Could switching to decaf save your sight?

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With many ‘good things’ in life, we are constantly bombarded with often contradictory advice about what is either incredibly healthy for us or a terrible risk.

The latest study to come out of the works is that drinking 3 cups of coffee or more a day could be terrible for our vision. A report in the Daily Mail suggests that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day could seriously damage your sight.

The newspaper refers to a study, published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, suggesting coffee lovers should reduce their coffee intake to lower their chances of developing glaucoma.

Drinking 3 or more cups of coffee a day could cause eye damage

The researchers, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, suggest that compounds found in coffee may increase pressure within the eyeball, causing a vision-destroying condition known as exfoliation glaucoma.The study assessed over 120,000  people in both the UK and U.S. All were over 40 and not suffering from glaucoma.

each participant completed a questionnaire about how much coffee they drank and their medical records were checked for a history of glaucoma.

The results found that those who drank more than three cups a day had an increased risk of developing glaucoma compared with those who  hardly drank coffee. No correlation was found in other caffinated drinks such as hot chocolate or cola.

Glaucoma occurs when the drainage tubes within the eye become slightly blocked, preventing eye fluid from draining properly and therefore resulting in a build up of pressure.

This can damage the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, and the nerve fibres from the retina.

Discussing the findings, NHS.co.uk do not feel that it is reason enough to avoid coffee all together: “By far the greatest risk of exfoliation glaucoma was among those with a family history of glaucoma – which is a factor already known to be linked with developing glaucoma.

Coffee has been linked in the past with both health problems and health benefits. So, despite the headlines, there’s no need to ditch the cappuccino altogether, but it makes sense to drink coffee and other caffeinated products in moderation.”

This research comes after findings early this year that drinking 4 to 5 cups of coffee a day could cut the risk of diabetes, skin cancer, stress, cavities, breast cancer and heart disease.

Drugs live: Was it a useful scientific study?

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Last week, Channel 4 aired Drugs Live: The Ecstasy trial. The supposed aim of the programme was to research whether ‘E’ might have a clinical role in helping sufferers of depression and post traumatic stress. This had been the first time Ecstasy had been filmed on TV since the 1980’s…

Network bosses described the show as ‘a programme only Channel 4 would be brave enough to submit’. But, there has been much talk as to whether the programme really was as ‘groundbreaking’ as it claimed itself to be.

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Ecstasy pills

The Guardians, Rupert Sawyer saw the programme as anything but controversial.

“What Drugs Live has illustrated to us all, is that television has lost its edge since Y2K. Frankly, if it’s still controversial to have a conversation about ecstasy on the television, we, the industry are failing to move with the times. If the broadcasters do not do something soon, the internet will kill us all,” he said.

Personally, I found it to be lacking in new scientific findings. Yes, there were plenty of doctors, and a big model of the inside of a brain, but everything seemed very basic. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that E releases seratonin in the brain, giving that ‘feel good’ emotion.

Questions are also raised over the show’s seemingly positive representation of the drug. Critics have asked why the only expert to point out  the dangers of taking drugs was given just three minutes of the 65 minute programme to voice his concerns.

Interestingly, only one man, a former SAS soldier, was shown to  have had a negative response, while the  majority of the volunteers  described feelings of well-being and euphoria. It also appeared that the choice of participants seemed to be more aimed at pleasing the viewer rather than for scientific gain. (The female priest, for example.)Another participant was Keith Allen, a celebrity who has been known to take drugs in the past.

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Brain activity was measured in an MRI scan

I think that it is neccessary to point out that nobody taking part in the experiment actually had depression or post traumatic stress, which seemed odd considering this appeared at first to be the premise of the show.

In defence of Drugs Live, Proffessor Nut told the BBC that it is a ‘very high quality in-depth scientific study.”

What did you make of the show?

Click here to read the Telegraph’s review of the show.

Click here to read a Daily Mail article about the ‘acceptability’ of ecstasy.

Click here to read a Metro article and the criticism of Drugs Live.

Similarities between chocoholics and heroin addicts?

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A study has found that the natural brain chemical enkephalin surged as rats ate chocolate.

The study used rats to investigate the effect of the brain chemical enkephalin on the urge to consume, using specifically M and M chocolates. Enkephalin is part of the brain chemical endorphins a natural mild form of opium, an active ingredient in heroin.

They also found that injecting a synthetic opiate, similar to enkephalin, into the dorsal neostriatum area of the brain  triggered a feeding frenzy in the rats. An effect that study leader Dr ALexandra DiFeliceantonio says is similar to that of drug addicts and those who are obese.

‘The same brain area tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes. It seems likely that our enkephalin findings  in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption  and addiction in people,’ says Dr Alexandra DiFeliceantonio.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Michigan and was funded by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and  published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal: Current Biology.

Click here to view the full article on the Daily Mail.

Click here for more information from the NHS website.