News on Health & Science WHY CORNER

Snoring Good for the Elderly

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If you think that snoring is bad for your health, think again, for a study has suggested that the nocturnal snorts, whistles and wheezes can give you a long and healthy life, particularly if you are elderly.


Researchers in Israel have carried out the study and found that people aged over 65 years who suffer from a snoring -related condition, called sleep apnoea, tend to live longer than those who do not snore.

According to the researchers, this is because short bursts of hypoxia — interrupted breathing — actually have a protective effect on the elderly people by conditioning their cardiovascular system to cope with lack of oxygen.

This means that when oxygen supplies are cut off, as in a heart attack or stroke, the body is better able to cope, they said.

But the study has found that the effects of sleep apnoea do not have the same effect in younger people — in fact, middle-aged men in particular are at a higher risk of heart disease, the Daily Mail paper reported.

The researchers at Technion Institute have based their findings on an analysis of more than 600 elderly people over a period of four years — they found fewer heart-related deaths than in a control group of ‘healthy’ volunteers.

The findings of the study have been presented at a meeting of the European Association for Sleep Research in Glasgow.

Sources: The Times Of India


Why Do Leaves Fall Off Trees?

Ever wondered why leaves fall off trees in fall? Well, the secret actually lies in cellular mechanism, says a new study.

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Researchers have found that trees use an elaborate cellular mechanism to part company from their leaves, which act as “solar cells” in the summer but become superfluous in the darker winter months.

According to them, at the base of each leaf is a special layer called the abscission zone. When the time comes in autumn to shed a leaf, cells in this layer begin to swell, slowing the transport of nutrients between the tree and leaf.

And, once the abscission zone has been blocked, a tear line forms and moves downwards, until eventually the leaf is blown away or falls off – a protective layer seals the wound thereby preventing water evaporating and bugs getting in, ‘The Daily Telegraph‘ reported.

In fact, the discovery into how trees take on their winter aspect follows a study explaining the bright colours of autumn foliage.

And, in their new study, the researchers at Missouri University has revealed that the genetic pathway that controls abscission in the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, a little weed that’s the favourite experimental subject of scientists.

According to them, a pathway of genes is involved in the process of abscission in Arabidopsis using a combination of molecular genetics and imagine techniques.

“Several different genes are involved in the process. Instead of looking at individual genes or proteins, we looked at an entire network at once to see how the difference genes work together in abscission,” lead researcher Prof John Walker was quoted as saying.

Sources: The findings are published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences‘ journal.


Why do White Spots Appear on our Nails?

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Small semi-circular white spots may be found on the fingernails or toenails.


These spots — called “leukonychia” — are a common occurrence, especially in children. More often than not, they simply are a sign of mild trauma to the nail. They may result from some past injury — like getting banged, stuck in a door or exercising in poorly fitting shoes — to the matrix (base) of the nail. The matrix is the part under the visi ble nail where the nail cells and the nail itself are produced. By the time the spots show up (about six weeks after the injury), you would have probably forgotten all about it.

According to some doctors, the appearance of the spots could also mean you have zinc deficiency. Others believe they are an indicator of calcium deficiency.

The spots can also be a sign of an allergic reaction to nail polish or nail hardeners and, sometimes, are a symptom of a mild infection.

Whatever the cause, they are temporary and will grow out as your nails grow. Never try to buff them off as this can lead to brittle nails. There’s no way to erase the spots.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)



Why Does the Skin Tan?

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Go to any beach and you are sure to find sun worshipers baking their bodies in the sun, totally oblivious to the fact that the sunburns they acquire may develop into skin cancers 10 to 20 years later. In most parts of the world, tanning is considered to be the “in” thing, as opposed to the earlier times when pale skin was preferred. It was thought that the paler one’s skin the higher was the class, and men and women went to great (and sometimes unhealthy) lengths to be pale.

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Tans are natural shields against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can damage skin tissue by causing sunburns as well as cancer in the long run.

Exposure to UV rays causes certain skin cells to produce the pigment melanin, which darkens through oxidation. Over exposure causes those cells to migrate closer to the skin’s surface and produce more melanin, further darkening the skin into a suntan. It’s no wonder then our bodies are equipped to produce melanin.

Melanin absorbs UV radiation and defends against further penetration of skin tissue. In other animals it proves diversely useful. It absorbs heat, an essential for cold-blooded creatures. It colours bird feathers, fish scales and squid ink, and helps to conceal nocturnal animals. Melanin even absorbs scattered light inside the eye to sharpen vision.

But it appears that only humans will risk their skins for a little extra skin pigment!

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Why is a Dog’s Nose Black and Wet?


Most dogs have black noses, not all. The noses of Vizslas and Weimaraners, for example, are closer to their coat colours. And it’s not unusual for puppies to start out with pink noses that darken as they mature.

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In all likelihood, dogs have developed black noses as a protection against sunburn. While the rest of the animal’s body is protected by fur, the noses are exposed to the sun’s rays. Pink-nosed dogs and breeds that are hairless or have very thin hair on their ears need to be protected with sunscreen when they go outdoors, or they risk the same sort of cancers and burns that humans do.

The canine nose — or nasal planum — is normally cool and moist, but not always wet. It has no sweat glands. The mucus lining causes the moisture. The evaporation of moisture from the nose helps to cool the dog. This moisture also makes the dog more sensitive to odours. Generally a happy dog continually licks his nose. When the dog isn’t feeling well, he tends not to lick his nose. And this makes the nose dry. But this is not a direct correlation. The brachycephalic breeds (bulldogs, Bostons, pugs, etc.) have noses set so high on their muzzles that they can’t reach them with their tongues and thus the noses tend to become cracked and dry on the top.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)