Vol. 39 February 15, 2011 Ten Really Fun Facts

February 11, 2011

Satchel Page’s advice for living a long time was right. “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”

There is a significant association between gait speed and 10-year survival for participants older than 75. If a person can’t walk 20 feet in 10 seconds the risk for early mortality is high. (1)

Grandma was  wrong about cranberry juice.

311 college-aged women drank cranberry juice or a placebo twice a day for six months after being treated for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Recurrence rates of UTIs were the same in both groups. In fact, the women who drank the cranberry juice had twice as many recurrences with E. Coli, the bacteria that cranberry juice is supposed to be most effective against. (2) Cranberry juice contains over 200 active compounds, so “the little berry that defies” science will continue to do so for a while.

Grandpa is still going strong down under.

31% of 2800 Australian men aged 75-95 reported having sex at least once in the past 12 months and 43% reported having sex “less often than desired.”  “A lack of a partner” was cited as the reason by 21%. (3)

French men drink the Irish under the table … and into the ground!

91% of French men surveyed consumed alcohol once weekly while only 61% of Irish men did so. Average DAILY alcohol consumption in French men was 33 grams while Irish men consumed only 22 grams daily. In 10 years of follow-up the Irish men had TWICE the number of adverse coronary events (heart attack or death due to cardiac disease) than the French. You might say that the Irish are just poor losers…or perhaps that wine is better for your heart than beer and whiskey. (4)

Some Super Bowl losses are more permanent than others.

The 1980 Los Angles Ram Super Bowl loss was associated with a 15% increase of cardiac deaths in Los Angeles in the 14 days after the game. The increase was highest in women and those over age 65. In 1984 the Los Angles Raiders won the Super Bowl and cardiac deaths dropped by 1% (5)

Sometimes “progress” can be relative.

The odds of getting killed in an automobile accident in New York City today is about the same as getting killed in a horse accident in 1900 (about 1 in 20,000 – 25,000) (6)

Baseball players CAN see better than umpires.

“On average, a baseball players’ vision is 20/12 which means a baseball player can see from 20 feet what a normal person can see at 12 feet. Normal vision is 20/20, of course. The best the human eye can see is 20/8, so 20/12 is halfway to the best human vision possible.” Major League Baseball did not respond to an offer to evaluate umpires’ vision. (7)

It’s about the same ON or OFF the job.

Percentage of unemployed Americans who take a nap each day: 39%     Percentage of employed Americans who do: 31% (8)

Sperm and the Proton Channel.

“A recent study directly measured whole-cell electrical activities in human sperm using patch-clamp methods and found that the proton channel HV1, which is sensitive to both the membrane potential and the pH gradient, is the predominant mechanism used by sperm to achieve intracellular alkalinization which is necessary for motility and interaction with the egg coat.” (9) I can’t find either the Proton Channel or HV1 on my TV. I wonder if the Australian grandpas get it?

But what about Rock and Roll?

“Adolescents who were enrolled in a school-based drug prevention program were less likely to engage in unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners 7 years later.” (10)


1. JAMA 2011 Jan 5; 305:50, Studenski
2. Clin Inf Dis 2011 Jan 1; 52:23, Barbosa-Cesnik
3.Gen Med Jour Watch, vol. 31, 5,  p.26
4. BMJ 2010 nov 23; 341:c6077, Ruidavets
5. Clin Card, Feb. 2011; 34;2 102-107, Kloner
6. Harper’s Index, Dec. 2010, p.11 and 68
7. Interview with Dr. Daniel Laby, opthalmologist to the Red Sox, Boston Globe G, Feb. 22, 2010, p.3
8. Harper’s Index, Aug 2009, p.13 and 63
9. New Eng J Med 362:20, May 2010 p.1935
10. J Adolesc Health  2009 Aug; 45:111, Ellickson

Vol. 24 July 1, 2010 More Things That Can Harm or Kill Ya.

July 1, 2010

Average number of Americans hospitalized each July with sparkler injuries: 1,020 (1)

Per cent of 1255 people (100%) going to the ER with serious food allergy symptoms due to peanuts or milk respectively:  23% / 15% (2)

Per cent of people who self-report having a milk allergy or a peanut allergy that actually have a positive skin or blood test for either allergy: <1% (3)

Amount spent by food companies on cross-promotion advertising (agreements between different companies to promote each other’s products) to children and adolescents in 2006:  $195 million (4)

Number of cross-promoted products in 2006 and 2008 respectively: 96 / 171

Per cent of cross-promoted food that met the Institute of Medicine’s standards for foods sold in schools: 18%

Increased risk of collision when texting while driving: X 23 (5)

Number of annual traffic accidents associated with use of cell phone talking or texting: 1.6 million

Per cent of all traffic accidents associated with same: 28%

Number of states that have passed laws regarding cellphone use while driving: 40

Rate of gastrointestinal bleeding within 30 days of a colonoscopy: 1.6 per 1000 exams (6)

  • This very low rate and the even lower rate of 1 perforation per 5000 exams means that colonoscopies are quite safe.

Per cent reduction in rates of all kinds of cancer in people who eat lots of fruits and vegetable: 3%

  • This massive study of 500,000 people in 11 European countries completing a year-long food-frequency questionnaire with an average of 9 years of follow-up led the NIH to the conclusion that “a broad effort to increase fruit and vegetable consumption would not have an effect on cancer incidence” …unless you are a smoker or a heavy drinker. (7)

Increased risk of dying from a motorcycle injury if you are over 40 years old rather than under 40:  x 2  (8)

Per cent of injured motorcyclists who were wearing a helmet:  73% for both over and under 40 years old

Number of poisonous gases , chemicals, or metals identified in tobacco smoke:  250 (9)

Number of those that are classified as class A carcinogens: 11

Chance that a lifelong smoker will die prematurely from a complication of smoking:  50% (10)

Per cent who resume smoking within one month after trying to quit on their own: 80%

  • There is no question that nicotine is addictive, and that smoking is a highly efficient means of drug administration.
  • Smoking tobacco “improves concentration, reaction time, and performance of certain tasks. Relief from withdrawal symptoms is probably the primary reason for this enhanced performance and heightened mood.”

Number of Burmese pythons captured in the Everglades in 2000 and 2008 respectively:  2 / 343   (11)

  • Such pythons grow to 20 feet in length, weigh up to 200 pounds, and EAT alligators! “By the time they reach two years of age, not much can eat them in the Everglades.” This population was started by the release of pet snakes which can grow from 20 inches to 8 feet in a single year.

Number of minutes of cell phone use equivalent to one day’s exposure to radio frequency waves if you live next to a cell phone tower: 30  (12)

  • This study of 1400 cancer cases in children over a 3 year period in the U.K. showed no increase in childhood cancers in offspring of mothers who lived near cell phone towers while pregnant.

1. Harper’s Index; June 2010, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
2.Pediatrics April 2010
3. JAMA May 2010
4. Public Health Nutr March 2010
5. NEJM June 10, 2010; 362:23
6. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2010 Feb.
7. J Natl Cancer Inst 2010 Apr 21,
8. Univ. of Rochester medical Center
9. NEJM June 17, 2010, 326:24, pg. 2319 National Toxicology Program
10. NEJM 362:24 June 17, 2010, pg. 2295, “Nicotine Addiction”, N. Benowitz, MD
11. Sci Am Feb 2010, pg. 16
12. BMJ online, June 23, 2010, Paul Elliot

Vol. 22 June 1, 2010 Drugs, Tobacco, and Insurance

June 1, 2010

Tobacco is a drug.

Date that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA extensive authority to regulate tobacco products: June 22, 2009

Date that the FDA regulated use of “modified-risk” words like “light”and “low tar” in cigarette advertising and banned candy- or fruit-flavored (but not menthol-flavored) cigarettes: June 22, 2010 (1)

Value of stocks in tobacco companies held by 7 health and life insurance companies: $ 4.5 Billion  (2)

Amount the drug company making Flomax (for prostate symptoms) spent in 2008 on direct advertising to consumers: $116 Million (3)

Per cent increase in price for Flomax in 2009 “anticipating health care reform”: 20% (4)

Year that the FDA was given authority to approve generic drugs (Waxman-Hatch Act): 1984

Per cent of prescriptions dispensed in U.S. in 2009 that are generic and per cent of total dollars spent on generic medications: 70% / 20% (5)

Number of years of patent protection and market exclusivity for new drugs under the 1984 Act:  5 and 5 years

Number of years of market exclusivity for biologics (like Herceptin, Epogen, Humira) under Health Care Reform Bill of 2010: 12

Number of registered drug-company lobbyists in Washington, D.C. for every member of Congress: 2 (6)

Per cent of U.S. military stockpiled drugs found in a FDA study to be perfectly safe and effective after their expired date: 90% (7)

Per cent of 17,000 retirees with a new diagnosis of hypertension and a higher co-pay ($15-20) that failed to fill their antihypertensive prescriptions: 55%

Per cent of the same group with a lower co-pay ($5) that failed to fill their prescription: 40% (8)

Per cent of patients in health plans that had NO co-pay for medications that did not adhere to their lipid-lowering prescription instructions: 40% (9)

Per cent increase in “abandoned prescriptions” (prescriptions submitted but never picked up) from 2006 to 2008: +34% (10)


1. NEJM 362:19, May 13, 2010, p.1753
2. NEJM 360:23, p.2483
3. Consumer Reports, Dec. 2009 (from Nielson Media Research)
4. AARP Bulletin, Jan-Feb 2010, Patricia Berry
5 .NEJM 361;20, p.1917
6. Harper’s Index, November 2009, (from Open Secrets. com)
7.Wired, December 2009, p. 46
8. Arch Int Med 169:740, Apr 27, 2009
9. Circulation 2009;119:390-7
10. Wolters Kluwer Health 2009 survey in Philadelphia, AARP Bulletin, Oct 2009, p.10

Vol 15 February 15, 2010 The Science of Love

February 15, 2010

– Ed Howe

In honor of Valentine’s Day this post is dedicated to the science of love. To be scientific means to measure things. Spurred by a recent newspaper article on http://www.scientificmatch.com, an online dating service that matches DNA samples, I fired up the ” ole Google machine”. Here is a summary with comments on my findings about “measuring love”.

An analysis of the speed dating process demonstrated that during a three-minute encounter a person’s BMI (Body Mass Index) and facial symmetry were the most important elements of “attractiveness”. (1)

  • “It is all symmetry” says Prof. Randy (I did not make this name up) Thornhill of Univ. of New Mexico, who must be convinced since he has spent 15 years studying it.

Percentage of impact on “attractiveness” during the first 90 seconds to 4 minutes of an encounter: 55% body language, 38%  speed and tone of voice, 7% speech content. (2)

Waist to hips ratio (WHR) of women considered most attractive by men:  0.67 to 1.18 (3)
WHR of Playboy models: 0.7 or LESS
WHR in men that women find attractive: 0.8 to 1.0 (though “broad shoulders” can trump the WHR)

Amount of money a 5 foot man has to make to equal the success of a 6 foot man in online dating: $325,000 ( a study of 20,000 online dates) (4)

Per cent of male drivers that stop to pick up a female hitchhiker with blonde, brunette, or black hair respectively: 18% / 14% / 13% (5)
Female drivers show no measurable preference for the hair color of the hitchhiker.
Male drivers also picked up more female hitchhiker with C cup bras then with A cups.
No preference shown by female drivers.

“Men fall in love faster than women. Most of it is visual. Hence, the porn industry is built around men.” (2)

  • Who are making all those 1-900 phone calls then?

Number of biological chemicals that are the basis of our attraction and love: 7

  • Adrenaline, testosterone, and estrogen = LUST
    Men who had just crossed a swinging wooden bridge over a deep ravine were more apt to later call the phone number immediately given to them by a pretty woman then men who had not had that dangerous experience. (6)
  • Serotonin and dopamine = ATTRACTION
    Men self-described as “madly in love” for 6 months had serotonin levels equivalent to levels of some people with OCD. (7) Functional MRIs in 32 people showed activity in “dopamine-rich” areas of the brain when asked to think about their love of another. This area also shows a positive response with cocaine.  (2)     Hence, proof of the adage, “addicted to love.”
  • Oxytocin and vasopressin = ATTACHMENT
    Oxytocin’s  nickname is “the cuddle hormone”. The evidence for vasopressin is a little thinner since it is based on giving vasopressin-blocking drugs to male prairie voles.

Chance that a woman will be attracted to a man who makes her laugh: 100%
Chance that a man will be attracted to a woman who laughs at his jokes: 100% (8)

  • Two very different definitions of  “a sense of humor”.

Chance that a woman will find a man who has a dissimilar genetic code for histocompatibility more attractive than one that has a similar genetic code for the immune response:   increased

  • This (and the online matching service http://www.scientificmatch.com founded in 2007) is based on DNA analyses confirming a now-famous “2 sweaty T-shirts” experiment where women preferred the smell of men’s T-shirts that did NOT remind them of the smell of their brothers and fathers. (9)
    An unintended consequence of this finding might be a woman’s volunteering to do a man’s laundry WAY earlier than considered appropriate in the dating timeline.

Number of genes for olfactory sense (smell) and number of genes for eye photoreceptors (vision) respectively:  1,000 / 300   (10)

Number of pounds LIGHTER a woman wearing a spicy floral fragrance will appear to a man: 12 (8)

Number of odors shown to increase penile blood flow: 7 (11)

  • Pumpkin pie, licorice, doughnuts, cinnamon, lavender, oriental spice, and cola,
    but, be aware men, lavender reduces mathematical abilities. You run the risk of losing track of number of hours, which we know is important according to those ads.

Evidence that pheromones (odorless chemicals of attraction in plants, insect, and some vertebrates) causing “changes in non-conscious behavior” actually exist in humans: scant

  • The presence of the pheromone-sensing organ (tiny nostril pits in non-humans) have NOT been conclusively demonstrated in humans. (12)

BUT, amount of money made per hour by ovulating lap dancers compared to menstruating lap dancers respectively:  $70 / $35   (13)
Lap dancers on BCPs showed no variation in peak earnings.

  • Based on a study of 296 work shifts of 5,300 lap dancers initiated by the researcher who had noticed cycles of “daily takes” as a college student working in a strip joint.

What might happen if a six-foot, wide shouldered, licorice sucking man wearing a lavender sweater over a 2-day old T-shirt driving a Mercedes through busy city traffic picks up a hitchhiking, ovulating blonde with a very symmetrical face eating a doughnut above her C cup bra and carrying a bouquet of spicy flowers ?
…sounds like a movie…wait…they already made it….but, Julia Roberts was taller than Richard Gere!

  • If we did film such a scene I suspect we might need a sizable financial reserve for the legal defense against probable charges of public fornication.

1. R. Kurzban, Prof of Psychology, Univ. of Pennsylvania
2. “Why Him? Why Her?”, Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist, Rutgers Univ.
and “Why We Love, The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love”, and consultant to http://www.chemistry.com, an online matching service based on the predominant chemistries at work in the applicant revealed by a questionnaire.
3. D. Singh, Univ. of Texas
4. A.Hortacus, Univ. of Chicago and D. Arley, MIT
5. N. Gueguen, French psychologist, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2009,109,3,1-8
6. Arthur Aron, Psychologist
7. Donotella Marazzi, Italian Psychologist
8. “Decoding Love”, Andrew Tress, PhD
9. Claus Wedekind, Univ. of Bern, R. Thornhill, Erich Holzle, and others.
10. http://www.livescience.com/health
11. The Smell Report, http://www.sirc.org
12. Douglas Fields, NIH
13. Gregory Miller, NY Times.com, 2007/12/09 Magazine

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