Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2012, 12:00am


Top of the pops

You can feel a little less guilty for indulging in that bucket of popcorn. Scientists have revealed that the snack contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called polyphenols than fruits and vegetables.

Speaking at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in California, lead researcher Joe Vinson said: 'Popcorn may be the perfect snack food.'

Popcorn is only about 4 per cent water, compared with 90 per cent for many fruits and vegetables. The hulls (the part that everyone hates) have the highest concentration of polyphenols and fibre. A serving of popcorn - the only snack that's 100 per cent unprocessed whole grain - provides more than 70 per cent of the daily intake of whole grain.

Vinson cautioned, however, that the way popcorn is prepared and served matters: air-popped without oil and naked is best.

One is the loneliest number

The risk of depression is almost 80 per cent higher for people living alone than for those in a family or any other social group, new research in the journal BMC Public Health shows.

The study tracked 3,500 men and women of working age in Finland for seven years, but it could be relevant to Hong Kong, where government statistics show there were 382,300 one-person households in 2010. Researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health compared the living arrangements of subjects with various other risk factors leading to antidepressant use. For women, one-third of the risk was attributable to sociodemographic factors such as lack of education and low income. For men, the biggest contributing factors included a poor job climate, lack of support at the workplace or in their private lives and heavy drinking.

Flu-prone? It's all in the genes

During the recent swine flu pandemic, the virus provoked only mild symptoms in most people and rarely threatened the lives of others. New research published in the journal Nature could help explain why: a human gene has been found to influence a person's response to a flu infection.

IFITM3 is a protein that protects cells against viral infections. The study, led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, Britain, found in tests on mice and humans that a rare version of the gene appears to make one more susceptible to severe forms of flu.

'Our research is important for people who have this variant, as we predict their immune defences could be weakened to some virus infections,' says Professor Paul Kellam, the study's co-senior author.

'Ultimately, as we learn more about the genetics of susceptibility to viruses, then people can take informed precautions, such as vaccination to prevent infection.'

Become a sparty animal

If you're looking for a healthier alternative to boozing and bumping in Lan Kwai Fong, why not consider a sparty? In place of alcohol and loud music, sparties (spa parties) at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong in Sha Tin offer spa treatments and refreshing snacks and drinks. Each two-hour sparty, held in a specially equipped relaxation suite called Melo Moments, can handle six to 12 revellers. The pampering begins on Sunday. There are three packages, starting from HK$588 per person. Call 3723 7684 or e-mail for reservations.