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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘research’

Israeli Scientist Finds Omega-3 Reduces Smoking

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Want to stop smoking, for real, and you just can’t seem to manage it on your own but hate the thought of patches and “chemicals” ?

A new study conducted by an Israeli scientist  has found that Omega-3 reduces a smoker’s craving for nicotine, thereby making it easier to quit the unhealthy habit.

The study was headed by Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at University of Haifa’s school of criminology and the department of psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar Ilan University.

Subjects participating in the study were asked to take five capsules per day for 30 days of Omega-3 950 produced by Solgar. A second group, used as controls, received placebos. Neither group was asked to stop smoking.

The groups included 38 smokers ages 18 to 45 who somked at least 10 cigarettes per day during the past year, and an average of 14 cigarettes per day. The average subject had been smoking for at least 11 years.

Levels of nicotine craving and consumption were measured using a series of scales at the beginning of the study, after 30 days of treatment and after 60 days (30 days after stopping the Omega-3 capsules.)

“The substances and medications currently used to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with,” Shenkar observed.

“The findings of this study indicated that Omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,” she added.

Among myriad other health problems, smoking also reduces the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain – especially that of Omega-3. When the body is deficient in Omega-3, the cellular structure of nerve cells is damaged, and it interrupts neurotransmission in areas of the brain involved with feeling pleasure and satisfaction, Shenkar explained.

These areas are essential in reward and decision-making, and are very important in the process of the development, maintenance and relapse of the addict and inability to stop smoking.

“In simpler terms, Omega-3 deficiency makes it harder for the smoker’s body to deal with its craving for another cigarette.

The findings of the new study show that while no difference was found between the groups at the beginning of the study, after thirty days the smokers who had taken Omega-3 reduced their cigarettes by an average of two a day (an eleven-percent decrease), even though they were not asked to change their smoking habits in any way. No less important, they showed a significant decrease in nicotine craving. After another thirty days of not taking anything, cigarette cravings increased slightly but still remained significantly lower than their initial level. In other words, the craving to smoke cigarettes did not return to the baseline level even a month after stopping to take the supplement. The group receiving the placebo did not show any significant changes in their craving levels or in the number of cigarettes they smoked a day during the sixty days.

“Earlier studies have proven that an imbalance in Omega-3 is also related to mental health, depression and the ability to cope with pressure and stress,” Shenkar emphasized. “Pressure and stress, in turn, are associated with the urge to smoke. It is also known that stress and tension levels rise among people who quit smoking. Despite all this, this connection between all these factors had not been studied until now.”

The finding that people who were not interested in stopping to smoke showed such a significant change reinforces the assumption that taking Omega-3 can help smokers to regulate their addiction and reduce their smoking, Shenkar pointed out.

Chocolate May Be Sweet Solution for Memory Problems Age 50+

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Are you over fifty and finding it hard to keep track of your car, your keys or new faces these days?

According to the findings of a small study published in the October 1, 2014 volume of the journal Nature Neuroscience, chocolate may improve memory skills normally lost with age.

Healthy subjects ages 50 to 69 performed better on a memory test after drinking a mixture high in cocoa flavanols for three months than those who drank a mixture low in flavanols.

Cocoa flavanols are anti-oxidants, which led the drinkers to perform the same as people 20 to 30 years younger on a pattern recognition test involving the kind of skill used when remembering the face of someone you just met, or the place you parked your car.

Researchers found that people in the high-flavanol group exhibited increased function in the “dentate gyrus” area of the brain’s hippocampus – the area linked to this type of memory skill.

According to the study’s principal investigator Dr. Scott A. Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center, those who drank the cocoa flavanol mixture performed 25 percent better than the low-flavanol control group.

The area of the hippocampus that is impaired early in Alzheimer’s disease – the entorhinal cortex – showed no increased activity.

But it would take a monumental amount of chocolate to reach the level of flavanols necessary to achieve any effect, doctors say.

To reach 138 milligrams of epicatechin (the daily dose of the high flavanol group), one would have to eat about 100 grams of baking chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder – about 300 grams of dark chocolate a day.

Consider the incredible amount of fat and calories involved, and the cost-benefit ratio.

Is it really worth it?

Age-related memory decline may be different, and that flavanols may not help people with Alzheimer’s, even if they help those with age-related memory loss, researchers point out.

There were other factors involved that may have affected the study outcomes, including the size of the cohort and other food items consumed by the subjects and controls.

Nevertheless, good news about chocolate in any form is always good news for chocolate lovers.

Right?

New Cancer Drug Uses Immunotherapy to Treat Metastatic Melanoma

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Researchers have come up with a new treatment to fight metastatic melanoma – a fierce form of cancer that is particularly difficult to overcome. The new medication, called Keytruda, works on the body’s immune system and just received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Keytruda, produced by the Merck pharmaceutical firm in the United States, does not focus on destroying the cancerous tissue with chemicals, but rather initiates a different process in the body’s natural immune system, which then attacks the cancerous cells on its own.

The treatment mechanism is called “immunotherapy” and if it lives up to its expectations, the world of oncology could see a new revolution within just a few years. One of the clinical trials is being carried out at Tel Aviv’s Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer Medical Center.

Some 250 of newly diagnosed melanoma patients in Israel per year suffer from metastatic tumors. Malignant melanomas usually start on the skin but can also start elsewhere. Israel ranks among the 20 nations in the world with the highest morbidity rates for the disease, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

“The new drug creates real potential for curing one of the deadliest forms of cancer at the negligible cost of light and tolerable side effects,” commented Prof. Jacob Schachter, head of the Ella Institute for Melanoma at Sheba Hospital. “Moreover, it completely alters the working assumptions in oncology treatment, as its working mechanism is effective in the war against other types of cancer too. There’s no doubt today that the holy grail of oncology lies in immunotherapy, which helps the body’s immune system to destroy the tumor’s cells itself.

“At this stage, we can only imagine the therapeutic potential of a combination of a number of such drugs, each acting on a different system, and some of which are already at an advanced stage of development. Among doctors, too, the scope of the breakthrough has yet to be digested.”

BGU Researchers Say Oxytocin May Promote ‘Lying for Your Team’

Monday, March 31st, 2014

A team of researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev have discovered that the hormone oxytocin can promote “group-serving dishonesty.”

According to findings published today (Monday) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), participants receiving oxytocin “lied more to benefit their groups, did so quicker, and did so without expectation of reciprocal dishonesty from their group members. A control setting ruled out that oxytocin drives self-serving dishonesty.”

The team, led by Dr. Shaul Shalvi at the university’s Department of Psychology, worked in cooperation with Carsten K.W. De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Psychology.

Shalvi is director of BGU’s Center for Decision Making and Economic Psychology (DMEP). He noted, “Our results suggest people are willing to bend ethical rules to help the people close to us, like our team or family. This raises an interesting although perhaps more philosophical question: Are all lies immoral?”

Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter to create bonding between couples and between mothers and babies. It also stimulates social interactions.

Researchers have found a correlation between increased oxytocin and greater empathy, lower social anxiety, more pro-social choice in anonymous games, reduction in fear response, cooperation in single-shot anonymous games and trust in interpersonal exchange. It also stimulates defense-related aggression.

The study was funded in part by the People Program (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program under a Research Executive Agency Grant Agreement and by the Netherlands Science Foundation.

Israeli Researchers Discover Security Gap in Samsung’s Galaxy S4

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Ben Gurion University security researchers have discovered a critical vulnerability in Samsung’s highly secure software on its flagship device the Galaxy S4.

The university’s Cyber Security Labs noted that the Samsun devices are based on the Knox architecture and that Samsung Knox is currently undergoing the U.S. Department of Defense approval review process.

Researchers believe that the breach in Samsung’s most advanced security-driven infrastructure for mobile phones enables easy interception of data communications between the secure container and the external world including file transfers, emails and browser activity.

The vulnerability was uncovered by Ph.D. student Mordechai Guri during an unrelated research task. Guri is part of a wider research team at the cyber security labs which focuses on mobile and other cyber related research topics.

“To us, Knox symbolizes state-of-the-art in terms of secure mobile architectures and I was surprised to find that such a big ’hole‘ exists and was left untouched,” he said.

Guri added, “The Knox has been widely adopted by many organizations and government agencies and this weakness has to be addressed immediately before it falls into the wrong hands. We are also contacting Samsung in order to provide them with the full technical details of the breach so it can be fixed immediately.”

The newly found breach can be used to bypass all Knox security measures. By simply installing an “innocent” app on the regular phone (in the non-secure container) all communications from the phone can be captured and exposed.

‘Most People Don’t Lie, and Liars Confess,’ Says Ben Gurion Study

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

A recent survey conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of Amsterdam found that most people tend to avoid lying, and people who do lie usually own up to it.

“The fact that participants who indicated lying often actually did lie more often in the dice test demonstrates that they were honest about their dishonesty,” says Bruno Verschuere of the University of Amsterdam. “It may be that frequent liars show more psychopathic traits and therefore have no trouble admitting to lying frequently.”

There are practical applications to the study.

“It is important to study the conditions leading people to lie, deceive, or engage in unethical conduct more broadly,” said Dr. Shaul Shalvi of Ben Gurion University’s Dept. of Psychology. “Such behaviors are rather costly from a societal perspective. Consider, for example, behaviors like lying when filing an insurance claim, reporting that the TV that was stolen from one’s apartment was just a couple inches larger than it really was. From the individual’s perspective, this seems like a minor lie. Insurance companies however, pay millions of dollars annually for such insurance ‘build-ups’,” Shalvi concludes.

Israelis Invent Revolutionary Alternative Fuel

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have invented a process to make a green feed alternative for crude oil out of two of the most common substances on Earth – water and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas detrimental to the environment.

Profs. Moti Herskowitz and Miron Landau, along with Dr. Roxana Vidruk and the team at BGU’s Blechner Center of Industrial Catalysis and Process Development have developed a green feed that can be converted using well-established technologies into liquid fuel and delivered using existing infrastructure to gas stations. As opposed to other alternative fuel sources, such as electric cars, which require additional infrastructure, this green feed would merely replace oil as the input for refineries.

The project is partially supported by I-SAEF (Israel Strategic Alternative Energy Foundation).

Herskowitz unveiled the revolutionary breakthrough at the Bloomberg Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv last week.

“It is an extraordinary challenge to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen to green feed,” says Herskowitz. “The technology is based on novel specially tailored catalysts and catalytic processes. Well-established, commercially available technology can be directly applied to the process developed at BGU. It is envisaged that the short-term implementation of the process will combine synthetic gas produced from various renewable and alternative sources with carbon dioxide and hydrogen.”

Prof. Herskowitz, who is the Israel Cohen Chair in Chemical Engineering and the VP & Dean at BGU, indicated that the new process should become a reality in the near future. “Since there are no foreseen technological barriers, the new process should become a reality within five to ten years,” he says.

Regarding other alternative fuels, Herskowitz maintains that his invention represents a game-changer.

“The liquids that have been used over the past decade are ethanol (alcohol), biodiesel and/or blends of these fuels with conventional fuels, as will continue to be done in the foreseeable future. These alternatives are, however, far from ideal, and there is a pressing need for a game-changing approach to produce alternative drop-in liquid transportation fuels by sustainable, technologically viable and environmentally acceptable processes from abundant, low-cost, renewable materials.”

Researchers at the Blechner Center have also developed a novel process for converting vegetable and algae oils to advanced green diesel and jet fuels.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israelis-invent-revolutionary-alternative-fuel/2013/11/17/

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