Monthly Archives: July 2018

THE WONDER OF TURMERIC

Some herbs have proved over the years to contain major benefits for the body and brain. Much more than just an ingredient that gives curry its yellow colour, turmeric is a spice with healing properties. Many high quality studies show it has ample benefits for the body and brain, making it arguably the most effective nutritional supplement available today.

So the latest science is backing up what Indian traditional medicine as always said. Turmeric really does contain compounds to support good health. Curcumin is the main active ingredient. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong anti-oxidant. It is now believed that chronic low-level inflammation plays a role in almost every major Western disease including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Therefore anything that can help to fight inflammation is potentially important. Curcumin fights inflammation at a molecular level. So it’s no surprise that arthritis patients have responded very well to turmeric supplements. Many studies show that curcumin can help treat symptoms in such cases more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs.

Oxidative damage is also believed to be one of the culprits behind ageing, and many common diseases. As a powerful anti-oxidant, curcumin is thought capable of delivering one-two punch free resistances, neutralizing them and stimulating the body’s own anti-oxidant enzymes.

What’s more, it may be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, though evidence from trials are inconclusive as yet though several studies have found that curcumin effectively reduces depression symptoms more than a placebo. Curcumin may support heart health in several ways. Studies suggest that Curcumin improves the function of the lining in blood vessels and the fact that it reduces inflammation and oxidation are also significant here.

With more than 10,000 peer-reviewed articles published looking at turmeric’s benefits, it tops the list as the most frequently mentioned medicinal herb in all of science. However, curcumin only accounts for 3% of turmeric powder, so to benefit you really need to take a supplement that contains only the curcumin. Most importantly it shows it should be formulated to be readily absorbed by the body. One effective supplement, supported by 29 clinical studies, combines it with soy and lecithin – making it 30 times more absorbable than standard turmeric.

For some reason or other I have for a number of years considered turmeric a herb worth having. It gives food an aromatic ingredient which enhances taste as well as appetite. I’m glad to realise it has also undeniable health benefits as an added bonus.

EAT YOUR FRUIT

I never thought a mango could relieve a tummy upset but nowadays one keeps discovering that science seems to find out something new every day of the week. They now claim that mangoes are better at relieving digestive problems than many high-fibre foods, a study has found.

The fruit, which contains fibre and nutrients, called polyphenols, is said to treat constipation and gut inflammation more effectively than an equivalent amount of fibre powder. One in five adults is thought to suffer from a long term digestive condition.

For the 4-week study 36 men and women with chronic constipation were divided into two groups; one given a daily dose of 300gms of mango, or roughly one fruit, the other an equivalent amount of fibre supplement. Aside from this, their diet was kept constant for calories, carbohydrates, fibre, protein and fat.

At the end of the month both groups showed reduced constipation but mangoes were found to be more effective at easing symptoms than fibre alone. The fruit also helped improve the make-up of bacteria in the gut and reduce inflammation. Co-author Professor Susanne Martins-Talcott of Texas A&M University said: ‘Fibres supplements and laxatives could effectively treat constipation but do not address other symptoms such as inflammation.’

She added: ‘Our finding suggests mango offers an advantage over fibre supplements.’ The study appears in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

It’s always good to keep abreast of what the researchers discover as I believe natural medicine is always the better alternative.

ARE WE ALL OF AFRICAN ORIGIN?

I have always been fascinated by the evolution of humans who for years experts believed originated in a single Garden of Eden spot in Africa before spreading around the world.
But now scientists say fossil records show there cannot have been just one area.

Instead, group of early human species were dispersed across Africa in pockets.

These communities – separated for millennia – developed diverse features in the shapes of their skulls and other bones. Over thousands of years the groups sporadically interbred to create Homo sapiens.

Scientists say our species could not have developed from just one place because evidence from skull shapes does not support this theory. If it was correct, skulls would have changed shape in a smooth ‘linear progression’ over time. But the timeline is mixed – with more recent skulls having primitive features while more ancient skulls have modern features.

For example, older skulls dating back 300,000 years at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco have small faces like us. However, there braincase is elongated instead of spherical like a modern skull.
Earlier human fossils dating back 160,000 years ago from Ethiopia had big ‘robust’ faces quite unlike us, but with rounder braincases.
Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum and Doctor Eleanor Scerri of Oxford University and colleagues put forward their case in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
The author said early humans were kept apart by diverse habitats and shifting environmental boundaries such as forests and deserts. Many of the inhospitable regions in Africa today, such as the Sahara, where once wet and green with networks of lakes and rivers and abundant wildlife.
Similarly, some tropical regions that are humid and green today were once arid. The shifting nature of the habitable zones meant groups of humans would have gone through many cycles of isolation. This led to the development of unique primitive technologies such as stone tools and highly diverse genes.
Professor Stringer pioneered the Garden of Eden theory but now accepts this is wrong. He said ‘we do see a continental, wide trend towards the modern human form but some archaic features are present until remarkably recently.’

‘I have increasingly come to the realisation that our African origin was a complex process. The great diversity of African fossils between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago suggest that multiple lineages existed on the African continent at that time.’
Lead author Doctor Scarri said ‘the stone tools discovered across Africa don’t show a great progression to crude to sophisticated.’

She said ‘the evolution of human populations in Africa was multi-regional. Our ancestry was multi-ethnic and the evolution of our material culture was, multi-cultural.

Professor Mark Thomas of UCL added that the genetic patterns found also support their case.’ He said ‘it is difficult to reconcile the genetic patterns we see in living Africa and in the DNA extracted from the bones of African who lived over the last ten thousand years with their being one ancestral human population.’

For me, the mystery of the evolution of humans remains unbelievably complex. I always understood that most likely the Garden of Eden was situated somewhere in the Holy Land. But obviously scientists are more well versed in these matter than I could possibly be. All this however adds to my own fascination to the concept of creation overall.

ARE WE ALL OF AFRICAN ORIGIN?

I have always been fascinated by the evolution of humans who for years experts believed originated in a single Garden of Eden spot in Africa before spreading around the world.
But now scientists say fossil records show there cannot have been just one area.

Instead, group of early human species were dispersed across Africa in pockets.

These communities – separated for millennia – developed diverse features in the shapes of their skulls and other bones. Over thousands of years the groups sporadically interbred to create Homo sapiens.

Scientists say our species could not have developed from just one place because evidence from skull shapes does not support this theory. If it was correct, skulls would have changed shape in a smooth ‘linear progression’ over time. But the timeline is mixed – with more recent skulls having primitive features while more ancient skulls have modern features.

For example, older skulls dating back 300,000 years at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco have small faces like us. However, there braincase is elongated instead of spherical like a modern skull.
Earlier human fossils dating back 160,000 years ago from Ethiopia had big ‘robust’ faces quite unlike us, but with rounder braincases.
Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum and Doctor Eleanor Scerri of Oxford University and colleagues put forward their case in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
The author said early humans were kept apart by diverse habitats and shifting environmental boundaries such as forests and deserts. Many of the inhospitable regions in Africa today, such as the Sahara, where once wet and green with networks of lakes and rivers and abundant wildlife.
Similarly, some tropical regions that are humid and green today were once arid. The shifting nature of the habitable zones meant groups of humans would have gone through many cycles of isolation. This led to the development of unique primitive technologies such as stone tools and highly diverse genes.
Professor Stringer pioneered the Garden of Eden theory but now accepts this is wrong. He said ‘we do see a continental, wide trend towards the modern human form but some archaic features are present until remarkably recently.’

‘I have increasingly come to the realisation that our African origin was a complex process. The great diversity of African fossils between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago suggest that multiple lineages existed on the African continent at that time.’
Lead author Doctor Scarri said ‘the stone tools discovered across Africa don’t show a great progression to crude to sophisticated.’

She said ‘the evolution of human populations in Africa was multi-regional. Our ancestry was multi-ethnic and the evolution of our material culture was, multi-cultural.

Professor Mark Thomas of UCL added that the genetic patterns found also support their case.’ He said ‘it is difficult to reconcile the genetic patterns we see in living Africa and in the DNA extracted from the bones of African who lived over the last ten thousand years with their being one ancestral human population.’

For me, the mystery of the evolution of humans remains unbelievably complex. I always understood that most likely the Garden of Eden was situated somewhere in the Holy Land. But obviously scientists are more well versed in these matter than I could possibly be. All this however adds to my own fascination to the concept of creation overall.

KEEP RIGHT ON TILL THE END OF THE ROAD…

It’s true that the young at heart often insist that you are only as old as you feel. Now a study has proved they are right, finding that those who feel younger than they are show fewer signs of brain ageing. Neuroscientists, who gave a group of people aged 59-84 MRI scans, found that those who said they felt younger had more grey matter in their brains and did better in memory tests. The researchers suggested that those who feel their age or older have picked up on small cognitive changes in the brain, such as mild memory loss.

The study, carried out by the University of Seoul in South Korea, is the first to link how old people feel with the physical signs of brain ageing. Co-author Dr Geanyung Chey said: ‘We found people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain. Importantly, this difference remains robust even when other possible factors – including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms or cognitive functions – are accounted for. If somebody feels older than their age, it could be a sign for them to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain ageing and take measures to better care for their brain health.’

The researchers asked 68 healthy people whether they felt older or younger than they were, or whether they felt their age. When their brains were scanned those who felt younger had more grey matter in key regions such as the hippocampus, which is linked to memory. The scans showed their brains had actually aged less than those people who felt older, as grey matter tends to decline with age. The youthful-feeling group also did better in memory tests including tasks such as recalling details from a story 15 to 30 minutes after hearing it. The researchers suggest that those who feel older may be able to sense the ageing process in their brains as their loss of grey matter may make cognitive tasks more challenging. Another possibility is that those who feel young are more likely to lead a more physically and mentally active life, which could cause improvements in brain health.

Previous studies have suggested that asking people how old they feel can predict if they will develop dementia, become frail or be taken to hospital. Those who feel older than their age are also more likely to be obese and diabetic. Dr Chey, whose study was published in the journal Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience, said: ‘Why do some people feel younger or older than their age? Some possibilities include depressive states, personality differences or physical health. However, no one had investigated the brain ageing process as a possible reason for differences in subjective age.’

The results suggest that feeling older than one’s age may reflect relatively faster ageing brain structures. Those who feel younger have better preserved and healthier ones. Some of the biggest changes in grey matter, based on age perception, were found in the inferior pre-frontal cortex which helps in suppressing irrelevant information. Loss in this region could cause age-related problems in tasks requiring focus and concentration. In brief, if one leads an active life and does not feel one’s age, then the omens are good.

The moment I feel my age – I trust it will never happen – the signs are then that the end is near and my journey, hopefully, comes to an abrupt end.

THE LAND OF NOD IS GOOD FOR YOU

Alzheimer’s, today’s dreaded disease, especially amongst the elderly, is causing the nation a financial burden which it could do without, given the current austerity we are facing in a world where uncertainty and political upheaval is rampant. Scientists are saying that to combat Alzheimer’s a good night’s sleep, regular exercise and drinking small amounts can help the brain clean itself at night and protect it against this horrible malady. All these three stimulate the brain’s glymphatic system which wipes away the toxic build-up of proteins linked to the devastating disease, according to researchers. Studies on mice represent a breakthrough as they could help illuminate how the human brain functions – including how it clears away its waste products.

Dr Ian Harrison, of University College London, told the Cheltenham Science Festival that studies on the brain and spinal fluids of mice have shown that sleeping well, increasing heart rate through exercise and 25 ml of wine per day stimulated the self-cleaning mechanism. And he said researchers were now focusing on finding ways of preventing the human brain’s glymphatic system from failing.

Dr Harrison said: ‘A paper came out a couple of years ago where the researchers studied the brains of mice when they are asleep and mice when they are awake. What the researchers did was inject a dye into the cerebrospinal fluid and see where it goes. In the mice that were awake, that cerebrospinal fluid starts to go into the brain but only resides on the surface and doesn’t go deep into the brain tissue. When they quantified this in the animals that were asleep, this glymphatic system was far more active – 6o% more than the animals that were awake. This is good evidence that the glymphatic system is active during sleep. If that is anything to go by, we should all be sleeping a lot more than we are. That kind of makes sense because, if you think about it, when your brain is active during the day, these brain cells are going to be actively producing all these waste products, so it is only at night when our brain switches off, that it has a chance to switch on our glymphatic system and get rid of all these waste products.’

He said there were similar results with exercise, adding: ‘In the sedentary animals the fluid penetrates the brain but when the animals have voluntary access to exercise there is massive increase in the amount of glymphatic function.’ It is thought the increase in heart rate helps drive cerebrospinal fluid into the brain.

The scientists also gave mice low, intermediate and high dosages of alcohol for 30 days. Dr Harrison said that with low doses – the equivalent of a third of a unit a day, or 25 ml of wine for a human – resulted in a 30% to 40% increase in self-cleaning. However, intermediate and high doses led to a reduction in self-cleaning by a similar percentage. Dr Harrison added: ‘So sleep more, exercise and as the data suggests, you can have a drink but only a third of a unit of wine per day.’

The above makes a great deal of sense. Sleep is vital and the more one sleeps the healthier is the brain. And last but not least, exercise is a very important factor where fitness is concerned. Unfortunately, I’m much too lazy to exercise although not through lack of commitment, but I keep trying.

MY BIRTHPLACE IS BLEEDING

For a man who was born in Palestine and during his youth was raised to consider the Jews living in the Holy Land as his compatriots, I find Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu is becoming dangerously more right-wing than ever before, especially now that Donald Trump, who I don’t believe is seeking peace in the region, is egging him on to act irrationally vis a vis the Palestinians.

The latest move to infuriate the Palestinians under occupation is to strip them of the right to self-determination by declaring Israel, exclusively the home of the Jews. The law just passed was a flagship measure of the most right-wing governing coalition in Israel’s 70 year history. It sparked furious protests in the Knesset. Arab law makers and Palestinians called the law ‘racist’ which made them second-class citizens, with some shouting and ripping up copies of the bill while crying out ‘Apartheid!’

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, a political alliance of four predominately Arab parties, which holds 13 seats and is the third largest bloc in the parliament, waved a black flag in protest. He said: ‘Today, I will have to tell my children that the state has declared that it does not want us here.’ In a statement issued later, he added: ‘The Knesset has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us we will always be second-class citizens,’

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, said after the vote: ‘I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy.’ Saeb Erekad, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the legislation: ‘A dangerous and racist law.’ He said: ‘It officially legalizes Apartheid and legally defines Israel as an Apartheid system.’ The legislation passed by 62 to 55 votes. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised its passage as ‘a defining moment.’ His government had pushed for the legislation to be approved before the parliament’s summer session ended. The legislation speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews, and reiterates the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law, which defines the city as the ‘complete and united capital of Israel.’

Part of the city is claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state and the International community considers West Jerusalem as an occupied territory. The Arab community in Israel accounts for around 20 per cent of the population of 9 million. Though they have equal rights, they have long complained they have discrimination and critics fear the bill will alienate them further. The law also stresses the importance of the ‘development of Jewish settlements as a national value’ leading to concerns this would allow for the creation of Jewish only communities. Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute told the Guardian: ‘The State is allowed to create villages that will separate on the basis of race or religion or nationality – this is outrageous. The bill had been under discussion since it was first introduced in 2011 and had been amended multiple times in an effort to water it down.’

The world has to congratulate Donald Trump, the so-called bumbling political stirrer who triggered it all by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem declaring the city as the capital of Israel. That was in essence the most anti-peace action of the many he has so far initiated.

I feel devastated that the Holy Land is manipulated to make peace impossible to achieve, as where I was born and raised matters a great deal to me. It is sacrosanct.