Fruit and vegetables lower risk of depression – new research reveals

Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables people eat lowers their risk of clinical depression, new research has found.

The study discovered that eating, for example, four extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day can boost people’s mental health to such an extent that it can offset half the negative psychological impact of divorce and a quarter of the psychological damage of unemployment.

Other studies have used people’s subjective responses to surveys to discover a link between eating fruit and vegetables with improved wellbeing.

But this is one of only a few studies that has found objective evidence of the association between fruit and vegetables and psychological health.

Redzo Mujcic, of Warwick Business School, author of the paper alongside Andrew Oswald, of the University of Warwick, said: “This is an interesting finding and makes the case for an empirical link between fruit and vegetables and improved mental wellbeing more powerful.

Redzo Mujcic, of Warwick Business School co-authored the paper

Andrew Oswald, University of Warwick co-author

“The effect is not small as well. If people eat around seven or eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day the boost in mental wellbeing is as strong as divorce pushing people the other way, to a depressed state.

“We found being made unemployed had a very bad and significant effect on people’s mental health, greatly increasing the risk of depression and anxiety. But eating seven or eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day can reduce that by half.

“And the effect is a lot quicker than the physical improvements you see from a healthy diet. The mental gains occur within 24 months, whereas physical gains don’t occur until you are in your 60s.

“This is an important preliminary finding as governments and healthcare policymakers are currently more interested in the determinants of mental ill-health, such as clinical depression and high levels of anxiety, rather than people’s subjective assessment of their wellbeing as used in previous research.”

Dr Mujcic and Professor Oswald used data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, which has been done annually since 2001.

In it respondents are asked if they have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety along with several questions about their diet and lifestyles.

The study used a representative sample of 7,108 respondents who answered they had not been diagnosed with depression or anxiety in 2007, to see if their diet could predict their chance of depression two years later.

The results revealed an inverse relationship between fruit and vegetables and future depression or anxiety – ie the more fruit and vegetables people ate the less likely they were to be diagnosed with a mental illness in later periods.

“If people increase their daily intake of fruit and vegetables from zero to eight they are 3.2 percentage points less likely to suffer depression or anxiety in the next two years,” said Dr Mujcic.

“That might not sound much in absolute terms, but the effect is comparable to parts of major life events, like being made unemployed or divorced.

“We tested for reverse-causality – ie whether it might be that depression or anxiety leads to people eating less fruit and vegetables – but we found no strong statistical evidence of this.

“However, the next natural step is to do a randomised controlled trial to examine the causal relationship between diet and psychological wellbeing in society.”


Searches for depression and anxiety soar reveals Google


Online searches via Google on anxiety tripled while those relating to depression increased by half, compared with just five years ago.

People prefer to turn to the internet rather than their doctor for medical advice, it has been revealed in research by private medical provider BUPA.

Inquiries into stress soared, reaching an all-time high in March, while searches for information relating to back pain were three times higher in January compared with the same month five years ago.

People are also worried about dementia and diabetes – searches have doubled in the last five years

BUPA discovered via poll – not directly with information from Google – that  four in five people turn to the internet for advice.

Most (84 per cent) said they find they are confronted with conflicting information leaving them confused and sometimes even more anxious.

Dr Paula Franklin, medical director for Bupa UK, said: ‘It is hardly surprising that people are feeling confused and frustrated when looking for health advice online, given the amount of information out there.

“People want to know more about their health and well-being than ever before so it is essential that they know where to get trusted and clinically approved advice, and are aware of the risks of reading unqualified health information.
“There is a clear need for more help in navigating healthcare information online.”

Meanwhile, anxiety searches tripled and those relating to depression increased by half, the survey revealed.

Meanwhile, anxiety searches tripled and those relating to depression increased by half, the survey revealed


Should we just scrap the autumnal clock change?

sun.jpgDoes it feel like you are going to work and coming home without seeing any daylight? We know that the reduction in daylight makes us all a tad depressed, but could we solve this by not changing our clocks each autumn?

Not putting the clocks back in October and still putting them forward in the spring would be a simple and effective way to vastly improve our health and well-being, said an expert in last week’s BMJ.

Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, argues that the effect of doing so would be to increase the number of ‘accessible’ daylight hours and thus encourage more outdoor activity throughout the year.

Research shows that people feel happier, more energetic and have lower sickness rates in the longer and brighter days of summer, whereas their mood tends to decline during the shorter and duller days of winter. Two studies published by the Policy Studies Institute also point to a wide range of advantages of the clock change proposal.

Hillman went on to say how surprising it is that there has been a consistent oversight of the role that increasing the number of ‘accessible’ daylight hours in this way could play in the promotion of physical health and well-being. Taking account of the typical daily patterns of adults and children, the clock change ‘would considerably increase opportunities for outdoor leisure activities – about 300 additional hours of daylight for adults each year and 200 more for children.’

Hillman says there is considerable public support for this action.

Tell us what you think

Should we go along with the clock changes or demand a review?

Beating depression – a new column from author and writer Paul Holmes

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Paul Holmes – author of A Man Derailed: An Autobiography on Depression

Can We Beat Depression? Depression is a very difficult illness to control, you may say this is obvious, but do you really understand why?

Depression makes you see, hear and feel the world in a very different way. You are very reluctant to seek help, as this means you feel like a failure. You will never be open with others about it as you will not believe they can understand. If someone says to you,

“If you ever need to talk, you know where I am,” you know you will not, because what do they care? They made a genuine offer but the stigma of depression makes you put up walls, you want to hide away or worse you want to no longer live. Your senses become so sharp, any negative word or bad action towards you is exaggerated in your mind one hundred times over and so your reaction is to shut yourself away and just prevent any bad situation happening again.

The shutting away action means that these situations become impossible to deal with. Slowly over time you lose friends and contact with family and the downward spiral of depression spins forever more.

How can we reverse these vicious circles that engulf this person’s life? There is one key word that is also the hugest hurdle for sufferers to jump and that is motivation. If you do not care about yourself why would you want to help yourself?

The depression makes you feel like you are not worth it. It is almost impossible to find motivation to do good for yourself when you hate yourself. You are not worth the GP’s time, not worth taking up the hour or two with your friends to explain how you feel and the list goes on. How can we change that way of thinking? It is so hard.

We need to form an environment around sufferers to allow them to be honest and open about how they feel. GP’s do not do this, and how can they in the 3 minutes allotted time we are given? When you go to a GP, you must just go there with the sole purpose of getting referred to a mental health team. It’s not that GP’s do not care, it’s just they do not have the time to sit down and talk things through.

You can never explain things properly as they need to be winkled out of you by someone who is trained in these matters. You will more than likely be rushed out the door being made to feel you have just wasted your time. Another downward spiral starts as you have just been made to feel worthless and so the illness gets worse.

Depression is a minefield. Not just for the sufferer but also for those around them. I know my own depression has not only affected me but also my wife and family. I needed to find that one thing that would motivate me to fight back.

For me it was exercise and food. Exercise made me feel as if I was walking on thin air. Something in my brain switched on and all of a sudden I felt good about myself. I was doing something positive that for a few hours made me feel alive. I do believe that GP’s should be able to write prescriptions for gym sessions. The affect is enormous. Over time things become a little easier, the vicious circles spiral up and all of a sudden you become addicted to this feeling of, well, feeling bloody good.

Read John’s book, A Man Derailed –  his own account of his battle with this illness: 



Activity holidays boost mental health, say experts


Depression Awareness Week
, which aims to increase the public’s awareness of a very common illness runs from April 20-26.

The campaign is also aimed at getting us to focus on our lifestyles to make sure we are not only healthy in body but also in mind.

Spending time outdoors to improve your mental health is known as ‘ecotherapy’ and it’s something that mental health experts believe we should be focusing on more.

This neednÂ’t be vigorous exercise, beneficial therapeutic activities also include a gentle walk or spending time in the garden. Studies have shown that being outdoors really does have positive effects on your mental health.

Leading mental health charity ‘Mind’ undertook an experiment where a walk outdoors was compared to a walk indoors. 71% of participants on the ‘Green walk’ said that they felt less tense and reported decreased levels of depression.

With the unpredictable British weather and work/home commitments it can be hard to find the time and energy to spend time outdoors so activity holidays are being increasingly popular.

Choosing a holiday where the focus is on exploring new scenery and getting back to nature is an ideal way to ensure you are keeping active. You probably wonÂ’t even realise how much exercise youÂ’re doing! An escorted tour is an option you may not have considered before, but it is a great way to constantly explore new surroundings at a gentle pace.

, who specialise in Florida holidays and Escorted Tours, feature a tour that shows you the ‘Best of the West’, taking you through some of the amazing locations in Western USA and Canada. The tour starts in Vancouver and journeys through stunning landmarks including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains.

ThereÂ’s plenty of opportunities for those who enjoy rambling to visit new locations each day with the chance to spot local wildlife on the way. The tour goes through 8 national parks and you can expect to see buffalo, deer, bobcats and black deer on the way.

If you want to stay a bit closer to home, a walking holiday to ItalyÂ’s Lake Garda (pictured above) is also a great way to stay active while taking in the stunning scenery around you.
Thomson Lakes
offer great package deals to countries all across Europe, from the tranquil lakes of Italy to the dramatic mountain & lake scenery of Switzerland all with breathtaking views that are guaranteed to help you unwind.

Research has also shown that walking outside and especially by water can be an effective way of helping to combat mild depression. So whether itÂ’s a national park and nature that will help you unwind or the serenity of water that will create calm in your life make sure you take stock this Depression Awareness week and look after you.

Depression increases heart attack risk in women


New York: Women who suffer from clinical depression are more than twice as likely to die of a heart attack

A US study of more than 63,000 women suggested this could be because unhappy women are more likely to smoke, have high blood pressure and eat unhealthily.

The more depressed a woman is, the higher her risk of death from a sudden heart attack or chronic heart disease.

The most severe type of depression, clinical depression, is associated with a more than 100 per cent increased risk of a sudden cardiac death. The risk was even higher among women on antidepressant drugs – but this may be because these medicines are prescribed to the most depressed women.

Study leader Dr William Whang, of Columbia University, said: “It’s important for women with depression to be aware of the possible association with heart disease, and work with their healthcare providers to manage their risk for coronary heart disease.

“A significant part of the heightened risk for cardiac events seems to be explained by the fact that coronary heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and smoking were more common among women with more severe depressive symptoms.’

In the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dr Sanjiv Narayan commented: “These data indicate the link between depression and serious heart rhythm problems may be more complex than previously thought. It raises the question of whether this association may have something to do with the antidepressant drugs used to treat depression.’

Don’t be a hot sleeping beauty


London: Beat summer insomnia with top tips plus advice from the free consumer ‘Good Sleep Guide’, in association with Dr Chris Idzikowski.

The Great British Summer is well and truly upon us, to the delight of many, but the warmer weather can be extremely detrimental to our sleep patterns.

Fewer hours of darkness and a rise in temperature mean that getting a good night’s sleep becomes far more difficult than it would usually be.Poor quality sleep is known to lead to problems with learning, memory, concentration and low mood.
Keeping cool at night and blocking out early morning sunshine is essential for a good night’s sleep according to the experts. With this is mind, TEMPUR offers some top tips on how to beat summer insomnia, including some advice from sleep expert and director of the Edinburgh Sleep Center Dr Chris Idzikowski, taken from ‘The Good Sleep Guide’, a free consumer advice guide to the perfect night’s sleep*:

Control room temperature

Scientists have discovered that a slight dip in body temperature is a trigger for sleep – Dr Chris Idzikowski suggests the ideal sleeping temperature is between 17 and 18°C. According to The Sleep Council**, our deepest sleep occurs when our biological clock temperature is at its lowest – usually around 4am, making a cool bedroom key to a good night’s sleep.

TIP: In hot weather that’s not always easy to achieve, so close curtains and open windows during the day to help prevent heat building up inside and leave your bedroom window open at night to let the cool air in Save the sunshine for your waking hours.

Exposing your eyes to light during sleeping hours affects the brain’s production of the hormone melatonin which promotes sleep.

TIP: Minimise early morning sunshine with blackout blinds and distance light sources at night such as alarm clocks with strong LED displays Make time for sleep Warm, summer nights might provide the perfect excuse to stay up late, but findings in the UK*** over the last 40 years show the average daily sleep for adults is about 7ÂĽ hours – the same it was a hundred ago. Mortality seems to be lowest in those sleeping around 7 hours a night so getting a good night’s sleep can literally be a life-saver.

A good mattress matters

Adults spend up to a third of their lives in bed**** and while there is no perfect bed, pillow or position that is right for everyone, a quality mattress is vital for a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend mattresses be changed every eight to ten years.

On conventional mattresses the body needs to adjust during the night due to unrelieved pressure, which restricts blood flow, with warm summer bedrooms leading to more tossing and turning than in the winter months.

TIP: Invest in a mattress made of pressure-relieving material which moulds to the exact shape and position of the body. TEMPUR Mattresses support the spine in the correct position, easing back pain, arthritis and sciatica and providing optimum support throughout the night. TEMPUR Mattresses have been shown to reduce tossing and turning by 83%. Some mattresses retain heat which can make them very warm, whereas TEMPUR Mattresses have been specially designed to allow air to pass through the material freely- ensuring a cooler, more comfortable night’s sleep.

Eat to sleep

Avoid summer food favourites containing tyramine (cheese, ham, aubergines, pepperoni, raspberries, avocado and red wine) which can keep you awake at night as they release norepinephrine, a brain stimulant.

TIP: If you get the munchies close to bedtime, eat something that triggers the hormone serotonin, which helps to promote sleep. Carbohydrates such as bread or cereal will do the trick.

TEMPUR, the manufacturer of pressure relieving pillows and mattresses, has got together with respected sleep expert Dr Chris Idzikowski – Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre with more than 20 years experience in sleep research and medicine – to create ‘The Good Sleep Guide’, an easy-to-follow leaflet to help you get the perfect night’s sleep.

For FREE copies of ‘The Good Sleep Guide’ for you, your friends or family, or for more information about TEMPUR Products, please contact TEMPUR on 08000 111081 or email

Other useful sites for sleep issues:
** Sleep Council
*** Loughborough Sleep Research Centre
**** Edinburgh Sleep Centre


Mattresses are made from unique TEMPUR Material, a proprietary, open celled, temperature sensitive material that conforms to and supports the individual user by evenly distributing body weight. The basis for the TEMPUR pressure relieving material was originally developed by NASA to protect astronauts against G Forces during lift off and re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere. Today TEMPUR is the only producer of mattresses and pillows worldwide to be endorsed by NASA and certified by the Space Foundation.
TEMPUR Products are recommended by over 30,000 medical professionals worldwide, and their beneficial properties are supported by clinical research. A trial at the Institution for Clinical & Physiological Research at the Lillhagen Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden tested 23,000 patients over an eight year period of home and clinical use of the TEMPUR Mattress and Pillow. Patients suffered less pain, experienced enhanced deep sleep, and an 83% reduction in tossing and turning when using TEMPUR Products.

A whole host of celebrities are now claiming they have found the perfect sleeping partner – their TEMPUR Mattress including George Michael, Jane Seymour, Paris Hilton, The England Rugby Team, Paul McCartney, David Blaine, The Ozbournes, Kyran Bracken, Claire Sweeney, Charlie Dimmock, Susan Hampshire and Noel Gallagher.
TEMPUR Mattress prices start from ÂŁ675, and TEMPUR Pillows are priced from ÂŁ69.95. For more information about TEMPUR Products, call 08000 111081 or visit Tempur

Women fight depression with sex, says new report


Melbourne: Depressed women are likely to have more sex than those who are happier because it helps them to fight feelings of inadequacy, a new study has revealed.

Researchers in Australia have found that females who suffer from mild to moderate depression indulge in more sexual activity than those who are not, regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not.

Moreover, depressed women have more sexually liberated attitudes, a variety of sexual experiences and, if single, are more likely to go for casual sex, according to the study.

Lead researcher Dr Sabura Allen said: “When people are depressed they feel more insecure about their relationships and concerned that their partner may not care about them or find them valuable. Having sex helps them feel that closeness and security.

“It was more sex and more of everything from kissing to petting, foreplay and intercourse. We knew this anecdotally from clinical samples but this is the first time it’s been shown in research.”

Dr Allen and her colleagues at the Melbourne Monash University came to the conclusion after they analysed the sexual experiences of 107 depressed and non-depressed women who were in relationships.

Dr Allen said that Australian couples “tend to have sex between once and three times a week”, with “very much the majority in the once a week group”. “Single women have it significantly less, but the same is not necessarily true in the case of single men.”

However, the researchers are not sure whether sexual intercourse could be an effective balm for depression. “We really don’t know but we presume it helps as it gives these women opportunities to be close to their partner and loved.”

Natural alternatives to fight depression


Scientific study and clinical experience demonstrate that several natural remedies can help alleviate depression. These include the herb St John’s Wort, 5-HTP and SAMe(S-adenosylmethionine) which work by enhancing the brain’s production of the well-being hormone serotonin.

SAMe is a natural substance that the body can produce itself from the essential acid methionine and the cell fuel ATP. Found in all our cells SAMe plays an important role in critical biochemical processes, assisting other body’s chemicals to convert into serotonin.

Researchers from the University of Alabama in the US in the late 1980s found that depressed patients were not making enough of their own SAMe in their brains. After checking red cells from patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia, they discovered a decreased amount of a chemical called methionine adenosyl transferase (MAT), an enzyme necessary for the formation of SAMe.

People who have lower levels of SAMe tend to have high levels of the protein homocysteine in their blood. Homocysteine is implicated in a number of serious illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, liver damage, eye problems and is thought may contribute to the sticky plaques in the brain in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Since a deficiency in the B vitamin, folic acid, is associated with high homocysteine levels, high levels of SAMe may be assisted by eating foods containing folic acid such as asparagus and other green vegetables.

Depression is helped by a balanced diet which should include essential fatty acids from fish and nut which feed the brain; avoiding alcohol and sugar which cause sugar spikes in the blood, taking a multi-vitamin and minerals, incuding potassium. Vitamin D is helpful for the winter blues.

Exercise including medication and yoga are destressers, as it listening to music.

SAMe can be purchased online as a supplement at It also supports joint and bone health. This supplement should not be taken by anyone with bipolar disorder or pregnant woman.

People who are experiencing profound feelings of sadness and hopelessness should seek professional help. Natural herbs and supplements should not be taken in conjunction with other drugs and advice should always be sought from a medical professional before taking natural herbs and medicines for depression.

Exercise therapy treats depression


London:The last three years have seen a significant rise in the number of GPs prescribing exercise to people with mild to moderate depression, according to new research* from the Mental Health Foundation.

The charity says that 22% of GPs now prescribe exercise therapy as one of their three most common treatments for depression compared with only 5% three years ago.

The new figures also show a change in GPs’ beliefs about exercise therapy. Almost two-thirds of GPs (61%) now believe a supervised programme of exercise to be ‘very effective’ or ‘quite effective’ in treating mild to moderate depression, in comparison to 41% three years ago. And two thirds of GPs (66%) who currently do not have access to an exercise referral scheme say they would use one if it were available.

1 in 6 GPs (16%) have noticed an increase in the number of people asking whether exercise would be a suitable treatment for their depression.

The Mental Health Foundation has been campaigning for the last three years to increase the use of exercise referral for mild to moderate depression. The charity warns that despite growing interest among patients and changes to GP attitudes, exercise on prescription is still not widely available – with less than half of GPs (49%) able to access an exercise therapy referral scheme for people with depression.

Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said:

“It is excellent news that GPs are now turning to exercise therapy to help people with depression. There is a real need for increased availability of exercise on prescription so that it is accessible alongside antidepressant medication and psychological therapies. Depression is a complex illness – it is important that GPs have a range of treatments to offer and that people with depression have a choice.”

The Mental Health Foundation is now working to expose the barriers that prevent exercise therapy from being offered universally. The research programme, partly funded by the Department of Health, involves the charity working with six sites across England that run exercise referral schemes**.

The research findings will be published in early 2009, in addition to a toolkit that will include practical advice on setting up and delivering an exercise referral scheme, as well as training packages for referrers in primary care and industry staff involved in exercise therapy delivery.

Two information booklets about exercise and depression are available from the Mental Health Foundation – ‘How exercise can help beat depression’ for patients and ‘Exercise referral and the treatment of mild or moderate depression’ for GPs and healthcare practitioners. Download from or telephone 020 7803 1100.

* Total sample size was 200 GPs – the survey was carried out by GfK HealthCare. The Up and Running? report published by the Mental Health Foundation in 2005 includes the results of 200 GPs polled three years ago –

** The participating six sites are located in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, London, Northamptonshire, Redcar and Cleveland, and the Wirral.

About the Mental Health Foundation:

The Mental Health Foundation uses research and practical projects to help people survive, recover from and prevent mental health problems. We work to influence policy, including government at the highest levels. And we use our knowledge to raise awareness and to help tackle the stigma attached to mental illness. We reach millions of people every year through our media work, information booklets and online services.

Exercise may help menopause symptoms


New York: A regular brisk walk may help women going through menopause improve their mental well-being, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that middle-aged women who exercised regularly had lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression around the time of menopause than those who did not exercise regularly.

The findings, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine, add to evidence that physical activity can benefit mental, as well as physical, health.

“With the aging population, physical activity represents one way for women to stay mentally healthy,” Dr. Deborah B. Nelson, the lead researcher on the study, said in a statement. “Physical activity can help throughout the menopausal transition and afterwards,” added Nelson, a public health researcher at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The findings are based on data from 380 Philadelphia women who were 42 years old, on average, and premenopausal at the beginning of the study. Eight years later, 20 percent were menopausal and another 18 percent were in the late transitional phase.

The researchers found that women who got moderate to high levels of exercise reported lower stress levels than inactive women did. Among postmenopausal women, those who exercised regularly had lower stress levels and were less likely to have anxiety and depression symptoms.

Exercise did not, however, seem to protect women from the physical symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes.

“Physical symptoms like hot flashes will go away when you reach menopause,” Nelson said, “but mental health is something women still need to think about postmenopause.”

Importantly, Nelson pointed out, women need not work out intensely to get a mental and emotional lift.

“In the urban setting, these women walked outside on city blocks or in shopping malls,” she said. “Groups could organize to take walks after dinner. It didn’t require going to the gym.”

Get more folate to beat the winter blues


A study in Japan has found folate, a vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, reduced the symptoms of depression amongst men by 50 per cent in over 500 subjects studied.

This might be news to many of us, but it seems nature may have known all along.
Depressing winter is also the season for veggies packed full of smile-inducing folate.

Cabbage, purple sprouting brocolli, beetroot, parsnips, leeks, kale, Brussels sprouts, spring greens and endives are the veg you should be munching on.
Because they’re in season right now they’re at their tastiest and most nutritious – full of folate. Visit for some delicious seasonal recipes.

And don’t worry girls, although the study was conducted on males, other research has also found some links between low levels of folate with depression in both sexes. Chances are chowing down on your greens could leave you feeling a little sunnier too.

Depression more harmful to health than diseases

Geneva: Depression is more harmful to health than lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity, according to a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The organisation investigated information on 250,000 patients in 60 countries, and discovered that on a scale of zero to 100 – with zero indicating worst health and 100 indicating best – sufferers of depression had an average score of 72.9.

This compared with ‘better’ scores of 80.3 for asthmatics, 79.6 for angina sufferers, 79.3 for arthritis sufferers and 78.9 for those with diabetes.
does more harm to a person’s wellbeing than physical diseases such as asthma, angina and diabetes, a study has found.

In 2000, scientists rated depression as having the fourth greatest public health impact. But by 2020 they predict it will have risen to become the second leading cause of disease burden.

The study, in a report published in the medical magazine, The Lancet, was led by Dr Somnath Chatterji, who said its findings demonstrated the urgent need to improve treatment for depression.

He said: “When people come for treatment for long-term chronic diseases, doctors tend to focus mainly on the physical diseases – they are not looking for depression.

“This study reinforces the importance of recognising and treating depression as part of chronic illness because it’s a much more effective way to improve people’s health than just dealing with chronic physical illness. The treatment of mental illness is a necessity, not a luxury.”

Pine bark may help menopause symptoms

Stockholm: A study to be published in a forthcoming edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reveals that Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all), pine bark extract from the French maritime pine tree, reduces “climacteric symptoms” such as hot flashes, depression, panic attacks, cholesterol and other common symptoms associated with women entering the perimenopause.

The results suggest Pycnogenol® may serve as an alternative treatment to estrogen replacement therapy, which is the most common remedy of pre-menopause (“perimenopausal”) symptoms.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, perimenopause is the natural part of aging that signals the ending of a womanÂ’s reproductive years. It marks the time when a womanÂ’s body begins its move into menopause and can last anywhere from two to eight years.

“Pycnogenol® was chosen for this study due to previous research revealing health benefits associated with cognitive function, skin elasticity, nitric oxide stimulation, free radical scavenging and the broadening of antioxidant activity,” said Dr. Peter Rohdewald, Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Germany’s University of Munster and a lead researcher of this study. “Achieving these health benefits is key to treating perimenopausal symptoms naturally.”

The randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study was conducted at Ham-Ming Hospital in Taiwan with 155 perimenopausal women. Each day, patients either received 200 mg Pycnogenol® or placebo, and recorded their symptoms using the Women’s Health Questionnaire (WHQ). The WHQ consisted of the following: somatic symptoms, depressed mood, vasomotoric symptoms, memory/concentration, attractiveness, anxiety, sexual behavior, sleep problems and menstrual symptoms.

Additionally, patients visited the clinic at one, three and six months following start of treatment. At each visit, BMI, blood pressure, lipid profile and total antioxidant status were recorded. After six months, LDL (bad) cholesterol dropped by 10 percent with Pycnogenol® treatment compared to placebo. Patients who supplemented with Pycnogenol® also had increased antioxidant levels compared to the placebo group.

During treatment, rapid improvement of symptoms was reported from the Pycnogenol® group after one month. All symptoms of the WHQ improved significantly compared to the start of treatment, and patients did not report unwanted side effects. In the placebo group, no significant changes of symptoms were recorded.

“There is a shift away from the use of hormone replacement therapy due to side effects and in its absence women are searching for safe and natural options to help manage their symptoms. This study investigating Pycnogenol® as a potential natural alternative is very encouraging in view of the safety of Pycnogenol® as it does not bear any hormone-like activities at all,” said Dr. Rohdewald.

Numerous other published studies reveal Pycnogenol’s® effectiveness for women’s health, such as relieving menstrual pain and endometriosis, and it is patent-protected for this application. Additional studies reveal Pycnogenol® is a natural anti-inflammatory, which provides the basis for the rationale to use Pycnogenol® to naturally moderate inflammatory pain sensation involved in menstruation.

Pycnogenol® is available from pharmacies and health food stores nationwide priced from £9.99 for 30 capsules. For further information please visit

Notes to editors:
About Pycnogenol®:
Pycnogenol® is a natural plant extract originating from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France and is found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, which offer extensive natural health benefits. The extract has been widely studied for the past 35 years and has more than 220 published studies and review articles ensuring safety and efficacy as an ingredient. Today, Pycnogenol® is available in more than 600 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products worldwide. For more information or a copy of this study, visit

Nagging health questions answered on new UK government site

London: Got a nagging question about your health? Are you planning a new fitness regime or are you interested in finding out more about a particular condition and relevant treatment options? If you are looking for reliable, personalised information about your health and lifestyle you can now find it at the new website, NHS Choices

Health advice is now the second most searched for subject online so it is no surprise that there is a lot of information of variable quality out there.
NHS Choices is a one-stop shop for all your health information that you can trust and that puts you in charge of decisions about your own health, lifestyle and even treatment options.

See how fit and healthy you are with a quick and easy personal health check and watch short movies from the experts and real people about their experiences of common conditions and treatments. Read honest accounts of how celebrities such as Steve Redgrave, Tricia Goddard, Rosemary Conley and Nik Powell, Richard BransonÂ’s co-founder of Virgin Records have overcome their own health problems. You can even become an expert with access to information only previously available to the medical profession.

Get motivated and take inspiration for a healthy life from Live Well, a series of online magazines featuring up to date articles, short movies and celebrity contributions to appeal to different groups such as women, teenagers, men and families.

Get great ideas for healthy eating with recipes from Emma Bunton, Nadine Coyle, Dannii Minogue and Myleene Klass and watch celebrity chefs cook up simple, healthy meals for the whole family and romantic nights in.

Find inspiration for a fitness regime that works for your age and lifestyle. Get active and take the Chelsea FC challenge, try walking your way to fitness and a great pair of legs or read how Olympic sprinter, Linford Christie has managed to stay fit and lean post retirement and post forty.

Learn our how to stay happy and healthy at work and see what the experts have to say about a mid life crisis. Is your urge for a newer model – car or woman – due to brain or hormone changes or just bad behaviour.

Should you need to go to hospital NHS Choices gives you the information to make an informed decision about where and when you want to be treated. View ratings on hospital waiting times, cleanliness and readmission figures and for the first time what previous patients have to say about their treatment and experiences via immediate online feedback.

It is even possible for you to make your choice of hospital based upon personal preferences such as travelling times, MRSA incidences and availability of single sex wards.

1. The NHS Choices website draws on the combined experience and expertise of, NHS Direct, the National Electronic Library for Health, and the Healthcare Commission.

2. NHS Choices can be found at The site will continue to evolve and significant extensions are scheduled for later in 2007 and 2008.

3. The site will allow patients to access NHS approved information using a number of features under distinct headings:

Live Well
• Information that will help the well to stay fit and assist those who are unwell to manage their condition

• ‘Magazine’ content will reflect the interests and needs of different groups such as teenagers, families and those over 70

Health A-Z
• Access to a vast library of approved medical literature, previously only available to clinicians to enable a deeper understanding of conditions & treatment options
• Easy to understand multi-media guides on the most common procedures e.g. hip replacement
• Detailed guides to living with 20 long-term conditions such as diabetes to help patients manage their condition. Expert opinions from professionals and patients will provide advice and support

Choose Services
• Authoritative, comparative data on the standards and availability of services
• Searchable comprehensive directories e.g. on hospitals, GPs and care homes
• A quality scorecard that will help patients and GPs together to identify the most appropriate clinicians and locations for their treatment

Your Thoughts
• Patients will be able to directly comment and feedback on their hospital experience
• All comments will be pre-moderated and references to named individuals will be removed
• Hospitals will have the opportunity to respond to comments about their services.

Loss of taste may be indicator of depression

Bristol: A loss of taste may be a sign of depression, according to scientists at the UK’s Bristol University.

When levels of our good mood chemicals fall in the brain our taste is desensitised. On the other hand when levels of mood enhancing chemicals such as serotonin and noradrenaline increase, sense of taste improves.

The team from Bristol University say their findings, which examined the links between brain mood chemicals and taste, could explain why loss of appetite often goes hand-in-hand with depression.

Their discovery could lead to the development of a taste test allowing doctors to quickly and accurately choose the right drug to treat a patient’s depression. But this will not be available for several years.

In the study volunteers were asked to taste a range of foods and their ability to pick up different tastes was rated.

They were then given antidepressants which raise the levels of serotonin or noradrenaline.

The results showed that raising serotonin levels enhanced their ability to recognise bitter and sweet tastes.

Raising noradrenaline levels made them more sensitive to bitter and sour tastes.

Some anti-depressants such as Prozac raise serotonin levels. Edronax increases the amount of noradrenaline. Other drugs can improve levels of both chemicals.

Doctors currently have no way of knowing which medicine will work for which patient and often initially prescribe the wrong drug.

Being able to pinpoint the right drug early on would enhance recovery from the condition that affects one in five Britons at some point in their lifetime.

Omega-3 boost mood, say Australian scientists

Sydney: Omega-3, an oil found in oily fish is now credited with improving mood and compating depression, according to Australian scientists.

Already credited with boosting brain power and healthy heart, it is also capable of boosting mood.

Australian dietician Dr Dianne Volker, of the University of Sydney, and Jade Ng, of food wholesaler Goodman Fielder, of New South Wales, found evidence that Omega-3 combats depression.

The results of their study will be published in Nutrition and Dietetics next month.

Earlier this month the UK government announced that millions of heart-attack survivors will be prescribed daily fish oil supplements for life on the National Health Service to reduce the risk of a second attack. The best source of omega 3 fatty acids is mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines or trout because the human body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids.

Light technology does help winter depression, says new report

London: A three year trial trial has confirmed the effectiveness of a revolutionary new LED technology that emits an intensely bright uv-free light at exactly the right wavelength to achieve the maximum and most rapid suppression of the sleep hormone melatonin.

The conclusion of the study at five centres in Canada and Holland was titled “Treatment with The Litebook is an effective treatment for SAD as assessed by both clinicians (SIGH-SAD, CGI) and patients (BDI).”

The short treatment time (30 minutes) and portability of the device may increase patient appeal and adherence over other treatment options, including chemical antidepressants and other light therapy devices.

This study comes hot on the heels of clinical trials, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, that demonstrated that light therapy is more effective than fluoxetine (Prozac) in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Light therapy is a drug free and non-addictive.

Compared to fluoxetine it was shown to have a more rapid onset of improvement and a lack of side effects. It is estimated that only 3 -5% of people suffer from SAD but the incidence of ‘Winter Blues’ is as high as 40%.

Dr. Jan Wise, London-based consultant psychiatrist and expert in seasonal depression and light therapy, comments, “Two in five people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. If you notice symptoms such as lack of energy, trouble sleeping and a general low feeling for prolonged periods, then this is a very real sign of SAD. Light therapy is an important and clinically proven treatment for seasonal depression. It is non-invasive, non-chemical and enables anyone with SAD to control their symptoms as naturally and effectively as possible.”

Typical SAD symptoms of lethargy, low energy, carbohydrate and nicotine craving, poor sleep patterns and depressed mood are not restricted to winter months. The effects of light and lack of sleep on body rhythms can cause year-long social jetlag. The Litebook also offers an effective drug-free treatment for shift workers, teenagers, over 50s and anyone living out of kilter with their body clock. Typical usage time is just 15-30 minutes compared to up to 2 hours using large and unwieldy legacy systems.

Depression linked to folate deficiency

Boston: The vitamin, folic acid, which is important in preventing birth defects, may help treat depression.

New research by Tufts University in the US has revealed that those with depression have low levels of the vitamin which is found in spinach, cabbage and strawberries.

In the UK, the National Health Service is to carry out a trial in which 700 people with moderate to severe depression will be given daily folate supplements.

Another recent report from St George’s Hospital in London, has already found that by adding the vitamin to antidepressant medication, treatment may boost the overall effect of other treatment.

Other studies suggest that folate deficiency may occur in up to one-third of patients with severe depression.

According to research at Tufts men and women who have experienced major depression have lower concentrations of the vitamin in their blood than those who had never been depressed.

The Tufts research, based on 3,000 people, suggests supplementation helps by reducing fatigue and improving energy levels.

Botox found to help depression

A new US study has found that Botox can help ease clinical depression.

In a trial, carried out by Drs Eric Finzi and Erika Wasserman, patients who had been treated for frown lines with Botox, also discoverd that it got rid of depression.

The discovery is reported in the magazine, Dermatologic Surgery, the researchers evaluated how effective Botulinim Toxin A in treating depression. They treated patients who had failed to respond to drug therapy.

Two months after the botox treatment, all ten patients were re-evaluated clinically and found that nine out of the 10 patients treated were no longer depressed two months after the treatment on their frown lines.

The researchers concluded that Botox treatment on frown lines may be an effective treatment for patients with major depression who have not responded to routine pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatment approaches.

Smokers more likely to be depressed

Oslo: Smokers are more likely to suffer from depression than non-smokers, researchers in have found.

An 11-year study of adults found that the level of depression increased the more cigarettes smoked and heavy smokers – those on more than 20 a day – were four times more likely to suffer.

The report from the University of Oslo concluded that nicotine may change brain levels of the mood enhancing chemical serotonin in long-term smokers.

Mild exercise helps lift depression say experts

New York: Depression and anxiety can be worked off by mild exercise, say experts at the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

In the latest issue of the Harvard Medical Letter they say:”Although it is no magic remedy, there is little to lose and everything to gain by trying to work off depression and anxiety.”

Dr. Michael Craig Miller, editor-in-chief of the letter, comments”It’s clear that exercise is beneficial for mental health. What’s not clear is how it works.”

For example, in one of the studies cited in the letter, researchers found that adults who participated in a three-month rigorous exercise program experienced a decline in depressive symptoms about as great as they would have experienced had they received standard depression treatment, such as antidepressant medication.

Even among middle-school children, higher levels of physical activity have been found to be associated with fewer depressive symptoms, according to a another recent report. Other studies have found exercise to be similarly associated with improvements in panic disorder, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders.

Researchers speculate that vigorous exercise may be associated with increased levels of “helpful chemicals in the brain,” such as endorphins, which are responsible for the euphoric feelings associated with exercise, said Miller, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Also, the support group provided by other exercisers, as well as the heightened sense of alertness and improved self-esteem often associated with regular physical activity, all contribute to an enhanced sense of well being, he said.

Still, an increased level of physical activity will affect different people in different ways, and it is not a proven cure for any mental illness, according to the health letter.

What’s more, some depressed individuals may simply not have the desire to exercise.

Citing the popular NIKE slogan, Miller said, “Most people cannot ‘just do it,’ particularly if they are depressed.”

He advises that people who fall in this category do as much as they can, even if it means exercising for a few minutes at a time. Continued …

“The advantage of doing a little bit is that sometimes a little bit leads to a little bit more,” he said.

“You don’t have to have a program that includes 45 minutes of sweating and grunting and moaning,” he added. “A 10-minute walk is as good a place to start as anything else.”

Anti-ageing pill proven in patient trials

New York: Backed by over 2,000 clinical studies — including the American Medical Association, Stanford University, and New York Academy of Sciences — 25AGAIN™ Improves Sex Drive, Energy, Lean Muscle, Fat Loss, Bone Density, Skin Moisture, Anxiety, and Depression.

In a dramatic medical breakthrough, 25AGAIN™ Anti-Aging Pill has been proven to quickly reverse the aging process by replenishing the body’s own production of Youth Hormone to normal 25-year-old levels. Youth Hormone, or DHEA, is the most dominant and plentiful hormone in the body, produced continuously by the adrenal glands. It declines rapidly after age 25, causing the onset of the aging process – impotence, fatigue, flabby muscles, abdominal fat, osteoporosis, dry skin, memory loss, anxiety, and depression.

Extensive medical research — over 2,000 clinical studies in the past 10 years, summarized at – documents that the bodyÂ’s Youth Hormone releases over 50 essential anti-aging hormones, including testosterone in men and estrogen in women, that control the anti-aging functions of the body and maintain youthful physical and mental health.

After age 25, the body’s own production of Youth Hormone declines dramatically. At age 40, the level falls to only 60% of normal. At age 55, the level drops to 40%, and by age 70, we make only 20% of normal. 25AGAIN™ restores the level to 100% within days.

“As an aging baby boomer, I refuse to grow old gracefully,” states Wayne Josephson, 55, president. “25AGAIN™ has literally changed my life. The results were immediate. Within days, my mood improved, anxiety disappeared, and my sleep was deep and restful. After a week, I had more energy and handled stress more calmly. After two weeks, my sex drive increased. After a month, I began losing abdominal fat, muscle mass increased, and my skin was no longer dry. I have used 25AGAIN™ for over a year, and I certainly don’t look or feel my age.”

Exercise beats depression

Cycling or swimming three times a week can be as effective as drugs for treating depression, new research has discovered.

In study by the University of Texas to investigate how exercise alone can be used to treat mild to moderate depression, researchers found that symptoms were cut by a half in men and women aged 20 to 45 who took part in three to five 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions a week for 12 weeks. Researchers from the University of Texas say the results are comparable to those achieved with anti-depressant drugs.