Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am


They drink, they shoot, they score

If you play a team sport that involves endurance and skill - such as rugby, soccer or netball - consider hydrating with a beverage that blends carbs and caffeine for top performance. Research by Sheffield Hallam University on soccer players in match simulations shows that this combination not only allows participants to sustain higher intensity for sprints, but also improves shooting accuracy and dribbling. Mayur Ranchordas, a senior lecturer and performance nutritionist at the English university, says: 'There's already plenty of research showing that caffeine and carbohydrates improve endurance, but this study shows that there is also a positive effect on skill and performance.'

Stress-free infants key to allergy research

With the rise of allergies in children worldwide, experts from Sweden's Karolinska Institute have uncovered a new finding that may be useful in future allergy prevention. Their study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, has found that infants with low concentrations of the stress-related hormone cortisol in their saliva develop fewer allergies during the first two years of life compared to other children. A combination of environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early infancy are thought to be responsible for the sharp rise in allergies.

An apple a day keeps inflammation at bay

Whatever you do, don't skin that apple before you take a bite - the peel contains antioxidants that could suppress bowel inflammation, according to recent research findings by Montana State University published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. The study, done on mice, found that eating polyphenol-rich peel counteracts inflammatory T cells (a type of blood cell that protects the body from infection) to enhance resistance against autoimmune disease, thereby protecting against colon inflammation. This finding could lead to new therapies and treatments for disorders related to bowel inflammation, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and colitis-associated colorectal cancer.

Self-cleaning cotton makes light work of laundry

If you're sick and tired of doing the washing, you'll appreciate the latest breakthrough by mainland researchers: self-cleaning and deodourising cotton. Chemical and environmental engineers Long Mingce of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Wu Deyong of Hubei University for Nationalities developed the fabric by coating cotton with nanoparticles made from a compound that mixes nitrogen with titanium dioxide. The latter chemical breaks down dirt and kills microbes when exposed to certain types of light and is already found in a range of products such as self-cleaning windows and socks. But this new cotton is the first that does so in regular sunlight, according to a report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Carcinogenic fears over botanical ingredients

Some plant-based food supplements contain compounds that in high doses could cause liver cancer, according to researchers collaborating on the European Union project PlantLIBRA. The compounds, known as alkenylbenzenes, were found at a relatively high level in products that contained a main ingredient of basil, fennel, nutmeg, sassafras, cinnamon or calamus, or their essential oils. However, there are also supplements in which the level of these compounds is negligible. It is also important to note that as the test animals were fed only high concentrations of pure alkenylbenzenes, the findings may overestimate the effects on humans. More studies will be done, but in the meantime it is advisable to be cautious when it comes to supplements.