Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2011, 12:00am

When too many bubbles cause trouble

Teens who frequently guzzle non-diet, carbonated soft drinks are significantly more likely to be aggressive, according to a study published online in Injury Prevention. In a survey of 1,878 youths aged 14 to 18 in Boston, Massachusetts, researchers found the effects of such drinks were of the same magnitude as alcohol or tobacco. Thirty per cent of the respondents had high soft-drink consumption - five or more cans (355ml) a week - and they were more likely to have drunk alcohol and smoked at least once in the previous month, carried a gun or knife, and perpetrated violence against peers, family members or partners.

Mind games

What you don't know can't hurt you, and that applies to fitness goals, too. Northumbria University researchers have found that deceiving the brain can lead to a 5 per cent improvement in sporting performance, showing that athletes have a reserve of energy that can be tapped. In their study, trained cyclists raced against an avatar on a computer screen that they believed was moving at a speed equal to the cyclist's personal best. The avatar, though, was actually going 1 per cent faster, yet the cyclists were able to match it. However, when participants were aware that the avatar was going faster, the motivation to access this reserve was not effective, the study found.

Why is the sky so high?

Curiosity is a huge factor of success in school, and, combined with conscientiousness, can have as big an effect on performance as intelligence, according to a study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Researchers performed a meta-analysis, gathering data from about 200 studies involving about 50,000 students. 'Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration,' says co-author Sophie von Stumm of the University of Edinburgh. With it, she says, one will read widely or perhaps travel the world to try different foods - activities that could help grades and possibly work performance. 'It's easy to hire someone who has the done the job before and, hence, knows how to work the role,' von Stumm says. 'But it's far more interesting to identify those people who have the greatest potential for development, i.e., the curious ones.'

Pain, begone

Intensive stretching classes are as effective as yoga to ease that bad back, according to the largest US randomised, controlled trial of yoga to date, published by the Archives of Internal Medicine. In the trial, 228 adults with moderate lower back pain were randomly assigned to 12 weekly 75-minute classes of either yoga or stretching that emphasised the torso and legs, or a comprehensive self-care book, The Back Pain Helpbook. The class participants also received instructional videos and were encouraged to practise at home for 20 minutes daily between their weekly classes. Both yoga and stretching were more effective than the book, with better back-related function and diminished symptoms at 12 weeks, and less use of pain medications for at least six months.

Hope for leukaemia patients

Scientists from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences have developed a new potential leukaemia therapy that targets only cancer cells, starting to kill them as early as four hours after the start of treatment, while sparing healthy cells. The molecules used to create this agent are structurally similar to the compound found in many gout treatments and over-the-counter products used to treat warts, which also prevent cell growth. It's unlike many current chemotherapy treatments, which affect both cancer and healthy cells, causing side effects including fatigue, hair loss, nausea, anxiety and depression. Researchers will test the treatment in animals and pinpoint the most effective method.