Blood Pressure Illusion

Almost a whole quarter of patients that visit the doctor and are told they may have chronic high blood pressure may be being misled. Studies show that for this 23%  of patients, blood pressure goes up significantly in clinical settings, a phenomenon called “white coat hypertension,” and may contribute to some misdiagnoses. What is the upshot of all this? If you or someone you love gets diagnosed with hypertension in the doctors office, you should monitor their blood pressure at home for at least 24 hours before deciding whether or not medication may be necessary.

Destined for happiness?

A new study by DiSH Lab collaborator Shelley Taylor has found the link between the oxytocin receptor gene and three psychological factors  for coping well with stress and depression. However, our biology is not the sole influence of our behavior, this study explains.

Rice lives on in your blood to affect your genes?

After guacamole, rice is the DiSH Lab’s favorite food. So, this study about rice micro RNAs (which are capable of altering gene expression, though we haven’t seen this in humans) floating around in people’s blood stream is crazy/cool/scary.

Stress is a magic wand.

Despite the obvious “correlation is not causation!” criticism of the title, this piece talks about an interesting study where children of alcoholics are more likely to drink more – but ONLY if they encounter stressful situations.

This is yet another example of what I call the “magic wand” property of stress. There are so many cases (ulcers, schizophrenia, depression) where just having the biological (whether genes or bacteria) propensity for a disease isn’t enough – you need stress to trigger it. So, you can say the words of the spell as many times or as loudly as you want…unless you have the magic wand, nothing is going to happen.

Null result publications decline

As a person who has known first-hand the pain and difficulty of publishing null results, it’s understandable that publications would trend in this way…but when scientists only publish their positive (not positive meaning good but positive meaning they found an effect), it really puts the integrity of science at risk, and it also threatens scientific knowledge as a whole! So we should try, whenever we can, to publish important null findings (it can be done!).

Science helps us eat ever more delicious foods

Purdue scientists have developed a new app that translates any foreign menu into English. The science behind it is called “lightweight algorithms” but the important part is that we can now eat ever weirder foods on our overseas adventures and brag about it to our hometown buddies.

Neurons respond preferentially to animal pictures

This study was published a super high impact journal – Nature Neuroscience, which hopefully legitimizes all of the hours we at the DiSH Lab spend ogling cute animal pictures.

Socially engaging environments turn white fat to brown

In a neat study in mice, researchers found that mice that live in enriched environments with 15-20 other rats and lots of toys change their fat tissue from normal white fat to the calorie-burning brown fat. The researchers aren’t sure why – they say that maybe it’s a little bit of added stress from living with others, or else not being “lonely” that might be responsible. Fascinating and important to note that fat isn’t shaped just by what you eat.

Study: Overweight and Obese Children Eat Less Than Their Healthy Weight Peers

In a fascinating conference presentation out of UNC Chapel Hill, researchers looked at caloric intake in a nationwide sample of children and adolescents and found that overweight and obese children and teens actually consume FEWER calories than normal weight children. Hopefully this study will help people reconsider whether putting their kid on a diet is the best way to get them healthy.

Our paper on exercise, stress, rumination, and cortisol published

A paper first-authored by DiSH Lab collaborator Eli Puterman was just published in Psychosomatic Medicine – the prestigious journal with the terrible name. We already know that many people, when they’re stressed, tend to ruminate on their negative feelings. This rumination can even affect the body by making it secrete cortisol, a stress hormone.  In this study, we wanted to see whether people who exercise more might be able to break free of this pattern. We brought people into the lab, stressed them out, and found that exercisers appeared to be protected against the effects of rumination on cortisol activity in response to the stress. You can download a copy of this paper at the Publications page.