Yogurt’s role in aging

Yogurt: role in healthy and active aging 1,2,3,4

Naglaa Hani El-Abbadi,
Maria Carlota Dao, and
Simin Nikbin Meydani

First published April 2, 2014, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.113.073957 Am J Clin Nutr May 2014 vol. 99 no. 5 1263S-1270S

- Author Affiliations

1From the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA.

- Author Notes

↵2 Presented at the satellite symposium “First Global Summit on the Health Effects of Yogurt,” held in Boston, MA, at ASN’s Scientific Sessions at Experimental Biology 2013, 24 April 2013. The conference was organized by the ASN, the Nutrition Society, Danone Institute International, and the Dairy Research Institute. The supplement scientific guest editors were Sharon M Donovan, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, and Raanan Shamir, Schneider Children’s Medical Center and Tel Aviv University, Israel.

↵3 Sources of grant support for NHE-A, MCD, and SNM include USDA agreements 58-1950-0-014.

↵4 Address correspondence to SN Meydani, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111. E-mail: simin.meydani@tufts.edu.

Abstract

Yogurt consumption has been associated with health benefits in different populations. Limited information, however, is available on nutritional and health attributes of yogurt in older adults.

Yogurt is abundant in calcium, zinc, B vitamins, and probiotics; it is a good source of protein; and it may be supplemented with vitamin D and additional probiotics associated with positive health outcomes.

Aging is accompanied by a wide array of nutritional deficiencies and health complications associated with under- and overnutrition, including musculoskeletal impairment, immunosenescence, cardiometabolic diseases, and cognitive impairment.

Furthermore, yogurt is accessible and convenient to consume by the older population, which makes yogurt consumption a feasible approach to enhance older adults’ nutritional status.

A limited number of studies have specifically addressed the impact of yogurt on the nutritional and health status of older adults, and most are observational.

However, those reported thus far and reviewed here are encouraging and suggest that yogurt could play a role in improving the nutritional status and health of older adults.

In addition, these reports support further investigation into the role of yogurt in healthy and active aging.

Source

The Cuisinart Yogurt Maker

Posted in Aging, Nutrition: Food: Yogurt | 1 Comment

Neuroanatomy turned on its head by new Harvard finding

Harvard neuroscientists have made a discovery that turns 160 years of neuroanatomy on its head.

Myelin, the electrical insulating material long known to be essential for the fast transmission of impulses along the axons of nerve cells, is not as ubiquitous as thought, according to a new work lead by Professor Paola Arlotta of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and the University’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, in collaboration with Professor Jeff Lichtman, of Harvard’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“Myelin is a relatively recent invention during evolution,” says Arlotta. “It’s thought that myelin allowed the brain to communicate really fast to the far reaches of the body, and that it has endowed the brain with the capacity to compute higher level functions.” In fact, loss of myelin is a feature of a number of devastating diseases, including multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.

But the new research shows that despite myelin essential roles in the brain, “some of the most evolved, most complex neurons of the nervous system have less myelin than older, more ancestral ones” Arlotta, co-director of the HSCI neuroscience program, says.

What this means, Arlotta says, is that the higher in the cerebral cortex one looks – the closer to the top of the brain, which is its most evolved region – the less myelin one finds. Not only that, but “neurons in this part of the brain display a brand new way of positioning myelin along their axons that has not been previously seen. They have ‘intermittent myelin’ with long axon tracts that lack myelin interspersed among myelin-rich segments.

Arlotta continues: “contrary to the common assumptions that neurons use a universal profile of myelin distribution on their axons, the work indicate that different neurons choose to myelinate their axons differently. In classic neurobiology textbooks myelin is represented on axons as a sequence of myelinated segments separated by very short nodes that lack myelin. This distribution of myelin was tacitly assumed to be always the same, on every neuron, from the beginning to the end of the axon. This new work finds this not to be the case.”

The results of the research by Arlotta and post doctoral fellow Giulio Srubek Tomassy, the first author on the report, are published in the latest edition of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The paper is accompanied by a “Perspective” by R. Douglas Fields, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, at the National Institutes of Health, who says that Arlotta and Tomassy’s findings raise important questions about the purpose of myelin, “are likely to spark new concepts about how information is transmitted and integrated in the brain.”

Arlotta and Tomassy collaborated closely on the new work with postdoctoral fellow Daniel Berger of the Lichtman group, which generated one of the two massive electron microscopy data bases that made the work possible.

“The fact that it is the most evolved neurons, the ones that have expanded dramatically in humans, suggests that what we’re seeing might be the “future”. As neuronal diversity increases and the brain needs to process more and more complex information, neurons change the way they use myelin to “achieve” more”, says Arlotta.

It is possible, said Tomassy, that these profiles of myelination “may be giving neurons an opportunity to branch out and ‘talk’ to neighboring neurons”. For example, because axons cannot make synaptic contacts when they are myelinated, a possibility is that these long myelin gaps may be needed to increase neuronal communication and synchronize responses across different neurons. Perhaps, he and Arlotta postulate, the intermittent myelin is intended to fine-tune the electrical impulses traveling along the axons, in order to allow the emergence of highly complex neuronal behaviors.

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The new and better way to deal with bad memories

What’s one of your worst memories? How did it make you feel? According to psychologists, remembering the emotions felt during a negative personal experience, such as how sad you were or how embarrassed you felt, can lead to emotional distress, especially when you can’t stop thinking about it.

When these negative memories creep up, thinking about the context of the memories, rather than how you felt, is a relatively easy and effective way to alleviate the negative effects of these memories, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, led by psychology professor Florin Dolcos of the Cognitive Neuroscience Group, studied the behavioral and neural mechanisms of focusing away from emotion during recollection of personal emotional memories, and found that thinking about the contextual elements of the memories significantly reduced their emotional impact.

“Sometimes we dwell on how sad, embarrassed, or hurt we felt during an event, and that makes us feel worse and worse. This is what happens in clinical depression—ruminating on the negative aspects of a memory,” Dolcos said. “But we found that instead of thinking about your emotions during a negative memory, looking away from the worst emotions and thinking about the context, like a friend who was there, what the weather was like, or anything else non-emotional that was part of the memory, will rather effortlessly take your mind away from the unwanted emotions associated with that memory. Once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be focused on the negative emotions as much.”

This simple strategy, the study suggests, is a promising alternative to other emotion-regulation strategies, like suppression or reappraisal.

“Suppression is bottling up your emotions, trying to put them away in a box. This is a strategy that can be effective in the short term, but in the long run, it increases anxiety and depression,” explains Sanda Dolcos, co-author on the study and postdoctoral research associate at the Beckman Institute and in the Department of Psychology.

“Another otherwise effective emotion regulation strategy, reappraisal, or looking at the situation differently to see the glass half full, can be cognitively demanding. The strategy of focusing on non-emotional contextual details of a memory, on the other hand, is as simple as shifting the focus in the mental movie of your memories and then letting your mind wander.”

Not only does this strategy allow for effective short-term emotion regulation, but it has the possibility of lessening the severity of a negative memory with prolonged use.

In the study, participants were asked to share their most emotional negative and positive memories, such as the birth of a child, winning an award, or failing an exam, explained Sanda Dolcos. Several weeks later participants were given cues that would trigger their memories while their brains were being scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Before each memory cue, the participants were asked to remember each event by focusing on either the emotion surrounding the event or the context. For example, if the cue triggered a memory of a close friend’s funeral, thinking about the emotional context could consist of remembering your grief during the event. If you were asked to remember contextual elements, you might instead remember what outfit you wore or what you ate that day.

“Neurologically, we wanted to know what happened in the brain when people were using this simple emotion-regulation strategy to deal with negative memories or enhance the impact of positive memories,” explained Ekaterina Denkova, first author of the report. “One thing we found is that when participants were focused on the context of the event, brain regions involved in basic emotion processing were working together with emotion control regions in order to, in the end, reduce the emotional impact of these memories.”

Using this strategy promotes healthy functioning not only by reducing the negative impact of remembering unwanted memories, but also by increasing the positive impact of cherished memories, Florin Dolcos said.

In the future, the researchers hope to determine if this strategy is effective in lessening the severity of negative memories over the long term. They also hope to work with clinically depressed or anxious participants to see if this strategy is effective in alleviating these psychiatric conditions.

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Which 3 groups of people are most likely to be compassionate?

Newswise — Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that older women, plucky individuals and those who have suffered a recent major loss are more likely to be compassionate toward strangers than other older adults.

The study is published in this month’s issue of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Because compassionate behaviors are associated with better health and well-being as we age, the research findings offer insights into ways to improve the outcomes of individuals whose deficits in compassion put them at risk for becoming lonely and isolated later in life.

“We are interested in anything that can help older people age more successfully,” said Lisa Eyler, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and co-author. “We know that social connections are important to health and well-being, and we know that people who want to be kind to others garner greater social support. If we can foster compassion in people, we can improve their health and well-being, and maybe even longevity.”

The study, based on a survey of 1,006 randomly selected adults in San Diego County, aged 50 and over, with a mean age of 77, identified three factors that were predictive of a person’s self-reported compassion: gender, recent suffering and high mental resiliency.

Women, independent of their age, income, education, race, marital status or mental health status, scored higher on the compassion test, on average, than men. Higher levels of compassion were also observed among both men and women who had “walked a mile in another person’s shoes” and experienced a personal loss, such as a death in the family or illness, in the last year.

Those who reported higher confidence in their ability to bounce back from hard times also reported more empathy toward strangers and joy from helping those in need.

“What is exciting is that we are identifying aspects of successful aging that we can foster in both men and women,” said co-author Dilip Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, and director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging. “Mental resiliency can be developed through meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction practices. We can also teach people that the silver lining to adversity is an opportunity for personal growth.”

Posted in Elder Care, Human Behavior: Empathy, Human Behavior: Habits, Human Behavior: Happiness, Human Behavior: Kindness, Human Behavior: Trust, Mental Health: Depression | Leave a comment

Your nesting place doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful

Perfection is overrated.

Popular blogger and self-taught decorator Myquillyn Smith (The Nester) is all about embracing reality—especially when it comes to decorating a home bursting with boys, pets, and all the unpredictable messes of life.

In The Nesting Place, Myquillyn shares the secrets of decorating for real people—and it has nothing to do with creating a flawless look to wow your guests.

It has everything to do with embracing the natural imperfection and chaos of daily living.

Drawing on her years of experience creating beauty in her 13 different homes, Myquillyn will show you how to think differently about the true purpose of your home and simply and creatively tailor it to reflect you and your unique style—without breaking the bank or stressing over comparisons.

Full of easy tips, simple steps, and practical advice, The Nesting Place will give you the courage to take risks with your home and transform it into a place that’s inviting and warm for family and friends.

There is beauty in the lived-in and loved-on and just-about-used-up, Myquillyn says, and welcoming that imperfection wholeheartedly just might be the most freeing thing you’ll ever do.

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For the past five years Myquillyn Smith, ‘The Nester,’ has been encouraging women to embrace the home they are in. She’s known throughout the blogging world as ‘The Nester’ and writes a blog called ‘Nesting Place,’ a site from which she wants readers to leave with hope, motivation, and inspiration for their homes. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three boys, their hockey paraphernalia, and plenty of brown dog hair. Everything in their house is washable, destroyable and imperfect. They have moved thirteen times in eighteen years of marriage. They are renters. And they love their home.

Look inside a copy of The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

Source: Amazon

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Why people think about their health early in the week

San Diego, Calif. (April 18, 2014) ― A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine analyzing weekly patterns in health-related Google searches reveals a recurring pattern that could be leveraged to improve public health strategies.

Investigators from San Diego State University, the Santa Fe Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and the Monday Campaigns, analyzed “healthy” Google searches (searches that included the term healthy and were indeed health-related, e.g., “healthy diet”) originating in the U.S. from 2005 to 2012. They found that on average, searches for health topics were 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than on days later in the week, with the lowest average number of searches on Saturday.

This pattern was consistent year after year, week after week, using a daily measure to represent the proportion of healthy searches to the total number of searches each day.

“Many illnesses have a weekly clock with spikes early in the week,” said SDSU’s John W. Ayers, lead author of the study. “This research indicates that a similar rhythm exists for positive health behaviors, motivating a new research agenda to understand why this pattern exists and how such a pattern can be utilized to improve the public’s health.”

Joanna Cohen, PhD, a co-author of the study and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, added, “We could be seeing this effect because of the perception that Monday is a fresh start, akin to a mini New Year’s Day. People tend to indulge in less healthy behaviors on the weekend, so Monday can serve as a ‘health reset’ to get back on track with their health regimens.”

“It’s interesting to see such a consistent and similar rhythm emerging from search data,” added Benjamin Althouse, study co-author and Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. “These consistent rhythms in healthy searches likely reflect something about our collective mindset, and understanding these rhythms could lead to insights about the nature of health behavior change.”

Results showed that search volumes on Monday and Tuesday were three percent greater relative to Wednesday, 15 percent greater than Thursday, 49 percent greater than Friday, 80 percent greater than Saturday, and 29 percent greater than Sunday.

The team also examined whether media exposure could be driving this weekly pattern. Co-author Mark Dredze from Johns Hopkins said, “We tested this hypothesis by monitoring the daily frequency of news stories encouraging healthy lifestyles, but those stories actually peaked on Wednesdays and were statistically independent of healthy searches.”

According to the published paper, “Understanding circaseptan rhythms around health behaviors can yield critical public health gains. For instance, government-funded health promotion programs spend $76.2 billion annually and their cost-effectiveness can be improved by targeting the population on weekday(s) when more individuals are contemplating health habits.”

Morgan Johnson, MPH, from The Monday Campaigns and study co-author, noted that leveraging Monday is a simple, cost-effective way to nudge people towards healthier behavior. “The challenge we face in public health is to help people sustain healthy behaviors over time. Since Monday comes around every seven days when people are ‘open to buy’ health, it can be used as a cue to help create healthy habits for life.”

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The future of technology: US attitudes are all over the lot

Overall, most Americans anticipate that the technological developments of the coming half-century will have a net positive impact on society. Some 59% are optimistic that coming technological and scientific changes will make life in the future better, while 30% think these changes will lead to a future in which people are worse off than they are today.

Fully eight in ten (81%) expect that within the next 50 years people needing new organs will have them custom grown in a lab, and half (51%) expect that computers will be able to create art that is indistinguishable from that produced by humans.

  • 66% think it would be a change for the worse if prospective parents could alter the DNA of their children to produce smarter, healthier, or more athletic offspring.
  • 65% think it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.
  • 63% think it would be a change for the worse if personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.
  • 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them. Women are especially wary of a future in which these devices are widespread.

Source<: a new Pew Internet study/a>

 


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Our relationship with God changes when faced with potential romantic rejection

April 17, 2014 – Easter is a time when many people in the world think about their relationships with God. New research explores a little-understood role of God in people’s lives: helping them cope with the threat of romantic rejection. In this way, God stands in for other relationships in our lives when times are tough.

Most psychological research to date has looked at people’s relationship with God as similar to a parent-child bond, says Kristin Laurin of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “We wanted to push further the idea that people have a relationship with God in the same sense as they have relationships with other humans,” she says. “The idea is certainly not new in terms of cultural discourse, but it’s not something that psychologists have done a lot of empirical work to study.”

Specifically, Laurin and colleagues wanted to see how our relationship with God changes as our other relationships change. So the researchers designed a series of studies, published today in Social Psychological and Personality Science, that experimentally induced people to believe their romantic relationship was under threat and then tested their feelings of closeness to God. They also wanted to examine the opposite idea – how people’s romantic relationships take on different meaning when their relationship with God is threatened – and tested how this dynamic changed based on the individual’s self-esteem.

In one of the studies, they recruited 187 participants who were primarily Christian and Hindu but also Muslim, nonreligious, or unaffiliated. To manipulate relationship threat, the researchers told some of the participants that everyone hides certain aspects of themselves from their partners. “Then we hit them with the idea that these ‘secret selves’ always end up coming out, and ruining relationships,” Laurin says. “And just in case that’s not enough to make them nervous that their relationship could be in danger, we force them to think more specifically about things that they themselves might be hiding from their partners.”

They then asked the participants to rate their closeness to God. Another group of participants simply rated their closeness with God without first reading the threat scenario. The researchers also assessed the participants’ self-esteem.

Laurin’s team found that participants sought to enhance their relationship with God when under threat of romantic rejection – but only if they had high self-esteem. This fits with past work showing that people high in self-esteem seek social connection when their relationships are threatened.

It’s a sobering finding, Laurin says: “We find that high self-esteem people, who already are the ones who take constructive steps to repair their relationships when they are under threat, have yet another resource they can turn to: their relationship with God,” she explains. “Low self-esteem people, who are the ones who retreat and protect themselves at the expense of the relationship when the relationship is under threat, don’t seem to be able to use this new resource either.”

Interestingly, in one of the studies, researchers looked at how people respond to a threat to their relationship with God, and they found similar trends. They used the exact same scenario – saying that people hide their “secret selves” from God and that it can damage that relationship – and then asked people to rate their closeness to their romantic partners.

“We might have thought that people expect God to already know everything about them, and therefore that the concept of a ‘secret self’ that you try to hide from God wouldn’t really make sense,” Laurin says. “But we found that using that threat on people’s relationship with God worked in much the same way as it did with people’s romantic relationships.”

It’s important, she says, to understand how people’s relationship with God works, to better understand how we manage relationships in general. “In some ways, God is an ideal relationship partner to draw comfort from when feeling down about other relationships – the nice thing about God is that there is never any solid evidence that God has rejected you,” Laurin says.

While the research did not specifically aim to analyze differences in this effect between religions, it did hint at some trends. In the study that included Hindus from India and Christians from the United States, the researchers found no differences when comparing the two groups; they both reacted similarly.

As for the people tested who were non-religious and who may not believe in God, the results were more inconclusive. The data seemed to suggest that people must have some degree of belief in God in order to see this effect. But, Laurin says, psychologists struggle with the challenge of knowing the right questions to ask to identify people who do not believe in God. “Many people who say they don’t believe in God grew up in religious households, so their previous beliefs may still sometimes reemerge,” she explains. “Many people who say they don’t believe in God aren’t 100% sure that God does not exist. And many people who say they do believe in God may feel obligated to answer in that way, even if deep down they have their doubts.”

Laurin herself became interested in studying the psychology of religion because she grew up in a completely non-religious environment. “It was only as a teenager and young adult that I started to realize what a serious role religion plays in the lives of so many people,” she says. “I think that’s the reason that so much of my research has been connected to religion in one way or another – because I’m fascinated by what is obviously a very compelling human experience that I simply have never had.”

Laurin plans to continue testing the parallels between people’s relationship with God and their relationships with others. For example, future work could examine people’s communication styles with God, to see how they match up with what we know about communication styles with human partners.

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Processed meat, colon cancer linked in new gene study

A common genetic variant that affects one in three people appears to significantly increase the risk of colorectal cancer from the consumption of processed meat, according to study published today in PLOS Genetics. The study of over 18,000 people from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe represents the first large-scale genome-wide analysis of genetic variants and dietary patterns that may help explain more of the risk factors for colorectal cancer.

Dr Jane Figueiredo at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, explained that eating processed meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and for about a third of the general population who carry this genetic variant, the risk of eating processed meat is even higher compared to those who do not.

“Our results, if replicated by other studies, may provide us with a greater understanding of the biology into colorectal carcinogenesis,” said Dr Ulrike Peters of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Division.

The study population totaled 9,287 patients with colorectal cancer and a control group of 9,117 individuals without cancer, all participants in 10 observational studies that were pooled in the largest meta-analysis sponsored by the National Institutes of Health-funded Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium (GECCO) and Colorectal Cancer Family Registry.

Scientists systematically searched 2.7 million variants to identify those that are associated with the consumption of meat, fiber, fruits and vegetables. A significant interaction between the genetic variant rs4143094 and processed meat consumption was detected. This variant is located on the same chromosome 10 region that includes GATA3, a transcription factor gene previously linked to several forms of cancer. The transcription factor encoded by this gene plays a role in the immune system.

Dr Figueiredo hypothesized that the genetic locus found to interact with processed meat may have interesting biological significance given its location in the genome, but further functional analyses are required.

Colorectal cancer is a multi-factorial disease attributed to both genetic causes and lifestyle factors; including diet. About 30 known genetic susceptibility alleles for colorectal cancer have been pinpointed throughout the genome. How specific foods affect the activities of genes has not been established but represents an important area of research for prevention.

“The possibility that genetic variants may modify an individual’s risk for disease based on diet has not been thoroughly investigated but represents an important new insight into disease development,” said Dr Li Hsu, the lead statistician on the study. “Diet is a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer. Our study is the first to understand whether some individuals are at higher or lower risk based on their genomic profile. This information can help us better understand the biology and maybe in the future lead to targeted prevention strategies,” said Dr Figueiredo.

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Posted in Autoimmune Disease, Cancer: Colon, Human Behavior: Rejection, Human Behavior: Spirituality, Nutrition: Food: Processed, Parkinson's | Leave a comment

Loud talking and horseplay in car results in more serious incidents for teen drivers

Adolescent drivers are often distracted by technology while they are driving, but loud conversations and horseplay between passengers appear more likely to result in a dangerous incident, according to a new study from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

The work, which appears online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health, not only reinforces the importance of North Carolina’s licensing system for newly minted drivers but also provides an interesting perspective on the role that technology plays in distracted driving.

“Forty three states currently restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one young passenger in their vehicle,” said Robert Foss, senior research scientist at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, and director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers. “The results of this study illustrate the importance of such restrictions, which increase the safety of drivers, their passengers and others on the road by reducing the potential chaos that novice drivers experience.”

In their work, Foss and his colleague Arthur Goodwin recruited 52 North Carolina high-school age drivers to have in-vehicle cameras mounted in their cars and trucks to observe distracted driving behaviors and distracted conditions when teen drivers were behind the wheel. Young drivers were recorded in a variety of real-world driving situations over six months – with parents in the car, with other teens in the car and alone.

The study shows that young drivers were less likely to use cell phones and other technology (including in-vehicle systems, like the radio and temperature control) when there were passengers in the car with them. But having multiple passengers in the car more often led to more serious incidents. Teen drivers were six times more likely to have a serious incident when there was loud conversation in the vehicle – to the point of needing to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a crash – and three times more likely to have a serious incident when there was horseplay in the vehicle.

Another important finding is that actions the driver alone controls – reaching, texting, using a phone and eating – seem less likely to lead to a serious incident than things they can’t control, like how others in the car behave.

“This is why the limit of one teen passenger is important when teens are just learning to drive,” said Foss.

This study is one of the first to use in-vehicle cameras to observe teen driver and passenger behavior in real-time. Using video recorders from two lenses – one facing the roadway and the other into the vehicle – researchers were able to measure potentially distracted behaviors more accurately than in previous studies, which have relied on observation from outside vehicles or driver self-reports of distracted behaviors.

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Fish consumption advisories fail to cover all types of contaminants

A new modeling study suggests that fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to long-lived contaminants like persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The study, performed by a team of researchers including University of Toronto Scarborough PhD student Matt Binnington and Professor Frank Wania, looks at how different levels of environmental contamination, a mother’s compliance with advisories, and the behavior of chemicals in the body influenced exposure in her children.

Their model estimates that women who stop eating fish shortly before or during their pregnancy may only lower their child’s exposure to POPs by 10 to 15 per cent.

“We have to be careful in saying fish advisories don’t work at all because they can work very well for reducing exposure to quickly eliminated contaminants, such as mercury,” says Binnington. “But for POPs we found that they are not very effective.”

POPs are compounds that take a long time to break down and as a result can persist in the environment and begin to accumulate in humans by way of the food chain. While many POPs such as DDT and PCBs have long been banned from production, they still exist in the environment. Fish advisories have been developed for these chemicals because they are easily passed from mothers to their children during pregnancy and nursing, potentially impacting healthy infant neurodevelopment.

Binnington says consumption advisories for many POPs are ineffective because they can remain in the body for years or even decades due to properties that make it difficult for the human body to eliminate them. The same is not true for mercury-based advisories, as the time it remains in the body is much shorter compared to POPs.

“Something like mercury stays in the body for only a few months and by temporarily adjusting your diet you can reduce exposure,” says Binnington.

The limitation with consumption advisories is that while they inform people what not to eat, they do not offer much in the way of healthy alternatives, says Wania. In fact, substituting fish with meat such as beef may even end up doing more harm.

“Substituting fish with beef may actually result in higher exposure to other contaminants,” he says, adding there is also a loss of nutritional benefits by not eating fish.

The research, which received funding through NSERC) and the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) of the Canadian Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AANDC), is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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New short ragweed pollen allergy drug gets FDA OK

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Ragwitek, the first allergen extract administered under the tongue (sublingually) to treat short ragweed pollen induced allergic rhinitis (hay fever), with or without conjunctivitis (eye inflammation), in adults 18 years through 65 years of age.

Ragwitek contains an extract from short ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) pollen. It is a tablet that is taken once daily by placing it sublingually, where it rapidly dissolves. Treatment with Ragwitek is started 12 weeks before the start of ragweed pollen season and continued throughout the season. The first dose is taken in a health care professional’s office where the patient is to be observed for at least 30 minutes for potential adverse reactions. After the first dose, patients can take Ragwitek at home.

“The approval of Ragwitek offers millions of adults living with ragweed pollen allergies in the United States an alternative to allergy shots to help manage their disease,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Individuals with allergic rhinitis with or without conjunctivitis may experience a runny nose, repetitive sneezing, nasal itching, nasal congestion, and itchy and watery eyes. Short ragweed pollen is one of the most common seasonal allergens and is prevalent during the late summer and early fall months in most of the United States. Short ragweed pollen induced allergies are generally managed by avoiding the allergen, medications to relieve symptoms, or with allergy shots.

The safety and effectiveness of Ragwitek was evaluated in studies conducted in the United States and internationally. Safety was assessed in approximately 1,700 adults. The most commonly reported adverse reactions by patients treated with Ragwitek were itching in the mouth and ears and throat irritation. Of the 1,700 adults, about 760 were evaluated to determine effectiveness. Some patients received Ragwitek; others received an inactive substitute (placebo). The patients reported their symptoms and additional medications needed to get through the allergy season. During treatment for one ragweed pollen season, patients who received Ragwitek experienced approximately a 26 percent reduction in symptoms and the need for medications compared to those who received a placebo.

The Prescribing Information includes a boxed warning to inform that severe allergic reactions, some of which can be life-threatening, can occur. Ragwitek also has a Medication Guide for distribution to the patient.

Ragwitek is manufactured for Merck, Sharp & Dohme

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Diabetes drugs’ long-term effectiveness: a new study

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are seeking volunteers for a study that compares the long-term benefits and risks of four widely used diabetes drugs. The drugs will be given in combination with metformin (Gulcophage®), the most commonly prescribed medication for treating type 2 diabetes.

Over a period of five years, the researchers will evaluate how the drugs affect blood sugar levels, diabetes complications and quality of life, as well as the medications’ side effects.

“In addition to determining which medications control sugar most effectively over time, we will examine individual factors associated with better or worse response to different drugs,” said Janet B. McGill, MD, professor of medicine and principal investigator at the Washington University study site. “This is a long-term study that will provide targeted diabetes care at no cost to participants.”

Although short-term studies have shown that drugs to lower blood sugar can be effective when used with metformin, no long-term studies have been conducted to determine which combinations work best to keep diabetes under control.

The nationwide study is called the Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness (GRADE) study. It is expected to involve 5,000 patients across the country and 300 locally who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the past 10 years.

“Type 2 diabetes progresses slowly, over a long period of time,” said Barbara Linder, MD, PhD, the GRADE project officer at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “This study will help us understand how different combinations of medications affect the disease over time and ultimately will help physicians make better choices for their patients’ long-term care.”

To be eligible for the study, people with diabetes may be taking metformin, but they cannot be on any other diabetes medication. During the study, all participants will take metformin along with a second medication randomly assigned from among four classes of medications that are approved for use with metformin by the Food and Drug Administration.

Three of the study drugs increase insulin levels. They are: sulfonylurea, DPP-4 inhibitor and GLP-1 agonist. The fourth option is a long-acting form of insulin.
Participants will receive free clinical evaluations and management of their diabetes medications throughout the course of the study, including at least four clinic visits a year.

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Posted in Diabetes, Science: Astronomy, Science: Evolution | Leave a comment

Wedding registry buying behaviors: why people buy only gifts at highest or lowest end of price scales

A statistical analysis of the gift “fulfillments” at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the happy couple. The details reported in the International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing suggest that most people hope to garner social benefits of buying an expensive gift that somehow enhances their relationship with the newlyweds while at the same time they wish to limit monetary cost and save money.

Yun Kyung Oh of the Department of Business Administration, at Dongduk Women’s University, in Seoul, Korea, working with Ye Hu of the University of Houston, Texas, Xin Wang of Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, and William Robinson of Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, USA, explain how their Bayesian statistical analysis reveals a bimodal distribution of gift fulfillment that shows this push and pull across more than 500 wedding registries. The center of the distribution pivots on the average price available to the giver of the gifts requested by bride and groom. The higher than average-priced gifts are the target of those seeking greatest social benefit and the lower priced gifts by those hoping to save money. Very few people buy gifts of average price as these do not appeal in either regard, the team found. However, gifts of extremely high or very low price often remain unfulfilled too for similar reasons.

“Across vastly different social settings, gift giving is often an act of symbolism, large and small, of love, respect, and sometimes war. The economic importance of gift giving cannot be overestimated,” the team says, “think Trojan Horse and The Statue of Liberty for disparate examples.” However, nowhere is the politics of gift-giving more sensitive than in the creation of a wedding registry by bride and groom and its fulfillment by their family, friends and other well-wishers. Gift giving is a multibillion dollar industry.

The team’s study perhaps reinforces what one might suspect of wedding gift buyers that a gift giver seeking a social benefit will largely ignore the price, provided the gift does not exceed their budget whereas the gift giver looking to save money will buy something that is not expensive. The statistical analysis made possible by the real data from online wedding registries corroborates this notion. The team asserts that online gift giving presents a unique and significant marketing opportunity. Indeed, they conclude that, “A better understanding of this area offers practical recommendations to marketing practitioners to serve consumers better and to increase retailer profits.”

Of course, in some cultural wedding gifts are purely monetary and there is no gift to buy, but presumably the same dichotomy exists for the giver with deep pockets in that situation too who hopes to enhance their relationship with the newlyweds at minimal cost.

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“How do external reference prices influence online gift giving?” in Int. J. Electronic Marketing and Retailing, vol 5, 359-371

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Stumped on what gift to buy? There’s an “app” for that on Amazon.

Posted in Human Behavior: Relationships | Leave a comment

Is choosing friends based on race hardwired?

By 15 months of age infants are sensitive to violations of fairness norms as assessed via their enhanced visual attention to unfair versus fair outcomes in violation-of-expectation paradigms.

The current study investigated whether 15-month-old infants select social partners on the basis of prior fair versus unfair behavior, and whether infants integrate social selections on the basis of fairness with the race of the distributors and recipients involved in the exchange.

Experiment 1 demonstrated that after witnessing one adult distribute toys to two recipients fairly (2:2 distribution), and another adult distribute toys to two recipients unfairly (1:3 distribution), Caucasian infants selected fair over unfair distributors when both distributors were Caucasian; however, this preference was not present when the fair actor was Asian and the unfair actor was Caucasian.

In Experiment 2, when fairness, the race of the distributor, and the race of the recipients were fully crossed, Caucasian infants’ social selections varied as a function of the race of the recipient advantaged by the unfair distributor.

Specifically, infants were more likely to select the fair distributor when the unfair recipient advantaged the Asian (versus the Caucasian) recipient.

These findings provide evidence that infants select social partners on the basis of prior fair behavior and that infants also take into account the race of distributors and recipients when making their social selections.

More.

Posted in Contact Lenses, Hardwiring | Leave a comment