Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why Men Sleep After Sex

Through a post at Digg today, I found an interesting site called "Life's Little Mysteries" where one of the latest features deals with sex and sleep. Specifically, why is it that men usually pass out after making love?

It turns out that, during ejaculation, a man's brain releases a bunch of chemicals, including a hormone called prolactin. This stuff is a sleep agent among other things. According to the story, "the release of prolactin is linked to the feeling of sexual satisfaction, and it also mediates the 'recovery time.'" Recovery time refers to the time it takes for men to get aroused again.

Other chemicals released during orgasm like oxytocin and vasopressin also act as sleep agents. The release of these chemicals may serve an evolutionary purpose as they are linked to "pair bonding." This type of bonding keeps parents together after sex, which the article refers to as "favorable" for kids because "cooperative child rearing maximizes the young one’s chances for survival."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Smoking… It Makes You Look Older

Not sure why, but I'm fascinated by the things that make skin look older. You may recall one of my first posts to this blog, where I described the moment where I realized how powerful the sun was in changing skin.

Well, I just
found a piece at Reuters that explains how smoking can wreak havoc on your skin too. And it's not the cigarette smoke, I don't think. According to the piece, smoking causes blood vessels in your skin to constrict. This may deprive your skin of vital oxygen which it needs to look healthy. However, it's worth noting that this was Reuter's note, not the finding of the survey.

But wait, there's more… smoking may also "damage the connective tissue that supports both the skin and the internal organs." And that's just in case you still thought it was healthy to smoke.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Americans & Veggie Consumption: How do You Compare?

Look: it's another study about how Americans aren't eating enough veggies (Reuters). No wonder more employers are limiting worker health care options to one (also from Reuters): a high-deductible plan.

So how many people are getting five-a-day of fruits and veggies? About a third of us eat two servings of fruit, and a third eat three servings of vegetables. What they didn't point out if this it's the same third getting both. I wonder how much overlap there is?

Another shocker: rich people with college degrees ate the most vegetables. Well, maybe not rich, but somewhere in the middle. People earning more than $50K annually and with a college degree ate the most produce. The group that ate the least vegetables were men, of course. Just 22 percent of men ate three servings of vegetables a day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Smoking 2.0?

As if nicotine laced water weren't enough, they're marketing smokeless cigarettes over in Italy, reports Wired. The water, which you may remember from a previous post at Pound360 (see link above) is called "Nic Lite." These smokeless cigs are called NicStics.

No need for matches, these 'Stics have an electric heating coil that vaporizes tobacco. What's the point? First, there's no smoke, so you can "smoke" these anyplace (I wonder if you can get away with it on a plane). Second, there's no "tar, cadmium and formaldehyde," in these things, reports Wired. And that

To get started, all you need is a nicotine addiction, the will to change and about $100. But these things aren't as glamorous as their standard 1.0 counterpart -- you know, the kind that require matches and are smoked by rock stars and actors? The NicStic gives off a noxious odor that Wired describers as "unpleasant even to smokers."

When can we expect smokeless cigarettes in the U.S.? Next year. According to Wired, one company plans to rollout smokeless smokes in early 2007. But whether hardcore smokers will pick up these contraptions or not is unclear. One addict told Wired he turned back to Smoking 1.0 after the 2.0 thing failed to yield any taste or "kick."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Uh-Oh: Office Workers at Risk for Clots

Sure, everyone is at risk for clots, but Wired reports office workers are more likely than air travelers to get the dreaded little monsters. According to the article, more than a third of blood clot victims "had been seated at work for long periods."

To avoid clots, be sure to stretch your legs regularly, whether you're at work or on a plane. It's tough on a plane, but what kind of job keeps people locked in their chairs for hours? The most clot-plagued of employment groups were info tech workers and call center employees.

Call center employees? Sounds like justice to me if they work for Dell… but that's another post on another blog.

Anyway, this study revolved around people under 65, so don't get to comfortable even if you're a young pup. And it doesn't take much to protect yourself from clots. Researchers were surprised to find that it was not uncommon for workers to be seated for more than 12 hours a day. I'm no doctor, but I'd bet that getting up and stretching out every couple of hours would help reduce your risks here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Two-Letter Diet Secret: ED

What would you say if I told you there was a diet that allowed you to eat as much as you always do, but lose weight? One of two things, probably. Some of you may respond, sounds like another fad diet. Others may say, this is a trick question. It's the latter.

Over at Newsweek, there's an interesting feature, "Filling Up With Less," that reports on the Volumetrics approach to diet. It's pretty straight forward, you eat the same volume as food as you always have, but concentrate on eating low energy density (ED) food?
What's low energy density food?

It's pretty much the stuff that people are always telling you to eat, like fruit, vegetables and -- thank God -- soup (I dig soup because it has flavor… tons of it… and that's my own diet secret… eat high flavor, low-cal food).

Anyway, the Newsweek piece is full of stats on how the diet helped people loose weight. For example, over the course of a year, women on a low-ED diet lost 20 pounds, compared to women on a high-ED diet that lost 15 pounds, despite the fact that women on the low-ED plan ate more food.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Good News: There's Science behind Massage Therapy

Massages always struck me as one of those pseudo-scientific remedies like acupuncture, anything treatment you get from a chiropractor or anything astrology-related. But after reading an article at CNN, I'm tempted to go out and get a massage without feeling guilty.

As it turns out, massages cause very real physiological effects. For example, it stimulates certain brain waves, gets blood flowing to muscles and, perhaps most importantly, massages somehow reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

When cortisol levels drop, the amount of mood enhancing hormones like serotonin and dopamine goes up. Also, cortisol destroys disease-fighting cells in your blood stream. So when cortisol is squeezed from your system by the hands of a masseuse, not only do you feel better, but your immune system gets a boost.

Massages also help you concentrate (by triggering certain brain waves), allow muscles to heal faster (by improving blood flow) and for women, a massage can soften the symptoms of PMS.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cleanliness Has Little to do with Acne?

According to an article at CNN today, when it comes to acne, "studies have shown cleanliness and diet are not important factors." Am I the only one that feels betrayed by my high school science teachers? This means I could have had one less reason to feel guilty about gorging on french fries and potato chips.

Anyway, the piece I was reading had to do with the link between stress and acne. It turns out, when teens approach exam time, their acne breakouts worsened.

So what really causes acne? Inflammation, according to the article. So it must be a chemical released by our bodies in reaction to stress that leads to acne. Maybe. The article wasn't clear. However, one researcher stated, "the skin, in my opinion, is a mirror to what is going in our minds."

This research may affect studies on other skin conditions like eczema.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A New Look at How Memories are Made

Ever thought about how memories are stored in your head? Previous research suggests that the hippocampus (a part of your brain) stores memories over the course of a day, then downloads it to the neocortex (another part of your brain) for long-term storage.

However,
as I learned at Scientific American today, memories may be immediately recorded in both the hippocampus and neocortex. That's bad because the hippocampus is basically cleared of its memories when you sleep.

Maybe this explains why you forget certain things, and not others. If it's immediately recorded in the hippocampus, consider it gone in 24 hours. But if it's recorded in the necortex, it lives on. At least that's how I understand it, and I admit that I'm usually confused by the time I get two or three sentences into a SciAm article.

But let's assume I got it right when reading the piece. I suppose the question is, how do I get all me memories to be recorded in the neocortex? And is that why some people have better memories than others? Because most of their memories go there? Also, is that why repetition is a good way of learning? Because eventually, one of those reps makes it into the neocortex?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Whole Grains Help the Heart, But How?

That's not a rhetorical question, I really want to know how. Maybe I'll research it for another blog post. Maybe I've already answered it in a previous post. Whatever the case, recently released findings from the Physician's Health Study shows a link between whole grain cereal and a healthy heart.

According to
a report at the Independent (UK), "People who eat whole grain breakfast cereals seven or more times a week have a 28 per cent lower risk of developing heart failure." As little as two bowls of whole grain cereal can cut your risk by 22 percent.

The question is why. While a breakfast rich in complex carbs is a good way to start the day (it helps you concentrate better, for example), what does it really do for your heart?

One possibility is that, "high-fibre breakfast may lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol and prevent heart attacks," one expert told the Independent.

News of whole grain cereal's role in heart health comes just weeks after a University of Leeds study showed 30g of fiber every day can cut a woman's breast cancer risk in half.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What Makes A Big Mac Look Like Health Food?

If you've seen a menu at Ruby Tuesday -- or rather, the nutritional info behind it -- you know it makes a McDonald's menu look like Weight Watchers. Of course it's not just Ruby Tuesday's (I don't even know what Ruby Tuesday is… when I was a kid, Ruby Tuesday was a 'Stones song). But anyway, Ruby Tuesday is one of a few restaurants raising concerns among law makers and health watchdogs, reports the LA Times.

In one chart, we see Ruby's "Fresh Chicken & Broccoli Pasta" weighing in at 2,061 calories with 128 grams of fat. Of course that's about all the calories you need in a day and three times the fat. By comparison, a Big Mac is just 540 calories with 29 grams of fat. So, if you're trying to eat light, skip Ruby's (or Macaroni Grill, or Cheesecake Factory for that matter), and pull through the McDonald's drive thru.

Doesn't "Fresh Chicken & Broccoli Pasta" sound healthy? This reminds me of the way our government uses pleasant words like "sparrow" and "patriot" to describe not-so-pleasant things like missiles.

Other super-unhealthy dishes in the LA Times report are Uno Chicago Grill's "Pizza Skins" (which pack 2,060 calories and 134 grams of fat), and On the Border's "Ranchilada" (boasting 1,870 merry calories and an unknown amount of fat).

According to one expert, these dishes "are seemingly designed to promote obesity, heart disease and stroke." Not sure if I agree with that. I'd say they are designed to make customers feel full, make them come back for more, and ultimately, maximize sales. Hey, they wouldn’t sell this stuff if people weren't buying it, right? Or am I being na├»ve?

Whatever the case, law makers are taking action. Bills in the California state senate may someday force restaurant chains to print nutrition information (like calorie, fat and carb counts) on menus.

Healthlines: March 1 2007

Japanese women can expect 82 years while men can expect 78. However, experts worry that "hamburgers and instant noodles may soon change this"…
Life Expectancy Rates Rise in Japan (ABC News)

"Easily bored people are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, eating disorders, hostility, anger"...
Bored to Death: Chronically Bored People Exhibit Higher Risk-Taking Behavior (Scientific American)

"Experts are looking at these factors in trying to prepare for a pandemic of influenza."
Want to stop disease from spreading? Open a window (Reuters)

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.