Lifestyle

When Harry met Meghan: British media reports that Prince Philip told grandson not to marry actress

June 18, 2019

Prince Philip of the UK’s royal House of Windsor warned his grandson against marrying Meghan Markle, telling Prince Harry: “One steps out with actresses, one doesn’t marry them,” a new report by Britain’s The Sunday Times claims.

The straight-talking nonagenarian, who is Queen Elizabeth’s consort, is said to have made the comment in 2017, after Prince William also had advised Harry to think about whether he was “sure” he wanted to rush into marriage to Meghan, The Daily Beast reported on June 17.

The gossip was aired by society journalist Sophia Money-Coutts, a former writer at Tatler.

Harry ignored the urgings of his family and proposed to Meghan in November 2017, six months before they married.

Other friends, such as Tom Inskip, also urged Harry to progress more slowly, and were punished by being excluded from the after party of Harry’s wedding.

According to sources quoted by Money-Coutts: “Anybody who voiced any kind of reservation about Meghan has been sidelined.”

She also quotes another source on the roots of the feud with his brother: “Harry felt like William and Kate didn’t make enough effort when Meghan arrived at Kensington Palace; that they didn’t roll out the red carpet for her.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Call Dad on Father’s Day!

June 17, 2019

Looking for that last-minute Father’s Day gift? Just don’t forget to pick up the phone. The number-one present that 2,000 U.S. dads said in a recent survey that they wanted for their big day is a phone call from their kid(s), SWNS Digital reports. Fully 47% said they wanted to hear from children and grandchildren—literally.

The new survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Omaha Steaks, found that 57% percent of dads actually admitted that the third Sunday in June is their favorite day of the year.

After the phone call, most Dads thought that a good meal would make them happy. Four in ten American fathers (41%) said a big juicy steak would make their day this year (no surprise, when the survey is by Omaha Steaks!).

In fact, 79% of dads say they like to bond with their children over food. But if it’s a cook-out you’re after, stay off the grill, because one in three dads say that if someone is grilling, it’s gonna be them.

Another no-brainer: Fully 38% said they could really just go with some peace and quiet.

Taking in a ball game with the family also scored high, with another 38% saying that sounded like a lovely Father’s Day treat. And slightly fewer (33%) said they just want to be able to watch what they like on TV.

Finally, when it comes to physical gifts, go light on the ties and socks—and abolish anything imprinted with “World’s Favorite Dad.” In fact, 64% of survey respondents said they never wanted to see anything with those three words again.

Research contact: @OmahaSteaks

The moral high ground: Japanese woman leads worldwide campaign to wear flats at work

June 13, 2019

It’s high noon in the workplace: Women are gunning for a change in office dress codes that would enable them to work—and walk—in comfort.

Indeed, according to a report by The Guardian,  millions of women worldwide, at all levels of the workplace hierarchy, continue to endure their working hours tortured by blisters, bloodied flesh, foot pain, knee pain, back pain and worse, as a result of the pressure to conform to an aesthetic code—sometimes explicitly written into contracts or policy, more often subliminally expected as a societal and cultural standard—that deems it appropriate to wear high heels.

Now they are pushing back, in a campaign called #KuToo—a a play on the words kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain, in Japanese and inspired by the #MeToo movement.

In early June, Japanese actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa told reporters that she and her supporters had met with the Labor Ministry, “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.”

Ishikawa had the idea for the campaign after she was forced to wear high heels during a stint at a funeral parlor.  Now, she has everyone debating the politics of footwear—and has received a groundswell of online support.

But not everyone is a fan: Takumi Nemoto, Japan’s health and labor minister, defended the dress codes, telling a legislative committee that he believed it “is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate”.

The Guardian notes that a similar petition against high heels at work was signed by more than 150,000 people in the UK in support of the receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work on her first day of work at a PwC in 2016 for wearing flat shoes. The case prompted an inquiry on workplace dress codes by a committee of MPs, which highlighted other cases in the UK where women were required to wear heels—even for jobs that included climbing ladders, carrying heavy luggage, carrying food and drink up and down stairs and walking long distances.

However, Britain never changed the law, claiming scope for redress already existed under the Equality Act 2010.

In 2015 the director of the Cannes film festival apologized for the fact that women were being denied access to the red carpet for not wearing high heels. Cannes kept the dress code, despite a protest by the actor Julia Roberts, who went barefoot the next year.

However, in 2017, Canada’s British Columbia province banned companies from forcing female employees to wear high heels, saying the practice was dangerous and discriminatory. That means things might be looking up—err … down.

Research contact: @guardian

Report: Brain health supplements are ‘a massive waste of money’

June 12, 2019

Most of us have seen the TV ads for Prevagen and have heard about the protective effects of ginkgo biloba—and those are just a couple of the dietary aids that Americans swallow in the hope and belief that they will make our brains stronger.

In fact, more than one-quarter (26%) of U.S. adults age 50 and older are taking at least one brain-health supplement, according to the findings of the  2019 AARP Brain Health and Dietary Supplements Survey

And research by the Nutrition Business Journal indicates that fully 69% of U.S. adults age 50 and older are taking a dietary supplement at least three times a week—with 8% saying they’re taking one to “reverse dementia.”

But now we are hearing that those supplements are “a massive waste of money”—and that warning comes from people who should know these things: On June 11, the Global Counsel on Brain Health (GCBH) in partnership with AARP released a report concluding that dietary supplements do not improve brain health or prevent cognitive decline, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, yet 49% of older adults believe otherwise, Prevention magazine reports.

“The GCBH reviewed the scientific evidence on various supplements and determined it could not endorse any ingredient, production, or formulation designed for brain health,” the AARP said in a press release.

Under FDA law, it’s illegal for dietary supplement companies to make any claim that their product can treat, prevent, or cure a disease. If a supplement marketer wants to say their product can reduce the risk of a disease, they must notify the FDA first and get authorization before such a claim can go on a product label, Prevention notes.

Yet, the companies continue to market using misleading claims—among those currently in print or on-air:

  • Clinically shown to be safe and support memory and brain function
  • Clinically proven natural ingredients
  • Supports neurotransmitter development to promote a feeling of mental sharpness
  • Helps your brain maintain healthy neurons to support learning and recall
  • 13 scientifically proven nutrients for a healthier brain
  • Keeps your mind sharp and memory strong
  • Has shown statistically significant improvements in memory and recall in as little as four weeks when taken as directed
  • Designed to help improve memory while increasing focus and concentration
  • Comprehensive blend of vitamins, amino acids, and herbal extracts that support the brain’s structure and function to deliver amazing improvements in memory and concentration!
  • Help lessen the frequency of episodes of forgetfulness and brain fog
  • Improve your ability to retain and recall various kinds of information
  • For cognitive health, memory improvement, memory enhancement
  • These key nutrients have a powerful effect at reducing the inflammatory fires that destroy our brain tissue.

In addition, because dietary supplement companies aren’t regulated by the FDA, neither are their ingredients or dosages. The report warns that supplements “may have too much, too little, or, in some cases, none of the ingredients [consumers] think they’re buying.”

This can have dire consequences. The AARP cites a 2013 report from the U.S. government which found that the FDA received more than 6,000 reports of health problems due to dietary supplements between 2008 and 2011. They included 92 deaths and more than 1,000 series injuries. As part of the FDA’s investigation, the agency’s researchers found “dangerous fungi, pesticides, environmental pollutants, and heavy metals in some products.”

Worse yet, the FDA found that more than 700 dietary supplements contained prescription drugs, including steroids and antidepressants.

“It’s tempting to think you can pop a pill and prevent dementia, but the science says that doesn’t work,” Sarah Lenz Lock, AARP SVP for Policy and Executive Director of the GCBH told Prevention. “We know what will keep your brain healthy: exercise, a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, challenging your thinking skills, and connecting with others.”

Research contact: @AARP

Two groups reach the peak of human endurance: extreme athletes and pregnant women

June 11, 2019

While pregnant women are often said to be “in a delicate condition,” the truth is, many of them have the mettle and stamina of a top athlete.

The average person can burn up to 4,000 calories—a limit that a group of international scientists considers to be the peak of human performance—before depleting the body’s energy stores. And while extreme distance runners reach maximum performance during high-intensity races, expectant mothers often expend the same amount of energy at a lower intensity over a longer period of time.

The research—published in the journal, Science Advances, on June 5—found that athletes who participated in endurance events such as the 140-day Race Across the USA, were able to maintain their intensity for short periods of time—but when competing in longer, high-intensity events, they weren’t able to replenish the calories they burned throughout the day.

“You can do really intense amounts of work for a day or so,” Herman Pontzer, a Duke University researcher who co-led the study, told CNN in an interview for a June 6 story. “But if you have to last a week or so, you have to maintain less intensity.”

Longer pushes require lower intensities, but over a short period of time, the human body can successfully exert 4,000 calories on average before hitting the wall. That’s 2.5 times the basal metabolic rate, or amount of calories a body needs to operate while at rest.

The average person won’t reach those limits in a typical workout (except maybe CrossFit, Pontzer told CNN), but pregnant women and extreme athletes cut it close. Weeklong races and nine-month pregnancies similarly push the body to its limits, often burning calories at a rate the body can’t keep up with.

Research contact: @CNN

Mommy dearest: Your current relationship with your parent can distort memories of love

June 10, 2019

If “there is no love lost” between you and your mother today, your current relationship actually may distort your recollections of how affectionate she was while you were growing up.

Indeed, as we grow older and our memories fade, we rely on our current assessment of a person to remember how we felt about them in the past, based on findings of research conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi and published by Psych Central. This extends to some of the most central figures in our lives — our parents.

“Memories of the love we felt in childhood toward our parents are among the most precious aspects of autobiographical memory we could think of,” said lead author Dr. Lawrence Patihis, an assistant professor at the university and head of the Memory in Life, Practice, and Law Laboratory there. “Yet our findings suggest that these memories of love are malleable, which is not something we would want to be true.”

He added, “If you change your evaluation of someone, you will likely also change your memory of your emotions towards them and this is true of memory of love towards mothers in childhood.”.

For the study’s first experiment, Patihis and coauthors Cristobal S. Cruz and Mario E. Herrera recruited 301 online participants. Some wrote about recent examples of their mother’s positive attributes, such as showing warmth, generosity, competence and giving good guidance. Others wrote about recent examples of their mother’s lack of these attributes. Participants in one comparison group wrote about a teacher and participants in another comparison group received no writing prompt at all.

The participants then completed a questionnaire—the “Memory of Love Towards Parents Questionnaire”—assessing how they currently thought about their mother’s attributes, including her warmth and generosity.

The survey was geared to assess ten measures of love that the respondents could recall experiencing toward their mothers at different ages. Questions included “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how often on average did you feel love toward your mother?” and “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how strong on average was your love toward your mother?”

The MLPQ also measured participants’ current feelings of love for their mothers, according to the researchers. The participants completed the questionnaires again two weeks and four weeks after the initial session.

The results showed that the writing prompts influenced participants’ current feelings and their memories of love. Specifically, participants who were prompted to write about their mother’s positive attributes tended to recall stronger feelings of love for their mother in first, sixth, and ninth grade compared with participants who wrote about their mother’s lack of positive attributes.

The researchers plan to expand this research to explore whether the same effects emerge for other emotions and target individuals. They’re also exploring whether successes in life might similarly alter childhood memories of emotion. In addition, the researchers hope to discover whether these effects might influence later behavior.

“The significance of this research lies in the new knowledge that our current evaluations of people can be lowered if we choose to focus on the negative, and this can have a side effect: The diminishing of positive aspects of childhood memories,” Patihis said. “We wonder if wide-ranging reappraisals of parents, perhaps in life or in therapy, could lead to intergenerational heartache and estrangement. Understanding this subtle type of memory distortion is necessary if we want to prevent it.”

The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Research contact: l.patithis@usm.edu

All shook up: A dog feels its owner’s stress

June 7, 2019

Dogs don’t just love riding in cars: they come along on our emotional journeys, too. In fact, the levels of stress in dogs correlates with the stress of their owners, according to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden,  published on June 6 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Previous work has shown that individuals of the same species can mirror each other’s emotional states. There is, for example, a correlation between long-term stress in children and in their mothers.

But scientists also have speculated whether different species also can reflect each other’s tension—such as humans and dogs.  To answer that question, the Swedish researchers tracked stress levels over several months by measuring the concentration of a stress hormone, cortisol, in a few centimeters of hair from the dog and from its owner.

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronized, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low levels,” says Ann-Sofie Sundman of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM) at LiU, as well as principal author of the study and newly promoted doctor of Ethology.

The study examined 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs—all of them, owned by women. The owners and the dogs provided hair samples on two occasions, a few months apart.

Since physical activity can increase cortisol levels, the researchers also wanted to compare companion dogs with dogs that competed in obedience or agility. The physical activity levels of the dogs were therefore recorded for a week using an activity collar.

Previous research has shown that levels of short-term cortisol in saliva rise in a synchronous manner in both the dog and its owner when they compete together. The study presented here, in contrast, found that physical activity in dogs does not affect the long-term cortisol in their hair. On the other hand, the stress level of competing dogs seems to be linked more strongly with that of the owner. The scientists speculate that this may be associated with a higher degree of active interaction between the owner and the dog when they train and compete together.

The dog owners were also asked to complete two validated questionnaires related to their own and their dog’s personality. The researchers investigated whether stress levels are correlated with personality traits.

Surprisingly enough, we found no major effect of the dog’s personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog mirrors its owner’s stress,” says senior lecturer Lina Roth, also at IFM, and principal investigator for the study.

The result suggests that the match between an owner and a dog affects the dog’s stress level. Further studies are, however, needed before we can draw any conclusions about the cause of the correlation. The researchers are now planning to study other breeds. Both the border collie and the Shetland sheepdog are herding dogs, which have been bred to collaborate well with humans and respond accurately and quickly to signals.

The research group is planning to investigate whether a similar synchronization takes place between dogs and humans in, for example, hunting dogs, which have been trained to be independent. Another line of research will look at whether the sex of the owner plays a role.

“If we learn more about how different types of dog are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view. It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level,” says Lina Roth.

Research contact: @liu_universitet

Who knew? Steak and chicken affect blood cholesterol equally

June 6, 2019

Many people who are health-conscious limit the amount of red meat they consume, preferring to have white meat, because they believe it is lower in cholesterol.

Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, beef and turkey have the same effect on cholesterol levels, when saturated fat levels are equivalent, base on findings of a study published on June 4 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, News-Medical.net reports.

The study, led by scientists at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI)– the research arm of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland—surprised the researchers with the discovery that consuming high levels of red meat or white poultry resulted in higher blood cholesterol levels than consuming a comparable amount of plant proteins. Moreover, this effect was observed whether or not the diet contained high levels of saturated fat, which increased blood cholesterol to the same extent with all three protein sources.

Indeed, the lead author of the study, Ronald Krauss, M.D., senior scientist and director of Atherosclerosis Research at CHORI, commented, “When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case: Their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.”

Krauss, who also is a UCSF professor of Medicine, noted that the meats studied did not include grass-fed beef or processed products such as bacon or sausage; nor did it include fish.

But the results were notable, as they indicated that restricting meat altogether, whether red or white, is more advisable for lowering blood cholesterol levels than previously thought.

No surprise: The study found that plant proteins, such as beans, are the healthiest for blood cholesterol.

This study, dubbed the APPROACH (Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health) trial, also found that consuming high amounts of saturated fat increased concentrations of large cholesterol-enriched LDL particles, which have a weaker connection to cardiovascular disease than smaller LDL particles.

Similarly, red and white meat increased amounts of large LDL in comparison to nonmeat diets. Therefore, using standard LDL cholesterol levels as the measure of cardiovascular risk may lead to overestimating that risk for both higher meat and saturated fat intakes, as standard LDL cholesterol tests may primarily reflect levels of larger LDL particles.

“Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol,” Krauss said. “Indeed, other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health.”

Research contact: rkrauss@chori.org

Actress Jenny Slate to deliver address to one-person graduating class on tiny Massachusetts island

June 5, 2019

The single graduating student on a tiny Massachusetts island—Cuttyhunk—is nonetheless receiving the star treatment, Ethan Genter of The Cape Cod Times reported on June 3.

Cuttyhunk Elementary School, a one-room schoolhouse on an island with a year-round population that hovers around a dozen, will have actress, comedian, and writer Jenny Slate address that lone student, Gwen Lynch, at this month’s graduation ceremony for the eighth-grader.

Slate—a native of Milton, Massachusetts—is familiar with the island, said Michael Astrue, poet, former commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and a Cuttyhunk summer resident, who has been charged with finding speakers for the last two years.

Finding a speaker for the event hasn’t been easy—even though Lynch could be described as the “Most Likely to Succeed,” the “Class Clown” and the Valedictorian of her one-person graduating class. However, Astrue knows Slate’s father, Ron—and reached out.

“I thought there was a shot that she might be between gigs and chilling out on Martha’s Vineyard,” he said.

Slate’s parents have put their family home in Milton on the market and plan to relocate to Martha’s Vineyard, a stone’s throw away from Cuttyhunk, according to a recent report from Boston.com.

Jenny Slate has been in touch with Gwen, according to Astrue, and she is blown away that the comedian is befriending her and taking the time to speak at her graduation. The pair met last weekend to get to know each other better.

Gwen also has been practicing her own speech for the big day,l The Cape Cod Times reports.

“She’s excited,” said Michelle Carvalho, the school’s only teacher.

Amazingly enough—since the island only has about a dozen residents—Slate has another Cuttyhunk connection. She is dating Ben Shattuck, who runs a writer’s residency on the island, as well as a music residency on nearby, 75-acre Penikese Island. Slate has posted about the residencies on social media and has said that she will be helping with them.

Astrue expects a full house at graduation, which is held at the church across from the school. “It will be a packed room and most of the town will be there,” he said.

When Gwen graduates—leaving the school without any students—Cuttyhunk Elementary plans to convert into a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) academy for off-island visiting schools. The school has been running pilot programs for the academy this spring.

Carvalho is sad to see her last pupil go, but is looking forward to what the new academy plans bring.“It’s an ending but also a beginning, hopefully,” she told The Cape Cod Times.

Photo source: @EthanGenterCCT

‘Power’ eating: Boys and eating disorders

June 4, 2019

While girls and women make up the majority of individuals affected with eating disorders—such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating—as many as one-quarter to one-third of patients who manifest these symptoms are boys and men.

What’s more, according to a recent study conducted at the University of California-San Diego and discussed by the New York City-based nonprofit, Child Mind Institute, disordered eating behaviors are increasing at a faster rate in males than females.

However, the researchers say, because eating disorders often manifest themselves differently in boys, they are harder to detect by parents as well as healthcare providers. Stigma is another issue. Men may not want to be associated with a problem that primarily affects women, and men are less likely to admit weakness and seek help.

Girls with eating disorders are typically obsessed with being thin. Conversely, boys with anorexia tend to be more focused on achieving a muscular physique.

This manifestation is sometimes known as “reverse anorexia” or “bigorexia,” explains Douglas Bunnell, a clinical psychologist and expert on eating disorders who practices in Westport, Connecticut. “These boys have all the psychological features of anorexia, except they’re pushing it in the opposite direction.”

Speaking to Christina Frank of the Child Mind Institute in an interview, Dr. Bunnell explained that, to achieve what they perceive to be the “ideal” physique, boys may work out excessively, or use steroids or over-the-counter supplements to minimize body fat and increase muscle mass and definition. An obsession with “clean eating”—cutting out carbs, increasing protein, or adhering to restrictive fad diets —is another common feature.

And the problem may develop earlier than eating disorders do in girls, notes Dr. Bunnell. “We think boys may have onset earlier—sometimes during early and mid-adolescence — but there are all sorts of nuances.”

 Of course not all boys who express dissatisfaction with their bodies will develop an eating disorder. Here’s what to look for if you’re trying to determine whether a boy’s habits are within the normal range of eating behavior— or have crossed over into a problem that needs attention:

  • Excessive focus on and time spent exercising
  • Rigidity around eating rituals
  • Eating large of amounts of food
  • Going to the bathroom in the middle of meals or right after
  • Refusing to eat certain food groups
  • Having unusual behaviors around food (cutting food into small pieces, pushing food around the plate)
  • Obsessively reading nutrition information or counting calories
  • Constantly getting on a scale or looking in the mirror
  • Avoiding or withdrawing from social gatherings involving food

Unlike with girls, who often become alarmingly skinny and visibly unhealthy, eating disorders in boys are harder to recognize because often nothing looks “wrong” on the outside. Eating disorders in boys are also easier to hide under the guise of what is considered acceptable, even laudable, male behavior.

“Exercising, even excessively, is socially valued in men,” says Dr. Bunnell, who adds that overeating is also more socially condoned in men than in women. “A group of 17-year-old boys eating multiple Big Macs, for example, might be considered amusing or even cool,” he says. “In fact, these behaviors may be masking an eating disorder.”

However, like girls and women, boys and men with disorders such as anorexia nervosa suffer from physical problems. In particular, they usually exhibit low levels of testosterone and vitamin D; in some cases, testosterone supplementation is recommended. Other health consequences of eating disorders in men include damage to muscles, joints and tendons from over-exercising. Using steroids to bulk up can result in acne, testicular atrophy, decreased sperm count, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, abnormal liver function, constipation and bursts of anger (known as “’roid rage”).

People with eating disorders are also more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and personality disorders.

Research shows that boys and men respond well to the same eating disorder treatments that have been successful for females. Whether in an in-patient or out-patient setting, the focus is on restoring health and addressing the psychological and emotional components with psychotherapy. Parents are engaged to help establish an environment that supports healthy eating habits and body image.

The challenge is getting males to seek help. Most eating disorder programs are centered on girls, which can make boys feel out-of-place. There are some male-only programs, and the hope is that, as awareness grows and stigma decreases, there will be more.

“We know a lot more about boys and eating disorders compared to, say, two or three years ago,” says Dr. Bunnell. “We just think there are a lot more boys and men out there who feel inhibited or ashamed about coming forward. It’s critical for parents, pediatricians, and school counselors to develop awareness of eating disorders being as much of as a potential issue for boys as for girls. We have treatments and we want boys to be sure they know they can have access to them.”

Research contact: @ChildMindInst