Health briefs: Bollywood slims down

A trend towards size zero in Bollywood has prompted worries that an unhealthy preoccupation with weight could spread to young fans.

The "size zero" issue that has long plagued Hollywood and the modelling industry is reportedly infiltrating Bollywood, where actresses are noticeably slimmer than they were 10 years ago, according to a top Mumbai nutritionist and fitness consultant. "Today, the basic requirement for someone wanting to go into either [modelling or Bollywood] is that they need to be a US size zero," Venu Hirani told AFP. Previously, actresses such as Mumtaz and Zeenat Aman were known for their curvaceous figures. But in recent years, there has been a dramatic shift towards a slimmer look. Many Bollywood actresses now openly publicise their diet and fitness regimens, and there are fears that an unhealthy preoccupation with weight could spread to their young fans. Although few studies on eating disorders exist, one revealed that conditions such as anorexia and bulimia were on the rise.

Its causes have, up until now, been a mystery. But new research by a team of scientists at the University of Strasbourg has found that an anomaly in the hearts of babies who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or cot death, may be to blame and, more importantly, may be detectable by a blood test. The researchers, who compared the hearts of 18 cot death victims to those of 19 babies between one and nine months old who died in other circumstances, revealed that the fault may be caused by the heart absorbing too much of a chemical produced by the cardiac nerve, which in turn causes the heart rate to slow to the point that it stops. They are currently testing blood samples in animals for the anomaly, and hope to be able to extend the tests to humans in order to identify babies that are at risk.

Plugging away at a low-fat diet for months on end with little to show for it may be a thing of the past. Research carried out at Stanford University in the US has shown that a mere cheek swab may be enough to show which type of eating plan is most likely to make you lose weight. The results of a test carried out on 101 women, who were put on a low carbohydrate, low carbohydrate/high protein or low-fat diet following a cheek swab, showed that those on a diet that matched their genotype lost two to three times more weight than the rest. The growing field of nutrigenics has long claimed that people react differently to certain footstuffs depending to their genetic make-up. One example is lactose intolerance, which is more prevalent among Asians and Africans than Northern Europeans.

Prohibitive costs mean that many women do not have access to life-changing fertility treatment. But now, for the first time, the British supermarket Asda has announced that it will sell fertility drugs without making a profit in order to make it more widely available. Currently, drugs that prompt the ovaries to produce more eggs and are used as part of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cost around £2,000 (Dh11,100). Asda, however, will sell them for around £820 less, at £1,171.41. IVF is available on the National Health Service, but waiting lists are long.

"We know that an IVF postcode lottery means a considerable number of women will have to pay for additional cycles of treatment," said John Evans, the superintendent pharmacist at Asda, "and lots of customers have spoken to us about the issue. IVF is extremely expensive and around 40,000 women (in the UK) go through it every year." IVF costs around £8,000 per cycle in the UK.

A video clip of a girl singing Paolo Nutini's Autumn as a farewell to her mother, who was dying of cancer, has gained attention on YouTube. The clip, which was recorded only hours before her mother died, has already received tens of thousands of hits. Sarah Phillips, 16, from London, recorded the song using her mobile phone before putting it to music and adding clips from family videos. Her mother, Debbie Phillips, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2006. She died, aged 48, on February 11.

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