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How Pacman could stop you smoking and why being unpopular could put you at risk

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 28 June

Fans of 1980s computer games will be heartened to hear a ‘Pacman-like'  vaccine is being developed to immunise smokers from the pleasures of nicotine, the BBC reports .

The vaccine floods the body with an antibody that ‘assaults' nicotine. Researchers tested the vaccine on mice and found that levels of nicotine in the brain were reduced by 85% after vaccination.

However, it will still take years before it could be tested on people.

Lead researcher Professor Ronald Crystal, whose findings were published in Science Translational Medicine, said: ‘As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect.'

Smokers would know they will receive no pleasure from nicotine if they continue smoking, Professor Crystal added.

‘We are very hopeful that this kind of vaccine strategy can finally help the millions of smokers who have tried to stop, exhausting all the methods on the market today, but find their nicotine addiction to be strong enough to overcome these current approaches,' Professor Crystal said.

Meanwhile, the Mail reports on research that suggests socially isolated teenagers are more likely to suffer health problems in their 40s.

These could include obesity or high blood pressure and was particularly noticeable in women.

A Swedish study focused on around 900 16-year-olds for the following 27 years. Researchers asked teachers about the popularity of the teenagers and then tested them at the age of 43.

They found that the more introverted, unpopular – though not necessarily bullied – children were prone to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, bad blood fats and lack of ‘good' cholesterol.

The Umea University researchers also said the results cannot be ‘explained away' by saying the subjects were sickly in their teens.

The study offers several possible causes such as: loneliness raising levels of cortisol; lack of sleep; and the greater use of sleeping tablets.

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