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Food additives 'affect sight' Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK The food additive MSG is found in Chinese food Scientists are warning that a flavouring, commonly found in Chinese food, could be linked to sight problems.

Tests in rats have shown that high levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG) can damage the retina.

MSG is found in oriental and processed foods.

The research was carried out by scientists at Hirosaki University in Japan.

They found rats fed on diets high in MSG suffered vision loss and had thinner retinas.

But UK eye experts said people would have to eat an exceptionally large amount of MSG before they suffered problems, and eating a take-away once a week would not cause problems.

The researchers theory of how MSG affects sight is that it binds to receptors on retinal cells, destroying them.

This then triggers secondary reactions that reduce the ability of the cells which are left to relay electrical signals.


The Japanese team fed rats three different diets for six months, with either high or moderate amounts of MSG, or none.

MSG made up 20% of the diet of the rats given the highest amount.

In rats on the high MSG diet, some retinal nerve layers thinned by as much as 75%.

They were also unable to see natural light as well.

Some damage was also seen in rats put on the moderate MSG diet.

Researchers also found high concentrations of MSG in the vitreous fluid which bathes the retina.

The research was published in New Scientist magazine and the journal Experimental Eye Research.

'Theoretically possible'

Lead researcher Hiroshi Ohguro said it was the first study to show eating food containing MSG could cause danage to the eyes.

He told New Scientist high levels of MSG had been used in the tests.

But he added: "Lesser amounts should be OK, but the precise borderline amount is still unknown."

He suggested the study could explain why there is a high level of normal-tension glaucoma in eastern Asia.

Normal-tension glaucoma is a form of the disease which leads to blindness without the usual increase in pressure inside the eyeball.

However, the higher rate could also be due to genetics.

Peng Tee Khaw, professor of glaucoma and wound healing at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, told BBC News Online the rats were fed a huge amount of MSG.

He said they were given an amount equal to a salt cellar half their size, so humans would have to eat an equivalent amount.

Professor Khaw said: "It's theoretically possible that if people ate large amounts of this stuff, they would have a damaging effect.

"But once a week, it would be a miniscule amount in comparison with what these researches are putting into these rats.

"If you have the odd take-away, I shouldn't worry."

He said if people should perhaps be careful if they did have extremely high amounts of MSG in their diets, or had pre-existing retinal problems.

March 26, 2000 10:30am
Licorice: The Anti-Viagra? Study Finds Candy Decreases
Men's Libido
Source: News Wire

(BOSTON, MA) -- Men attempting to sweet talk their partners might want to abstain from other sweet
sensations - namely licorice, doctors warn.

In a letter published by the New England Journal of Medicine, three Italian doctors said their research
found glycyrrhizic acid, the active ingredient in licorice, suppressed sex hormone levels in men in their
early 20s by as much as 44 percent.

Just 5 grams of licorice a day over four days was enough to reduce the amount of testosterone
significantly in seven men, ages 22 to 24. Four days away from the found glycyrrhizic acid, and the
hormone levels went back to normal, team leader Dr. Decio Armanini of the University of Padua told

"The amounts of licorice given to these men are eaten by many people," said the doctors in the

Licorice flavoring, and the acid, are commonly used in breath fresheners and candies.

"Thus, men with decreased libido or other sexual dysfunction, as well as those with hypertension,
should be questioned about licorice ingestion."

Saturday, November 10, 2001

Your Libido on Licorice is Plenty Good, Charlie Sun, Mar 2, 2003
Study disputes research saying candy suppresses male hormone

By Adam Marcus
HealthScoutNews Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthScoutNews) -- If you're a man who enjoys licorice, an Italian study published two years ago may really ring a
bell: It said that eating even small amounts undermines the male libido.

The study was the scientific equivalent of a cold shower for anise-fond Romeos. But American researchers now say they've tried to repeat
the work and can't come up with good & plenty evidence that licorice suppresses testosterone, the sex hormone.

The notion that eating licorice might muzzle testosterone isn't absurd. Its active ingredient is glycyrrhizic acid, a compound that interrupts the
conversion of a testosterone precursor into the male hormone. So when Italian endocrinologists showed that seven men who ate licorice for
four days saw the testosterone in their blood plunge 35 percent, it made some sense.

That finding prompted a wave of interest into the power of licorice over sex hormones, and fruitful keywords for Internet searches.

Now, the lead author of the new study, Robert Josephs, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin, says the black licorice effect is a
red herring. The finding will appear in the Nov. 10 issue of The Lancet.

"It's safe to go back in the water," he says.

Josephs and his colleagues at Texas and the University of Michigan tried to replicate the Italian work by feeding 20 college men 5.6 grams
(less than a quarter ounce) of licorice daily for four days. They then measured testosterone levels in the men's saliva, but found less than a
10 percent drop from baseline, not enough to wilt their sex drive.

Josephs' group repeated their experiment, this time giving 11 men and 10 women a different brand of licorice. But again, the drop in
testosterone was marginal for both sexes. Although the Italian group measured blood testosterone, the American researchers say saliva is
an equally sensitive indicator of the hormone's presence.

Taken together, they say the two runs produced effects on testosterone roughly 10 times weaker than that generated by the Italian
researchers. "What's amazing is that no matter what we manipulated, we got the same very, very modest effect," Josephs says.

Joseph's group attributes the difference two factors: the Europeans goofed in their statistical analysis, and they appear to have included in
their study someone with abnormally high testosterone, skewing the average for the rest of the men. "If you had one guy who just had a
freakishly high starting testosterone level, that would comfortably explain their result," he says.

The researchers did see a marked increase in the men's saliva levels of cortisol, an important stress hormone, suggesting that people with
high blood pressure might want to avoid eating the candy.

Dr. Mario Palermo, one of the researchers on the Italian study, defends his findings. "I don't think it's a mistake. The data are real," says
Palermo, an endocrinologist at the University of Sassini. Palermo says he and his colleagues performed their study "at least two times," and
have unpublished evidence showing "absolutely the same result."

In this debate, however, Josephs says size is crucial. "We're not questioning the mechanism. The mechanism is sound. The point of
contention here is effect size. In medicine, effect size is literally the difference between life and death." Or, in this case, love and, well, not.

The trade publication Professional Candy Buyer reports that between 1995 and 1998, total annual licorice sales in the United States grew
from $153 million to $175 million.

What To Do

Licorice has been used for millennia to treat everything from coughs to ulcers. Ancient Greeks used it to treat asthma and cancer sores,
while Roman warriors apparently drank it like gladiatorial Gatorade. A supply of licorice was even discovered in King Tut's tomb.

The black form of the candy is made from the liquid used to boil roots from the licorice plant grown in Turkey, Russia and China. The red
version is faux licorice.

You can get more information about the health effects of licorice (but beware of exaggerated claims) on this Magic of Licorice site.

Botanical.Com also has information about the candy.


Buddhists 'really are happier' Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK

Scientists say they have evidence to show that Buddhists really are happier and calmer than other people.

Tests carried out in the United States reveal that areas of their brain associated with good mood and positive feelings are more active.

The findings come as another study suggests that Buddhist meditation can help to calm people.

Researchers at University of California San Francisco Medical Centre have found the practise can tame the amygdala, an area of the brain which is the hub of fear memory.

" There is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek " Paul Ekman, University of California San Francisco Medical Centre

They found that experienced Buddhists, who meditate regularly, were less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised or as angry compared to other people.

Paul Ekman, who carried out the study, said: "The most reasonable hypothesis is that there is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek."

Brain activity

In a separate study, scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison used new scanning techniques to examine brain activity in a group of Buddhists.

Their tests revealed activity in the left prefrontal lobes of experienced Buddhist practitioners.

This area is linked to positive emotions, self-control and temperament.

Their tests showed this area of the Buddhists' brains are constantly lit up and not just when they are meditating.

This, the scientists said, suggests they are more likely to experience positive emotions and be in good mood.

"We can now hypothesise with some confidence that those apparently happy, calm Buddhist souls one regularly comes across in places such as Dharamsala, India, really are happy," said Professor Owen Flanagan, of Duke University in North Carolina.

Dharamsala is the home base of exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

The studies are published in New Scientist magazine.