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Health & Lifestyle

A new way to ‘freeze’ water

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In an experiment, the researchers demonstrated that it is possible to more than double the amount of time, from the clinical standard approach, that red blood cells can be stored. At present, red blood cells can be stored for a maximum of 42 days. Using this new approach, it was possible to extend this up to 100 days.

Alongside the immediate practical applications, the researchers also believe that this discovery could enable fundamental scientific research by making it possible to study liquid phase reactions at a much lower temperature than is currently possible.

Heck, who knows — although this approach studiously avoids actual freezing, maybe it could prompt advances in the kind of long-term cryogenic preservation process that scientists, sci-fi authors, and, allegedly, Walt Disney have speculated about for years.

“We are now focused on increasing the volume of the preserved liquid phase from the 1-100 milliliter range to 500 milliliters to enable mass preservation of samples,” Usta continued. “[We also want to translate] our approach to the preservation of exotic cell types and organs, such as the liver, since our center already has a very active cell and organ preservation research thrust. Through collaborations, we are also looking into further understanding our observations by conducting [additional] computational and laboratory experiments.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Health & Lifestyle

How regular Aspirin could reduce liver cancer risk

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Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have found that regular aspirin use can reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.
The findings — which appear in JAMA Oncology— support the results of prior studies on the same topic.Data from this report show that taking aspirin on a regular basis can lower the risk of developing liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). IMG-20180912-WA0030The scientists defined “a regular basis” as taking two or more 325-milligram tablets per week for 5 years or more.

The study’s results are promising. “Regular use of aspirin led to significantly lower risk of developing HCC, compared to infrequent or no aspirin use, and we also found that the risk declined progressively with increasing aspirin dose and duration of use,” says lead author Dr. Tracey Simon, who is a research fellow from the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Gastroenterology in Boston.

Reopening the data

The researchers looked over data, including health information on more than 170,000 people, that were collected for over 3 decades.

One part of the questionnaire these patients filled out was whether they took aspirin, how often they took it, and for how long. Another part of the data included liver cancer diagnosis.

When the scientists had analyzed the numbers, they revealed that people who took two (or more) 325-milligram doses of aspirin each week had a 49 percent reduction in their risk of developing liver cancer.

For those who took aspirin for 5 years (or more), that risk was reduced by 59 percent.

 Also, the team saw that the risk reduction decreased if the participant stopped taking aspirin and disappeared entirely 8 years after they stopped taking aspirin. There was no decrease in risk of liver cancer when participants took acetaminophen or ibuprofen.



The facts on liver cancer

Liver cancer is not a particularly common type of cancer, but it has been on the rise over the past few decades. Someone’s risk of developing liver cancer is elevated if they already have liver disease, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

If somebody has cirrhosis of the liver — which is when scar tissue replaces normal liver cells and prevents the liver from working as it should — their risk of liver cancer is also elevated.

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Liver cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer deaths around the world. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • a hard lump just below the rib cage on the right side
  • discomfort in that same area
  • a swollen abdomen
  • pain in the right shoulder blade or back
  • jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • bruising or bleeding more easily
 If a person experiences unintentional weight loss, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and unusual tiredness or weakness, they should contact their doctor.
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Food & Cuisine

Signs that your eating habits need to change

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Poor skin

The skin is the largest organ of the body and it offers much needed visual insight into what is going on with the body’s health.



For those who suffer with acne, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin or premature ageing, these are all signs that their diet might not be optimal. 

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‘In particular, acne, eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions have been associated with an imbalance of gut bacteria leading to “leaky gut”,’ they said.

What is leaky gut? 

Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to ‘leak’ through the intestinal wall.

‘A variety of nutrients, derived from eating a balanced whole foods diet are important for skin health.’

It is important that people have a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish and flax seeds, along with vitamins A, E, C and zinc.

Changing one’s diet can drastically improve the skin but this can take three months or more so people need to be patient with dietary changes.

Low energy

Although carbohydrates and fats are primary fuels for making energy, the health expert said micronutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, iron, copper and sulphur are also an important part of the process.

Unfortunately diets that aren’t rich in these often lead to low energy levels. 

Anaemia, which is caused by a deficiency in iron, B12 or folate (B9), can also cause tiredness, as can poor thyroid function, which relies on nutrients such as iodine and selenium. 

‘Many people are also self-sabotaging their energy levels by relying on stimulants such as caffeine and sugar to get them through the day,’ they said.

 ‘However, this can have a negative impact on sleep and blood sugar balance, leading to peaks and troughs in energy throughout the day.

‘Switching to complex carbs and ensuring good quality protein each time you eat to stabilise blood sugars and reducing caffeine is therefore recommended.’

Fat accumulation around the middle

Everyone’s body is different and due to genetics people store fat in different areas.

According to the health expert storage of fat around the stomach (known as visceral adipose tissue) has been consistently shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and other health issues.

‘The most likely cause for VAT is a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, with excessive stomach fat being a tell-tale sign of insulin resistance, where the body becomes less able to utilise glucose for energy production and so instead stores it as fat,’ they said.

‘If you tend to have an apple body shape, then changing your diet and engaging in regular physical exercise is particularly important.’ 

Digestive Issues

The health expert said some of the most obvious signs someone’s diet needs changing is when they’re faced with digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhoea and bloating, which indicate the gut isn’t happy.

Eliminating processed foods and switching to a whole foods diet is likely to improve many people’s digestion due to the increase in fibre from fruit and vegetables.

Others may need to remove foods such as gluten, wheat or dairy from their diet for a period of time.

Improving the balance of bacteria in the gut by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and live yoghurt can benefit digestive conditions.

Alternatively people can take a live bacteria supplement, such as Lepicol ($17/£13), a three in one combination of gentle psyllium husk fibre which contributes to the maintenance of normal bowel transit.

Low mood and anxiety

Mental health is a complex issue that often involves a variety of factors but diet and lifestyle choices are being shown to play an important role.

‘Nutritional psychiatry is increasingly being used alongside conventional therapies for conditions such as anxiety and depression,’ they said.

‘A Mediterranean style diet, high in colourful fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and olive oil, with moderate amounts of fish and seafood, has been shown to be particularly effective.’

Poor Immunity

The health expert explained that recurring infections, such as colds, UTIs, thrush and fungal nail infections, are a sign that the body isn’t getting enough nutrients.

This is a sign that the immune system isn’t receiving enough support from the diet and that people need to increase their intake of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, vitamins A, C, E, and B6 and folate.

‘Focus on getting lots of colourful fruit and vegetables and good quality protein such as organic meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and legumes as these provide the building blocks and co-factors for immune cells,’ they said.

It’s also best to steer clear of processed foods, simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, known to feed unwanted bacteria and yeast in the gut.

Instead include prebiotic foods such as slightly under-ripe bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, oats and asparagus.

Hormonal issues

Diets high in sugars and refined carbs are likely to exacerbate hormonal issues such as period pain, menopause, endometriosis and fertility troubles.

‘Supporting healthy blood sugar balance is therefore a crucial step in regulating hormones, as is working on body composition to reduce excess fat cells, which produce their own oestrogens,’ they said.

They recommend increasing the intake of nutrients to help support healthy oestrogen detoxification.

This can be done by eating folate from leafy green vegetables and glucosinolates from broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts.

‘Dietary phytoestrogens found in flaxseeds, traditionally fermented soybean products and legumes can also be particularly useful for modulating oestrogen levels,’ they said.

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