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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: Jan 12, 2013 22:12 IST

New test to diagnose TB in minutes

A simple breath test could be used to diagnose lung infections such as TB in minutes, say US scientists who have identified the ‘fingerprints’ of different strains of bacteria by testing the breath of mice. A similar technique could reduce the time it takes to diagnose lung infections in humans.

Traditionally to diagnose lung infections, it requires the collection of a sputum sample that is used to grow bacteria and biochemically test it. The process can take days.

TB is a bacterial infection which is spread by infected person’s saliva when he coughs, speaks or sneezes. Symptoms include persistent cough for more than three weeks, unexplained weight loss, fever, chest pain and loss of appetite.

Pregnant women should shun bad fats

Eating too much of the wrong type of fat found in cooking oils and packaged foods increases the chances of your children being overweight. Instead, pregnant women should eat more fish oils, known as Omega 3 fatty acids, to ensure their children are healthy.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the study also showed that eating high amounts of omega 3 lowered fat in the baby and added muscle and bone.

This suggests taking fish oil supplements is beneficial in pregnancy. Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish and fish oil supplements, as well as pumpkin seeds and walnuts, develop the brain, eye and nervous system.

Second hand smoke raises dementia risk

Breathing in someone else’s cigarette fumes increases your risk of severe dementia. The study is the first to find a link between passive smoking and the neurological disease.

Passive smoking, is known to cause serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. However, until now it has been uncertain whether it increases the risk of dementia, due to lack of research. The latest study, done by scientists from Anhui Medical University in China and King’s College London, studied nearly 6,000 people aged over 60 from five provinces in China. They found that 10 % had severe dementia syndromes that were significantly related to exposure level and duration of passive smoking.

Pollen exposure

Pregnant woman exposed to pollen — found in grass, trees and flowers — make baby prone to asthma. Swedish researchers found that high pollen exposure in the last three months of pregnancy increases a baby’s risk of contracting asthma.

A study of more than 110,000 pregnant women found that high pollen count was associated with a 35% increased risk of infants being taken to hospital because of asthma.

It is likely that pollen sensitised mothers exposed to high levels of pollen during pregnancy are at increased risk of symptoms and asthma exacerbations. This may in turn change the intrauterine environment and affect the unborn baby’s immune system development.

Speaking two languages boosts the brain

Learning a second tongue can keep your brain sharp in old age, according to a new study. Researchers have found older people who have spoken two languages since childhood are faster at switching from one task to another.

Brain scans revealed that lifelong bilinguals used their brains more efficiently, which increased their speed. The findings confirm the value of regular stimulating mental activity throughout life.

As people age, cognitive flexibility — the ability to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances — and related executive brain functions decline. This decline could be stemmed by speaking more than one language — a boost that may stem from the experience of switching between languages.

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