May 28, 2019
In hopes that their children will earn college athletic scholarships or even make it to the professional leagues, many parents are spending a significant portion of their income and time on youth sports. But are they neglecting their own finances?
The answer is yes: According to findings of a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade, 74% of U.S. parents who pay for youth sports expenses are unable to succeed in saving and investing for retirement.
The survey, which was fielded between February and March, was conducted among a cohort of 1,001 adults, ages 30 through 60. Among the respondents, those who were considered “sports parents” had one or more children in elite or club competitive sports and had more than $25,000 in investable assets.
However, those assets were being whittled down by their children’s athletic participation. Fully 27% of the sports parents admitted to spending $500 or more per month to see their kids on the field. That money is going toward everything from equipment to private coaching to tournaments out-of-town, according to Dara Luber, senior manager of retirement at TD Ameritrade.
And it’s no surprise that it’s the Dads who are spending the most. Specifically, 20% of the fathers surveyed said they spent between $500 and $999 each month per child on youth sports. Worse yet, 7% said they spent $1,000 or more.
And they are trying to catch up financially: In order to pay for their kids’ sports expenses, parents are taking fewer vacations (36%) or working a second job (19%).
Luber advises parents to think about the cost of sports in terms of how it will affect them—not the family as a whole. “While securing an athletic scholarship could be a long shot, it’s important to keep in mind that retirement is definitely happening,” said Luber. “It’s essential to start saving and investing early when building a retirement nest egg, so parents should consider aligning their family budgets accordingly.”
The survey showed that sports parents spend twice as much time on their children’s activities as they do on financial planning.
Research contact: @TDAmeritrade
May 24, 2019
Memorial Day Weekend in the United States is, first and foremost, a time when we remember those who gave up their lives while serving in the Armed Forces. But it also is traditionally the occasion when many Americans fire up their barbeques and break out the burgers and buns.
And what could be more wholesome and fun than having a delicious meal—cooked outdoors and shared with family and friends?
It turns out that there may be plenty of activities that would lead to better outcomes, now that we have been forced to examine the relationship between grilling and cancer risk, The Huffington Post reports.
Research suggests that meat— including beef, pork, poultry or fish—forms carcinogenic chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) when charred or cooked over high heat, as on a grill (it’s what you think of as “grill marks”). In laboratory experiments, these chemicals have been “found to be mutagenic—that is, to cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer,” according to the National Cancer Institute.
The formation of HCAs and PAHs varies by meat type, cooking method, and “doneness” level (rare, medium, or well done). Whatever the type of meat, however, meats cooked at high temperatures, especially above 300 ºF (as in grilling or pan frying), or that are cooked for a long time, tend to form more HCAs. For example, well-done, grilled, or barbecued chicken and steak all have high concentrations of HCAs. Cooking methods that expose meat to smoke contribute to PAH formation .
Theodore M. Brasky, a cancer epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HuffPost that there is a “wealth of data” about the effects of HCAs and PAHs on other animals, on which many of the studies have been conducted. But when it comes to humans, that data is less concrete.
“Studies in people are in some ways more complicated because it’s difficult to control all aspects,” he said. “But there is nevertheless a lot of evidence from epidemiological studies that show that healthy individuals who report eating well-done or barbecued meats tend to have higher occurrence of cancers of the GI tract (especially colon cancer) over time, after taking into account other factors.”
Kirsten Moysich, an expert in cancer prevention and public health from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, shared a similar sentiment with the online news outlet. “Some studies have shown that individuals who eat a lot of grilled meat are at higher risk of colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancer, but others have not shown these associations,” she said.
“The International Agency for the Research of Cancer has designated processed meats as a ‘group one’ carcinogen, meaning that there is convincing evidence that they are carcinogenic to people,” Brasky said. “They estimate that 50 grams (approximately two ounces) of processed meat consumed daily is associated with 18% increased colorectal cancer risk.”
Even by these numbers, you’d have to be eating a hot dog every day to up your risk exponentially, says HuffPost. But if you are concerned about coming into contact with potentially harmful foods or cooking methods, there are ways to avoid and lessen the risk altogether.
Moysich recommends “removing charred areas on the meat and turning meat over frequently.” She also suggests grilling vegetables and fruits, which do not produce HCAs and “are linked to a reduced risk of cancer.”
Brasky recommends something we could all stand to do in both grilling and life―slowing down. Cooking the meat at a lower temperature for a longer time means an even grill and less opportunity for charring. “Be mindful that meats should not be charred, and that if you can allot additional time to cook outdoors, you’ll be able to lower the grill temperature to below 300̊ [Fahrenheit],” he said.
The American Institute for Cancer Research also notes that marinades are a great way to create a barrier between the meat and the flame to decrease the amount of HCAs. The organization suggests trimming the fat off the meat or even pre-cooking it a bit before it goes on the grill.
Just as is the case with many things in life, Moysich offers a reminder that the best practice of all is to be mindful about how often you’re doing something ― whether eating processed meat, grilling or otherwise.
“Bottom line? Everything in moderation,” she said. “People should not be worried to eat grilled meat, but balance this indulgence with vegetable consumption, a brisk walk, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.”
Research contact: @HuffPost
May 22, 2019
Based on results of a survey performed in 2016 among a cohort of over 8,500 women by researchers in Australia, the fair sex prefers men who exhibit pronounced male secondary sexual traits, such as facial hair. Indeed, a light stubble was judged the most attractive overall; and full beards were deemed the sexiest by women looking for long-term relationships.
But, although facial hair increases the appearance of masculinity and social dominance—and may help a guy to attract a mate—it actually may not be healthy for either partner!
Researchers at the Hirslanden Clinic near Zurich, Switzerland, wanted to determine whether evaluating humans and dogs in the same MRI scanner would be hygienic.
The researchers also compared the extent of bacterial contamination of an MRI scanner used by both dogs and humans with two other MRI scanners used exclusively by humans.
What did they find? It turns out all the bearded bros showed high microbial counts, The Huffington Post reports, compared with only 23 out of 30 dogs. In fact, seven of the men had so much beard bacteria they were at risk of getting sick, according to the BBC.
The jointly used scanner also had significantly lower bacteria counts than the scanners used only by humans.
The study was published in February in Eur Radiol.
Research contact: email@example.com
May 21, 2019
It’s hard to say anything except “I will” when a friend or family member invites you to his or her “I dos.” But it often can be an inconvenient and costly obligation. In fact, according to American Express, the average wedding guest spends $592 per wedding, according to a recent report by Real Simple.
Considering the necessary wardrobe trappings, the travel, the accommodations, and the (often, multiple) gifts, attending nuptials—either as a member of the wedding party or a guest— can be expensive. And however much you want to say that money is no object when you are celebrating the happiness of people you love—you may (justifiably) worry that a one-day event isn’t worth going into debt.
And that happens more frequently than you would imagine. Indeed, a recent survey by Credit Karma of 1,039 Americans ages 18 and up found that about one in five Americans (20%) has gone into debt to attend someone else’s wedding —and 21% have gone into debt to fund their own marriage ceremony.
Millennials (born between the early 1980s and 2000) are the most prone to rack up debt as wedding guests—with 35% of millennial respondents having gone into debt to attend a bachelor or bachelorette party and 30% having gone into debt to attend a wedding.
Why all the wedding-related debt? It could have to do with the social pressures and expectations set around weddings, the researchers found. Respondents cited feeling the need to impress friends and family (32%) as one reason they overspent on their own weddings, while others (20%) said they went into debt to make their wedding look good for social media.
Specifically, just how much debt are they racking up? Perhaps unsurprisingly, wedding-related debt is especially high for the couple throwing the wedding. A quarter of respondents (25%) who went into debt to pay for their wedding did so to the tune of $10,000 or more.
As for the attendees, more than a third of wedding guests and more than a third of bachelor/bachelorette party celebrants reported racking up more than $500 in charges.
How can both the guests and the bridal couple avoid going overboard? According to Credit Karma, the main reason people were able to avoid going into debt to attend a wedding was because the wedding was local (55%), meaning there would be fewer costs around things like hotels and plane tickets.
Other budget-friendly decisions: Choose wedding gifts you can actually afford (try splitting bigger-ticket items with other guests, if the couple’s registry allows), rent or rewear an outfit, stay at a friend’s home instead of at an hotel, and suggest budget-friendly bachelor/ette activities for the group.
Research contact: @creditkarma
May 20, 2019
Obese children have been hindered by a number of negative stereotypes—among them, that they are lazy, undisciplined, and don’t care about their own well-being. And the sad truth is that the first people to voice these assumptions may be the same doctors, nurses, and health care professionals who treat them as patients, U.S. News reports.
Stigma and bias against overweight children, and often their parents, is “very pervasive” in the healthcare industry, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told a gathering of medical specialists on obesity on May 16.
She said those attitudes—expressed through a doctor’s careless remark, insensitive question, or negative assumption about a patient’s family—can have a physical as well as psychological impact: Studies show that bias against obese young people can trigger release of stress hormones, further impeding weight loss.
That stress can have a long-term, negative effect. Patients tend to take that discomfort into adulthood, says Stanford, and the mindset can determine “whether they’re going to avoid care, whether they’re going to be reluctant to take advice.”
The event convened top medical experts, hospital executives, pediatricians, community health leaders, and advocates to exchange ideas and share practices that are helping to fight the nationwide obesity epidemic.
Stanford and her co-panelist, Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, agreed that obesity is usually seen as a moral failing. Too often, Eneli says, physicians don’t understand that patients who are obese have a disease that needs medical intervention, and scolding patients exacerbates the problem.
Surveys show that two out of three health care providers “have very low expectations of their patients in managing their weight. That in itself is a bias,” Eneli said. “We think it’s all about will power. We think it’s about self-control” while ignoring underlying issues like genetics, socioeconomic status and family dynamics.
Some patients “say the reason we’re struggling with weight is that we’re big-boned. The first thing [caregivers should] say is, ‘I agree with you,'” Eneli says. “You must affirm and you must hear. The key is to be humble enough to be able to listen to find that area of affirmation” that puts the patient at ease.
Stanford put a finer point on it, recalling a friend who remembered that— decades earlier, when they were both children—Stanford once told her she was fat.
“She was telling me that story for the first time,” Stanford says. As doctors, she says, “What we’re saying to kids — the language that we’re using with them [can] really set them up for failure.”
There are solutions, she adds: Massachusetts recently passed a law requiring physicians to ask about a patient’s food insecurity, a way to determine whether to direct him or her to agencies that can help. But Eneli says “you don’t have to wait for a law” to ask.
Research contact: @usnews
May 17, 2019
Ear infections send more children to the pediatrician than any other ailment, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Even the youngest child may pull or tug at his or her ear when pressure and pain start to build up inside. This condition, usually caused by a bacterial infection, occurs when fluid gets trapped in the middle ear behind the eardrum. The same type of problem also is common in another condition called otitis media with effusion—where the infection is gone, but the fluid has not drained.
Any kind of fluid buildup in the ears can hurt and make it hard for children to hear, which is especially detrimental when they are learning to talk.
But now, researchers at the University of Washington have created a new smartphone app that can detect fluid behind the eardrum, when used along with three easily available aids: a piece of paper and the smartphone’s microphone and speaker.
The smartphone makes a series of soft audible chirps into the ear through a small paper funnel and—depending on the way the chirps rebound to the phone—the app determines the likelihood of fluid present with a probability of detection of 85% (similar to the results achieved with more sophisticated processes used currently, including acoustics and puffs of air).
When there is no fluid behind the eardrum, the eardrum vibrates and sends a variety of sound waves back. These sound waves mildly interfere with the original chirp, creating a broad, shallow dip in the overall signal. But when the eardrum has fluid behind it, it doesn’t vibrate as well and reflects the original sound waves back. They interfere more strongly with the original chirp and create a narrow, deep dip in the signal.
“Designing an accurate screening tool on something as ubiquitous as a smartphone can be game-changing for parents as well as healthcare providers in resource-limited regions,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “A key advantage of our technology is that it does not require any additional hardware other than a piece of paper and a software app running on the smartphone.”
A quick screening at home could help parents decide whether or not they need to take their child to the doctor.
“It’s like tapping a wine glass,” said co-first author Justin Chan, a doctoral student at the Allen School. “Depending on how much liquid is in [the ear], you get different sounds. Using machine learning on these sounds, we can detect the presence of liquid.”
To train an algorithm that detects changes in the signal and classifies ears as having fluid or not, the team tested 53 children between the ages of 18 months and 17 years at Seattle Children’s Hospital. About half of the children were scheduled to undergo surgery for ear tube placement, a common surgery for patients with chronic or recurrent incidents of ear fluid. The other half were scheduled to undergo a different surgery unrelated to their ears, such as a tonsillectomy.
Among the children getting their ear tubes placed, surgery revealed that 24 ears had fluid behind the eardrum, while 24 ears did not. For children scheduled for other surgeries, two ears had bulging eardrums characteristic of an ear infection, while the other 48 ears were fine. The algorithm correctly identified the likelihood of fluid 85% of the time, which is comparable to current methods that specialized doctors use to diagnose fluid in the middle ear.
Then the team tested the algorithm on 15 ears belonging to younger children between 9 and 18 months of age. It correctly classified all five ears that were positive for fluid—as well as nine out of the ten ears, or 90%, that did not have fluid.
“Even though our algorithm was trained on older kids, it still works well for this age group,” said co-author Dr. Randall Bly, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the UW School of Medicine who practices at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This is critical because this group has a high incidence of ear infections.”
Because the researchers want parents to be able to use this technology at home, the team trained parents how to use the system on their own children. Parents and doctors folded paper funnels, tested 25 ears and compared the results. Both parents and doctors successfully detected the six fluid-filled ears. Parents and doctors also agreed on 18 out of the 19 ears with no fluid. In addition, the sound wave curves generated by both parent and doctor tests looked similar.
Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, a doctoral student in the Allen School, is also a co-author on this paper. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Seattle Children’s Sie-Hatsukami Research Endowment.
The team published its results on May 15 in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.
Research contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 16, 2019
No matter how gilded the cage, sometimes a parrot—or a parakeet—just wants to spread its wings and fly. And although owners may worry when a bird goes out the window, it turns out that not only are parrots that have “liberated” themselves surviving alfresco; they’re thriving.
A new study conducted at the University of Chicago has found that 56 species of parrot— none of which is native to the United States—have been spotted in the wild in 43 states. And incredibly, of those species, nearly half have reportedly been breeding—in 23 states.
Indeed, when Stephen Pruett-Jones, PhD, an ecologist at the University of Chicago, first came to the Windy City in 1988, he stumbled on a unique piece of the city’s history—the monk parakeets of Hyde Park.
The squat, bright-green birds aren’t native to Illinois, or to the United States, at all. America. originally had two native parrot species: the Carolina parakeet and the thick-billed parrot. The Carolina parakeet is now extinct; the thick-billed parrot, a Mexican species that ranged into the southwestern states,is no longer seen north of the border.
Monk parakeets have been known to live and breed in a colony in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood since the 1960s, after a pet bird craze led to the import of thousands from South America. Many escaped their homes or were released by their owners into the concrete jungle, eventually breeding in at least 10 states by 1968.
Pruett-Jones decided to organize a lab project to count them and other parrot species nationwide. He teamed up with Jennifer Uehling, a former UChicago undergraduate student now working on a Ph,D, at Cornell University; and Jason Tallant of the University of Michigan to research data on bird sightings from 2002 to 2016..
“Many of them were escaped pets, or their owners released them because they couldn’t train them or they made too much noise — all the reasons people let pets go,” explains Pruett-Jones. “But many of these species are perfectly happy living here and they’ve established populations. Wild parrots are here to stay.”
Pruett-Jones and his team used two databases of bird sightings to track naturalized parrot species from 2002 through 2016. First, they turned to the Christmas Bird Count, an annual survey by the National Audubon Society that captures a snapshot of birds nationwide. during a two-week time period between December 14 and January 15. The second database, called eBird, is a spot where bird watchers can log online all the bird sightings they come across.
The researchers found that the most common U.S. parrot species were the monk parakeets, the Red-crowned Amazon, and the Nanday Parakeet. Most of the birds are concentrated in the warmer climates of Florida, Texas, and California. There are significant populations also in and around large cities like New York and Chicago. The researchers estimate that there are more Red-crowned Amazons living in California now than in their original habitats in Mexico.
But there is some disturbing news: Although at one time there were about 400 monk parakeets living in the U.S., the number is believed to only be around 30 today, with the largest colony found under the Skyway bridge connecting Illinois to Indiana. Researchers say there appears to be a decline in the overall bird population in the United States., giving bird fanatics and animal advocates even more reason to protect these “escapees” from harm.
“Because of human activity transporting these birds for our own pleasure, we have inadvertently created populations elsewhere,” says Pruett-Jones. “Now for some of these parrots, they may become critical to the survival of the species.”
Research contact: email@example.com
May 15, 2019
Meditation has been touted by millions worldwide for its ability to lower stress, zap anxiety, and increase focus, among other mental health benefits. But a study conducted at the University College of London has found that fully 25% of those who have tried it say that they don’t feel tranquil or serene; rather, they experience fear and distorted emotions, Study Finds reports.
Of 1,232 frequent meditation practitioners (people who have meditated regularly for at least two months) surveyed by researchers at the college, more than one-quarter admit they have had at least one “unpleasant experience” while meditating.
Researchers say suffering from an unpleasant meditative experience seems to be more prevalent among specific groups—among them, those who:
- Attend a meditation retreat,
- Only practice “deconstructive types” of meditation such as Vipassana (insight) and Koan practice used in Zen Buddhism, and
- Experience higher levels of repetitive negative thinking.
“These findings point to the importance of widening the public and scientific understanding of meditation beyond that of a health-promoting technique,” says lead author Marco Schlosser, a professor in UCL’s Division of Psychiatry. “Very little is known about why, when, and how such meditation-related difficulties can occur: More research is now needed to understand the nature of these experiences. When are unpleasant experiences important elements of meditative development, and when are they merely negative effects to be avoided?”
For the study, participants were surveyed online about their meditation history, and completed assessments that measure repetitive negative thinking and self-compassion. They were also asked, “Have you ever had any particularly unpleasant experiences (e.g. anxiety, fear, distorted emotions or thoughts, altered sense of self or the world), which you think may have been caused by your meditation practice?”
In all, 25.6% said they’ve had an unpleasant experience (28.5% of men, 23% of women). This was especially true for those who did not have a religious affiliation (30.6%), versus 22% who did hold religious beliefs. About 29% of people who had attended a meditation retreat reported negative experiences, compared to only 19.6% of those who had never attended one.
Researchers say the results show there needs to be a greater focus on the downside to meditating, as studies are typically centered around all the good the practice offers.
“Most research on meditation has focused on its benefits, however, the range of meditative experiences studied by scientists needs to be expanded,” says Schlosser. “It is important at this point not to draw premature conclusions about the potential negative effects of meditation.”
Research contact: @ucl
May 13, 2019
Gossip is the standard currency of human connection—a form of interchange accepted, used, and sought worldwide. And it’s the rare person who doesn’t exchange in personal small talk nearly every day. In fact, a study conducted recently at the University of California–Riverside has found that most people spend about 52 minutes per day, on average, talking to someone about someone else who is not present.
And surprisingly enough, the researchers claim that it’s the first-ever study to dig deep into who gossips the most and what topics they gossip about.
“There is a surprising dearth of information about who gossips and how, given public interest and opinion on the subject,” said Megan Robbins, an assistant psychology professor who led the study along with Alexander Karan, a graduate student in her lab.
But the researches started their study with one assumption: If you’re going to look at gossip like an academic, remove the value judgment we assign to the word. Gossip, in the academic’s view, is not bad. It’s simply talking about someone who isn’t present. That talk could be positive, neutral, or negative.
“With that definition, it would be hard to think of a person who never gossips because that would mean the only time they mention someone is in their presence,” Robbins said. “They could never talk about a celebrity unless the celebrity was present for the conversation; they would only mention any detail about anyone else if they are present. “Not only would this be difficult, but it would probably seem strange to people they interact with.”
During the course of their research, Robbins and Karan looked at data from 467 people between the ages of 18 and 58—269 women, 198 men—who participated in one of five studies.
Participants wore a portable listening device that Robbins employs in her research called the Electronically Activated Recorder, or EAR. The EAR samples what people say throughout the day: About 10% of their conversation is recorded; then analyzed, by research assistants.
The research assistants counted conversation as gossip if it was about someone not present. In all, there were 4,003 instances of gossip, sorted into three categories: positive, negative, or neutral. The assistants further coded the gossip depending on whether it was about a celebrity or acquaintance; the topic; and the gender of the conversation partner.
Among the results:
- Younger people engage in more negative gossip than older adults. There was no correlation with overall frequency of gossip when all three categories were combined.
- About 14% of participants’ conversations were categorized as gossip—or just under an hour out of 16 waking hours.
- Almost 75% of gossip was neutral. Negative gossip (604 instances) was twice as prevalent as positive (376).
- Gossip overwhelmingly was about an acquaintance and not a celebrity, with a comparison of 3,292 samples vs. 369.
- Extraverts gossiped far more frequently than introverts, across all three types of gossip
- Women gossiped more than men— but only in terms of neutral, information-sharing, gossip.
- Poorer, less education people don’t gossip more than wealthier, better-educated people.
A final result? Everyone gossips. “Gossip is ubiquitous,” the study concludes.
Think about your own conversations with a family member or friend: You talk about everyday things that keep you connected. You share that your daughter got her driver’s license or your uncle has a kidney stone.
“Much of it is just documenting facts, sharing information,” the researchers conclude.
The paper, “Who Gossips and How Often in Everyday Life,” was published online on May 2 in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Research contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
March 13, 2019
Whether it’s a hotel, or a friend’s home, 40% of respondents to a recent survey by sleep tech company Simba say they dread overnight invitations because they never get a good night’s sleep in a bed which isn’t their own, SWNS Digital reports.
The London-based brand, which describes its product as “Europe’s favorite mattress in a box,” polled 2,000 Brits and found that they have a host of worries about staying away from home overnight-among them:
- Loss of a good night’s sleep (28%);
- “Getting in the way” when staying at a friend’s home;
- Sleeping on a terrible mattress (20%);
- Waking up early and not knowing what to do with themselves; and
- Being too cold or too hot.
Steve Reid, CEO Simba, which commissioned the study to mark the launch of the company’s new Hybrid Topper said: “A great stay with friends is a fragile thing, easily disrupted by the smallest … failure of etiquette, or even a poor night’s sleep.
“Many of our anxieties regarding staying over with friends stem from worrying about sleeping arrangements, and it should be important to host’s that their guests sleep with comfort and support, to ensure they wake up on the right side.”
Fully 73% of respondents could recall getting poor night’s sleep while staying in an uncomfortable guest bed. In true British style, however, 54% of them have fibbed to their hosts and said they had a great night’s rest to avoid upsetting them.
What’s more, fully 52% think the type of sleep they get while staying away from their own bed is of lower quality.
By contrast, Brits’ favorite thing about staying the night as a guest is getting to see their host, followed by the sense of adventure they get from being away from home. And one in 10 just like taking a break from looking after themselves and being waited on by one of their friends.
Research contact: @SimbaSleep