Sunday, March 29, 2009

Social Skills, Extracurricular Activities In High School Pay Off Later In Life

Social Skills, Extracurricular Activities In High School Pay Off Later In Life

According to a University of Illinois professor who studies the sociology of education, high school sophomores who were rated by their teachers as having good social skills and work habits, and who participated in extracurricular activities in high school, made more money and completed higher levels of education 10 years later than their classmates who had similar standardized test scores but were less socially adroit and participated in fewer extracurricular activities.

Christy Lleras, a professor of human and community development, says that “soft skills” such as sociability, punctuality, conscientiousness and an ability to get along well with others, along with participation in extracurricular activities, are better predictors of earnings and higher educational achievement later in life than having good grades and high standardized test scores.

“That’s not to say that academic achievement in high school doesn’t matter – it does,” Lleras said. “But if we only look at standardized test scores, we’re only considering part of the equation for success as an adult in a global marketplace. Academic achievement is part of the story, but it’s not the whole story. You’ve got to have the social skills and work habits to back those achievements up.”

Lack Energy? Maybe It's Your Magnesium Level

Lack Energy? Maybe It's Your Magnesium Level:

"A study by ARS physiologist Henry C. Lukaski and nutritionist Forrest H. Nielsen reveals important findings on the effects of depleted body magnesium levels on energy metabolism.

He and Nielsen, with the center's clinical nutrition support staff, showed that inadequate magnesium is associated with a need for increased oxygen during exercise. They found that during moderate activity, those with low magnesium levels in muscle are likely to use more energy—and therefore to tire more quickly—than those with adequate levels."

Peer Victimization In Middle And High School Predicts Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents

Peer Victimization In Middle And High School Predicts Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents

According to Gallup, peer aggression and victimization during adolescence is a form of competition for reproductive opportunities. Female college students who were frequently victimized during middle and high school reported having sex at earlier ages and more sexual partners than their peers, while males reported just the opposite.

In a sample of over 100 college students, surveys showed that over 85 percent of all victimization occurred between members of the same sex, and that indirect victimization (e.g., teasing, demeaning, isolating) predicted sexual behavior, while physical aggression did not.

According to the researchers, the relevance of victimization and sexual behavior may be embedded in our evolutionary past.

"Aggression may resolve intrasexual competition for the same resources, often including members of the opposite sex" said Gallup. "Adolescence serves as a premier age in which to study competition for reproductive access. As the life span of our ancestors was greatly diminished, those who began having children at younger ages would have been selected over those who postponed their sexual behavior."

Competition among peers for a boyfriend or girlfriend may be influenced by these socially aggressive behaviors. Interestingly, study results indicate different effects for males and females.

"Nearly inverse outcomes were observed between the sexes in terms of victimization and sexual behaviors," said Gallup. "And according to evolutionary theory, these types of aggressive and socially dominant strategies operate by different means between males and females. For instance, females preferentially seek status when choosing mates, while males place a larger emphasis on physical attractiveness."

The researchers believe that victimization acts to lower social status in males, and thus females find these males less attractive. It is also proposed that limited physical prowess or physical immaturity may be contributing to this effect, by promoting both an increased likelihood of being victimized and reduced sexual opportunity.

The study presents multiple explanations for females as well. One interpretation is that females who are highly victimized by other girls may have lower self-esteem and could be more susceptible to male sexual pressure. Therefore, the heightened sexual activity of female victims could be an artifact of male coercion.

Another possibility is that attractive girls may simply be the target of aggression by other girls out of envy and resentment over male attention. For instance, research has shown that females often try to slander good-looking girls in front of men in an attempt to make them less desirable. As males focus on physical appearance and not status, attractive female victims do not suffer reduced sexual opportunities. It is important to note however, that this study did not measure physical attractiveness.

Don't Like Broccoli? A Receptor Gene's Variation Suggests An Evolutionary Excuse

Don't Like Broccoli? A Receptor Gene's Variation Suggests An Evolutionary Excuse:

"Compounds known as glucosinolates are present in a variety of vegetables included in the human diet (especially Cruciferous vegetables), but these compounds can block the formation of organic iodine and the transport of iodine into the thyroid. Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function, and in geographic regions where inorganic iodine levels are low, endemic goiter (enlarged thyroid) can arise in response to the need to maintain levels of thyroid hormone. In such circumstances, thyroid toxins such as glucosinolates can exacerbate problems with thyroid function. Deficiencies in thyroid function can result in retarded sexual maturation and mental retardation in low-iodine regions (typically, remote areas far from the sea)."

New research indicates that children containing certain genes are more sensitive to the bitter taste in various vegetables and avoid them. This paper argues that this is an adaptive survival mechanism, and that many of the vegetables people with the bitter gene avoid might impair thyroid function for peoples living far from the sea and therefore lacking good sources of iodine/salt.

Personality Influences Reproductive Success

Personality Influences Reproductive Success:

"The study findings showed that male and female teens with socially dominant personalities were more likely to have children as adults.


Markus Jokela and Liisa Keltikangas-Jarvinen examined whether four subcomponents of type-A personality, including leadership, being hard-driving, eagerness, and aggressiveness, assessed among adolescents predicted the likelihood of having children in later life.

Adolescents who scored high on personality traits assessing leadership tendencies were more likely to have children as adults 18 years later, regardless of education level.

The findings suggest that status striving may be important for reproductive success even in modern humans when the relevant traits are measured at the right level – not as educational diplomas or high-status occupations, but as having a dominant personality."

Friday, March 27, 2009

ADHD and Essential Fatty Acids?

This is from a letter to the editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1997:

A 1974 study by Maurice Bowerman found that 75% of U.S. prison inmates were considered hyperactive as children. There have been numerous studies in the years since suggesting that the behaviour we now call ADHD may be a result of certain nutritional deficiencies which can affect the child in utero.

Because learning ability is involved, the problems associated with ADHD are often confused with those which may result from insufficient oxygen before or during birth. They are not the same. The principal symptoms of ADHD appear to come from impaired development of the fetal brain as opposed to damage related to hypoxia or perinatal asphyxia.

We know that drinking during pregnancy can affect fetal development in this manner, but there is also evidence implicating the processed foods many women consume while pregnant, particularly women in low income situations.

Fetal brain development involves “biomagnification” of essential fatty acids in the liver of both mother and fetus. The problem arises when the maternal diet contains high levels of trans-fats, since trans-fats interfere with the synthesis and utilization of essential fatty acids. Hence the more trans-fats in the mother’s diet, the greater the chance that her child may be born with an abnormality which could affect behaviour.

It should be noted that the EFA requirement of the developing male is approximately three times greater than that of the female. This would explain why ADHD is diagnosed much more frequently in boys. Canadian women currently consume five to ten times the levels of trans-fats considered “safe” by health authorities in other parts of the world. Many countries have taken steps to reduce the trans-fats in their margarines and other manufactured foods. Our government has thus far done nothing but propose labelling changes.

Poor food choices can affect behaviour and learning ability in ways which may not be readily apparent to the average psychologist or psychiatrist (hence the claim from some that these problems are genetic). It’s vital that family dietary patterns be investigated and considered when seeking to understand disorders such as ADHD if we ever hope to advance from treatment to prevention.

Thomas Anderson, Ph.D.
Box 1825
Summerland, British Columbia V0H 1Z0

The Influence of Trans Fatty Acids on Health
Clinical Science (1995) 88:375-392

Essential Fatty Acids in Growth and Development
Prog Lipid Res (1991) 30:39-103

Role of Essential Fatty Acids in the Function of the Developing Nervous System
Lipids (1996) 31:s167-176

Do Trans Fatty Acids Impair Linoleic Acid Metabolism in Children?
Ann Nutr Metab (1995) 39:36-41

Trans Fatty Acids in Early Human Development
World Rev Nutr Diet (1994) 75:175-178

Trans Fatty Acid Isomers in Canadian Human Milk
Lipids (1995) 30:15-21

Fatty Acids in Some Common Food Items in Canada
J Am Coll Nutr (1993) 12:651-660

Attention-deficit disorder linked to obesity: Attention-deficit disorder linked to obesity

"ADHD is a primary cause of failing to lose weight for tens of thousands of people," said Dr. Levy, who is with the Nutritional and Eating Disorders Clinic. "Obese people are three to five times more likely to have it than the regular population. And if you treat them, you will see a significant weight loss."Dr. Levy and his co-authors - psychologist John Fleming and dietitian Doreen Klar - have just published their groundbreaking research in the International Journal of Obesity, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

Their study of 242 obese patients found that 32 per cent had ADHD, compared with 4 to 7 per cent in the general population. When treated for ADHD, the patients were able to lose 12 per cent of their body weight within 14 months. These patients, who were given psycho-stimulants to increase the dopamine in their brains, had tried and failed to lose weight for at least a decade.

Obese people with ADHD cannot respond to the signals in their brains that tell them when they are hungry and when they are full. "Their stomachs stretch and they can tolerate a degree of fullness that would make the average person throw up," Dr. Levy said.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Family History Of Alcoholism Linked To Love Of Sweets Among Women

Family History Of Alcoholism Linked To Love Of Sweets Among Women: "More than 250 million women worldwide smoke tobacco. Compared to men, women have a greater risk of smoking-related diseases, and also have more difficulty quitting. A new study, the first of its kind, has found that cigarette smoking and having a family history of alcoholism have different effects on sweet-taste perception and food cravings.


According to Kampov, the second finding -- that women with a family history of alcoholism preferred higher levels of sweetness and craved sweet-tasting foods more often -- is also noteworthy He said it confirms earlier reports that hedonic -- or pleasurable -- response to sweet taste is associated with a genetic risk for alcoholism.

"We may now use this knowledge to, one, identify individuals at high risk for alcoholism and two, study biological mechanisms involved in the development of alcohol-use disorders," said Kampov.

Mennella and Pepino recommended that future research on the effects of smoking on food habits and cravings should take into account family history of alcoholism, given its association with sweet liking and the increased likelihood of developing a tobacco-related disorder.

On a more practical level, Pepino warns that the negative effects of smoking are far-ranging. "The study suggests that cigarette smoking dulls sweet-taste detection and is associated with increased food cravings, especially for starchy carbohydrates and foods high in fat," she said. "We found that food cravings were associated with nicotine dependence ... the more intense the cravings for cigarettes, the more frequent the cravings for foods high in fat and carbohydrates.""

Sweet Tooth, Personality Traits Diagnose Alcoholism

Sweet Tooth, Personality Traits Diagnose Alcoholism:

"'So far, the combination of a 'sweet test' and a written survey called the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire which evaluates the levels of novelty seeking, harm avoidance, and reward dependence, allowed an accurate diagnosis of alcoholism in 85 percent of the subjects studied,' says research fellow and study leader Dr. Alexey Kampov-Polevoy. 'Actually, the word alcohol is never mentioned throughout this testing routine, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes. No other diagnostic test for alcoholism shows such results.'


Kampov-Polevoy says a strong liking for sweets alone is not enough to accurately indicate the presence of alcoholism. Only those sweet-liking individuals who have a certain personality profile are vulnerable to the development of alcoholism. In the new study, 52 men who had never been diagnosed with alcoholism and 26 recovering alcoholics took the sweet preference test and completed the TPQ. Sweet-liking alcoholics scored high on harm-avoidance and novelty-seeking, while sweet-liking nonalcoholics tended to score low on these traits. Neither group could be differentiated by their scores on reward dependence."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Love Me; Love My Jokes

Love Me; Love My Jokes

That sought-after trait in a mate -- “good sense of humour” -- is more complex than originally thought. In fact, men and women define it differently.

Eric Bressler, a graduate student at McMaster University who is studying the role of humour in personal attraction, discovered in a survey of 150 students that to a woman, "sense of humour" means someone who makes her laugh; to a man, a sense of humour means someone who appreciates his jokes.

"There's a difference between producers (those who make you laugh) and receptors (those who laugh when someone cracks a joke)," said Bressler. "Women choose men who produce humour 62 per cent of the time; conversely, men choose women who appreciate their humour 65 per cent of the time."

Bressler also found a marked difference when he looked at different relationships: "When it comes to friendships, men like to be around women who produce humour; when it comes to sexual relationships, they only dig women who laugh at their jokes."

Vitamin D fights the common cold: Arch Intern Med

Arch Intern Med -- Abstract: Association Between Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Level and Upper Respiratory Tract Infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, February 23, 2009, Ginde et al. 169 (4): 384

Can Vitamin D Cure the Common Cold?

vitamin D, colds, flu, influenza, sun, sunlight, sunshineIn the largest study yet of the association between vitamin D and respiratory infections, people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu. The risks were even higher for those with chronic respiratory disorders such as asthma.

Vitamin C has been used for the prevention of colds for decades, but little scientific evidence supports its effectiveness. In contrast, evidence has accumulated that vitamin D plays a key role in the immune system.

The wintertime deficiency of vitamin D, which the body produces in response to sunlight, has been implicated in the seasonal increase in colds and flu, and previous small studies have suggested an association between low blood levels of vitamin D and a higher risk of respiratory infections.

The newest study analyzed blood levels of vitamin D from almost 19,000 adult and adolescents, selected to be representative of the overall U.S. population.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brain Abnormality Found In Boys With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Brain Abnormality Found In Boys With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Researchers trying to uncover the mechanisms that cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder have found an abnormality in the brains of adolescent boys suffering from the conditions, but not where they expected to find it.

The research focused on two brain areas, the striatum and anterior cingulate cortex. The striatal region is a network of structures in the mid brain that motivates people to engage in pleasurable or rewarding behavior. The anterior cingulate is higher in the brain and normally activates when an expected reward stops. However, this process, called extinction, doesn't occur, at least as quickly, in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity or conduct disorders. Instead, the striatal region continues to be activated, said Theodore Beauchaine, a UW associate professor of psychology and senior author of the paper.

"When children engage in impulsive behavior they are looking to stimulate themselves and have fun. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are always looking to have fun and that is what gets them in trouble," he said. "A behavior should stop when the reward stops. When you stop the reward for children with these disorders, they continue to focus on the reward long afterward and the anterior cingulate does not appear to become activated."

A Concentration Killer: Study Shows Brain Chemistry Defect Is Key To Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder In Adults

A Concentration Killer: Study Shows Brain Chemistry Defect Is Key To Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder In Adults:

"For the first time, research directly points to a dopamine production defect in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The brain chemical findings could lead to more effective treatments for these patients who are inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive.

Previous evidence suggested that a dopamine malfunction occurs in those with ADHD. For example, drugs that enhance dopamine function appear to quell the disorder's symptoms. "Our finding, however, is the first direct evidence of a targeted dopamine deficit in adults with ADHD," says the study's lead author, Monique Ernst, MD, PhD, Senior Staff Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. "We found that the activity of an enzyme involved in the production of the chemical dopamine is lower than normal in a specific brain area."


In the study, the researchers analyzed the brains of 17 ADHD adults with positron emission tomography (PET). The PET images, which highlighted the activity of the dopamine-producing enzyme, DOPA decarboxylase, indicate that an abnormality in dopamine production occurs in only one of the dopamine-rich brain regions, the anterior frontal cortex. This region underlies motor activity and cognitive processes, including attention."

Not Enough Vitamin D In The Diet Could Mean Too Much Fat On Adolescents

Not Enough Vitamin D In The Diet Could Mean Too Much Fat On Adolescents: "Too little vitamin D could be bad for more than your bones; it may also lead to fatter adolescents, researchers say."

A Medical College of Georgia study of more than 650 teens age 14-19 has found that those who reported higher vitamin D intakes had lower overall body fat and lower amounts of the fat in the abdomen, a type of fat known as visceral fat, which has been associated with health risks such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension.

The group with the lowest vitamin D intake, black females, had higher percentages of both body fat and visceral fat, while black males had the lowest percentages of body and visceral fat, even though their vitamin D intake was below the recommended levels. Only one group – white males – was getting the recommended minimum intake of vitamin D.

“This study was a cross-section so, while it cannot prove that higher intake of vitamin D caused the lower body fat, we know there is a relationship that needs to be explored further," says Dr. Yanbin Dong, a molecular geneticist and cardiologist at the MCG Gerogia Prevention Institute.

Low Vitamin D Levels Associated With Several Risk Factors In Teenagers

Low Vitamin D Levels Associated With Several Risk Factors In Teenagers

Low levels of vitamin D were associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, high blood sugar and metabolic syndrome in teenagers, researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, socioeconomic status and physical activity, researchers found the adolescents with the lowest levels of vitamin D were:

* 2.36 times more likely to have high blood pressure;
* 2.54 times more likely to have high blood sugar; and
* 3.99 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors including elevated waist circumference, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol and high fasting glucose levels. The presence of three or more of the factors increases a person’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“We showed strong associations between low levels of vitamin D and higher risk of high blood pressure, hyperglycemia and metabolic syndrome among adolescents, confirming the results of studies among adults,” said Jared P. Reis, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and post-doctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Waking up Teens -- Scientists Show Blue Light Can Help Reset Sleep Cycle

Waking up Teens -- Scientists Show Blue Light Can Help Reset Sleep Cycle

Lighting scientists have found a quick fix to the internal and external alarm clock miscommunication -- a blue light. "If you apply the light after your minimum core body temperature, you're going to advance the clock so you're going to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier the next cycle," Figueiro says. The minimum core body temperature is reached about two hours before a person naturally wakes up.

"When you get the teenager up, outdoors, waiting for the school bus at 7 o'clock in the morning, they may be getting light at the wrong phase," Figueiro says. This exposes teens to natural blue light too early. By wearing the goggles when teens wake up, blue light is blocked out. Then, later in the morning -- after their minimum core body temperature is reached -- teens can reset their internal clocks by being out in the light.

Blue light exposure worked quickly for Erin. She's now able to fall asleep by 10:30.

An easy way schools can help is by giving students a quick mid-morning break to go outside or put blue LEDs around computer screens in classrooms. By getting enough blue light at the right time, sleep patterns can not only be changed in teens, but also in the elderly and shift workers.

BACKGROUND: Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are studying how light -- especially blue light -- affects our body's daily rhythms. By getting enough blue light at the right time and blocking it out at others, it is possible to correct distorted sleep patters for the elderly (who tend to wake up too early), teenagers (whose internal clock is usually set for late nights and sleep-in mornings), and shift workers.

In this article they have the teens wearing red glasses until mid morning, to avoid blue light first thing upon waking. They then prescribe blue light exposure later on in the morning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are You Male and Going Bald? STOP the Grains and Sugar!! - articles -

Are You Male and Going Bald? STOP the Grains and Sugar!! - articles -

Are You Male and Going Bald? STOP the Grains and Sugar!!

There exists a proven association between male-pattern baldness and serious cardiovascular events, but the mechanism of action is unknown.

Now, a new study has shown a strikingly increased risk of insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin-resistance-associated disorders in men with early onset of male-pattern baldness (alopecia), supporting the theory that early male-pattern baldness could be a clinical marker of insulin resistance.


Researchers performed a practice-based case-control study on 154 subjects (aged 19-50 years) with early-onset male-pattern baldness (onset prior to 35 years of age) and age-matched controls.

Men were only selected whose hair loss was significant, using an accepted classification method.

Information on diagnoses of chronic diseases and data on current medication, weight and height, fasting total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and blood glucose were collected.
* Blood insulin levels were measured.

Researchers looked at the following insulin-resistance-associated risk factors:


Elevated lipids (HDL cholesterol <0.9 mmol/L, triglycerides > 1.7 mmol/L, or lipid-lowering medication)

Abnormal glucose metabolism (fasting blood glucose > 6.7 mmol/L twice or antidiabetic medication)

High body-mass index
* Elevated systolic blood pressure (> 160 mm Hg).

A "cluster" was considered to be present if at least three of the four variables were simultaneously positive.

The risks for the following were all found to be elevated for the alopecia group:


Nearly 5 times more likely to have clustered risk factors

Hyperinsulinemia risk was increased nearly 2-fold

Moderate obesity was increased nearly 2-fold

Severe obesity was increased nearly 150%.

Use of cholesterol lowering medication was increased more than 4-fold
* Use of blood pressure or diabetic medication was more than double

Researchers maintain that there findings " ... raise the question whether insulin resistance could be a pathophysiological mechanism or promoting factor in early androgenetic alopecia, which could, in turn, be an early marker of insulin resistance."

In addition, they suggest that men with early-onset male-pattern baldness should be screened for insulin resistance and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Lancet September 30, 2000; 356: 1165-1166.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Salt Might Be 'Nature's Antidepressant'

Salt Might Be Nature's Antidepressant

Most people consume far too much salt, and a University of Iowa researcher has discovered one potential reason we crave it: it might put us in a better mood.

UI psychologist Kim Johnson and colleagues found in their research that when rats are deficient in sodium chloride, common table salt, they shy away from activities they normally enjoy, like drinking a sugary substance or pressing a bar that stimulates a pleasant sensation in their brains.

"Things that normally would be pleasurable for rats didn't elicit the same degree of relish, which leads us to believe that a salt deficit and the craving associated with it can induce one of the key symptoms associated with depression," Johnson said.

The UI researchers can't say it is full-blown depression because several criteria factor into such a diagnosis, but a loss of pleasure in normally pleasing activities is one of the most important features of psychological depression. And, the idea that salt is a natural mood-elevating substance could help explain why we're so tempted to over-ingest it, even though it's known to contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.


Evolution might have played an important part in the human hankering for salt. Humans evolved from creatures that lived in salty ocean water. Once on land, the body continued to need sodium and chloride because minerals play key roles in allowing fluids to pass in and out of cells, and in helping nerve cells transfer information throughout the brain and body. But as man evolved in the hot climate of Africa, perspiration robbed the body of sodium. Salt was scarce because our early ancestors ate a veggie-rich diet and lived far from the ocean.

"Most of our biological systems require sodium to function properly, but as a species that didn't have ready access to it, our kidneys evolved to become salt misers," Johnson said.

Behavior also came to play a key role in making sure we have enough salt on board. Animals like us come equipped with a taste system designed to detect salt and a brain that remembers the location of salt sources -- like salt licks in a pasture. A pleasure mechanism in the brain is activated when salt is consumed.

So the body needs salt and knows how to find it and how to conserve it. But today scientists are finding evidence that it's an abused, addictive substance -- almost like a drug.

One sign of addiction is using a substance even when it's known to be harmful. Many people are told to reduce sodium due to health concerns, but they have trouble doing so because they like the taste and find low-sodium foods bland.

Another strong aspect of addiction is the development of intense cravings when drugs are withheld. Experiments by Johnson and colleagues indicate similar changes in brain activity whether rats are exposed to drugs or salt deficiency.

"This suggests that salt need and cravings may be linked to the same brain pathways as those related to drug addiction and abuse," Johnson said.

Interesting article, but I think the whole "salt causes high blood pressure and is bad for you" idea is a bunch of BS. Carbohydrate consumption causes water retention, which is linked to salt retention. Go low carb, and you lose 10 lbs water weight right away. People will tell you losing that weight doesn't count because it's just water. But losing that water causes you to flush excess salt out of your system, and causes a dramatic lowering of blood pressure, without the need for super expensive and dangerous medications.