Higher exposure to take-out food could double the odds of being obese

People exposed to takeaway food outlets around their home, at work and on their way to work are more likely to consume more of these foods, as well as being more likely to be obese, suggest a paper published on bmj.com today.During the past decade in the UK, consumption of food away from home has risen by 29% while the number of takeaways has increased dramatically. This, the researchers say, could be contributing to rising levels of overweight and obesity.Despite increasing policy focus, identifying the association between exposures to unhealthy neighborhood food outlets, diet and body weight has proved challenging.Researchers from the University of Cambridge looked to examine the extent to which exposure to takeaway food outlets in home and non-home environments was associated with eating takeaway foods, BMI and likelihood of being overweight or obese.They used data from the Fenland Study — a population based cohort study of adults aged 29-62 in 2011, in Cambridgeshire, UK, conducted by the MRC Epidemiology Unit. Data on 10,452 participants were available, with 5,442 participants eligible for their study. Only adults working outside the home were included.In addition to food outlets within home and work ‘neighborhoods’, the study also accounted for takeaways around commuting routes between home and work. Commuting routes were modeled according to mode of travel using the shortest distance along the street network between home and work addresses.Analyses allowed for a wide range of factors known to be associated with risk of obesity: age, sex, total household income, highest educational qualification, car ownership, total energy intake, smoking status and physical activity energy expenditure. Physical activity was objectively assessed in the Fenland Study using combined heart rate sensors and accelerometers wearable devices to measure body movement).Using data from food frequency questionnaires, the researchers estimated grams of daily intake of pizza, burgers, fried food (for example fried chicken) and chips, as a marker of takeaway food consumption.As a second outcome, the researchers looked at average body mass index, which they calculated from measured height and weight, and odds of being overweight and obese, based on World Health Organization definitions.Results showed that individuals were exposed to 48% more takeaway outlets at work than at home. The average exposure combining home and work neighborhoods and commuting routes was 32 outlets.Among domains at home, at work, and along commuting routes, associations between takeaway exposure and diet were strongest in work environments, with evidence of a dose-response relationship. Combining the three domains (work, home and commute) there was evidence of a positive and significant dose-response relationship between takeaway outlet exposure and takeaway food consumption. The most exposed group of people consumed an additional 5.7 grams per day compared with the least exposed group.Associations between BMI and exposure to takeaway food outlets were equally consistent. The group most exposed to takeaway food outlets in all environments combined were estimated to have a BMI 1.21 greater than those least exposed, with evidence of a dose-response effect. …

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Making color: When two red photons make a blue photon

Color is strange, mainly due to perception. Setting aside complex brain processes, what we see is the result of light absorption, emission, and reflection. Trees appear green because atoms inside the leaves are emitting and/or reflecting green photons. Semiconductor LED brake lights emit single color light when electrical current passes through the devices.Here’s a question: Can scientists generate any color of light? The answer is not really, but the invention of the laser in 1960 opened new doors for this endeavor. An early experiment injected high-power laser light through quartz and out popped a different color. This sparked the field of nonlinear optics and with it, a new method of color generation became possible: frequency conversion.Not all crystals can perform this trick and only through careful fabrication of certain materials is frequency conversion possible. In a result published in Nature Communications, scientists demonstrate a new microstructure that does what’s called second harmonic generation (SHG), where the output light has twice the frequency as the input. This new device is a factor of 1000 smaller than previous frequency converters.You can’t really get something from nothing here. Physics demands that both energy and momentum are conserved in the frequency-doubling process. …

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Complaints: Flying the not-so-friendly skies

A new study shows that network carriers receive more complaints than cheaper airlines, regardless of actual service quality.Consider the last time you dealt with an airline service mishap: a bag lost in transit, a flight delayed or canceled, or an overbooked plane. Are you more or less likely to make a formal complaint about service quality if you’re flying on a long-established “network” carrier or a newer, budget-friendly airline?According to a new MIT study, passengers of low-cost upstarts tend to complain less, even though the quality of service may be the same as more expensive airlines.In a study published in the Journal of Air Transport Management, Michael Wittman, a graduate student in MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation, tallied airline-related complaints made to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) from 2002 to 2012. He found that regardless of the type of service failure, passengers complained up to 10 times more often about network carriers than low-cost carriers.Wittman says several factors may help to explain the discrepancy: Passengers of low-cost carriers may not be aware of the option to complain to the federal government, or expectations of service quality may be lower for cheaper flights. Additionally, front-line customer service — how airline agents address mishaps — may vary among airlines, with some low-cost carriers adopting a customer-friendly culture so as to minimize friction.”For network carriers, this is an opportunity to improve, because they can say, ‘Operationally, we’re really not doing any worse than the other carriers, but some of our customers don’t like us as much, so what can we do to help solve those problems?'” says Wittman, who is studying civil and environmental engineering at MIT. “That’s one place where this research can be implemented.”Reporting on the reportersFor his study, Wittman obtained data from the Air Travel Consumer Report — a monthly report by the DOT’s Airline Consumer Protection Division, which publishes service-quality data that airlines are required to submit to the DOT. Such data include the number of flight delays and cancellations, bags misplaced or lost, and passengers who voluntarily or involuntarily were denied boarding due to overbooked flights. The report also includes consumer complaints to the DOT in all these areas, which can be made in writing, by phone, through the agency’s website, or using the DOT’s mobile application.The report is publicly available, and is frequently used as a resource for customer service research. For instance, the report’s data is compiled each year by researchers at Wichita State University and Purdue University in the Airline Quality Rating report, which is often cited by media outlets.”Airlines spend tens of millions of dollars trying to make sure their schedules are constructed in such a way that they can meet the DOT definition of being on time, because they don’t want to be in last place in that column when the list comes out each year,” Wittman says. “So airlines are paying attention to this [data].”‘No good headline’ from complaintsWittman compiled airline service-quality data from 2002 to 2012, and performed a regression analysis to determine the relationships among different variables, such as how the number of bags lost by an airline in a given month relates to the number of complaints issued on the subject. …

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Mesothelioma Lawyers and Mesothelioma Lawsuits- Do you need them?

Why File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit ?Every year, thousands of people die or become ill due to the negligence of asbestos manufacturers. If this has happened to you or a loved one, you should look for a mesothelioma lawyer as soon as possible. You may have been powerless to prevent current medical problems, but you do have legal options. Hire a lawyer with extensive experience and knowledge of asbestos claims to help you receive compensation from those responsible.Mesothelioma cancer, which is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure, and other asbestos-related illnesses are attributed to negligence of asbestos companies who knew about the associated health risks and decided not to tell employees or leak this information to the general public. As early as the 1920s asbestos companies …

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Orangutans plan their future route and communicate it to others

Sep. 11, 2013 — Male orangutans plan their travel route up to one day in advance and communicate it to other members of their species. In order to attract females and repel male rivals, they call in the direction in which they are going to travel. Anthropologists at the University of Zurich have found that not only captive, but also wild-living orangutans make use of their planning ability.For a long time it was thought that only humans had the ability to anticipate future actions, whereas animals are caught in the here and now. But in recent years, clever experiments with great apes in zoos have shown that they do remember past events and can plan for their future needs. Anthropologists at the University of Zurich have now investigated whether wild apes also have this skill, following them for several years through the dense tropical swamplands of Sumatra.Orangutans communicate their plansOrangutans generally journey through the forest alone, but they also maintain social relationships. Adult males sometimes emit loud ‘long calls’ to attract females and repel rivals. Their cheek pads act as a funnel for amplifying the sound in the same way as a megaphone. Females that only hear a faint call come closer in order not to lose contact. Non-dominant males on the other hand hurry in the opposite direction if they hear the call coming loud and clear in their direction.”To optimize the effect of these calls, it thus would make sense for the male to call in the direction of his future whereabouts, if he already knew about them,” explains Carel van Schaik. …

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Potential for MERS coronavirus to spread internationally

July 19, 2013 — The life-threatening MERS coronavirus that has emerged in the Middle East could spread faster and wider during two international mass gatherings involving millions of people in the next few months, according to researchers who describe the most likely pathways of international spread based upon worldwide patterns of air travel.Researchers led by Dr. Kamran Khan of St. Michael’s Hospital encouraged health care providers to learn from the experience of SARS by anticipating rather than reacting to the introduction of MERS in travelers returning from the Middle East. SARS, which was also caused by a previously unknown coronavirus, killed 800 people worldwide a decade ago, including 44 in Toronto, and cost the Canadian economy an estimated $2 billion.The MERS coronavirus, which appears to have emerged in the Middle East in early 2012, has spread to several countries in Western Europe and North Africa where there have been localized clusters of cases. Worldwide about 80 cases have been confirmed, with a mortality rate of more than 50 per cent.Dr. Khan said there is potential for the virus to spread faster and wider during two annual events that draw millions of domestic and foreign Muslims to Saudi Arabia. The first is umrah, a pilgrimage that can be performed at any time of year but is considered particularly auspicious during the month of Ramadan, which this year began on July 9 and ends on Aug. 7. The second is the hajj, a five-day pilgrimage required of all physically and financially able Muslims at least once in their life. It takes place Oct. …

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Free bus travel for teens curbs road traffic injuries and benefits environment

June 12, 2013 — Free bus travel for teens helps curb road traffic injuries and benefits the environment, reveal the results of an analysis of the free bus scheme in London, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.But it also seems to boost the number of short journeys taken by bus, which might otherwise have been cycled or walked, the findings show.The researchers wanted to assess the public health impact of giving teens in London free bus travel. The scheme was introduced for 12 to 16 year olds in 2005, and for 17 year olds in 2006.They therefore used data from the London Area Transport Survey and London Travel Demand Surveys to calculate the number of journeys made in London — as well as distance and principal mode of travel — before (2001-4) and after (2005-9) the scheme was introduced.And they looked at official data on traffic injuries and hospital admissions to see if the scheme had any noticeable effects on personal safety.The analysis showed that the proportion of short journeys teens took by bus doubled from 2% to 5%, although the overall number of journeys they took did not increase.The number of short trips walked also fell in tandem with an increase in this length of journey taken by bus, although there was no appreciable impact on total distance walked.But there was clear evidence of a fall in the number of short journeys cycled and in distances cycled by young people, although this mode of travel was not hugely popular among this age group before the introduction of the scheme.Rates of road traffic casualties had started falling before the introduction of the scheme, and continued to fall afterwards, but at a greater rate in young people, largely among passengers and cyclists. Pedestrian casualty rates remained the same.Hospital admission rates for assaults had been rising among teens before 2005, but were higher among this age group after the scheme’s introduction.The number of daily car journeys taken by young people and adults fell, and the average distance travelled by car also shrank, suggesting that free bus travel prompts a shift away from car use and may therefore be a greener option.There didn’t seem to be any fall in the use of buses by older people after the scheme’s introduction either.”The findings suggest, unsurprisingly, a good uptake in use of buses for fulfilling travel needs, including for short journeys,” write the authors.”One disadvantage appears to be some reduction in the proportion of short trips by walking, and in the (already) low level of cycling; these might be detrimental to the establishment of future travel habits bringing regular physical activity,” they suggest.”On the other hand, the increase in the use of public transport may help to establish travel behaviour for later life that entails some physical activity, as well as helping to reduce car use,” they say.

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Fukushima-derived radioactivity in seafood poses minimal poses minimal health risk, experts say

June 3, 2013 — In 2012, Nicholas Fisher a distinguished professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University and postdoctoral scholar Zosia Baumann, working with a colleague at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, reported that they had detected radioactivity in Pacific bluefin tuna swimming off the California coast. The source of the radioactivity was Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi powerplants, which were damaged by the strong earthquake and subsequent tsunami on 11 March 2011 and released large quantities of radioactivity into the Pacific Ocean. The news prompted widespread media interest and speculation as to the possible risks to seafood consumers posed by the levels of radioactivity found in the tuna.Now, Fisher, Baumann and colleagues at Stanford and the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) report in a paper entitled “Evaluation of Radiation Doses and Associated Risk from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident to Marine Biota and Human Consumers of Seafood,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that the likely doses of radioactivity ingested by humans consuming the contaminated fish, even in large quantities, is comparable to, or less than, the radiological dosages associated with other commonly consumed foods, many medical treatments, air travel and other background sources. The authors also conclude that contamination of Pacific bluefin tuna and other marine animals from Fukushima poses little risk to these animals.Fisher and colleagues found that the sampled tuna contained elevated levels of radioactive cesium-134 and cesium-137, important components of the radionuclide mix released at Fukushima. Pacific bluefin tuna spawn in the western Pacific off Japan and reach the eastern Pacific, off the California coast, after a transoceanic migration.In the original paper, the authors presented data on the radionuclide concentrations in the tissues of the bluefin, but did not estimate doses or health risks to marine biota or human seafood consumers that these concentrations might represent. The new works takes this next step.The levels of Fukushima-derived radionuclides in marine biota, including Pacific bluefin tuna, were compared with the radiation doses from naturally-occurring radionuclides in the same organisms. The principal radionuclide found in all samples is polonium (specifically the isotope 210Po), a naturally-occurring isotope that is an alpha-emitter, which causes greater biological damage.”For American and Japanese seafood consumers, the doses attributable to Fukushima-derived radiation were typically 600 and 40 times lower, respectively, than the dose from polonium,” said Professor Fisher. “In estimating human doses of the Fukushima-derived radioactive cesium in Bluefin tuna, we found that heavy seafood consumers — those who ingest 124 kg/year, or 273 lbs., which is five times the US national average — even if they ate nothing but the Cs-contaminated bluefin tuna off California, would receive radiation doses approximately equivalent to that from one dental x-ray and about half that received by the average person over the course of a normal day from a variety of natural and human sources. The resulting increased incidence of cancers would be expected to be essentially undetectable.”

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