Health & Wellness


A Healthful Diet? Don't Forget the Fat

It used to be that the mere mention of the word fat sent health conscious eaters into retreat mode. Fat was to be avoided at all costs, and the lower the amount one consumed, the better. Yet as health and weight problems rose simultaneously with the proliferation of goods such as fat-free salad dressings, light cookies, and low-fat peanut butter, it's come to light that fat, the much maligned macromolecule, doesn't deserve the reputation it's been dealt.

As it turns out, the percentage of fat in our diet doesn't dictate weight or health. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found almost identical rates of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, and weight control in women who followed a low-fat diet versus those who didn't. Other studies have backed this up, finding no correlation between heart disease, cancer, or weight and percentage of fat in diet. What they did find, however, was that it's not the amount of fat, but rather the type of fat a person eats that makes a difference.


What Makes Laughter the Best Medicine?

© unknown
Laughter has a real beneficial effect on your physical health, according to research. In the study, subjects were observed as they watched both serious movies and comedies. During the comedies, their arteries dilated and their blood pressure dropped, suggesting that laughter can in fact be a powerful medicine indeed.

The study looked at 20 healthy participants with an average age of 33. The results showed for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels. It appears to cause the endothelium, which is the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow.

The study also showed that the opposite effect occurred when the subjects watched suspenseful films, suggesting a link between mental stress and the narrowing of blood vessels.

A separate study also found that viewing a humorous film may be helpful for the study and treatment of local IgE production and allergy in the reproductive tract.


Confirmation Bias: Steven Colbert is whoever you want him to be

© Comedy Central
Three researchers at The Ohio State University say that when holding a mirror up to the political satire on The Colbert Report you probably see your own perceptions staring back at you.
Colbert has built a career mocking the right-wing. So why does new research suggest that the comedian is popular with Conservatives?

So ... Stephen Colbert doesn't really mean all those wacky liberal-bashing things he says, does he? Comedy Central's The Colbert Report is obviously a parody of a wing-nut right-wing talk show. Right?

Or ... is it? (Cut to devilishly quizzical chin-grabbing stare.)

He can't be serious.

Or ... can he sort of be? (Cut to screeching bald eagle.)

Well, apparently Colbert is just that good. His character is so pitch-perfectly ambiguous that, according to a new study, what it is you see in him is whatever it is you want to see in him. If you are liberal, he is a liberal, too. If you are a conservative, he is a conservative, just like you.

And if you are a bear, well, good luck.

Colbert is, it would appear, a fun-house mirror to the deepest recesses of your political soul.


The Consequences of Using Fluoride

Fluoride has been used for over sixty years to help prevent tooth decay. Over 60% of people in the U.S. receive fluoride in their drinking water; some water supplies have naturally occurring fluoride in it and some have fluoride added at a water treatment facility. Since the onset of fluoridation of the water supply there has been a drastic reduction in the amount of tooth decay. In fact, the CDC has recognized fluoridation of water as one of the biggest public health breakthroughs of the 20th century. Why, then, is there a controversy over the use of fluoride in drinking water and as a dental supplement? Critics say that the safety and effectiveness of fluoride has never been fully proven, and that it can actually be dangerous to consume with resulting health consequences such as neurotoxicity, cancer, and fluorosis among others.


Drug companies' secret reports outrage doctors

Several months ago, a pharmaceutical company salesman told Dr. Mario Motta something that surprised him. The salesman, who had scheduled a 15-minute appointment with Motta, said he knew that the doctor had been prescribing a competitor's cardiac drugs - and he wanted Motta to switch.

Motta had never discussed his personal prescribing habits with the salesman. "I said, 'How would you know that?' " Motta recalled. "I couldn't get it out of him, so I told him to leave."

Drug makers, in a level of detail unknown to many physicians, are spending millions of dollars to develop secret reports about individual doctors and their patients, according to consultants to the drug companies.

Bad Guys

Drug companies drew up doctor hit list

AN international drug company made a hit list of doctors who had to be "neutralised" or discredited because they criticised the anti-arthritis drug the pharmaceutical giant produced.

Staff at US company Merck &Co emailed each other about the list of doctors - mainly researchers and academics - who had been negative about the drug Vioxx or Merck and a recommended course of action.

The email, which came out in the Federal Court in Melbourne yesterday as part of a class action against the drug company, included the words "neutralise", "neutralised" or "discredit" against some of the doctors' names


The link between sleep and memory

For many years, people believed that the brain, like the body, rested during sleep. After all, we are rendered unconscious by sleep. Perhaps, it was thought, the brain just needs to stop thinking for a few hours every day. Wrong. During sleep, our brain - the organ that directs us to sleep - is itself extraordinarily active. And much of that activity helps the brain to learn, to remember and to make connections.

It wasn't so long ago that the rueful joke in research circles was that everyone knew sleep had something to do with memory - except for the people who study sleep and the people who study memory. Then, in 1994, Israeli researchers reported that the average performance for a group of people on a memory test improved when the test was repeated after a break of many hours - during which some subjects slept and others did not. In 2000, a Harvard team demonstrated that this improvement occurred only during sleep.

Control Panel

The science of forgetting


Memorable Amnesiacs: Hollywood's love affair with memory loss
Karim Nader sounds giddy as he recalls the day in November 2001 when he stood before hundreds of experts in the science of memory and presented a radical theory. At 34, with one research paper on the topic to his name, Nader was a newcomer to the field. He was so nervous, he considered ditching the San Diego conference and fleeing to Mexico: "I thought, Tijuana is only 20 minutes away. I can go there and surf for the rest of my life."

Instead, the young scientist composed himself, walked through an intriguing rat experiment and presented his stunning conclusion. Long-term memories, Nader proposed, aren't fixed in a permanent form once they're filed away in the brain, as researchers had long believed. When a memory is recalled, it returns to an unstable state, like ice melting to water. As such, it can be altered and then it is stored again. The original memory? No longer there. The notion challenged decades of dogma and rattled seasoned scientists who believed that old memories could never be changed. Nader's nerves were so fried by the end, he says, "I couldn't believe I was still alive."


Well-done steaks contribute to pancreatic cancer

Meat-eaters who prefer their steak charred or very well done are at a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, a new study finds.

The study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research links eating well-done meat, especially red meat, to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

No such relation was found between eating charred meat and colon cancer.

Compared to those who eat steak medium or do not eat steak, individuals with the highest intake of well-done meat are 60-70 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

Better Earth

Walnuts every day keeps breast cancer away

Eating a handful of walnuts every day can not only lower heart disease but also reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, a study finds.

FDA health officials have reported that including 1.5 ounces of walnuts in a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol reduces the risk of developing heart disease.

The walnut-based diet can also reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis - hardening of the arteries. When eaten at the end of a meal, walnuts overcome the damage caused by fatty foods on the arteries, lowering total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.