Review Category : Health

Blog ‘Analyzes’ Users’ Mental State from Emojis

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Can a winky face signal anxiety? What about a crying cartoon cat as a sign of depression? One Brooklyn copywriter decided to take on the challenge by “analyzing” the emojis of others.

Dan Brill, a New York copywriter for the Droga 5 advertising agency, launched a blog called Emojinalysis where he jokingly “analyzes” the most-used emojis, breaking down the significance of too many “weary cat” emojis or an overuse of heart icons.

Brill said he was inspired to start the site after texting a friend and realizing his most used emojis were pretty glum.

“I pulled up my recently used emojis. There was a bunch of distressed faces, and boos, I said, ‘Am I all right?’” said Brill. “It’s this weird window in to what’s going on in people’s lives.”

Brill’s site is in good fun and the 30-year-old admitted he is “the least mentally qualified person to analyze other people,” but experts said a psychiatric analysis of emojis may not be completely absurd — especially as teens and other young people turn to the icons to communicate more and more.

Rachel Busman, a psychologist at the Anxiety and Mood Disorder Center at the Child Mind Institute in New York, said it is important for parents and mental health workers dealing with teenagers to understand the language of emoticons, emojis and other social media communication to be aware of their teen’s mental state.

“It’s an interesting question and it’s a good question because the age group of teenagers and tweens are using texting and emojis to communicate,” Busman told ABC News. “If you saw a kids phone, whether it had emojis or dark [text], I would hope that it would open a dialogue.”

Even Facebook has created a designated list of warning signs to help users identify if their online friends seem particularly upset. One of the possible warnings sings was the overuse of negative emoticons.

However, Busman said, for the vast majority of people, using of a bunch of unhappy faces in their texts does not indicate much about their mental state. Instead, Busman recommended that any user worried that their emojis revealed inner turmoil should instead take stock of when they use the little icons.

“Does [unhappy emojis] mean I’m sad or do I use them when I have something negative to say?” Busman said, as an example. “I think we can always be aware of how [we're] communicating.”

Brill said since he started the site, he’s been overwhelmed with the popular response, which may have just changed the kind of emojis he’s been using recently.

“It’s been a pretty exciting couple of days,” Brill said. “There’s a lot more happy emojis.”

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Chikungunya Virus Sparks Warning in Tennessee

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A mosquito-borne virus that’s spreading in the Caribbean may have landed in Tennessee, according to health officials.

A group of Tennesseans that recently returned from the Caribbean is showing symptoms of the chikungunya virus, which include fever, joint and muscle pain, rash and joint swelling, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

“This is often a terribly painful and uncomfortable illness, with no vaccine to prevent it and no specific treatment for those infected,” state health commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner said in a statement. “Recovery can be prolonged, so prevention is the only good option.”

The virus spreads through bites from Aedes species mosquitoes, also known as daytime biting mosquitos, which are common in Tennessee.

“It is imperative individuals experiencing symptoms of chikungunya virus minimize their exposure to mosquitoes to reduce risk of local transmission,” said Abelardo Moncayo, director of the Tennessee Department of Health’s Vector-Borne Diseases program. “A mosquito can pick up the virus from an infected human and infect others.”

Outbreaks of chikungunya have occurred in Africa, Asia, Europe and areas surrounding the Indian and Pacific Oceans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Late last year, the virus appeared for the first time in the Caribbean.

Now, health officials fear it might have made its way to the U.S.

“It is, unfortunately, probably just a matter of time before we have confirmed cases here,” said Dreyzehner.

The best way to protect yourself from the virus is to avoid mosquito bites by wearing insect repellants and outdoor clothing that’s “long, loose and light,” according to the Tennessee Department of Health. The department also recommended avoiding perfumes, eliminating standing water near your home and using screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

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Summer Harvest Comes to White House Garden

Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon(WASHINGTON) — Children from five local elementary schools will come to the White House on Thursday to chow down on crops they planted in its garden last spring. First lady Michelle Obama and White House chefs will help the students make lunches from the fruit and vegetable patch as a reward for each of their schools meeting national health and nutrition standards supported by her “Let’s Move” initiative.

The White House Kitchen Garden, now in its sixth year, began as a pet project of the first lady to discuss healthier eating and living. It is now commonly used as a setting for children’s events on the residence grounds and is a popular tourist attraction open to the public.

Joining Obama were classes from the nearby Harriet Tubman, Bancroft, Kimball and Cleveland elementary schools, along with Friendship Public Charter school. The first lady also invited school nutrition directors from Orlando, Dallas and West Virginia to participate.

About 90 percent of U.S. classrooms are meeting the nutrition standards overseen by the Department of Agriculture, administration officials say.

Thursday’s event was initially scheduled as a summer harvest in the garden, but an inclement weather threat moved the first lady and her guests indoors.

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Do Doctors Ignore Patients Who Don’t Want Aggressive Therapy?

iStock/Thinkstock(STANFORD, Calif.) — As much as we all dread thinking about our own deaths, what seems to be upsetting to many people as well is the thought of undergoing aggressive therapy when one is terminally ill.

Apparently, many physicians have also pondered that. A 2013 survey found that close to nine-in-ten doctors would choose a “no-code” or do-not-resuscitate orders for themselves.

However, a study by VJ Periyakoil from the Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that a majority of doctors are less inclined to give that same option to patients who might be at the end of their own lives.

In fact, Periyakoil says the attitude of doctors is basically unchanged over the past 25 years, that is, they seem to insist on using aggressive therapy even when over 80 percent of patients would rather avoid high-intensity care and long hospitalizations.

According to Periyakoil, “Patients’ voices are often too feeble and drowned out by the speed and intensity of a fragmented health-care system.”

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Sometimes Sex Can Be a Real Pain in the Head

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — As pleasurable as sex is, there is a very small percentage of people who experience headache pain during the act.

Dr. Jose Biller, a Loyola University Medical Center neurologist who conducted a study on the phenomenon, actually believes that the number of people who get sex headaches is higher than the one percent who report them.

The problem, according to Biller, is that these headache sufferers are probably too embarrassed to mention it to their physician.

The good news for the vast majority whose heads may start to pound during sexual activity is that the cause is not usually serious and there are a variety of remedies that can help relieve or even prevent the headache from occurring.

However, Biller says people shouldn’t be afraid to tell their doctors about chronic pain associated with sex because in rare cases, the underlying cause might be serious, such as hemorrhage, brain aneurysm or stroke.

Medical experts will likely recommend a neurological evaluation just to play it on the safe side.

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Unhappiness Is a Side-Effect of Unemployment

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — There’s no question that being out of work for any length of time can be a demoralizing experience. However, a new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index suggests the impact of unemployment may be far worse than anyone imagined.

In questioning well over 350,000 U.S. adults, of whom five percent were out of work, Gallup found that around 20 percent of the respondents unemployed for at least a year are currently depressed or are being treated for depression.

Essentially the longer people didn’t have a job, the more likely they were to report symptoms of depression.

Overall, 12.4 percent of the unemployed in the survey were either experiencing depression or were getting treated for it, compared to 5.6 percent of all full-time working adults.

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WATCH: New York Artist Bends Brainwaves into 3-D Art

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Ion Popian doesn’t create art with a paint brush, pencil or mound of clay, starting instead with brainwaves.

Popian pioneered brainwave art for his series “Mental Fabrications.” Each piece is created by reading participants’ brainwaves through a biosensor and translating them into 3-D models.

The finished white models look like landscapes with skeletal versions of hills and valleys. The models dot Popian’s studio in Queens, New York, and as he works, the buzz of a 3-D printer slowly putting together the components to make another model drones in the background.

To create the series, Popian worked with a filmmaker and programmer to fine tune the process. The participants watch an abstract film to get their brainwaves at peak motion. The programmer then takes the data from the biosensor and spins it through an algorithm so that the data can be printed out on a 3-D printer, turning biological information into artwork.

“[The] emotions, we can feel as human we can map these out,” Popian said. “Every single one of these maps is like a fingerprint of the individual.”

The “Mental Fabrications” series is as much about the experience as the end result.

Filmmaker Noah Shulman created the abstract video for the experience by utilizing magnified images and abstract music to put the viewer at ease and their brainwaves in motion.

As participants have their brainwaves read, anyone else in the studio can see their projected thought pattern on a wall. The undulating digitized plane rises and falls in real time depending on each participant’s relaxation or concentration. The more relaxed, the more peaks, while more concentration results in more valleys.

“From watching the film to printing the art I feel like it’s…creativity in its purest form you know it’s straight from the brain,” Shulman told ABC News.

When ABC News visited the studio a test run showed the brainwave “hills” appeared to rise and fall in time with the music from Shulman’s video.

It was Popian’s day job as an architect that inspired him to render the brainwaves in architectural shapes.

“The process of architecture is what I used to derive this whole concept. It’s trying to bring a scientific…process to an art project,” Popian said.

Popian’s skills as an architect will likely come in handy in the next phase of the project.

He’s planning to use the same technology to turn the brainwave data into giant 3-D structures large enough to stand under for a project this summer.

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Being ‘Cool’ May Not Be All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Parents of “cool” kids may not have it easier, as a new study shows that students in middle school who are considered “cool” may be more likely to engage in criminal behavior, drug use or alcohol abuse later in life.

Researchers at the University of Virginia studied data from 184 13-year-olds over a span of 10 years of their lives. Those teens who were deemed “cool” became romantically involved at an early age, engaged in delinquent or criminal behavior and placed higher value on socializing with physically attractive friends.

Those same tendencies, however, later correlated to increased risk of criminal activity and drug and alcohol use. Furthermore, by the time the students reached adulthood, the “cool” kids were more likely to be seen as “less competent” by their peers, researchers said.

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What’s In Your Beer? Fish Bladder and Antifreeze Ingredient?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Food blogger Vani Hari’s husband’s favorite drink is beer and, just in time for his birthday this week, she is launching an online petition to ask the two biggest producers of American beer to list all their ingredients and brewing methods.

Hari claims some beers contain additives like high-fructose corn syrup, stabilizers and artificial flavoring, which have been linked to obesity, allergies, hyperactivity and gastrointestinal problems. She also alleges that big brewers use unappetizing things like propylene glycol – a foaming ingredient found in airplane deicing liquid – and even use fish bladders during brewing for clarity.

“That was alarming to me,” Hari, 35, of North Carolina, told ABC News. “I thought beer was just hops, water, yeast, malt and barley.”

The fact is no one but the manufacturer – not even Hari – knows for sure what’s in beer or what’s used to make it, because the federal government does not require companies to disclose their ingredients or brewing processes. Hari is on a mission to increase transparency in the beer industry.

Her point is that consumers just don’t know how their food and drink is made or what they put into their bodies.

“I just want full disclosure,” she said, “not to change labels and go through government labels — just to disclose it online so everyone can see.”

Now, she has targeted Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, which are the two largest beer brewers in the United States, according to Millward Brown Optimor, a leading global research agency.

Both MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch told ABC News that they were in full compliance with all federal and state labeling requirements.

An Anheuser-Busch spokesman told ABC News that it uses none of the ingredients cited by Hari in its “flagship brands,” Budweiser and Bud Light.

Peter Marino, a spokesman for MillerCoors, told ABC News that its ingredients are “proprietary information.”

“That being said, we are happy to provide allergen information, which, in our case, involves wheat,” Marino said. “We do not use nuts or dairy in the brewing process. And we don’t use fish bladders either.”

But Hari argues that proprietary recipes shouldn’t trump transparency.

“Coca-Cola has kept their secret formula under lock and key for years,” she said. “However, Coca-Cola also releases the full set of ingredients on their labels — something beer manufacturers have kept hidden for years and our government has neglected to mandate.”

The average American drinks about 21 gallons of beer annually, making it the third-most-popular drink in the United States, after soda and bottled water, according to a 2010 article in Advertising Age. Beer is still the most popular alcoholic beverage, a favorite among 36 percent of Americans, according to a 2013 Gallup Poll.

“In this new decade of information about food and what we are consuming, we don’t know what is in the world’s most popular drink,” said Hari.

Hari, an activist known as the Food Babe, takes credit for two other consumer victories: getting Kraft to remove yellow dyes from its children’s Mac & Cheese products; and urging Subway to get an ingredient used in yoga mats out of its bread.

“My husband loves beer and it’s one of the things that he brings into the house, and I didn’t know what was in it,” Hari told ABC News. “I am very meticulous about ingredients that I put in my family’s bodies. So I started to investigate.”

Hari claims that MillerCoors has admitted to using high-fructose corn syrup in several of their brands, and said some of their products may contain genetically modified corn because of its prevalence in the U.S., but the companies would not comment on these claims to ABC News.

She also noted that some other brewers darken their beers with caramel color, a compound that is under review by the FDA for potential health hazards.

The FDA is currently reviewing if there should be limits on these colorings in soft drinks.

Neither MillerCoors nor Anheuser-Busch would comment to ABC News on whether their products contain caramel coloring.

As for fish bladders, some beer and wine manufacturers extract and dry them to use as filters, to help rid the beverage of particles.

The powder produced by the dried fish bladders, known as isinglass, has historically had wound-healing properties, according to an April article in Newsweek. But, as the article noted, it renders those beverages “drinkable but also unsuitable for vegetarians.”

“Just like dairy manufacturers pump cows with antibiotics and growth hormones, the beer companies should be upfront about their processing and disclose that they are using fish bladders,” said Hari.

She also alleged that some beer makers use “chemically altered hop extract,” known as tetrahops, to add a bitter flavor and give it a longer shelf life.

Hari said she contacted the customer service departments of “every beer company under the sun” for one year. Some released information on ingredients and others were not as responsive.

“They tell you the basic ingredients,” she said, “but not the additives.”

Beer is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, which is part of the Treasury Department, but labeling is not required.

“However, an industry member who makes caloric or carbohydrate claims on a label must also include either a statement of average analysis, which provides the number of calories, as well as the number of grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat per serving size, or a serving facts statement, which adds the serving size and number of servings per container and may also include alcohol content,” wrote TTB spokesman Thomas Hogue in an email to ABC News.

Allergen labeling is currently on a voluntary basis, although the TTB does require that additives like sulfite, which can cause life-threatening allergies, and yellow dye 5, which has been linked to hyperactivity in children, be on alcohol labels.

But alcohol makers must adhere to the “good manufacturing practices” enforced by the Food and Drug Administration and all its safety standards.

According to the FDA spokeswoman, Jennifer Dooren, substances directly added to food or that become part of food through contact must be safe, including ingredients used in “producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting or holding food.”

Ingredients like high fructose corn syrup can be used “so long as their use is consistent” with the Code of Federal Regulations, or are generally recognized as safe, she said. The FDA maintains an inventory of “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS ingredients notifications on line.

Marino of MillerCoors wrote ABC News in an email, “If those regulations change, we certainly would be compliant.”

“When we introduce a beer containing a non-traditional ingredient or utilizing a non-traditional brewing process, we must submit a formula to the TTB before receiving a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA),” wrote Marino. “That formula must contain a listing of all ingredients and the process that we will use in brewing our beers. Additionally, TTB may request a sample of our product and will periodically sample products in the marketplace to ensure the products comply with the approved formula and COLA. There is no TTB requirement to list the ingredients for beers on our labels since we are completely in compliance with all federal regulations controlling the brewing and labeling of our beers.”

Marino added that MillerCoors was the first American alcohol company to participate in the TTB’s new voluntary labeling guidelines as “step toward more transparency” with its brand Miller64.

“We are starting with Miller64 because, with its appeal to legal-drinking-age consumers who live an active, balanced lifestyle, we think the additional nutritional details will be especially relevant for Miller64 drinkers,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to get started down this path and learn more about consumer reaction.”

An Anheuser-Busch spokesman told ABC News in an email that it “takes great pride in making our beers to the highest standards of quality and consistency, using pure, fresh, natural ingredients. For example, our flagship Budweiser and Bud Light brands are made with the best barley malt, rice, hops, yeast, and pure water.”

The company said both those brands use American-grown rice, which by USDA standards does not contain genetically modified varieties. Anheuser-Busch cited its global consumer-information website for facts about ingredients and nutritional information.

“We, like all brewers large and small, brew all our beers to adhere to federal and state brewing and labeling standards,” he said. “Our beer ingredients all meet TTB and FDA standards for food safety. … Our beers must meet the high expectations of our consumers, which is why our high-quality ingredients and brewing standards are our top priority.”

Hari said her initial research into beer ingredients stemmed from the 1982 book, Chemicals Additives in Beer, by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Now decades old, the book lists a number of ingredients that may or not be in beer today. But Michael Jacobson, the center’s current director, said that what’s in beer is still “a big secret” and consumers deserve to know.

“Just because it sounds scary, doesn’t mean the product is dangerous,” he said. “It’s my feeling that health problems or no health problems, consumers have a right to know the ingredients.”

Propylene glycol, which Hari pointed out is also in antifreeze, is a “harmless food additive,” according to Jacobson. Even the permitted food dyes — blue 1, red 40 and yellow 5 (which requires labeling) — are rarely used in beer except to mix yellow and blue for green on St. Patrick’s Day, he said.

“I presume there aren’t many kids drinking artificially colored beer,” he said.

But caramel colorings that have been treated with ammonia in dark beers can be “a problem,” he said, “though the caramel coloring industry has been cleaning up its act.”

“[Hari] is generally in the right direction,” he said. “She exaggerates, but who cares compared to the fact that these million-dollar companies refuse to disclose their ingredients and the government fails to require it.”

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First Lady to Host Third Annual ‘Kids’ State Dinner’

The White House(WASHINGTON) — First Lady Michelle Obama will host her third annual “Kids’ State Dinner” next month, with 54 children from all states, territories and the District of Columbia being invited to attend.

The children were selected as winners in a healthy recipe competition as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. The winning children will be accompanied by a parent or guardian and will attend the July 18 event at the White House. Michelle Obama and the children will enjoy a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes submitted by the children and a visit to the White House Kitchen Garden.

There were more than 1,500 entries in the “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge” this year. Each entrant had to be between the ages of 8 and 12 and submit a recipe that represented each of the food groups including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods. Fruits and vegetables were expected to comprise about half of the meal.

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