News, Research, Breakthroughs
FOR THE first time ever, researches have established a direct link between the amount of cigarette smoking children see in films and their decision to try smoking. A team of scientists led by paediatrician James Sargent asked 4919 American schoolchildren between the ages of 9 and 15 about the movies they’d seen. The team then calculated the number of smoking scenes each movie contained. Children exposed to the largest number of smoking scenes were two and a half times more likely to start than those exposed to the fewest scenes. And the team accounted for factors such as rebelliousness and whether the child’s parents smoked.
In a previous study, Sargent found that star power may also contribute: Adolescents whose favourite actors – including Leonardo DiCarprio Sharon Stone, John Travolta – smoked in three or more films were much more likely to be smokers. “Movies are a bigger influence than anything other than whether the child’s friends smoke,” says Sargent. “The movie industry has to take responsibility for this.”
Eat Fat, Get Thin
ONE REASON diets fail is that low-fat foods can lack flavour. So what if you put fat back in the diet? Karthy McManus, a dietitian did just that. “We thought if we could educate people to select healthy fats,” says McManus, “We could find a diet that people could sustain.” She and colleagues asked 101 people to follow a low-calorie diet for 18 months. Although experts suggest that Americans get no more than 30 percent of their calories from fat, McManus put half of the subjects on a 35 percent-calories –from –fat diet. The rest went on a 20 percent plan. She asked the higher-fat group to avoid saturated far and eliminate all trans far-found in fast food and packaged cookies. Instead, the dieters chose heart-healthy fats like nuts, olive oil and avocados. By the end of the study, the moderate-fat group had lost an average of four kilos, while the low-fat group had gained and average of four kilos. McManus suspects people found the higher-fat diet easier to stick with because they could choose better-tasting foods, use regular salad dressing and cook vegetables in oil.
WHEN DANIEL SULMASY put hidden cameras in the hospital rooms of dying patients, he found something disturbing. All too often, people spend their last days alone. “When you watch the videos, it really brings home how isolated these people are,” says Sulmasy, an Amercian who heads a bioethics institute in New York. “For more than 18 hours a day, there was no one in the room.” Nurses went in and out an average of 45 times a day, but only stayed for two minutes a visit; doctors popped in three times a day for three minutes each. Visits from family members averaged 24 minutes a day. In surveys of people with terminal cancer, says Sulmasy, fears of isolation and abandonment are among the patient’s biggest concerns. He suggests families ask the hospital to extend visiting hours, and to consider home hospice care as an alternative.
HAVING analyzed autopsy reports and CAT scans for over 10,000 people, scientists from Canada and the US believe that one adult in five has a small tumour at the base of the brain.
Usually measuring no more than two or three millimeters across, these tumours are thought to be located in the pituitary gland, a gland that controls hormone production.
A third of the tumours are said to have an impact on growth, sexuality, mood or metabolism. They are also thought to cause health problems for seven percent of the population. Some, for example, may lead to cardiac problems or diabetes. Others make the pituitary gland produce too much prolactin hormone, reducing the level of testosterone and libido in men.
“Instead of prescribing Viagra, doctors should consider the dangers represented by tumours of the pituitary gland,” says endocrinologist Shereen Ezzat. According to Ezzat, in most cases the problem can be not only treated but even cured, thanks to drugs and an operation that involves going though the nasal passages to remove the tumour.