Newsbits

ASTHMA Inhalers double death risk
A new study from St George’s Hospital in London has uncovered an increased risk of death among asthma patients using inhaled short-acting beta-agonists. The risk increases twofold within the first 12 months of use, and the most susceptible seem to be those aged 45-64. The risk goes down once this crucial period has passed (BMJ, 2005; 330: 117-20).

VALPROATE Moving down a generation
Pregnant women taking Valproate for their epilepsy are doubling the risk of their unborn child developing cognitive impairments in later life, according to new research. The affected children mostly suffer from poor verbal skills (J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 2004; 75: 1575-83).

HEAVY METALS Not the usual suspect
Ayurvedic medicine has come under fire following the findings of a team at Harvard Medical School. They discovered high levels of heavy metals - including lead, mercury and arsenic - in 14 out of 70 Ayurvedic remedies. While all of the tested remedies had been manufactured in Southeast Asia, one in five of the remedies were freely available from corner shops in Boston.

Similar results have been obtained through investigations carried out in other countries. In the UK, 30 per cent of the Ayurvedic remedies tested had a high lead content, while another study found that, of 22 products purchased in India, 64 per cent contained lead and mercury, and 41 per cent had arsenic (JAMA. 2004; 292: 2868-73).

KELP HELP Seaweed has anti-cancer qualities
A study in female rats investigating the anti-oestrogenic effects of brown kelp (Fucus vesiculosus) has established that this seaweed is the primary cancer-fighting component in the typical Asian diet - not soy as was commonly believed (J Nutr, 2005; 135: 296-300).
Asthma, beta-agonists, drug-related deaths, Valproate, epilepsy, brain damage, birth defects, Ayurvedic, toxic heavy metals, brown kelp, Fucus, seaweed, anti-cancer, anti-oestrogenic, soy