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PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2007, 12:00am

High-fat diet link to ovarian cancer

A long-term low-fat diet may cut the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 40 per cent, say US researchers who studied about 49,000 women over eight years. The reduced risk became apparent after about four years. A typical American diet contains about 35 per cent fat. The women in the study were asked to cut theirs to 20 per cent (they got it down to about 24 per cent, on average) and boost their intake of fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

Pollution cuts life expectancy

Polluted air and water, and environmental changes blamed on global warming, may cut life expectancy in Europe by nearly a year, according to a report by the European Environment Agency. 'The estimated annual loss of life is significantly greater than that due to car accidents,' it said in the report. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans are dying prematurely because of air pollution.

Depression rates in Japan's youth

More than one in 10 Japanese teens in their first year of high school suffer from depression, according to a Hokkaido University survey. And more than one in 25 younger children, aged nine to 13, also suffer from depression. The study, which found no link between lifestyle and mental illness, follows a recent series of teen suicides attributed mainly to bullying.

Dangers of baby boys

Having a son reduces a mother's lifespan by an average of 34 weeks, says University of Sheffield evolutionary biologist Virpi Lummaa, based on studies of Finnish church records from two centuries ago. The likely reasons include a higher birth weight; higher testosterone levels, which can compromise a woman's immune system; a bigger drain on energy; and sons being less likely than daughters to help their mothers later in life. Sons are also tough on younger siblings, who were typically slighter, had smaller families and had a greater chance of dying of an infectious disease. 'Big brothers are bad for you,' Lummaa told Scientific American.

Viagra and vanilla in Ig Noble prizes

Scientists who found that Viagra helps hamsters overcome jet lag and a Japanese researcher who extracted vanilla flavouring from cow dung have won top honours at this year's Ig Nobel Awards, which highlight scientific achievements that 'first make people laugh and then make them think'. Other winners included a Spanish-based team which studied whether rats can discriminate between Japanese and Dutch spoken backwards.