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Healthy tips for the new year

Eating 50g of processed red meat every day increases your risk of developing diabetes by 51 per cent.

Eating 50g of processed red meat every day increases your risk of developing diabetes by 51 per cent.

It is important to keep up with health news and it makes light reading during this seasonal time when there are so many other diversions going on in our lives.

Eggs help reduce your chances of heart disease and are the richest sources of antioxidants
- Kathryn Borg

So here are a selection of healthy tips to take with you into the New Year. Everyone should find something of interest and perhaps relate a health tip to their life.

Good news about water melons, which are found in abundance in Malta. Researchers at the University of Kentucky have found that watermelon juice reverses atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and this positive effect can be seen after just eight weeks.

The researchers tested the juice on a group of mice, while another group were given plain water. After the eight-week trial the mice drinking the watermelon juice had less fat mass, which lowered their body weight, their cholesterol levels were lower and there were statistically significant reductions in damage to the arteries. The next trial should be on humans.

The cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was famous for his multiple wins of the Tour de France as well as beating a series of cancers and writing his inspiring book It’s Not About the Bike is the inspiration for a new heat therapy to beat cancer.

Scientists have studied his fight against cancer when he beat the testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain (he went on to win the Tour de France for a record seventh time after his recovery).

The researchers believe that his cancer cells could not survive the warmer areas of the body once they had moved on from the cooler environment of the testicles. They used extreme heat on the other types of cancer cells to see if they will also die off (Mol. Pharmaceutics, 2011). As a result they have developed a new approach of extreme heat to kills cancer cells that become resistant to chemotherapy.

When you are deciding which vegetables to include daily in your lunch, consider broccoli. It has been found to be better than steroids for treating lung conditions. There is an active ingredient in broccoli which may be more effective than corticosteroids alone.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the third leading cause of death affecting around 210 million people worldwide. US researchers found that the drugs don’t improve survival, or alter disease progression, but improve lung symptoms by around 20 per cent at best. However, when the active ingredient in broccoli is introduced, it can help make the drugs more effective with more positive results (J. Clin. Invest., 2011).

Another food related health tip is the identification of processed red meats and the connection with diabetes. Eating just 50g of processed red meat every day (which is the equivalent of one sausage or two slices of bacon) increases your risk of developing diabetes by 51 per cent.

Processed red meats can be defined as bacon, burgers and sausages, and are known to be a major cause of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health say that substituting one serving of processed meat for a healthier option, such as nuts, whole grains, beans or fish, or even white meat, can reduce the risk of diabetes (Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 2011).

Being bitter about life and about other people can make you unhealthy. The Concordia University in Montreal has found that this bitterness can be toxic enough to cause physical illness.

Lead researcher Carsten Wrosch says: “When harboured for a long time, bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation and physical disease.” He goes on to clarify that forgiveness is the best way to break down the constant feeling of bitterness.

These feelings could include a sense of failure together with feelings of anger and recrimination. It is true that someone who is constantly angry at one person in particular, or at the world in general, never seems to be truly well and happy.

Many people seem to live constantly with a nagging back pain. The answer is not pain killers or anti-inflammatory drugs; it is massage. Researchers confirm something many of us have known for years – that structural or relaxation massage is as effective as any non-drug therapies; even better than acupuncture, exercise and yoga.

In a study of 400 people with chronic lower back pain, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle found that both types of massage were significantly effective compared with the usual care.

The participants had a weekly massage for a 10-week period. By the end, one third said the pain had gone completely, or had significantly improved. As a result they were able to function better and lead more active lives (Ann. Intern. Med., 2011).

And finally, eggs. There is some old dietary advice that eggs raise cholesterol levels. Well there is more to an egg than we realise. At the University of Alberta in Canada a researcher has been making several discoveries in favour of the egg.

The most recent one is that eggs help reduce your chances of heart disease. They are the richest sources of antioxidants; two raw egg yolks have twice as many antioxidants as an apple. They lose half of their antioxidant properties when fried or boiled but are still an excellent start to the day. They are full of proteins, lipids, minerals and have been described as ‘one of the most perfect foods’.

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