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In this issue:
Chocolate May Hold The Key To Long Life
A substance found in cocoa, known as epicatechin, may rival Penicillin and Anesthesia in its importance to medicine, according to Professor Norman Hollenberg, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. Professor Hollenberg did some studies on the Kuna people of Panama in Central America. He reports on his findings which is quoted in the journal Chemistry and Industry.
The Kuna drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week - and natural cocoa has high levels of epicatechin. It is believed they may have low rates of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes due to this reason. Professor Hollenberg estimates their risk of the mentioned diseases is about ten percent of the western average.
Chocolate lovers may not possibly be enjoying the full benefits of epicatechin because it is tends to be removed from commercial cocoa, due to its bitter taste. This substance can also be found in tea and wine. The journal suggests it might ultimately be sold as a nutritional supplement.
Professor Hollenberg said today: "If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing that they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine.”
"We all agree that penicillin and anaesthesia are enormously important. But epicatechin could potentially get rid of 4 of the 5 most common diseases in the western world, how important does that make epicatechin?... I would say very important."
Buddhist monks, Yogis, and The Beatles have always been raving about the benefits of meditation. Guess what, now Scientists and Doctors are also hopping on the meditation bandwagon. To determine if meditation actually produces physical changes, cutting-edge technologies like MRI scans can now look inside the brain to verify this claim. Research is beginning to prove this claim right.
The brain is made up of hard wiring (the nerves) and soft wiring (hormones). Through this wiring mechanism, the brain is “perpetually informing the body if the world is safe or threatening,” says Dr. David Simon, a San Diego neurologist and the medical director for the Chopra Center at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad.
“Meditation fools the brain into perceiving the world as not so threatening, so the brain then sends out hormones and electrical signs telling the body to relax a bit. “The changes that happen physiologically when we practice meditation are the opposite of and counterbalance those (physiological changes) that occur in the fight-or-flight response that we experience when we're stressed. The heart rate slows, the blood pressure comes down, and breathing slows. We neutralize the harmful effects of stress on our system.”
Here's a look at some of the benefits of meditation validated by findings from credible institutions:
· Through meditation we increase happiness and thus strength the immune system. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin reported that people newly trained in meditation have shown an increase in electrical activity in the left frontal part of the brain, an area associated with positive emotion and happiness. Meditators also showed a significant boost of immunity to the flu.
· “Meditation (promotes) a neurochemical shifting. The stress hormones are acutely lowered,” says Dr. Robert Bonakdar, director of pain management at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. “When we feel more relaxed, the brain generates natural anti-anxiety and happiness-enhancing chemicals like endorphins and (high levels of) serotonin.”
· Meditation enhances memory and attention. According to a study done by the Massachusetts General Hospital, People who meditated for 40 minutes for several years were found to have thicker parts of the brain’s cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is that part of the brain that deals with attention and processing sensory input. It thins with age.
· It is shown that if an animal is stressed, the brain starts to degenerate. This means the brain actually starts to deteriorate. When the brain is in a more relaxed state, it is able to absorb memory better and retain in.
· Meditation lowers blood pressure. A 2004 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology showed meditation can lower blood pressure and mortality rates in older people with hypertension.
· If done regularly, meditation not only lowers a person’s blood pressure while sitting down to do it, it continues to lower the blood pressure even outside the actual time of meditation.
· Meditation helps alleviate mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Researchers at the University of Louisville found that mindfulness meditation alleviates depression in women with fibromyalgia.
· “In meditation, you're breathing better, so you cope better. But it's more than that,” Bonakdar says. “If you look at depression as an inflammatory state, we see that meditation causes those (inflammatory) neurochemicals not to pour out.”
· Meditation increases alertness. University of Kentucky researchers found that sleepy people who meditated for 40 minutes did better on a test of mental quickness than people who had taken a 40-minute nap.
· Meditation helps control binge eating. A study at Indiana State University found that obese women who practiced mindfulness meditation had an average of four fewer binge-eating episodes a week than before they took up the practice. Meditation creates a mindfulness that helps bingers recognize when they want to overeat and lower the odds that they will.
· Meditation helps lower blood sugar: Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles showed that patients were able to lower their blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin by practicing transcendental meditation.
GYMNEMA (Gymnema Sylvestre) is also known as gurmar, periploca of the woods, and meshashringi (ram’s horn). This herb has been used since ancient times to treat health conditions. Gymnema grows in the tropical forests of central and southern India. The meshashringi plant which is woody grows in parts of Africa.
The leaves of this plant have been used in the treatment of diabetes in India for more than 2,000 years. Due to its nature of abolishing the taste of sugar, it was given the Indian names of gurmar and madhunashini, meaning “sugar destroying”. Extracts of meshashringi are sold in Japan for the control of obesity.
In the olden days, powdered meshashringi root was used to treat snake bites, constipation, stomach complaints, water retention, and liver disease. However, meshashringi is best known in Ayurveda as a treatment for adult-onset diabetes, a condition once described as “honey urine”.
Meshashringi In The Modern Times
The Australians, Japanese Vietnamese and Indian folks use extracts of this plant in their medicines. Meshashringi preparations have a profound action on the modulation of taste, particularly suppressing sweet taste sensations. It is used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Anti-allergic, antiviral, lipid lowering and other effects are also reported.
Meshashringi and Diabetes
Meshashringi was used to treat type II diabetes thousands of years ago. The plant’s sugar-destroying property was released when a person chewed on one or two leaves. Meshashringi was said to “paralyse” a person’s tongue to sweet and bitter tastes. This taste-blocking reaction lasted for several hours.
Meshashringi blocked sugar in the digestive system, resulting in a decrease in blood sugar. This is known as a hypoglycemic effect. This action has been studied since the late 1930s.
Meshashringi has also been used in folk medicine as a remedy for allergies, urinary tract inflections, anaemia, hyperactivity, digestion, cholesterol, and weight control. Most of those treatments did not prove to be effective. Meshashringi lowers cholesterol slightly, but not enough to be regarded as a significant remedy.
Recent studies have demonstrated the efficacy of this herb in diabetes. It was found that meshashringi helped control blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin release from the beta cells in the islets of langerhans2.
Another study by Bhaskaran et al. found that the same meshashringi preparation (400 mg/day) produced similar results for non insulin-dependent diabetics. Fasting blood glucose, glycosylated haemoglobin and glycosylated plasma protein were significantly reduced compared to baseline values after 18-20 months of treatment.
By the end of the treatment period, cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids and free fatty acid levels were also significantly reduced compared to baseline values.
Meshashringi has also been used to treat drug-induced hyperglycemia. Meshashringi has been used in the study of regulating serum cortisol and glucose concentrations. Meshashringi was found to exhibit hypoglycaemic activity without altering the serum cortisol concentration. It is possible that the hypoglycaemic effects of meshashringi are mediated through their cortisol inhibiting potency4.
Previous clinical trials have recorded the benefits of meshashringi in diabetic patients. A controlled study on insulin-dependent diabetics found that a water-soluble meshashringi extract (400 mg/day) reduced insulin requirements (by about 50%).
Over the duration of treatment, meshashringi lowered fasting mean blood glucose (by about 35%), glycosylated haemoglobin and glycosylated plasma protein levels from baseline values. Cholesterol was significantly reduced and brought to near normal levels. Triglycerides, free fatty acids and serum amylase were also lowered. The treatment period ranged from six to 30 months.
The significant decrease in glycosylated haemoglobin occurred after six to eight months of treatment, but remained significantly higher than normal values. None of these reductions was observed in control patients on insulin therapy alone who were studied over a period of 10 to 12 months.
The authors suggested that meshashringi enhanced endogenous insulin production, possibly by pancreatic regeneration, as levels of C-peptide, a by-product of the conversion of pro-insulin to insulin, were apparently raised (in comparison to both the insulin alone group and normal subjects).
The effects of 10 different plant extracts were evaluated in male mice to determine the regulation of blood glucose in male mice. The extracts of Inula racemosa, Boerhaavia diffusa and Ocimum sanctum were found to decrease the serum concentration of cortisol and glucose. Aegle marmelos, Azadirachta indica and Meshashringi sylvestre extracts could exhibit hypoglycaemic activity without altering the serum cortisol concentration.
It appears that the hypoglycaemic effects of the former three plant extracts are mediated through their cortisol inhibiting potency, whereas the mechanism for other plant extracts could be different. Lipid peroxidation was not enhanced by any of the plant extracts (some were in fact, anti-peroxidative in nature). As I. racemosa, B. diffusa and O. sanctum exhibited anti-peroxidative, hypoglycaemic and cortisol lowering activities, it is suggested that these three plant extracts may potentially regulate corticosteroid induced (stress induced) diabetes mellitus.
A Weight Loss Remedy?
Meshashringi the sugar destroyer is said to curb the desire for sweets. Meshashringi has been marketed as a weight-loss remedy because of its sugar blocking property.
People could take meshashringi to help fight the desire for sweet treats. As a weight-loss remedy, gymnema has not been studied extensively, and some in the medical community are dubious about its effectiveness.
Instead, the sugar destroyer is acknowledged as a potential treatment for diabetes. A study was conducted on the anti-obesity effects of meshashringi on overweight rats and found that meshashringi promoted weight loss by its ability to reduce hyperlipidemia (increase in serum lipids), which did not rebound upon withdrawal of treatment. With its efficient carbohydrate metabolising action, meshashringi has emerged not only as an effective sugar metaboliser, but also a hope for diabetic and overweight patients.
1. Porchezhian E, Dobriyal RM. An overview on the advances of Gymnema sylvestre: chemistry, pharmacology and patents. Pharmazie. 2003 Jan;58(1):5-12.
2. Persaud SJ, Al-Majed H, Raman A, Jones PM. Gymnema sylvestre stimulates insulin release in vitro by increased membrane permeability. J Endocrinol. 1999 Nov;163(2):207-12.
3. Baskaran K, Kizar Ahamath B, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, et al Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct;30(3):295-300.
4. Gholap S, Kar A. Hypoglycaemic effects of some plant extracts are possibly mediated through inhibition in corticosteroid concentration. Pharmazie. 2004 Nov;59(11):876-8.
5. Shanmugasundaram ER, Rajeswari G, Baskaran K, et al. Use of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in the control of blood glucose in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct;30(3):281-94.
6. Luo H, Kashiwagi A, Shibahara T, Yamada K. Decreased bodyweight without rebound and regulated lipoprotein metabolism by gymnemate in genetic multifactor syndrome animal. Mol Cell Biochem. 2006 May 12.
Your skin is a reflection of your health and well being. The skin is considered as the canvas of the body and one of its most valuable assets. For good skin care, start developing healthy habits that guard your valued possession from outer (and inner) forces. It's the only skin you'll ever get, so your daily habits mean everything.
Here are some basic skin care tips:
- Drink plenty of water. The suggested daily water intake is 32 to 48 ounces.
- Clean and moisturize your skin daily. Wash your face twice daily - once in the morning and once at night before going to bed. After you cleanse your skin, follow with a toner and moisturizer. Toners help to remove fine traces of oil, dirt and make-up that you may have missed when cleansing. Moisturizing is necessary even for people with oily skin. Buy a moisturizer that is best suited for your skin type (dry, normal or oily).
- Block the sun. Over time, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun causes many changes in the skin, including wrinkles, discoloration, freckles or age spots, benign (non-cancerous) growths such as moles, and pre-cancerous or cancerous growths such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. In fact, most skin cancers are related to sun exposure. Always wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater.
- Seek professional help for skin problems. Skin's not going to be perfect. It can be dry or oily; it can develop rashes and acne, among many other issues. Address the problem with a professional skin expert, either a skin aesthetician at your local salon or a dermatologist for more severe skin problems.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Avoid fried and greasy foods.
- Self screening. Over the course of your life, you should pay attention to all parts of your skin. Familiarize yourself with it, so you'll notice any changes that might occur, such as different moles or patches that might indicate skin cancer. Whenever you have a question or concern, make sure you see your doctor.
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