..:: Archived Health Mysteries ::..
Blame it on the MOON
Suicide rates are affected by the moon and changes in seasons, according to researchers. A study of 1400 suicides found that people were more likely to make an attempt on their life when there was a new moon. The study, carried out by the Finnish National Public Health Institute, also suggested that suicide rates increased as winter turned into spring and summer turned into autumn. Dr. Timo Partonen, a researcher at the Institute, suggested that the peaks in suicide when the seasons change could be linked to changes in light and temperature which disturb the human body clock. The same phenomenon was found as summer gave way to autumn where light levels decreased but temperatures were variable. Dr. partonen said a higher rate of suicide was also linked to phases of the moon. [And you only thought that Hollywood made this stuff-up.]
Her Taste Becomes Your Taste
According to researchers with the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, exposure to flavors either through amniotic fluid or in breast milk can influence a child's food preferences. The study adds to a body of research showing that the food tastes of animals are also developed in the womb. This finding suggests a mechanism by which the fetus receives information about foods that are safe and available, according to Dr. Julie A. Mennella, one of the study's authors. It is also a way for a fetus or young child to learn about the culture. "Very early flavor experiences may provide the foundation for cultural differences," Mennella said. "Mother's milk reflects the culture in which the child is born." One group drank 300 milliliters (ml) of carrot juice four days a week for three consecutive weeks during their last trimester and again during the first two months of breast-feeding. Another group drank water during pregnancy and carrot juice during lactation and a third group drank water during both pregnancy and lactation. According to results, infants who had been exposed to the flavor of carrots through amniotic fluid or breast milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal than infants who were not exposed to the flavor of carrots. These infants also appeared to enjoy the carrot-flavored cereal more, according to the mothers. [And you thought that mom's influence included heredity only!]
Does this mean wino's will live forever?
Researchers believe they have unlocked the mystery of how an antioxidant found in grapes and red wine fights cancer. A published study concludes that the compound resveratrol, which acts like an antibiotic to protect grapes from fungus, may turn off a protein that guards cancer cells from cancer-fighting therapies such as chemotherapy. A few years ago, researchers found that resveratrol kept cells from turning cancerous and stopped the spread of malignancies. Resveratrol also blocked cell inflammation, which is linked to arthritis, heart disease, and other diseases. Resveratrol can be found in dozens of foods, including mulberries and peanuts. All wines have some resveratrol, but red wine seems to be it's richest source. Discovering the mechanisms of resveratrol is important to developing the compound as a cancer-preventive agent for humans, said John Pezzuto, a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher who first reported resveratrol's link to red wine and fighting cancer in 1997. [Eating more organically grown fruit, especially red grapes, should work to counter many degenerative diseases, even though all the reason are still somewhat of a Health Mystery.]
Distance Healing:
A technique known as therapeutic touch, prayer on someone's behalf and other kinds of "distance healing" may have a positive effect on patients, according to a University of Maryland School of Medicine researcher. John A. Astin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the school of Medicine's Complementary Medicine Program, analyzed 23 clinical studies involving prayer, a technique called non-contact therapeutic touch, as well as other unconventional forms of spiritual intervention in which there is no physical contact between the practitioner and the patient. Dr. Astin says 57 percent of the studies showed a positive impact on the patients, such as less pain or a faster than expected recovery time. "Statistically speaking, the figure of 57 percent is highly significant," says Astin, who considers himself an "open-minded skeptic." [ Whether the pointy heads can determine how it works doesn't really matter as long as good vibrations continue to be sent for all the right reasons.]
Want Boy, Head South?
The chances of giving birth to a boy increases as you head south, according to researchers. They studied birth rates across Europe and found the proportion of boys over girls rose with the temperature. The research team at St. Luke's Hospital in Malta could not suggest why this might be the case, but suggested warmth might affect fertility and gender ratios. It is known that the female fetus, is less fragile than the male fetus, which is more prone to the effects of the environment on pregnant women. [At least now we know who's the stronger of the two genders.]
Dream Weaving is Good
Where do we go when we dream? According to a leading expert on the subject, the human brain is the real 'Dreamweaver,' adding shape and color to the stuff of daily life to create those magical, sometimes scary 'home movies' in our heads. "They're the short stories we tell ourselves, picture-stories, "said Dr. G. William Domhoff of the University of California, Santa Cruz. "I think dreaming is a form of thinking that's going on during sleep,' he explained, 'but it's a pictorial form of thinking." Psychology giants Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung dominated dream theory for most of the previous century, holding that dreams represented an expression of 'unconscious' fears and desires suppressed in walking life. "For long, when I was first involved in dream research we tested those theories-in the 1960's. And we finally gave up on them, Domhoff said. "The parts of the brain that we use the most in waking aren't used at all in dreaming." Instead, research is now focusing on a 'neurocognitive' theory of dreams, which holds that various parts of the brain work in concert to turning emotionally-charged thought processes into dreams. [Happy dreams to you, and may you meet yourself again.]
The AMA (American Mystery Association) Struggles to Attract Bro
The American Medical Association is asking doctors to become salespeople to boost it flagging membership. Only about a third of the nation's 800,000-plus physicians, medical residents and medical students belong. According to the AMA, it's declining membership has been attributed largely to doctors' reluctance to pay the relatively high association fee for what they get in return. [ These power mongers will never get it.... will they?]
Touch Me, Feel Me, Give Me Great IQ
Parents need to give premature babies as much stimulation as possible to reduce the chance of learning difficulties later. Ensuring babies born weighing very little are given mental stimulation can stave off the danger of them having language and learning problems in later life. [Don't forget to stroke those future Einstein's.]
Have poison, get well!
A poison tarantula spider may help save the lives of people suffering heart attacks and brain tumors. A chemical in the Chile Rose's venom has been found to block a basic mechanism in cells important to a wide range of biological functions. Researchers at the University of Buffalo in New York found that part of the venom blocked the action of pores in the membrane around cells through which electrically charged particles travel. First there was leeches now we have tarantulas. Someday, might we see more more insects, creepy crawly creatures and less doctors? Now there's a Health Mystery many would appreciate.
Organs on different time zones
Experiments involving rats suggest that the body's liver, muscles, and lungs all have separate internal 'clocks'. This could explain why jetlagged travelers or workers changing shifts patterns feel genuine aches and illnesses because of the time differences. The researchers discovered, that the clock in the brain re-set itself within just one revolution of the circadian cycle, while the clocks in the muscle and lung took six cycles to re-set, and the liver took more than 16. As well as fatigue, jetlagged people can often have upset stomachs and aching muscles. (The clock thing is the Health Mystery, but everyone knows cramped spaces, contaminated air and stale sugared peanuts are enough to give anyone stomach and muscle problems).
The brain of a seasoned cab driver.
A study published in the proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences reports that the human brain structure changes to accommodate functional demands. This work analyzed the size and shape of cab drivers' brains and found a definite enlargement of the posterior hippocampus. This part of the brain is associated with spatial memory. It appeared to be especially prominent in the more seasoned drivers. However, to make room for this enlargement, their brains became smaller in the anterior Hippocampus; there are little data to indicate the function of that area. Other studies have found adapted brain structure changes in musicians. I predict that one day there will be an instrument read out, letting us know what each part of the brain is trying to communicate. Take for example cab drivers having smaller Hippocampus. It is obvious this message is not getting through because many become large and over weight due to the excessive sedentary lifestyles.
Babble: The universal language.
The sound babies make when they talk or babble could hold the key to understanding how language developed. According to the journal Science, two researchers from the University of Texas have found that four common world patterns which are used by babies, often turn into the first actual words they ever speak. The way we speak has developed in a certain way because of the natural movements of our mouth. Sounds that we make most easily are produced when we move our lower jaw up and down. These sounds could hold the key to the way language developed. The researchers from the University of Texas found there are four patterns of words, common to baby babbling. Sounds like; 'ma-ma', 'da-da', 'ba-ba', 'ta-ta', are used frequently in many languages. In addition, they make up the first words that young children learn when they start to speak. According to a professor Locke, it is entirely probable that early human babies produced the same sounds as modern babies, and as language developed, these sounds were used. The mystery of language continues.
Chew on this Health Mystery
Japanese researchers suspect that memory loss can be minimized by the action of chewing. They don't know quite why, but their studies of mice indicate that something about the chewing motion stimulates the hippocampus and helps mice perform better on memory tests as they age. Happy chewing!
Bring on Beethoven!
Gentle melodies strummed on a 6-foot tall harp lift into nurseries where critically ill newborns cling to life at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "It just puts them in a more restful state," says student musician Betty-Ashton Andrews, who is experimenting with music to help infants. "It makes it easier to grow and heal." There is only budding scientific proof that such therapy helps newborns, but that does not dissuade Andrews, from conducting her once-weekly concerts at the hospital's newborn intensive care unit. Nurses and parents say they note subtle changes in the babies when Andrews plays the most welcome balm for a trying time. For the babies, it muffles the frightening sounds of machines and unusual voices, and soothes them to sleep when their mother cannot. Neonatal infant care unit manager Diane Deslauries said the babies' heart rates seem to go down and they seem to rely less on their respirators when they hear harp music. This Health Mystery seems like a sound massage of sorts!
Women have longer warranties
Women have a natural genetic advantage over men, which allows them to live longer. Despite the less healthy lifestyles of men in the past, experts have still been slightly puzzled as to why the average life span of a woman approaches 80 years, while the average man lives some four or five years less. The secret they say lies in the chromosomes in each cell, which hold all the genetic instructions to make the body function properly. Although many scientists believe there is a genetic reason why woman live longer, conventional wisdom states that there are other significant reasons why this should be the case. In particular, men have historically smoked more, drunk more alcohol, and engaged in more risk taking activities than women. I am sure genetics must have a role; however, there are many other factors to consider as well. You guessed it: a Health Mystery it is!
Got voices, get magnetized!
Using magnets to stimulate a particular area of the brain can reduce auditory hallucinations experienced by patients with schizophrenia, report US researchers. Approximately 50% to 70% of patients with schizophrenia report having hallucinations, often in the form of imaginary voices. Drugs offer little help, and these hallucinations can cause distress, disability, and leave patients unable to control their behavior. Previous experiments have shown that a brain area called the temporoparietal cortex, which is at the side of the brain, is activated during auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia patients. While other experiments have shown that applying a magnetic field to this area reduces the activation. I wonder what the electro-shockers and psychotropic drug pushers will have to say about this? My guess is...nothing! After all, if this Health Mystery got out, their incomes would plummet!
South Paws be prepared!
People who are left-handed are twice as likely to suffer from bowel disease than right-handers are, claim scientists. A study of more than 20,000 people in the UK found that the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, usually Crohn's disease or Ulcerative Colitis, was double in left-handed people. Although the prevalence of left-handedness in the general population is around one in ten, 21% of the people found to have inflammatory bowel disease were left-handed. The research, done by a team at the Royal Free Hospital and University College in London, comes after earlier studies showed left-handers are at increased risk of other conditions such as Asthma and Diabetes. "The reasons are uncertain and speculative," making it a shoe-in for a Health Mystery!
Will your "sign" determine your illness?
The majority of children diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) first developed during the autumn school term, according to research. Most came from the top two social classes, with half in private education. Only one in five came from a broken home. Experts believe they may know why heading back to school after the summer holiday can be the riskiest time for developing CFS, and why privileged children are most likely to fall ill. It is thought that the high stress environment of school, combined with the arrival of infectious illnesses brought on by the winter and the classroom environment can trigger the illness. Dr. Anita Sharma, who is researching CFS at the University of Birmingham, said many adults diagnosed with CFS often felt their symptoms had started after they had suffered some sort of infection, such as influenza, glandular fever, or a stomach upset. She added that individuals who tended to be highly-driven also seemed more likely to develop CFS. The mysterious dreaded CFS lives on!
Doctors turning sweet on healing with honey.
Peter Molan, Ph.D., likes to tell the story of the 20-year old wound infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, an abscess oozed in an English woman's armpit long after it had been drained. Nothing seemed to help, and the pain prevented her from working. Then in August of 1999, she read about the remarkable wound-healing properties of honey. She convinced doctors to apply some to the dressing to her arm, and a month later the wound healed. Now's she's back at work. Novel as this treatment sounds, it would have inspired yawns among doctors in ancient Egypt. Honey has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical problems like wounds, burns, cataracts, skin ulcers, and scrapes. Molam believes honey helps wounds in several ways. However, some as-yet-unknown ingredient reduce inflammation, while others, perhaps amino acids and vitamin C, speed the growth of healthy tissue. This is one sweet Health Mystery.
Pokeman claims more victims.
Approximately 685 Japanese children suffered seizures after watching a Pokemon television cartoon. It triggered fears that modern cartoons and even video games could be putting children at risk of fits. However, an Italian Study pointed out that researchers believe that children prone to a particular type of epilepsy had problems in one particular area of the brain. The team from the University of Pisa found that these children's brains were less able to distinguish between the black and white in flickering images. Let's hope this Health Mystery doesn't one-day turn into "Brain Warfare."
Heart Disease: claiming its territory.
Women age 35 and older who live in Mississippi, New York, and Virginia are more likely to die of heart disease than anywhere else in the United States, a study concludes. The report, based on heart disease death rates between 1991 and 1995, also found that black women are at far greater risk than any other group. Experts site many possible reasons for the disparity. In fact, I counted at least eight different possible reasons that the experts gave for the possible differences. One thing is for sure, this will likely remain a Healthy Mystery for some time to come.
Yes, you do have ESP
When your radar picks up crankiness or attitude signals emanating from your male or female companion (even though nothing has been admitted too) you have just "mentalized." How did you do it? At London University College, researchers believe they have located areas of the brain responsible for interpreting subtle physical cues about the mental state of others. Of course, you all ready knew this right? What a Health Mystery!
Monday, Monday, can't survive that day?
Mondays, already the most dreaded day of the week for many people, now have another strike against them. According to a team of Scottish researchers, more people die from heart disease on Monday than any other day of the week. The investigators believe that the rise in deaths "may" be attributed to increased drinking alcohol usage over the weekend or to job-related stress. The study also found that Monday deaths were greatest in men and women younger than 50. Why do the stress out week-end hung over people die young? As the researchers stated, the evidence they uncovered "may" be the reason. A Health Mystery? You bet!
And the blind shall see!
A blind man was able to read large letters and navigate around big objects by using a tiny camera wired directly to his brain, the first artificial eye to provide useful vision. The 62-year-old man does not see an image. He perceives up to 100 specks of light that appear and disappear, like stars that come and go behind passing clouds, as his field of vision shifts. He can recognize a 2-inch tall letter from five feet away and hang a hat on a mannequin. It is very different from the visual experience that normal people enjoy, and it is the thing that Health mysteries are made of.
Have you had a Testosterone rush lately?
Sports fans cannot help being aggressive when their team wins, according to a study carried out at the University of Utah and Georgia State University. Researchers collected testosterone samples from football and baseball fans, either watching matches at a sports stadium or on TV. Their finding suggest that dedicated fans have a "chemical connection" with the players in their team. Their testosterone levels surge when their team wins, and drop when it loses. This might help explain the victory riots that are sometimes seen after big national championships. Why testosterone cancels out common sense is somewhat of a Health Mystery. What we know for sure is...TESTOSTERONE RULES!
Now you're getting sleepy, and you're irritable bowel loves it.
A study conducted in the Netherlands has reinforced other studies that found that hypnotherapy was successful in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In the latest study, most of the 27 patients treated with hypnotherapy experienced normalized bowel habits and a reduction or disappearance of pain and intestinal gas. I can here it now, "the brain nerve's connected to the bowel nerve, the bowel nerve's connected to the______________mystery anyone?
Pick a nostril any nostril!
Smell depends on which nostril you sniff through, scientists have discovered. Researchers from the University Of California at Irvine found that on average, smells were rated as more pleasant when volunteers sniffed through the right nostril. However, the left nostril was more accurate when identifying different odors. Just goes to show you that not all sniffers are created equal. Most likely, this will remain a mystery!
Male gender = big head and improved number crunching!
Differences in the way men and women think may be all in the head after all, according to brain researchers at Johns Hopkins University. A research team led by psychiatrist Dr. Godfrey Pearlson, found a larger volume of brain tissue among males compared to females in part of the brain used to estimate time, judge speed, visualize three-dimensional objects and solve mathematical problems. "Solved the mystery of why my wife is chronically late, and it's not all in her head."
"Sick heart seeks place where Palm tree's grow."
People are more likely to die if they have a heart attack in winter than in summer, research suggests. According to a study of almost 11,000 people who had heart attacks in the U.K. between 1988 and 1997, they were 19% less likely to survive if the attack occurred in winter. The increased likelihood of dying may be due to increased blood pressure and heart strain in lower temperatures, and the fact that cold weather increases the chances of blood clots. Wouldn't your heart feel better knowing you didn't have to face the bitter cold?
Brain anticipates how an object will move.
Thinking about how an object could move stimulates the motion-sensing areas of the brain, even before the object moves, according to researchers. The study used a relatively new technique called functional magnetic resonance (MRI). The findings suggest that the brain anticipates moving objects as we cross a street, return a tennis serve, or catch a falling child, according to researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis Missouri.
Heart patients receiving prayer therapy fare better.
Heart patients who had someone praying over them without their knowledge suffered 10 percent fewer complications, according to new research. After four weeks, the prayed-for patients had suffered about 10 percent fewer complications, ranging form chest pain to cardiac arrest, researchers reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Obesity is picking favorites
A new study confirms that being overweight can shorten a person's life with one surprising exception: Black women. Although Black women had higher rates of death from all causes, including obesity related diseases for unknown reasons, being overweight did not add to the already higher risk of death for Black women. That's a Health Mystery!
We hear you loud and clear!
Unconscious patients could overhear surgeons' words during operations, a psychologist warned. The new research shows that even under general anaesthetic, people undergoing surgery can hear and remember what is happening around them. Lead researcher Dr. Andrade had this to say, "What we think is happening is that surgery involves tissue damage which increases the release of adrenaline, and it's the adrenaline that enables people to learn even when they are unconscious." What researchers believe, and what is really happening is yet another reason why this one qualified as "The Health Mystery of the Week."
Let's do the time warp again!
People who are good at planning their time and who overestimate how fast time passes make the best time managers, according to psychologists. The British Journal of Psychology suggests that people, who were more accurate at estimating how long a task would take and tended to think time passed more quickly than it did, were the best at getting tasks done on schedule. Maybe some people are just born with an innate clock, or perhaps they simply develop more time discipline. Whether it is nature or nurture, it is likely to remain a mystery!
Increase your odds of having a baby boy: lose your stress!
Women who experience severe psychological stress at or near the time of conception may be more likely to have a baby girl, Danish researchers reported. According to their findings, the closer the traumatic event was to conception, the lower the odds of having a male baby. In addition, the researchers suggest that stressful situations may trigger the body to spontaneously abort a male fetus, resulting in an apparent increase in the number of girls born. Exactly how stress affects the sex ratio of babies is unclear, and that is why we called it our Health Mystery!
Cancer Prevention
Eating relatively small amounts of fish helps to protect against several types of cancers, especially those of the digestive tract, according to findings from an Italian study. The studied subjects who ate fish once a week had a 20% to 30% less risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, colon, and rectum than those who ate fewer than one serving of fish a week. The studied subjects, who ate even more fish, had even lower risks of these cancers.

The researchers are not exactly sure, but they speculate that omega-3 fatty acids in fish are responsible for the cancer-protecting effect. On the other hand, if a person eats more fish, they are less likely to eat beef and pork. This one will probably remain a Health Mystery for quite some time to come.
Cancer has a natural enemy?
While a researcher was testing one theory, he discovered something else much more important. It is one more instance that (almost) proves what we have suspected: that breastfed babies (literally fed from the breast) are protected from many cancers.

"When Catharina Svanborg and her research associates began mixing mothers' milk and cancer cells together seven years ago, they weren't looking for a cure for cancer; she was after a way to fight germs. Nevertheless, the physician and immunologist at Lund University in Sweden have discovered that a previously taken-for-granted component of ordinary human breast milk causes every type of cancer cell tested--to die." This is one more example of why NOT being breastfed increases a person's risk of developing cancer. Thank God for this Health Mystery!
Walking exercises my brain?
Do you ever get the feeling your brain is turning to mush from watching 162 channels of mind-numbing television? You may just be right. New research indicates that men and women who sit around doing little or nothing can find their mental powers slipping away. A study published in the journal Nature says that walking is a wonderful stimulant for brainpower. A rapid 45 minute stroll three days a week. When dealing with something as mysterious as the brain, why question something as simple as walking, which can restore brainpower? The fact is, it works. I can see it now, when I go to complain to another doctor about my failing memory. I might expect to hear, "Take two walks around the block and call me in the morning".
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