Tuesday, October 30, 2012

That Guy Won? Why We Knew It All Along

The economy, “super PAC” money, debate performances, the candidates’ personalities. Roll it all together, and it’s obvious who’s going to win.

Or, uh, it will be.

Amid the many uncertainties of next Tuesday’s presidential election lies one sure thing: Many people will feel in their gut that they knew the result all along. Not only felt it coming, but swear they predicted it beforehand — remember? — and probably more than once.

These analysts won’t be hard to find. They will most likely include (in addition to news media pundits) neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives, as well as the person whose reflection appears in the glare of the laptop screen. Most will also have a ready-made argument for why it was inevitable that Mitt Romney, or Barack Obama, won — displaying the sort of false, after-the-fact “foresight” that psychologists call hindsight bias.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Scientists defend safety of genetically modified foods

To the naked eye, the white puffs of cotton growing on shrubs, the yellow flowers on canola plants and the towering tassels on cornstalks look just like those on any other plants. But inside their cells, where their DNA contains instructions for how these crops should grow, there are a few genes that were put there not by Mother Nature but by scientists in a lab.

Some of the genes are from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis that makes proteins lethal to flies, moths and other insects. Others are from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium that programs plants to make a key enzyme that isn't vulnerable to a popular weed killer. These modifications allow farmers to grow crops with easier weed control and fewer pest-killing chemicals.

To an increasingly vocal group of consumers, this genetic tinkering is a major source of anxiety. They worry that eating engineered foods could be bad for their health or cause unanticipated environmental problems. At the very least, they insist, they deserve the right to know whether the foods they might buy contain genetically modified ingredients.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Are Energy Drinks Fatally Caffeinated?

One family is suing an energy drink maker after a 14-year old died soon after consuming the caffeinated beverages.

 In the last three years, five people died after downing highly caffeinated Monster Energy drinks, according to information released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency has not confirmed that the energy drinks were directly responsible for the deaths, but the voluntary reports to the FDA are part of 37 adverse events sent in by the public involving Monster drinks. The agency says it is investigating any potential health risks associated with the caffeine content of these beverages.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/24/are-energy-drinks-fatally-caffeinated/#ixzz2ARI34cQ5

Friday, October 26, 2012

Laughter as a Form of Exercise

Is laughter a kind of exercise? That offbeat question is at the heart of a new study of laughing and pain that emphasizes how unexpectedly entwined our bodies and emotions can be.

 For the study, which was published this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers at Oxford University recruited a large group of undergraduate men and women.

 They then set out to make their volunteers laugh.

 Most of us probably think of laughter, if we think of it at all, as a response to something funny — as, in effect, an emotion.

 But laughter is fundamentally a physical action. “Laughter involves the repeated, forceful exhalation of breath from the lungs,” says Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford, who led the study. “The muscles of the diaphragm have to work very hard.” We’ve all heard the phrase “laugh until it hurts,” he points out. That pain isn’t metaphoric; prolonged laughing can be painful and exhausting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Physical Exercise May Outweigh Mental Exercise In Preventing Brain Shrinkage, Study Finds

It seems there is another item to add to the already infinite “benefits of physical exercise” list.

Physical exercise, as opposed to mental exercise, helps prevent brain shrinkage, according to a study in the Oct. 23 issue of Neurology. Brain shrinkage has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and can cause problems with thinking and memory.

“There is growing evidence of the beneficial effect of physical activity on brain structure,” said study author Dr. Alan Gow, Ph.D, with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. "Though this needs to be confirmed in large scale trials, exercising more would certainly be a worthwhile endeavor.”

Read more

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Boys -- like girls -- hitting puberty earlier

Boys in the United States are starting puberty earlier than ever, according to a new study publishing in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

In the study, lead author Marcia Herman-Giddens from the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health and her colleagues show that boys are starting to sexually develop six months to two years earlier than medical textbooks say is standard.

This research has been a long time coming. Herman-Giddens first documented early puberty in girls in 1997, and several studies have since backed up those findings.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Docs Say Choose Organic Food To Reduce Kids' Exposure To Pesticides

For the first time, the nation's pediatricians are wading into the controversy over whether organic food is better for you – and they're coming down on the side of parents who say it is, at least in part.

 It's worth buying organic to avoid pesticide residues, at least in some foods, says the American Academy of Pediatrics in a report released today. Contrary to what the Stanford University study on organics a few weeks back suggested, the pediatricians say when it comes to feeding kids, relying on federal standards for pesticide residue isn't good enough.

 The pediatricians are worried because babies of female farm workers in California showed small but significant developmental and motor delays when their mothers were exposed to pesticides at levels similar to those deemed acceptable in conventionally grown produce while pregnant.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

After counseling, people ate more fruit -- not more vegetables

African American adults who were counseled to eat more produce and get more exercise as ways to reduce their chances of getting cancer and heart disease ate more fruit over the course of a month, researchers said.

But they didn’t exercise or up their consumption of vegetables, according to the work presented Wednesday at the American Assn. for Cancer Research meeting in Anaheim.

The work was looking at the notion that a greater effect could be achieved if people understood that one risky behavior – a poor diet, for instance – is associated with the chance of developing multiple diseases, said Melanie Jefferson of the Medical University of South Carolina, the lead researcher. That idea showed promise, she said.

The results also showed the interesting idea that participants changed one behavior but not others.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Poor Sleep May Lead To Too Much Stored Fat And Disease

Is that 6 a.m. workout getting in the way of good sleep? Don't think your fat cells won't notice.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that inadequate shut-eye has a harmful response on fat cells, reducing their ability to respond to insulin by about 30 percent. Over the long-term, this decreased response could set the stage for Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and weight gain.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that there's "an intimate relationship between the amount of sleep we get and our ability to maintain a good, healthy body weight," says sleep expert Helene Emsellem, director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Cholesterol Is Falling in Adults, Study Finds

Cholesterol levels in adults are falling, and changes in the amount of trans fats in the American diet may be part of the reason, new research suggests.

The findings, published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, were celebrated as something of a triumph by health authorities, who said the data showed that the nation had reached its 2010 goal of getting the average total cholesterol level in adults below 200 milligrams per deciliter. Researchers examined a nationally representative sample of tens of thousands of Americans over the last two decades and recorded a decline of 10 points in average total cholesterol — to 196 mg/dL from 206 mg/dL.

While the so-called bad cholesterol decreased, there was a slight uptick in HDL cholesterol, higher levels of which are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Triglycerides, which are also linked to heart disease, initially rose 5 points to 123 mg/dL from 1994 to 2002, then dropped to 110 mg/dL by the end of 2010.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Get Up. Get Out. Don’t Sit.

Just as we were all settling in front of the television to watch the baseball playoffs, two new studies about the perils of sitting have spoiled our viewing pleasure.

The research, published in separate medical journals this month, adds to a growing scientific consensus that the more time someone spends sitting, especially in front of the television, the shorter and less robust his or her life may be.

To reach that conclusion, the authors of one of the studies, published in the October issue of The British Journal of Sports Medicine, turned to data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, a large, continuing survey of the health habits of almost 12,000 Australian adults.

Along with questions about general health, disease status, exercise regimens, smoking, diet and so on, the survey asked respondents how many hours per day in the previous week they had spent sitting in front of the television.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Too little sleep may fuel insulin resistance

People who consistently get too little sleep face bigger concerns than daytime fatigue and crankiness. Over the long term, sleep deprivation also increases the risk of serious health problems including obesity and type II diabetes.

Scientists have come up with a number of plausible explanations for this increased risk. Various studies have shown, for instance, that how much we sleep can affect blood sugar levels, hormones that control appetite, and even the brain's perception of high-calorie foods.

A small new study, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, adds a key piece to the puzzle by drilling down to the cellular level: Sleep deprivation, the study found, impairs the ability of fat cells to respond to insulin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and is involved in diabetes.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Creativity 'closely entwined with mental illness'

Creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible, according to a study of more than a million people.

Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found.

They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.

The dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.

As a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Classroom Yoga Helps Improve Behavior Of Kids With Autism

Researchers have found that kids with autism spectrum disorder who did yoga at their elementary school behaved better than kids with autism who weren't doing yoga.

The researchers surveyed teachers at a school in the Bronx who said a daily yoga program reduced the kids' aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity.

Kristie Patten Koenig, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at New York University who led the study, says that yoga was effective because it seems to play to the strengths of kids with autism, while also reducing stress.

"We know that anxiety fuels a lot of the negative behavior, so the yoga program gives them a strategy to cope with it," Koenig tells Shots. "And if it's done every morning, it becomes an integral part of the day that sets the status of the classroom and allows the kids to become calm, focused and ready to learn."

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

10 Ways to Build Healthy Bones (and Keep Them Strong)

Bones are quite literally the support system of the body, so it’s super important to keep them strong and healthy. Bones are continuously being broken down and rebuilt in tiny amounts. Before about age 30, when bones typically reach peak bone mass (which varies from person to person), the body is creating new bone faster, but after age 30, the bone building balance naturally shifts and more bone is lost than gained.

Some people have a lot of savings in their “bone bank” because of factors including genetics, diet and how much bone they built up as teenagers. The natural depletion of bone doesn’t affect these lucky ducks too drastically. But in those with a smaller bone fortune, when the body can’t create new bone as fast as the old bone is lost, osteoporosis can set in, causing bones to become weak and brittle and allowing them to fracture more easily. The disease is most common in postmenopausal women over the age of 65 and in men over the age of 70.

 Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/09/10-ways-to-build-healthy-bones-and-keep-them-strong/#ixzz295orcM6q

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Bad news" more likely to stress women than men

A new study reveals that women are more likely to be stressed by negative news reports than their male counterparts.

 "It's difficult to avoid the news, considering the multitude of news sources out there," lead author Marie-France Marin, a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Montreal, said in a press release. "And what if all that news was bad for us? It certainly looks like that could be the case."

 Sixty participants were divided into four groups and were asked to read either neutral stories (for example, about the opening of a new park or a film premiere) or negative stories revolving around accidents and murders.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Restaurant Discounts For Gastric Bypass Patients May Send Mixed Messages

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans turn to stomach-shrinking bariatric procedures, hoping for extreme weight loss.

All of these reduced appetites might seem like bad news for the restaurant business, but surgeon-distributed food discount cards aim to make dining out cheaper and more practical for gastric bypass patients.

But is this kind of encouragement really a good idea?

To accommodate the patients' reduced stomach volumes, the cards, called WLS (Weight Loss Surgery) cards, ask restaurants to allow patients to order a smaller portion of food for a discounted price.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Instead Of Surgery, Man Pedals Off The Pounds

A lot of Americans are struggling to lose a whole lot of weight, and they try all kinds of crazy things. 

Ernest Gagnon — a man from Billerica, Mass. — decided to shed pounds by getting into the often intense, high-adrenaline sport of cyclocross: racing road bikes on obstacle courses.

Two years ago, Gagnon tipped the scales at 570 pounds. He was depressed and embarrassed to leave the house. "

Being as big as I was, I really felt like I didn't belong anywhere," Gagnon says. "I was stuck in my house for almost 10 years, just going to my work and back."

Back then, Gagnon's diabetes was getting more serious. He was losing the circulation to his legs, and his doctors were talking about gastric bypass surgery.

Then, some sort of a switch flipped in his head and Gagnon decided he was going to race bikes, something he'd wanted to do since he was a kid.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are You Likely to Respond to Exercise?

Research has confirmed that people’s physiological responses to exercise vary wildly. Now a new genetic test promises to tell you whether you are likely to benefit aerobically from exercise. The science behind the test is promising, but is this information any of us really needs to know?

The new test, which is being sold by a British company called XRGenomics, is available to anyone through the company’s Web site and involves rubbing inside your cheek with a supplied swab and returning the tissue sample to the company. Results are then available within a few weeks. It is based on a body of research led by James Timmons, a professor of systems biology at Loughborough University in England, and colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana and other institutions.

That original research, published in a landmark 2010 study, looked into the genetics of why some people respond to endurance exercise so robustly, while others do not. Some lucky men and women take up jogging, for example, and quickly become much more aerobically fit. Others complete the same program and develop little if any additional endurance, as measured by increases in their VO12 max, or their body’s ability to consume and distribute oxygen to laboring muscles.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Study: Weight Watchers as Successful as Clinical Weight-Loss Programs

Commercial weight-loss programs like Weight Watchers may be just as effective in losing weight as clinical programs, and the key ingredient to success in both programs is buddying up, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Obesity.

In the study, 141 overweight and obese adults were randomly assigned into one of three groups -- a weight-loss behavioral program led by a health professional, or Weight Watchers, led by peers who had achieved their own weight-loss success, or a combination of both programs.

Overweight and obese adults who participate in any of the three weight-loss treatments that involved group counseling, whether it was with a health professional or with peers, as well as physical activity and diet change lost a significant amount of weight nearly a year later, the study found.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Soda industry: Vending machines will show calories

As criticism over sugary sodas intensifies, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are rolling out new vending machines that will put calorie counts right at your fingertips.

The counts will be on the buttons of the machines, which will also feature small posted messages reminding the thirsty that they can choose a low-calorie drink. The vending machines will launch in Chicago and San Antonio municipal buildings in 2013 before appearing nationally.

The move comes ahead of a new regulation that would require restaurant chains and vending machines to post calorie information as early as next year, although the timetable and specifics for complying with that requirement are still being worked out.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Peanut Butter Cure Moves From Hospital To Snack Room

Just over a decade ago, a French doctor invented a treatment for severely malnourished children that had a revolutionary, life-saving impact.

The product goes by different names in different parts of the world, such as Plumpy'Nut, Nourimanba and Chiponde. It's basically peanut butter with some added ingredients: dried milk, oil, sugar, and essential minerals and vitamins.

It's been so successful that some public health officials now are pushing to expand its use. It wouldn't just be a treatment to save a life, but a snack to keep kids healthy in the first place.

There's one catch: The proponents of this strategy still have to show that it really works.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Feeling the Pressure to Drink for Work

As an ad-sales executive with Forbes magazine, Terry Lavin worked hard to earn his reputation as a dependable drinking buddy.

“I just basically rented space at P. J. Clarke’s,” he said, referring to the Midtown Manhattan watering hole. “I was always the last to leave, always had a cocktail in my hand.”

In a business built on likability, the role helped him succeed. Until 2010, when he decided to give his body a break and quit drinking for six months. His health got better; his business did not.

“I would call guys I was friendly with, guys who had their hands on big ad budgets, to see if they wanted to go to happy hour or get something to eat,” he recalled, “And they’d say: ‘Are you drinking? No? Don’t worry about it.’ ”

So much for the benefits of the sober life.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Obese Children Less Sensitive to Taste

A small study has found that obese children are more likely than others to have a weak sense of taste. German researchers tested tasting ability in 99 obese and 94 normal-weight children, whose average age was 13, by having them try to identify tastes on strips of filter paper and asking them to distinguish among sweet, sour, salty, umami (savory) and bitter. The children also were asked to rate the taste’s intensity on a five-point scale.

Girls were better than boys at distinguishing tastes, and older children scored higher than younger; there were no differences by ethnicity. Obese children scored an average of 12.6 out of a possible 20, while the normal-weight children averaged 14.1, a statistically significant difference.

 On the intensity scale, obese children rated all flavor concentrations lower than did those in the normal-weight group.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Researchers Say Kids Are Exposed To 'Startling' Amounts Of Background TV

Parents, if nobody is watching the TV, please turn it off.

Researchers who conducted a national survey of kids' exposure to TVs droning on in the background say, "The amount of exposure for the average child is startling."

How much is it, exactly? Try just under four hours a day for the typical kid.

So why care about a TV that nobody seems to be paying attention to? Well, the researchers write, background TV may lower the quality of interactions between parents and kids, lower kids' performance on tasks that require real thinking and drain kids' attention during playtime.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

GM cows make 'low allergy' milk

A genetically modified cow that produces milk less likely to cause allergic reactions has been engineered by New Zealand scientists.

 Up to 3% of infants are allergic to cows' milk in their first year of life.

 The modified cow produced milk without beta-lactoglobulin - a whey protein to which some people are allergic.

 The study has been labelled a "milestone" by one scientist, but some campaign groups say it raises ethical concerns.

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