Transcendental meditation a cure for college stress

medThe practice of transcendental meditation (TA) seem to be an effective means for college students to combat academic and social stress.

That’s according to the American University Department of Psychology in Washington, D.C., and the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Together, the researchers studied the effects of meditation practice on brain and physiological functioning in college students.

Fifty students were assigned to a TM or control group and tracked for 10 weeks. The end result? Those in the TM groups had higher Brain Integration Scale scores (BIS), less sleepiness and were less jumpy and irritable. A low BIS score indicates fragmented brain functioning, which leads to scattered and disorganized thinking.

If TM can help alleviate stress in college students, it seems likely that the practice could also help others with high-stress lifestyles. Like NYU grad students, perhaps. That said, I’ve tried meditation before, but gave up when I realized it necessitated good posture. I don’t have time for good posture.

TM is a technique developed in 1958 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and involves two 20-minute meditation sessions each day, sitting with eyes closed and reciting a mantra. For more details on TM, visit the official website.

See the full story here.

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Global Anti-Aging Market to Reach $291 Billion

wrinkle_creams_claims-1The market for “anti-aging health” and similar products will reach nearly $292 billion by 2015, according to a new report from Global Industry Analysts.

The explosion in sales is largely due to the growing population of aging baby boomers with disposable incomes. The report highlights that even an economic downturn doesn’t have a significant effect on the sale of products like anti-wrinkle cream, self tanner and other goodies. Instead, consumers seek out lower cost versions rather than splurging on that $250 cod oil caviar skin mask. Not surprisingly, products labeled “organic” or with “natural ingredients” are expected to see the largest increase in sales.

The U.S. market is the largest for anti-aging products (which are divided into two categories – products for “age related” health conditions, and products for “cosmetic anti-aging benefit”), currently topping out around $50 billion a year. Anti-aging products are also the largest growing segment for consumer sales among baby boomers, with females leading the way…



Art therapy for breast cancer patients
02/13/2009, 12:52 am
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poh_card2New research out of Sweden is touting the benefits of art therapy for the well being of patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Researchers randomly assigned 41 breast cancer patients receiving radiation treatment to five once-a-week, hour-long sessions of art therapy or to a control group who didn’t receive art therapy. Study participants completed surveys addressing their quality of life and self-image before beginning radiation and at regular intervals during and after.

Women were given a variety of art materials and told to use them for expression and reflection. After six months, those who participated in art therapy reported better quality of life and health (both physical and psychological). Even more interesting is that the art therapy group reported significantly fewer radiation side effects.

Art therapy generally uses visual mediums (drawing, painting, sculpting) to promote the creative process, and, through it, self-reflection and the exploration of underlying feelings and issues.

In the U.S., art therapists can become Registered and Board Certified by the Art Therapy Credentials Board.



‘Extreme’ Health Stats
02/10/2009, 12:12 am
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madonna_botox_wideweb__470x3520Ah, the pursuit of wellness. That vague notion of union between body, mind, and spirit. Americans are chasing health in a myriad of ways, and diet, fitness and cosmetic surgery are some of the most popular means of going after “our best self”…A few statistics to consider:

Last year, Americans spent $58 billion dollars on diet and weight loss products. That’s a lot of Lean Cuisine.

An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from a clinical eating disorder. To put that into perspective, consider that 4.4  million suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Bariatric surgery (aka – stomach stapling, gastric bypass, and the like) reached record numbers in 2007, with nearly 200,000 procedures in the U.S.

Speaking of surgery, Botox (the injection of a lethal toxin to temporarily remove wrinkles) is so hot right now: last year, it was administered nearly 3 million times, making it the most popular cosmetic procedure in the world.

And speaking of ways to avoid surgery, the latest estimate from U.S. Health and Human Services suggests that over 65 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of daily exercise.

Let’s end on a high note. Really high. Like, 100. That’s the percentage of Americans who will be overweight or obese in 2048, if current health trends continue, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

For a full rundown, visit: Plastic Surgery 2008. News on Weight Loss.



Curing AIDS with Opposite Approaches
02/07/2009, 12:17 am
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natural-healer_tdr-1Two new announcements on potential cures in the fight against AIDS this week caught my eye, because of the concrete example they provide between “mainstream” western medicine and more holistic approaches.

First up is a report on a man in Nigeria who claims he can “cure AIDS” using a traditional healing method that involves herbs, tree bark and assorted medicinal plants. The man, Baba Chukuri, is well known in his small community as a healer of many illnesses, including scientifically untreatable ones like AIDS. Chukuri claims he uses recipes passed down by his grandfather, and that his popularity among Nigerians is testament to the effectiveness of his natural approach.

Unfortunately, because Nigeria has the second highest number of AIDS cases in the world, and “bogus” healers are all-too-often caught taking advantage of the ill and impoverished. But there may be some legitimacy to Chukuri, and Nigeria’s Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) are testing his claims, to see if any of the medicinal plants he uses can be applied in orthodox medicine.

sangamoThe next report comes from a California-based biotech company, who announced last week that they plan to start human trials of a drug to cure HIV/AIDS by targeting human DNA. Sangamo Biosciences will recruit 12 people living with advanced stages of HIV for the trial of their drug, SB-728-T. The drug disrupts a gene on the surface of the immune cells to which HIV attaches. The hope is that the immune cells will become resistant to HIV, thus making the entire immune system resistant as well.

This trial is just Phase I in what will likely be a long series of tests, but, if effective, it offers a new approach to treating diseases like cancer, by fortifying immune cells to resist their spread.



Psychiatrists and Psychotropics: An unholy alliance?

ritalin2One hundred million people worldwide are taking psychotropic medications: compounds designed to alter brain function with the goal of treating disorders like depression, ADD and anxiety. Psychotropics are often controversial, particularly if you ask those whose medical ideologies don’t mesh with the typical approach of western medicine.

Some of the anti-psychotropic arguments? The drugs can be addictive, cause mood or personality changes, and sometimes worsen psychotic behavior. And those are just the big ones. Like most meds, psychotropics can also cause all sorts of physical reactions, from nausea and headaches to insomnia and constipation.

Recently, Dr. Joseph Mercola, an alternative-med guru with his own website, newsletter and series of bestselling books, released a 10-part online documentary on the troubling connection he sees between psychiatric medicine and psychotropic drugs.

According to Mercola, the drugs fuel a $330-billion dollar psychiatric industry in the United States, and the problem is only growing, as new “psychiatric disorders” are named by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (published by the American Psychiatric Association) each year. Once a disorder exists, medication to treat it can be produced, patented, and sold. Among some of the newest psychiatric disorders:

Overdoing it on coffee and then suffering from trouble sleeping: “Caffeine-Induced Sleep Disorder.”

A child who argues with adults, loses his temper or annoys people: “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”

Arguing with a brother or sister: “Sibling Relational Problem.”

I’m not sure that a big-league pharmaceutical company would take a stab at a drug to treat “Sibling Relational Problem,” but I’m intrigued to see how broad, and bizarre, the DSM has become. The first edition, published in 1952, contained 109 disorders. The most recent version now contains over 300. Do we know more about mental health, or do we just have more money-hungry drug makers to appease?



Acupuncture Goes To War
02/02/2009, 8:32 pm
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20070925_acupuncture1The debate on the merits of acupuncture – and any other so-called “alternative” method of healing (think herbalists, meditation, chiropractors and so on) continues with two interesting headlines this week.

The first is the release of two systematic reviews by Cochrane researchers, showing that fake acupuncture works just as well as the real deal. The researchers showed that placebo treatment was just as effective in treating headaches as legitimate acupuncture technique. A recent Danish study of 3,000 patients reached the same conclusion.

Someone might want to let the U.S. military in on the results. The Air Force has announced that they will be training physicians to use acupuncture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Col. Richard Niemtzow, chief of the acupuncture clinic at Andrews Air Force Base, developed “battlefield acupuncture” in 2001, using short needles on five points on the outer ear to control pain and reduce stress.

When I first read that the military would be using a still-unproven means of healing in war zones, I balked. But upon further consideration, if soldiers experience reduced pain and stress, does it really matter that the relief might be all in their head?