Want To Improve Your Memory? Drink Booze, Study Says

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By Cooking Panda

Studying for an exam? Getting ready for a big presentation at work? Capping off your preparation with a drink or two could help you perform better, reports a study by the U.K.’s University of Exeter.

That’s right, researchers found that people who drank after a learning exercise remembered more of what they learned than those who didn’t drink. Maybe a couple of glasses of wine after a long day of learning isn’t such a guilty pleasure, after all.

The study, “Improved memory for information learnt before alcohol use in social drinkers tested in a naturalistic setting,” was published in the Nature research journal Scientific Reports.

Eighty-eight social drinkers were given a “word-learning task” before they were split into two groups: one of which drank an average of four alcoholic beverages and the other of which sipped strictly upon non-alcoholic libations.

Not only did the drinkers perform better on the same task the next day, but those who drank the most performed the best. 

This may make you scratch your head, as you typically associate alcohol with memory loss — or at least fogginess — rather than maintenance. Researchers believe that since your brain doesn’t store as many things you learn while you’re drinking, it has more of a chance to store the information you learn right before you knock back a margarita. 

“The causes of this effect are not fully understood, but the leading explanation is that alcohol blocks the learning of new information and therefore the brain has more resources available to lay down other recently learned information into long-term memory,” said University of Exeter professor Celia Morgan.

“The theory is that the hippocampus — the brain area really important in memory — switches to ‘consolidating’ memories, transferring from short into longer-term memory.”

The same results have been found in previous studies, but this is the first time people drank (or didn’t drink) in their own homes, rather than in a laboratory setting, according to the university. 

Struggling to remember everything you talked about in a boring meeting today? Here are some summer cocktails that just might call everything back to mind.

Source: University of Exeter / Photo credit: Pixabay

Tags: alcohol, drinking, memory, research, Study, university
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Don’t Smell The Cake, It Might Make You Gain Weight

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By Cooking Panda

You know when you’re walking through the mall, shopping and minding your own business, and an absolutely irresistible aroma completely overpowers your olfactory senses and lures you in. All of a sudden, you just need that pretzel, cinnamon roll or teriyaki chicken, and it seems as if you are powerless to resist.

But despite the delightful scent, you keep your eyes trained in front of you and soldier past the food court, using every bit of your willpower not to cave and buy that thing that you are fiendishly craving.

Good for you. But guess what? Here’s some rotten news: Even if you stay strong and avoid the tasty temptation, YOU COULD STILL GAIN WEIGHT.

Wait, what? How’s that possible? Isn’t weight gain and loss nothing more than a simple equation of calories in minus calories burned?

No, not according to the wet blankets over at UC Berkeley, who conducted a study and found that you can pack on the pounds just by smelling delicious things, reports SF Gate.

Well, not you, per se. Mice.

But still, it’s terrible news, isn’t it?

In the study, researchers took a number of obese mice, temporarily wiped out their senses of smell for a few weeks, and found that they lost weight far more rapidly than their obese counterparts with intact olfaction, even while both of them were on the same high-fat “Burger King diet.”

“In the context of food and appetite, this is really novel,” said Celine Riera, one of the researchers, according to SF Gate

Indeed it is novel! Past studies have actually shown different results — one such experiment determined that those who regularly smell vanilla (especially when they are not hungry) are more prone to weight loss than those around other aromas, notes a 2009 report from Psychology Today. The reasoning? Since vanilla is almost always associated with sugar, it delivers a blast of satisfaction to the brain, helping to stave off your sweet tooth.

But according to the newer study, your sense of smell decreases after you eat, so you might be able to trick yourself into thinking you are satiated by blocking your olfactory neurons (although it can also take all pleasure out of eating and cause depression, so be careful).

Or maybe just eat the darn cake next time.

Sources: SF Gate, Psychology Today / Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver/Flickr

Tags: food craving, food science, smelling leads to weight gain, Study, weight gain
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Love Fatty Foods? Blame Your Genes, Study Says

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By Cooking Panda

Some people have a defective gene that makes them crave fatty foods, according to U.K. researchers.

The University of Cambridge fed 54 volunteers a two-course meal to see how various fat content affected their eating behavior. Scientists found that people with a rare defective MC4R gene — linked to obesity — preferred the high-fat offerings and ate more of them than the volunteers without the gene.

About one in 1,000 people carries a defective version of MC4R, which controls hunger and appetite and affects how we burn calories, according to the BBC. Mutations in the gene are a common cause of severe obesity in families.

Researchers for the study, published in the Nature Communications journal, created three versions of both chicken korma (a South Asian dish of chicken with yogurt sauce) and a strawberries-and-cream dessert. Each version of the chicken dish varied in fat content, while each dessert had a different amount of sugar.

Volunteers with defective MC4R ate much more of the high-fat chicken korma than the lean and obese volunteers without the defect. As for the dessert, the defective MC4R carriers were the only ones who didn’t opt for the high-sugar version. 

This would suggest that MC4R makes people value fat over sugar. The results make sense, researchers think, because people likely developed hunger genes to eat more and store fat during times of famine.

“Most of the time we eat foods that are both high in fat and high in sugar,” said lead researcher Sadaf Farooqi.

“By carefully testing these nutrients separately in this study, and by testing a relatively rare group of people with the defective MC4R gene, we were able to show that specific brain pathways can modulate food preference.”

When your brain prompts you to choose foods that are high in fat and low in sugar, it’s defending the body from starvation, Farooqi said. Having a defect in MC4R, though, can make hunger insatiable.

So next time you want fried chicken after just having eaten pizza, you’ve got a valid question to ask yourself: Do you have a defective MC4R gene? Or do you need to get your cravings in check?

Source: BBC / Photo credit: Thy Khue Ly/Flickr

Tags: cravings, fat, genetics, science, Study
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Feeling Sad? Science Says You Should Eat More Veggies

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By Cooking Panda

How many times have you been told to eat your vegetables?

It seems like we are told to eat healthier from the moment we are born until the moment we die—all in the name of long-term health benefits and increased lifespan decades down the road. A new study from the University of Warwick, however, suggests that the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables might actually be more immediate than anyone had previously thought.

The research, which is set to be published in the American Journal of Public health, revealed that an uptake in daily fruit and vegetable intake can significantly increase a person’s overall happiness and psychological wellbeing. The study was conducted on over 12,000 Australian individuals, and controlled for confounding variables such as income and personal circumstances.

All in all, subjects’ psychological condition improved for each additional serving of fruit and vegetables consumed daily, up to eight servings. In fact, the change in happiness level correlated with going from zero to eight servings a day was found to be equivalent to the happiness change typically seen when an individual transitions from being unemployed to being employed.

Professor Andrew Oswald, who worked on the study, said, “Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health. People’s motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later. However, well-being improvements from increased consumption of fruit and vegetables are closer to immediate.”

While it is unclear what, exactly, about eating more fruit and vegetables increases happiness, scientists believe it could be related to the antioxidant content of such healthy foods. Nevertheless, researchers are hoping that the study’s results will motivate individuals to eat more fruit and vegetables across the board.

Sources: Science Daily, Grub Street / Photo credit: New Health Guide

Tags: Fruit, health, Study, vegetables
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We’ve Got Some Good News For All You Butter Lovers

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By Cooking Panda

You can officially feel a little less guilty about all of the butter that you slathered on your corn over Fourth of July weekend.

A recent study by Tufts University found no link between butter consumption and cardiovascular disease—debunking decades of speculation and hysteria regarding the supposed dangers of butter consumption.

According to Gizmodo, the study was conducted on 636,151 individuals across 15 distinct countries, adding up to a total of 6.5 million person-years of follow-up data. The research was published in PLOS ONE, and joins an increasing body of data that suggest there is little or no link between butter and chronic disease.

In addition to showing no association between butter consumption and cardiovascular disease, however, the study also investigated the link between both butter and diabetes and butter and all-cause mortality.

Surprisingly enough, researchers discovered a negative association between butter and diabetes. The study found that, on average, each daily tablespoon of butter consumed by participants resulted in a four percent lower risk of developing diabetes.

Before you switch to an all-butter diet, however, you should know that every additional tablespoon of butter consumed each day was also linked to a one percent rise in all-cause mortality. It should be noted, however, that this association is nothing more than a correlation, and the cause of the link is more likely that those who eat more butter tend to consume less healthy diets.

Overall, researchers suggest that butter is a “middle-of-the-road” food, meaning that it should not be classified as solely healthy or unhealthy. Instead, scientists believe that the foods on which you choose to spread your butter are more impactful to your overall health than the butter itself.

Unfortunately, that means that you’re probably better off slathering butter on vegetables than waffles or pasta. Personally, however, we’ll take our wins where we can get them, and never eat un-buttered corn or mashed potatoes again!

Source: Gizmodo / Photo credit: Authority Nutrition

Tags: butter, health, Study
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Study Finds Plants Can Feel Stress

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By Cooking Panda

While there are numerous health benefits to following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it turns out that our leafy friends might just be a little more sentient than anyone had previously imagined. New research from the University of Copenhagen suggests that plants feel stress when placed in cold environments, overturning popular beliefs about whether or not flora has feelings.

According to Vice, the new study was published in the Journal of Pineal Research. By monitoring the effects of melatonin on Barley plants, researchers found that the ABA (abscisic acid) plant hormone “plays an important part in responses to environmental stress, as it for example slows plant growth to protect it from the cold conditions in the winter.” In simpler terms, this means that not only do plants feel stress, but specific hormones can also affect the vegetation’s response to that stress.

Before you vow to give up plants forever, however, you should know that the melatonin had a positive effect on the chilled barley plants. Apparently, the hormone “resulted in higher ABA concentration in the drought-primed plants than in the non-primed plants when [exposed] to cold stress.” The combination of ABA and melatonin helped the barley plants to maintain “better water status,” resulting in happier flora across the board.

More than simply giving you a reason to eat fewer leafy greens and worry about your summer garden, the research actually has some very important real world applications.

According to the study’s co-authors, Xiangnan Li and Fulai Liu, “regulating melatonin production in plants via drought priming could be a promising approach to enhancing abiotic stress tolerance of crops in future climate scenarios.” This means that the exciting new study could be an important tool as researchers investigate methods for combating climate change and world hunger through informed farming practices.

Thus, rather than worrying about whether or not your salad lived a stressful life before it arrived on your plate, we suggest celebrating the amazing powers of melatonin with a power nap!

Sources: EurekAlert!, Vice / Photo credit: Preparing Your Family

Tags: Melatonin, Plants, Stress, Study
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