Summary of “The case for building $1,500 parks”

In neighborhoods where as little as about $1,000 was spent transforming a vacant lot with some grass, a few trees, and a short wooden fence, people felt less depressed and less worthless.
“The beauty of the intervention is that it’s pretty simple,” says Dr. Eugenia C. South, one of the authors on a new study that tracked hundreds of vacant lots across Philadelphia.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open by a group of five doctors at the University of Pennsylvania including South, is the first to observe a cause and effect between access to “Greened” vacant lots and improved mental health through a randomized controlled trial.
In their latest study, they created a randomized trial of 350 people and more than 500 vacant lots, which were broken into three groups: lots that received no intervention, lots where trash was removed, and lots that were remediated-by adding grass, trees, and a fence-by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, whose LandCare program has greened 12,000 parcels since 2004.
The Horticultural Society spends between $1,000 and $3,000 on each project and greens about 400 lots every year.
“The wooden post-and-rail fence is not intended to keep people out of the lots, but rather to define the perimeter and signal that the lot is a well-maintained property and part of a citywide program. The fence has become the ‘brand’ of the Philadelphia LandCare program.”
That’s not to say people wouldn’t benefit from green lots with more amenities-in fact, South wants to study those in the future-but that cities can create similar programs with positive effects at a very low baseline cost.
Chicago has a program called Large Lots that lets residents buy vacant lots near their homes for $1. The program has seen more than 1,200 lots sold since 2014, many to residents who say they were already caring for the vacant lots before they bought them and many of which serve as ad hoc parklands, gardens, or event spaces.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Fool’s gold: what fish oil is doing to our health and the planet”

What does surprise me is how we continue to look at the world of fish and seafood through the amber lens of a fish oil capsule.
The confusion arises in part from the historical baggage of fish oil and the $30bn industry associated with omega-3 extraction.
Once upon a time, fish oil solved a major human health problem.
In the burst of RCTs preceding Cochrane, the Omega World line was that these most recent trials did not show benefits because things such as statins, stents and other forms of cardiovascular intervention masked the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil pills; earlier RCTs had shown a fairly significant effect, but none of those treatments existed at the time of those trials.
Today, one in every four kilograms of fish caught is reduced into oil and meal and used for agriculture, land animal husbandry and, most recently, fish farming, AKA aquaculture.
The omega-3 industry argues that some vendors are turning to much more sustainable options, such as algae-based omega-3s and fish oil reclaimed from recycled byproducts.
We could make the farming of fish even more carbon- and resource-efficient if we used alternative ingredients for fish food based on algae and food waste.
While one such study associated eating fish twice a week with a possible reduction in mortality of 55,000 lives a year, we don’t know what a fish-eater does with the rest of their life beyond eating fish.

The orginal article.

Summary of “New Study: The Genetics of Staying in School”

“The disturbing scenario of people screening babies in the hope of selecting the brightest does not seem supported by this study.”
Even if they study millions more people, he believes they won’t be able to predict the educational fate of a single person with much more reliability than now.
“If you did a study like ours 100 years ago, the strongest genetic predictor of education would be how many X chromosomes you had, because society was set up in a way that it was much harder for women to get educated than men,” says Benjamin.
Many of the genes that are associated with education today are likely important “Because of how today’s educational system is set up. It requires people to sit at desks for hours, and listen to instructions from a teacher. People who get restless, or are less obedient to authority, will fare less well in that environment.”
“Most social scientists wouldn’t do a study without accounting for socioeconomic status, even if that’s not what they’re interested in,” says Harden.
In doing so, researchers could more precisely work out if a policy change has any benefits-and they can do it through smaller, cheaper studies.
This, he argues, is the most powerful reason to study the genetics of education or cognitive ability-and ironically, it has very little to do with genes.
The team is essentially studying genes so they can more thoroughly ignore them.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Discovery of 14,000-Year-Old Toast Suggests Bread Can Be Added to Paleo Diet”

Dating back some 14,400 years, the discovery shows that ancient hunter-gatherers were making and eating bread 4,000 years before the Neolithic era and the introduction of agriculture.
What’s more, the new paper shows that bread had already become an established food staple prior to the Neolithic period and the Agricultural Revolution.
The bread found at Shubayqa 1 pre-dates the Çatalhöyük bread by around 5,000 years, and it’s now the oldest example of bread-making in the archaeological record.
For the study, the researchers analyzed 24 charred fragments of bread from the Shubayqa 1 excavation site using a Scanning Electron Microscope.
SEM analysis is quite time consuming, and the researchers only managed to analyze 24 fragments out of a total of 600 pieces that appear to be bread or bread-like remains.
“Second, that the bread was of high quality, since it was made using quite fine flour. We didn’t expect to find such high-quality flour this early on in human history. Third, the hunter-gatherer bread we have does not only contain flour from wild barley, wheat and oats, but also from tubers, namely tubers from water plants. The bread was therefore more of a multi-grain-tuber bread, rather than a white loaf.”
Richter said the method used for identifying the bread fragments is new, and that other researchers should use the technique to re-analyze older archaeological collections to search for even earlier examples of bread production.
Dorian Fuller, an archaeobotanist at the University College London and a co-author of the new study, said it’s highly plausible that hunter-gatherers were able to make bread without the benefit of agriculture.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Is the Healthiest Milk Whole, Skim, or Nut?”

In the 1990s, during the original “Got Milk?” campaign, it was plausible to look at a magazine, see supermodels with dairy-milk mustaches, and think little of it.
With nut milks dominating the luxury café-grocery scenes frequented by celebrities, an image like that would surely elicit cries of disingenuousness: There’s no way you actually drink cow’s milk! And if you do, it’s probably skim or 2-percent milk, which leave no such thick mustache!
Difficult as it may be for Millennials to imagine, the average American in the 1970s drank about 30 gallons of milk a year.
A new study this week in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is relevant to an ongoing vindication process for saturated fats, which turned many people away from dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, and butter in the 1980s and ’90s. An analysis of 2,907 adults found that people with higher and lower levels of dairy fats in their blood had the same rate of death during a 22-year period.
The implication is that it didn’t matter if people drank whole or skim or 2-percent milk, ate butter versus margarine, etc.
Hers adds to the findings of prior studies that also found that limiting saturated fat is not a beneficial guideline.
A drawback to this method is that the source of the fats is unclear, so no distinction can be made between cheese, milk, yogurt, butter, etc.
The people with low levels of dairy fats in their blood weren’t necessarily dairy free, but they may have been consuming low-fat dairy.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The brain may clean out Alzheimer’s plaques during sleep”

In one landmark experiment, Holtzman toyed with mice’s sleep right when the animals’ brain would normally begin to clear A-beta.
Researchers from Germany and Israel reported in 2015 in Nature Neuroscience that slow-wave sleep – the deep sleep that occupies the brain most during a long snooze and is thought to be involved in memory storage – was disrupted in mice that had A-beta deposits in their brains.
At the study’s start, participants answered questions about their sleep quality and received brain scans looking for plaque deposits.
People who reported excessive daytime sleepiness – a telltale sign of fitful sleep – had more plaques in their brains to start with.
“Five percent from one night of sleep deprivation is far from trivial.” And while the brain can likely recover with a good night’s sleep, the question is: What happens when sleep deprivation is a pattern night after night, year after year?
Flow of cerebrospinal fluid in a mouse’s brain is much higher during sleep than when the animal is awake.
Using data from almost 2,500 people in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine found that people with sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea showed signs of mild cognitive problems and Alzheimer’s disease at younger ages than those who did not.
“If we find out that sleep problems contribute to brain amyloid – what that really says is there may be a window to intervene,” Bendlin says.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Summer Heat Waves Can Slow Our Thinking”

Summer Heat Waves Can Slow Our Thinking : Shots – Health News Hot weather can influence cognitive performance, according to new research.
Young adults living in non-air-conditioned dorms during a heat wave performed worse on math and attention tests.
Can’t cool off this summer? Heat waves can slow us down in ways we may not realize.
New research suggests heat stress can muddle our thinking, making simple math a little harder to do.
As the climate changes, temperatures spike and heat waves are more frequent.
To learn more about how the heat influences young, healthy adults, Allen and his colleagues studied college students living in dorms during a summer heat wave in Boston.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that documents the effect of heat on mental performance, both in schools and workplaces.
“We all tend to think we can compensate, we can do just fine” during heat waves says Allen.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Really Find Your Passion”

Interests are related to, but distinct from, abilities, the study authors told me: You can be interested in something but not very good at it.
” But this study suggests that even the idea of finding your “True” interest can intimidate people and keep them from digging further into a field.
The authors also had students learn about either fixed or growth theory and then exposed them to a new interest: Astronomy.
Despite saying just moments ago, after viewing the video, that they were fascinated by black holes, the students who were exposed to the fixed theory of interests said they were no longer interested in black holes after reading the difficult Science article.
In other words, when you’re told that your interests are somehow ingrained, you give up on new interests as soon as the going gets tough.
K. Ann Renninger, a professor at Swarthmore College who was not involved with the study, has researched the development of interests and said that “Neuroscience has confirmed that interests can be supported to develop.” In other words, with the right help, most people can get interested in almost anything.
That’s when educators have to start to find new ways to keep them interested in certain subjects.
People’s interest in parenthood tends to escalate rapidly once they have a real, crying baby in their house.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Can meditation really make the world a better place?”

Studies on the prosocial effects of meditation almost always support the power of meditation – the power not only of transforming the individual but of changing society.
Our analysis suggests that meditation per se does not, alas, make the world a more compassionate place.
Here the results of our analysis suggest that meditation per se does not, alas, make the world a more compassionate place.
In the heydays of transcendental meditation research in the 1970s, Jonathan C Smith developed a 71-page manual describing the rationale and benefits of a meditation technique.
The media buzz around meditation – which portrays it as a cure for a range of mental-health problems, the key to improved wellbeing and to changing one’s brain for the better – is also very likely to feed back to participants, who will expect to see benefits from a meditation intervention.
In the study of meditation there is another complication: many of the researchers, and therefore the reviewers of journal articles, are personally invested in meditation not only as practitioners and enthusiasts but also as providers of meditation programmes from which their institutions or themselves financially profit.
What if meditation doesn’t work for you? Or worse, what if it makes you feel depressed, anxious or psychotic? The evidence for such symptoms is predictably scarce in recent literature, but reports from the 1960s and ’70s warn of the dark side of transcendental meditation.
We] haven’t stopped believing in meditation’s ability to fuel change but [we are] concerned that the science of meditation is promoting a skewed view: meditation wasn’t developed so we could lead less stressful lives or improve our wellbeing.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Open Offices Make You Less Open”

Why do companies deploy open office layouts? A major justification is the idea that removing spatial boundaries between colleagues will generate increased collaboration and smarter collective intelligence.
When researchers turned their attention to the specific impact of open offices on interaction, the results were mixed.
Prior studies of open offices had relied on imprecise measures such as self-reported activity logs to quantify interactions before and after a shift to an open office plan.
Contrary to what’s predicted by the sociological literature, the 52 participants studied spent 72% less time interacting face-to-face after the shift to an open office layout.
After the switch to the open layout, the same participants dropped to around 1.7 hours of face-to-face interaction per day.
At the same time, the shift to an open office significantly increased digital communication.
Participants sent 56% more emails, and the number of IM messages sent increased by 67%. Not surprisingly, this shift from face-to-face to electronic interaction made employees less effective.
My critiques of open offices assumed that removing spatial barriers would generate more face-to-face disruptions.

The orginal article.