Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

NME’s weekly science dose (April 19-25)

We’ve gone nuclear this week and decided it was time someone tried to make sense out of the never ending obscurity and procrastination plaguing nuclear energy plans in the Arab world. Egypt has been huffing and puffing about it since the 1950s, and now Saudi Arabia seems to be on track to spend US$80 billion to build 16 reactors by 2030.

Meanwhile, Qatar has officially commenced construction, while Jordan (like Egypt) remains in the limbo of indeterminacy. But we’re giving away too much already. Here’s the full story.

And if that’s not enough to quench your thirst for all things radioactive (did you know that many toothpaste brands were laced with radioactive substances in the past?), we also have two very contrasting Q&A’s on whether Egypt should harness nuclear power or not. On one side of the ring is Yusri Abu Shadi, a former head of Alexandria University’s nuclear engineering department, and he’s quite adamant about Egypt going nuclear. At the other is Hani El-Nokrashy, co-found of Desertec Foundation, and he’s all about going solar instead.

Beyond the hood

Seeing as diabetes has killed some 357,000 people in the Middle East alone last year, you may want to consider giving up soft drinks. A new study suggests that drinking just 336ml of a sugar-sweetened soft drink (roughly, a can) a day can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 22%. And if you are drinking two cans, you are also 22% more likely to develop the disease than the person drinking just one.

The finding is based on data collected across eight European cohorts and covering some 350,000 participants. However, the researchers also found that the risk fell to 18% when total energy intake and body-mass index (BMI) were accounted for — both factors that are thought to mediate the association between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and diabetes incidence.

Also, in case you are a soft drinks fan as well as a cigarette smoker, here’s some more troubling news: even a few cigarettes a day can significantly increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — at least for women. This latest entry in RA research found that just 1 to 7 cigarettes more than doubled the risk of developing the disease.

While stopping smoking reduces the chances, the risk was still significantly higher for women who had given up for 15 years than for those who had never started smoking to begin with.

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