Drinking too much milk could kill you.

By Seriously Science | October 30, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/mycael

Photo: flickr/mycael

Are you lactose intolerant? If so, it looks like you’ve dodged a bullet: according to this study, high milk consumption (more than one glass a day) is associated with a higher risk of mortality in both men and women. The data come from a large study that took place in Sweden in the ’80s and ’90s. One of the main results is that each daily glass of milk increases risk of death in both men and women and, contrary to popular belief, actually increases the risk of bone fractures in women. The authors caution that these associations could be affected by confounders and reverse causation (e.g., women who were already at a high risk of bone fractures tend to drink more milk). But even so,  I think I’ll stick to my almond milk, just in case. 

Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies

“Objective To examine whether high milk consumption is associated with mortality and fractures in women and men.

Design Cohort studies.

Setting Three counties in central Sweden.

Participants Two large Swedish cohorts, one with 61 433 women (39-74 years at baseline 1987-90) and one with 45 339 men (45-79 years at baseline 1997), were administered food frequency questionnaires. The women responded to a second food frequency questionnaire in 1997.

Main outcome measure Multivariable survival models were applied to determine the association between milk consumption and time to mortality or fracture.

Results During a mean follow-up of 20.1 years, 15 541 women died and 17 252 had a fracture, of whom 4259 had a hip fracture. In the male cohort with a mean follow-up of 11.2 years, 10 112 men died and 5066 had a fracture, with 1166 hip fracture cases. In women the adjusted mortality hazard ratio for three or more glasses of milk a day compared with less than one glass a day was 1.93 (95% confidence interval 1.80 to 2.06). For every glass of milk, the adjusted hazard ratio of all cause mortality was 1.15 (1.13 to 1.17) in women and 1.03 (1.01 to 1.04) in men. For every glass of milk in women no reduction was observed in fracture risk with higher milk consumption for any fracture (1.02, 1.00 to 1.04) or for hip fracture (1.09, 1.05 to 1.13). The corresponding adjusted hazard ratios in men were 1.01 (0.99 to 1.03) and 1.03 (0.99 to 1.07). In subsamples of two additional cohorts, one in males and one in females, a positive association was seen between milk intake and both urine 8-iso-PGF2α (a biomarker of oxidative stress) and serum interleukin 6 (a main inflammatory biomarker).

Conclusions High milk intake was associated with higher mortality in one cohort of women and in another cohort of men, and with higher fracture incidence in women. Given the observational study designs with the inherent possibility of residual confounding and reverse causation phenomena, a cautious interpretation of the results is recommended.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: The calming effect of a maternal breast milk odor on the human newborn infant.
NCBI ROFL: On how to “milk” your ostrich.
NCBI ROFL: Effect of milk on the deodorization of malodorous breath after garlic ingestion.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, holy correlation batman!

How many sexual partners does it take to reduce your risk of prostate cancer? (Hint: in this case, less isn’t more!)

By Seriously Science | October 29, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/dave77459

Photo: flickr/dave77459

The answer: more than 20(!), according to this study of over 3,000 men out of Montreal, Canada — but only if they’re female. (Apparently, having more than 20 male sexual partners is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.) Although this is just a correlation, it’s certainly interesting. And if it’s not the number of sexual partners that reduces prostate cancer risk, but something else these ladies men have in common, we definitely want to know what that is!  But, meanwhile, do you know your number? 

Sexual partners, sexually transmitted infections, and prostate cancer risk

“Background: The etiology of prostate cancer (PCa) is poorly understood. Sexual activity and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are among factors under scrutiny, with controversial findings to date. Read More

Jewel wasps use special sensors on their stingers to inject toxins directly into cockroach brains.

By Seriously Science | October 28, 2014 6:00 am
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Not only does this paper have one of the best titles we’ve heard yet, but the scenario it describes is perfect for the next big sci-fi blockbuster. There are many species of wasps that parasitize other insects by injecting them with their larvae, which will grow inside the poor victims until they are large enough to eat their way out. But the parasitoid jewel wasp goes a step further: it first injects the brain of its cockroach prey with toxins that turn the roach into a zombie. In this study, the scientists set out to determine how the jewel wasp is able to identify exactly where in the cockroach to insert its stinger. Turns out that the wasps’ stingers have special neurons that are sensitive to touch (“mechanosensitive”), and these neurons are activated when touching objects with a similar hardness to cockroach heads. Furthermore, the jewel wasps were able to inject cockroaches whose brains were replaced with hard substances but not soft substances, suggesting that the stinger neurons are able to identify cockroach heads by hardness. I don’t know about you, but I’m just glad my research doesn’t involve removing brains from cockroaches.

Sensory arsenal on the stinger of the parasitoid jewel wasp and its possible role in identifying cockroach brains.

“The parasitoid jewel wasp uses cockroaches as live food supply for its developing larva. To this end, the adult wasp stings a cockroach and injects venom directly inside its brain, turning the prey into a submissive ‘zombie’. Here, we characterize the sensory arsenal on the wasp’s stinger that enables the wasp to identify the brain target inside the cockroach’s head. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Why you should always make important decisions on an empty stomach.

By Seriously Science | October 27, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/pranavian

Photo: flickr/pranavian

If you’re anything like me, you get pretty grumpy when you’re hungry (a condition also known as “hangry“). However, according to this study, being hungry also helps you make better decisions. To test this, the researchers forced subjects to fast for a night. When the subjects arrived at the laboratory the next day, the scientists served some of them breakfast, but made the others wait. All of them then took the “Iowa Gambling Task”, a psychological test based on gambling that is supposed to simulate real-life decision making (you can try it yourself via an iTunes app). The researchers found that the subjects who were hungry actually made more advantageous choices and performed better than those who were sated. Being hungry also helped people resist choices that were disadvantageous in the long run, even if they brought immediate big rewards. There you have it: people make better choices when hungry. So the next time you go to a casino, consider skipping the buffet.

Always Gamble on an Empty Stomach: Hunger Is Associated with Advantageous Decision Making

“Three experimental studies examined the counterintuitive hypothesis that hunger improves strategic decision making, arguing that people in a hot state are better able to make favorable decisions involving uncertain outcomes. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, holy correlation batman!

Flashback Friday: The science behind why we put milk on cereal (and not water).

By Seriously Science | October 24, 2014 10:07 am
Photo: flickr/musicfanatic29

Photo: flickr/musicfanatic29

Have you ever wondered why we put milk on cereal? Why not juice, water, or any of the other assorted liquids we consume daily? Well, these food scientists finally did the experiments to find out. Turns out that milk, due to its fat content, coats the cereal and keeps it from getting soggy as quickly as it does in pure water. Be sure to read on to the abstract below for some of our favorite examples of (U)nnecessary (A)cronyms (UA)!

Physical properties and microstructural changes during soaking of individual corn and quinoa breakfast flakes.

“The importance of breakfast cereal flakes (BCF) in Western diets deserves an understanding of changes in their mechanical properties and microstructure that occur during soaking in a liquid (that is, milk or water) prior to consumption. The maximum rupture force (RF) of 2 types of breakfast flaked products (BFP)–corn flakes (CF) and quinoa flakes (QF)–were measured directly while immersed in milk with 2% of fat content (milk 2%) or distilled water for different periods of time between 5 and 300 s. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, told you so

Study finds that women who are ovulating are more into kissing.

By Seriously Science | October 23, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidchief/1006785809

Photo: flickr/davidchief

Over the years we’ve featured a number of studies that attempt to associate ovulation with  specific (and often complicated) behaviors in women, ranging from the accuracy of their gaydar to their likeliness to vote Republican or Democrat. In this study, the researchers used an “international online questionnaire” to determine whether women’s opinions of romantic kissing changes through their menstrual cycle. And sure enough, ovulating women felt that kissing was more important in the initial stages of the relationship than women who were not ovulating, and this association was related to hormone levels. Not only that, but ovulating women also placed more weight on the “pleasantness of a man’s breath”, which the authors suggest could be related to detecting pheremones.  Although this study did not determine if ovulating women like kissing as a result of  an overall increase in sexual appetite  or whether it somehow helps a woman assess potential mates, we’re pretty sure that study is being done; scientists sure do like ovulating women!

Menstrual cycle effects on attitudes toward romantic kissing.

“Hormonal changes associated with the human menstrual cycle have been previously found to affect female mate preference, whereby women in the late follicular phase of their cycle (i.e., at higher risk of conception) prefer males displaying putative signals of underlying genetic fitness. Past research also suggests that romantic kissing is utilized in human mating contexts to assess potential mating partners. The current study examined whether women in their late follicular cycle phase place greater value on kissing at times when it might help serve mate assessment functions. Read More

Is there such a thing as a “schadenfreude face”?

By Seriously Science | October 22, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Moyan Brenn

Photo: Flickr/Moyan Brenn

And who better to answer this burning question than… a group of German scientists?! To determine if a person’s facial expression is different when one is feeling plain ol’ happy vs. happy because of others’ misfortunes, the scientists had a group of subjects watch soccer and then measured the activation of their facial muscles. Unfortunately, the researchers were not able to detect any differences in how the subjects’ faces moved when their team scored or when the other team missed a shot; consequently, they concluded that there is no such thing as a “schadenfreude face.” Maybe they should have tested toddlers instead…

The face of schadenfreude: Differentiation of joy and schadenfreude by electromyography.

“The present study investigated whether the facial expression of the social emotion schadenfreude, the pleasant emotion which arises in response to another’s misfortune, can be differentiated from the facial expression of joy. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, rated G

Why are humans the only animals that flirt?

By Seriously Science | October 21, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/alyssafilmmaker

Photo: flickr/alyssafilmmaker

As far as scientists can tell, humans are the only animals with “covert sexual signaling” (aka flirting). In many other species, males are very overt about their courtship signals, even to the extent of expensive, colorful displays. The authors of this study hypothesize that flirting is unique to humans because there are socially imposed costs to being too overt with courtship displays. Basically, in certain situations (work, for example, or in front of your crush’s spouse), it could be socially costly to be too obvious with attempts to attract a mate. Therefore, humans have developed subtle signals that can potentially go unnoticed by all but the intended recipient. Our question is this: if other animals were to flirt, would we even be able to detect it?

Covert sexual signaling: Human flirtation and implications for other social species.

“According to signaling theory and a large body of supporting evidence, males across many taxa produce courtship signals that honestly advertise their quality. The cost of producing or performing these signals maintains signal honesty, such that females are typically able to choose the best males by selecting those that produce the loudest, brightest, longest, or otherwise highest-intensity signals, using signal strength as a measure of quality. Set against this background, human flirting behavior, characterized by its frequent subtlety or covertness, is mysterious. Read More


This swallowing detector tracks everything that goes down your throat.

By Seriously Science | October 20, 2014 6:00 am

“The AID-HMS determines the levels of ingestion activity from sounds captured by an external throat microphone.”

Even though the obesity epidemic is getting out of control, dietary research still heavily relies on self-reported survey data, which is often incorrect. One option to get around this is to have people eat in a lab, but that would likely interfere with their natural eating habits and produce worthless data. So, as another option, these researchers have developed the “Automated Ingestion Detection” (AID) technology to track what patients are eating. It works by wearing a microphone around your neck that records swallowing sounds, which doctors then use to record how much is going down your gullet. Although the authors only discuss how this would be used for dietary research, there are other, uh… “more adult” questions that could be readily answered by this handy device.

Automated ingestion detection for a health monitoring system.

“Obesity is a global epidemic that imposes a financial burden and increased risk for a myriad of chronic diseases. Presented here is an overview of a prototype automated ingestion detection (AID) process implemented in a health monitoring system (HMS). Read More


Flashback Friday: Sorry, no matter how long you soak your feet in vodka, you will never get drunk.

By Seriously Science | October 17, 2014 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/ hildgrim

Apparently, it’s “common knowledge” in Denmark that you can get drunk by soaking your feet in vodka. But is this true, or is this just another stupid urban legend? Well, for the good of humanity, these three doctors did the experiment to find out — on themselves. While soaking their feet in two liters of vodka, they measured their blood alcohol levels and checked for drunken behaviors every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, to the despair of everyone everywhere, the doctors were not able to detect any absorption of alcohol through their feet. However, no doubt they went home with some pretty awesome foot-infused vodka. Yum!

Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed through feet: open labelled self experimental study.

“Objective: To determine the validity of the Danish urban myth that it is possible to get drunk by submerging feet in alcohol… The primary end point was the concentration of plasma ethanol (detection limit 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL)), measured every 30 minutes for three hours while feet were submerged in a washing-up bowl containing the contents of three 700 mL bottles of vodka. The secondary outcome was self assessment of intoxication related symptoms (self confidence, urge to speak, and number of spontaneous hugs), scored on a scale of 0 to 10. Plasma ethanol concentrations were below the detection limit of 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL) throughout the experiment. No significant changes were observed in the intoxication related symptoms, although self confidence and urge to speak increased slightly at the start of the study, probably due to the setup. Our results suggest that feet are impenetrable to the alcohol component of vodka. We therefore conclude that the Danish urban myth of being able to get drunk by submerging feet in alcoholic beverages is just that; a myth. The implications of the study are many though.”

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Spring break: Prairie vole edition!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: I swear I haven’t been drinking, Officer. It was my gut flora!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Binge drinking: also a problem for our teenage rats.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethanol, told you so

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Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
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