Monday, November 01, 2010

Speculative study of almond skins

This appears to be an experiment in laboratory glassware, a long way from a double blind trial

A new study has revealed that naturally occurring chemicals found in the skin of the nut boost the immune system's response to such infections. Researchers found almond skins improved the ability of the white blood cells to detect viruses while also increasing the body's ability to prevent viruses from replicating and so spreading inside the body.

They discovered that even after the almonds had been digested in the gut, there was still an increase in the immune system's defence against viruses.

The scientists, who are based at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich and the Policlinico Universitario in Messina, Italy, said their findings suggest that the nuts can increase the immune system's ability to fight off a wide range of viruses, including those that cause flu and the common cold.

They said although they have still to carry out research on how many almonds must be eaten to obtain a beneficial effect, it was likely that eating almonds regularly could help protect people from becoming infected with viruses in the first place, while it could also help those already infected to fight off their illness.

Dr Giuseppina Mandalari, from the Institute of Food Research, said: "Almond skins are able to stimulate the immune response and thus contribute to an antiviral immune defence."

The researchers, whose work is published in the scientific journal Immunology Letters and was funded by the Almond Board of California, found that even after digestion in a laboratory simulation of a human gut, the almonds skins were still able to increase the immune response.

They tested the immune response to infection by the Herpes Simplex Virus 2, which can cause cold sores and is a notoriously difficult virus to treat due to its ability to evade the immune system by dampening down the body's inflammatory response.

They found that almond skin extracts were effective against even this virus. But they found that almond skins that had been removed through blanching in boiling water, which is common process to remove skins from almonds, had little effect on the immune system.

The researchers say they are still to identify exactly what it is in almond skins that cause the antiviral activity, but they believe it could be due to compounds known as polyphenols.

It is thought they increase the sensitivity of white blood cells known as helper T cells, which are involved in fighting off viruses. They said it was likely that other nuts may also have this sort of activity.

Dr Martin Wickham, who was also involved in the study at the Institute of Food Research, said: "It is an area of huge interest to find natural alternatives that will have an antiviral activity. "Nutritional guidelines recommend eating around three ounces a day to benefit from the fibre and other nutritional components in almonds, but we have still to do the work to see whether this would be enough to have an antiviral affect.

"This was just an initial study to find out if almond skins have this antiviral activity. "The herpes simplex virus is a very good model of viral infection because it is known to evade the immune system, so because the almonds had an impact on this virus, it is fair to assume that it will have an impact on other viruses."


Putting clocks back is 'bad for health'

Mayer Hillman is an elderly Greenie nut with an academic background in architecture and a contempt for democracy -- but what he says below seems broadly reasonable as far as I can see

The health and wellbeing of the nation would "vastly" improve if the clocks did not go back this weekend, a doctor has said. Remaining on British Summer Time would mean adults had on average 300 more useful hours of daylight and children had 200 more hours, a doctor has said in the British Medical Journal.

This would allow for more exercise and outdoor activities which boost both physical health and mental wellbeing.

Dr Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, in London, said an extra hour of light in the evening would benefit children – a number of whom are not allowed to leave their homes after dark – because they will be able to engage in outdoor activities for longer.

In addition, elderly people who do not go out in the dark for fear of assault and poorer vision and hearing would have more time to take part in leisure and social activities.

Dr Hillman said research showed people felt happier, more energetic and had lower sickness rates in the longer and brighter days of summer compared to the shorter days of winter. He said: "Adopting this proposal for a clock change is an effective, practical, and remarkably easily managed way to better align our waking hours with the available daylight during the year.

"It must be rare to find a means of vastly improving the health and wellbeing of nearly everyone in the population – here we have it – and it only requires a majority of MPs walking through the 'ayes' lobby in the House of Commons."

According to Hillman, there is strong public support for the clock change – about 4 to 1 people in England and Wales would like to see the change while those in Scotland are evenly divided.

Campaign group Lighter Later argue that changing the clocks to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +1 in winter and GMT +2 in summer would have a wide-reaching impact.

Up to 80,000 new jobs could be created in the tourist industry, as longer evenings would extend the tourist season and allow attractions to stay open for longer, said campaigners.

In Britain, up to 100 road deaths could be prevented annually while 447,000 tonnes of CO2 pollution could be cut because people would be switching their lights on later, said campaigners.


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