Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am


Make time by giving time

There are never enough hours in a day for most Hongkongers. But experts from business schools at Yale, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania offer a solution: volunteer your time. It sounds counter-intuitive, but giving time away may actually increase our sense of unhurried leisure. Across four experiments, the researchers found that people's subjective sense of having time, called 'time affluence', can be increased. Compared with wasting time, spending time on oneself and even gaining a windfall of 'free' time, spending time on others increased feelings of time affluence. UPenn Professor Cassie Mogilner says this is because giving away time boosts one's sense of personal competence and efficiency, which stretches out time in our minds.

Programmed to gain weight

Not entirely surprisingly, children who watch more television are fatter and less physically fit, a recent study has found. Researchers at the University of Montreal and the affiliated Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital in Canada looked at the television-watching habits of children aged between 21/2 and 41/2, and found that those who spent more time in front of the box had larger waist sizes and poorer athletic performance. The study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that children watched an average of 8.8 hours per week at age 2 1/2, rising by an average of six hours by age 41/2. Each additional hour that they watched television compared with two years earlier corresponded to an increase in their waist size of slightly less than half a millimetre, and also resulted in them being able to manage about 3.3mm less in a standing long jump.

The whites of their thighs

That fake golden summer tan is getting harder to achieve. Restrictions on indoor tanning, which studies suggest is linked to skin cancer, appear to have increased in several countries since 2003, according to a study published in the Archives of Dermatology.

The number of countries with nationwide indoor tanning laws restricting those 18 years or younger increased from two (France and Brazil) in 2003 to 11 last year. The additional countries were all in Europe: Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Belgium, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Dr Mary Pawlak, of the Colorado School of Public Health, and colleagues conducted a web-based internet search of access to indoor tanning and compiled the legislation.

'Additional countries and states are developing indoor tanning restrictions or making their existing legislation more restrictive,' the authors say.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation - whether from the sun or artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds - increases the risk of skin cancer, according to the US National Cancer Institute.

Cancer therapy may be your cup of tea

The latest potential cancer treatment involves a very rare substance and a very common one: gold and tea. Scientists at the University of Missouri have found a way of targeting certain cancers, involving gold nanoparticles and a compound found in tea leaves, that might become a less harmful alternative to chemotherapy. When used to treat prostate cancer, the researchers found, the tea compound is attracted to tumour cells, helping to deliver to the site of the tumour the radioactive gold nanoparticles, which can destroy the cells. The scientists' study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that unlike current treatments, the technique was also effective against aggressive forms of the disease that can spread to other parts of the body. It can be used in smaller doses than chemotherapy, which can have toxic effects on organs and bodily functions; nanoparticles of the appropriate size are injected in just a couple of sites compared with the hundreds used now, and are more likely to remain at the tumour site, thanks to the tea compound.