Fatty acids can help children in exams and improve their behaviour in class and at home, a study suggests.
Overweight children who took fatty acid dietary supplements showed dramatic improvements in concentration, reading, memory and mental agility. The advances that their brains made in three months would normally take three years, researchers found.One teenage boy who was hooked on watching television and hated books before the experiment became an avid reader after and dismissed programmes as too boring to bother with.
Researchers said that the results, while based on a small sample, supported recent findings that fatty acids boost brain development and suggest that fast food may stunt mental growth, because processed foods do not contain these acids.
Improvement were made in every area of academic activity but the most surprising change, said researchers, was in levels of Nacetylaspartate, or NAA, a biochemical indicator of brain development.
According to brain scans carried out at St George’s Hospital, southwest London, the levels of NAA rose far more than expected in the three boys and one girl taking a supplement containing the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
“The results were astonishing,” said Professor Basant Puri, who led the study. “In three months you might expect to see a small NAA increase. But we saw as much growth as you would normally see in three years. It was as if these were the brains of children three years older. It means you have more connections and greater density of nerve cells, in the same way that a tree grows more branches.
“For all the children there was a marked change, but in the three boys there was a massive, massive increase in NAA. I was quite startled by what I saw.”
The children taking part in the research were classified as overweight. Zach, aged 8, weighed 8st (51kg), George and Rachael, both aged 11, weighed 11st, and Gareth, who was 13, weighed 12st.
At the start of the pilot study, the children were given a supplement called VegEPA. They took two capsules a day and were encouraged to cut down on fatty snacks and fizzy drinks and be more active.
After three months the children’s reading abilities were a year ahead, their handwriting was neater and more accurate and they paid more attention in class.
“Gareth’s parents told me how he had suddenly found TV boring, as he wanted to read. Three months earlier he was saying he couldn’t understand people who loved books,” said Professor Puri, of the Division of Clinical Sciences at Imperial College, London.
“The concentration of all the children improved enormously and they seemed a lot calmer and happier. Even before I started testing them their parents were saying how much better they were.”
The children were asked to change their diet but there was no evidence that they did to any great extent and Professor Puri believes that the changes were caused by the supplement, which is derived from oily fish and evening primrose oil. It contains an essential fatty acid called EPA, but significantly, another type of fatty acid, DHA, is absent. Previous studies by Professor Puri have shown this formula can improve brain function in adults.
His study features in a Five TV documentary, Mind the Fat: Does Fast Equal Food Slow Kids?, to be broadcast on Thursday.
Professor Kishore Bhakoo, of the the Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial, said: “The thing that amazed me was how much change in biochemistry you could see in three months . . . You’d expect some variation, but they were all going in the same direction.”
He said that the results had implications for the “junk food” debate: “Processed food doesn’t contain these substances.”
It is an eclipse of the Sun, but not one as we know it.”It’s like being in the wrong solar system,” gasped one NASA scientist after she gazed at the images.
The unearthly view was snapped on February 25 by one of two satellites in the space agency’s STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) project to unravel the mysteries of the Sun.
Launched in October, the twin craft are in an orbit around the Sun that almost exactly matches our world’s path. However one satellite, STEREO-B, is trailing about 1.6 million kilometres behind the Earth, while the other, STRERO-A, is travelling ahead.
Last month, during a test of STEREO-B’s cameras, the scientists commanded the craft to image the Moon as it passed in front of the Sun.
What they saw delighted them.
“What an extraordinary view … we caught a lunar transit of the Sun,” said the NASA scientist, Dr Lika Guhathakurta.
“The images have an alien quality. It’s not just the strange colours of the Sun. Look at the size of the Moon; it’s very odd.”
By pure coincidence the relatively tiny Moon, when seen from Earth, looks exactly the same size as the much bigger and far more distant Sun.
So, during a solar eclipse our only natural satellite can block out the solar disc, bringing darkness in the middle of the day.
But STEREOB is about 1.6 million kilometres from Earth, so to it the Moon looks 4.4 times smaller than it does to us.
The Sun looks different because the spacecraft took the pictures using four different extreme ultraviolet light wavelengths.
The scientists hope to combine images from the two satellites to make stereo movies of the Sun that will help them understand massive explosions, called coronal mass ejections, that can hurl a billion tonnes of gas into space, sometimes towards our planet.
by David Bach
Of all the games the credit card companies play that end up costing you thousands of dollars (late fees, over-limit fees, transfer fees, and so on), it’s always been the interest rate game that hurt the most — until now.
There’s a new, completely legal game they’re playing, and it can literally wipe you out financially if you’re not careful.
The Universal Default Clause
If you own a credit card, you know by now that if you’re late with a payment the credit card company will charge you a late fee in addition to raising your interest rate. But did you know that they can raise your interest rate if you’ve made a late payment on any of your other cards, including those issued by other companies?
Not only that, but your interest rates can skyrocket to 30 percent or more if you make a late payment on your car loan, mortgage, or even your phone bill!
“How can that be legal?” you may ask. The answer is found in the fine print of your credit card agreement, and it’s called a universal default clause. According to the Institute of Consumer Financial Education, currently almost 40 percent of credit card issuers apply this policy to their customers.
A Late Payment ‘Trigger’
Generally, a universal default clause states that a creditor reserves the right to penalize you with an increased interest rate if you’re late — that is, in default — of a payment to any other creditor. They justify this practice because, in theory, if you pay any of your creditors late, you pose a greater credit risk and are less likely to pay your debt.
Your creditors also have the right to routinely monitor your credit file. So a creditor with a universal default clause will be watching — and waiting.
Let’s say your Visa card has a universal default clause. Any late payment — whether it’s on your utility bill, home equity loan, or Macy’s credit card — acts as a “default trigger” allowing the bank that issued the Visa card to double or even triple your interest rate overnight. Your all-important credit score will be hurt as well.
According to a study by the nonprofit advocacy and education group Consumer Action, the top three default triggers that cause your interest rates to spike are a decline in credit score, paying your mortgage late, and paying your car loan late.
Other Triggers to Worry About
Under the universal default clause, your interest rates can be increased for several other reasons, including exceeding your credit limit, bouncing a check, having too much debt, having too much credit, getting a new credit card, applying for a car loan, and applying for a mortgage loan.
How does this affect your financial future? Take a look at the numbers. Let’s say you’re an average American household, with $8,000 of credit card debt. Assuming you make no additional purchases on your card, you have a 9 percent interest rate, and you make the minimum monthly payment, it’ll take you 218 months (18 years) to pay off your debt and you’ll end up paying $3,334 in interest.
Now let’s assume that for whatever reason you were late one month with your car payment. This late payment triggers the universal default clause with your credit card issuer, and now your penalty rate gets increased to 24 percent (the average default rate in 2005). It’ll now take you 679 months (56 years) to pay off your credit card debt, and get this — you’ll pay $30,813 in interest.
Staying Ahead of the Clause
Here are six ways to protect yourself from interest rate hike triggers:
1. Stay away from credit cards with a universal default clause.
If you’re looking to open a new credit card account, be sure to choose one without a universal default clause. This means you have to truly read the fine print. If you’re confused by the fine print (as many are), call the credit card company and ask what specific circumstances will affect your interest rate.
I read recently that Capital One cards don’t have a universal default clause (although you should double-check before applying), and Citi has dropped its universal default policy as well. In addition, sites like CardWeb.com, Bankrate.com, and LowerMyBills.com let you compare credit card offers, so visit them before you apply.
2. Know your current obligations.
Check your current statements and credit card agreements to find out your current interest rates, and to identify which cards have a universal default clause that you weren’t aware of until now. Again, if you’re uncertain after reading the fine print, call your credit card company.
Consider transferring your balance from a card that has the universal default clause to one of your cards that doesn’t. But don’t rush to cancel the card altogether, because it could have a negative effect on your credit score.
3. Run your credit report.
Not only do you need to know exactly what your current interest rates are, you also need to know exactly what’s on your credit report. Visit Freecreditreport.com or myFICO to order your credit report and credit score today.
4. Pay your bills on time.
According to the American Bankers Association, late payments for most types of consumer loans were on the rise during the third quarter of 2006. If you’re having trouble with your credit card payments, at the very least strive to make your minimum payment on time.
5. Be proactive — call your lender for relief.
If you’re struggling to make monthly payments on your other bills, like utilities, car payments, or mortgage payments, call your lender to see what options they might be able to offer you. They might be able to adjust your monthly payments so that they’re more manageable.
Your goal is to protect your credit report and credit score with a consistent record of on-time payments.
6. Fight back for your money — write your local legislator.
Right now, there are amendments to the Truth in Lending Act that, if passed, would prohibit many unfair practices within the credit card industry — including the universal default clause.
As a consumer, you can take action by letting Congress know that you want laws to protect your rights. For more information on how you can be heard, visit Consumer Action’s web site.
As I write this, Congress is holding hearings to discuss the abusive and deceptive practices of the credit card industry. Read more about it here.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Obviously, what you don’t know really can hurt you. Check today and see if you have the universal default clause on your credit cards.
If you do, be careful to stay on top of your debt. Better yet, find a credit card that doesn’t have the clause — you’ll sleep better at night.
By Tim Webb
Paying for goods with notes and coins could be consigned to history within five years, according to the chief executive of Visa Europe.
Peter Ayliffe said that, by 2012, using credit and debit cards should be cheaper and more convenient than cash.
Some retailers could soon start surcharging customers if they choose to buy products with cash, because of the greater cost of processing these payments, he warned.
Visa Europe briefed the British Retail Consortium last month on new “contactless” cards that can be waved in front of a scanner to make small payments.
However, the consortium dismissed this vision and claimed that card processing fees, which regulators are investigating, are still too high.
One member of the consurtium said that the estimated “interchange” fee charged to retailers amounts to some 4p for each transaction.
Nick Mourant, treasurer at Tesco, said: “There is a duopoly between Mastercard and Visa in the UK. Their setting of fees is anti-competitive.”
Woman awakes after 6-year coma, slips back
Woman’s alert cycles stun M.D.
Colorado Springs – Minnie Smith is a true believer.
For more than six years, the 73-year-old woman has cared for her daughter Christa Lilly, who, since a cardiac arrest and stroke Nov. 4, 2000, had lain in a minimally conscious state.
Sunday morning, Smith greeted her daughter as she always does: “Hey, babe, how you doing today?”
“Fine,” Christa answered.
It was just the fifth time in more than six years that Lilly, 49, had been fully awake.
She was talking, eating and laughing as if six years hadn’t passed.
Physicians say they too are astounded by Lilly’s awakening, but they caution that she didn’t wake from a coma or a true vegetative state.
It is rare enough for someone to wake spontaneously after years of unconsciousness, said Dr. Don Smith of the Colorado Neurological Institute.In the exceptional cases when they do, they generally are patients who lost consciousness because of a traumatic injury – not because of the kind of oxygen depletion caused by cardiac arrest, said Smith, who is also director of the Swedish Medical Center stroke program.
“It would be extraordinary for someone to awaken from persistent vegetative state caused by cardiac arrest,” Smith said. “That would be miraculous.”
Smith and Dr. James Kelly, a neurologist at the University of Colorado Hospital, don’t believe Lilly woke from a persistent vegetative state.
Lilly has spent the past six years in what Kelly and Smith describe as a “minimally conscious state” – a term Kelly said was coined by neurologists meeting in Aspen in the late 1990s.
Since her cardiac arrest, Lilly has been awake 12 days during the 21st century, sometimes for a day and sometimes for several days.
But most of the time Lilly lies in bed with her eyes wide. Her mother says she watches TV and listens to the radio. Lilly nods to her mother but never speaks to her.
About a year ago, Minnie Smith told Colorado Springs neurologist Dr. Randall Bjork that her daughter has intervals of lucidity, that she wakes up, eats and drinks from a cup.
“I didn’t believe her,” Bjork said. “It seemed utterly preposterous to me that this would happen because we just don’t know about this.”
Bjork invited Smith to bring her daughter to his office the next time she had an awakening.
Tuesday, Lilly showed up – with a TV crew from CBS affiliate KKTV in tow.
“He was quite shocked,” Minnie Smith said. “He asked her: ‘How you doing?’ and she said, ‘I’m doing fine, how ’bout you?’
“He almost fainted,” Smith said. “He’d never heard her voice.”
Bjork asked Lilly, whom he has seen 10 times previously, whether she recognized him. She did not.
Lilly said she thought it was 1986 and that she was in a nursing home. She hesitated before telling him that the president was George H.W. Bush.
In a “minimally conscious state,” people seem aware of their surroundings and often even communicate through facial expressions, Kelly said.
It is common for those patients to have cycles of comparative alertness that alternate with periods of deep withdrawal, he said.
“It may be that people lapse into a true vegetative state at various times and then at other times become more awake and interactive,” Kelly said.
Having patients sit up, as Lilly does, rather than lying in a bed seems to help stimulate neurologic activity, Kelly said.
To become so awake and interactive that they can carry on a conversation – that is beyond unusual, he said.
End of the wakefulness
On Tuesday night, Lilly drifted back into her minimally conscious state.
Bjork calls the awakening a miracle and a testament to “Mrs. Smith’s love.”
“There’s really no reference point in our medical literature,” he said.
Minnie Smith runs the Golden Age Care Center for seniors and the mentally impaired. She is licensed to administer medication.
Bjork said he is developing a theory that because of brain damage from the cardiac arrest and subsequent clinical course, Lilly has limited energy reserves.
“Christa’s brain is literally on the ropes, so to muster up enough energy to have three days of conversation, she has to be in relative hibernation for months,” Bjork said.
The first time Lilly woke up fully was eight months after the cardiac arrest and stroke. She talked for about 90 minutes, then drifted back into unconsciousness. Each time she fully wakes, Minnie Smith talks to her about how long she’s been gone.
“We tell her: ‘We’re glad that you’re awake,’ and we tell her, ‘You’ve been asleep for years,’ because it’s been seven years now,” Smith says.
“She says, ‘I have? Why didn’t you wake me up?”‘
A small US study suggests that surgeons who played video games have better keyhole surgery skills than those that did not.
The study was performed by US scientists at Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York and is published in this month’s issue of the Archives of Surgery.
The researchers did the study because although anecdotal observations suggest that young surgeons who played video games were better at performing laparoscopies (keyhole surgery) than those who do not, this had not been empirically investigated.
Laparoscopy is a type of surgery where the surgeon has to handle small instruments and go into the patient’s body via a small hole or incision, hence the term “keyhole surgery”.
The surgeon does the operation using a television screen to see where to move the instruments; her or she cannot look straight at the place they are operating on because it is inside the body and the keyhole is too small.
The researchers found a strong link between ability to play video games and performing well in keyhole surgery.
The researchers studied 33 surgeons based at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Centre.
The participants had to play three different video games for up to 25 minutes to assess their current skill, and also answer questions on their past experience of playing video games.
Their surgical skill were measured during a course that took one and a half days to complete. On the course the participants carried out a range of simulated laparoscopic and suturing procedures where their completion time and error rates were measured.
The researchers also took note of the participants’ level of surgical training, number of cases of laparoscopy performed, and the years they had been in medical practice.
They then ran a cross-sectional analysis to compare participants’ laparoscopic and suturing skills against video game experience and video game scores.
The results showed that 9 young surgeons who had played video games for at least 3 hours a week made 37 per cent fewer mistakes and worked 27 per cent faster than 15 surgeons who had never played video games.
The 9 surgeons with past experience of video game playing also scored 42 per cent higher overall on the range of surgical skill tests.
Also, the correlation between video gaming skill and surgical skill as measured by the simulation, was stronger than either the surgeon’s training or experience measured in duration.
The researchers concluded that video games could help train surgeons who perform keyhole surgery.
In an invited critique that accompanies the same issue of the journal, Doctor Myriam Curet re-iterates the warning that the researchers made in their article “”indiscriminate video game play is not a panacea,” and invites the media not to distort the message in this study.
She said parents still need to keep a check on their children’s video gaming hours and the types of games they are playing.
And looking at the robustness of the article, she points out that it has limitations such as the small sample size. She also draws attention to the jump from the results to the conclusion. The results showed that it was past experience of video gaming that correlated to present level of surgical skill.
Perhaps the most useful contribution that this study makes is that it has opened a door that invites further investigation.
One of the authors of the study, Dr Douglas Gentile did a survey in 2004 on video game playing by American teenagers and found that over 90 per cent of them are playing for an average of 9 hours a week.
Excessive game playing takes the place of physical exercise, and has been linked to poorer performance at school and aggressive behaviour.
Dr Gentile advises that parents should not view this study as supporting the notion that it is OK for children to play video games for more than 1 hour a day. That will not help them get into medical school, he said.
The patent, Nonstandard locality-based text entry, was filed in 2005.
This patent is truly groundbreaking in what the application could do. Imagine that you are planning a night out in London.
- At 6pm Google could predict you are looking for a restaurant and, given your history of looking for directions to Chinese restaurants every week, would select an array of suitable places for you to eat.
- At 9pm you would turn your phone on again and Google would know you wanted bars near the restaurant.
- At 11pm Google again predicts you need a list of local taxi firms.