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Smoking harms almost every part of the body, including the skin, eyes, circulatory system, respiratory system, and even the reproductive system. Smoking also causes an increased risk of many different diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

Each year in the United States, almost 500,000 people die from tobacco use-related illnesses. In fact, smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than car accidents, alcohol, guns, illegal drugs, and HIV combined.

Here are seven ways that smoking impacts your health. By switching to a tobacco alternative, you can get the nicotine you need without the tobacco.

1. Lung Damage

When a cigarette is inhaled, nicotine and dozens of other chemicals are introduced into the respiratory system. Smokers are at a 25 times higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers.

Aside from an increased risk of lung damage that may lead to lung cancer, smoking also increases the risk of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). In all cases of COPD, 9 out of 10 are linked to smoking.

Smoking also damages the airways, which contributes to the infamous smoker’s cough.

2. Damage to Cardiovascular System

While there are many factors that increase the risk of heart disease, smoking is one of the top lifestyle habits that contribute to the disease. Those who smoke, as well as those who are exposed to secondhand smoke, are at an increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

Tobacco smoke also lowers good cholesterol (HDL) levels in the body, while increasing bad cholesterol (LDL). Tobacco smoke has also been linked to increased triglycerides and total cholesterol in the blood.

Nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten, which restricts blood flow throughout the body. This increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure.

3. Damaged Immune System

Smokers are more likely to have more respiratory tract infections when compared to people who don’t smoke. This is not only because smoking damages the lungs, but it also impacts the immune system’s ability to fight off infections.

This means that smokers will experience more severe and longer-lasting illnesses. Smoking has also been linked to lower levels of antioxidants in the blood, including vitamin C.

Smoking also increases inflammation throughout the body.

4. Vision Problems

While your vision may not be impacted immediately, smoking has shown to have negative effects on the eyes. Long-term smokers are likely to experience future vision problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.

Smoking also increases the risk of damage to the optic nerve. This is the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. Excessive damage to the optic nerve can cause blindness.

In the short-term, smokers are likely to experience dry eyes, which makes the eyes red and scratchy.

5. Fertility & Reproductive System Issues

Smoking damages both the male and female reproductive systems. For men, smoking increases the risk of erectile dysfunction. Smoking also negatively impacts the quality of sperm, which reduces fertility.

For women, smoking can make it much more difficult to get pregnant. This is often attributed to tobacco and the many other chemicals that are found in cigarettes. These chemicals impact hormone levels, which then impact fertility. Women also experienced an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.

Smoking also has profound impacts on pregnant women as well as the developing fetus. Common complications include:

  • Increased risk of preterm delivery
  • Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • Reduced birth weight
  • Damage to the baby’s brain, lungs, and central nervous system
  • Increased risk of congenital abnormalities, such as cleft palate and cleft lip
  • Increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome

6. Impacted Digestive System

Smoking suppresses the appetite because it decreases your sense of taste. This makes eating a lot less enjoyable because you can’t taste the food that you’re putting into your mouth.

Smoking has been linked to many different cancers, including cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx. There’s also an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Smokers are also more likely to develop insulin resistance, because of how smoking impacts insulin. Insulin resistance increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, along with the many complications associated with the disease.

7. Damaged Hair, Skin, & Nails

Smoking impacts the hair, skin, and nails in many ways. Smokers are at an increased risk of hair loss, balding, and early graying. This is due to the high nicotine content found in cigarettes.

Smoking also visibly impacts the skin. Tobacco smoke changes the structure of the skin, which can lead to dry skin and premature aging. This is because nicotine reduces blood flow, which impacts the skin’s ability to get the nutrition it needs.

People who smoke are also at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Routine handling of tobacco products stains the fingers and fingernails a yellow color. Aside from staining, smokers face a higher risk of fungal nail infections.


It’s an understatement to say that smoking has a profound impact on the body. While it’s not easy to quit smoking, doing so can greatly improve your overall health now and long into the future. Quitting smoking is the key to living a happier, longer life.


The Coronavirus outbreak has affected virtually everyone on earth in some way or another, redefining social interaction, work productivity and our capacity to enjoy something as simple as the outdoors. With nationwide lockdown expected to go on for some time in countries inflicted severely by the outbreak, such as the UK and US, many people are looking at their governments and public health organisations as a source of complete truth and accountability.

Whilst research into the relationship of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 has been somewhat cloudy and inconclusive, the real facts and evidence on the virus are constantly being discovered and debated. Scientists and health professionals all over the globe are working across the clock to not just try and find a vaccine but to explore the intricate details of the virus and why it has become so deadly. Whilst this has been resoundingly applauded across society, the release of findings, guidelines and stance of governments have been an embarrassing mismatch of contradictory information.

We examine some of the claims voiced by experts and government officials regarding COVID-19 over the course of the last few months, whilst shedding light on certain lifestyle choices which could impact contracting the virus.

Clear As Mud

Let’s rewind back to the start of the year, when regular routine was operated across the globe, except in China where a newfound virus threatened to damage normality in all senses. With news bulletins partially mentioning the outbreak of this unknown virus, government officials played down the prospect of it having a catastrophic effect.

As the virus spread across the world, In the UK PM Boris Johnson ignored advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) to refrain from shaking hands by boasting he was in close contact with those affected, “”I’m shaking hands continuously. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know. I continue to shake hands.” He went on to assert, “I want to stress that for the vast majority of the people of this country, we should be going about our business as usual.”

A large proportion of the news relating to COVID-19 over the course of early March, when the outbreak began to hit western nations, was that the disease only really affected elderly people and that younger, fit adults and children shouldn’t need to worry. Going by what we know now, this was greatly underestimated as despite the majority of deaths attributed to older people with underlying health conditions, younger people who are deemed healthy have still experienced severe symptoms of the virus and have required intensive care. A staggering 40% of patients requiring medical attention were in the age bracket of 20-54 in the US, according to CDC statistics.

Whilst the initial hypothesis that this disease affects older people far greater than younger age groups, there’s no denying that governments miscommunication on the severity of the virus on all age groups has potentially costs thousands of lives.

Furthermore, isolation and social distancing guidelines have become an increasingly contentious and confusing issue. In the UK under the sanctioned lockdown, citizens are required to self-isolate except to:

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home).
  • If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times.

Despite the resounding nature of these measures, the clarity of rhetoric used can be construed in many ways. For example, it’s stressed that a person can go out to exercise once daily alone or with members of their household, but no time measures are attached. This essentially means under law, a person or family could stay outside for as long as they wish over a 24 hour period as long as they’re staying active.

As well as this, the fact that most unessential businesses have been forced to close highlights the seriousness of the situation, however construction workers are deemed to be key workers and obviously cannot conduct their work from home in the majority of circumstances. This has led many labourers having to go to work to make ends meet, whilst the 2m social distancing measure implied is nigh on impossible for many who have to work in close proximity. This complete lack of disregard for a huge sector of the economy has again put thousands of people at risk of contracting the virus.

Up In Smoke

Whilst governments and public health officials have been inconsistent in their approach to tackling the pandemic, in regards to smokers (who make up over 1 billion worldwide), the message has been resoundingly clear.

The WHO states, ‘Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness.’

This is further echoed by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock who says, “It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.”

It’s also highly evidenced that smoking causes the immune system to weaken, whilst the fact that Coronavirus is a respiratory disease clearly highlights that smoking can have huge effects on those who have contracted the virus or developed symptoms.

This resonant assertion whilst respected, doesn’t cover the borderline product of e-cigarettes. Vaping is seen by many, including PHE, NHS, Cancer Research and The British Lung Foundation as a viable harm-reducing alternative to nicotine consumption. Yet many believe vaping could transmit COVID-19, especially through vape clouds.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs at PHE refutes this logic, “Public Health England’s 2018 independent evidence review found that to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. There is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be caught from exposure to e-cigarette vapour.”

In line with this, Leading academic Physician and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, Dr Neal Benowitz states,” It is my understanding that exhaled e-cigarette vapor consists of very small particles of water, propylene glycol and glycerin and flavor chemicals, not droplets of saliva. The vaping aerosol evaporates very quickly, while particles that are emitted when coughing or sneezing are large particles that persist in the air for a relatively long period of time. Thus, I would not think that vapers present any risk of spreading COVID-19, unless they are coughing when they exhale the vapor.”

Whilst vaping is only recommended for smokers looking to make the switch over, now could be the ideal time for those who smoke cigarettes to change over their habit. Vape Club’s dedicated guide section provides an extensive knowledge on all aspects of vaping for those unsure of the harm-reducing benefits when compared to tobacco.

Summing Up

Of course, many of us can feel like we’re left out in the cold with all of the differing opinions and claims floating around. It’s essential to be able to use common sense in the majority of social situations, with a large proportion of the population across the world adhering to guidelines and ultimately taking pressure of health services.

It’s also worth pointing out whilst the public couldn’t really conceive what was about to come in the early stages of Coronavirus, governments and health experts were briefed on the grimness of the situation about to hit as early as last year. This complete unpreparedness and lack of initiative has unfortunately paid dividends at the cost of thousands, potentially millions of lives, in what will inevitably come to be the biggest health crisis of our generation.

There is still a lot more to discover regarding COVID-19 and its existence, which will no doubt come to light in the ensuing months and years.

Image source: Keytruda

An immunotherapy drug can be effective in some men with advanced prostate cancer, a major trial has shown.

The phase II clinical trial, led by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden, involved 258 men with advanced prostate cancer who had run out of all other options on treatment.

The men had stopped responding to the main treatment options.

According to researchers, a small proportion of men, described as “super responders”, remained well even after the trial ended, despite a very poor prognosis before treatment.

Last week it was reported the same drug had proved effective in treating advanced head and neck cancers.

Immunotherapy uses our own immune systems to recognize and attack cancer cells.

The therapy is already being used as a standard treatment for some cancers such as melanomas – and being tested on many others too.

Nivolumab: Immunotherapy Drug Hailed as Game-Changer in Cancer Treatment

Bladder cancer breakthrough: New immunotherapy drug for terminal patients

The study found that one in 20 men with advanced prostate cancer responded to the drug pembrolizumab – and saw their tumors actually shrink or disappear altogether.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that although a relatively small number, some of the men gained years of extra life.

A further 19% saw some evidence of improvement.

Most patients in the study lived for an average of eight months on the drug.

The most dramatic responses were seen in patients whose tumors had mutations in genes involved in repairing DNA.

Researchers are now investigating whether this group might benefit the most from immunotherapy in a larger trial.

But first, a test to pick out who will respond best is needed, so that doctors know which patients to give it to.

The number of people diagnosed with prostate cancer has been rising over the last 10 years.

This is probably because the population is getting older and more people are having PSA tests.

Around 30% of men with advanced or stage four prostate cancer survive their cancer for five years or more after diagnosis.

Last week, a separate trial found the same drug kept some people’s advanced head and neck cancers at bay for an average of two years – five times longer than under chemotherapy.

Both studies are part of a growing body of research suggesting immunotherapy could offer hope to an increasing number of cancer patients.


According to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, a 10th of children have a “monkey-like” immune system that stops them developing AIDS.

The study found the children’s immune systems were “keeping calm”, which prevented them being wiped out.

An untreated HIV infection will kill 60% of children within two and a half years, but the equivalent infection in monkeys is not fatal.

The findings could lead to new immune-based therapies for HIV infection.

HIV eventually wipes out the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to other infections, what is known as acquired human immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).UNAIDS report 2015

The researchers analyzed the blood of 170 children from South Africa who had HIV, had never had antiretroviral therapy and yet had not developed AIDS.

Tests showed they had tens of thousands of human immunodeficiency viruses in every milliliter of their blood.

This would normally send their immune system into overdrive, trying to fight the infection, or simply make them seriously ill, but neither had happened.

Counter-intuitively, not attacking the virus seems to save the immune system.

HIV kills white blood cells – the warriors of the immune system.

When the body’s defenses go into overdrive, even more of them can be killed by chronic levels of inflammation.

For scientists, the way the 10% of children cope with the virus has striking similarities to the way more than 40 non-human primate species cope with simian immunodeficiency virus or SIV.

They have had hundreds of thousands of years to evolve ways to tackle the infection.

This defense against AIDS is almost unique to children.

Adult humans’ immune systems tend to go all-out to finish off the virus in a campaign that nearly always ends in failure.

Children have a relatively tolerant immune system, which becomes more aggressive in adulthood – chickenpox, for example, is far more severe in adults due to the way the immune system reacts.

This does mean that as the protected children age and their immune system matures, there is a risk of them developing AIDS.

Some do, some remain AIDS-free.

People with HIV can have normal life-expectancy if they have access to antiretroviral drugs.

But their super-heated immune system never returns to normal, and they face greater risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.


Wine, glorious wine. From a cold, crisp glass of white on a sunny day to a hearty red by the fire in winter, this is the connoisseur’s tipple of choice. The only trouble is, although many people enjoy the complex flavors and aromas that this grape-based beverage boasts, enthusiasts often feel guilty when they pop a cork and pour themselves a glass. After all, everyone knows the health risks associated with consuming too much alcohol.

However, when drunk in moderation, wine can in fact be good for people. So, next time you reach for your favorite bottle or take advantage of the impressive wine deals now available, you needn’t feel bad!

A new scientific study has found that drinking a glass of red wine could actually reduce your chance of piling on the pounds

Warding Off Dementia

Everyone knows that too much booze can result in short-term memory loss. However, when consumed sensibly, it seems wine can actually have the opposite effect and preserve people’s memories. A team from Loyola University Medical Center analyzed data from scientific papers on red wine since 1977. They found a statistically significantly lower risk of dementia among regular, moderate red wine drinkers in 14 of 19 countries.

According to those behind the research, the resveratrol in wine keeps blood vessels open and flexible since it reduces the stickiness of blood platelets. As a result, this maintains a good supply of blood to the brain.

Boosting the Immune System

We all want to avoid getting sick and, who knows, maybe there are some of us out there that want to live forever. Wine can’t help us with the latter, but it can certainly lend a hand with the former. A British study found that people who drink roughly one glass of wine per day reduced their risk of infection by Helicobacter pylori bacteria by 11%. This nasty little bacterium is a major cause of stomach ulcers, gastritis, and stomach cancer. Meanwhile, Spanish research has uncovered as little as half a glass to help to protect people from food poisoning caused by bacteria such as salmonella.

Building the Bones

Then there are the benefits for the bones. According to research, on average, women who drink moderately have a higher bone mass than non-drinkers. This may be because alcohol appears to boost estrogen levels, this hormone slowing the body’s destruction of old bone more than it slows the production of new bone.

Keeping Diabetes at Bay

Diabetes is becoming increasingly common in developed countries. However, experts have discovered that resveratrol (there it is again!) improves people’s sensitivity to insulin, thus lowering their risk of developing this blood sugar problem. Meanwhile, a ten-year study conducted by a team at Harvard Medical School discovered that premenopausal women who drink one or two glasses of wine a day are 40% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who don’t drink.

Complimentary Bites

Now that you can feel that bit better about sipping a glass of your favorite wine, you might be looking for some healthy foods that go perfectly with the beverage. Red wine is a great accompaniment to a range of meals, including wholesome soups and stews. A light red, such as a pinot noir, works superbly with fish.

If you fancy something sweet, why not enjoy red wine with dark chocolate? This tasty treat is also known to have various health benefits.

Stronger bones, a more robust immune system and a mind that can stand up to the threat of dementia … just some of the wonders that a glass or two of wine can work. Then there’s the fact that it can decrease your exposure to potential diabetes. Maybe instead of an apple a day, it will be a glass of wine that keeps the doctor away!

Fiona Griffin is a wine connoisseur who loves a drop of merlot. Along with her glasses of wine, she likes to enjoy the crime fiction of Lynda La Plante.


British scientists have discovered how allergic reactions to cats are triggered, raising hopes of preventative medicine.

A University of Cambridge team has identified how the body’s immune system detects cat allergen, leading to symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.

New treatments to block this pathway raise hopes of developing medicines to protect sufferers, they say.

British scientists have discovered how allergic reactions to cats are triggered, raising hopes of preventative medicine

British scientists have discovered how allergic reactions to cats are triggered, raising hopes of preventative medicine

Researchers led by Dr. Clare Bryant of the University of Cambridge studied proteins found in particles of cat skin, known as cat dander, which is the most common cause of cat allergy.

They found that cat allergen activates a specific pathway in the body, once in the presence of a common bacterial toxin.

This triggers a large immune response in allergy sufferers, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, sneezing and a runny nose.

Dr. Clare Bryant said: “We’ve discovered how the cat allergy proteins activate the host immune cells.

“By understanding the triggering mechanism, there are now drugs that have been designed that are in clinical trials for other conditions, such as sepsis, that could potentially then be used in a different way to treat cat allergy and to prevent cat allergy.”

Allergic reactions happen when the immune system overreacts to a perceived danger.

Instead of responding to a harmful virus or bacteria, it misidentifies allergens, such as cat dander, and mounts an immune response.

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

Vast numbers of cells that can attack cancer and HIV have been grown in the lab, and could potentially be used to fight disease.

The cells naturally occur in small numbers, but it is hoped injecting huge quantities back into a patient could turbo-charge the immune system.

The Japanese research is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Experts said the results had exciting potential, but any therapy would need to be shown to be safe.

The researchers concentrated on a type of white blood cell known as a cytotoxic T-cell, which can recognize telltale markings of infection or cancer on the surfaces of cells. If a marking is recognized, it launches an attack.

Teams at the University of Tokyo and the Riken Research Centre for Allergy and Immunology used advances in stem cell technology to make more T-cells.

One group extracted T-cells which targeted a patient’s skin cancer. Another group did the same for HIV.

These T-cells were converted into stem cells, which could dramatically increase in number when grown in the laboratory. These were converted back into T-cells which should also have the ability to target the cancer or HIV.

The groups have proved only that they can make these cells, not that they can be safely put back into patients or that if would make a difference to their disease if they did.

Vast numbers of cells that can attack cancer and HIV have been grown in the lab, and could potentially be used to fight disease

Vast numbers of cells that can attack cancer and HIV have been grown in the lab, and could potentially be used to fight disease

Dr. Hiroshi Kawamoto, who worked on the cancer immune cells at Riken, said: “The next step will be to test whether these T-cells can selectively kill tumor cells, but not other cells in the body.

“If they do, these cells might be directly injected into patients for therapy. This could be realized in the not-so-distant future.”

Dr. Hiromitsu Nakauchi from the University of Tokyo said it was “unclear” whether this technique would help in treating HIV and that other infections and cancer may be a better place to start.

Experts in the field said the findings were encouraging.

Prof. Alan Clarke, the director of the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute at Cardiff University, said: “This is a potentially very exciting development which extends our capacity to develop novel cell therapies.”

He said it was important that cells could be tailored for each patient so there would be no risk of rejection.

Other experts said the findings were still at an early stage, but were still very promising and represented a strong foundation for future research. However, Cancer Research UK said it was still too early to know if any therapy would be safe.

Prof. Sir John Burn, from the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University, said: “This is a very appealing concept and the research team are to be congratulated on demonstrating the feasibility of expanding these killer cells.”

However he added: “Even if these T cells are effective, it could prove very challenging to produce large quantities safely and economically.

“Nevertheless, there is real promise of this becoming an alternative when conventional therapies have failed.”


The end of summer doesn’t only mark the end of sunshine, sunbathing and warm temperatures and thus the return of poor weather, but also a necessary change in everyone’s wardrobe. Gone are the days of shirt, top and skirt. Instead we should get ready to dress in coats and waterproof boots again and keep in mind not to forget an umbrella. Apart from dressing according to the bad weather there are some other important things one should keep in mind to prevent falling ill.

Balanced and healthy nutrition

    • Especially during the cold months of the year eating health conscious is important. The reasons are diverse: Firstly, eating fresh and healthy food can prevent people from becoming depressed and sad. Fats, fast food and ready-to-eat-meals on the other hand can amplify negative feelings. Secondly, vitamins are essential for strengthening the body’s immune system, which in autumn and winter is under constant attack from various viruses, and for supporting the nervous system. A very pleasant side-effect is that Vitamin C also protects and softens the skin. This directly leads to the next point.

Catering to the skin

    • Since wind, cold, rain and snow are threatening the skin during the cold season it is vital to protect it and give it some extra treatment. There are several products like BB cream available which do not only protect and nourish the skin but also cover impurities and reddened areas.

Getting some fresh air

    • Although it might be tempting to stay at home when it’s cold and wet outside, it is advisable to go out for a walk for at least 15 minutes per day. That way, the body gets used to the rougher climate and the immune system is strengthened. One should just make sure that the clothes are warm enough and one’s limbs are protected since most of the body heat is lost over the head, the arms and the feet. A cap, gloves and warm shoes are therefore mandatory to stay healthy.

Keep yourself warm

    • Keeping oneself warm doesn’t only have to do with one’s clothes. It is equally important to have the right temperature in one’s flat. However, one should pay attention that the air doesn’t become too warm and dry. Otherwise the risk of getting a cold once one goes outside rises. Taking a warm bath every now and then also helps to give body and mind time to relax.


Antioxidants enhance the immune system’s defense against the diseases caused by free radicals. They include Vitamins A, C and E and selenium, and we have been told they may help prevent cancer, heart disease and even such neurological conditions as Alzheimer’s.

Naturally occurring chemicals, antioxidants are found in fruits and juices, made into supplements, and even added to make-up.

But adding extra antioxidants to our diet gives no benefit. You can eat as many blueberries – or whatever the antioxidant-containing food du jour is – as you like and it won’t stop you getting these illnesses. And loading up with supplements may be bad for your health.

Some antioxidants are produced by the body and some by plants, and so they can be derived from the diet. Their job is to combat free radicals – highly reactive molecules formed as a natural by-product of cellular activity. Free radicals are also created by exposure to cigarette smoke, strong sunlight, and breathing in pollution.

These aggressive chemicals present a constant threat to cells and DNA. We know they can lead to cell damage, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Free radicals have also been implicated in everything from strokes to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Antioxidants stop the chain reactions triggered by free radicals that can damage and destroy cells. So it may seem entirely reasonable that it would be a good thing to eat and drink more antioxidants to boost the supply – or even rub them into your skin. But this is by no means the case.

You might have seen some antioxidant- containing products labeled with a number, usually in the thousands. This is the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) number.

It compares the antioxidant with a standard substance called trolox – itself an antioxidant. Cranberries, for example, have an ORAC level of 8,983, which is related to the number of molecules of trolox that would have the same antioxidant strength. Taken in isolation, the number is pretty meaningless, but it makes it possible to compare different foods. So theoretically, the higher the ORAC number, the better the food.

Although there is evidence that antioxidants may have an effect on cancers, much of it is based on experiments on free radicals in cells cultured outside the body, in labs

Although there is evidence that antioxidants may have an effect on cancers, much of it is based on experiments on free radicals in cells cultured outside the body, in labs

In reality, beyond a certain point, there is no benefit. In 2008, a study of nearly 15,000 men showed no benefits from Vitamin C and E supplements. There is no recommended daily amount of antioxidant consumption. And although there is evidence that antioxidants may have an effect on cancers, much of it is based on experiments on free radicals in cells cultured outside the body, in labs.

So if antioxidants are good for us, why doesn’t eating more of them have an even more beneficial effect? We know that people with poor diets are more prone to a host of diseases, and that those who eat a balanced diet with at least five fruits and vegetables a day, take exercise, and other very mundane things such as that, have the best chance of not becoming ill. But trials where people have consumed higher than usual levels of antioxidants by taking supplements have found that, if anything, they have a negative impact on health.

A Cochrane Review published last month, which looked at the results of hundreds of individual studies, found that current evidence does not support the use of antioxidant supplements in the general population or in patients with various diseases.

And when the review looked at the mortality rate over 78 randomized clinical trialsfor a range of conditions and using various antioxidants, those consuming antioxidants were 1.03 times more likely to die early.

Another clinical trial last month showed that antioxidant supplements don’t slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. Two 1994 clinical studies showed a possible increase in lung cancer when taking antioxidants.

Almost all things are poisonous in large enough quantities – even water, though you would have to drink an awful lot to kill you. Similarly, the amounts of antioxidants found in foods are relatively small, so it would be difficult to overdose. Fruit has plenty of other benefits – vitamins that are crucial for healthy functioning and fibre for good digestion, but, like everything, you can consume too much. Excessive consumption may cause damage to the enamel of the teeth or stomach problems.

It is only the excessive consumption of antioxidants through unnecessary diet supplements that could cause any concern.

Using antioxidants on the skin, rather than eating them, may have benefits. Clinical trials have shown that they provide considerable protection against the formation of free radicals in the outer layers of skin when added to sunscreens.

How can we avoid cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the like? Don’t smoke, don’t drink to excess, eat a sensible, balanced diet, including a good mix of fruit and vegetables, and don’t get fat. It’s boring, but true. We know for a fact that the big killer diseases are caused by unhealthy lifestyles.

It would be lovely if eating blueberries or popcorn would somehow counteract a lifetime of abuse, but it’s just not going to happen. And no matter what you do, you can get ill anyway.


Stem cells given alongside a kidney transplant could remove the need for a lifetime anti-rejection treatment with immune-suppressing drugs, say scientists.

Early tests of stem cells injection alongside a kidney transplant at US hospitals were successful in a small number of patients.

According to the journal Science Translational Medicine, the majority no longer need anti-rejection medication.

Researchers said it could have a “major impact” on transplant science.

One of the key problems associated with organ transplantation is the risk that the body will “recognize” the new organ as a foreign invader and attack it.

To prevent this, patients take powerful drugs to suppress their immune systems, and will have to do this for life.

The drugs come at a price, preventing organ rejection but increasing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and serious infection.

Stem cells given alongside a kidney transplant could remove the need for a lifetime anti-rejection treatment with immune-suppressing drugs

Stem cells given alongside a kidney transplant could remove the need for a lifetime anti-rejection treatment with immune-suppressing drugs

The study, carried out at the University of Louisville and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, involved eight patients.

Their transplant came from a live donor, who also underwent a procedure to draw stem cells, the building blocks of their immune system, from the blood.

The transplant recipient’s body was prepared using radiotherapy and chemotherapy to suppress their own immune system.

Then the transplant went ahead, with the stem cells put into their body a couple of days later.

The idea is that these will help generate a modified immune system that no longer attacks the organ or its new owner.

Although the patients started off with the same anti-rejection drugs, the aim was to reduce these slowly, hopefully withdrawing them completely over time.

Five out of the eight patients involved in the trial managed to do this within a year.

One of those is 47-year-old Lindsay Porter, from Chicago.

Lindsay Porter said: “I hear about the challenges recipients have to face with their medications and it is significant.

“It’s almost surreal when I think about it because I feel so healthy and normal.”

Dr. Joseph Leventhal, associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “The preliminary results from this ongoing study are exciting and may have a major impact on organ transplantation in the future.”

He said that, as well as kidney patients, the technique might improve the lives of those receiving other organs.

While stem cells from organ donors have been used before, this is the first time it has been used for “mismatched” transplants, in which donors and recipients do not have to be related and immunologically similar.


A research team found that some bacteria can evade efforts to vaccinate against them by wearing a new disguise.

The study, published in Nature Genetics, tracked how pneumococcus bacteria responded to the introduction of a vaccine in the US in 2000.

Specialists said the evasion would make some vaccines less successful in the long term.

An updated pneumococcus vaccine is already in use.

A research team found that some bacteria can evade efforts to vaccinate against them by wearing a new disguise

A research team found that some bacteria can evade efforts to vaccinate against them by wearing a new disguise

Vaccines train the immune system to attack something unique to an infection. In the case of tetanus, it results in the body making antibodies which target the toxin produced.

Dr. Rory Bowden, one of the researchers from the University of Oxford, said: “There are plenty of vaccines out there that look stable and continue to work because they target bacteria or viruses that are not changing.”

Pneumococcus bacteria, however, comes in more than 90 varieties or serotypes. Each variety looks different to the immune system so would each need separate vaccines.

Infection can result in pneumonia and meningitis. Across the globe, more than 800,000 children under five die as a result each year.

A vaccine against more than 90 types would not be possible, but in 2000 the US authorities began immunizing against seven of the most common varieties.

Cases rapidly dropped. By 2007, there was a sustained 76% drop in cases of septicemia, pneumonia and meningitis in children under five.

However, some bacteria managed to change their outer coat – known as capsule switching – to avoid the immune response.

They did it by collecting pieces of DNA from other pneumococcus bacteria which had died.

By analyzing bacterial genes, the researchers identified five cases of capsule switching. They said one of the new strains, called P1, “quickly became established spreading from east to west across the United States”. It had “becomes one of the most prevalent” varieties by 2007, the report said.

An updated vaccine which protects against 13 types has since been introduced. Dr. Rory Bowden said the “holy grail” would be a universal vaccine which would target something common to all types of pneumococcus.

Prof. Derrick Crook, from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Understanding what makes a vaccine successful and what can cause it to fail is important.

“Our work suggests that current strategies for developing new vaccines are largely effective but may not have long term effects that are as successful as hoped.”

Dr. Bernard Beall, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, added: “The current vaccine strategy of targeting predominant pneumococcal serotypes is extremely effective, however our observations indicate that the organism will continue to adapt to this strategy with some measurable success.”

The Wellcome Trust’s Dr Michael Dunn said: “New technologies allow us to rapidly sequence disease-causing organisms and see how they evolve. This will provide useful lessons for vaccine implementation strategies.”