Posts tagged with "Study"

‘I’m enlightened and you’re not’: Study finds spirtual guidance is linked to narcissism, feelings of superiority

July 22, 2021

new study has found that some popular forms of spiritual guidance—such as instruction in energy healing; aura reading; and, to a lesser degree, mindfulness and meditation —correlate with both narcissism and “spiritual superiority,” Psych News Daily reports.

An implicit feature of spiritual training is that it encourages self-compassion and nonjudgmental self-acceptance—enabling followers to distance themselves from their egos and, thereby, from the need for social approval or success.

But as the new paper explains, spiritual training may have the opposite effect. In fact, such guidance may enhance followers’ need to feel “more successful, more respected or more loved,” as the authors Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser, respectively, of Radboud University in The Netherlands and the Behavior Change Group, also in the Netherlands, write. Their paper, “An Exploration of Spiritual Superiority: The Paradox of Self‐Enhancement,” has been published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

The authors developed a new measure that they refer to as “spiritual superiority.” It measures whether people feel superior to those “who lack the spiritual wisdom they ascribe to themselves.”

The researchers’ questionnaires ask respondents to react to a number of statements—among them, “I am more in touch with my senses than most others,” “I am more aware of what is between heaven and earth than most people,” and “The world would be a better place if others too had the insights that I have now.”

The authors also created three scales that they hypothesized would correlate with spiritual superiority.

The first scale, “spiritual guidance,” relates to how much people try to help others acquire the same wisdom they have acquired. It includes statements such as “I help others whenever possible on their path to greater wisdom and insight,” “I gladly help others to acquire my insights too,” and “I am patient with others, because I understand it takes time to gain the insights that I gained in my life and my education.”

The second scale is “supernatural overconfidence,” and it encompasses self-ascribed abilities in the paranormal domain. Example statements include “I can send positive energy to others from a distance,” “I can get in touch with people who are deceased,” and “I can influence the world around me with my thoughts.”

The third scale, “spiritual contingency of self-worth,” measures how much a person derives their self-esteem from their spirituality. Sample statements include “My faith in myself increases when I acquire more spiritual wisdom” and “When I gain new spiritual insights, this increases my self-worth.”

In three separate studies described in their research article, Vonk and Visser established their scale of spiritual superiority as a valid instrument. Moreover, it correlates significantly with the other three scales. It also correlates significantly with narcissism, self‐esteem, and other psychological variables. Finally, it also correlates, to varying degrees, with diverse forms of spiritual training.

They note that spiritual narcissism has been defined, for example, as “the misuse of spiritual practices, energies, or experiences to bolster self-centered ways of being.”

Other studies define spiritual narcissism as a situation “in which the individual believes he or she has become somehow enlightened in a way that others have not, and operates from a disconnecting stance of spiritual superiority.”

Yet another researcher simply calls it “an ‘I’m enlightened and you’re not’ syndrome, Psych News Daily reports.

The authors argue that the lack of objectivity in the spiritual domain plays a role here. “Like religiosity, spirituality is a domain that seems like a safe and secure investment for self-worth,” they write. “One’s spiritual attainments allow lots of room for wishful thinking, thus easily lending themselves to the grip of the self-enhancement motive.”

And because spiritual matters are generally “elusive to external objective standards,” that makes them a “suitable domain for illusory beliefs about one’s superiority.”

On the other hand, spiritual training may attract people who already feel superior. And the “extensive exploration of one’s personal thoughts and feelings” that spiritual training encourages “may be particularly appealing” to narcissists, the authors write.

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily

‘Thirst’ aid: Does drinking lots of water lead to happiness and health?

December 24, 2020

Does being properly hydrated have a transcendent effect on our lives? A new survey of 2,000 Americans has found that those of us who drink six or more glasses of water daily tend to be more optimistic, energetic, and successful, according to a report by Good News Network.

Indeed, the poll—conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Bosch Home Appliances—established that people who drink a half dozen or more glasses of water per day are the most likely to strongly agree that they are “very happy” (41%).

Compare that to those who self-report drinking less than one glass per day: Only 12% strongly agree with that same statement.

What’s more, 40% of those who drink six or optimistic by nature, compared to just 10% of those who drink less than one glass of water a day.

Refreshment also could be the key to waking up feeling refreshed. The study found that those who drink six or more glasses woke up feeling exhausted fewer times each week (2.59) than those who drink less than one glass of water a day (3.14).

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork

Study: Eating peanuts daily may reverse metabolic syndrome, a condition that affects 23% of adults

December 3, 2020

The Peanut Institute is sharing the results of recent research, which found that eating two ounces of lightly salted peanuts daily for 12 weeks may help reverse a medical condition known as metabolic syndrome.

The study—conducted by scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Shanghai Institute of Nutrition and Health, and published in the current online issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionestablished that those who ate peanuts had a two times higher likelihood of reversing their metabolic syndrome than those in a control group

The study is a first-of-its-kind to look at the effects of peanut consumption on a medical classification that, according to the American Heart Association, affects approximately 23% of adults.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and diseases related to fatty buildups in artery walls. Those with metabolic syndrome are five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and two times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease within 10 years as someone without it. Some of the characteristics of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abdominal obesity and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. 

The 12-week dietary intervention study was conducted October 2017 through January 2018 with 224 participants who either had metabolic syndrome or were at risk for it.

“This study is unique because it added just one new element to participants’ diets with the introduction of two servings of peanuts each day,” says Dr. Samara Sterling, director of research for The Peanut Institute. “The research showed the impact of nutrient-dense peanuts and how they positively affected participants’ health outcomes.”

The study also found that eating two servings of peanuts daily for 12 weeks did not cause participants to gain weight. 

“It’s exciting research because it supports the approach that food can be thought of as medicine in the fight against chronic diseases,” says Sterling. “Peanuts are packed with nutrients and are able to deliver health benefits in a small and affordable serving.”

Two servings, or approximately 70 peanuts, cost less than 30ȼ, are about 170 calories— and contain 14 grams of plant protein, plus 19 vitamins and minerals.

Peanuts also have antioxidants, polyphenols, and phytosterols—plant substances that have been shown to help reduce cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, lower inflammation and cholesterol, and improve blood flow. In addition, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in peanuts, like those in olive oil and avocados, help decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL cholesterol.

Research contact: @PeanutInstitute 

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

Taking the ‘lawn’ view: Scientists look to grass as next vegan protein source

November 20, 2019

Why bring salad to a picnic?  Soon, grass—not marijuana; but the lawn and turf type—may be used as a source of vegan protein, according to a group of researchers from Technical University of Denmark’s National Food Institute and Aarhus University in Denmark.

While the fibrous nature of grass is difficult to digest and metabolize by humans, the researchers have developed a method to distill protein powder from grass matter, particularly ryegrass, according to a report by Veg News.

The resulting powder has a similar amino acid profile to soy, eggs, and whey—and can be used in a variety of applications once the researchers further reduce its naturally bitter flavor.

“The ambition is that research from the National Food Institute can make the utilization of grass profitable. It must be able to compete with cheap products such as soy. It should be cheap to buy, offer good functionality in foods, and it must be tasty,” Peter Ruhdal Jense, professor at DTU’s National Food Institute, told Foodnavigator during a November 13 interview.

 “The idea,” Jense said, “is that we will eat many products based on grass. In particular, the market seems to be big among young consumers who, fortunately, pay great attention to the environment and sustainability.”

Commercialization of grass protein depends on the approval of the European Union of the novel ingredient as safe for human consumption, a process that the scientists plan to support with further research. “In that way, the Institute contributes to us moving closer to a radical change in our eating habits—away from animal proteins that have an adverse impact on the environment and towards more sustainable alternatives,” Jensen said.

Research contact: @VegNews

A change of heart? Tiny wearable sensors will help expectant moms track fetuses’ heartbeat, movements

August 23, 2019

About 2.6 million women and their loved ones experience the pain and loss of a stillbirth each year, according to The World Health Organization. Now, researchers have developed a device that will give expectant mothers more “control” over and knowledge about their pregnancies—in real-time, with a tiny, non-invasive fetal heartrate monitor, which they claim is more accurate than anything else yet on the market.

The thump, thump of a baby’s heartbeat is a milestone in any pregnancy. Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey,  have conducted a pilot study in which a sensor—worn on the mother’s abdomen—records vibrations when her baby’s heart beats or when the fetus squirms and kicks. 

. “Almost a third of stillbirths occur in the absence of complicating factors,” said Negar Tavassolian, director of the Stevens Bio-Electromagnetics Laboratory.”Our device could let a pregnant woman know if her fetus is compromised and she needs to go to the doctor.”

Many stillbirths are preceded by variations in fetal movement and heartrate, so affordable, lightweight monitors that detect vibrations generated from a heartbeat could be worn continuously in the final weeks of pregnancy to ensure that distressed fetuses receive prompt medical attention. The work is reported in the early access issue of IEEE Sensors Journal.

Tavassolian and first author Chenxi Yang, a graduate student at Stevens, teamed up with Bruce Young and Clarel Antoine, two OB-GYNs at New York University-Langone Medical Center to test their sensors. In experiments on 10 pregnant women, they found the device could detect fetal heartrate with about the same accuracy as fetal cardiotocograms (f-CTG), which measure the baby’s heart electrical activity (ECG) together with mother’s uterine contractions—and is considered the current standard for fetal monitoring.

A vibration monitor offers important advantages over existing tools based on ECG or Doppler ultrasound technology, which require specialized knowledge to use, and can be bulky and expensive. One leading monitor system currently on the market weighs more than 11 pounds and has a battery life of four hours; by contrast, the Stevens team’s sensors are barely a fifth-of-an-inch long, weigh next to nothing, and can run off a 3-volt battery for more than 24 hours.

The new monitor poses no risk to the fetus—a concern with ultrasound monitors, which can heat tissue if used continuously for long periods. The Stevens team’s monitor simply detects existing vibrations, like a doctor listening with a stethoscope. “Our monitors are completely passive, so there’s no health concern,” Tavassolian said.

Vibration monitors can also offer an objective measure of fetal movement, which is currently assessed simply by asking moms to count the times their baby kicks. Combining heart-rate and movement data could provide vital insights into fetal health, surpassing anything that’s currently available, Yang explained. “That’s the big plan — to fuse these different modalities into a single device,” he said.

The current device uses commercially available sensors, but the long-term goal is to patent and market a custom-built device.

Research contact: @FollowStevens

When life leaves you off-balance: New research focuses on ‘dizziness of unknown cause’

August 6, 2019

When life leaves you, literally, “in the lurch”—suffering from functional dizziness that cannot be linked to an organic cause, no matter how many doctors you may visit or tests you may take—is there any hope for recovery?

For the very first time, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany say the answer is yes: Results of a study released on August 5 indicate that people who frequently feel light-headed, woozy, or unbalanced may be suffered from perception disorders.

Specifically, they have found symptoms that resemble those associated with dizziness due to organic causes-but that, instead, are caused by a malfunctioning of the processing of sensory-motor signals in the brain.

The Munich researchers already had postulated several years ago that such functional disorders might be caused by faulty processing of sensory stimuli. The team, headed by Professor Nadine Lehnen, senior physician for Psychosomatic Medicine at the TUM University Hospital rechts der Isar [located to the right of the Isar river], was able to provide more support for this theory by conducting an experimental pilot study.

Eight patients with functional dizziness, along with 11 healthy subjects, participated in the study. The researchers also used data from patients whose dizziness had been linked with organic defects—and who had previously taken part in the same experiment. Those patients had either a cerebellar disorder or a complete loss of functioning vestibular (equilibrium) nerves.

During the experiment, the participants sat in a dark room looking straight ahead while lights were flashed to their right and their left. They then were asked to look in the direction of the light points. Their eye and head movements during the gaze shifts were recorded. The subjects then were fitted with a weighted helmet to alter the inertia of their head. This resulted in significant head wobbling. The experiment was performed with and without the helmet.

Whereas the healthy subjects quickly adapted their movements to the new circumstances and managed to stop their head from wobbling, all the subjects with functional dizziness found the task difficult to perform. What surprised the research team was the fact that the latter behaved in exactly the same way as subjects with dizziness due to massive organic defects.

“Our results clearly show that functional dizziness is manifested exactly like severe physical disorders, for example after complete functional loss of the vestibular nerves. This reflects how severely impaired these people are,” Professor Lehnen said in a press release..

Based on previous experience, which is stored in the brain in the form of learned models, people have a certain expectation about the sensory impressions evoked by a movement. This expectation is compared with information from the vestibular organs. If the head behaves differently than normal, the two sets of information no longer match. This creates an imbalance between expectation and reality, a state known as prediction error.

“Healthy people can easily perceive this error, process it and adapt their movements accordingly. Patients with functional dizziness, by contrast, do not appear to process sensory-motor impressions correctly. They rely primarily on their stored model, but it no longer matches the new reality,” Nadine Lehnen explains.

Can the condition be improved? She notes, “We were excited to observe that they are still able to learn—albeit only to a limited degree.” It would therefore be important to treat such patients using therapeutic approaches that take into account this processing deficit. A large-scale study is planned to corroborate the recent findings.

Research contact: Nadine.Lehnen@mri.tum.de

Cold comfort: Incoming medical students should be tested for empathy, study says

August 5, 2019

We’ve all been there—especially the women among our readers: Sitting in a doctor’s office and explaining our symptoms to a medical professional who is completely dismissive, disinterested, and in disbelief.

Worse yet is the practitioner who blames the patient for the condition—and lets her (or him) know about it through insolent or disdainful body language and comments.

Heather Cianciolo says she can tell within minutes if she’s going to like a doctor. “Ten minutes into a doctor’s appointment and I know if it’s going to be a waste of my time,” she said. “It’s a warning sign if someone doesn’t come in and ask me about me—{but rather] just starts talking at me.

“And it happens a lot,” she told The Chicago Tribune for a recent story.

The 46-year-old Oak Park, Illinois, woman—who has long suffered from migraine headaches— said she had to “go through” several specialists who didn’t listen to her before finding one she loves who is now her primary care physician.

“She listens and then she will explain her thinking. She expresses an interest in what’s happening,” Cianciolo said. “If you’re not going to take the time to answer my questions, why would I entrust my health care to you?”

Experts say the ability for doctors to build a rapport with their patients helps build trust and, in turn, improves patient outcomes.

In fact, Mohammadreza Hojat—a research professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who recently designed a questionnaire for  more than 16,000 students of osteopathic medicine—suggests that a norm-level of empathy could (and should) be required for all incoming medical students nationwide, according to the report by the Tribune.

Once a norm-level is established, Dr. Hojat suggests, medical schools should use the data to assess for empathy, alongside academic measures like college transcripts and MCAT scores, when considering medical school applicants.

 “There are two components of medicine. One component is the science of medicine and one component is the art of medicine,” Dr. Hojat told the Tribune. “When it comes to art of medicine, it is about interpersonal relationships and empathy, and we have no method in place” to measure that in medical students’ applicants.

Although empathy can be taught, Hojat said, students who already come to medical school with a strong sense of empathy will make better doctors. And he noted that, although the study focused on students of osteopathic medicine, the tool should be used by traditional medical schools.

Dr. John Prescott, chief academic officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in a statement that “humanism and empathy are critical qualities required of tomorrow’s physicians.” But the statement also claimed that medical schools already look at a “holistic review of applicants … which looks beyond grades and test scores.”

And Jean Decety, a University of Chicago neuroscientist who studies empathy, told the news outlet that, although he hadn’t read the study, his work has shown that empathy only is important for “certain types of physicians.”

In fact, he said, some students will go into specialties that don’t require strong interpersonal skills—for example, radiologists who mostly read images, or surgeons who require excellent technical skills but not necessarily a lot of empathy.

“That’s what you want from your surgeon,” he said.

The study was published July 25 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

‘Smart cars’ are too ‘demanding and confusing’ for older drivers

August 2, 2019

“It was a comedy of errors,” said a 71-year-old participant in a recent study conducted by the University of Utah on behalf of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety—during which, among other things, he was asked to program car’s infotainment system.

The new AAA car safety study suggests that tech-laden “smart” cars are too distracting, which can undermine efforts to keep roadways safe, especially when those getting behind the wheel are aged 55 and over, NBC News reports.

Indeed, the researchers say that all of the bells and whistles on new cars may be perceived as demanding and confusing by older drivers.

“The technology we’re putting in cars today [is] unsafe for all of us to use, especially for older adults,” said Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research. “Our advice to consumers is that just because technology is built into your car doesn’t mean that it’s safe to do those things.”

In the study, drivers were divided into two groups— a younger group (ages 21 to 36) and an older group (ages 55 to 75). Each participant was asked to drive a 2018 car equipped with a number of “smart” features, including navigation screens and voice activation controls.

Among the tasks drivers were asked to complete: sending a text message, programming music, programming a navigation system, and placing a call.

Overall, the study found, older drivers experienced higher levels of cognitive and visual demand, compared to younger drivers. These differences were even more pronounced for older drivers when completing any in-vehicle information system task, or IVIS. But the study found that older and younger drivers both found some tech features challenging and time-consuming.

“Given the demands associated with IVIS tasks,” the study concluded, “drivers of all ages should use these infotainment technologies only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes.”

Paul Brown, a 71-year-old retired attorney who resides in Salt Lake City, is one of the drivers who took part in the study. “I don’t need something that is going to do everything for me and distract me while I’m driving,” Brown said. “Quite frankly, when I was driving, I found myself feeling as if I was driving dangerously because of all of those distractions.”

Brown said he found the large display screen situated to the right of the steering wheel in the cars he drove for the study especially distracting.

“If I was driving that kind of car, I would probably put a napkin or blanket or something over that screen so that I could concentrate on driving the car,” Brown said, adding that he prefers older, simpler cars.

Nelson said that making cars more user-friendly for older drivers ultimately makes cars safer for everyone. “If we can design a system to make it so that utilizing a car’s features is no more distracting than tuning your radio, if we can achieve that for the older adult driver, we can all benefit from that,” Nelson said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Bitter pills: High dementia risk linked to category of prescription drugs called anticholinergics

June 27, 2019

Prescription pills that many people take for what ails them actually may be putting them at risk for dementia, results of a study conducted by the UK’s University of Nottingham, Aldermoor Health Centre, and University of Oxford have demonstrated.

The drugs—anticholinergics—are widely prescribed for such conditions as  urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, depression and psychosis, gastrointestinal conditions, and the involuntary muscle movements associated with Parkinson’s disease. Examples include atropine, bentropine mesylate, clidinium, dicylomine, oxybutynin, scopolamine, solifenacin, and tiotroplum—but there are many more.

Anticholinergic drugs are used to block the action of acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that transfers signals between certain cells to affect your body functions, according to Healthline.

The investigation—published on June 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association–Internal Medicinefound that patients over the age of 55 who took anticholinergic medication each day for more than three years had a 50% greater risk of developing dementia.

“This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” Tom Dening, one of the authors and head of the Center for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, said in a press release. “However, it’s important that patients taking medications of this kind don’t just stop them abruptly, as this may be much more harmful. If patients have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving.”

According to a report by Newsweek, the researchers analyzed medical data on nearly 59,000 people with dementia, which they collected between January 2004 and January 2016. Of the records they analyzed, the average age of patients was 82 and about 63% of them were women.

Approximately 57% of the patients in the study received a prescription for at least one strong anticholinergic drug, one to 11 years before being diagnosed with dementia. Although the link found between the drugs and development of dementia appears strong, the researchers noted that their findings are associations and do not show that the drugs cause dementia.

“Further research is needed to confirm whether or not the association between these drugs and risk of dementia is causal. These drugs are prescribed for a number of health conditions and any concerns patients might have about them should be discussed with their doctors,” Professor Martin Rossor, NIHR National Director of Dementia Research, based in London, told Newsweek.

Research contact: @Newsweek