if the treatment was begun straight after birth. Bloodstream infections also were almost halved. (Melbourne Herald Sun, March 29 2005)

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE GAINING POPULARITY Alternative health practitioners will carry out half of all medical consultations in Australia within a decade. Researchers found 35% of people in Australia had visited a naturopath or other complementary health professional in the past year, up 8%, while visits to GP's fell by 3%. They predicted alternative medicine would overtake Western medicine within 10 years. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 11 March, 2005)

VITAMIN D TO PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS Nursing home residents and people in residential care are being urged to take a daily vitamin D tablet to prevent hip fractures. Prof.Christopher Nordin, chairman of a working party on vitamin D, falls and hip fractures, yesterday said a high proportion of hip fracture cases came from nursing homes, where lack of exposure to sunlight and consequent vitamin D deficiency was common. "We therefore recommend that blood level of vitamin D be measured in everyone over the age of 65 and corrected with tablets if it is low." Vitamin D deficiency also causes a high rate of bone turnover, leading to the weakening of the bony tissue and increasing muscle weakness. (Melbourne Herald Sun, March 1, 2005)

RED ALERT It has long been suspected that red cordial sends children into a frenzy - but now there's proof. British researchers found substantial increases in hyperactivity levels among 227 3-year-olds when their diets were supplemented with an artificially coloured drink. Removing artificial colouring and preservatives from pre-schoolers' diets dramatically reduced hyperactivity levels. (Melbourne Herald Sun, December 16, 2004)

HYPERACTIVITY It has long been suspected that artificial colourings and preservatives send children into a frenzy - now there is PROOF. British researchers found substantial increases in hyperactivity levels among 227 3-year-olds when their diets were supplemented with an artificially coloured drink. Removing artificial colourings and preservatives from pre-schoolers' diets dramatically reduced hyperactivity levels. (Melbourne Herald Sun, December 16, 2004)

SUNSHINE GUARDS AGAINST MANY CANCERS A small amount of time in the sun could help guard against many types of cancer, a recent study suggests. Although damage caused by sunburn in turn causes skin cancers, too little sun was linked to breast, colon and ovarian cancers, according to research by William Grant, atmospheric scientist at NASA. (Herald Sun, Australia, July 4, 2002)

PETS REDUCE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS RISK Diet and choice of pets could play independent but important roles in multiple sclerosis. University of Montreal scientists found vegetarian diets reduced MS risk by 60%, while keeping a cat halved the chance of disease. The unusual study was presented at the 2001 Congress of Epideiology in Toronto. (Melbourne Herald Sun, June 29, 2001)

STAY CALM Cardiac arrhythmias brought on by anger and more deadly than those not caused by extreme emotion. US researchers found the electrical characteristics of arrhythmias triggered by stress and anger were more disorganised and unstable, perhaps caused by higher adrenalin levels. They said this could help explain why sudden death rates increased during natural disasters and war. (Melbourne Herald Sun)

REAL LEMON A supposed liver-cleansing regimen of olive oil and lemon juice has been found to create soap-stones instead of helping people pass gallstones. Analysis by New Zealand biochemists found the stones passed in the bowel were formed by the flushing recipe promoted to rid people of gallstones. (Melbourne Herald Sun)

THALIDOMIDE The controversial drug banned in the 1960's for causing birth defects may help patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer. UK researchers found thalidomide reduced weight loss and improved physical functioning. (Melbourne Herald Sun)

FRIENDLY BACTERIA A daily dose of good bacteria early in life may halve the risk of developing life-long allergies and asthma. Swedish researchers found 16% of babies given a placebo developed an allergic reaction when exposed to egg, compared with 8% given a probiotic. (Melbourne Herald Sun)