NEEDLED, AGAIN A standard acupuncture technique is only slightly better than a sham procedure for people with disabling breathlessness, says a new report from the United Kingdom.

The technique was previously shown beneficial in an open study of breathless cancer patients, the authors explain in the medical journal Chest.

George T. Lewith from Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton and colleagues compared a standardized acupuncture technique with a mock treatment given to patients with disabling breathlessness, mostly due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A randomly chosen group of participants received the acupuncture first, followed by the sham treatment; the others got the placebo first and then the real treatment.

Average breathlessness improved after the first round of treatment, regardless of whether it had been acupuncture or mock treatment. Further improvement was seen after the second phase.

For the 12 patients who completed both phases of the study, acupuncture provided a slightly better improvement, but this was not statistically significant. Also, there were no significant differences in the treatments' effects on quality-of-life measures.

"Acupuncture, in this condition, is effective but not hugely efficacious," Lewith said. But "this condition is very difficult to treat, so anything that is safe and fairly free from side effects is a good idea."

TEA FOR YOU Japanese researchers found that blood flow in the coronary arteries improved two hours after men drank black tea.

Numerous studies have suggested that tea may do a heart good, with effects on cholesterol, blood clotting and blood vessel function among the possible benefits.

The new study, reported in the American Journal of Cardiology, suggests more immediate beneficial effect. The authors suspect that black tea improved the dilation of the men's blood vessels, allowing better blood flow.

Tea is rich in flavonoids, compounds that may be the key to tea's apparent heart benefits, said study co-author Kenei Shimada of Osaka City University.

Since the study was small and looked at healthy men, larger studies, particularly in people with coronary artery disease, are needed to establish how tea affects the coronary circulation, the researchers conclude.

MS YOGA People with multiple sclerosis can reduce fatigue by doing six months of yoga, according to a new study by Oregon scientists.

Fatigue is a common and sometimes disabling symptom of MS. The study, appearing in the journal Neurology, examined 69 MS patients in three groups: one taking weekly lyengar yoga classes along with home practice; another taking a weekly exercise class using a stationary bicycle along with home exercise; and a third group placed in a waiting list to serve as a control.

Although the yoga and aerobic exercise programs produced no major advantages in alertness, attention or other measures of cognitive function, the study found improvements in two fatigue tests.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports

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