Sunday, 24 November 2013

The truth about painkillers

I’m scratching my head to remember the last time I had to take a painkiller…  Oh yes – it was on holiday in August in Roquebrune Cap-Martin. We’d been on our feet all day, trying to fit in about eight Nice museums from our special Matisse pass – and now, as we walked back to our little rental flat, Steve saying how he was looking forward to a beer, all I was craving was paracetamol, nurofen or both. I was also craving caffeine – in any form – just sensing it would help my thumping head. I don’t often get a headache but when I do I want to attack it from every front.
In the end I took nurofen, drank green tea, and went to bed for an hour before soaking in a lavender bath. Then I was ready for my pre-dinner glass of wine.
It worked for me… And it also got my brain cells working overtime thinking about the many unusual cures that can work for a headache. Back home I spoke to Dr Dougall McCorry, a consultant neurologist at BMI Priory Hospital, who explained how coffee, tea, cola, chocolate and even sex can help a headache.
But sometimes only a painkiller will hit the spot – and as a country we spend around £530 million on them every year. You can spend a few pence on paracetamol or several pounds on dihydrocodeine – but does price even matter?
Here’s what I found out when I spoke to Boots pharmacist Manny Johal for Yahoo! 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Put that loaf down, now!

Today’s MailOnline reports that ‘Carboyhydrates rot the brain’ – this is according to a US neurologist, David Perimutter, who says ‘The origin of brain disease is in many cases predominantly dietary,’
His book, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers is not the only one to demonize some of our favourite foods. Last year I found myself bombarded with ads for Wheat Belly, written by another American doctor, William Davis. Its sell was ‘lose the wheat, lose the weight.’ And I recently interviewed a woman who did just that - losing three stone since Easter this year by giving up wheat and being careful about most other carbs. She now lives on the kind of food that is frowned upon in many circles – steak in cream sauce, egg and bacon, and loads of cheese – yet not only has her weight gone down but her cholesterol has also plummeted, from 7 to 5 in six months.
Is her brain also sharper as a result? Only concerned with her weight at the time, this wasn’t something I asked her – but a study published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that elderly people who ate a high-carb diet were more than three times as likely to develop mild cognitive impairment – which has been linked with a higher risk of dementia.
According to the Mail article:
People whose diets were highest in ‘good’ fats, such as those found in nuts and healthy oils were 42 per cent less likely to get cognitive impairment. Those with a high intake of protein (such as meat and fish) had a reduced risk of 21 per cent.
Lead author Rosebud Roberts, a professor in the department of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic, said: ‘A high-carbohydrate intake could be bad for you because carbohydrates impact your glucose and insulin metabolism.
'Sugar fuels the brain, so moderate intake is good. However, high levels of sugar may actually prevent the brain from using the sugar - similar to what we see with type 2 diabetes.’
She added that high glucose levels might affect the brain's blood vessels and play a role in the development of beta amyloid plaques, proteins toxic to brain health that are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. It’s thought these plaques are a leading cause of the disease.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Weight to go with mmmmmmmm-maple syrup…

I’ve known about the Maple Syrup Diet for years. The product’s PR has tirelessly tried to sell me stories about how you can live on its key ingredient Madal Bal Natural Tree Syrup (a form of palm tree syrup) for five days while detoxing and losing weight. And I have equally tirelessly resisted her efforts.
But, two weeks ago, when I was desperate to find a case study who’d lost weight on the 5.2 diet (not as easy as you would imagine, considering half the population seem to be doing it), Kate came up with a lovely lady who has used her Maple Syrup cocktail on the fasting days – and lost two stone since July.
That simultaneously struck me as A) a great idea and B) an extremely scary idea. Scary because I couldn’t get my mind around going through a whole day without any solid food, which is what the case study has done.
But she promised me the drink satisfied her appetite and kept cravings under control. So I decided to give it a whirl. I had my first cup instead of breakfast this morning, with a second cup two hours later. Following my case study’s advice, I made it into a hot drink – 20ml of syrup + 300ml hot water + juice of ½ a lemon + pinch of ginger – and I have to say it is delicious!
There are 70 calories in a cup. And, if I was doing this properly, I would have had nothing solid to eat all day, and just seven cups of the drink.
But I had a nasty shock at lunch time – a traffic fine for straying into a yellow junction, and this on top of the news last night that the car in which I’d strayed was going to cost me £1300 to repair after its gearbox had broken the day after the offence.
I needed comfort food! There was leftover ratatouille in the fridge, and I’d just been sent a batch of reformulated Slim Pastas to try. So – olive oil aside – this seemed like a justifiable 5.2 meal.
The new pasta still has a texture that is hard to compare to anything I’ve ever eaten, but the penne that I had today were not totally inedible.
Did my comfort meal cure my blues? No. There is probably no substitute for genuine carbs when you want a pick-me-up. (Though I have just read that big eaters of pasta are more likely to develop depression further down the line – we will explore this another time).
Do I think Slim Pasta and Madal Bal Syrup are sensible weight loss products? Not entirely – but there’s a lot worse out there.
Will I try them again? Yes. In fact I can see the syrup becoming quite addictive…