Dangerous Diet Coke?

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At a conference I recently attended, I sat next to a woman who told me about the terrible side effects of drinking diet soda. I’d honestly never thought much about my love for Diet Coke and how it might be affecting my body. So, I decided to see if she was right (and not just some naturalist espousing the philosophy that I should only drink water and only eat tree bark with a side of seaweed).

Turns out, she might have a good point. Here are some of the results researchers have seen in studies on diet soft drinks.

  • Kidney trouble—processing the chemicals in diet drinks stresses the kidneys. A Harvard Medical School study found that women who drank two or more diet drinks per day doubled the risk of kidney decline. This concerned me because I’m prone to kidney stones already.
  • Metabolic Syndrome—according to a University of Minnesota study, consuming just one diet soda a day puts you at a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome (symptoms include belly fat, high cholesterol and higher risks of heart disease).
  • Headaches—most of the evidence on this one is anecdotal, but drinking diet soda has been known to trigger headaches and migraines in susceptible people (some of this may also be due to the caffeine in the soda, not the artificial sweetener).
  • Teeth—all soft drinks are acidic and diet soda is no exception. The citric acid in soda (pH of 3.2, compared to water with a neutral pH of about 7) will weaken and destroy tooth enamel. A case study in the journal General Dentistry compared the mouths of cocaine/methamphetamine users with habitual diet soda drinkers and found similar levels of tooth erosion in both.
  • Bones—the phosphate in diet drinks leaches the calcium out of your bones, putting you at higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Type 2 Diabetes/Obesity—this is the big one (pun intended). Drinking diet soda can actually make you gain weight. Researchers have seen these effects but aren’t sure exactly why it happens. The leading theory is that the artificial sweetener in diet soda fools the body into thinking it is sugar, which triggers a flood of insulin to counteract the sugar in the blood stream. This then causes the body to go into fat storage mode, turning anything you eat into fat, plus it makes you more likely to overeat. One study from the University of Texas found that over 10 years, diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference when compared with non-diet drinkers.

Whew! That was a long list. Based on all of this, I have started a Diet Coke fast. It’s only been a week and it’s been harder than I thought it would be. Apparently, there’s something in there my body is craving (I don’t think it’s the caffeine because I usually drink caffeine-free diet). But I’m determined to stick with it for at least a month and see how my body feels after that.

How about you? If you’re a diet soda drinker, are you up for fasting with me?

As more research is done on the chemicals in our food and drink, it becomes more obvious to me that what God put down here for us to eat originally are the best things to put in our body—water, fruits, vegetables. I get it. I really do, but I just wish all the other stuff didn’t taste so good.

References: http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/diet-soda-bad-you/obesity, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/10/29/10-reasons-to-give-up-diet-soda/

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Painful Landing

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I don’t get migraines, but I get another type of headache that’s less common. I thought it was just me, until I was talking to a friend while we were on a flight this past weekend. She said she hoped she didn’t get a splitting headache when we landed. My mouth dropped open and I said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

She described the pain and it sounded just like mine—sharp, stabbing pain in the sinus area just above the eyebrows. On the two occasions this has happened to me, I’m doubled over, holding my forehead, praying for it to go away. And just after landing, it does. It disappears as quick as it came.

During an episode, it literally feels as if someone is repeatedly stabbing ice picks into the front of my skull. I tend to have a pretty high pain tolerance (I know everyone says this, but my first naturally delivered baby was 10 lbs 5 oz, so I know what pain is) and even so, the first time it happened, I thought there was something drastically wrong in my head, like a tumor maybe.

I figured it had something to do with pressure since it happens on landing, but I never looked into it. My friend told me it has an actual name. Aerosinusitis, also known as Barosinusitis, is pain or damage to the sinuses usually caused by a negative pressure gradient, such as when landing a plane. If you’re sinuses are blocked in any way, the air inside them contracts on landing and the pressure can’t be equalized, resulting in the negative pressure gradient and a squeezing of the sinuses.

Most people don’t have this issue and I don’t have it every time I fly. Isn’t it amazing how God made our bodies to compensate for the pressures of high altitudes? Still, I’m glad to know this has a name and is a real issue, although I suppose my career options are limited now. I’ll never be a flight attendant.

Has this ever happened to you? Does it happen every time you fly?

P.S. If this happens to you, it’s probably a bad idea to sky dive or go deep-sea diving without talking to a doctor because the same type of pressure is involved in those activities.

References: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/862964-overview#a5, http://www.cnbc.com/id/47226552

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Amazing Eyes

170299448_58cd484b32_mOur eyes are nothing short of amazing, astounding and awesome. Here are some facts about your eyes you might not have known:

  • Computer usage won’t damage your eyes. According to the American Academy of Opthamology, the feeling you have of eyestrain after using a computer has more to do with dry eyes than with actual strain. While using a computer, most people blink less often than normal, causing their eyes to dry out.
  • It’s very rare, but two blue-eyed parents can produce a brown-eyed kid and two brown-eyed parents can produce a blue-eyed kid.
  • Your eyes are not full size at birth. This one was a surprise even to me. At birth your eyes are approximately 16 millimeters wide and they grow to 23 millimeters by age three. They will be full grown at about 24 millimeters wide by the time you hit puberty—a size that is slightly smaller than a gumball.
  • The length of your eye determines what type of eyesight you have. Nearsighted people have longer eyeballs, while farsighted people have shorter ones. Even a change as small as a millimeter will change the prescription for your eyes.
  • Having 20/20 vision isn’t the same as having “perfect” vision. What it means is that you can see at 20 feet what an average person can see at 20 feet. The best recorded vision was about 20/10, meaning what most people can see at 10 feet, this person could see at 20 feet.
  • The visual center of your brain (the occipital lobe) is actually located in the back of your head. If you fall hard and hit the back of your head, it’s possible to go temporarily blind as a result.

How did our amazing eyes form? To fit the timeline of evolution, many evolutionists subscribe to the theory that eyes evolved spontaneously multiple times. This is the only way to account for the development of the eye in many different and divergent branches of the evolutionary tree.

But this isn’t a theory that makes much sense. The eye is only useful as a complete structure. What evolutionary advantage would non-functional parts have to cause them to evolve once, much less multiple times?

What makes more sense is that the eye is an awe-inspiring structure that speaks to the beautiful design of our creator.

References: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/vision_facts_myths.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/20/eye-facts_n_4441884.html

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The Science of Generosity

dreamstime_s_33068655The Bible says to love others as you would love yourself (Matthew 22:39). I don’t know about you, but I treat myself pretty well. If I work hard, I get a Starbucks coffee. When I’ve got a function coming up, I get a new dress. But am I as generous with others as I am with myself?

I usually try to be and when I am generous with others, it makes my day so much happier. From experience, most people know the joy that comes from being generous and claim it as a life principle, often without realizing God told us to live that way.

And guess what? Scientists have started to look into the neuromechanics (did I just make up a word?) of generosity. Recent research has linked the good feeling that comes when we’re generous to a chemical in our brain called oxytocin—the so-called love hormone. Turns out our brains are flooded with this chemical when we give to people generously, which is partly why giving feels so good.

Some people might say this is an evolved trait that came when we realized that we could live longer lives if we cooperated in community. But I don’t buy it. Those who look out for themselves alone usually get along just fine in the world and sometimes they prosper. I can’t see any selective advantage to generosity. In fact, the tendency to give away more than you must should be a negative selection factor because it leaves you with fewer resources to survive. Plus, if you help everyone else survive, then you have more competition for limited resources.

No, this reward for generosity didn’t come from evolution. The oxytocin is a gift from God to encourage us to follow His word. Proving once again, God’s ways are the best ways to live.

 

References: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795.php, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-molecule/200911/the-science-generosity

Photo Credit: ID 33068655 © Nicoleta Ionescu | Dreamstime.com

Dominant Curly Hair

 

 

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My hair when I was in college.

I love to study genetics. Okay, I love it to a point. It can be hard to follow all the single nucleotide polymorphisms on such and such gene, leading to a certain particular allele. But when I take the time to understand it, I’m amazed at how complex and unique God made our bodies.

As I age, I become more interested in the genetics of hair because my hair has gone through some changes in my lifetime. I was born with slightly wavy hair (my mom had wavy hair and my dad had curly hair) that went mostly straight in my adult years. But things changed when I got pregnant with my first child. My hair went curly and I had no idea how to handle it. It became a big, dry mass of hair, somewhat similar to a bee hive.

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My hair now.

For years I worked with it and finally got control of it. I came to love my curls. Now that I’m done with having kids (for 7 years now) my hair has started to relax a little. It’s returning to its original wavy state and it makes me sad, but it has also made me delve into the genetics of curly hair.

Did you know curly hair is dominant? I think most people are surprised to hear that because it seems like more people have straight hair (45% of Caucasians). But this is in part based on what we define as curly.

True curly hair has both copies of the dominant gene for curly hair (C), or in genetic terms CC, and comprises only 15% of the Caucasian population. The 45% of people who have straight hair have two recessive copies of the straight gene, in genetic terms ss. The other 40% of Caucasians have wavy hair, genetically shown as Cs, because hair type is an example of incomplete dominance. Incomplete dominance means that when individuals have a dominant gene and a recessive gene, their hair type will not be expressed by only the dominant gene, but instead will be a mixture of the two.

If we include wavy haired people in our assessment of curly haired people, both segments add up to 55% and it’s easy to see how the gene for curly hair is dominant.

In 2009, scientists discovered the gene they believe is responsible for curly hair—trichohyalin. You won’t remember that (and neither will I), but every time you style your hair, think of how many complicated sets of genes are at work in you right now. God designed you Himself, even down to the multitude of hairs on your head.

I wouldn’t be able to say it any better than the way singer and song writer, Jonny Diaz, put it in his song More Beautiful You:

And you were made with such care, your skin, your body and your hair

Are perfect just the way they are

There could never be a more beautiful you

Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through

You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do

So there could never be a more beautiful you

References: http://www.gbhealthwatch.com/Trait-Hair-Curl.php, http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask45, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/6751910/Curly-hair-gene-discovered-by-scientists.html, http://phys.org/news/2009-11-gene-curly-hair.html

Photo Credit: First photo: I have no idea, probably my dad. Second photo by Kinsey Christin.

What Makes Us Introverted or Extroverted?

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What makes us introverted or extroverted? Neurologists and psychologists alike have studied this question for decades. Is it in our brains? Our genes? Our upbringing? How did God make our personalities so different and why?

Known as social butterflies, extroverts are recharged by social interaction, while introverts are known for needing time alone to recharge. It’s a matter of what energizes you.

Theories abound as to how this part of your personality is expressed in your brain. But recent research has started to generate some answers. A study in 2005 by Michael Cohen of the University of Amsterdam tested subject’s reaction to gambling while they were in a brain scanner. He discovered that extroverts showed a stronger response in the part of their brain responsible for processing emotional stimuli and the part that generates rewards (the dopamine system). Those same subjects also had a gene known to increase dopamine in the brain.

So, extroverts could really be responding to an increased level of dopamine that floods their brain during higher-risk activities, which could include socially high-risk things such as attending parties and socializing with crowds. Whereas, the dopamine system (reward system) in the introverted brain is just not as responsive. Without the reward of dopamine, interacting in those ways loses its appeal for the introvert.

Of course, more studies need to be done to confirm this theory, but it does seem to make sense of the large amount of psychological data that says extroverts rate themselves as happier throughout their lifetime when compared to introverts. Please hear me on this, these results don’t mean that extroverts are actually happier. There may be other reasons they report higher happiness levels. Perhaps extroverts are more willing to be disclose their emotions in a survey or they may define happiness in a different way than introverts.

I’ve discovered I have become more introverted the older I get. Is this true for everyone else? (I’d love to know your answer in the comments section). Experts agree that as we mature into our personalities, they can change, but there doesn’t seem to be an agreement as to which direction that occurs—toward extroversion or toward introversion.

One thing seems clear—our genes in part determine our personality—so God must have designed it that way. How could we say one personality trait is better than another? I believe He enjoys our diversity of personality. We are all made in God’s image and our personalities reflect parts of Him.

 

References: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/will-the-real-introverts-please-stand-up/, http://io9.com/the-science-behind-extroversion-and-introversion-1282059791, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130717-what-makes-someone-an-extrovert, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304279904579515702293041712

Photo Credit: ID 38166678 © Stuart Miles | Dreamstime.com

Skinny Scare

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Those super skinny jeans so many people wear may soon cause a health crisis of nerve-tingling proportions. A few days ago an Australian woman ended up in the hospital because of her jeans. This woman had been helping relatives move all day in skinny jeans. She had been squatting and working out her muscles and her jeans had felt tighter as the day went on. When she left to walk home that night, her feet wouldn’t move properly, causing her to fall.

She lay on the pavement for hours before receiving help. At the hospital, they discovered her legs were so swollen, they had to cut off her jeans. How on earth had her jeans caused such problems?

Doctors said the squatting was much to blame. As the woman cut off the blood supply to her calves, the muscles started to swell, but they couldn’t swell outward as they normally would because the jeans constricted them. Instead, they swelled inward putting pressure on her tibial nerves and breaking down the muscle fibers. This caused a type of partial paralysis from her knees down.

Her condition could have been serious because a lack of blood flow to the muscles can lead to permanent nerve damage or amputation. Fortunately, this woman didn’t suffer those consequences. After four days in the hospital, she regained feeling in her feet and was able to go home. But I’m guessing she won’t put on another pair of skinny jeans anytime soon.

From painfully high heels to scary skinny jeans, this world would have us believe we must torture ourselves to be beautiful. But that’s not God’s view of us. He says we are all beautiful to Him in our myriad of shapes and colors. We don’t have to suck in or plump up or lift and separate just so we can look like everyone else. Celebrate who you are—who God made you to be—not who your clothes are trying to make you into.

 

References: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/06/22/416487968/painfully-skinny-jeans-land-a-woman-in-the-hospital, http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-skinny-jeans-health-hazard-20150622-story.html

Photo Credit: ID 37779747 © Pogrebkov | Dreamstime.com