Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am


Looks good enough to eat

If you're having trouble trying to get your child to eat better, try changing the presentation of the food. A recent Cornell University study published in Acta Paediatrica found that children find colourful food more appealing - specifically plates of food with seven different items and six different colours. (Adults tend to prefer plates with only three items and three colours.) In the study, 23 pre-teen children and 46 adults were shown full-sized photos of 48 different combinations of food on plates that varied by number of items, placement of entree and organisation of the food. The children also preferred their entrees placed in front of the plate and with figurative designs.

Take a hike for charity

Gather a team of four to six friends (or go at it alone) and mark Sunday, February 26 down in your diary - it's for a good cause. On that day the 20th annual Hike for Hospice will be held at Tai Lam Country Park, offering 12-kilometre, 16-kilometre and 19-kilometre route options around lesser-known trails south of Tai Lam Reservoir. Last year, more than 500 hikers participated, raising more than HK$2.3 million for the hospice movement. Sign up at by February 17; participants need to raise a minimum of HK$5,000 per individual or HK$20,000 per team. Breakfast, lunch, transport and souvenirs will be provided, while the fastest hikers and top fund-raisers stand to win prizes.

Positively speaking

We all have bad days. But it seems if you speak English, you're more inclined to talk positively because the language is inherently biased towards optimism, according to University of Vermont researchers. In their new study, they gathered billions of words from four sources: 20 years of The New York Times, the Google Books Library Project, Twitter and half a century of music lyrics. Using a service from Amazon called Mechanical Turk, volunteers rated, from one to nine, their sense of 'happiness' given by 10,222 of the most common words gathered. Averaging their scores, the volunteers rated, for example, 'laughter' at 8.50, 'food' at 7.44, 'truck' at 5.48, 'greed' at 3.06 and 'terrorist' at 1.30. 'We looked at the top 5,000 words in each, in terms of frequency, and in all of those words you see a preponderance of happier words,' says Peter Dodds, an applied mathematician.

Blissed as a parrot

It's obvious that alcohol makes most people feel good, and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, think they know why. Using positron emission tomography (or PET imaging), they observed the immediate effects of alcohol in the brains of 13 heavy and 12 non-heavy drinkers. In all subjects, it led to the release of endorphins (substances that relieve pain and give a feeling of well-being) in areas of the brain that produce feelings of pleasure and reward. The more endorphins released in the nucleus accumbens, the greater the feelings of pleasure reported by each drinker; while more endorphins in the orbitofrontal cortex led to greater feelings of intoxication in heavy drinkers only. This discovery provides a possible target for the development of more effective drugs in the treatment of alcohol abuse, the researchers say.