Diets: Yo-yo is a no-no

Everybody knows that people whose diets result in their weights yo-yoing up and down tend to end up with the yo-yo at the top rather than the bottom. However yo-yoing your weight may have more unpleasant effects than simple obesity.

In an article in the Times this week it was claimed that fluctuating your weight can actually weaken your immune system making you more vulnerable to all sorts of diseases. In a study conducted by the men and women in white coats at the University of Washington, it was found that women who had gone on diet and succeeded in losing ten pounds on two or more occasions in the last 20 years had weaker immunity than those who had not dieted in this way. Immunity was measured objectively by counting the number of natural killer cells in the blood. Natural killer cells (or NK cells) are the soldiers of the body who fight bacteria, viruses and other dangerous substances in the body. A lower NK cell response has purportedly been linked to a higher risk of cancer as well.

British nutritionists tended to agree with the general idea of the findings of their colleagues across the Atlantic. Said Sarah Schenker of the British Nutrition Foundation: ‘It is far healthier to lose weight gradually by reducing food intake gradually (that’s two ‘graduallys’ in once sentence, Sarah) and becoming more physically active. We agree.

But Exercise is a yes-yes!

All indications are that exercise strengthens the immune system. Californian researchers have shown the exercise increases immunity and this can be proved by showing an increase in not only NK cells but also killer T-lymphocytes and antibody-producing B-cells all signs of a healthy, active immune system. So listen here all fatties: Forget the crash diets but keep on that treadmill!

And that means you too, girls!

It seems that teenage girls have slightly more to gain from regular exercise than the rest of us. The Times, quoting the medical journal, Pediatrics, mentions a study that shows that girls who do regular exercise during puberty end up having higher bone density and therefore stronger bones than girls who prefer more leisurely activities during their spare time. So it seems the jolly hockey sticks were right and will end up with less osteoporosis in later life than their more sedentary colleagues.

Echinacea: No good proof that it works

For some time now, the herb, Echinacea, has been marketed as a booster of the immune system in general and a herb that helps keeps colds at bay. American researchers, according to the Evening Standard, seem to suggest that there may be little proof that it is capable of doing this. In an interesting study, 48 volunteers were given (unbeknownst to them) either Echinacea or a placebo and then exposed to a cold virus. Ninety per cent of both groups came down with bad colds showing that the herb gave no protection against catching colds and viruses – at least in that sample of people. My only comment is that I hope that those volunteers were well paid. A bad cold is no joke. So until next week – ATISHOOOOOO!

Homeopathic tip of the week: Colds

Staying with the subject of colds, it’s well worth trying homeopathy when hit by the dreaded lurgy.

1. At the very start of a cold, when you can just feel that familiar tingle in the back of your throat, start taking Aconite 6c every hour for the day. This is your best chance of warding the cold off, but you must use it early.
2. When you are really feeling down with a cold, with shivers down your spine, a fever and very sore throat, use Gelsemium 6c hourly.
3. Towards the end of a cold, when that dry cough just won’t go away, use Bryonia 6c three times a day until it does, but no longer than two weeks after which you should have a doctor listen to your chest.