Vol. 91 June 1, 2013 Sunscreen Sense, Testosterone Hype

May 31, 2013


This year Consumer Reports (1) states that the according to their tests the maximum effective SPF is now 40. Paying for anything above that is wasted money. Two years ago Consumer Reports tests showed that any sunscreen with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) over 30 gave no more protection than a 30. They also recommended that year-old sunscreen might have lost some of its effectiveness, so new sunscreen should be bought each year. New FDA regulations require the sunscreen to be labeled with a three-year expiration date. To be sure Consumer Reports recommends tossing out any leftovers after two years. New FDA regulations also now outlaw the term “sunblock”.

SPF refers only to protection against UVB rays. Those rays cause sunburn . “UVB for Burn” The UVA rays cause aging. “UVA for Aging”. Both kinds of rays can cause skin cancer. Only sunscreen labeled as “broad spectrum” can screen both types of rays.

Several manufacturers are now using nano-particles of zinc oxide in their sunscreens. Zinc oxide (the white goo lifeguards put on their noses) is a very effective sun block, but the FDA is cautious about the use of nano-particles because they are small enough to be absorbed through the skin. In fact, pharmaceutical companies are spending millions on R&D on nano-particle delivery patches for lots of drugs currently requiring injections.

The FDA is also cautious about the use of aerosol sprays of sunscreen. The fumes are easily inhaled and long-term studies of effects on lungs are not complete. Consumer Reports recommends spraying the sunscreen on your hands and then applying it; a literal obliteration of the spray’s alleged convenience. Certainly avoid using aerosol sprays on children.

If all else fails and you get sunburned, ”A plain yogurt mask for 30 minutes will take away the discomfort. Fat-free doesn’t work as well.” (2)…another small blow to nutritional political correctness.


The number of testosterone prescriptions and the money spent for testosterone have both nearly doubled in the past two years. The advertising costs for two testosterone drugs went from $14 million in 2010 to $107 million in 2012 helping the U.S. sales of them to reach almost $2.5 billion (yes, that is a “b”). All for a drug “whose benefits are overblown and whose risks are underappreciated”. (1) The American Urological Association has added testosterone therapy to its list of overused and potentially dangerous medical treatments.

$570 a month does NOT apparently buy you a better libido, better performance, or better sexual satisfaction. It CAN buy a man a higher risk of heart attacks and other cardiac events, more rapid growth of prostate cancer, reduced sperm counts. blood clots in the legs, and increased sleep apnea.

The level of testosterone in blood normally decreases with age. Unless a man has loss of libido AND is extremely fatigued, depressed, with facial and pubic hair loss, and decreased bone and muscle mass, testosterone therapy will not make a difference. Those symptoms add up to the specific diagnosis of hypogonadism, not mid-life crisis.

1. Consumer Reports Magazine July 2013
2. Boston Globe, Style, pg. 14 G , May 30, 2013


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 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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