Medi Watch

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 December, 2006, 12:00am

Fit to fight breast cancer

Exercise may cut the risk of breast cancer after menopause and help to ward off the most aggressive types of tumours. These are the findings of an 18-year US study of more than 36,000 women.

The most active women in the study by the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, had a 14 per cent lower risk of breast cancer, and their risk of developing the most aggressive tumours was 33 per cent lower, Reuters reports.

Fixing the alcohol fix

Australian researchers have identified and found a way to block the chemical in the brain that enhances the high from alcohol and triggers cravings for more - in rats, at least - which may prove effective in treating alcoholism. Orexin, produced in the hypothalamus, helps the brain decide when to eat and also appears to be linked to alcohol consumption and addiction. Giving rats orexin blockers has 'very dramatic' results, says Andrew Lawrence of Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute. Rats that had alcohol freely available stopped drinking, and those that had been through detox didn't relapse when offered alcohol again, AFP reports.

Perfect tonic

A couple of alcoholic drinks a day may help lengthen life, according to Italian analysis of 34 studies involving more than one million people in China, the US, Europe, Australia and Japan. On the other hand, heavy drinking runs the risk of killing you. Moderate drinkers (up to four standard drinks for men and two for women) were about 18 per cent less likely to die of any cause than teetotallers and light drinkers, the researchers write in Archives of Internal Medicine. They didn't go as far as recommending that teetotallers start drinking, WebMD reports.

Shrinking link to mortality

How much men shrink as they get older is related to their odds of dying, but researchers at University College Medical School in London aren't sure why. In a 26-year study of more than 4,000 men, those who lost 3cm or more in height were 64 per cent more likely to die within six years than those who lost 1cm. About 15 per cent of the men lost at least 3cm between the ages of 40 and 60, Reuters reports.

Bonding with mirth

Laughter is contagious, say British researchers, who found that the sound of laughter triggers the brain to get ready to laugh and smile. Scans carried out by a team at University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience showed similar activity in the brain in reaction to hearing people cheering - but not when hearing cries of fear or disgust. The findings may help explain how the brain mirrors other people's positive emotions, apparently to enhance social bonding, WebMD reports.

Food on the brain

Children with high IQs are more likely to be vegetarian later in life. That is the conclusion of a British study of more than 8,000 men and women aged 30, whose IQs were tested at age 10. For each 15-point rise in IQ score, the likelihood of being vegetarian rose by 38 per cent, reports. 'Brighter children tend to behave in a healthier fashion as adults,' says team leader Catharine Gale of the University of Southampton. 'People with a higher IQ tend to have a healthier lifestyle.'

Here's the rub ...

Expensive wrinkle creams often don't work any better than cheap brands - and none of them makes much difference to the skin's appearance. After 12 weeks of tests, the best creams smoothed some fine lines and wrinkles, but none by more than 10 per cent, which is barely visible. The study, conducted by US Consumer Reports magazine, found little relationship between active ingredients and overall performance, Reuters reports.

Jason Sankey is a tennis professional