Thursday, March 25, 2010
British experts have found that wild dolphins are suffering at the hands of well-meaning tourists eager to dive in alongside them.
A study of the bottlenose species living off the coast of Zanzibar found the animals were experiencing 'incredible' stress from packed pleasure boats.
Lead researcher Per Berggren, from the University of Newcastle, said: 'The current situation in Zanzibar is unsustainable. The local community is dependent on tourism - and therefore the dolphins - but unless the activity is regulated, the animals will leave.
'Our study found that whenever the tourist boats were present the dolphins were very unsettled and spent less time feeding, socialising or resting.
'This has a negative impact, not only on individual animals, but on the population as a whole and long term it could be devastating.
'The problem is that any change needs to be tourist-driven. Many visitors will pay drivers extra in tips to steer their boats in close, herding the dolphins so they can dive right in amongst them. Our message is, keep your distance and put the dolphins first.'
Around 150 bottlenose dolphins live along the south coast of Zanzibar, where dolphin-watching was introduced in 1992.
Tourism replaced traditional hunting practices which were previously endangering the sea mammals.
'Abolishing the hunts was a major breakthrough and dolphin watching offered a humane, sustainable alternative,' said Dr Berggren.
'Unfortunately, without regulation, dolphin tourism brings with it its own challenges.'
The scientists watched the dolphins over a period of 40 days. They found that when tourist boats were present, the amount of their time dolphins spent resting dropped from 38 per cent to just 10 per cent.
The time they devoted to foraging and socialising also halved.
Meanwhile, time spent on swimming activity more than doubled from 33 per cent to 77 per cent and dominated dolphin behaviour during interactions with tourist boats.
'Overall, the dolphins are using more energy than they are taking in because they aren't resting or feeding as much but are swimming more as they try to avoid the tourist boats,' said Dr Berggren, based at Newcastle University's School of Marine Science and Technology.
'Zanzibar is a wonderful place, the dolphins are incredibly interesting and between July and October there are also breeding humpbacks in the area.
'I would recommend that anyone go there for a holiday and support the local community but act responsibly and ask operators to follow existing guidelines.'
The findings are published today in the journal Endangered Species Research.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The reasons we laugh, including "contagious" laughter, may be products of evolution.
Natural laughter is a two-part, spontaneous, response to humor, that has physiological, psychological, and physical benefits.
Most agree that we laugh when we find something to be humorous, yet different reasons exist for what we find to be humorous. Additionally, different things are humorous to us at different stages of life.
Laughter, a physiological response to humor, can be broken down into two parts.
The first is a set of gestures, and the second is the production of sound. The brain forces to conduct both responses simultaneously. From a physiological standpoint, a "sensor" in the brain responds to laughter by triggering other neural circuits in the brain, which, in turn, generate more laughter.
Oddly enough, laughter is an orderly response, and almost occurs "spontaneously" during pauses at the end of phrases, earning it the name the punctuation effect. Human beings are the only species capable of laughter, and the average adult does so approximately 17 times per day.
Good health is one of the many benefits of laughter. Laughter reduces our stress levels by reducing the level of stress hormones, and also helps us cope with serious illnesses.
Physiologically, laughter promotes healing, by lowering the blood pressure, and by increasing the vascular blood flow and the oxygenation of the blood.
Physical fitness stemming from laughter is a benefit known to few. Scientists estimate that laughing 100 times is equivalent to a 10-minute workout on a rowing machine, or to 15 minutes on a stationary exercise bike. The mere act of laughing exercises the diaphragm, as well as the abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles.
Another benefit of laughter is that it improves our over-all mental health. Pent up negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness, can cause biochemical changes in our bodies that can produce a harmful effect.
Laughter provides a harmless outlet for these negative emotions, and provides a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult or stressful situations.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Ever sat down to watch a DVD with the family, thinking there's nothing up ahead likely to cause embarrassment or shock, only to find the stars undressing or blasting each other's brains out?
Well, help has arrived for parents caught out by moments of movie nudity, violence or swearing.
Experts have developed an electronic film filter which edits potentially offensive scenes.
The ClearPlay system uses patented technology integrated into the next generation of DVD players to skip and mute content based on seven categories that can be set to meet viewing preferences.
These are violence, blood, nudity, sex, swearing, blasphemy and offensive content.
ClearPlay bosses claim that many films - especially those that are rated 15 - lend themselves to such treatment because their rating is based on only one or two brief scenes which can be edited without spoiling the rest of the movie.
To use the system households will have to pay about £1 a week to subscribe to an online scheme which allows filters for movies to be downloaded. Filters will be available for hundreds of films already out and will ready for new films within 48 hours of their DVD release. Players that can use Clearplay will be about the same price as current machines.
Andrew Duncan, head of Clearplay International, said: 'We know from our research that parents are concerned about inappropriate content but don't like conflicts around censorship at home. Our system effectively ends the important but tiresome debates.'
DVD players with ClearPlay technology will be on sale in the UK in July. The technology is also adaptable to video-on-demand services and ClearPlay is in talks with UK digital TV operators.
The company says the sort of films the system will work with include Love Actually, Atonement, The Matrix and Sweeney Todd. All contain scenes which ClearPlay bosses say can be edited without ruining the whole film.
The system has been developed by the same U.S. team which invented VideoPlus, the system which simplified recording of TV programmes.
ClearPlay director Skip Riddle added: 'Clearly there are some films that don't lend themselves to filtering but the vast majority do. Often the aspects of a film that give it a 15 certificate are connected with a few very short sequences.'
Monday, March 22, 2010
They found chronic feelings of loneliness push up blood pressure over time, causing a marked increase after four years in people aged over 50.
A new study is the first to show a direct link between loneliness and high blood pressure, known as hypertension, which raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.
U.S. researchers considered whether depression and stress were pushing up blood pressure but found they were only partly responsible.
Dr Louise Hawkley, of the research team from Chicago University, said 'Loneliness behaved as though it is a unique health-risk factor in its own right.'
She said living alone did not necessarily mean people were lonely - some people appeared to have busy lives and a good social network but still felt lonely, which puts them at risk.
Previous research has suggested that individuals who feel alone are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as those who experienced little loneliness.
The latest research involved 229 people aged 50 to 68 who were part of a long-term study on ageing.
Members of the group were asked a series of questions to determine if they perceived themselves as lonely.
They were asked to rate connections with others through a series of topics, such as 'I have a lot in common with the people around me,' 'My social relationships are superficial' and 'I can find companionship when I want it."
During the five-year study, Dr Hawkley found a clear connection between feelings of loneliness reported at the beginning of the study and rising blood pressure over that period.
She said 'The increase associated with loneliness wasn't observable until two years into the study, but then continued to increase until four years later.'
Even people with modest levels of loneliness were affected, says a report in the journal Psychology and Aging (sic).
Among all the people in the sample, the loneliest people saw their blood pressure go up by 14.4 mm more than the blood pressure of their most socially contented counterparts over the four-year study period.
Hypertension affects 16 million Britons and is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
A high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140/90 millimetres of mercury.
The first figure, the systolic pressure, corresponds to the 'surge' that occurs with each heart beat.
The second, diastolic, reading is the pressure during the 'resting' stage between beats.
Dr Hawkley, senior research scientist with the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, said people who have many friends and a social network can feel lonely if they find their relationships unsatisfying.
Conversely, people who live rather solitary lives may not be lonely if their few relationships are meaningful and rewarding.
She said for some people the emotional costs of making and keeping friends appear to outweigh the benefits, which may contribute the blood pressure increase.
She said 'Loneliness is characterized by a motivational impulse to connect with others but also a fear of negative evaluation, rejection and disappointment.
'We hypothesise that threats to one's sense of safety and security with others are toxic components of loneliness, and that hyper-vigilance for social threat may contribute to alterations in physiological functioning, including elevated blood pressure' she added.
Don’t drink cola if you want to be healthy. Consuming soft drinks is bad for so many reasons that science cannot even state all the consequences. But one thing we know for sure is that drinking Coke, as a representative of soft drinks, wreaks havoc on the human organism. What happens? Writer Wade Meredith has shown the quick progression of Coke’s assault.
The main problem is sugar. It’s an evil that the processed food industry and sugar growers don’t want people to know about. Even dietitians, financially supported by sugar growers and sugary product manufacturers, are loathe to tell us the truth.
Don’t believe that dietitians are influenced by huge corporate concerns that feed people sugar, drugs and other health-defying ingredients? Go to their official website and check out the sponsors yourself. They are right there in plain sight:
"Have a look at the wrapper on a Coca-Cola 1.5 litre bottle and in the ingredients label you will find quantities of ethylene glycol is also used
- This is popularly known as anti-freeze which prevents water from freezing at 0 degree C and instead drops it by 4-5 degrees with minute quantities.
- This chemical is a known slow poison in the caliber of arsenic.
- So, if you manage to drink about 4 litres of Coke within an hour or so, you can die. Read along and give up these dangerous things."
- propylene glycol is addictive.
Have you ever wondered why Coke comes with a smile? It’s because it gets you high. They took the cocaine out almost a hundred years ago. You know why? It was redundant.
- In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
- 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)
- 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
- 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
- >60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
- >60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
- >60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.
This will all be followed by a caffeine crash in the next few hours. (As little as two if you’re a smoker.) But, hey, have another Coke, it’ll make you feel better...
Saturday, March 20, 2010
It’s widely assumed that yawning occurs because we are tired or bored or because we see someone else doing it, but there isn’t any hard evidence to support these beliefs.
Scientists do not purport to know all of the biological mechanisms of the yawn, but tend to agree that a yawn is an involuntary respiratory reflex, which regulates the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood.
Technically, a yawn is the reflex opening of the mouth followed by the deep inhalation and slow exhalation of oxygen.
The very act of yawning is but one of a number of involuntary reflexes controlled by the spinal and nerve centers.
Scientists speculate that the onset of a yawn is triggered either by fatigue, or by sheer boredom as, at those times, breathing is shallow, and little oxygen is carried to the lungs by the oxygen-toting cardiovascular system.
When one yawns, his or her alertness is heightened, as the sudden intake of oxygen increases the heart rate, rids the lungs and the bloodstream of the carbon dioxide buildup, and forces oxygen through blood vessels in the brain, while restoring normal breathing and ventilating the lungs.
This quite plausible theory of yawning falls short of explaining many aspects of yawning. Scientists explain away the "contagious" nature of yawning, that is when one person's yawn triggers another nearby to yawn, as due to the power of suggestion, but are at a loss when attempting to explain why yawning occurs excessively in patients with lower brainstem damage or with multiple sclerosis.
Other unlocked mysteries include why fetuses in the womb yawn, when it is a well-known fact that they do not intake oxygen into their lungs until after live birth, or why individuals with high concentrations of oxygen in their blood streams yawn.
Until these questions are answered, do not assume that a person who yawns in your presence is bored with what you are saying, or suffers from exhaustion. Simply be pleased that he or she is not bored to death.
The juice of the blood orange stops mice piling on weight when fed a high-fat diet, research shows.
In contrast, mice fed sweeter oranges more
popular in the UK gain significant amounts of fat.
Scientists believe the fat-busting powers of the fruit, grown in Italy and the U.S., may be partly due to its high levels of anthocyanin. This red pigment that gives the orange its deep colour is a type of antioxidant, a natural chemical that helps ward off disease.
The juice damages the ability of cells called adipocytes to accumulate fat, University of Milan researchers told the International Journal of Obesity.
Adipocytes are found mostly around the waistline and absorb fat from food to store as energy.
Annie Levitz, 16, who has lost the feeling in her hands and is unable to pick up some objects, has to wear braces on both wrists and also needs pain-killing injections.
Doctors say she is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, whereby nerves in the wrist become trapped. The condition is usually associated with frequent computer keyboard use.
Annie, from Chicago in the U.S., insisted she has cut down on her texting habit - but only to 50 a day. 'I know it's not good enough, but I am trying,' she said. 'It's not even good texts. It's things like, "Hey, hey, what's up?".'
She says she now hopes to trade her mobile in for an iPhone - as its touchscreen should make it easier to type out texts.
Annie said that she got scared after she began to develop pain.
‘I started losing feeling in my hands and they'd go numb,’ she explained. ‘I'd go to pick up dishes and things and they'd just fall out of my hands.’
Doctors then diagnosed Annie, a pupil at Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, about 35 miles north of Chicago, and fitted braces on her wrists.
She has also had cortisone injections to deal with the pain. But Annie will still have to go under the knife in a bid to relieve her discomfort.
Her mother, Carrie Levitz, said she couldn’t take the phone away from Annie because it was her ‘whole social life’.
‘Sure, I've thought about it. But if you have teens you know that doesn't work,’ she said.
‘When we found out that it was carpal tunnel syndrome, I was just angry.'
However, the condition hasn’t deterred Annie from texting – and the teenager still manages to send out up to 2,000 messages a month.
Dr Sofia Aksentijevich, the rheumatologist who diagnosed Annie, said: ‘It's unusual among younger patients, but not unique.’
Symptoms of carpal tunnel include not being able to grasp things or losing your grip, frequent burning, tingling or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers.
‘I still prefer texting,’ Annie added, ‘but I've learned that some communication is not worth it.’
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Warning: People with eczema who use aqueous cream could be making their condition worse.
Many family doctors are routinely prescribing a treatment for the skin condition eczema that can make the symptoms worse, according to a new survey.
Around 90 per cent of GPs say they prescribe aqueous cream to patients, yet a staggering 85 per cent are giving it to patients incorrectly.
They are prescribing it as a moisturiser to help combat the dry skin associated with conditions such as eczema.
However, it was actually developed as an alternative to soap - and only a small proportion of GPs prescribe it for this.
'If people with eczema leave aqueous cream on their skin, it could make their condition worse,' explains Dr Tony Bewley, who is a consultant dermatologist at Whipps Cross and Barts Hospital in London.
'People with eczema do not produce as much natural oil in their skin, so it tends to become dry. This means it has to be kept moisturised or it will become overdry and crack.
'However, aqueous cream will not really help - not least because it does not contain much actual moisturiser.
'In fact, aqueous cream contains a detergent - although not as much as conventional soap - which is why it's good as an alternative to shower gels or soap if you have dry skin or eczema.
'But this makes the cream alkaline - and because the skin is naturally slightly acidic, this breaks down its natural barrier.
On top of that, some aqueous creams contain sodium lauryl sulphate, a detergent that further breaks down the skin barrier, which makes the skin more sensitive and the eczema worse.
'So people who are applying it and leaving it on in the hope that it will soothe their dry patches, may find that the skin becomes cracked and raw instead.'
Indeed, many children refer to aqueous cream as 'the stinging cream' because it irritates their skin so much, reports the National Eczema Society.
One study found that 56 per cent of children had an irritant reaction to aqueous cream compared with 17 per cent of children using all emollients (medical moisturisers).
'We get calls from mums saying their child won't let them apply their emollient because it stings, or that the one they are using isn't working - and invariably it turns out that they are using aqueous cream,' says Margaret Cox, chief executive of the National Eczema Society.
'Adults also suffer, but what tends to happen is that their GP gives them the cream, they use it for a bit, find it makes no difference and then stop using it.
'They then don't bother going back to get anything else because they presume nothing more can be done.' Dr Bewley says he has people being referred to his dermatology clinic whose condition has been made worse through the prescription of inappropriate treatments such as aqueous cream.
'Children and the elderly have thin and sensitive skin anyway, so they are more prone to get a reaction,' he says.
'However, I see people of all ages whose eczema has got out of hand because they've been using aqueous creams rather than rich emollients.
'It's not really the GPs' fault. They are given only a couple of weeks' training in skin at medical school, even though skin complaints account for about 20 per cent of all GP consultations.
'GPs are also under pressure to keep their budgets in good order, and aqueous cream is cheap.'
Dr Bewley says people should stick to medical moisturisers such as white soft paraffin, liquid paraffin 50 50, or emulsifying ointments, and experiment until they find one that works for them.
'Everyone is different and finding the right cream is a question of trial and error. Also, needs vary from season to season. People may find that they need a richer cream in the winter, as the skin dries out and produces less oils in the cold weather. And just use aqueous cream to wash in.'
Margaret Cox urges people to ask their GPs for an alternative if they are given aqueous cream. They can also check the society's website or call the helpline for suggestions of alternatives.
Some aqueous creams are less likely to irritate because they don't contain the detergent sodium lauryl, which can further upset sensitive skin.
These include Doublebase, EpiDerm, Dermamist, Hydromol, Dexeryl and Emollin.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Could eating kidney beans - or a pill made from white kidney beans - solve your weight gain problem? That's the thinking behind DEcarb - a pill that claims to prevent you digesting carbohydrates.
It is well known that eating too many carbohydrates can lead to weight gain.
This is a particular problem with simple carbohydrates - those found in processed foods and white flour.
As these carbohydrates are digested, the starchy part is converted directly into sugar, and any that is not used is stored as fat.
Many people reduce their carbohydrate intake to cut the amount of fat stored. Doing this also helps to reduce the carbohydrate cravings linked to weight gain.
Sugar (or carb) cravings are thought to be a key factor in weight gain. When blood sugar levels are high, insulin is released by the pancreas to bring down the sugar levels.
But in those who eat a lot of sugar, or older people who have less effective insulin reactions, too much insulin is released, pushing the blood sugar levels too low.
This causes sugar cravings, which the body mistakes for hunger pangs.
When you eat to satisfy these pangs, your sugar levels rise and the whole cycle starts again. Many overweight people have erratic or high sugar levels. This makes them feel hungry and leads to bingeing.
Products to block carbohydrate digestion have been available in the UK for several years, both via prescription and over the counter.
These usually work by breaking carbohydrates down into disaccharides, a form of sugar that doesn't convert to fat. Unfortunately these disaccharides ferment with bacteria found naturally in the gut, causing gas and diarrhoea as they pass through the digestive tract.
DEcarb, which is the first carbohydrate blocker to carry an EU Certified Medical Device Status, claims not to produce these unpleasant side-effects.
It is made from an extract of the white kidney bean called phaseolamin. Carbohydrates are usually broken down by an enzyme known as alpha amylase, produced in the pancreas.
Phaseolamin reduces the effectiveness of this enzyme, preventing carbohydrates being converted into sugar. This means side- effects are virtually eradicated, although some people may suffer flatulence for a few days as the stomach adapts.
DEcarb contains a very high concentration of phaseolamin. In a small study carried out at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a 1.5g tablet cut the amount of carbohydrate absorbed in a meal by up to 66 per cent.
'To lose weight and keep it off, there is no alternative but to make significant lifestyle changes,' explains Dr Shivakant Upadhyaya, of Global Goldshield Consumer Health, which makes the product.
'DEcarb can help you only for as long as you take it and, of course, you can't take it for ever. Having said that, we know that one of the benefits is that it reduces carbohydrate cravings.'
But Dr Carel le Roux, an obesity specialist at Imperial College London, says any product that can reduce carbohydrate consumption so dramatically should be treated with caution.
'Reducing carbohydrates in an overweight person's diet can be very helpful to lower blood sugars,' he explains.
'But a product that can lower absorption of carbohydrates by 66 per cent may have significant side-effects, as the unabsorbed food would have to be excreted with smelly consequences.
'The body may sense through the upper part of the gut that carbohydrates were consumed, but if it is not absorbed the body may increase the cravings that lead to over-consumption.
'Most worryingly, what happens after the treatment stops? The body is likely to rebound, regain the weight lost plus extra weight, resulting in yo-yo dieting.
'If you can't take DEcarb long term it should be avoided because the risk of gaining weight in the medium to long term may be very significant.'
So, could eating more of the beans themselves help you lose weight in the same way?
It is unlikely - the amounts you would need might make you unacceptable company. However, nutritionists recommend beans as a good source of fibre, which will protect against some cancers.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Men who regularly take over-the-counter painkillers are twice as likely to suffer hearing problems than those who don't, a study has shown.
Researchers found that younger men are particularly at risk.
Taking paracetamol at least twice a week doubles the risk of mild to severe deafness before the age of 50.
Other painkillers, including aspirin and ibuprofen, are also linked to hearing loss, the American researchers found.
The findings have not shown that painkillers directly cause deafness, but the scientists say they add to the evidence of a connection between the two.
Doctors have long known that high doses of aspirin can cause temporary tinnitus - or ringing in the ears.
However, low doses of the painkiller have been shown to protect against deafness caused by noise and antibiotics.
And previous anecdotal evidence has suggested non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen can harm hearing in people.
For the latest findings, researchers from Harvard University, Boston, tracked the health and lifestyles of more than 26,000 men every two years for 18 years.
The subjects were asked about their use of painkillers and whether they had hearing problems.
By the end of the study, nearly 3,500 reported some type of hearing loss.
Taking into account the age, weight, background and medical history of the men, the researchers established a link between hearing problems and common painkillers.
Although the study did not look at women, the researchers believe painkiller use could have an effect on their hearing.
Men under 60 who took at least two aspirins every week were 33 per cent more likely to suffer hearing loss than men who took fewer than two aspirins, the study showed. It found no link for men aged 60 and over.
Men under 50 who regularly took ibuprofen and other NSAIDS were 61 per cent more likely to have hearing problems, while those aged 50 to 59 were 32 per cent more likely to suffer.
Those aged 60 and above had a 16 per cent higher chance of deafness.
But the biggest link was found in men under the age of 50 who regularly took paracetamol. They are 99 per cent more likely to suffer hearing problems.
Men aged 50 to 59 who regularly took paracetamol were 38 per cent more likely to have hearing loss, while those aged 60 and over had a 16 per cent greater chance, the researchers report in The American Journal of Medicine.
For all groups, regular use meant taking at least two painkillers a week over a long period. The longer the period, the greater risk of hearing loss, it was found.
Dr Sharon Curhan, an author of the study based at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, said: 'Given the high prevalence of regular analgesic use and health and social implications of hearing impairment, this represents an important public health issue.'
The researchers admitted that although they found a connection, they have not shown that painkillers cause hearing problems.
The researchers did not have any information on how much noise the men were exposed to did not ask why they took painkillers.
However, the scientists say that the drugs may cause damage to part of the inner ear.source
The test, which targets couples who are struggling to conceive, is currently undergoing a review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S.
Dr John Herr of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who helped develop the test, said it would suit those couples who have tried to get pregnant for a few months but aren't ready to seek professional help yet.
He said the test would tell the couple if the man had fertility problems 'in privacy with some cost savings.'
'The product will retail for about $25 (£15). That's a lot cheaper than going in and having a full semen analysis,' he said.
Writing in the journal Human Reproduction, Dr Herr and his team reported that their SpermCheck Fertility test was accurate 96 per cent of the time, when compared with standard lab methods. They tested 225 samples during the study.
Sperm counts of 20 million per millilitre of semen and above are considered normal and a test will tell if a man's sperm count meets this level and if he has a severely low sperm count of below five million sperm per millilitre.
'It basically tells the man how deep the infertility is,' Dr Herr said.
'If both strips are negative it's important that they then seek medical treatment for the infertility.'
The test works by detecting an antigen found on the surface of the head of a sperm cell known as SP-10.
It took 10 years to develop and much of the work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers have found high levels of antimony - which can be lethal in large doses - in many popular brands.
Scientists from the University of Copenhagen found that bottles of fruit juice and squash contained up to 2.5 times more of the substance as is deemed 'safe' in tap water, under EU guidelines.
In some cases the levels of antimony were ten times higher.
The scientists believe that the chemical is leaching its way into the fruit juice from the plastic bottles which hold it.
Previous research found traces of the chemical in bottled mineral water which experts believed was leaching in from the plastic container.
The team has expressed 'concern' over their findings, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, which they say raises fears for the health of millions of children.
They have called for an investigation 'straight away'. The substance can cause cancer, heart and lung problems, according to previous studies.
Although the scientists have not specifically named any brands, the chemicals are believed to have been found in 16 of the most popular blackcurrant and strawberry squash and fruit drinks consumed by children.
Claus Hansen, a PhD student at the department of pharmacology, who took part in the research, speculated that the citric acid in the fruit juices could speed up the leaching process.
He said: 'The antimony concentrations in the products tested exceed the limit of drinking water but no legalisation exists for foodstuffs so no legislation has been broken.
Previous research in Germany in 2006 found antimony was leaching into bottled mineral waters from their plastic containers.
In 2005 Volvic mineral water was at the centre of a health scare after a potentially harmful chemical was found in some of its bottles.
Danone Waters, which produces Volvic, launched an investigation after a mother of two reported a strong 'burning' chemical taste to the Food Standards Agency.
It found the water, which is advertised as being filtered through volcanic rocks, contained naphthalene – a chemical which can cause liver damage in high doses.
Responding to the research, the British Soft Drinks Association today defended the industry.
'Fruit juices and juice drinks are safe,' said a spokesman. 'There is no read across between the levels of antimony permitted in drinking water and those that might be acceptable in a fruit juice or a juice drink.
'It is not uncommon that different product types should have different regulatory requirements.'
He added: 'The packaging is safe. The data in the study does not confirm any conclusions about the packaging: the authors themselves conclude that "further studies are warranted".'
'All ingredients and packaging are carefully regulated to make sure that soft drinks are safe to drink.'
WHAT IS ANTIMONY?
Antimony is used in the making of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, the type favoured by most mineral-water sellers. It is a silvery-white semi-metal that is also used in electronics and flame-proofing materials. Furthermore, it can be used as a medicine to treat people infected with parasites. The recommended EU limit for antimony in drinking water is five micrograms per litre. However, no limits exist for foodstuffs.
Levels above this could cause nausea and vomiting however the effects of long-term exposure are unknown.
'However we cannot be sure that the antimony levels are harmless.
'It would be a good idea to have some more research to get a better impression of what the antimony limit should be in fruit drinks.
'You would have to drink a lot of blackcurrant juice to go beyond the recommended maximum dose which is why there's no antimony limits for drinking water or soft drinks.
'But we can't be sure the high level we found is not harmful.'
The Royal Society of Chemistry added: 'Marketing, certainly for the cordial products, is geared towards children. It's a children's drink.
'This means they are more likely to drink it and more likely to be at risk.'
The scientists looked at 42 different red fruit juice drinks from Denmark, Scotland and Greece including blackcurrant, strawberry, raspberry and sour cherry and found concentrations 17 times higher than previously studied.