Research proves Granny knew best

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We’ve all heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but do apples really contain anything special over and above being one of the five a day fruit and veg we should consume for a healthy diet?

Recent studies show that they do. Researchers at the universities of Cornell and Ulster discovered that apple phenols protect against DNA damage in colon and breast cancer cells. Further experiments conducted at Ohio University showed that the polyphenols gained from eating an apple a day lowered levels of the “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, by up to 40% leaving munchers at far less risk of heart attacks and strokes. (see the Patient QI High Cholesterol Treatment Strategy)

Lead researcher on the Ohio study, Professor Robert DiSilvestro, revealed that eating a daily apple was significantly more effective at lowering LDL than a range of other antioxidants he had looked at, including green tea and tomato extract. DiSilvestro found that supplements containing polyphenols “did register a measureable effect, but not as strong as the straight apple.”

How many of us have had a bowl of chicken soup placed in front of us when we’ve been full of cold? The American CHEST Journal reveals that Grandma’s Chicken Soup isn’t just comfort food but contains the amino acid cysteine which is related to acetylcysteine, an antibiotic frequently given to clear up respiratory infections. The soup’s ability to inhibit neutrophil chemotaxis led to quicker nose and chest clearance, but the effectiveness of commercially prepared versions varied greatly while homemade soup performed consistently well.

When you have had a bump, the age old remedy is to “rub it better”. While you might think more friction is the last thing needed in this circumstance, in fact rubbing increases immune and endocrine responses and ups the percentage of white blood cells present which are vital to protect the body from disease. Any form of rub or massage also decreases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, so leading to a calmer approach towards your minor injury.

Oxford University neuroscientists have discovered that oily fish, such as mackerel and sardines, really do improve our brain function. They gave 120 primary school children a mix of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids for three months and witnessed dramatic improvements in their academic results. However, the fish oils have also been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, coronary heart disease and joint pain, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Way back in ancient Greece, grannies were telling their families to chew on cloves when they had toothache. Today we know that clove oil is full of eugenol, a compound that numbs pain receptors. These small seeds are also packed with antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial healers which can fight bad breath, plaque and mouth ulcers.

Although most of us have heard that cranberry juice fights urinary tract infections, we may not know why. Recent studies at Harvard Medical School and Cochrane Collaboration showed that both cranberries and blackberries can destroy bacteria that cling to the bladder wall.

Most UTI, including cystitis, are caused by the Escherichia Coli, E.coli, bacteria which travels to the urethra from the anus during sexual intercourse or when using the loo. Results of studies involving more than 1000 people demonstrated that cranberry products reduced overall UTIs by 35%, while among women who had a history of three or more outbreaks per year, infections fell by 39%.

Salicylic acid in cranberries, which is also the active ingredient in aspirin, are thought to be the key in stopping E.coli cells from taking hold, but juices, capsules and tablets offer a wide variety of chemical compositions and not all may be similarly effective. Granny would have recommended a couple of glasses of 100% cranberry juice per day, if you can get hold of it and don’t mind the taste too much.

So, before writing off health advice from lay family and friends as old wives tales, it may be worth looking up current medical studies to see if some scientific truth has been found behind the traditions of yesteryear and if, in fact, Granny knew best of all.



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