VITAL SIGNS

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Sweet and sour

A grizzly toddler who is picky about food, fails to put on weight and has loose stools may be suffering from "squash-drinking syndrome", according to a small study from Southampton. It found that high-energy drinks cause poor weight gain, diarrhoea and irritability. Parents who switched their children to water reported improvements, it says in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Many a slip

Condoms are more likely to fail when worn by young, inexperienced, circumcised men, according to Australian researchers. In a survey of 108 men who over 12 months used 4,809 condoms between them, they found one in 30 sheaths slipped off and one in 20 broke during use. Failure was also caused by the conventional method of rolling on the condom, rather than pulling it on like a sock, say the authors in the International Journal of STD and Aids.

Scent of success

An electronic "nose" that sniffs out illness is being developed by researchers at the University of London and the Middlesex Hospital. The device, called the Scanmaster, relies on vibrating quartz crystals to detect certain chemicals and feed the information into a computer. It is so sensitive that it can tell the difference between brands of instant coffee and can also diagnose people suffering from the ulcer-forming bacterium Helicobacter pylori, says a report in New Scientist.

Close shave

Men who go to barbers using traditional shaving techniques (with non- disposable and unsterilised blades) may be at risk of hepatitis, a joint French/ Italian study published in the Lancet suggests. It found that among barbers in Sicily who shave themselves with the same instruments used on customers, rates of hepatitis C were 38 per cent, compared with nil in a control group.

Feeling fit

Women get the "feel-good" factor after strenuous exercise whatever their level of fitness, according to US researchers - but men who do the same often just feel tired unless they are already fit. The difference may arise because men push themselves to the point of exhaustion, wiping out positive effects on mood, says a report in New Scientist.

Stand and deliver

Women who have to stand or walk about for five hours in the working day are more likely to go into premature labour, say researchers in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. They found that pregnant women who continue jobs requiring standing or walking in the second trimester are more than three times as likely to have a pre-term delivery.

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