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Eating breakfast helps to burn calories throughout the day.

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Sep 26

Soda Pop Diet


Soda Pop Diet

When you see warning labels on household products such as bleach that read “Warning: Do not ingest - harmful to your health” you probably would not drink the solution. What would you do if you saw a similar warning on your favorite can of soda pop? Would you still drink it? Would you let your children drink it?

You may see such a warning in the future, if the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is successful in their lobbying efforts. CSPI is pushing to have obesity warning labels on soda cans, much the same as the surgeon general’s warning on cigarette packages.

The concern is not unfounded. Sweetened soft drinks are the only specific food that is directly linked to weight gain by clinical studies. Soda is not only very high in calories, but it has no nutritional value and induces hunger which leads to overeating. It is the ultimate junk food, not so fondly referred to as “liquid candy.”

Over the last thirty years, obesity rates have doubled in adults and tripled in teenagers. Is it only a coincidence that soda consumption has increased at a level that closely mirrors the rising obesity rates? Before reaching for that next soda, you may want to make a healthier choice. Your decision may just save yourself or your child from the consequences of obesity.

Sep 11

Politics On The Brain

Liberal Conservative

We don't need neurobiologists to tell us that liberals and conservatives think differently, but it is interesting that they have discovered the reason why. According to a new report, scientists have been able to show that political orientation is related to differences in brain activity and in how a person's brain processes information.

The study demonstrated that there are indeed two very distinctive cognitive styles, liberal and conservative, which influence political orientation as well as everyday decisions. Because of how their brains work, liberals are more apt to accept new religious, social, and scientific ideas, and can tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives. Conservatives are better able to block out distracting information and commit to a single-minded purpose.

The study, conducted by scientists at NY University and UCLA, was not meant to show that one political party was better than another. The findings, however, can help explain why liberals and conservatives just can't seem to see eye to eye.

Sep 04

Tailless Dolphin Goes Bionic

Dolphin Prosthetic

As a prosthetic specialist, Kevin Carroll handles some of the toughest human amputation cases. One of his latest patients was a whole new challenge - she needed a new tail. His patient was Winter, a dolphin that lost her tail when she was 3 months old.

Although the scientist took on the case to apply his expertise from working with human amputees to help a dolphin, he also inadvertently found a way to help human amputees. For Winter the dolphin, he developed a gel sleeve that would allow the tail prosthesis to grip without irritating her sensitive skin, using suction to grip much like a rubber glove grips a human hand.

Applying what he learned from Winter to a human case, he was able to find a way to soothe the pain of walking with prosthetic legs for Air Force Senior Airman Brian Kolfage, who was injured during a mortar attack in Iraq in 2004 and lost both legs and a right hand. When trying to walk with prosthetic legs, he had experienced great pain from the bony-growths in the socket that felt like daggers. That pain was eased by using a gel sleeve similar to Winter's.

Brian is just one amputee of many that will be helped by Winter.

Aug 31

Baby Cradling Linked to Depression

Cradling Depression

Cues to a mother's mental health might be found in the way she holds her baby. New research suggests that moms who cradle their babies on their right-hand side may be showing signs of extreme maternal stress. The findings may hold clues to identifying women at risk of developing post-partum depression, a condition that affects 1 in 10 new mothers.

The study looked at the relationship between maternal mood and stress and how it affects the preference for cradling on the left or right. The results indicated that mothers who were neither stressed nor depressed cradled to the left in 86% of the cases, regardless of whether they were right- or left-handed, and to the right in 14% of the cases. Examining the group of stressed mothers, it was shown that the preference was for right-side cradling.

Most new mothers do not realize when they are overly stressed and in need of support. Researchers say studying such non-verbal cues as cradling preference could potentially help doctors identify new mothers who are at risk of developing depression before it's too late.

Aug 29

Obesity Virus Can Make You Fat

Obesity Virus

Obesity is a growing worldwide epidemic that is often blamed solely on an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle. That notion is being reconsidered, however, in light of new research. Recent findings show that some cases of obesity may actually be caused by a virus that can be caught much the same way as the common cold.

Scientists at Louisiana State University have found that the human adenovirus-36, known to cause respiratory and eye infections, can also transform adult stem cells found under the skin into fat cells and increase the fat content in humans. The findings suggest that the virus might contribute to the development of obesity in susceptible people.

Not all people infected with the virus will develop obesity and not all cases of obesity are caused by the virus, but the research does seem to indicate that in some people factors other than diet and exercise may play a part in being overweight. Experts still agree, however, that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle will help most people maintain a healthy weight.

Aug 08

Scratch and Sniff

Alzheimers Smell

The loss of smell in aging adults may be more than just another inevitable part of getting older. According to a recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Illinois Department of Public Health, losing the ability to recognize common scents may be the first sign of Alzheimer's disease.

The study followed 600 people between the ages of 54 and 100 over a five year period, comparing a person's ability to recognize a dozen familiar smells (banana, black pepper, chocolate, cinnamon, gasoline, lemon, onion, paint thinner, pineapple, rose, soap, and smoke) with any signs of mental decline. The results indicated that as the difficulty to identify odors developed, so did the risk of progressing from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's.

While no one knows what causes Alzheimer's disease, researchers have long known that the brain lesions that develop with the disease first appear in the brain region important to the sense of smell. While there is yet no cure, the results of this test may prove useful in developing a scratch-and-sniff test that would identify a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The test could be used to slow down or prevent the disease from developing once a cure is available.

The information is not meant to cause a panic, as a diminishing sense of smell may also indicate other less serious conditions such as infected sinuses or a polyp in the nose, but it should be reported to your doctor for further examination.

Jun 13

Smart Contacts Help Diabetics

Diabetes Contacts

Exciting new research will help diabetics check their blood-sugar levels without having to prick their fingers with a needle up to six times a day. Scientists and researchers, who have been working for years to develop a non-invasive method of monitoring blood-sugar levels in the body, are applying new technology into color-shifting contact lenses that will allow diabetics to check their blood-sugar levels by simply looking into a mirror.

The technology behind this breakthrough is the study of nanoparticles, tiny microscopic materials that are being studied and used to develop many new products. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have been studying small particles called photonic crystals, particles which change color in the presence of certain chemicals. More specifically, they have been experimenting with photonic crystals that can detect blood-sugar levels in tear fluid.

The two scientists working on the research, Vladimir Alexeev and Sanford Asher, have been successful in the laboratory with this technology. While it will be several more years before these contact lenses are available to the public, this sugar-sensing, color-shifting technology will benefit millions of people who are suffering from diabetes. The specially designed contact lenses would be embedded with gel strips at the edge of each lens. If blood sugar levels are at a healthy level, the gel strip appears green; if blood sugar levels are too low, the gel strip will turn red; if there is too much sugar in the body the strip will turn blue.

Jun 01

SAT Scores Get the Fingers

SAT Scores & Finger Length

Researchers at the University of Bath, one of the top universities in England, have found a connection between the length of children's index and ring fingers and SAT test scores.

Their findings claim that you can predict whether kids will have a higher verbal score or a higher math score by comparing the length of the ring fingers to the length of the index fingers. Kids with longer ring fingers than index fingers tend to score higher on the math portion of the college entrance exam, while kids with longer index fingers than ring fingers are more likely to score higher on the reading, writing, and verbal portion of the exam.

The connection is attributed to the amount of estrogen and testosterone that a baby is exposed to while in the womb. Scientists have known that differing levels of these hormones affect finger length, which reflects the areas of the brain that are more highly developed than others. Exposure to testosterone in the womb promotes areas of brain development associated with math and spatial skills; it also lengthens the ring finger. Exposure to estrogen increases development in areas of the brain associated with verbal ability and tends to make the index finger longer than the ring finger.

The researcher who led the study, Mark Brosnan, explains that the finger length ratio can provide us with all kinds of interesting insights into our natural cognitive abilities. In addition to predicting SAT test scores, research will continue to determine the connection between other behavioral and cognitive issues, such as temperament and career choices.

May 23

Hit the Hay with Viagra


It has been reported that Viagra, a drug approved by the FDA in 1998 to treat male impotence, may have another useful application. Researchers at a Argentinian University state that findings from their study suggest that the drug could also be useful in treating jet lag and helping people cope with shift work.

The test subjects for this study were a group of adult male hamsters who were given doses of Viagra after the scientists manipulated the lights to induce the conditions of jet lag. The hamsters who were given Viagra recovered from jet lag up to 50% faster than the hamsters that were not given the drug. In order to avoid certain Viagra-induced side effects, the dosage was given at an intermediate strength rather than at full strength.

Viagra helps in the recovery of jet lag by interfering with an enzyme that plays a role in the regulation of the body's circadian cycle. The body's circadian rhythm, which is the body's biological clock, is roughly a 24-hour cycle. Jet lag, a sleep disorder that occurs when the body's circadian rhythm is out of sync, is most likely due to the disruption in the "light/dark" cycle that affects the circadian rhythm. Jet lag is not induced by the amount of travel time, but occurs when traveling from east to west across time zones.

While the finding could prove useful in treating jet lag, it is not reported how the researchers decided to test this application of Viagra.

May 18

Scientists Cure Bald Mice

Bald Mice

A new discovery offers hope for finding a treatment for hair loss from male-pattern baldness, scarring alopecia, and scalp injury. Studies done on adult mice at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shown that hair follicles can be regenerated in adult mammals, something that was once thought to be impossible.

The research focused on the healing process of deep skin wounds on the backs of adult mice. It is known that mammals are able to heal from injuries, but it was accepted that they could not replace lost body parts, such as limbs or hair follicles. In this study, the researchers found a way to amplify the natural healing process and reactivate dormant embryonic molecular pathways. Stem cells, which are master cells capable of transforming into other cell types, were sent to the damaged skin. The stem cells reprogrammed epidermal cells, which are cells that don't normally make hair follicles, and instructed them to make a follicle. The new follicle functioned normally, cycling thru the hair growth cycle and producing hair.

The findings of the research will be used to develop treatments not only for male-pattern baldness, but also for hair loss due to diseases and injuries that destroy hair follicles. It is also thought that the information will lead to scar free surgery. While products available for actual use in humans will take years to develop, at least there is hope on the horizon for an effective baldness remedy.

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