About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Dr. Mark, Medicine Man

Friday, 7 May 2010

Dr. Mark, Medicine Man


Chocolate is a treat, and as we all know anything that tastes this good is always going to be bad for us. Or is it? We know it is full of sugar, bad for our teeth and can be the bad option for a pick me up on a bad day. But hardly a day goes by without a headline that makes us think that it is a new superfood. Is it all a myth?


Chocolate lovers 'are more depressive', say experts - BBC

In the study, which included nearly 1,000 adults, the more chocolate the men and women consumed the lower their mood.
Those who ate the most - more than six regular 28g size bars a month - scored the highest on depression, using a recognised scale.

None of the men and women were on antidepressants or had been diagnosed as clinically depressed by a doctor.


How a bar of dark chocolate a day could cut your stress levels. Daily Mail, November 13 2009

Dark chocolate cuts levels of stress hormones and rebalances other body chemicals, according to the Daily Mail.

The research behind these reports was commissioned by Nestlé. Researchers gave 30 healthy people 40g of dark chocolate a day for 14 days. They examined changes in metabolism and chemicals that are reportedly related to stress. The study's methods have numerous limitations, including its small number of participants, short study period and selection of only young, healthy people to take part. Also, while the researchers measured levels of the "stress" hormones in urine, they did not directly look at changes in the participants' stress levels.

By itself, the study is insufficient to provide evidence that dark chocolate has any benefits or effects on stress, psychological or mental health, or cardiovascular health.

It's Official: Chocolate is good for you -

The Gaurdian, 30.03.2012

The news is based on research that followed 19,000 people over eight years. Looking at the participants' chocolate intake at the start of the study, researchers found that higher intake of chocolate was associated with reduced risk of heart attack or stroke.

However, the strength of this association was reduced when the influence of the participants' blood pressure was taken into account. Equally, it cannot be concluded that chocolate influenced the participants' blood pressure as it was only measured once, at the start of the study. It is also important to note that those in the highest consumption category consumed only 7.5g a day, which is far less than a whole bar of chocolate.

Overall, the question remains as to whether chocolate has any cardiovascular health benefits. It is important to remember is that, regardless of any potential benefits, chocolate is high in fat and calories and should be enjoyed only in moderation. A diet high in fat and calories is known to increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and stroke, rather than decreasing it.

Red Wine

"A drink a day increases cancer risk" BBC News

Several other news sources have reported the findings of a large study that suggests that having just one alcoholic drink a day, whether it be wine, spirits or beer, "causes an extra 7,000 cancer cases - mostly breast cancer - in UK women each year". Overall, the news says that alcohol is to blame for about 13% of breast, liver, rectum, mouth and throat cancers, and that 5,000 cases of breast cancer every year can be attributed to alcohol.

This study followed 1.3 million UK women, looking at their average alcohol consumption and whether they developed a number of different cancers. Increasing alcohol consumption by one drink per day was found to increase the overall risk of developing any form of cancer, plus several specific forms, including breast cancer. The researchers conclude that their results equate to alcohol causing at least 15 extra cancers per 1,000 women up to the age of 75.

There are several limitations that need to be taken into account when considering these findings. Current UK guidance for women is to avoid binge drinking and to consume no more than two to three units per day.

Where did the story come from?

Naomi E. Allen and colleagues of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford carried out this research, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, the UK Medical Research Council and the UK NHS Breast Screening Programme. The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Wine doesn't make women fat, report claims. The Daily Telegraph, March 8 2010

"Women who like a glass of wine after work are less likely to gain weight than those who stick to mineral water," according to The Times, which claims that moderate female drinkers have a lower risk of obesity than teetotallers.

The research behind these claims asked a group of middle-aged American women of a healthy weight about their alcohol consumption. The women were sent follow-up questionnaires over the next 13 years to track how their weight changed. Over the course of the study most of the women gained weight, but on average those who originally consumed at least four units per day gained around 2kg less than their non-drinking counterparts.

While this study has found that higher alcohol consumption was associated with slightly lower weight gain over time, there are a number of limitations to the research. Equally, the study did not look at potential mechanisms by which alcohol could have an effect on weight, although it suggests that drinkers may have replaced dietary calories with calories from alcohol. However, the negative health effects of regular alcohol consumption are well-known, and women are advised to limit alcohol consumption to two to three units per day.

Red wine bolsters brain against strokes - Friday April 23 2010
Red wine protects the brain from damage after a stroke, new research suggests. Researchers discovered that a compound found in red grape skins and seeds lessens the effect of a blood clot on the brain and aids recovery. It could be so effective that the substance, known as resveratrol, reduces the long-term brain damage by as much as 40 pc.

Professor Sylvain Doré at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said his study suggests that resveratrol increases levels of an enzyme already known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage. When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because of elevated enzyme levels, he said.
"Our study adds to evidence that resveratrol can potentially build brain resistance to ischemic stroke," said Professor Doré, the leader of the study, which appears in the journal Experimental Neurology.

Two hours after feeding mice a single modest dose of resveratrol the scientists induced a blood clot or ischemic stroke by essentially cutting off blood supply to the animals' brains.
They found that the animals that had preventively ingested the resveratrol suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.

In mice that lacked the enzyme, called heme oxygenise, the study found, resveratrol had no significant protective effect and their brain cells died after a stroke.

Aspirin a day slashes risk of breast Cancer. The Sun, March 24 2010.

"A simple aspirin can slash women's risk of breast cancer," reported The Sun. It said that over-50s who take one pill a day can also cut their chances of getting ovarian cancer.

This study looked at painkiller use and hormone levels in 740 postmenopausal women. It found that those who regularly used aspirin may have had lower oestrogen levels than women who never or rarely used the painkillers. It did not examine cancer outcomes in women.

Info re research

Aspirin a day may HARM your health and 'does not cut heart attack risk in worried well'. Daily Mail, March 3, 2010

Additional Information:

"Healthy people who take aspirin in the hope of preventing a heart attack or stroke are doing themselves more harm than good," The Daily Telegraph reported. It said that healthy people who take a low dose of daily aspirin to reduce their risk of a heart attack are also increasing their likelihood of major internal bleeding.

The news is based on a study in almost 30,000 men and women aged between 50 and 75 without known heart disease. It found that taking 100mg aspirin daily almost doubled the risk of dangerous internal bleeding compared to dummy pills (placebo), while having no effect on heart attacks or strokes.

The Telegraph report is accurate. This well-conducted study suggests that the risks and benefits of aspirin are both small in this group of patients at low risk of vascular disease. Though it is possible that the risks outweigh the benefits neither outcome reached statistical significance.

There are other groups of patients who are at higher vascular risk, for example, those with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, who may benefit from aspirin. People taking aspirin following a heart attack or stroke should continue to do so as instructed.........


Beware a single espresso: Just one caffeine-packed cup can slow the blood flow to your heart. Daily Mail, February 12 2010

It said a study has found that one cup is enough to reduce blood flow to the heart by 22% within an hour of being drunk. Though this research found that a group of volunteers had raised blood pressure and slightly constricted arteries an hour after drinking caffeinated coffee, the actual effect was modest and unlikely to have any adverse health effects. It is normal for arteries to dilate and constrict throughout the day, for example, with exercise.

The researchers did not assess whether these changes persisted beyond an hour or how long it took for blood flow to return to its starting point. In addition, the study was in only 20 people, and with such a small number of participants, there is an increased likelihood that the results are due to chance alone.

Like many things, coffee should be drunk in moderation. Consuming high amounts of caffeine every day is likely to have some effect on wellbeing, regardless of whether this includes an effect on the heart and blood vessels.....

Diabetics urged to cut out the coffee to lower blood sugar levels. Daily Mail, January 28 2008

Diabetics have been urged to cut out coffee, according to a news article in the Daily Mail. The newspaper reports that an American study has shown that "a daily dose of caffeine raises blood sugar by 8 per cent". They go on to say that drinking caffeine may undermine the effects of medication and that simply giving up drinks containing caffeine may be a way of lowering blood sugar.

The researchers used a sensor implanted under the skin of 10 people with type 2 diabetes to measure changes in glucose when the participants took caffeine capsules containing the equivalent of about four cups of brewed coffee a day. The design of this study, the small number of participants and the short timescale all indicate that it is unwise to issue advice based on this research alone. Confirmatory research using randomised designs and larger numbers of patients is needed.

Cuppa may cut threat of diabetes. Daily Mirror, December 15 2009

"Tea and coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes," reported the BBC, adding that the protection may not be down to caffeine since decaffeinated coffee has the greatest effect.

This story is based on a systematic review and meta-analysis that pooled data from studies of the association between tea and coffee consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It found the more tea, coffee or decaffeinated coffee was drunk, the lower the risk of developing diabetes.

People should not drink more tea or coffee on the strength of this evidence. The review did not account for diet, exercise and lifestyle, and the studies included were varied. The results do, however, suggest that further research is warranted. Maintaining a healthy weight, choosing a sensible diet and participating in physical activity remain the best ways to protect against type 2 diabetes.

'Real food: Tall tales and truths about drinking coffee'- Feb 22nd 2010 Irish Independent
The Coffee Science Information Centre says the most common misconception is that it is a diuretic. It does increase the frequency of urination, but not the amount of water you excrete. Coffee has now been included among the fluids that count towards our recommended daily intake of water by the British Dietetic Association.

The most surprising fact I learned is that it is not addictive. We over-use that word. Coffee does not work along the same neural pathways in the brain as an addictive drug or even nicotine would.

Coffee can trigger migraines in some people so it is best avoided in these cases. And yet some people find relief from drinking coffee at the onset of a headache.

This is because it is a vasodilator and will dilate the restricted blood vessels that are causing the pain.

The other way coffee is useful in pain relief is to enhance the effect of certain painkillers. If you take one ibuprofen and a cup of coffee it is as effective as taking two ibuprofen.
The positive effect coffee may have in treating Type 2 diabetes, a modern epidemic in the western world, is also looking promising.

Pregnant women are advised to limit their intake of caffeine to 200mg a day. This includes coffee, chocolate and cola drinks.

A cup of instant coffee contains about 80mg of caffeine while freshly ground coffee contains up to 120mg.

An espresso only contains 25-30mg as the beans have very little water contact, so will extract less caffeine.

There are no guidelines for the general population as to how much is advisable.

Try not to use coffee to give you a false sense of energy. This could be masking underlying issues like a poor diet, lack of proper sleep and stress.

And for those who drink decaf, let me dispel one final myth: the chemicals and processes to decaffeinate coffee are perfectly safe.
Coffee and beer 'cut risk of aggressive prostate cancer' - 09 December 2009 | World News | Irish Independent

Drinking coffee and beer may reduce the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer, two separate studies have revealed.

In the first study, scientists recorded the coffee consumption of almost 50,000 men taking part in a major US health study. Over a period of 20 years, 4,975 of the men developed prostate cancer.

The study found men who drank the most coffee had a 60pc lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than those who drank no coffee.

Study leader Dr Kathryn Wilson, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, said: "Coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. It was plausible that there may be an association between coffee and prostate cancer."

The results were presented yesterday at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting "Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research" in Houston, Texas.

Helen Rippon, head of research management at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world and so it is important that we fully understand any impact drinking it has on health.


"The research evidence so far on the relationship between caffeinated drinks and prostate cancer has been quite mixed, and has largely focused on the risk of developing the disease and the role that drinks like tea and coffee might have in cancer prevention. This large-scale study looked instead at whether coffee drinking might influence the aggressiveness of prostate cancer in men who do develop the disease.

"We would not recommend that men cultivate a heavy coffee drinking habit on the back of this research, not least because a high caffeine intake can cause other health problems."

There was more good news in battling the disease from the second study, which suggested that men may now have another excuse to go to the pub.

Research suggests that a compound in beer may also prevent prostate cancer.

Tests showed that the ingredient, xanthohumol, blocked a biological pathway that allows prostate cancer to be fuelled by the male hormone testosterone.

The disease is commonly treated with drugs that act in a similar way.

Previous studies have already suggested that xanthohumol may block the female hormone oestrogen's ability to stimulate breast cancer. Scientists now believe it may have a similar effect in men.

Five A Day:-

"Eating your five-a-day does little to cut cancer risk," according to the Daily Mail.

The news is based on research that followed half-a-million Europeans for nearly nine years, comparing their diet to their risk of cancer. The results suggest that higher fruit and veg intake offered only a borderline reduction in risk of cancer.

However, the research has some limitations. Diet, lifestyle and medical conditions were only assessed at the start of the study, which means that the factors measured may be subject to some inaccuracy and unrecorded changes over time.

The risk of cancer is usually governed by a complex relationship between many factors, such as genetics, lifestyle and medical history. While diet may be involved, the relationship needs further investigation. As the researchers say: "Given the small magnitude of the observed associations, caution should be applied in their interpretation."

Importantly, the study did not specifically look at the effects of eating 'five-a-day' or examine diet's effects on other important health outcomes, such as weight gain, diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

Broccoli and Breast Cancer

"Broccoli could stop breast cancer spreading," according to the Daily Mail. The newspaper says that sulforaphane, a chemical found in the "green superfood", targets the cells that fuel the growth of tumours.

This valuable laboratory research has found that sulforaphane, a natural compound found in broccoli, appears to have anti-cancer properties. In human breast cancer cells in a laboratory, and in mice injected with cancer cells, treating cells with sulforaphane was found to prevent the growth of breast cancer stem cells and thus halt the tumour's progression.

These findings will undoubtedly lead to further testing of the anti-cancer properties of sulphoraphane and its potential to target the cancer stem cell population. Current chemotherapy and radiotherapy regimes are reportedly incapable of doing this.

However, this research is in the very early stages, and there are no immediate implications for breast cancer treatment or prevention. Most importantly, it cannot be assumed that eating broccoli has the same effect as applying the sulforaphane compound directly to cancer cells under controlled conditions in the laboratory. A lot more research is needed to ascertain this.