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Monday, September 12, 2011

Anorexic at five

Are you one of them? Take heed...

Posted: 01 August 2011

LONDON - Nearly 100 children aged between five and seven in Britain have been treated for anorexia or bulimia in the past three years, according to figures released on Monday.

The statistics show that 197 children aged between five and nine were treated in hospital in England for eating disorders, fuelling campaigners' fears that young children are being influenced by photographs in celebrity magazines.

The figures from 35 hospitals showed 98 children were aged between five and seven at the time of treatment and 99 aged eight or nine. Almost 400 were between the ages of 10 and 12, with more than 1,500 between 13 and 15 years old.

The statistics, released under the Freedom of Information Act, are believed to underestimate the true figures because some state-run hospitals refuse to release any data.

Other hospitals would only release figures for children admitted after they had become dangerously thin, excluding those undergoing psychiatric therapy as outpatients.

The findings come after experts called earlier this year for urgent action to improve the detection of eating disorders in children.

About three in every 100,000 children under 13 in Britain and Ireland have some sort of eating disorder, according to a study conducted by experts from University College London's Institute for Child Health.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the eating disorders charity B-eat, said the latest figures reflected "alarming" trends in society, with young children "internalising" messages from magazines which idealise the thinnest figures.

"A number of factors combine to trigger eating disorders. Biology and genetics play a large part in their development, but so do cultural pressures, and body image seems to be influencing younger children much more over the past decade," she said.

Children were receiving "pernicious" messages, Ringwood told the Sunday Telegraph.

"The ideal figure promoted for women is that of a girl, not an adult woman. That can leave girls fearful of puberty, and almost trying to stave it off," she said.

The Department of Health said it was spending US$660 million over the next four years on psychological treatment for eating disorders, including a specific programme for children and young people.

"Early intervention is essential for those with eating disorders," a spokeswoman said.

- AFP/ir

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Anorexic at five

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The boy who beat cancer

By Leong Wai Kit, | Posted: 24 July 2011

16-year-old Wong Jun Da survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer with which he was diagnosed at nine-and-a-half years old.
SINGAPORE: When Wong Jun Da was diagnosed with cancer at nine years old, the boy knew there was nothing he could do about it – which was why he decided his world must not come crashing down.

"At that age, I do know about cancer and what it means to have cancer," says the acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) survivor, who is now 16.

"I thought about it for a while, and how it would affect me in future. But after about two minutes, I tried to snap out of it and accept that reality," Jun Da says, recalling his reaction in June 2004 at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

"Even if I were to cry over it, there is nothing I can do to change that fact," he adds.

Fortunately for Jun Da, doctors did change that fact.

Childhood cancers in S'pore

Every year, about 100 new cases of cancer are reported in Singapore, with ALL being the most common one.

Treatment for ALL include chemotherapy, radiation and in some cases, bone marrow transplants.

The survival rate for children with ALL is at between 70 and 90 per cent, which is "very good", says the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF).

A dose of determination

Jun Da began chemotherapy in June 2004 but suffered a relapse in September 2005.

He was then put through more intensive treatment, including full-body radiation in 2005 followed by a cord blood transplant in 2006.

To focus on his treatment, Jun Da stopped attending school for two years when he was in primary five.

His mom, Mdm Koh Bee Geok, says: "We didn't hire tutors because Jun Da said he could self-study so we let him do that for two years.

"A few days before his PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination), he was warded for bronchitis and had to sit for the exam in hospital."

But that did not stop Jun Da, who aspires to be an artist, from doing well enough to get into the express stream in Bedok South Secondary School.

Something to smile about

By the time Jun Da was cleared of his cancer in May 2009 - at age 14 – he had already undergone about six surgeries.

Although his treatment was not a bed of roses, Jun Da often tries to find something to smile about.

"I was able to look on the brighter side despite my condition because I think I had some maturity to begin with.

"And I think having cancer didn't kill that optimism but instead, helped me appreciate the things around me.

"For instance, though cancer stopped me from being a child for two years, I gained in other ways, including forming close friendships with nurses and social workers (from CCF)."

These days, Jun Da the survivor has been actively giving back to the community.

Besides doing volunteer work with Make a Wish, an organisation which helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, Jun Da also makes time to share his experience with other children with cancer.

And on Sunday, Jun Da will help out at the CCF's Hair for Hope event at VivoCity, to raise funds for children with cancer.

The CCF, which has served about 1,950 families since 1996, needs about S$3.5 million each year. Donations can be made to the CCF via its website at


Taken from; source article is below:
The boy who beat cancer

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Michelle Obama launches attack on US food deserts

Will this encourage cooking at home?

Posted: 21 July 2011

Michelle Obama unveiling a nationwide campaign to combat childhood obesity. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
WASHINGTON - US First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday teamed up with major food retailers to launch an attack on "food deserts" as a key part of the US battle to bring down childhood obesity.

"We can give people all the information and advice in the world about healthy eating and exercise, but if parents can't buy the food they need to prepare those meals because their only options for groceries are the gas station or the local minimart, then all that is just talk," Obama said.

Many US inner cities are "food deserts," or areas where shops selling healthful foods are rare or expensive, and residents, many of them poor, live on cheap processed meals and sugary drinks, which pile on the pounds while providing scant nutritional benefits.

On Wednesday, major food retailers including Wal-Mart, Supervalu supermarkets and Walgreen's, pledged to open more than 1,500 shops over the next five years to sell fresh, nutritious foods in communities throughout the country that are currently underserved.

The fight against "food deserts" is one of the linchpins in Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, launched last year to try to bring down the staggering rate of childhood obesity, which affects one in five children in the United States.

When overweight children are included in the tally, one in three American kids is found to have a weight problem.

Michelle Obama announces Let's Move! Child Care, an effort to raise healthy eating and living for young children. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
"There's a reason why we set a goal that every family in every community in America would have access to fresh, healthy, affordable food," Obama said.

"'Let's Move' is about giving parents real choices about the food their kids are eating.

"If a parent wants to pack a piece of fruit in a child's lunch, if a parent wants to add some lettuce for a salad at dinner, they shouldn't have to take three city buses or pay some expensive taxi to go to another community to make that possible," she added.

"They should have fresh food retailers right in their communities -- places that sell healthy food at reasonable prices so that they can feed their families in the way that they see fit, because when they have those choices, that can have a real, measurable impact on a family's health."

Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said making healthy food affordable and accessible "is critical if we are to address the issue of childhood obesity.

"Most Americans are startled to know that one in three American children is overweight or obese," she said.

Nearly half of kids with weight problems live in poverty and in neighborhoods with no shops that sell fresh foods, she added.

According to the White House, some 23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, who currently live in "food deserts" would benefit from having a shop selling fresh food in their neighborhood.

The new shops would not only be a step in the right direction in the fight against obesity but would also help to raise people out of poverty by creating tens of thousands of jobs in their communities, Barnes said.

When she launched "Let's Move" last year, Michelle Obama called childhood obesity an "epidemic" and "one of the most serious threats" to US children's futures.

Ending food deserts is just one of the pieces in the First Lady's broader initiative to "solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight."

The other pillars of "Let's Move" include making American kids more active, improving the quality of school meals, offering kids more safe opportunities to be physically active, and educating them on good nutrition and healthy eating.


Taken from; source article is below:
Michelle Obama launches attack on US food deserts

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Scientists study 'hammock' effect on sleep

We've used these in the provinces since time immemorial? Only now that the city dwellers are catching up?

Posted: 21 June 2011

Festival-goers in England sit in hammocks. (AFP/File/Leon Neal)
WASHINGTON: A team of Swiss and French scientists published a study on Monday that suggests the rocking motion of a hammock improves sleep quality and helps people get to sleep faster.

The study included 12 male volunteers who were not habitual nappers but who agreed to try an afternoon snooze on both a stationary bed and a rocking bed while machines scanned their brains, eye and muscle movements.

Women were excluded from the study because the menstrual cycle can have an effect on electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring, the researchers said.

Two of the 12 men had to be left out of the final analysis because one had a malfunctioning EEG and one experienced too much anxiety to fall asleep on the day he was assigned to the stationary bed.

But the remaining 10 subjects fell asleep faster in the rocking bed than they did in the still one and the quality of their 45-minute nap was deeper, said the findings published in the journal Current Biology.

"We observed a faster transition to sleep in each and every subject in the swinging condition, a result that supports the intuitive notion of facilitation of sleep associated with this procedure," said Michel Muhlethaler of the University of Geneva.

"Surprisingly, we also observed a dramatic boosting of certain types of sleep-related (brain wave) oscillations."

A midway sleep stage known as N2, which includes no rapid eye movements and usually makes up about half of a sound period of sleep, was observed to be longer in the hammock-type bed.

"The rocking bed also had a lasting effect on brain activity, increasing slow oscillations and bursts of activity known as sleep spindles. Those effects are consistent with a more synchronised neural activity characteristic of deeper sleep," said the study.

Researchers hope to examine whether the hammock effect would be similar in longer stretches of sleep, and would like to find out if it can be harnessed to help people who suffer from insomnia.

- AFP/de

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Scientists study 'hammock' effect on sleep

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Human evolution slower than thought, say scientists

Maybe this explains why there are more apes and chimps around than expected, especially in the business world...?

Posted: 14 June 2011

Mugs depicting evolution of man (AFP/File, Carl de Souza)
PARIS - Humans may be evolving a third as slowly as commonly thought, according to an investigation into genetic changes in two generations of families.

The genetic code comprises six billion nucleotides, or building blocks of DNA, half of which come from each parent.

Until now, the conventional theory among scientists was that parents each contribute between 100 and 200 changes in these nucleotides.

But the new study says that far fewer changes occur. Each parent hands on 30 on average.

"In principle, evolution is happening a third as slowly as previous thought," said Philip Awadalla of the University of Montreal, who led the study by the CARTaGENE group.

The discovery came from a painstaking look at the genomes of two families, each comprising a mother, a father and their child.

The study breaks new ground although its sample size is very small.

If confirmed on a wider scale, it will have a bearing on the chronology of evolution. It would change the way we calculate the number of generations that separate Homo sapiens from a primate forebear who is also the ancestor of the apes.

The study also challenged thinking about whether DNA changes are more likely to be handed on by the father or by the mother.

The mainstream notion is that DNA changes -- known in scientific terms as mutations -- are likelier to be transmitted by the man.

This is because mutations occur during cell division and DNA replication, and thus are much likelier to happen in sperm, for which many millions are made, than in eggs.

In one of the families, 92 percent of the changes were derived from the father.

But in the other family, only 36 percent of the mutations came from the paternal side.

"The mutation rate is extremely variable from individual to individual or...some people have mechanisms that reduce the likelihood of mutations," concluded Awadalla.

This variability could prompt a rethink on predicting the risk of inherited disease, caused by flawed genes bequeathed by one or both parents.

Some individuals might be at risk of misdiagnosis of a genetic disease if they have a higher natural mutation rate than the benchmark rate, he suggested.


Taken from; source article is below:
Human evolution slower than thought, say scientists

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