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Medical developments from around the world

The Great Calcium Myth
Our profession takes its post-graduate education primarily from the pharma company literature. So, I am sure many who read this column are already on calcium supplements for good health in old age, especially elderly women after menopause, to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. The vital mineral for good health is magnesium.

To cap it all, when one takes calcium supplements, more calcium from your bones leaves through the kidney as the kidney exchanges calcium for sodium in the distal tubule. So, the more you take by mouth, the more you lose through your kidney. The wise thing to do would be to reduce sodium intake as you age to keep the bone calcium intact. The next best thing to keep your bone calcium is exercise—daily walk and exposure to sun as much as you can to get nature’s best vitamin D3—the foundation stone of human immune system.

Looking at the sun before 9am and after 4pm is another very important health-giving act. Do not directly look at the sun but look above, below and on the side of the sun. This will help the whole retina to get sun’s UV rays which stimulate the pineal and pituitary glands to tune up your endocrine orchestra.

In addition, the retina needs sunlight. We destroy that also by wearing sunglasses even inside the buildings. When I see dark glasses, I come to two conclusions. Either s/he is a politician who cannot look you in the eye or he is an underworld don.

Antioxidant LIES
We are told that, as one ages, free radicals float around in the system and they, in turn, damage the cells and the chromosomes. They need to be mopped up and destroyed. In retrospect, I suspect this myth was created by the industry which wanted to sell antioxidant supplements, to make big money.

The advertisements for antioxidant vitamins and creams, etc, are so persuasive that even a sceptic would buy and consume them. The correct science is that these free radicals are there to help ageing cells to die by apoptosis, a natural process of cell suicide which, in turn, facilitates new cell formation to keep one healthy. By destroying these free radicals, we are only hurting the body’s normal phenomenon of self-regulation.

If we prevent cells from dying by apoptosis, we are encouraging these cells to outlive their life span and get mutated. A mutated rogue cell is the beginning of cancer! In addition, when we discourage apoptosis, we are encouraging cell death by necrosis, a very dangerous proposition as the cell contents spill into its environment encouraging inflammation, cancer growth and many other ills.

Apoptosis is a process where the cell dies by shrinking and not breaking its wall, as in necrosis. The shrunken cell loses its morphology and becomes amorphic to be eaten by the phagocytes.

This beautiful working of the human body is nature’s way of letting the human being live well. The reductionist scientist always thinks that s/he is smarter than nature and tries to misunderstand nature’s efforts and tries to interfere from outside. The hapless common man gets caught in this.

In fact, this is why adverse drug reactions cause maximum deaths these days. The higher the number of drugs that come into the market, the more the illnesses.

I teach my students that if the bedside clinical picture does not fit into any textbook description of a disease, think of adverse drug reactions whose protean presentations can fool the best medical brain. Most antioxidant and vitamin tablets have caused more misery, illness and precocious death.

Please do not jump to the wrong conclusion that fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants are also bad. On the contrary, they help good health and healthy ageing. How they work is still a mystery but what science does not know is that they have many other health-giving elements in them that our in-vitro tablets do not have. Nature keeps her secrets.

Long back, a large study of post-menopausal women in Canada had shown that fruits and vegetables reduced diseases and postponed death while capsules and tablets containing the same ingredients did the reverse!


Oil PSUs poised for structural improvement in profitability

According to CRISIL, with ongoing price revisions and softer crude prices under-recoveries of state-run oil companies would halve

Ratings agency CRISIL said, as efforts are taken to move towards market-linked diesel prices, there are expectations in the decline in the prices of petroleum products by over 50% from 2013-2014 levels over the next two years. There is also an expectation of decline in crude oil prices. The upstream and downstream PSU oil companies will see a positive growth due to the changes

As expected, interest costs will reduce and they will not have any under-recovery pressures as the profit after tax (PAT) of downstream companies will rise by Rs33-36 billion year-on-year in 2014-2015 and another rise by Rs7-10 billion in 2015-2016.

Further, there will be sharp improvements to the tune of Rs105-120 billion y-o-y, in PAT in 2014-2015, in upstream companies and further increase of Rs70-75 billion in 2015-2016. CRISIL in the report says “the impact of reduced burden of under-recoveries will more than offset the impact of decline in realisations due to lower crude prices. If we include the benefit from the potential hike in gas price to US$8.4 per mmbtu, PAT of upstream companies will further increase by Rs70-75 billion in 2014-15, resulting in an overall increase of Rs215-230 billion”.  

Adding to it, the report points out that the under-recoveries are expected to decline further by 30-35% y-o-y  to  Rs900-1,000  billion  in  2014-15  and  25-30%  y-o-y  to    Rs 600-700  billion  in  2015-16. The reasons stated are that there will be a fall in international petroleum prices products in the next two years.
“Over  the  next  2  years,  global  crude  oil  supply  will  outpace  demand  with  growth  in  the  latter  continuing  to remain  sluggish.  Global  demand  growth  is  expected  to  be  impacted  by  weak  crude  oil  demand  in  North America  and  Europe  on  account  of  increase  in  efficiencies  and  a  shift  towards  natural  gas,  as  well  as relatively slower demand from developing countries such as China and India led by declining subsidies”, pointed in the report.

Secondly, the slower growth in diesel consumption has gradually aligned the domestic diesel prices with the international prices. As government’s decision to hike the diesel price by 50 paise every month to reach the aligned international prices takes effect, the under-recovery on diesel which accounted for about 45% of the total burden in 2013-2014 is likely to eliminate by the end of 2014-2015.

The report also suggests that in 2014-2015 the PAT of upstream companies will get a rise because of hike in gas prices. The report stated “The  potential  increase  (as  per  the  Rangarajan  committee  formula)  of  the  natural  gas  price  to  $8.4  per mmbtu from $4.2 per mmbtu will increase the PAT of upstream companies (ONGC, Oil India) by Rs110-115 billion in  2014-15.  The  combined  effect  of lower  under-recoveries  and  the  gas  price  hike is  expected to lift PAT of upstream companies by about Rs215-230 billion in 2014-15”.


Sensex, Nifty hit a new high again – Monday closing report

More and more of positive news attracts fresh buying

The Indian market opened Monday much up than previous closing and  moved higher hitting the new high at the end of the morning session. The market was looking ahead for President Pranab Mukherjee's address to the joint sitting of Parliament, laying the roadmap of the new government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The President's speech highlighted the government's economic agenda.

The S&P BSE 30-share Sensex opened at 25,544 and moved in the range of 25,497 and 25,645 and closed at 25,580 (up 184 points or 0.72%).  NSE 50-share Nifty opened at 7,622 and moved between 7,580 and 7,674 and closed at 7,655 (up 71 points or 0.94%). The NSE recorded a higher volume of 193.71 crore shares. India VIX     rose 6.96% to close at 17.0950.

Except for FMCG (0.13%) and PSU Bank (0.23%) all the other Asian indices closed in the green. The top five gainers were Realty (5.96%), Media (3.80%), Smallcap (2.69%), Infra (2.39%) and CPSE (1.92%).

Of the 50 stocks on the Nifty, 35 ended in the green. The top five gainers were Grasim (11.41%), Power Grid (7.10%), Bajaj Auto (5.56%), Coal India (5.31%) and Asian Paints (4.86%). The top five losers were ONGC (2.54%), BPCL (2.17%), Hindustan Unilever (1.43%), State Bank of India (1.23%) and Infosys (0.77%).

Of the 1,599 companies on the NSE, 1,148 companies closed in the green, 422 companies closed in the red while 29 companies closed flat.

Among other things President Mukherjee in his address said that containing food inflation will be new government's top priority. In this speech he also mentioned that reforms will be undertaken to enhance the ease of doing business, the tax regime will be made non-adversarial, conducive to investment, enterprise and growth and that the government will follow a policy of encouraging investments, including through FDI. He also mentioned that the government will formulate clear rules for allocation of coal, minerals and telecoms spectrum.

President Mukherjee said the government will chalk out an ambitious infrastructure development programme to be implemented in the next 10 years. Cement stocks were positively affected by this. Grasim Industries (11.42%) was among the top two gainers in the ‘A’ group on the BSE.

Defence stocks will be in focus after the president mentioned in his speech that the new government will carry out reforms in defence procurement to increase efficiency and economy. However Pipavav Defence (4.98%) was the top loser in the ‘A’ group on the BSE.

Tata Power was in news as it said its renewable energy capacity has risen to 1,170MW with the commissioning of its 28.8MW solar plant at Palaswadi in Maharashtra. Tata Power (2.62%) was among the top four gainers in the Sensex 30 pack.

ONGC (2.31%) was the top loser in the Sensex 30 stock.

US indices closed in the green on Friday.

Except for Jakarta Composite (1.06%) and Seoul Composite (0.27%)    all the other Asian indices closed in the positive. Hang Seng     (0.73%) was the top gainer.

Chinese exports beat projections, rising 7% last month from a year earlier. Imports dropped 1.6 % from a year earlier after a 0.8% advance in April. The trade surplus swelled to $35.92 billion.

European indices were trading in the green while US Futures were trading marginally lower.


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