Monthly Archives: January 2012

Does red wine really produce longevity?

When so much hope has been placed on the potential life prolonging effects of a substance in red wine called resveretrol, allegations that Dr. Dipak Das a University of Connecticut researcher had fabricated and falsified data in dozens of published papers is putting a damper on the work and upended plans for a December, 2012 international meeting.  Das is one of eight international experts on the scientific committee for the conference titled Resveretrol 2012 set for Lucknow, India.

Many of the now discredited papers asserted that resveretrol improves cardiovascular health. The university is in the process of dismissing Das and has already returned $890 000 of the federal research funding awarded to Das.

What appears to be an increase in fraud in medical research makes this story another sad commentary for those who believe in the sanctity of the scientific method. And for those who have taken up a daily glass or two of red wine to achieve longevity, well the real data is still out.


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Happy Chinese New Year 2012!!


Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese Lunar New Year, the longest and most important Chinese festival.  It is also the oldest in chronological recorded history, dating from 2600 BC when the Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first cycle of the zodiac. Like the Western calendar, The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a yearly one, with the start of the lunar year being based on the moon’s cycles. Because of this cyclical dating, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February.

Lasting 15 days, this year it will begin on January 23 (the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar) and end with the Lantern Festival on February 9th. A complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five cycles of 12 years each.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the twelve years after an animal. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals just before he departed from earth, but only twelve came. As a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: “This is the animal that hides in your heart.”

This Lunar year, 4709 is the Year of the Water Dragon.  Fifth in the astrological cycle, Dragon Years follow the Rabbit and recur every twelfth year.

Anyone born in 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 or 2012 is born under the sign of the Dragon.

According to the Chinese, anyone born under the Dragon Sign tends to be a free sprit- innovative, passionate, enterprising, flexible, self-assured, conceited, tactless, quick-tempered and brave.

These personality characteristics are then modified by one of the five Chinese elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth which overlay a 5-year cycle of their own characteristics.

For 2012, that element is Water. Water is said to have a calming effect on the Dragon’s fearless temperament. It allows the Dragon to re-direct its passionate enthusiasm, making him or her a little less conceited, perhaps more perceptive of others. Because Water Dragons are also less quick tempered than others born under the Dragon sign, they are better able to take a step back and re-evaluate a situation. As a result, they tend to make intelligent decisions and deal well with others. Still, they need to learn to take their time and complete one project before starting another.

1952 was the last Water Dragon Year and produced such famous people as the leaders of Russia (Putin) and Singapore (Lee), a tennis champion (Connors), innovator (Craig Newmark, the founder of Craig’s list) and a host of CEOs of such companies as Coca Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Alberto-Culver, Time Warner, Colgate-Palmolive, Viacom, UPS, Radio Shack, Clorox, Tiffany & Company, Hershey, ITT, Macy’s, Xerox, and Walgreens.

The Dragon is the major symbol of good fortune and intense power in Chinese Astrology. For example, the Dragon constellation is accorded the honor of being the guardian of the Eastern sky. According to tradition, the Dragon brings in the Four Blessings of the East: Wealth, virtue, harmony, and longevity. Therefore people born in Dragon years are to be honored and respected.

While the other 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are earthly animals, the Dragon is a mystical being and therefore special. Sometimes called a karmic sign, it is expected to portend larger than life events (like the dragon itself) for the year. That means spectacular successes as well as crash-and-burn failures.
The Dragon is not, however, just about money. It can also bring new love or renew an old romance. So this is a good year for engagements and weddings.

Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet or Taiwan. Countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, as well as in Chinatowns elsewhere. This holiday has even had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors, as well as cultures with whom the Chinese have had extensive interaction including Korea (Seolial), Bhutan (Losar), Mongolia (Tasgaan Sar). Vietnam (Tet), and the Japanese prior to 1873 (Oshogatsu).

We’ll be heading for some of these places next week to document how Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, China and Hong Kong celebrate. Stay tuned!

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Eastern vs Western Medicine

In “Rabbit in the Moon” we explored the benefits of various Chinese herbs. Recently the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study by Chinese researchers  showing that a traditional Chinese herbal medicine – maxingshigan-yinquiaosan- made up of 12 different Chinese herbs- may help reduce fever in people with seasonal H1N1 influenza virus as quickly as oseltamivir (Tamiflu), making this a potential alternative treatment when Tamiflu is not available.

The study was a prospective, nonblinded controlled trial performed in 11 hospitals from 4 provinces in China. 410 subjects ages 15 to 59 years with laboratory confirmed H1N1 were randomly assigned either Tamiflu, maxingshigan-yinquiaosan, combined Tamiflu/ maxingshigan-yinquiaosan or no medication for 5 days. Subjects in all treatment groups had significant reductions in the time it took for their fevers to resolve compared with the control group. Those that had the combined Western and Eastern treatment had a 19% faster resolution time than those treated with either separately.

Future studies like this may offer more herbal alternatives to Western medications.

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