Review Category : Health

More Bicyclists, Fewer Accidents with Cars

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOULDER, Colo.) — Although it seems counterintuitive, the more bicyclists that ride on crowded city streets, the less chance they’ll have of colliding with cars.

What accounts for this phenomenon known as the “safety in numbers effect?” It’s something that researchers at the University of Colorado haven’t yet ascertained.

However, what they did find out after studying the incidence of accidents involving motorists and bicyclists in Boulder — one of the nation’s most bike friendly cities — is that collisions dropped significantly at intersections when there were more cyclists on the road.

Co-author Wesley Marshall says they could verify the “safety in numbers effect” with a good deal of certainty because Boulder was one of the first cities in the nation to establish a bicycle counting program some time ago.

As for why more bicyclists are shown to reduce accidents, Marshall can only guess. One theory is that it changes the behavior of drivers, making them more apt to look out for people on two wheels.

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Mental Illness in Kids: How to Spot the Signs and Ask for Help

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Elliot Rodger, the man who killed six people and wounded 13 more before killing himself, had never shown any violent tendencies before the attack, according to his father.

Peter Rodger, a photographer and Hollywood movie director, told ABC News’ Barbara Walters that he never thought his son “could hurt a flea.”

“We didn’t see this coming at all,” he said of the massacre in an exclusive interview that will air in full in a special edition of 20/20 Friday night.

[Santa Barbara Shooter's Father's Open Letter: 'We Have to Stop This']

But every child is different and some signs of mental illness aren’t as obvious as others, said Alan Kazdin, professor of child psychology and psychiatry at Yale University. What’s more, it can be difficult for parents to know when to seek help, and when they do, resources vary across the country.

In Virginia, where Cristy Gallagher lives with her 11-year-old daughter who has bipolar disorder, she’s fought for more state mental health crisis funding for children because her county only had one crisis unit, and police alone can’t give her daughter the help she needs.

“Police will handle a crisis but will not get the child into anything helpful,” Kazdin said, adding that parents can start by calling their state department of family services and asking for a referral to a child mental health specialist.

Gallagher runs a parent support group near where she lives in Northern Virginia through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit. She helps other parents do things like make crisis plans, decide whether to keep their children in public school and come up with coping skills.

“What is interesting to me is how many families are in the same or similar situations that don’t talk about it openly, but will pull me aside and talk about it,” she said.

Kazdin, who runs the Yale Parenting Center, had some tips for parents who think they might have a mentally ill child:

Keep an eye out for isolation. The child doesn’t have to win a popularity contest, but should have at least one good friend.

Get the child involved in a hobby that will build confidence and a social network.

“Be very careful about unsupervised computer time,” he said. Cyberbullying, violent content and porn are easily accessible to tiny fingers, he said, adding that children are likely more web savvy than their parents and can easily get around parental “blocks.”

Don’t grab the child during an argument because it only leads to more aggression. And never use corporal punishment. “Don’t respond to anything physical. That makes things much worse,” he said. “This is what I do for a living so I’ve seen this way too many times.”

Every parent has a threshold for when they seek help with a mentally ill child, Kazdin said, so it’s hard to know when the time is right. That will vary based on the illness, the size of the family and the resources available.

[Visit for more mental health resources.]

To Gallagher, her elementary school aged daughter’s bouts of mania sometimes looked like sugar highs, but she knew something was wrong.

“For her, it was singing Hannah Montana at the top of her lungs and laughing hysterically. You just know that’s not normal,” Gallagher said. “Jumping around her room from her bed to her floor and back again. Also talking nonstop, which is very common for a manic episode for a kid.”

But other times, the little girl talked about hurting herself or hurting others. Once, she hurt the dog, and Gallagher could hear the animal from down the street.

“One time we took her to the hospital, she said she wanted to jump out the window with her brother,” Gallagher said.

She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD soon after.

Today, Gallagher’s daughter is 11. She knows she has a mental illness and isn’t afraid to talk about it, though some days are easier than others, Gallagher said.

“On very bad days when she’s sad and upset, she’ll say, ‘Why is something wrong with me? Why am I different?’” Gallagher said. “But for the most part, she’s proud of who she is. She loves dolphins, she loves to sing and dance and do all the things all the other kids can do.

“Some kids have diabetes, and some kids have other illnesses,” Gallagher said. “This is just something different with her brain.”

Get more information about spotting the signs of mental illness and getting help from the National Institutes of Mental Health.

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CDC: One in 10 Deaths Among Working-Age Adults Due to Excessive Alcohol

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New data from the Centers for Disease Control show that nearly 88,000 people may have died young due to drinking too much alcohol between 2006 and 2010.

Those who died from drinking, the CDC says, had their lives shortened by an average of 30 years. Among the health effects that were linked to drinking and an early death were breast cancer, liver disease and heart disease.

Of those whose deaths were attributed to excessive drinking, nearly 70 percent were working-age adults. That figure represents about 10 percent of deaths among adults between the ages of 20 and 64.

About five percent of deaths related to excessive alcohol use were individuals under the age of 21.

“Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death that kills many Americans in the prime of their lives,” said Ursula Bauer, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

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NYC Ban on Sugary Drinks Rejected by Appeals Court

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The New York Court of Appeals refused to reinstate New York City’s ban on large sodas and other sugary drinks on Thursday.

The ban went into effect in 2012 and prevented the sale of single-size servings of soda and other sugary drinks that were more than 16 ounces. The law, supported by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court in 2013.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett says that the ban was beneficial, and that the court’s ruling “doesn’t change the fact that we have a huge problem with obesity in this city, and it doesn’t change the role of sugary drinks in that epidemic.”

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How to Live Past 100, According to Centenarians

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Want to live to 100? Doctors will tell you to stay active and eat loads of fruits and veggies. But these centenarians have a few extra tricks up their sleeves.

Lucienne Clotier of Old Town, Maine, who just turned 105, credits mile-long walks and a daily drink.

“Make sure it is red wine and drink it once a day,” she told ABC News affiliate WVII-TV in Bangor, Maine. “Yes, that’s a good drink for you.”

Pearl Cantrell of San Saba County, Texas, lived to 105 eating a plate of bacon and some “coffee pudding” every morning, according to her son, Billy Allen.

Coffee pudding is coffee made with plenty of sugar, milk and biscuits, Allen told ABC News on his mom’s birthday last year.

But some centenarians stick to their doctor’s advice. And those who make it to the age of 110 get a special title: supercentenarian.

In Detroit, the oldest American citizen and supercentenarian, Jeralean Talley, credited religion and God after turning 115.

“A long time ago, I asked the good Lord, when you get ready to take me home…I don’t want to be sick,” Talley told ABC News affiliate WXYZ-TV in Detroit. “So far I don’t suffer so much.”

While the advice of Talley, Cloiter and Cantrell might be fun to try, scientists are still searching for clues to explain why a lucky few can make it far past age 100. Research into “Blue Zones,” places with higher rates of centenarians, have revealed some common characteristics between the areas.

“The problem is we keep looking for is a silver bullet,” Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones told ABC News last year. “The answer is silver buckshot.”

Buettner found that these regions with higher rates of centenarians tend to feature moderated diets, active seniors and a sense of community and inclusion for seniors. But Buettner said there’s one more thing that unites the super old: a good personality.

“Every main principle investigator [of a centenarian study] will say it’s hard to measure likability, but the grumps seem to die out,” said Buettner.

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Eight Weight Loss Myths to Lose Today

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When it comes to obesity, we have more to lose than just those extra pounds. We also need to shed our misconceptions.

“If we continue to think about obesity prevention and treatment the way we always have, then we’ll continue putting our time and resources into the wrong things,” said Krista Casazza, assistant professor at the University of Alabama and author of a new report on weight loss myths published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

Casazza and her colleagues highlighted eight misconceptions that may be preventing the more than 1.5 billion obese people on the planet from losing weight.

Here’s a quick rundown of the myths and why they don’t add up:

Slow Weight Loss is Better

Most diet experts recommend losing no more than two pounds a week. But Casazza’s research round-up found that people who lose weight faster are more likely to keep it off and continue losing.

Casazza said a quick fix “fad” diet can jump start weight loss by boosting confidence and motivation. As long as the plan isn’t unhealthy and the dieter lifts weights to maintain muscle mass and metabolism, dropping a dress size in a week might not be such a bad thing, she said.

You Need a Reasonable Weight Loss Goal

Shooting for crazy, out-of-reach weight loss goals often gets better results than setting modest, easily attainable goals, Casazza said.

“Striving for something unreasonable like losing hundreds of pounds often drives you to engage in ambitious, out-of-the-box thinking,” she explained.

You Must ‘Be Ready’ to Lose Weight

You don’t need to completely focus on weight loss in order to lighten up, even though that’s a popular notion among dieters and weight loss experts alike, Casazza said, adding that many weight loss centers even assess new clients with a diet readiness questionnaire.

The concept of total engagement to achieve success is based on models that work in drug addiction, Casazza explained. In studies, willingness to change did a poor job of predicting who lost weight and who didn’t.

P.E. Curbs Childhood Obesity

School physical education classes alone don’t get kids to a healthy weight because they aren’t active enough, Casazza said.

“Studies show that by the time kids get dressed and the instructor gets organized, takes roll call and gives instructions there’s barely any time left over for activity,” she said. “The kids actually have to do some work — not just show up.”

Casazza said exercise may be one key to fighting childhood obesity, but 30-minute P.E. classes by themselves won’t do the trick.

Breastfeeding Protects Against Obesity

Breastfeeding is healthy for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, obesity prevention doesn’t seem to be one of them, Casazza said.

Casazza said her team has conducted a number of studies looking for the positive influence of breast feeding on weight control, and it’s just not there. One problem with the concept, she said, is that it’s difficult to tease out the effect of breast feeding and other factors like a mother’s weight and income. It’s also possible that the breast milk of obese women has a different composition than the breast milk of thin women which might negate some of its weight control benefits.

Never Weigh Yourself

Researchers have long speculated that following daily fluctuations in weight would be a huge bummer for dieters. This turns out not to be the case. In fact, Casazza’s review found that people who do a daily weigh-in increase their chances of losing weight compared to those who stepped on the scale just once a week.

Genes Aren’t Your Problem

Genes do play a role in what you weigh, just not the way you think, Casazza said.

Rather than harboring mutations, your genes may be influenced by epigenetics, a process that affects the way genes express themselves in the environment they face. It’s also possible to pass these epigenetic alterations down through the generations. For example, your father’s weight, what your mother ate and how much your grandparents exercised could all change the way your body’s genetics respond to diet and exercise, Casazza explained.

Food Deserts Make You Fat

Scientists refer to neighborhoods short on access to fresh, healthy foods as food deserts. These areas have long been associated with poor health and high BMIs. But Casazza says the research shows otherwise.

In the studies Casazza and her team reviewed, living in a food desert did not correlate with a higher incidence of obesity compared to places where fresh fruits and vegetables were readily available. Further, giving residents better access to fruits and veggies did not guarantee they would up their intake of produce.

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Have a Lousy Day! Study Shines New Light on Low Self-Esteem

iStock/Thinkstock(WATERLOO, Ontario) — You know that person who always seems to have a dark cloud over their head? Well, don’t go raining on their parade by trying to stop it from raining on their parade.

It just so happens, according to researchers in Ontario, Canada, that these people prefer to wallow in self-pity rather than hear from others that life isn’t so bad.

Professor Denise Marigold from Renison University College at Waterloo says, “People with low self-esteem want their loved ones to see them as they see themselves.”

Therefore, it’s not positive reinforcement that they seek but more like negative validation, that is, having someone say they understand just how rotten they feel.

In other words, you’re doing someone with low self-esteem a favor by not trying to brighten their day.

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You Really Are One with Your Cellphone

iStock/Thinkstock(EUGENE, Ore.) — People have more in common with their smartphones than they probably realize but it’s not necessarily something you’d want to text a friend about.

Researcher James Meadow at the University of Oregon says phones carry much of the same types of bacteria that are found on people.

As a matter of fact, after analyzing 17 people and their smartphones, Meadow and his team learned that 82 percent of these microorganisms existing on participants’ fingers also wound up on their digital devices with this phenomenon occurring more often with women than men.

So what is the practical application of this particularly appetizing discovery? Well, it could really come in handy wherever you find health care workers and hospital visitors, according to Meadow.

For instance, their phones could be examined for possible harmful bacteria and viruses that they may be bringing inside and outside of a medical facility.

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A New Way for Brainiacs to Get Together

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The smartest of the smart are looking for love in all the right places. In this case, it’s on Mensa Match, a new service by the dating website

Mensa bills itself as “the high IQ society that provides a forum for intellectual exchange among its members.” Members have to be in the 98th percentile of IQ to join.

So with a survey finding that an overwhelming majority of Americans want to date their intellectual equal or superior, it would only make sense to provide a dating service for those whose smarts are off the chart.

Match’s chief scientific advisor Dr. Helen Fisher says that “Intelligence is correlated with many benefits, including higher income, sense of humor, creativity, social skills, coordination and problem solving.” members who want to give Mensa Match a whirl but who aren’t sure they qualify can take the society’s admission test for a buck through July 6.

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Committed Couples Least Liked on Facebook

Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(HAVERFORD, Pa.) — All the world loves lovers except on social media site like Facebook where they get the cold shoulder from most users.

Haverford College social psychologist Dr. Benjamin Le, who conducted a study for a new book called The Science of Relationships, says while that happy couples may enjoy each other’s company immensely, they are generally the objects of scorn when they share their love on Facebook.

To arrive at that conclusion, Le and other researchers created fictional profiles that include supposedly committed couples and singles.

When 100 people were surveyed, they were pretty much in agreement that committed couples were undoubtedly satisfied with the status of their love lives.

However, these same lovebirds were also the least liked among the fake profiles, perhaps because others may feel they’re rubbing it in.

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