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Thu, 24 Sep 2020
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Magic Wand

High self-esteem may be culturally universal, international study shows

The notion that East Asians, Japanese in particular, are self-effacing and have low self-esteem compared to Americans may well describe the surface view of East Asian personality, but misses the picture revealed by recently developed measures of self-esteem, according to a new study by a team of researchers from the United States, China and Japan.

For the first time psychologists used those new measures in exactly parallel fashion to compare samples of university students from the three countries. Surveying more than 500 students, they found that implicit, or automatic, self-esteem was strongly positive among students from each of the nations. The consistency of the findings across cultures was so clearly apparent that the researchers conclude in this month's issue of the journal Psychological Science that high implicit self-esteem may be culturally universal.

The researchers used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) created by University of Washington psychologist Anthony Greenwald and a co-author of the study, to probe the students' positive associations with themselves. Different versions of the test have been widely used to investigate automatic attitudes and evaluations such as racial bias, and gender and age stereotypes. In this study it was used to provide an index of self-esteem. Psychologists previously equated self-esteem with the extent to which people describe themselves as having positive characteristics. These self-descriptions are called explicit self-esteem and are measured by asking for agreement with statements such as "I feel that I have a number of good qualities." No questions are asked to measure implicit self-esteem. Instead the test measures how rapidly a person can give the same response to words that are pleasant and words that refer to one's self.

Arrow Down

Calorie density key to losing weight

Eating smart, not eating less, may be the key to losing weight. A year-long clinical trial by Penn State researchers shows that diets focusing on foods that are low in calorie density can promote healthy weight loss while helping people to control hunger.

Foods that are high in water and low in fat - such as fruits, vegetables, soup, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products - are low in calorie density and provide few calories per bite.

"Eating a diet that is low in calorie density allows people to eat satisfying portions of food, and this may decrease feelings of hunger and deprivation while reducing calories" said Dr. Julia A. Ello-Martin, who conducted the study as part of her doctoral dissertation in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State. Previously, little was known about the influence of diets low in calorie density on body weight.

"Such diets are known to reduce the intake of calories in the short term, but their role in promoting weight loss over the long term was not clear," said Dr. Barbara J. Rolls, who directed the study and who holds the Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State.

Evil Rays

A wider range of sounds for the deaf

More than three decades ago, scientists pursued the then-radical idea of implanting tiny electronic hearing devices in the inner ear to help profoundly deaf people. An even bolder alternative that promised superior results - implanting a device directly in the auditory nerve - was set aside as too difficult, given the technology of the day.

Now, however, scientists have shown in animals that it's possible to implant a tiny, ultra-thin electrode array in the auditory nerve that can successfully transmit a wide range of sounds to the brain. The studies took place at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute.

If the idea pans out in further animal and human studies, profoundly and severely deaf people would have another option that could allow them to hear low-pitched sounds common in speech, converse in a noisy room, identify high and low voices, and appreciate music - areas where cochlea implants, though a boon, have significant limitations.

Light Saber

Patient Shocks Surgeons With Green Blood

Surgeons operating on a 42-year-old Canadian man got a shock when they discovered dark-green blood coursing through his arteries, like Star Trek's Mr Spock.

Stunned, the medical team immediately sent his blood for analysis. The test revealed the blood discolouration was caused by sulfhaemoglobinaemia, which occurs when a sulphur atom gets incorporated into the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin protein in blood.

Doctors suspected that the patient's migraine medication caused the condition. "It is possible that our patient's arguably excessive intake of sumatriptan, which contains a sulfonamide group, caused his sulfhaemoglobinaemia," they say.

Star

Vitamin D Lowers Cancer Risk

OMAHA, Neb. -- Building hope for one pill to prevent many cancers, vitamin D cut the risk of several types of cancer by 60% overall for older women in the most rigorous study yet.

The new research strengthens the case made by some specialists that vitamin D may be a powerful cancer preventive and most people should get more of it. Experts remain split, though, on how much to take.

Attention

Caution: Some soft drinks may seriously harm your health

A new health scare erupted over soft drinks last night amid evidence they may cause serious cell damage. Research from a British university suggests a common preservative found in drinks such as Fanta and Pepsi Max has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA.

The problem - more usually associated with ageing and alcohol abuse - can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's.

The findings could have serious consequences for the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who consume fizzy drinks. They will also intensify the controversy about food additives, which have been linked to hyperactivity in children.

Attention

Soda Ingredients Linked to Cirrhosis and Cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported that it found a high level of cancer-causing benzene in five of the 100 soft drinks and beverages that it tested. The levels of benzene were more than the recommended 5 parts per billion limit for drinking water.

The FDA said that it had alerted the companies that make the soft drinks in which benzene was over the prescribed limit. All companies had agreed to reformulate their drinks or have already done so, the FDA revealed on Friday. It maintained that there was no cause for concern although some environmental groups have expressed dismay at these findings.

Magnify

US scientists discover new, potentially deadly bacteria

In a dramatic case of microbial sleuthing, US scientists said they have discovered a new, potentially deadly strain of bacteria previously unknown to medicine.

The bacteria was found in a 43-year-old American woman who had traveled across Peru for three weeks and suffered from symptoms similar to typhoid fever or malaria. The woman has since recovered.

Health

Test Case Linking Vaccines and Autism Reaches Federal Court

The family stories are remarkably, painfully, similar.

They begin begin with toddlers developing well, and happily. Then they are taken to the doctor's office for routine vaccines which, in the early 1990s, often were bundled together.

A week after the shots, the devastation begins: loss of speech and eye contact, high fever, constant pain, screaming, bowel problems, no sleep. The children no longer respond to their names; later, they are diagnosed with autism or related disorders.

Coffee

Dietary preferences and patterns may be linked to genes

The relative amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fat that people choose to eat may be influenced by genetics, according to new research. Jose Ordovas, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (USDA HNRCA), and colleagues found that the apolipoprotein A-II gene (APOA2) is associated with proportions of fat, carbohydrate, and protein in the diet, along with total calories and, therefore, with body-mass-index (BMI). These results, published in Clinical Chemistry, are the first to show that the APOA2 gene is linked to food preferences that shape dietary patterns, particularly preferences for dietary fat.

Ordovas, corresponding author, and colleagues analyzed genetic alleles, or variants, in the APOA2 promoter, a region that controls expression, or behavior, of the APOA2 gene. The alleles of the APOA2 promoter, T and C, form combinations; TT, TC, and CC, which indicate genotype. Of more than 1,000 study participants, approximately 85 percent had the common TT and TC genotypes, whereas 15 percent of participants had the CC genotype. "Both men and women with the CC genotype had a statistically significant higher intake of fat than people with the TT and TC genotypes," says Ordovas. "People with the CC genotype also consumed an average of 200 more calories per day and were nearly two times more likely to be obese, as compared to those with the two more common alleles."

In addition to preference for dietary fat, the researchers found evidence that the APOA2 gene influences preferences for protein and carbohydrate. People with the CC genotype consumed higher absolute amounts of protein and lower absolute amounts of carbohydrate than those with the TT and TC genotypes. "People with the CC genotype also exhibited dietary patterns with a lower amount of carbohydrate relative to fat and protein than people with the TT and TC genotypes," says Ordovas, "despite their caloric intake or BMI."

Study participants, who were part of the Genetics of Lipid Lowering Drugs and Diet Network (GOLDN) Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, were asked to fill out dietary and lifestyle questionnaires. Researchers measured participants' weight, height, and waist and hip circumference, along with blood lipid levels both before and after a high-fat meal.