Health & WellnessS


Autism on the rise

When Cara Culver suspected her 2-year-old daughter Judith might have autism, she didn't listen to the advice of the first doctor she visited.

Culver, who lived in Valencia, Spain, at the time with Judith, her husband Alex and their son Marc, now 5, said the number of children diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder that impairs social and language development, is not as high in Spain as it is in the United States.


Too many choices -- good or bad -- can be mentally exhausting

Each day, we are bombarded with options -- at the local coffee shop, at work, in stores or on the TV at home. Do you want a double-shot soy latte, a caramel macchiato or simply a tall house coffee for your morning pick-me-up" Having choices is typically thought of as a good thing. Maybe not, say researchers who found we are more fatigued and less productive when faced with a plethora of choices.

Researchers from several universities have determined that even though humans' ability to weigh choices is remarkably advantageous, it can also come with some serious liabilities. People faced with numerous choices, whether good or bad, find it difficult to stay focused enough to complete projects, handle daily tasks or even take their medicine.

These findings appear in the May issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Researchers conducted seven experiments involving 328 participants and 58 consumers at a shopping mall. In the laboratory experiments, some participants were asked to make choices about consumer products, college courses or class materials. Other participants did not have to make decisions but simply had to consider the options in front of them.

Comment: Psychologist Barry Schwartz discusses this topic in greater detail in his lecture "The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less".

Here is a full version of the material as presented at Google HQ on 27 April 2006:

A more concise version is available from here:
Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice (TED Talks)


Cultural identity shown to influence mental health in adolescents

The first prospective study investigating cultural identity and mental health status among adolescents living in a culturally diverse society has revealed that there is an association between the two, and that effects differ by gender and ethnic group. Researchers say the findings, published today (15 April 2008) in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, could inform policies affecting educational and social institutions caring for young people.

Led by Kamaldeep Bhui, Professor of Cultural Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, the research looked at 11-14 year-old White British and Bangladeshi pupils taken from a representative sample of schools in east London*, and assessed cultural identity via their preference for friends and clothes from their own, or other cultural groups. The pupils were then classified into traditional, integrated, assimilated or marginalised groups. In a follow-up study two years later, a number of the same pupils were resurveyed and completed measures of mental health.


Mental stress reduces blood flow to the heart in patients with gene variation

University of Florida researchers have identified a gene variation in heart disease patients who appear especially vulnerable to the physical effects of mental stress - to the point where blood flow to the heart is greatly reduced.

"Searching for the presence of this gene may be one way to better identify patients who are at an increased risk for the phenomenon," said David S. Sheps, M.D., a professor and associate chairman of cardiovascular medicine at UF's College of Medicine and the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Those with the gene variation are three times more likely to experience dangerous decreases in blood flow to the heart - a condition doctors call ischemia - than heart disease patients without it. Ischemia increases the chance these patients will suffer a heart attack, heart rhythm abnormalities or sudden death, UF researchers report in the April 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Evil Rays

Living in a World of Unfamiliar Voices

Imagine not being able to tell your son's voice from that of a complete stranger. Welcome to the life of a 60-year-old British woman known as KH. Although a handful of people have reportedly lost the ability to recognize voices after a stroke or other brain damage, researchers believe KH is the first documented case of someone who never developed this ability in the first place.

The case came to light a few years ago when KH read an article in New Scientist magazine about people who can't recognize individuals by face. The article struck a chord, and she contacted the magazine, explaining that she had an analogous voice-recognition problem. For as long as she could remember, the voices of even her closest relatives were indistinguishable. New Scientist contacted Bradley Duchaine, a cognitive neuroscientist featured in the article, and Duchaine invited KH to visit his lab at University College London.


Snoring pill may let partners breathe easy

A daily pill could help to give a good night's sleep to thousands of Britons - and their long-suffering partners - by managing the common disorder which causes heavy snoring, scientists believe.

Researchers have started trials for a pill to help to manage obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSA), a condition that causes people to stop breathing intermittently during sleep, often making them excessively tired and moody.

About one in 20 middle-aged men and one in 50 women lose sleep because of severe forms of OSA, which occurs when the upper airway becomes narrow as the muscles relax naturally during sleep. This reduces oxygen in the blood and impairs restful sleep, although the sufferer may not wake up fully.


School Condom Availability

An increase in reported sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, among adolescents has prompted many communities to take action to protect their youth. One proven method is to provide comprehensive sexuality education along with school based programs that make condoms available to sexually active youth. Numerous national health organizations have adopted policies in support of school condom availability as a component of comprehensive sexuality education.


Vaccine 'causing' deadly pneumonia increase

London - Cases of a life-threatening form of pneumonia that affects the young are rising rapidly in Britain. It now affects around 1,000 children a year. The cause of the increase is unknown but experts fear a vaccine in the immunisation programme could be contributing. This severe pneumonia infects the lining of the lungs called the pleura, making it hard to breathe. It requires hospital admission to drain the chest cavity. The children affected are frightened and in pain and many undergo surgery to scrape out the contents of the pleura ~ a process called surgical debridement. Child health specialists say cases of the pneumonia, known as serotype 1, have risen tenfold in a decade. They warn that a vaccine against pneumococcal disease called Prevenar, introduced in 2006, could be fuelling the rise.


High mobile use puts us at risk of brain tumours

NEW DELHI: India could see several cases of brain tumour over the next two-to-three years due to constant use of mobile phones say neurologists, as they debate a recent Australian study that says a correlation does exist between the two.

Australian neurosurgeon Dr Vini Khurana's study predicts that the fallout of heavy mobile phone use would be visible soon as the nation's love affair with mobile phone climbs to dizzying heights.

In his research, Khurana says heavy usage of cell phones for a period of 10 years or more doubles the chances of brain tumour. It also, he adds, has larger public health ramification than asbestos and smoking.

Comment: Guess what the conclusions of the telecom companies' study will be?


Dengue epidemic overcomes Rio de Janeiro state

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil. A deadly dengue fever epidemic has sickened tens of thousands and claimed at least 80 lives since the start of the year, and it shows no signs of slowing.

Fear of infection has forced thousands of tourists to cancel vacations to the city of Rio de Janeiro and pushed many residents indoors rather than risk being bitten by the striped Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits the disease.

Comment: There is another dengue epidemic in the Philippines at the moment.