August 30, 2012

Man couriers himself to girlfriend as a prank, almost dies

A Chinese man who decided to surprise his girlfriend by couriering himself to her almost suffocated to death when the delivery was delayed.

Hu Seng, from Chongqing city in southwest China, made a friend tape him into a box that he had paid a courier firm to deliver to his girlfriend, Li Wang, the Daily Mail reported.

Another friend was waiting at his girlfriend's office to film the surprise when he jumped out.

However, the joke was on him when the address was mixed up and instead of 30 minutes in the sealed box, Seng was trapped inside for nearly three hours.

The box had very little air inside and was too thick for Seng to make a hole in it.

By the time the package had arrived at his girlfriend's office, Seng had passed out and had to be revived by paramedics.

"I didn't realise it would take so long," admitted Seng.

"I tried to make a hole in the cardboard but it was too thick and I didn't want to spoil the surprise by shouting," Seng was quoted as saying by the paper.

"If he'd told us what he was doing at the start we would not have taken the parcel. Even when we accept animals they have to go in special containers so they can breathe," a spokesman for the courier firm said.

Chocolate may protect the brain from strokes: study

Eating a small bar of chocolate every week can dramatically slash the risk of stroke in men, a new study has claimed.

A study on more than 37,000 Swedish men showed those eating chocolates were the least likely to have a stroke.

It follows on from other studies that have suggested eating chocolate can improve the health of the heart, the 'BBC News' reported.

The participants were asked about their eating habits and their health was monitored for a decade.

They were split into four groups based on the amount of chocolate, with the bottom group eating, on average, no chocolate each week and the top group having 63 grams, slightly more than an average bar.

The study found those eating the most chocolate were 17 per cent less likely to have a stroke.

"The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate," said Prof Susanna Larsson, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

"Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties," said Larssonon, who is one of the researchers.

"It's also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure."

The study also noted that while dark chocolate had been linked to benefits for the heart in the past, milk chocolate was the preferred option in Sweden and in the study.

"Past research has shown that eating dark chocolate might go some way to reducing your stroke risk if it is eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet," said Dr Clare Walton, from the Stroke Association, UK.

"This study suggests that eating a moderate amount of other types of chocolate could also be beneficial in men," Walton said.

However, the authors warned of the high sugar and fat content of chocolate.

"It should be consumed in moderation," they said. The study was published in the journal 'Neurology'.

August 29, 2012

There is no anger against Gandhi family: Bachchan

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, whose relationship with the Gandhi family have been strained over the years, says in his mind there is no change in feelings about them and that there is "no anger, no angst" from his side.

"It's not a question of reaching out. So long you understand, I don't have to necessarily meet you every day to tell you I am your friend. We have spent time together. In a relationship these things don't matter," he told Aaj Tak channel.

When asked if he was still friends with the Gandhi family, Bachchan said, "Of course, In my mind there is no change. I will always respect them. We meet them sometimes at public functions. There is no anger, no angst. We're still pretty normal."

The 69-year-old actor entered politics in support of long-time family friend Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 and successfully contested from Allahabad Lok Sabha seat, only to resign three years later after his family was dragged into the Bofors scam.

Bachchan, however, denies that the fallout between the two families can be blamed on the scam.

Recalling the days following the Bofors controversy, Bachchan said it was difficult to walk on the streets without being called names.

"I would be walking on the street or shooting and people would abuse me. They would call me a traitor. We have been through all that. I could take it because I had a family that stood strong by my side.

"We could finally overcome the allegations when the Royal Court of London ruled in our favour. And many of those who made some of the sharpest accusations met us outside the court. They said this a closed chapter and let's settle outside and so we settled outside of court."

Bachchan, however, wants to put the bitter incident behind and is not keen to know the name of the person who dragged his name in the scam.

"Other than changing a few lines in the history books, it is not going to change anything. What can you do even if you came to know? You can't do anything. It didn't take a toll on just my life. I am an ordinary human being. It changed the political scenario of the entire country."

Infants given anaesthesia may face learning difficulties

Children who are given anaesthetic before the age of three are at a higher risk of developing learning difficulties, according to a new study.

Researchers led by the University of Western Australia found that children exposed to anaesthesia before the age of three were twice as likely to develop language impairment and three times more likely to have problems with abstract reasoning in childhood.

The study analysed long-term effects of anaesthesia on young children - using the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study, which is studying 2868 children born in Western Australia between 1989 and 1992.

"We looked at 321 children from the Raine study who were exposed to anaesthesia for surgery and diagnostic testing before the age of three and found they were about twice as likely to develop a significant language impairment and three times more likely to have problems with abstract reasoning by the age of 10, when compared to children who were not exposed to anaesthesia and surgery," Professor Regli-von Ungern-Sternberg from the university said.

"But the study does not allow us to determine if the cause of these increased impairments were due to anaesthesia, surgery or the medical condition that required the intervention," she added.

"Parents should consult their surgeon to see if the procedure is necessary. Any concerns regarding anaesthesia and potential anaesthetic implications for their child should be discussed with their anaesthetist before surgery," she said in a statement.

The study was published in the US journal Pediatrics.

'Chocolates and red wine don't help cure heart disease'

Scientists say there is no proof that chocolate and red wine protect the heart, even though a recent study suggested that they lower the cardiac risk by 37 per cent.

According to heart specialists, the mechanisms by which they could make a difference have still to be explained, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

This was only a 'sign', however, and not proof because the study was flawed, said Steffen Desch from the University of Leipzig Heart Centre in Germany.

Desch said a more conclusive trial could be difficult because the real thing would have to be tested against a 'dummy' substance that looked and tasted like chocolate.

Some small studies have claimed that chocolate lowers blood pressure and reduces inflammation in the body.

"Despite the studies I couldn't yet recommend dark chocolate as a prevention or treatment in cardiovascular disease," said Desch.

"There's no strong evidence of a benefit and no clear explanation of an effective mechanism." The calories contained in chocolate are likely to offset any protection to the heart, he added.

His reservations came as Dutch researchers dampened down speculation about the benefits of red wine on the heart.

Even though it is also supposed to help heart health, there is no single ingredient which appears to work, they said.

They have tested resveratrol, which is found in the skin of red grapes and is believed to have a range of life-enhancing properties.

Eric Sijbrands, of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, led a series of studies which failed to replicate the findings of heart benefits from taking resveratrol.

Using it in capsules for four weeks did not lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension, he said.

"Certainly I would never actively prescribe red wine for a heart condition and, even if I was asked about it, I would be cautious," Sijbrands said.

If red wine does work, the explanation is likely to be 'complex', he said.

These findings were presented at the European Congress of Cardiology in Munich.

Advanced scanner can spot people who need bypass surgery

Scientists have developed an ultra-fast, advanced scanner that can spot people with chest pain who need invasive procedures such as bypass surgery to restore blood flow to the heart.

The 320-detector computed tomography (CT) scanner was developed by a team of researchers including the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Instituto do Coracao in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"The CORE 320 study is the first prospective, multicenter study to examine the diagnostic accuracy of CT for assessing blockages in blood vessels and determining which of those blockages may be preventing the heart from getting adequate blood flow," Joao A C Lima, senior author of the study, said.

"We found an excellent correlation in results when we compared the 320-detector CT testing with the traditional means of assessment using a stress test with imaging and cardiac catheterisation," Lima added.

The study involved 381 patients at 16 hospitals in eight countries.

The patients who completed the study had traditional SPECT tests and invasive angiography.

SPECT is a nuclear medicine stress test with imaging, which shows reduced blood flow to the heart without indicating the number or specific location of blockages.

They also had two types of tests with a non-invasive 320-detector CT scanner. In the first CT test, the scanner was used to see the anatomy of vessels to assess whether and where there were blockages.

That test is known as CTA, in which the "A" stands for angiography. Then, in a second CT test with the same machine, patients were given a vasodilator, a medicine that dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to the heart in ways similar to what happens during a stress test.

The second test is called CTP, with the "P" standing for perfusion.

"We found that the 320-detector CT scanner allowed us to see the anatomy of the blockages as well as determine whether the blockages were causing a lack of perfusion to the heart. We were therefore able to correctly identify the patients who needed revascularisation within 30 days of their evaluation," lead author Carlos E Rochitte, said in a statement.

"Many patients are sent for an angioplasty when they may not need it. Our ultimate goal is to have more certainty about which patients having chest pain - without evidence of a heart attack - need an invasive procedure to open an arterial blockage," said cardiologist Richard George, co-author of the study.

"The CTP test added significant information about the patients' conditions and boosted our ability to identify those whose blockages were severe enough to reduce blood flow to the heart," George added.

The study was presented in the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich, Germany.

August 27, 2012

Micronutrients could improve sperm quality in older men

 Healthy intake of micronutrients such as vitamin C, E, folate and zinc could improve the sperm DNA quality significantly in older men, a new study has claimed.

The study led by scientists from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, however, found that in younger men a higher intake of micronutrients did not improve the sperm DNA.

An analysis of 80 healthy male volunteers between 22 and 80 years of age, found that men older than 44 who consumed the most vitamin C had 20 per cent less sperm DNA damage compared to men older than 44 who consumed the least vitamin C. The same was true for vitamin E, zinc, and folate.

"It appears that consuming more micronutrients such as vitamin C, E, folate and zinc helps turn back the clock for older men. We found that men 44 and older who consumed at least the recommended dietary allowance of certain micronutrients had sperm with a similar amount of DNA damage as the sperm of younger men," said Andy Wyrobek of Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division.

"This means that men who are at increased risk of sperm DNA damage because of advancing age can do something about it. They can make sure they get enough vitamins and micronutrients in their diets or through supplements," added Wyrobek.

Although the scientists found a clear and strong link between higher vitamin intake and improved sperm DNA quality in older men, they don't know whether this link extends to male fertility and the health of offspring.

The report was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

August 3, 2012

Penetration of ATMs, card usage very low in India, says RBI

Penetration of ATMs in the country is still very low compared to other emerging markets even as the number of automated teller machines is increasing by nearly 25% every year, the Reserve Bank said today.

"Although there has been a steady year-on-year 25% growth in the number of ATMs in the country, their penetration as measured by the number of ATMs per million population is still very low when compared to other emerging markets," RBI Governor D Subbarao said in his keynote address at at the IDRBT Banking Technology Awards Function.

In proportional terms, India has one of the lowest numbers of ATMs and PoS (Point of Sales) terminals - 63 ATMs and 497 PoS per million population, he said.

"Disappointingly, the penetration of debit cards has been shallow. One disincentive is the business cost to merchants," he added.

Subbarao said in order to increase the penetration of ATMs, RBI has permitted non-bank entities to deploy 'White Label ATMs', especially in the smaller centres on own and operate basis.

The regulatory guidelines prescribe a proportion of ATMs to be necessarily installed in Tier III to Tier VI centres (towns/villages with population of less than 50,000), thereby extending anytime, and anywhere banking facility to a wider segment of population.

Subbarao said as the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for debit and credit cards has been uniform in India, the RBI has decided to introduce new payment charges for debt card usage.

"The Reserve Bank decided to introduce a differential MDR for debit card transactions. Under this recently announced policy, the MDR for usage of debit cards should not exceed 0.75% of the transaction value for transactions up to Rs 2000, and not exceed 1% for transactions above Rs 2000," the banking regulator said.

Speaking on mobile banking penetration, Subbarao said as of June, 2012, as many as 50 banks were providing mobile banking services with an aggregate customer base of 14.75 million.

Both the volume and value of mobile banking transactions are witnessing a remarkable growth.

As of June 2012, a year-on-year growth in terms of volume was 143% while that in terms of value was 213%, he added.

The RBI Governor said when compared with other emerging markets like Brazil, Mexico and Russia, the value of banknotes and coins in circulation in India, at 12% of GDP, is high.

The number of non-cash transactions per person in India stands at just 6 per year, which again is very low in comparison with other emerging economies.