Some types of vegetarian diet can raise heart disease risk

Researchers divided diets into 'healthful' and 'unhealthful' categories

“Being vegetarian isn’t always healthy: Plant-based diet may raise the risk of heart disease,” the Daily Mail reports. A US study found a vegetarian diet based on less healthy food options, such as refined grains, could increase the risk of heart disease.

The researchers behind the latest study made the point that many previous diet and health studies “lumped together” all types of vegetarian diets as plant-based, without considering the actual content of specific diets. And not all plant-based diets are healthy and nutritious.

The researchers looked at data involving 200,000 health workers from the US and tried to analyse any link between diet and coronary heart disease.

Overall a high plant-based diet wasn’t linked with a clear benefit for heart disease risk compared with a low plant-based/high meat-based diet.

When the plant-based diets were broken down and analysed further, the researchers found interesting differences.

Those eating a “healthy” plant-based diet high in wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats were less likely to get heart disease than people eating “unhealthy” plant-based diets including foods like potatoes, refined grains and sweets.

While the study can’t rule out the possibility that other health and lifestyle factors such as stress, job type and education could have influenced the links, the association between unhealthy plant-based diets and heart disease is plausible.

The diet advice for vegetarians is the same for everyone else: eat a balanced diet with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, eat less sugar, salt, and saturated fat, and choose wholegrain carbohydrates where possible.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, AbbVie (a pharmaceutical company), and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, all in the US. It was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, US Department of Agriculture/Blueberry Highbush Council and the California Walnut Commission, and Metagenic. One author has served on the Scientific Advisory Committees of IKEA, Take C/O, and SPE, and another is also an employee of AbbVie.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The Daily Mail’s reporting was generally accurate, but the statement claiming “refined grains and potatoes lead to a higher risk of cardio-metabolic disease” is not entirely representative. These were just two of a wide variety of foods included in the “unhealthy plant-based diet.” Neither does this statement account for the fact that there may be many other health and lifestyle factors other than diet contributing to coronary heart disease risk.

What kind of research was this?

This was a study pooling data from three large cohort studies of health professionals. It aimed to see whether consuming a plant-based diet or a diet including meat was associated with risk of coronary heart disease.

Coronary heart disease is the general term used to describe when the arteries supplying the heart become clogged by a build-up of fatty substances. Complete blockage of the arteries causes heart attack, a major cause of death both in the UK and worldwide.

A prospective cohort study is a good way of looking at the link between an exposure (such as diet) and an outcome (like heart disease) as you can examine a large number of people over a long period of time.

However, you are unable to control the diets or all other lifestyle factors that could be having an influence, such as smoking and exercise. A randomised controlled trial would be needed for this, but it is not really possible to make sure people stick to a specific diet for a long period of time.

What did the research involve?

The research included:

  • 73,710 women (aged 30 to 55 years) involved in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984 to 2012)
  • 92,329 women (aged 25 to 42 years) involved in the Nurses’ Health Study 2 (1991 to 2013)
  • 43,259 men (aged 40 to 75 years) taking part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2012)

This study only included participants who, at the start of the study, did not have coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Information on diet was collected every two to four years using a food frequency questionnaire. Participants recorded how often on average they consumed a specified portion of any of 130 food items in the past year. This ranged from “never or less than once a month” to “six or more times a day”.

Three versions of a plant-based diet were created from these questionnaires based on intake of 18 main food groups:

  • An overall plant-based diet index (PDI) was created by assigning positive scores to plant foods and reverse scores to animal foods.
  • A “healthful plant-based diet index” (hPDI) was created by giving positive scores to healthy plant foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, oils and tea. Both animal foods and less healthy plant foods such as juices, refined grains, fries and sweets received a negative score.
  • An “unhealthful plant-based diet” (uPDI) was created by giving positive scores to less-healthy plant foods, such as sweets, cakes, chips and crisps, and scores to animal and healthy plant-based foods.

The researchers looked at participant reports of coronary heart disease during follow-up assessments, and validated this through checking medical records. Deaths were identified through next of kin and a search of the US National Death Index.

Results were adjusted for the following confounding factors:

  • smoking
  • age
  • physical activity
  • alcohol
  • multivitamin use
  • family history of coronary heart disease
  • margarine intake
  • energy intake
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • body mass index
  • post-menopausal hormone use and oral contraceptive use in women

What were the basic results?

During follow-up 8,631 people developed coronary heart disease.

High adherence to an overall plant-based diet (PDI) showed a trend for reduced risk compared to low adherence to a PDI and a mainly animal-based diet, but this fell just short of statistical significance (hazard ratio [HR] 0.92, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.83 to 1.01).

However, when analysing “healthful” versus “unhealthful” plant-based diets separately:

  • Highest adherence to the healthy plant-based diet reduced risk of heart disease by 25% compared with a low adherence to this diet (i.e. consuming an unhealthy plant-based diet, including meat) (HR 0.75, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.83).
  • Highest adherence to an unhealthy plant-based diet increased risk of heart disease by 32% compared with lowest adherence to this diet (i.e. consuming a healthy plant-based diet, including meat) (HR 1.32, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.46).

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that a “higher intake of a plant-based diet index rich in healthier plant foods is associated with substantially lower CHD risk, whereas a plant-based diet index that emphasizes less-healthy plant foods is associated with higher CHD risk.”

They further add that “dietary guidelines and lifestyle interventions could recommend increasing intake of healthy plant foods, while reducing intake of less healthy plant foods and certain animal foods for improved cardiometabolic health.”


This large pooled cohort study seems to demonstrate an association between a healthy plant-based diet and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and an increased risk of heart disease with an unhealthy plant-based diet.

This adds to the evidence base supporting the possible benefits of healthy plant-based diets in protecting against certain illnesses. However there are some limitations to the research:

  • The cohort included only health professionals from the US so might not be representative of wider populations in the UK or elsewhere.
  • The study can’t provide information on the benefits or otherwise of this diet in people with established coronary heart disease, stroke or cancer as these people were excluded.
  • The questionnaire was self-reported and asked for recall of food habits over the previous year so there might be some inaccuracies in reporting. Also, people might not want to admit to consuming less healthy foods – although if unhealthy foods were under-reported, this could have meant an even bigger difference in results.
  • Heart disease outcomes were mainly self-reported and then verified, so some cases may have been missed.
  • Although analyses adjusted for various health and lifestyle factors, there are likely to be many other confounding variables influencing likelihood of coronary heart disease, such as education, occupation or stress levels.

Nevertheless the study supports general understanding about the benefits of wholegrains, fruits and vegetables and healthy sources of fat.

Eating a purely plant-based, but unhealthy, diet may be good for your conscience but not so good for the heart.

Read more about healthy vegetarian diets.

Analysis by Bazian

Edited by NHS Choices

Links to the headlines

Being vegetarian isn’t always healthy: Plant-based diet may raise the risk of heart disease. Daily Mail, July 18 2017

Vegetarian diets can lead to higher risk of heart disease, finds study. The Independent, July 17 2017

Links to the science

Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Spiegelman D, et al. Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.



Image result for EXERCISE CAN BE PUNISHING – BUT HERE’S HOW TO STOP THINKING OF IT AS A PUNISHMENTThe fitness industry is said to be worth £4.4bn in the UK alone. But, despite medical research telling us that exercise will help us live longer, the majority of people do not engage with health and fitness. Could it be that exercise is still considered a punishment – as it was in Victorian prisons?

Or do we just need to increase the fun and social aspect to exercise to get more of us working up a sweat?

Medical research suggests exercise is good for our health and will help us all live longer. But a report by the British Heart Foundation says that 20 million people living in the UK are physically inactive.

To be considered active, the Department of Health recommends adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. So it begs the question: why do close to a third of the country’s population struggle to meet this recommended amount of exercise, when doing so could prolong their life?

A reason why inactive people may not engage in enough exercise is because it is not perceived to be a fulfilling or satisfying leisure pursuit. Other competing pastimes of a more sedentary nature, such as watching TV, reading and gaming, are seen by some as being more enjoyable.

Exercise as punishment

The treadmill was devised as a form of punishment for convicted criminals in the Victorian era. At this time, prisoners had to undertake long hours of hard labour by walking on treadmills to grind flour. This form of punishment was abolished in the late 19th century for being too cruel.

Exercise also has a long history of being used as a form of correctional behaviour in schools. Indeed in 2014 the then-Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, proposed to ban exercise being used in schools as a form of punishment for fear that it would put children off being active.

Given that exercise has a lengthy historical association with the use of discipline for the purpose of punishment and obedience, can 21st century society ever be truly accepting of exercise as a leisure pursuit that can have personal fulfilment?

At present, the high volume of inactivity levels in the UK suggests a large amount of people are not motivated to take exercise. Getting people to be more active, therefore, would require a shift in people exercising because they want to rather than having to.

Making it social

My research explores the role of social psychology for the development of interventions that make physical activity a fulfilling pursuit for long-term condition sufferers. This is because social psychological science has consistently demonstrated that people are motivated to seek social connections in order to fulfil their psychological needs as human beings. For example, “the belongingness hypothesis” states that people have a basic need to feel closely connected to others.

So it is important people have positive social exercise experiences that enrich their quality of life and, in doing so, make the pursuit of exercise a more satisfying and worthwhile activity. This can be achieved by creating exercise environments that provide individuals with a shared sense of social connectedness, creating opportunities for people to form friendships, meaningful attachments and mutually supportive relationships.

For example, the EuroFit programme takes a unique approach for improving men’s health and fitness by allowing fans to train in the environment of a professional football club they support. City Ride events are another example, where families and friends of all ages and abilities can enjoy cycling together through the streets of a vibrant traffic-free environment. Similarly, walking sports offer a social atmosphere of fun, laughter and camaraderie for those who may have difficulty participating in high impact activities.

Connecting people in dynamic and socially rewarding exercise environments has the potential to offset the drudgery often associated with exercise and make it a leisure pursuit worth doing.


Yoga can cause musculoskeletal pain

woman doing the downward dog pose

While yoga can help to alleviate pain, research shows that it can also cause it.
Yoga is often hailed as an effective practice for pain relief. A new study, however, notes that yoga can also cause pain, and yoga-related injuries are much more common than one may think.

The research suggests that every year, more than 10 percent of people who practice yogain a recreational capacity experience musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the upper limbs, as a result.

What is more, the study found that yoga actually worsens more than a fifth of existing injuries.

Lead study author Prof. Evangelos Pappas, of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney in Australia, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Yoga is one of the most common mind and body practices in the United States, and its popularity is increasing. According to a survey conducted by Yoga Alliance last year, around 37 million U.S. adults practice yoga, a significant rise from 20 million in 2012.

But why is yoga so appealing? Aside from its stress-relieving effects, one reason why people are attracted to yoga is its ability to ease pain. A recent study reported by Medical News Today found that for low back pain, yoga is just as beneficial as physical therapy.

However, the new study from Prof. Pappas and team suggests that caution should be applied when practicing yoga, as it could do more harm than good.

Upper limb pain most common

For their study, the researchers analyzed the data of 354 adults who engaged in recreational yoga.

Participants completed two electronic questionnaires 1 year apart, which gathered information on any musculoskeletal pain they might have, where in the body this pain occurred, and pain severity.

The data revealed that 10.7 percent of participants experienced musculoskeletal pain as a result of yoga.

“In terms of severity, more than one third of cases of pain caused by yoga were serious enough to prevent yoga participation and lasted more than 3 months,” notes Prof. Pappas.

Pain in the upper extremities – including the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand – was the most common type of pain caused by yoga, which Prof. Pappas speculates may be down to “postures that put weight on the upper limbs,” such as the downward dog.

For subjects with pre-existing musculoskeletal injuries, around 21 percent of these injuries were exacerbated by yoga participation, the team reports. Pre-existing upper limb pain was most affected by yoga.

Injury rate higher than previous reports

However, the study also brought some positive news; around 74 percent of participants reported that their pre-existing musculoskeletal pain had improved as a result of yoga.

Still, the researchers believe that their findings highlight the need for caution when it comes to practicing yoga, especially for people who already have musculoskeletal pain.

“Our study found that the incidence of pain caused by yoga is more than 10 percent per year,” says Prof. Pappas, “which is comparable to the injury rate of all sports injuries combined among the physically active population.”

However people consider it to be a very safe activity. This injury rate is up to 10 times higher than has previously been reported.”

Prof. Evangelos Pappas

The researchers say that their findings may help both healthcare professionals and patients to compare the risks of yoga with other types of physical activity, allowing them to make informed decisions about which form of exercise is best.

“We recommend that yoga teachers also discuss with their students the risks for injury if not practiced conscientiously, and the potential for yoga to exacerbate some injuries,” adds Prof. Pappas.

“Yoga participants are encouraged to discuss the risks of injury and any pre-existing pain, especially in the upper limbs, with yoga teachers and physiotherapists to explore posture modifications that may result in safer practice.”


Can a Balanced Diet Help Relieve Symptoms of PCOS?

Many gynaecologists believe that certain diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of PCOS.

Having trouble with irregular periods? Have you had a sudden burst of pimples and put on a lot of weight without any apparent reason? If the answer to all this is yes, then you are probably suffering from PCOS.

Don’t panic! It only sounds complicated, but it’s not!

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a growing hormonal disorder mostly found among women of reproductive age. There is no one test to diagnose this syndrome but usually the first sign is having irregular periods or in some cases, no periods at all.

In PCOS, women cannot ovulate due to formation of small cysts in their ovaries.
In PCOS, women cannot ovulate due to formation of small cysts in their ovaries. (Photo: iStock)

In PCOS, there are cyst formations in the ovaries due to overproduction of certain hormones. Yes, the resulting imbalance of hormones is what causes most of the distress.

In PCOS, women cannot ovulate due to formation of small cysts in their ovaries. This results in the imbalance of estrogen, progesterone and other hormones that causes irregular menstruation cycles.

Dr Deepti Khare, Gynaecologist

Though the exact cause of this disorder is unknown, many experts link it to insulin resistance that cause the excessive weight gain, disrupt ovulation, and increase sugar cravings, among other things.

What Is Insulin Resistance?

The carbohydrates that get digested in our body release glucose into the bloodstream. Insulin helps the cells to absorb glucose and produce energy that can be used by our bodies.

But when our bodies develop resistance, the cells stop absorbing the glucose. This forces the glucose to accumulate in the blood stream which ends in high blood sugar levels.

When our bodies develop insulin resistance, the cells stop absorbing the glucose. This forces the glucose to accumulate in the blood stream which ends in high blood sugar levels.
When our bodies develop insulin resistance, the cells stop absorbing the glucose. This forces the glucose to accumulate in the blood stream which ends in high blood sugar levels. (Photo: iStock)

So, basically you need to work on decreasing the insulin resistance of your body.

Though cases of PCOS have been on the rise in the past few years, many gynaecologists believe that certain diet and lifestyle changes along with some medication can help reduce the symptoms.

Stress and sedentary lifestyle are the two main causes of PCOS in women these days. A balanced diet and proper exercise help a lot in dealing with the symptoms of PCOS.

Dr Deepti Khare, Gynaecologist

Seems doable?

Diet and PCOS: The Connection

When your body becomes insulin resistant, then it starts producing more insulin to maintain normal sugar levels. High level of insulin makes it harder to lose weight resulting in a higher Body Mass Index (BMI).

So, it is very important to know what to eat and what to avoid!

It is very important to know what to eat and  what to avoid!
It is very important to know what to eat and what to avoid! (Photo: iStock)

Since insulin resistance builds up in the body, it is extremely important that women understand the constituents of their diet well and have a balanced meal.

Dr Shikha Sharma, Nutritionist

Let us help make you a perfect diet plan then…

What to Eat?

Remember, you must prevent excess sugar from entering your blood stream. So, you must eat food that doesn’t convert to sugar easily.

Experts advise a high fibre-lean protein diet which will help control the amount of insulin in the body by slowing down digestion.

PCOS diet must include a lot of green vegetables and fresh fruits. A high fibre-lean protein diet will help control the amount of insulin in the body.
PCOS diet must include a lot of green vegetables and fresh fruits. A high fibre-lean protein diet will help control the amount of insulin in the body. (Photo: iStock)

So, your diet must include a lot of:

• Green vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach

• Beans & lentils

• Almonds, berries

• Tomatoes

• Pumpkin

• Olive Oil

• Chicken

• Fish (like Salmon, Sardines)

Have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Include more body cleansing items like turmeric, lime, garlic, onions, coriander in your meal preparations. They will detox the body and help you get rid of extra sugar.

What to Avoid?

Sugars and carbohydrates are a strict NO!

Yes, prepare yourself to bid farewell to all your favourite chocolates, candies, cakes, pies! Sorry, but they are of no help now!

Sugars and carbohydrates are a strict NO! 
Sugars and carbohydrates are a strict NO!  (Photo: iStock)

Strictly stay away from:

• White bread (Bye-bye Pizza!)

• Rice

• Sugary juices

• Desserts (Basically, anything with sugar in it!)

• Potatoes

• Pasta noodles made from wheat flour (Try lentil flour (masoor aata) pasta, instead!)

You are also advised to cut down on foods like red meat, French fries (yes, you read that right!) since they cause inflammation in the body.

You have to be extra careful even while grocery shopping.

Why? Because packaged foods have a lot of sugars and carbohydrates that we usually don’t see because we rarely read the labels!

Read the labels of packaged food items while shopping. Make sure the salt content is low, avoid items with simple sugars, make sure that Trans fat is zero and the amount of preservatives present is minimal. Fresh food is always better than preserved food.

Dr Shikha Sharma, Nutritionist

Other Lifestyle Changes…

Along with a perfect diet, some exercise will also help you feel better.

No, you don’t have to run to the gym! Simple physical activities like brisk walking, jogging, swimming will help control your BMI.

Simple physical activities like brisk walking, jogging, swimming will help control your BMI.
Simple physical activities like brisk walking, jogging, swimming will help control your BMI. (Photo: iStock)

Any type of physical activity helps improve insulin sensitivity, reduces your BMI and increases your frequency of ovulation.

Dr Deepti Khare, Gynaecologist

Do you feel better now? You can deal with PCOS with the right diet and exercise. Try to gather more information which will only help you feel more confident in dealing with PCOS.

Remember, when in doubt, always consult your gynaecologist.






Can sitting cancel out the benefits of exercise?

Getty Images

Editor’s note: The following is adapted from “Fitter Faster: The Smart Way to Get in Shape in Just Minutes a Day” by Robert J. Davis with Brad Kolowich Jr.

You’ve probably heard the trendy phrase that “sitting is the new smoking.” Although it’s an exaggeration to equate the two behaviors — nothing comes close to smoking in its many ruinous and deadly effects on the body — research does show that prolonged sitting may be harmful, even if you exercise regularly.

Pooling results from more than 40 studies, researchers concluded that the more time people spend on their duffs — whether at a desk, on the couch or in the car — the greater their risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, cancer and especially type 2 diabetes.

Regular exercise, particularly higher levels of physical activity, appears to blunt these harmful effects somewhat but may not eliminate them entirely. An analysis of more than a dozen studies concluded that we need at least 60 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise (such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or ballroom dancing) to counter the increased risk of premature death due to prolonged sitting. But another study found that the same amount of exercise — which is more than most physically active people get — doesn’t undo the negative effects of sitting on insulin levels and blood fats.

The damage from prolonged sitting is thought to be due to reduced muscle activity, especially in the large muscles of the legs and back, which can decrease the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and remove harmful blood fats. Sitting for long periods may also adversely affect blood vessel function and increase food cravings, causing us to eat more and gain weight.

To reduce sitting time, there are actions you can take.

At work, stand for a few minutes every half-hour, perhaps during phone calls, coffee breaks or meetings. If possible, use a desk that lets you work both standing and seated. Or try one attached to a treadmill that allows you to slowly walk while you work. In the car, park as far away as possible from the door so you’ll be able to walk more. Stand if you ride the bus or subway. At home, get up regularly from your computer. Try standing and doing chores while watching TV.

Incorporating short bursts of standing and movement like this will keep you from becoming an “active couch potato,” someone who exercises and then remains largely sedentary the rest of the time. By thinking of fitness as something that entails what you do the entire day — not just the relatively few minutes spent sweating — you’ll be able to fully reap the rewards of your workouts.


Drug information leaflets are ‘impenetrable’ and ‘unreadable’: Medicine pamphlets must be improved so patients can understand them, report claims

Drug information leaflets must be improved so they can be more easily read and understood, a report claims.

The Academy of Medical Sciences has called for the pamphlets that come in medicine boxes to be made clearer to ensure ‘comprehension and readability’ for patients.

Drug leaflets should also include information on the benefits of taking a medicine, and not just a ‘laundry list’ of the potential harms, it adds in its report.

Professor John Tooke, chair of the report, said: ‘The patient information leaflet does not provide a balanced appraisal of the benefits and harms of medicines and was described in our public dialogue as being “impenetrable” and “unreadable”.’

The Academy has released a series of potential questions that the public can ask their doctor to help them make an informed decision about whether to take certain medicines.

Drug information leaflets must be improved so they can be easily understood, experts claim

Drug information leaflets must be improved so they can be easily understood, experts claim

Unclear information leaflets 

Professor Tooke said: ‘The one piece of information that patients are guaranteed to receive – the patient information leaflet – does not provide a balance appraisal of the benefits and harms of medicines and was described in our public dialogue as being “impenetrable” and “unreadable”.

‘As far as patient information leaflets are concerned there is currently an obligation for industry to expose the risks, which is why they predominate this laundry list of side effects.

‘That’s a regulatory requirement and we’re saying that the regulation needs to serve the user and therefore what they need too is a balanced view of the potential harms and benefits.’

The Academy recommends patients ask their doctor questions, such as ‘How will this medicine make me feel? Will it affect my daily life?’, to aid their decision-making regarding whether to take certain medications, the BBC reported.

Patients trust friends more than science

The report, released yesterday, also revealed patients are more likely to trust the opinions of their family and friends than the results of clinical trials when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of their medication.

The Academy surveyed 2,041 members of the public and 1,013 GPs about their attitudes towards medical research.

Results revealed that 63 per cent of the public and 82 per cent of GPs are sceptical of claims made by drugs trials.

Many have major doubts following a series of scares over the safety of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), cholesterol-lowering statins and the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

The findings also demonstrate just 37 per cent of the public trust evidence from medical research, while 65 per cent value the opinion of friends and family.

Perhaps surprisingly, 82 per cent of GPs believe medical research is biased in favour of drugs appearing effective and safe.

Just 37 per cent of the public trust medical research, yet 65 per cent value friends' advice  

Just 37 per cent of the public trust medical research, yet 65 per cent value friends’ advice .

Risks of unclear information 

Sir John Tooke, report chairman, said: ‘We all need medicines at some point in our life yet the decision as to whether to use a drug or not can be a confusing one as illustrated by numerous controversies played out in recent years – in relation to the use of statins to reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease; the risks and benefits associated with hormone replacement therapy and Tamiflu in the treatment of influenza.

‘Questions raised about the risk and benefit balance of being on statins were associated with large numbers of people stopping the drugs from which it has been inferred there could be 2,000 excess strokes and heart attacks over the next 10 years in the UK, so there can be health consequences from the result of confusion.

‘It is our view that unless we improve the use of scientific evidence to judge the potential harms and benefits of medicines, both established and new, patients will not reap the full advantage of scientific advance.’

He said: ‘It’s startling to hear that only about a third of the public trust medical research.

‘Patients are struggling to make sense of the information they receive from their doctor, the TV, the internet and their friends and family about medicines.

‘With our ageing population and ever more sophisticated treatments being made available, we need to act now to give patients clearer and more useful information about the medicines they take.’

Why the confusion? 

As well as the ongoing debate about whether the insomnia and muscle weakness side effects of statins outweigh its cholesterol-lowering properties, there is similar confusion regarding HRT  for the menopause and whether it causes breast cancer.

The NHS has claimed the benefits outweigh the risk, yet surveys have shown the majority of women are still very sceptical.

In addition, research published back in 2009 claimed that ‘more than half of children taking Tamiflu to combat swine flu suffer side effects such as nausea, insomnia and nightmares’.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, said: ‘Medical science is progressing at an unprecedented rate, opening up opportunities not only to cure certain diseases but potentially to prevent them ever occurring.

‘It is vital that we find the best possible ways to use and communicate scientific evidence, so that progress may be translated into benefits for patients.’


Zero-day Windows file-sharing flaw can crash systems, maybe worse


The implementation of the SMB network file sharing protocol in Windows has a serious vulnerability that could allow hackers to, at the very least, remotely crash systems.

The unpatched vulnerability was publicly disclosed Thursday by an independent security researcher named Laurent Gaffié, who claims that Microsoft has delayed releasing a patch for the flaw for the past three months.

Gaffié, who is known on Twitter as PythonResponder, published a proof-of-concept exploit for the vulnerability on GitHub, triggering an advisory from the CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC) at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Microsoft Windows contains a memory corruption bug in the handling of SMB traffic, which may allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to cause a denial of service or potentially execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable system,” CERT/CC said in the advisory.

Microsoft’s implementation of the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol is used by Windows computers to share files and printers over a network and also handles authentication to those shared resources.

The vulnerability affects Microsoft SMB version 3, the most recent version of the protocol. CERT/CC has confirmed that the exploit can be used to crash fully patched versions of Windows 10 and Windows 8.1.

An attacker can exploit the vulnerability by tricking a Windows system to connect to a malicious SMB server which would then send specially crafted responses. There are a number of techniques to force such SMB connections and some require little or no user interaction, CERT/CC warned.

The good news is that there are no confirmed reports of successful arbitrary code execution through this vulnerability yet. However, if this is a memory corruption issue as described by CERT/CC, code execution might be a possibility.

“The crashes we’ve observed so far do not manifest in a manner that suggests straight-forward code execution, but that may change, though, as we have time to analyze it more in-depth,” said Carsten Eiram, the chief research officer at vulnerability intelligence firm Risk Based Security, via email. “This is only the initial stage of the analysis.”

Carsten’s company also confirmed the crash on a fully patched Windows 10 system, but has yet to establish if this is just a NULL pointer dereference crash or the result of a deeper issue that could have a more severe impact. Just to be on the safe side, the company is following CERT/CC’s lede in treating this as a potential code execution flaw. CERT/CC scored this vulnerability’s impact with 10, the maximum in the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

Gaffié said on Twitter that Microsoft plans to patch this issue during its next “Patch Tuesday,” which this month will fall on February 14 — the second Tuesday of the month. However, it’s possible that Microsoft could break out of its regular patch cycle if the vulnerability is indeed critical and starts to be exploited in the wild.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both CERT/CC and Eiram advise network administrators to block outbound SMB connections — TCP ports 139 and 445 along with UDP ports 137 and 138 — from local networks to the Internet. This won’t completely eliminate the threat, but will isolate it to local networks



Protein can cut progression of both inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer: Study

Protein can cut progression of both inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)Protein can cut progression of both inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
A new study finds that altering the shape of a protein can significantly reduce the progression of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

According to researchers, modifying the shape of IRAK-M, a protein that controls inflammation, can significantly reduce the clinical progression of both diseases in pre-clinical animal models.

The findings appeared in the eBioMedicine journal.

“When we tested mice with the altered IRAK-M protein, they had less inflammation overall and remarkably less cancer,” said Coy Allen from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

The next step, he said, will be to evaluate these findings in human patients through ongoing collaborations with Carilion Clinic and Duke University.

The altered protein causes the immune system to become supercharged, clearing out the bacteria before they can do any damage.

There is an intimate link between uncontrolled inflammation in the gut associated with inflammatory bowel disease and the eventual development of colon cancer.

“From a scientist’s perspective, that’s what it’s all about, and hopefully our findings provide a good avenue for development of future therapeutics to treat maladies such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer,” the authors concluded.

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A calm exterior can hide a turbulent mind


A calm exterior can hide a turbulent mind  (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)A calm exterior can hide a turbulent mind (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

In her famous semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, American writer Sylvia Plath had expressed the anguish of a depressed mind as it hurtled downward with great exactitude. She described the feeling as one of being trapped inside a bell jar – a dour, claustrophobic experience that cannot be wished away.

Most people who suffer from depression are said to experience the same all- encompassing entrapment. For them, it is not an existential crisis but an emotional turbulence that cannot be quietened by external stimuli. Yet, most people suffering from depression appear “normal” to other people around them, though normalcy is, by and large, a comparative state of being.

Our social conditioning and general perceptions of acceptable behaviour guide us when it comes to putting up a front in public. This is no different for a person suffering from depression. S/he will consciously try to behave as normally as possible, only because everyone is expected to be in a state of normalcy all the time and any sign of emotional instability is dubbed abnormal. The person may not even be aware of the extra effort that is going into appearing normal.

For a person with depression, behaving acceptably is an imbibed affectation and may not always be reflective of the person’s actual state of mind. A smiling, calm exterior may not be the true behavioural marker of what is going on inside, though depression does take its toll and manifests itself despite attempts by the person to deliberately control temperamental changes.

Human emotions are symbiotic and we tend to pick up emotional cues from each other that can affect our mood graph for a period of time. A boss who has had a fight with his/her spouse can let off steam on team members and make them feel agitated or tremulous for the rest of the day, and maybe for the next few days as well. The boss’ spouse may have been affected by their child’s incessant tantrums the previous evening. The child may have been feeling unwell or deprived or have had a bad day in school. The chain of reactive changes in moods goes around in multiple loops. As much as one happy person can improve the moods of most people around in a domino effect, the reverse is also true. It is this awareness, that our individual behaviour affects the emotional well-being of those around us, that can tether a person to behaving in a certain way, and subsequently create perceptions of normalcy.

The first and primary criterion that enables a person to realize that he/she may be suffering from depression is self-assessment of mental well-being. Others, like family members, friends and colleagues, may notice a slight shift in temperament. But as mentioned above, masking depressive phases by pretending that “all is well” is so deeply ingrained into our psyche that often a person is able to put up a front that makes it difficult for others to assess his/her true mental condition.

Self-assessment is crucial. Feeling low, sad, withdrawn, or any other feeling that is unusual in any set circumstance or situation calls for self-assessment. Only the individual can analyse, without biases, whether that feeling is his/her normal reaction or not. If the feeling of distress is prolonged and affects everyday life, the cause should be examined carefully. It should also be examined whether the feeling or phase is being triggered by a particular situation or memory, or is omnipresent.

Depression can be broadly classified into exogenous and endogenous depression. Exogenous depression is reactive depression, a fluctuating cause and effect situation. It may arise from a particular incident – loss of a loved one, difficult changes in life or lifestyle, incidents of violence, abuse or neglect, pregnancy, and many such external factors. The incident or incidences may not trigger depression immediately, and can take time, sometimes years, to manifest itself. Identifying the trigger and creating a plan to subvert the effects of the trigger forms an integral part of the treatment procedure.

Endogenous depression is caused by changes in the genetic structure and/or chemical imbalances in the brain. External causes rarely contribute to the situation, and the debilitating feelings usually do not get impacted by external emotional triggers. The broad symptoms of both types of depression being similar, a person suffering from endogenous depression will not be able to side-step the sadness momentarily and react to mood altering situations.

For family members or close acquaintances to be able to understand whether a person is suffering from depression or is simply going through a low phase, they should first be able to distinguish between the two. A change in mood, whether it is sadness, anxiety or social withdrawal is precipitated by a reason; but so can exogenous depression. The difference between the two is a thin line.Any symptom of depression, or a combination of them, like fatigue, low energy, anxiety, change in sleep cycle or duration, lack of interest in pleasurable activities, body aches or cramps, feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless, decreased memory and mental skills, that persist longer than two weeks should be verified by a mental healthprofessional.

Women usually express depression related anguish and distress more evidently, by crying, throwing tantrums or becoming socially reclusive. Men become either excessively aggressive and have violent and frequent outbursts, or withdraw into impenetrable shells of brooding silence. These symptoms individually and in short phases may be triggered by a recent incident or situation related to the person’s personal or professional life. But if there are no such recent, recurrent or persistent triggers and yet the person is exhibiting two or more of these symptoms for more than a fortnight, it is advisable to seek professional help, just as we do for cough and cold or fever that lasts longer than few days.

Mental health issues need to be de-stigmatised and the first step towards that can be taken only by the family members and close associates of the afflicted person. The reason why many people suffering from depression are forced to pretend or behave normally, suppressing their symptoms, is due to the stigma and labels attached tothe condition. Mental health issues are not accorded the same level of empathy as physical health issues. For a person suffering from negative emotions related to depression, fighting stigma becomes an additional challenge. Being labeled mentally unsound is a situation every person wants to avoid. To eradicate this irrational and unjustified burden that is placed on those suffering from a disorder like depression (which could be neurotic or psychotic), society by and large has to show more compassion and inclusiveness.


Eating celery, broccoli can improve treatment of breast cancer

ANI | Jan 25, 2017, 03.30 PM IST

Eating celery, broccoli can improve treatment of breast cancer (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)Eating celery, broccoli can improve treatment of breast cancer (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
Researchers from the University of Missouri found that a natural compound, Luteolin, found in herbs such as thyme and parsley and vegetables such as celery and broccoli, can reduce the risk of developing metastasis originating from triple-negative breast cancer in women.

The findings indicate that Luteolin, a naturally occurring, non-toxic plant compound that has been proven effective against several types of cancer.

“Triple-negative breast cancers are cancer cells that lack three receptors targeted by current chemotherapy regimens. Because of this lack of receptors, common cancer drugs can’t ‘find’ the cells, and doctors must treat the cancer with extremely aggressive and highly toxic treatment strategies,” said Salman Hyder from the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center.

“Women with this type of breast cancer also frequently develop metastatic lesions that originate from drug-resistant cells. Therefore, safer therapeutic therapies that are more effective are being sought for this deadly type of cancer in women,” Hyder added.

The team tested Luteolin to determine if it could suppress metastasis, using human triple-negative breast cancer cells grown in mice.

In the first series of tests, they found that Luteolin inhibited the metastasis of triple-negative cancer in the lungs of affected mice.

“Mice exposed to human triple-negative breast cancer cells experienced significantly reduced metastastic growth in their lungs after being treated with Luteolin,” Hyder stated.

“In almost every case, the mice also saw no weight loss, which means luteolin has no toxic effects; this plant compound is both safe and effective,” Hyder explained.

They found that Luteolin inhibits that migration and can also kill cancer cells.

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