Four Dangers of Mixing Drugs and Supplements

Any items you might take — herbs, dietary supplements, other natural products, or functional foods such as energy drinks and nutritional bars — can interact with each other and with medications. Doctors Health Press devotes its pages to natural remedies, but this is a reminder that you still must be aware of the risks of interactions. Or, at the very least, your doctor should always know what you are taking. Continue reading

Introducing – Goji Berries

Introducing – Goji Berries

Other Names: Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, Fructus lycii

Goji berries grow on an evergreen shrub found in temperate and subtropical regions in China, Mongolia and in the Himalayas in Tibet. They are in the nightshade (Solonaceae) family.

Goji berries are usually found dried. They are shriveled red berries that look like red raisins.

Why do people use goji berries?

Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years by herbalists in China, Tibet and India to:

    * protect the liver

    * help eyesight

    * improve sexual function and fertility

    * strengthen the legs

    * boost immune function

    * improve circulation

    * promote longevity

Goji berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin’s key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65.

In recent years, goji juice has become popular as a health beverage. Companies marketing goji juice often mention the unsupported claim that a man named Li Qing Yuen consumed goji berries daily and lived to be 252 years old. Marketers also list extensive health benefits of goji juice, even though there are few published clinical trials in humans.

What research has been done on goji berries?

Goji has only been tested on humans in two published studies. A Chinese study published in the Chinese Journal of Oncology in 1994 found that 79 people with cancer responded better to treatment when goji was added to their regimen.

There have been several test tube studies that show that goji berry contains antioxidants and that goji extracts may prevent the growth of cancer cells, reduce blood glucose, and lower cholesterol levels. However, that doesn’t necessary mean that goji will have the same benefits when taken as a juice or tea.

Although goji berries like the ones used in traditional Chinese medicine aren’t very expensive, goji juice is very pricey. Considering that a 32-ounce bottle of goji juice (about an 18-day supply) can run as high as $50 USD, the evidence isn’t compelling enough at this time to justify the cost of goji juice.

Also, we don’t know the side effects of regular goji consumption, or whether it will interfere with treatments or medications.

What do goji berries taste like?

Goji berries have a mild tangy taste that is slightly sweet and sour. They have a similar shape and chewy texture as raisins.

In traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries are eaten raw, brewed into a tea, added to Chinese soups, or made into liquid extracts.

Goji juice is also available, usually in 32-ounce bottles.

Goji berries have appeared in snack foods in North America. For example, the health food store Trader Joe’s sells a goji berry trail mix.

Possible drug interactions

Goji berries may interact with anticoagulant drugs (commonly called “blood-thinners”), such as warfarin (Coumadin®). There was one case report published in the journal Annals of Pharmacotherapy of a 61-year old woman who had an increased risk of bleeding, indicated by an elevated international normalized ratio (INR). She had been drinking 3-4 cups daily of goji berry tea. Her blood work returned to normal after discontinuing the goji berry tea.

Where to find goji berries

Whole goji berries are available at Chinese herbal shops.

Goji juice can be found in some health food stores, online stores, and through network marketers.

WHO Maps World’s Deadliest Roads

WHO Maps World’s Deadliest Roads

GENEVA – The most dangerous place in the world to travel on roads is in the impoverished East African state of Eritrea, says the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its first report on global road safety.

To identify the most hazardous roads, WHO experts sifted through a mass of data which showed that around 1.3 million people are killed each year on the world’s highways. A further 20 to 50 million people sustain non-fatal injuries.

The global record for road deaths per capita goes to the former Italian colony of Eritrea where figures showed an estimated 48 deaths per 100,000 people.

Road travel in the Cook islands in the South Pacific is nearly as dangerous too, with a statistical 45 deaths per 100,000. The archipelago north-east of New Zealand is home to just 13,325 citizens and five of them died in road accidents in 2007. Egypt (41.6) and Libya (40.5) also both had a poor road safety record.

Driving too fast, drinking and driving along with the failure to use seatbelts and talking on mobile phones while at the wheel were given in the report as key contributing factors to the high number of fatalities and accidents on roads around the world.

“These are stunning figures that need not, should not, be so high. Over 90 percent of these deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which have less than half of the world’s registered vehicles. This is another statistic that tells us something is wrong,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan said in a statement.

Chan said the report’s findings would serve as a basis for discussion at the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, which is due to take place in Moscow in November 2009.

“This will be a milestone event in international road safety that will serve as a call to action to reduce the impact of road traffic crashes over the next decade,” said Chan.

The safest road conditions were found amid the islands and atolls which make up the Micronesian nation of the Marshall Islands. Here 59,000 residents have a mere 2,487 vehicles between them. Only one fatal road accident was recorded in 2007.

France and Germany suffered 7.5 and six fatalities per 100,000 respectively compared to Britain (5.4) and the US where more than 251 million vehicles are registered. The quota here was 13.9 fatalities per 100,000 people. A similar level could be found in Sri Lanka, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

How Salmonella can be Used To Kill Tumors

How Salmonella can be Used To Kill Tumors

BRAUNSCHWEIG –  German scientists have shown how the bacteria migrate into tumors. Sara Bartels and Siegfried Weiss, of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, say that a messenger substance from the immune system makes blood vessels in the cancerous tissue permeable, and thereby enables the bacteria to conquer and destroy the tumour.

The researchers add that, simultaneously, blood streams from the vessels into the cancerous tissue, a so-called necrosis develops, and the tumor dies.

“This influx of blood was the starting point for our investigations. There is an immunological messenger present during bacterial elicited inflammation that causes this kind of reaction. We searched for it – and found it,” says Siegfried Weiss, Head of the Molecular Immunology group at the HZI.

The researchers have revealed that this messenger is named after its role in the immune system: tumor necrosis factor, TNF-alpha for short.

They say that immune cells produce TNF-alpha when recognizing salmonella, thus alarming other immune cells.

According to them, a small amount of TNF-alpha is subsequently enough to dissolve the walls of the blood vessels in the tumor and allow the blood to stream into the cancerous tissue.

They hope to be able to modify salmonella so that they can migrate specifically into tumors and cause them to die.

Since salmonella can live even in tissues that are badly supplied with blood, the researchers believe that they can be used in tumor therapy.

This is interesting because chemotherapeutics cannot be transported to an area where there is no blood flow, and even radiation therapy requires oxygen for its reactions in the tissue.

“We have obtained an important indication of how bacteria migrate into tumors. We can now try to manipulate these bacteria to use them in cancer therapy without causing deadly infections,” says Sara Bartels.

“We need to find the right amount of bacteria aggressiveness, allowing the tumor to be colonized and destroyed without harming the patient,” she adds.

If the scientists succeed in accomplishing this feat, they may be able to take the next step forward: using salmonella to release therapeutic substances within the tumor and thus participate in its destruction.

“Our experiments are currently limited to absolutely basic research and experiments with laboratory mice. It may take years before this method is usable for human patients,” says Siegfried Weiss

The study has been published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

Teens Who Smoke Marijuana But Not Tobacco Are Different From Other Teen Groups

LAUSANNE — A Swiss study suggests that teens who use only cannabis appear to function better than those who also use tobacco, and are more socially driven and have no more psychosocial problems than those who abstain from both substances, according to a new report.

Cannabis or marijuana is the illegal drug most commonly used by youth, according to background information in the article. Cannabis use is associated with the use of other substances, including tobacco and illegal drugs. “The gateway theory hypothesizes that the use of legal drugs (tobacco and alcohol) is the previous step to cannabis consumption,” the authors write. “However, recent research also indicates that cannabis use may precede or be simultaneous to tobacco use and that, in fact, its use may reinforce cigarette smoking or lead to nicotine addiction independently of smoking status.”

J. C. Suris, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, analyzed data from a 2002 national survey of Swiss students aged 16 to 20 years. A total of 5,263 students were included in the analysis, including 455 who smoked marijuana only, 1,703 who smoked marijuana and tobacco and 3,105 who abstained from both substances.

“Our findings in this nationally representative sample of adolescents show that 6 percent of them use cannabis without having used tobacco and that one-fifth of current cannabis users (21.1 percent) declare never having used tobacco,” the authors write.

The survey also found that, compared with students who used both substances, students who smoked marijuana only were more likely to be male (71.6 percent vs. 59.7 percent), play sports (85.5 percent vs. 66.7 percent), live with both parents (78.2 vs. 68.3) and have good grades (77.5 vs. 66.6). However, they were less likely to have been drunk in the past 30 days (40.5 percent vs. 55 percent), have started using cannabis before the age of 15 years (25.9 percent vs. 37.5 percent), to have smoked marijuana more than once or twice during the previous 30 days (44 percent vs. 66 percent) or to use other illegal drugs (8.4 percent vs. 17.9 percent).

Compared with students who abstained from both substances, marijuana users were more likely to be male (71.6 percent vs. 47.7 percent), to have a good relationship with their friends (87.0 percent vs. 83.2 percent), to be sensation-seeking (37.8 percent vs. 21.8 percent) and to play sports (85.5 percent vs. 76.6 percent), and less likely to have a good relationship with their parents (74.1 percent vs. 82.4 percent).

Although teens who smoke both marijuana and tobacco seem to have more psychosocial problems and thus may be worthy targets for preventive intervention, those who smoke marijuana only also should be monitored closely and counseled. “In any case, and even though they do not seem to have great personal, family, or academic problems, the situation of those adolescents who use cannabis but who declare not using tobacco should not be trivialized,” the authors conclude.

This study was supported by a contract from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and the participating cantons.

Indoor Plants Can Reduce Toxic Ozone Levels

PHILADELPHIA – Potted plants in the house can make indoor air healthier by cutting down ozone levels, according to a new study.

Ozone, the main component of air pollution, also known as smog, is a highly reactive, colorless gas formed when oxygen reacts with other chemicals.

Although ozone pollution is most often associated with outdoor air, the gas also infiltrates indoor environments through ordinary copy machines, laser printers, ultraviolet lights, and some electrostatic air purification systems, all of which contribute to increased indoor ozone levels.

Exposure to the toxic gas can lead to pulmonary edema, hemorrhage, inflammation, and reduction of lung function.

A research team from the Pennsylvania State University studied the effects of three houseplants such as snake plant, spider plant, and golden pothos, on indoor ozone levels.

To simulate an indoor environment, the researchers set up chambers in a greenhouse equipped with a charcoal filtration air supply system in which ozone concentrations could be measured and regulated.

Ozone was then injected into the chambers, and the chambers were checked every 5 to 6 minutes.

The findings revealed that ozone depletion rates were higher in the chambers that contained plants than in the control chambers without plants, but there were no differences in effectiveness among the three plants.

“Because indoor air pollution extensively affects developing countries, using plants as a mitigation method could serve as a cost-effective tool in the developing world where expensive pollution mitigation technology may not be economically feasible”, said the authors.

The study is published in American Society of Horticultural Science’s journal HortTechnology.

Elderly Women Sleep Better Than They Think, Men Nap Worse

ROTTERDAM  – Elderly women sleep better than elderly men even though women consistently report that their sleep is shorter and poorer, says a new study.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, found that women reported less and poorer sleep than men on all of the subjective measures, including a 13.2 minute shorter total sleep time (TST), 10.1 minute longer sleep onset latency (SOL), and a 4.2 percent lower sleep efficiency. When sleep was measured objectively, however, women slept 16 minutes longer than men, had a 1.2 percent higher sleep efficiency, and had less fragmented sleep.

Multivariate regression analysis showed that these discrepancies were partly explained by determinants of sleep duration such as sleep medication use and alcohol consumption.

Principal investigator Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said he was surprised that women slept longer and better, and reported their sleep duration more accurately, than men.

“The difference between subjective and objective sleep quality arise not because women are more likely to be complainers, but because men strongly overestimate their sleep duration,” said Tiemeier.

The study involved 956 participants between the ages of 59 and 79 years; 52.3 percent were women. Information was obtained from the Rotterdam Study, a population-based cohort study aimed at assessing the occurrence of and risk factors for chronic diseases in the elderly.

Don’t Watch Your Wife Give Birth or You May Get Divorced

LONDON – A medical expert has warned all fathers-to-be to stay away from the pregnancy ward as seeing their wives giving birth could lead them to divorce.

According to childbirth specialist Michael Odent, watching a woman give birth can lessen or end a man’s sexual attraction towards her and lead to a split, reports the Daily Express.

Not just that, Odent says a man’s presence can create other problems for the woman.

He points out that a man’s company extends the labor, making it more painful and stressful for the mother.

Odent believes a woman about to give birth can get distracted by her partner’s presence and might eventually need a caesarean.

Oden suggests that even male doctors should be avoided and only midwives should be present at childbirth.

He says that the more focused a woman is, easier would be the childbirth.

He will tell the Royal College of Midwives conference next month: “The ideal birth environment involved no men in general.

“Having been involved for more than 50 years in childbirths, the best environment is when there is nobody around the woman apart from an experienced midwife – and no doctors and no husband.”

Santa Should Get Off His Sleigh, Give Up Brandy and Walk

SYDNEY – Santa should get off his sleigh and walk, because he’s a health hazard, says a public health expert.

Writing in the Christmas issue published on bmj.com, Dr Nathan Grills, from Monash University in Australia, says Santa promotes obesity, drink-driving, speeding and a general unhealthy lifestyle.

He argues “Santa only needs to affect health by 0.1 percent to damage millions of lives.”

To reach his conclusion about the jolly gent’s potential negative impact on public health, Grills reviewed literature and web-based material.

Grills found that “Santa sells, and sometimes he sells harmful products” and this happens on a global scale.

“Like Coca-Cola, Santa has become a major export item to the developing world”, says the author.

Father Christmas also potentially promotes drink-driving, argues Grills.

The paper also states that Santa has the real potential to spread infectious disease. If Santa sneezes or coughs around 10 times a day, all the children who sit on his lap may end up with swine flu as well as their Christmas present, argues Grills.

Grills suggested that Santa should get a new image- a slimmed down version on a treadmill.

New iPhone Apps to Study Human Body in 3-D

SALT LAKE CITY – Novel iPhone applications developed by University of Utah researchers could help students, doctors and patients study the human body, evaluate medical problems and analyse other three-dimensional images.

The researchers have developed three iPhone apps, which are available via Apple’s online iTunes App Store.

The first applications is called ImageVis3D Mobile, which lets iPhone users easily display, rotate and otherwise manipulate 3-D images of medical CT and MRI scans, and a wide range of scientific images, from insects to molecules to engines.

The application, which is available free on the iTunes store, is based on computer software from the university’s Scientific Computing and Imaging (SCI) Institute.

Another application-AnatomyLab-allows students to conduct a “virtual dissection” by providing images of a real human cadaver during 40 separate stages of dissection. All you have to do is hit the “View Cadaver” button.

The software, available for 9.99 dollars, has been designed by biology Professor-Lecturer Mark Nielsen and two University of Utah students, including his son.

The third application, called My Body, a scaled-down version of AnatomyLab, is available for 1.99 dollars and is intended for the general public, including “anyone curious about what their body looks like,” said Nielsen.

The SCI Institute is also developing another iPhone app, called ViSUS, which now allows users of desktop and laptop computers – and soon iPhones – to quickly and easily analyse and edit massive image files containing hundreds of gigabytes of data.

ImageVis3D Mobile and ViSUS “help people visualize and manipulate large amounts of image data,” particularly biomedical images, said Chris Johnson, director of the SCI Institute and a distinguished professor of computer science.

Nielsen says AnatomyLab is meant for students and teachers, but “a lot of medical professionals are buying it because they can show it to their patients on the spot and clarify injuries or problems they are discussing with them about their body.”

Johnson said that doctors could use ImageVis3D Mobile the same way, but with images from patients’ own CT or MRI scans.

“We assume the doctor already has looked at and analyzed the image data on a larger display device.

Now he goes back to the patient and can display that visualization interactively on a mobile device like the iPhone without having to go back to a computer screen somewhere else,” said Johnson.

Honey Sends Virility-Seeking Men to the ER

ISTANBUL – People hoping to boost their sex lives with the help of “mad” honey may find themselves in the emergency room instead, according to a new report.

The honey, produced from the nectar of a particular rhododendron species, has long been linked to food poisoning, with most of the documented cases seen in Turkey. In the country’s Black Sea region, mad honey is used as an alternative medicine for gastrointestinal problems and, more often, as a sexual stimulant.

Reporting in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, Turkish researchers document 21 cases of mad-honey poisoning that passed through their ER over five years. Nearly all patients were middle-aged and older men — a demographic that, according to local beekeepers, usually buys mad honey as a way to enhance sexual performance.

The problem with mad honey is its concentration of substances called grayanotoxins, some of which can cause low blood pressure, slowed heart rate, vomiting, dizziness and fainting.

In Turkey, most mad-honey buyers know they are getting a “special honey,” and discuss possible side effects with the beekeepers selling it, according to Dr. Ahmet Demircan, of Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, the lead researcher on the new study.

Poisoning typically happens because the consumer downs more mad honey than is recommended, Demircan told Reuters Health in an email.

For their study, Demircan and his colleagues reviewed the records of more than 200,000 patients treated in their ER between December 2002 and January 2008. They identified 21 cases of mad-honey poisoning; patients typically developed symptoms like dizziness, nausea and vomiting about one hour after ingesting the honey.

Of the 21 patients, 18 were men, and the group as a whole ranged in age from 41 to 86. All were treated successfully and released from the hospital within 18 to 48 hours, the researchers report.

Demircan’s team also conducted a survey of local beekeepers specializing in mad honey to get an idea of the typical reasons customers buy the product. According to beekeepers, men in their 40s and 50s usually seek out the honey to improve their sexual function.

The findings, according to Demircan, suggest that ER doctors should consider the possibility of mad-honey poisoning in cases where low blood pressure and slowed heart rate cannot be attributed to other, more common causes — especially in middle-aged men.

And while most cases have been seen in Turkey, the researcher said that ERs elsewhere should be aware of mad-honey poisoning. He pointed to case reports from Europe where men of Turkish descent ended up in the ER with apparent mad-honey poisoning.

Other researchers have also pointed out that, with the growing consumption of imported and unprocessed “natural” honey worldwide, the possibility of honey intoxication should be kept in mind whenever a healthy person has an unexplained drop in blood pressure and heart rate.

Processed honey is unlikely to contain grayanotoxins.

SOURCE: Annals of Emergency Medicine, December 2009.

 

Introducing – Tribulus

Other Names: Puncture vine

Tribulus terrestris is a herb that has been used in the traditional medicine of China and India for centuries.

In the mid-1990s, tribulus terrestris became known in North America after Eastern European Olympic athletes said that taking tribulus helped their performance.

The active compounds in tribulus are called steroidal saponins. Two types, called furostanol glycosides and spirostanol glycosides, appear to be involved with the effects of tribulus. These saponins are found primarily in the leaf.

Why Do People Use Tribulus?

Tribulus is most often used for infertility, erectile dysfunction, and low libido. In the last decade, it has become popular to improve sports performance.

Tribulus has been marketed these conditions because research performed in Bulgaria and Russia indicates that tribulus increases levels of the hormones testosterone (by increasing luteinizing hormone), DHEA, and estrogen. The design of these research studies, however, has been questioned.

A more recent study found that four weeks of tribulus supplements (at 10 to 20 milligrams per kg of body weight daily) had no effect on male sex hormones testosterone, androstenedione, or luteinizing hormone compared to people who did not take tribulus.

Erectile Dysfunction

Preliminary animal studies found that tribulus heightened sexual behavior and increased intracavernous pressure. This was attributed to increases in testosterone. There haven’t been any well-designed human studies to confirm these early findings.

Body Composition and Exercise Performance

Although tribulus has become popular as a sports performance aid, one small but well-designed study found it has no effect on body composition or exercise performance. Fifteen subjects were randomly assigned to tribulus (3.21 mg per kg body weight daily) or a placebo.

After eight weeks with resistance training, there were no changes in body weight, percentage fat, dietary intake, or mood in either group. What was surprising was that muscle endurance actually improved more in the placebo group. Muscle endurance (determined by the maximum number of repetitions at 100 to 200% of body weight) increased for the bench and leg presses in the placebo group. The tribulus group experienced an increase in leg press strength only.

Dosage

Tribulus terrestris is often taken at a dose between 85 to 250 mg three times daily, with meals.

Safety

Pregnant or nursing women should not use tribulus.

An increase in breast size (called gynaecomastia) in a young male weight trainer was reported after he took a herbal tablet containing tribulus.

People with hormone-dependent conditions, such as breast or prostate cancer, should not use tribulus.

SEE OUR POSTS ON ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION AND L-ARGININE

Home Remedies Series – Dizziness

The common symptoms experienced during a spell of dizziness

– Loss of balance

– Light headedness

– Feeling of fainting

– Weakness

– Feeling of continuous rotation of self or surroundings

– Blurring of vision as head spins

– Nausea

Causes of Dizziness

– Sudden drop in blood pressure or dehydration may inhibit blood to the brain causing lightheadedness.

– Dizziness may be accompanied by various disorders such as: allergies, hypoglycemia, common cold, fever, diarrhea, vomiting or flu.

– Loss of balance or spinning sensation may be related to a malfunction in at least two of three main organs that contribute to our sense of balance: inner ears, eyes or the nervous system.

– Serious disorders that may cause dizziness are: stroke, heart attack, severe drop in blood pressure.

Remedies for Dizziness

– Enhance maintaining balance by learning exercises from a trained physiotherapist

– Reduce stress

– Practice Aerobic exercises

– Develop a regular sleep pattern

– Treat the disorder which is causing dizziness

Diet for Dizziness

People prone to dizziness are advised to avoid foods/ drinks such as

– Iced Tea

Pina Coladas

– Diet Drinks/ Artificial Sweetener

– Caffeine

– Alcohol

– Tobacco

– Eating sweet and salty foods together

It is important to drink ample water, a minimum of 8-12 glasses of water to ensure blood pressure doesn’t drop due to exercise, high stress activities or due to a hot climate.

Suggestion for Dizziness

– It is advisable to sit immediately when you feel dizzy to avoid any possible injuries

– Avoid taking on high stress or concentration requiring activities such as driving a car or operating machinery if you experience frequent dizziness spells

– Rise slowly from bed or spend a few minutes in bed before waking up this helps normalize blood pressure

– Dizziness could be an outcome of side effects caused by intake of certain drugs such as antihistamines and blood pressure medications. Check with the doctor before continuing the dosage.

Too Much Liquorice During Pregnancy may Affect Child’s IQ and Behavior

HELSINKI – A new study claims that a woman’s consumption of excessive quantities of liquorices during pregnancy could hamper her child’s intelligence and behavior.

The study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology saw a comparison between eight-year-old children and found that kids of mothers who ate large amounts of liquorices when pregnant did not perform as well as other youngsters in cognitive tests on vocabulary, memory and spatial awareness.

Sixty-four of the children who took part in the study were exposed to high levels of glycyrrhizin in liquorices, 46 to moderate levels and 211 to low levels.

Behavior was assessed using an in-depth questionnaire completed by the mother and also used by clinicians to evaluate children’s behavior.

The research concluded that women who ate more than 500mg of glycyrrhizin per week – found in the equivalent of 100g of pure liquorices – were more likely to have children with lower intelligence levels and more behavioral problems.

Some of the inadequacies in the kids, selected from Finland where consumption of the drink among women is common, were poor attention spans and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

The study, carried out by the University of Helsinki and the University of Edinburgh, suggested that a component in liquorices called glycyrrhizin may impair the placenta, allowing stress hormones to cross from the mother to the baby.

Apparently, high levels of such hormones, known as glucocorticoids, affect fetal brain development, which leads behavioral disorders in children.

Professor Jonathan Seckl, from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: “This shows that eating liquorices during pregnancy may affect a child’s behaviour or IQ and suggests the importance of the placenta in preventing stress hormones that may affect cognitive development getting through to the baby.”

Professor Katri Räikkönen, from the University of Helsinki’s Department of Psychology told: “Expectant mothers should avoid eating excessive amounts of liquorice.”

SEE OUR POST “INTRODUCING-LICORICE”

Remains of World’s Oldest Human Brain Found in Armenia

YERVAN – An Armenian-American-Irish archeological expedition claims to have found the remains of the world’s oldest human brain, estimated to be over 5,000 years old.

The discovery was made recently in a cave in southeastern Armenia.

An analysis performed by the Keck Carbon Cycle Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine confirmed that one of three human skulls found at the site contains particles of a human brain dating to around the first quarter of the 4th millennium BC.

“The preliminary results of the laboratory analysis prove this is the oldest of the human brains so far discovered in the world,” said Dr. Boris Gasparian, one of the excavation’s leaders and an archeologist from the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Yerevan.

“Of course, the mummies of Pharaonic Egypt did contain brains, but this one is older than the Egyptian ones by about 1,000 to 1,200 years,” he added.

The team in Armenia, comprised of 26 specialists from Ireland, the United States and Armenia, had been excavating the three-chamber cave where the brain was found since 2007.

The site, overlooking the Arpa River near the town of Areni, is believed to date mostly to the Late Chalcolithic Period or the Early Bronze Age (around 6,000 to 5,000 years ago).

It also contains evidence of elaborate burial rituals and agricultural practices.

The skull with the brain was found in a chamber that contained three buried ceramic vessels containing the skulls of three women, about 11 to 16 years old.

The cave’s damp climate helped preserve red and white blood cells in the brain remains.

“It is a unique first-hand source of information about the genetic code of the people who inhabited this place, and we’re now studying it,” Gasparian said in reference to the nine-centimeter-long, seven-centimeter-high brain fragment.

It is still being determined from what part of the brain the fragment comes.

“Microscopic analysis revealed blood vessels and traces of a brain hemorrhage, perhaps caused by a blow to the head,” Gasparian said.

Next to one of the three skulls, the team also found four adult femoral shafts – midsections of a thigh bone – that may have also played a role in the ritual.

“Interestingly, some of them were not just burnt, but rather evenly roasted from all sides, which directly points to a ceremonial practice. This may have been a case of ceremonial cannibalism, but it still needs to be proved,” said Gasparian.