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Saturday, March 29, 2008

[Extracted from The Sydney Morning Herald]



Swap chips for carrot sticks and lower your blood pressure.
{Paula Goodyer reports}

The trouble with food processing is that what starts off as good food, packed with all the right stuff, often ends up with fewer nutrients and added extras that can compromise your health. Peel the leaves and silk from a cob of corn and you've got a sweet, juicy package of fibre and potassium. But turn it into a bowl of cornflakes, and it's lost most of its potassium and gained sodium. Why does this matter? Because potassium has the power to keep blood pressure down, and sodium has a habit of pushing it up, explains Dr Caryl Nowson, professor of nutrition and ageing at Deakin University's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research.

What's good about potassium is that it helps to keep artery walls nice and relaxed, making it easier for blood to flow through them, she explains. But too much sodium does the opposite: it tightens the artery walls, making it harder for blood to get through. The result: your heart has to pump harder - and up goes the blood pressure. No big deal? Wrong. High-blood pressure raises your risk of heart disease and stroke and, says the World Health Organisation, is the third leading cause of death and disability after malnutrition and unsafe sex.

Studies of societies that didn't depend on processed food - such as Papua New Guinea Highlanders - found that high-blood pressure was almost unknown. It's partly because they ate much more potassium than sodium, thanks to a diet of natural food - just the way it's meant to be, says Nowson. But a typical Western diet, high in processed food - the source of most of the sodium that we eat - gives us the reverse: levels of sodium that are higher than potassium.

So while we need to eat less salt, less processed food and go easy on the fish sauce, we also need more vegetables and fruit to pump up the potassium in our diets. Replacing refined cereals with whole grains counts too, Nowson adds - when whole grains are refined to create lightweight bread and breakfast cereal, out goes the potassium along with the fibre.

But while two serves of fruit is easy to manage, eating at least five serves of vegetables daily can be challenging for some people - especially if they wait until dinner to try to fit them all in. One solution, says Nowson, is to snack on raw veg with hummus or other healthy dips on the side, instead of breaking out the biscuits.

"Snacking on vegetables is still considered weird - we need a shift in thinking to make snacking on them more acceptable," she says.

After all, it's not just their potassium content that makes vegetables and fruit so kind - but the fact that eating more of them means less room for sodium-loaded processed food.

Sodium : Are you getting too much ?

[This article is written by Dr Zahara Abdul Manaf, a dietitian at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, is also a member of Malaysian Dietitians. I am posting it here for the benefit of those who do not understand the danger of such items in their daily food intake]



Salty food may taste good, but it causes your kidney to work overtime and may cause it to break down. Too much sodium is bad news for health, writes DR ZAHARA ABDUL MANAF.

SOME people are confused between sodium and salt. Some may be familiar with salt but not sodium. Sodium is a mineral essential for human life. It is not the same as salt. Salt is sodium chloride, and is just one part of a molecule of salt.

Most of the sodium in your diet comes from the salt (sodium chloride) that is added during processing or cooking. Malaysian dishes usually use ingredients such as soya sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, prawn paste, etc, which are high in sodium.

Also, many of us like to use flavour enhancers such as Monosodium glutamate (MSG), flavouring cubes, etc in cooking. Fast foods that are known to be high in sodium are also popular entrees among Malaysians.

Essential in small amounts
Your body needs sodium to function properly. Sodium helps to :

- Maintain the right balance of fluids in the body;

- Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles; and

- Helps transmit nerve impulses.

The kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in the body. When sodium levels are low, the kidneys conserve sodium. When levels are high, they excrete the excess amount in urine. If your kidneys are unable to eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases.

Increased blood volume, in turn result in your heart having to work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, thus increasing pressure in your arteries. Certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can lead to an inability to regulate sodium.

Some people are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than others. People who are sodium sensitive tend to retain sodium more easily, leading to excess fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If you're in that group, extra sodium in the diet increases chance of developing high blood pressure, a condition that can lead to cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

How much sodium do you need ?

Various organisations, including the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, have published recommendations for daily sodium intake. Most recommend between 1.5mg to 2.4mg a day (from all sources in your diet) for healthy adults. This amount is equal to about half to one teaspoon of salt. A lower sodium intake has a more beneficial effect on blood pressure.

If you are more than 50 years old, have a health condition such as high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes, you may be more sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of sodium. As a result, aim for a sodium intake at the low end of the range recommended for healthy adults. Talk to a dietitian about the sodium limit that's best for you.

Main sources of sodium in your diet
Sodium in your diet comes mainly from three sources:

- Sodium-containing condiments.: One teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce has 1,005 mg of sodium. Adding these or other sodium-laden condiments to your meals - either while cooking or at the table - raises the sodium count of food.

- Processed and prepared foods: Most processed and prepared foods, such as salted fish, salted eggs, salted vegetables, luncheon meats, processes foods, etc, tend to have a high sodium content. Food manufacturers use salt or other sodium-containing compounds to preserve food and to improve the taste and texture of foods.

- Natural sources of sodium: Sodium occurs naturally in some types of food, including meat, poultry, dairy products and vegetables. For example, one cup of low-fat milk has about 110 mg of sodium.

Be a smart shopper : Read food labels

Taste alone may not tell you which foods are high in sodium. So how do you identify foods high in sodium? The best way to determine sodium content is to read food labels.

Reading labels will help you make wise food choices. Most packaged foods list nutrition information in a section called Nutrition Facts.

The Nutrition Facts label tells you how much sodium is in each serving. It also lists whether salt or sodium-containing compounds are ingredients.

Bear in mind that a food type can have sodium even if it does not contain sodium chloride; this is because sodium is an ingredient used in many types of food additives. Examples of these compounds include :

- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Disodium phosphate
- Sodium alginate
- Sodium nitrate or nitrite

How to cut your sodium intake ?

Here are a few tips to reduce sodium intake in the diet :

- Eat more fresh food and fewer processed food. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Also, fresh meat is lower in sodium than luncheon meat, nuggets, hot dogs, sausage and ham are.

- Opt for low-sodium products. If you do buy processed foods, select those that have reduced sodium or salt. Read food label to make a healthy choice.

- Use less salt in cooking and avoid adding other flavour enhancers such as MSG, soy sauce, ketchup, oyster sauce and flavouring cubes.

- Reduce consumption of highly salted foods such as salted fish, salted egg, salted nuts and keropok.

- Flavour your food with herbs, spices and acidic ingredients such as garlic, onion, curry spices, white pepper, lemon grass, vinegar and lemon.

- Preserved foods such as dried anchovies and dried prawns can be soaked in water for a while to reduce its sodium content.

- If eating outside, limit fast food consumption and request for low salt and no MSG added meal whenever possible.

Your taste for salt is acquired, so it is reversible. To unlearn this salty savouring, decrease use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust. Most people find that after a few weeks of cutting their salt intake, they no longer miss it.

Start by using no more than 1/2 teaspoon of added salt daily, then gradually reduce to 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

25 Weirdest Animals



Sun Bear

The Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) is a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. The Sun Bear stands approximately 4 ft (1.2 m) in length, making it the smallest member in the bear family. It is often called the dog bear because of its small stature. It has a 2 in (5 cm) tail and on average weighs less than 145 lb (65 kg). Males tend to be slightly larger than females. Unlike other bears, the Sun Bear's fur is short and sleek. This adaptation is probably due to the lowland climates it inhabits. Dark black or brown-black fur covers its body, except on the chest where there is a pale orange-yellow marking in the shape of a horseshoe. Similar colored fur can be found around the muzzle and the eyes. This distinct marking gives the sun bear its name.



Komondor Dog

Females are 27 inches (69cm) at the withers. Male Komondorok are a minimum of 28 inches at the withers, but many are over 30 inches tall, making this one of the larger common breeds of dog. The body is not overly coarse or heavy, however, and people unfamiliar with the breed are often surprised by how quick and agile the dogs are.
Its long, thick, strikingly corded white coat (the heaviest amount of fur in the canine world) resembles dreadlocks or a mop. The puppy coat is soft and fluffy. However, the coat is wavy and tends to curl as the puppy matures. A fully mature coat is formed naturally from the soft undercoat and the coarser outer coat combining to form tassels, or cords. Some help is needed in separating the cords so the dog does not turn into one large matted mess. The length of the cords increases with time as the coat grows. Shedding is very minimal with this breed, contrary to what one might think (once cords are fully formed). The only substantial shedding occurs as a puppy before the dreadlocks fully form. The Komondor is born with only a white coat, unlike the similar-looking Puli, which is usually white, black or sometimes grayish. However, a working Komondor's coat may be discolored by the elements, and may appear off-white if not washed regularly.



Angora Rabbit

The Angora rabbit is a variety of domestic rabbit bred for its long, soft hair. The Angora is one of the oldest types of domestic rabbit, originating in Ankara , Turkey , along with the Angora cat and Angora goat. The rabbits were popular pets with French royalty in the mid 1700s, and spread to other parts of Europe by the end of the century. They first appeared in the United States in the early 1900s. They are bred largely for their long wool, which may be removed by shearing or plucking (gently pulling loose wool). There are many individual breeds of Angora rabbits, four of which are ARBA recognized. Such breeds include, French, German, Giant, English, Satin, Chinese, Swiss, Finnish, to name a few.



Red Panda

The Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens ("shining cat," from a Latinized form of the Greek, ailouros, "cat," and the participial form of the Latin fulgere, "to shine") is a mostly herbivorous mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat (55 cm long). The Red Panda has semi-retractile claws and, like the Giant Panda, has a "false thumb" which is really an extension of the wrist bone. Thick fur on the soles of the feet offers protection from cold and hides scent glands. The Red Panda is native to the Himalayas in Nepal and southern China . The word panda is derived from Nepalese word "ponya" which means bamboo and plants eating animals in Nepal .



Sloth

Sloths are medium-sized mammals that live in Central and South America belonging to the families Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae, part of the order Pilosa. Most scientists call these two families the Folivora suborder, while some call it Phyllophaga. Sloths are omnivores. They may eat insects, small lizards and carrion, but their diet consists mostly of buds, tender shoots, and leaves. Sloths have made extraordinary adaptations to an arboreal browsing lifestyle. Leaves, their main food source, provide very little energy or nutrition and do not digest easily: sloths have very large, specialized, slow-acting stomachs with multiple compartments in which symbiotic bacteria break down the tough leaves. As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth's body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive process can take as long as a month or more to complete. Even so, leaves provide little energy, and sloths deal with this by a range of economy measures: they have very low metabolic rates (less than half of that expected for a creature of their size), and maintain low body temperatures when active (30 to 34 degrees Celsius or 86 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit), and still lower temperatures when resting. Sloths mainly live in Cecropia trees.



Emperor Tamarin

The Emperor Tamarin (Saguinus imperator) is a tamarin allegedly named for its similarity with the German emperor Wilhelm II. The name was first intended as a joke, but has become the official scientific name. This tamarin lives in the southwest Amazon Basin , in east Peru , north Bolivia and in the west Brazilian states of Acre and Amazonas. The fur of the Emperor Tamarin is predominantly grey colored, with yellowish speckles on its chest. The hands and feet are black and the tail is brown. Outstanding is its long, white mustache, which extends to both sides beyond the shoulders. The animal reaches a length of 24 to 26 cm, plus a 35 cm long tail. It weighs approximately 300 to 400 g. This primate inhabits tropical rain forests, living deep in the forest and also in open tree-covered areas. It is a diurnal animal, spending the majority of its days in the trees with quick, safe movements and broad jumps among the limbs.



White-faced Saki Monkey

The White-faced Saki (Pithecia pithecia), also known as the Guianan Saki and the Golden-faced Saki, is a species of saki monkey, a type of New World monkey, found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela. This monkey mostly feed on fruits, but also nuts, seeds, and insects.



Tapir

Tapirs are large browsing mammals, roughly pig-like in shape, with short, prehensile snouts. They inhabit jungle and forest regions of South America, Central America , and Southeast Asia . All four species of tapir are classified as endangered or vulnerable. Their closest relatives are the other odd-toed ungulates, horses and rhinoceroses.



Hagfish

Hagfish are marine craniates of the class Myxini, also known as Hyperotreti. Despite their name, there is some debate about whether they are strictly fish (as there is for lampreys), since they belong to a much more primitive lineage than any other group that is commonly defined fish (Chondrichthyes and Osteichthyes). Their unusual feeding habits and slime-producing capabilities have led members of the scientific and popular media to dub the hagfish as the most "disgusting" of all sea creatures.
Hagfish are long, vermiform and can exude copious quantities of a sticky slime or mucus (from which the typical species Myxine glutinosa was named). When captured and held by the tail, they escape by secreting the fibrous slime, which turns into a thick and sticky gel when combined with water, and then cleaning off by tying themselves in an overhand knot which works its way from the head to the tail of the animal, scraping off the slime as it goes. Some authorities conjecture that this singular behavior may assist them in extricating themselves from the jaws of predatory fish. However, the "sliming" also seems to act as a distraction to predators, and free-swimming hagfish are seen to "slime" when agitated and will later clear the mucus off by way of the same travelling-knot behavior.



Star-nosed Mole

The Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata) is a small North American mole found in eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States . It is the only member of the tribe Condylurini and the genus Condylura. It lives in wet lowland areas and eats small invertebrates, aquatic insects, worms and molluscs. It is a good swimmer and can forage along the bottoms of streams and ponds. Like other moles, this animal digs shallow surface tunnels for foraging; often, these tunnels exit underwater. It is active day and night and remains active in winter, when it has been observed tunnelling through the snow and swimming in ice-covered streams. Little is known about the social behavior of the species, but it is suspected that it is colonial. The Star-nosed Mole is covered in thick blackish brown water-repellent fur and has large scaled feet and a long thick tail, which appears to function as a fat storage reserve for the spring breeding season. Adults are 15 to 20 cm in length, weigh about 55 g, and have 44 teeth. The mole's most distinctive feature is a circle of 22 mobile, pink, fleshy tentacles at the end of the snout. These are used to identify food by touch, such as worms, insects and crustaceans.



Proboscis Monkey

Nasalis larvatus also known as Long-nosed Monkey is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey. It is the only species in monotypic genus Nasalis.
The most distinctive trait of this monkey is the male's large protruding nose. The purpose of the large nose is unclear, but it has been suggested that it is a result of sexual selection. The female Proboscis Monkey prefers big-nosed male s, thus propagating the trait. Males are much larger than females, reaching 72 cm (28 inches) in length, with an up to 75 cm tail, and weighing up to 24 kg (53 pounds). Females are up to 60 cm long, weighing up to 12 kg (26 lb). The Proboscis Monkey also has a large belly, as a result of its diet. Its digestive system is divided into several parts, with distinctive gut flora, which help in digesting leaves. This digestive process releases a lot of gas, resulting in the monkey's "bloated" bellies. A side-effect of this unique digestive system is that it is unable to digest ripe fruit, unlike most other simians. The diet consists mainly of fruits, seeds and leaves.



Pink Fairy Armadillo

The Pink Fairy Armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus) or Pichiciego is the smallest species of armadillo (mammals of the family Dasypodidae, mostly known for having a bony armor shell). It is approximately 90-115 mm long excluding the tail, and is pale rose or pink in color. It is found in central Argentina where it inhabits dry grasslands and sandy plains with thorn bushes and cacti. It has the ability to bury itself completely in a matter of seconds if frightened. The Pink Fairy Armadillo burrows small holes near ant colonies in dry dirt. It feeds mainly on ants and ant larvae near its burrow. Occasionally it feeds on worms, snails, insects and larvae, or various plant and root material.



Axolotl

The Axolotl (or ajolote) (Ambystoma mexicanum) is the best-known of the Mexican neotenic mole salamanders belonging to the Tiger Salamander complex. Larvae of this species fail to undergo metamorphosis, so the adults remain aquatic and gilled. The species originates from the lake underlying Mexico City . Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research due to their ability to regenerate most body parts, ease of breeding, and large embryos. They are commonly kept as pets in the United States , Great Britain , Australia , Japan (where they are sold under the name Wooper Rooper, and other countries. Axolotls should not be confused with waterdogs, the larval stage of the closely related Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum and Ambystoma mavortium), which is widespread in much of North America which also occasionally become neotenic, nor with mudpuppies (Necturus spp.), fully aquatic salamanders which are unrelated to the axolotl but which bear a superficial resemblance.



Aye-aye

The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a strepsirrhine native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth with a long, thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. It is the world's largest nocturnal primate, and is characterized by its unique method of finding food; it taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its elongated middle finger to pull the grubs out. Daubentonia is the only genus in the family Daubentoniidae and infraorder Chiromyiformes. The Aye-aye is the only extant member of the genus (although it is currently an endangered species); a second species (Daubentonia robusta) was exterminated over the last few centuries.



Alpaca

The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid developed from the wild alpacas. It resembles a sheep in appearance, but is larger and has a long erect neck as well as coming in many colors, whereas sheep are generally bred to be white and black. Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of Ecuador, southern Peru , northern Bolivia , and northern Chile at an altitude of 3500 to 5000 meters above sea-level, throughout the year.
Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike them are not used as beasts of burden but are valued only for their fiber. Alpacas only have fleece fibers, not woolen fibers, used for making knitted and woven items much as sheeps wool is. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America , and sweaters, socks and coats in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru , 12 as classified in Australia and 22 as classified in America.



Tarsier

Tarsiers are prosimian primates of the genus Tarsius, a monotypic genus in the family Tarsiidae, which is itself the lone extant family within the infraorder Tarsiiformes. The phylogenetic position of extant tarsiers within the order Primates has been debated for much of the past century, and tarsiers have alternately been classified with strepsirrhine primates in the suborder Prosimii, or as the sister group to the simians (=Anthropoidea) in the infraorder Haplorrhini. Analysis of SINE insertions, a type of macromutation to the DNA, is argued to offer very persuasive evidence for the monophyly of Haplorrhini, where other lines of evidence, such as DNA sequence data, had remained ambiguous. Thus, some systematists argue that th! e debate is conclusively settled in favor of a monophyletic Haplorrhini. Tarsiers have enormous eyes and long feet. Their feet have extremely elongated tarsus bones, which is how they got their name. They are primarily insectivorous, and catch insects by jumping at them. They are also known to prey on birds and snakes. As they jump from tree to tree, tarsiers can catch even birds in motion. Gestation takes about six months, and tarsiers give birth to single offspring. All tarsier species are nocturnal in their habits, but like many nocturnal organisms some individuals may show more or less activity during the daytime. Unlike many nocturnal animals, however, tarsiers lack a light-reflecting area (tapetum lucidum) of the eye.



Dumbo Octopus

The octopuses of the genus Grimpoteuthis are sometimes nicknamed "Dumbo octopuses" from the ear-like fins protruding from the top of their "heads" (actually bodies), resembling the ears of Walt Disney's flying elephant. They are benthic creatures, living at extreme depths, and are some of the rarest of the Octopoda species.



Frill-necked Lizard

The Frill-necked Lizard, or Frilled Lizard also known as the Frilled Dragon, (Chlamydosaurus kingii) is so called because of the large ruff of skin which usually lies folded back against its head and neck. The neck frill is supported by long spines of cartilage, and when the lizard is frightened, it gapes its mouth showing a bright pink or yellow lining, and the frill flares out, displaying bright orange and red scales. The frill may also aid in thermoregulation. They may grow up to one metre in total length. They often walk quadrupedally when on the ground. When frightened they begin to run on all-fours and then accelerate onto the hind-legs. In Australia , the frill-necked lizard is also known as the "bicycle lizard" because of this behaviour. Males are significantly larger than females both as juveniles and when mature. The frill of the Australian frilled dragon is used to frighten off potential predators - as well as hissing and lunging. If this fails to ward off the threat, the lizard flees bipedally to a nearby tree where it climbs to the top and relies on camouflage to keep it hidden.



Narwhal

The Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is an Arctic species of cetacean. It is a creature rarely found south of latitude 70°N. It is one of two species of white whale in the Monodontidae family (the other is the beluga whale). It is possibly also related to the Irrawaddy dolphin. The English name narwhal is derived from the Dutch name narwal which in turn comes from the Danish narhval which is based on the Old Norse word nar, meaning "corpse." This is a reference to the animal's colour. The narwhal is also commonly known as the Moon Whale. In some parts of the world, the Narwhal is colloquially referred to as a "reamfish."



Sucker-footed Bat

The Madagascar Sucker-footed Bat, Old World Sucker-footed Bat, or Sucker-footed Bat (Myzopoda aurita and Myzopoda schliemanni) is a species of bat in the Myzopodidae family.



Pygmy Marmoset

The Pygmy Marmoset (Callithrix (Cebuella) pygmaea) is a monkey native to the rainforest canopies of western Brazil , southeastern Colombia , eastern Ecuador , and eastern Peru . It is one of the smallest primates, with its body length ranging from 1! 4-16 cm (excluding the 15-20 cm tail) and the smallest monkey. Males weigh around 140 g (5 ounces), and females only 120 g ( 4.2 ounces). Despite its name, the Pygmy Marmoset is somewhat different from the typical marmosets classified in genus Callithrix. As such, it is accorded its own subgenus, which was formerly recognized as its own genus, Cebuella. TThe Pygmy Marmoset has a tawny coat, and a ringed tail that can be as long as its body. Their claws are specially adapted for climbing trees, a trait unique to the species. They are omnivorous, feeding on fruit, leaves, insects, and sometimes even small reptiles. Much of their diet, however, comes from tapping trees for sap. Up to two-thirds of their time is spent gouging tree bark to reach the gummy sap. The Pygmy Marmoset has specialized incisors for gouging holes in bark. Unfortunately, because of its small size, and its swift movements, it is very hard to observe in the wild. TIn captivity, the Pygmy Marmoset can live up to 11years.



Blobfish

The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) is a fish that inhabits the deep waters off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania . Due to the inaccessibility of its habitat, it is rarely seen by humans. Blobfish are found at depths where the pressure is several dozens of times higher than at sea level, which would likely make gas bladders inefficient. To remain buoyant, the flesh of the blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water; this allows the fish to float above the sea floor without expending energy on swimming. The relative lack of muscle is not a disadvantage as it primarily swallows edible matter that floats by in front it.



Platypus

The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia , including Tasmania . Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. It is the sole living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus), though a number of related species have been found in the fossil record. The bizarre appearance of this egg-laying, duck-billed mammal baffled naturalists when it was first discovered, with some considering it an elaborate fraud. It is one of the few venomous mammals; the male Platypus has a spur on the hind foot which delivers a poison capable of causing severe pain to humans. The unique features of the Platypus make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology and a recognizable and iconic symbol of Australia ; it has appeared as a mascot at national events and is featured on the reverse of the Australian 20 cent coin. Until the early 20th century it was hunted for its fur, but it is now protected throughout its range. Although captive breeding programs have had only limited success and the Platypus is vulnerable to the effects of pollution, it is not under any immediate threat.



Shoebill

The Shoebill, Balaeniceps rex also known as Whalehead is a very large bird related to the storks. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill. The Shoebill is a very large bird, averaging 1.2 m (4 ft) tall, 5.6 kg (12.3 lbs) and 2.33 m (7.7 ft) across the wings. The adult is mainly grey, the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa, in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia. The Shoebill was added rather recently to the ornithological lists; the species was only discovered in the 19th century when some skins were brought to Europe . It was not until years later that live specimens reached the scientific community. The bird was known to both ancient Egyptians and Arabs however. There exist Egyptian images depicting the Shoebill while the Arabs referred to the bird as abu markub, which means one with a shoe. Clearly, this refers to the striking bill.



Yeti Crab

Kiwa hirsuta is a crustacean discovered in 2005 in the South Pacific Ocean . This decapod, which is approximately 15 cm (6 inches) long, is notable for the quantity of silky blond setae (resembling fur) covering its pereiopods (thoracic legs, including claws). Its discoverers dubbed it the "yeti lobster" or "yeti crab"[2].
K. hirsuta was discovered in March 2005 by a group organised by Robert Vrijenhoek of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Monterey , California , using the submarine DSV Alvin, operating from RV Atlantis[3]. The discovery was announced on the 7th of March, 2006. It was found 1,500 km (900 miles) south of Easter Island in the South Pacific, at a depth of 2,200 m (7,200 feet), living on hydrothermal vents along the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge[4]. Based on both morphology and molecular data, ! the species was deemed to form a new genus and family (Kiwaidae). The animal has strongly reduced eyes that lack pigment, and is thought to be blind.
The 'hairy' pincers contain filamentous bacteria, which the creature may use to detoxify poisonous minerals from the water emitted by the hydrothermal vents where it lives. Alternatively, it may feed on the bacteria, although it is thought to be a general carnivore[2]. Its diet also consists of green algae and small shrimp.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Believe it or not, Gossiping is a healthy past-time for elderly people



Recently, I read this article in a health magazine (Chinese Language) and I was rather amazed how 'gossiping' involving the older people, could extend so much assistance in enhancing their daily life. [Anyway, I am trying to translate it into simple English for the benefit of readers]. Read on ...

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They said, it is a good past-time for old people to get involved with gossiping. It was found that such activity is a blessing and will enable the older people to promote and foster a closer friendship bond among themselves. Likewise, when a person feels depressed, they often release it off through gossiping around and perhaps, half of their stress level or sickness could be gone. For e.g. when someone gets victimized at home, they often find relief when expressing them out to other listening ears.

Most elderly people when they are retired, they find themselves getting lost in their own world. This will develop into severe depression each day and eventually, sickness of all types will evolve. To name a few common problems :

a) having insomnia, or feeling restless in sleeping pattern;
b) poor appetite leading to digestive problems;
c) poor fluid consumption causing dehydration and constipation;
d) poor qi and blood circulation causing weakness and body pain;
e) breathing difficulty and discomfort of the abdominal and
hypochondrion areas;
f) frequent outburst of temper, or preference for quietness
leading to severe mental stress;
g) reserved and dislike noises, including from younger children

Thus, when they are able to gang-up with their own age group, just let them be. Such form of gathering, or getting together will promote better inner-feelings and inspiration. It will further boost their mental strength and enable them to keep abreast with what is going on around them.

In other words, for these people, gossiping is a good past-time which will indirectly assist to activate their mind, their thinking abilities, or their decision making. Of course, when these are achieved, don't you think older people will find their life more meaningful and easier to move on.

However, from the medical point of view, excessive talking can also contribute to :

1) strengthen their jaw and facial muscles;
2) pay attention and improve their hearing ability;
3) improve their breathing capability;
4) improve better vision

Once they are feel happy, their immune system will also become stronger. The later will enable the body to develop more active and healthy cells. What else do they want to achieve anymore when they can enjoy good companionship, great health and a harmonious environment (both at home, as well as among his close buddies).



When older people have osteoporosis problem, sometimes they might consume the wrong food items to counter such treatment. Often, they include the consumption of calcium supplement with milk. In fact, this is a wrong therapy and instead, he might become worst. Once calcium supplement is taken orally with milk, the later item has a certain property which will change its texture and react with the calcium supplement. Instead of resolving the problem, this combination will cause further hurt and discomfort to their stomach. Each stomach by itself, do possess its own fluid which will absorb the calcium (preferably, organic type). For young people, there are having plenty of such stomach-fluid but for older people, they are much lesser. Hence, it is imperative that calcium supplement should not be taken with an empty stomach. Carbohydrate has a good absorption effect on calcium. So, it is a better idea to accompany such intake with rice.

If there is a need to encourage older people to perform any physical exercise, it should be sufficient to ask them to stretch both hand upwards (toward the sky) and then, hold it for a few minutes. Do it several times a day. In fact, this is a good form of exercise, in view of their age. Stretching is beneficial for the young and old. It will assist everyone in resolving any spinal problem or back pain. Frequent walking around within the house compound, or some light gardening tasks should be considered from time to time too.

There is a chinese proverb .... when a person gets old, which part of his body will get older first ? The answer is his lower limbs (legs).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Importance of Friendly Intestinal Bacteria

[Written By Dr. Ben Kim on November 20, 2004 Natural Health Care]

One of the most important steps that you can take to improve your health, regardless of your current situation and health challenges, is to make sure that your intestines have plenty of friendly bacteria.

Incredibly, you have more bacteria and other microorganisms living in your digestive passageway than you have cells in your entire body. These microorganisms total approximately 100 trillion, and collectively weigh between three to five pounds in the average adult.

Friendly bacteria in your gut do the following :

a) Stimulate the production of antibodies in your blood, increasing your immune system strength and capacity to deal with toxins, allergens, harmful microorganisms, and incompletely digested protein

b) Produce nutrients that are essential to your health like Vitamin B12 & Vitamin K

c) Take up space and resources in your gut, which helps to prevent infection by harmful bacteria, fungi, and parasites

d) Produce natural antibiotics, acids, and hydrogen peroxide, which also help to protect you against infection by harmful microorganisms, including bacteria that can cause food poisoning

e) Help to digest food

You know that your skin is a barrier that helps to protect your blood and inner organs against harmful materials in the environment. Your digestive passageway is no different. Your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon make up one long tube that must act like your skin to protect your blood and inner organs against harmful materials. In fact, the lining of your digestive passageway is continuous with your skin at your mouth and your anus, making your skin and the lining of your digestive passageway one continuous barrier that protects your blood and inner organs against harmful substances in the environment.

Friendly bacteria are great helpers to the lining of your digestive passageway in preventing harmful substances and microorganisms in the food you eat and the air that you breathe from getting into your blood and causing damage to your organs.

Having a large population of friendly bacteria in the digestive passageway has been shown to do the following :

a) Reduce and eliminate acne, eczema, psoriasis, food allergy-related hives, and other skin conditions

b) Provide lasting protection against asthma

c) Provide protection against food allergies, eliminating symptoms like joint pain, nasal congestion, snoring, ear infections, and itchy skin

d) Reduce or eliminate seasonal allergies like hay fever

e) Improve digestion and normalize bowel movements

f) Significantly improve the strength of your immune system


How do bacteria reach your gut in the first place ?

As a baby, your digestive passageway received its first dose of bacteria from your mother’s vaginal canal as you entered the world. If you were breastfed, you received large quantities of bacteria from your mother’s milk. Since you were a tiny infant, your digestive passageway has received bacteria every single day from air and food.

Today, the balance between friendly bacteria and harmful microorganisms living in your gut is the result of all of your food and lifestyle choices. The healthier your choices, the more friendly bacteria you have living inside of you.

Traditionally, cultures throughout the world have been exposed to good bacteria through lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chee, pickled cucumbers, fruit chutneys, miso, yogurt, cheese, kefir, and kvass. While these foods can provide friendly bacteria, they can also come with harmful microorganisms, as there is no practical way to use only beneficial bacteria in preparing these lacto-fermented foods.

An excellent source of friendly bacteria is healthy soil. We are exposed to countless species of friendly bacteria when we are outdoors, playing and working in relatively unpolluted areas. Gardening and hiking in the woods are two of the best ways of exposing yourself to friendly bacteria on a regular basis. In fact, the best probiotic (friendly intestinal bacteria) supplements that I know of were originally created with strains of bacteria that were found in healthy soil.

If you choose to use a probiotic supplement, please do your research before buying one from your local health food store. Studies have shown that there is great variance in the quality of different probiotic supplements, with many of them providing very few numbers of bacteria that can actually reach your gut and flourish there.

A good probiotic should come with food that the bacteria can use to stay alive. My family and I use a super green food product, which has the most effective and comprehensive combination of friendly bacteria that I have ever tried, in a base of plenty of nutrient-rich greens that keep the bacteria strong and healthy. This is the one health product that I recommend without hesitation to guests of our fasting clinic and people who ask me for help with their health challenges.

Once you ensure steady exposure to friendly bacteria, it is important that you avoid or minimize the following most common causes of destroying friendly intestinal bacteria :

* Use of antibiotics without a life-threatening or limb-threatening situation
* Use of foods that are contaminated with antibiotics and antibiotic residues, mainly factory farmed animal foods
* Drinking chlorinated water
* Swimming in chlorinated pools
* Eating foods and beverages that have sugar or other concentrated sweeteners
* Regular consumption of refined and processed foods like cookies, chips, pastries, and prepackaged goods
* Regular consumption of alcohol
* Not chewing your food until liquid
* Not learning to manage stress
* Use of steroids like prednisone and hydrocortisone
* Use of antacids and other acid-inhibiting drugs
* Use of laxatives
* Use of birth control pills

What is Squalene ?



[Extracted from Lifetime Health Website]

It is important to recognize that SQUALENE is the main component of oil contained in the deep-sea shark's liver. Few people know that the molecular structure of SQUALENE consists of carbon and hydrogen, and that is a liquid similar to oil as it has an extremely low freezing point. Likewise, very few know that the liver of deep-sea shark is rich with it unlike other fish liver oil, which hardly contains it. So we cannot say that it is any ordinary liver oil.

There are two classes of sharks. The Surface sharks like the great White Shark, are big in size, have air bladder and give birth to a live pup. They cannot survive from 500 to 1000 meters under the sea, as they will drown because of lack of oxygen. The deep-sea shark like the dogfish and nurse shark are small in size, they lay eggs and don't give birth to a live pup. As compared to surface shark, deep-sea sharks are known to survive in the depths ranging from 500 to 1000 meters where there is very little or no oxygen. The secret of their survival is the huge liver, 90% of its internal organ is liver occupying almost 25% of its overall bodyweight. The oil contents in the liver of these sharks is 80% Squalene. The liver oil of this special kind of shark contains highly unsaturated hydrocarbons.

Deep-Sea sharks have a marvelous capacity to live and survive in a very peculiar environment because of their huge liver. It is believed that their powerful energy is naturally produced within the shark's body in order to adapt itself to its mysterious habitat. Sunlight and oxygen under 500 to 1000 meters deep is almost nil. The Deep-Sea shark has no air bladder and so it obtains a large amount of oxygen by dissolving it in the liver. It possesses a great ability to live by which it remains alive for quite sometime when fished out of the sea. Of the 350 different shark families four of these rare shark like the dogfish and the nurse shark are found in the world's deepest sea, the Philippine Deep.



Ever since the discovery of Squalene by Dr. M. Tsujimoto in 1906 and fixing of itschemical formula by Professor Calour, a NOBEL PRIZEWINNER at Zurich University in Switzerland in 1931, meticulous researches on the importance of Squalene have progressed rapidly. As a consequence, it was foundthat Squalene with the living body stimulates metabolism by supplying oxygen to the tissues and that exhibits a great force in the revival of body tissues.

Dr. Wattenburg of Minnesota University, U.S.A., published that if the oxygen-starved condition is avoided, cancer can be restrained.



Squalene treats the body by providing oxygen to the cells and removing toxins from the body.

Thus, Squalene comes in as the exact product needed because of its special capacity to increase the oxygen supply to the cells and help strengthen the reviving power of the cells and skin granulation. It exerts a great force on the revival of tissues within the body. It stimulates metabolism by supplying oxygen to the tissues.

CITING SCIENTIFIC DATA, SQUALENE HAS THE SPECIAL POWER TO REVITALIZE WEAKENED BODY CELLS AND STIMULATES METABOLISM BY SUPPLYING OXYGEN TO THE TISSUES.

The key to being healthy is the activation of cells. The human body is composed of about six (6) billion cells. Each of these cells is the source of our health. Diseases result from fatigue and the aging of cells. SQUALENE is one substance that activates cells.

What do we call Squalene if it is not a food or medicine? Squalene is Squalene. It is more than a health food. It is a liquid, which fascinates because it is good for the health.

SQUALENE DOES NOT TREAT THE DISEASES BUT RATHER CATALYZES EACH CELL IN THE BODY TO PROMOTE GOOD HEALTH AND IN THE PROCESS, CURES THE DISEASES.

A dying billionaire once said, "Give me health and I will give you all my wealth." Shortly after this offer, the billionaire died.

Indeed, you can't buy good health at any price. These poor cells in your body need to be properly nourished with Squalene. Cells starving for oxygen will die and the result: Body weakness, fatigue, wrinkles and premature aging, poor memory and susceptibility to life threatening diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.



Dr. Nobuhito of the Oita Medical College announced at a meeting of the Japan Cancer Society that taking anti-cancer medicine together with Squalene simultaneously is by far more effective than when using anti-cancer medicine only.

The effectiveness of SQUALENE can be seen in various diseases. Most diseases are cured if blood is cleaned up and cells are activated a function done by SQUALENE. It also makes the body healthy and strong to resist diseases.

By removing cholesterol in the inner walls of the blood vessels and by making the vessel cells elastic, blood pressure is normalized and serious blood damage is avoided. Brain hemorrhage (or brain apoplex) and bursting of varix can be, likewise, checked. This is done through the purification of blood and the activiation of cells.

It may come as a surprise to know that sharks and men have many things in common. By probing into the function of SQUALENE, this can be understood. If we explain the function of SQUALENE in two words, it would be "OXYGEN SUPPLY."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dilema and moral of an elderly person


Every person in this world has their turn to reach that stage of life one day. It is hoped that the younger generation today, will be able to take good care of their elders and not to take them for granted. Besides pleasing them at all times, ones is also required to understand and, to fulfil or accomplish their wishes. Whether they are a member of our family, relatives, friends, neighbours or even members of other races, let us not neglect anyone.

When a person grows old, there is bound to be a lot of mood changes. They will feel inferior and thought that they are a reject in society, when been left alone. With our assistance to brighten their days, it will further enhance their health and continue to enjoy a much long life. Every member of the younger generation should not forget this responsibility.

Undoubtedly, what is of utmost importance to each elderly person, is to have good health in order to keep life going on. As soon as a person started to retire from any employment, or soonest when he reaches a stage when he is more dependant on others, they tend to have many phobia and fears, such as the fear of ageing; fear of getting sick and lastly, the fear of dying. Therefore, ones must keep a close relationship with them. Make them feel that they are forever part of the family circle. Teach the younger generation to respect them and if necessary, to tolerate their characters and behaviours too. Such good deed and culture taught at home will eventually benefit ourselves when we reaches that stage one day.



Each elderly person often wishes to enjoy good harmony and happiness in the home. It will affect them morally when they are staying with children what are quarreling endlessly, or live amongst their broken homes. Instead, they will feel more peace at heart and mind when everyone can live together harmoniously, including having good neighbourhood when there is a true spirit of friendship, love and helping each other. This way, they will feel greater happiness and warmth.

In many instances, once an elderly person retires from employment, their mood and moral will become lower. It is just something natural and unavoidable. If they do not get respect from family members, they will feel more inferior. When this happens, they will prefer to stay indoor and avoid meeting people. Eventually, they become depressed and this will lead to a lot of sickness later.

As a person grows old, their health, presence of mind and even, their decision making will slowly deteriorate. They will come to a stage when they cannot even manage their own life properly. As children, we are required to be more sensitive to their needs and to show our care and concern. We need to make them feel that they are still important at home, or society. Otherwise, they might think, or feel that their presence has become an obstacle in everyone's path.

Definitely, each elderly person like peace of mind. They tend to dislike disturbances. However, there are some elders who might dislike Sunday. This is because, their children and grandchildren will be returning home during this occasion. Such congregation is usually very noisy and chaotic, and they dislike it. Of course again, such occasional gatherings might also help them to improve their peace of mind and to enhance their health.



Some older people prefer to continue working, even though they have retired. This is because they are still active and also felt that they are still good in their work. Under such circumstances, just let them be and probably, they will feel better and becoming more healthier too.

For those whose spouse has died, some of them may like to search for companion. When their partner died, usually they will feel lonely. Their children will not be able to devout their full time for them. In such circumstances, children should allow them to re-marry, or find a companion to enable them to enjoy more happiness and meanings of life during their last life cycle.

In conclusion, we must also acknowledge that our elderly parents had once been in control of the family's financial well-being, or decision making in the family. Thus, as they reaches their old age, try to enable them to maintain some of such responsibilities. Make them feel that they are still important figures at home.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Lecture of a Lifetime

Watch this video clip which is a very touching and inspiring lecture by a Dr Prof Randy Pausch.

Imagine a person who is dying and been given only 3-6 more months to live, he is still willing to share with everyone his personal experiences about being patient, carefree, forgiving, about having fun in life and understanding others shortcomings etc.

He has suffered from Pancreatic Cancer and was diagnosed as 'terminal' since last August 2007. However, until today (04 March 2008), it was informed that he is still around.

This 'last lecture' is especially devoted for his 03 young children.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tIyt8oSLVs

Understanding in the findings of a 'Liver Test'



[A Simple FactSheet from the AIDS Treatment Data Network]

What are Liver Function Tests ?

LFTs (liver function tests) are a group of blood tests that can help to show how well a person's liver is working. LFTs include measurements of albumin, various liver enzymes (ALT, AST, GGT and ALP), bilirubin, prothrombin time, cholesterol and total protein. All of these tests can be performed at the same time.

Measuring Liver Proteins :

Total protein testing (also called TP or serum total protein) measures the amount of proteins in the bloodstream. Many different things can cause abnormally high or low protein levels. A doctor may order total protein testing to help diagnose kidney or liver disease, blood cancer, malnutrition or abnormal body swelling. Normal protein levels in the bloodstream range from 6.5 to 8.2 grams per deciliter Two of the main proteins found in the bloodstream are albumin and globulin.

Globulins are made by various liver cells and the immune system. They help to fight off infections. Low globulin levels can have many causes other than liver damage.

Albumin is a protein made in the liver. If the liver is badly damaged, it can no longer produce albumin. Albumin maintains the amount of blood in the veins and arteries. When albumin levels become very low, fluid can leak out from the blood vessels into nearby tissues, causing swelling in the feet and ankles. Very low levels of albumin may be a sign of liver damage. The normal albumin range is from 3.9 grams/ deciliter to 5.0 grams/deciliter.

Prothrombin (also called factor II) is a protein that helps to clot blood. Prothrombin is made in the liver. A prothrombin time test measures how much time it takes for a person's blood to clot. The normal time needed for blood to clot is between 10 and 15 seconds. A person with an abnormally long prothrombin time may be at risk for excessive bleeding. A longer prothrombin time can be caused by serious liver disease or :

* A lack of vitamin K,
* Blood-thinning medicines,
* Other medications that can interfere with the test.
* Certain bleeding disorders.


Measuring Liver Enzymes :

ALT and AST are enzymes made in the liver. They are also known as transaminases. The liver uses these enzymes to metabolize amino acids and to make proteins. When liver cells are damaged or dying, ALT and AST leak into the bloodstream. Many different things can cause liver enzymes to rise above normal levels, including :

* Viral hepatitis
* Excessive alcohol intake/Alcoholic liver disease
* Liver inflammation from medications and certain herbs,
* Auto-immune hepatitis - a condition where a person's immune
..system mistakes the liver for an invader and attacks it,
* Fatty liver- fat build -up in liver cells, called steatohepatitis when
..the fatty liver is inflamed
* Inherited liver diseases
* Liver tumors
* Heart failure

ALT (also called alanine aminotransferase or SGPT) is found in the liver only. High levels of ALT in the bloodstream mean that there may be liver inflammation and/or damage. This test cannot predict liver damage or disease progression. It is simply a direct measurement of the amount of ALT in the person's bloodstream at the time of the test. The normal range of ALT levels is between 5 IU/L to 60 IU/L (International Units per Liter). ALT levels in people with HCV often rise and fall over time, so additional testing such as HCV RNA, HCV genotyping and a liver biopsy may be needed to help determine the cause and extent of liver damage.

AST (also called aspartate aminotransferase or SGOT) is found in other organs besides the liver. High AST levels in the bloodstream can be a sign of liver trouble. AST testing measures the level of AST in a person's bloodstream at a given time. The normal range for AST levels in the bloodstream are 5 IU/L to 43 IU/L. Like ALT levels, AST levels in people with HCV often vary over time and can't be used to forecast disease progression or specifically measure liver damage.

Cholestatic Liver Enzymes :

GGT and ALP are also called cholestatic liver enzymes. Chloestasis is a term used for partial or full blockage of the bile ducts. Bile ducts bring bile from the liver into the gallbladder and the intestines. Bile is a green fluid produced in liver cells. Bile helps the body to break down fat, process cholesterol and get rid of toxins. If the bile duct is inflamed or damaged, GGT and ALP can get backed up and spill out from the liver into the bloodstream.

ALP metabolizes phosphorus and brings energy to the body. GGT brings oxygen to tissues.

Causes of elevated ALP and GGT levels include :

* Scarring of the bile ducts (called primary biliary cirrhosis),
* Fatty liver (steatosis),
* Alcoholic liver disease,
* Liver inflammation from medications and certain herbs,
* Liver tumors,
* Gallstones or gall bladder problems.

ALP (also called alkaline phosphatase) is found in the bones, intestines, kidneys and placenta as well as the liver. Abnormally high ALP can have many causes other than liver damage, including: bone disease, congestive heart failure, and hyperthyroidism. A rise in ALP levels can indicate liver trouble if GGT levels are also elevated. The normal range of ALP is from 30 IU/L to 115 IU/L.

GGT (gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase) is found in the liver. Obesity, PBC, heavy drinking, fatty liver, and certain medications or herbs that are toxic to the liver can cause GGT levels to rise the normal range of GGT is from 5 IU/L to 80 IU/L.

Bilirubin :

Bilirubin is a yellow fluid produced in the liver when worn-out red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin can leak out from the liver into the bloodstream if the liver is damaged. When bilirubin builds up, it can cause jaundice - a yellowing of the eyes and skin, dark urine and light colored feces. The causes of abnormal bilirubin levels include :

* Viral hepatitis,
* Blocked bile ducts,
* Other liver diseases,
* Liver scarring (cirrhosis)

Total bilirubin testing measures the amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Normal total bilirubin levels range from .20mg/dl to 1.50 (milligrams per deciliter). Direct bilirubin testing measures bilirubin made in the liver. The normal level of direct bilirubin range from .00 to .03 mg/dl

What are Liver Function Tests ?

LFTs (liver function tests) are a group of blood tests that can help to show how well a person's liver is working. LFTs include measurements of albumin, various liver enzymes (ALT, AST, GGT and ALP), bilirubin, prothrombin time, cholesterol and total protein. All of these tests can be performed at the same time.

Measuring Liver Proteins :

Total protein testing (also called TP or serum total protein) measures the amount of proteins in the bloodstream. Many different things can cause abnormally high or low protein levels. A doctor may order total protein testing to help diagnose kidney or liver disease, blood cancer, malnutrition or abnormal body swelling. Normal protein levels in the bloodstream range from 6.5 to 8.2 grams per deciliter Two of the main proteins found in the bloodstream are albumin and globulin.

Globulins are made by various liver cells and the immune system. They help to fight off infections. Low globulin levels can have many causes other than liver damage.

Albumin is a protein made in the liver. If the liver is badly damaged, it can no longer produce albumin. Albumin maintains the amount of blood in the veins and arteries. When albumin levels become very low, fluid can leak out from the blood vessels into nearby tissues, causing swelling in the feet and ankles. Very low levels of albumin may be a sign of liver damage. The normal albumin range is from 3.9grams/ deciliter to 5.0 grams/deciliter.

Prothrombin (also called factor II) is a protein that helps to clot blood. Prothrombin is made in the liver. A prothrombin time test measures how much time it takes for a person's blood to clot. The normal time needed for blood to clot is between 10 and 15 seconds. A person with an abnormally long prothrombin time may be at risk for excessive bleeding. A longer prothrombin time can be caused by serious liver disease or :

* A lack of vitamin K,
* Blood-thinning medicines,
* Other medications that can interfere with the test.
* Certain bleeding disorders.

Measuring Liver Enzymes :

ALT and AST are enzymes made in the liver. They are also known as transaminases. The liver uses these enzymes to metabolize amino acids and to make proteins. When liver cells are damaged or dying, ALT and AST leak into the bloodstream. Many different things can cause liver enzymes to rise above normal levels, including :

* Viral hepatitis
* Excessive alcohol intake/Alcoholic liver disease
* Liver inflammation from medications and certain herbs,
* Auto-immune hepatitis - a condition where a person's immune
..system mistakes the liver for an invader and attacks it,
* Fatty liver - fat build -up in liver cells, called steatohepatitis when
..the fatty liver is inflamed
* Inherited liver diseases
* Liver tumors
* Heart failure

ALT (also called alanine aminotransferase or SGPT) is found in the liver only. High levels of ALT in the bloodstream mean that there may be liver inflammation and/or damage. This test cannot predict liver damage or disease progression. It is simply a direct measurement of the amount of ALT in the person's bloodstream at the time of the test. The normal range of ALT levels is between 5 IU/L to 60 IU/L (International Units per Liter). ALT levels in people with HCV often rise and fall over time, so additional testing such as HCV RNA, HCV genotyping and a liver biopsy may be needed to help determine the cause and extent of liver damage.

AST (also called aspartate aminotransferase or SGOT) is found in other organs besides the liver. High AST levels in the bloodstream can be a sign of liver trouble. AST testing measures the level of AST in a person's bloodstream at a given time. The normal range for AST levels in the bloodstream are 5 IU/L to 43 IU/L. Like ALT levels, AST levels in people with HCV often vary over time and can't be used to forecast disease progression or specifically measure liver damage.

Cholestatic Liver Enzymes :

GGT and ALP are also called cholestatic liver enzymes. Chloestasis is a term used for partial or full blockage of the bile ducts. Bile ducts bring bile from the liver into the gallbladder and the intestines. Bile is a green fluid produced in liver cells. Bile helps the body to break down fat, process cholesterol and get rid of toxins. If the bile duct is inflamed or damaged, GGT and ALP can get backed up and spill out from the liver into the bloodstream.

ALP metabolizes phosphorus and brings energy to the body. GGT brings oxygen to tissues.

Causes of elevated ALP and GGT levels include :

* Scarring of the bile ducts (called primary biliary cirrhosis),
* Fatty liver (steatosis),
* Alcoholic liver disease,
* Liver inflammation from medications and certain herbs,
* Liver tumors,
* Gallstones or gall bladder problems.

ALP (also called alkaline phosphatase) is found in the bones, intestines, kidneys and placenta as well as the liver. Abnormally high ALP can have many causes other than liver damage, including: bone disease, congestive heart failure, and hyperthyroidism. A rise in ALP levels can indicate liver trouble if GGT levels are also elevated. The normal range of ALP is from 30 IU/L to 115 IU/L.

GGT (gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase) is found in the liver. Obesity, PBC, heavy drinking, fatty liver, and certain medications or herbs that are toxic to the liver can cause GGT levels to rise the normal range of GGT is from 5 IU/L to 80 IU/L.

Bilirubin :

Bilirubin is a yellow fluid produced in the liver when worn-out red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin can leak out from the liver into the bloodstream if the liver is damaged. When bilirubin builds up, it can cause jaundice - a yellowing of the eyes and skin, dark urine and light colored feces. The causes of abnormal bilirubin levels include :

* Viral hepatitis,
* Blocked bile ducts,
* Other liver diseases,
* Liver scarring (cirrhosis)

Total bilirubin testing measures the amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Normal total bilirubin levels range from .20mg/dl to 1.50 (milligrams per deciliter). Direct bilirubin testing measures bilirubin made in the liver. The normal level of direct bilirubin range from .00 to .03 mg/dl



Symptoms of Poorly Functioning Liver :

* Hepatitis A, B and C – swelling of the liver
* Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver
* Skin pigmentation
* Eczema
* Dark circles under eyes
* Poor gall bladder function
* Constipation
* Fat intolerance
* Itchy skin
* Feeling nausea