Junk food kills protection against obesity, cancers and more..

Junk food kills protection against obesity, cancers and more..


Junk food – we all love it. But do our bodies feel the same way about our favorite McDonald’s meals? Research suggests that it might be otherwise.

Just recently a team of scientists explored the link between eating junk food and the overall health and well-being. Tim Spector, the lead scientists of the project, concluded that junk food kills stomach bacteria that is responsible for protection against obesity, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel conditions, heart disease and even autism.

The cause and effect within the phenomenon was explored with the help of a case study – Spector’s own son Tom, who agreed to consume only McDonald’s meals, including hamburgers, chips, nuggets and Coca Cola for 10 days straight. There are around 3,500 different bacteria in the human gut and the fragile balance between all of them is necessary for the proper functioning of the human body. When the experiment started, Tom had around 3,500 species but once the diet began, he lost about one third of them. The proportion of the different bacteria species in his stomach also changed, so it might seem like the McDonalds diet not only eliminated a large number of gut bacteria but was especially harmful to a particular type of them.

For most people, losing weight is simply a matter of calorie-counting. Eat less than you need, and you’ll shed off those extra pounds. Professor Spector’s research, however, suggests that it might not be a case of simply overeating. Think about it: there are many people who eat whatever they want, including junk food, and yet are still slim and thin. The answer might be hidden in the stomach flora, which has a key role in protecting from potentially harmful microbes and regulating the metabolism.

The bacteria that live inside the human body is especially important for its proper functioning. In fact, bacteria make around 90% of the cells in our tissues and organs and performs a vital role in producing vitamins and breaking down and digesting food. The bacteria in a person’s gut weigh around 2 kg and any changes in its number or proportions can result in health issues and affect the immune system, metabolism, body weight, as well as cause cancer, autoimmune diseases and diabetes.

The stomach flora produce digestive enzymes, which are necessary for the absorption of nutrients in the body. Imbalances have been linked to various health conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and colitis. Autistic patients often complain of gut problems and autism has been linked to lower gut bacterial activity.

The link between microbes, food and health has been explored in the book The Diet Myth, authored by Professor Tim Spector. He argues that the real cause of obesity is not so much overeating, but rather eating the wrong things. When there is a lack of certain bacteria in the gut and bacterial imbalance, the stomach flora cannot perform its role and produce the vital digestive enzymes. Diets, rich in fat and sugar (much like McDonald’s meals and drinks), combined with inadequate nutrition caused by the bacterial imbalance, as well as lack of exercise, can lead to a variety of health issues, including severe obesity, heart problems, inflammatory bowel disease and many more.

The link between our lifestyle and health has been identified for years now, but we have just recently begun unraveling the secrets of our own body. Junk food has not only been implicated in preventing you from losing weight, but it can lead to more serious health complications. By eliminating almost one third of the gut flora, the ingredients in junk food affect your overall health and well-being and can present serious health consequences.

Reflexology – does it actually work?

Reflexology – does it actually work?

Reflexology is a non-intrusive alternative therapy, often offered as a complementary pain relief technique. It’s based on the theory that different points on the feet, hands, face and ears correspond to various body areas. It can be received by any patient, regardless of age, and involves application of pressure to certain points in order to alleviate pain or stress.

Reflexologists use special foot charts to guide them through the process of application of pressure to certain areas. The therapy can be accomplished with a variety of items, such as rubber balls or bands, as well as wood sticks. It’s considered safe, even though a vigorous massage can cause a certain level of discomfort to some people.

The science behind reflexology states that our bodies are capable of healing themselves. However, all systems need to work together in order to maintain a healthy body balance and this balance could easily be disrupted by an illness, injury or mere stress. According to reflexologists, there are 5 body zones on each foot that run from each toe through the body up to the head. Reflexology has been known to humankind for thousands of years, with the first evidence of its use dating back to the ancient Egyptians.

Reflexology is not about curing a disease or illness but rather acting as a complimentary treatment. It’s a very individual approach, tailored to the specific needs and problems of the patient, and addresses both physical and non-physical factors that might affect their well-being. In fact, a 2013 study by Vardanjani and colleagues discovered that reflexology was successful in alleviating the anxiety symptoms in a control group. However, as it’s not a set science, many people find reflexology works for them, while others – don’t.

What reflexology does is basically restoring the balance within the body in a natural way. After the first treatment, you might discover that your tension is reduced, and you feel somehow relaxed and calmer. Many patients also report better sleep and more regular sleeping patterns, following the treatment. There has been some clinical research, supporting the idea that reflexology can alleviate pain or stress but there is not a large enough body of evidence to conclude that with certainty.

Studies conducted in the US and around the world indicate that reflexology can indeed bring positive benefits to patients, suffering from a variety of conditions. Research, funded by the National Cancer Institute, suggests that reflexology may and should be used as an intervention to reduce pain and enhance relaxation, improve sleeping patterns and reduce a variety of psychological symptoms such as depression or anxiety. One of the most promising results comes from a study by Ernst and colleagues in 2010, who discovered that reflexology can be beneficial in the area of cancer palliation.

So, does reflexology work? Science cannot conclude that with certainty, but Kunz and Kunz (2008) established that reflexology in fact has impact on specific organs and can demonstrate amelioration of symptoms. They suggested that it could in fact create a sense of relaxation and can aid in pain reduction in a variety of conditions, including AIDS, chest pain and kidney stones.


Can chocolate make you look 30 years younger?

Can chocolate make you look 30 years younger?


Esthechoc is a newly-developed chocolate that can actually help you preserve your youthfulness and look younger. It was developed by scientists at the University of Cambridge, who argue that it can make a 50-year old look 20 or 30 years younger!

The secret behind Esthehoc seemingly miraculous properties is an antioxidant that improves the skin physiology. Esthehoc chocolate is based on 70% cocoa dark chocolate (which is also an antioxidant on its own), and marine carotenoid astaxanthin, found in the Alaskan salmon. One 7.5g piece of Esthehoc contains astaxanthin amounting to 300g of wild salmon, and flavanol activity equivalent to 100g of dark chocolate. This combination has powerful anti-aging properties and can boost the oxygen delivery to the tissues, thus improving the respiration and effectively supporting skin health.

The technology was developed by Cambridge scientists and is currently being offered by a spin-off commercial company by the name of Cambridge Chocolate Technologies. The unique formula is the result of extensive independent research on the relationship between cocoa polyphenols and free radicals.

There have been clinical trials that seem to demonstrate the effectiveness of this new anti-aging supplement. Volunteers that ate the chocolate daily for four weeks showed less inflammation in their blood and increased blood supply to their tissues. Esthehoc was also able to reverse the age-related depression of microcirculation in the participants. The good news is that each block contains around 40 calories, and ingestion of a piece does not result in the postprandial lipid- or hyperglycemia, meaning that it doesn’t contribute to calorie concerns. This makes the Esthehoc not only especially effective as an anti-aging supplement, but also suitable for diabetics.

Researchers, participating in the experiments, confirmed that the ingestion of Esthehoc improved the skin’s physiology. However, it’s unlikely that Esthehoc will appear on the market soon, at least not in the corner shops, so to speak. The price is still not announced officially, but the product is targeted to wealthy businessmen and women – “affluent and educated city-dwelling women”, which suggests a hefty price tag. It would also require regular use, which would make the product even more expensive.

Despite the tremendous success, some scientists are still not entirely convinced and believe that more research is needed to confirm the miraculous anti-aging properties of Esthehoc. There is a biological reason linking the compounds in Esthehoc and the prevention of aging. The astaxanthin molecule, for instance, neutralizes the free radicals, responsible for the aging of the skin and is hundreds of times more effective than vitamin E or green tea. Cocoa, on the other hand, is rich in a substance known as flavanol, and is also well-known for its anti-aging and antioxidant properties. The Esthehoc has a high concentration of both ingredients, which means double the power. It is also true, however, that eating too much chocolate can lead to obesity. Moreover, previous research suggests that astaxanthin works better when applied directly to the face, rather than ingested.

Scientists are not yet entirely convinced of the incredible powers of Esthehoc chocolate and the verdict is still not clear. There is a strong biological basis behind the claims, and the clinical trials conducted so far seem to support the hypothesis. Esthehoc is now shipped commercially and should be available by the biggest cosmetic brands, but it’s unlikely that it will be consumed on a national scale. More clinical trials are needed and would most certainly be conducted to test whether Esthehoc is really the miracle anti-aging substance we are all looking for.

How do painkillers work?

How do painkillers work?


When your body suffers an injury, a special type of nerve receptors in your skin send messages to the brain. Painkillers, as the name suggests, are types of medicines that help you treat and alleviate physical pain. What they do is actually not treat the injury but rather interfere with the enzymes and proteins that cause the perception of pain. They come in various forms and sizes, and can be taken by mouth in liquid, tablet or capsule form, by injection, or via the rectum (also known as back passage). Some painkillers are also available as creams or ointment.

In general, there are three main types of painkillers, according to their mechanism of work. Some of them, such as aspirin and opiates are based on naturally occurring drugs, while others are synthesized artificially.

The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, work by inhibiting the action of enzymes, known as cyclooxygenase enzymes. The latter are associated with the production of other chemicals, which in turn are involved in the production of pain and inflammation at the site of the injury. By blocking the action of these enzymes, the NSAIDS reduce the feeling of pain. NSAIDS drugs include aspirin (based on a chemical found in the willow bark), ibuprofen and naproxen. They’re also very effective in reducing the swelling or inflammation, and reduce the pain caused by arthritis and sore throat.

Paracetamol is an analgesic medicine that is freely available over-the counter and can be purchased without a receipt. It’s also used to control the fever, and is very effective in alleviating all kinds of pain, including headache, sprain or toothache. It affects the chemicals, known as prostaglandins (the ones that are associated with the perception of pain). By blocking them directly, Paracetamol makes the body less aware of the pain or injury. In general, Paracetamol is a safe medicine that can be used by children as well, but might be harmful to people with liver and kidney problems, or alcohol dependence.

Opioids are the third different type of painkillers and are based on naturally occurring drugs – chemicals, derived from the opium poppy. They attach themselves to protein receptors, known as opioid receptors, found in the brain, spinal cord, and many of the body organs. Once they’ve attached, they can reduce the perception of pain. Side effects, however, include drowsiness, confusion, constipation, and, if the dose is not measured properly, can even result in depressed respiration. Opioids also act directly on the reward circuit of the brain by flooding it with dopamine, which produces a feeling of ecstasy and might further help with alleviating severe pain. They’re strictly prescription medications and include drugs such as codeine, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone and methadone. All of them act by relieving your pain and relaxing the muscles, mimicking your body’s own painkillers. However, since they’re incredibly potent, they’re also very addictive and should be treated with caution.

The type of painkillers you’re prescribed will largely depend on the type and severity of your pain. NSAIDs are generally prescribed, if there’s an inflammation present but are also not suitable if you have stomach ulcers. Weak opioids might be prescribed if you’re suffering from severe pain that is not affected by paracetamol or ibuprofen. Stronger, however, are only used in extreme cases, such as cancer-related pain or post-operative pain.

What is hypnosis?

What is hypnosis?


Hypnosis, as defined by the American Psychology Association, is a set of techniques that can alter a person’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. Hypnosis works by enhancing concentration and minimizing distraction, as well as heightening one’s responsiveness to suggestions, made during the process.

The term “hypnosis” first appeared in 1853 in “Neurypnology”, a book by the Scottish physician James Braid. He defined it as a “peculiar condition of the nervous system” and argued that it was some sort of nervous sleep.

It’s a widespread misconception that hypnosis is a form of sleep. In fact, recent neuroimaging experiments show that hypnotized people’s brain activity is a form of consciousness on its own. When under hypnosis, brain activity changes to a particular and unique pattern, including reduced activity in the default mode network and increased activity in the prefrontal areas, responsible for attention. So, hypnotized people don’t “sleep” in the literal sense of the world – they’re, in fact, quite alert and awake.

To put it simply, hypnosis works by decreasing your attention span and thus, making you more susceptible to suggestions and induced thoughts.

Hypnosis is not a treatment on its own, but is used as a combination with other treatments to facilitate the success of a therapy. Researchers are certain that hypnosis can help with a number of psychological and physiological conditions, and especially pain relief and management. The so-called hypno-analgesia is a form of pain management treatment that can decrease patients’ sensitivity and thus, alleviate their pain. The link between hypnosis and perception has been studied excessively and it’s now certain that therapists can induce altered sensations into hypnotized people. A famous study involved patients, hypnotized to think that their limbs are getting heavier and more difficult to move. The induction was so strong that it produced total limb paralysis!

Of course, people differ in their degree of responsiveness. Susceptibility to hypnosis is a highly heritable trait and is linked to the degree of creativity, empathy and fantasy proneness. In some cases, hypnosis therapy might be extremely helpful, while in other might not produce any result at all.

But how does hypnosis actually work?

Hypnosis is widely used in cognitive-behavioral therapy to deal with psychological issues such as depression, anxiety or phobias. It can reduce the level of distress in patients and help them enter a more relaxed state. The mechanism is simple: it involves the therapist, creating a state of inner calmness and concentration and focusing the patient’s attention to a particular feeling, thought or behavior. It’s extremely useful not only in cases of pain sensitivity, but also for regression therapy – “bringing” patients back in time to deal with unresolved conflicts or traumatic memory.

The link between hypnosis and memories is, in fact, largely speculated and widely researched. The reality is quite different than what we’re used to seeing in movies or big screen (sorry, no walking zombies). Media presents the hypnosis as an eerie state in which people seem to lose their free will, as their minds get completely under the control of the hypnotist.

Hypnosis is indeed a powerful tool and a vast body of evidence suggests that therapist can in fact induce false or distorted memories in their patients. This lead to several countries, including Canada, to introduce a new law that post-hypnosis evidence would not be admissible in court.

To illustrate, a fascinating experiment involved hypnotizing participants, induced to see colorful Mondrian images in grey. Their subsequent brain scans showed altered activity in the brain regions that are responsible for seeing colour.