Researchers from UCSF looked at roughly 5,000 adults with no diabetes or heart problems and asked themselves how sugary beverages affect lifespan. They analyzed drinkers of normal, sugary sodas, of sugary flat drinks, of diet sodas, and of 100% fruit juice drinks. To figure out lifespan, they looked at telomeres, which are endcaps on chromosomes, and which have been shown to correlate with how long a person lives. Those with shorter telomeres tend to age faster, die earlier and have more cancer. And it turned out that people who drink sugary sodas regularly, have shorter telomeres.
Diet sodas didn’t seem to have any correlation with telomere length, though there are other problems with them. Non-carbonated sugary sodas had no correlation either. Regularly drinking fruit juice correlated with longer telomeres, though eating the actual fruit, instead, has the added benefit of healthy fiber. But for sugary sodas, extrapolating additional aging from how much the telomeres were shorter, the study found that drinking 8oz per day (about two-thirds of a can) shortened lifespan by 1.9 years, and 20oz shortened it by 4.6 years — the same amount as smoking.
From American Journal of Public Health, via Time
More research has come out against the common belief that being on your phone while driving will make you more likely to crash a car. This time, they took advantage of the cellphone call spike that happens at 9pm on weekdays, which is when it generally becomes free to place calls: if talking on the phone led to more crashes, then there would also be a spike in car accidents just after 9pm. There was no such thing.
In lab simulations, it’s been shown that any kind of cellphone use (talking hands-free or not, texting, etc) is always more impairing than driving while drunk or high on marijuana. Real-life data does not seem to support the lab results, though. In their paper (PDF), the researchers also brought up two important points that we’ve seen before:
- Despite the exponential increase in cellphones over the past two decades, car crashes haven continued to decrease
- Laws banning cell phone use have no effect on accidents
It’s also worth mentioning another study from 2012 showing that bad drivers will always drive badly: if they can’t be distracted by cell phones, they will find or make another distraction to keep them from being bored. Thankfully, self-driving cars are just years away at this point.
From Carnegie Mellon University (PDF), via Slashdot
Danish scientists published a study on 900+ novice runners, whose feet they measured and classified to see how much they over- or underpronated. They gave them all the same, neutral shoe — with no pronation correction — and had them run as much as they wanted for a year. In the meantime, they noted all the injuries the runners suffered. What we’ve been told by running shoe stores lately is that pronation causes more injuries, but this study proved the opposite: the runners with neutral feet had slightly more injuries than the pronated ones.
Other researchers agree. “This is an excellent study,” says Bryan Heiderscheit, an associate professor of biomechanics and director of the running clinic at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The research reinforces a widespread belief among scientists studying running “that pronation doesn’t play much of a role” in injury risk, he says.
The runners all had the same shoes, which didn’t correct pronation, and the pronaters suffered less injuries. Ergo, corrective shoes are nothing but snake oil. Instead, you should just buy comfortable shoes, because many of the injured runners said their shoes weren’t.
From The British Journal of Sports Medicine, via The New York Times and Lifehacker
Finally, a study that tells you how to save money at the bar: people who used diet sodas as mixers, as opposed to sugary ones, got 18% more drunk. The researchers gave two groups of eight people the same amount of alcohol, but one group had diet mixers. That group’s peak breath alcohol level was 0.091, whereas the sugary group’s was only .0.077. Which, if they decided to drive, that diet soda would’ve been the difference between a DUI and not — the legal limit is 0.08 in all 50 states.
The scientists’ explanation is that sugar helps your body absorb the alcohol more slowly — the same reason you get drunk more slowly on a full stomach than an empty one. So, drink regular Coke if you wanna be more sober, but diet Coke otherwise. (Though, keep in mind that diet soda is not particularly good for you. Soda water probably works just as well, since it has no sugar.) And if you’re driving, get a breathalyzer, because none of the study subjects felt impaired. They even make ones for the iPhone now.
The study will be out in the April issue of Alcoholism.
(That’s right: the headline does rhyme.) Research done in Spain seems to indicate that advice like having a big breakfast and not eating late dinners are actually not old wives’ tales. The study followed 420 fat people (equal numbers of each gender) for 20 weeks: half of them were early eaters, that ate their big meal before 3pm, and half were late eaters. This was a weight loss study, so they all ate a paltry 1400 calories per day, and got similar levels of exercise and sleep. But, the ones that ate early, lost 30% more weight: 22 lbs vs 17 lbs for the late eaters.
The scientists don’t really know why, or if it’s even a causal relationship — a third factor, say… nervous pacing, could’ve caused both the early eating and faster weight loss. But if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s worth giving it a try; after all, what you believe about weight loss has a significant impact on how effective it is.
A study from UC Berkeley shows that the quality of sleep in older people is a lot worse than in younger, healthy people and that this prevents memories from being moved from short-term to long-term memory. The study was done on 18 people in their 20s and 15 people in their 70s: scientists made them memorize some new words, then measured their sleep statistics, and finally quizzed them in the morning while getting an fMRI. The quality of sleep in the elderly was 75% that of younger people, and their recall was 55%. (The summary doesn’t say, but hopefully the scientists calculated their statistics properly, and didn’t just discover that old people forget and, independently, that they also don’t sleep well.) The decline in sleep quality is correlated to age-related deterioration in the frontal lobe, which normally generates slow brain waves during sleep.
If lack of quality sleep is the cause of memory loss, then the issue might apply also to younger people who are also forgetful — perhaps because they don’t sleep enough or have sleep apnea. As for older people, there are ways to improve quality of sleep: pills, electrical stimulation of the brain, or, best of all: blueberries, vitamins and exercise. Also, it’s worth mentioning that in 2011, scientists at Stanford figured out that a protein in the blood caused forgetfulness in older mice.
From UC Berkeley, via Slashdot
A Virginia Tech professor and her team figured out why the flu spreads in the winter: indoor heating. When the outside air is heated, it becomes very dry, creating the perfect environment for the virus. Their tests show that the influenza virus performs best at humidity levels under 50%, which is pretty much every heated space in the winter. Above that humidity, it doesn’t do very well until the levels reach 98%. That humidity is seen in tropical environments in the summer wet season, which is another condition under which flu outbreaks happen. The moral of the story: use humidifiers in the winter to reduce the spread of the flu.
From The Wall Street Journal, via Slashdot