Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:05pm


Passing out parade

If you find yourself fainting often, your parents might be to blame. New research published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, shows fainting appears to have a strong genetic component. Fainting is a brief loss of consciousness when the body reacts to certain triggers, such as emotional distress or the sight of blood. For the study, 51 sets of same-gender twins between the ages of nine and 69 - with at least one twin with a history of fainting - were surveyed by phone. Of the sets, 57 per cent reported having typical fainting triggers. Among twins where one fainted, those who were identical were both nearly twice as likely to faint compared with fraternal twins. The frequency of fainting in non-twin relatives was low, suggesting that the way fainting is inherited is usually not through a single gene.

Fit as a tiddler

Which is the healthiest fish to eat? According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, it's eco-friendly fish. 'If the fish is sustainable, then it is likely to be healthy to eat too,' says lead study author Leah Gerber, an associate professor and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University. Gerber and colleagues analysed existing literature on fish and compiled several types of sustainability rankings, along with species-specific health metrics, including omega-3 fatty acid and mercury content. 'In general, larger longer-lived fish are more likely to have exposure to toxins due to the length of their lives and their place on the food chain. So you might be best served to stay away from them - like bluefin tuna or sturgeon,' explains Gerber. 'Besides, these stocks have been depleted by fishing.' Safer choices might be Alaskan pollock or Atlantic mackerel.

Forget the flavouring

The tempting buttery taste and aroma of microwave popcorn and other snacks come at price. The food flavouring ingredient used to produce the distinctive flavour and aroma has been found to intensify the damaging effects of an abnormal brain protein linked to Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology. The ingredient, diacetyl (DA), has been linked in previous studies to respiratory and other problems in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavouring factories. DA also forms naturally in fermented beverages such as beer, and gives some chardonnay wines a buttery taste. In this new study, researchers found that DA increased the level of clumping of brain proteins called beta-amyloid, a hallmark of Alzheimer's. Although consumers are unlikely to have chronic DA exposure, experts say no one has really looked into the possible impact on this group of people.

Getting beyond a choke

Air pollution is here to stay - and will only get drastically worse, particularly in China, Northern India and the Middle East, according to the latest calculations of a research team led by scientist Andrea Pozzer of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. In 2050, air quality worldwide will be as bad as it is now in urban areas of Southeast Asia, says Pozzer, if past emission trends continue and no new reduction measures are taken. East Asia will be exposed to high levels of pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and fine particulate matter. Northern India and the Arabian Gulf region will suffer a marked increase in ozone levels mainly due to population density and the expected increase in industrial production and transport. Air pollution in Europe and North America will also increase, but to a much lesser extent due to the effect of more than 20 years of mitigation policies. Urban outdoor air pollution causes an estimated 1.3 million deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.