Archived Articles - April 2013

Study shows fish oil enhances the immune system

The findings of a latest study carried in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology (April 2013 edition) says that fish oil, which has a rich content of DHA, augments the actions of B cells, a form of white blood cells. In fact, this report contests the concept that fish oil is just immunosuppressant. This is an important finding because it demonstrates that use of fish oil does not essentially result in lessening the general response of the immune system to reduce inflammation - perhaps opening new avenues for using fish oil in people having an impaired immune system.

It may be noted here that all along people have believed that use of fish oil, loaded with DHA as well as EPA, helped in lessening inflammations, but researchers were not completely certain regarding the immune boosting attributes of fish oil till the publication of this report.

According to a scientist from the East Lansing-based Michigan State University's Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition who took part in the research, Jenifer Fenton, Ph.D., M.P.H., fish oils may enclose properties that boost the immune system and may be beneficial for people with impaired immune system.

During the course of their research, the scientists made use of two separate mice groups. While one group was given a controlled diet, the other was given a dietary supplement enclosing high DHA fish oil for a period of five weeks. Subsequently, they collected the B cells from various tissues and activated them in culture. After that, the scientists searched for signs of B cell stimulation on the surface of the cells, production of B cell cytokine and changes in the membranes of B cells. They discovered that fish oil augmented activation of B cells and also production of antibodies, which might in fact support the immune reaction related to clearance of pathogens, while probably diminishing the overall response to inflammation.

Another scientist from the East Carolina University's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology who was also associated with the research, S. Raza Shaikh, Ph.D. said the findings of the study corroborates related findings on B cells and fish oil in their laboratory and it helped them in understanding the immune boosting attributes of EPA as well as DHA better.

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Antibiotic resistance may lead to a disastrous threat

A latest report released by the British government warns that the increasing resistance to antibiotics may result in a disastrous threat over the next two decades. Hence, in her report, Chief Medical Officer of Britain Dame Sally Davies has urged for worldwide action to fight the increasing resistance to antibiotics, saying that this may lead to the death of several million patients undergoing minor surgeries during the next 20 years.

Explaining the gravity of the problem, Davies suggested that the British government categorizes this threat together with other major threats - climate change and terrorism.

According to Davies, antibiotics have been increasingly becoming futile against vital strains of bacteria owing to the inability of the scientists to develop new, more potent antibiotics and, therefore, urged for an assortment of actions to deal with the menace, possibly including more restrictions on the way physicians recommend antibiotics.

A report in The Independent quotes Davies as saying that provided we are unable to deal with this growing problem, it will push our health system to what prevailed in the early nineteenth century. Acknowledging that the problem existed for years, she said that she has concentrated on it owing to the terrible repercussions due to absence of any action in this regard.

According to the chief pharmaceutical officer of Britain Keith Ridge, while the hospitals have strengthened the control system for dispensing antibiotic prescriptions, much more needs to be done to restrain the general physicians from recommending antibiotics randomly.

Incidentally, while hospital infections by MRSA and C.diff. have been reduced in Britain by roughly 80% during the last decade, other antibiotic resistant bacteria like klebsiella E. coli have replaced them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that CRE or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae has become widespread in the United States during this period. Dr. Brad Spellberg, an expert on contagious diseases, has actually compared this deteriorating situation to the Titanic! He said that while the Titanic was hit by an iceberg, in this case people are dying due to incurable CRE.

It may be noted that every year an estimated 5,000 people die in Britain owing to infection of the bloodstream - 50% of these infections caused by microbes resistant to drugs. According to CDC, as many as 20,000 people die due to the same reason in the United States every year.

Experts are of the view that resistance to antibiotics has been growing with the increased use of antibiotics and the main reason for the problem is the absence of new and stronger antibiotics. In fact, no new antibiotic has been developed since 1987 and neither is any there in the pipeline! Davies holds the big pharmaceuticals responsible for this crisis - it takes lots of research and money to develop new antibiotics, but the profit from them is meager as they are only used for brief courses.

Pointing to the Innovative Medicines Initiative by the European Union and pharmaceutical companies to promote innovations, particularly developing new antibiotics, Davies emphasizes on the need to work together with pharmaceutical firms in a public-private joint venture to deal with the present crisis vis-à-vis antibiotics. In addition, the medical staff ought to be educated regarding the benefits and hazards of using antibiotics, she adds.

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Meditation may help to make one more compassionate

By and large, scientists have always concentrated on how meditation promotes our physical and mental health. However, a latest research undertaken jointly by scientists from the Harvard University and Northeastern University and carried in Psychological Science explores the effects of meditation on social harmony as well as compassion and their findings were interesting.

Although numerous religious traditions have hinted about these benefits of meditation, so far, it has not been proved scientifically.

During the course of the study, which was financed by Mind and Life Institute, scientists David DeSteno and a graduate from David's laboratory Paul Condon requested participants to a total eight-week training in two different forms of meditation and the participants were tested following the meditation sessions.

The test involves a waiting room with 3 chairs, two of which are occupied by actors. With one chair left, the participant would walk into the room and sit in the last chair available, waiting for his/her turn to be called. After some time, another actor with crutches, who appeared to be in great pain, would enter the waiting room. As the actor with the crutches enters, the participant would divert his/her attention from the person in pain to his/her phone or to a book.

The scientists who conducted the study wanted to learn whether the participants who practiced meditation were more likely to help the actor expressing pain, while others ignored her. According to Condon, it is well known that practicing meditation enhances the psychological and physical health, but they specifically wanted to identify whether meditation really helps one to be more compassionate.

Of the participants who did not participate in meditation, just 15 per cent individuals wanted to help the seemingly troubled actor, while the figure was 50 per cent in the group that took part in meditation sessions. DeSteno said that as the number of compassionate people in both groups that participated in meditation sessions was high, they assume this result to be constant with all types of meditation.

DeSteno further said that they were surprised to note that meditation has the aptitude to make people act virtuously and help those who were in distress, even while others ignored them. According to him, the act of others paying no attention to the anguish causes something called a 'bystander' effect that usually discourages others from helping too, because they develop an attitude as to why should they help when other are not doing so.

It seems that these findings corroborate with what was believed by Buddhist theologians since long - meditation is considered to make one experience additional compassion as well as love for every conscious being. However, these results also provide scientific proof even for non-Buddhists that practicing meditation helps to change the decision-making criteria for any virtuous mind.

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Useful natural remedies for spring allergies

Spring allergy, also known as hay fever, is basically a seasonal allergy that attacks the mucous membranes of the nose and is endured by over 35 million people in America annually when the allergens in flowers flourish during spring. When the pollens disperse and are airborne, people living several hundred miles away may sniff them unsuspectingly, setting of allergic reactions like coughing, sneezing, runny nose and irritation of the eyes and nose.

While several non-prescription medications for spring allergies are reasonably priced, they may result in numerous side-effects, such as headache, drowsiness and sometimes loss of appetite, causing unwanted expenses. So, why should you suffer when several scientifically established natural medications can help you to combat spring allergies?

Some of the effective and safe natural remedies for spring allergy are listed below.

A tea prepared with this herb is a delicious and healthy drink that eases dryness and itching of the eyes. Alternately place a cold chamomile tea bag on your eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes to get instant relief from the symptoms of allergies.
Cayenne pepper
This herb encloses quercetin that works like an antihistamine. In addition, its anti-inflammatory attributes help to put off nasal and throat irritations. Many have a preference for cayenne pepper as it produces natural heat within the body that alleviates irritations due to allergens.
Chicken soup
Medical practitioners considered this to be a hoax till a year back when research revealed how it accelerated the recovery of patients suffering from common cold. It is a good idea to have chicken soup during spring, as it helps to remove the nasal congestion due to spring allergies.
Elderberries contain incredible concentrations of antioxidants and phytonutrients - both very effective against flu and also fortify the immune system, enabling rapid recuperation from cold. Drinking the juice of fresh fruits or wine prepared from them helps to alleviate inflammations.
Garlic and onion also contain quercetin, which, clinical studies show, imitates the antihistamine results of some medications. If you use these in your diet regularly, your spring will pass without any problems.
This is established natural expectorant that may lessen production of phlegm at the start of spring allergies. Thyme forms an active ingredient of many drugs, as it helps to clear the bronchial tubes. It also possesses anti-microbial attributes that help in combating infections due to phlegm. For utmost benefits, prepare a tea with the fresh herb or prepared brands of the genuine herb and drink it twice daily.
Neti pot
It is among Oprah's favorite products, as it works rapidly to remove nasal congestion caused by allergies. Besides being natural and inexpensive, it is safe and calms the bronchial passage making use of sterilized water and a tad of salt.
Acupuncture - this ancient mode of treatment involving needle insertion is believed to alleviate nasal congestion faster compared to some herbs. It also fortifies the immune system, thereby, making the body stronger to combat all types of allergies.

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Flu vaccine may enhance risk of narcolepsy in people below 30

A recent study has found that apart from children, people aged below 30 years also have chances of developing narcolepsy, a chronic neurological problem, when they are administered Pandemrix - a vaccine against swine flu. While the risk for those below 20 years and getting H1N1 vaccination is about three-fold, for people aged between 21 and 30 years the risk is roughly double.

Medical Products Agency of Sweden says that the study has found that an additional four incidences of narcolepsy have been reported among each 100,000 individuals 20 years and less, who are given Pandemrix - a GlaxoSmithKline product that was the only swine flu vaccine given to patients during the 2009-10 epidemic. On the other hand, out of 100,000 people between 21 and 30 years receiving the vaccine, two added cases of narcolepsy have been reported. In fact, this study corroborates what Sweden and some other nations had discovered much earlier.

According to the study author Ingemar Persson, it is surprising that of all things, this vaccine causes a terribly weakening condition. Describing the problem related to narcolepsy as a surprise, he said that it is not only a rare ailment, but also something that they ought to have explored earlier. Persson's statement was perhaps in defense of the mass immunization program launched in his country.

However, the study undertaken by Persson and his team is not the first ever to identify that Pandemrix triggers narcolepsy, as another research finding like this one was carried in British Medical Journal only some weeks back concluding that immunization against swine flu enhances the risk of narcolepsy by a whopping 1,400%. Likewise, another review carried out in the periodical PLoS ONE said the risks were much higher - about 1,700 per cent.

Talking about the 300 per cent augmentation in the risk, Persson says that during the course of their study there were a total of 126 incidences of people vaccinated with Pandemrix developing narcolepsy, in addition to 20 incidences where people did not receive the vaccine.

According to reports, the governments in Sweden and Finland have decided to compensate people, who received Pandemrix and developed narcolepsy, financially. In addition, the Pharmaceutical Insurance agency of Sweden is assessing whether it will offer financial damages to another 90 young adults who are afflicted by narcolepsy due to Pandemrix.

It is believed that AS03, an adjuvant based on squalene that was included in Pandemrix supposedly to enhance the immune reactions generated by this vaccine, is responsible for triggering narcolepsy. Reports say that AS03 as well as additional varieties of squalene that are injected are extremely risky and found to be responsible for arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, lupus and several other health problems.

Selenium may decrease risk of advanced prostate cancer

Statistics presented at the five-day AACR Annual Meeting 2013 in Washington D.C. say people having increased amount of toenail selenium have considerably less chances of developing progressive prostate cancer. According to a doctorate candidate at Maastricht, Netherlands-based Maastricht University's cancer epidemiology department and M.Sc. Milan S. Geybels, data collected from their as well as other studies indicate that as far as advanced, clinically applicable prostate cancer is concerned selenium is a variable risk factor.

As many as 58,279 men in the 55-69 year age group in September 1986 participated in the potential cohort research - the Netherlands Cohort Study concerning diet and cancer and Geybels' team examined data collected from 898 men, who were found to be enduring advanced prostate cancer, following up the cohort for over 17 years.

Geybels says that earlier studies exploring the connection between prostate cancer and selenium levels produced different results. While one major clinical experiment revealed that taking selenium supplements did not have any protecting consequences, many potential, observational researches hinted that elevated selenium levels helped to lessen the risk of prostate cancer, particularly in the case of advanced prostate cancer.

Describing their research as interesting, he said they particularly examined men having advanced prostate cancer, which is related to very poor prognosis. Moreover, while previous studies included men having medium to elevated levels of selenium, in the Netherlands Cohort Study, participants were men with poor to medium selenium levels. This is significant, as poor selenium levels are said to be associated with greater risk of diseases.

Geybels and his team opted for toenail selenium for the research biomarker, as it is a sign of prolonged exposure, contrary to blood, which is most excellent to monitor latest exposure to selenium.

Findings of their research show that elevated levels of selenium were related to considerably lessened chances of developing prostate cancer. In fact, men with maximum levels of selenium  had over 60 per cent chances of developing prostate cancer in comparison to those having minimum levels of toenail selenium.

According to Geybels, it is necessary for the findings of their study to be repeated in other potential studies undertaken with far-reaching follow-up to evaluate the occurrence of advanced prostate cancer, and with a broad assortment of selenium, including low levels of this trace mineral. He concluded that if the findings of their study can be verified, it is possible to substantiate a prevention experiment of prostate cancer and selenium in people with low levels of selenium.

Study says increased cholesterol aggravates atherosclerosis, macular degeneration

Findings of a new study, undertaken by scientists at St. Louis-based Washington University School of Medicine, have detected an interesting likelihood of medications used to reduce blood cholesterol levels may also be useful in treating macular degeneration, an age-related eye condition that often leads to blindness.

The findings of the study brought out in the online magazine Cell Metabolism say that macular degeneration, which is the major reason for blindness in Americans aged above 50 years, has a mutual relation with atherosclerosis. These two conditions share the same basic imperfection - the inability of the body to get rid of cholesterol and fat accumulation.

The researchers, who conducted experiments on human as well as mice cells, reveal the manner in which cholesterol deposits further aggravate atherosclerosis and macular degeneration, besides promoting growth of blood vessels in certain forms of cancer.

Often artherosclerosis patients are prescribed medicaments that help to reduce the blood cholesterol levels and ensure that their arteries are clear. According to the findings of this research, a number of the same medications might be tried on people suffering from macular degeneration.

Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD, who is a senior member of the research team, said that on the basis of their findings they require examining whether or not it is possible to prevent blindness due to macular degeneration by using eye-drops that also help in reducing blood cholesterol or additional drugs that may perhaps put off the accumulation of lipids under the retina.

The latest study focuses on macrophages - vital immune cells that get rid of fats and cholesterol from the tissues. In the case of macular degeneration, there is surplus accumulation of cholesterol as people age resulting in a malfunctioning of their macrophages.

When one has the 'dry' type of macular degeneration related to advanced age, while examining the eyes, ophthalmologists are able to notice the deposit of excess lipid under the retina. When these deposits become more in number as well as large, they gradually start destroying the innermost portion of the eye, thereby affecting the vision that is required for reading or driving a vehicle.

Study finds sorghum safe for celiac disease patients

In a significant development, a recent study has found biochemical evidence that consumption of sorghum, a cereal grain, is safe even for people suffering from celiac disease. In fact, such patients are advised to stay away from other specific grains. The findings of the study, which were published in ACS' Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, provide molecular verification that sorghum does not enclose the proteins that are poisonous for celiac disease patients.

Elucidating their findings, authors of the study led by Paola Pontieri say that many cereal grains, especially wheat as well as barley, contain gluten proteins, which set off an immune reaction in celiac disease patients. This may result in a number of symptoms, including pain and uneasiness in the abdomen, diarrhea, constipation and others. Therefore, the only cure for this problem is avoiding gluten all through one's life. In fact, the scientists have found sorghum to be a substitute for cereal grains for those having celiac disease.

In several countries in the West, sorghum has been traditionally used in the form of a fodder for animals. However, since long people in India and Africa have used sorghum as their food. It is only in recent times that farmers in the United States have started growing different hybrids of sorghum - white grains called 'food-quality' sorghum. Currently, the researchers have started to work on preparing a comprehensive molecular verification of whether or not sorghum encloses the gluten proteins that are toxic for celiac disease patients.

The scientists have stated proof from a newly published study related to sorghum genome - the entire gene collection in plants, corroborating that sorghum does not enclose any of the gluten proteins that are said to be toxic for people with celiac disease. In addition, the study authors have also state that the nutritional value of sorghum is quite high. Concluding the findings, the scientists say that everyone, especially those with celiac disease, ought to consider food-grade sorghum as an important alternative for cereal grains.

Rosemary smell might improve memory

The finding of a research undertaken by University of Northumbria's Dr. Mark Moss and Jemma McCready says that rosemary essential oil's aroma may perhaps augment memory in adults who are healthy.

The discovery presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference held in Harrogate early this month hints that rosemary essential oil may possibly help to improve the competence to recall events and also recollect completing tasks at specific times afterward.

According to Dr. Moss, they wished to further develop their earlier research, which hinted that rosemary fragrance enhances lasting remembrance and mental math. In the latest study they concentrated on potential memory involving the aptitude to recollect events that would happen afterward and to retain information regarding completing tasks at specific times - like taking medicines at specific times.

During the study, the essential oil of rosemary was spread into the experimentation room by putting four drops of it on a fan that diffuses aroma and switching it on for five minutes prior to the participants entered the room. In all, 66 subjects participated in the research and were randomly divided into two groups - one sitting in the room filled with rosemary aroma, while the other in an aroma-less room.

Participants in both the rooms were given tests, such as concealing objects and asking them to find them, aimed at evaluating the functions of their potential memory. All these required to be done without prodding and in case the job was not done, the researchers used various degrees of prodding. Participants who required more prompting obtained lower marks. In addition, participants were also asked to answer questionnaires to evaluate their moods.

In order to detect whether the exposure to rosemary fragrance affected the performance and mood, the blood of the participants was examined. This was particularly done to check the concentration of 1.8-cineole in the blood. Incidentally, this substance is also present in rosemary essential oil and was earlier found to have an effect on our biochemical systems, which support memory.

The findings revealed that compared to participants in room without any fragrance, those in the room filled with rosemary aroma performed better vis-à-vis tasks related to prospective memory, especially recalling events and recollecting tasks that need to be completed at specific times. However, McCready elucidated that the mood of the participants was not related to memory and, hence, it had no effect on their performance owing to modifications in their alertness.

However, blood tests showed that the amount of 1.8-cineole was considerably more in plasma of the participants who were in the room with rosemary scent, hinting that the aroma had an influence on the performance of the subjects.

According to McCready, their findings may possibly be an important implication in finding a cure for those with impaired memory, as it endorses the finding of their earlier study that rosemary aroma might augment the functioning of the cognitive system in healthy adults. She, however, emphasized on the need for further studies to ascertain if this remedy is also effective for aged people who are experiencing memory loss.

Vitamin B deficiency may cause, worsen IBS

One of the most common inexplicable ailments suffered by people in developed nations like the United States is irritable bowel syndrome, also called IBS. Inexplicable because the reason for the ailment and the risk factors related to the abrupt flare-ups in patients having this condition are yet to be ascertained.

There is proof that diet possibly has a vital role, especially in restraining the flare-ups. Nonetheless, not much research has been undertaken on the role of particular nutriments in aggravating this condition.

The findings of a study by scientists at the Norway-based Innlandet Hospital Trust and carried by the magazine Nutrition Research suggest that vitamin B6, may have a vital function in aggravating and also in triggering the condition.

IBS is a severe condition and it has been found that roughly 10 to 20 per cent people have this condition during some time in their life and nearly 50 per cent of people suffering from IBS develop the symptoms earlier than 35 years old. This condition is marked by severe pain in the abdominal region, alternate bouts of constipation and diarrhea as well as gas and bloating. Usually the symptoms fade away and occur again after several months.

While some drugs and food habits may lessen the incidences or the acuteness of the bouts, unfortunately, there is no long-term treatment or cure for IBS.

The research involved 17 subjects who submitted daily reports regarding the foods they consumed and also the occurrence and acuteness of symptoms of IBS, such as uneasiness and pain in the abdomen, bloating, stool regularity and frequency and exertion plus deficient bowel movement. On average, the participants took 0.9 mg of vitamin B6 daily; somewhat less compared to the recommended daily ingestion for men (1.6 mg/ daily) and women (1.2 mg/ daily).

Following a week, scientists evaluated the data and found that vitamin B6 ingestion was notably related to decreased incidences and severity of IBS symptoms, while none other nutriment had any influence on symptoms related to IBS. They observed a considerable inverse relation between vitamin B6 ingestion and seriousness of IBS symptoms, which may have clinical inferences.

In effect, vitamin B6 has a variety of vital functions inside the body - facilitating the regulation of all things including energy generation, synthesis and disintegration of amino acids and metabolism. It is essential for immune function, production of DNA and the health of the muscles, nerve and red blood cells.

Several researches hint that taking more vitamin B6 may aid in putting off or relieving various health issues like menstrual plus premenstrual difficulties, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, depression, heart problems, endometriosis, kidney stones, morning sickness and even HIV. When taken together with folic acid and vitamin B12, it may possibly help in putting off Alzheimer's disease.

Spinach, whole grain cereals, bananas, watermelon, broccoli, avocados, acorn squash, fish and poultry are some of the excellent natural resources of vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6 dissolves in water and it is difficult to take much of it. Taking it in excess (over 100 mg in a day) may cause nerve damage. Therefore, non-food supplements may be necessary under the supervision of an expert health care professional.

Regular work-outs may enhance attention span

Findings of a study undertaken by scientists at the University of Granada and carried in PLoS ONE corroborate that better working of the CNS (central nervous system) as well as ANS (autonomic nervous system) has a direct connection with our physical well-being.

The latest findings have scientifically corroborated the well-known Roman adage 'a healthy mind resides in a healthy body ('Mens sana in corpore sano'). Scientists at the University of Grenada have shown that compared to people with ill health, the cognitive performance of those who participate in sports is better. In fact, the latter possess a superior continuous attention span and have a better and fast response to external stimulus. Even the autonomic nervous system too appears to function better while handling cognitive burden for a prolonged period.

In a recent article in PLoS ONE, scientists have evaluated performance of the cognitive system while undertaking particular tasks like time perception, continued attention and time-oriented attention.

Altogether 28 youthful males participated in the study among which 14 were students of University of Granada and belonged to the 17-23 year age group. As per the regulatory values of the American College of Sports Medicine, they had poor physical abilities. The remaining 14 - 11 of whom belonged to the Under-23 Andalusian Cycling Federation and the other three were University of Granada's Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Activities students and possessed robust physical aptitude.

The scientists at the University of Granada have said that the cognitive performance of the group having robust physical aptitude was better vis-à-vis continuous attention in comparison to the other group that had a relatively sedentary lifestyle. In addition, the first group also showed faster responses, while there was no disparity regarding the two other cognitive actions.

What is very interesting is that the study found the manner in which three cognitive activities influenced the autonomic nervous system's functioning in three dissimilar ways - calculated by means of alterations in the heart rate changeability. While the greatest impact on the heart rate variability was due to temporary perception, the least effect was due to sustained perception. Moreover, there was a general decline in the heart rate's variability with the passage of time after the activities, distinctively influencing those who had sedentary lifestyle.

Elucidating, the study's principal author who is from the University of Granada's Department of Experimental Psychology Antonio Luque Casado said that it is imperative to emphasize that the behavioral as well as physiological results achieved through their research hint that the prime benefit of the cyclists who took part in the study having a robust physical state seemed to be related to the developments linked to sustained attention.

However, the researchers have cautioned that their study was preliminary and further studies are required to corroborate their findings. Keeping this in view, scientists at the University of Granada have now begun assessing various population groups in order to include electrophysiological documenting procedures as well as further powerful analyzing techniques like electroencephalogram (ECG) in times to come.

Nine effective blood pressure lowering foods

It is believed that hypertension (high blood pressure) is a major cause for strokes and heart attacks, besides kidney failure. Interestingly, many people who endure this condition are generally not aware that hypertension actually does not have any symptoms.

When you calculate blood pressure, you take two separate sets of readings - the top reading is for systolic pressure denoting the heartbeat pressure on artery walls. The lower reading is diastolic pressure that reveals the pressure on walls of arteries between heart beats.

The usual BP reading is 120/80 and anything above this and to the range of 140/90 is regarded as pre-hypertension, while a reading above 140/ 90 is considered as hypertension. People in good health and in pre-hypertension stage generally do not face the danger of heart attacks, strokes or kidney failures.

Compared to those with standard blood pressure, people with diabetes and obese people have more chances of developing these conditions. In fact, more than 50% people with hypertension also have diabetes. While men are more prone to hypertension, people who drink alcohol and smoke in excess are more vulnerable to hypertension. In addition, some medications like NSAIDs, decongestants, anti-depressants, oral contraceptives and others also may raise blood pressure. It is also believed that consuming too much salt or sodium also contributes to high BP.

Some foods help to lower high blood pressure

Using cayenne present in chili peppers helps to lower blood pressure. According to herbalists Dr. Schulz and Dr. Christopher, consuming powdered cayenne pepper in dosage of a minimum of 40,000 heat units blended with water twice daily helps in supporting the health of our heart as well as more.

People in the Caribbean islands, Mexico and South America make a tea with the dried blossoms of hibiscus and drink it with ice as a refreshing beverage, which has been proved clinically to reduce blood pressure. Jamaica or hibiscus tea is also useful for dowsing the burning sensation in the mouth caused by taking cayenne pepper. You may buy the dried hibiscus flowers online or from any food store selling Hispanic items.

Researches undertaken by the American Heart Association have revealed that consumption of three kiwis daily helps to lower blood pressure. Similarly, the American Chemical Society has asserted that consuming vegetables with purple roots like purple potatoes enclose chemicals that help to reduce blood pressure.

Meanwhile, findings of a study by Florida State University have discovered that watermelon is effective in lowering high blood pressure, since the potassium content of this fruit and an particular amino acid aid in reducing blood pressure. According to the findings of a medical center in Louisville people in pre-hypertension group would benefit by taking raisins thrice daily. They used raisins in processed foods, which also helped to lower blood pressure.

Herbalists as well as mainstream medical practitioners have concurred that taking hawthorn berries and also tea prepared with them help in reducing blood pressure. In fact, the Chinese have been using this traditionally for centuries.

Before concluding it needs to be mentioned that consuming bananas, which are rich in potassium, also lowers blood pressure. While this has been confirmed by a study undertaken by UK-based Harvard Medical School in a report, it is said that chocolates (dark, organic or bittersweet) with little sugar and without milk are also effective in reducing blood pressure.

Cinnamon and its health benefits

Besides being a flavourful spice that adds essence to specific foods, cinnamon has much more to offer. In fact, this herb possesses potent anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that provide several health benefits to us.

Cinnamon belongs to the Lauracae family and is commonly known as Laurus cinnamomum - an evergreen tree that grows up to a height of anything between 20 feet and 30 feet and is found in remote area like Cochin and Malabar in India, China, the Eastern Islands, Sumatra and other places, where it is cultivated. The bark of this tree is used as a spice and for therapeutic purposes.

The essential oils obtained from the cinnamon bark enclose three active constituents - cinnamyl acetate, cinnamaldehyde and cinnamyl alcohol - that possess specific curative properties. The many health benefits offered by cinnamon are directly attributed to these constituents, especially the herb's blood thinning actions, stabilizing the levels of blood sugar and anti-microbial activities inside our body.

Health benefits of cinnamon

As we are aware that formation of blood clots to prevent blood loss is a usual process, but we may have problems in case the blood platelets clump excessively. Cinnamon encloses the essential oil cinnamaldehyde that puts off the formation of excessive blood clots by controlling platelet membranes from supplying arachidonic acid (an inflammatory fatty acid). Apart from the anti-clotting activities, consequences of this chemical procedure demonstrate that cinnamon possesses the aptitude to lessen inflammation and, hence, it is also considered to be an herb possessing anti-inflammatory properties.

It has also been found that cinnamon is a strong anti-microbial spice and possesses the ability to slow down the formation and propagation of bacteria, fungi, yeast, in addition to Candida albicans. A number of experiments have shown that compared to the generally used medicine known as fluconazole cinnamon was further effective in stopping yeast from spreading in several incidences. Depending on the findings of a research carried in the International Journal of Food Microbiology (August 2003 edition) there is sufficient reason to consider using cinnamon in the form of a legal substitute for food preservatives. This research demonstrated that adding just some drops of the essential oils obtained from cinnamon to about three ounces of carrot soup was effective in putting of the growth of bacillus cereus, a type of bacterium, for no less than 60 days. However, when the same broth was stored in a cold location without the cinnamon essential oil, it led to the growth and spread of microbes.

People with type 2 diabetes too may find cinnamon useful owing to its ability to stabilize blood sugar levels - it augments the positive reaction to insulin. A report published in the US Agricultural Research Service revealed that participants who took only half teaspoon of cinnamon daily showed roughly 20 per cent decrease in their blood sugar levels. However, immediately when they stopped taking cinnamon, there was an immediate rise in their blood sugar levels.

Consuming beetroot juice daily may help lower BP

Findings of a latest study undertaken by Indian scientists suggest that consuming beetroot juice daily may aid in lowering blood pressure. The study found that the blood pressure of people with hypertension who consumed about 8 ounce of beetroot juice regularly dropped by roughly 10 mm Hg.

However, the findings are preliminary and till now do not suggest that including beetroot juice in your diet will produce noticeable results.

The lead author of the study Amrita Ahluwalia, PhD, said that the researchers are positive that enhancing vegetables that contain high amounts of nitrate like beetroot in an individual's diet may prove to be good for their lifestyle approach and enable them to promote their cardiovascular health in general.

Normally, one glass (8 oz) of beetroot juice encloses about 0.2 gram of dietary nitrate, equal to the amount one can obtain from consuming a bowlful lettuce or two whole beetroots. Following consumption, the body changes the nitrate in these foods into a substance called nitrite and, subsequently, into nitric acid in our bloodstream. In effect, the gas nitric oxide dilates blood vessels making circulation easier.

Ahluwalia, who is a professor of vascular pharmacology at London-based The Barts and The London Medical School, further said that they were astonished to find that just a tiny amount of nitrate was needed to bring about a significant result like this. According to her, they found that compared to healthy individuals with normal BP, people with hypertension require much less nitrate to feel the health benefits. Nevertheless, she asserts that they are yet to ascertain whether the results are sustainable for a prolonged period.

In all 15 persons, seven men plus eight women, having a systolic blood pressure varying between 140 mm Hg and 159 mm Hg (mm of mercury) and not using medications for BP and not having any other medical problem participated in the study. They were asked to drink 250 ml of beetroot juice or water full of low volume nitrate and their BP was monitored over a period of 24 hours.

Usually, blood pressure represents two numbers - the top or higher number is called the systolic BP, which is experienced by arteries during heartbeats. Conversely, the lower number is known as diastolic BP, which calculates the blood pressure in the arteries between two heartbeats.

During the research, it was found that participants who consumed beetroot juice had lower systolic as well as diastolic pressure in comparison to those in the placebo group. This occurred even when the nitrate circulating in the bloodstream had returned to the original levels - or the levels prior to consuming beetroot juice and it sustained for over 24 hours later.