Sunday, February 17, 2008

7.23 Singapore sling

Please, Singapore is pronounced Sin-ga-po', not Sin-ga-poah. And Singapore sling is a "mysteriously refreshing drink" in the tropical sun, not a run-of-the-mill cocktail at your local pub. There are many imitations, though. For DIYers, this one, from, is quite genuine:

1 oz gin
1/2 oz cherry brandy
4 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Cointreau® orange liqueur
1/4 oz benedictine herbal liqueur
1/3 oz grenadine syrup
1 dash Angostura® bitters
Combine all in a shaker, fill with ice and shake until the shaker is well frosted. Strain into a tall glass and garnish with a slice of pineapple and cherry. No tiny umbrellas of course.

Better yet, go down to the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, sit in the rattan wicker chair and have the sling with roasted-in-shell peanuts. You'll forget where you are.

Ah, but we do remember: Singapore is a prefect place to investigate the pattern of cataract formation. The Merlion City is sitting practically on the equator (1°N) with 12 hours each of day and night, with an annual temperature average of 26.7°C and a UV index of 10-13. These couldn't be good for the eyes? Yet, sunglasses and broad-rimmed hats are apparently not in fashion (see image below).

See, only one guy with sunglasses and none wears a hat.

The Merlion? Here-lah:

So, in a study on 550 Chinese Singaporeans of older than 50 years, only 26.1% are found without cataracts. More specifically, 47.3% of the 50-60 age group are without cataracts; although the rate drops down to 11.7% in the 60-70 group. And everybody has cataracts if older than 70.

Compared with a group of Japanese (884 participants) residing in Noto Peninsula - which has an average temperature of 21.3°C with 1/2 the UV radiation of S'pore - cataract prevalence in the 50-60 Singaporeans is similar to that of the 70-80 age group in Japan, i.e., a decade earlier. In addition, nuclear cataract prevalence in the 50-60 Singaporeans was 9 times higher than the same age group in Japan. One can argue that besides geography, there are differences in culture, e.g., diet, outdoor activities, etc that may also be contributing factors. The principal factors are, however, still ambient temperature and UV index.

In fact, in cooler places like Iceland, with an average temperature of 4.4°C and 1/5 of UV index of S'pore, 39% of 60-70 year-olds are still cataract-free (study population=993). If race is a major factor, then all Caucasians no matter where they live should have identical cataract prevalence. This is not the case: Melbourne residents in fact have higher cataract prevalence than Icelanders.

Further, the prevalence of nuclear cataracts in Sumatra, another high temperature locale, is similar to that of S'pore suggesting the high ambient temperature, not race is a major factor.

Does it really matter to have high cataract prevalence? It does from the viewpoint of loss of productivity and the costs for cataract extraction. It is much simpler to practice prevention - clearly a job for the eye doctors.

Have another sip and plan.

(A more detailed version of this post, written in Chinese, is available here.)