Posts tagged with "Study Finds"

The good doctor: Are you safer when seen by an older physician?

April 12, 2021

If you could choose your doctor, would you prefer youth or experience? You might pick the fresh-faced physician, if you consider that patients in hospital settings are more likely to die when treated by doctors who are at least 60 years old, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School wanted to know how well physicians perform as they age. They looked at the records of 730,000 Medicare patients treated between 2011 and 2014 by more than 18,800 hospital-based internists (hospitalists), Study Finds reports.

Perhaps all that experience isn’t so great after all. Patient deaths rose gradually as physicians aged, but the biggest gap—1.3 percentage points—showed up between hospitalists 40 and younger, and those 60 and older.  This means one additional death for every 77 patients admitted by a doctor who is 60 or older versus a doctor who is 40 or younger.

Study senior investigator Anupam Jena, an associate professor of Health Care Policy at the university and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, says this outcome raises some serious concerns.

“It is comparable to the difference in death rates observed between patients at high risk for heart disease who are treated with proper heart medications and those who receive none,” she explains in a Harvard Medical School release.

There is a bright spot, however, in all this aging gloom and doom, according to Study Finds:  When physicians carry heavy caseloads, physician age is not a factor in patient mortality. Researchers believe that caring for large numbers of patients keeps a doctor’s skill set strong.

Older doctors may have knowledge that can only be gained by experience, but they cannot just rest on their laurels. They have to keep up with the rapid changes that come with new research and technology.

“The results of our study suggest the critical importance of continuing medical education throughout a doctor’s entire career, regardless of age and experience,” Jena says.

Researchers say this study is too limited to draw any final conclusions about how older physicians perform on the job. They would like to look into what else might be influencing the higher mortality rates in patients cared for by older doctors.

Perhaps, in answer to the first question posed, your best bet is to choose the busiest doctor.

The study’s findings were published in The BMJ.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Surprise! Babies understand what you’re saying sooner than you think

April 9, 2021

While infants may seem out of the loop until they starting speaking, researchers at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland say that babies are capable of recognizing word combinations and phrases long before they ever utter their first word.

Indeed, according to Study Finds, their recent research—conducted with some support from academics at Hebrew University of Jerusalem— has revealed that 11- to 12-month-old infants, who are on the verge of speaking, already are processing and understanding various “multi-word phrases” such as “clap your hands.”

This is a breakthrough—representing the first time that investigators have demonstrated that young infants are capable of recognizing and understanding conversations before they begin speaking, themselves. Moreover, this work disputes the long-held belief that babies generally learn languages by first understanding individual words and moving on to sentences. This new study suggests babies learn words and phrases simultaneously.

“Previous research has shown that young infants recognize many common words. But this is the first study that shows that infants extract and store more than just single words from everyday speech. This suggests that when children learn language, they build on linguistic units of varying sizes, including multiword sequences, and not just single words as we often assume,” says Dr. Barbara Skarabela from the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Languages Sciences, in a university release.

What’s more, Study Finds reports, the researchers also say these findings may provide an explanation as to why adults have so much trouble becoming bilingual.

“This may explain why adults learning a second language, who tend to rely on individual words, often fall short of reaching native-like proficiency in the way they string words together into phrases and sentences,” Dr. Skarabela adds.

Researchers studied 36 babies during this project, via a series of “attention tests” featuring recorded audio from adults. Study authors watched closely as the babies listened to the recordings and looked out for any signs of understanding or acknowledgment. All of the recorded phrases only featured three words and many were consistent with a typical “conversation” between infants and adults.

The team then assessed infant responses and compared them using a method called central fixation. This approach allowed researchers to measure the babies’ looks and eye glances in response to the recordings. Using this strategy, they successfully determined when a baby recognized a familiar phrase like “clap your hands” in comparison to a sentence they had likely never heard before—such as “take your hands.”

Most of the infants (23 out of 36) displayed clear signs of understanding certain phrases. The study has been published in the June 2021 edition of the journal, Cognition.

Research contact: StudyFinds

In USA, a staggering 40,000 children have lost a mother or father–or both—to COVID-19

April 7, 2021

Losing a parent at any age is a devastating experience. However, when a young child experiences such a major disruption of his or her loving support system, his or her entire future may be put in jeopardy—and that has become one of the harshest realities of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, researchers at Penn State estimate that nearly 40,000 American children have lost at least one parent to COVID-19, Study Finds reports.  According to their statistical models, every 13th COVID death in the United States costs a child his or her parent.

Of those who have lost a parent or both parents to date, three-quarters are adolescents. One in four is in elementary school.

And without immediate assistance, many youngsters (some now orphans) are at high risk for prolonged grief and depression, lower educational achievement, and economic insecurity. Even worse, Researcher Ashton Verdery adds that the risk of accidental death or suicide can also rise without proper parental supervision.

“When we think of COVID-19 mortality, much of the conversation focuses on the fact that older adults are the populations at greatest risk. About 81% of deaths have been among those ages 65 and older according to the CDC,” says Verdery, an associate professor of Sociology, Demography, and Social Data Analytics, in a university release.

“However, that leaves 19% of deaths among those under 65—15% of deaths are among those in their 50s and early 60s; and 3% are among those in their 40s. In these younger age groups, substantial numbers of people have children, for whom the loss of a parent is a potentially devastating challenge,” he recently told Study Finds.

The study finds parental death is especially impacting Black families. Researchers estimate that 20% of the children losing parents to COVID are African American. This comes even though Black children only make up about 14% of all youths in the U.S.

Study authors also predict that, in all, the pandemic will send the number of parental bereavement cases soaring by 18% to 20%. This will continue to strain a system the team says already has problems when it comes to connecting eligible children with proper government resources.

“I think the first thing we need to do is to proactively connect all children to the available supports they are entitled to, like Social Security child survivor benefits — research shows only about half of eligible children are connected to these programs in normal circumstances, but that those who do fare much better,” Verdery concludes. “We should also consider expanding eligibility to these resources. Second, a national effort to identify and provide counseling and related resources to all children who lose a parent is vital.”

The study appears in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

What’s brewing? The next green trend could be ‘bird-friendly’ organic coffee

March  15, 2021

Over the past 50 years, bird populations in North America have dropped by more than 25%—or by 2.9 billion birds, according to a report by th the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Contributing factors include habitat loss and ecosystems affected by human activity on the landscape.

And curiously enough, scientists now are saying that we can boost bird populations—and bird well-being, in general—by changing the type of coffee we drink, Study Finds reports.

Following fair trade and organic policies, the next green trend in coffee could be bird-friendly. This is coffee humans cultivate specifically to maintain bird habitats instead of destroying vegetation birds and other animals rely on. What’s more, researchers have identified a key audience who should, in theory, be bursting to try it: bird watchers.

Bird-friendly coffee is shade-grown. This means coffee growers harvest it under the canopy of large trees, similar to how coffee has historically been grown. However, most farms in Central and South America and the Caribbean are converting to full-sun operations. The change is leading to the disappearance of crucial habitats for migrating and resident bird species ar.

“Over recent decades, most of the shade coffee in Latin America has been converted to intensively managed row monocultures devoid of trees or other vegetation,” says Professor Amanda Rodewald from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in a university release. “As a result, many birds cannot find suitable habitats and are left with poor prospects of surviving migration and successfully breeding.”

With this in mind, the research team set out to discover whether bird-friendly coffee is on the radar of birdwatchers: Are they drinking it—and if not, why not? There are over 45 milliion recreational birdwatchers in the United States who, theoretically could help repopulate birds, if they just switched the type of coffee they drink, reports Study Finds..

“We know birdwatchers benefit from having healthy, diverse populations of birds, and they tend to be conservation-minded folks,” adds Dr. Ashley Dayer of Virginia Tech’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. “My colleagues and I wanted to dig into this key audience to determine their interest in bird-friendly coffee.

“But,” she says, “even simple actions are sometimes not taken by people who you would expect to be on board. Human behavior is complex—driven by knowledge, attitudes, skills, and many other factors.”

The research team surveyed more than 900 coffee-drinking birdwatchers to understand bird-friendly coffee behavior among this group of enthusiasts.

“One of the most significant constraints to purchasing bird-friendly coffee among those surveyed was a lack of awareness,” says lead study author Alicia Williams, former research assistant at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Virginia Tech. “This includes limits on understanding what certifications exist, where to buy bird-friendly coffee, and how coffee production impacts bird habitat.

“I was surprised to see that only 9% of those surveyed purchased bird-friendly coffee and less than 40% were familiar with it,” Williams continues. “It was also interesting, though not surprising, that a large number of our respondents reported that the flavor or aroma of coffee was an important consideration in their coffee purchases, which could be a useful attribute of bird-friendly coffee to stress going forward.”

The next step to increasing awareness about shade-grown coffee and its potential impact on bird populations may include increased advertising for bird-friendly coffee, more availability of bird-friendly coffee, and collaborations between public-facing conservation organizations and coffee distributors.

The findings appear in the journal People and Nature.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Study: Pachyderms tend to pack on relatively fewer pounds than people

January  28, 2021

How are those New Year’s weight loss resolutions going so far? For those of us who could use some more motivation to diet, a new study conducted at Indiana University has found that your average elephant is probably in better shape than most humans.

In fact, the research team says, despite their massive size, zoo elephants actually carry less body fat than the average person, reports Study Finds.

The team, led by Daniella Chusyd of Indiana University, wanted to understand why Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) living in zoos had lower birth rates than their peers in the wild. Researchers say it was thought these captive elephants were overweight and this was leading to a fertility crisis among the zoo population. Such a connection is similar to what health experts see happening in overweight people.

“I was interested in discovering whether methods predominantly used in human health research could help us learn more about elephants,” says Chusyd, formerly from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), in a media release. “Obesity is not clearly defined in humans, let alone elephants.”

Until now, study authors say, no one had ever checked how much fat Asian elephants carry in captivity. X

Chusyd, Janine Brown from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and Tim Nagy of UAB measured the amount of water in the elephants’ bodies. They then subtracted that from their body mass to calculate each animal’s level of fat.

It may sound simple, but measuring body water in an elephant is no small task. The best method is by giving each animal a dose of heavy water, however, the team had to be creative in their approach so the elephants wouldn’t spill the liquid.

“We came up with the idea of using bread soaked with heavy water to deliver it to the elephants,” Chusyd explains. The researcher adds that elephants particularly enjoy this treat.

“I quickly became their best friend.”

Zookeepers also collected blood samples prior to the heavy water treatments and up to 20 days after the experiment. Researchers examined elephants from zoos throughout the United States and Canada for this study. With help from scientists at the University of Aberdeen, researchers successfully calculated the water and fat content of these creatures.

According to Study Finds, the results reveal that obesity is not to blame for lower birth rates among Asian elephants in captivity. In fact, the average male elephant carries slightly less fat (8.5%) than females (around 10%). In comparison, researchers find the average human carries between 6% and 31% body fat.

Overall, fat in female elephants ranged from 2% to 25%. Males in the study were larger and carried more total fat. However, does this mean zoo elephants aren’t fit?

To test their fitness, the team attached an elephant-sized fitness tracker to their legs. The gigantic wearable device measured how much walking each animal did each day. The results reveal, even in a zoo, elephants walk about the same distance daily distance as free-ranging elephants—between 0.01 and 1.7 miles every hour. The youngest elephants in the group walked the farthest.

When it comes to the potential fertility crisis at zoos, researchers say they were surprised to find infertile females carried the least fat. The results appear to be more similar to disrupted fertility cycles in underweight women. When looking at elephant insulin levels, fatter elephants tend to have the highest amounts of insulin.

“It is possible that elephants could develop a diabetic-like state,” Chusyd suggests.

In conclusion, the team says it’s still unclear if elephants even experience obesity. When it comes to the ones living in zoos across North America however, staying fit is not an issue.

“They are doing a great job… they know their individual elephants best,” Chusyd says of the zoo keepers.

The study appears in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Wee-wee in the sea: Fish use their own urine to communicate with each other

January 15, 2021

Some fish apparently use their rear ends to communicate with one another, a Swiss research team has determined, according to a report by Study Finds.

The research was carried out by a team of three researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland and published in the journal of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

The team staged scenarios and observed the interactions between cichlids—any of more than 1,300 species of primarily freshwater fish that are found in tropical America, mainland Africa and Madagascar, and southern Asia.

The species of fish that was used is known in the science community as the cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher. The N. pulcher species of fish is more commonly referred to as the “daffodil” cichlid. This specific species of fish is endemic to Lake Tanganyika located in Africa, which is regarded to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world.

Some interactions included transparent physical barriers in the fish tank. Other scenarios incorporated barriers with either holes or opaque coloring. This enabled the researchers to analyze the different sensory exchanges between the fish.

“Animals use different sensory modalities involving visual, acoustical and chemical cues. While visual and acoustic communication used in aggressive encounters has been studied extensively in a wide range of taxa, the role of chemical communication received less attention,” the authors wrote in the research report.

The team selected different sizes of fish to determine if it was a variable in aggressive nature. The amount of urine was tracked by injecting the fish with blue dye.

Several previous studies by various universities have revealed that urine is often used as means of communication among a range of different species. So, the researchers figured it was only logical that fish may use a similar communication system.

The research suggested that fish emit far more urine when they can fully encounter one another without barriers of any kind. Similarly, they emitted more urine when they could see one another through a solid transparent barrier. However, when urine was exchanged through a barrier with holes, smaller fish had a tendency emit less urine while reducing aggressive behavior.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Personality traits are ‘contagious’ among children, study reveals

December 8, 2020

Great minds think alike—especially if they’re children, Study Finds reports. In fact, recent research has determined that a child’s personality is strongly influenced by his or her peers because many traits are actually “contagious.”

The finding emerged during a nature versus nurture debate: Are children’s personality traits determined at birth—or later, by their environment?

In the first study of its kind, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers at Michigan State University side with those who argue the latter— that personalities are generally malleable at a young age.

MSU researchers examined two separate preschool classes, each consisting of three- and four-year-olds, over the time span of an entire school year. They say that children who demonstrated extroverted or hard-working behavior were likely to be mimicked by their peers and friends.

Conversely, anxious and easily frustrated children did not transfer these personality traits onto their classmates.

“Our finding, that personality traits are ‘contagious’ among children, flies in the face of common assumptions that personality is ingrained and can’t be changed,” explains Jennifer Watling Neal, one of the study’s co-investigators, in  a story in MSU Today.

If personality traits can change, we should try to instill ones that will bode well for the child later in life, Watling Neal argues.

This study also advances the argument that kids have a much larger effect upon one another than previously believed. Traditional wisdom within the field has said that it’s mostly teachers and parents who bear the responsibility for how a child acts and behaves later in life.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

A dose of diaper duty can lengthen a grandparent’s life

October 16, 2020

Live long and prosper—by helping others. Especially your grandchildren. Those are the findings of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Basel (Switzerland), Edith Cowan University (Australia), the University of Western Australia, the Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany), and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Germany).

The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, found that grandparents who provide care for their grandkids live longer than grandparents who aren’t as involved. Similarly, older people who help take care of their peers live longer than those who don’t.

To reach their conclusion, researchers evaluated 500 people between thee ages of 70 and 103 years old, using data from the Berlin Aging Study collected between 1990 and 2009. Grandparents who were primary caregivers for their grandchildren—and who, therefore, had a much heavier load to carry—were not taken into account for the study, according to a report by Study Finds.

Indeed, ha;f of the grandparents who took care of their grandchildren were still alive about ten years after the first interview in 1990. The same applied to participants who did not have grandchildren, but who supported their children—for example, by helping with housework. In contrast, about half of those who did not help others died within five years.

Older adults who had no children, but aided others in their social network lived about three years longer than those who didn’t.

“But helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life,” Ralph Hertwig, Director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development said in a release from the University of Basel. “A moderate level of caregiving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health. But previous studies have shown that more intense involvement causes stress, which has negative effects on physical and mental health.”

So, for grandparents who want to stick around longer just to watch their grandkids achieve milestones in their lives—make sure you’re an active part of their upbringing and you’ll have a greater shot at being there for them as adults, too.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

New urine test assesses whether your diet is right for your body in just five minutes

July 1, 2020

Many of us can’t help but be confused by the constant barrage of dietary advice emanating from friends and family, doctors and wellness sources, social media, and advertising. But now, there’s a new type of urine test—designed by researchers at Imperial College London—that may help us to determine just what kind of diet would be best specifically for our own bodies, Study Finds reports.

The test takes only five minutes and measures a variety of metabolites present in urine. These metabolites can reveal important information about our diet, including consumption of citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose, vitamin C, red meats, and chicken.

Another key piece of information that the test reveals is whether the patient has a health condition. For example, the test measures salt intake, which is linked to obesity and high blood pressure.

“Diet is a key contributor to human health and disease, though it is notoriously difficult to measure accurately because it relies on an individual’s ability to recall what and how much they ate,” explains researcher Joram Posma in a statement.

“For instance,” Posma notes, “asking people to track their diets through apps or diaries can often lead to inaccurate reports about what they really eat. This research reveals this technology can help provide in-depth information on the quality of a person’s diet, and whether it is the right type of diet for their individual biological make-up.”

The researchers believe that the new technology can provide an individual urine “fingerprint” which varies from person to person. This information can then be used by dieticians to tailor dietary recommendations. The fingerprint helps to create a personal score, known as a Dietary Metabotype Score, or DMS—for each individual.

In their experiments, the authors instructed a group of 19 people to adhere to one of four diets, which ranged from very unhealthy to very healthy. They then calculated DMS scores for each individual. While higher DMS scores correspond with healthier diets and lower DMS scores signal not-so-healthy ones, researchers report variations in scores among people who strictly followed the same diet. These findings suggest that people metabolize the same food in different ways, and that these differences affect DMS scores.

Looking ahead, the researchers plan to examine how DMS scores are related to the risk of health conditions such as obesitydiabetes, and high blood pressure.

“We show here how different people metabolize the same foods in highly individual ways. This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalized dietary advice to improve public health,” co-author John Mathers  of Newcastle University explains.

The study is published in Nature Food.

Research contact: StudyFinds

Gut feelings: Happiness may guard against deadly gastrointestinal infections

June 16, 2020

Those who are blessed with good cheer also are apt to have good digestion. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have found evidence that serotonin—the brain chemical responsible for feelings of happiness and well–being—may stop harmful intestinal pathogens from causing deadly infections, Study Finds reports.

Serotonin is almost always thought of as a brain chemical, but about 90% of it is actually produced in the gastrointestinal tract. There also are trillions of bacteria living in the stomach and, while the vast majority of those bacteria are beneficial, some pathogenic bacteria also make their way to the gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, it can lead to serious and sometimes fatal gut infections.

Gut bacteria, like any other form of bacteria, are quite susceptible to their living environment. With this in mind, the study’s authors wondered if levels of serotonin being made in the gut affected these pathogens in any way, according to Study Finds.

To study this possible relationship, researchers focused on Escherichia coli O157, a type of bacteria known to cause semi-frequent outbreaks of sometimes deadly food-borne infections. Some samples of these bacteria were grown by the team in a lab setting and then exposed to serotonin. Notably, gene expression tests conducted after this exposure reveal that the serotonin had indeed significantly reduced the “expression” of genes within the bacteria that cause infections.

Furthermore, when human cells were exposed to the serotonin-weakened bacteria, that bacteria was no longer capable of inflicting “infection-associated lesions.” So, just add some serotonin and the bacteria loses its ability to produce an infection.

Moving forward, the researchers were eager to test their idea on living subjects. They gathered a group of mice and studied how serotonin influenced the viral capabilities of Citrobacter rodentiumwhich is pretty much the rodent equivalent of e.coli for humans. Some of the mice were genetically modified to produce more serotonin than usual. Others were modified to produce less than normal.

The mice that were producing more serotonin were much less likely to develop an active Citrobacter rodentium infection, and/or experience significant symptoms after being exposed to the bacterium. Conversely, mice with low levels of serotonin developed serious infections and many even died, Study Finds reports.

Mice given fluoxetine (Prozac) to raise their serotonin levels also didn’t become infected after exposure to the bacterium.

Additional experiments helped the research team pinpoint the serotonin receptor within both E. coli and C. rodentiumthe protein known as CpxAThis protein is actually common among gut bacteria, so it seems likely that serotonin has a big effect on overall gut health.

The study’s authors want to continue their work on this subject, and are hopeful serotonin can be used as a legitimate treatment option for bacterial gut infections. As of now, there are very few available antibiotics that are effective against E. coli O157.

“Treating bacterial infections, especially in the gut, can be very difficult,” says study leader Vanessa Sperandio, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and biochemistry at UT Southwestern Medical Center, in a statement. “If we could repurpose Prozac or other drugs in the same class, it could give us a new weapon to fight these challenging infections.”

The study is published in Cell Host and Microbe.

Research contact: @StudyFinds