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Don’t spare the Chilli, it's probably good for you

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Chillies are good for you or so it seems!


Although not everyone’s cup of tea many people like a bit of chilli, certainly their popularity has grown massively over the decades as more international cuisine has arrived in the UK.  From a little bit of heat in a pasta to the bravado of a ordering the hottest phall curry after a few beers our liking for chilli has grown.  In fact the phall curry originated in the curry houses of Birmingham and is hotter than a vindaloo by using scotch bonnet or habanero chillies.  Anyone familiar with Caribbean cooking will recognise the scotch bonnet and be aware of the fire they can contain.

Anyone who has ever eaten a really hot chilli will be only too aware that they can cause a lot of pain.

They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours and of course, strengths, which is what causes the burning feeling in your mouth, and with hotter ones your eyes, hands and anything they touch.


The hottest part of a chilli is not the seeds but the white spongy layer inside.  The strength of a chilli, how much it will burn, is measured by something called the Scoville Scale, which measures in Scoville heat units. For example, a Bell pepper registers 0, paprika or pimento is 100 – 1000, Jalapeno 3500 – 10,000, Cayenne pepper 30,000 – 50,000, Scotch bonnet and Habanero or Birds Eye are 100,000 – 350,000.  That should be enough for the most ardent fans however, you can move up to the Naga Chilli, one of the hottest in the world with a Scoville score of more than 1.3m and the world record holder for hotness, the Carolina Reaper, first grown in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  This has an eye-watering score of between 1.5 to 2 million!  Never mind eating it, handle with asbestos gloves!


The burning sensation from eating chillies is mainly caused by a chemical called capsaicin which gets into your saliva and then binds on to receptors in your mouth and tongue.  The receptors are in fact actually there to detect the sensation of scalding heat and the capsaicin molecules happen to fit the receptors perfectly making your mouth feel like it is on fire because the receptors are sending a signal to your brain making it think your mouth is literally burning.

Chillies originally produced capsaicin to avoid being eaten by mammals but humans have learned to like or even love the burn they give.


When you eat a chilli your body releases adrenaline in response to the pain, your eyes may begin to water and heart rate increase.  If you tolerate biting some extremely hot chillies it is possible to experience a "chilli endorphin high". Endorphins are natural opiates that act as painkillers which are sometimes released in response to the chilli's sting. Like opiates they are said to induce a pervasive sense of happiness.

But are there any health benefits?

Researchers from the University of Vermont undertook a recent study where they looked at data from more than 16,000 Americans over an average of 18.9 years.

During the research time period, nearly 5,000 of them had died. Those who ate a lot of red hot chillies were 13% less likely to die during that period than those who did not.


Another study carried out in China found similar results. The researchers are not sure but suggest it may be that capsaicin is helping increase blood flow, or even altering the mix of your gut bacteria in a beneficial way.


Either way don’t hold back with the chilli as it won’t do any harm and at the very least release some endorphins to improve your mood.


Can yoga help with lower back pain?

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Back pain is one the most common conditions in the UK and causes millions of people pain.  A recent medical review suggests that yoga may help relieve the discomfort of pain in the lower pack. The review stated that in some people there is evidence that yoga may help relieve pain and improve function associated with chronic lower back pain.  A chronic condition is something that cannot be cured but managed with ongoing treatments etc.

The study looked at 12 trials that compared the effects of yoga with other treatments, such as physiotherapy, or no treatment at all.

Yoga benefitted people with lower back pain compared with those who did do any exercise for their back.

If someone was already doing exercise then the results were not as compelling.


Yoga is a usually slow-paced exercise routine which integrates various positions with

The researchers did say the results should be treated with a little caution as it was not possible to hide the effects of the yoga from the participants so a placebo effect could have come into play.


There are currently quite a few recommended treatments for long-term back pain, including painkillers, physiotherapy, exercise or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). If you suffer from back pain you should talk to your doctor.


It is very important to keep active and mobile as much as possible. When it comes to lower back pain yoga could be one of a range of possibly beneficial exercise-based treatments for back pain.  It is worth investigating to find the right treatments for you.


Three universities carried out the research in the UK, US and Yoga Sangeeta in the US.

The UK researchers were much more enthusiastic than the US based Cochrane researchers, who are known to err on the side of caution.

The researchers stated "There is low- to moderate-certainty evidence that yoga compared to non-exercise controls results in small to moderate improvements in back-related function at three and six months. Yoga may also be slightly more effective for pain at three and six months."

They added: "It is uncertain whether there is any difference between yoga and other exercise for back-related function or pain, or whether yoga added to exercise is more effective than exercise alone.”

"Yoga is associated with more adverse events than non-exercise controls, but may have the same risk of adverse events as other back-focused exercise. Yoga is not associated with serious adverse events."


You can find out more about yoga here



Yoga Alliance


The British Wheel of Yoga


Independent Yoga Network


Iyengar Yoga


nuts can reduce risk of heart disease and cancer

Monday, 05 December 2016

People who eat a handful of nuts every day are less likely to develop heart disease and cancer.


Researchers looked at 20 studies that had been conducted previously on the potential benefits of eating nuts and found strong evidence that about 28 grams a day – a handful – provided around 20% reduction in risk of heart disease, cancer and death from any cause.


However, it cannot be proved nuts are solely responsible for the outcomes. It's possible that nuts might be just one part of a healthier lifestyle, including a balanced diet and exercise.  The researchers tried to factor this into the findings but using educated guesswork rather than empirical evidence.

It also means that nuts will not reduce the risk entirely, there are many non-lifestyle factors that can contribute to an individual's risk of disease. For example, if you are a male and have a family history of heart disease, eating a handful of nuts every day coupled with a healthy diet can help, but still may not eliminate the risk entirely.

Eating nuts can still credibly be linked to improved health though they are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and can provide a range of vitamins and minerals but unsalted nuts are definitely the healthiest choice.


The findings were released by researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, Imperial College London, and other institutions in the US and published in the medical journal BMC Medicine and can be viewed for free online.


The researchers studied 20 previous cohort studies, nine from the US, six from Europe, four from Asia and one came from Australia. All studies involved adults; five were in women only, three in men only, and 12 mixed.


Cardiovascular disease

Twelve studies (376,228 adults) found nut consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Each 28 gram/day serving was linked with a 21% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This was for any nuts, but risk reductions were also found when analysing peanuts or tree nuts separately. Increasing intake was associated with reduced risk up to 15grams/day, above which there was no further risk reduction.

Looking at specific outcomes, 12 studies also found a 29% reduced risk of heart disease specifically. However, 11 studies didn't find a significant link with the outcome of stroke specifically.



Nine cohorts (304,285 adults) found that one serving of nuts per day reduced risk of any cancer by 15%. The risk reduction was higher for tree nuts (20%) than peanuts (7%).


All-cause death

Fifteen cohorts (819,448 people) recorded 85,870 deaths. One serving of nuts a day was linked with a 22% reduced risk of death.

Looking at specific causes of death, each serving of nuts a day was linked with reduced risk of respiratory deaths and diabetes deaths.

There was no link with deaths from neurodegenerative diseases, and inconsistent links with deaths from kidney disease and infectious diseases. No other disease-related causes were reported.


The researchers concluded that "Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections."


It does appear that there is a link between nut consumption and improved health, but nuts alone won't reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or cancers, if your lifestyle is still overall unhealthy.


If you want to live a long and healthy life then you should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt, sugar and saturated fats, don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation.


Nuts are high in "good fats" and can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Unsalted nuts are best as excessive amounts of salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and other associated conditions.


To check your blood pressure, get help with weight reduction or giving up smoking your local pharmacy is a good place to start.  In most cases they will offer good advice free of charge and without an appointment.


Treatments that give no or little benefit revealed

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Doctors have revealed a list of treatments they have compiled that give no or little benefit to patients.  Doctors have been advised to cut back on prescribing antibiotics for some time now as the effectiveness has diminished and now the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has drawn up a list of 40 treatments that give little or no benefit to patients.  The list will be updated and added to every year and is part of a ‘Choose Wisely’ campaign to reduce the number of unnecessary medical treatments and encourage people to ask more questions about the procedures helping doctors and patients to talk more frankly.

Medical experts from 11 different countries were asked to suggest five treatments used in their field that were often not necessary or of value.  You should always ask five questions:


  1. 1.Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
  2. 2.What are the risks or downsides?
  3. 3.What are the possible side-effects?
  4. 4.Are there simpler, safer options?
  5. 5.What will happen if I do nothing?

Among the highlights are:

X-rays are no real help to those with lower back pain

Women over 45 do not need the menopause diagnosed via a blood

Other advice includes:

Chemotherapy may be used to relieve symptoms of terminal cancer but it cannot cure the disease and may well bring further distress in the final months of life


The routine screening for prostate conditions using a test known as a Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA test, does not lead to longer life and can bring unnecessary anxiety


Children with bronchiolitis, or breathing problems, usually get better without treatment


Tap water is just as effective for cleaning cuts and grazes as saline solution


Small wrist fractures in children do not normally need a plaster cast, and will heal just as quickly with a removable splint


Electronic monitoring of a baby's heart is only needed during labour if the mother has a higher-than-normal risk of complications


Experts say there is evidence that patients often pressure doctors into prescribing or carrying out unnecessary treatments and the NHS is under increasing pressure to reduce this.


Prof Dame Sue Bailey, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said "Some of these treatments can be quite invasive, time-consuming; there are simpler and as-safe options, so why wouldn't you?

"Because I think what we've got is a culture of 'we can do something, therefore we should do something' and we need to stop and reflect and decide what is the best option for the patient in their individual circumstances."


Remember your local pharmacy is a good place to pop into for some quick advice without the need to see your doctor.


Fitness Trackers May Not Help You Lose Weight

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A recent study has looked at whether fitness trackers that people wear helped them lose more weight and suggested they don’t offer any benefit.
The study monitored 471 overweight people aged between 18 and 35 over 2 years. Fitness trackers contain technology normally worn on the wrist like a watch that monitors activity and provides feedback.
The research found they may not offer any benefit over standard weight-loss programmes.
This was one of the first studies into fitness trackers and the participants followed a calorie-controlled diet, an increasing activity plan and had counselling sessions.
After six months, half of the participants were given a wearable tracker that recorded activity into a computer as well as diet.
The other half were simply told to just carry on following the weight loss programme and monitor their activity and diet themselves.
The researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found the volunteers with a fitness tracker lost less weight than the others by the end of the study.  Those with a fitness tracker lost an average of 3.5 kg while those who followed the programme by monitoring themselves lost an average of 5.9 kg.
The research was led by Dr John Jakicic who felt it was possible that those using the fitness trackers felt they could reward themselves with treats more often than those without the wearable technology but there was no conclusive proof.
He said: "People have a tendency to use gadgets like these for a while and then lose interest with time as the novelty wears off.
"And we did see a drop off in the usage data as the study went on."
The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Obesity has increased rapidly across the developed world in recent years and is a major issue public health bodies are trying to tackle.
A whole range of different diets and weight loss programmes and products have come on to the have gained popularity.
It is probably true that fitness trackers are more effective for some people than others, however, someone determined to lose weight will, and following a low-calorie diet combined with regular exercise will work. There are no short cuts, special diets or ‘get thin quick’ schemes.  It takes some effort and determination but there is support and help available to anyone serious about losing weight – and it is just as important to keep the weight off once it has been lost.
Your local pharmacy can be a good place to start for advice.


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