Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is H1N1 Over?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), H1N1 has infected about 57 million Americans since April 2009. The age group hardest hit was the 18-64 year olds which made this influenza outbreak different than earlier ones.

The CDC provides a weekly update on flu activity and for this past week the number of people infected with the virus decreased nationally. Most states however, are still reporting some cases of H1N1. So while the number of cases are down, this flu has not totally subsided.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Do Plastic Water Bottles Kept in a Car Cause Cancer?

This topic has been circulating since 2007. According to the story, a woman was told by her doctor that her breast cancer was a result of drinking water from plastic bottles left in her car. Supposedly the heat facilitated the leaching of the plastic chemicals into the water and these chemicals led to breast cancer. This story was labeled a myth.

New research by Wagner and Oehlman (2009) found that mineral water packaged in plastic bottles (PET) did contain xenoestrogens which in part, did originate from the plastic packaging. However, the bottles were not heated so the effect of higher temperatures on the packaging was not a part of the study. According to the findings of this research, plastic bottles contain more chemicals that mimic estrogen than glass bottles. This still does not mean the levels are high enough to cause breast cancer.

Source: Environmental Science and Pollution Research May, 2009.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How Fast Can Bacteria Contaminate Dropped Food?

What you are asking about is fondly called the "Five Second Rule". Many children and adults live by this rule meaning if you drop food you have five seconds to pick it up before it becomes a home to dangerous bacteria.

Several experiments have been done in an attempt to validate or disprove this belief. Dawson et al. (2006) found that bacteria can be transferred to the food almost immediately. So, the research indicates that a shorter time on the floor does mean less bacteria but remember it takes less than 100 E Coli organisms to make you sick.

Best advice? Pick it up and toss it into the nearest trash receptacle.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What is Caffeine and Where Does it Come From?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring plant product that affects the nervous system. Over 60 different types of plants contain caffeine such as tea leaves, cocoa beans, cassina, and kola nuts.
Caffeine is found naturally in coffee and tea but is also added to soft drinks, over the counter medications like cold remedies, and energy drinks.
There is no physiological need for caffeine but it is widely consumed all over the globe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What Do You Think About Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks are one of the best selling food supplements on the market. They appeal to students, young adults, athletes, and anyone needing a quick lift. I believe that the marketing greatly contributes to the enthusiastic use of these products. If used occasionally they probably present no harm but if relied on instead of a balanced diet and adequate sleep, you could do better.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is Unpasteurized Milk Good For You?

Milk has been heated or pasteurized to kill bacteria since the process was developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864. Milk fresh from the cow (or sheep or goat) can contain E coli, Listeria or Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, abdominal pains, vomiting or worse. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions against drinking raw milk.

On the other side of the argument are people who believe raw milk contains immune enhancers that are otherwise destroyed by pasteurization. But even then they encourage buying full fat milk only from pasture fed cows.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why Does a Baby's Eye Color Change?

Most babies are born with light color eyes like gray or blue. During the first year of life the eyes will gradually darken due to the development of a pigment called melanin. This brown pigment slowly darkens the iris so a baby born with blue eyes may grow to be a toddler with brown eyes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Will Peppermint Help Your Memory?

Peppermint does appear to have a role in stimulating brain cells. In a study done by Moss, Hewitt, and Wesnes (2008) , peppermint was found to enhance memory and increase alertness when compared to another herb, ylang-ylang.
The authors of this study conclude by saying this is an area that appears promising and is "ripe" for more research.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is Bottled Water Safe?

The safety of water bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) has been studied by several different groups. One German scientist has published a few studies on the safety of bottled water and found that the amount of antimony was higher in water bottled in PET bottles.

Other groups counter this by saying that the health risk from antimony oxide is very low.

For those of you who refill these PET bottles throughout the day - your risk may well be higher from the bacterial contamination than the antimony oxide.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Does Weight Lifting Stunt Your Growth?

Weight lifting is a competitive sport where the participant lifts a maximum amount of weight. Strength training uses resistance to increase one's ability to exert or resist force.

Weight lifting or power lifting should be delayed to the time of physical maturity but strength training (in moderation) can be done with positive effects at any age. The journal, The Physician and Sportsmedicine (2003) states: "Training may actually be an effective stimulus for growth and bone mineralization in children".

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can You Eat Corn Smut?

Corn smut is caused by a fungus and is far from desirable in the United States. Some farmers refer to it as "Devil's Corn" because it destroys the corn crop. However, in Mexico it is actually cultivated and thought of as a speciality. Huitlacoche is eaten fresh, frozen and canned and it is added to soups, stews, and other traditional foods.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What's the Difference Between Soy Protein and Whey Protein?

The most obvious difference between soy and whey protein is the source. Soy protein is plant based and is the only plant protein that contains all eight of the essential amino acids. This means that it ranks right up there with animal proteins as far as being a "complete" protein.

Whey protein comes from milk and is the "left-over product" from cheese making. It too is a complete and high quality protein.
Lots of claims are made for each of these proteins. Use your science skills as you sift through all of the information. This paper from The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension may help you separate fact from hype on these protein products:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How Big is a Marsupial Pouch?

The size of the mammal's pouch depends on the size of the adult marsupial and how long it is going to be used. Interestingly, marsupials give birth after a short gestational period and the baby is very, very small (1 gram or less). These tiny little marsupials live and feed in the pouch until the mother finds another home for them, like a nest, or until they are ready to go off on their own.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Follow-Up Question

To keep you all thinking...why did the warts come back? What do you know about virus reproduction?


This is the place where all odd, interesting, and unique biological happenings are discussed. The questions come from you, my readers, and my ever wondering students.

Today's question: What did "Treeman" have growing all over him?

This Indonesian man had an immune deficiency that allowed a wart producing virus (HPV) to grow and cover much of his body. At the time of surgery, doctors removed about 6 kilograms of warts! Yes, they began to grow back and he will need repeated surgeries to ensure functioning of his hands and feet.