Posts Tagged ‘ UK news ’

Robin Gibb, pioneer of disco, dies at 62

May 21, 2012

Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees

No doubt we have lost another great talent…Robin Gibb leaves us a legacy of music that can not be conpared to any other…my condolences to his family…rest in peace Robin.

That’s my comment, pass it on…

Powered by article titled “Robin Gibb, pioneer of disco, dies at 62” was written by Ben Quinn, for The Guardian on Monday 21st May 2012 00.27 UTC

Robin Gibb, one-third of the Bee Gees and a singer-songwriter who helped to turn disco into a global phenomenon by providing the core of the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, has died from cancer.

With his distinctive, quavering voice, Gibb notched up dozens of hits and sold more than 200m records as a performer and writer along with his twin brother Maurice, who died in 2003, and elder brother Barry.

The siblings, whose catalogue includes Massachusetts, I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You, How Deep Is Your Love and Stayin’ Alive, established their pop legacy by placing their falsetto harmonies at the centre of the 70s disco boom.

It was an era whose look they also captured, posing for the cover of the Saturday Night Fever album with toothy smiles, bouffant hair and tight white outfits.

Born on the Isle of Man to English parents on 22 December, 1949, Gibb started out performing alongside his brothers as a child act encouraged by their father Hugh, a band leader, and their mother Barbara, a former singer.

The family moved to Australia in 1958, where the brothers continued to perform and took the name Bee Gees, an abbreviation of brothers Gibb. Seeking to move beyond the Australian market, they returned to the UK in the mid-60s and had their first major hit with New York Mining Disaster 1941, which reached the Top 20 in both the UK and US.

A later single, To Love Somebody, was co-written by Robin, but the lead vocals were taken by Barry. This led to tension and Robin quit the group in 1969.

The Bee Gees regrouped in 1970 and enjoyed their first US No 1, Lonely Days. The following year they had another hit with How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, later covered by soul legend Al Green.

Their manager, Robert Stigwood, brought them on board for Saturday Night Fever, a film he was producing, and the songs were written in little over a weekend. Disco was already established but the music and the film combined to give it even greater popularity.

The band’s sales took a hit with the end of the disco boom and they concentrated on solo material and producing hits for other artists before staging a comeback in 1987.

Gibb, a sensitive, teetotal vegetarian, was described last night as “a musical giant” by the British singer songwriter Mick Hucknall, one of a number of celebrities paying tribute to him.

The DJ Mike Read, who was a family friend, said the singer had an “incredible voice”, adding: “Robin had the voice, the pathos, and he was a great writer.”

“In his head he could come up with some great melodies. I was delighted to work with him. He had a gift for melody and a gift for lyrics and left a phenomenal legacy, a phenomenal catalogue.”

The former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, tweeted: “Just heard about Robin Gibb. A good friend, a brilliant musician and a man who turned all of us into wannabe Travoltas!”

In recent years, Gibb had found it particularly hard to come to terms with the 2003 death of his twin. In an interview seven months later, he said: “He was part of the fabric of my life. We were kids together, and teenagers. We spent the whole of our lives with each other because of our music. I can’t accept that he’s dead. I just imagine he’s alive somewhere else.”

He was later to contract the same bowel condition that led to his brother’s death, leading to his own protracted bout of ill health.

In 2011 he finished recording his first solo album in seven years, a collection tentatively titled 50 St Catherine’s Drive.

Doctors performed surgery on his bowel 18 months ago but a tumour was discovered and he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and subsequently of the liver.

He fell into a coma last month after contracting pneumonia but his family later said he had “beaten the odds” just days after doctors said he “was in God’s hands”. His family announced his death yesterday in a statement “with great sadness”.

He last performed on stage in February, supporting injured servicemen and women at the Coming Home charity concert held at the London Palladium and had been due to premiere his classical work The Titanic Requiem in April with son Robin-John, but the event went ahead without him due to his poor health. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Dangers of chiropractic treatments under-reported, study finds

May 16, 2012

A woman having a therapeutic massage

This article is totally flawed and may I also add that professor Ernst should be ashame of putting out false statements about a professoion that has helped so many people overcome pain. Professor Ernst isn’t the first and definitely not the last to “sucker punch” the chiropractic profession simply to satisfy their academic journal requirement to the university. My advise to professor Ernst and others who attempt to falsely suggest that chiropractic is dangerous, stay out of  areas you have no business or knowlwdge of writing and focus on your defense when the BCA or ACA decide to make an example of you!

That’s my comment …pass it on…

Dr Anthony      

Powered by article titled “Dangers of chiropractic treatments under-reported, study finds” was written by Alok Jha, for The Guardian on Sunday 13th May 2012 23.05 UTC

Chiropractic treatments might appear safer than they actually are because their adverse effects are under-reported in medical trials, a study has found.

Improper reporting of the adverse effects of a medical intervention was unethical, said Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula medical school, University of Exeter, who led the latest analysis. This had allowed chiropractors to create a falsely positive picture about the safety of their treatments, he said.

Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to treat ailments of the muscles and joints. Some practitioners claim the treatments can be used to treat more general health problems such as colic, asthma and prolonged crying in babies.

In his latest analysis, Ernst’s team collated data from 60 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of chiropractic carried out from January 2000 to July 2011. They found that 29 of the studies failed to mention any adverse effects of the treatment and, of the 31 trials where adverse effects were reported, 16 reported that none had occurred during the study. The results are published in the April 2012 edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Guidelines for publishing clinical trials require that all adverse outcomes of a medical intervention should be published. If an intervention is totally safe and, therefore has no adverse effects, the researchers should report that there were no adverse effects.

“Imagine you have a drug where mild adverse effects are documented and hopefully rare adverse effects are being reported in case reports,” said Ernst. “Then somebody does a trial on this drug and doesn’t even mention adverse effects. That, in anybody’s book, must be unethical.

“I feel that chiropractors do have a strange attitude towards the safety of their interventions. When you read the literature, you see proclamations that spinal manipulation, according to chiropractors, is 100% safe.”

This is despite hundreds of case studies that have documented problems with the treatment. “About 50% of patients seeing a chiropractor have adverse effects, which is staggering,” said Ernst. “In addition to these fairly mild adverse effects, which basically are pain at the site of manipulation and referred pain sometimes, which only lasts one or two days, we have about 500-700 cases of severe complications being reported.”

With extreme chiropractic movement of the neck, an artery can disintegrate and lead to a stroke, an outcome that is well-documented in medical literature. “We only see what is being published and that can only be the tip of the iceberg,” said Ernst. “Some neurologist sees a stroke and he finds out that this was associated with chiropractic – in 99.9% of cases he won’t publish that.”

Ernst said the under-reporting of adverse effects meant decisions about the best course of treatment for a patient would be made difficult. “Therapeutic decisions ought to be taken not on considering the effectiveness alone but also you have to have effectiveness as a balance with the potential for harm. You have to do a risk-benefit analysis. When you under-report risk, this cannot possibly be done robustly.”

The British Chiropractic Association was approached for a response to the study but a spokesperson said it was unable to comment in time for publication. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

David Cameron reaches deal on Spitfires buried in Burma

April 14, 2012

British Spitfires

Amazingly there are Spitfires aircrafts buried underground in Burma and still in their crates! Wow…they have been buried there since the end of World War ll. Should be an exiciting day for those present as the excavation begins..

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “David Cameron reaches deal on Spitfires buried in Burma” was written by Nicholas Watt in Rangoon, for The Guardian on Friday 13th April 2012 23.01 UTC

David Cameron has reached an agreement with the Burmese authorities to dig up the remains of up to 20 RAF Spitfires that were buried in Burma two weeks before the atom bomb was dropped on Japan. A group of Spitfire enthusiasts, who believe they have identified the whereabouts of the planes at airfields using radar technology, will have the right to start digging. The agreement, reached with President Thein Sein at his palace in the Burmese capital of Naypyidaw, raises the prospect of doubling the number of surviving Spitfires.

Of the 21,000 built, only 35 remain in a good enough condition to fly. There are potentially 20 buried in crates under Burmese soil.

A No 10 source said: “The Spitfire is arguably the most important plane in the history of aviation, playing a crucial role in world war two. It is hoped this will be an opportunity to work with the reforming Burmese government to uncover, restore and display these fighter planes and get them gracing the skies of Britain once again.”

The saga of the Burmese Spitfires dates back to the closing days of the second world war. Shortly before the Americans bombed the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, Earl Mountbatten of Burma ordered the Spitfires to be buried in Burma. Mountbatten, an uncle of the Prince of Wales who was then supreme allied commander of South-east Asia Command, feared that the Spitfires could have been used by the Japanese. The allies had driven the Japanese out of Burma in April of that year. But Mountbatten feared that the Spitfires could provide the Japanese with a great advantage if they captured them after a successful reoccupation.

The Mark 14 Spitfires had recently arrived in Burma in crates. They were shipped into the country along the Burmese death railway built by allied prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation.

Japan eventually capitulated after the second atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August, three days after the Hiroshima bombing. But the planes appeared to have been forgotten in the Burmese soil. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Takeaway pizzas twice as salty as those from supermarkets, study finds

March 30, 2012


What? You got to be kidding…right..? The fresher made pizza has more salt! You sit down at your favorite pizza shop and you order a super size pizza for the entire family…and the only thought going through my head is….well at least they are using fresh ingredients….right…I would never imagine that it could have 3 times the amount of salt as supermarket pizza…really? I still don’t believe it!!!   

That’s my comment…pass it on.. 

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Takeaway pizzas twice as salty as those from supermarkets, study finds” was written by Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 26th March 2012 06.00 UTC

Takeaway pizzas from chains and fast-food restaurants typically contain up to two and a half times more salt than the equivalent from supermarkets, research from health groups reveals.

Campaigners said consumers were being let down by the absence of clear labelling and information about high levels of salt – which is a major health risk – in takeaway foods.

Half of all the takeaway pizzas surveyed contained the entire maximum daily recommendation of salt – six grams (o.2 oz).

The survey by Consensus Action on Salt and Health and the Association of London Environmental Health Managers is released at the start of the annual Salt Awareness Week.

It analysed 199 margherita and pepperoni fresh and frozen pizzas from takeaways, pizza chains and supermarkets across the UK. They found that takeaway pizzas were found to contain up to two and a half times more salt than the average supermarket pizza (2.73g of salt per 100g compared with 1.08g salt/100g).

A pepperoni pizza from the Adam & Eve restaurant in Mill Hill, London, contained 10.57g of salt. At 2.73g of salt per 100g, it means the food is saltier than Atlantic seawater, which is 2.5g of salt per 100g. The restaurant said it has now changed its recipe to make its pizza less salty.

The Department of Health’s target for salt content in pizza by the end of 2012 is a maximum of 1.25g of salt per 100g. But less than a fifth (16%) of the takeaway pizzas tested met this target compared with three-quarters (72%) of supermarket pizzas.

Prof Graham MacGregor, chairman of Cash and professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine said: “The government is not taking enough action to reduce the amount of salt in the takeaway sector. Salt puts up our blood pressure – the highest risk factor for stroke. Reducing our intake would save thousands of people suffering and dying from a stroke.”

In supermarkets, more than eight in 10 pizzas (85%) provided some form of front of pack nutrition information. A Pizza Express supermarket pizza had almost half the salt of the takeaway equivalent and less than one in five supermarket pizzas are high in salt although two in three are high in saturated fat.

The saltiest supermarket pizza was Tesco’s Full-on-flavour Simply Pepperoni thin stone-baked pizza which had 1.8g (4.77g per 265g pizza). Tesco said: “We have been cutting levels of salt across our ranges since 2005 and continually look at how we can improve products further. We are in the process of reducing salt in this particular pizza and in just a few weeks it will have 10% less salt.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Childhood abuse may stunt growth of part of brain involved in emotions

February 15, 2012

Depressed man with his head on his arms

The hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in memory and organization.  The hippocampus is shaped like a horse-shoe structure, with one half located in the left brain and the other half in the right hemisphere. The hippocampus is associated with emotional response. Coupled with memory and emotional response, we can see where an abusive childhood memories are stored and eventually acted on later in life. Future studies could unravel more effective means of treatment directed into the hippocampus and thus erasing memories of abuse. 

That’s my comment…pass it on

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Childhood abuse may stunt growth of part of brain involved in emotions” was written by Alok Jha, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 13th February 2012 20.00 UTC

Being sexually or emotionally abused as a child can affect the development of a part of the brain that controls memory and the regulation of emotions, a study suggests.

The results add to the growing body of evidence that childhood maltreatment or abuse raises the risk of mental illnesses such as depression, personality disorders and anxiety well into adulthood.

Martin Teicher of the department of psychiatry at Harvard University scanned the brains of almost 200 people who had been questioned about any instances of abuse or stress during childhood. He found that the volumes of three important areas of the hippocampus were reduced by up to 6.5% in people exposed to several instances of maltreatment – such as physical or verbal abuse from parents – in their early years.

“The exquisite vulnerability of the hippocampus to the ravages of stress is one of the key translational neuroscience discoveries of the 20th century,” wrote Teicher on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early clues of the relationship came when scientists found that raising stress hormones for extended periods in rats reduced the number of neurons in the hippocampal areas, a result that has since been replicated in many non-human primates.

Other work has shown that people with a history of abuse or maltreatment during childhood are twice as likely to have recurrent episodes of depression in adulthood. These individuals are also less likely to respond well to psychological or drug-based treatments.

In the new study, Teicher’s team scanned the brains of 73 men and 120 women aged between 18 and 25. The volunteers filled in a standard questionnaire used by psychiatrists to assess the number of “adverse childhood experiences”.

Overall, 46% of the group reported no exposure to childhood adversity and 16% reported three or more forms of maltreatment, the most common being physical and verbal abuse from parents. Other factors included corporal punishment, sexual abuse and witnessing domestic violence.

The sample did not include people on psychiatric medication or anyone who had been exposed to other stressful events such as near-drownings or car accidents.

Andrea Danese, a clinical lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, who was not involved in the study, said Teicher’s results took scientists a step closer to understanding the complex relationship between childhood maltreatment and brain development. “The large sample size allows for reliable detection of even comparatively small effects of maltreatment on the brain, whereas the recruitment from the general population allows for a less biased interpretation of the study, which builds on previous research often carried out in psychiatric patients.”

The high-resolution brain imaging analysis allowed Teicher to home in on minute areas of the hippocampus and explore the association between maltreatment and this brain region in finer detail than ever before. “This is important because not all areas in the hippocampus are equally sensitive to the effect of stress mediators, such as cortisol and inflammatory biomarkers,” said Danese. “Thus, the authors took advantage of this gradient to indirectly test the mechanisms through which childhood maltreatment could affect the brain.”

One limitation of the study might be that it required the volunteers to recall their childhood experiences, added Danese. “The findings are based on the perceptions and memories that participants have of their childhood rather than on objective events. This may be problematic because some groups of individuals could be more or less prone than others to report experiences of maltreatment. This ‘recall’ bias has been described in individuals with a history of depression, who may be more likely to report abuse.”

However, Teicher’s team was able to test whether a history of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder might explain his observed effects of childhood maltreatment on the hippocampus, and showed that the results were independent of these factors.

Danese said future studies would need to clarify further the direction of the effect. “Although the authors report that childhood maltreatment is associated with smaller hippocampus regions, it is possible that these abnormalities pre-dated and possibly facilitated maltreatment exposure. Longitudinal and twin studies will help to clarify this issue.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Sugar: it’s time to get real and regulate

February 13, 2012

Brown Sugar Cubes

We all love it…sugar…with it we can make all sorts of delicious treats…cookies,cakes,frostings,pudding,candy,syrup for our pancakes,ice cream,and many other dishes and recipes right out of the pages of betty crocker…but after years of  spooning  sugar down our gullets, our bodies begin rejecting the very thing that has given us so much pleasure. Our inner metabolism begin experiencing adverse reactions from our sugar coated life styles. New cases of diabetes and diabetic related diseases are on the rise in every country.  Take charge of your health today and start cutting back on sugar and calories…live longer..stick to a plan…make the commitment..

That’s my comment…pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Sugar: it’s time to get real and regulate” was written by Jacqueline Windh, for on Monday 13th February 2012 16.30 UTC

Last week, a trio of American scientists led by Robert Lustig, professor of clinical paediatrics at the University of California, published an article in the journal Nature, outlining the toxic effects that sugar has on humans and arguing for governmental controls on its sale and distribution. While the authors come short of labelling sugar a “poison” outright, in a 2007 interview with ABC Radio about excess sugar consumption, Lustig said: “We’re being poisoned to death. That’s a very strong statement, but I think we can back it up with very clear scientific evidence.”

That evidence has been growing – particularly in the western world, where consumption of sugar is increasing rapidly. Globally, sugar consumption has tripled in the past 50 years. But, it turns out, the greatest threat to human health is one type of sugar in particular: fructose.

In the US, per-capita consumption of fructose, a common food additive there – mainly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup – has increased more than 100-fold since 1970. Although fructose is not a common added sweetener in the UK and other countries, sucrose is; sucrose contains 50% fructose. Lustig and his co-authors note that last year, the United Nations announced that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) had, for the first time, overtaken infectious diseases in terms of the global health burden. Non-communicable diseases now account for 63% of all deaths, and that total is expected to increase by a further 17% over the next decade.

The scientists cite growing evidence that our increasing consumption of sugar is partly responsible for the growth of NCDs: diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and the suite of symptoms known as metabolic syndrome. And they argue that, as for substances known to cause NCDs such as tobacco and alcohol, sales and distribution of sugar should be controlled, and products with added sugar should be taxed.

I used to be a sugar addict. And yes, for those who haven’t found out first-hand, sugar is addictive; perhaps not to the same degree as alcohol and tobacco, but a recent study has shown that sugary foods, or even just the expectation of eating sweets, can trick the brain into wanting more. When I decided to cut my sugar consumption 12 or so years ago, I had no idea of the serious health concerns that excess sugar consumption brings. I only wanted to avoid the so-called “empty calories” that sugar provides. I had noticed that eating cookies and desserts was making me feel lethargic.

Sugar, and in particular fructose, affects metabolism. Unlike glucose, fructose can only be metabolised in the liver. Some of its effects on the human body include increasing levels of uric acid, which raise blood pressure; increased fat deposition in the liver; and interference with the insulin receptor in the liver. This inhibits ability of the brain to detect the hormone leptin, which regulates appetite. So beyond the empty calories that fructose provides, eating it makes you want to eat more.

When I started reducing my sugar intake, I had no intention of cutting it out completely. Reducing my consumption was a gradual process, over many years. Sugar had been used as a reward when I was a child, and sweets were still a comfort food for me. But I found that the less of it I ate, the less I craved it. Today, I barely eat sweetened foods at all. If I were to eat what to most North Americans or Europeans is an “average” dessert serving, I would feel sick. Avoiding sugar is no longer an exercise in willpower; I have developed a revulsion for it. I feel that I have brought my body back to its original state. Sugar, in anything other than small quantities, feels like a poison to me.

Illnesses related to dietary choices do not affect only the individuals who become sick; they affect us all, as a society. The US alone spends $150bn on healthcare resources for illness related to metabolic syndrome. Of course, I would like to think that governmental regulation of a food-item such as sugar is not necessary. I do place value on an individual’s right to choose, and on personal responsibility. But in the case of sugar, it’s time to get real. The incidence of preventable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes is increasing and many health authorities have expressed concern that our current youth may be the first generation that does not live as long as their parents.

Most of us have known for some time that excess sugar is not good for us, but education and knowledge are clearly not enough. Regulation is required. This is no longer an issue of personal responsibility, but one of public expenditure and public health.

• Follow Comment is free on Twitter @commentisfree © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Why I’m off for some vitamin D – until the sun comes out

February 7, 2012


There’s has always been discussion on the pros and cons of vitamin supplementation in our diets. I see no harm in taking vitamin D and other supplements as long one stays within the normal dosage recommedated by physicians and FDA guidelines. Usually common sense dictates following the instructions listed on the bottle or physician’s orders. Never decide to begin ingesting supplements until your have discussed doing so with your family doctor first.  Vitamin D is an important vitamin from strong bones,growth, and for many chemical reactions that occur within our bodies. Moderation is the key to absorbing sufficient Vitamin D. As for sunshine….be careful not be burn ..wear sunscreen protection…

That’s my comment…pass it on…

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Why I’m off for some vitamin D – until the sun comes out” was written by Ann Robinson, for on Thursday 26th January 2012 18.14 UTC

Vitamin D is in the news again, and while the experts squabble over it, I’m off to buy myself some supplements. The chief medical officer for England has told GPs like me to advise those at risk to take supplements. And since half the adult population of the UK is lacking vitamin D in the winter months and deficiency is being linked to a growing list of health problems, I can’t see a good reason not to take a small multivitamin a day – at least until the sun comes out. I’ll stick to the recommended daily amount as you can have too much of a good thing, even vitamins.

Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and health, and deficiency can cause rickets in the young and a condition called chondromalacia in adults. You wouldn’t think rickets still existed in the UK but it probably never went away and is increasingly recognised as a cause of fractures in susceptible children.

Recently two parents, Rohan Wray and Chana al-Alas, were accused of murdering their four-month-old baby who died two years ago from sudden infant death syndrome (Sids, also known as cot death). The baby, Jayden, was found to have multiple injuries and the parents were accused of shaking the baby to death. But pathologist Dr Irene Scheimberg, based at Royal London Hospital, found evidence of rickets in Jayden at postmortem and the judge directed the jury to acquit.

Since that tragic case, Scheimberg says she has discovered vitamin D deficiency in eight further cases of Sids and in 30 cases of children who have died of various causes and had postmortems. A colleague of hers, Dr Marta Cohen, working in Yorkshire has also found vitamin D deficiency in 18 out of 24 cases of Sids and in 45 babies under the age of one, who died of other causes. Both doctors are calling for further investigation into the implications of vitamin D deficiency and highlighting the need to be aware of rickets in cases of Sids, which can be mistaken for non-accidental injury.

This adds weight to those calling for widespread vitamin D supplementation in the UK. Advice from the chief medical officer for England, Sally Davies, was for at-risk groups – which includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, children aged six months to five years old, people aged 65 or over, people who are not exposed to much sun (the housebound, those who cover up their skin for cultural reasons and people who have darker skin, whose bodies are unable to produce vitamin D as easily) – to take vitamin D. But there have been calls to introduce supplements for all the population in Scotland, because of high levels of multiple sclerosis which may be linked to vitamin D deficiency. Ryan McLaughlin, 13, launched a campaign, Shine on Scotland, in response to his mother’s diagnosis of MS, while Professor George Ebers of the Nuffield department of clinical neurosciences at Oxford University believes the evidence is now good enough to justify dosing the entire population with vitamin D. Professor George Ebers of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford University is quoted, saying that he believes the evidence is now good enough to justify dosing the entire population with vitamin D. Last month, his team published evidence of a link between MS and an inherited tendency that leads to vitamin D deficiency.

Scotland’s chief medical officer, however, Sir Harry Burns, says in the same article he thinks there needs to be “broader scientific consensus” before change is considered. He warns that dietary supplements can cause harm and that we need to wait for good randomised studies in large populations. He wants to wait for the conclusions of a review of the evidence by the UK government’s scientific advisory committee on nutrition in 2014.

But Ebers says that is too long. He reflects that there was evidence to support recommending folic acid supplementation for all pregnant women to prevent problems like spina bifida, many years before the public health authorities backed it.

Bruce Hollis, professor of paediatrics and biochemistry at the Medical University of South Carolina, agrees, insisting there’s no point waiting for a large randomised trial because it’s unlikely to ever happen. He says it would be hard to attract funding for an expensive, large scale trial as drug companies would be unlikely to make a profit on cheap vitamin supplements.

The best source of vitamin D is sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods (oily fish, eggs, cheese and meat) but it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone. In the UK, all margarines and infant formula milks are already fortified with vitamin D and it is also added, in small amounts, to other foods such as breakfast cereals, soya and some dairy products,. Breastfeeding mothers need adequate vitamin D levels of their own to ensure their babies get enough.

You can buy single vitamin D supplements at most pharmacies and supermarkets. Pregnant women who take vitamin D as part of a multivitamin should avoid supplements containing vitamin A (retinol), which can be harmful in pregnancy.

While the experts continue to debate, we may all be well advised to take a daily vitamin D supplement and expose our skin to whatever weak winter sunshine we can. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Cyclist deaths rise during recessions, figures suggest

December 27, 2011

Memorial for cyclist Deep Lee

I myself have noticed more and more cyclists on the road…and personally know that some of my friends having accidents riding their bicycles….don’t allow tragedy to occur while pursuing your outdoor activities….be aware of your surroundings…ride along bicycle routes or areas with less traffic…and always wear a helmet…happy riding…

Pass it on,

Powered by article titled “Cyclist deaths rise during recessions, figures suggest” was written by Mark King, for The Guardian on Tuesday 27th December 2011 18.47 UTC

The number of cyclists killed in the UK has risen during three of the last four recessions, according to figures from the Department for Transport (DfT). The data suggests that, when commuters swap expensive train, tube and car travel for cheaper bicycles during periods of austerity, the death toll rises.

The DfT’s 2011 annual report on UK road casualties shows that cyclist deaths across the UK rose by 7% last year, up from 104 in 2009 to 111 in 2010, just as many of the government austerity measures were kicking in. In the first half of this year the number of cyclists killed or seriously hurt on UK roads rose 12% year-on-year. Cycle deaths also rose by 58% between 1930 and 1935 and by 14% between 1980 and 1984. After both the 1930s and the 1980s recessions, the number of cycle fatalities fell back once again.

Tom Jones, of Thompsons Law, said: “In the last 12 months we have seen a marked increase in the number of personal injury claims brought by people involved in accidents related to cycling. We monitor London and the south-west, particularly Bristol, and we are seeing a definite trend of increasing claims.”

The combined number of cyclists involved in fatal and serious accidents also increased by 10% between 2007 and 2010, from 2,698 to 2,962. But the rise in cyclist deaths contrasts with the number of fatalities falling for all other types of road user – the number of car occupants killed fell by 21%, and 19% fewer pedestrians and 15% fewer motorcyclists died on the roads.

Charlie Lloyd, of the London Cycling Campaign, said: “Cycling fatalities in general are not getting any worse. It is likely that any increase in the number of fatalities during a recession is related to an increase in the number of cyclists. More people get on their bike or spend more time on a bike during a recession.”

The DfT report says that 60% of pedal cycle casualties occurred between 7am–10am and 4pm–7pm, and were likely to include people travelling to and from work.

Paul Codd, a new media communications specialist who is a regular cyclist, said one of the biggest risks to a cyclist in London was poor urban planning.

“Cycle lanes in some cases can be part of the problem, the seemingly random lanes imposed on older roads. These lanes encourage cyclists to ‘ride in the gutter’ which in itself is a very dangerous riding position – especially on busy congested roads as it places the cyclist right in a motorist’s blind spot.

“I also feel that the provision of a cycle lane encourages a cyclist to undertake or worse, remain stationary in a blind spot.” While cyclists in London were vocal in their opposition to the now-retired bendy buses, there is no definitive proof that they were responsible for an increase in cyclist deaths. Of the more recent high-profile fatalities in the capital, poor navigation at hotspots, such as Bow roundabout and Blackfriars bridge, as well as irresponsible driving by lorry drivers have been cited as key contributors.

DfT statistics reveal that the biggest single contributory factor in cycle deaths is the cyclist failing to look properly (25% of fatalities), followed by failing to judge the other person’s path or speed (10%), the cyclist entering the road from the pavement (8%), and careless or reckless behaviour (8%).

The largest number of cycle deaths in urban areas involved cars (25 deaths), followed by heavy goods vehicles (nine). On rural roads it was a similar story with 28 deaths involving incidents with cars, nine involving heavy goods vehicles, and eight involving light goods vehicles.

A 2009 report by the Transport Research Laboratory found that almost three-quarters of all cyclists killed or seriously injured in Great Britain were injured on urban roads, and almost half of cyclist fatalities occurred on rural roads; indicating that while the frequency of injuries is greater on urban roads, their severity tends to be greater on rural roads.

Lloyd said improved awareness of cycling safety training might help reduce the number of deaths, along with better education for younger cyclists. “Cycle proficiency used to be taught in schools but that disappeared. There is now a government-supported Bikeability scheme but it is not universally delivered in schools. The government abolished Cycle England, which used to monitor take-up of the scheme as well as the National Cycle Training Standard for adults, though it has promised it will continue to monitor it in some form.”

However, Bristol-based Sam Howard said cycling had never been safer: “I feel far more safe cycling now than I did five or six years ago. I’m lucky enough to live in Bristol, a city that received significant funding to increase levels of cycling five years ago. I really feel there are far more cyclists on the roads of Bristol these days, especially during commuting hours. The money that has been spent on cycle provisions; cycle routes, parking, cycle training and promotion has really made a difference in this city.”

Cyclist Codd said: “The cycle lane can sometimes be the worst possible place to be. If the traffic’s stationary or you’re travelling faster – always overtake like a motorcyclist. Never undertake a large vehicle, either wait or overtake when safe to do so. Get a decent set of lights and use your ears – yes you might be in a continuous stream of traffic, but your ears will let you know in advance of any aggressive manoeuvres from an overtaking vehicle – the surging engine’s a dead giveaway.

“Inexperienced and previously unconfident cyclists are taking to the streets in numbers and there is a real feeling and atmosphere of social cohesion between cyclists. Cyclists in numbers, more importantly perhaps, makes them far more respected and noticed by motorists. This is heightened by the huge economic savings made from cycling compared to driving especially in such times of austerity. Cycling is no longer a thing for the brave.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

We should scour the moon for ancient traces of aliens, say scientists

December 26, 2011

A pit in Mare Ingenii on the moon

When I hear scientists suggesting we should comb the surface of moons and planets for signs of aliens…then I am thinking more and more each day “We are not alone.” So when will we be witness to the discovery of life elsewhere in this vast universe? The answer could come in our lifetime….with the latest technology in computers and radiotelescopes, the possibility of finding extraterrestrials more likely…but are we ready for the encounter?

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “We should scour the moon for ancient traces of aliens, say scientists” was written by Ian Sample, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Sunday 25th December 2011 16.31 UTC

Hundreds of thousands of pictures of the moon will be examined for telltale signs that aliens once visited our cosmic neighbourhood if plans put forward by scientists go ahead.

Passing extraterrestrials might have left messages, scientific instruments, heaps of rubbish or evidence of mining on the dusty lunar surface that could be spotted by human telescopes and orbiting spacecraft.

Though the chances of finding the handiwork of long-gone aliens are exceptionally remote, scientists argue that a computerised search of lunar images, or a crowd-sourced analysis by amateur enthusiasts, would be cheap enough to justify given the importance of a potential discovery.

Prof Paul Davies and Robert Wagner at Arizona State University argue that images of the moon and other information collected by scientists for their research should be scoured for signs of alien intervention. The proposal aims to complement other hunts for alien life, such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti), which draws on data from radiotelescopes to scour the heavens for messages beamed into space by alien civilisations.

“Although there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon in the form of an artefact or surface modification of lunar features, this location has the virtue of being close, and of preserving traces for an immense duration,” the scientists write in a paper published online in the journal Acta Astronautica.

“If it costs little to scan data for signs of intelligent manipulation, little is lost in doing so, even though the probability of detecting alien technology at work may be exceedingly low,” they add.

The scientists focus their attention on Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has mapped a quarter of the moon’s surface in high resolution since mid-2009. Among these images, scientists have already spotted the Apollo landing sites and all of the Nasa and Soviet unmanned probes, some of which were revealed only by their odd-looking shadows.

Nasa has made more than 340,000 LRO images public, but that figure is expected to reach one million by the time the orbiting probe has mapped the whole lunar surface. “From these numbers, it is obvious that a manual search by a small team is hopeless,” the scientists write.

One way to scan all of the images involves writing software to search for strange-looking features, such as the sharp lines of solar panels, or the dust-covered contours of quarries or domed buildings. These might be visible millions of years after they were built, because the moon’s surface is geologically inactive and changes so slowly.

The seismometer on Nasa’s Apollo 12 mission detected only one impact per month from roughly grapefruit-sized meteorites within a 350km radius. According to Davies and Wagner, it could take hundreds of millions of years for an object tens of metres across to be buried by lunar soil and dust kicked up by these impacts.

An alternative approach would be to send tens of thousands of amateur enthusiasts images over the internet for examination, though this could lead to disagreements over what constituted an unusual, and potentially alien, feature.

The easiest artefact to find would probably be a message left behind intentionally. This might be held in a capsule and left in a large fresh crater like Tycho in the moon’s southern highlands, the scientists write. Some longer-lasting messages could be buried at depth but fitted with transmitters that penetrate the lunar surface, they add.

Alien life might once have set up a lunar base in the underground networks of lava tubes beneath the moon’s dark, basaltic plains, and perhaps have left rubbish when they departed. “The same factors that make lava tubes attractive as a habitat imply that any artefacts left behind would endure almost indefinitely, undamaged and unburied,” the scientists write. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Patients should have online access to medical records, says report

December 23, 2011

Woman filing medical records

Patients having access to their medical sounds like a good idea…as long as they attempt to use it to educate themselves and generate questions to ask their doctors. I support this idea 100 percent and look forward to it’s inception. This could facilitate patients take a more active role in supporting their health decisions.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Patients should have online access to medical records, says report” was written by Denis Campbell, health correspondent, for The Guardian on Friday 23rd December 2011 01.27 UTC

NHS patients will be allowed to see and edit their medical records under proposals in a government-commissioned report.

The plan is contained in a report that an expert advisory group, headed by Professor Steve Field, the coalition’s NHS troubleshooter, is finalising before handing it to the Department of Health.

The changes would enable patients to view their whole medical history, study the result of diagnostic tests and see what drugs they have been prescribed before. They would also be able to check on their next appointment and order a repeat prescription.

The NHS Future Forum will outline the significant extension of patients’ rights in a report on how greater availability of information in the health service can improve treatment and make users of NHS services feel more involved and empowered.

The plan will help the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, finally realise his longstanding goal of an “information revolution” intended to help put patients more in control of their own care.

The scheme could be operational in England inside three years, the forum believes.

One forum member said that in an age when citizens could access their bank account details from their home computer, it was “unsustainable” for existing restrictions on patients’ access to their medical records to continue.

Currently, patients’ right to see their records is protected under the NHS Constitution but they have to apply for access and explain why they want to see them.

Although the recommendations are not binding on the government, Lord Howe, the health minister in the House of Lords, has already welcomed that plan. “We fully support patients having online access to their personal GP records. Our vision for a modern NHS is to give patients more information and control over their health,” he told today’s Times.

Patient groups are also likely to back the plan. “Many patients phone our helpline saying that they are having difficulty accessing their medical records from their GP, even though the NHS Constitution states that they have a legal right to do this,” said Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association.

But, in a sign that not everyone involved may welcome the change, Murphy added that patient confidentiality was crucial.

“Health records are among the most personal and sensitive information kept about patients and they must be protected. There must be a guarantee that all patient data will be protected and that it will not be possible to trace back information to an individual”, she said.

Family doctors’ attitudes to the plan will be vital. GPs may not back the idea of patients having such access, which could see them allowed to suggest corrections. But the forum’s report will highlight the positive effect on doctor-patient relations of introducing such a scheme.. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Sir Isaac Newton’s own annotated Principia Mathematica goes online

December 12, 2011

Newton manuscript published online

Wow…Sir Isaac Newton’s notes are now online..! All due the efforts of Cambridge University’s desire to preserve and share Newton’s writing with the world. We surely live in a special time where technology has given us the ability to reach out and share knowledge with one another…a special thank you and Merry Christmas to Cambridge University…I look forward to reading the papers of Sir Isaac Newton..!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Sir Isaac Newton’s own annotated Principia Mathematica goes online” was written by Stephen Bates, for The Guardian on Monday 12th December 2011 00.05 UTC

Cambridge University is putting the papers of Sir Isaac Newton online for the first time, including his own annotated copy of his greatest work, Principia Mathematica, with notes and calculations in his handwriting revising the book and answering critics.

So far, more than 4,000 pages, about 20% of the university’s Newton archive, have been put into digital form as part of a programme that will eventually give the public access to the papers of other famous scientists, ranging from Darwin to Ernest Rutherford. Included in the papers are the handwritten notes made after Newton’s death, in 1727, by his colleague Thomas Pellet, who was asked by relatives of the great scientist to examine the papers with a view to publication.

Pellet’s dismissive note, saying “Not fit to be printed”, can be seen on some pages – which are now, inevitably, among those most closely studied. It is thought Pellet was attempting to censor some of Newton’s more juvenile calculations and, more urgently, stifle his unorthodox religious views.

Grant Young, the university library’s digitisation manager, said: “You can see Newton’s mind at work in the calculations and how his thinking was developing. His copy of the Principia contains pages interleaved with the printed text with his notes.

“The book has suffered much, pages are badly burned or water-stained, so it is very delicate and rarely put on show. Before today anyone who wanted to see these things had to come to Cambridge and get permission to see them, but we are now bringing Cambridge University library to the world at the click of a mouse.”

Other papers now released come from Newton’s notebooks and the “waste book” he carried with him to continue his work while the university was closed down during the Plague in 1665.

These documents show his initial work in understanding calculus.

Among the next papers to be released will be those of the 18th-century Board of Longitude, which was charged with securing a more accurate method of navigation at sea.

The records of the early astronomers royal, including Edmund Halley and John Flamsteed, will also be put online. Charles Darwin’s papers are already being published separately online but eventually will be incorporated into the digital project.

The science papers project has received an initial grant of £1.5m from the Polonsky charitable foundation, which supports research and higher education. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Life is sweet

December 11, 2011

Christine Gillan in Tom Swan's sweet shop

We all have our weaknesses….many of us will succumb to the temptation of candy…it reminds us of our chidhood years..when we didn’t have much too worry about…I would be content with a Hersey’s Chocolate Bar…or a Bazooka Chewing Gum or how about those Jaw Breakers…sure it was a great time…now that the holidays are around the corner, we all have a good excuse to go down memory lane…or should I say the candy lane!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Life is sweet” was written by Audrey Gillan, for The Observer on Sunday 11th December 2011 00.08 UTC

olly Pan Drops, Soor Plooms, Chocolate Italian Creams, Rich Butter Treacle, Cinnamon Balls, Liquorice Comfits. The names of the sweeties reel off my tongue, taking me back to summers spent in my mum’s car, when I “helped” as she sold boilings, toffees, chocolates and fudges to the corner shops and cafés of the west of Scotland.

I was five years old when my mother, Christine, became a “sweetie lady”, selling twinkling jars of sugared delights for Buchanan’s, a traditional confectionery company then most famous for its waxpaper-wrapped toffees the size of an old penny. Each day she’d get up at dawn, meticulously apply her make-up and put on an immaculate suit and high heels. She ate a good breakfast, then, picking up her order book and applying a last coat of lipstick, she’d head out of our Glasgow cul de sac in her company car.

This summer, after 38 years on the road, Mum handed over her car keys and put down her paperwork for the last time. At 65, she was persuaded by my father that she should say goodbye to this life in sweeties – those wet, west-coast Scottish winters were taking their toll and the time had come to relax. It was not something she did with relish. Christine was saying farewell to customers who’d become great friends. It was as if not just a way of working but a way of life was coming to an end.

In an age of iPads and iPhones and PDAs, my mum’s business relied on the personal touch, travelling to find out people’s needs, writing their orders down with a pen and paper, placing them in a stamped, addressed envelope and sending them off to a factory in Fort Matilda, Greenock, where they would be processed, packed by hand and sent out in a lorry that made daily deliveries.

It was a life marked in six-week cycles that took in seaside towns as well as bleak housing estates. Through it my mum built her own community – every six weeks she garnered news of marriages and babies, holidays, first days of school, graduations and, of course, deaths. With only a car as an office, the shopkeepers and café owners became my mum’s “colleagues”, the anchors that helped bring a sense of stability through peripatetic years.

In those early days, a lack of childcare during school holidays meant I sometimes accompanied her, sitting in the back with the jars and piles of paperwork and the folders full of glossy pictures of her wares.

As the days counted down to her dreaded retirement, I wanted to get a sense of what it was about her that made her the company’s salesperson of the year, almost every year as far back as I can remember, and I wanted to meet some of those customers she never stopped speaking about. As I grew older, I sometimes listened to their voices on the telephone, listing the beautiful, mellifluous words as I wrote down their orders for Buttered Brazils and Rich Treacle Perfection. But I’d never seen their faces. I knew that over these six weeks my mum made 500 calls to shops such as Olga Quintiliani’s Sweet Stop and the Tommy Tango Candy Store. Her favourite journey was the one that took an extra 15 miles of driving but brought her to Arrochar and Luss, lying within the shadow of Ben Lomond. On Glasgow’s Byres Road, at the very heart of the lovely West End, lay the Art Deco University Café, where a roll and fried egg and a cup of coffee would be laid out on a narrow Formica table by one of the many members of the Verrecchia family who worked there.

We pull up outside Swan’s Sweet Shop, a small building that’s been in the West Dunbartonshire village of Renton for 56 years. The only shop for miles, it is at the heart of the community. My mum looks in her rear-view mirror at the passing traffic and tells me of the time when she was parked on the same spot and a heavy-goods driver shunted her car along the street just as she was getting some samples out – she ended up in the back with the sweeties while a man shouted “Haw, stop, there’s a wummin hinging oot that boot!”

“I’ve been coming to Tom Swan’s since I started the job, which was April 1973,” she explains. “It’s a quirky wee shop; none of my other calls are quite like this. It’s an excellent place for people to reminisce. They travel from quite far and wide just to get their sweets here.” From the outside, it’s difficult to imagine what makes this place a kind of sweetie mecca. But the smell that sweeps over you as you step inside takes you to a nostalgic place that is soothing. Tom’s is full of memory jolts for the eye and the tongue. Its draw is so strong that there’s even an Official Tom Swan Appreciation Society on Facebook.

I notice my mum scanning the warping shelves, looking for her jars, measuring how full they are and assessing what Tom’s going to need. She liked the jars better when they were glass, she says; the plastic ones don’t look as nice when the light hits them. I can’t see what she means because there is no natural light in Tom’s shop – jam-packed with sparkly wrappers, luminous colours and shouty lettering, the place seems to heave under the weight of all that sugar.

At first Tom, 75, acts the curmudgeon, looking at me with disdain: “So, you’re the wonderful daughter? I’m fed up listening to her going on about you.” But soon he and my mum slip into an ease that comes with meeting every six weeks for nigh on 40 years. She just laughs when he says: “I used to look forward to seeing her when she was younger. She was dressed to kill then.”

I ask Tom what makes my mum so good at her job. “She’s no a good saleswoman, it’s just the stuff that’s good,” he chimes. “If it’s good stuff a monkey could sell it.” Tom tells me that there used to be many more travelling sales people on the road, but my mum was only one of about three “wummin” reps. She nods: “You used to have to stand outside if there was somebody in because there was that many travellers. And that was every shop that you’d go into. There was no cash-and-carries then.”

A woman comes in with her grandchildren, here to buy sweets to take to her brother in Florida. Tom shoogles a jar to loosen the boilings, then comes a waterfall hitting the metal pan of the scales, first in one big crash, then softer as he gently tries to get the right weight. Bagging up some Rhubarb and Custards, Tom explains that men buy the gums, Sports Mixtures, Midget Gems. Women, he says, like fancy chocolates, chocolate creams, mint creams, Italian creams. “The generation under 18 – they’re not used to the hard stuff, the boilings. Young yins look at boiled sweets as if it’s poison if I let them try one. But old people love boilings – it’s helpful for their memories. They don’t mind of their husband, but they mind of the sweets.”

A customer comes in and knows what he wants: “Gie us a Mars Bar and an Aero furra dug.” Tom says he only has the pound Aeros. “That’ll dae,” says the man, unwrapping the bubbly chocolate for the animal tied to the lamppost outside.

I tell Tom our family had a strange relationship with the sweeties. They filled our house and our garage, the back seat and boot of the car and they acted as a kind of sticky Pied Piper, bringing children to loiter round our gateposts, hoping to score some of the samples of new lines or gone-soft toffees that were being sent back to the factory to be disposed off. But we – my dad and I – weren’t allowed to eat them. I remember the warnings: “You’ll get fat, you’ll rot your teeth,” which seemed ironic coming from the woman who made a living selling the bringer of such ruin. Resisting the temptation of the sweeties was my mum’s cardinal rule. “I don’t have a sweet tooth,” she says. “I never have done.”

Buchanan’s was a family business that began when a boy took 7lb jars of his mother’s home-made jam and sold them from a handcart around the Loch Lomondside village of Drymen. Soon the family bought a shop in Glasgow’s Argyle Street but, as Scotland’s addiction to sugar grew, they moved into sweet-making in 1856, producing their concoctions in a five-storey factory in the city centre. They were on to a winner: Scotland now consumes about 8oz of sweeties per week per head of population – the second-highest consumption in the world, beaten only by Northern Ireland. Here, there’s a preference for boilings over chocolate as you get more for your money.

These days Buchanan’s is part of the Golden Casket group, another family business, which operates out of Greenock, a port town on the Clyde coast once known as Sugaropolis because of the number of refineries that took the cane from ships coming from the Caribbean. Tate & Lyle, Walker’s and the other refineries have all gone now. The red sandstone Golden Casket factory is at Fort Matilda, the site of a former torpedo plant, and the very first time I heard its name it took on a mythical status for me. Like Charlie Bucket, I wished to visit the place where they made the world taste good. It took me more than three decades, but my mum’s imminent retirement brought me my golden ticket.

Driving down the M8 towards Greenock, my mum makes an odd confession: she’s never actually been on the factory floor. As we pull into the car park, the air around Fort Matilda smells of sugar, mint and lemons – it changes by the hour, depending on what’s being made inside. Mum is too nervous to notice: her legs are shaking. She’s carrying a box with six bottles of wine for the girls in the office but falls over as she makes for the entrance. She picks herself and the wine up as if nothing has happened. In the boardroom, The Boss, the fearsome Douglas Rae, is waiting for us and my mum is worried: “He’s a stickler for timekeeping.” The Boss is 80 years old, a whippet of a man who still goes out on the road selling, runs the company and holds down the chairmanship of Greenock Morton football club. He can’t believe my mum is walking away from his sweetie empire, so much so he has asked her to stay on for another five years.

“She’s good at the job and she’s too young to leave – that’s what I believe. Nowadays people can last for years. If people have lost their enthusiasm then I am glad to see them go,” he points to my mum’s face as he says this. “Look how it has kept her beautiful, it’s the rain that keeps you beautiful.” At the annual dinner dance, Mr Rae would present my mum with the salesperson of the year award almost every year. But what made her so good at this business? He thinks for a few seconds and says: “She’s a very strong character and she likes to have her own way. She’s a bit of a bully, she bullied all her customers – they were all afraid of her. They couldn’t say no. That’s a quality I admire.”

In the factory, the sweetness and noise is overwhelming; cream-coloured machines thump and judder and conveyor belts carry candy-striped jewels. Men in overalls, aprons, gloves, hats and wellies work between tables of fudge, toffee and tablet. In the boiling section, a batch of striped mint humbugs is being prepared. A man with giant scissors is cutting into a tray of molten sugar. There are 25kg bags of sugar lying all around and behind us two enormous copper boiling vessels are being filled with butter, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, glucose and “secret ingredients”.

“All the pans we have are open vessels because we believe traditional methods are by far the best,” says Crawford Rae, the production director, and son of Douglas. “The real secret is the methodology. That’s why big Gus is turning his back there so you won’t see what he’s trying to do. It’s all intellectual property, the staff are life members of a secret society and there are serious repercussions if they break that code.” As he stirs the toffee, Gus is laughing.

Some of the equipment dates back to the 1920s, but the hand-dropping method is no longer used for the toffees: times change and new contraptions take over. Last year a machine arrived from Italy and since then it has wrapped 61,489,606 sweets. I wonder how long it will be before hand-held computers make the travelling salesperson obsolete. The Boss looks aghast: “It’s not all the people that can download things on the computer. Unless you’re going to teach people things on the computer, the written word, I still believe, is the best.”

From Fort Matilda, we drive to the posh dormitory suburb of Giffnock to meet Willie Wark who, like his father and grandfather, worked for Buchanan’s all his life. Willie, who retired 16 years ago, says: “Long before the days of cars my grandfather would go to, say, Ayr railway station and there would be a traveller for sweets, somebody who sold cigarettes and somebody for biscuits and they hired a gig together and went trotting off round the wee villages in Ayrshire. And they used to stop outside a shop and they would toss up to see who went in first. They would stay away for a week, and they weren’t any further away from here than 20 miles. I bet it was faster with a horse and cart than it is these days.”

We head down towards the Brooklyn Café, which sits at a busy crossroads on Glasgow’s south side. Now, it is one of only 20 Italian cafés called on by my mother, when once she visited more than 80. This year, David Pelosi is celebrating the 80th anniversary of his family’s business and he shows me a picture of his Italian grandfather – a former organ grinder – standing proudly outside a window full of chocolate boxes and jars of sweets. “We had more sweets then,” he says. “Our stocks have diminished now as people buy from petrol stations and supermarkets. But jars are part of our history.”

Saying goodbye to my mum, David tells me he’ll miss her. “I take it a new rep will come in and we’ll build up a relationship with them. But it might go the way other companies have gone where the rep has less and less importance and we do more of it over the phone.”

Across the west side of the city, in Knightswood, Sunil Sood and his wife Fiona are waiting in their post office with a bottle of wine. Christine first called on Sunil’s father 25 years ago, moving on to each of his four sons as they opened up their own businesses. “From Hyndland to Crow Road, from Crow Road to Thornwood and from Thornwood to here, she’s been stalking me since 1986,” jokes Sunil, as he takes a pen and fills out the order form for 720 packets of boilings himself. I ask why he doesn’t just email it in. He looks astonished. “Because I need somebody to talk to, to have my cup of tea with and my biscuit.” As we walk out, Sunil shouts after my mum: “That’s you a senior citizen. Do you want a wee bus pass? I can process it right now for you.”

I think back to the factory and my mum staring in wonderment as the sweets popped off the conveyor belt at high speed and into the cooler. She didn’t look like a pensioner then. Her eyes were bright and wide, just like the kids in Tom Swan’s. I caught her reaching out and taking a sweetie from a conveyor belt, popping it in her mouth and chewing. She had broken her cardinal rule. “The toffees just looked too tempting not to take,” she said. She had such a naughty look on her face.

A Life in Sweeties will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on 28 December at 2pm © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Mars rover Curiosity poised for Nasa’s ‘most ambitious’ mission to planet

November 27, 2011

Mars Science Laboratory Rover vehicle 

Rover…Rover…come on over….wow..Mars is so far from us! Imagine..we may be living on the planet in the near future and reaching even further into space. What mysteries and surprises are waiting for us out there? Is there intelligent life on another planet? Will they be friendly? There are many questions still to be answered. The most exciting part of this entire event is the journey…Good Luck Curiosity!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Mars rover Curiosity poised for Nasa’s ‘most ambitious’ mission to planet” was written by Richard Luscombe, Cape Canaveral, for The Guardian on Thursday 24th November 2011 14.39 UTC

A vehicle the size of a small 4×4,is about to embark on a one-way 350m-mile trip costing $2.5bn to explore one of the solar system’s most intriguing destinations.

On Saturday, Nasa is dueto launch its Curiosity rover on what is the most ambitious mission yet to the red planet.

After years of delays and cost overruns, the US space agency believes the Mars Science Laboratory will provide vital scientific information and unprecedented knowledge of the planet’s hostile terrain.

First among the 23-month mission’s objectives is to see whether there is life on Mars, or, in Nasa’s words, “to assess whether the landing area has ever had, or still has, environmental conditions favourable to microbial life”.

Calling Mars the “Bermuda Triangle of the solar system; it’s the death planet”, Colleen Hartman, Nasa’s assistant associate director, reminded reporters at a pre-launch briefing that the US was the only nation to have landed robotic explorers on the planet and driven them around.

“Now we’re set to do it again,” she stated, before enthusing about the little vehicle which will emerge from the space pod as it nears the planet’s surface. “This rover is really a rover on steroids. It’s an order of magnitude more capable than anything we have ever launched to any planet. It will go longer, it will discover more than we could possibly imagine.”

Nasa temporarily surrendered its human spaceflight capability in July with the retirement of its shuttle fleet after 30 years, so has a lot riding on this mission. No doubt with dismay, it looked on as the Phobos-Grunt Martian probe launched earlier this month by Russia’s space agency was unable to leave Earth’s orbit due to a thruster malfunction.

The Mars adventure’s centrepiece is the six-wheel Mars Curiosity rover, three metres in length, twice as long and five times as heavy as Nasa’s twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity that this year ended eight-year missions.

Curiosity is scheduled to land on 6 August 2012 and spend one Martian year, or 98 Earth weeks, exploring the planet, travelling up to 200 metres a day. A mast-mounted camera will enable controllers on Earth to survey territory, decide on a destination and a route and navigate the vehicle’s way forward.

Although based on previous rovers, Curiosity has scientific instruments which are 10 times more powerful. It is the first which is able to drill, scoop and lift rocks and soil samples onboard for analysis, and it also has a powerful laser to vaporise rocks or other material from up to 7 metres away, so that a spectrometer can identifythe makeup.

A high-definition camera can resolve details finer than a human hair on rock, soil and possibe ice samples, a radiation detector essential to plan any future human mission, and a hydrogen detector that can probe up to 1 metre below the surface, seeking water as ice or encased in minerals.

Scientists selected the landing site, Gale crater, from a shortlist of 30 because they believe it has deposits left by water-carrying sediments, and also that a nearby mountain is rich in minerals which form in water. The rover will descend by parachute attached to a “sky crane” before being slowed by thrusters as it approaches the surface. It is then lowered from the crane in a harness: a novel landing method.

Tomorrow’s launch at 10.02am local time in Florida (3.02pm GMT) aboard an Atlas V has concerned some observers; the rocket has a nuclear element in its payload, a 4.8kg plutonium-238 dioxide batterywhich will power Curiosity on Mars.

Nasa rates the risk of a plutonium leak at one in 420 in the event of a launch accident, and says that 95% of fallout will be limited to the Canaveral base environment.

Scientists from Canada, Russia and Spain have contributed to the mission.

“Nasa is partnering more closely with international collaborators … in preparation for one day sending humans to Mars,” Dr Hartman said, adding mischievously: “I dearly hope I’ll still be alive to watch when that astronaut steps down the rung and puts her boot in the red regolith of Mars.”

Martian mission

Nasa’s exploration of Mars aims to find out whether life ever arose on the planet, to characterise its climate and geology, and prepare the way for human visits. The Mars Science Laboratory has eight specific tasks that will help answer some of these questions and broaden scientists’ knowledge of the planet:

• analyse and make an inventory of the organic carbon compounds on Mars.

• Record the chemical building blocks of life on the planet, including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur.

• Look for signs of biological processes at work, either now or in the past.

• Study the chemical, isotopic and mineralogical makeup of the Martian surface and the rocks and soil just beneath.

• Work out how its rocks and soils formed and what shaped them over time.

• Investigate how the Martian atmosphere evolved over the past 4bn years.

• Map where water and carbon dioxide appear, as solid, liquid or gas, and determine their cycles on the planet.

• Measure radiation levels on the planet’s surface, such as that from galactic cosmic radiation and streams of protons from the sun.

This article was amended on 24 November 2011. The original suggested that the rovers Spirit and Opportunity had both been abandoned. This has been corrected. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Genital warts vaccination to be offered to schoolgirls

November 25, 2011

Gardasil vaccine

Genital vaccination for school girls? That’s right the world continues to change…for the better or worst…it’s all depends on your point of view…can you pass the warts please or not..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Genital warts vaccination to be offered to schoolgirls” was written by Denis Campbell, health correspondent, for The Guardian on Thursday 24th November 2011 20.38 UTC

Schoolgirls across the UK will be offered immunisation against genital warts, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, in a move welcomed by doctors.

It will expand the existing vaccination against cervical cancer for 12- and 13-year-olds.

The change will take place at the start of the next school year in August and September 2012. All 12- and 13-year-old schoolgirls will be offered a vaccine called Gardasil, which protects against the two strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that cause 70% of cervical cancers and also two other strains that produce 90% of genital warts.

It will replace Cervarix, which has been used since immunisation began in 2008 but only offers protection against cervical cancer.

The drive against HPV has been successful. Latest official figures show that 77% of 12- and 13-year-olds, and 84% of 14- and 15-year-olds, have voluntarily received the full course of three HPV jabs, either at school or at their GP’s surgery – the highest uptake in the world.

Ministers have decided to make the switch after advice from their independent advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and studying evidence collated by the Health Protection Agency.

About 75,000 people a year in England are diagnosed for the first time with genital warts, but the total number of those developing it annually in the UK is around 161,000 people, once those who find that it has recurred despite treatment are included.

Professor David Salisbury, the government’s director of immunisation, said the switch had been made after examining new evidence from Australia where Gardasil had greatly reduced cases of genital warts among both girls and boys while preventing the same number of deaths a year from cervical cancer as Cervarix, estimated at 400.

“We looked at the science and we looked at the price. We have reflected the changes in scientific knowledge that has become available since last time. They are not huge changes – we still prioritise the prevention of cancer – but based on all these things the winner is Gardasil,” said Salisbury.

Dr Peter Greenhouse of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said the organisation was delighted by the news. He said that if 70% of girls continued to be immunised against HPV, “we should expect to see genital wart infections start to reduce in teenage girls within five years, and slightly later in boys.

“If we continue to vaccinate just 70% of 12- to-13 year-old girls, we can predict that genital warts should be eradicated in heterosexual women and men within 20 years, through the herd immunity effect,” he added.

Greenhouse said Gardasil should be made available to young gay men on their first visit to a sexual health clinic in order to protect them against anal and oral cancers as well as genital warts.

The Aids charity the Terrence Higgins Trust also welcomed the decision because “it makes sense in terms of improving women’s health and will also save the NHS millions.”

But the charity called on ministers to offer the vaccine to all boys to protect them against some male cancers.

A British Medical Association spokeswomen said: “The latest evidence shows that Gardasil has superior public health benefits and is more cost effective.:

Dr Tony Falconer, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “The quadrivalent vaccine will also protect against the strains of HPV that cause genital warts, which are unpleasant and the cause of much psychological distress for sufferers.”

The Health Protection Agency said: “Warts are a common sexually transmitted infection in the UK, and as a result of this decision we expect to see a reduction in the number of diagnoses over time.”

“We understand that the choice of the quadrivalent vaccine [Gardasil] in the UK followed a competitive tender. This tender was informed by a detailed scientific study comparing the two available vaccines against a range of criteria, including scientific qualities and cost effectiveness.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Big Bang Theory fuels physics boom

November 6, 2011

Big Bang Theory

People are now considering taking up physics as a subject in universities…perhaps the Bg Bang Theory show is motivating students or maybe physics is now  “cool” to do…whatever the reason, its refreshing to know that a comedy show is having a positive impact on education!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Big Bang Theory fuels physics boom” was written by Mark Townsend, for The Observer on Sunday 6th November 2011 00.08 UTC

A cult US sitcom has emerged as the latest factor behind a remarkable resurgence of physics among A-level and university students.

The Big Bang Theory, a California-based comedy that follows two young physicists, is being credited with consolidating the growing appetite among teenagers for the once unfashionable subject of physics. Documentaries by Brian Cox have previously been mentioned as galvanising interest in the subject.

One pupil, Tom Whitmore, 15, from Brighton, acknowledged that Big Bang Theory had contributed to his decision, with a number of classmates, to consider physics at A-level, and in causing the subject to be regarded as “cool”. “The Big Bang Theory is a great show and it’s definitely made physics more popular. And disputes between classmates now have a new way of being settled: with a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock,” he said.

Experts at the Institute of Physics (IoP) also believe the series is playing a role in increasing the number of physics students. Its spokesman, Joe Winters, said: “The rise in popularity of physics appears to be due to a range of factors, including Brian’s public success, the might of the Large Hadron Collider and, we’re sure, the popularity of shows like The Big Bang Theory.”

Alex Cheung, editor of, said: “There’s no doubt that TV has also played a role. The Big Bang Theory seems to have had a positive effect and the viewing figures for Brian Cox’s series suggest that millions of people in the UK are happy to welcome a physics professor, with a tutorial plan in hand, into their sitting room on a Sunday evening.”

According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), there was a 10% increase in the number of students accepted to read physics by the university admissons services between 2008-09, when The Big Bang Theory was first broadcast in the UK, and 2010-11. Numbers currently stand at 3,672. Applications for physics courses at university are also up more than 17% on last year. Philip Walker, an HEFCE spokesman, said the recent spate of popular televisions services had been influential but was hard to quantify.

The number studying A-level physics has been on the rise for five years, up 20% in that time to around 32,860. Physics is among the top 10 most popular A-level topics for the first time since 2002 – and the government’s target of 35,000 students entering physics A-level by 2014 seems likely to be hit ahead of schedule. It is a far cry from 2005 when physics was officially classified as a “vulnerable” subject.

The number of those entered for AS level has also increased, by 27.8% compared with 2009, up from 41,955 to 58,190. The number of girls studying physics AS-level has risen a quarter to 13,540 and of boys by 28.6% to 44,650.

A Twitter debate on whether Big Bang Theory had played a role in encouraging more potential physicists provoked mixed reactions. PhD student Tim Green wrote: “I’d say it’s more to do with economics and good science docs than sitcoms with only the vaguest relation to physics.” Markela Zeneli said: “I think the show is hilarious, and it may make physicists seem nerdy and geeky, but what’s so bad about that? ”

Winters identified another more prosaic reason for the rising popularity of physics. He said: “TV shows and news coverage of exciting research both have the power to inspire their audiences but we firmly believe, and all the evidence suggests, that only good physics teaching has the power to convert student’s latent interest into action.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Resveratrol pills may mimic effects of exercise and low-calorie diet

November 4, 2011


Resveratol has been known for some time to be of benefits to a healthy life-style. Recent studies have uncovered additional qualities that may encourage more persons to add resveratrol to their diets. Reducing blood sugar is a wonderful metabolic side effect that can benefit the millions of people diagnosed with diabetes. So perhaps resveratrol deserves a closer look at…..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Resveratrol pills may mimic effects of exercise and low-calorie diet” was written by Nic Fleming, for The Guardian on Tuesday 1st November 2011 16.08 UTC

Taking supplements of a substance found in grape skin can lower sugar and fat levels in the blood and reduce blood pressure, according to a small study.

Scientists who gave tablets containing purified resveratrol to obese men found it had some metabolic effects similar to those from exercise and calorie restriction, including lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Research in animals over the past decade has suggested the compound can slow the development of age-related diseases and increase lifespan. However, these studies have attracted growing criticism and have yet to be replicated in humans.

“The effects of resveratrol were modest but they consistently point towards beneficial metabolic adaptions,” said Prof Patrick Schrauwen of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who led the new study. Although the chemical is found naturally in grape skin and red wine, there is no suggestion that it would be possible to ingest enough of it from these sources to gain the beneficial effect.

Prof Schrauwen and colleagues gave 11 obese men either a daily 150mg resveratrol supplement or a placebo for 30 days. Four weeks later, the two groups swapped over so that those who took the supplements first time around were given placebos and vice versa.

Regular measurements showed resveratrol lowered blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity, as well as cutting triglycerides – fats found in the blood that can increase heart disease risk. Resveratrol also reduced both sleeping and resting metabolic rate and cut blood pressure.

Previous research has shown that calorie restriction can extend lifespan in laboratory animals. Some studies suggest it also offers protection from diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, though this remains controversial.

Calorie restriction works in a similar way to resveratrol, by triggering the production of a protein called SIRT1 which improves metabolic function and keeps cells healthy in the face of stress.

Muscle biopsies carried out by Prof Schrauwen’s team confirmed that participants taking resveratrol saw increased SIRT1 levels. They also strongly suggested the beneficial effects on metabolism were associated with improved functioning of mitochondria, the energy factories within cells.

“Healthy people are good at switching efficiently from using fat as an energy source to glucose in the blood when it becomes available,” said Prof Schrauwen. “The results of our pilot study tended to suggest that might be part of the link to the beneficial health effects of resveratrol, but that needs further study.”

The results are published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Prof Schrauwen, acknowledging that his sample size was small, said he was seeking funding for a larger and longer trial. “This is small, proof of principle study, but the results are so promising that I think it is important that we conduct a bigger study,” he said. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Aspirin cuts cancer risk in people with an inherited susceptibility

October 30, 2011


Taking aspirin seems to be getting more popular these days…that is good news for the pharmaceutical companies..but can also be good news for the rest of us…perhaps taking aspirin is not only good to take to lower the risk of an heart attack by thinning out the blood, but it may help us lower the risk of developing some types of cancers…only time will tell if this idea has any merit.. consult your physician before taking or adding any medication to your diet.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 


Some people with a family history of cancer could halve their risk of developing the disease by taking daily doses of aspirin, according to the results of a 10-year trial of the treatment.

The study shows that regularly taking the medicine cuts the risk of bowel cancer by more than 60% in those with a particular genetic predisposition to get the disease – as well as reducing the risk of other hereditary cancers.

Scientists who led the study said people with several family members with cancers other than breast, blood and prostate might be advised to start taking aspirin daily from the age of 45.

They said those without a family history of the disease might also consider doing so, but that they should make a personal assessment of the risks and benefits and get medical advice. Anyone thinking of taking the drug regularly should consult their doctor first.

Doctors already prescribe low, daily doses of aspirin to people at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, and evidence has been growing of anti-cancer properties for 20 years. However, this is the first long-term, randomised controlled trial to show such an effect.

The trial involved people with Lynch syndrome, a genetic abnormality that predisposes carriers to develop bowel cancer and other solid organ cancers including endometrial, ovarian, stomach, kidney, oesophageal, brain and skin tumours.

The condition affects at least one in 1,000 people. Carriers are around 10 times as likely to develop cancer and often do so at a young age.

Professor John Burn of Newcastle University, who led the study, estimated that if all 30,000 or so people with Lynch syndrome in the UK were to start taking two aspirin tablets a day then some 10,000 cancers would be prevented over the next 30 years, saving about a thousand lives. The downside of the treatment is that around an extra thousand people would develop stomach ulcers as a side-effect.

“People with a genetic susceptibility are a model system,” said Burn, whose work is published on Friday in the Lancet online. “They are more sensitive to the environmental triggers to cancer.

“If we can do something to change cancer progression in people at high genetic risk, then that’s telling us what we might all benefit. But we are not making a recommendation for the general population. Everyone can take this evidence and make their own choice.

“In between you have the people who have a family history [of cancer]. Those individuals may well decide to put themselves on aspirin and that would be a reasonable conclusion from the data currently available.”

Between 1999 and 2005, about half of a group of 861 Lynch syndrome carriers were given two aspirins (600mg) a day, while the rest took placebos.

By 2010 those who had taken aspirin for at least two years were 63% less likely to have developed bowel cancer.

Looking at all forms of the disease, almost 30% of those in the placebo group developed a Lynch syndrome-related cancer, compared with 15% for those given aspirin.

The most common side effects associated with taking aspirin are gastrointestinal ulcers and stomach bleeding. There is also an very small increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke, in which a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

There was no difference in the proportions of the study groups suffering such side-effects.

Burn added that he takes low-dose aspirin tablets as a preventative measure. “That was a balanced judgment based on weighing risks and benefits. I know I might get an ulcer or a cerebral bleed but I’d rather not have a heart attack, stroke or cancer. That’s my choice.”

Aspirin is a synthetic version of the active component of willow bark, salicylic acid, which has been used as a medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties for hundreds of years. Salicylates also trigger programmed cell death to help diseased plants contain the spread of infection.

“It’s not a huge stretch to think that if salicylate induces programmed cell death in plants to kill infected cells, maybe it’s doing similar things in the animal kingdom to enhance the death of aberrant cells causing cancer,” said Prof Burn.

“This adds to the growing body of evidence showing the importance of aspirin, and aspirin-like drugs, in the fight against cancer and emphasises how critical it is to carry out long-term international research,” said Prof Chris Paraskeva, a bowel cancer expert at the University of Bristol.

On Friday the researchers will launch a website to recruit 3,000 people with Lynch syndrome worldwide to take part in a five-year trial to determine the best dose of aspirin to take. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Breast screening is no longer a no-brainer

October 27, 2011

Breast cancer screening

When we speak about breast cancer our thought wonder to a female member or friend who have lost or won their battle. But it must be made clear that men as well, although rare, can develop breast cancer. One thing is clear is that rountine checks with your family can be life saving. So what are you waiting for? Make your appointment today and win the fight!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony    

Powered by article titled “Breast screening is no longer a no-brainer” was written by Sarah Boseley, for on Wednesday 26th October 2011 15.00 UTC

It may seem like a no-brainer to turn up at the breast-screening clinic when the summons falls through the letterbox. Most of us are scared of cancer. Most of us have heard that if you catch it early, there is more chance of a cure.

But for some years now, there has been a growing volume of dissent to this orthodoxy – and it hasn’t come from anti-medical campaigners, suspicious of toxic drugs. It has come from within the scientific community. Those who are asking the big question – is breast screening always a good thing? – are from a group with one of the best-respected scientific pedigrees. This is the Cochrane Collaboration, set up to weigh the totality of scientific evidence and tell us what really works and what does not.

They have been publishing their findings in top medical journals, such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal, and news organisations have run stories – but every time we have asked the NHS screening programme for a comment, the Cochrane findings have been summarily dismissed. Most scientists, we have been told, do not agree with the Cochrane researchers. Studies are cited that show screening saves lives.

I have felt for some time that there has been an element in all this of “don’t frighten the horses” and, personally, I think it underestimates – nay, insults – the intelligence of women. Screening is not like vaccination. We are not going to infect anybody else if we don’t go for breast screening. If a cancer is missed, it is an individual who suffers, not the population as a whole. But the information we are given in NHS screening leaflets, echoing the official rebuttal of the Cochrane studies, barely mentions any possible downsides to going along.

And, yes, there are downsides. Nobody disputes now that there is some “over-diagnosis” and “over-treatment”. What the X-rays show is often not much more than a tiny spot on a screen. Once upon a time, cancer doctors believed every one of those would, if left, turn into an aggressive cancer with the potential to kill. A couple of decades ago, the approach to breast cancer treatment was root and branch – a “Halsted” mastectomy, named after the surgeon who excised as much of the chest as he could in the belief that he was saving lives. That doesn’t happen any more – now surgery is conservative and as limited as possible. Doctors try to deliver the smallest, most effective, amount of surgery, drugs and radiotherapy because of the long-term damage they can cause.

But just as surgeons have backtracked on radical mastectomy, so now it may be time to backtrack on radical diagnosis. According to the Nordic Cochrane collaboration, not every spot on the X-ray will turn into aggressive cancer. Their statistical evidence – looking at the numbers of women screened in a big Swedish trial in the 1980s compared with those who were not – is that less cancers were found in those not screened. That is because, they believe, some early-stage cancers regress – they disappear again without causing any harm. Others, we know, grow so slowly that women will die at a ripe old age of something else.

Breast cancer treatment these days is very much better than when screening began. Survival rates are high. Urgent treatment of an invisible clump of mutant cells may not be necessary. Screening will always be important and should be available for those who want it – especially for women whose family history or other factors put them at high risk. But women should be told of the potential harms as well as benefits so they can make an informed choice – and where the X-ray picks something up, perhaps she can sometimes be given a waiting and watching option, as in men’s prostate cancer.

But whatever the outcome of the review announced by the government’s cancer director, Professor Sir Mike Richards, the most important thing is that it will have happened. Serious issues will be seriously discussed and women, many of them for the first time, will know that breast screening is not, in fact, just a no-brainer and that there are choices that can be made. Hopefully that will not be frightening, but empowering. Thank you, Sir Mike, for that. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Large dinosaurs migrated huge distances, say scientists

October 27, 2011

The sauropod dinosaur Camarasaurus

Imagine the size of these creatures when they once roamed the planet, some were feared and others admired by primitive man. But could large species have continued to thrived on such a small planet? Would have man evolved differently if the dinosaurs co-existed? As we now know, the world of the dinosaurs was an intriguing period as we continue to find more evidence through forensic science.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony    



Powered by article titled “Large dinosaurs migrated huge distances, say scientists” was written by Ian Sample, science correspondent, for on Wednesday 26th October 2011 17.00 UTC

The largest dinosaurs to walk the Earth may have embarked on seasonal migrations that covered hundreds of kilometres when local watering holes dried up and food became scarce.

Evidence that giant sauropods set off on epic journeys came to light when scientists examined fossilised teeth recovered from the remains of beasts unearthed in Wyoming and Utah in the US.

The analysis of 32 teeth belonging to two species of Camarasaurus, among the most common sauropods found in North America, suggests the creatures migrated during hot, dry summers, from their usual habitats on flood plains in search of food and water in surrounding uplands.

Some return journeys required the dinosaurs to cover distances of around 300 kilometres (190 miles) in each direction. The long-necked herbivores measured 20 metres from nose to tail in adulthood and weighed around 18 tonnes.

The arduous treks pushed the lumbering animals to their limit, and some appear to have died soon after returning to their lowland homes, before the rainy season brought fresh water to parched soils and vegetation flourished once more.

Understanding the ranges and seasonal movements of the animals will help scientists piece together the role of migrations on Jurassic ecology and any bearing this had on the evolution of gigantism among dinosaurs.

“The question of how sauropods got to be so big is one that is still being actively studied. There’s evidence that some of the reason is that they didn’t have the dental morphology to chew their food, so in order to get enough energy their guts got bigger, and they did more processing in their stomachs,” said Henry Fricke, head of geology at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, who led the study which is published in Nature.

“Migration could come into the story of gigantism as a feedback process. Once they started to get big, it would be easier for them to migrate and get more food more consistently, which would help them to grow even more,” he added. Moving long distances gets more energetically efficient the bigger strides a creature can take, so it would be highly inefficient for a mouse, for example, but much more efficient for a large dinosaur.

Fricke’s team attempted to reconstruct camarasaur migrations by measuring oxygen isotopes (variants of particular elements that have different numbers of neutrons in their nucleus) in their teeth. The work relied on the fact that ratios of two oxygen isotopes differ markedly in the waters of streams and lakes, depending on local environmental conditions, such as how high and arid the landscape was at the time.

The dinosaurs kept an unwitting record of these oxygen isotopes as they roamed the land, because the oxygen in the water they drank became incorporated into successive layers of enamel as their teeth developed.

Most of the teeth, from remains collected at Thermopolis in Wyoming and Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, were worn and retained only a month or two of enamel growth, but others were in far better condition with up to four or five months of enamel still intact.

The scientists analysed oxygen isotopes in the dinosaurs’ teeth and compared them with ancient soil samples from their lowland habitats and bordering uplands. From this, they pieced together the dinosaurs’ movements over several months of their lives, concluding that the beasts made seasonal migrations to the uplands. Studies of one tooth suggest the dinosaur left its lowland habitat to find food and water in the highlands and returned home within five to six months.

“What was up in the highlands food-wise we don’t know, the land is weathered away, but the conditions may not have been as hot and dry, and it may even have rained more continuously at the higher elevations,” Fricke said.

“This is a neat example of how we can bring geochemical methods to bear on an issue, how we can learn something about dinosaur behaviour that we can’t learn from looking at the morphology of the fossils themselves,” he added. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito cleared of murder

October 3, 2011

Amanda Knox found not guilty? A real surprise and outcome for one of the most watched murdered trial of the year. Was justice served? This verdict will no doubt have people discussing its details for years to come. Already offers of a movie deal are knocking at their doors and what about the murdered victim’s family?  How are they reacting to the new verdict…I suppose they are experiencing a deeper loss…re-living the emotions of losing their child…again…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito cleared of murder” was written by John Hooper and Tom Kington in Perugia, for The Guardian on Monday 3rd October 2011 21.19 UTC

There were scenes of delight inside and protests outside an Italian courtroom after judges upheld the appeal by the American student, Amanda Knox, against a 26-year sentence for killing her British flatmate, Meredith Kercher. The judges also overturned a 25-year sentence imposed on her Italian former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

A sobbing and stumbling Knox was hustled from the courtroom by police officers as members of her family embraced and wept. Sollecito hugged his lead counsel, Giulia Bongiorno. Across the courtroom, the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, stood alone while Stephanie Kercher, the victim’s sister, consoled her mother, Arline.

Outside, several hundred mainly young people had been gathering since late afternoon. As news of the verdict swept through the crowd, whistles erupted and then a chant went up of “Vergogna. Vergogna” – “Disgrace. Disgrace.”

As defence lawyers emerged from the courthouse, they were greeted with roars of disapproval from the mob, interspersed with the odd cheer.

One of Knox’s lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said his client would be released from prison immediately and spend the night with her family at a guesthouse outside Perugia. She is expected to leave for her home city of Seattle on Tuesday.

The first person to reach her after the verdict was announced was Dalla Vedova’s junior, Maria del Grosso. “She was terror-struck”, Del Grosso said. “If I had not held her, she would have fallen.”

The judges confirmed Knox’s conviction for slandering her former employer, Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, whom she initially accused of the murder, and increased her sentence from one to three years. But since she has already spent four years in jail, Knox was able to walk free.

The tension in court as the verdict was delivered exploded into gasps when the presiding judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, began by declaring that the American student’s appeal had been rejected, before adding that the rejection only applied to the slander charge.

Hellmann, who has a distinctively metallic voice, read out the verdict in the vaulted and frescoed 14th-century courtroom that has been the scene of an appeal swept by emotion, high tension and furious dispute.

The two professional and six lay judges reached their decision after 11 hours of deliberation having earlier heard final pleas from the two appellants. Moments after the verdict was announced Knox’s sister Deanna Knox gave a brief statement outside court. “We’re thankful that Amanda’s nightmare is over,” she said. “She has suffered for four years for a crime that she did not commit.”

Deanna paid tribute to her sister’s legal team. “Not only did they defend her brilliantly, but they also loved her. We are thankful for all the support we have received from all over the world – people who took the time to research the case and could see that Amanda and Raffaele were innocent. And last, we are thankful to the court for having the courage to look for the truth and to overturn this conviction.”

Francesco Sollecito, Raffaele Sollecito’s father said he had “allowed himself some tears”. Of Meredith Kercher, he said: “We will remember her with affection. I would have liked to talk to her relatives as well, as they have lost a daughter in a very cruel way. “But tonight, they [the court] have given me back my son.”

Earlier, in her final statement to the court, Knox, her voice quavering and never far from breaking down, said: “I want to go home, to my life. I don’t want to be deprived of my life, my future for something I have not done.”

Though the judges did not immediately disclose their reasoning, they are likely to have been heavily influenced by the report of experts appointed by the court to review the forensic evidence. In June, the independent experts decided that two pillars of the prosecution case were not reliably founded.

One was a trace of Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith Kercher’s bra clasp, which was found more than six weeks after the discovery of her body, and which the young Italian’s lawyer implied last week might have been planted. The experts said the DNA could have got there by contamination. The second key item of evidence was a kitchen knife, bearing Sollecito’s and Knox’s DNA, that the prosecution claimed was used to slash Kercher’s throat. The experts said a third sample of DNA was not necessarily that of the victim.

The Kerchers’ legal representative had earlier said the family would accept the ruling of the appeal court, as they had accepted that at the original trial. But speaking at a press conference in a Perugia hotel, they said the “brutal death” of the British student had been overlooked.

“I think Meredith has been hugely forgotten,” said Kercher’s sister, Stephanie, sitting alongside Kercher’s mother Arline and brother Lyle.

“It is very hard to find forgiveness at this time,” said Lyle Kercher. “Four years is a very long time but on the other hand it is still raw.

Within 90 days, the judges must submit their written verdict and the various parties will then have 45 days in which to take the case to Italy’s highest appeals court, the court of cassation. Under Italian law, the prosecution can lodge an appeal in the same way as the defence.

But it was expected that Knox would leave immediately for the US, and if the court of cassation were to reinstate the decision of the lower court, the authorities would have to seek her extradition.

The prosecutor who oversaw the inquiry, Giuliano Mignini, hinted more than once before the outcome that he might not seek a further ruling.

The defence argument was, from the beginning that the murder was committed during a break-in by a third person, Rudy Guede from the Ivory Coast. Guede has also been convicted, but is serving a lighter, 16-year sentence after opting for a fast-track trial. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Scientists behind the wasabi fire alarm win Ig Nobel prize

September 30, 2011


Spoof on the Nobel prize sounds like a fun time…honoring those with some very strange but entertaining research. For example an fire alarm system that sprays a mist of wasabi into the air…wow…now that could reanimate the dead…but I prefer to use wasabi the old natural way…with sushi…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Scientists behind the wasabi fire alarm win Ig Nobel prize” was written by Alok Jha, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Thursday 29th September 2011 23.30 UTC

How do you wake a deaf person in the middle of the night if there’s a fire? Squirt a cloud of wasabi at them, of course. For the Japanese researchers who came up with the horseradish-based alarm system, it was a lifesaving piece of work, but on Thursday night they entered the history books with the award of the Ig Nobel prize for chemistry.

Their research was one of 10 areas celebrated at the 21st Ig Nobel prizes at Harvard University. The awards, a spoof on the Nobel prizes, which will be announced next week, honour achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think”.

Other winners included researchers who looked at whether people make better decisions when they have a strong urge to urinate, whether yawning is contagious in tortoises, and an analysis of why people sigh.

The Japanese scientists and engineers who came up with the 50,000-yen (£400) wasabi alarm tried hundreds of odours, including rotten eggs, before settling on the Japanese condiment – a favourite of sushi lovers. Its active ingredient, allyl isothiocyanate, acts as an irritant in the nose that works even when someone is asleep. “That’s why [people] can wake up after inhalation of air-diluted wasabi,” said Makoto Imai of the department of psychiatry at Shiga University of Medical Science, one of the team that won this year’s Ig Nobel for chemistry.

Mirjam Tuk of the University of Twente, winner of the 2011 Ig Nobel for medicine, investigated how well we make decisions when faced with painful or stressful situations, such as a powerful need to urinate. She found that people who are better at resisting the urge to urinate are also better at controlling their impulses on cognitive tasks. For example, her subjects were stronger-willed when it came to resisting a small reward promised for tomorrow, in order to receive a bigger reward further in the future.

Tuk’s work is part of a bigger question examining self-control. She shared her award with a team of American scientists that included Professor Peter Snyder, a neurologist at Brown University. “We did not expect this honour, but we are pleased by it,” he said. “We are most pleased because the goal of the awards is to nurture and increase interest in science by the public (particularly for students). It is important to show that science can be fun and entertaining, as well as important.”

Karl Teigen of the University of Oslo, winner of this year’s Ig Nobel in psychology, was celebrated for a paper that considered the question: why do we sigh? He wanted to give his students a project that would teach them about the research method. “We decided to choose a theme where we could do original work, and it turned out – to our surprise – that in psychology there were no empirical studies on sighs and sighing.”

They discovered that most people believe others’ sighs are a sign of sadness or disappointment. But they reported that their own feeling when they sighed was more often resignation. How did Teigen react to the award? “Surprise. Embarrassment. Amusement. A sneaking pride. And then, of course, I sighed.”

Academic research is often seen as trivial when viewed from the outside, he added. “It must be allowed to make fun of scientists, because they have a lot of fun themselves.”

Dr Anna Wilkinson of the University of Lincoln, winner of the 2011 Ig Nobel in physiology, spent six months training a red-footed tortoise called Alexandra to yawn on command. She then used the trained tortoise to work out whether other tortoises would yawn whenever Alexandra did.

Contagious yawning is common in humans and scientists think it might be controlled by empathy, since it requires an understanding of the emotional state of another individual to “catch” a yawn.

“With tortoises we’ve found evidence of social learning, fantastic spatial cognition and brilliant visual perception, so we wanted to know what else can they do,” said Wilkinson. “I thought it would be really interesting to test one of these high-level hypotheses with a species which, it is very clear, do not possess empathy.”

Her tortoises, however, showed no evidence of contagious yawning. The result lends weight to the idea that the behaviour is indeed controlled by higher-level cognitive mechanisms.

Other winners included a team of French and Dutch researchers who were given the physics Ig Nobel for studying why discus throwers become dizzy whereas hammer throwers do not. The world’s doomsayers – including Harold Camping – who have predicted the end of the world on various dates were collectively awarded the mathematics Ig Nobel “for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations”.

Almost all the winners turned up to collect their awards and make 60-second speeches at the ceremony in Boston. They were handed their trophies by real-life Nobel laureates including Prof Roy Glauber (physics, 2005), Prof Dudley Herschbach (chemistry, 1986) and Prof Louis Ignarro (physiology or medicine, 1998).

Ignarro was himself given away in a competition to win a date with a Nobel laureate.

Marc Abrahams, the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, a regular Guardian writer and the founder of the prizes, ended the ceremony with his customary congratulations: “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel prize tonight – and especially if you did – better luck next year.”

2011 Ig Nobel prizewinners

Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl and Ludwig Huber for their study ““No evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria“.

Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

Mirjam Tuk, Debra Trampe and Luk Warlop, and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder, Robert Feldman, Robert Pietrzak, David Darby and Paul Maruff for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things – but worse decisions about other kinds of things – when they have a strong urge to urinate.

Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

John Perry of Stanford University for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which states: “To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important.”

Daryll Gwynne and David Rentz for discovering that certain kinds of beetle mate with certain kinds of Australian beer bottle.

Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru and Herman Kingma for trying to determine why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don’t, in their paper “Dizziness in discus throwers is related to motion sickness generated while spinning”.

Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of Korea (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Shoko Asahara of Japan (who predicted the world would end in 1997), Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on 6 September 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on 21 October 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running over them with a tank.

Public safety
John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Good year for spiders sparks a surge of arachnophobia

September 19, 2011

Tegenaria gigantea common house spider

Spiders are usually the least loved of the when you fear spiders, think of the word arachnophobia ..but they serve an important link in the chain of life…most important they help keep the insect population at bay…without them ..we would have a bigger problem of controlling those pesky mosquitos…so think twice before passing that duster along corner walls!

Pass it on

Dr Anthony

This article titled “Good year for spiders sparks a surge of arachnophobia” was written by Tracy McVeigh, for The Observer on Saturday 17th September 2011 23.04 UTC

Spiders are a less than welcome seasonal sight for many. But, along with apples, conkers and reddening leaves, autumn brings out Britain’s arachnids in huge numbers.

The bad news, for those who don’t like them, is that this year there are more than ever. A warm spring followed by a wet summer means the eight-legged blighters are everywhere, spinning webs in the garden, getting stuck in the bath and tottering across bedroom ceilings.

That’s just the male spiders, which can be seen running around as colder temperatures send them indoors to seek shelter. The females are inside already but stay fairly still and generally out of sight on skirting boards, so the bad news for arachnophobics is that there are even more of them around than it first appears.

“What’s happened is that the warm spring brought an influx of pollen, so that encourages an influx of insects and crane flies and all the rest of the feeding chain. So it’s more food for spiders and more of the babies from last year survive,” said Angela Hale, a spider expert at Drusillas Animal Park in Alfriston, East Sussex. Along with zoos in Bristol and London, Drusillas is being inundated with calls about its courses on tackling spider phobias, and reports of strange spiders in gardens and homes.

“People suddenly start seeing big spiders everywhere and think they have some exotic breed on their hands. But the reality is that at this time of year they are mating and are pregnant. So you are seeing the males scuttling around looking for the females and then you have the females with great bulbous bodies full of eggs. But they are not a strange foreign spider, they are just pregnant and that makes their bodies not only swollen but also clumsy, so they tend to be again more visible.”

Hale, who is secretary of the British Tarantula Society and keeps between 150 and 200 pet spiders, says they are essential to the ecosystem. “If we didn’t have spiders we’d be inundated with all the flies and others things they eat for us. And then there are the birds, like the wren, which feed on spiders. This year’s abundance of spiders will all work out in the end.”

Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias in the UK, but also the most irrational as no native British spider is capable of causing serious harm. While all spiders carry poison, most British species have jaws too weak to pierce human skin and those that are able to bite do so rarely and usually painlessly.

The latest research, from the University of Queensland, now suggests that even in Australia, where spiders can be deadly, people aren’t born afraid, but learn their fear from others.

Spiders typically like dark, unswept, dusty corners, and will often stay under floorboards. Contrary to popular myth, they are not especially fond of baths, but just can’t get out once they are in.

Britain is home to some 650 species but only one is harmful to humans, the noble false widow, which can deliver a nasty nip.

According to Alan Stubbs of Buglife, a conservation charity for invertebrates, people should cherish the influx of spiders. “Instead of being squeamish, look at how much they do for us, eating the flies. We are possibly the most arachnophobic country in the world but we have no reason to be. I think people are scared because they run so fast, but they are harmless. My wife and I have names for the ones in our house.”

Buglife recently ran a campaign called Love Spiders, which saw a host of celebrities extolling the virtues of the much maligned creatures, and Stubbs appealed to people not to kill spiders they find in their house.

“They don’t do you any harm. Leave them alone and they’ll catch flies and be happy just doing their own thing. If you don’t like looking at them then just have a look at a web with the dew on it and wonder why we bother with the Turner prize when nature can create such a wonderful thing.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Testosterone drops when men become fathers

September 17, 2011

Gymnast on the rings

More attention should be given to testosterone levels of men throughout their lives. There are many symptoms associated with decreased testosterone levels …one example is depression…many men diagnosed with clinical depression were found to have low levels of this hormone..but once testosterone injestions were administered by qualified physcians…symptoms of depression get your testosterone checked out…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Testosterone drops when men become fathers” was written by Ian Sample, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 12th September 2011 19.00 UTC

The hormone that defines the male of the species slumps dramatically when men become fathers, researchers have found.

Blood tests on 624 men in the Philippines revealed that levels of testosterone dropped substantially over a five year period in those who had children.

Men who devoted at least three hours a day to child care had even less testosterone, suggesting that looking after dependent children helped suppress the hormone. Testosterone is responsible for the male body shape, the distribution (and loss) of hair and a man’s sex drive.

Previous studies have shown that fathers tend to have lower testosterone, but it was unclear whether men with reduced levels were more likely to have children, or whether parenthood pushed testosterone down.

“It’s not the case that men with lower testosterone are simply more likely to become fathers,” said Lee Gettler, an anthropologist at Northwestern University in Illinois. “The men who started with high testosterone were more likely to become fathers, but once they did, their testosterone went down substantially.”

Christopher W. Kuzawa, a co-author on the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said fathers seemed “biologically wired” to help raise children.

“To see dramatic changes in response to family life is intriguing,” said Allan Pacey, an andrologist at Sheffield University. “The observations could make some evolutionary sense if we accept the idea that men with lower testosterone levels are more likely to be monogamous with their partner and care for children. However, it would be important to check that link between testosterone levels and behaviour before we could be certain.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Chemotherapy breakthrough could could dramatically reduce side-effects

September 13, 2011

Kim Cattrall has chemotherapy in Sex and the City

Progress is being made in cancer research…side effects experienced by patients during chemotherapy can be reduced or even eliminated in the near future…a better delivery system of introducing anti-cancer therapy can also leave healthy cells intact…the “smart bomb” is here…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony



Powered by article titled “Chemotherapy breakthrough could could dramatically reduce side-effects” was written by Alok Jha, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Sunday 11th September 2011 23.01 UTC

Cancer researchers have developed a “smart bomb” treatment that can target tumours with drugs while leaving healthy body cells intact. The technique means that patients will suffer fewer side-effects from the toxic drugs used in chemotherapy.

The side-effects of cancer therapy – including hair loss, nausea and suppression of the immune system – can be debilitating. In many cases, the effects of the drugs can contribute to the ultimate cause of death.

In experiments on mice, Laurence Patterson of the University of Bradford found that he could localise a cancer drug to the site of tumours and thereby limit its toxic impact in the body. All the animals, which had been implanted with human cancer cells responded to the targeted treatment and saw their tumours shrink. In half the animals, the tumours disappeared altogether. Professor Patterson will present his work at the British Science Festival in Bradford on Monday.

“We’ve got a sort of smart bomb that will only be active in the tumour and will not cause damage to normal tissue,” he said. “It’s a new cancer treatment that could be effective against pretty much all types of tumour – we’ve looked at colon, prostate, breast, lung and sarcoma so far, and all have responded very well to this treatment.”

The drug is based on a modified version of an existing cancer drug called coltrazine. In normal situations, this drug is delivered as part of a patient’s chemotherapy regime and, in addition to attacking cancer cells, it can kill healthy cells, too. “There are many agents currently used in the clinic for the treatment of cancer that are essentially poisons,” said Patterson.

“Normal chemotherapy can often be the cause of death of the patient as opposed to dying from the tumour growth itself. Any treatment that is a poison that can be retained and is only active in the tumour is clearly very attractive.” Patterson’s team has designed a way to make the coltrazine active only when it comes into contact with a tumour. They did this by attaching a string of specific amino acids to the coltrazine, which made the drug inert. In this state, it can wander through the body freely and will not kill any cells it comes into contact with. But when the drug reaches the site of a solid tumour, the chain of amino acids is removed by an enzyme present on the surface of the cancer, called MMP-1. At this point, the coltrazine becomes active and can do its work in killing nearby cells.

MMP1 is used by tumours to break down the cellular environment around itself and to enable the tumour to dig a path through normal tissue. It also gives the tumour access to nutrients and oxygen by encouraging the normal blood supply of a person to grow towards it. “If you can starve that tumour of that blood supply, then you shut off its ability to grow and move around the body,” said Patterson.

In the experiments, he said, all the mice responded to the treatment. “Sometimes, the treatment is so effective, you remove the ability of that tumour to grow – you appear to cure the mouse. In some studies, we were able to cure half the mice: these animals no longer had any tumour growing in them and they appeared healthy for the 60 or so days of the trial.”

An important use of the technique is that it can reach tumours that have spread throughout the body.

Paul Workman, head of cancer therapeutics at the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “This is an interesting new approach to targeting tumour blood vessels that solid cancers need for their growth. The project is still at quite an early stage, but the results so far look promising in the laboratory models that have been studied. If confirmed in more extensive laboratory studies, drugs based on this approach could be very useful as part of combination treatments for various cancers.”

The Bradford scientists hope that, with adequate funding, their drug delivery system could enter phase 1 clinical trials on people within 18 months. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Fifteen minutes’ exercise a day can boost life expectancy

August 17, 2011


Get up fom the sofa and get going on an exercise program that will help reduce overall body fat and lower that cholesterol before you begin having health problems. I am sure you can 15 minutes a day in your busy schedule. Remember before starting any sort of exercise program consult your family physician and start slowly. Take control of your health and the payoff will be a longer enjoyable life with your loved ones.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Fifteen minutes’ exercise a day can boost life expectancy” was written by Maev Kennedy, for on Tuesday 16th August 2011 10.49 UTC

A cheering piece of research suggests that just 15 minutes of exercise a day – half the recommended amount in the UK – can boost life expectancy.

A study in Taiwan, reported in The Lancet, tracked more than 400,000 men and women over 12 years, and showed significant benefits from 15 minutes a day or 90 minutes a week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking. The UK government currently recommends that adults get 150 minutes of exercise a week.

The Taiwanese study found that compared with the inactive group in the study, the exercisers had a three-year longer life expectancy, and reduced their mortality risk by 14%.

Dr Chi-Pang Wen, lead author of the study, told ABC News that 30 minutes a day for five or more days a week remained the golden rule, but half that could still be very beneficial. “Finding a slot of 15 minutes is much easier than finding a 30-minute slot in most days of the week.”

The researchers also found that people who did some exercise tended to get a taste for it and do more – every additional 15 minutes reduced all cause death risks by another 4%.

England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, told the BBC the study would remind people there were many ways of getting exercise, “activities like walking at a good pace or digging the garden can count too”. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Melting Arctic ice releasing banned toxins, warn scientists

July 24, 2011

Melting Arctic ice releasing banned toxins

It’s bad enough that the Arctic ice caps are melting, but the idea there has been toxic contamination in these areas and this contamination is being released into the marine life waters is more disturbing to me.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Melting Arctic ice releasing banned toxins, warn scientists” was written by Damian Carrington, for The Guardian on Sunday 24th July 2011 17.00 UTC

The warming of the Arctic is releasing a new wave of toxic chemicals that had been trapped in the ice and cold water, scientists have discovered.

The researchers warn that the amount of the poisons stockpiled in the polar region is unknown and their release could “undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to them”.

The chemicals seeping out as temperatures rise include the pesticides DDT, lindane and chlordane, made infamous in Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, as well as the industrial chemicals PCBs and the fungicide hexachlorobenzene (HCB).

All of these are know as persistent organics pollutants (Pops), and are banned under the 2004 Stockholm convention.

Pops can cause cancers and birth defects and take a very long time to degrade, meaning they can be transported for long distances and accumulate over time. Over past decades, the low temperatures in the Arctic trapped volatile Pops in ice and cold water.

But scientists in Canada and Norway have discovered that global warming is freeing the Pops once again. They examined measurements of Pops in the air between 1993 and 2009 at the Zeppelin research station in Svalbaard and Alert weather station in northern Canada.

After allowing for the decline in global emissions of Pops, the team showed that the toxic chemicals are being remobilised by rising temperatures and the retreat of the sea ice, which exposes more water to the sun. For example, air concentrations of PCBs and HCBs have shown a rising trend from about 2004 onwards. The scientists’ work is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Hayley Hung, at the air quality research division of Environment Canada and one of the team, said their work provided the first evidence of the remobilisation of Pops in the Arctic. “But this is the beginning of a story,” she said. “The next step is to find out how much is in the Arctic, how much will leak out and how quickly.”

Hung said, with the exception of lindane, there was little existing knowledge of the scale of the Pops stored in high latitude regions.

The fate of the frozen Pops depends on the speed of warming in the Arctic – it is currently heating up much more quickly than lower latitudes – as well as how the chemicals interact with snow and rain.

Pops accumulate in fats and are therefore concentrated up the food chain, but Hung cautions that food chains themselves in the Arctic may be altered by climate change. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Over 65s who take more than one medicine should consult their doctors

June 24, 2011

Pharmaceutical pills

There’s a pill for every ailment that exists but we need to be careful not to take a combination of medications that could prove to be lethal. All too often an individual may have 2 or 3 doctors that may be prescribing a regiment of medications..we need to stop taking so much medicine…unfortunately these doctors are not consulting with each other. Patients are also not informing their doctors of all medications being prescribed. Tell your physician about all medications you are talking…and if possible ..eliminate those that are not needed..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony   

Powered by article titled “Over 65s who take more than one medicine should consult their doctors” was written by Alok Jha, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Friday 24th June 2011 06.00 UTC

The combined side-effects of commonly-used drugs can increase the risk of death and brain impairment in people over 65, according to a study of more than 13,000 people. Researchers have urged people who are taking a combination of medicines to review their intake with their doctors in light of the findings.

The study was part of the Medical Research Council’s Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies project and looked at a specific class of commonly used drugs being taken by people over 65 over a two-year period.

“The sort of drugs we’re looking at are used in allergies, depression, cardiac disease, bladder disease, pain relief and sometimes in anti-coagulation, very common drugs, some prescribed, some over the counter,” said Chris Fox, clinical senior lecturer at Norwich Medical School who led the research.

The list includes over-the-counter medicines such as Piriton and Nytol, and the anti-depressant paroxetine, used in Seroxat.

Fox rated the activity of different drugs on a messenger chemical in the brain on a three-point scale, with 0 for no effect and 3 for a severe effect. The results, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, showed that around 20% of those people who took a regimen of drugs that scored more than 4 on the scale had died in the two years of the study, compared with only 7% of those not taking any medication in the drug class. “For every extra point scored, the odds of dying increased by 26%,” said Fox. “We found it was a cumulative risk – not just the severity of the blockade but the number of drugs as well.”

Ian Maidment, a pharmacist at Kent and Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust, said that many doctors, nurses and pharmacists may not be aware that these medicines have these problems and cited overuse of drugs as one of the factors adding to the cumulative burden on people over 65. “Often you see anti-histamines, which have a high burden, for hay fever and they are continued in the depths of winter when there is snow on the ground. The problem is that someone with dementia can’t say, ‘I don’t need anti-histamine,’ so it’s continued when it’s not needed.”

Participants in the study who were taking drugs with a combined score of more than 5 also showed cognitive decline – they scored more than 4% lower in cognitive function tests compared with those who were taking no anticholinergic drugs.

“The message here is for doctors to regularly review the medication of your older patients,” said Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society. “The message to patients is to ask, when you’re given medication, the pharmacist if what you’re buying at the counter has any side-effects and may be bad in combination with the other drugs you take..”

Professor David Nutt, president of the British Neuroscience Association and vice-president of the European Brain Council, said that the negative effects of this class of drugs on brain and cardiac function had been known for decades and the latest study reinforced the dangers.

Dr Tim Chico, an honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, added that all drugs had possible side effects, but the new results should not lead anyone to stop current medications without discussing this with their doctor first. “Before starting any drug, it is important for the doctor and patient to discuss the possible benefits of the treatment, compared with the potential downsides, so that the patient can make an informed decision. As a cardiologist, many of the drugs I use (such as beta-blockers) have been definitely proven to make people with heart disease live longer, so it’s important to balance these proven benefits against the risk of side effects.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Black students say they feel left out by ‘white cliques’ at universities

May 22, 2011

Black Science Summer School

Black students are still being left out in areas priviledged to whites…is racism continuing to prevent their progress? 

That’s my comment…pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Black students say they feel left out by ‘white cliques’ at universities” was written by Jeevan Vasagar Education editor, for The Observer on Saturday 21st May 2011 23.06 UTC

University coursework should be marked anonymously to deal with concerns that potential bias against a “foreign-sounding name” can cost students marks, a report by the National Union of Students recommends.

The report also urges universities to minimise “eurocentric bias” when drawing up curriculums. “This is critical, not only to demonstrate to black students that their learning reflects their own experience, but to promote understanding among their white peers,” it states.

It is standard practice for universities to assess exams anonymously because of concerns about preconceptions relating to race, sex or previous knowledge of a candidate, but the NUS report calls for anonymity to be extended across all “assessment procedures”, which would include coursework.

The NUS – which accepts that it is not possible to keep every form of assessment, such as presentations by drama students, anonymous – is also urging universities to address concerns about bias by having any contested work reassessed by a different lecturer.

The report, Race for Equality, is based on a survey of 900 students with African, Asian and Caribbean backgrounds. The survey found that, while most students were positive about their institutions, 23% described the universities they attended as “cliquey” and 7% as “racist”. There was also widespread frustration that courses did not reflect non-white backgrounds and views.

A third of black students felt unable to bring a perspective based on their race to tutorials. One student quoted in the report, published today, criticised the university they attended for “not being able to express or hear [our] own experience in learning – especially with a discipline as subjective as English, being told ‘you are wrong’ at the slightest transgression from the norm”.

Many of the students surveyed called for more diverse perspectives in areas such as history, arts and politics. One said: “Britain colonised most of the world and played a heavy role in the slave trade. How can you understand contemporary Britain without acknowledging this history or understanding how the rest of the world shaped it?”

The survey also found that some black students believe they are being “actively excluded” from the Russell Group of leading universities because of institutional racism in the application process. However, others blamed the scarcity of black students at the most prestigious institutions on class, and a lack of achievement at school.

Among black students, just 9.6% achieved the top grades required for entrance to Oxford or Cambridge in 2007, compared with 23% for white students.

The report says: “While widening participation efforts in the last few decades has been successful, these need to extend beyond simply increasing the quantity of students accessing [higher education] towards ensuring that black students are also able to access quality institutions.”

The report notes that in 2007-08, London Metropolitan University accepted 6,115 black students, “almost as many as the 7,815 black students spread between the 20 universities of the Russell Group”.

Some respondents to the survey and the focus groups that accompanied it said they had chosen to attend institutions that were ethnically diverse to minimise the chances of experiencing racism.

The report adds: “There was also a perception among respondents that the probability of experiencing racism in a Russell Group institution would be higher, as there would be fewer black students in these institutions, making the black students who study there more vulnerable.”

Universities should create a “bespoke website” for prospective black students, which could include testimonies from their students and details of support systems and extracurricular activities, the report suggests.

Nearly one in six – 16% – of those who responded to the survey said they had experienced racism in their current educational institution. The proportion was lowest among those aged under 20 – 14% – and highest among mature students. The survey finds that 29% of those aged 40 and over had experienced racism. International students were also more likely to view their academic environment as racist.

The NUS president, Aaron Porter, said: “We have a long way to go to close the participation gap for black students in education. If black students feel unwelcome in classrooms, this must be addressed by tackling the very real racism that still exists on our campuses.

“This report highlights the work that must be done by institutions and government to address the concerns of black students about their learning environment, how their courses are taught, and how their unique perspectives can be brought into the academic environment.”

The survey also found that almost one in three students, 32%, did not trust their institution to deal with complaints fairly. Two-thirds of respondents who had made a complaint were dissatisfied with how it was handled. They cited a range of reasons, including the procedure being too time-consuming or the complaint being ignored.

Some of those who responded to the survey believed that academic staff “stick together” and that making a complaint could therefore jeopardise their prospects. One student said: “It’s staff against you, and your degree is on the line, so you don’t feel like doing anything further that would rock the boat, especially when the person is responsible for marking your work and arranging your placements.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Obesity in middle age increases risk of dementia

May 16, 2011


A discovery of the master switch gene(KLF14) linking diabetes and obesity related diseases has been found by scientists (go to for more information)…wow I say that is great news….perhaps this can give us a clearer picture and perhaps a cure for metabolic diseases in the future…keep you fingers crossed….below is an article linking dementia and diabetes…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Obesity in middle age increases risk of dementia” was written by Alok Jha, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 2nd May 2011 19.00 UTC

People who are obese in middle age are at almost four times greater risk of developing dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease in later life than people of normal weight, according to a study released today.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, examined data on more than 8,500 people over the age of 65. Of the sample, 350 had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia and a further 114 had possible dementia.

Scientists used records of the participants’ height and weight in the decades before and found that those who had been overweight in middle age had a 1.8 times (80%) higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia in later life. But for obese people, classified as those having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, the risk soared. People with midlife obesity had an almost four times (300%) higher risk of dementia.

“Currently, 1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50% of adults in the US and Europe fit into this category,” said Weili Xu of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, who led the research. “Our results contribute to the growing evidence that controlling body weight or losing weight in middle age could reduce your risk of dementia.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, around 750,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, more than half of those with Alzheimer’s. By 2021, a million people will be living with dementia.

Obese people are classified as those with BMI greater than 30, overweight people are those with a BMI between 25 and 30. Between 20 and 25 is classified as normal. Almost 30% of those in the study, 2,541 in total, had been either overweight or obese between 40 and 60 years of age.

“Although the effect of midlife overweight on dementia is not as substantial as that of obesity, its impact on public health and clinical practice is significant due to the high prevalence of overweight adults worldwide,” said Xu.

Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This robust study adds to the large body of evidence suggesting that if you pile on the pounds in middle age, your chances of developing dementia are also increased.By eating healthily and exercising regularly, you can lessen your risk of developing dementia. Not smoking and getting your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly is also very important.”

Xu agreed that healthy living in middle age can help to reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia in later life and added that a person’s experience of education also played a role in the rate of decline of the brain. “Based on this data, every one year in higher education is associated with about 10% reduced risk of overweight and obesity, and 8% decreased risk of dementia.”

Exactly how excess weight can influence the degradation of the brain is not certain, but Xu said there could many possible mechanisms. “Higher body fat is associated with diabetes and vascular diseases, which are related to dementia risk,” she said.

In addition, fatty tissue is the largest hormone-producing organ in the body and it can produce inflammatory molecules which may affect cognitive functioning or the process of neurodegeneration.

Sorensen said that further research was needed to find the links between being overweight and dementia. “One in three people over 65 will die with dementia, yet research into the condition is desperately underfunded.”

The Alzheimer’s Society has launched the Drug Discovery programme, which it says could lead to new treatments for dementia within a decade. Scientists will screen compounds that have already been licensed for other conditions, to see if they have any effect on the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said not enough clinical trials for dementia were taking place in the UK. “We need £4,000 every day for the next 10 years for the first phase of this groundbreaking initiative, and we are asking all those concerned with dementia to help us raise this. Together, we can transform hundreds of thousands of lives.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

The view from a broad: do the SlutWalk

May 10, 2011


No means no…respect each other…view from a guy…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “The view from a broad: do the SlutWalk” was written by Laura Barton, for The Guardian on Tuesday 10th May 2011 08.01 UTC

✤ These are exciting and inspiring times: after the blossoming of the Hollaback! movement – an initiative to fight street harassment via crowd-sourcing, we have now entered the mighty age of the SlutWalk. The inaugural SW took place in Toronto last month. Some 3,000 marchers were motivated by the controversial comments made by a police officer in a lecture to law school students on the subject of personal safety. “Women,” he told them, “should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.” The effect has been incendiary: in cities across North America, from Arizona to Wisconsin, Oregon to Illinois, they have marched, and now the world follows suit: Sweden, Argentina, Australia, with SlutWalks scheduled for London, Los Angeles and Amsterdam on 4 June. The message is simple: sexual assault is an act of violence by the perpetrator, and not ever something inspired, occasioned or asked for by the victim – no matter what she or he is wearing, or how she behaves.

✤ This vaguely brings us to Beyoncé. Like many, I was rather touched by YouTube footage of the singer’s surprise visit to a school in Harlem to take part in a dance class as part of the Let’s Move campaign to encourage fitness and tackle childhood obesity. But I was shocked to find that the comments beneath it formed a vile pit of misogyny, with many accusing these young girls of dancing like “whores” and, indeed, “sluts”. As a brief aside, let us remember that Ms Knowles’s latest song is Run the World (Girls). Some days this seems more of a pipe dream than others.

✤Lastly, we are delighted to learn that grrl has entered the Collins Official Scrabble Words guide. I think that means we run the Scrabble board too, right Beyoncé? 

Placard-waving Hollabacker? Triple-word scoring slut? Do join us on the blog at © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers