Mind your language when speaking to babies: infants as young as 12 months of age listen to and track word patterns that will support the word learning that usually occurs between 18 months and two years. Research by the University of Notre Dame's baby lab suggests babies can distinguish different kinds of words, such as nouns and verbs, by their sound. 'If I were to say to you, 'Oh look, it's a dax', you might not know what a dax is, but the cue 'it's a' lets a baby know that what follows is an object,' says the lab's director, Jill Lany, an assistant professor of psychology. Babies can use these patterns as clues to the meanings of new words they are learning. By about 15 months, they're able to track more complicated 'non-adjacent relationships'.
Rhythm and snooze
A discovery by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California could lead to safer treatments for asthma, allergies and arthritis. Their study, published this month in Nature, found that proteins (cryptochromes) that control the body's circadian clock also interact with metabolic switches that are targeted by certain anti-inflammatory drugs, helping to regulate sugar metabolism in the body. By timing the administration of drugs according to patients' biological rhythms, the scientists say the drugs' side effects - such as high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and diabetic complications - may be avoided. In addition, the findings may help explain the connection between sleep and nutrient metabolism in our bodies, including why those who work night shifts or erratic hours are at higher risk of obesity and diabetes.
Vitamin E linked to muscle repair
It's common in food, particularly nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals, but what exactly does vitamin E do for you? Georgia Health Sciences University researchers have finally figured it out - with evidence. Cell biologist Dr Paul McNeil mimicked what happens in the body during exercise by using hydrogen peroxide to produce free radicals and found that tears in skeletal muscle cells did not heal unless pretreated with vitamin E. The antioxidant appears to be essential in repairing tears in the plasma membrane caused by everyday activities, such as eating and exercise. Muscle cells that remain unrepaired eventually waste away and die.
Hair today, more tomorrow
Help is here for people with hair that's thinning, losing volume or lacking density and those suffering from a tight or dry scalp. Next month, Aveda will launch a hair care range that's said to be 97 per cent natural and to reduce thinning/loss by 33 per cent. Called Invati - Sanskrit for 'invigorate' - the range contains a blend of ayurvedic herbs, turmeric and ginseng to energise and rehabilitate the scalp. The line includes an exfoliating shampoo, thickening conditioner and scalp revitaliser, priced from HK$290.
Raising the salad bar
Here's a convenient way to have a healthy - and affordable - lunch delivered to your door. Starting from January 9, celebrity chef Alvin Leung will offer a selection of five salads at a promotional price of HK$38 each (regularly HK$78), with a calorie count of between 390 and 610 per serve. Apart from his take on classics such as the nicoise, caesar and chef's salad, Leung will offer ling mut (Cantonese for lemon and honey) salad with chicken breast and give the all green salad his inimitable twist, with sesame, kaffir lime and tofu. Go to www.beautifood.com.hk for more details.