Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Your Finger Length Says About You

Women with ring fingers longer than their index fingers tend to be better at sports, according to a British study (reported by Reuters). At first, this sounded to me like a kind of phrenology (the crackpot science, popularized in the 19th century, which purported to determine one's personality based on the shape of their head). However, after doing a bit of digging, it turns out that there may be a scientific basis for the finding. And it turns out that finger length can tell more than whether or not little sally will turn out to be a tennis star.

According to a study by the University of Bath (
reported by EurekAlert) on the finger length of academics, "the length of fingers is genetically linked to the sex hormones." Short index fingers mean more testosterone. Long index fingers mean more estrogen.

The Bath study found that math and science academics tend to have long index fingers, academics in the humanities tended to have long ring fingers.

The difference in length between ring and index finger is important as well. A small study at Bath showed the smaller the difference between index and ting finger, the higher a person's test scores.

Finger length can indicate other things as well. For example, another article at EurekAlert explains how short ring fingers suggest men will be more "physically aggressive." Index-to-ring finger ratio may indicate sexuality as well. According to a UC Berkley study (
reported by the BBC), "lesbian women have a greater difference in length between their ring finger and index finger than straight women do… the same pattern was also found in homosexual men."

Healthlines: September 28, 2006

Consider yourself average? You don't know how beautiful you are…
Easy on the eye? Maybe also on the brain (Reuters)

Good news: health insurance premiums are growing at a slower rate. Bad news: they're still rising at twice the rate as worker's pay…
Health Premiums Rise More Slowly (Washington Post)

Neil Young sang, "it's not how you look, but how you feel"… now there are tests to show this, which help you zero in on your body's true health…
Who’s Older, You or Your Body? Tests Suggest Answers (NY Times)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Too much or Too Little, Testosterone's a Killer

"Too much testosterone can kill brain cells," according to a Yale study (reported by Reuters), and a University of Washington study (reported by Forbes) shows that men with low levels of the hormone lead to an 88 percent "increased risk of death."

Yale scientist Barbara Ehrlich explained testosterone is a tricky chemical. "Too little testosterone is bad, too much is bad but the right amount is perfect," Ehrlich told Reuters.

So how can I tell if I have too much or too little testosterone, and what do I do to control it? Neither article would say. But here's what the hormone does. "Testosterone is key to the development, differentiation and growth of cells," read the Reuters piece. Both men and women's bodies create the stuff, but men have about 20 times as much of the substance.

Elevated levels of testosterone causes cells to commit suicide in a process called apoptosis, reported Reuters. This is similar to what happens in Alzheimer's. But when it comes to the reasons why low levels of testosterone are related to an increased risk of death, it gets murky.

Simply put, researchers at the University of Washington aren't sure exactly why low levels of the substance leads to an increased risk of death. However, they say that, "low testosterone levels can result in decreased muscle mass and bone density, insulin resistance and low sex drive, as well as less energy, more irritability and feelings of depression."

Healthlines: September 27, 2006

Coming to a speakeasy near you… corndogs?
New York City Plans Limits on Restaurants’ Use of Trans Fats (New York Times)

Pregnant women, chill out… hopeful fathers, put down the paint brush…
Mother's Stress May Affect Fetus (Washington Post)
Solvent exposure linked to birth defects in babies of male painters (Eurek Alert)

And after the child is born, feed him or her breast milk and they'll be 34 percent less likely to be overweight during childhood…
Breastfed Babies Less Overweight (WebMD)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quitting the Pills Could be a Deadly Decision

"Many patients stop taking their medicine far sooner than they should, researchers say, and that decision can be deadly when the drugs treat heart disease or diabetes," reports CNN. The report is based on a study that found one out of eight heart attack patients quit taking pills prescribed to save their lives.

Those that quit were three times as likely to die during the next year than those who did not. Quitters were often older, single and less educated. One famous person who gave up on his medication is former President Bill Clinton. Instead of dying after quitting his heart meds, he had to head back to the hospital for quadruple bypass surgery.

Why are people giving up on life saving drugs? It could be one of many factors, or a combination of, "cost, side effects, depression, carelessness and a desire not to be someone who takes a lot of pills," reads the CNN report. Communication between doctor and patient may also be a problem. "Doctors, [one expert] said, need to tell patients more about the drugs they prescribe and then follow up with them.

Healthlines: September 26, 2006

The organic craze comes to a hospital near you…
Hospitals Offering Organic, Healthy Meals (Discovery News)

An antacid that fights heart failure too? Are you kidding? Japanese researchers have a study…
Pepcid May Help Treat Heart Failure (WebMD)

Scientists looking for the causes of leg injuries in athletes stumble upon a suprising culprit…
Running on empty (LA Times)

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Relationship Between TV & Sleep

Television can disrupt the sleep patterns of children, even if they're not "actively watching it," according to a Finish study reported by TIME. And it's not just a slight impact. The study finds that America's favorite pastime, watching the tube, can "significantly" disturb a kid's sleep patterns.

The study was based on a survey of 321 parents of 5 and 6 year olds. On average, kids "actively" watched 1.4 hours of TV and "passively" absorbed another 1.4.

Interestingly enough, "unusually high passive exposure -- 2.1 hrs. per day or more -- was particularly associated with sleep disturbances, especially when it was adult shows to which the kids were exposed, reported TIME.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

E Coli (Spinach) Fears? Try Wine & Oregano

For those of you reading this blog posting months or years from now (as I type it is early in the morning of Sept 21, 2006), there was a recent, nationwide outbreak of E. coli linked to spinach. If you thought it was hard to get Americans to eat their greens before, imagine what it's like now.

So whether you're reading this in September of 2006, you're a future reader who's concerned about food poisoning or you're curious about wine there's an interesting post over at Scientific American's blog about the
chemistry of wine. What's this got to do with E. coli? Well, it turns out that mixing wine with oregano, cloves, cinnamon or lemongrass creates a powerful antimicrobial cocktail. If used, say, in marinade, you can keep your meats and tainted vegetables free from harmful bugs.

The Scientific American blog posting also points out how the alcohol in wine can strengthen teeth. "Alcohol fortifies the dentin in teeth by removing water," explains Scientific American. But it doesn't last. The "effect disappears instantly once [the wine] is removed," one expert noted.

While it's too bad that the teeth-strengthening benefits don't last, it's interesting to see that there's more to one of humanity's "oldest agricultural creations" than meats the mouth, nose or brain.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Link Between Lifting Weights & Glaucoma

If you hold your breath while lifting weights, you're putting 50 percent more pressure on your optic nerves, according to research published in this month's Archives of Ophthalmology, and reported by the LA Times. Damage to these nerves is related to Glaucoma (though the LA Times piece isn't entirely clear how).

If you're breathing normally while strength training, intraocular eye pressure goes up 62 percent. But if you're holding your breath, it goes up 90 percent. Doctors recommend people who strength-train regularly be tested for glaucoma.

I wonder if this breathing-pressure link has anything to do with relieving stress. Ever noticed how, when you're stressed out, or can't work out a problem, all you have to do is sit back, take a deep breath and the problem's solved, you're thinking more clearly or the stress is gone?

I'll keep my not-so-pressured eye out for more news like this and let you know what I come up with.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Right Fish May Fight Kidney Cancer

Women who ate fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel had a 44 to 74 percent decreased risk for developing kidney cancer, this according to a Swedish study reported by ABC News. Leaner seafood like cod, tuna, shellfish, shrimp and lobster did not have the same effect.

Scientists believe the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in fatty fish may slow the growth of cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. However, they're not sure that taking omega-3 or vitamin D supplements alone will help.

The study, which began in 1987, included 90,000 Swedish women. Each year, kidney cancer kills between 10,000 and 13,000 Americans. For the last 65 years, the number of kidney cancer deaths has risen by 2 percent each year
.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What About Minerals?

You always hear that you need vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, and you know about vitamin A, B, C, D and E, but what about minerals? Can you name two minerals that your body needs and why?

Over at Ask Men, they've got a feature called "
Minerals 101" where they break down some of the most important minerals for your body, where to get them and how you can tell you're running low.

Here's the Cliff's Notes version of their 101. Iodine and potassium help your metabolism; sodium regulates blood pressure; magnesium aids protein synthesis and helps energy move between cells; calcium is good for muscle contractions; and fluoride helps maintain bone structure.

For the record, calcium, sodium and magnesium help your nerves function properly.

Another interesting thing about this article is the "signs of deficiency" section for each mineral. The signs range from a slow metabolism (iodine) to nausea (sodium), paralysis (potassium) and hallucinations (magnesium).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Good News About Vitamin D

It turns out that vitamin D helps protect you from pancreatic cancer, a particularly deadly form of the disease. This according to a report from Northwestern and Harvard researchers, and reported by the WashingtonPost.

The best part? Just the recommended daily amount is enough to cut your chances of contracting pancreatic cancer in half.

To find vitamin D, reach for fish, eggs and liver, or fortified dairy and soy foods. Then again, you could just go for a walk on a sunny day, because your body naturally uses sunlight to create D for itself. But whether or not that's going to give you the recommended daily amount of 400 international units is unlikely.

Each year, 32,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Just one in 20 will survive more than five years.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Someday, a home test for cancer?

Researchers have found a protein that is only present in the bloodstream when a patient has cancer, reports WebMD. The protein, tNOX, is only created when cancerous cells divide. Does this mean that we're one step closer to the day when checking for cancer is as easy as checking insulin levels? Yes! Well… actually… I don't know. But it's a fascinating idea, no?

Dr. Lorraine O'Driscoll, a cancer researcher from Ireland, would probably shoot down my idea. "There are so many potential candidates out there that I doubt any one will prove to be the one answer," O'Driscoll told WebMD.

So far, research has shown that tNOX tests can identify prostate and lung cancer. Tests on other types of cancer have yet to be launched. However, according to another expert, Dr. D. James Moore, "tNOX is the first tumor marker for all cancers ever described."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

For a Long Life, Try Moving To…

Whether it’s the low population density, clean mountain air, the "healing" aspect of nature or active lifestyles, people in seven Colorado counties are living longer than the rest of us, according to a Harvard School of Public Health report that will be appearing in the Public Library of Science Medicine (that's a magazine) and reported by Time (that's a magazine too).

Folks in the seven Colorado counties can expect to live 81.3 years. At the low end, residents of the District of Columbia an only expect 72 years.

While the Colorado department of health cites "active lifestyles, low smoking rates and the lowest-in-the-nation numbers for obesity," Time's Rita Healy thinks there's also some magic at work. Well, maybe not magic, per se, but she points out that residents drink water "just five miles form its snowfield source," "don't spend a lot of time waiting in lines," and close proximity to ski areas, state parks and national forests keep residents in touch with nature. Ah, nature. Fight it if you want, argue with me if you must, my fellow Los Angelinos, but we don't have much of that.

You know, nature. And no, Griffith Park hardly counts. Compared to the Rocky Mountains, that mangy park is pretty much a wasteland.

For the record, Los Angeles residents can expect just 78.1 years of traffic jams, polluted beaches and movie star sightings.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yes, They Now Have Nicotine in a Bottle

Believe it. A company called Nico Worldwide Inc. has put a drink on the market that it calls an "organic nicotine molecule replacement drink." It sells by the brand name "Nic Lite," and it's basically lemon flavored water spiked with two cigarettes worth of nicotine.

Is it just me or does "Nic Light" sound a stripped-down, maybe internet-only, version of Nickelodeon? As far as I know, there is no relationship between the children's network and Nico Worldwide. In fact, some people think the nicotine beverage could be another way for kids to get hooked on smokes.

I first came across Nic Light when I was at LAX this week. Since we can't bring water through the security checkpoint at airports now, I was searching the terminal for a bottle of water. At one of the shops, they had two drinks available: Aquafina water and Nic Light. And the craziest part was that, on the bottle, it was labeled a "dietary supplement."

If you think the labeling has some people pretty ticked, you're right. Read about the controversy here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How OJ Prevents Kidney Stones

It's long been suspected that citrus juice helps prevent kidney stones. But new research shows that not all citrus juices are created equal when it comes to fighting the painful stones, reports WebMD.

According to the report, a kidney stone forms when minerals and other chemicals in urine concentrate into crystals. Eventually, these crystals gather into stones. One way to prevent this is by adding potassium citrate to your diet. Citrate, found naturally in citrus juices, decreases the acidity of urine and makes it hard for the dreaded stones to form.

But not just any citrus juice will do. According to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, orange juice and grapefruit are the best juices for protecting against kidney stones.

As it turns out, the difference between orange juice and juices like lemon or cranberry is subatomic. One scientist believes the citrate in lemon and cranberry juices includes a proton that "may counteract the acid-lowering affects." OJ on the other hand has a potassium ion which does not.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Evolution of Drink Containers

For those of us who have a hard time zeroing in on a particular flavor of soft drink, Ipifany of Sudbury, MA has a solution, reports Discovery News.

You know the situation. You see that a soft drink is on sale, and you're ready to purchase, but which flavor do you pick? Grape, melon, strawberry, lemon lime? Well, in the near future, you may not have to worry. Ipifany has developed a bottle that comes equipped with flavor buttons that allow consumers to flavor soft drinks on their own. The buttons are actually reservoirs that, when squeezed, release flavor into a base substance (like cola, fitness water, etc).

But it's not just drinks. According to Discovery News, "Other products, such as paint, perfume, and shampoos could also offer customized colors, scents or conditioning formulas."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Look at the Other White Meat

Recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and reported by ABC News, shows that pork is actually leaner than chicken. Whereas chicken has just over one gram of fat per ounce, pork has slightly less than one gram. The difference is miniscule (about .01 grams per ounce), but over the last 10 years, "the percentage of saturated fat in the six common cuts of pork has decreased by 27 percent."

Also, pork "contains higher amounts of Vitamin B-6 than most meats," reports ABC.

Despite these facts, a "cloud" remains over pork.

According to the ABC article, pork has a bad rep for two main reasons. One, its forbidden by the Muslim and Jewish faiths. Two, you can catch a worm parasite called trichinosis from pork. At least you used to. Or maybe the risk is so low now that it's not an issue anymore. ABC News didn't really explain, they just said that catching trichinosis from pork "is no longer a problem in the United States."

Alas, the cloud remains. And per capita pork consumption has been stuck at 67 pounds for the last ten years. Meanwhile, in that same time, chicken consumption has gone up from 70.2 pounds per year to 89.2 pounds per year.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Shocker: Americans Don't Eat Enough Veggies

According to a news study by the USDA just 11 percent of Americans are eating enough vegetables to comply with the new food pyramid, reports WebMD. It's an old study, covering 1999-2000, but I doubt that eating habits have changed much (new food pyramid or not).

The most delinquent age group is boys aged 14 to 18, where just .7 percent are eating the suggested 5 cups (that's a whopping 10 servings).

Interestingly enough, 40 percent of Americans would qualify under the old food recommendations, so maybe we just need to give the new pyramid a chance. Have you checked out what your pyramid is? Yes, you have your very own pyramid, the new guidelines are age, sex and activity-specific.

Under the old standards, girls aged 4 to 8 were at the low end of compliance (just 10 percent), and surprisingly, men aged 51 to 70 were at the high end (51 to 70). Perhaps they're making up for a lifetime of indulging in burgers, booze and other manly stuff.

Now it's not that Americans aren't eating vegetables. They are. Four-point-seven servings, according to the USDA report. It's just that it's not enough to maintain good health. Another problem is the type of vegetable we're eating. Five out of six vegetable servings in the American diet are starchy vegetables (like potatoes), while we eat just a third of the recommended amount of dark green and orange vegetables and legumes, which are rich in nutrients.

Pound360 Archive

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.