Showing posts from November, 2013

Stay Trim? Keep Your Heat Up High

Seems counter-intuitive to me but a new study has established that people living in well-heated homes have lower BMIs and tend not to be obese.

Usually it's heavier people who don't need to keep the heat so high, but this new study of 100,000 people in Scotland in central-heated homes proved it out.  Though other
studies -- done in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe -- suggest this is not true, according to

"We set out to investigate the scientific claims that cooler indoor temperatures help us maintain a healthy weight by pushing our bodies to expend more energy through shivering and generating heat through tissues. In fact, the research suggests people may eat less and burn more energy when residing in a warmer indoor environment," the Web site reports on the study.

""This research suggests the obesity epidemic could worsen where heating is turned down below comfortable levels, or off, for lengthy periods to cut costs," medicaln…

In Love Be Guided by Your Gut Feeling

I saw him across a crowded room and I thought, he's cute.  So I smiled at him and I guess the rest is history, because we've been married for 20 years (and together for 30).

A new study is making a compelling case for knowing instinctively, immediately, whether you're headed for wedded bliss, or a marriage on the rocks.

Though many are not aware of it, according to, ". . .people’s automatic evaluations of their partners predict one of the most important outcomes of their lives — the trajectory of their marital satisfaction,” researchers wrote in a paper published in the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Science.

The study found that "people’s conscious attitudes, or how they said they felt, did not always reflect their gut-level or automatic feelings about their marriage."  More important -- at least to me -- was the second finding. "It was the gut-level feelings, not their conscious ones, that actually predicted how happy they remained over tim…

Oxytocin Makes the Love Flow Better

Oxytocin's responsible for a lot of things.  It's there in childbirth, child-making, breast-feeding.  Many important roles for this hormone.

But now studies are finding that it may also be responsible for monogamy -- or keeping marriages together, as well as orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding and maternal behaviors. 

It's the bonding part of oxytocin that has marriage counselors -- and marriage partners -- excited.  Turns out, according to a story at, this "love hormone" also "stimulates the reward center in the male brain, increasing partner attractiveness and strengthening monogamy."

How's that again?

Scientists say that monogamy is not a natural state for mammals.  So they set out to discover why.

A simple experiment was conducted with heterosexual men in a long-term relationship who were shown photos of their partners, then photos of other women. When a spray of oxytocin was unleashed into participants' nostrils, "…

Test Negative for Breast Cancer Genes? Beware, If Family Members Are Positive

Just when I thought it was safe to come out of the water . . .or something like that.  Diagnosedwith breast cancer in 2005 and 2007, I took the blood test commonly referred to by its initials, BRCA1 and BRCA2, to see if I had the gene mutation for the disease.  Of course, I'd already had breast cancer so the horse was kind of already out of the barn (oh, those mixed metaphors!).

But as breast cancer is also related to ovarian cancer, I wanted to see if I had the gene.  My grandmother was Jewish and many Jewish women carry -- or pass on -- this mutation.  Thankfully, I was negative, but the fact remained that I had developed breast cancer even without the gene, and now scientists have found that women without the gene mutation are not completely clear of getting the disease.

According to, those of us not carrying the gene mutation may have thought our risk of cancer had receded. But that's turning out not to be true.  Just because you have a negative result on this…

Allergic to Grass, Plants and Trees? Maybe Cancer Risk

Can the researchers just stop scaring us?  If you, like me are a woman and sniffle and snort and cough your way through the spring and fall with allergies to plants, grass and trees, you may be more at risk of blood cancers than those who don't.

According to, men are not at the same risk and scientists theorize it may be because of "a possible gender-specific role in chronic stimulation of the immune system that may lead to the development of hematologic cancers."

Woo.  A lot of words to say that allergies can make some of us more susceptible to certain cancers than others.

Researchers say the immune system’s potential role in cancer causation is a focus of intense scientific interest. “If your immune system is over-reactive, then you have problems; if it’s under-reactive, you’re going to have problems," the Web site quotes first author Mazyar Shadman, M.D., M.P.H., a senior fellow in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Ce…

Obese and Drink a Lot of Sugary Soda? Endometrial Cancer May Be in Your Future

Over the years artificial sugars have been blamed for many things -- possible causes of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, even, believe it or not, weight gain (turns out what's in those little blue and yellow packets makes us crave more sweets).

But now sugary sodas are coming under the gun not just for the weight they can also make you gain, but because a new study has linked them to endometrial cancer.

According to NBC News, "Women who drank the most sweet soft drinks had a 78 percent increased risk of the cancer, researchers found."

Oddly, other sweet treats, such as baked goods, didn’t have an effect, and even better news, nor did natural fruit juice, even though it’s full of naturally occurring sugars.

The findings fit in with other research linking sugar intake, obesity and a lack of exercise with the cancer, which kills more than 8,000 U.S. women a year, NBC News reports.

It may be for a very simple reason. Cancer can be linked to estrogen and obese women h…

Video Games: Eat and Cheat More

Yet one more reason to hate video games.  According to a new study, they make teens cheat and eat more after playing them.

"Playing violent video games not only increases aggression, it also leads to less self-control and more cheating," reports.

Researchers found that teens who played violent video games ate more chocolate and were more likely to steal raffle tickets in a lab experiment than were teens who played nonviolent games.  (I don't need any more reasons to eat chocolate!)

"The effects were strongest in teens who scored high on a measure of moral disengagement – the ability to convince yourself that ethical standards don’t apply to you in a particular situation," the Web site notes.

Another recent study, this one on violence in films, can also be related to video games.  Research showed that people who simply see a gun, or even a picture of a gun, are more aggressive toward others.

“When people play violent video games, they show less self…

Could Political Correctness Make You Fat?

According to, you could gain weight from trying to make everyone happy at your holiday dinner table. "Research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business suggests you could be choosing unhealthy options to serve your guests because you don't want to offend someone else," it reports.

So, really?

"We wanted to understand if food choices would change if they were picking a dish or snack for themselves and an average-sized person versus themselves and an overweight person," the Web site quotes marketing doctoral student Peggy Liu.

As describes the research, in one study participants were asked to choose either wheat crackers or chocolate chip cookies for themselves and a person they had just met. "In some cases, the recently introduced woman appeared as her normal size (wearing a size 0-2). In other situations, the woman was wearing a body suit that appeared to increase her weight by nearly 65 pounds (making her closer t…

Nuts a Life Lengthener? Maybe

I don't particularly like them but did you know that nuts can lengthen your life?

According to a study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as reported by, "In the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than were those who didn’t consume nuts."

If I'm digging in a box of chocolates and wind up with a cashew, I usually throw it out (or give it to my husband, who'll eat anything).  But I may have to take a second look.  The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, so eat away, calorie-counters!

“The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease – the major killer of people in America,” quotes Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, who is the senior author of the report. “But we also saw a significant reduction – 11 percent …

Exercise Good? Not If Too Much

Can they ever make up their minds?  First experts told us too many kids don't get enough exercise.  Now they're saying kids can get too much exercise.

But let's clarify who we're talking about here.  A recent study says that kids who actively participate in exercise more than 14 hours a week could face negative effects on their well-being.

Let's slow down and see what's going on.  The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged between 6 and 17 years carry out at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, equating to 7 hours a week.  The study, done in Switzerland and Canada, found that 14 hours is optimal for good health, according to

But anything over that is where the problems supposedly begin.  Researchers surveyed over 1,000 teens between 16 and 20 in Switzerland. on their exercise regimes.  Slightly more than half were male, and about 9% of these were obese.

The teenagers with the highest and lowest sco…

Lose Your Job in Recession? Now You May Lose Your Mind.

So you thought the worst thing was losing your job, in the recession.  But now a new study is finding there's even more bad news.  Mid-life economic recessions lead to cognitive decline, according to

"Lay-offs, lower pay and downward job mobility are all a depressing reality of economic recessions. But new research suggests these factors not only affect our bank accounts, but also our risk of cognitive decline in later life," the Web site reports.

Previous research has suggested working conditions can affect build-up of "cognitive reserve," which can in turn influence cognitive performance later in life, notes, quoting the new study published in theJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Because higher cognitive ability from the outset could influence whether individuals are in more favorable jobs or working environments, the researchers wanted to know whether economic recessions could make a difference, as individu…

New Kids' Obesity-Fighting Tool?

I've used it, and it works, it's very simple and now experts are saying it may do what other attempts have not been able to.  Fight childhood obesity.

It's not brain surgery.  But a new study has found using smaller bowls may help in the war against childhood obesity.

The study at Cornell University found that children asked for extra helpings when using larger bowls, and ate 52% more.

I hate those huge plates that your food now comes on in restaurants, and are usually the only size you can buy when purchasing dinnerware.  I purposely went out and found plates that are about 10 inches wide and I love them.  I can put less food on them and you still feel like you're eating a lot.

“The quickest way parents can help kids eat less might be to grab them a smaller bowl," says Brian Wansink, professor of behavioral economics and the lead author of the study, which appeared in the Journal of Pediatrics this month. “Make it 12 ounces rather than the 20 ounces we use."…

Our Kids: Less Fit Than We?

It seems hard to believe (and sad), but maybe not so when I look at my couch-potato, computer-nerd son: our kids are less fit than we were when we were young.

Remember running around your neighbors' yards with your friends, hiking in the woods behind your house, chasing the dog, and, in my neighborhood in the summer, not having to come home until you heard the fire station foghorn, marking 8 p.m.?

Today's kids don't seem to have those kinds of pleasures.  Just about every play date when my son was little involved a car, and our busy road is too dangerous to ride a bike.  Sometimes we take a walk in nice weather but that's about all he really wants to do that's physical.

(Of course, when a close friend lived nearby, they played soccer endlessly, but then Michael moved away.)

A new study has found that, around the world, children don't run as fast or as far as their parents did when they were kids, and today's kids are about 15% less aerobically fit than thei…

Who Loves Their Jobs Most? Not Us!

We're known for looking down on Canada (see: South Park, "Blame it on Canada," and what about that mayor of Toronto?).

But did you know that Canadians, and people living in the Netherlands, love their jobs, and we don't?

According to a new Monster and GfK study, which surveyed 8,000 people about how much they liked their jobs, we come in 4th out of  7th, followed by the Brits, the French and Germans hating their jobs most.  Tyler Falk reports that it's no surprise -- the World Economic Forum looked at the the nations investing most in the health, education and talent of their work forces and the two countries were in the top 10.

Slightly less than half the workers in the U.S. like their jobs. In Canada, 64% like their jobs, according to

But, he notes, "In the same study, India, which had the third happiest workers in the Monster survey ranked 78th and the United States, with the most workers who hate their jobs came in 16th."

Why?  Falk posit…

Promiscuous Moms Have Sexy Sons -- in Mice, At Least

Who knew?  But moms who have a lot of sex partners have sexier male children.  We're talking mice, of course.

At least that's what a new study has found, according to "University of Utah biologists found that when mother mice compete socially for mates in a promiscuous environment, their sons play hard (read: make lots of babies) and die young," according to the Web site.

The male mice attract more females by making more urinary pheromones, but smelling sexier shortens their lives. (Not sure this would work for humans.)

“If your sons are particularly sexy, and mate more than they would otherwise, it’s helping get your genes more efficiently into the next generation,” quotes biology professor Wayne Potts, senior author of the new study.

Yet there's no faking that male mice who create more baby mice run out of life more quickly.  In the study, only 48 percent of these hard-working mice lived to the end of the experiment, compared with 80 …

Obesity Fosters New Fatal Type of Breast Cancer

It's hard not to know that obesity is a factor in many cancers, including that of the breast.  But an ominous new study has found that being obese puts you at high risk for a very rare but aggressive subtype of breast cancer.

Called "basal-like," it's found in obese women, whose bodies present a favorable environment for the biological mechanisms of this disease to ignite.

Breast cancer is not one but many diseases made up of several distinct subtypes, reports. "The basal-like subtype, an aggressive form of breast cancer, is found in 15 to 20 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer, with a high percentage of cases found among young and African-American women," according to the Web site. The really bad news is that women diagnosed with the basal-like subtype often have a poor prognosis and cannot be treated with hormonal and targeted therapies.

Studying mice, researchers found that obesity "radically alters the cellular micro-environm…

Are We Less Creative?

So are we getting less creative?  But there's some good news too.

According to, "Research in recent years has suggested that young Americans might be less creative now than in decades past, even while their intelligence — as measured by IQ tests — continues to rise."

Thankfully, a new study out of the University of Washington Information School and Harvard University puts an end to that kind of thinking. Or creating.

The study of students over 20 years found that, while some aspects of creativity — such as the ones used in visual arts, not surprisingly — are gently rising over the years, other aspects, "such as the nuances of creative writing, could be declining," reports.

As someone who's written (but not published, though come close, over eight novels), that makes me very sad.

The question researchers asked was, "How have the style, content and form of adolescents' art-making and creative writing changed over the last 20…

Take Birth Control Pills? Watch Out for Glaucoma

A scary new study has found that long-term users of birth control pills are twice as likely to have serious eye damage.

According to, women who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years are twice as likely to suffer from glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness which affects nearly 60 million worldwide.

More than 3,000 women across the U.S. 40 years and older were studied.  And while the cause and effect is not known, there are risk factors, including African American-ethnicity, family history of glaucoma, history of increased eye pressure or existing visual field defects. Previous studies in the field have shown that estrogen may also play a significant role in the development of glaucoma.

“At this point, women who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years should be screened for glaucoma and followed closely by an ophthalmologist, especially if they have any other existing risk factors," the Web site quotes Shan Lin, M.D., lead res…

Potential Victim of a Homicide? Check Your Crowd, and Social Network

Two frightening new studies : the closer one is socially to a homicide victim, the higher your chances of being shot, too. I suppose that makes sense.  If the people you hang with and around have guns, it's far more likely you'll be the victim of violence than a little old lady sitting in church.

"For every degree of separation from a victim, an individual would experience a 57 percent decrease in their odds of homicide victimization," reports. "In addition 41 percent of all gun homicides occurred within less than 4 percent of the neighborhood’s population."

“By mapping the terrain within high-risk social networks and analyzing shooting patterns, network analysis offers a more direct road map for interventions," quotes the study authors. The researchers argue against "sweeping policies and practices based on categorical distinctions such as gang membership or race," and, instead, focus on intervention and prevention …

Stop Sale of Sugary Sodas? Raise the Price

What's accomplished what a boatload of doctors, thousands of parents and a sometimes reviled mayor of a very big city couldn't do?

We're talking, of course, about stopping kids -- or even adults -- from buying sugary sodas.  And it's the price.

Apparently the increase in prices for these drinks has gotten some people to stop.  According to Nancy Hellmich at USA Today, "Raising the cost of high-calorie beverages by a few cents — and highlighting calorie content in places where they are sold — decreases sales, a new study shows."

Researchers at Harvard chose the cafeteria of a financial services company to do the study. Hellmich reports they increased the price of high-calorie beverages (those that contained 150 calories or more per container), mostly soda, lemonade, whole chocolate milk, and some juices, by one cent per ounce.

She writes that the price of low-calorie beverages (45 to 149 calories) and zero-calorie beverages stayed the same. "So a 20-ounc…

Bariatric Surgery = Fountain of Youth?

So maybe you're not fat enough to need bariatric surgery. But it gives those who choose it an unfair advantage over the rest of us.  It just may turn back the clock.

According to, "Stanford University researchers say surgical weight loss may turn back the effects of aging at a genetic level."

Scientists measured the length of patients' telomeres.  Telomeres, or chromosome caps, are genetic biomarkers that play an important role in cellular aging and in the development of disease. "As people age or have chronic disease, their telomeres become shorter," the Web site reports.  But bariatric surgery somehow lengthens them.

While patients who underwent this surgery saw their bad cholesterol and high levels of inflammation decrease, they also saw their telomeres grow longer.

The length of telomeres is significant, because every time they divide, they get shorter. And the shorter they are, the shorter your life may be.  But that doesn’t mean that yo…

Study: Doctors Are People, Too

It's of little comfort to the man whose doctor removed the wrong kidney, but a  new study has found that surgeons agonize over complications, and the mistakes they make.

According to Sam Wong at Imperial College in London, "Many surgeons are seriously affected on an emotional level when complications occur in the operating suite."

Wong said that researchers at his institution interviewed 27 surgeons and found that down to a one, all were very concerned when complications occurred on their watch.

The operating room is one of the highest risk areas for serious complications, with potentially profound consequences for patients and healthcare professionals, Wong notes. "But there has been little research into how surgeons respond to serious complications or how best to support staff following such events," he writes.

We're all, or most of us, used to the brusque doctor who rushes into the examining room, looks you over (sometimes without even touching you, as …

Do Children Learn to Read Because of Nature or Nurture?

Nature vs. nurture?  When it comes to literacy, a professor is saying it's nurture, all the way.

According to, a University at Buffalo education professor has found that a child’s ability to read "depends mostly on where that child is born, rather than on his or her individual qualities."

Ming Ming Chiu says that individual characteristics make up only 9% of the differences between a child who can read and one who cannot.

What affects this heavily is the country in which a child is born, says Chiu, lead author of an international study that explains this connection and a professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction in UB’s Graduate School of Education. He adds that this largely determines whether he or she will have at least basic reading skills, according to

The Web site reports that it's clearly a case where 'nurture' — the environment and surroundings of the child — is more important than 'nature — the child’s inhe…

In the Mirror See a 20-Year-Old? Look Again

OK.  I admit it.  I dye my hair.  I exercise like a fiend.  I watch my weight and I tell everyone I have a 12-year-old son.  Most people think I'm in my early 50s.  No one would know I'm closing in on 60.  (I can barely believe it myself.)

But a new study has found that denying our age -- yes, you, Baby Boomers -- can have psychological repercussions.

"The myth exists that individuals can delay aging as they get older, or even evade it all together, by using measures such as diet, exercise, plastic surgery and Botox," reports. As we age, we're bombarded with messages that we can feel, look, and live like we did ten, twenty, even thirty years earlier. (I still see a 25-year-old when I look in the mirror.  It's when someone takes a picture of me that I realize, hey, I'm, gulp, old.  Well, older.

And it's been quite some time since I haven't been asked if I'm Phillip's grandma.

"“Mortality is a given, but there’s an attempt…