Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hGC), a hormone produced during pregnancy, is isolated from the urine of pregnant women and used to treat infertility. Since the 1950s, however, it’s also been used as a weight-loss aid—and still is, even though there’s no solid evidence showing it works.
But taking hCG could be worse than just ineffective: A new study shows that doses of the hormone can transmit prions, the misfolded proteins that cause mad cow disease and its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an invariably fatal form of dementia that riddles the brain with holes (photo).
That’s right: There’s a potential risk of contracting deadly, brain-destroying illness by injecting yourself with proteins taken from other people’s urine—and you won’t even lose weight.
The tiny device, called abiliti and made by Intrapace, attaches to the vagus nerve, which sends status updates about the body’s organs to the brain. The pacemaker then hacks the nervous system’s normal communication, according to the company’s website:
The abiliti system is designed to support these good habits by making the patient feel full sooner when eating. The abiliti system may also help in keeping them satisfied longer and helping them to eat less frequently.
Intrapace reports that the 65 study participants in the initial trials have lost on average 22 percent of their body weight; the biggest loser dropped 38 percent. (These results haven’t been published or peer-reviewed.)
Those people living in areas with higher numbers of mobile phone towers have more children, new research is showing (spreadsheet). Matt Parker at The Guardian’s Notes & Theories blog did the analysis of publicly available data and found the correlation:
Could it be possible that mobile phone radiation somehow aids fertilisation, or maybe there’s just something romantic about a mobile phone transmitter mast [aka tower] protruding from the landscape?
The data show that there is a very strong correlation between the number of cell phone towers and the birth rate in communities. For every additional phone tower, there are 17.6 more babies than the national average, Parker writes in his blog post:
When a regression line is calculated it has a “correlation coefficient” (a measure of how good the match is) of 98.1 out of 100. To be “statistically significant” a pattern in a dataset needs to be less than 5% likely to be found in random data (known as a “p-value”), and the masts-births correlation only has a 0.00003% probability of occurring by chance.
With all that fancy math talk, this sounds pretty conclusive, huh? But read on.
A prophetic story from The Onion in 2003 seems to be coming true: our pets and even lab and wild animals are becoming obese alongside humans:
Amid a barrage of commercials for new diet dog and cat foods, many owners say that their pets are being held to impossibly high animal-body standards perpetrated by the media. “I don’t care what anyone says, my Sassy looks good,” said Janice Guswhite.
Back in the non-satirical world, the findings are alarming. A study of over 20,000 animals from 12 different populations, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that over the last 20 years the animals in every population they studied have been growing significantly tubbier, paralleling the human obesity epidemic.
Not only pets are fattening up–the group also studied wild animals living near humans and animals living in labs and zoos. All of them have been chubbing-out over the last two decades. This could mean we are thinking about the obesity epidemic all wrong, lead author David Allison told Nature News:
A decision made Tuesday by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors may make little kids (and probably some adults) cry. With an un-vetoable vote of 8 to 3, the board banned restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Burger King from giving out toys with “unhealthy” happy meals within San Francisco’s city limits.
The decision is preliminary and will be followed up by a second debate and vote on Tuesday, November 9.
Under the proposed rule, meals deemed healthy can still be packed with action figures. To meet the city’s “healthy” standard a kid’s meal must contain fewer than 640 milligrams of sodium and 600 calories, and under 35 percent of those calories can come from fat. It also has to include a serving of fruit or vegetable with each meal and meet a number of other requirements (pdf).
The majority of McDonald’s Happy Meal options don’t meet these standards, including ALL of the cheeseburger options and any meal with fries. McDonald’s spokesperson told The New York Times they don’t agree with the Supervisors’ stance:
McDonald’s called the bill misguided. “It’s not what our customers want,” said Danya Proud, a spokeswoman for the company, in a statement. “Nor is it something they asked for.”
The ubiquitous sticky sweetener is considered poison by many foodies and some public health officials, who worry that HFCS-packed processed foods contribute to obesity. But the companies that make the sweetener–the Corn Refiners Group–are hoping that changing the name of the product will change its image, as their president told the New York Times:
“Clearly the name is confusing consumers,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington-based group, in an interview. “Research shows that ‘corn sugar’ better communicates the amount of calories, the level of fructose and the sweetness in this ingredient.”
The Times asked six leading nutritionists what they thought of the new name, and what they would rename it, given the chance. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, would rename HFCS “enzymatically altered corn glucose” because he says:
The name also connotes a highly-processed, novel food ingredient, which has always been the best reason to avoid it….
The biggest threat to American security may not be scheming terrorists or secretive cyber attacks–it may be the growing girth of the average American youth.
Retired army generals John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, who have both served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argue that the obesity epidemic is rendering too many Americans unfit for duty. As the generals write in a Washington Post op-ed:
It seems incredible, but these are the facts: As of 2005, at least 9 million young adults — 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24 — were too overweight to serve in the military, according to the Army’s analysis of national data.
Since 1995, the number of recruits who have failed their medical exams because they’re overweight or obese has increased 70 percent. The generals say that to defuse this national security threat, the United States needs to get to potential soldiers when they’re young. They urge Congress to pass a child nutrition bill that would get junk food and soda out of schools, and that would make school lunches more nutritious.
If they’re really serious about this campaign, though, they might want to consider replacing lunchroom monitors with drill sergeants, who could scream at the little maggots to put down the Hostess CupCakes and to drop and give them 20.
Discoblog: New Villain in the Obesity Epidemic: Mean Gym Teachers
Discoblog: Fighting Child Obesity, One Bake Sale at a Time
80beats: Rats Fed on Bacon, Cheesecake, and Ding-Dongs Become Addicted to Junk Food
80beats: Obese Kids Have the Arteries of 45-Year-Olds, Study Finds
Image: Flickr / See-ming Lee
It’s a common nutritional fail–you pledge to make a nice, fresh home-cooked meal, but get impatient and opt for fast food instead. Now, new research suggests that ‘we are how we eat’ and that the mere thought of fast food can result in general impatience.
Researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a series of experiments in which they showed volunteers logos from several fast-food chains or asked them to recall the last time they’d visited, writes Scientific American.
And they found that folks who had thought about fast food would then read faster, even though no one told them to hurry. And they also expressed a preference for time-saving products, like shampoo plus conditioner. And they tended to opt for immediate rewards, like getting a small cash payment right away rather than waiting a week for a larger sum.
Looking at the results, the researchers conclude that a fast-food lifestyle may not only impacts people’s waistlines, but may also have a far-reaching and often unconscious impact on their behavior.
To chart the rise in obesity over the last 1,000 years, look no further than artists’ depictions of the Last Supper.
Researchers from Cornell University have found that as people began consuming more food over the centuries, more items have been added to the menu at the Last Supper. While the Bible says that Jesus and his disciples ate bread and drank wine, paintings of the meal over the last 1,000 years have varied wildly and have featured fruits, fish, and even a head of lamb in one case.
And painters haven’t just added food items over the years; they’ve also increased the sizes of the plates and loaves of bread. Researchers say this points to a growing problem with portion size, which has contributed to the current obesity epidemic.
You’ve seen this ad before.
Weight loss program Jenny Craig’s spokeswoman, actress Valerie Bertinelli, is hanging out in a gleaming white “lab,” surrounded by guys in thick-framed glasses and lab coats. She gleefully announces that people on the Jenny diet lost two times as much weight as those who were on the other big diet program (read: Weight Watchers). She also claims that the results were an outcome of a “major clinical trial run by serious lab geeks.”
Now, Weight Watchers has lashed back, dragging Jenny to court–alleging that the ad campaign makes “deceptive claims” about its success rate.