A Yawn, A Sneeze And A Crack Of The Knuckles for 05/26/2017

We all share certain reflex behaviors in common that to this day remain little understood by science. Take yawning, for example. A yawn, we know, is a sign of boredom. But a yawn can also be triggered by sleepiness or hunger. It can be brought on by anxiety and stress. Concert violinists often yawn as they get ready to go on stage to play a concerto. So do Olympians before a race, or paratroopers getting ready to do their first jump. Some recent research has also concluded that the purpose of yawning is to cool the brain.

We now know these things thanks to a dedicated form of study that's been with us since the early 1980s known as "yawn science." And, as I write this, researchers continue to busily engage in debate on the significance and origins of yawns. While they all appear to agree on what can trigger a spontaneous yawn, it seems none can yet tell us exactly what a yawn accomplishes. One line of thinking is that the yawn is designed to perk us up by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory function.

Updated: Fri May 26, 2017

Access To Healthy Food Spoiled For Too Many for 05/19/2017

Famous Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme once said, "You don't need a silver fork to eat good food." The problem is, when we start equating "good" food with "healthy" food, fulfilling this decree starts to get more than a little complicated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is responsible for one in four deaths in the United States. Among the top risk factors for heart disease are obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and poor diet. Factors one through three are undeniably linked to number four — poor diet.

Updated: Fri May 19, 2017

Coffee is Good, Soda is Bad for 05/12/2017

According to a recent report from the National Coffee Association, sugary drinks aren't the only beverages of choice currently on the rebound. After four years of decline, consumption of coffee is said to be up five percentage points from last year. It's nothing near the peak year of 1946, when the nation was consuming about 46.4 gallons of coffee per capita a year. Today, 64 percent of Americans now drink at least one cup a day and the United States remains the largest coffee consumer in the world.

This trend is occurring despite persistent, time-honored doctor warnings that coffee might be hard on the body; that we ought to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease, stunt growth, or even have damaging effects on the digestive tract.

Updated: Fri May 12, 2017

The Resurgence of Sugary Drinks for 05/05/2017

As revealed by new data released a few months ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the promising trend over the last two decade of Americans abandoning sugary drinks seems to be stalling out. The new data shows that it has nearly flat lined since 2009. In 2003, for example, children on average consumed about 220 calories per day from such drinks. It has settled at about 145 calories a day from 2011-2014.

In 2010, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimated that 4-to-8-year-old boys and girls need 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day if they are sedentary, and 1,400 to 1,600 calories daily if they're moderately active. Though this may look like progress, guidelines recommend that no more than 10 percent of a person's daily calories should come from any form of added sugar covering all foods and beverages consumed. Add to this the fact that approximately one-third of all children in the United States are either overweight or obese and you have a troubling trend.

Meanwhile, regulation of the marketing of these beverages to young people seems to be missing in action. According to a report from Science in the Public Interest, in 2013, beverage companies spent $866 million to advertise such drinks, many of them directed at young people. According to a Federal Trade Commission report, youth consumption of carbonated beverages increases by almost 10 percent with every 100 additional television ads viewed.

Updated: Fri May 05, 2017