California considers ACE testing to determine how adverse childhood experiences affect adults

December 16, 2019

In California, where many social experiments seem to start, there currently is a movement to make it mandatory for all adults to be assessed for adverse childhood experiences (ACES), Psychology Today reports.

So, regardless of an adult patient’s presenting issue(s)—be they medical, psychological, or both— clinicians in public and private medical and psychotherapeutic settings would screen for childhood trauma.

The reason: Research clearly links early-life trauma, neglect, and other adverse experiences with adult-life medical, psychological, and intimacy issues.

The ACES test that is used in California to for ten forms of childhood trauma—five personal, five familial; as follows:

Personal traumas include physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect.

Familial traumas include addiction, domestic violence, incarceration, mental illness; and divorce or abandonment.

The ACES test is scored on a scale of one through ten, Psychology Today notes, with each type of trauma experienced counting as one point. So an individual with an alcoholic father— and an early-life history of verbal abuse and emotional neglect—would score three on the ACES screening.

Research consistently links ACES to adult-life physical, emotional, and relational issues. The higher a person’s ACES score is, the more likely that person is to experience physical ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Similarly, the higher a person’s ACES score is, the more likely he or she is to experience psychological and behavioral issues like anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Indeed, according to the news outlet, research very consistently reaches these results. For example, one wide-ranging study found that individuals with an ACES score of four or higher are:

  • 1.8 times as likely to smoke cigarettes;
  • 1.9 times as likely to become obese;
  • 2.4 times as likely to experience ongoing anxiety;
  • 2.5 times as likely to experience panic reactions;
  • 3.6 times as likely to be depressed;
  • 3.6 times as likely to qualify as promiscuous;
  • 6.6 times as likely to engage in early-life sexual intercourse;
  • 7.2 times as likely to become alcoholic; and
  • 11.1 times as likely to become intravenous drug users.

The amount of research producing similar results is almost overwhelming. So there’s an undeniable link between early-life trauma and numerous adult-life physical and psychological disorders.

In a nutshell, research reveals that childhood trauma is very common among all races and social strata. Very often it is unidentified, unacknowledged, and unaddressed. And it contributes to all sorts of adult-life physical, emotional, and relational problems.

The basic ACES Screening test is a mere ten questions, and it’s limited to five personal and five familial categories. The instrument does not examine bullying, racism, financial struggles, severe illness or accident, and a thousand other possible forms of trauma

Additionally, there is a lack of explanation about what may qualify in a particular category. For instance, an overly enmeshed, covertly sexualized relationship with a parent is, from a psychological standpoint, a form of both sexual abuse and emotional abuse/neglect (adversely affecting the child’s emotional and relational development). But most people, especially those new to the process of healing, will not readily identify it as such.

Usually, however, forms of trauma not covered by the ACES screening and not-so-easily spotted forms of trauma that are covered will trigger at least one or two peripheral yes responses. At the very least, a client will say, “Hmmm, I’m not sure about this one.” Any yes response or any uncertain response should automatically cause the clinician to explore the matter further, recognizing that a full course of treatment, whatever the presenting issue happens to be, may eventually require the exploration, acceptance, and resolution of underlying ACES.

When early-life trauma is uncovered via assessment or during the course of another treatment, and when that trauma appears to be linked to the patient’s adult-life issues (physical, emotional, relational), it will need to be acknowledged and addressed, preferably with the assistance of a clinician who specializes in trauma work as part of his or her practice.

The ACES screening assessment can be found at this link.

Research contact: @PsychToday

Flower power: Tropical bloom offers potential new treatment for pancreatic cancer

December 12, 2019

An international team of scientists led by the UK’s University of Bath have produced drug-like molecules— inspired by a chemical found in a tropical flower—that show promise for treating one of the deadliest cancers, pancreatic cancer.

The researchers have created three new molecules similar to Grandifloracin, a chemical found in the tropical plant Uvaria grandiflora, which grows in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Their study—which was conducted in collaboration with Professor Suresh Awale from the University of Toyama, Japan—demonstrated that all three molecules kill pancreatic cancer cells in a petri dish. Two of these killed the cells more effectively than the original Grandifloracin molecule.

Since pancreatic cancer causes few symptoms, many patients don’t realize they are affected until it has already spread to other organs. Pancreatic cancer is also very difficult to treat, because its tumors resist many anti-cancer drugs,- so these molecules could become a valuable tool in combating the condition.

Although this research is more than five years away from its first human trials, the researchers say these molecules could become a promising new class of drugs for treating pancreatic cancer.

Dr Simon Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry from the University of Bath, said: “Pancreatic cancers are especially aggressive and fast-growing, so the tumors develop faster than the blood vessels can supply nutrients to them. This leads to a lack of nutrients, to an extent that would kill ordinary cells, but the pancreatic cancer cells can survive these ‘austere’ conditions and keep on growing.

The molecules we have identified are so-called ‘anti-austerity’ agents that can remove the ability of the cancer cells to tolerate these starvation conditions, so they will die, whereas ordinary cells with a normal supply of nutrients remain unaffected.”

Dr. Lorenzo Caggiano, Senior Lecturer in the Medicinal Chemistry group at the University of Bath’s Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, said: “Through evolution, nature has developed a huge variety of active compounds to help it survive and thrive under a wide range of environmental conditions.These so-called natural products are of great interest in the development of new drugs and as such approximately a quarter of all medicines are derived from plants.

“As part of our ongoing research into the development of new treatments for brain cancers based on compounds found in daffodils, the research published in collaboration with Dr. Lewis describes a compound also found in flowering plants that is able to selectively kill pancreatic cancer cells in a new way.

“This exciting approach could potentially lead to a new drug to treat pancreatic cancers that is more effective yet less toxic than current treatments.”

Research contact: @UniofBath

Snack attacks: Americans are nibbling all day long

December 11, 2019

Many Americans are grazing all day long, rather than sitting down for three square meals, a new study conducted by The Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights has found, according to a report by Baking Business.

While 46% of consumers eat salty snacks between meals in the afternoon; and 37%, in the evening; more consumers also are replacing traditional meals with quicker bites, the researchers say.

In fact, the number of people who give in to their cravings for salty snacks at lunchtime (23%), dinner (17%)— and even breakfast (8%)—also is on the rise. And Innova says, “This substitution of meals has encouraged many consumers to choose snacks with enhanced nutritional value.”

The salty snacks industry is clearly working to meet this need, with launches of snack nuts and seeds growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% between 2014 and 2018, Baking Business reports..

Snack mixes also appear to be benefiting from this trend, with introductions up at a 16% CAGR over the same period. Many mixes contain naturally nutritious fruits, nuts and seeds, but they can also include sweeter, more indulgent elements such as chocolate-coated ingredients.

“Enjoyment is still a very strong driver behind snacks purchase,” said Lu Ann Williams, head of innovation at Innova. “When asked why they buy salty snacks, 40% of Americans identified taste as the rationale—and a further 22% said it was to treat or reward themselves..”

Research contact: @innovatrending

The inside track: Gut microbes may alter the aging process, study finds

December 10, 2019

The unseen, microbial lives that we foster inside our intestinal tracks may affect our individual life expectancy, according to a new study featured on News-Medical.

An international research team from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Singapore–led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore)—has found that microorganisms living in the gut may alter the aging process, which could lead to the development of food-based treatment to slow it down.

All living organisms, including human beings, coexist with a myriad of microbial species living in and on them, and research has established their important role in nutrition, physiology, metabolism, and behavior.

For the most recent study, a team led by Professor Sven Pettersson of the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine transplanted gut microbes from two-year-old mice into much younger, six-week-old germ-free mice. After eight weeks, the younger mice had increased intestinal growth and production of neurons in the brain, known as neurogenesis.

The team showed that the increased neurogenesis was due to an enrichment of gut microbes that produce a specific short chain fatty acid, called butyrate, News-Medical reported.

Butyrate is produced through microbial fermentation of dietary fibers in the lower intestinal tract and stimulates production of a pro-longevity hormone called FGF21, which plays an important role in regulating the body’s energy and metabolism. As we age, butyrate production is reduced.

The researchers then showed that giving butyrate on its own to the young germ-free mice had the same adult neurogenesis effects, noting: These results will lead us to explore whether butyrate might support repair and rebuilding in situations like stroke [and] spinal damage, [as well as] to attenuate accelerated aging and cognitive decline.”

Pettersson commented, “We can conceive of future human studies where we would test the ability of food products with butyrate to support healthy aging and adult neurogenesis.”.

He added, “In Singapore, with its strong food culture, exploring the use of food to ‘heal’ ourselves, would be an intriguing next step, and the results could be important in Singapore’s quest to support healthy aging for their silver generation”.

Group leader Dr, Dario Riccardo Valenzano at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany, who was not involved in the study, said the discovery is a milestone in research on microbiome.

“These results are exciting and raise several new open questions for both biology of aging and microbiome research, including whether there is an active acquisition of butyrate-producing microbes during mice life and whether extreme aging leads to a loss of this fundamental microbial community, which may be eventually responsible for dysbiosis and age-related dysfunctions,” he added.

The study was published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, on November 13.

Research contact: @NewsMedical

Just scratching the surface: Feline faces are hard to read, except for ‘cat whisperers’

December 9, 2019

Cats have a reputation for being inscrutable—but researchers at Canada’s University of Guelph have found that some people are veritable “cat whisperers” who excel at intuiting the subtle differences in feline faces that reveal mood.

Women and those with veterinary experience were particularly good at recognizing cats’ expressions, Science Daily reports—even those who reported they didn’t feel a strong attachment to cats, the large study of more than 6,300 people from 85 countries found.

“The ability to read animals’ facial expressions is critical to welfare assessment. Our finding that some people are outstanding at reading these subtle clues suggests it’s a skill more people can be trained to do,” said Professor Lee Niel, who led the study with Professor Georgia Mason, both of U of G’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare.

The only research so far on readings cats’ faces has focused on expressions of pain. “This study is the first to look at the assessment of a wider range of negative emotional states in animals, including fear and frustration, as well as positive emotional states,” said Mason.

The researchers asked study participants to watch 20 short online videos of cats from a collection of 40 videos, gleaned mostly from YouTube—and then, to complete online questionnaires.

The videos showed cats experiencing either positive emotional states (situations the cats had sought out, such as being petted or given treats), or in negative states (such as experiencing health problems or being in situations that made them retreat or flee).

Each video was focused on the cat’s face—its eyes, muzzle and mouth. None of the cats showed expressions of fear, such as bared fangs or flattened ears, since these facial expressions are already widely understood.

Participants were asked to judge whether each cat was in a positive state, a negative one, or if they weren’t sure.

Most participants found the test challenging. Their average score was 12 out of 20—somewhat above chance. But 13% of the participants performed very well, correctly scoring 15 or better—a group the researchers informally called “the cat whisperers.”

These people were more likely to be women than men, and more likely to be veterinarians or vet technicians. Younger adults also generally scored better than older adults.

“The fact that women generally scored better than men is consistent with previous research that has shown that women appear to be better at decoding non-verbal displays of emotion, both in humans and dogs,” said Mason, who worked on the study along with post-doctoral researchers Jenna Cheal and Lauren Dawson.

Surprisingly, being a cat lover made no difference at all, since reporting a strong attachment to cats did not necessarily result in a higher score.

The finding that some people are skilled at reading cats’ faces suggests that others could be trained to do so as well. “This is important to be able to do because it could help strengthen the bond between owners and cats, and so improve cat care and welfare,” said Niel.

Want to test your own cat-reading abilities. The research team has posted an interactive Cat Faces Quiz to test your skills!

Research contact: @erica_kipp

Walk like a Viking: Nordic walking

December 6, 2019

We don’t usually imagine Vikings frolicking in the snow. Mostly, they are remembered for trading and raiding across Europe. However, while skiing originated in China, it was the Vikings who popularized the sport—especially cross-country skiing—according to the History Channel. In fact, the word, “ski,” comes from the Old Norse word “skio.”

And today, thousands of Americans have adopted the sport enthusiastically—both on snow and without it, according to a report by Harvard Health.

You may see them in your own neighborhood trails or sidewalks: exercisers mimicking the motion of cross-country skiing by using poles to push themselves. What they are doing is called Nordic walking. It was originally designed as a summer training routine for cross-country skiers. Now, it’s catching on as an exercise regimen, especially among older adults.

Indeed, according to Harvard Health, walking with Nordic poles burns  anywhere from 18% to 67% more calories and works more muscles than conventional walking.

Cardiologist Aaron Baggish—who is the director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center—told the newsletter that he is all for it. He just returned from a year of work and study in Switzerland, where he says Nordic walking is a common pastime among older adults. “You go to the train station on Saturdays and there are droves of people over 70 waiting to go up to the mountains to walk with Nordic poles,” says Dr. Baggish.

Nordic walking combines cardiovascular exercise with a vigorous muscle workout for your shoulders, arms, core, and legs. “When you walk without poles, you activate muscles below the waist. When you add Nordic poles, you activate all of the muscles of the upper body as well,” Dr. Baggish explains. “You’re engaging 80% to 90% of your muscles, as opposed to 50%, providing a substantial calorie-burning benefit.”

Nordic walking also is associated with reductions in fat mass, “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and waist circumference, and increases in “good” HDL cholesterol, endurance, muscle strength and flexibility, walking distance, cardiovascular fitness, and quality of life.

Another benefit: “You’re much more stable when you use poles, because you have more ground contact points and you’re not relying on two feet alone,” Dr. Baggish says.

Plus, Nordic walking is fun. It can be a great social activity if you join one of the Nordic walking clubs popping up across the country.

Dr. Baggish says most people are candidates for Nordic walking, even if they have balance problems. In fact, “if you have balance issues you’re the best candidate for this, because of the increased stability from the poles,” he says. “But you should still talk to your doctor first, especially if you have heart disease.”

Once you have the green light and a set of poles, you’ll need a walking route. You can walk on level surfaces or on varied terrain—anything from sidewalks to grassy fields or trails.

Research contact: @HarvardHealth

Bitter pill: Contraception may reduce brain power

December 5, 2019

The approval by the FDA in 1960 of the birth control pill changed the culture in the United States and jump-started the sexual revolution. But now, a study has determined that oral contraception, literally, is changing minds—and not for the better.

Indeed, Study Finds reports that birth control pills actually may impact the size of women’s brains, by shrinking the volume of the hypothalamus—an important region of the forebrain that coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary; controlling body temperature, thirst, and hunger, as well as sleep, sex, overall mood, and emotional activity. That could be a bitter pill for the nearly six million U.S. women who use a form of oral contraception today.

According to the research team, this is the first time that the structural effects of sex hormones and birth control pills on the hypothalamus have been investigated—mostly due to a lack of valid methods until recently to quantitatively analyze MRI exams.

“There is a lack of research on the effects of oral contraceptives on this small but essential part of the living human brain,” says Michael L. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., FACR, professor of radiology at the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and medical director of MRI Services at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, in a press release from the Radiological Society of North America. “We validated methods for assessing the volume of the hypothalamus and confirm, for the first time, that current oral contraceptive pill usage is associated with smaller hypothalamic volume.”

Besides their main use as a form of birth control, oral contraceptives also are used by many women to help with irregular periods, acne, endometriosis, cramps, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

For the research, the study’s authors gathered 50 healthy women. Within that group, 21 were currently taking a birth control pill. Each woman underwent an MRI, and then a validated approach was used to calculate individual hypothalamic volumes.

“We found a dramatic difference in the size of the brain structures between women who were taking oral contraceptives and those who were not,” Dr. Lipton adds. “This initial study shows a strong association and should motivate further investigation into the effects of oral contraceptives on brain structure and their potential impact on brain function.”

To be clear, Dr. Lipton and his team characterized their study as “preliminary,” and stress the need for further research into the matter. That being said, it was also noted that smaller hypothalamic volume was found to be associated with increased feelings of anger, Study Finds reports, and exhibited a strong correlation with depression.

It’s important to mention, though, that the study found no evidence of a significant correlation between hypothalamic volume and cognitive performance.

The study was presented on December 4 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago.

Research contact: @StudyFindsorg

Wedding trends: ‘Union do’s’ for 2020

December 4, 2019

If you’re planning nuptials for next year, there is a fresh crop of 2020 wedding trends—from bold pops of color to inspired invitations—that the editors of The Knot say will make your special day a standout.

  1. Green vibes: Consider re-setting a family stone or heirloom engagement ring, repurposing ceremony florals, sourcing locally grown food, or hiring vendors who also prioritize sustainability.
  2. Micro weddings: Think 40 people or less-but budget more per guest, so that your very nearest and dearest are treated to bespoke touches, elaborate meals (tasting menu, anyone?), and tons of personalization..
  3. Magical mysticism: This spiritually charged vibe combines all things mystical: crystals, saging, palo santo, even aura photobooths. ( Suggestion: Make it work for your unique couple style by sending guests home with a rose quartz crystal, the classic stone for love.)
  4. 4. Inclusive menus: Reception eats are going to check all the boxes in 2020. Vegetarian? No problem. Vegan with a nut allergy? We got you. Be considerate of all your guests by offering up a variety of cuisines and refreshments (delicious non-alcoholic drinks can be crafted with care by mixologists).
  5. Barrettes and combs: Veils aren’t going anywhere, but tiaras have given way to the latest in hair jewelry—barrettes and combs. These wedding hair accessoriesmay be adorned in pearls, rhinestones, or colorful enamels. They’re great for holding back natural curls or creating a second style for your wedding reception.
  6. Trending hues: From linens to dresses for the wedding party, expect to see a lot of neo mint (AKA, the new millennial pink); cassis, not quite pink, not quite purple; yellow, a mellow, rich hue with earthy undertones; and faded denim, a blue that equally fresh and serene.
  7. 7. It’s lit: Good lighting is the surest way to get those 2020 wedding decor trends noticed. From hanging installations to tube lighting and LED bars, the options are endless. Change up the feeling of your party from dinner to dancing with a light show or add strings of fairy lights to a concentrated space, like above your cake table for maximum effect. And fret not, candlelight is still on-trend for creating an intimate and romantic vibe, The Knot’s editors say.
  8. Edible florals: Frozen in ice-cubes, tossed in salads, sprinkled on top of desserts, edible flowers are a big wedding reception trend for 2020. This pretty extra provides an easy way to elevate virtually anything—from infused water to classic vanilla cake. Florals and weddings are synonymous so pair your edible petals with dried flowers for a romantic effect. (Think: pressed in invites, or as confetti after I do.)
  9. Dressed to impress: Black is taking a backseat to blue. Navy, teal, and cobalt jackets are trending when it comes to tuxedos and suits, while accessories of all kinds continue to be the favored way to really personalize a look. Unique wedding dress codes (think: white party!) also are on the rise.
  10. Personalized paper: Lean into the wedding trends of 2020 with something that speaks to you as a couple, like using recycled paperand soy based inks for eco-friendly correspondence. Opt for a modern vibe by embracing bold colors, pattern and texture in your wedding invites. Or delight a more intimate guest list with a pop-up or acrylic invite that will really wow.

(For more ideas, check out the following URL:

Research contact: @theknot

Revealed: Deadly superbugs lurk in more than nine out of ten make-up bags

December 4, 2019

It turns out that looks can, indeed, kill: The vast majority of in-use makeup products—among them,  beauty blenders, mascara, and lip gloss—are contaminated with potentially life threatening superbugs, research conducted at Aston University in Birmingham, England, has revealed..

Make-up products used every day by millions of people are contaminated with potentially deadly bugs, such as E.coli and Staphylococci, because most are not being cleaned and are used far beyond their expiration dates, new research led by Dr. Amreen Bashir and Professor Peter Lambert of Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences has found.

Bacteria that can cause illnesses ranging from skin infections to blood poisoning if used near eyes, mouth, or cuts or grazes, were found in nine out of ten of the products. This risk is amplified in immunocompromised people who are more likely to contract infections from opportunistic bacteria.

The relatively new beauty blenders — sponges used to apply skin foundation products—were found to have the highest levels of potentially harmful bacteria; with the vast majority (93%) never having been cleaned, despite more than two-thirds (64%) being dropped on the floor at some point during use.

.Often endorsed by celebrities, these sponges are estimated to have sold over 6.5 million times worldwide. The Aston researchers found these products are particularly susceptible to contamination as they are often left damp after use, which creates an ideal breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Post-Brexit, UK consumers could be at even greater risk as they will no longer be protected by EU regulations and could find themselves purchasing more beauty products from the United States, for example, where there are no regulatory requirements to put expiration dates on make-up packaging at all.

Commenting on the new findings, Dr. Bashir said: “Consumers’ poor hygiene practices when it comes to using make-up, especially beauty blenders, is very worrying when you consider that we found bacteria such as E.coli—which is linked with fecal contamination—breeding on the products we tested.

“More needs to be done to help educate consumers and the make-up industry as a whole about the need to wash beauty blenders regularly and dry them thoroughly, as well as the risks of using makeup beyond its expiry date.”

The study results have been published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology .

Research contact: @AstonUniversity

Winning by a whisker: The 2019 Beard and Moustache Championships

December 5, 2019

Chicago may be known as the Windy City, but none of the contestants had a hair out of place at the National Beard and Moustache Championships—held at the 350 Brewery’s Insanity Factory on November 8 and 9, Metro (UK) reported.

Everybody has a talent, and for the hirsute competitors who look forward to this event each year, it’s growing beards and moustaches.

But there’s somebody else who wouldn’t go 12 months without a chance to see this contest: Greg Anderson, 44, a photographer from Las Vegas, has been attending the event for the past seven years. He told the Metro that, for everyone who shows up, “ It’s a two-day party.”

This year, he says he captured the beards and ‘staches on film again—some of which measured longer than 24 inches (and probably took some knowledge of structural dynamics to d

John Banks working partly on the top and partly on the bottom.(Picture by Greg Anderson of Caters News)

esign and style).

Anderson told the news outlet, ‘It’s a personal project that I love doing every year because of all of the people involved, some of which I’ve known now since the first event I shot in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2013. ‘All of the character, designs, and styles never disappoint and it’s the most fun I have all year on a photoshoot.’

Some of the ways in which contestants style their long facial hair includes swirly patterns, windmills, and stars. Others put items like leaves and flowers in the beards to adhere to a theme.

‘The crazier the design the better, in my book,’ says Anderson. ‘I love all of the outrageous styles the most, they’re kind of like my children, I can’t pick favorites

Some of the categories in the show include Design Beard, Business Beard, Brewers Beard, Veterans Beard, Mr. Moustache, and 5 O’Clock Shadow. Each is judged differently, with the style and mode of preparation allowed changing each time. For example, for the Moustache Freestyle round, styling aids like gel and hairspray are allowed, but additional structural materials such as wire, rope, and lumber are not permitted.

According to the Metro’s report, “The winners from this year have been announced and include men and women – with some women beating the more-traditional beard-having men with their creative styles. Although it is a competition, there are also meet and greets, and the whole thing is ‘a massive jolly’ for people who take pride in their growing capabilities.”

Research contact: @MetroUK