Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 8:48pm


Mini water-purification plant saves many lives

Diarrhoea from contaminated drinking water is second only to pneumonia as a cause of childhood deaths worldwide. But since 2004, an estimated 32,000 lives have been saved by an innovative water-purification plant the size of a fast-food ketchup packet. In collaboration with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, consumer goods company Proctor & Gamble developed and has been distributing the packets to developing countries. In May, it reached a milestone: providing its 6th billion quart (5.7 billion litres) of clean drinking water. The non-profit programme, called Children's Safe Drinking Water, aims to produce 1.9 billion litres of clean water every year in developing countries by 2020. The packet is simple to use: pour one into a bucket of about 10 litres of water and stir. Dirt, parasites and other materials drop to the bottom and disease-causing microbes die. Drink up.

Purple sweet potatoes are to dye for

As demand for natural food colourings from consumers grows, manufacturers are increasingly turning to root vegetables to replace traditional synthetic colours and colours derived from beetles. Purple sweet potatoes, black and purple carrots are being grown specifically for the natural colours industry. In addition to adding eye appeal to foods and beverages, natural colourings add natural plant-based antioxidant compounds that may have a beneficial effect on health, says Stephen T. Talcott of Texas A&M University, speaking at this week's American Chemical Society meeting in Indianapolis.

Science supports more nourishing food for a growing world

With the world's population projected to rise from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2050, food scientists are researching ways to not only increase the food supply sustainably but also ensure it's nutritious. In North America alone, the diets of people have shed almost 680 million kilograms of unhealthy saturated fat and trans fat - linked with heart disease and diabetes - over the past six years thanks to a new phase in an ongoing agricultural revolution, according to an expert from biotech company Dow AgroSciences. They used advanced breeding to produce canola, soya bean and sunflower plants that are lower in saturated fats, those linked to heart disease, and high in healthier monounsaturated fats. Oils made from them, such as omega-9 oils, are trans-fat free, says Daniel Kittle, speaking at this week's American Chemical Society meeting in Indianapolis.