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Scots more likely than English to reach university, though background still counts

Whilst young people in Britain increasingly value education and stay on at school, the proportion gaining qualifications and going to college and university over the past 20 years has been 'consistently and substantially' greater in Scotland, according to a unique study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

But the project, led by Dr Linda Croxford with Professor David Raffe of the University of Edinburgh, found that while the Scottish system encouraged young people to study beyond the age of 16, middle class students took most advantage.

Using carefully constructed sets of data drawn from ongoing surveys of thousands of young people aged 16-19, researchers were able for the first time to analyse the effects of social change on their experiences through and beyond the education system, and to map trends across Britain.

The report says that more than half of Britain's 16-year olds in the mid-1980s felt that school had done little to prepare them for life, compared with just a third by 1999. And those feeling it had helped give them confidence to make decisions rose from 52 to 70 per cent.

The research compared the success rates of young people from working-class and middle-class backgrounds. Their findings for England present a more positive picture than other recent studies which show class inequalities remaining stable or even increasing. Inequalities in attainment at age 16 changed little over the period, but at 'A' level and entry to higher education in England, they narrowed slightly over the period.

Health

Dietary calcium is better than supplements at protecting bone health

Women who get most of their daily calcium from food have healthier bones than women whose calcium comes mainly from supplemental tablets, say researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Surprisingly, this is true even though the supplement takers have higher average calcium intake.

Adequate calcium is important to prevent osteoporosis, which affects an estimated 8 million American women and 2 million American men. Another 34 million Americans have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Calcium consumption can help maintain bone density by preventing the body from stealing the calcium it needs from the bones.

The researchers' conclusions about calcium intake, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, came from a study of 183 postmenopausal women. The researchers asked the women to meticulously detail their diet and their calcium supplement intake for a week. "We assumed that this sample represented each woman's typical diet," says senior author Reina Armamento-Villareal, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases and a bone specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "In addition to analyzing the volunteers' daily calcium intake, we tested bone mineral density and urinary concentrations of estrogen metabolites."

The researchers found that the women could be divided into three groups: one group, called the "supplement group," got at least 70 percent of their daily calcium from tablets or pills; another, the "diet group," got at least 70 percent of their calcium from dairy products and other foods; and a third, the "diet plus supplement group," consisted of those whose calcium-source percentages fell somewhere in between these ranges.

Vader

Colombia-ECcuador: Studies Find DNA Damage from Anti-Coca Herbicide

U.S.-funded aerial spraying of coca plantations in Colombia near the Ecuador border has severely damaged the DNA of local residents, a new study has found.

Blood samples from 24 Ecuadorians living within three kilometres of the northern border had 600 to 800 percent more damage to their chromosomes than people living 80 km away, found scientists from the Pontificia Catholic University in Quito, Ecuador.

Health

Coffee 'could prevent eye tremor'

Drinking coffee protects against an eyelid spasm that can lead to blindness, a study suggests.

Italian researchers looked at the coffee drinking and smoking habits of 166 people with blepharospasm.

Sufferers have uncontrollable twitching of the eyelid which, in extreme cases, stops them being able to see.

One or two cups of coffee a day seemed to reduce the risk of the condition, the team reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Arrow Down

U.S. Sees A Decline In The Male Circumcision Rate

A study by the National Health and Social Life Survey shows that there has been a recent drop in the rate of U.S. circumcision rate. A large number of American parents are refusing circumcision, in which the foreskin is removed from the penis.

The circumcision rate peaked at nearly 90 percent in the early 1960s but began dropping in the '70s. According to the most recent year for which government figures available in 2004, about 57 percent of all male newborns delivered in hospitals were circumcised. In some states, the rate is well below 50 percent.

Many experts have attributed this sudden change in circumcision to the immigration patterns. The Western states with large populations from Asian and Latin American countries that have the most decline.

AP quotes Katharine Barrett, an anthropology lecturer at Stanford University as saying, "The rates of drug-free labor and breast-feeding all rose during the 1980s, while the initial declines in male circumcision rates began during the 1980s as well."

Ambulance

How Big Pharma Learned To Seduce You

As recent legislation shows, drug companies and their direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns need diligent monitoring -- especially when it looks like they need it the least.

Health

African twig brushes offer all-day dental care

DAKAR - Brush your teeth every day, dentists say. In Africa, that can mean keeping your toothbrush in your mouth all day long.

Health

Can motion sensors predict dementia?

Tiny motion sensors are attached to the walls, doorways and even the refrigerator of Elaine Bloomquist's home, tracking the seemingly healthy 86-year-old's daily activity.

It's like spying in the name of science - with her permission - to see if round-the-clock tracking of elderly people's movements can provide early clues of impending
Alzheimer's disease.

Comment: Yes, the business of selling gadgets and treating the symptoms is huge.

Another article from last year showed a study that found that a different diet could be the solution.


Question

Jab could beat all types of flu for rest of your life

British scientists are developing a vaccine to give lifelong protection against all strains of flu.

It would deal with everything from a winter virus to a bird flu outbreak.

Current flu jabs are out of date within a year because the virus mutates so often.

The new FLU-v vaccine is also easier to make than traditional jabs, so it could be stockpiled against a global pandemic.

Magic Wand

Gene Responsible For Common Hearing Loss Identified For First Time

A gene responsible for the single most common cause of hearing loss among white adults, otosclerosis, has been identified for the first time, a scientist told the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics in Nice, France. Ms Melissa Thys, from the Department of Medical Genetics, University of Antwerp, Belgium, said that this finding may be a step towards new treatments for otosclerosis, which affects approximately 1 in 250 people.

Otosclerosis is a multifactorial disease, caused by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors. The outcome is a progressive hearing loss as the growing bone in the middle ear interrupts the sound waves passing to the inner ear. While the causative factors remain unknown, now one of the genetic components has been identified, Ms Thys told the conference.

"The gene in which the variant is located points to a pathway that contributes to the disease. This may be a lead for better forms of treatment in the future; currently the best option is an operation. However, there is often an additional component of hearing loss which can't be restored by surgery. As the gene involved is a growth factor, and the disease manifests itself by the abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear, it may have a large potential for therapy", she said. Improved understanding may also lead to prevention strategies.