Friday, January 30, 2009

Red yeast rice, fish oil fight high cholesterol

A regimen of supplements and lifestyle coaching is just as effective as statin medication for reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol, and more effective in helping people lose weight, new research shows.

People with high cholesterol who took red yeast rice and fish oil daily and received counseling on diet, exercise and relaxation techniques showed the same 40 percent drop in LDL cholesterol seen among people taking 40 milligrams of simvastatin daily, Dr. David J. Becker of the University of Pennsylvania Health System's Chestnut Hill Hospital and colleagues found. And they pared off an average of 10 pounds over 12 weeks, compared to less than a pound for patients taking the statin.

Fish oil 2

Becker has run a lifestyle program for people at risk of heart disease for 13 years. "People had a uniform desire to get off statins, and when they did their cholesterol was only going down maybe 5 percent at most," he told Reuters Health. The cardiologist decided to launch the current study after seeing many patients have success in lowering their cholesterol with red yeast rice and fish oil.

With a grant from the state of Pennsylvania, Becker and his team randomly assigned 74 patients to receive 40 milligrams of simvastatin (Zocor) daily along with printed information on lifestyle changes, or to three capsules of fish oil twice daily and 600 milligrams of red yeast rice daily along with the 12-week lifestyle program.

LDL cholesterol levels fell by 42.4 percent in the red yeast rice group and by 39.6 percent in the simvastatin group, not a statistically significant difference. Triglyceride levels didn't change in the statin group, but fell 29 percent in the red yeast rice group, probably because they were taking fish oil, according to Becker and his team.

People in the red yeast rice group lost an average of 4.7 kilograms (just over 10 pounds), compared to 0.3 kilograms (less than a pound) in the statin group.

Red yeast rice comes from fermenting red yeast with rice. Known as hong ku, the substance has been used as a medicine and food garnish in parts of Asia for centuries, Becker said. It contains a substance called monacolin-K that is nearly identical to the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin (Mevacor), as well as several other monacolins that may also have cholesterol-lowering properties.

Red yeast rice

People in the red yeast rice arm of the study were taking the equivalent of 10 to 15 mg of lovastatin, Becker said. "This lovastatin dosage is quite small, yet the effects we saw with the red yeast rice were akin to those one would generally see with a much higher dose of lovastatin."

"However, it is not risk-free, and it must be used carefully and in conjunction with your physician."

If more studies bear out the current findings, he added, the supplement/lifestyle intervention he and his colleagues tested could offer an alternative to people with high cholesterol who don't want to take statins, or who can't tolerate the drugs. However, he added, people who actually have heart disease should stick with statins, because they have been shown to reduce mortality.

Becker noted that a recent analysis by Consumer Lab found red yeast rice products varied sharply in their potency, and some were contaminated with a toxic byproduct called citrinin. "This paper is a call for better regulation of this supplement as well so that we know consistently what's in it," he said.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Newfound fungus makes better biofuel

A new found fungus living in rainforest trees makes biofuel more efficiently than any other known method, researchers say.

In fact, it's so good at turning plant matter into fuel that researchers say their discovery calls into question the whole theory of how crude oil was made by nature in the first place.

While many crops and microbes can be combined to make biofuels — including the fungi that became infamous as jungle rot during WWII — the newfound fungus could greatly simplify the process, its discoverers claim. Researchers have suggested that billions of acres of fallow farmland could be used to grow the raw material of biofuels. But turning corn stalks or switchgrass into fuel is a painstaking process and the end product is expensive and not entirely friendly to the environment.

new fungus

The fungus, which has been named Gliocladium roseum, stands out in the crowd.

"This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said researcher Gary Strobel from Montana State University. "The fungus can even make these diesel compounds from cellulose, which would make it a better source of biofuel than anything we use at the moment."

The fungus grows inside the Ulmo tree in the Patagonian rainforest in South America. "When we examined the gas composition of G.roseum, we were totally surprised to learn that it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon derivatives," the stuff of diesel, Strobel said. The fuel it produces has been dubbed "myco-diesel."

Cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose make up the cell walls in plants. They makes the stalks, sawdust and woodchip and cannot be digested by most living things. Some 400 million tons of this plant waste is produced ever year just from farmland, Strobel and his colleagues say. In current biofuel production, this waste is treated with enzymes called cellulases that turn the cellulose into sugar. Microbes then ferment this sugar into ethanol that can be used as a fuel.

If G.roseum can be used commercially to make fuel, a step could be skipped.

"We were very excited to discover that G.roseum can digest cellulose. Although the fungus makes less myco-diesel when it feeds on cellulose compared to sugars, new developments in fermentation technology and genetic manipulation could help improve the yield," Strobel explained. "In fact, the genes of the fungus are just as useful as the fungus itself in the development of new biofuels."

The discovery also questions assumptions about how fossil fuels are made.

"The accepted theory is that crude oil, which is used to make diesel, is formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that have been exposed to heat and pressure for millions of years," Strobel said. "If fungi like this are producing myco-diesel all over the rainforest, they may have contributed to the formation of fossil fuels.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Bacteria Discovered In Raw Milk

Raw milk is illegal in many countries as it can be contaminated with potentially harmful microbes. Contamination can also spoil the milk, making it taste bitter and turn thick and sticky. Now scientists have discovered new species of bacteria that can grow at low temperatures, spoiling raw milk even when it is refrigerated.

According to research, the microbial population of raw milk is much more complex than previously thought.

"When we looked at the bacteria living in raw milk, we found that many of them had not been identified before," said Dr Malka Halpern from the University of Haifa, Israel. "We have now identified and described one of these bacteria, Chryseobacterium oranimense, which can grow at cold temperatures and secretes enzymes that have the potential to spoil milk."


New technologies are being developed to reduce the initial bacterial counts of pasteurized milk to very low levels. Most enzymes will be denatured at the high temperatures used during pasteurisation, which means they will stop working. However, the heat-stable enzymes made by cold-tolerant bacteria will still affect the flavour quality of fluid milk and its products. Because of this, research into cold-tolerant bacteria and the spoilage enzymes they produce is vital.

"Milk can be contaminated with many different bacteria from the teat of the cow, the udder, milking equipment and the milking environment," said Dr Halpern. "Milk is refrigerated after collection to limit the growth of microbes. During refrigeration, cold-tolerant, or psychrotolerant, bacteria that can grow at 7°C dominate the milk flora and play a leading role in milk spoilage. Although we have not yet determined the impact on milk quality of C. oranimense and two other novel species (C. haifense and C. bovis) that were also identified from raw milk samples, the discovery will contribute to our understanding the physiology of these organisms and of the complex environmental processes in which they are involved. There is still a lot to learn about the psychrotolerant bacterial flora of raw milk."

There is an ongoing debate about the benefits and risks of drinking unpasteurised milk. Some people believe the health benefits resulting from the extra nutrient content of raw milk outweigh the risk of ingesting potentially dangerous microbes, such as Mycobacterium bovis, which can cause tuberculosis, and Salmonella species. Because of these risks, many countries have made the sale of unpasteurised milk illegal. Pasteurisation involves heating milk to around 72°C for 15-20 seconds in order to reduce the number of microbes in the liquid so they are unlikely to cause disease. Some bacteria produce extracellular enzymes that are remarkably heat tolerant and can resist pasteurisation. Lipase enzymes cause flavour defects and proteases can lead to bitterness and reduced yields of soft cheese.

Raw milk is consumed in rural areas of Europe and is also available in large cities. Distribution of unpasteurised milk is legal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but illegal in Scotland. There are around 275 establishments in England that are approved by the Food Standards Agency to sell raw milk. However, the green-top bottles must display a warning that indicates the content has not been heat-treated and may contain harmful organisms. Furthermore, farmers are not allowed to sell unpasteurised dairy products if their herd is suspected to be infected with bovine tuberculosis.

"In Israel, dairy companies estimate that cold-tolerant bacteria can cause a 10% loss of milk fats and proteins. When researchers looked at these bacterial communities, they found that 20% of the bacteria isolated were found to be novel species and 5% of these were members of the genus Chryseobacterium," said Dr Halpern. "Because of their effect on milk quality, it is important that we develop sensitive and efficient tools to monitor the presence of these cold-tolerant bacteria."


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cleaning Infected Blood

Biologists Develop Machine To Remove Viruses From Blood

Infectious disease experts designed a machine called the hemopurifier. It works much like a dialysis machine, using thin fibers to capture and remove viruses from the blood it filters. The machine requires the drawing of blood through an artery, which is sent through a tube into the machine, then back into the body. It can treat a number of illnesses.


Every day, 14,000 people are infected with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDs. There's no cure, but now a breakthrough -- a machine that could clean blood, keeping more and more people alive longer.

"I remember lying in bed thinking, 'I am going to die. I'm going to die. I feel so sick.' And I remember thinking laying in that bed, 'And I know exactly what it is,'" HIV patient John Paul Womble, told Ivanhoe. HIV could kill Womble. He watched his father die from the virus and now he is living the rest of his life with it. "I've got to live as healthy as I can, but this virus is not going to control me," he says. Now, a machine could help clean Womble's infected blood and keep him healthier, longer.

"It's designed to mimic the natural immune response of clearing viruses and toxins before cells and organs can be infected," Jim Joyce chairman and CEO of Aethlon Medical in San Diego, told Ivanhoe. Developed by infectious disease and biodefense experts, the hemopurifier works like a dialysis machine. Antibodies on these spaghetti-like fibers capture and remove viruses as blood filters through it.

"Your entire circulation flows through the cartridge about once every eight minutes," Joyce explains. The entire process takes less than a few hours. It could help patients infected with HIV, hepatitis C, as well as people with the measles, mumps and the flu. "The cartridge is able to selectively capture viruses."

A larger version of the machine would be used in a hospital, but a smaller one could be taken to emergencies. It could be a life-safer against the avian flu or bio-weapons like Ebola and small pox, giving people a chance to survive a deadly attack, whether it's from a terrorist or a virus.

"I don't have to be afraid," Womble says. "I have a virus. I've got to do something about that virus. I've got to treat that virus. I've got to live as healthy as I can." The hemopurifier is also a leading treatment candidate to protect United States civilian and military populations from bioterror threats and emerging pandemic threats like the bird flu and dengue fever that are untreatable with drugs and vaccines.


The hemopurifier uses antibodies to remove viruses as blood filters through it. It is designed to filter out viruses and toxins before they attack organs. The method is very similar to dialysis, and can be used to help patients with HIV, Hepatitis C, the measles, mumps, the flu, and more. It can also begin working before doctors identify the cause of the illness.


Hemodialysis is often used as a treatment for end stage renal disease (ESRD), or kidney failure, in which blood is removed from the body, filtered through an artificial kidney and then the cleaned blood is returned to the body. In the US, hemodialysis is the most common treatment for people who have kidney failure. However, dialysis is also a painful, expensive procedure, and while it cleans the blood well enough to maintain existence, it does little to improve a patient's overall quality of life. Also, data shows that if patients get a transplant before they get to the point of dialysis, they do better in the longer term.

Source: Google

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Influenza Virus “Flu”

Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae.

The flu virus found that it is more likely to spread at colder temperatures, when we cough or sneeze, microscopic droplets of water and the virus enter the air. Dry, cold conditions dry out the droplets, helping the virus linger in the air. The dry air also dries out nasal passages, which helps the virus stick. Cold dry air going over your nasal mucosa gets cracks in our airways and that allows virus to get in more easily. the flu weakens the immune system, making the body vulnerable to more serious infections, such as pneumonia.

Signs and Symptoms:
The flu is often confused with the common cold, but flu symptoms are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. Symptoms of the flu may include:fever,chills,headache,
muscle aches, dizziness, loss of appetite, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, weakness, ear pain, diarrhea.

After 5 days, fever and other symptoms have usually disappeared, but a cough and weakness may continue. All symptoms are usually gone within a week or two. However, it's important to treat the flu seriously because it can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications, particularly in infants, senior citizens, and people with long-term health problems.

Spread by virus-infected droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air, the flu is contagious. People infected with the flu are contagious from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms have resolved (usually about 1 week for adults, but can be up to 2 weeks for young kids). The flu usually occurs in small outbreaks, but epidemics tend to occur every several years. Epidemics (when the illness spreads rapidly and affects many people in an area at the same time) peak within 2 or 3 weeks after the first cases occur.

About the Flu Vaccine:
The flu vaccine usually is offered between September and mid-November, although it may be given at other times of the year. It reduces the average person's chances of catching the flu by up to 80% during flu season. Because the vaccine prevents infection with only a few of the viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms, it isn't a guarantee against getting sick. But even if someone who's gotten the shot gets the flu, symptoms usually will be fewer and milder.


Flu vaccines are available as a shot or nasal mist. Given as an injection, the flu shot contains killed flu viruses that will not cause the flu, but will prepare the body to fight off infection by the live flu virus. Getting a shot of the killed virus means a person is protected against that particular type of live flu virus if he or she comes into contact with it. Because the nasal mist contains weakened live flu viruses, it is not for people with weakened immune systems or certain health conditions. It is only for healthy, non-pregnant people between the ages of 2 and 49 years.

People who got the vaccine last year aren't protected from getting the flu this year because the protection wears off and flu viruses constantly change. That's why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus. It can take about 2 weeks after the shot for the body to build up protection to the flu. Getting the shot before the flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to, or protection from, the virus. Although you can get a flu shot well into flu season, it's best to try to get it earlier rather than later.

Preventing the Flu From Spreading:
Here are some practical ways to help prevent the spread of the flu

1. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
2. Never pick up used tissues.
3. Never share cups and eating utensils.
4. Stay home from work or school when you're sick with the flu.
5. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Cases of the flu rarely require specific medical treatment. These at-home tips can help most otherwise healthy kids cope with the flu. Have them:

  • Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, get plenty of sleep and take it easy.
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches (wear layers, since the flu often makes them cold one minute and hot the next (wearing layers — like a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and robe — makes it easy to add or  subtract clothes as needed

Monday, January 12, 2009

Curry Leaves

Curry leaves are  mainly used as an aromatic and flavoring for most curries in Asian foods. Not many people know beneficial effects of leaves so i take opportunity to highlight certain facts about leaves which are merely  not only flavoring agent.

Curry leaves are derived from a beautiful, aromatic and more or less deciduous shrub growing up to 0.9 meter, or a small downy tree, up to 6 meters in height and 15 to 40 cms in diameter. The leaves are slightly bitter and aromatic. The curry tree is a native of India and Sri Lanka . It grows in all tropical zones and more so in rich soils. It is cultivated extensively for its aromatic leaves and ornamental value throughout India.

curry leaves

An analysis of curry leaves shows them to consist of moisture 66.3 per cent, protein 6.1 per cent, fat (ether extract) 1.0 per cent, carbohydrates 16.0 per cent, fiber 6.4 per cent and mineral matter 4.2 per cent per 100 grams. Their mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, nicotinic acid and vitamin C.

Fresh leaves on steam distillation under pressure yield a volatile oil. Besides the oil, the leaves contain a residual glucoside named as koenigi

Healing Power and Curative Properties of Curry Leaves

Curry leaves possess the qualities of a herbal tonic. They strengthen the functions of stomach and promote its action. They are also used as a mild laxative[1]. The leaves may be taken mixed with other mild tasting herbs. The juice extracted from 15 grams of leaves may be taken with buttermilk.

Digestive Disorders

Fresh juice of curry leaves, with lime juice and sugar, is an effective medicine in the treatment of morning sickness, nausea and vomiting due to indigestion and excessive use of fats. One or two teaspoons of juice of these leaves mixed with a teaspoon of lime juice may be taken in these conditions. The curry leaves, ground to a fine paste and mixed with buttermilk, can also be taken on an empty stomach with beneficial results in case of stomach upsets.

Tender curry leaves are useful in diarrhea, dysentery and piles. They should be taken, mixed with honey. The bark of the tree is also useful in bilious vomiting. A teaspoon of the powder or the decoction of the dry bark should be given with cold water in this condition.

Kidney Disorders

The root of the curry plant also has medicinal properties. The juice of the root can be taken to relieve pain associated with the kidneys.

Premature Greying of Hair

Liberal intake of curry leaves is considered beneficial in preventing premature greying of hair. These leaves have the property to nourish the hair roots. New hair roots that grow are healthier with normal pigment. The leaves can be used in the form of chutney or the juice may be squeezed and taken in buttermilk or lassi.

Burns and Bruises

Curry leaves can be effectively used to treat burns, bruises and skin eruptions. They should be applied as a poultice over the affected areas.

Eye Disorders

Fresh juice of curry leaves suffused in the eyes. makes them look bright. It also prevents the early development of cataract.

Insect Bites

Fruits of the tree, which are berries, are edible. They are green when raw, but purple when ripe. Juice of these berries, mixed with equal proportion of lime-juice, is an effective fluid for external application in insect stings and bites of poisonous creatures.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Nanotechnology May Be Used For Food Safety

A microscopic biological sensor that detects Salmonella bacteria in lab tests has been developed by an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist and university colleagues. The sensor could be adapted to detect other foodborne pathogens as well.

The sensor is part of an evolving science known as nanotechnology—the study and manipulation of materials on a molecular or even atomic level, measured in billionths of a meter, which is about 10 to100 times thinner than a human hair.


A microscopic biological sensor that can detect Salmonella bacteria--shown here in a petri dish--in lab tests has been developed by an Agricultural Research Service scientist and university colleagues.

There are examples of biosensors in nature. Insects detect tiny amounts of sex pheromones in the environment and use them as a beacon to find mates. And fish use natural biosensors to detect barely perceptible vibrations in the surrounding water.

ARS engineer Bosoon Park at the Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit in Athens, Ga., and cooperators at the University of Georgia used nanotechnology to develop the biosensor. The detection method may have great potential for food safety and security, according to Park.

The biosensors that Park and his university colleagues developed include fluorescent organic dye particles attached to Salmonella antibodies. The antibodies hook onto Salmonella bacteria and the dye lights up like a beacon, making the bacteria easier to see.

People who eat Salmonella-infected food products can get salmonellosis, a disease characterized by nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhea, and sometimes death.

Source: Sciencedaily