Monday, April 6, 2015

Falling Out of Love? It's Hard-Wired

Uh oh.  A new study has found people are hard-wired to fall out of love and move into new romantic relationships.

“Our review of the literature suggests we have a mechanism in our brains designed by natural selection to pull us through a very tumultuous time in our lives,” says Brian Boutwell, Ph.D., associate professor of criminology and criminal justice and associate professor of epidemiology at Saint Louis University. “It suggests people will recover; the pain will go away with time. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel.”

As anyone who has endured a break-up knows, some break-ups take more time than others.  I didn't have a lot of serious relationships in my life (I met my husband in my late 20's), but they didn't all end the way I wanted and some of them certainly required much more time to recover (I remember, after one break-up, going running and as I circled the gym, realizing, well, I got through one minute.)

Drawing largely upon the field of evolutionary psychology, researchers say men and women might break up for different reasons. For instance, a man is more likely to end a relationship because a woman has had a sexual relationship with another man.

That makes sense.  But wouldn't that most likely be the reason for a woman, too?

Scientists say this reason is clear.  For evolutionary reasons, men should be wired to try and avoid raising children that aren’t genetically their own, the authors say.

“Men are particularly sensitive to sexual infidelity between their partner and someone else,” Boutwell says. “That’s not to say women don’t get jealous, they certainly do, but it’s especially acute for men regarding sexual infidelity.”

I'd say that's a pretty sexist way of looking at things. (Full disclosure: it happened to me!)

But researchers redeem themselves by reporting that a woman may be more likely to break up if her partner has been emotionally unfaithful partly, again, because of evolutionary reasons.  And I have to say, that's probably true.  When a man starts losing interest in a woman, when his eyes start glazing over when she's talking about her day, that's when you know it's over, too.

And, I agree, a woman might find that more painful than the other kind of disloyalty.

Turns out evolution has designed mate ejection in females to avoid the loss of resources, such as help in raising a child and physical protection, that their mates provide. 

As for moving on after a relationship fails, common knowledge has it that men do it first.  OK, so I couldn't find any stats that prove this.  But we all know it's true!

The stats do show that the percentage of men and women who have only married once has decreased in the last several years, with men from 54% to 50% and women, from 60% to 54%.  Not all that significant, but still. (I guess you could argue we do it more).

There are a lot of reasons for men marrying first.  Experts say it's because the help that's out there for women for rebuilding after a break-up isn't really there for men.  And according to a recent Pew study, women are more likely to say no to marriage a second time around.
 
Among previously married men, 65% either want to remarry or are not sure; 30% say that they don’t want to remarry. Among women who are currently divorced or widowed, only 43% say they may want to remarry, while 54% say they are not interested.

In the past, fully 64% of divorced or widowed men remarried, compared with 52% of previously married women, though that is changing slightly.  Interestingly, these days men are less likely to remarry than in the past, while women are more likely to do so. In 1960, 70% of previously married men had remarried, compared with 48% of previously married women.

Some scientists even equate breaking up with trying to end a drug habit!  Maybe that's why some don't do it so lightly.  

We've all known friends who stayed together "for the kids."  And during some tough years in my marriage, I'll admit that's one of the reasons I did.

So, in the end, I guess some stay because break-ups are painful.  But moving on, though it takes courage, is sometimes the right thing to do.  Is it easier for men than for women?  Nah.  They just find new mates quicker.





Eat Chocolate and Lose Weight? It's True!

Finally.  My dream come true.

You can lose weight by eating chocolate. 

Well, OK, maybe not exactly.  But a new study has found that chocolate is a rich source of bioactive compounds, particularly a group of molecules called flavonoids, plant compounds associated with several positive health impacts, according to newswise.com.

Most diet experts agree it's not what you eat but how much you eat, and in what combinations.  I've been a Weight Watchers member, off and on, since high school and what I've learned is that you need to balance what you eat -- some fruit, some vegetables, some lean protein, some carbohydrates (like sweet potato and brown rice).  You can even eat popcorn!

But teasing out the possible effects of the compounds in your diet, and how it may interact with various diet interventions, is rarely studied. It could be that simply consuming chocolate in combination with dietary interventions has no effect, or it could make such diets even more effective in the right dose.

To test the idea, German researchers from The Institute of Diet and Health, a medical non-profit think tank, focusing on obesity in the developed world. divided volunteer human subjects from 19 to 67 into three groups: One group followed a strict low-carbohydrate diet, another group followed the low-carbohydrate diet and also consumed 42 grams of dark (81%) chocolate per day, and a control group followed their status quo diet.

Besides tracking their body weight and measuring blood chemistry before, during, and after the intervention, subjects filled out questionnaires to assess sleep quality and subjective well-being, a key predictor of dietary compliance. (It's recently been found that how much you sleep may affect your weight.)

As predicted, the low-carb group lost weight compared to the control. But surprisingly, the low-carb plus chocolate group lost 10% more weight. Not only that, but the weight loss persisted, compared to the low-carb group which saw a return of the weight after 3 weeks—a classic problem in dietary interventions known as the “yo-yo effect”. The chocolate group also reported better sleep and well-being, and their blood cholesterol levels were significantly reduced.

“To our surprise, the effect of chocolate is real,”say researchers. “It is not enough to just consume chocolate, but in combination with exercise and reduction in carbohydrates, our data indicate that chocolate can be a weight loss accelerator. ”

Researchers suggest that high-cocoa chocolate has the potential to enhance other diets as well. “The best part about this discovery,”says Bohannon, “is that you can buy chocolate everywhere, cheaply and without having to believe diet gurus or purchase expensive nutrition products over the Internet.”





So does this mean eat a whole bag of Hershey kisses every day?  Not quite.  If you notice, the survey said "dark chocolate."  And I suspect this doesn't mean simply consuming dark chocolate kisses, but chocolate high in cacao, which usually is pretty bitter -- though the scientists didn't really drill down this deep.

In the end, we all know the  best way to lose weight (and keep it off) is moderation.  But if that were easy, we'd all look, well, skinnier, I guess. And there is a downside to being too thin.  If you're a French model, you're fired.



 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Internet Blurs Line Between What We Know and What We THINK We Know

Who knew?

When I filled in friends on "free-range" parenting after researching it on the Web, I actually thought I was smarter than I really was. 

This, according to a new study, which has found that searching the Internet for information may make people feel smarter than they actually are, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

 "The Internet is such a powerful environment, where you can enter any question, and you basically have access to the world's knowledge at your fingertips," said lead researcher Matthew Fisher, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in psychology at Yale University. "It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source. When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the Internet."

Scary.

But it turns out that we're not just imagining ourselves as geniuses on the subjects we research but also on subjects we don't.  I guess the Internet has the ability to make us look really dumb in a really  lot of ways.

In a series of experiments, study participants who searched for information on the Internet believed they were more knowledgeable than a control group about topics unrelated to the online searches, according to newswise.com. "In a result that surprised the researchers, participants had an inflated sense of their own knowledge after searching the Internet even when they couldn't find the information they were looking for. After conducting Internet searches, participants also believed their brains were more active than the control group did," the website states.

Huh?

The use of Internet searches, not just access to the Internet, appeared to inflate participants' sense of personal knowledge. When the Internet group members were given a particular website link to answer questions, they didn't report higher levels of personal knowledge on the unrelated topics than the control group.

People must be actively engaged in research when they read a book or talk to an expert rather than searching the Internet, Fisher said. "If you don't know the answer to a question, it's very apparent to you that you don't know, and it takes time and effort to find the answer," he said. "With the Internet, the lines become blurry between what you know and what you think you know."


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Have a Purpose in Life, Live Longer

We've always heard that it's good to have a purpose in life.  Becoming a mother.  Giving blood.  Making a million dollars.

How many of us have given it just lip service, though?  A new study is saying we should think again.

Study Highlights
• People who have a strong sense of purpose in life are less likely to develop brain infarcts as they age.
• Having a “purpose in life” may also protect against dementia, movement problems, and death.
• Purpose in life differs for everyone and can include things such as volunteering, learning new things, or being part of your community.

Having a strong sense that your life has meaning and direction may make you less likely to develop areas of brain damage caused by blockages in blood flow as you age. This research is reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

When a blockage interrupts blood flow in a vessel within the brain, a stroke can result or brain tissue can be damaged. This damaged tissue, called infarcts, may contribute to dementia, movement problems, disability, and death as people age.

"Mental health, in particular positive psychological factors such as having a purpose in life, are emerging as very potent determinants of health outcomes,” said Patricia Boyle. Ph.D., study co-author and associate professor of behavioral sciences at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Clinicians need to be aware of patients’ mental state and encourage behaviors that will increase purpose and other positive emotional states.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Are Emoticons The New Pick-Up Lines?

Who'd have guessed? 

Men are more jealous when a member of their own sex uses an emoticon in a text to their significant other than women.

According to new research,“Men were more jealous when emoticons—specifically winking ones—were included in messages to their significant other,” says Dr. Denise Friedman, associate professor and chair of psychology at Roanoke College, and author of the study. She adds that women were more jealous when there were no emoticons.

Say what?  

Now I'm lucky because my husband hates computers and only uses one when he absolutely has to.  A few years ago his office moved to electronic medical records and he was forced, kicking and screaming, to enter the digital age.  He wouldn't know an emoticon from a leprechaun.

Men and women also reacted in different ways, depending on how the study questions were asked, according to newswise.com. Women reported more Facebook jealousy in general, especially when surveyed, but men reported equally or more jealousy when allowed to freely respond to a scenario in their own words.

I suppose it's because emoticons connote a sort of intimacy between people.  I can see how a winking one might send a lover over the edge.  




The questions in the study were aimed at college students, who were asked how they would react if they opened their partner's email or Facebook account and found an emoticon from a member of the opposite sex.  Although it serves them right. But don't take it from me.  (I went ballistic recently when a letter in unfamiliar handwriting addressed to my husband came in the mail.  Things blew up when he refused to tell me who it was from.  He's gotten over being scared to come home.)

But here's the crux of the matter. Emoticons convey signs of emotional infidelity to women, while to men, it's all about sex.


“Women react more strongly to signs of emotional infidelity, while men react more strongly to signs of sexual infidelity,” says Friedman. “Because men tend to use winking emoticons to flirt, and women interpret these as flirting as well, men may be reacting to them as signs that their partner is sexually unfaithful. This was likely true in the described scenario which described private messaging between their significant other and an unknown member of the opposite sex.”

Full disclosure: I've never received a winking emoticon, though I've received a fair share of smiley faces.

 “It seems that emotional infidelity online makes women seek social support,” says Friedman, “but sexual infidelity online evokes an aggressive reaction in men. That aggressive reaction to perceived sexual infidelity may have real life implications to consider. For example, romantic jealousy has been associated with spousal abuse and even the murder of one’s wife.”

Well,we won't go there.

But with kids today spending so much time online, forming and sustaining many of their relationships through social media, are they going to learn how to be -- and make -- good partners? Navigating romance and commitment through real life is hard enough.  Can you really do it with a wink? 



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Sharenting?" Yes, I'm Guilty

I admit I do it, too.  In fact, I just did it last week, when my son gave a brief talk at Princeton (yes, University) at age 13.  The reality is that Princeton was just the location of the talk, but he did give it to an audience of IEEE members.

That's The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (to people like me who can't even pronounce double-precision floating point format), and yes, we were very proud.

So, of course, the minute we got home, I put it up on Facebook, and went on to get over 30 likes (hey, I know, not much, but it's the most I've ever gotten!).

And now researchers are saying this isn't such a good idea.  

“By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the U-M Department of Pediatrics.

I'm guilty.  I posted photos of him taking his first step (ok, so he was almost 17 months), on his first tricycle, jumping into the swimming pool. Last year his co-ed bowling birthday party.  I got in trouble for that one.

There's even a word for it.  It's called "sharenting."

Clark adds that, on one hand, social media offers today’s parents an outlet they find incredibly useful when looking for advice and what other kids are doing (is mine normal?). On the other hand, some are concerned that over-sharing may pose safety and privacy risks for their children.  Not to mention boredom, for friends.

I've thought about that, too, especially after posting the nude one of him at age two, crawling through the garden after a turtle.  

But what is it that we're really trying to do?  I know that I, as an older mom, struggled for acceptance and recognition that I was doing it right, in the beginning.  Here I was, in my late 40s, having a child, and not even knowing how to hold a bottle.  By posting on Facebook, I could look accomplished -- and hide the shame and fear that I didn't have a clue what I was doing.

Of course, today, it's a little different.  I now know, as parents, we're all bumbling through and just have to take it a day at a time.  Do I get upset when friends post parties my son wasn't invited to?  Of course.  Or when their son shoots the winning basket (when my kid's idea of sports is taking his dishes down the hall to the kitchen)?

So why do we do it?  Does anyone really know?  Are we all trying to prove our lives are better than everyone else's?  I do believe that's part of it.

Who hasn't felt overwhelmed when a child gets an award and yours only got runner-up? I know I've been there, or, as has happened recently, their kids make high honors and yours, just honors, because of that "B" in art.

Researchers worry that we're invading our children's privacy when we post stuff about them.  My son isn't crazy when I do it -- and I try to do it rarely -- but it gives me, I admit it, pleasure.  See?  Look.  My kid's doing okay, too.

So the next time you decide to post that sushi is your kid's favorite meal, remember the rest of us out here.  We don't really care.  And I promise.  I won't post the video of Phillip's speech at Princeton (which I almost did, last night) if  you don't post the one about Harry getting the perfect attendance award. 





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do You Want to Know What Serious Illness Lies in Your Future?

Would you want to know if you had cancer in your future?  Thanks to all the milestones researchers are making in genes and genetic makeup, you probably can.

According to newswise.com, using a small amount of blood or saliva, a technology called whole genome sequencing makes that possible – and more than half of parents surveyed  said they’d not only be interested in the technology for themselves but for their children too, a new nationally-representative University of Michigan study shows.

For obvious reasons, mothers as a group in the study and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions had significantly more interest in predictive genetic testing for themselves and their youngest children while those with conservative political ideologies had considerably less interest. More than three- fourths of parents also showed the same interest in genome sequencing for themselves as they did for their kids.

As a cancer survivor, would I have wanted to know it was coming?  I don't think so.  Knowing me, I would have spent the months and years till it reared its ugly head worrying and obsessing and generally, not enjoying life at all.

Since I find ways to worry about just about everything, I would want to know the exact minute cancer developed in my body, and I would be on the lookout for any telltale symptom while ignoring everything else that happened in in my life.

As usually happens, the disease snuck up on me, on a routine exam.  And I have to say, I'm glad that it did.  I would not have wanted to spend the years prior to my diagnosis thinking 24/7, is it coming today?  Will it be here when I come back from vacation?  Will it make its presence known before my son's fourth birthday (which, it did).

But what about those who want to plan?  Of course, these genetic forays only tell us the chances of developing a certain disease.  They don't yet have 100% accuracy.  It's like the BRCA test for the breast cancer gene.  Yes, your risk is up to 80% for breast (and ovarian cancer), but there's still the lucky 20% who don't get it, even with the gene. (I didn't have it, and I got it.)

he study found that about 59 percent of the total population, including both parents and nonparents, were interested in genome sequencing. Nearly 62 percent of parents said they’d be interested in the complete DNA read for themselves and 58 percent of parents were interested for their children.

Planning to have a child in the next five years was also significantly associated with greater interest in genome sequencing among adults overall but not significant among current parents. Authors speculate this could be because parents who have already had a healthy child may have “minds at ease concerning their own genetic makeup” compared to nonparents.

But what's that old saying?  The past's history, the future a mystery.  Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.  I'm here in the now (cancer taught me).  And you know what?  It's the best place to live.


What’s Your Genetic Destiny? More Than Half of Parents Want to Know Disease Risks for Selves, Kids

85 % of parents had identical interest for selves and children

Released: 9-Mar-2015 8:05 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Michigan Health System
Contact Information Available for logged-in reporters only
Citations Public Health Genomics
Newswise — ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Would you want to know if you or your children had risk of hereditary cancer, a genetic risk for cardiovascular disease or carried the gene associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease – even if they were risks that wouldn’t be relevant for possibly decades or didn’t have a cure?
Using a small amount of blood or saliva, a technology called whole genome sequencing makes that possible – and more than half of parents said they’d not only be interested in the technology for themselves but for their children too, a new nationally-representative University of Michigan study shows.
Mothers as a group and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions had significantly more interest in predictive genetic testing for themselves and their youngest children while those with conservative political ideologies had considerably less interest. More than three- fourths of parents also showed the same interest in genome sequencing for themselves as they did for their kids.
The findings appear in this month's online-ahead-of-print issue of Public Health Genomics.

“As genome sequencing becomes faster and cheaper, we expect the technology to become used more frequently in clinics and the private market. We wanted to know what kind of factors influenced patient demand for this test, especially among parents,” says senior author Beth Tarini, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of pediatrics at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and researcher at the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit.
“Particularly fascinating was that parents’ interest for having predictive genetic testing done for themselves reflected their interest in testing their children too – it appears to be a global decision for the family.”
The study found that about 59 percent of the total population, including both parents and nonparents, were interested in genome sequencing. Nearly 62 percent of parents said they’d be interested in the complete DNA read for themselves and 58 percent of parents were interested for their children.

Planning to have a child in the next five years was also significantly associated with greater interest in genome sequencing among adults overall but not significant among current parents. Authors speculate this could be because parents who have already had a healthy child may have “minds at ease concerning their own genetic makeup” compared to nonparents.
Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory process that examines a person’s DNA makeup in order to provide information about the risk for developing diseases in the future, as well as to diagnose active symptoms or diseases. Currently, the technology is most commonly used to find a medical cause for patients who already have symptoms for an undiagnosed health condition.

While sequencing could reveal risk of a handful of rare and preventable diseases, authors note there is concern for how accurately the information would be interpreted and how useful it will actually be for patients.

“It’s a test that gives you a lot of data but the devil is in the details,” says one author of the study. “First, interpreting the data is challenging, because we are not sure what all of the data means. Second, even if you can interpret the data, then you may not know what to do with the interpretation. Perhaps you learn you have a slightly higher risk of getting prostate cancer or diabetes – neither of which is for certain or in the near future. Now what?”

So it all goes back to how much you want to know, how much you want to prepare for.  As someone who used to live in the future, ignoring the present all around me, I've found staying in the moment is so much better.  Cancer taught me that.  No one knows how much time they have on this earth and these tests probably aren't going to tell you either.

I kind of believe in fate, that what's meant to happen is going to happen. It's how I finally got my son, after five years of failed fertility treatments.  I knew he was out there, and he would be mine some day.  And finally, it happened.

So, you know the old saying?  The past is history, the future, a mystery.  But today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.  It's a good place to live.