Monday, December 21, 2009

Another anti-ageing pill

On the evidence offered, the benefits are slight. And being full of antioxidants, it will probably shorten your life, perhaps by encouraging cancer. The big picture is obviously out of sight below -- as in much medical research

Forget all those tubs of cream clogging up the bathroom cabinet. If scientific claims of an anti-wrinkle breakthrough are to be taken at face value, the secret of young-looking skin could soon be to pop a pill. Scientists have designed a sugar-coated tablet the size of a Smartie that they say has been shown in trials to bring a dramatic slowdown in ageing of the skin. It has been developed by the confectionery giant Nestlé and L’Oréal, the world’s biggest cosmetics company. Combining nutritional and dermatological science, they have used a compound found in tomatoes to promote the regeneration of new skin cells and protect old ones from damage.

The anti-wrinkle pill belongs to a rapidly developing class of products called cosmeceuticals, beauty treatments that are swallowed and work from within, instead of being rubbed on the skin or hair. The manufacturers hope its sugary flavours will mean women — and men — see it as a lifestyle product rather than medicine.

The sweet red pill, called Innéov Fermeté, has already gone on sale in parts of Europe and South America. A British launch is planned, although the companies this weekend declined to confirm a date. Before this can happen, teams of skincare consultants will have to be trained to help customers with advice on taking the pill.

Hundreds of anti-wrinkle products claim to slow ageing of the skin, but produce disappointing results. The developers of the new pill, however, say trials were so successful that it has the potential to sweep the market for anti-ageing products, worth more than £700m a year in Britain. Sales of anti-ageing treatments have held up well during the recession, with Boots reporting a 3.4% rise this year, due largely to demand for its No 7 Protect and Perfect anti-ageing cream.

Patricia Manissier, head of research and development at Innéov, the L’Oréal/Nestlé joint venture producing the new drug, said: “We have done a lot of research which shows this product works and now we’re looking for ways of improving it. We know that good nutrition can prevent the skin from ageing and that there are clear links between certain nutrients and skin health.”

Scientists developing the pill based it on lycopene, the red carotene pigment found in tomatoes. They modified it into a form more readily absorbed by human cells, then combined it with a form of vitamin C and with isoflavones — chemicals extracted from soya beans. All three ingredients are powerful antioxidants which, scientists believe, help protect tissue against damage.

The developers have tested their wrinkle drug with two groups of female volunteers: 90 post-menopausal women aged 51-69 and 70 others with an average age of 45. In each study, the women were divided into those who took the new pill and those who swallowed a placebo. After six months, the skin of those taking the real drug showed an 8.7% better rate of elasticity — the rate at which it sprang back into place after being stretched or twisted rather than leaving wrinkles.

One drawback, however, is the cost. The new drug will cost about £25 for a 10-day supply. In addition, manufacturers say women may not notice a difference for three months.


Soothing sounds play part in healing

There may be something in this aside from a placebo effect. Music can have a strong positive emotional impact and psychosomatic effects are well-known. One would think it to be important to get the right music for the person, however.

MUSIC can soothe the mind but it can also heal the body. Studies into the restorative powers of Mozart, Beethoven and even Beyonce have found regular exposure to music, particularly live performance, can lower blood pressure, ease anxiety and alleviate pain.

According to Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia - which conducts therapy, training and research at the Golden Stave Music Therapy Centre, at the University of Western Sydney - music can benefit children, teens and adults with a range of health issues. Music can help treat autism spectrum disorders, dementia, intellectual and learning problems as well as people with limited verbal skills.

Studies by the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London found that hospital patients who had regular exposure to visual art or music experienced a 48 per cent reduction in their stress levels, measured by the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Live music in particular was found to be highly effective in combating anxiety, with a 32 per cent improvement reported in those patients.

Bonnie Nilsson, one of four music therapists based at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, recently visited a 10-year-old girl who was due to have a needle inserted into her spine and composed a funny song about the doctors and needles. "Last week it took them two hours to calm her down and I went in and it took them 40 minutes," she said.

Ms Nilsson said choice of music was one of the few luxuries afforded to sick children who could find themselves confined to the hospital for long periods. "They lose a lot of control over everything to do with their body and their treatment, so … with music they get to choose, they have control in the session, they can choose which instrument to play … and it increases their moods and stimulates them," she said.

At Westmead, the Sydney Symphony participates in the music4health program in partnership with health insurer MBF. Members of its brass section led about 50 sick children and their parents in a Christmas carol singalong this month.

Kayla Coppe, 13, has been in and out of the hospital since she was born because of a rare condition that caused her to suffer several strokes. Her mother Rebecca said music had been Kayla's lifeline. "She goes into a different world when she listens to music. It is wonderful to see her escape like that." During her last stay at hospital, Kayla was in the isolation ward where her only company was a music therapist, who took instruments and played with the teenager for more than an hour. "It lifted her mood greatly," Mrs Coppe said.

Adolescent psychiatrist Sloane Madden said live concerts provided sick children with the chance to meet their idols and do things ordinary kids do. "We know that when kids are feeling better about themselves, they're likely to be more motivated around their treatment."

Symphony trombonist Ron Prussing said the concerts - there have been eight at Westmead this year - provided some welcome respite for the parents as well. "It must be very draining for the parents who are there day in, day out and to see their kids away from their troubles must be wonderful."


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