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Archive for August 29, 2012

Spiced Eggplant with Bulgur Salad

Spiced Eggplant with Bulgur Salad


  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon peel
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 2 medium eggplants (9–10 ounces each), halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup quick-cooking bulgur
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Ingredient Info

    Preserved lemons have been soaked in salt and lemon juice for several weeks. They are available at specialty foods stores, Middle Eastern markets, and Bulgur is available at better supermarkets and at natural foods stores.


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Stir 1/4 cup oil, next 7 ingredients, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a small bowl for spice mix. Score flesh of each eggplant half with 1/2″-deep diagonal crisscrossing lines, spacing 1″ apart (do not cut through skin). Drizzle 1 Tbsp. oil over cut side of each half, allowing it to soak in. Season lightly with salt. Brush or spoon spice mix over, dividing evenly. Place eggplants, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until soft and very tender in center, 50–60 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place bulgur in a large bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Let soak for 45 minutes to soften and absorb water. Stir in olives, onion, currants, parsley, 1/3 cup cilantro, pistachios, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 30 minutes for flavors to meld. DO AHEAD: Eggplant and bulgur salad can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
  • Serve eggplant warm or at room temperature. Place an eggplant half on each plate. Spoon some bulgur salad and a dollop of yogurt alongside. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and drizzle with oil.


Vitamin B3 ‘helps kill superbugs’

Drug-resistant MRSA

Antibiotic resistance is increasing

Vitamin B3 could be the new weapon in the fight against superbugs such as MRSA, researchers have suggested.

US experts found B3, also known as nicotinamide, boosts the ability of immune cells to kill Staphylococcus bacteria.

B3 increases the numbers and efficacy of neutrophils, white blood cells that can kill and eat harmful bugs.

The study, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to a “major change in treatment”, a UK expert said.

B3 was tested on Staphylococcal infections, such as the potentially fatal MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

Such infections are found in hospitals and nursing homes, but are also on the rise in prisons, the military and among athletes.

‘Turn on’

The scientists used extremely high doses of B3 – far higher than that obtained from dietary sources – in their tests, carried out both on animals and on human blood.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

I cannot see why this couldn’t be used straight away in infected patients”

Prof Mark Enright, University of Bath

And the researchers say there is as yet no evidence that dietary B3 or supplements could prevent or treat bacterial infections.

The researchers say B3 appears to be able to “turn on” certain antimicrobial genes, boosting the immune cells’ killing power.

Prof Adrian Gombart, of Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, who worked on the research, said: “This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies.

“Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus.

“This could give us a new way to treat Staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics.

“It’s a way to tap into the power of the innate immune system and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural immune response.”

Prof Mark Enright, of the University of Bath, said: “Neutrophils are really the front line against infections in the blood and the use of nicotinamide seems safe at this dose to use in patients as it is already licensed for use.

“This could cause a major change in treatment for infections alongside conventional antibiotics to help bolster patients immune system.

“I would like to see in patient clinical trials but cannot see why this couldn’t be used straight away in infected patients.”


Young cannabis smokers run risk of lower IQ, report claims

Prof Terrie Moffitt, researcher: “Those who started using cannabis regularly when they were in secondary school had lost, on average, about eight IQ points”

By Dominic Hughes Health correspondent, BBC News

Young people who smoke cannabis for years run the risk of a significant and irreversible reduction in their IQ, research suggests.

The findings come from a study of around 1,000 people in New Zealand.

An international team found those who started using cannabis below the age of 18 – while their brains were still developing – suffered a drop in IQ.

A UK expert said the research might explain why people who use the drug often seem to under-achieve.

For more than 20 years researchers have followed the lives of a group of people from Dunedin in New Zealand.

They assessed them as children – before any of them had started using cannabis – and then re-interviewed them repeatedly, up to the age of 38.

Having taken into account other factors such as alcohol or tobacco dependency or other drug use, as well the number of years spent in education, they found that those who persistently used cannabis – smoking it at least four times a week year after year through their teens, 20s and, in some cases, their 30s – suffered a decline in their IQ.

The more that people smoked, the greater the loss in IQ.

It is such a special study that I’m fairly confident that cannabis is safe for over-18 brains, but risky for under-18 brains”

Professor Terrie Moffitt Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London

The effect was most marked in those who started smoking cannabis as adolescents.

For example, researchers found that individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and then carried on using it for years showed an average eight-point IQ decline.

Stopping or reducing cannabis use failed to fully restore the lost IQ.

The researchers, writing in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that: “Persistent cannabis use over 20 years was associated with neuropsychological decline, and greater decline was evident for more persistent users.”

“Collectively, these findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects.”

One member of the team, Prof Terrie Moffitt of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, said this study could have a significant impact on our understanding of the dangers posed by cannabis use.

“This work took an amazing scientific effort. We followed almost 1,000 participants, we tested their mental abilities as kids before they ever tried cannabis, and we tested them again 25 years later after some participants became chronic users.

There are a lot of clinical and educational anecdotal reports that cannabis users tend to be less successful in their educational achievement, marriages and occupations”

Professor Robin Murray Instuitute of Psychiatry, King’s College London

“Participants were frank about their substance abuse habits because they trust our confidentiality guarantee, and 96% of the original participants stuck with the study from 1972 to today.

“It is such a special study that I’m fairly confident that cannabis is safe for over-18 brains, but risky for under-18 brains.”

Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research, also at the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry but not involved in the study, said this was an impressive piece of research.

“The Dunedin sample is probably the most intensively studied cohort in the world and therefore the data are very good.

“Although one should never be convinced by a single study, I take the findings very seriously.

“There are a lot of clinical and educational anecdotal reports that cannabis users tend to be less successful in their educational achievement, marriages and occupations.

“It is of course part of folk-lore among young people that some heavy users of cannabis – my daughter calls them stoners – seem to gradually lose their abilities and end up achieving much less than one would have anticipated. This study provides one explanation as to why this might be the case.

“I suspect that the findings are true. If and when they are replicated then it will be very important and public education campaigns should be initiated to let people know the risks.”

Prof Val Curran, from the British Association for Psychopharmacology and University College London, said: “What it shows is if you are a really heavy stoner there are going to be consequences, which I think most people would accept.

“This is not occasional or recreation use.”

She also cautioned that there may be another explanation, such as depression, which could result in lower IQ and cannabis use.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: “In a significant minority of people who are vulnerable the drug can act as a trigger to illnesses like schizophrenia which may last a lifetime.”

Illicit drug use by young people has been decreasing since the mid 1990s, but the rate of decline in cannabis use throughout most of the last decade has been slow, official statistics show.


Tuning a piano ‘moulds the mind’

The changes occurred outside of auditory brain areas

Tuning a piano also tunes the brain, say researchers who have seen structural changes within the brains of professional piano tuners.

It appears that listening to two notes played simultaneously to get them pitch perfect causes the brain to adapt.

Brain scans revealed highly specific changes in the hippocampus, which governs memory and navigation. These correlated with the number of years that tuners had been doing this job.

The study is published in Neuroscience.

The Wellcome Trust researchers at University College London and Newcastle University used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 19 professional piano tuners and 19 other people.

What they saw was highly specific changes in both the grey matter – the nerve cells where information processing takes place – and the white matter – the nerve connections – within the brains of the piano tuners.

Investigator Sundeep Teki said: “We already know that musical training can correlate with structural changes, but our group of professionals offered a rare opportunity to examine the ability of the brain to adapt over time to a very specialised form of listening.”

Other researchers have noted similar hippocampal changes in taxi drivers as they build up detailed information needed to find their way around London’s labyrinth of streets.

Prof Tim Griffiths, who led the latest study, said: “There has been little work on the role of the hippocampus in auditory analysis.

“Our study is consistent with a form of navigation in pitch space as opposed to the more accepted role in spatial navigation.”


Traffic-light blood test shows hidden alcohol harm

Beer in a glass

Repeated exposure to alcohol can scar the liver

By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online


A traffic-light colour-coded blood test can reveal hidden liver damage caused by drinking above recommended alcohol limits, say experts.

The UK doctors who devised the test say anyone who regularly drinks more than three or four bottles of wine a week, for example, is at significant risk.

Ultimately, GPs could offer the test to patients, especially since many people do not recognise unsafe drinking.

Often damage is only noticed at a late stage as the liver starts to fail.

Although the liver can heal itself to some extent, repeated onslaught will cause irreparable damage.

Amber means we can’t be absolutely sure but there is at least a 50:50 chance that you have scarred liver, and there is a significant possibility that you could die of it within 5 years”

Dr Nick Sheron Liver expert at the University of Southampton

By the time the patient reaches hospital, the liver can be very scarred. And even when they stop drinking entirely, in many cases it is too late and they will die of liver complications over the next 12 months.

The traffic-light test can give an early colour-coded warning – green means damage is unlikely, amber means there is a 50:50 chance it is there, and red means the liver is most probably damaged and potentially irreversibly.

It combines a routine liver test doctors already use with two others that measure the level of scarring, also known as fibrosis.

Tried and tested

To try it out, the University of Southampton researchers tested more than 1,000 patients at their liver clinic.

Dangerous drinking

  • Although it can take as long as 10 to 20 years, drinking just a bit more than you should over time can seriously harm your liver
  • Not feeling any side effects from drinking does not mean that you are not risking chronic ill-health or lasting liver damage from alcohol-related liver disease
  • Are you drinking too much? Take the test

This revealed that the traffic-light test was also good at predicting the prognosis of liver disease. Half of the liver patients had a red traffic light and (of a subset of these who were followed up) about a quarter died over the next five years, whereas none of the patients with a green test died or developed complications.

The findings are published in the British Journal of General Practice.

Dr Sheron’s team have also been investigating how the test can be used in primary care.

Preliminary results in about 400 hazardous drinkers from 10 GP surgeries suggest many patients are willing to be tested and that learning the result can change behaviour.

A third of those given a green result cut down on their alcohol intake, while more than two-thirds of those given a red or amber result subsequently drank less.

Dr Nick Sheron, who devised the test, said: “It is a powerful tool and message for people. We can say, ‘Amber means we can’t be absolutely sure but there is at least a 50:50 chance that you have a scarred liver, and there is a significant possibility that you could die of it within 5 years’.

“We find that for most patients this is a pretty good stimulus to stop drinking or at least to cut down to safe levels.”

He said, generally, people were receptive to being tested.

“People are immensely curious about if their alcohol intake is doing any harm. They want to take the test.”

As well as people who drink more than the recommended amount, people who drink and are overweight or have type-two diabetes should consider getting tested, says Dr Sheron. This is because they are at increased risk of liver damage.

The Department of Health says men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day.

“Regularly” means drinking every day or most days of the week. And if you do drink more heavily than this on any day, allow 48 alcohol-free hours afterwards to let your body recover.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) advises no more than 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women. But also, have two to three alcohol-free days a week to allow the liver time to recover after drinking anything but the smallest amount of alcohol.

There are one and a half units of alcohol in a small glass (125 ml) of ordinary strength wine (12% alcohol by volume) or a standard pub measure (35 ml) of spirits (40% alcohol by volume).

Estimates suggest 10 million or one in five adults in England drink above recommended levels.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “One of the challenges of liver disease, which is rising dramatically in this country, is the silent nature of the condition until it is often too late to reverse the damage.

“However minor changes in standard liver blood tests are so common that it is difficult for GPs to know when to refer for specialist advice.

“This large study from Sheron and colleagues in Southampton may prove really useful for guiding the right patients towards specialist care in a timely way.”

Andrew Langford of the British Liver Trust said: “If we are to make an in-road in reducing liver deaths – the only big killer increasing year on year – we have to make it easier for primary care to better understand the management of liver conditions as well as spotting the signs early.”


Sterling performance for IHH Healthcare post-listing

KUALA LUMPUR: IHH Healthcare Bhd net profit for the second quarter ended June 30 jumped by a whopping 426% to RM403.5mil on revenue of RM2.7bil that reflected an increase of 231% year-on-year.

For the first half-year, net profit for Asia’s biggest healthcare services provider rose 195% to RM527.4mil from a year ago. Revenue climbed by 137% to RM3.97bil year-on-year.

IHH said the sterling performance was driven by consolidation of Acibadem Holdings from Jan 24, one-time profit from the sale of Mount Elizabeth Novena medical suites and fair valuation gain on Mount Elizabeth Novena’s investment properties held for rental, improved performance of its existing operations as well as greater demand for quality healthcare services in Asia.

Basic earnings per share for the first six months rose to 8.63 sen from 4.97 sen a year ago.

Excluding the sale of medical suites, IHH earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the first half-year rose 74% year-on-year to RM581.4mil, while profit after tax and minority interests grew 35% to RM250.3mil.

Managing director Dr Lim Cheok Peng said the group’s first financial report post-listing reflected the real and growing demand for quality healthcare that IHH subsidiaries provided.

“We are seeing growth across the board in in-patient admissions, more complex medical cases undertaken by our hospitals and rising student enrolment in our education programmes.

“We remain fully committed to leveraging on our scale and leading market positions to capture further opportunities and expand our presence in our home markets,” he said at a briefing.

According to IHH, while the consolidation of Acibadem and the recognition of profits from the sale of 216 medical suites at Parkway Pantai’s Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre helped boost the results, improved performance in the group’s existing operations also contributed to the outstanding revenue and EBITDA growth.

The strong growth was driven by higher in-patient admissions at Parkway Pantai’s hospitals in both Malaysia and Singapore, as demand for quality healthcare services in the region continued to grow and there were more local and foreign patients seeking treatment.

In addition, revenue intensities at Parkway Pantai hospitals increased to about RM19,467 and RM4,520 per in-patient admission in Singapore and Malaysia respectively, up from RM18,297 and RM4,131 respectively in the first half of 2011.

The Star

The importance of foot care

Local hospitals provide foot screenings as injuries could lead to infections, amputation

by Woo Sian Boon


SINGAPORE – As a supermarket cashier, Madam Kee Keng Ai is accustomed to standing on her feet for several hours staight, wearing covered shoes.

But the 47-year-old, who suffers from diabetes, runs the risk of foot-related infections and ulcerations due to secondary complications such as a loss of sensation or poor blood circulation. Such injuries, if left untreated, increase a diabetic’s chances of having to go through limb amputations, doctors say.

Fortunately, a regular diabetic foot screening at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has helped Madam Kee detect a reduction of sensation and the formation of calluses on her right toe, which was later removed to lower the risk of ulcerations.

In recent years, amputations involving diabetic patients have made up a majority of such cases in local hospitals.

At TTSH, out of the 138 amputations conducted last year, 125 were diabetic cases. In 2010, diabetic limb amputations also made up 90 per cent of the total number of amputees.

At Singapore General Hospital (SGH), about 540 lower limb amputations attributable to diabetes have been performed annually in the past four years.

But Dr Bee Yong Mong, SGH’s Diabetes Centre Director and Consultant at the Department of Endocrinology, felt that “up to half of the cases of amputations are preventable”. While diabetic patients choose to pay attention to their diet to manage their condition, podiatrists and specialists have noted that proper foot care is still not a big part of the routine.

“Despite the educational and awareness programmes, many patients with diabetes have yet to appreciate the importance of foot care as part of the overall management of diabetes,” said Dr Bee.

TTSH Head of Podiatry Department Aurelie Petitjean, meanwhile, felt that patients did not know how diabetes could affect their feet.

“Patients often are unaware of how the complications of diabetes can lead to ulcers, gangrene and ultimately amputation,” she said.

The hospital also faces “a big problem” as patients fail to turn up for appointments with their podiatrist.

“People sometimes do not realise the importance of attending diabetic foot screenings to have their feet assessed. To address this, we are trying to create more awareness by calling patients a week before their appointments … We also give out pamphlets, posters and give talks around the hospital to educate both patients and healthcare professionals,” said Ms Petitjean.

To manage lower limb problems in diabetic patients, TTSH, SGH and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital have dedicated podiatric departments which conduct diabetic foot screenings, provide treatment and educate patients on the importance of proper foot care.

Besides regular self-care, podiatrists also recommend that diabetic patients go for an annual foot screening to detect any early signs of abnormal foot conditions to help prevent infections and, ultimately, amputations.


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