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Month: March 2018 (page 1 of 2)

Simply having your smartphone nearby affects your thinking

Harvard Business Review (paywall):

In recent research, we investigated whether merely having one’s own smartphone nearby could influence cognitive abilities. In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity. In one task, participants simultaneously completed math problems and memorized random letters. This tests how well they can keep track of task-relevant information while engaging in a complex cognitive task. In the second task, participants saw a set of images that formed an incomplete pattern, and chose the image that best completed the pattern. This task measures “fluid intelligence,” or people’s ability to reason and solve novel problems. Performance on both of these tasks is affected by individuals’ available mental resources.

Our intervention was simple: before completing these tasks, we asked participants to either place their phones in front of them (face-down on their desks), keep them in their pockets or bags, or leave them in another room. Importantly, all phones had sound alerts and vibration turned off, so the participants couldn’t be interrupted by notifications.

The results were striking: individuals who completed these tasks while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In last place were those whose phones were on their desks. We saw similar results when participants’ phones were turned off: people performed worst when their phones were nearby, and best when they were away in a separate room. Thus, merely having their smartphones out on the desk led to a small but statistically significant impairment of individuals’ cognitive capacity — on par with effects of lacking sleep.

Is it time to give up fish oil supplements?

Jane E. Brody, The New York Times:

Eating two servings of fatty fish a week — equal to about two grams of omega-3 fatty acids — lowered the risk of death from heart disease by more than a third and total deaths by 17 percent.

Omega-3s in fish clearly have effects that can account for such findings. They protect against abnormal heart rhythms, lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve the function of blood vessels. They may also lower heart-damaging triglycerides and counter inflammation, a known risk to the heart.

The question is whether the observed cardiovascular benefits often found among fish eaters is due solely to the oils in fish or to some other characteristics of seafood or to still other factors common to those who eat lots of fish, like eating less meat or pursuing a healthier lifestyle over all. Whatever the answer, it does not seem to be fish oil supplements.

The Best of the Best Countries in the World

The Best of the Best, according to U.S. News & World Report:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Canada
  3. Germany
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Japan
  6. Sweden
  7. Australia
  8. United States
  9. France
  10. Netherlands
  11. Denmark
  12. Norway
  13. New Zealand
  14. Finland
  15. Italy
  16. Singapore
  17. Austria
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Spain
  20. China


Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler:

There’s a “best of” list for nearly everything—the best countries for expats, the best places to go in 2018, the best pizza in Italy (you’re welcome). Now, U.S. News & World Report has released a veritable best-of-the-best list, with its annual “Best Countries” index. This study is no joke: They evaluated 80 countries and surveyed 21,000 people from four regions (the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and Africa); places were graded 65 different ways, for how well they rank in “citizenship,” “cultural influence,” “education,” “heritage,” “power,” “quality of life,” to name a few. Here, the ten best countries in the world, and what they’re, well, best for. Counting down… This gallery was originally published in 2016. It has been updated with new results.

American adults keep getting fatter

Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times:

The latest data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey comes at a time when the food industry is pushing back against stronger public health measures aimed at combating obesity.

In recent NAFTA negotiations, the Trump administration has proposed rules favored by major food companies that would limit the ability of the United States, Mexico and Canada to require prominent labels on packaged foods warning about the health risks of foods high in sugar and fat.

While the latest survey data doesn’t explain why Americans continue to get heavier, nutritionists and other experts cite lifestyle, genetics, and, most importantly, a poor diet as factors. Fast food sales in the United States rose 22.7 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to Euromonitor, while packaged food sales rose 8.8 percent.

Being overweight or obese is a growing cause of cancer


Being overweight or obese is a growing cause of cancer in the UK while cases caused by smoking are falling, according to a large study.

Cancer Research UK found more than a third of all cases of cancer were avoidable – some 135,000.

The charity also found that excess weight now caused 6.3% of all cancer cases – up from 5.5% in 2011 – while smoking as a cause had declined.

It said more action was needed to tackle the “health threat” of obesity.

South Korea to shut off computers by 8 pm on Friday to stop people working late


The government in South Korea’s capital is introducing a new initiative to force its employees to leave work on time – by powering down all their computers at 20:00 on Fridays.

It says it is trying to stop a “culture of working overtime”.

South Korea has some of the longest working hours in the world.

Ninety-year-old marathon runner and grandmother refuses to slow down

CTV News:

B.J. McHugh might be 90, but that doesn’t mean her best days are behind her. In fact, it’s other runners her age who are eating her dust, as the Vancouver resident continues to break long-distance running records around the world.

McHugh owns several 10-kilometre, half-marathon and marathon records for seniors, including her latest: the fastest marathon time by a runner over 90. McHugh smashed the record by two hours at the Honolulu Marathon in December, with a time of 6:47:31.

The happiest cities in the United States

National Geographic Explorer searched for the happiest Americans. This is what they came up with:

  1. Boulder, Colorado
  2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California
  3. Charlottesville, Virginia
  4. Fort Collins, Colorado
  5. San Luis Obispo, California
  6. San Jose, California
  7. Provo, Utah
  8. Connecticut’s Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area
  9. Barnstable, Massachusetts
  10. Anchorage, Alaska

Visit NatGeo for the full list.

How the world forgot to sleep

The sleep loss epidemic is genuine. And it’s having a significant impact on society. A persistent lack of sleep can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

Joanna Fuertes, writing for Esquire:

Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep. Mother Nature took 3.6 million years to put this thing called 8 hours of sleep in homosapiens and we deprive ourselves of it for no good reason… it is an entirely man-made problem.

So what is the solution?

What then is the solution to those of us rendered zombies by a dire lack of sleep, if neither prescription or herbal drugs offer true rest? “If we had a good medication that produced naturalistic sleep I’d be very much in favour of it but we just don’t and have never had one.” Walker emphasises, “However, last year, the American College of Physicians made a landmark recommendation, suggesting that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) must be used as the first line treatment for chronic insomnia, not sleeping pills.


[Professor Matthew Walker, a British neuroscientist and now director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley] is readily armed with a list of reasonable lifestyle changes we can make as individuals: a non negotiable bedtime, staving off alcohol and caffeine, a cool and dark bedroom which includes a moratorium on evening screen time and, most importantly, the ability to get out of bed when we just can’t sleep. “The worst thing you can do when you can’t sleep is to stay in bed, our brain is a completely associative device so the best thing is to just break the connection, go to another room and read until you are sleepy.”

Type-2 diabetes in a cup: Starbucks unveils the Crystal Ball Frappuccino

Business Insider states the Crystal Ball Frappuccino will debut on Thursday, March 22, and remain on the menu for four days or until supplies run out.

There can’t be any nutritional value in this.

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