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Health & longevity news archive: January-February 2006

cup of cocoa
Cocoa linked to lower risk of disease
(Feb 28, 2006)

The Dutch have a long history with chocolate. Although native Mexicans and their Spanish conquerors first used the bitter bean – and reported on its tonic powers – a Dutchman was the first to extract modern cocoa and neutralize its bitterness with alkali. The modern chocolate bar was born. Now results from a study of aging Dutch men has found that cocoa consumers were.half as likely to die from disease than those who did not eat the sweet treat.

Read more. Source: Scientific American

trying to remember
Scientists 'can predict memories'
(Feb 27, 2006)

Scientists say it may be possible to predict how well we will remember something before the event has even taken place. By analysing scans, they discovered the brain must get into the 'right frame of mind' to store new information. For top performance, the brain must mobilise its resources, not only at the moment we get new information, but also in the seconds before.

Read more. Source: BBC

sleeping man
'Sleeping on it' best for complex decisions
(Feb 17, 2006)

Complex decisions are best left to your unconscious mind to work out, according to a new study, and over-thinking a problem could lead to expensive mistakes. The research suggests the conscious mind should be trusted only with simple decisions, such as selecting a brand of oven glove. Sleeping on a big decision, such as buying a car or house, is more likely to produce a result people remain happy with than consciously weighing up the pros and cons of the problem, the researchers say.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

baby feeding
How babies do maths at 7 months
(Feb 15, 2006)

Babies have a rudimentary grasp of maths long before they can walk or talk, according to new research. By the age of seven months infants have an abstract sense of numbers and are able to match the number of voices they hear with the number of faces they see. The research could be useful in devising methods for teaching basic maths skills to the very young, say researchers in the US.

Read more. Source: BBC

Broccoli chemical's cancer check
(Feb 9, 2006)

A chemical in vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can boost DNA repair in cells and may stop them becoming cancerous, a study says. Another chemical in soy also performs the same role, the Georgetown University team said. Although a link has already been found between eating these foods and a reduced cancer risk, this research shows how that might happen.

Read more. Source: BBC

Isabelle Dinoire
Face op woman braves media glare
(Feb 6, 2006)

The French woman who received the world's first partial face transplant has appeared before the cameras of the world's media for the first time. Isabelle Dinoire, a 38-year-old mother of two, received the transplant on 27 November after being mauled by her dog.

Read more. Source: BBC

memory lapse
Real-life Groundhog Days studied
(Feb 6, 2006)

Most people have the sensation they have done certain things before, but for some the feeling is constant. Trapped in their own 'Groundhog Day', they believe they have experienced unique events before. A team at Leeds University was moved to investigate the phenomenon after seeing a patient convinced he had already been to his friend's funeral. The researchers suggest the extreme deja vu is caused by a faulty memory process.

Read more. Source: BBC

Common cold may save us from bird flu
(Feb 3, 2006)

Adenovirus, one cause of the common cold, may help protect against pandemic flu. Two separate groups of US scientists have successfully vaccinated mice and chickens with an adenovirus-based DNA vaccine against different strains of H5N1 bird flu. And they now want to test it in humans. The teams used a crippled adenovirus, which cannot replicate, as a carrier for the gene for the main surface protein of H5N1, haemagglutinin (HA), to stimulate a powerful immune response in the animals.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

laboratory researchersaspirin
Scientific brain linked to autism
(Jan 31, 2006)

Highly analytical couples, such as scientists, may be more likely to produce children with autism, an expert has argued. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of the University of Cambridge, said the phenomenon may help explain the recent rise in diagnoses. He believes the genes which make some analytical may also impair their social and communication skills. A weakness in these areas is the key characteristic of autism.

Read more. Source: BBC

Aspirin protects men's hearts and women's brains
(Jan 26, 2006)

Aspirin prevents cardiovascular events in both women and men – but in different ways, a new meta-study suggests. In women, aspirin reduces strokes, and in men it cuts down on heart attacks. But there are no statistically significant benefits the other way round, according to the analysis. “It appears that women respond differently to a given dose of aspirin than men,” says David Brown, a cardiologist at the Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York, US, and one of the authors. “Everything about the study is telling us that there’s a gender difference and we don’t understand it.”

Read more. Source: New Scientist

man and woman laughing
Laughter paves the way for romance
(Jan 24, 2006)

If love is blind, then maybe humor is the attention-grabber. That's the conclusion of two recent studies that confirm a long-standing stereotype of flirting: that women like joky men, while men like women who laugh at their jokes. The idea that funny people are attractive may seem obvious. But there have been very few scientific studies to examine whether or not this is true.

Read more. Source: Nature

people exercising
Exercise 'cuts Alzheimer's risk'
(Jan 17, 2006)

Regular exercise reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease by up to 40%, US research suggests. The University of Washington study claims to be the most definitive investigation into the effect of exercise on dementia. The Annals of Internal Medicine study found the more frail a person was, the more exercise was likely to help them. A regular gentle work-out was enough to produce a positive effect – even for people aged over 65.

Read more. Source: BBC

fruit and vegetables
Mental health link to diet change
(Jan 16, 2006)

Changes to diets over the last 50 years may be playing a key role in the rise of mental illness, a study says. Food campaigners Sustain and the Mental Health Foundation said the way food was now produced had altered the balance of key nutrients people consume. The period has also seen the UK population eating less fresh food and more saturated fats and sugars. They said this is leading to depression and memory problems, but food experts said the research was not conclusive.

Read more. Source: BBC

man sleeping
Mental skills 'worse after sleep'
(Jan 12, 2006)

A person's thinking ability may be better after being awake for 24 hours or being drunk than it is following a good night's sleep, a study suggests. A University of Colorado team found understanding and short-term memory were worse in the minutes after waking. Their finding has implications for workers such as doctors on night-duty, who are awoken and immediately asked to perform important tasks.

Read more. Source: BBC

stem cell treatment in a Moscow clinic
Stem cell promise lures patients
(Jan 12, 2006)

From a huge stainless steel cannister a laboratory technician lifts out a container of frozen human cells, clouds of nitrogen cascade to the ground. These are human stem cells. They have been harvested in this Moscow clinic from a piece of fat cut from a patient's stomach. Next door a middle aged woman is strapped to an operating table. The defrosted cells are injected into her face.

Read more. Source: BBC

arthritis is not affected by magnetic therapies the study shows
Magnet therapies 'have no effect'
(Jan 6, 2006)

Magnet therapies which are claimed to cure conditions ranging from back pain to cancer have no proven benefits, according to a team of US researchers. Sales of the so-called therapeutic devices, which are worn in bracelets, insoles, and wrist and knee bands, top $1 billion worldwide, they said. But a major review showed no benefits, a British Medical Journal report said.

Read more. Source: BBC

coke bottle
How brands get wired into the brain
(Jan 6, 2006)

A person’s liking for a particular brand name is wired into a specific part of the brain, a new study reveals. The research may provide an insight into the brain mechanisms that underlie the behavioural preferences that advertisers attempt to hijack. It has long been known that humans and animals can learn to associate an irrelevant stimulus with a positive experience, for example the ringing of a bell with food. And neuroimaging studies have recently implicated two regions buried deep in the brain – the ventral striatum and the ventral midbrain – as having an important role in this learning. But now work led by John O’Doherty, currently at Caltech, shows that the actual level of preference is encoded in these brain regions, and that people access this information to guide their decisions.

Read more. Source: New Scientist


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