Health Bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 9:05am

Advice for the long run

The death of a 26-year-old man after completing this year's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Half Marathon has prompted race organisers to improve participant safety for next year's event. Last week, the Amateur Athletic Association unveiled a team of 12 experts, including doctors, nutritionists, trainers and top local athletes, who will share practical tips and answer runners' questions over the next 20 weeks through Facebook Next year's race will be on Sunday, February 24. Registration opens online at on October 24. One of the experts, Dr Gary Mak, a specialist in cardiology and president of the Association of Sports Medicine and Sports Science, says: "We encourage everyone who wants to participate to consider undergoing a self-assessment before they register; and if they find themselves at high risk, they should go to their doctor for a thorough check-up before signing up."

Even fat cells need their sleep

Some people claim they can get by with little sleep. But while they may not have decreased alertness and cognitive ability, a lack of shut-eye has a harmful effect on the body's energy metabolism and can lead to weight gain, diabetes and other health problems over time, say University of Chicago Medicine researchers. In the study, published in today's issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, seven young, lean and healthy volunteers had four straight nights of 8½ hours of sleep, and at least four weeks later had four straight nights of 4½ hours of sleep. Food intake, strictly controlled, was identical during both stints. The four nights of short sleep negatively affected fat cells, reducing by 30 per cent their ability to respond to insulin, a hormone that regulates energy. This reduction is comparable to the difference between cells from obese versus lean participants, or from people with diabetes versus non-diabetic controls.

Fumes and fortune

Exposure to ambient air pollution is harmful, but more so for children under the age of one, finds a new study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The study included more than 1,900 children who were followed from birth to eight years old with repeated questionnaires and lung function tests. Outdoor concentrations of particulate matter from road traffic were estimated for residential, daycare and school addresses using dispersion modelling, a mathematical simulation of how air pollutants disperse in the atmosphere. "Exposure to traffic-related air pollution during infancy was associated with decreases in lung function at age eight, with stronger effects indicated in boys, children with asthma and particularly in children sensitised to allergens," says researcher Dr Goran Pershagen, professor at the Karolinska Institutet Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden.

Karma before the storm

With the year-end revelries just round the corner, it's perhaps a good time to be gentle and kind to your body, before the onslaught of boozing and buffets. A three-day juice detox and yoga programme could be an option for you. Pure Yoga is organising one starting on Friday, October 26 at its Tsim Sha Tsui branch, led by yoga instructors Margaret Chung and Samantha Chan. The programme is open to all and costs HK$3,750. Registration closes on Monday (