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‘Wild swimming’: Healthful activity or high-risk recreation?

October 4, 2022

If you happen to know an outdoor or wild swimmer—a swimmer who prefers rivers and lakes to heated pools—you are part of a growing subculture, reports The Guardian.

 The Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) had 300 members when it was launched in 2006; now it has 175,000 across its social media sites and one million visitors annually to its website. The society recently polled its members on why they swim outdoors: 94% responded that the main reason was “joy” — reporting that they feel happier and less stressed after a dip.

And this, apparently, is te perfect time of year to make the leap: “Have you heard of the Pareto principle?” asks Dr. Mark Harper, an anesthesiologist, researcher, and author of “Chill: The Cold Water Swim Cure.

He explains, “It’s where 20% of the effort produces 80% of the results. So we’re in that beautiful time now where, if the temperature is between 15 and 20C, you’re probably getting 80% of the benefits of the cold water for just 20% of the effort.”

Such testimonies are anecdotal, of course, and even the OSS acknowledges the society is “a borderline cult built on enthusiasm.” And this remains a recurring question mark for wild swimming and cold-water immersion: despite all the evangelical claims made by fans, there has so far been minimal scientific evidence to confirm them. That’s not to say that the benefits do not exist; only that there have not been sufficient, rigorous clinical trials to prove them either way.

That, though, is starting to change, and in the past month academic papers have been coming thick and fast. Harper was part of a team that looked into whether sea swimming could be “a novel intervention for depression and anxiety”. The study enrolled 53 people—47 women, five men, one non-binary—in an eight-session swimming course and tracked their wellbeing by questionnaire. Harper says there was a notable upturn in many of the participants’ mental health, and he is particularly heartened by the fact that, three months later, 80% were still swimming outdoors, reporting that they found the activity helpful.

Harper also worked on a project this year with frontline NHS workers to see if outdoor swimming could improve symptoms of stress and work-related burnout. Participants swam in an outdoor pool in London or in the sea in Cornwall—and overall reported a 14.8% increase in wellbeing scores after six weeks.

Before you go and hurl yourself in the nearest lake, however, there were words of caution in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. There, Mike Tipton, professor of human and applied physiology and a global expert on extreme environments, points out there was a 52% swell in HM Coastguard callouts between 2018 and 2021 connected to open-water swimming. There’s also been a 79% increase in deaths—from 34 to 61 in the U.K.

Tipton was encouraged to publish the paper after seeing the BBC reality series, Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof, about the Dutch extreme athlete who has spent more than three hours in direct, full-body contact with ice. “Although there was a safety message at the start, if you watch those programs you would be inclined to go and put yourself into cold water,” says Tipton. “So we thought there was some need for just saying: ‘Look, we are a tropical animal and this is one of the largest stresses you can place upon the body.’ We’re not trying to stop people doing things; we’re not the Fun Police. But there are ways of maximizing the potential benefits and minimizing the risks.”

Here, Tipton and Harper are in full agreement. If you are contemplating dipping a toe into outdoor swimming, especially this winter, you should have a medical assessment first. Start in a spot with lifeguards and enter the water gradually: Resist the urge to jump, dive, cannonball. Spend less than ten minutes in the water, even if you don’t feel cold. From personal experience of outdoor swimming, this is a key point: I’ve had dips where I’ve timed it right and felt giddy all day, and others where I’ve spent too long in the water and my teeth are still chattering two hours later.

Tipton and Harper are also both clear that more research needs to be done before we assign transformative powers to outdoor swimming. “I can recognize the anecdotal responses—what we don’t know about going open-water swimming, though, is what the active ingredient is,” says Tipton. “So when you go open-water swimming you meet up with friends, you go into a beautiful environment, you’re floating, you’re supported by the water, you do some exercise, you do get cold, you come out and you have cake.

“There are so many other factors,” Tipton goes on, “but we don’t know which one is actually responsible for any claimed beneficial effects.”

Research contact: @guardian

Campbell Soup launches first major brand in six years: FlavorUp

October 4, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic irreversibly changed how people eat, and consumer packaged goods (CPGs) are not shy about introducing new products to capitalize on that shift, reports Food Dive.

Consumers are eager to do more in the kitchen and use experimentation to avoid getting bored by a limited variety of meal options or flavors. But at the same time, they don’t want to lose the convenience they covet. 

“We’ve seen at-home cooking occasions continue to stay above pre-pandemic levels while Americans’ lives continue to get busier,” Linda Lee, chief marketing officer of Campbell Soup’s U.S. Meals and Beverage division, said in an email. FlavorUp “is the newest way to cook up concentrated flavor with just a squeeze, while elevating meals quickly and affordably.”

The flavoring squeeze bottles come in three flavors: Rich Garlic & Herb, Savory Mushroom & Herb, and Caramelized Onion & Burgundy Wine.

The company said FlavorUp will likely be placed near herbs and spices in stores, marking Campbell’s first venture into the seasoning aisle and providing it with further brand exposure beyond its customary categories. Campbell opted to create a new brand for these offerings because of the new location and the different ways in which it can be used in cooking, compared to broth or soup.

FlavorUp primarily targets busy Millennials who enjoy restaurant-quality meals, but don’t necessarily have the time to caramelize onions, incorporate fresh garlic, or have several herbs and spices handy nearby. Campbell’s branding appears above FlavorUp on the bottle, a major reason the initial launch likely includes flavors that are classic and more recognizable to the consumer.

In the future, the New Jersey company could expand FlavorUp into other brands throughout its portfolio that include more innovative and ethnic flavors. FlavorUp also can provide younger adult consumers with a platform to get into these and other brands in Campbell’s portfolio, while keeping the company relevant to changing tastes and habits.

Research contact: @FoodDive

Records from Trump White House still missing, National Archives says

October 4, 2022

The National Archives informed Congress’s House Oversight Committee on Friday, September 30, that members of the Trump White House still had not turned over all presidential records—and signaled there could be legal consequences for those who do not comply, reports The New York Times.

In a letter, Debra Steidel Wall, the acting U.S. archivist, said the archives was working to retrieve electronic messages from certain unnamed White House officials who had used personal email and messaging accounts to conduct official business.

Wall wrote that the Archives would consult the Justice Department about whether to “initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed.”

“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” Wall wrote to Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee.

Wall cited an August filing by the Justice Department to recover official email records from the personal account of Peter Navarro, a former Trump adviser. Navarro is facing charges of contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

In her letter, Wall declined to say whether former President Donald Trump had surrendered all presidential records in his possession.

“With respect to the second issue concerning whether former President Trump has surrendered all presidential records, we respectfully refer you to the Department of Justice in light of its ongoing investigation,” she wrote.

“The National Archives has confirmed to the Oversight Committee that they still have not received all presidential records from the Trump White House,” Maloney said in a statement. “Presidential records are the property of the American people, and it is outrageous that these records remain unaccounted for 20 months after former President Trump left office.”

Maloney had requested a formal assessment from the Archives of what presidential records remained unaccounted for and whether the archives believed any were potentially still in Trump’s possession.

Maloney also requested that the Archives “seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office.”

The federal government tried and failed for more than a year and a half to retrieve classified and sensitive documents from Trump before resorting on August 8 to a search of his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, according to government documents and statements by his lawyers.

Two months before the search, Trump’s lawyer certified that all documents bearing classified markings had been returned and that no “copy, written notation or reproduction of any kind was retained.”

Yet the FBI search revealed that the former president still had more than 11,000 government records—including more than 100 with classified markings and documents with the highest classification markings, some related to human intelligence sources. There were additional classified documents in Trump’s office desk drawer.

The search also turned up 48 folders with classified markings that were empty. Although it was unclear why they were empty, the committee said, the apparent separation of classified material and presidential records from their designated folders raised questions about how the materials were stored and whether sensitive material might have been lost or obtained by third parties.

Research contact: @nytimes

UK residents can win a good night’s sleep in first BnB to offer actual sheep-counting

October 3, 2022

Located near a hillside in dreamy rural Sussex, England, in a field full of the fluffy farm animals, a “sleep dome” is offering tired patrons a chance to doze off counting real sheep, reports Good News Network.

The small glamping outfit created by a sleep technology company will host two guests and feature a luxurious double-bed with views of idyllic surroundings from all angles.

After dinner and settling in for the night, guests will be encouraged to count the numbered sheep as they walk about their paddock before gently drifting off into a blissful slumber beneath the stars.

Daylight will herald a guided yoga session and a breakfast full of locally-sourced food.

The ‘Shleep Sanctuary’ was created by sleep tech company Emma Sleep, which has launched a contest offering two people the chance to try it for free when it opens in summer 2023.

The dome was created after a poll of 2,000 adults found 44% have struggled to get to sleep this year.

More than one-fifth (21%) of those polled have struggled to sleep due to worries over the cost-of-living crisis, while 23% have been kept up fretting about work.

“The study also found that 23% of respondents claim their quality of sleep is worse now than ever before—with 10% even admitting they can’t remember the last time they slept well.

Trying to improve these unhappy situations, 14% of adults have employed ‘visualization tactics’ like counting sheep in a bid to get a good night’s sleep.

The study, conducted by OnePoll, also revealed factors that respondents say boost their chances of sleeping well—including fresh air and the sound of nature.

“When practiced regularly, these kinds of exercises have been proven to lower the heart rate by encouraging slower breathing and activating the parasympathetic nervous system,” said Theresa Schnorbach, sleep scientist at Emma.

“Imaginative distraction is also an effective cognitive strategy to help sleep, where you imagine a pleasant and relaxing image in as much detail as you possibly can—like counting fluffy sheep as they jump over a fence,” she says.

“The aim is to use as much cognitive capacity as possible so that worrying thoughts are suppressed. Studies show this not only shortens the time it takes to fall asleep but also improves sleep quality.”

For a chance to win a stay at the Shleep Sanctuary with a guest of your choice, register here.

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork

Lululemon slashes price of Mirror by 50% as it nears October 5 launch of fitness studio

October 3, 2022

Starting October 5, fitness gear company Lululemon will temporarily cut the price of its Mirror home-fitness device by roughly 50%—taking the price down to $795 as it works to build interest in a new studio membership platform, the company announced on Wednesday, September 28, reports Business Insider.

The company first unveiled the plan for a membership program linked to Mirror at an analyst day in April. On Wednesday, it offered new details about the platform, which it’s calling Lululemon Studio, including a launch date that coincides with the Mirror sale: October 5.

According to Business Insider, for $39 a month, members will have access to more than 10,000 online classes. They’ll also get a 10% discount on Lululemon merchandise and discounts on in-person classes at studio partners including Pure Barre, Rumble, and YogaSix.

Membership requires the purchase of a Mirror device, and current Mirror owners will automatically become members of the program for 12 months.

Lululemon also will launch a free membership program on October 5 that will offer shopping rewards, free access to select Lululemon Studio classes, and early access to product drops.

Lululemon executives said the platform will help the company to serve its customers more flexibly.

“Our guests’ fitness needs have evolved and Lululemon Studio is solving for them by providing members with access to fitness content from our world-class trainers and studio partners at home, on the go and live in studios around North America,” said Chief Brand Officer Nikki Neuburger in a news release.

Analysts weren’t immediately sold on the plan given the struggles of other connected-fitness companies.

“Increasingly, it seems publicly traded companies are making the pivot to content over equipment,” said Simeon Siegel, a BMO Capital Markets managing director, in an email to Business Insider. But he questions whether companies can do both content and hardware at the same time.

“Like all companies, connected-fitness operators should focus on what makes them special. If it’s the equipment, great. If it’s the content, fantastic,” Siegal said. “If it’s both, make sure to value and price both accordingly. But that is rare. And being true to who they are is difficult, but key.”

Lululemon acquired Mirror in July 2020 for $453 million. At the time, company insiders were skeptical about the technology, calling it “buggy” and wondering how it fits into Lululemon’s long-term growth strategy.

At the April investor day, Michael Aragon, Lululemon Digital Fitness CEO, said Mirror is a natural fit for the company’s business plan.

“Our goal is to build a platform that connects Lululemon guests, who want to live healthier lives,” he said. “The goal is simple: Be the go-to platform for fitness and wellness.”

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Judge rules Trump can ignore Special Master’s order to prove claim FBI ‘planted’ docs

October 3, 2022

U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida Aileen Cannon—who was nominated to the court by former President Donald Trump in April 2020—ruled on Thursday, September 29, that Trump does not have to comply with an order by the Special Master to put up or shut up about his claims that the FBI “planted” information among documents that agents seized from Mar-a-Lago, reports HuffPost.

Special Master Raymond Dearie—a federal judge who was recommended by Trump’s own legal team—had given the former president’s lawyers until Friday to confirm or refute an inventory list of items taken by the FBI agents that was provided by the Justice Department.

Dearie’s order, in essence, demanded proof of Trump’s claims that some White House files agents confiscated at Mar-a-Lago had been “planted.” It was a claim pointedly not ever made by his attorneys.

“This submission shall be Plaintiff’s final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory,” Dearie, a former federal prosecutor and a U.S. district judge in Brooklyn, New York, said when he issued the order.

Trump said that he and family members watched agents search sections of his Mar-a-Lago home and resort on surveillance cameras—raising the question of how the FBI could have secretly planted evidence at the same time.

Two lawyers for Trump were also at Mar-a-Lago during the search, and one signed off on a list of boxes and “miscellaneous top secret documents” that were removed.

In a letter written on Sunday, September 25, and made public late Wednesday, Trump’s team attempted to duck Dearie’s demand.

“Because the Special Master’s case management plan exceeds the grant of authority from the District Court on this issue, plaintiff must object,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

Cannon agreed in her order Thursday, saying Trump’s attorneys would not be required to affirm the accuracy of the FBI’s inventory from Mar-a-Lago before getting a chance to review the records themselves.

“There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the seized materials. … The Court’s Appointment Order did not contemplate that obligation,” Cannon wrote.

Her order also extended the timeline to review the documents Trump took from the White House to stash at Mar-a-Lago from November 30 until December 16. The records, which belong to the public, are supposed to be held by the National Archives.

Dearie is supposed to be reviewing the several boxes of documents to determine if any may be protected by lawyer-client or executive privilege.

While Dearie appeared to be speeding up the process, Cannon is slowing it down— which will delay revealing any damning information until after the midterm elections.

In a blow to Trump, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled last week that the Justice Department can resume reviewing the seized classified records—blocking a portion of a stay issued earlier by Cannon. The appeals court also prohibited Dearie from vetting the documents marked classified.

After the ruling, Cannon—whose decision in Trump’s favor protecting the records seized at Mar-a-Lago has been criticized by several legal expert— amended her own order. It now states that material subject to a special master review no longer includes the “approximately one-hundred documents bearing classification markings.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Here’s why eating three big meals daily–not five small ones—might fight cognitive decline

September 30, 2022

The number of people suffering from dementia is expected to triple by 2050, with low- and middle-income communities taking the brunt. What’s worse, establishing consistent research findings to help scientists pinpoint relationships between disease progression and factors such as sleep and diet continues to be an uphill battle, reports Brain Tomorrow.

However, a new Chinese study from Zhejiang University offers promising results. Scientists say that results show that eating three larger meals per day is associated with greater cognitive function than spreading out intake across five smaller meals.

Epidemiological studies have studied temporal distribution of eating patterns related to diabetes and hypertension risk in the past. Regarding brain function, there have been few. Previous studies in animals demonstrated that meal disruption can change the brain’s clock rhythm, specifically in the hippocampus, which is the memory hub.

The research team pulled data from 3,342 people at least 55 years old from nine different Chinese provinces. They used an algorithm to identify six patterns of temporal distribution of energy intake: evenly-distributed, breakfast-dominant, lunch-dominant, dinner-dominant, snack-rich, and breakfast-skipping.

They then assessed cognitive function using the modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TICS-m), which organizes functions by a point system. Immediate and delayed word recalls are worth 20 points, backward counting 2 points, and serial -7 subtraction testing is worth 5 points. Higher cognitive scores (ranging from 0-27) signify greater cognitive function.

To tie eating patterns and cognitive score together, patterns were assessed over a ten-year period. These assessments were adjusted for age, gender, residence, total energy, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, household income, education level, and body mass index (BMI) to account for limitations.

Those with evenly-distributed eating patterns had notably higher long-term cognitive function scores than those with irregular temporal distribution of energy intake. This was most commonly identified in participants part of the breakfast-skipping group.

From this, the team concludes that skipping breakfast may be detrimental. They emphasize that optimal, timely nutrition is crucial for cognitive health and dementia prevention.

It’s often said that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” and here’s more proof that the saying might just be right.

This study has been published in the journal Life Metabolism.

Research contact: @braintomorrow

LeBron James is buying a professional pickleball team

September 30, 2022

Even NBA superstar LeBron James is getting caught up in the pickleball craze. James and his business partner, Maverick Carter, have joined a group of investors that includes NBA players Draymond Green and Kevin Love to purchase a Major League Pickleball expansion team, the league said on Wednesday, September 28, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Othr investors include investment firm SC HoldingsPaul Rivera, chief marketing officer for the SpringHill Company; and Relevent Sports Group co-owner and CEO Daniel Sillman.

Each member of the new ownership group plays pickleball, the league said.

Anne Worcester, MLP’s strategic adviser, said the team, which has yet to be named, is valued in the seven figures.

“This new ownership group brings extensive experience across sports, media, branding, entertainment,” Worcester told the Journal. “We are excited to work with them to expand and to bring pickleball to new audiences.” 

A spokeswoman for LRMR Ventures, the family office of James and Carter, said both were unavailable to comment.

The new pickleball team marks the latest expansion into sports ownership for James and Carter. Both are partners with Fenway Sports Group, the owners of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C., the English Premier League soccer team.

James, a newly minted billionaire, also co-founded SpringHill with Carter, who is a childhood friend of the basketball star. The company helped produce “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which starred James and was released in 2021, and the 2019 HBO documentary “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali.”

Pickleball, a hybrid of tennis, ping pong and badminton that dates back to 1960s, has taken off in the United States in recent years. There were about 4.8 million players nationwide in 2021, a 39% increase from 2019, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Pickleball was officially announced as the fastest-growing sport in America for the second year in a row, the group said.

Other pickleball team owners include former professional football player Drew Brees; Marc Lasry, co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks; and former professional tennis player James Blake.

The league is in the process of choosing new ownership groups for the final three expansion teams. The league is currently weighing about 20 bids for teams from over 60 groups, Worcester said. MLP expects to choose the final three ownership groups in the next month, she said.

“We are reviewing the rest of the bids internally,” Worcester said. “It’s looking at the resources each group would bring to Major League Pickleball to help us grow the sport at the pro level as well as the grassroots level.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump resists request to declare accuracy of Mar-a-Lago document inventory

September 30, 2022

On September 25, former President Donald Trump’s legal team formally resisted a request to declare whether an updated inventory released by the FBI of items taken during its search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8 is accurate, reports The Hill.

In a letter written last Sundaybut made public on Wednesday night, September 28—Trump’s team sidestepped the request from Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master appointed in the case, at the former president’s request.

“Because the special master’s case management plan exceeds the grant of authority from the District Court on this issue, plaintiff must object,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

The refusal to meet the court’s request comes as Dearie continues to push Trump’s team to back in court many of the claims the former president has made on television and on his social media platform that the FBI “planted” evidence at Mar-a-Lago and that he declassified the documents found there—a rationale that matters little for the crimes the Justice Department is contemplating.

The FBI posted an updated inventory on Monday night, September 26, that contained slightly different figures about the number of documents in each box, but was largely the same as the inventory first released earlier this month.

The Justice Department referenced Trump’s letter in its own filing before it was made public, saying all of the objections were “without merit.”

“The Special Master needs to know that he is reviewing all of the materials seized from Mara-a-Lago on August 8, 2022—and no additional material —before he categorizes the seized documents and adjudicates privilege claims,” the Justice Department wrote.

The Trump team’s Sunday letter also seeks to avoid instructions from Dearie to detail what type of privilege they believe a document qualifies for. Dearie asked the team to file the documents into six different categories, while the order initially approved by federal District Judge Aileen Cannon asks for just four—only asking for presidential records to be deemed privileged or not privileged.

“The amended case management plan goes beyond that grant of authority,” Trump’s legal team wrote.

The Justice Department pushed back, saying Trump needs to fully participate in the process he requested.

“Plaintiff brought this civil, equitable proceeding. He bears the burden of proof. If he wants the Special Master to make recommendations as to whether he is entitled to the relief he seeks, plaintiff will need to participate in the process,” the government wrote.

The fighting over the inventory and how to categorize the documents comes before Trump’s team has been able to see them. The parties have yet to secure a vendor to scan the documents so that all parties can digitally review them.

The government insinuated that vendors did not want to work with Trump, writing that none of the five companies they reached out to were “willing to be engaged by plaintiff.”

Trump’s team said the issue was the sheer volume of documents. In the Wednesday night letter, they say the nearly 11,000 documents taken during the search include some 200,000 pages.

Research contact: @thehill

Can’t dance to the beat? Your two left feet might be genetic

September 29, 2022

Music and dancing are some of the most joyous aspects of the human experience. Yet, for many, the dance floor can be a daunting destination. What comes naturally to some feels like an impossible exercise to others. If you’ve ever wondered why you, or someone you know, has two left feet when it comes to dancing, scientists may have found the answer, reports Brain Tomorrow.

Researchers from the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute and 23andMe have collaborated to conduct the first large-scale genomic study on dancing ability. They found 69 genetic variants linked to the ability to move in synchrony with music beats.

“Rhythm is not just influenced by a single gene, it is influenced by many hundreds of genes,” says co-senior author Reyna Gordon, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and co-director of the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab. “Tapping, clapping and dancing in synchrony with the beat of music is at the core of our human musicality.”

Gordon also points out that many of the discovered genes are associated with central nervous system function—including ones expressed early on in brain development and in areas in charge of auditory and motor skill development.

23andMe has an extensive research dataset and has been able to provide study data from more than 600,000 customers who consented to be part of the research. “The large number of consented study participants offered a unique opportunity for our group to capture even small genetic signals,” says David Hinds, Ph.D., a research fellow and statistical geneticist at 23andMe.

Scientists say they noticed that beat synchronization shares some of its genetic characteristics with other related every-day rhythmic activities, such as walking, breathing, and circadian pattern.

The team believes that this particular finding will be beneficial for exploring other rhythmic patterns that affect patient health and wellness outcomes, especially in respiratory or mobility conditions where these factors may be impaired.

“This is novel groundwork toward understanding the biology underlying how musicality relates to other health traits,” explains co-senior author Lea Davis, associate professor of Medicine.

Moreover, the scientists are pleased with their main discoveries regarding music, as previous research hasn’t exactly addressed genetic components that may play a role in ability to catch a beat. This study provides a solid start for further expanding genomic and phenotypic studies to deepen understanding in this field of research. As they continue to do so, this will not only offer insight into musicality and health, but also into parenting and child development which heavily rely upon synchronous movement and interaction.

This study is published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

Research contact: @braintomorrow