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How often should you really weigh yourself?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993">Nick Fuller</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Few topics are more debated in health than the value of the humble bathroom scale. Some experts advocate daily self-weigh-ins to promote accountability for weight management, particularly when we’re following a diet and exercise program to lose weight.</p> <p>Others suggest ditching self-weigh-ins altogether, arguing they can trigger negative <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13679-015-0142-2">psychological responses and unhealthy behaviours</a> when we don’t like, or understand, the number we see on the scale.</p> <p>Many, like me, recommend using scales to weigh yourself weekly, even when we’re not trying to lose weight. Here’s why.</p> <h2>1. Weighing weekly helps you manage your weight</h2> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2588640/?tool=pmcentrez&amp;report=abstract">Research</a> confirms regular self-weighing is an effective weight loss and management strategy, primarily because it helps increase awareness of our current weight and any changes.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2588640/?tool=pmcentrez&amp;report=abstract">systematic review of 12 studies</a> found participants who weighed themselves weekly or daily over several months lost 1–3 BMI (body mass index) units more and regained less weight than participants who didn’t weight themselves frequently. The weight-loss benefit was evident with weekly weighing; there was no added benefit with daily weighing.</p> <p>Self-weigh-ins are an essential tool for weight management as we age. Adults <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23638485/">tend to gain weight</a> progressively <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8363190/">through middle age</a>. While the average weight gain is typically between <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938414001528">0.5–1kg per year</a>, this modest accumulation of weight can lead to obesity over time. Weekly weighing and keeping track of the results helps avoid unnecessary weight gain.</p> <p>Tracking our weight can also help identify medical issues early. Dramatic changes in weight can be an early sign of some conditions, including problems with our thyroid, digestion and diabetes.</p> <h2>2. Weekly weighing accounts for normal fluctuations</h2> <p>Our body weight can fluctuate within a single day and across the days of the week. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7192384/">Studies</a> show body weight fluctuates by 0.35% within the week and it’s typically higher after the weekend.</p> <p>Daily and day-to-day body weight fluctuations have several causes, many linked to our body’s water content. The more common causes include:</p> <p><strong>The type of food we’ve consumed</strong></p> <p>When we’ve eaten a dinner higher in carbohydrates, we’ll weigh more the next day. This change is a result of our bodies temporarily carrying more water. We <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25911631/">retain 3–4 grams of water</a> per gram of carbohydrate consumed to store the energy we take from carbs.</p> <p>Our water content also increases when we consume <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50952/">foods higher in salt</a>. Our bodies try to maintain a balance of sodium and water. When the concentration of salt in our bloodstream increases, a mechanism is triggered to restore balance by retaining water to dilute the excess salt.</p> <p><strong>Our food intake</strong></p> <p>Whether it’s 30 grams of nuts or 65 grams of lean meat, everything we eat and drink has weight, which increases our body weight temporarily while we digest and metabolise what we’ve consumed.</p> <p>Our weight also tends to be lower first thing in the morning after our food intake has been restricted overnight and higher in the evening after our daily intake of food and drinks.</p> <p><strong>Exercise</strong></p> <p>If we weigh ourselves at the gym after a workout, there’s a good chance we’ll weigh less due to sweat-induced fluid loss. The amount of water lost varies depending on things like our workout intensity and duration, the temperature and humidity, along with our sweat rate and hydration level. On average, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4993146/">we lose 1 litre of sweat</a> during an hour of <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00421168">moderate-intensity exercise</a>.</p> <p><strong>Hormonal changes</strong></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/from-energy-levels-to-metabolism-understanding-your-menstrual-cycle-can-be-key-to-achieving-exercise-goals-131561">Fluctuations in hormones</a> within your menstrual cycle can also affect fluid balance. Women may experience <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3154522/">fluid retention</a> and temporarily gain 0.5–2kg of weight at this time. Specifically, the luteal phase, which represents the second half of a woman’s cycle, results in a shift of fluid from your blood plasma to your cells, and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3154522/">bloating</a>.</p> <p><strong>Bowel movements</strong></p> <p>Going to the bathroom can lead to small but immediate weight loss as waste is eliminated from the body. While the amount lost will vary, we generally eliminate <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1333426/">around 100 grams of weight</a> through our daily bowel movements.</p> <p>All of these fluctuations are normal, and they’re not indicative of significant changes in our body fat or muscle mass. However, seeing these fluctuations can lead to unnecessary stress and a fixation with our weight.</p> <h2>3. Weekly weighing avoids scale obsession and weight-loss sabotage</h2> <p>Weighing too frequently can create an obsession with the number on the scales and do more harm than good.</p> <p>Often, our reaction when we see this number not moving in the direction we want or expect is to further restrict our food intake or embark on fad dieting. Along with not being enjoyable or sustainable, fad diets also ultimately increase our weight gain rather than reversing it.</p> <p>This was confirmed in a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21829159/">long-term study</a> comparing intentional weight loss among more than 4,000 twins. The researchers found the likelihood of becoming overweight by the age of 25 was significantly greater for a twin who dieted to lose 5kg or more. This suggests frequent dieting makes us more susceptible to weight gain and prone to future weight gain.</p> <h2>So what should you do?</h2> <p>Weighing ourselves weekly gives a more accurate measure of our weight trends over time.</p> <p>Aim to weigh yourself on the same day, at the same time and in the same environment each week – for example, first thing every Friday morning when you’re getting ready to take a shower, after you’ve gone to the bathroom, but before you’ve drunk or eaten anything.</p> <p>Use the best quality scales you can afford. Change the batteries regularly and check their accuracy by using a “known” weight – for example, a 10kg weight plate. Place the “known” weight on the scale and check the measurement aligns with the “known” weight.</p> <p>Remember, the number on the scale is just one part of health and weight management. Focusing solely on it can overshadow other indicators, such as <a href="https://theconversation.com/can-you-be-overweight-and-healthy-182219">how your clothes fit</a>. It’s also essential to pay equal attention to how we’re feeling, physically and emotionally.</p> <p>Stop weighing yourself – at any time interval – if it’s triggering anxiety or stress, and get in touch with a health-care professional to discuss this.</p> <hr /> <p><em>At the Boden Group, Charles Perkins Centre, we are studying the science of obesity and running clinical trials for weight loss. You can <a href="https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=RKTXPPPHKY">register here</a> to express your interest.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223864/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993">Nick Fuller</a>, Charles Perkins Centre Research Program Leader, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-often-should-you-really-weigh-yourself-223864">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Body

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Wellness is not women’s friend. It’s a distraction from what really ails us

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-seers-1131296">Kate Seers</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachel-hogg-321332">Rachel Hogg</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a></em></p> <p>Wellness is mainly marketed to women. We’re encouraged to eat clean, take <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CYqaatWPxvy/">personal responsibility</a> for our well-being, happiness and life. These are the hallmarks of a strong, independent woman in 2022.</p> <p>But on the eve of International Women’s Day, let’s look closer at this <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-neoliberalism-colonised-feminism-and-what-you-can-do-about-it-94856">neoliberal feminist</a> notion of wellness and personal responsibility – the idea women’s health and well-being depends on our individual choices.</p> <p>We argue wellness is not concerned with actual well-being, whatever wellness “guru” and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow <a href="https://goop.com/wellness/">suggests</a>, or influencers say on Instagram.</p> <p>Wellness is an industry. It’s also a seductive distraction from what’s really impacting women’s lives. It glosses over the structural issues undermining women’s well-being. These issues cannot be fixed by drinking a turmeric latte or #livingyourbestlife.</p> <h2>What is wellness?</h2> <p>Wellness <a href="https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/press-room/statistics-and-facts/">is an</a> unregulated US$4.4 trillion global industry due to reach almost $7 trillion by 2025. It promotes self-help, self-care, fitness, nutrition and spiritual practice. It <a href="https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/what-is-wellness/">encourages</a> good choices, intentions and actions.</p> <p>Wellness is alluring because it feels empowering. Women are left with a sense of control over their lives. It is particularly alluring in times of great uncertainty and limited personal control. These might be during a relationship break up, when facing financial instability, workplace discrimination or a global pandemic.</p> <p>But wellness is not all it seems.</p> <h2>Wellness blames women</h2> <p>Wellness implies women are flawed and need to be fixed. It demands women resolve their psychological distress, improve their lives and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1360780418769673?journalCode=sroa">bounce back from adversity</a>, regardless of personal circumstances.</p> <p>Self-responsibility, self-empowerment and self-optimisation underpin how women are expected to think and behave.</p> <p>As such, wellness <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CZs2iIxrSwb/">patronises women</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CT3bw_Yhsp6/">micro-manages their daily schedules</a> with journaling, skin care routines, 30-day challenges, meditations, burning candles, yoga and lemon water.</p> <p>Wellness encourages women to improve their appearance through diet and exercise, manage <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CZ7IO7qJHZ_/">their surroundings</a>, <a href="https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5489-female-leadership-advice.html">performance at work</a> and their capacity to <a href="https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/working-women-balance">juggle the elusive work-life balance</a> as well as <a href="https://medium.com/authority-magazine/having-a-positive-mental-attitude-and-thinking-process-is-a-successful-key-to-healthy-wellbeing-ae11e303969c">their emotional responses</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/planning-stress-and-worry-put-the-mental-load-on-mothers-will-2022-be-the-year-they-share-the-burden-172599">to these pressures</a>. They do this with support from costly life coaches, psychotherapists and self-help guides.</p> <p>Wellness demands women <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CaFc2o7OHSf/">focus on their body</a>, with one’s body a measure of their commitment to the task of wellness. Yet this ignores how much these choices and actions cost.</p> <p>Newsreader and journalist Tracey Spicer <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CaDh28nBp4k/">says</a> she has spent more than A$100,000 over the past 35 years for her hair to “look acceptable” at work.</p> <p>Wellness keeps women <a href="https://www.hercampus.com/school/bu/the-male-gazes-effect-from-beauty-ideals-to-mental-health/">focused on their appearance</a> and keeps them spending.</p> <p>It’s also <a href="https://medium.com/artfullyautistic/the-dark-reality-of-wellness-culture-and-ableism-307307fcdafb">ableist</a>, <a href="https://www.byrdie.com/wellness-industry-whitewashing-5074880">racist</a>, <a href="https://msmagazine.com/2020/07/16/tools-of-the-patriarchy-diet-culture-and-how-we-all-perpetuate-the-stigma/">sexist</a>, <a href="https://www.self.com/topic/anti-aging">ageist</a> and <a href="https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/422517/the-pursuit-of-wellness-wellness-is-for-the-wealthy">classist</a>. It’s aimed at an ideal of young women, thin, white, middle-class and able-bodied.</p> <h2>But we can’t live up to these ideals</h2> <p>Wellness assumes women have equal access to time, energy and money to meet these ideals. If you don’t, “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/08/the-self-help-cult-of-resilience-teaches-australians-nothing">you’re just not trying hard enough</a>”.</p> <p>Wellness also <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1360780418769673?journalCode=sroa">implores women</a> to be “adaptable and positive”.</p> <p>If an individual’s #positivevibes and wellness are seen as <a href="https://ideas.ted.com/why-we-should-say-no-to-positivity-and-yes-to-our-negative-emotions/">morally good</a>, then it becomes morally necessary for women to engage in behaviours framed as “investments” or “self-care”.</p> <p>For those who do not achieve self-optimisation (hint: most of us) this is a personal, shameful failing.</p> <h2>Wellness distracts us</h2> <p>When women believe they are to blame for their circumstances, it hides structural and cultural inequities. Rather than questioning the culture that marginalises women and produces feelings of doubt and inadequacy, wellness provides solutions in the form of superficial empowerment, confidence and resilience.</p> <p>Women don’t need wellness. They are unsafe.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ourwatch.org.au/quick-facts/">Women are</a> <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/personal-safety-australia/latest-release">more likely</a> to be murdered by a current or former intimate partner, with reports of the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-governments-can-do-about-the-increase-in-family-violence-due-to-coronavirus-135674">pandemic increasing</a> the risk and severity of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/01/the-worst-year-domestic-violence-soars-in-australia-during-covid-19">domestic violence</a>.</p> <p>Women are more likely to be employed in unstable <a href="https://lighthouse.mq.edu.au/article/april-2020/Pandemics-economic-blow-hits-women-hard">casualised labour, and experience economic hardship and poverty</a>. Women are also bearing the brunt <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/womens-work/">of the economic fallout from COVID</a>. Women are more likely to be juggling a career with <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1972">unpaid domestic duties</a> and more likely <a href="https://www.mercyfoundation.com.au/our-focus/ending-homelessness/older-women-and-homelessness/">to be homeless</a> as they near retirement age.</p> <p>In their book <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/confidence-culture#:%7E:text=They%20argue%20that%20while%20confidence,responsible%20for%20their%20own%20conditions.">Confidence Culture</a> UK scholars Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill argue hashtags such as #loveyourbody and #believeinyourself imply psychological blocks, rather than entrenched social injustices, are what hold women back.</p> <h2>What we should be doing instead</h2> <p>Wellness, with its self-help rhetoric, <a href="http://www.consultmcgregor.com/documents/research/neoliberalism_and_health_care.pdf">absolves the government</a> of responsibility to provide transformative and effectual action that ensures women are safe, delivered justice, and treated with respect and dignity.</p> <p>Structural inequity was not created by an individual, and it will not be solved by an individual.</p> <p>So this International Women’s Day, try to resist the neoliberal requirement to take personal responsibility for your wellness. Lobby governments to address structural inequities instead.</p> <p><a href="https://www.mindful.org/why-women-should-embrace-their-anger/">Follow your anger</a>, not your bliss, call out injustices when you can. And in the words of sexual assault survivor and advocate Grace Tame, “make some noise”.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-seers-1131296">Kate Seers</a>, PhD Candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachel-hogg-321332">Rachel Hogg</a>, Lecturer in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/wellness-is-not-womens-friend-its-a-distraction-from-what-really-ails-us-177446">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Mind

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‘Sleeping on it’ really does help and four other recent sleep research breakthroughs

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dan-denis-158199">Dan Denis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-york-1344">University of York</a></em></p> <p>Twenty-six years. That is roughly <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-34624-8">how much of our lives</a> are spent asleep. Scientists have been trying to explain why we spend so much time sleeping since at least the <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/alcmaeon/">ancient Greeks</a>, but pinning down the exact functions of sleep has proven to be difficult.</p> <p>During the past decade, there has been a surge of interest from researchers in the nature and function of sleep. New experimental models coupled with advances in technology and analytical techniques are giving us a deeper look inside the sleeping brain. Here are some of the biggest recent breakthroughs in the science of sleep.</p> <h2>1. We know more about lucid dreaming</h2> <p>No longer on the fringes, the neuroscientific study of dreaming has now become mainstream.</p> <p>US researchers in a 2017 study woke their participants up at regular intervals during the night and asked them what was going through their minds prior to the alarm call. Sometimes participants couldn’t recall any dreaming. The study team then looked at what was <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.4545">happening in the participant’s brain</a> moments before waking.</p> <p>Participants’ recall of dream content was associated with increased activity in the posterior hot zone, an area of the brain closely <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05097-x">linked to conscious awareness</a>. Researchers could predict the presence or absence of dream experiences by monitoring this zone in real time.</p> <p>Another exciting development in the study of dreams is research into lucid dreams, in which <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-ability-to-control-dreams-may-help-us-unravel-the-mystery-of-consciousness-52394">you are aware that</a> you are dreaming. A 2021 study established <a href="https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(21)00059-2?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982221000592%3Fshowall%3Dtrue">two-way communication</a> between a dreamer and a researcher. In this experiment, participants signalled to the researcher that they were dreaming by moving their eyes in a pre-agreed pattern.</p> <p>The researcher read out maths problems (what is eight minus six?). The dreamer could respond to this question with eye movements. The dreamers were accurate, indicating they had access to high level cognitive functions. The researchers used <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/polysomnography/about/pac-20394877">polysomnography</a>, which monitors bodily functions such as breathing and brain activity during sleep, to confirm that participants were asleep.</p> <p>These discoveries have dream researchers excited about the future of “interactive dreaming”, such as practising a skill or solving a problem in our dreams.</p> <h2>2. Our brain replays memories while we sleep</h2> <p>This year marks the centenary of the first demonstration that <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/1414040?origin=crossref">sleep improves our memory</a>. However, a 2023 review of recent research has shown that memories formed during the day <a href="https://portlandpress.com/emergtoplifesci/article/7/5/487/233796/Neural-reactivation-during-human-sleep">get reactivated</a> while we are sleeping. Researchers discovered this using machine learning techniques to “decode” the contents of the sleeping brain.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-24357-5">A 2021 study</a> found that training algorithms to distinguish between different memories while awake makes it possible to see the same neural patterns re-emerge in the sleeping brain. A different study, also in 2021, found that the more times these patterns re-emerge during sleep, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-23520-2">the bigger the benefit</a> to memory.</p> <p>In other approaches, scientists have been able to reactivate certain memories by <a href="https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)31035-8?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982219310358%3Fshowall%3Dtrue">replaying sounds</a> associated with the memory in question while the participant was asleep. A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7144680/">2020 meta-analysis of 91 experiments</a> found that when participants’ memory was tested after sleep they remembered more of the stimuli whose sounds were played back during sleep, compared with control stimuli whose sounds were not replayed.</p> <p>Research has also shown that sleep strengthens memory for the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2202657119">most important aspects</a> of an experience, restructures our memories to form <a href="https://www.jneurosci.org/content/40/9/1909">more cohesive narratives</a> and helps us come up with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797619873344">solutions to problems</a> we are stuck on. Science is showing that sleeping on it really does help.</p> <h2>3. Sleep keeps our minds healthy</h2> <p>We all know that a lack of sleep makes us feel bad. Laboratory sleep deprivation studies, where researchers keep willing participants awake throughout the night, have been combined with <a href="https://www.open.edu/openlearn/body-mind/health/health-sciences/how-fmri-works">functional MRI brain scans</a> to paint a detailed picture of the sleep-deprived brain. These studies have shown that a lack of sleep severely disrupts the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn.2017.55">connectivity between</a> different brain networks. These changes include a breakdown of connectivity between brain regions <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11682-018-9868-2">responsible for cognitive control</a>, and an amplification of those involved in <a href="https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30761-4?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982219307614%3Fshowall%3Dtrue">threat and emotional processing</a>.</p> <p>The consequence of this is that the sleep-deprived brain is worse at <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article/33/5/1610/6573958">learning new information</a>, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/44/6/zsaa289/6053003">poorer at regulating emotions</a>, and unable to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2167702620951511">suppress intrusive thoughts</a>. Sleep loss may even make you less likely to <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3001733">help other people</a>. These findings may explain why poor sleep quality is so <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.13930">ubiquitous in poor mental health</a>.</p> <h2>4. Sleep protects us against neurodegenerative diseases</h2> <p>Although we naturally <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-34624-8">sleep less as we age</a>, mounting evidence suggests that sleep problems earlier in life <a href="https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/91/3/236">increase the risk</a> of dementia.</p> <p>The build-up of β-amyloid, a <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/causes/">metabolic waste product</a>, is one of the mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease. Recently, it has become apparent that deep, undisturbed sleep is good for <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aav5447">flushing these toxins</a> out of the brain. Sleep deprivation increases the the rate of build-up of β-amyloid in parts of the brain involved in memory, <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.1721694115">such as the hippocampus</a>. A longitudinal study published in 2020 found that sleep problems were associated with a higher rate of β-amyloid accumulation at a follow-up <a href="https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(20)31171-4?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982220311714%3Fshowall%3Dtrue">four years later</a>. In a different study, published in 2022, sleep parameters <a href="https://elifesciences.org/articles/78191">forecasted the rate</a> of cognitive decline in participants over the following two years.</p> <h2>5. We can engineer sleep</h2> <p>The good news is that research is developing treatments to get a better night’s sleep and boost its benefits.</p> <p>For example, the <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.14035">European Sleep Research Society</a> and the <a href="https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.8986">American Academy of Sleep Medicine</a> recommend cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). <a href="https://www.cntw.nhs.uk/services/nctalkingtherapies/what-do-nc-talking-therapies-offer/cbt-i-cbt-for-insomnia/">CBT-I works by</a> identifying thoughts, feelings and behaviour that contribute to insomnia, which can then be modified to help promote sleep.</p> <p>In 2022, a CBT-I app became the <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/news/article/nice-recommends-offering-app-based-treatment-for-people-with-insomnia-instead-of-sleeping-pills">first digital therapy</a> recommended by England’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for treatment on the NHS.</p> <p>These interventions can improve other aspects of our lives as well. A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087079221001416?via%3Dihub">2021 meta-analysis</a> of 65 clinical trials found that improving sleep via CBT-I reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, rumination and stress.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230484/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dan-denis-158199">Dan Denis</a>, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Senior Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-york-1344">University of York</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/sleeping-on-it-really-does-help-and-four-other-recent-sleep-research-breakthroughs-230484">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Who really was Mona Lisa? More than 500 years on, there’s good reason to think we got it wrong

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/darius-von-guttner-sporzynski-112147">Darius von Guttner Sporzynski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-catholic-university-747">Australian Catholic University</a></em></p> <p>In the pantheon of Renaissance art, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa stands as an unrivalled icon. This half-length portrait is more than just an artistic masterpiece; it embodies the allure of an era marked by unparalleled cultural flourishing.</p> <p>Yet, beneath the surface of the Mona Lisa’s elusive smile lies a debate that touches the very essence of the Renaissance, its politics and the role of women in history.</p> <h2>A mystery woman</h2> <p>The intrigue of the Mona Lisa, also known as <a href="https://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/artdok/4207/1/Zoellner_Leonardos_portrait_of_Mona_Lisa_1993.pdf">La Gioconda</a>, isn’t solely due to Leonardo’s revolutionary painting techniques. It’s also because the identity of the subject is unconfirmed to this day. More than half a millennium since it was first painted, the real identity of the Mona Lisa remains one of art’s greatest mysteries, intriguing scholars and enthusiasts alike.</p> <p>The painting has traditionally been associated with Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. But another compelling theory suggests a different sitter: Isabella of Aragon.</p> <p>Isabella of Aragon was born into the illustrious House of Aragon in Naples, in 1470. She was a princess who was deeply entwined in the political and cultural fabric of the Renaissance.</p> <p>Her 1490 marriage to Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, positioned Isabella at the heart of Italian politics. And this role was both complicated and elevated by the ambitions and machinations of Ludovico Sforza (also called Ludovico il Moro), her husband’s uncle and usurper of the Milanese dukedom.</p> <h2>Scholarly perspectives</h2> <p>The theory that Isabella is the real Mona Lisa is supported by a combination of stylistic analyses, historical connections and reinterpretations of Leonardo’s intent as an artist.</p> <p>In his <a href="https://www.bookstellyouwhy.com/pages/books/51791/robert-payne/leonardo-1st-edition-1st-printing">biography of Leonardo</a>, author Robert Payne points to <a href="https://emuseum.hydecollection.org/objects/94/study-of-the-mona-lisa?ctx=760b87fd-efbf-4468-b579-42f98e9712d2&amp;idx=0">preliminary studies</a> by the artist that bear a striking resemblances to Isabella around age 20. Payne suggests Leonardo captured Isabella <a href="https://emuseum.hydecollection.org/objects/94/study-of-the-mona-lisa?ctx=760b87fd-efbf-4468-b579-42f98e9712d2&amp;idx=0">across different life stages</a>, including during widowhood, as depicted in the Mona Lisa.</p> <p>US artist Lillian F. Schwartz’s <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0097849395000317">1988 study</a> used x-rays to reveal an initial sketch of a woman hidden beneath Leonardo’s painting. This sketch was then painted over with Leonardo’s own likeness.</p> <p>Schwartz believes the woman in the sketch is Isabella, because of its similarity with a cartoon Leonardo made of the princess. She proposes the work was made by integrating specific features of the initial model with Leonardo’s own features.</p> <p>This hypothesis is further supported by art historians Jerzy Kulski and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owjJWxcnKrE">Maike Vogt-Luerssen</a>.</p> <p>According to Vogt-Luerssen’s <a href="https://www.kleio.org/de/buecher/wer-ist-mona-lisa/">detailed analysis</a> of the Mona Lisa, the symbols of the Sforza house and the depiction of mourning garb both align with Isabella’s known life circumstances. They suggest the Mona Lisa isn’t a commissioned portrait, but a nuanced representation of a woman’s journey through triumph and tragedy.</p> <p>Similarly, Kulski highlights the <a href="https://www.academia.edu/40147186/The_Mona_Lisa_Portrait_Leonardos_Personal_and_Political_Tribute_to_Isabella_Aragon_Sforza_the_Duchess_of_Milan">portrait’s heraldic designs</a>, which would be atypical for a silk merchant’s wife. He, too, suggests the painting shows Isabella mourning her late husband.</p> <p>The Mona Lisa’s enigmatic expression also captures Isabella’s self-described state post-1500 of being “<a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1468-0424.12683">alone in misfortune</a>”. Contrary to representing a wealthy, recently married woman, the portrait exudes the aura of a virtuous widow.</p> <p>Late professor of art history <a href="https://brill.com/display/book/edcoll/9789004304130/B9789004304130_014.xml?language=en">Joanna Woods-Marsden</a> suggested the Mona Lisa transcends traditional portraiture and embodies Leonardo’s ideal, rather than being a straightforward commission.</p> <p>This perspective frames the work as a deeply personal project for Leonardo, possibly signifying a special connection between him and Isabella. Leonardo’s reluctance to part with the work also indicates a deeper, personal investment in it.</p> <h2>Beyond the canvas</h2> <p>The theory that Isabella of Aragon could be the true Mona Lisa is a profound reevaluation of the painting’s context, opening up new avenues through which to appreciate the work.</p> <p>It elevates Isabella from a figure overshadowed by the men in her life, to a woman of courage and complexity who deserves recognition in her own right.</p> <p>Through her strategic marriage and political savvy, <a href="https://www.scopus.com/record/display.uri?eid=2-s2.0-85147429412&amp;origin=resultslist">Isabella played a crucial role in the alliances and conflicts</a> that defined the Italian Renaissance. By possibly choosing her as his subject, Leonardo immortalised her and also made a profound statement on the complexity and agency of women in a male-dominated society.</p> <p>The ongoing debate over Mona Lisa’s identity underscores this work’s significance as a cultural and historical artefact. It also invites us to reflect on the roles of women in the Renaissance and challenge common narratives that minimise them.</p> <p>In this light, it becomes a legacy of the women who shaped the Renaissance.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/220666/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/darius-von-guttner-sporzynski-112147">Darius von Guttner Sporzynski</a>, Historian, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-catholic-university-747">Australian Catholic University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Xinhua News Agency/Shutterstock Editorial </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/who-really-was-mona-lisa-more-than-500-years-on-theres-good-reason-to-think-we-got-it-wrong-220666">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Art

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Beyond the spin, beyond the handouts, here’s how to get a handle on what’s really happening on budget night

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p>Three weeks from now, some of us will be presented with a <a href="https://budget.gov.au/">mountain</a> of budget papers, and just about all of us will get to hear about them on radio, TV or news websites on budget night.</p> <p>The quickest way to find out what the budget is really doing will be to listen to the treasurer’s speech, or to peruse online the aptly-named “<a href="https://treasury.infoservices.com.au/page/budget2023">glossy</a>” – a document that last year was titled “<a href="https://archive.budget.gov.au/2023-24/overview/download/budget_overview.pdf">Stronger foundations for a better future</a>”.</p> <figure class="align-right zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=237&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=848&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=848&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=848&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=1066&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=1066&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=1066&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="Cover of 2023 budget glossy" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Glossies are used to make each budget attractive.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://archive.budget.gov.au/2023-24/overview/download/budget_overview.pdf">Commonwealth Treasury</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>But they will tell you exactly what the government wants you to hear, exactly as it wants you to hear it.</p> <p>If you are looking instead for the truth – what the government is actually trying to achieve and what it is holding itself and its officials to, I would suggest something else, tucked away on about page <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3225/8787.pdf">87</a> of the main budget document.</p> <p>It is required by the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/C2004A05333/latest/text">Charter of Budget Honesty Act</a> introduced in 1998 by Peter Costello, the treasurer under Prime Minister John Howard.</p> <p>On taking office in 1996, Costello set up a <a href="https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20101119021633/http://www.finance.gov.au/archive/archive-of-publications/ncoa/execsum.htm">National Commission of Audit</a> to examine the finances he had inherited from the Hawke and Keating governments, presumably with an eye to discovering they had been mismanaged.</p> <p>But the members of the commission weren’t much interested in that. Instead, they decided to deal with something more fundamental.</p> <h2>Budget as you wish, but explain your strategy</h2> <p>Governments were perfectly entitled to manage money in whatever way they wanted, and they were perfectly entitled to spend more money than they raised (which they usually do, it’s called a <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/deficit.asp">budget deficit</a>).</p> <p>What the commission wanted was for governments to make clear what they were doing, and to spell out the strategy behind it.</p> <p>Only part of it was about being upfront with the public. The commission also wanted governments to be upfront with themselves – to actually develop frameworks for what they were doing, rather than doing whatever they felt like.</p> <p>The commission recommended a <a href="https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20101119021633/http://www.finance.gov.au/archive/archive-of-publications/ncoa/execsum.htm">Charter of Budget Honesty</a>, which among other things requires officials to prepare independent assessments of the finances before each election, requires budget updates six months after each budget, and requires <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BriefingBook45p/TaxExpenditures">tax expenditures</a> (tax breaks) to be accounted for like other expenditures.</p> <p>And it requires the publication and regular updating of a <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3227/CBH_Fiscal_strategy.pdf">fiscal strategy statement</a>.</p> <h2>Where treasurers hold themselves accountable</h2> <p>The <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3225/8787.pdf">fiscal strategy</a> can be thought of as an exam question set by the student who is being examined – something along the lines of “this is what you say you want your budget to achieve, please set out the means by which you plan to achieve it”.</p> <p>It turns out to have been exceptionally effective in getting governments to organise their thoughts, make budgets at least try to achieve something, and let the rest of us know what they are trying to achieve.</p> <p>Every few years, treasurers change the strategy, as is their right. Treasurer Jim Chalmers says he’ll change it again this budget, to de-emphasise the fight against inflation and to more greatly emphasise the need to <a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/jim-chalmers-2022/transcripts/press-conference-washington-dc-0">support economic growth</a>.</p> <p>His statement will tell us what’s behind his actions in a way the glossy words in his brochure and speech might not.</p> <h2>The strategy that has signposted 26 years</h2> <p>Previous statements have signposted all the important turns in what the budget is trying to do.</p> <p>The first, in <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589686/original/file-20240423-16-rncqg3.PNG">1998</a>, committed Costello and Howard to achieving a budget surplus on average over the economic cycle and whenever “growth prospects remain sound”.</p> <p>Making that commitment more difficult was another “not to introduce new taxes or raise existing taxes over the term of this parliament”.</p> <p>Two years later, after the government had won an election promising a new goods and services tax, that commitment was <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589692/original/file-20240423-18-q843xn.PNG">changed</a> to “no increase in the overall tax burden from its 1996-97 level”, a condition met by calling the GST a state tax.</p> <h2>Hockey and Morrison wound back spending</h2> <p>The Labor budgets from 2008 <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589702/original/file-20240423-18-mikx6f.PNG">loosened</a> the tax target to the <em>average</em> share of GDP below the reference year, which they changed to the higher-tax year of 2007-08.</p> <p>The first Coalition budget under Treasurer Joe Hockey in 2014 changed the target from tax to spending, pledging to bring down the ratio of <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589705/original/file-20240423-16-9spkdy.PNG">payments to GDP</a>, and pledging a surplus of 1% of GDP by 2023-24.</p> <p>Any new spending would be more than offset by cuts elsewhere, and if the budget did receive a burst of unexpected revenue it would be “banked” rather than spent.</p> <p>In 2018 Treasurer Scott Morrison reintroduced tax as a target, that he spelled out precisely. Tax was not to increase beyond <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589706/original/file-20240423-16-b7gj5d.PNG">23.9%</a> of GDP.</p> <h2>During COVID, Frydenberg spent big</h2> <p>In 2020, in the face of a COVID-induced recession and soaring unemployment, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg pushed the old strategy to one side.</p> <p>They would spend big now to keep the economy afloat so they wouldn’t have to spend more bailing it out later, and they wouldn’t return to their old concern about the deficit until the unemployment rate was “<a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3228/fs2020.pdf">comfortably below 6%</a>”.</p> <p>So well did they succeed that in 2021 Frydenberg made the momentous decision to keep going, abandoning the promise to return to worrying about the deficit when unemployment fell below 6%.</p> <p>Instead he promised to keep spending big until unemployment was “<a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589709/original/file-20240423-16-9pmpaf.PNG">back to pre-crisis levels or lower</a>”.</p> <p>The decision propelled unemployment down to a 50-year low of <a href="https://www.datawrapper.de/_/wPfXO/">3.5%</a>.</p> <p>Along with high iron ore prices, that one change of strategy has probably helped deliver Chalmers two consecutive budget surpluses – the one he announced last year for 2022-23, and the one he is set to announce this year for 2023-24. More of us have been in jobs <a href="https://www.finance.gov.au/publications/commonwealth-monthly-financial-statements/2024/mfs-january">paying tax</a>, and fewer have been out of jobs <a href="https://theconversation.com/half-a-million-more-australians-on-welfare-not-unless-you-double-count-227342">on benefits</a>.</p> <p>It’s a powerful demonstration of the real-world difference budget decisions can make, and the way in which the <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3225/8787.pdf">fiscal strategy</a> tells the story.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/228387/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, Visiting Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/beyond-the-spin-beyond-the-handouts-heres-how-to-get-a-handle-on-whats-really-happening-on-budget-night-228387">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Does hosting the Olympics, the World Cup or other major sports events really pay off?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ivan-savin-678930">Ivan Savin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/escp-business-school-813">ESCP Business School</a></em></p> <p>After a long battle, <a href="https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20240213-paris-booksellers-stay-olympics-macron-bouquiniste-france">Paris’s beloved <em>bouquinistes</em> will be staying put</a> this summer. The decision, announced on 13 February by the French government, came after considerable public backlash to the police prefecture’s original plan to move part of the iconic Seine booksellers elsewhere for the inauguration of the Olympics Games on 26 July.</p> <p>Meanwhile, less than six months away from the event, Parisians continue to grumble over a <a href="https://www.ouest-france.fr/jeux-olympiques/cest-aberrant-ce-maire-vient-dapprendre-que-sa-ville-accueillera-les-jeux-de-paris-ab1fa968-cfd1-11ee-89c0-6cefac77e04a">lack of consultations</a> with locals, warnings of <a href="https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20231130-paris-vehicle-traffic-to-be-heavily-restricted-during-2024-olympic-games">gridlocked traffic</a>, closed metro stations, extensive video surveillance and other grievances. So for host countries, what was the point of the Olympics, again?</p> <p>In academia, the debate about the potential positive and negative effects of large-scale sporting events is ongoing. Although these events are often associated with substantial economic losses, the long-term benefits are the main argument in favour of hosting them. These include the development of material and soft infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants or parks. Big games can also help put the host region on the map as an attractive place for sports and cultural events, and inspire a better entrepreneurial climate.</p> <h2>The pros and the cons of big sporting events?</h2> <p>The cost of these benefits, as the Parisians have realised, is steep. Host countries appear to suffer from increased tax burdens, low returns on public investments, high construction costs, and onerous running cost of facilities after the event. Communities can also be blighted by noise, pollution, and damage to the environment, while increased criminal activity and potential conflicts between locals and visitors can take a toll on their quality of life. As a result, in the recent past several major cities, including Rome and Hamburg, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/6-cities-that-rejected-the-olympics/a-46289852">withdrew their bids to host the games</a>.</p> <p>A common feature of the economics of large-scale sporting events is that our expectations of them are more optimistic than what we make of them once they have taken place. Typically, expenditure tends to tip over the original budget, while the revenue-side indicators (such as the number of visitors) are rarely achieved.</p> <p>When analysing the effect of hosting large-scale sporting events on tourist visits, it is important to take into consideration both the positive and negative components of the overall effect. While positive effects may be associated with visitors, negative effects may arise when “regular” tourists refuse to visit the location due to the event. This might be because of overloaded infrastructure, sharp increases in accommodation costs, and inconveniences associated with overcrowding or raucous or/and violent visitors. On top of that, reports of poverty or crime in the global media can actually undermine the location’s attractiveness.</p> <h2>When big sporting events crowd out regular tourists</h2> <p>In an <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1527002523120639">article published in the <em>Journal of Sports Economics</em></a> with Igor Drapkin and Ilya Zverev, I assess the effects of hosting large-scale sporting events, such as Winter and Summer Olympics plus FIFA World Cups, on international tourist visits. We utilise a comprehensive dataset on flow of tourists covering the world’s largest destination and origin countries between 1995 and 2019. As a first step, we built an econometric model that effectively predicts the flow of tourists between any pair of countries in our data. Subsequently we compared the predicted tourist inflow in a hypothetical scenario where no large-scale sporting event would have taken place with the actual figures. If the actual figures exceed the predicted ones, we consider the event to have a net positive impact. Otherwise, we consider that it had a “crowding out” effect on “regular” tourists. While conducting this analysis, we distinguished between short-term (i.e., focusing just on the year of the event) and mid-term (year of the event plus three subsequent years).</p> <p>Our results show that the effects of large-scale sporting events vary a lot across host countries: The World Cup in Japan and South Korea 2002 and South Africa 2010 were associated with a distinct increase in tourist arrivals, whereas all other World Cups were either neutral or negative. Among the Summer Olympics, China in 2008 is the only case with a significant positive effect on tourist inflows. The effects of the other four events (Australia 2000, Greece 2004, Great Britain 2012, and Brazil 2016) were found to be negative in the short- and medium-term. As for the Winter Olympics, the only positive case is Russia in 2014. The remaining five events had a negative impact except the one-year neutral effect for Japan 1998.</p> <p>Following large-scale sporting events, host countries are therefore typically less visited by tourists. Out of the 18 hosting countries studied, 11 saw tourist numbers decline over four years, and three did not experience a significant change.</p> <h2>The case for cautious optimism</h2> <p>Our research indicates that the positive effect of hosting large-scale sporting events on tourist inflows is, at best, moderate. While many tourists are attracted by FIFA World Cups and Olympic games, the crowding-out effect of “regular” tourists is strong and often underestimated. This implies that tourists visiting for an event like the Olympics typically dissuade those who would have come for other reasons. Thus, efforts to attract new visitors should be accompanied by efforts to retain the already existing ones.</p> <p>Large-scale sporting events should be considered as part of a long-term policy for promoting a territory to tourists rather than a standalone solution. Revealingly, our results indicate that it is easier to get a net increase in tourist inflows in countries that are less frequent destinations for tourists – for example, those in Asia or Africa. By contrast, the United States and Europe, both of which are traditionally popular with tourists, have no single case of a net positive effect. Put differently, the large-scale sporting events in Asia and Africa helped promote their host countries as tourist destinations, making the case for the initial investment. In the US and Europe, however, those in the last few decades brought little return, at least in terms of tourist inflow.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222118/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ivan-savin-678930">Ivan Savin</a>, Associate professor of quantitative analytics, research fellow at ICTA-UAB, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/escp-business-school-813">ESCP Business School</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-hosting-the-olympics-the-world-cup-or-other-major-sports-events-really-pay-off-222118">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Do optimists really live longer? Here’s what the research says

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fuschia-sirois-331254">Fuschia Sirois</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/durham-university-867">Durham University</a></em></p> <p>Do you tend to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty? Are you always looking on the bright side of life? If so, you may be surprised to learn that this tendency could actually be good for your health.</p> <p>A <a href="https://content.apa.org/record/2020-71981-001">number of studies</a> have shown that optimists enjoy higher levels of wellbeing, better sleep, lower stress and even better cardiovascular health and immune function. And now, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35674052/">a recent study</a> has shown that being an optimist is linked to longer life.</p> <p>To conduct their study, researchers tracked the lifespan of nearly 160,000 women aged between 50 to 79 for a period of 26 years. At the beginning of the study, the women completed a <a href="https://local.psy.miami.edu/people/faculty/ccarver/availbale-self-report-instruments/lot-r/">self-report measure of optimism</a>. Women with the highest scores on the measure were categorised as optimists. Those with the lowest scores were considered pessimists.</p> <p>Then, in 2019, the researchers followed up with the participants who were still living. They also looked at the lifespan of participants who had died. What they found was that those who had the highest levels of optimism were more likely to live longer. More importantly, the optimists were also more likely than those who were pessimists to live into their nineties. Researchers refer to this as “exceptional longevity”, considering the average lifespan for women is about 83 years in developed countries.</p> <p>What makes these findings especially impressive is that the results remained even after accounting for other factors known to predict a long life – including education level and economic status, ethnicity, and whether a person suffered from depression or other chronic health conditions.</p> <p>But given this study only looked at women, it’s uncertain whether the same would be true for men. However, <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1900712116">another study</a> which looked at both men and women also found that people with the highest levels of optimism enjoyed a lifespan that was between 11% and 15% longer than those who were the least optimistic.</p> <h2>The fountain of youth?</h2> <p>So why is it that optimists live longer? At first glance it would seem that it may have to do with their healthier lifestyle.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.310828">research from several studies</a> has found that optimism is linked to eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, and being less likely to smoke cigarettes. These healthy behaviours are well known to improve heart health and <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases">reduce the risk</a> for cardiovascular disease, which is a <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)">leading cause of death</a> globally. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857242/">important for reducing the risk</a> of other potentially deadly diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.</p> <p>But having a healthy lifestyle may only be part of the reason optimists live a longer than average life. This latest study found that lifestyle only accounted for 24% of the link between optimism and longevity. This suggests a number of other factors affect longevity for optimists.</p> <p>Another possible reason could be due to the way optimists manage stress. When faced with a stressful situation, optimists tend to deal with it head-on. They <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16859439/">use adaptive coping strategies</a> that help them resolve the source of the stress, or view the situation in a less stressful way. For example, optimists will problem-solve and plan ways to deal with the stressor, call on others for support, or try to find a “silver lining” in the stressful situation.</p> <p>All of these approaches are well-known to reduce feelings of stress, as well as the biological reactions that occur when we feel stressed. It’s these <a href="https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body">biological reactions to stress</a> –- such as elevated cortisol (sometimes called the “stress hormone”), increased heart rate and blood pressure, and impaired immune system functioning –- that can take a toll on health over time and increase the risk for developing <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115004316?via%3Dihub">life-threatening diseases</a>, such as cardiovascular disease. In short, the way optimists cope with stress may help protect them somewhat against its harmful effects.</p> <h2>Looking on the bright side</h2> <p>Optimism is typically viewed by researchers as a relatively stable personality trait that is determined by both <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/twin-research-and-human-genetics/article/sex-differences-in-the-genetic-architecture-of-optimism-and-health-and-their-interrelation-a-study-of-australian-and-swedish-twins/58F21AA11943D44B4BA4C63A966E6AC7">genetic</a> and early childhood influences (such as having a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6541423/">secure and warm relationship</a> with your parents or caregivers). But if you’re not naturally prone to seeing the glass as half full, there are some ways you can increase your <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1221122?journalCode=rpos20">capacity to be optimistic</a>.</p> <p>Research shows optimism can change over time, and can be cultivated by engaging in simple exercises. For example, visualising and then writing about your “<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-matters-most/201303/what-is-your-best-possible-self">best possible self</a>” (a future version of yourself who has accomplished your goals) is a technique that studies have found can <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2016.1221122">significantly increase optimism</a>, at least temporarily. But for best results, the goals need to be both positive and reasonable, rather than just wishful thinking. Similarly, simply <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/SOCP.149.3.349-364">thinking about positive future events</a> can also be effective for boosting optimism.</p> <p>It’s also crucial to temper any expectations for success with an accurate view of what you can and can’t control. Optimism is reinforced when we experience the positive outcomes that we expect, and <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1970-20680-001">can decrease</a> when these outcomes aren’t as we want them to be. Although more research is needed, it’s possible that regularly envisioning yourself as having the best possible outcomes, and taking realistic steps towards achieving them, can help develop an optimistic mindset.</p> <p>Of course, this might be easier said than done for some. If you’re someone who isn’t naturally optimistic, the best chances to improve your longevity is by <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003332">living a healthy lifestyle</a> by staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep. Add to this cultivating a more optimistic mindset and you might further increase your chances for a long life.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/184785/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fuschia-sirois-331254">Fuschia Sirois</a>, Professor in Social &amp; Health Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/durham-university-867">Durham University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-optimists-really-live-longer-heres-what-the-research-says-184785">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Do parolees really ‘walk free’? Busting common myths about parole

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/monique-moffa-1380936">Monique Moffa</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alyssa-sigamoney-1375881">Alyssa Sigamoney</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/greg-stratton-161122">Greg Stratton</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jarryd-bartle-441602">Jarryd Bartle</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michele-ruyters-18446">Michele Ruyters</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p>Parole is a hot topic in politics and in the media at the moment, fuelled by several high-profile parole applications.</p> <p>Recently, <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/no-parole-for-convicted-baby-killer-keli-lane/xoykrtvxe?cid=testtwitter">Keli Lane’s</a> attempt to be released on parole after years in jail for the murder of her baby daughter was unsuccessful. <a href="https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-victoria/how-frankston-serial-killer-paul-denyer-will-apply-for-bail/news-story/4613d1b3fced1f4aeaa9c4e08e8b81e0">Paul Denyer</a>, known as the “Frankston Serial Killer” for murdering three women in the 90s was also denied parole.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Snowtown accomplice <a href="https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-sa/bodies-in-the-barrels-helper-mark-haydon-released-on-parole/news-story/fdfbbbe7b59267d8009c6910249de585">Mark Haydon</a> was granted parole with strict conditions, but is <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-01/snowtown-accomplice-mark-haydon-still-in-custody-after-parole/103653934">yet to be</a> released.</p> <p>Some media coverage of such well-known cases is littered with myths about what parole is, how it’s granted and what it looks like. Here’s what the evidence says about three of the most common misconceptions.</p> <h2>Myth 1: people on parole walk free</h2> <p>Parole is the conditional release of an incarcerated person (parolee) by a parole board authority, after they have served their non-parole period (minimum sentence) in jail. This isn’t always reflected in headlines.</p> <p><a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/snowtown-murders-bodies-in-barrels-murders-mark-haydon-release-south-australia/f4b62a72-ec3d-4238-94d2-64697fbcdef3">Some coverage</a> suggests people on parole are released early and “walk free” without conditions. This is not true.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.adultparoleboard.vic.gov.au/what-parole/purpose-and-benefits">Adult Parole Board of Victoria</a>: "Parole provides incarcerated people with a structured, supported and supervised transition so that they can adjust from prison back into the community, rather than returning straight to the community at the end of their sentence without supervision or support."</p> <p>Parole comes with strict conditions and requirements, such as curfews, drug and alcohol testing, electronic monitoring, program participation, to name a few.</p> <p>People with experience of parole highlight its punitivism and continued extension of surveillance.</p> <h2>Myth 2: most parolees reoffend</h2> <p>Another myth is that the likelihood all parolees reoffend is high. Research over a number of years has consistently found parole reduces reoffending.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0004865815585393?journalCode=anja">a 2016 study in New South Wales</a> found at the 12 month mark, a group of parolees reoffended 22% less than an unsupervised cohort.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Publications/CJB/2022-Report-Effect-of-parole-supervision-on-recidivism-CJB245.pdf">2022 study</a> by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found parole was especially successful in reducing serious recidivism rates among incarcerated people considered to be at a high risk of reoffending.</p> <p>More recently in Victoria, <a href="https://www.adultparoleboard.vic.gov.au/system/files/inline-files/Adult%20Parole%20Board%20Annual%20Report%202022-23_0.pdf">the Adult Parole Board</a> found over 2022–23, no parolees were convicted of committing serious offences while on parole.</p> <p>In contrast, unstructured and unconditional release increases the risk of returning to prison.</p> <h2>Myth 3: parole is easy to get</h2> <p>While the number of parolees reoffending has dropped, so too has the total number of people who are exiting prison on parole.</p> <p>Over a decade ago, Victoria underwent significant parole reforms, largely prompted by high-profile incidents and campaigns. In just five years following Jill Meagher’s tragic death in 2012, the Victorian government passed <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10345329.2018.1556285">13 laws reshaping parole</a>.</p> <p>The result is the number of people on parole in Victoria has halved since 2012, despite incarceration numbers remaining steady.</p> <p><iframe id="maNRy" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/maNRy/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>These reforms have made it more difficult for people convicted of serious offences to get parole, as well as preventing individuals or specific groups from being eligible for parole (such as police killers, <a href="https://theconversation.com/no-body-no-parole-laws-could-be-disastrous-for-the-wrongfully-convicted-191083">“no body, no parole” prisoners</a>, and certain high-profile murderers).</p> <p>Similar laws can be found in other states. For example, no body, no parole was introduced in all other Australian states and territories, except for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.</p> <p>As a consequence, more people are being released at the end of their full sentence. This can be detrimental not only for the incarcerated person but the wider community, because they are not receiving the reintegration support parole provides.</p> <p>Aside from restricted access due to political intervention, parole is facing a new crisis, which has nothing to do with eligibility or suitability.</p> <p>Last year, 40% of Victorian parole applications were denied, often due to reasons <a href="https://www.adultparoleboard.vic.gov.au/system/files/inline-files/Adult%20Parole%20Board%20Annual%20Report%202022-23_0.pdf">unrelated to suitability</a>.</p> <p>Housing scarcity played a significant role, with 59% of rejections (or 235 applications) citing a lack of suitable accommodation as one of the reasons parole was denied. This is playing out <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-08-11/women-on-bail-parole-increased-risk-of-homelessness-qld/102717002">across the country</a>.</p> <p>Parole is vulnerable to community and media hype, and political knee-jerk reactions in response to high profile incidents involving a person on parole. Because of the actions of a few, parole as a process has been restricted for many.</p> <p>While the wider community are active in advocacy efforts to restrict parole from certain people or groups (for example, this petition for <a href="https://www.change.org/p/lyns-law-no-body-no-parole">Lyn’s Law in NSW</a>), public efforts to restrict parole seem at odds with its purposes.</p> <p>Despite this, research suggests when the public are educated about the purposes and intent of parole, they are more likely to be <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3125829">supportive of it</a>.</p> <p>The susceptibility of parole to media and community influence results in frequent, impactful changes affecting individuals inside and outside prisons. Headlines such as “walking free” have the potential to mislead the public on the purpose and structure of parole. Coverage should portray parole beyond mere early termination of a sentence by accurately reflecting its purpose and impact.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/226607/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/monique-moffa-1380936">Monique Moffa</a>, Lecturer, Criminology &amp; Justice, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alyssa-sigamoney-1375881">Alyssa Sigamoney</a>, Associate Lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/greg-stratton-161122">Greg Stratton</a>, Lecturer - Criminology and Justice Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jarryd-bartle-441602">Jarryd Bartle</a>, Associate Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michele-ruyters-18446">Michele Ruyters</a>, Associate Dean, Criminology and Justice Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-parolees-really-walk-free-busting-common-myths-about-parole-226607">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Eating some chocolate really might be good for you – here’s what the research says

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dan-baumgardt-1451396">Dan Baumgardt</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bristol-1211">University of Bristol</a></em></p> <p>Although it always makes me scoff slightly to see Easter eggs making their first appearance in supermarkets at the end of December, there are few people who aren’t delighted to receive a bit of chocolate every year.</p> <p>It makes sense that too much chocolate would be bad for you because of the high fat and sugar content in most products. But what should we make of common claims that eating some chocolate is actually good for you?</p> <p>Happily, there is a fair amount of evidence that shows, in the right circumstances, chocolate may be both beneficial for your heart and good for your mental state.</p> <p>In fact, chocolate – or more specifically cacao, the raw, unrefined bean – is a medicinal wonder. It contains many different active compounds which can evoke pharmacological effects within the body, like medicines or drugs.</p> <p>Compounds that lead to neurological effects in the brain have to be able to cross the <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-13443-2_7">blood-brain barrier</a>, the protective shield which prevents harmful substances – like toxins and bacteria – entering the delicate nervous tissue.</p> <p>One of these is the compound <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3672386/">theobromine</a>, which is also found in tea and contributes towards its bitter taste. Tea and chocolate also contain caffeine, which theobromine is related to as part of the purine family of chemicals.</p> <p>These chemicals, among others, contribute to chocolate’s addictive nature. They have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, where they can influence the nervous system. They are therefore known as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15549276/">psychoactive</a> chemicals.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HloqayQdR6M?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>What effects can chocolate have on mood? Well, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/71/10/665/1931144?login=false">a systematic review</a> looked at a group of studies which examined the feelings and emotions associated with consuming chocolate. Most demonstrated improvements in mood, anxiety, energy and states of arousal.</p> <p>Some noted the feeling of guilt, which is perhaps something we’ve all felt after one too many Dairy Milks.</p> <h2>Health benefits of cocoa</h2> <p>There are other organs, aside from the brain, that might benefit from the medicinal effects of cocoa. For centuries, chocolate has been used as a medicine to treat a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10917925/">long list of diseases</a> including anaemia, tuberculosis, gout and even low libido.</p> <p>These might be spurious claims but there is evidence to suggest that eating cacao has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. First, it can prevent <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8068178/">endothelial dysfunction</a>. This is the process through which arteries harden and get laden down with fatty plaques, which can in turn lead to heart attacks and strokes.</p> <p>Eating dark chocolate may also reduce <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1537189115001135?via%3Dihub">blood pressure</a>, which is another risk factor for developing arterial disease, and prevent formation of clots which block up blood vessels.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8VUcPCbSSCY?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Some studies have suggested that dark chocolate might be useful in adjusting ratios of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20968113/">high-density lipoprotein cholesterol</a>, which can help protect the heart.</p> <p>Others have examined insulin resistance, the phenomenon associated with Type 2 diabetes and weight gain. They suggest that the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996900000697#:%7E:text=Cocoa%20is%20rich%20in%20polyphenols%20particularly%20in%20catechins,and%20cocoa%20powder%20have%20been%20published%20only%20recently.">polyphenols</a> – chemical compounds present in plants – found in foodstuffs like chocolate may also lead to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29993262/">improved control of blood sugars</a>.</p> <h2>Chocolate toxicity</h2> <p>As much as chocolate might be considered a medicine for some, it can be a poison for others.</p> <p>It’s well documented that the ingestion of caffeine and theobromine is highly toxic for domestic animals. Dogs are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4801869/">particularly affected</a> because of their often voracious appetites and generally unfussy natures.</p> <p>The culprit is often dark chocolate, which can provoke symptoms of agitation, rigid muscles and even seizures. In certain cases, if ingested in high enough quantities, it can lead to comas and abnormal, even fatal heart rhythms.</p> <p>Some of the compounds found in chocolate have also been found to have potentially negative effects in humans. Chocolate is a source of oxalate which, along with calcium, is one of the main components of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20301742/">kidney stones</a>.</p> <p>Some clinical groups have advised against consuming oxalate rich foods, such as spinach and rhubarb – and chocolate, for those who suffer from recurrent kidney stones.</p> <p>So, what should all this mean for our chocolate consumption habits? Science points in the direction of chocolate that has as high a cocoa solid content as possible, and the minimum of extras. The potentially harmful effects of chocolate are more related to fat and sugar, and may counteract any possible benefits.</p> <p>A daily dose of 20g-30g of plain or dark chocolate with cocoa solids above 70% – rather than milk chocolate, which contains fewer solids and white chocolate, which contains none – could lead to a greater health benefit, as well as a greater high.</p> <p>But whatever chocolate you go for, please don’t share it with the dog.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/226759/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dan-baumgardt-1451396"><em>Dan Baumgardt</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bristol-1211">University of Bristol</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/eating-some-chocolate-really-might-be-good-for-you-heres-what-the-research-says-226759">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Does British tourism really need the royal family?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ross-bennett-cook-1301368">Ross Bennett-Cook</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-westminster-916">University of Westminster</a></em></p> <p>Love them or loathe them, the royal family are up there with red telephone boxes and scones when it comes to images of Britishness. Souvenir shops are full of their faces, newspapers across the world discuss them, and <a href="https://www.euronews.com/culture/2022/09/13/netflixs-the-crown-skyrockets-in-popularity-following-the-queens-death">television dramas</a> based on their lives have never been more popular.</p> <p>Whenever people are critical of the royal family, the oft-repeated retort is “but think of the tourism!”. This has been particularly common rhetoric recently, as <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/royal-family/who-paid-for-coronation-b2334669.html">many people question</a> how a country facing mass strikes and a crippling cost of living crisis can afford the estimated <a href="https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/explained/how-much-king-charles-iii-coronation-cost-who-pays-for-it/">£100 million</a> cost of King Charles III’s coronation.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/topics/arts/survey-results/daily/2023/04/18/25178/3">YouGov poll</a>, 51% did not believe the coronation should be paid for by taxpayers. For young people, this figure was even higher, at 62%. But supporters will often use <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/charles-iii-ap-coronation-buckingham-palace-elizabeth-ii-b2326220.html">tourism</a> as justification for lavish expenses.</p> <p>The royal family does bring tourism to the UK. The economic consultancy Centre for Economics and Business Research <a href="https://cebr.com/reports/uk-economy-raises-a-glass-to-337-million-coronation-boost-from-tourism-and-pub-activity/">estimated</a> that the coronation weekend would lead to a £337 million boost from tourism and pub spending.</p> <p>But if the royal family were to disappear, would the UK’s tourism industry suddenly implode?</p> <p>2011 research by <a href="https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20140722183820/http://www.visitbritain.org/mediaroom/archive/2011/vbrwwedding.aspx">Visit Britain</a> found that around 60% of tourists to the UK are likely to visit places associated with the royal family. While there is no more recent specifically royal data, in 2022 Visit Britain found that history and heritage was the biggest <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/MIDAS-research-project">pull factor to tourists</a>.</p> <p>And while the <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1468797606071477">international perception</a> of Britain is certainly intertwined with the royal family, this does not tell us whether a reigning royal family is necessary for tourism. After all, the history surrounding the monarchy and places associated with them would still be here even if the royal family was not. Ottoman palaces of Istanbul remain <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/most-visited-castles-palaces/index.html">wildly popular</a> attractions 100 years since the collapse of the caliphate, as are the royal châteaus of France or imperial palaces of China.</p> <p>Lack of royalty does not seem to have affected these countries’ appeal, each of which attract <a href="https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/epdf/10.18111/wtobarometereng.2020.18.1.7">more tourists</a> annually than the UK.</p> <h2>A special relationship</h2> <p>The USA is the UK’s <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/inbound-tourism-trends-old">largest tourist market</a>, and <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/royal-family/2023/05/05/coronation-american-tourists-britain-boom-royal-family-usa/">American tourists</a> do seem to be very fond of things associated with British royalty.</p> <p>But this may change with the new monarch. In a <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/entertainment/articles-reports/2021/02/17/british-royals-popular-america-poll">poll taken in February 2021</a>, before the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a whopping 68% of Americans viewed her favourably. The same poll found only 34% had a favourable opinion of Charles – but this has changed in his favour following his accession to the throne, according to a <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/international/articles-reports/2023/05/05/americans-think-british-royal-family-charles">poll taken before the coronation</a> which gave him a 50% approval rating in the US. That said, 62% of people in the US said they did not care about the coronation very much or at all.</p> <p>Outside America, the UK’s next largest tourist groups have significantly less interest in the royal family. The holiday firm <a href="https://www.traveldailymedia.com/study-reveals-importance-of-royal-family-to-uk-tourism-industry/">Travelzoo</a> found in 2016 that just 19% of German, 15% of French and only 10% of Spanish travellers want to come to the UK because of the British monarchy.</p> <h2>Where do tourists go?</h2> <p>Typically, when commentators discuss the royal contributions to tourism, they talk about significant events such as weddings, jubilees, coronations and funerals. Even though these events attract huge crowds, they happen rarely and are unrepresentative of the tourism industry as a whole. Research <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/13548166211004361">has found</a> that royal weddings massively improve a country’s image and brand awareness, but are not comparable to major mega events such as the Fifa World Cup, the Super Bowl or the Olympics.</p> <p>Even though royal places are popular, they are far from our most popular attractions. Of Britain’s <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/annual-survey-visits-visitor-attractions-latest-results">ten most visited</a> free and paid-for attractions in 2021, none were royal attractions. The <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/sites/default/files/vb-corporate/top_20_listings.pdf">highest ranking</a> royal attraction was the Tower of London, making only 17th on the list.</p> <p>Typically, Chester Zoo attracts more visitors than Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, although these statistics do not differentiate between domestic and international tourists. In the most recent <a href="https://www.windsor.gov.uk/dbimgs/Windsor%202017%20Visitor%20Survey%20final%20report%2028_11_17.pdf">Windsor visitor survey</a>, the majority of its tourists came from overseas.</p> <p>Anti-monarchy group <a href="https://www.republic.org.uk/tourism">Republic</a> has disputed the widely cited figure that the monarchy generates £500 million in tourism income for the UK annually – which itself would be only a small fraction of Britain’s £127 billion tourism economy.</p> <p>The group also questions why royalty <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hL9yDOK48A">barely feature</a> on British tourism campaigns or advertisements, if they are so vital to the tourism economy.</p> <p>It is impossible to deny that royalty adds to the UK’s appeal as a tourist destination – the history and associated heritage is famous worldwide. However, what is questionable is whether a reigning monarchy is necessary for this attractiveness to continue.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/205158/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ross-bennett-cook-1301368"><em>Ross Bennett-Cook</em></a><em>, Visiting Lecturer, School of Architecture + Cities, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-westminster-916">University of Westminster</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-british-tourism-really-need-the-royal-family-205158">original article</a>.</em></p>

International Travel

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Fear of ageing is really a fear of the unknown – and modern society is making things worse

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chao-fang-1010933">Chao Fang</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-liverpool-1198">University of Liverpool</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alastair-comery-1501915">Alastair Comery</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bath-1325">University of Bath</a></em></p> <p>For the first time in human history, we have entered an era in which reaching old age is taken for granted. Unlike in ages past, when living to an older age was a luxury afforded mainly to the privileged, globally around <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TO65.FE.ZS?locations=1W">79% of women</a> and <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TO65.MA.ZS?locations=1W">70% of men</a> can expect to reach the age of 65 and beyond.</p> <p>Despite longer life expectancy, many people in the contemporary west see growing old as undesirable and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/apr/02/ageing-and-the-mortality-alarm-i-started-panicking-about-future-me">even scary</a>. Research shows, however, that anxiety about ageing may in fact be <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0164027500225004">fear of the unknown</a>.</p> <p>Society’s <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/articles/199409/learning-love-growing-old">focus on youthfulness</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psychology-teacher-network/introductory-psychology/ableism-negative-reactions-disability">capability</a> can cause anxiety about becoming weak and unwanted. Adverts for anti-ageing products <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-20th-century-rejuvenation-techniques-gave-rise-to-the-modern-anti-ageing-industry-133569">are everywhere</a>, reinforcing the idea that growing older is inherently unattractive.</p> <p>Some people fear ageing so much that it becomes a pathological condition <a href="https://mind.help/topic/gerascophobia/">called gerascophobia</a>, leading to irrational thoughts and behaviour, for example, a fixation on health, illness and mortality and a preoccupation with hiding the signs of ageing.</p> <p>We frequently hear about attempts to reverse ageing, often by the super rich. For example, <a href="https://fortune.com/well/2023/01/26/bryan-johnson-extreme-anti-aging/">Bryan Johnson</a>, a 45-year-old American entrepreneur, is spending millions of dollars a year to obtain the physical age of 18.</p> <p>While the desire to reverse ageing is not a new phenomenon, advancements in biomedicine have brought it closer.</p> <p>Work published by genetics professor <a href="https://lifespanbook.com/">David Sinclair</a> at Harvard University in 2019 suggests that it may be possible to challenge the limits of cell reproduction to extend our lifespan, for example. His <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43587-023-00527-6">information theory of ageing</a> argues that <a href="https://epigeneticsandchromatin.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1756-8935-6-3">reprogramming DNA</a> can improve damaged and old tissues, and delay or even reverse ageing. However, these new possibilities can also heighten our fear of ageing.</p> <h2>From the unproductive to undervalued</h2> <p>People haven’t always dreaded growing older. In many societies, older people used to be widely regarded as wise and important – and in some they still are.</p> <p>In ancient China, there was a <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/605890">culture</a> of respecting and seeking advice from older family members. There is still an ethos of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363941/">filial piety</a> (showing reverence and care for elders and ancestors) today, even if it’s not as pronounced as it used to be. The same went for <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ageing-and-society/article/abs/old-age-in-the-dark-ages-the-status-of-old-age-during-the-early-middle-ages/3699DC4100DE852BDA1E1B3BBF33DDBC">medieval Europe</a>, where older people’s experiences and wisdom were highly valued.</p> <p>However, the industrial revolution in the west from the 18th century led to a cultural shift where older people <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1014358415896">became excluded from society</a> and were considered unproductive. People who had surpassed the age to work, alongside those with incurable diseases, were regarded by society as <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13607860903228762">“evils”</a> in need of assistance.</p> <p>The treatment of older people has taken a different form since the early 20th century. The introduction of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/30/business/retirement/why-the-world-needs-to-rethink-retirement.html">universal pension systems</a> made ageing a central concern in welfare systems. But as the demands for social and health care have increased, journalists increasingly portray ageing as a <a href="https://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/archive/older-people-feel-a-burden-to-society/">burden</a> on society.</p> <p>Consequently, growing older is often associated with managing the risk of ill health and alleviating the onus of care from younger relatives. This can result in the <a href="https://utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/utq.90.2.09">institutionalisation</a> of older people in residential facilities that keep them hidden, sequestered from the awareness of younger generations.</p> <p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0164027500225004">Research</a> analysing the responses of 1,200 US adults from the American Association of Retired Persons’ Images of Ageing survey shows that much of the perceived fear of ageing is closely aligned with the fear of the unknown, rather than the ageing process itself. This fear is only exacerbated by the largely separate lives lived by older and younger generations.</p> <p>The prevalence of nuclear families and the decline of <a href="https://www.cpc.ac.uk/docs/BP45_UnAffordable_housing_and_the_residential_separation_of_age_groups.pdf">traditional mixed-generational communities</a> have deprived younger people of the opportunity to more fully understand the experiences of older people. Plus, the rapid increase in <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/why-its-more-difficult-for-young-people-to-buy-a-house-now-than-it-was-fifty-years-ago-12537254">house prices</a> means many young people cannot afford to live near their older relatives.</p> <p>The separation of older people from children and young people has sparked generational conflicts that seemingly continue to <a href="https://www.economist.com/britain/2017/05/04/britains-generational-divide-has-never-been-wider">grow wider than ever</a>. Older people are frequently portrayed in the media as conservative and privileged, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/12/old-young-gap-britain-generation-dysfunctional-family">making it difficult</a> for younger generations to comprehend why older people act and think the way they do.</p> <h2>Intergenerational interactions</h2> <p>Academics suggest that creating <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2022.996520/full">a system</a> for older and younger generations to interact in everyday settings is vital.</p> <p>A set of three <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031197/#bjso12146-bib-0004">UK-based studies</a> in 2016 analysed and compared the effects of direct contact, extended contact and interactions between younger (aged 17 to 30) and older people (65 and over). The findings indicated that good quality direct intergenerational contact can improve young people’s attitudes towards older adults (especially when sustained over time).</p> <p>Intergenerational programmes have been adopted globally, including mixed and <a href="https://www.cohousing.org/multigenerational-cohousing/">intergenerational housing</a>, <a href="https://www.nurseryinbelong.org.uk/intergenerational-choir-hits-high-note-at-belong-chester/">community choirs</a> and <a href="https://www.shareable.net/how-sharing-can-bring-japans-elderly-and-youth-together/">senior volunteers reading to young children in nurseries</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10433-018-00497-4">Studies show</a> that these activities can not only enhance the wellbeing of older people but also help younger people gain an appreciation of ageing as a valuable and fulfilling life stage.</p> <p>Getting worried about growing older is normal, just as we experience anxieties in other stages of life, such as adolescence and marriage. But here’s the thing – instead of seeing ageing as a looming figure, it is important to realise it is just a part of life.</p> <p>Once we understand ageing as a regular experience, <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/changepower/202106/do-you-have-fogo-taming-the-fear-getting-old">we can let go</a> of these worries and approach the journey through different life stages with a positive attitude and a fortified will to enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/220925/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chao-fang-1010933"><em>Chao Fang</em></a><em>, Lecturer in Sociology, Deputy Director of the Centre for Ageing and the Life Course, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-liverpool-1198">University of Liverpool</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alastair-comery-1501915">Alastair Comery</a>, PhD Candidate, Sociology, Centre for Death and Society, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bath-1325">University of Bath</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/fear-of-ageing-is-really-a-fear-of-the-unknown-and-modern-society-is-making-things-worse-220925">original article</a>.</em></p>

Beauty & Style

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How bad is junk food for you, really?

<div> <p>Consuming more junk foods, such as soft drinks, packaged snacks, and sugary cereals, is associated with a higher risk of more than 30 different health problems – both physical and mental – according to researchers.</p> <p>A study, known as an umbrella review, combined the results of 45 previous meta-analyses published in the last three years, representing about 10 million participants.</p> <p>Thirty-two different poor health outcomes were found to be linked to the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs), with varying levels of evidence supporting the findings.</p> <p>The researchers found the most convincing evidence around higher ultra-processed food intake, which was associated with a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death, a 48-53% higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders, and a 12% greater risk of type 2 diabetes.</p> <p>Evidence marked as ‘highly suggestive’ included a 21% increase in death from any cause, a 40-66% increased risk of a heart disease related death, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and sleep problems, as well as a 22% increased risk of depression.</p> <p>The review also found there may be links between ultra-processed food and asthma; gastrointestinal health; some cancers; and other risk factors such as high blood fats and low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, but the researchers note this evidence is limited.</p> <p>Dr Daisy Coyle from the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, who was not involved in the research, says the statistics are “staggering.”</p> <p>“Ultra-processed foods, laden with additives and sometimes lacking in essential nutrients, have become ubiquitous in the Australian diet,” she says.</p> <p>“In fact, they make up almost half of what we buy at the supermarket. While not all ultra-processed foods are linked to poor health outcomes, many are, particularly sugary drinks and processed meats.”</p> <div> </div> <p>While the findings are in line with other research that highlights the health risks associated with UPFs, some experts have pointed out that the study is observational, and therefore can’t prove the ultra-processed foods cause these health issues. It can only show an association.</p> <p>“While these associations are interesting and warrant further high-quality research, they do not and cannot provide evidence of causality,” The University of Sydney’s Dr Alan Barclay told the AusSMC.</p> <p>“By their very nature, observational studies are renowned for being confounded by numerous factors – both known and unknown.”</p> <p>Clare Collins, Laureate Professor at the University of Newcastle agreed, but added that it’s difficult to conduct dietary studies like this in a different way.</p> <p>“The studies are observational, which means cause and effect cannot be proven and that the research evidence gets downgraded, compared to intervention studies,” she says.</p> <p>“The problem is that it is not ethical to do an intervention study lasting for many years where you feed people lots of UPF every day and wait for them to get sick and die.”</p> <p>For now, researchers seem to agree that it can’t be a bad thing to minimise UPF intake.</p> <p>The review suggests a need for policies that pull consumers away from ultra-processed foods, such as advertising restrictions, warning labels, bans in schools and hospitals. It also calls for measures that make healthier foods more accessible and affordable.</p> <p>Dr Charlotte Gupta from Central Queensland University suggests that this is issue of accessibility is particularly relevant for shift workers such as doctors, nurses, firefighters, taxi drivers, miners, and hospitality workers.</p> <p>“There is a lack of availability of fresh foods or time to prepare any food, and so ultra-processed foods have to be relied on (e.g. from the vending machine in the hospital),” she said.</p> <p>“This highlights the need for not only individuals to try reducing ultra-processed foods in our diet, but also for public health actions to improve access to healthier foods.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/how-bad-is-junk-food-for-you-really/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/olivia-henry/">Olivia Henry</a>. </em></p> </div>

Food & Wine

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We looked at 700 plant-based foods to see how healthy they really are. Here’s what we found

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laura-marchese-1271636">Laura Marchese</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katherine-livingstone-324808">Katherine Livingstone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>If you’re thinking about buying plant-based foods, a trip to the supermarket can leave you bewildered.</p> <p>There are plant-based burgers, sausages and mince. The fridges are loaded with non-dairy milk, cheese and yoghurt. Then there are the tins of beans and packets of tofu.</p> <p>But how much is actually healthy?</p> <p>Our nutritional audit of more than 700 plant-based foods for sale in Australian supermarkets has just been <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157524000516">published</a>. We found some products are so high in salt or saturated fat, we’d struggle to call them “healthy”.</p> <h2>We took (several) trips to the supermarket</h2> <p>In 2022, we visited two of each of four major supermarket retailers across Melbourne to collect information on the available range of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products.</p> <p>We took pictures of the products and their nutrition labels.</p> <p>We then analysed the nutrition information on the packaging of more than 700 of these products. This included 236 meat substitutes, 169 legumes and pulses, 50 baked beans, 157 dairy milk substitutes, 52 cheese substitutes and 40 non-dairy yoghurts.</p> <h2>Plant-based meats were surprisingly salty</h2> <p>We found a wide range of plant-based meats for sale. So, it’s not surprising we found large variations in their nutrition content.</p> <p>Sodium, found in added salt and which contributes to <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/healthy-living-and-eating/salt-and-heart-health">high blood pressure</a>, was our greatest concern.</p> <p>The sodium content varied from 1 milligram per 100 grams in products such as tofu, to 2,000mg per 100g in items such as plant-based mince products.</p> <p>This means we could eat our entire <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/salt">daily recommended sodium intake</a> in just one bowl of plant-based mince.</p> <p>An <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09637486.2022.2137786">audit</a> of 66 plant-based meat products in Australian supermarkets conducted in 2014 found sodium ranged from 316mg in legume-based products to 640mg in tofu products, per 100g. In a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/11/2603">2019 audit</a> of 137 products, the range was up to 1,200mg per 100g.</p> <p>In other words, the results of our audit seems to show a consistent trend of plant-based meats <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09637486.2022.2137786">getting saltier</a>.</p> <h2>What about plant-based milks?</h2> <p>Some 70% of the plant-based milks we audited were fortified with calcium, a nutrient important for <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/calcium">bone health</a>.</p> <p>This is good news as a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1254">2019-2020 audit</a> of 115 plant-based milks from Melbourne and Sydney found only 43% of plant-based milks were fortified with calcium.</p> <p>Of the fortified milks in our audit, almost three-quarters (73%) contained the <a href="https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/milk-yoghurt-cheese-andor-their-alternatives-mostly-reduced-fat">recommended amount of calcium</a> – at least 100mg per 100mL.</p> <p>We also looked at the saturated fat content of plant-based milks.</p> <p>Coconut-based milks had on average up to six times higher saturated fat content than almond, oat or soy milks.</p> <p><a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1254">Previous audits</a> also found coconut-based milks were much higher in saturated fat than all other categories of milks.</p> <h2>A first look at cheese and yoghurt alternatives</h2> <p>Our audit is the first study to identify the range of cheese and yoghurt alternatives available in Australian supermarkets.</p> <p>Calcium was only labelled on a third of plant-based yoghurts, and only 20% of supermarket options met the recommended 100mg of calcium per 100g.</p> <p>For plant-based cheeses, most (92%) were not fortified with calcium. Their sodium content varied from 390mg to 1,400mg per 100g, and saturated fat ranged from 0g to 28g per 100g.</p> <h2>So, what should we consider when shopping?</h2> <p>As a general principle, try to choose whole plant foods, such as unprocessed legumes, beans or tofu. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals. They’re also high in dietary fibre, which is good for your gut health and keeps you fuller for longer.</p> <p>If opting for a processed plant-based food, here are five tips for choosing a healthier option.</p> <p><strong>1. Watch the sodium</strong></p> <p>Plant-based meat alternatives can be high in sodium, so look for products that have <a href="https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/eating-well/how-understand-food-labels/food-labels-what-look">around</a> 150-250mg sodium per 100g.</p> <p><strong>2. Pick canned beans and legumes</strong></p> <p>Canned chickpeas, lentils and beans can be healthy and low-cost <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/71522940-decf-436a-ba44-cd890dc18036/Meat-Free-Recipe-Booklet.pdf">additions to many meals</a>. Where you can, choose canned varieties with no added salt, especially when buying baked beans.</p> <p><strong>3. Add herbs and spices to your tofu</strong></p> <p>Tofu can be a great alternative to meat. Check the label and pick the option with the highest calcium content. We found flavoured tofu was higher in salt and sugar content than minimally processed tofu. So it’s best to pick an unflavoured option and add your own flavours with spices and herbs.</p> <p><strong>4. Check the calcium</strong></p> <p>When choosing a non-dairy alternative to milk, such as those made from soy, oat, or rice, check it is fortified with calcium. A good alternative to traditional dairy will have at least 100mg of calcium per 100g.</p> <p><strong>5. Watch for saturated fat</strong></p> <p>If looking for a lower saturated fat option, almond, soy, rice and oat varieties of milk and yoghurt alternatives have much lower saturated fat content than coconut options. Pick those with less than 3g per 100g.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222991/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laura-marchese-1271636">Laura Marchese</a>, PhD Student at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katherine-livingstone-324808">Katherine Livingstone</a>, NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-looked-at-700-plant-based-foods-to-see-how-healthy-they-really-are-heres-what-we-found-222991">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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The US just returned to the Moon after more than 50 years. How big a deal is it, really?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-flannery-3906">David Flannery</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>In the few short years since the COVID pandemic changed our world, China, Japan and India have all successfully landed on the Moon.</p> <p>Many more robotic missions have flown past the Moon, entered lunar orbit, or crashed into it in the past five years. This includes <a href="https://www.planetary.org/space-missions/kplo">spacecraft developed by South Korea</a>, <a href="https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2023/04/27/Dubai-s-ruler-announces-new-moon-mission-after-UAE-s-Rashid-Rover-lunar-crash-">the United Arab Emirates</a>, and an <a href="https://www.spaceil.com/">Israeli not-for-profit organisation</a>.</p> <p>Late last week, the American company <a href="https://www.intuitivemachines.com/">Intuitive Machines</a>, in collaboration with NASA, celebrated “America’s return to the Moon” with a successful landing of its Odysseus spacecraft.</p> <p>Recent <a href="https://theconversation.com/change-5-china-launches-sample-return-mission-to-the-moon-is-it-winning-the-new-space-race-150665">Chinese-built sample return missions</a> are far more complex than this project. And didn’t NASA ferry a dozen humans to the Moon back when microwaves were cutting-edge technology? So what is different about this mission developed by a US company?</p> <h2>Back to the Moon</h2> <p>The recent Odysseus landing stands out for two reasons. For starters, this is the first time a US-built spacecraft has landed – not crashed – on the Moon for over 50 years.</p> <p>Secondly, and far more significantly, this is the first time a private company has pulled off a successful delivery of cargo to the Moon’s surface.</p> <p>NASA has lately focused on destinations beyond the Earth–Moon system, including Mars. But with its <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/commercial-lunar-payload-services/">Commercial Lunar Payload Services</a> (CLPS) program, it has also funded US private industry to develop Moon landing concepts, hoping to reduce the delivery costs of lunar payloads and allow NASA engineers to focus on other challenges.</p> <p>Working with NASA, Intuitive Machines selected a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malapert_(crater)">landing site</a> about 300 kilometres from the lunar south pole. Among other challenges, landing here requires entering a polar orbit around the Moon, which consumes additional fuel.</p> <p>At this latitude, the land is heavily cratered and dotted with long shadows. This makes it challenging for autonomous landing systems to find a safe spot for a touchdown.</p> <p>NASA spent about US$118 million (A$180 million) to land six scientific <a href="https://www.esa.int/Enabling_Support/Space_Engineering_Technology/About_Payload_Systems">payloads</a> on Odysseus. This is relatively cheap. Using low-cost lunar landers, NASA will have an efficient way to test new space hardware that may then be flown on other Moon missions or farther afield.</p> <h2>Ten minutes of silence</h2> <p>One of the technology tests on the Odysseus lander, NASA’s <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/stmd/impact-story-navigation-doppler-lidar/">Navigation Doppler Lidar experiment</a> or NDL, appears to have proved crucial to the lander’s success.</p> <p>As the lander neared the surface, the company realised its navigation systems had a problem. NASA’s NDL experiment is serendipitously designed to test precision landing techniques for future missions. It seems that at the last second, engineers bodged together a solution that involved feeding necessary data from NDL to the lander.</p> <p>Ten minutes of silence followed before a <a href="https://twitter.com/Int_Machines/status/1760838333851148442">weak signal was detected</a> from Odysseus. Applause thundered through the mission control room. NASA’s administrator released a video congratulating everyone for returning America to the Moon.</p> <p>It has since become clear the lander is not oriented perfectly upright. The solar panels are generating sufficient power and the team is slowly receiving the first images from the surface.</p> <p>However, it’s likely Odysseus <a href="https://www.universetoday.com/165864/odysseus-moon-lander-is-tipped-over-but-still-sending-data/">partially toppled over</a> upon landing. Fortunately, at the time of writing, it seems most of the science payload may yet be deployed as it’s on the side of the lander facing upwards. The unlucky payload element facing downwards <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/23/world/odysseus-lunar-landing-sideways-scn/index.html">is a privately contributed artwork</a> connected <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/22/style/jeff-koons-moon-phases-odysseus-landing/index.html">to NFTs</a>.</p> <p>The lander is now likely to survive for at least a week before the Sun sets on the landing site and a dark, frigid lunar night turns it into another museum piece of human technology frozen in the lunar <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/regolith">regolith</a>.</p> <h2>Win some, lose some</h2> <p>NASA’s commercial approach to stimulating low-cost payload services all but guarantees some failures. But eventually NASA hopes that several commercial launch and landing providers will emerge from the program, along with a few learning experiences.</p> <p>The know-how accumulated at organisations operating hardware in space is at least as important as the development of the hardware itself.</p> <p>The market for commercial lunar payloads remains unclear. Possibly, once the novelty wears off and brands are no longer able to generate buzz by, for example, <a href="https://www.columbia.com/omni-heat-infinity/moon-mission/">sending a piece of outdoor clothing to the Moon</a>, this source of funding may dwindle.</p> <p>However, just as today, civil space agencies and taxpayers will continue to fund space exploration to address shared science goals.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ideally, commercial providers will offer NASA an efficient method for testing key technologies needed for its schedule of upcoming scientific robotic missions, as well as <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/">human spaceflight in the Artemis program</a>. Australia would also have the opportunity to test hardware at a reduced price.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that US budgetary issues, <a href="https://spacenews.com/nasa-warns-of-very-problematic-space-technology-budget-cuts/">funding cuts</a> and <a href="https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/jpl-workforce-update">subsequent lay-offs</a> do threaten these ambitions.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in Australia, we may have nothing to launch anyway. We continue to spend less <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_departments/Parliamentary_Library/Budget/reviews/2023-24/ScienceResearch">than the OECD average on scientific research</a>, and only a few Australian universities – who traditionally lead such efforts – <a href="https://business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/moon-to-mars-initiative-demonstrator-mission-grants/grant-recipients">have received funding</a> provided by the Australian Space Agency.</p> <p>If we do support planetary science and space exploration in the future, Australians will need to decide if we want to allocate our limited resources, competing with NASA and US private industry, to supply launch, landing and robotic services to the global space industry.</p> <p>Alternatively, we could leverage these lower-cost payload providers to develop our own scientific space program, and locally developed space technologies associated with benefits to the knowledge economy, education and national security.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/224276/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-flannery-3906"><em>David Flannery</em></a><em>, Planetary Scientist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Intuitive Machines</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-us-just-returned-to-the-moon-after-more-than-50-years-how-big-a-deal-is-it-really-224276">original article</a>.</em></p>

International Travel

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Do you really need antibiotics? Curbing our use helps fight drug-resistant bacteria

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/minyon-avent-1486987">Minyon Avent</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fiona-doukas-1157050">Fiona Doukas</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kristin-xenos-1491653">Kristin Xenos</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-newcastle-1060">University of Newcastle</a></em></p> <p>Antibiotic resistance occurs when a microorganism changes and no longer responds to an antibiotic that was previously effective. It’s <a href="https://thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(21)00502-2/fulltext">associated with</a> poorer outcomes, a greater chance of death and higher health-care costs.</p> <p>In Australia, antibiotic resistance means some patients are admitted to hospital because oral antibiotics are <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance">no longer effective</a> and they need to receive intravenous therapy via a drip.</p> <p>Antibiotic resistance is rising to high levels in certain parts of the world. Some hospitals <a href="https://www.reactgroup.org/news-and-views/news-and-opinions/year-2022/the-impact-of-antibiotic-resistance-on-cancer-treatment-especially-in-low-and-middle-income-countries-and-the-way-forward/">have to consider</a> whether it’s even viable to treat cancers or perform surgery due to the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections.</p> <p>Australia is <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/our-work/antimicrobial-resistance/antimicrobial-use-and-resistance-australia-aura/aura-2023-fifth-australian-report-antimicrobial-use-and-resistance-human-health">one of the highest users</a> of antibiotics in the developed world. We need to use this precious resource wisely, or we risk a future where a simple infection could kill you because there isn’t an effective antibiotic.</p> <h2>When should antibiotics not be used?</h2> <p>Antibiotics only work for some infections. They work against bacteria but <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications-and-resources/resource-library/do-i-really-need-antibiotics">don’t treat</a> infections caused by viruses.</p> <p>Most community acquired infections, even those caused by bacteria, are likely to get better without antibiotics.</p> <p>Taking an antibiotic when you don’t need it won’t make you feel better or recover sooner. But it can increase your chance of side effects like nausea and diarrhoea.</p> <p>Some people think green mucus (or snot) is a sign of bacterial infection, requiring antibiotics. But it’s actually <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-11/aura_2023_do_i_really_need_antibiotics.pdf">a sign</a> your immune system is working to fight your infection.</p> <h2>If you wait, you’ll often get better</h2> <p><a href="https://www.tg.org.au/">Clinical practice guidelines</a> for antibiotic use aim to ensure patients receive antibiotics when appropriate. Yet 40% of GPs say they prescribe antibiotics <a href="https://doi.org/10.1071/HI13019">to meet patient expectations</a>. And <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35973750/">one in five</a> patients expect antibiotics for respiratory infections.</p> <p>It can be difficult for doctors to decide if a patient has a viral respiratory infection or are at an early stage of serious bacterial infection, particularly in children. One option is to “watch and wait” and ask patients to return if there is clinical deterioration.</p> <p>An alternative is to prescribe an antibiotic but advise the patient to not have it dispensed unless specific symptoms occur. This can <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004417.pub5">reduce antibiotic use by 50%</a> with no decrease in patient satisfaction, and no increase in complication rates.</p> <h2>Sometimes antibiotics are life-savers</h2> <p>For some people – particularly those with a weakened immune system – a simple infection can become more serious.</p> <p>Patients with life-threatening suspected infections should receive an appropriate antibiotic <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/our-work/clinical-care-standards/antimicrobial-stewardship-clinical-care-standard">immediately</a>. This includes serious infections such as <a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/bacterial-meningitis#:%7E:text=What%20is%20bacterial%20meningitis%3F,can%20cause%20life%2Dthreatening%20problems.">bacterial meningitis</a> (infection of the membranes surrounding the brain) and <a href="https://clinicalexcellence.qld.gov.au/priority-areas/safety-and-quality/sepsis/adult-sepsis#:%7E:text=Adult%20patients%20with%20sepsis%20also,adult%20emergency%20department%20sepsis%20pathway.">sepsis</a> (which can lead to organ failure and even death).</p> <h2>When else might antibiotics be used?</h2> <p>Antibiotics are sometimes used to prevent infections in patients who are undergoing surgery and are at significant risk of infection, such as those undergoing bowel resection. These patients will <a href="https://www.tg.org.au">generally receive</a> a single dose before the procedure.</p> <p>Antibiotics may also <a href="https://www.tg.org.au">be given</a> to patients undergoing chemotherapy for solid organ cancers (of the breast or prostate, for example), if they are at high risk of infection.</p> <p>While most sore throats are caused by a virus and usually resolve on their own, some high risk patients with a bacterial strep A infection which can cause “scarlet fever” are given antibiotics to prevent a more serious infection like <a href="https://www.rhdaustralia.org.au/">acute rheumatic fever</a>.</p> <h2>How long is a course of antibiotics?</h2> <p>The recommended duration of a course of antibiotics depends on the type of infection, the likely cause, where it is in your body and how effective the antibiotics are at killing the bacteria.</p> <p>In the past, courses were largely arbitrary and based on assumptions that antibiotics should be taken for long enough to eliminate the infecting bacteria.</p> <p>More recent research does not support this and shorter courses are <a href="https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/M19-1509">nearly always as effective as longer ones</a>, particularly for community acquired respiratory infections.</p> <p>For <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6736742/">community acquired pneumonia</a>, for example, research shows a three- to five-day course of antibiotics is at least as effective as a seven- to 14-day course.</p> <p>The “take until all finished” approach is no longer recommended, as the longer the antibiotic exposure, the greater the chance the bacteria will develop resistance.</p> <p>However, for infections where it is more difficult to eradicate the bacteria, such as tuberculosis and bone infections, a combination of antibiotics for many months is usually required.</p> <h2>What if your infection is drug-resistant?</h2> <p>You may have an antibiotic-resistant infection if you don’t get better after treatment with standard antibiotics.</p> <p>Your clinician will collect samples for lab testing if they suspect you have antibiotic-resistant infection, based on your travel history (especially if you’ve been hospitalised in a country with high rates of antibiotic resistance) and if you’ve had a recent course of antibiotics that hasn’t cleared your infection.</p> <p>Antibiotic-resistant infections are managed by prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics. These are like a sledgehammer, wiping out many different species of bacteria. (Narrow-spectrum antibiotics conversely can be thought of as a scalpel, more targeted and only affecting one or two kinds of bacteria.)</p> <p>Broad-spectrum antibiotics are usually more expensive and come with more severe side effects.</p> <h2>What can patients do?</h2> <p>Decisions about antibiotic prescriptions should be made using <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/our-work/partnering-consumers/shared-decision-making/decision-support-tools-specific-conditions">shared decision aids</a>, where patients and prescribers discuss the risks and benefits of antibiotics for conditions like a sore throat, middle ear infection or acute bronchitis.</p> <p>Consider asking your doctor questions such as:</p> <ul> <li>do we need to test the cause of my infection?</li> <li>how long should my recovery take?</li> <li>what are the risks and benefits of me taking antibiotics?</li> <li>will the antibiotic affect my regular medicines?</li> <li>how should I take the antibiotic (how often, for how long)?</li> </ul> <p>Other ways to fight antibiotic resistance include:</p> <ul> <li>returning leftover antibiotics to a pharmacy for safe disposal</li> <li>never consuming leftover antibiotics or giving them to anyone else</li> <li>not keeping prescription repeats for antibiotics “in case” you become sick again</li> <li>asking your doctor or pharmacist what you can do to feel better and ease your symptoms rather than asking for antibiotics.</li> </ul> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/minyon-avent-1486987">Minyon Avent</a>, Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fiona-doukas-1157050">Fiona Doukas</a>, PhD candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kristin-xenos-1491653">Kristin Xenos</a>, Research Assistant, College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing, School of Biomedical Science and Pharmacy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-newcastle-1060">University of Newcastle</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-you-really-need-antibiotics-curbing-our-use-helps-fight-drug-resistant-bacteria-217920">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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Drinking alcohol this Christmas and New Year? These medicines really don’t mix

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nial-wheate-96839">Nial Wheate</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jessica-pace-1401278">Jessica Pace</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>A glass or two of champagne with Christmas lunch. A cool crisp beer at the beach. Some cheeky cocktails with friends to see in the New Year. There seem to be so many occasions to unwind with an alcoholic drink this summer.</p> <p>But if you’re taking certain medications while drinking alcohol, this can affect your body in a number of ways. Drinking alcohol with some medicines means they may not work so well. With others, you risk a life-threatening overdose.</p> <p>Here’s what you need to know if you’re taking medication over summer and plan to drink.</p> <h2>Why is this a big deal?</h2> <p>After you take a medicine, it travels to the stomach. From there, your body shuttles it to the liver where the drug is metabolised and broken down before it goes into your blood stream. Every medicine you take is provided at a dose that takes into account the amount of metabolism that occurs in the liver.</p> <p>When you drink alcohol, this is also broken down in the liver, and it can affect how much of the drug is metabolised.</p> <p>Some medicines are metabolised <em>more</em>, which can mean not enough reaches your blood stream to be effective.</p> <p>Some medicines are metabolised <em>less</em>. This means you get a much higher dose than intended, which could lead to an overdose. The effects of alcohol (such as sleepiness) can act in addition to similar effects of a medicine.</p> <p>Whether or not you will have an interaction, and what interaction you have, depends on many factors. These include the medicine you are taking, the dose, how much alcohol you drink, your age, genes, sex and overall health.</p> <p>Women, older people and people with liver issues are more likely to have a drug interaction with alcohol.</p> <h2>Which medicines don’t mix well with alcohol?</h2> <p>Many medicines interact with alcohol regardless of whether they are prescribed by your doctor or bought over the counter, such as <a href="https://www.drugs.com/article/herbal-supplements-alcohol.html">herbal medicines</a>.</p> <p><strong>1. Medicines + alcohol = drowsiness, coma, death</strong></p> <p>Drinking alcohol and taking a medicine that depresses the <a href="https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/depressants/">central nervous system</a> to reduce arousal and stimulation can have additive effects. Together, these can make you extra drowsy, slow your breathing and heart rate and, in extreme cases, lead to coma and death. These effects are more likely if you use more than one of this type of medicine.</p> <p>Medicines to look out for include those for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, pain (except <a href="https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/alcohol-and-paracetamol">paracetamol</a>), sleep disturbances (such as insomnia), allergies, and colds and flu. It’s best not to drink alcohol with these medicines, or to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum.</p> <p><strong>2. Medicines + alcohol = more effects</strong></p> <p>Mixing alcohol with some medicines increases the effect of those medicines.</p> <p>One example is with the sleeping tablet zolpidem, which is <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/news/product-recalls/zolpidem-stilnox">not to be taken with alcohol</a>. Rare, but serious, side effects are strange behaviour while asleep, such as sleep-eating, sleep-driving or sleep-walking, which are more likely with alcohol.</p> <p><strong>3. Medicines + craft beer or home brew = high blood pressure</strong></p> <p>Some types of medicines only interact with some types of alcohol.</p> <p>Examples include some medicines for depression, such as phenelzine, tranylcypromine and moclobemide, the antibiotic linezolid, the Parkinson’s drug selegiline, and the cancer drug procarbazine.</p> <p>These so-called <a href="https://www.mydr.com.au/medicine/monoamine-oxidase-inhibitors-maois-for-depression/">monoamine oxidase inhibitors</a> <a href="https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/145802/oncol_maoi.pdf">only interact with</a> some types of boutique and artisan beers, beers with visible sediment, Belgian, Korean, European and African beers, and home-made beers and wine.</p> <p>These types of alcohol contain high levels of tyramine, a naturally occurring substance usually broken down by your body that doesn’t ordinarily cause any harm.</p> <p>However, monoamine oxidase inhibitors prevent your body from breaking down tyramine. This increases levels in your body and can cause your blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels.</p> <p><strong>4. Medicines + alcohol = effects even after you stop drinking</strong></p> <p>Other medicines interact because they affect the way your body breaks down alcohol.</p> <p>If you drink alcohol while using such medicines you may you feel nauseous, vomit, become flushed in the face and neck, feel breathless or dizzy, your heart may beat faster than usual, or your blood pressure may drop.</p> <p>This can occur even after you stop treatment, then drink alcohol. For example, if you are taking metronidazole you should avoid alcohol both while using the medicine and for at least 24 hours after you stop taking it.</p> <p>An example of where alcohol changes the amount of the medicine or related substances in the body is acitretin. This medication is used to treat skin conditions such as severe psoriasis and to prevent skin cancer in people who have had an organ transplant.</p> <p>When you take acitretin, it changes into another substance – <a href="https://www.ebs.tga.gov.au/ebs/picmi/picmirepository.nsf/pdf?OpenAgent&amp;id=CP-2017-CMI-02034-1&amp;d=20221221172310101">etretinate</a> – before it is removed from your body. Alcohol increases the amount of etretinate in your body.</p> <p>This is especially important as etretinate can cause birth defects. To prevent this, if you are a woman of child-bearing age you should avoid alcohol while using the medicine and for two months after you stop taking it.</p> <h2>Myths about alcohol and medicines</h2> <p><strong>Alcohol and birth control</strong></p> <p>One of the most common myths about medicines and alcohol is that you can’t drink while using <a href="https://youly.com.au/blog/sexual-reproductive-health/does-alcohol-make-the-pill-less-effective/">the contraceptive pill</a>.</p> <p>It is generally safe to use alcohol with the pill as it <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/birth-control-and-alcohol#:%7E:text=There's%20a%20bit%20of%20good,a%20less%20effective%20birth%20control.">doesn’t directly affect</a> how well birth control works.</p> <p>But the pill is most effective when taken at the same time each day. If you’re drinking heavily, you’re more likely to forget to do this the next day.</p> <p>Alcohol can also make some people nauseous and vomit. If you vomit within three hours of taking the pill, it will not work. This increases your risk of pregnancy.</p> <p>Contraceptive pills can also affect your response to alcohol as the hormones they contain can change the way your body <a href="https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/birth-control">removes alcohol</a>. This means you can get drunk faster, and stay drunk for longer, than you normally would.</p> <p><strong>Alcohol and antibiotics</strong></p> <p>Then there’s the myth about not mixing alcohol with any <a href="https://theconversation.com/mondays-medical-myth-you-cant-mix-antibiotics-with-alcohol-4407">antibiotics</a>. This only applies to <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/medicines/medicinal-product/aht,21161/metronidazole">metronidazole</a> and <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/medicines/brand/amt,1011571000168100/linezolid-apo">linezolid</a>.</p> <p>Otherwise, it is generally safe to use alcohol with antibiotics, as alcohol does not affect how well they work.</p> <p>But if you can, it is best to avoid alcohol while taking antibiotics. Antibiotics and alcohol have similar side effects, such as an upset stomach, dizziness and drowsiness. Using the two together means you are more likely to have these side effects. Alcohol can also reduce your energy and increase how long it takes for you to recover.</p> <h2>Where can I go for advice?</h2> <p>If you plan on drinking alcohol these holidays and are concerned about any interaction with your medicines, don’t just stop taking your medicines.</p> <p>Your pharmacist can advise you on whether it is safe for you to drink based on the medicines you are taking, and if not, provide advice on alternatives.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/196646/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nial-wheate-96839"><em>Nial Wheate</em></a><em>, Associate Professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jessica-pace-1401278">Jessica Pace</a>, Associate Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/drinking-alcohol-this-christmas-and-new-year-these-medicines-really-dont-mix-196646">original article</a>.</em></p>

Caring

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How is decaf coffee made? And is it really caffeine-free?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p>Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and its high levels of caffeine are among the main reasons why. It’s a natural stimulant that provides an energy buzz, and we just can’t get enough.</p> <p>However, some people prefer to limit their caffeine intake <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12684194/">for health</a> or other reasons. Decaffeinated or “decaf” coffee is widely available, and its consumption is reported to be <a href="https://www.coffeebeanshop.com.au/coffee-blog/decaf-coffee-market-worth-2145-billion-by-2025-at-69">on the rise</a>.</p> <p>Here’s what you need to know about decaf coffee: how it’s made, the flavour, the benefits – and whether it’s actually caffeine-free.</p> <h2>How is decaf made?</h2> <p>Removing caffeine while keeping a coffee bean’s aroma and flavour intact isn’t a simple task. Decaf coffee is made by stripping green, unroasted coffee beans of their caffeine content and relies on the fact that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6318762/#:%7E:text=Caffeine%20(Figure%201a)%20being,(15%20g%2FL).">caffeine dissolves</a> in water.</p> <p>Three main methods are used for removing caffeine: chemical solvents, liquid carbon dioxide (CO₂), or plain water with special filters.</p> <p>The additional steps required in all of these processing methods are why decaf coffee is often more expensive.</p> <h2>Solvent-based methods</h2> <p>Most decaf coffee is made using <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epdf/10.1080/10408699991279231?needAccess=true">solvent-based</a> methods as it’s the cheapest process. This method breaks down into two further types: <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9780123849472001835">direct and indirect</a>.</p> <p>The <strong>direct method</strong> involves steaming the coffee beans and then repeatedly soaking them in a chemical solvent (usually methylene chloride or ethyl acetate) which binds to the caffeine and extracts it from the beans.</p> <p>After a pre-determined time, the caffeine has been extracted and the coffee beans are steamed once more to remove any residual chemical solvent.</p> <p>The <strong>indirect method</strong> still uses a chemical solvent, but it doesn’t come into direct contact with the coffee beans. Instead, the beans are soaked in hot water, then the water is separated from the beans and treated with the chemical solvent.</p> <p>The caffeine bonds to the solvent in the water and is evaporated. The caffeine-free water is then returned to the beans to reabsorb the coffee flavours and aromas.</p> <p>The solvent chemicals (particularly methylene chloride) used in these processes are a source of controversy around decaf coffee. This is because <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/dichloromethane">methylene chloride</a> is suggested to be mildly carcinogenic in high doses. Methylene chloride and ethyl acetate are commonly used in paint stripper, nail polish removers and degreaser.</p> <p>However, both the <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/pages/default.aspx">Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code</a> and <a href="https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=173.255">the United States Food and Drug Administration</a> permit the use of these solvents to process decaf. They also have strict limits on the amount of the chemicals that can still be present on the beans, and in reality <a href="https://www.chemicals.co.uk/blog/how-dangerous-is-methylene-chloride">practically no solvent</a> is left behind.</p> <h2>Non-solvent-based methods</h2> <p>Non-solvent-based methods that use liquid carbon dioxide or water are becoming increasingly popular as they don’t involve chemical solvents.</p> <p>In the <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10408699991279231"><strong>CO₂ method</strong></a>, liquid carbon dioxide is pumped into a high-pressure chamber with the beans, where it binds to the caffeine and is then removed through high pressure, leaving behind decaffeinated beans.</p> <p>The <strong>water method</strong> (also known as the Swiss water process) is exactly what it sounds like – it <a href="http://publication.eiar.gov.et:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/3234/ECSS%20Proceeding%20Final.pdf?sequence=1#page=294">involves extracting caffeine</a> from coffee beans using water. There are variations on this method, but the basic steps are as follows.</p> <p>For an initial batch, green coffee beans are soaked in hot water, creating an extract rich in caffeine and flavour compounds (the flavourless beans are then discarded). This green coffee extract is passed through activated charcoal filters, which trap the caffeine molecules while allowing the flavours to pass through.</p> <p>Once created in this way, the caffeine-free extract can be used to soak a new batch of green coffee beans – since the flavours are already saturating the extract, the only thing that will be dissolved from the beans is the caffeine.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8531vyP7Z5U?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Is caffeine fully removed from decaf?</h2> <p>Switching to decaf may not be as caffeine free as you think.</p> <p>It is unlikely that 100% of the caffeine will be successfully <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8603790/">stripped from the coffee beans</a>. Just like the caffeine content of coffee can vary, some <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17132260/">small amounts</a> of caffeine are still present in decaf.</p> <p>However, the amount is quite modest. You would need to drink more than ten cups of decaf to reach the caffeine level typically present in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jat/article/30/8/611/714415">one cup of caffeinated coffee</a>.</p> <p>Australia <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Documents/1.1.2%20Definitions%20v157.pdf">does not require</a> coffee roasters or producers to detail the process used to create their decaf coffee. However, you might find this information on some producers’ websites if they have chosen to advertise it.</p> <h2>Does decaf coffee taste different?</h2> <p>Some people say decaf tastes different. Depending on how the beans are decaffeinated, some aromatic elements may be co-extracted with the caffeine <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23745606/">during the process</a>.</p> <p>Caffeine also contributes to the bitterness of coffee, so when the caffeine is removed, so is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8948847/">some of the bitterness</a>.</p> <h2>Do caffeinated and decaf coffee have the same health benefits?</h2> <p>The health benefits found for drinking decaf coffee are similar to that of caffeinated coffee, including a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, some cancers and overall <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5696634/">mortality</a>. More recently, coffee has been linked with improved weight management over time.</p> <p>Most of the health benefits have been shown by drinking <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5696634/">three cups</a> of decaf per day.</p> <p>Moderation is key, and remember that the greatest health benefits will come from having a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-a-balanced-diet-anyway-72432">balanced diet</a>.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/215546/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718"><em>Lauren Ball</em></a><em>, Professor of Community Health and Wellbeing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, Dietitian, Researcher &amp; Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-is-decaf-coffee-made-and-is-it-really-caffeine-free-215546">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Do blue-light glasses really work? Can they reduce eye strain or help me sleep?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laura-downie-1469379">Laura Downie</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>Blue-light glasses are said to <a href="https://www.baxterblue.com.au/collections/blue-light-glasses">reduce eye strain</a> when using <a href="https://www.blockbluelight.com.au/collections/computer-glasses">computers</a>, improve your <a href="https://www.ocushield.com/products/anti-blue-light-glasses">sleep</a> and protect your eye health. You can buy them yourself or your optometrist can prescribe them.</p> <p>But <a href="https://mivision.com.au/2019/03/debate-continues-over-blue-blocking-lenses/">do they work</a>? Or could they do you harm?</p> <p>We <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD013244.pub2/full">reviewed</a> the evidence. Here’s what we found.</p> <h2>What are they?</h2> <p>Blue-light glasses, blue light-filtering lenses or blue-blocking lenses are different terms used to describe lenses that reduce the amount of short-wavelength visible (blue) light reaching the eyes.</p> <p>Most of these lenses prescribed by an optometrist decrease blue light transmission by <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/opo.12615">10-25%</a>. Standard (clear) lenses do not filter blue light.</p> <p>A wide variety of lens products are available. A filter can be added to prescription or non-prescription lenses. They are widely marketed and are becoming <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/opo.12615">increasingly popular</a>.</p> <p>There’s often an added cost, which depends on the specific product. So, is the extra expense worth it?</p> <h2>Blue light is all around us</h2> <p>Outdoors, sunlight is the main source of blue light. Indoors, light sources – such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the screens of digital devices – emit varying degrees of blue light.</p> <p>The amount of blue light emitted from artificial light sources is much lower than from the Sun. Nevertheless, artificial light sources are all around us, at home and at work, and we can spend a lot of our time inside.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/549210/original/file-20230920-16-tsb23b.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Blue light-filtering lenses block some blue light from screens from reaching the eye" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Screens emit blue light. The lenses are designed to reduce the amount of blue light that reaches the eye.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/blue-light-blocking-ray-filter-lens-2286229107">Shutterstock</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Our research team at the University of Melbourne, along with collaborators from Monash University and City, University London, sought to see if the best available evidence supports using blue light-filtering glasses, or if they could do you any harm. So we conducted a <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD013244.pub2/full">systematic review</a> to bring together and evaluate all the relevant studies.</p> <p>We included all randomised controlled trials (clinical studies designed to test the effects of interventions) that evaluated blue light-filtering lenses in adults. We identified 17 eligible trials from six countries, involving a total of 619 adults.</p> <h2>Do they reduce eye strain?</h2> <p>We found no benefit of using blue light-filtering lenses, over standard (clear) lenses, to reduce eye strain with computer use.</p> <p>This conclusion was based on consistent findings from three studies that evaluated effects on eye strain over time periods ranging from two hours to five days.</p> <h2>Do they help you sleep?</h2> <p>Possible effects on sleep were uncertain. Six studies evaluated whether wearing blue-light filtering lenses before bedtime could improve sleep quality, and the findings were mixed.</p> <p>These studies involved people with a diverse range of medical conditions, including insomnia and bipolar disorder. Healthy adults were not included in the studies. So we do not yet know whether these lenses affect sleep quality in the general population.</p> <h2>Do they boost your eye health?</h2> <p>We did not find any clinical evidence to support using blue-light filtering lenses to protect the macula (the region of the retina that controls high-detailed, central vision).</p> <p>None of the studies evaluated this.</p> <h2>Could they do harm? How about causing headaches?</h2> <p>We could not draw clear conclusions on whether there might be harms from wearing blue light-filtering lenses, compared with standard (non blue-light filtering) lenses.</p> <p>Some studies described how study participants had headaches, lowered mood and discomfort from wearing the glasses. However, people using glasses with standard lenses reported similar effects.</p> <h2>What about other benefits or harms?</h2> <p>There are some important general considerations when interpreting our findings.</p> <p>First, most of the studies were for a relatively short period of time, which limited our ability to consider longer-term effects on vision, sleep quality and eye health.</p> <p>Second, the review evaluated effects in adults. We don’t yet know if the effects are different for children.</p> <p>Finally, we could not draw conclusions about the possible effects of blue light-filtering lenses on many vision and eye health measures, including colour vision, as the studies did not evaluate these.</p> <h2>In a nutshell</h2> <p>Overall, based on relatively limited published clinical data, our review does not support using blue-light filtering lenses to reduce eye strain with digital device use. It is unclear whether these lenses affect vision quality or sleep, and no conclusions can be drawn about any potential effects on the health of the retina.</p> <p>High-quality research is needed to answer these questions, as well as whether the effectiveness and safety of these lenses varies in people of different ages and health status.</p> <p>If you have eye strain, or other eye or vision concerns, discuss this with your optometrist. They can perform a thorough examination of your eye health and vision, and discuss any relevant treatment options.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/213145/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laura-downie-1469379"><em>Laura Downie</em></a><em>, Associate Professor in Optometry and Vision Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-blue-light-glasses-really-work-can-they-reduce-eye-strain-or-help-me-sleep-213145">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Who really benefits from private health insurance rebates? Not people who need cover the most

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yuting-zhang-1144393">Yuting Zhang</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/judith-liu-1467052">Judith Liu</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oklahoma-1896">University of Oklahoma</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-kettlewell-903866">Nathan Kettlewell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The Australian government spends <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/delivering-australias-lowest-private-health-insurance-premium-change-in-21-years">A$6.7 billion a year</a> on private health insurance rebates. These <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Medicare-and-private-health-insurance/Private-health-insurance-rebate/">rebates</a> are the government’s contribution towards the costs of individuals’ premiums.</p> <p>But our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/hec.4751">analysis</a> shows higher rebates for people aged 65 and older are not doing much to encourage them to sign up for private hospital cover, the very group who may benefit the most from it.</p> <p>This and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13504851.2017.1299094">other research</a> point to these rebates largely going to people on higher incomes, ones who’d be more likely to buy private health insurance anyway.</p> <h2>Remind me, what are these rebates?</h2> <p>In <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/2f762f95845417aeca25706c00834efa/0aaf3311ebcd3646ca2570ec000c46e4!OpenDocument#:%7E:text=The%20Federal%20Government%2030%25%20Rebate,the%20means%2Dtested%20PHIIS%20rebate.">1999</a>, the Australian government introduced the private health insurance rebate. Initially, the rebate meant the government paid 30% of the cost of private health insurance for everyone, regardless of income or age. Then in 2005, the Howard government increased the rebate rate to 35% for those aged 65-69 and to 40% for those aged 70 and older, regardless of how much they earned.</p> <p>Over time, the rebate rates have decreased slightly and now depend on both income and age. However, the higher discount for older people has always remained.</p> <p>We wanted to understand whether the higher rebates for older people actually encourage them to buy private health insurance.</p> <p>So we looked at data from more than 300,000 people who filed tax returns over more than a decade (2001-2012). We then compared the trends in insurance coverage of people younger than 65 and older than 65, before and after the 2005 rebate policy change.</p> <h2>What we found</h2> <p>We found higher rebates led to a modest and short-term increase in private health insurance take-up. We estimated that lowering premium prices by 10% through higher rebates would only result in 1-2% more people aged 65 and older buying private health insurance in the next two years.</p> <p>This means higher rebates for older people are a very expensive way to get them to insure.</p> <p>People aged 65-74 with income in the bottom 25% of earners were the most likely to buy insurance in response to higher rebates that reduced premium prices. That’s an income under $21,848 in today’s money (income increased to 2023 dollar amount, in line with the <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/rates/consumer-price-index">consumer price index</a>).</p> <h2>What do we propose?</h2> <p>Our findings suggest a more targeted subsidy program would be a more effective way to increase private health insurance. To achieve this, we recommend lowering income thresholds for rebates to target people of all ages on genuinely low incomes.</p> <p>Currently, people earning as much as $144,000 (singles) or $288,000 (families) can receive rebates.</p> <p>Other evidence to back our proposal comes from <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/publications/working-papers/search/result?paper=4682822">research</a> released earlier this year. This suggests higher income earners are likely to buy private insurance regardless of rebates.</p> <p>A recent <a href="https://consultations.health.gov.au/medical-benefits-division/consultation-on-phi-studies">consultation report</a> commissioned by the federal health department reviewed a range of health insurance incentives.</p> <p>The <a href="https://consultations.health.gov.au/medical-benefits-division/consultation-on-phi-studies/supporting_documents/Finity%20Consulting%20MLS%20and%20PHI%20Rebate%20Final%20Report.pdf">report</a> recommends removing rebates for those with income higher than $108,000 for singles and $216,000 for families (we recommend removing them at $93,000 for singles and $186,000 for families). The report also recommends increasing rebates for those older than 65 (we believe income, rather than age, is a better marker of someone’s means).</p> <h2>Are rebates good value for money?</h2> <p>We also need to look at whether rebates provide value for money more broadly, and across all ages.</p> <p><a href="https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/926-Saving-Health-2.pdf">Existing evidence</a> shows a 10% decrease in premiums due to rebates only leads to a 3.5-5% increase in private health insurance take-up among all Australians. We show this is only <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/hec.4751">1-2%</a> for people over 65.</p> <p>So rebates are likely to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.11.007">cost taxpayers more</a> than they generate in savings, and are largely windfalls to those who would privately insure anyway, often those who are financially better off.</p> <h2>What happens if we scrapped the rebates?</h2> <p>It is uncertain how many people would drop private cover if the rebate was removed.</p> <p>But based on research from when the rebate was introduced, the rebate might account for a maximum <a href="https://escholarship.org/content/qt6j47s8kq/qt6j47s8kq_noSplash_be059196ed2d70b94486039f64452494.pdf">10-15 percentage points</a> of the overall take-up rate. Other research suggests it might be much less than this, closer to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016762961300163X?casa_token=C-SdG98Jc2UAAAAA:KJLHBZ2BJhq9wRQQKUbEWPiqoeza1DEi3mZ9Y6O2GereVX1L1x0cJumVgrqBeMGa1ygDjFrPG7T5">2 percentage points</a>.</p> <p>In other words, the rebate only appears to influence a small percentage of people to buy private health insurance. So scrapping it would likely have a similarly small effect.</p> <p>Then there’s the impact of scrapping the rebate, people dropping their cover and putting more pressure on the public system. Earlier this year, we found private health insurance had <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-private-health-insurance-cut-public-hospital-waiting-lists-we-found-it-barely-makes-a-dent-211680">minimal impact</a> on reducing waiting times for surgery in Victorian public hospitals. So scrapping the rebate might have minimal impact on waiting lists.</p> <p>Taken together, the billions of dollars a year the government spends to subsidise private health insurance via rebates might be better directed to public hospitals and other high-value care, including primary care and preventive care.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/212611/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yuting-zhang-1144393">Yuting Zhang</a>, Professor of Health Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/judith-liu-1467052">Judith Liu</a>, Assistant Professor of Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oklahoma-1896">University of Oklahoma</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-kettlewell-903866">Nathan Kettlewell</a>, Chancellor's Research Fellow, Economics Discipline Group, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/who-really-benefits-from-private-health-insurance-rebates-not-people-who-need-cover-the-most-212611">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Does running water really trigger the urge to pee? Experts explain the brain-bladder connection

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-overs-1458017">James Overs</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-homewood-1458022">David Homewood</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/melbourne-health-950">Melbourne Health</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helen-elizabeth-oconnell-ao-1458226">Helen Elizabeth O'Connell AO</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/simon-robert-knowles-706104">Simon Robert Knowles</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>We all know that feeling when nature calls – but what’s far less understood is the psychology behind it. Why, for example, do we get the urge to pee just before getting into the shower, or when we’re swimming? What brings on those “nervous wees” right before a date?</p> <p>Research suggests our brain and bladder are in constant communication with each other via a neural network called the <a href="https://www.einj.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.5213/inj.2346036.018">brain-bladder axis</a>.</p> <p>This complex web of circuitry is comprised of sensory neural activity, including the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These neural connections allow information to be sent <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics12123119">back and forth</a> between the brain and bladder.</p> <p>The brain-bladder axis not only facilitates the act of peeing, but is also responsible for telling us we need to go in the first place.</p> <h2>How do we know when we need to go?</h2> <p>As the bladder fills with urine and expands, this activates special receptors detecting stretch in the nerve-rich lining of the bladder wall. This information is then relayed to the “periaqueductal gray” – a part of the brain in the brainstem which <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn2401">constantly monitors</a> the bladder’s filling status.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">The periaqueductal gray is a section of gray matter located in the midbrain section of the brainstem.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainstem#/media/File:1311_Brain_Stem.jpg">Wikimedia/OpenStax</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Once the bladder reaches a certain threshold (roughly 250-300ml of urine), another part of the brain called the “pontine micturition centre” is activated and signals that the bladder needs to be emptied. We, in turn, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16254993/">register this</a> as that all-too-familiar feeling of fullness and pressure down below.</p> <p>Beyond this, however, a range of situations can trigger or exacerbate our need to pee, by increasing the production of urine and/or stimulating reflexes in the bladder.</p> <h2>Peeing in the shower</h2> <p>If you’ve ever felt the need to pee while in the shower (no judgement here) it may be due to the sight and sound of running water.</p> <p>In a 2015 study, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126798">researchers demonstrated</a> that males with urinary difficulties found it easier to initiate peeing when listening to the sound of running water being played on a smartphone.</p> <p>Symptoms of overactive bladder, including urgency (a sudden need to pee), have also been <a href="https://www.alliedacademies.org/articles/environmental-cues-to-urgency-and-incontinence-episodes-in-chinesepatients-with-overactive-urinary-bladder-syndrome.html">linked to</a> a range of environmental cues involving running water, including washing your hands and taking a shower.</p> <p>This is likely due to both physiology and psychology. Firstly, the sound of running water may have a relaxing <em>physiological</em> effect, increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. This would relax the bladder muscles and prepare the bladder for emptying.</p> <p>At the same time, the sound of running water may also have a conditioned <em>psychological</em> effect. Due to the countless times in our lives where this sound has coincided with the actual act of peeing, it may trigger an instinctive reaction in us to urinate.</p> <p>This would happen in the same way <a href="https://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html">Pavlov’s dog learnt</a>, through repeated pairing, to salivate when a bell was rung.</p> <h2>Cheeky wee in the sea</h2> <p>But it’s not just the sight or sound of running water that makes us want to pee. Immersion in cold water has been shown to cause a “cold shock response”, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19945970">which activates</a> the sympathetic nervous system.</p> <p>This so-called “fight or flight” response drives up our blood pressure which, in turn, causes our kidneys to filter out more fluid from the bloodstream to stabilise our blood pressure, in a process called “<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00864230">immersion diuresis</a>”. When this happens, our bladder fills up faster than normal, triggering the urge to pee.</p> <p>Interestingly, immersion in very warm water (such as a relaxing bath) may also increase urine production. In this case, however, it’s due to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s004210050065">One study</a> demonstrated an increase in water temperature from 40℃ to 50℃ reduced the time it took for participants to start urinating.</p> <p>Similar to the effect of hearing running water, the authors of the study suggest being in warm water is calming for the body and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This activation can result in the relaxation of the bladder and possibly the pelvic floor muscles, bringing on the urge to pee.</p> <h2>The nervous wee</h2> <p>We know stress and anxiety can cause bouts of nausea and butterflies in the tummy, but what about the bladder? Why do we feel a sudden and frequent urge to urinate at times of heightened stress, such as before a date or job interview?</p> <p>When a person becomes stressed or anxious, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This triggers a cascade of physiological changes designed to prepare the body to face a perceived threat.</p> <p>As part of this response, the muscles surrounding the bladder may contract, leading to a more urgent and frequent need to pee. Also, as is the case during immersion diuresis, the increase in blood pressure associated with the stress response may <a href="https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI102496">stimulate</a> the kidneys to produce more urine.</p> <h2>Some final thoughts</h2> <p>We all pee (most of us several times a day). Yet <a href="https://doi.org/10.5489/cuaj.1150">research has shown</a> about 75% of adults know little about how this process actually works – and even less about the brain-bladdder axis and its role in urination.</p> <p><a href="https://www.continence.org.au/about-us/our-work/key-statistics-incontinence#:%7E:text=Urinary%20incontinence%20affects%20up%20to,38%25%20of%20Australian%20women1.">Most Australians</a> will experience urinary difficulties at some point in their lives, so if you ever have concerns about your urinary health, it’s extremely important to consult a healthcare professional.</p> <p>And should you ever find yourself unable to pee, perhaps the sight or sound of running water, a relaxing bath or a nice swim will help with getting that stream to flow.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210808/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-overs-1458017"><em>James Overs</em></a><em>, Research Assistant, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-homewood-1458022">David Homewood</a>, Urology Research Registrar, Western Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/melbourne-health-950">Melbourne Health</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helen-elizabeth-oconnell-ao-1458226">Helen Elizabeth O'Connell AO</a>, Professor, University of Melbourne, Department of Surgery. President Urological Society Australia and New Zealand, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/simon-robert-knowles-706104">Simon Robert Knowles</a>, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-running-water-really-trigger-the-urge-to-pee-experts-explain-the-brain-bladder-connection-210808">original article</a>.</em></p>

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