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Health scan

A snapshot of the current thinking in medicine, fitness and lifestyle trends that impact your life.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 01, 2012 23:18 IST

Mom's milk boosts gut health
Mother's breast milk is better than formula at protecting newborns from infection and illness because it promotes the growth of beneficial gut flora, which are the colonies of friendly bacteria that help absorb nutrients and develop the immune system.

Newborns should be fed exclusively on breast milk for six months, recommends the World Health Organisation.

Past research has already established that breast-milk feeding reduces diarrhoea, flu, and respiratory infections in babies, and lowers their chances of developing obesity, allergies, type-1 diabetes, multiple scleroris and other diseases later in life. More and more studies are now suggesting that some of this could be due to the effect of early diet on the development of the microbial universe in the gut without which human digestion doesn't function.

Loud music hurts nerve cells
Listening to loud music through headphones causes a similar effect on nerves as multiple sclerosis (MS) does. Past research has linked loud sound to hearing problems such as temporary deafness or tinnitus, but this is the first time scientists have identified the underlying damage to nerve cells. Noise levels above 110 decibels strip insulation from nerve fibres that carry signals from the ear to the brain. The loss of myelin -- the protective coating around the nerve fibres -- disrupts electrical nerve signals, causing hearing problems like temporary deafness and tinnitus. Luckily, myelin lost as a result of noise exposure regrows in time, meaning that hearing can recover. It is this loss of myelin that damages nerves in the brain and results in multiple sclerosis, except with MS the damage is caused by an attack from the immune system.

Smoking pot lowers
IQ in teens
Teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ, a new study suggests. The researchers didn't find the same IQ dip for people who became frequent users of pot after 18. Although experts said the new findings are not definitive, they do fit in with earlier signs that the drug is especially harmful to the developing brain. “Parents should understand that their adolescents are particularly vulnerable,” said lead researcher Madeline Meier of Duke University. Study participants from New Zealand were tested for IQ at age 13, likely before any significant marijuana use, and again at age 38. The mental decline between those two ages was seen only in those who started regularly smoking pot before age 18.

Men are more likely to lie than women
The average man tells three lies a day – 1,092 a year – compared to women who fib twice a day. But a role reversal happens when it comes to hiding new clothes from a partner. 39% of women feel the need to lie about their wardrobe additions compared to 26% of men. Women are also most likely to pretend to be busy to avoid a phone call. “We think lying is bad, but actually the ability to deceive others has helped humans survive as a species. Our primitive ancestors would have needed to be deceitful to outwit their enemies,” said Karen Pine, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, UK.

Aspirin good for men with prostate cancer
Men who have been treated for prostate cancer benefit from taking aspirin regularly. An aspirin a day is associated with a lower risk of death from prostate cancer, according to a multicentre study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Preclinical studies have shown that aspirin may inhibit cancer growth and metastasis, but clinical data have been limited previously. The study looked at almost 6,000 men in the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor (CaPSURE) database who had prostate cancer treated with surgery or radiotherapy. Prostate cancer is among the top five cancers in men.