Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2011, 12:00am


15 minutes means an extra three years

Only about 20 per cent of adults on the mainland, in Japan and Taiwan do the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise. But 15 minutes daily is enough to have significant health benefits, according to a study published in The Lancet. Taiwanese who did so extended their expected lifespan by three years compared to inactive people. Researchers at the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan, who followed 416,175 Taiwanese over an average of eight years, also found that the risk of death from any cause decreased by 4 per cent for every additional 15 minutes of exercise up to 100 minutes a day. These findings were regardless of age, gender, health status, tobacco use, alcohol consumption or cardiovascular disease risk.

South Asians say they glow with good health

Nearly eight in 10 South Asian residents in Hong Kong have good self-rated health with no or few physical illnesses, according to research by Professor Yan Yuk-yee of Baptist University's geography department. In her pilot study of 125 Nepali, Pakistani and Indian adults - the first of its kind here - just 16 per cent rated their health as 'fair' and 7.2 per cent as 'poor' or 'very poor'. Studies show that a lower self-health rating was associated with a higher mortality and morbidity risk, she says. Further, 72 per cent owned or were the sole tenant in private housing, which was linked with greater odds of having good self-rated health. More awareness of and attention to the health of South Asians, who make up about 0.7 per cent of Hong Kong's population, is crucial, Yan says.

Healthy milk, healthy body

Milk rehydrates active children better than sports drink or water, especially during the summer. This is because milk is a source of high-quality protein, carbohydrates, calcium and electrolytes, says Brian Timmons, research director of the Child Health and Exercise Medicine Programme at Canada's McMaster University. His study of eight to 10-year-olds involved exercising in a climate chamber, then receiving a drink and being measured for hydration. Timmons says milk rehydrates effectively because it replaces sodium lost in sweat and helps the body retain fluid better, and its protein is essential for muscle development and growth.

Sniffing out disease

Sniffer dogs could be used for the early detection of lung cancer, the most common cause of death from cancer worldwide. Research by experts from Germany's Schillerhoehe Hospital published in the European Respiratory Journal found that trained dogs could sniff out cancer-linked volatile organic compounds in breath. Of 220 volunteers, including lung cancer patients, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients and healthy volunteers, the dogs successfully identified 71 of 100 samples with lung cancer. They also correctly detected 372 of 400 samples that did not have lung cancer. Study author Thorsten Walles says: 'Our results confirm the presence of a stable marker for lung cancer ... but we still need to precisely identify the compounds observed in the exhaled breath of patients.'

Smartphone addiction is not so smart

Do you pick up your smartphone repeatedly to check your menu screen, news, e-mail, contacts and social applications? You may have what researchers, who collected data from Finland and the US, call a 'checking habit'. 'What concerns us here is that if your habitual response to, say, boredom, is that you pick up the phone to find interesting stimuli, you will be systematically distracted from the more important things happening around you,' says Antti Oulasvirta, senior researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology. 'Habits ... compromise the more conscious control that some situations require and studies are already starting to associate smartphone use to dire consequences like driving accidents and poor work-life balance.' This week, try giving your fingers and phone a break - it will do you good.