Key chocolate ingredients could help prevent obesity, diabetes

Improved thinking. Decreased appetite. Lowered blood pressure. The potential health benefits of dark chocolate keep piling up, and scientists are now homing in on what ingredients in chocolate might help prevent obesity, as well as type-2 diabetes. They found that one particular type of antioxidant in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels. The report appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.Andrew P. Neilson and colleagues explain that cocoa, the basic ingredient of chocolate, is one of the most flavanol-rich foods around. That’s good for chocolate lovers because previous research has shown that flavanols in other foods such as grapes and tea can help fight weight gain and type-2 diabetes. But not all flavanols, which are a type of antioxidant, are created equal. Cocoa has several different kinds of these compounds, so Neilson’s team decided to tease them apart and test each individually for health benefits.The scientists fed groups of mice different diets, including high-fat and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with different kinds of flavanols. …

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Fish species unique to Hawaii dominate deep coral reefs in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Deep coral reefs in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM) may contain the highest percentage of fish species found nowhere else on Earth, according to a study by NOAA scientists published in the Bulletin of Marine Science. Part of the largest protected area in the United States, the islands, atolls and submerged habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) harbor unprecedented levels of biological diversity, underscoring the value in protecting this area, scientists said.Hawaii is known for its high abundance of endemic species — that is, species not found anywhere else on Earth. Previous studies, based on scuba surveys in water less than 100 feet, determined that on average 21 percent of coral reef fish species in Hawaii are unique to the Hawaiian Archipelago.However, in waters 100 to 300 feet deep, nearly 50 percent of the fish scientists observed over a two-year period in the monument were unique to Hawaii, a level higher than any other marine ecosystem in the world. The study also found that on some of PMNM’s deeper reefs, more than 90 percent of fish were unique to the region. These habitats can only be accessed by highly trained divers using advanced technical diving methods.”The richness of unique species in the NWHI validates the need to protect this area with the highest conservation measures available,” said Randy Kosaki, PMNM’s deputy superintendent and co-author of the study. “These findings also highlight the need for further survey work on the monument’s deeper reefs, ecosystems that remain largely unexplored.”Data for the study was collected during two research expeditions to the NWHI aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai in the summers of 2010 and 2012. Some of the unique fish species that were observed include: Redtail Wrasse (Anampses chrysocephalus), Thompson’s Anthias (Pseudanthias thompsoni), Potter’s Angelfish (Centropyge potteri), Hawaiian Squirrelfish (Sargocentron xantherythrum), Chocolate Dip Chromis (Chromis hanui), Masked Angelfish (Genicanthus personatus), and Blueline Butterflyfish (Chaetodon fremblii).Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by NOAA Headquarters. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Why dark chocolate is good for your heart

It might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is good for you and scientists now know why. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. What’s more, the scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. This discovery was published in the March 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal.”We provide a more complete picture of the impact of chocolate consumption in vascular health and show that increasing flavanol content has no added beneficial effect on vascular health,” said Diederik Esser, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition in Wageningen, The Netherlands. “However, this increased flavanol content clearly affected taste and thereby the motivation to eat these chocolates. So the dark side of chocolate is a healthy one.”To make this discovery, Esser and colleagues analyzed 44 middle-aged overweight men over two periods of four weeks as they consumed 70 grams of chocolate per day. Study participants received either specially produced dark chocolate with high flavanol content or chocolate that was regularly produced. Both chocolates had a similar cocoa mass content. Before and after both intervention periods, researchers performed a variety of measurements that are important indicators of vascular health. …

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Virtual avatars may impact real-world behavior

How you represent yourself in the virtual world of video games may affect how you behave toward others in the real world, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.”Our results indicate that just five minutes of role-play in virtual environments as either a hero or villain can easily cause people to reward or punish anonymous strangers,” says lead researcher Gunwoo Yoon of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.As Yoon and co-author Patrick Vargas note, virtual environments afford people the opportunity to take on identities and experience circumstances that they otherwise can’t in real life, providing “a vehicle for observation, imitation, and modeling.”They wondered whether these virtual experiences — specifically, the experiences of taking on heroic or villainous avatars — might carry over into everyday behavior.The researchers recruited 194 undergraduates to participate in two supposedly unrelated studies. The participants were randomly assigned to play as Superman (a heroic avatar), Voldemort (a villainous avatar), or a circle (a neutral avatar). They played a game for 5 minutes in which they, as their avatars, were tasked with fighting enemies. Then, in a presumably unrelated study, they participated in a blind taste test. They were asked to taste and then give either chocolate or chili sauce to a future participant. They were told to pour the chosen food item into a plastic dish and that the future participant would consume all of the food provided.The results were revealing: Participants who played as Superman poured, on average, nearly twice as much chocolate as chili sauce for the “future participant.” And they poured significantly more chocolate than those who played as either of the other avatars.Participants who played as Voldemort, on the other hand, poured out nearly twice as much of the spicy chili sauce than they did chocolate, and they poured significantly more chili sauce compared to the other participants.A second experiment with 125 undergraduates confirmed these findings and showed that actually playing as an avatar yielded stronger effects on subsequent behavior than just watching someone else play as the avatar.Interestingly, the degree to which participants actually identified with their avatar didn’t seem to play a role:”These behaviors occur despite modest, equivalent levels of self-reported identification with heroic and villainous avatars, alike,” Yoon and Vargas note. “People are prone to be unaware of the influence of their virtual representations on their behavioral responses.”The researchers hypothesize that that arousal, the degree to which participants are ‘keyed into’ the game, might be an important factor driving the behavioral effects they observed.The findings, though preliminary, may have implications for social behavior, the researchers argue:”In virtual environments, people can freely choose avatars that allow them to opt into or opt out of a certain entity, group, or situation,” says Yoon. “Consumers and practitioners should remember that powerful imitative effects can occur when people put on virtual masks.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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(Chocolate Glazed) Coffee Body Scrub: Dunkin’ Donuts Mug Up!

I hope you’ve been having fun with the new theme each month for the Dunkin’ Donuts Mug Up contest! I’ve had fun sharing them with you and creating my own photos Don’t forget that there are awesome prizes up for grabs and you can enter every single day!It’s a new month (already?!) and time for a new theme! This February we want to see your Mug Love! In honor of Valentine’s Day, show us the love! We already know you love coffee… do you have a mug you love to use? Or does it have something you love on it? II grabbed one of my favorite mugs, “Love me, I’m Norwegian,” and snapped a photo in front of my favorite canvas of our kids… …

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Common phobia you have never heard of: Fear of holes may stem from evolutionary survival response

Sep. 3, 2013 — Does the sight of soap bubbles, aerated chocolate or a lotus flower seed pod bring you out in a cold sweat and make you feel panicky? If so, you could be a sufferer of one of the most common phobias you have never heard of – trypophobia, or the fear of holes.For trypophobes, the sight of clusters of holes in various formations can cause intensely unpleasant reactions – from serious migraines and panic attacks to hot sweats and increased heart rate.New research by visual science experts Dr Geoff Cole and Professor Arnold Wilkins from the University of Essex suggests that trypophobia may occur as a result of a specific visual feature also found among various poisonous animals. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.“These findings suggest that there may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal,” explained Dr Cole.Although trypophobia has been widely documented by sufferers on the internet, it is still hardly known about and was only recently accepted by Wikipedia, who thought it was a hoax entry.In one study, the Essex research team found that 16 per cent of participants reported trypophobic reactions. Despite this, there has been little scientific investigation of the phenomenon, leading Dr Cole to refer to trypophobia – which he suffered from himself – as “the most common phobia you have never heard of”.The research involved establishing if there was a specific visual feature common to trypophobic objects. They compared 76 images of trypophobic objects (obtained from a trypophobia website) with 76 control images of holes not associated with trypophobia. After standardising various features of the images, the researchers found that the trypophobic objects had relatively high contrast energy at midrange spatial frequencies in comparison to the control images. They had the same visual structure as stripes, which also cause migraines for some people.The scientists then wanted to find out why this unique visual feature led to such aversive reactions. One trypophobia sufferer provided Dr Cole with a clue – he had seen an animal that caused him to experience a trypophobic reaction.The animal in question, the blue-ringed octopus, is one of the most poisonous animals in the world, which led Dr Cole to a “bit of a Eurekamoment”.He and Professor Wilkins analysed images of various poisonous animals – including the blue-ringed octopus, deathstalker scorpion, king cobra snake, and other poisonous snakes and spiders and found that they, too, tended to have relatively high contrast at midrange spatial frequencies.The researchers at Essex concluded that trypophobia may have an evolutionary basis – clusters of holes may be aversive because they happen to share a visual feature with animals that humans have learned to avoid as a matter of survival.“We think that everyone has trypophobic tendencies even though they may not be aware of it,” said Dr Cole. “We found that people who don’t have the phobia still rate trypophobic images as less comfortable to look at than other images. …

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Recipe for Britain’s first chilled chocolate treats discovered

Aug. 29, 2013 — The first English recipes for iced chocolate desserts, nearly 350 years old, have been uncovered by a lecturer at the University of Leicester — just in time for the last of the summery weather.But it seems that in the 17th century, these chilly treats were believed to be as dangerous as they were delightful.Dr Kate Loveman of the University’s School of English has published a new paper, The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640-1730, in the Journal of Social History exploring the early history of chocolate in England.She has found the first English recipes for iced chocolate treats, collected by the Earl of Sandwich in 1668 — some hundred years before his great, great grandson allegedly invented the sandwich.The Earl’s own recipe reads: “Prepare the chocolatti [to make a drink]… and Then Putt the vessell that hath the Chocolatti in it, into a Jaraffa [i.e. a carafe] of snow stirred together with some salt, & shaike the snow together sometyme & it will putt the Chocolatti into tender Curdled Ice & soe eate it with spoons.”Dr Loveman said: “It’s not chocolate ice-cream, but more like a very solid and very dark version of the iced chocolate drinks you get in coffee shops today. Freezing food required cutting-edge technology in seventeenth-century England, so these ices were seen as great luxuries.””Chocolate was first advertised in England around 1640 as an exotic drink made from cacao beans. In the 1660s, when the Earl of Sandwich collected his recipes, chocolate often came with advice about safe consumption. One physician cautioned that the ingredients in hot chocolate could cause insomnia, excess mucus, or haemorrhoids. People worried that iced chocolate in particular was ‘unwholesome’ and could damage the stomach, heart, and lungs.”There were ways round this, however. Sandwich thought the best way to ward off the dangers of eating frozen chocolate was to ‘Drinke Hott chocolatti ¼ of an houre after’ it. In other words, chocoholics are not new.”I tried out the freezing method using snow — and lived to tell the tale, despite not following Sandwich’s advice.”Dr Loveman found a range of chocolate recipes in the Earl of Sandwich’s journal, written after he became enamoured of the drink while ambassador extraordinary to Spain in the 1660s.The manuscript includes King Charles II’s prized recipe for spiced and perfumed chocolate — which Sandwich reported cost the King £200.From the 1640s, chocolate was sold as an exotic drink that could cure illnesses and act as an aphrodisiac. The truth often played second fiddle to promotion: one purveyor, Captain James Wadsworth, claimed as early as 1652 that chocolate was “thirsted after by people of all Degrees (especially those of the Female sex) either for the Pleasure therein Naturally Residing, to Cure, and divert Diseases; Or else to supply some Defects of Nature.”As chocolate sellers sprung up across London in the 1650s, a milky version of the drink began to be sold in coffee-houses.Dr Loveman said: “The novice chocolate drinker of the 1650s and 1660s ran greater risks than money ill spent: he had to bear in mind that the new product might damage his health and there was the real possibility of loss of face through having his inexperience exposed.”The diarist Samuel Pepys tentatively tried chocolate to cure his hangover after Charles II’s coronation — apparently with some success. …

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Will to win forms at four years old

Aug. 15, 2013 — New research suggests children don’t understand competitive behaviour until around the age of four.A team of researchers from the University of Warwick and University of Salzburg found most children under 4 did not have a developed understanding of other people’s perspectives — specifically, of the fact that what someone intentionally does depends on their take on the situation.Johannes Roessler, from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, and his co-authors Beate Priewasser and Josef Perner from the Department of Psychology at the University of Salzburg, tested 71 children aged between 3 and 5 years old.They first tested the children to assess whether they understood that people sometimes act on the basis of false beliefs.Roessler said: “In the classical ‘false belief task’, children watch a boy put some chocolate in a drawer and go off to play. Someone comes along and moves the chocolate to the cupboard. The experimenter then asks children where the boy will go to retrieve his chocolate. Children under the age of 4 tend to predict that he will go straight to the cupboard, because that is where the chocolate now is — even though the boy had no means of knowing this!”Older children tend to predict that he will go to the drawer, which is the correct answer because the boy believes the chocolate to be in the drawer. Thus younger children seem to lack a developed understanding that people’s intentional actions reflect their perspective (beliefs) on how best to accomplish their goals.”The researchers wanted to explore how much young children’s understand other people’s goals: do they understand that an actor’s goals reflect his or her perspective on what’s desirable?The team set up a game for the children. They each had a vertical stand and were told they had to throw a die and then put the corresponding number of beads on their stand. The aim of the game was to be the first to fill their stand with beads, taking them either from the central basket or from other players’ stands.Roessler said they wanted to see if the children would take beads from the basket (neutral move) or from another player (a competitive or ‘poaching’ move). The point of taking beads form another player’s stand is of course not just to further one’s own goal (to fill one’s stand) but also to foil the other player’s attempt to reach his or her goal (to fill his or her own stand). The intentional use of poaching moves then, may be expected to show an understanding that the two players have different, and conflicting, goals, i.e. …

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Eating a big breakfast fights obesity and disease

Aug. 5, 2013 — A high-calorie breakfast protects against diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems, says TAU researcherWhether you hope to lose weight or just stay healthy, what you eat is a crucial factor. The right nutrients can not only trim your waistline, but also provide energy, improve your mood, and stave off disease. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher has found that it’s not just what you eat — but when.Metabolism is impacted by the body’s circadian rhythm — the biological process that the body follows over a 24 hour cycle. So the time of day we eat can have a big impact on the way our bodies process food, says Prof. Daniela Jakubowicz of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Diabetes Unit at Wolfson Medical Center. In a recent study, she discovered that those who eat their largest daily meal at breakfast are far more likely to lose weight and waist line circumference than those who eat a large dinner.And the benefits went far beyond pounds and inches. Participants who ate a larger breakfast — which included a dessert item such as a piece of chocolate cake or a cookie — also had significantly lower levels of insulin, glucose, and triglycerides throughout the day, translating into a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. These results, published recently in the journal Obesity, indicate that proper meal timing can make an important contribution towards managing obesity and promoting an overall healthy lifestyle.The study was done in collaboration with Dr. Julio Wainstein of TAU and the Wolfson Medical Center and Dr. …

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