More than 100,000 cases of cancer each year are caused by excess body fat, according to a report released Thursday in Washington.
Researchers with the American Institute for Cancer Research looked at seven cancers with known links to obesity and calculated actual case counts that were likely to have been caused by obesity.
Specifically, the report says that 49 percent of endometrial cancers are caused by excess body fat. That number is followed by 35 percent of esophageal cancer cases; 28 percent of pancreatic cancer cases; 24 percent of kidney cancer cases; 21 percent of gallbladder cancer cases; 17 percent of breast cancer cases; and 9 percent of colorectal cancer cases.
"This is the first time that we've put real, quantifiable case numbers on obesity-related cancers," said Glen Weldon, the American Institute for Cancer Research educational director. In addition, he said, it's not just causing cancer that's an issue.
"Obesity not only raises the risk for getting cancer," Weldon said. "It also has a negative effect on survival and can make treatment more difficult."
Although there is no concrete science on why obesity increases a person's risk for cancer, scientists hypothesize that excess estrogen released by body fat could be the culprit in cancers such as estrogen-receptor positive breast cancers.
Studies have also shown that increased body fat can lead to increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory compounds in the blood, which are linked to DNA mutation and diseased cell growth, as is seen in many cancers.
The American Cancer Society applauded the new research, but said the report is only the first step.
"This helps to communicate the magnitude of the problem," said Dr. Michael Thun, vice president emeritus at the American Cancer Society.
"While the study addresses the magnitude of the problem, it does not propose potential solutions. The bottom line for people concerned about this issue is to try to balance the calories you take in with those your body expends every day."
In addition to cancer, obesity is a known cause of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes.
Herbal remedies made from plant leaves, bark, berries, flowers, and roots have been used to heal illnesses, diseases, and psychological disorders for centuries. Today, with the ease of the internet, you can self-diagnose, order next day delivery, and even learn how to make your own. Last year three million Britons took herbal remedies to treat everything from fever to joint pain.
But renewed debate about the safety of these remedies was sparked last week following the news of an EU crackdown on herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners who operate unregulated at present. Under the new law, from 2011 sales of all herbal remedies except for a small number of products for minor ailments will also be banned. Regulators warn that many of us believe that "herbal" is synonymous with "safe", whereas herbal remedies can be deadly"Research we conducted last year found a significant proportion of people believed 'herbal' means 'benign'," says Richard Woodfield, Head of Herbal Policy at the Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). "That means people are more liable to self-medicate, and to neglect to inform their doctors, even though there's a risk that the herbal remedy will react with any prescription drugs. They're also more vulnerable to fraudulent, even criminal operators who put products out which are heavily adulterated with dangerous pharmaceuticals."
The actress Sophie Winkleman is reported to have taken aconite, or monkshood, found in some 'herbal Valium' last month to calm her nerves prior to her wedding to Freddie Windsor.
The plant while relatively harmless in licensed homeopathic remedies in which it is rigorously diluted, can be extremely dangerous, in herbal remedies, even lethal.
"If you were to buy aconite root, which is banned from licensed herbal products in the UK, but can still be found in products bought over the internet, and make yourself a herbal tea with it, you'd be dead within five minutes," says Dr Linda Anderson, Pharmaceutical Assessor of the MHRA.
Last year, scientists at Boston University found that a fifth of Ayurvedic medicines – popular traditional Indian herbal remedies – bought over the internet contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury or arsenic, which could cause stomach pains, vomiting or liver problems.
Earlier this year, herbal arthritis remedies came under scrutiny when looked at as part of the Arthritis Research Campaign's (ARC) study of complementary therapies. "Not only did we find that in two-thirds of cases, there was no evidence they actually worked, but one Chinese remedy used to combat rheumatoid arthritis – Thunder god vine – was also reported to be extremely poisonous if not extracted properly," says ARC spokeswoman Jane Tadman.
Menopause remedies also came under fire after a study reported in the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin, a journal that reviews medical treatment, found no evidence they actually worked. Gynaecologist Heather Curry of the British Menopause Society says: "Our feeling is that there isn't enough scientific evidence either on effectiveness or safety." A German study last year found the "herbal antidepressant" St Johns wort to be as effective as standard antidepressants such as Prozac.
However, side effects such as dry mouth, dizziness and stomach pains have been widely reported and it interacts strongly with some prescription drugs such as Warfarin and oral contraceptives. And in April, an MHRA investigation into Jia Ji Jian, sometimes marketed as 'herbal Viagra', revealed it contained up to four times the level of pharmaceuticals found in legally prescribed anti-obesity and anti-erectile dysfunction medicinal products, which can cause serious side effects including heart and blood pressure problems. As a herbal remedy it should not contain any pharmaceuticals at all.
"Drug interaction is a big area of concern," says Professor Edzard Ermst, professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University. "Herbal medicines may have been around for thousands of years, but the new synthetic drugs haven't and how they interact is still uncharted territory."
The MHRA believes regulating the herbal medicine industry is the best way to limit abuses and ensure consumers are aware of potential dangers. All herbal medicines sold over the counter in the UK should according to the law be licensed. The MHRA assesses them on safety, quality and patient information. By 2011 a new scheme, which is currently being rolled out, will be in place.
"Check for products which have the THR (Traditional Herbal Register) or Product Licence (PL) number on the label," advises Richard Woodfield.
Many herbal practitioners want even further regulation."We want to be registered," says Dee Atkinson, spokesperson for the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and herself a qualified medical herbalist. "Herbs are not harmless, they are drugs, just as pharmaceuticals are drugs and as such they should be prescribed by a qualified, registered practitioner.
"As a rule of thumb, I'd say that for any conditions or problems you'd normally go to a chemist for, you can visit a shop that sells over-the-counter herbal medicines, but anything beyond that you should be seeing a qualified, and we'd like to see registered, professional. Never order anything off the internet unless it's from a UK-based, recognised herbal company."
Richard Woodfield of the MHRA agrees. "Avoid unlicensed herbal remedies, particularly those sold on the internet and steer clear of anything claiming to be "100% safe" or "safe because it's natural". Like any other drugs, herbs can have side effects. Look for the THR or PL standard on the label and consult with your doctor if taking any prescription medicine."
Eating a diet high in processed food increases the risk of depression, research suggests.
What is more, people who ate plenty of vegetables, fruit and fish actually had a lower risk of depression, the University College London team found.
Data on diet among 3,500 middle-aged civil servants was compared with depression five years later, the British Journal of Psychiatry reported.
The team said the study was the first to look at the UK diet and depression.
The UK population is consuming less nutritious, fresh produce and more saturated fats and sugars
Dr Andrew McCulloch, Mental Health Foundation
They split the participants into two types of diet - those who ate a diet largely based on whole foods, which includes lots of fruit, vegetables and fish, and those who ate a mainly processed food diet, such as sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products.
After accounting for factors such as gender, age, education, physical activity, smoking habits and chronic diseases, they found a significant difference in future depression risk with the different diets.
Those who ate the most whole foods had a 26% lower risk of future depression than those who at the least whole foods.
By contrast people with a diet high in processed food had a 58% higher risk of depression than those who ate very few processed foods.
KATHMANDU: Nepal is losing patent rights of ayurvedic plants thanks largely to the government's continuous apathy and neglect toward preserving traditional herbal medicines.
"The government is not serious about conserving ayurvedic plants as well as securing their patent right," said Dr Rishi Ram Koirala, chairperson, Ayurveda Doctors Association-Nepal.
"Ayurvedic plants and products are our intellectual property and the use of technology and innovation related to these plants should belong to us," he said.
Koirala said that Nepal lacks a policy for protection, preservation, development and commercialisation of indigenous knowledge on herbal resources.
He urged the government to pay serious heed towards protecting the patent rights of such resources.
He also alleged that Nepal's herbal resources and indigenous knowledge are being threatened by piracy.
"The government is not equipped to protect and prevent piracy of indegenous knowledge and resources," Koirala bemoaned.
He claimed that an estimated 140 indigenous medicinal herbs have already been captured by foreign medical companies. He said that Nepal ranks 25th in the world in terms of biodiversity.
According to Koirala, there are about 264 species of indegenous herbal plants and 3,500 other kinds of herbal plants of medicinal values available in Nepal.
Of those captured by foreign companies are Silajit, turmeric, Neem, Amala and Kalogeera, according to Koirala.
Meanwhile, Dr Thakur Raj Adhikari, Director at the Department of Ayurveda (DoA), Ministry of Health and Population, acknowledged that there is a dearth of specific policies and regulation concerning preservation and protection of indigenous medicines.
He admitted that the absence of a specific policy has indeed heightened the threats of illegal trade in indegenous medicines.
However, he clarified that the protection of these plants were not under the sole responsibility of DoA. "There is a lack of cooperation cooperation and coordination among the concern ministries, for the protection of promotion of these species," he added.
Meantime, Annapurna Das, spokesperson for the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation said the responsibility lies with the DoA and Singha Durbar Baidhya Khana Development Committee for the protection and preservation of those resources.
The work of patenting has now fallen through for want of an 'genetic resource bill' which is awaiting the Cabinet's endorsement.
When passed, the bill is expected to make it easier for importing and exporting the herbal medicines.