Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cereal trumps sports drink

A very good controlled experiment too

Eating a bowl of cereal beats guzzling an expensive sports drink after a workout, say scientists. A study of athletes found the breakfast snack was at least as good, if not better, at revitalising muscles.

As part of the research, eight men and four women fasted for 12 hours and cycled for two hours, then immediately refuelled with a sports drink. Five days later they repeated the fasting and exercise, then ate a wholewheat flake cereal with a splash of skimmed milk instead.

Exercise physiologist Lynne Kammer said: 'We found cereal and milk was good for protein synthesis, or muscle rebuilding, after exercise. 'Because of the protein in the milk you would expect to see this. 'But what was most surprising was the lactate in the blood, which causes muscles to stiffen, was greatly reduced after consuming the cereal and milk as compared to the sports drink.' The researchers said this was because the cereal raised levels of insulin, which converts sugar to energy, and blunted the production of lactate.

The scientists, from Texas University, found both the snack and energy drink replenished depleted glycogen - a fuel the body uses during exercise. But the cereal encouraged greater glycogen storage.

Miss Kammer, whose findings are published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, said: 'Cereal and milk is a less expensive option than sports drinks. The milk provides a source of easily digestible and high-quality protein, making this an attractive recovery option for those who refuel at home.'


Human noses too cold for bird flu

Bird flu may not have become the threat to humans that some predicted because our noses are too cold for the virus to thrive, UK researchers say. An Imperial College London recreation of the nose's environment found that at 32 degrees Celsius, avian flu viruses lose function and cannot spread. It is likely that the viruses have adapted to suit the warmer 40 degree environments in the guts of birds. A mutation would be needed before bird flu became a human problem, they said.

Published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, the study also found that human viruses are affected by the colder temperatures found in the nose but to nowhere near the same extent. In effect, human viruses are still able to replicate and spread under those conditions, the researchers said. Both viruses were able to grow well at 37 degrees - human core body temperature and equivalent to the environment in the lungs.

They also created a mutated human flu virus by adding a protein from the surface of an avian influenza virus. This virus - an example of how a new strain could develop and start a pandemic - was also unsuccessful at 32 degrees.

Study leader Professor Wendy Barclay said it suggested that if a new human influenza strain evolved by mixing with an avian influenza virus, it would still need to undergo further mutations before it could be successful in infecting humans. "Our study gives vital clues about what kinds of changes would be needed in order for them to mutate and infect humans, potentially helping us to identify which viruses could lead to a pandemic."

She added further research could point to warning signs in viruses that are beginning to make the kinds of genetic changes for them to jump into humans. "Animal viruses that spread well at low temperatures in these cultures could be more likely to cause the next pandemic than those which are restricted."

She said swine flu - which was spreading from person to person, seemingly through upper respiratory tract infection - was probably an example of a virus which had adapted to cope with the cooler temperatures in the nose.

Professor Ian Jones, an expert in virology at the University of Reading, said: "This work confirms the fact that temperature differences in the avian and human sites of influenza infection are key to virus establishment. "It is certainly part of the explanation of why avian viruses, such as H5N1, fail to transmit readily to humans." He added that the research also showed that the proteins on the outside of the virus were key to its function at different temperatures. "This helps the monitoring of avian flu as it indicates which changes to look out for."


Amazing: British medicines regulator grants first ever licence to homeopathic remedy

At least it's safe, I suppose. There is nothing but water in homeopathic remedies

The UK medicines regulator has granted its first licence to a homeopathic remedy under controversial new rules allowing complementary therapies to make medicinal claims. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has granted an arnica homeopathic product a licence for the relief of sprains or bruising. Experts say that it contains zero active ingredients and condemned the decision as a “cynical mockery of evidence-based medicine”.

Nelsons Arnicare Arnica 30c pillules are the first product to be given a therapeutic indication via the Homeopathic National Rules Scheme, introduced in September 2006.

As opposed to conventional or herbal medicine, homeopathy is based on the principle that a substance that can make people ill can be diluted thousands of times to treat the symptoms it would otherwise create. Manufacturers of homeopathic remedies were previously banned from listing the clinical conditions or “indications” that products might be used to treat, due to a lack of evidence that they work. But under the new license granted by the MHRA, the label on a £5.30 packet of 84 pillules will now read: “A homeopathic medicinal product used within the homeopathic tradition for symptomatic relief of sprains, muscular aches and bruising or swelling after contusions.” The homeopathic pillules are designed to be sucked or chewed and to be taken between meals.

Robert Wilson, chairman of Nelsons, said that the fact that therapeutic indications could be included on the packaging “not only opens the practice of homeopathy up to new users but also gives it added credibility as a safe and natural complement to conventional medicine”.

But Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, said there is no evidence that the product has any benefit over a placebo treatment. “This is a huge rip-off and the label now makes false and misleading claims,” he said. “There is no biological plausibility for this to work — it makes a cynical mockery of evidence-based medicine.”

Nelsons, the largest manufacturer of natural healthcare products in Britain, also produces herbal tinctures for the Prince of Wales’s Duchy Originals brand, which Professor Ernst has also criticised as “outright quackery”. Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority reprimanded the Duchy brand over its promotional materials, ruling that claims made about the effectiveness of the tinctures were misleading.

Professor Ernst said that arnica-based homeopathic remedies were the most studied of all homeopathic products, but added: “Arnica is actually poisonous if you swallow it, so these pills contain essentially zero active ingredient.” A randomised trial published by Professor Ernst and colleagues in 2003 showed no benefit from arnica in prevention of pain and bruising after surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, with more adverse events in the arnica group than with placebo. He added that systematic reviews of all studies, including those from advocates of homeopathy, came to the same conclusion.

Bruises and sprains would heal in time, so people would not be doing themselves harm if they took the pills, he said, “but you might as well be swallowing water”.

The MHRA said that the National Rules scheme was introduced to resolve an inconsistency in European legislation that meant that homeopathic products introduced before 1992 could state indications for their use, whereas remedies approved after that date could not make such claims. A spokeswoman for the Agency said that the National Rules Scheme “involves the assessment of quality, safety and consumer information”. “This means that if an applicant can demonstrate that their product has been used in the UK homeopathic tradition for the relief or treatment of specific minor conditions or symptoms then the applicant may be granted a homeopathic marketing authorisation.”

But, she added: “Indications are limited to the relief or treatment of minor symptoms or minor conditions, ie, symptoms or conditions which can ordinarily and with reasonable safety be relieved or treated without the supervision or intervention of a doctor. “Indications for serious conditions are prohibited.”


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