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What's the buzz...

Vit C deficiency high in India’s elderly

Up to three quarters of older people in India have vitamin C deficiency due to poor dietary habits, smoking and consumption of tobacco, a new study has suggested.

The study, coordinated by Professor Astrid Fletcher of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in collaboration with Aravind Eye Hospital Pondicherry and the All India Institute for Medical Sciences in Delhi, is the first-ever large screening of vitamin C blood levels in the elderly Indian population.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human health, playing a role from maintenance and repair of tissues to antioxidant activities. Vitamin C deficiency is primarily due to a diet, which is low in fruit and vegetables.

Smoking or chewing tobacco and cooking with fuels such as wood crops or dung (used by 70 percent of the rural population) can cause depletion of Vitamin C blood levels. One of the effects of tobacco and inhaling fumes from home or cooking fires is oxidative stress (which can cause damage to cells) and the body uses vitamin C to combat this.

“ While much attention has focused on increasing levels of obesity in India, the problem of poor nutrition in the older population has received much less attention even though India has one of the fastest growing older populations,” Dr Ravindran, principal author of the study said.

“In poor communities, consideration needs to be given to measures to improve the consumption of vitamin C rich foods, and to discourage the use of tobacco and biomass fuels,” he added.

Low birthweight may lead to memory problems in adults

Premature infants, born with very low birth weight are more prone to suffering from memory and attention problems when they become adults than babies born at a low to normal weight, a study has suggested.

“While we know babies born severely preterm generally achieve lower cognitive test scores, this is one of the first studies to look at how severely low birth weight impacts executive functioning, such as attention and visual memory, when these babies become young adults,” said study author professor Katri Raikkonen.

For the study, 103 adults born with a very low birth weight (less than 3.3 pounds) and 105 adults who weighed more than 3.3 pounds at the time of birth were given tests that measured their thinking skills, including vocabulary, ability to understand words, memory and IQ. 

The study found that adults with very low birth weight scored lower or performed slower in general intelligence, executive functioning and attention and visual memory compared to the adults born at a low to normal weight.

Researchers also found those with very low birth weight were more likely to have received remedial education while in school, but there were no differences in their self-reported academic performance. “Interestingly, average school grades and the number of years of education completed were not affected by low birth weight in our study.”

Underwater mountains in Pacific Ocean destroyed
New images from the depths of the Pacific Ocean have revealed the destruction of massive underwater mountains as one of Earth’s most violent processes. The pictures, which expose how tectonic action is dragging along giant volcanoes into a chasm in the seabed, were created by sonar in waters up to 6km (4mi) deep. The volcanoes are strung across several thousand kilometres of ocean floor and are moving westward on the Pacific tectonic plate at up to 6cm per year.

The extraordinary scene was captured along the Tonga Trench during a research expedition last summer, which was the result of a joint project by the universities of Oxford and Durham, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. Where the Pacific plate collides with the Indo-Australian plate, it is forced downwards into the trench, a subduction zone, and the volcanoes are carried with it.

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