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Mon, 26 Sep 2016
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Natural Compounds in Carnivorous Plants Could Fight Human Fungal Infections

The vast array of plants in nature includes carnivorous plants that kill to survive. How can a plant zap a flying or crawling insect? By using a highly evolved group of compounds and secondary metabolites to trap and absorb prey. Now Tel Aviv University researchers say they've found a way these natural plant compounds could benefit human health by fighting serious fungal infections.

The Venus fly trap is probably the best known example of a carnivorous plant. Native to the tropics, these plants lure unsuspecting beetles, ants, flies and other creatures into a cavity filled with liquid that botanists call a "pitcher". The instant insects fall into this trap, enzymes are activated that dissolve the bugs and provide the plant with needed nutrients, such as carbon and nitrogen, which can be difficult to extract from soil.

For a study just published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the Israeli researchers investigated the biology of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes khasiana, which is native to India.

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Vitamin D Deficiency Now So Widespread That Rickets is On The Rise Once Again

A clinical review paper published in the British Medical Journal is warning the public that widespread vitamin D deficiency is resurrecting the once-obsolete disease called rickets. According to Professor Simon Pearce and Dr. Time Cheetham, authors of the paper, people are getting far too little sunlight exposure which is necessary for the body to produce adequate levels of vitamin D.

Nowadays, children spend most of their time indoors staring at computer and television screens rather than playing outside in the sunlight. On the rare occasion that they venture outside, zealous parents are quick to apply UV-blocking sunscreen that prevents the sun's useful UVB rays from penetrating their skin and producing vitamin D. The result is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency that is leading to all sorts of illness and disease.

Rickets, a disease in which a person's bones do not properly develop and harden, results when a person is getting too little vitamin D and most likely not enough calcium. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is a mere 400 IU, an amount that is said to be adequate for preventing rickets.

Pills

McCain Beats a Hasty Retreat Over his Anti-Supplement Bill

Minneapolis, Minnesota - Senator John McCain showed his true colors as a big-government regulator when he recently introduced a bill, S.3002, that would have drastically impaired access to dietary supplements in the U.S. He expected his bill to be popular, at least amongst Democrats, and did not expect any significant opposition. After all, McCain is in a serious primary struggle with J.D. Hayworth and could very well lose his Senate seat in Arizona's August primary vote. The fact that he seriously misrepresented the dietary supplement industry to promote this legislation quickly showed him as not even understanding his own bill. Then he found himself on the receiving end of communications from tens of thousands of irate supplement users - as did many other members of Congress. Now he is trying to quietly back out, as his staff has acknowledged that he has withdrawn support for his own bill.

McCain himself has not yet made any public statements to this effect. However, a letter from Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) to McCain has been posted on the McCain senate website and indicates the current bill is dead.

Cow

Banned in 160 Nations... Yet U.S. FDA Regards it as Safe?

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A livestock drug banned in 160 nations and responsible for hyperactivity, muscle breakdown and 10 percent mortality in pigs has been approved by the FDA.

The beta agonist ractopamine, a repartitioning agent that increases protein synthesis, was recruited for livestock use when researchers found the drug, used in asthma, made mice more muscular.

Ractopamine is started as the animal nears slaughter.

How does a drug marked, "Not for use in humans. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask" become "safe" in human food? With no washout period?

The drug is banned in Europe, Taiwan and China, and more than 1,700 people have been "poisoned" from eating pigs fed the drug since 1998, but ractopamine is used in 45 percent of U.S. pigs and 30 percent of ration-fed cattle.

Sources:

AlterNet February 2, 2010

Magic Wand

Lemon Grass Fights Headaches

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© iStockphoto
In tests, extracts from the plant inhibited
human blood platelets from clumping
together, in the same way that aspirin
does.
Griffith University researchers have found native lemon grass, used by Indigenous Australians as traditional medicine, has the potential to relieve headaches and migraines.

The findings of the five-year study were reported in the most recent edition of the academic journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Research by Professor Lyn Griffiths, Dr. Darren Grice and Dr. Kelly Rogers has scientifically proven the lemon grass plant Cymbopogon ambiguus may be as good as aspirin when it comes to treating headaches.

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Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) Recall Leaves Food Consumers Wondering: What is This Stuff?

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) is one of most common soy-based food "fillers" used to make literally thousands of processed food products. It's found in veggie burgers, gravy mixes, soups and many other grocery products. Last Thursday, one of the largest producers of HVP in the United States, Las Vegas-based Basic Food Flavors Inc., was the subject of an FDA consumer safety warning announcement. Salmonella had been found contaminating the company's HVP production equipment, the FDA said, and a nationwide recall was initiated that now includes products from Trader Joe's, Safeway, McCormick and many other companies.

See the FDA list of recalled products here.

Most Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein isn't purchased directly by consumers; it's used by food production companies as an ingredient in mainstream processed foods. So it shows up in thousands of grocery products -- and most consumers are not aware they're eating this ingredient. In fact, many consumers are, for the first time, asking, "What is HVP?"

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Tai Chi Helps People with Arthritis of the Knee

Tai Chi can reduce pain and improve function in people who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a study conducted by researchers from Tufts University and published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.

Tai Chi is a traditional form of Chinese exercise that involves slow, rhythmic movements. The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Researchers conducted the study on 40 people over the age of 55 who were suffering from arthritis of the knee. Half the participants were assigned to either a twice-a-week Tai Chi class, while half were assigned to a twice-a-week general wellness and stretching class. All participants were instructed to repeat their Tai Chi or stretching exercises at home for 20 minutes per day. At the beginning and end of the study, they filled out questionnaires about their pain, mental state, quality of life and other health-related information.

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Elderly Patients Aggressively Over-Treated with Pharmaceuticals

Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration research group have determined that seniors over the age of 80 are being given too many drugs and in too high of doses. Particularly with high blood pressure, doctors are too aggressively treating the elderly with pharmaceuticals which is doing them more harm than good.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly a quarter of all Americans between 20 and 75 have hypertension while roughly 70 percent of those over 75 have it.

The conventional approach to treating high blood pressure is to prescribe a variety of drugs that, together, doctors hope will achieve a target of 140/90 mmHg. However after scouring several studies to see if such treatments are actually working, Dr. James Wright, head of Cochrane, found that too many drugs in very large doses is having no positive effect. In fact, he found that the more conservative the approach, the more beneficial the results.

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Ban of Controversial Painkiller Dramatically Cuts Suicides in UK

The withdrawal of a popular painkiller from the market in the United Kingdom has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of suicides and accidental overdoses in that country, according to a study conducted by researchers from Oxford University's Centre for Suicide Research and published in the British Medical Journal.

The drug in question is a combination of the narcotic painkiller dextropropoxyphene (in the opioid family) with the over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol or Tylenol. In the United Kingdom, the drug was marketed as co-proxamol, but it is also known as Darvon with APAP, Capadex, Di-Antalvic, Di-Gesic and Lentogesic.

In 2005, the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) decided to remove co-proxamol from the market after statistics emerged suggesting that the drug was particularly dangerous, causing between 300 and 400 self-poisoning deaths every year. Approximately 80 percent of these deaths were intentional suicides.

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Vitamin D Crucial to Activating Immune Defenses

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© Carsten Geisler
When the naïve T cell recognizes foreign molecules with its T cell receptor (TCR) it sends activation signals (1) to the VDR gene. The VDR gene now starts the production of VDR (2). VDR binds vitamin D in the T cell (3) and becomes activated. Vitamin D bound to activated VDR goes back into the cell nucleus and activates the gene for PLC-gamma1 (5). PLC-gamma1 is produced (6) and the T cells can get started.
Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system -- T cells -- will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body.

For T cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens such as clumps of bacteria or viruses, the cells must first be 'triggered' into action and 'transform' from inactive and harmless immune cells into killer cells that are primed to seek out and destroy all traces of a foreign pathogen.

The researchers found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate and they would remain dormant, naïve to the possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood.

Chemical Reaction that Enables Activation

In order for the specialized immune cells (T cells) to protect the body from dangerous viruses or bacteria, the T cells must first be exposed to traces of the foreign pathogen. This occurs when they are presented by other immune cells in the body (known as macrophages) with suspicious 'cell fragments' or 'traces' of the pathogen. The T cells then bind to the fragment and divide and multiply into hundreds of identical cells that are all focused on the same pathogen type. The sequence of chemical changes that the T cells undergo enables them to both be 'sensitized to' and able to deliver a targeted immune response.

Professor Carsten Geisler from the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology explains that "when a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it extends a signaling device or 'antenna' known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it searches for vitamin D. This means that the T cell must have vitamin D or activation of the cell will cease. If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won't even begin to mobilize."