Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 3 Ways to Beat the Cold and Flu this winter!

What is the flu?

Influenza or “flu” for short is a virus. Viruses contain either RNA or DNA but never both in one viral cell. They work by entering human cells via adsorption and exploiting the functions of the nucleus, in the healthy human cell, to replicate the  nucleic acid and place it inside capsules called nucleocapsids  which are then budded off and released out of the cell to go onto infect more healthy cells in the body; a vicious cycle.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014


Happy Holidays from Crystals and Catalysts! I wish your holidays are filled with peace and prosperity through the new year!

Mariam- Crystals&Catalysts

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Chemistry of Muffin Making (best muffin recipe EVER!)

It's Christmas Eve, so I thought I'll upload something lighthearted and sweet, just in time for Christmas day. This is one of the most perfect muffin recipes (I've tried so many till I found this one!) and in the end I have put some tips to make sure you get the fluffiest muffins possible.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dark Chocolate Improves Vasodilation (Yay for lower blood pressure!)

Dark chocolate has many health benefits and one health benefit is that it can lower blood pressure, although there has been research on this before, a new study goes into studying its effect on endothelial cells (responsible for vasoconstriction of blood vessels). At least 30% of the English population have blood pressure and most of them might not even know they have it and have not yet been diagnosed.  

The endothelial cells are vital for cardiovascular function and the dysfunction of endothelial cells is one of the most precocious events in atherosclerotic process. Which is the main reason why this study was carried out on endothelial cells and taking the measurement of the flow-mediated dilation (FMD). The FMD measurement can be seen as a predictor of the incidence of cardiovascular events in adults with no prior cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

The Method 

A randomized and controlled trail was carried out, using 30 healthy young individuals, placed into 2 groups: Control Group (CG) and Intervention Group (IG). Within the Intervention group: the individuals were given 8g/daily of 70% dark chocolate for an entire month. All the individuals were submitted to two clinical assessments, basal and after one month of intervention, in which their weight, height, body mass index (BMI), Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP), Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP), heart rate (HR) and flow-mediated dilation (FMD) were assessed, glycaemia levels were also assessed. 

The Results 

Endothelial function improved in the IG after the 1 month flavonoid intake, with the FMD increasing from 14±5% (baseline) to 23±7% (post-intervention; p<0.001), with no significant differences in the CG. Only eight grams of dark chocolate per day were able to significantly improve endothelium-dependent vasodilation, which improved the endothelial function in the young individuals. 

Yay for dark chocolate and its blood pressure lowering effects! Only 8g of dark chocolate were able to improve endothelium function and improve vasodilation, even in the healthy individuals. Even though dark chocolate is bitter than milk chocolate but it is the best and healthiest option and in the long run it will have positive effects on your cardiovascular health. 

[1]Dark chocolate intake improves endothelial function in young healthy people: a randomized and controlled trial
photo credit: Chocolate Reviews via photopin cc photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc photo credit: Fatma S via photopin cc

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Great News for Wikipedia Lovers

We were always warned at university about the reliability of Wikipedia and that we shouldn't use it for guidance when working on projects and/or coursework and we're recommended to use Google Scholar and Science Direct for scientific research. Because Wikipedia is an open online encyclopedia in which everyone and anyone can edit and add to the pages, its reliability isn't 100%.

However the good news is, is that the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) have given access to the chemistry writers at Wikipedia access to their all their journals (gold accounts) so to ensure that every single piece of information on Wikipedia is correct and to update with all the latest updates in chemistry research. 

Donating 100 "RSC Gold" accounts to Wikipedia editors gives them access to the complete portfolio of RSC journals and databases. Andy Mabbett the RSC's Wikimedian in Residence commented to the Royal Society of Chemistry's blog "Royal Society of Chemistry journals are the first port of call for many scientists and Wikipedia is the first port of call for both students and lay people. It absolutely makes sense for the two to work together to share knowledge, freely, for the benefit of everyone".

This is great news for everyone who uses Wikipedia and especially students who depend on Wikipedia for information for their research and it's their first destination for information.


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Pearly Whites = Perfect Health [Info-graphic]

Our teeth make up one of our most important features: our smile. So it's obvious we'd want to find the best possible ways to look after them and make sure they're in the best condition they could be in and also avoid the dentist at all costs! 
In the UK at least 15% of adults have severe periodontitis caused by bacteria residing in “bio-films” or dental plaque causing the inflammation and swelling of the oral tissue surrounding our teeth.Even if there are updated ways to treat periodontitis; prevention is better than treatment.  Our oral health is also vital to our general health so keeping our teeth in the best condition is vital. A study has even concluded that our nutritional diet is key to our oral health and is vital for overall health promotion, disease prevention and intervention.  
Here are some useful tips in to help us look after our teeth and keep them pearly white. Illustration by Ghergich & co. Thank you Ghergich & co for letting me share this detailed and useful infographic. 

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't believe the science lies: Okra water Cures Diabetes

I recently came across a Facebook post, from a doctor on the social media website, allegedly stating that if you soak okra in water and drink it, it will presumably be able to make your diabetes “go away”.

Obviously claims like this are difficult to believe straight away, because anyone can write and claim anything on social media and gullible people may believe it; since diabetes affects almost at least one person in all our families and we all wish there was a cure for diabetes to help our loved ones from the dilemma called diabetes. Sadly diabetes cannot be cured, it’s a condition that you have to live with and combat it with regular exercise and controlling your diet and eating habits.

I then went on to research and look for any journals to see if there is any evidence for these claims, however the results I got back were very little. I found only three journals. I also found many other posts on websites including; who do not falsify these claims but they also don’t claim that soaking okra in water and drinking it will cure diabetes in humans. The main focus is on the vegetable: okra or lady’s finger - whatever you like to call it.

Okra is a good vegetable which is known to be high in dietary fibre which can help control bowel movements and the insoluble fibre stored in okra is thought be able in helping the stability of blood  glucose by slowing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract; as claimed by

Inside the journals, rats were made diabetic and were given mucilage extracted from the okra vegetable to drink. After a while their blood was extracted and showed significant decreases in blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.  

A journal posted in the World Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, elaborated on this matter by defining how the chemical responsible for lowering blood glucose interacts with proteins in the body. They found that the active compound in okra has a strong binding affinity to MAFA and MMP9 proteins. They also state that this research opens a door to even more research in producing a novel ligand that is specific to aiding diabetes treatment.

These claims are so encouraging and it would be thought that the most sensible thing to do is to binge eat okra and drink okra water to stop your blood sugar levels rising. However okra is only a vegetable and one of the many vegetables we have to eat in order to maintain a healthy balanced diet. Diabetics need not to worry if they can control their blood sugar levels within the safe allocated range; but nothing can replace insulin and drinking okra soaked in water will not replace insulin injections.
In the end there still needs to be more research on this matter to prove the relationship between okra soaked in water and lowering blood sugar levels or even the claim that it can “cure” diabetes and replace insulin even. Not everything that is posted on Facebook by “doctors” can be true and has to be backed up with proof from scientific journals.

photo credit: Hollyharryoz via photopin cc

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Weight-Loss Surgery Cures Diabetes

Diabetes is a very difficult condition to live with, it constricts your lifestyle, eating choices and almost every thought you have is about your blood sugar levels. An additional problem is if you’re diabetic and overweight. It’s recommended to keep your weight in the healthy weight range as recommended by the NHS, however this is not the case with certain diabetes patients. 

Bariatric surgery (weight-loss surgery) is an operation that is recommended for diabetic patients who have severely overweight (i.e. having a BMI over 30-35) to help them lose weight quickly. Not only is this operation cholesterol and blood pressure reducing but it can also lower insulin resistance.

By losing weight via gastric bypass surgery, the patient’s insulin resistance decreases resulting in a good improvement on the patient’s blood sugar.  Gastric bypass surgery rapidly has a positive effect on the body’s hormones; stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin which improves blood sugar levels.

Results coming from Dr Philip Schauer showed that patients who required insulin before the surgery:  5-10% of those who had the operation still required insulin/ diabetes tablets, compared to 55% of patients who received standard medical therapy, and they also took less cholesterol and blood pressure medications, proving that losing weight via surgery can ameliorate diabetes.

In another study, long term follow up after weight-loss surgery showed a greater rate of diabetes remission, especially in type 2 diabetes patients.  Checking up with the patients who had gastric-band surgery after two years, they found that their diabetes, miraculously, didn't return, this was also with usual care, exercise and good diet.  

Clearly not everyone will need to undergo surgery, even if they are diabetic. However it is essential for diabetics, type 1 or 2 to lose weight and stay in a healthy weight range, this will also help prevent insulin resistance and help the pancreas to work better for type 2 diabetics.

A study used a randomized trial on middle aged men and women and given a low-carbohydrate or low-fat Mediterranean diet. This trial measured their need for diabetes medication and the remission of type 2 diabetes. After 4 years they were reviewed for results; after 4 years the results showed that the patients who had been given a low-carbohydrate diet had a higher rate of diabetes remission, and delayed need for diabetes medication compared with a low-fat diet.

Overall, it is always recommended that you try to lose weight through a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and increased exercise. 



Science daily (1) Science daily (2) Science daily (3) Science daily (4) NHS Weightloss

Image [1]

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

5 Facts about Antihistamines

Anti-histamines are life savers for almost everyone. Around 1 in 4 people in Britain suffer from allergies and most of the world’s population tackle hay fever every spring & summer and others have all year round rhinitis causing sneezing, watery eyes, itching and rashes.

Fact number 1: Anti-histamines block the action of histamine in the body. Histamine is the compound that is released during the allergic reaction at H1 receptor sites, which induces symptoms of hay fever, allergic rhinitis, allergic skin conditions or allergic conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes).

Fact number 2: Anti-histamines have a useful side effect of being able to prevent nausea and vomiting and sedation.

Fact number 3: There are 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation antihistamines:

 • 1st generation antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and chlorphenamine, which can induce symptoms of drowsiness

 • 2nd generation antihistamines, such as loratadine and cetirizine, a drowsiness-free and are usually the most recommended antihistamine drug
 • 3rd generation antihistamines, such as levocetirizine and fexofenadine, have been altered to be able to have less serious side effects than the 2nd generation drug side effects

Fact number 4: Anti-histamines can be given in eye drops, Lodoxamine trometamol as an example. Some people might have extra sensitivity of pollen, grass, animal hair or even house dust, which cause red and itchy eyes. Anti-histamine eye drops are able to relieve the symptoms.

Fact number 5: Some antihistamine drugs have useful side effects as well as blocking histamine.

Chlorpromazine is an anticholinergic drug primarily, it also blocks histamine receptors and also has even been proven to prevent surgical shock. 
[1]Encyclopedia: Antihistamine 
[2]NHS Antihistamines 
[3]Web MD antihistamines
[4]NHS Eye Antihistamines
[5]An introduction to Medicinal Chemistry, G. L. Patrick- Book

Images [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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