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PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2008, 12:00am

Soy foods guard against breast cancer

A regular diet of Japanese soy-based foods such as tofu, miso or fermented beans appears to cut the risk of developing breast cancer by as much as two-thirds, say researchers from Tokyo's National Cancer Centre, based on a decade-long study of about 25,000 women aged 40 to 69. Soybeans contain an isoflavone compound called genistein, and the risk of having cancer in women with the highest levels of it was one-third that of the group with the lowest concentration, AFP reports. Women with the highest levels typically ate 100g a day of tofu or 50g of fermented beans called natto.

Heavy smoking linked to strokes

Smoking is to blame for almost one in every seven strokes among mainland men and almost one in 14 fatal strokes, according to a US-China study of about 170,000 people from across the country. And the longer and heavier the habit, the greater the risk - although the link between smoking and strokes was less significant among women, Reuters reports. Smoking a packet or more a day increased the risk of suffering the most common type of stroke by more than 50 per cent.

Happy people lucky in the gene pool

Naturally happy people may well have their genes to thank, say University of Edinburgh researchers, based on studies of more than 900 sets of twins. Whereas about 50 per cent of a person's happiness is due to situational factors such as health, relationships and career, the rest apparently is due to genes, WebMD reports. 'Although happiness is subject to a wide range of external influence ... there is a heritable component which can be entirely explained by genetic architecture of personality,' says researcher Alexander Weiss. Nonetheless, the team says it appears that you can trick yourself into being happy even if you're not naturally sunny by adopting traits associated with happiness such as being active, sociable, conscientious and not overly anxious.

Low testosterone affects moods

Older men with low testosterone levels appear to be at greater risk of depression, say University of Western Australia researchers who studied almost 4,000 men aged between 70 and 90 over four years. The researchers say the link may be due to changes in the levels of neurotransmitters or hormones in the brain, reports.

Fat findings point to new treatments

Swedish researchers have isolated a protein that stimulates the formation of fat cells - a finding that may lead to new ways of treating obesity. The small-scale Karolinska Institute research, based on cell cultures and studies of mice, found that obese people have excessive levels of the protein, known as tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase, AFP reports. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Turku in Finland say the mixture of bacteria in a baby's gut may predict whether it grows up to be overweight. Equally, babies with high levels of bifidobacteria and low levels of staphylococcus aureus may be protected from excess weight gain, reports.