Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Huh? 'Antioxidants May Not Extend Life'

Look, it's another study about how vitamins are a scam. This time, a group of Danish researchers took on antioxidants (like vitamin A, C and E) and found no affect on mortality. That is, people that take antioxidant supplements don't live any longer or shorter than people that don't take 'em.

Antioxidants are supposed to counter the side effects of energy conversion in your body and mitigate the risks of certain types of cancer.

However, the study's senior author suggested that beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E may actually "increase mortality." Now that's bad news. Now I'm confused. Should I take vitamin supplements or not? I wonder if
the placebo effect would be enough to get me by?

Well, at this point, I'm not pulling vitamin supplements out of my diet, but I do think the best source of vitamins is the food you eat. It's all about the chemistry between the vitamins and the multitude of substances in food that help your body absorb and maintain the stuff… I think. At the least, I'm going to make sure I'm taking my vitamins with a meal from now on.

Healthlines: February 28, 2007

"Hotel maids who believe they are getting exercise are healthier than maids who don't think of their toil as a workout"…
Placebo Power (Newsweek)

I've noticed lately that, as more studies like this come out, more and more of the articles reporting on them spend more and more time saying things like, "Since alcohol consumption can be addictive, starting to drink alcohol because of its positive health benefits is not advised"…
Wine Drinkers May Live Longer (WebMD)

Okay, so are kids in school districts with year-round classes in better shape? Hm… sounds like
a study that economists would do
Kids gain more weight on summer break (Reuters)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Room Temp Can Damage Asparagus and other Food Storage Advice

Somehow I came across an interesting piece on food storage. I believe it was via Digg a while back. But its been a long while.

Anyway, the piece has some interesting advice for keeping food fresh, healthy and tasty. And no, putting everything in the fridge is not the best advice.

For example, berries should never see the inside of a fridge. But keep them in a paper bag and don't remove the stems until you're ready to eat them. Tropical fruit, as well as avocados, lemons, plums and melons shouldn't be refrigerated. Cool temps make them spoil faster. And if you've got any garlic, a dark, dry place will do--no need for a refrigerator.

So what goes in the fridge? First, you ought to store carrots in apples in the fridge, but be sure to keep them in paper bags (it keeps them from getting mushy somehow). Asparagus should get to the fridge too. In fact, you should get it there right away; room temperature may destroy half of Asparagus' vitamin C.

Healthlines: February 27, 2007

"Ben & Jerry might help you get pregnant…" (I'll spare you the obvious cheap shot here)…
Ice cream as fertility aid? Experts skeptical (CNN)

As surprising as this headline is, it gets crazier. Almost half of women age 20 to 24 carry the virus…
HPV infections seen in over quarter of U.S. women (Reuters)

Thank God… "Long hours surfing the Internet or typing won't wreck your wrists, a new study shows"…
Carpal Tunnel? Blame Genes Not Overuse (WebMD)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Healthlines: February 26, 2007

Hm… not disputing this stuff is a heart attack in a can (an 8-ouncer packs 300mg of caffeine, the equivalent of three cups of coffee), but banning it (Spike Shooter) is just going to make kids want it more…
Energy drink banned at Colorado school (CNN)

As we learned at Pound360 a couple days back,
the healthy stuff in garlic is very unstable… combine that with the following Healthline and I'd say it's best not to rely on Garlic to keep your cardiovascular system healthy… Garlic does not lower cholesterol, says study (Reuters)

Still not exercising? Another reason you should… note, ladies, this is "strenuous" exercise, not yoga, that they're talking about…
Exercise Helps Prevent Breast Cancer (WebMD)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Do People Eat More in Crowds?

Sounds crazy, at least it sounded crazy to me, but it turns out that yes, people eat more when they're in groups, reports the New York Times.

Apparently this is not a new finding. "It has often been observed in animals and adults that consumption goes up as the number eating increases. People will even keep eating past the point when their appetite has been satisfied," reported the Times.

What's new is that in a recent University of Michigan study, the behavior was observed in preschool children. And according to the times, "that may have implications for fighting the obesity problem."

Oh yes? Perhaps we should have kids eat in isolation chambers instead of cafeterias. I guess the choice is ours to make. Do we want anti-social kids or fat ones?

Anyway, scientists have developed two theories for why people eat more in groups. One is that when people are in a group, they socialize more, thus extending the length of the meals and "their contact with food," reported The Times.

The second possibility is "the arousal theory," which is pretty bizarre, but I like it. According to the theory, "the sight of others eating leads to more and faster consumption, especially in animals, which may feel they are competing for food."

Healthlines: February 21, 2007

I wonder if the same goes for kids that play video games?
Kids shovel down more calories watching TV (Reuters)

Aging: "it's not all doom and gloom"…
New research finds some brain functions improve with age (Wall Street Journal)

I don't even know what watercress is, and it turns out that you must eat it raw to get the benefits, but if the protective properties of this stuff is "particularly strong in smokers"…
Watercress May Cut Cancer Risk (WebMD)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Controversy Over Pregnancy & Fish Consumption Rages on

With all the conflicting health information flying around about fish, it's been tough in the last few years to figure out whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks. From what I've read and discussed here at the blog (see the last two links), consensus seems to be tipping towards the fish-is-good side.

And the positive vibe continues this week with findings from a "huge" UK study
reported this week by the Washington Post.

In the University of Bristol study, researchers suggest that, for pregnant women, "advice to limit seafood consumption could actually be detrimental."

According to the Post piece, other studies have shown women who ate less than 12 ounces of seafood per week were 50 percent more likely to have kids with low IQs. These kids are more likely to have "social and communication problems," reported the Washington Post.

Question for doctors: does it have to be fish? If it's omega-3s that give the benefit, can women get that from another food source? I'm curious to know.

The Washington Post also provides some advice for picking the right fish. First, pick seafood with low levels of mercury like salmon and herring, and skip the stuff with higher levels like shark and swordfish. Albacore tuna is also high in mercury. Also, skip raw fish that "can be sources of listeria, a bacteria that sickens about 2,500 people annually," reports the Post.

More fascinating material on fish at Pound360…
Scared of Fish? Don't Be
Study: Benefits Outweigh Risks of Fish

Healthlines: February 21, 2007

In previous coverage on the link between testosterone and health, Pound360 couldn't figure out how men can control testosterone levels, but this SciAm piece suggests obesity is a factor in lowering testosterone levels…
Low testosterone in men may be diabetes risk factor (Scientific American)

This headline was just to irresistible to pass up… but it's a bit of a letdown, they're saying that diet is just as effective as dieting-and-exercise at controlling weight…
but we've heard this before
No need to diet and exercise to lose weight (Reuters)

Aren't all honeys created equally? Nope. "The composition of honey depends greatly on where honeybees collect their raw materials"…
Honeydew honeys are better antioxidants than nectar honeys (EurekAlert)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

US Ranks Below Austria, Hungary in Child Health

It's hard to believe -- well, not really -- but the U.S. ranks 20th among 21 "wealthy countries" when it comes to a child's "well-being." This according to a UNICEF report that was reported widely, including this USAToday article.

The only country to fair worse in the study, which looked at infant mortality, birth weight, immunization, and death among other factors, was the UK.

Rather than admit they had some work to do, and assure the country it would redouble its efforts to protect their most valuable resource, the British Department for Education and Skills tossed out excuses. "In many cases the data used is several years old," said a spokeswoman.

I did some digging and couldn't find any response from US leadership.

Healthlines: February 20, 2007

Trouble falling asleep? Skip the Ambien and grab a bagel…
Carbs May Help You Fall Asleep Faster (WebMD)

Speaking of sleep, CNN serves up some sleep tips. Among them, don't exercise too close to bed time and keep a regular schedule (including naps)…
Moms' 6 biggest sleep mistakes, and how to fix them (CNN)

"High levels of estrogen and other hormones can relax the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus, causing heartburn. The same hormones… can influence fetal hair growth."
Really? The Claim: Mother’s Heartburn Means a Hairy Newborn (NY Times)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hot Sauce: Fascinating, Addictive…

I'm hopelessly addicted to hot sauce. For example, today I had half a 6oz bottle of "Louisiana" hot sauce with my lunch. I'm not kidding. And I'm not bragging. I'm not sure how healthy a habit like that is. But I'm not sure how bad it is either.

You may recall
a study last year that found capsaicin, the stuff in peppers that makes them hot, killed prostate cancer cells in mice.

And if you're worried about me getting an ulcer, don't.
Ulcers are not caused by spicy food. They're (usually) caused by a bacteria that has plagued man for eons, or modern things like excessive use of "nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories" like asprin and ibuprofen.

Also,
I read at Scientific American the other day that recent archeological evidence shows man has eaten spicy peppers for at least 6,000 years.

And if you're wondering why spicy food makes your mouth hot and your body sweat,
you can find that at Scientific American, too. It turns out that capsaicin affects the nerves in your skin that signal extreme heat to your brain. According to SciAm, capsaicin tells the brain, "'I am an intense stimulus,' and 'I am warmth.' Together these stimuli define the sensation of a burn." Eventually the capsaicin travels throughout your body, sending the same signals to your brain, which interprets this as your body getting warm. Thus, you sweat.

Interestingly enough, menthol works in the same way; only it affects the nerves in your skin that signal cold.

Healthlines: February 19, 2007

Want your kids to grow up and be GREAT surgeons? Buy them an Xbox. Surgeons who play at least 3 hours of video games per week, "made 37 percent fewer errors, performed 27 percent faster, and scored 42 percent better in the test of surgical skills"…
Surgeons who play video games more skilled: study (Reuters)

"Garlic contains compounds shown to help prevent blood clots. But most garlic studies have tested raw garlic, and cooking can damage those anticlotting compounds."
Cooking Garlic? Crush It First (WebMD)

More good news on Cocoa: "Among the women given drinks of cocoa high in flavanols, there was a significant increase in blood flow to the brain"...
Cocoa may improve brain blood flow (CNN)

For more details on the potential of chocolate, check out an earlier post of mine:

God's Latest Prank: Healthy Chocolate

Thursday, February 15, 2007

LA Times' Bad Advice on Kidney Stones

Over at the LA Times, this week's "Ask Us" column gave some poor advice on fighting kidney stones. In the piece, they suggest Lemonade for fighting the fearsome stones, which form when calcium oxalate crystals build up in the kidney.

That's not terrible advice, citrus juice appears to help fight kidney stones. However, if you've been following this blog, you may recall a posting from last September where
I explained that not all citrus juices are created equal when it comes to fighting kidney stones.

As it turns out, orange and grapefruit juice are best, while lemonade and cranberry are the worst. The reason is nuanced. It turns out that the less effective juices may have a proton that weakens their ability to break down calcium oxalate.

Healthlines: February 14, 2007

I'll admit I didn't know smoking and blindness were linked either… another interesting stat in this piece is that more young women (21%) smoke than young men (15%)…
Blindness From Smoking Terrifies Teens, But Few Realize The Two Are Linked (Science Daily)

It's history in the making: "[this] is believed to be the first salmonella outbreak associated with peanut butter in U.S. history"…
Salmonella Outbreak Due to Peanut Butter (Washington Post)

The key is to find chocolates high in flavonoids (read: dark chocolate), but it's more complicated than that…
Good-For-You Chocolate (Forbes)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Looking for Love? Try Cocaine

Happy Valentine's Day! It turns out that love has the same affect in your brain as a long, fat line of cocaine, reports CNN. Love is cheaper though, right? I suppose that depends. But I'm sure it is healthier. I'm sure.

So here are the facts. Researchers at Einstein College in New York hooked kids to an MRI machine and found that, when exposed to pictures of their new mates, the "caudate" and "ventral tegmental" areas of the brain lit up. What's interesting about that is, "exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine," said one researcher.

The "system" being affected here controls cravings (the caudate), pleasure and motivation (both are tied to the ventral tegmental).

Not to be limited to one shocking revelation, researchers pushed ahead and checked to see whether or not love and sex lit up the same brain regions. Surprise! They don't. It turns out that sex triggers parts of the brain that control primitive drives like hunger and thirst (the hypothalamus), as well as areas responsible for controlling arousal (the amygdale), of course.

However, there is a connection between love and sex. According to the CNN article, "People in love have elevated levels of dopamine. Lots of dopamine, in turn, triggers the production of testosterone, which is responsible for the sex drive in both men and women."

Healthlines: February 14, 2007

I'll let you come up with your own smart ass quote for this surprising Healthline…
Study: Men's perspiration boosts sexual arousal in women (SF Gate)

If you thought some of the latest research let you off the hook, think again…
Less-intense workouts may be less effective (Reuters)

"Caring about this sort of thing doesn't make you gay, or stupid, or emasculated. It actually makes you sort of hot"…
How To Shave The Modern Male (SF Gate)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

'Probable Carcinogen' Shows up In Shampoos

Back in the eighties, the FDA noticed a "probable human carcinogen" called 1,4-dioxane in "some shampoos and other bath products," reports the LA Times. While they recommended that manufacturers cut the level of this stuff to below 10 parts per million, a recent study shows some producers are ignoring the agency's urging.

But why should they cut back? The FDA's action was limited to a recommendation, or a voluntary limit. Perhaps the FDA expected the market would select out the most (potentially) harmful products. Well, tell that to Clairol, who's "Herbal Essences Rainforest Flowers" shampoo has 23 ppm of 1,4-dioxane or Olay, who's "Complete Body Wash With Vitamins" carry's the same amount.

How much of a problem is this, really? Well, we're talking about a "probable" carcinogen here, so it's tough to say. But I wonder, with cancer rates what they are (some 500,000 people die from cancer each year), I wonder how many of these "probable" carcinogens need to add up before a problem develops.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Marijuana the Latest Weapon in Cancer Fight?

This is an old story. It comes to us from last May, courtesy of Digg. But it's great stuff.

If you wind the clock back even further, all the way back to 1996, you may recall Clinton Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey
going on the offense against California's Prop 215. The initiative, dubbed the "Compassionate Use Act" by supporters, aimed to partially decriminalize marijuana. McCaffrey argued that THC (the primary psychoactive in marijuana) was already available in pill form, and besides, marijuana was "more carcinogenic than tobacco." Or was it?

First of all, McCaffrey lost his battle and Prop 215 became law. And according to a study released last year, it turns out that, "smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer,"
reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

The UCLA study, which followed pot smokers for 30 years, had revealed another surprise. Not only does marijuana not cause cancer, it appears to fight it. How is this possible? It turns out that THC may, "kill aging cells and keep them from becoming cancerous," reported the Chronicle.

The same study found people who smoked 2+ packs of cigarettes had a 20x increase in lung cancer.

Healthlines: February 12, 2007

To-good-to-be-true/Don't-be-a-sucker alert: Canadian firm promises four minutes on their "H.I.T" machine gives your body the benefit of a 90-minute workout. However, "fitness experts warned that nothing is that easy"…
Canada firm touts fitness gain from 4-minute pain (Reuters)

Staying trim wasn't enough incentive to get more shut-eye? Fine, how about a better memory?
Sleep Deprivation May Impair Memory (WebMD)

Sleeping on the job? Good. "A little midday snooze seems to reduce risks for fatal heart problems, especially among men"…
On-the-job naps might cut heart risk (CNN)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Super Bowl Ads Spark Anxiety

For better or worse, neuroscientists like to wire people's brains and scan them while they watch commercials. So how did this year's crop of Super Bowl ads do? Terrible.

According to a study by UCLA scientists,
reports TIME, just 20 percent of the multi-million dollar ads stimulated the reward and satisfaction part of the brain, known as the ventral striatum. This is the part of the brain "known to be involved in making associations and forming connections with people or things," according to the TIME write up.

Last year, half of the ads triggered activity in the ventral striatum.

This year, where ad time was sold in 30-second blocks for 2.6 million dollars, most ads stimulated the amygdale, a part of the brain associated with anxiety. "To me, that means these ads are going to be unsuccessful," one researcher told TIME.

One ad that triggered a particularly strong response in the reward center was
Coke's "videogame" ad. On the flipside, Emerald Nuts "Boogeyman" spot left the ventrial stratum dark during cerebral scans.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Which Sugar is the Right Sugar?

You may be familiar with some of the controversy over high fructose corn syrup. Some scientists think the rise in consumption (we’re up to 60lbs per person per year) has driven the obesity epidemic in this country.

But is the high fructose stuff any different than table sugar, also know as sucrose?

A new study,
reported today at the Washington Post says no.

Before discussing the results, let’s take a look at the difference between high fructose corn syrup and good ol’ table sugar.

High fructose corn syrup is made up of fructose and glucose, the building blocks of sugar. Sucrose on the other hand is made up of one molecule that’s broken down into fructose and glucose by your intestine.

What do fructose and glucose do? Glucose tells your pancreas to crank out insulin. Insulin is the stuff that helps sugar cross into cells where it’s converted into energy. Glucose also cranks up
leptin production. Leptin tells your body it’s full. Another think glucose does is it tells your body to stop making ghrelin, which is stuff that tells your body it’s hungry.

Now to fructose. Fructose, according to the Post, “doesn’t stimulate either insulin of leptin production and doesn’t suppress gherlin.” What that means is that fructose doesn’t do anything to tell your body’ it’s full, or that it should stop eating. Obviously, this is not good.

But does high-fructose corn syrup really throw your body’s hunger-controlling chemicals out of whack? According to a study by the University of Rhode Island, no.

According to the Washington Post, the study showed “no differences in blood sugar, appetite hormones or hunger” between women who got a large part of their daily calories from table sugar, and those that consumed a lot of calories in the form of high fructose corn syrup. “That suggests no difference between the effects of what sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup do in the body -- at least over the short term.”

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

And Here’s Why Sleep Keeps You Trim…

Sleep. I love it. But it’s hard to find time for it, and it’s hard (for me) to do. But there’s another study out on how sleep helps keep you in shape, so I gotta start figure something out. The widely reported story (which you can catch at CNN) focuses on kids, sleep and weight gain.

What’s the story? One hour of sleep can “cut the likelihood of being overweight from 36 percent to 30 percent in children ages 3 to 8.”

Why? Sleep, or lack thereof, can impact hormones that control appetite.
Behavior, affected by a lack of sleep, may play a part too. “Getting less sleep -- for example, staying up an hour later at night -- may provide more opportunity to eat,” one expert told CNN. “And she said not getting enough sleep may leave a person more lethargic, cutting down on exercise.”

Monday, February 05, 2007

Guess How Much Bacteria is On Your Arm

You know this planet is crawling with bacteria. Well, not really crawling. But the earth was dominated by bacteria long before us multicellular organisms showed up, and it almost certainly will be long after we’re gone. Bacteria is everywhere. It’s in your gut, on your feet and in your moth right now.

But guess how diverse the bacteria population is on your arm? Through
a post at Wired.com, I learned today that 182 species of bacteria, “a virtual zoo,” is thriving on your arms right now. Most, 54 percent, come from the genera Propionibacteria, Corynebacteria, Staphlococcus and Streptococcus. Sounds horrifying, doesn’t it?

After reading this I wondered how many individual bacteria are on my skin. Not just the number of species. But what’s the population? Well,
a quick visit to Wikipedia reveals that you have about 50 million bacteria per square inch. So that means there are about a bajillion on each of your arms.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Big Challenge Facing McDonald's

After reading about McDonald's official announcement to cut out trans-fat, I recalled a story I had heard about their initial announcement to look into the issue. But I couldn't find a news report until now, so here you go.

Back in 2002, McDonald's said they would start looking at ways to reduce trans-fats from their fries. Almost immediately, customers started calling in and complaining about the new taste,
reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in January. The problem, of course, is that McDonald's hadn't changed anything -- yet. Of course, the official announcement came yesterday.

Trans-fat gives foods a more appealing texture. Unfortunately, they also boost bad cholesterol and cut the good stuff. This represent's such a serious health danger, that
New York City moved to ban the stuff from restaurants last fall.

Since so much of McDonald's reputation is based on its fries, its work is cut out for it. As I mentioned in
yesterday's post, fry sales in Denmark dropped after McDonald's cut trans-fat, and they never recovered.

Would that be a bad thing? Of course not. Hopefully, people will find other, more nutrient-rich sources of calories.

On a side note: In
an article on the challenge's chefs face in New York under the new ban, they note that trans fat was first introduced in 1911 by our friends at Crisco. Why did it take almost a century to ban them if they're so bad? It's because trans fat didn't become a "staple of the American diet" until the "rise of fast food" in the 70s.

On another interesting side note: Crisco originally introduced a trans-fat free shortening in 2004, but it was pulled back because of "production and performance problem."
It wasn't until this year that they tried again.

Healthlines: February 1, 2007

But they don't exactly say why…
Less Television, More Gathering Around Dinner Table Prevents Kids From Becoming Overweight (ScienceDaily)

Of course, if you don't want to pry your kids from the TV, just make sure the right thing is on…
Dancing video game helps kids avoid weight gain (Reuters)

"If you have ever picked your nose or punched someone, you can get in on the fun"…
Wii is guest of honor at new genre of parties (Reuters)

Pound360 Archive

About Me

My photo
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.