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Reading Passage 1

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1 - 13, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

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A. Gabriele Dionisi, a '38-year-old Italian computer wizard living in London, is a true individualist when it comes to food. He has been known to live for days on dry toast and mashed potato. He’s also very fond of tinned mackerel with biscuits, washed down with, say, an apple-and-tomato milkshake. For some unfathomable reason, he sometimes has problems with his guts. Then he makes himself a hot cup of camomile tea with honey and half a spoonful of chilli flakes. "It’s an old Italian recipe," he says. "Ms- grandmother taught me to make it. It’s very good for the digestion.”

B. Spices such as chilli have been used for medicinal purposes in Europe for centuries. Medieval herbalists believed that spices could be used to treat a range of pains, diseases, and ailments. Sometimes they got it right; sometimes they were way off the end of the spice rack. For example, they used to pound up cloves to extract the oil, which was used to treat toothache. Sensible move: modern scientists know that cloves contain eugenol, a chemical which is an effective local anaesthetic. Cloves also contain salicylic acid, the basis of aspirin.

C. Ginger was held to be good for stomach upsets, and it is now known to have anti-nausea properties. It is also believed to have a painkilling effect, which is being studied at the University of Arizona. Unfortunately, those muddled medieval medics also believed that ginger was a cure for the Black Death - it isn’t - and that eating borage would give you courage, just because the words rhymed.

D. Doctors in India have long used spices as medicines. They understood that spices could be used as remedies. Their motto was: Let food be thy medicine. The Indian chef’s favourite medical spice is turmeric, the yellow ingredient used in almost all Indian cookery. Turmeric is an antiseptic and disinfectant, and it is used widely not so much for its taste but for its antibacterial properties.

E. Turmeric is used in Indian homes as a first-aid treatment. For example, if you had a small cut on your finger, you'd run it under the tap and then dust the wound with turmeric. It is also supposed to be a cure for arthritis, and scientists are now researching its potential ability to suppress the growth of cancer cells.

F. In 2002, staff at the oncology department of Leicester University noticed that of 500 patients with colon cancer, only two were Asian, despile the fact that 20 per cent of the population in Leicester is Asian. The scientists believed this was due to their spicy diet. And, in America, researchers at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons are investigating Zyflamend, a herbal treatment for arthritis, which contains turmeric and ginger. Zyflamend has shown an ability to reduce prostate cancer cell proliferation by as much as 78% and induce cancer cell death.

G. Studies at the Indian Institute of Science, in Bangalore, suggest that curcumin, the chemical that gives turmeric its yellow colour, might also help to treat malaria. Mice were infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei and given five daily doses orally. After 20 days, a third of the treated mice were alive, whereas the untreated animals all died by day 13.

H. If you want to know what chillies do to the body, cut open a fresh chilli and hold it on the back of your hand for 15 or 20 minutes. It will make the hand red and sore. It you eat it in excess, it can give you gastric problems. However, in small doses, chilli can aid digestion. Chilli contains vitamins A and E and is a good source of potassium, beta carotene, and folic acid. Also, chilli contains twice as much vitamin C as an orange, and it really can help to protect the body from colds and flu. One chilli contains 100mg of vitamin C more than the daily recommended amount, and capsaicin, the chemical in chillies that gives them heat, is also a natural decongestant.

I. The pleasure of chillies comes from the pain of eating them. Literally, the burning sensation in the mouth triggers the release of endorphins, an opiate-like painkilling chemical, in the brain. This makes you feel good; so good, in fact, that it is possible to become a chilli junkie. In the light of this, perhaps the late Signora Dionisi should have taught her favourite grandson how lo make something oilier than chilli camomile tea.

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