Health Bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am


Curbing carbs lowers breast cancer risk

Carbohydrates provide essential nutrients and energy, but eat them wisely. Eating more carb-rich foods, especially starchier ones such as white bread and pasta, may boost the risk of breast cancer recurrence, according to research from the University of California, San Diego. About 2,650 women reported their carb intake at the start of the study and a year later. The average intake was about 233 grams daily at the start of the study. Those whose cancer did not return decreased starch intake by 8.7 grams a day, while those with a recurrence reduced intake by only 4.1grams a day. According to the US Department of Agriculture, a slice of bread has 12.5 grams of carbs, of which 10 grams are starch. A cup of pasta has 43 grams of carbs, 36 of which are starch. Starchy foods elevate insulin levels, which has been linked with higher breast cancer risk.

Boys will be girls

A stressful early pregnancy could lower a woman's odds of having a boy and increase her risk of premature delivery. Published last week in the journal Human Reproduction, the study looked at how the stress of a major 2005 earthquake affected pregnant women in Chile by analysing the birth certificates of all babies born there between 2004 and 2006. Exposure to the 7.9-magnitude quake during the third month of pregnancy reduced the ratio of male births from 51 per cent to 45 per cent. More than 9 per cent of women exposed to the quake in the third month of pregnancy had a premature baby, up from the normal rate of about 6 per cent.

Craving chocolate? Just walk away

Just taking a 15-minute stroll can cut snacking on chocolate at work by half, a study published in the journal Appetite has found. University of Exeter researchers in Britain put 78 regular chocolate-eaters in a simulated work environment after two days' abstinence from the treat. Participants were split into two groups: people in one group took a brisk 15-minute treadmill walk and were then given work to complete at a desk, and the other rested before completing the same tasks. These groups were further split into two: one was given an easy, low-stress task, and the other a more demanding job. Chocolate was placed on the desk for all participants as they worked. Those who had exercised before working consumed 15 grams of chocolate on average, compared with the resting groups' 28 grams. Task difficulty made no different to snacking amount, suggesting stress did not contribute to sweet cravings.

Seeing into the future

New research from Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences puts a new spin on having 'eyes in the back of the head', and opens doors for the development of novel approaches to detecting and repairing birth defects, and organ transplantation and regeneration. Biologists have managed to grow eyes on a tadpole's back by altering the natural bioelectrical communication among cells in frog embryos. 'The hypothesis is that for every structure in the body there is a specific membrane voltage range that drives organogenesis,' says Vaibhav Pai, the paper's main author. 'These were cells in regions that were never thought to be able to form eyes. This suggests that cells from anywhere in the body can be driven to form an eye.' The researchers will be pursuing further research, additionally targeting the brain, spinal cord and limbs.