Health Scan

Updated on Aug 25, 2012 10:55 PM IST

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

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Hindustan Times | By

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

Cartoon help sell fruit to children

Parents and school administrators can take a lesson from food companies: Elmo, Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob help sell snacks, healthy or unhealthy. For youngsters who turn up their noses at fruits and vegetables, slapping a cartoon face on a healthy snack could make choices more appealing. School students aged eight to 11 offered apples and cookies are more likely to opt for an apple when it was branded with an Elmo sticker, found researchers from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. When the snacks weren't marked, 91% took a cookie and just under 25% took an apple. Putting an Elmo sticker on the apples prompted 37% of kids to take fruit reports the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Dental hygiene protects against dementia

People who keep their teeth and gums healthy with regular brushing have a lower risk of developing dementia later in life, showed a study of 5,500 elderly people from 1992 to 2010. Those who reported brushing their teeth less than once a day were up to 65% more likely to develop dementia than those who brushed daily. It's thought that gum disease bacteria might get into the brain causing inflammation and brain damage. Inflammation stoked by gum disease-related bacteria is implicated in a host of conditions including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

And some studies have found that people with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, have more gum disease-related bacteria in their brains than a person without Alzheimer's, reported the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Vitamin C protects against pollution

A diet rich in fruits and veggies lessens the harmful effects of air pollution for people suffering from chronic lung diseases. Data from patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in London shows that those with low levels of vitamin C had an increased risk of breathing problems on days when outdoor air pollution levels were high.

Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, may protect the body from harmful molecules called free radicals that damage cells. Free radicals can form when air pollution enters the lungs, and evidence suggests they play a role in heart disease, cancer and even respiratory ailments. Antioxidants can bind to free radicals, counteracting them before they damage cells, researchers report in the journal Epidemiology.

Herbal tea fights cancer

A traditional herbal tea may hold the key to fight breast cancer, report scientists from UK. Extracts from a plant known as virgin’s mantle, used as a medicinal tea, can kill cancerous cells in the test tube.

The plant, Fagonia cretica, is found in Pakistan, India, Africa and Europe. Women with breast cancer in rural Pakistan drink tea brewed from it.

Now research in the UK shows that herbal tea made from Fagonia cretica destroys cancer cells but, unlike chemotherapy, doesn’t damage normal breast cells, reducing side effects. Tests showed it arrested the growth of cells within five hours of application and destroys them within 24 hours.

Pregnant smokers up baby’s asthma risk

Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy may have an increased risk of asthma — even if they were not exposed to secondhand smoke later, shows data from 21,600 European children. Though secondhand smoke worsens chidlren’s asthma symptoms, and raises their risk of developing the lung disease. It’s been less clear if smoking during pregnancy is linked to asthma.

The study, found that children were two-thirds more likely to have asthma by age six, unlike kids whose moms didn’t smoke during pregnancy. It also increases the risks of miscarriage, low birth weight, certain birth defects complications.

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