Groundbreaking study: OCD sufferers face much higher risk of death

February 23, 2024

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder face a much higher risk of death—from natural and unnatural causes, according to a shocking new study out of Sweden, reports the New York Post.

OCD, which affects 2% to 3% of Americans, is characterized by recurring thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors such as excessive hand washing and arranging objects in a precise way (compulsions).

This new research is reported to be the largest-ever study of mortality in people with OCD. Researchers identified 61,378 Swedes with the condition and matched them with 613,780 people without OCD by sex, birth year, and county of residence.

They also studied 34,085 people with OCD and 47,874 of their siblings without it.

The groups were monitored for an average of eight years between January 1973 and December 2020. During the study period, 4,787 people with OCD and 30,619 people without it died.

Scientists determined that people with OCD had an 82% increased risk of death—after adjusting for factors such as birth year, sex, county, migrant status, education, and family income. Their findings were published in the BMJ journal.

Specifically, people with OCD face a 31% increased risk of natural death and a three-fold greater risk of dying of an unnatural cause.

The natural causes of death by increased risk are:

  • Respiratory system diseases (73%);
  • Mental and behavioral disorders (58%);
  • Genital and urinary system diseases (55%);
  • Endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases (47%);
  • Circulatory system diseases (33%);
  • Nervous system disease (21%); and
  • Digestive system diseases (20%).

 However, people with OCD had a 10% reduced risk of death due to tumors.

Among the unnatural causes, researchers identified a nearly fivefold increased risk of suicide and a 92% greater risk of accidents.

Women with OCD had a higher relative risk of dying of unnatural causes than men with OCD, researchers said, noting that OCD is slightly more prevalent in women than in men.

It’s unclear what exactly causes OCD, but genetics and environmental factors such as pregnancy complications and childhood trauma have been studied. Psychotherapy and antidepressants are often used to treat the condition.

“Better surveillance, prevention, and early intervention strategies should be implemented to reduce the risk of fatal outcomes in people with OCD,” the researchers wrote in their findings.

The scientists are unsure if their findings apply to people outside of Sweden with different healthcare systems and medical practices.

Research contact: @nypost

A little goes a long way: Women get same exercise benefit as men, with less effort

February 22, 2024

A new study not only confirms that regular physical activity can prolong life and lower a person’s risk of dying; it also finds that women experience greater benefits from exercise than men do, with less effort, reports ABC News.

Using findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey, researchers analyzed data from 412,413 adults between 1997 to 2017 to understand the degree of overall health benefit derived from physical activity.

The researchers found that men were more likely to engage in physical activity than women. However, women who engaged in regular physical activity had a 24% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to inactive women; while physically active men had a 15% lower risk compared to their inactive counterparts.

They further discovered that the most beneficial amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity—for example, brisk walking or cycling—was around five hours per week, though there was also benefit shown for women starting at half that weekly amount.

“It turns out women can get a lot more return for even a little bit of investment than they might realize,” Dr. Susan Cheng, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Smidt Heart Institute and senior author of the study, told ABC News. “[A] little bit can go a really long way.”

“When it comes to looking at the [specific] amounts—particularly with moderate-to-vigorous physical activity—women could get almost double the return for the same investment compared to male counterparts,” Cheng added, calling the news “exciting and positive, especially for the really busy women out there who are juggling a lot of responsibilities both at work and at home.”

Women also saw a more significant reduction in mortality risk after engaging in muscle-strengthening activity, such as weightlifting or core exercises, than men did —9% compared to 11%, respectively—according to the study.

“This important study emphasizes the power of exercise for women,” Dr. Patricia Best, an interventional cardiologist and member of the Women’s Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told ABC News.

Taking it one step further, Best notes that following a heart attack, “women have frequently been referred to cardiovascular rehab less than men, and this study helps to give credence to the importance of exercise in women.”

Consistent with prior research, both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities were associated with lower risk of dying from heart-related diseases.

“For exercise, we’d like to encourage our patients and folks in general to be as active as they can, no matter how busy we all are. In general, we say that anything is better than nothing and more is better than less,” Cheng told ABC News.

Research contact: @ABC

Why skipping your dog’s walk is a bigger deal than you think

February 22, 2024

A 2011 study conducted by Michigan State University on the benefits of dog-walking found only two-thirds of its subjects routinely walked their dogs, reports The Washington Post.

According to experts, this forgoing of walks doesn’t only make neurotic dog guardians feel guilty. It can significantly affect your dog’s emotional and physical well-being.

“First of all, dogs don’t exercise by themselves, for the most part,” says Stephanie Borns-Weil, an assistant clinical professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The amount of exercise a dog needs varies based on age, breed and health: It can be as little as 30 minutes a day or as much as a few hours—but virtually all dogs need exercise in some form.

The typical yard, Borns-Weil says, just doesn’t offer enough stimulation to prompt an adequate amount of movement. Unless you’re spending time playing with your dog, “they’re just going to sit there,” she says, “because the space is familiar.” She compared it to reading the same book over and over again, or seeking enrichment by hanging out in your bathroom.

This need for exercise, while crucial, isn’t  even the most important reason to walk your dog. They may or may not get some exercise in the yard, Borns-Weil says, “but they’re not getting companionship [from their human], and they’re not getting the mental stimulation that comes from seeing new things, or, from the point of view of a dog, sniffing new things.”

Dogs who don’t have these needs met “are subjected to some of the same effects of long-term chronic stress on their health that people are,” she says, ranging from depression and anxiety, to problems with the immune system. Studies have found that dogs in shelters, too, benefit from direct human interaction, which reduces stress and stress-related behaviors.)

To help your dog get the most out of her walk, let her explore. “Sniffing is the way that dogs experience the world,” says Valli Fraser-Celin, a humane dog training advocate. Where humans have 6 million olfactory receptors, research shows that dogs can have up to 300 million; it’s how they acquire information about their environment and communicate.

Dogs can tell which animals have been nearby— including sniffing out their gender and information about their health. But so often, humans hurry them along, prioritizing exercise (or their own schedule) over their dog’s interest in the world around them. “It would be like taking me to the Smithsonian Institute,” Borns-Weil says, “and I’m wanting to stop and look at the exhibits, and somebody says, hey, hurry up; we’re just exercising, keep walking.”

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Allowing a dog to pull off to the side and sniff whenever he wants can feel wrong to those accustomed to outdated, dominance-focused training methods, which prioritize obedience above all else (and which are based on a long-debunked, but still persistent theory). Fraser-Celin warns against getting wrapped up in that mind-set.

It isn’t necessary that your dog walk obediently behind or beside you, or that they only stop to sniff when you grant permission. What’s important is that you pay attention to what they’re communicating and help them meet their needs. “If your dog wants to sniff every blade of grass,” Fraser-Celin says, “then that’s what they want to do on their walk.”

After some amount of time, you can usher them to a new area to sniff, or you might even designate a portion of the walk for sniffing and a portion for exercise.

But, above all, guardians need to take the animals’ lead, Fraser-Celin says, “rather than focusing on what our intentions are for the walk.” And if your dog isn’t into meeting strangers—canine or human—don’t feel pressured to acquiesce to those who insist their dog “is friendly!” or “all dogs love me!”

“Whenever you’re out in the world, it’s important to be an advocate for your dog’s needs,” Borns-Weil says. “Your dog is not public property.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

U.S. centenarian population is projected to quadruple over the next 30 years

February 20, 2024

The number of Americans age 100 and older is projected to more than quadruple over the next three decades—from an estimated 101,000 in 2024 to about 422,000 in 2054—according to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. Centenarians currently make up just 0.03% of the overall U.S. population, and they are expected to reach 0.1% in 2054, reports Pew Research.

The number of centenarians in the United States has steadily ticked up since 1950, when the Census Bureau estimates that there were just 2,300 Americans ages 100 and older. (The Census Bureau uses calculated estimates for years prior to the 1990 census, because it has identified substantial errors in the census counts of centenarians for those years.)

In the last three decades alone, the U.S. centenarian population has nearly tripled. The 1990 census counted around 37,000 centenarians in the country.

Today, women and White adults make up the vast majority of Americans in their 100s. This trend is largely projected to continue, though their shares will decrease:

  • In 2024, 78% of centenarians are women, and 22% are men. But, within 30 years, women are expected to make up 68% of those age 100 and older, while 32% will be men.
  • 77% of today’s centenarians are White. Far fewer are Black (8%), Asian (7%) or Hispanic (6%). And 1% or fewer are multiracial; American Indian or Alaska Native; or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. By 2054, White and Asian adults are projected to make up smaller shares of centenarians (72% and 5%, respectively), while the shares of those who are Hispanic (11%) or Black (10%) will be larger.
  • The U.S. population overall is expected to trend older in the coming decades, as life expectancies increase and the birth rate declines. There are currently roughly 62 million adults ages 65 and older living in the United States—accounting for 18% of the population. By 2054, 84 million adults ages 65 and older will make up an estimated 23% of the population.

Even as the 65-and-older population continues to grow over the next 30 years, those in their 100s are projected to roughly double as a percentage of that age group—increasing from 0.2% of all older Americans in 2024 to 0.5% in 2054.

 Centenarians around the world

The world is home to an estimated 722,000 centenarians, according to the United Nations’ population projections for 2024. The U.S. centenarian population is the world’s second largest: The UN estimates it at 108,000, slightly larger than the Census Bureau’s estimate.

Japan is the country with the greatest number of people in their 100s, at 146,000. China (60,000), India (48,000), and Thailand (38,000) are next in the number of centenarians they boast.

In each of these countries, centenarians make up less than 1% of the overall population—but combined, they account for more than half (55%) of the world’s population ages 100 and older.

Looked at another way, centenarians make up a bigger proportion of the total population in Japan, Thailand, and the United States; and account for smaller shares in China and India, which have large but relatively young populations.

There are about 12 centenarians for every 10,000 people in Japan; five for every 10,000 in Thailand; and three for every 10,000 in the United States That compares with fewer than one centenarian for every 10,000 people in China and India.

By 2054, the global centenarian population is projected to grow to nearly 4 million. China is expected to have the largest number of centenarians, with 767,000; followed by the United States, India, Japan and Thailand. As a proportion, centenarians are projected to account for about 49 out of every 10,000 people in Thailand; 40 of every 10,000 in Japan; and 14 of every 10,000 in the U.S.A. Six out of every 10,000 people in China will be centenarians, as will about two of every 10,000 in India.

Research contact: @pewresearch

80% of Americans test positive for chemical in Cheerios, Quaker Oats linked to infertility, delayed puberty

February 16, 2024

Four out of five Americans are being exposed to a little-known chemical found in popular oat-based foods—including Cheerios and Quaker Oats—that is linked to reduced fertility, altered fetal growth, and delayed puberty, reports the New York Post.

The Environmental Working Group has published a study in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology that found a staggering 80% of Americans tested positive for a harmful pesticide called chlormequat.

The “highly toxic agricultural chemical” is federally allowed to be used on oats and other grains imported to the United States, according to the EWG. When applied to oat and grain crops, chlormequat alters a plant’s growth—preventing it from bending over and thus making it easier to harvest.

Just as troubling, we detected the chemical in 92% of oat-based foods purchased in May 2023, including Quaker Oats and Cheerios,” the nonprofit organization said in a report published alongside the group’s findings.

General Mills, which makes Cheerios; and PepsiCo, which makes Quaker Oats, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: @nypost

This heat map shows what women experience when they walk home alone at night

February 15, 2024

In the United States, gender gaps remain firmly ingrained in the culture —whether it’s salary, time spent on household chores, or just feeling safe. Indeed, fully 85% of men report feeling safe when walking alone at night, compared to 64% of women, reveals Fast Company.

Now, a new study published in the journal, Violence and Gender suggests that this fear translates to significant behavioral differences between men and women.

Researchers at Brigham Young University, George Washington University, and University of Utah School of Medicine analyzed data from 571 college students at Brigham Young—56% female and 44% male. The students were asked to fill out a survey on walking home and safety.

The researchers gave the students 16 pictures of different locations at different points in the day and asked them to picture walking alone through the picture. The students were then asked to click the ar

Above, men tended to focus on walkways while women tended to focus on what surrounded the path, such as bushes or dark areas. This was particularly true at night. (Visual source: Martino Pietropoli/Unsplash]

eas of the picture that stood out most to them, creating a heat map.

The researchers found stark differences based on gender. Men tended to focus on walkways while women tended to focus on what surrounded the path, such as bushes or dark areas. This was particularly true at night. But even when there were lighted paths, women still focused on areas around the path.

“Despite attempts to improve environment, such as lighting; it is likely these findings represent a more systematic problem, rippling into other areas of women’s lives,” the researchers wrote.

“The results presented here can be a useful conversation starter for recognizing different lived experiences and to begin reclaiming everyday spaces for free mobility.”

Research contact: @FastCompany


Photographer breaks ‘stoic’ cat stereotypes by snapping pics of them ‘crazy’ on catnip

February 14, 2024

Cats can look pretty wild when they’re on a catnip high—and photographer Andrew Marttila has spent the last six years capturing those crazy moments. “There’s saliva and catnip everywhere,” 37-year-old Martilla says, according to a report by People.

In 2018, Marttila was playing around with his camera, experimenting with flash photography. “You can capture really interesting bizarre things,” he says. On a whim, he gave a bit of catnip to his 13-year-old Bengal cat, Haroun, “to see what his reaction [would be] and try to capture whatever [happened].”

“I had no idea what I would get. And the result was something really, really incredible and strange and sparked the interest of a lot of people around the world,” Marttila says. The images launched a series of photographs about cats high on catnip that has been turned into a book, an annual calendar, and more.

Marttila says he loves showing cats’ funny, silly sides. “I think there’s a misunderstanding that cats are aloof or very stoic, and it’s only in recent years that the silliness of cats has started to become more prevalent and prominent in pop culture,” he shares. “And I love exploring that side. I love showing cats sort of just enjoying themselves. I like just showing them funny and out of the norm.”

The flash photography allows him to “freeze these little moments” that “the human eye is not able to see,” he adds. “It’s a different window into their lived experience, especially when they’re high. You’re able to get an insight into just how crazy they do get on catnip.”

When he arrives at a photo shoot, he usually brings five varieties of catnip with him. “I’ll put catnip on a table or on the ground and have the lighting set up to accommodate where I think they will have their little freak-out moment and then sort of just let them do their thing. And as they are going wild, I snap photos.”

Marttila says about 70% of cats respond to catnip—and every cat reacts very differently. “You never know what you’re going to get,” he shares. “I think it’s the sort of the surprise factor, especially when I’m taking the photos, even I don’t know what I’ve gotten until I go back and review the images because it happened so quickly.”

For anyone worried the practice may be inhumane, Marttila—who also runs the Orphan Kitten Club rescue in San Diego with wife, Hannah Shaw —assuages those fears. “One comment that I get a lot when these pictures are on bigger publications is, ‘This is damaging to the cats. Why are we creating drug addicts in our cats?’ And it’s ignorance. It’s really not understanding what catnip does. And it is a very fast acting type of chemical. It is completely natural. There’s no chance of them becoming dependent on catnip,” he says.

Marttila also encourages people to try it at home. “I highly recommend giving a little bit or a lot of it to your cat just to see what their reaction is. Most of the time it will be an extremely positive experience for you and your cat. The daily life of a cat can … be just indoors in an apartment somewhere, and this can give them a little bit of a reprieve from the monotony of their daily existence.”

Research contact: @people

Forget apples! This fruit can improve your mental health in just four days

February 13, 2024

How do you like them apples? An apple is no longer the preferred fruit for deterring doctor’s visits: New Zealand scientists have found that eating kiwi fruit can boost a person’s mood in as little as four days, reports the New York Post.

According to findings of a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, these mental health-enhancing effects are can be attributed to the fact that kiwis are loaded with vitamin C, which is known to improve mood and vitality, among other benefits.

“It’s great for people to know that small changes in their diet, like adding kiwi fruit, could make a difference in how they feel every day,  study co-author Tamlin Conner, who teaches psychology at the University of Otago said in a statement.

To test the fruit’s alleged mood-boosting effects, the team of “Kiwis” conducted a diet experiment with155 adults who had deficient levels of vitamin C. Every day for eight weeks, participants were either given either a placebo—a 250 mg vitamin C supplement—or two kiwis, and then asked to report on their vitality, mood, sleep quality, and physical activity.

The kiwi group reportedly experienced vitality and mood enhancements in just four days with effects, peaking at around 14-16 days.

“Our participants had relatively good mental health to begin with, so had little room for improvement—but still reported the benefits of kiwi fruit or vitamin C interventions,” said lead author Dr. Ben Fletcher, who conducted the research as part of his Ph.D. at Otago.

Scientists chalked up these mental health benefits to the kiwi’s aforementioned high vitamin C content. Interestingly, participants were administered the SunGold variety of kiwi—which is yellow rather than green inside—and reportedly boasts three times as much vitamin C as oranges and strawberries, as judged on an edible flesh-weight basis.

Fletcher said that, ultimately, the results demonstrate how “what we eat can have a relatively fast impact on how we feel.

“We encourage a holistic approach to nutrition and well-being, incorporating various nutrient-rich foods into your diet,” the scientist added.

Research contact: @nypost

Paranormal mystery: Tesla driving through ‘Conjuring’ graveyard senses people walking

February 12, 2024

Are there real ghosts walking around in a famous graveyard in Rhode Island? According to the sensors in one man’s Tesla, the answer may be an eerie yes! In a bizarre event shared on TikTok, the driver’s Tesla sensors purportedly detected what appeared to be several “people” walking around his car. The problem is he and his passengers were driving through an empty cemetery, reports Study Finds.

For those who believe in ghosts, you may be excited to learn that this potentially paranormal shocker took place on the road along a cemetery near the Arnold Estate, the real-life inspiration for the 2013 movie “The Conjuring.” As the unnamed driver of the Tesla passed this graveyard, the images of people walking appeared on the motion sensor display.

In the video on TikTok, a group of people driving in the car stops to stare at the terrifying sight unfolding on the pedestrian sensor screen, you can hear them react in shock as more and more “ghosts” appear in the graveyard!

At one point, it even looks as if the ghosts are surrounding the Tesla, which spooks the riders even more. The video does show someone standing in front of a grave as they pull in, and the driver says his cousin and a friend were outside and eventually got in the car. That certainly would indicate an instance of the sensors picking up a person, but as the number of individuals grows and they appear to be in multiple places, the travelers are left laughing in confusion.

The unnamed driver, who claims to be a Tesla employee, adds that this isn’t some funny prank built into the car’s software by Tesla founder Elon Musk.

“[I can] confirm this is not an Easter egg Elon added as I’ve tried this many times. It’s not just picking up the gravestones, as even if it was they would show as stationary on the screen,” the driver said, according to a report by SWNS.

So, what was the car picking up on its screen? It might help first to understand how the sensors on a Tesla work. These sensors are calibrated to detect objects and people in typical driving environments. A graveyard, with its unique layout and objects, might present atypical conditions that the car’s system isn’t optimized to handle—leading to unusual readings on the sensor system.

Tesla’s pedestrian detection recently underwent a major transition. Prior to 2022, the system used a combination of sensors and software. This combined:

  • Radar: Radar sensors emit radio waves that bounce off objects and return to the sensor, providing information about the object’s distance and speed. However, radar waves can penetrate some materials but not others, and they’re generally not capable of detecting objects buried underground.
  • Cameras: Tesla vehicles use multiple cameras to provide a 360-degree view around the car. The cameras feed visual information to the car’s computer system, which uses image recognition algorithms to identify objects like cars, pedestrians, and road signs.
  • Ultrasonic sensors: These are used primarily for close-range detection and are especially useful for parking assistance. They use sound waves to detect objects around the vehicle. Like radar, these waves are not designed to penetrate the ground significantly.
  • Autopilot and full self-driving (FSD) software:This software analyzes the combined data from the sensors to identify pedestrians, predict their movements, and take potential actions such as braking or issuing warnings.

Since 2022, most Tesla models (Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X) have transitioned to Tesla Vision, a system that relies solely on cameras and vision-based software. This approach uses a sophisticated “occupancy network,” which analyzes camera footage to identify and differentiate objects—including pedestrians—with high accuracy.

It’s highly unlikely that the sensors were detecting bodies underground. More plausible explanations could include:

  • False positives from the sensor system: The car’s sensors, particularly the cameras, might be misinterpreting tombstones, trees, or other structures as people. This can happen due to the shapes, sizes, or even reflective properties of these objects.
  • Software glitches: The algorithms processing the sensor data might misinterpret what the sensors are picking up—especially in unusual environments like a graveyard.
  • Environmental factors: Things like shadows, lighting conditions, or weather might affect how the sensors perceive their surroundings.

While it’s unclear which type of Tesla this was, it’s clear that the high-tech car sees “something” in one of the creepiest places in the United States.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Terrible things are happening to men who got penis enlargement

February 9, 2024

Preying upon perhaps one of the biggest male insecurities, a Beverly Hills-based urologist’s controversial treatment has turned out not only to be too good to be true—but to have a very dark side as well, reports Futurism.

In an investigation originally conducted and published by ProPublica, James Elist and his enhancement device—known as the “Penuma” (an acronym for “Penis New Man”)—take center stage in this drama populated by men who, after getting the implant, had grotesque complications that included festering wounds and extreme pain during urination and sex.

Though Elist’s literature suggests that implantation of the Penuma, a block-like silicone device implanted through an incision in the shaft of the penis, is “reversible,” it seems clear from example after example of extreme complications that it’s anything but.

“To fully consent to a procedure, the patient needs someone to tell him everything,” Thomas Walsh, a reconstructive urologist who has treated patients with post-Penuma implantation complications, told ProPublica. “He doesn’t need a salesman. The problem here is that you’ve got someone who is inventing and manufacturing and selling the device. That personal investment can create a tremendous conflict of interest.”

Walsh removed the implant belonging to a patient whose name ProPublica listed only as “Mick” to protect his identity. After finally rejecting Elist’s directive not to seek advice online or from other doctors, Mick, who had lost sensation in his penis, was horrified to learn that there were tons of other deeply unsatisfied customers who had complications even worse than his own.

From broken implants to holes that spew out amber-colored fluid, the stories of Penuma implants gone wrong are enough to turn one’s stomach. But prior to this latest investigation, articles singing Elist and his device’s praises in GQ and other news outlets contributed to making him a standout surgeon in the packed Beverly Hills market.

Perhaps the most depressing part of Mick’s story—a consequence from which he suffered and was far from alone—is that following the removal of the implant, he found that his penis had actually lost length.

“It’s like he also snipped the possibility of intimacy away from me,” a Hollywood executive who had had multiple surgeries with Elist, told ProPublica.

Although the doctor insists that there are more satisfied customers than unhappy ones, the list of issues not only with the implant itself but also with the consent process is harrowing. For instance, men were being given forms to sign after getting shots of narcotics. Foreign-born patients were being given forms to sign in English and after waking up from anesthesia for what they thought was a vein-cleaning procedure, found a strange object had been implanted into their shafts.

The entire debacle is a gross reminder not only of the potential issues with any cosmetic procedure—but also of the lengths, pun intended, to which people in our culture will go to “improve” or “enhance” their bodies. That men are willing to undergo such surgeries is as much an indictment of society at large as it is on the doctors who capitalize on their insecurities.

Research contact: @futurism