A new study indicates that a combination of high fat, high sugar, and high stress is what piles on dangerous abdominal fat.  A high-stress life with a good diet is not a problem, as far as belly fat goes, and a a bad diet is not as much of a problem if stress levels are low.  At least if you're a mouse.

This should be good news, since both diet and our response to stress can be controlled.  However, the tone of the article bothers me, as it focuses on the medical and pharmaceutical possibilities the study raises.  Not that these are necessarily wrong, but it misses the big picture.

I've also noticed a fad among dentists lately:  selling mouth guards to protect the teeth of those whose stress response includes grinding their teeth at night.  Again, there's nothing wrong with that.  Sometimes you have to treat the symptoms.

However, treating symptoms while ignoring the disease itself can be irresponsible.  It's true there's been a lot of hot air spilled on the subject of our bad diets, but a high level of stress still seems to be considered inevitable, even a badge of courage and a mark of success.  Why aren't we paying more attention to preventing unnecessary stress in the first place, and to ways of controlling and moderating our response to unavoidable stress?
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 2, 2007 at 7:43 am | Edit
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I find it amusing that President Bush gets blamed for anything that goes wrong, including hurricanes.  But even I am incensed about this one.  Whatever his personal opinion might be—if he's aware of the situation at all—he surely bears part of the blame for the following insanity, because the president is ultimately responsible for the actions of his administration. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 7:21 am | Edit
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Remember the story of the guy who got in trouble for (correctly) using the word "niggardly"?

Porter's boss once called him on the carpet for "using words I don't understand."

Now Missouri legislators are up in arms because their vocabularies failed them.  They passed a bill legalizing lay midwifery because they didn't realize what "tocology" means. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 28, 2007 at 6:51 am | Edit
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Among the more bizarre stories of the day, here's a study that claims to be able to predict your child's future SAT performance based on the relative lengths of his fingers.  Those whose ring fingers are longer compared with their index fingers are statistically likely to do better on the math portion, and those with the reverse situation to do better on the verbal.  This supposedly reflects prenatal testosterone/estrogen exposure.

It's a lot harder to measure finger lenght than I thought.  I finally settled on measuring from the knuckle, and it seems my ring finger is a bit longer than my index.  It's true, I did very well on the math portion of the SAT.  But I did even better on the verbal, so I must have measured wrong.  :)

The researchers plan to expand their studies into "other cognitive and behavioral issues, such as technophobia, career paths and possibly dyslexia."
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 25, 2007 at 7:46 am | Edit
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My hearing is very good, probably better than that of many my age because I didn't ruin it in my teens with headphones and loud music.  But I still find that I can understand what people say better if I can see their faces.  Now I know why.

A Canadian study indicates that there is a signficant visual component of language understanding even amongst hearing people.  The four-month-old babies in the study were able to distinguish when adults in a silent video were speaking English and when they were speaking French.

The eight-month-old babies could do the same, but only if they were being raised in a bilingual French/English environment.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 25, 2007 at 7:23 am | Edit
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Just what parents didn't want to hear.  Apparently high-action video games can improve your eyesight.  (Rochester Review, May/June 2007)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 21, 2007 at 2:31 pm | Edit
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Or hospitals in general, if you can help it.  I realize they perform a vital service, and I really am thankful for doctors and hospitals.  But sometimes I think they've completely lost touch with reality.

Check out this article about an Ontario woman who gave birth.  In her First Nation (Native American) culture, burying the placenta is an important ritual.  But the hospital wouldn't let her take her placenta home.  In the end, she finally received it, but only after it had been sterilized and passed through the hands of a funeral home!

This woman's complaint has a chance of making some change in the Canadian hospital policies, because of her Native status.  But Native Americans, and Canadians, are not the only ones who want to bury or otherwise use the placenta.  Why does the hospital think it has the right to keep the placenta?  Apparently because we gave them that right.  But if they don't want to drive even more parents to the friendlier options of midwives and home birth, pehaps they should rethink the issue.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 12, 2007 at 9:28 am | Edit
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Well, no, not really.  Sunscreen has an important role in preventing sunburn and sking problems.  But I've long thought that we are now going overboard to avoid the sun, and this article on vitamin D deficiency encourages that belief.  It turns out that vitamin D is valuable for far more than preventing rickets, and the recommended daily dose is probably much too low.  A few interesting quotes from the article (since I know it will become inaccessible after a while):

A series of recent studies has found that vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin—once thought to be critical only to bone health—is useful throughout the body to strengthen the immune system and control cell growth. Yet researchers estimate that as many as half of all Americans are likely deficient in the nutrient.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 23, 2007 at 7:09 am | Edit
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It was the title that struck me:

Study spotlights prenatal beef consumption

I found the image of tiny babies-in-utero chowing down on hamburgers quite amusing.

But the results of a study by researchers at my former employer, the University of Rochester Medical Center, are not funny at all.  Men whose mothers ate a lot of beef during their pregnancy were found to have a risk of fertility problems three times greater than normal, with 25% below normal sperm counts.  If this is due, as many suspect, to the hormones fed to beef cattle, there is good reason to believe that girl babies are adversely affected as well.

I'm no vegetarian, but organic meat is looking more and more to be worth the exorbitant cost.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 9:07 pm | Edit
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I remember the response, too.

I've written about the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine campaign before.  Now I want to share this excellent article by Gina R. Dalfonzo from Christianity Today, (22 March 07) which begins,

You've probably seen the commercials. Over the last few months, it's been almost impossible not to see them. They parade endlessly across our screens—a multitude of women of all ages, from all backgrounds—and they all have the same urgent message to share: "Tell someone that human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer. Tell someone. Tell someone. Tell someone."

To which I can only respond, "We tried."

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 1:08 pm | Edit
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Now it's Chinese food that's bad for you!  I'm especially sad that they singled out my family's favorite, General Tso's Chicken.  And how about this:

[E]ating an order of lemon chicken, which is battered and then deep-fried, is like eating three fried McDonald's McChicken sandwiches then washing them down with a 32-oz. Coke.

This report slams Chinese food for both high sodium and high calorie content.  What's critically missing is any mention of portion size.  I don't know anyone who thinks that the plates they serve you at Chinese restaurants were meant to be consumed by one person, and I'm sure both the calorie and the sodium numbers would look much better if analyzed for reasonably-sized portions.  Eating less makes a lot more sense than following this advice:  "[Stay] away from duck sauce, hot mustard, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce."  Could you then still call it Chinese food???
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 8:03 am | Edit
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This article on making moral judgments is a good example of the kind of false dilemma that drives me crazy.  It reminds me of those soul-tearing questions sometimes inflicted on schoolchildren—by each other, and even by teachers—such as "If your house were burning and you could only save one parent, which would you choose, your mom or your dad?" I remember teaching my own kids that "I don't answer ridiculous questions" is a perfectly acceptable response.

The dilemma posed in the experiment is this:  "Someone you know has AIDS and plans to infect others, some of whom will die. Your only options are to let it happen or to kill the person. Do you pull the trigger?"  The premise, "your only options are to let it happen or to kill the person" is spurious, since there are always other options.  They could at least have set up a more plausible scenario, such as a sniper shooting steadily into a crowded schoolyard and you having a gun trained on the sniper—do you shoot him?  But even in that case one can shoot to disable, even though there's a chance your shot will end up fatal.

What they discovered about the responses of people with a particular type of brain damage may be important in helping those people and their families, but it's hard to see any general application that can come from false premises. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 7:21 am | Edit
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I suppose I should throw out my Peter Pan peanut butter.

Having read about the recall, I quietly scoffed at the paranoia of those who recommended getting rid of all peanut butter, as if the net of the "2111" product code weren't wide enough.  And all this fuss when no actual contamination has (yet) been found in the product—just a statistical link.

But just for fun, I looked at the product code on my jar, and lo and behold, it begins with the Number of the Peanut Butter Beast.

The fact that I've already consumed more than half the contents of the jar ought to count for something, though.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 9:53 am | Edit
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I wonder how much of the harm in the world has been done to people "for their own good."  I think of the Crusades, forced conversions, overzealous social workers who have ripped children from their families without cause (and, when proven wrong, without apology), the punishment of Native American and Deaf children who dared speak their mother tongues in school, and court-ordered therapy against the will of the patient.  One might argue that there were mixed motives on the parts of the do-gooders in these cases, but always the benefit of the victim was used as an excuse, and I believe in most cases the confidence of doing a good thing was truly a major motivating factor. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 10:59 am | Edit
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A Candian study indicates that knowledge of two or more languages can play a significant role in staving off dementia.  Multilingual people in the study began showing dementia symptoms an average of 4.1 years later than their unilingual counterparts.  "How you learn the language probably doesn't make much difference; how good your grammar is probably doesn't matter." said principle investigator Ellen Bialystok. "What matters is that you have to manage two complete language systems at once."

Since previous research has found other mental workouts, like crossword puzzles, to be helpful as well, I'm now looking for a multi-lingual version of my World of Puzzles magazine....
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 12, 2007 at 9:30 am | Edit
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