What It Means When Scientists Disagree

Often, there’s an underlying divergence about what aspect of a theory matters most.
What It Means When Scientists Disagree

Whether it’s the right amount of vitamin D or the fundamental causes of poverty, bewildering scientific disagreement surrounds us. There’s an old joke: ask 10 doctors a question, you’ll get 11 answers. Beyond sowing confusion, perpetual disagreement can undermine faith in science. You can almost hear a politician say, “If scientists can’t make up their minds, why should I believe anything they say?”

Disagreement is at odds with how we think science works. Evidence “proves” a theory, it “shows” us how the world is. Science is supposed to be objective, and scientists follow the evidence wherever it leads. If scientists can disagree for years on end, what does this mean for the objectivity of science?

But while it might feel like a modern phenomenon, scientific disagreement is nothing new. At the beginning of the 19th century, the English chemist, John Dalton, proposed that all matter was made up of tiny atoms. Like so many advances, this idea is much older. Around the 4th century B.C., Democritus—the “laughing philosopher” —proposed the same. Unlike Democritus, however, Dalton brought to bear a substantial body of evidence for his theory.

Chemists were quick to adopt Dalton’s ideas. Less than a century after his proposal, chemistry relied on atoms. By 1900, while chemists believed atoms were facts of nature, physicists remained skeptical. Influenced by philosophical theories about scientific knowledge, many thought that the existence of atoms needed further proof.

While physicists knew that modern chemical theory relied on atoms, they imagined that atoms might be merely a “useful fiction” without physical reality. Physicists didn’t think that there was evidence against atoms, per se. They merely wanted more evidence before they made up their minds. (Of course, we know that the chemists were right. Spoiler alert: atoms exist.)

Physicist-turned-philosopher Thomas Kuhn suggested one explanation for scientific disagreements like this one. While we talk about scientific theories as “proven” or “unproven,” in reality, science is far more complicated. One theory may be better in some ways; it might be easier to work with, for example. A competing theory might be better in another way; perhaps it can predict more accurately. Different scientists might care about one aspect more than another. As a result, they might come to disagree about which theory is better.

You’re probably already familiar with the experience. You chose one credit card because the customer service is exceptional. A friend prefers a different card because of its rewards. Neither you nor your friend is “correct” about which card is objectively better; you just care about different things. To each their own.

Kuhn never really fleshed out what the criteria were. Since then, philosophers have filled the gap and come up with a list of the criteria that scientists use. They include criteria you might expect, like the ability to accurately predict phenomena and simplicity of a theory. But they also include others you haven’t thought of, like the ability to unify apparently disparate parts of nature, or even aesthetic criteria like mathematical beauty. Some philosophers have even suggested that scientists should add new ones or stop caring so much about others.

Kuhn’s differing criteria idea makes sense of the fight between chemistry and physics. The progress in chemistry in the 19th century depended on the atomic theory. Without atoms, understanding a chemical reaction would be difficult, maybe impossible. Unsurprisingly, chemists were strongly motivated by this consideration. The 19th century physicists on the other hand, prized direct evidence—the kind they had in other areas of physics. The chemists hadn’t seen atoms, nor had they done anything to measure them directly. Without that, the physicists claimed, we were still unsure about whether atoms existed. The physicists prized direct evidence more.

With the credit cards, nothing will resolve your “disagreement” with your friend. In science, we keep exploring, hoping we can satisfy everyone’s standards. In the early 1900s, Albert Einstein did just that. He calculated exactly how a microscopic, but visible, particle should behave if it was bumping into unseen atoms—a phenomenon called Brownian motion. Jean Baptiste Perrin performed the experiment that Einstein proposed, and he saw the predicted motion. Taken together Einstein and Perrin, along with several other experiments, convinced physicists that atoms are real.

They convinced almost everyone. One physicist, Ernst Mach (after whom the speed Mach 1 is named), remained skeptical. Mach’s recalcitrance shows us that we should never ask for complete agreement; some scientists will always be stubborn. Once a vast majority of scientists agree, we’ve probably demonstrated something real. One or two holdouts don’t mean much.

Physicists didn’t come around because they started caring more about chemistry. Rather, the two different criteria pointed in the same direction. Einstein and Perrin gave physicists what they wanted (and what the chemists thought was unnecessary). It didn’t matter what you cared about; either way you believed in atoms.

Today there is disagreement over the value of vitamin D, the causes of poverty and much more. Even where there is some substantial agreement, like on climate change, much debate remains. Science encourages both agreement and disagreement. Like with atoms, as evidence builds, we eventually find a way to agree.

It’s easy to overemphasize the problem of disagreement in science. While climate scientists disagree about many things, there is broad consensus on one major point: that humans are substantially altering the climate. While smart people may disagree about details—like exactly how much the earth will warm—there is much they agree on.

But when a substantial number of scientists fundamentally disagree, we just have to wait. Happily, the disagreements usually sort themselves out. Until then you—like the chemists and the physicists of the early 20th century—can feel comfortable in the knowledge that no matter which side you take you’re in good company.


Did You Eat Fast Food Today? 1 in 3 of Us Did

Americans’ love affair with fast food continues, with 1 in every 3 adults chowing down on the fare on any given day.

That’s the finding from a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When asked by researchers, 37 percent of adults said they’d eaten fast food at least once over the past 24 hours.

There was one surprise: Bucking the notion that poorer Americans favor fast food the most, the report found that intake actually rose with income.

For example, while about 32 percent of lower-income folks ate fast food daily, more than 36 percent of middle-income consumers had fast food on a given day, as did 42 percent of those with higher incomes, the report found.

Whatever your income bracket, fast food probably isn’t doing your health any favors. That’s because it “has been associated with increased intake of calories, fat and sodium,” the CDC team said.

All that adds up to widening waistlines and hardening arteries, one nutritionist warned.

“Most fast food is not good for our bodies,” said Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“The more of it we eat, the more likely we are to be overweight or obese and have increased risk for several diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome when talking to patients,” she said.

Too often, though, Americans ignore the danger.

“When we see news clips of a shark swimming near a beach, it scares us into not going near that beach,” Weinandy said. But “what we should be scared of is double cheeseburgers, french fries and large amounts of sugary beverages.”

The new report was led by Cheryl Fryar of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Her team tracked data from in-person government surveys conducted with thousands of U.S. adults between 2013 and 2016. People were asked to recall what they’d eaten in the past 24 hours.

The report found that Americans tend to taper off fast foods as they age. While about 45 percent of people in their 20s and 30s said they’d eaten fast food over the prior day, that number dropped to just under 38 percent for people in their 40s and 50s, and about 24 percent for people aged 60 and older, the study found.

Blacks were more likely to have eaten fast food on a given day than whites (roughly 42 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively), while 35.5 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of Asian-Americans did so. Men tended to eat more fast food than women, Fryar’s group said.

Black men were the most avid consumers of fast food — almost 42 percent had eaten the fare over the past day, the report found.

Melanie Boehmer is a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Reading over the report, she said, “On any given day, over one-third of Americans consume fast food — that’s a lot of Big Macs and pizza.”

“These findings remind us that fast food companies have figured out a way to conveniently fit into our daily routine, despite their [products’] negative health implications,” Boehmer said.

She believes that policymakers, doctors and health food advocates need to “beat fast food companies at their own game” in order to turn things around.

“If we can offer healthier options that are just as convenient and just as affordable and just as delicious, then it’s a win for everybody,” Boehmer said.

Weinandy agreed that America has to wean itself off its fast food habit.

“There is no reason to completely avoid fast food, but it shouldn’t be consumed regularly,” she said. “You may want to ask yourself how often you’re currently eating it and then cut that number in half if it’s more than once a week.”

The new report was published Oct. 3 as an National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief.

Remember my name: when recognising 5,000 faces isn’t enough

Humans can memorise thousands of faces, say scientists. But that only makes the social awkwardness of not being able to place an acquaintance even worse. Here’s how to brazen it out

That embarrassing moment – when you can’t recall someone’s name.
That embarrassing moment – when you can’t recall someone’s name.

Scientists from the University of York have claimed that humans can recognise and memorise 5,000 faces – making those occasions where you can’t quite place or name someone even more excruciating. Here is the modern etiquette for navigating this social nightmare:

Pre-empt the problem with a reintroduction

The Florida-based modern manners expert Maralee McKee suggests, especially when meeting people for the second time, reintroducing yourself with a bit of context: “Hi, I’m Jodie. We met at that event in Sheffield.” This approach relies on you being able to remember where you met, although you could always give your job title or place of work instead. The key point is it puts you on the front foot, giving the other person a strong cue to reply “Hi, I’m Bradley, it’s lovely to meet you again, Jodie.” Job done for both of you.

Fish for extra information

Once a conversation is going, open questions such as: “It seems like ages since I last saw you. When was it?” or “How’s work going? Weren’t you thinking about changing jobs last time I saw you?” may elicit vital clues as to who you are talking to, helping your brain with a bit of extra context.

Social media: friend and foe

The smartphone era has increased the risks that people might recognise each other from social media, but then one of them realises they don’t know the other one that well – or, indeed, at all. But there is an upside. If you can crowbar a: “What’s your Instagram name again?” into conversation, then surreptitiously look them up on your phone, you can later casually drop their name, occupation or family details into conversation, as if you knew it all along.

Five thousand faces might sound a lot, but your brain is liable to be filled with TV and film stars, athletes, politicians and public figures. Who hasn’t quietly said, “Hi” and nodded in recognition at someone in the street, only to realise afterwards that you have just said hello to somebody you recognised from the TV? The etiquette for this is: don’t worry. It must happen to them all the time – and famous people have the reverse problem, identifying which of these random people saying hello to them is genuinely an acquaintance they should respond to.

Just be upfront about it

It’s not terribly British, but sometimes we just have to face up to it like grownups and say: “I’m terribly sorry, I appear to have forgotten your name.”

Stephen Hawking’s voice to be beamed into space at final sendoff

Message of peace will be broadcast into nearest black hole as physicist is laid to rest

Stephen Hawking
About 1,000 members of the public, selected by a ballot, will attend the service at Westminster Abbey in London.

The voice of Stephen Hawking will be beamed into space in a message of peace and hope, his daughter said, as the British physicist is laid to rest on Friday during a service at Westminster Abbey.

The scientist died in March, aged 76, after a lifetime spent investigating the origins of the universe, the mysteries of black holes and the nature of time itself.

Hawking’s ashes will be interred between two other major British scientific figures, Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, at Westminster Abbey.

About 1,000 members of the public, selected by a ballot, will join Hawking’s family for the service. The physicist’s voice will also be sent into space by the European Space Agency.

Lucy Hawking
Lucy Hawking, daughter of the late scientist.

“The broadcast will be beamed towards the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00, which lives in a binary system with a fairly ordinary orange dwarf star,” his daughter, Lucy Hawking, said.

“It is a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet.”

Newton formulated the law of universal gravitation and laid the foundations of modern mathematics, while Darwin’s theory of evolution was one of the most far-reaching scientific breakthroughs of all time.

Internment inside Westminster Abbey is a rarely bestowed honour. The most recent burials of scientists there were those of Ernest Rutherford, a pioneer of nuclear physics, in 1937, and of Joseph John Thomson, who discovered electrons, in 1940.

4 Research-Backed Supplements to Boost Your Hair, Skin, and Nails

fish oilCollagen. Biotin. Shark cartilage. Frankincense. Even… placenta? Every day, patients in my dermatology practice ask about supplements claiming to restore or improve the skin, hair, or nails. But do they, really?

Unlike medicines, which are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, over-the-counter supplements are subject to little oversight. There is no guarantee that their claims or ingredients are backed by science (or that the ingredients on the label are actually even in the tablet) – making the supplement aisle the wild west of every pharmacy. While no vitamin or supplement should ever be taken without consulting a physician first, there are a few that are backed by scientific research showing that they may have a positive effect on our strands, skin, or nails. Here are some of them.

For skin cancer prevention: Vitamin B3, also called nicotinamide, has been shown to lower the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancers (such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma) and precancerous growths (called actinic keratoses). In a 2015 New England Journal of Medicine study of more than 600 patients with a history of skin cancer, 500mg of B3 taken twice daily led to a 23% drop in new cancerous growths over 1 year. Sun protection remains the most important way to lower skin cancer risk – but those stats aren’t too shabby, for a vitamin.

For brittle nails: Biotin (also called vitamin H or B7) was shown to increase nail plate thickness by 25% in patients with brittle nails, while reducing splitting and improving nail smoothness, according to studies from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) and Cutis. The optimal dose isn’t known, but dermatologists have suggested 2.5mg daily for those with delicate nails. Just be sure to let your doctor know if you take biotin, and consider holding off on the vitamin prior to any bloodwork: In 2017, the FDA issued a warning that it can interfere with certain lab tests, including some measuring cardiovascular and thyroid levels.

For thinning hair: As a dermatologist, I never used to recommend dietary supplements for patients with sparse or shedding hair, unless there was a specific nutritional or medical issue to correct. Now I sometimes do for patients with male or female pattern hair loss – the gradual thinning many of us are prone to later in life. Small, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of men and women with thinning hair, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology and Dermatology Research and Practice, showed a significant increase in hair density with reduced shedding over 3 to 6 months on a marine supplement called Viviscal. And the plant-based Nutrafol led to an increased number of hairs, with increased thickness, volume and growth rate in women over 3 to 6 months, according to a May 2018 study from the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. This supplement contains ingredients said to reduce inflammation, antioxidants to help guard against cell-damage, and saw palmetto, which may inhibit hormonal factors that can contribute to hair thinning.

For psoriasis: Fish oil supplements may help to alleviate rashes in those suffering from psoriasis – a chronic condition of scaly, pink skin that often affects the elbows, knees, scalp, and other areas. A 2014 meta-analysis published in JAAD showed a moderate benefit in psoriasis – reduced area of rash, and improved thickness and redness of psoriasis – after supplementing with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oils (eicosapentanoic acid, EPA, and docosahexanoic acid, DHA). The study authors suggested doses of 0.45 to 13.5 grams of EPA and up to 9 grams of DHA daily – and explained that the supplements are expected to be most helpful when used along with established psoriasis medications.

For whatever ails you: If there’s a supplement you believe in, it might just work – due to the powerful placebo effect. Decades of research have shown that the expectation of results is sometimes enough to actually see results. That’s one reason I don’t discourage vitamins that have a decent safety profile, if a patient truly believes in them.

But before starting any supplement, be sure to talk to your doctor to find out if it’s right for you and whether it’s safe to take with other medicines.

Top 10 Health Tech Hazards for 2019

The potential for hackers to exploit remote access systems to infiltrate a healthcare organization’s networked devices and systems is the number one health technology hazard that hospitals should focus on in 2019, according to the ECRI Institute.

Such attacks can disrupt healthcare operations, hinder the delivery of care, and put patients at risk, the nonprofit research organization warns in its just-released 2019 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards.

Produced each year by ECRI’s Health Devices Group, the list identifies potential sources of danger that ECRI believes warrant the greatest attention for the coming year. The list is accompanied by practical strategies hospitals and healthcare providers can take to reduce the risks.

Cybersecurity is clearly a growing concern. In the past 18 months, the ECRI published 50 cybersecurity-related alerts and problem reports, a major increase over the prior period, the group notes.

“The consequences of an attack can be widespread and severe, making this a priority concern for all healthcare organizations. In critical situations, this could cause harm or death,” David Jamison, executive director of the Health Devices Group at the ECRI, said in a news release.

Organizations need to identify, protect, and monitor all remote access points and adhere to recommended cybersecurity practices, such as instituting a strong password policy, maintaining and patching systems, and logging system access, the group says.

Taking the number 2 spot on the latest top tech hazards list are mattresses and mattress covers that remain contaminated with blood and other bodily fluids after cleaning, posing an infection risk. “Healthcare facilities must take care to use appropriate products and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting mattress covers, and they should regularly inspect mattresses and covers for signs of damage or contamination,” the group advises.

“One key challenge, however, is that not all mattress cover suppliers recommend products and procedures that will successfully remove the likely surface contaminants without compromising the cover’s integrity (ie, creating weak spots that could allow leaks). This situation needs to be remedied,” they conclude.

Number 3 on this year’s list are surgical sponges unintentionally left inside the patient after the surgical site is closed, which can lead to infection and other serious complications, including the need for another surgery.

Manual counts, in which the surgical team verifies that all sponges are accounted for before concluding the procedure, are standard practice, but errors in counting can occur, the group notes. “Technologies that supplement the manual counting process are available and have been found to be effective when used correctly. ECRI Institute contends that broader adoption of these technologies could further reduce the risk that a surgical sponge will be unintentionally retained during a procedure,” they say.

Number 4 on the list is improperly set alarms on ventilators, which put patients at risk for hypoxic brain injury and death. “Properly set alarms can prevent such consequences. Yet ECRI Institute continues to investigate deaths resulting from breathing circuit disconnections during which no alarm activated. In two cases from early 2018, alarms to detect inadequate ventilation, such as the minute-volume and low-pressure alarms, were not set appropriately,” the group notes. “Healthcare facilities need policies on setting user-adjustable ventilator alarms and protocols for verifying that the policies are being followed and that component connections are secure.”

Number 5 on the list is mishandling flexible endoscopes after disinfection, which can cause infections in patients. Cleaning and disinfecting flexible endoscopes between uses can be challenging, and failure to adhere to a strict reprocessing protocol can lead to infections. “Less well known is that improper handling and storage practices can recontaminate previously disinfected scopes, heightening the risk of patient infections,” the group notes.

When endoscopes are not completely dried after disinfection, any remaining viable microbes can rapidly proliferate and colonize the instruments. “To promote drying, ECRI Institute and relevant professional societies recommend purging endoscope channels with clean air at the end of the reprocessing process,” the group states.

The “clean” status of endoscopes can also be compromised if the instruments are handled with unclean gloves, which the ECRI has observed. “Endoscopes that have been cleaned but not yet high-level disinfected are still contaminated with viable microbes; thus gloves used to handle an endoscope at that stage must not be used to remove the scope from the reprocessing machine,” they caution.

“Recontamination can also occur when transporting and storing endoscopes. Disinfected and dried endoscopes should be transported in a clean enclosed container, dedicated to that purpose, and should be prevented from contacting potentially unclean surfaces,” they add.

The Final Five

Rounding out the top 10 technology hazards ECRI says warrant the greatest attention in the coming year are the following:

6. Confusing dose rate with flow rate, which can lead to infusion pump medication errors.

7. Improper customization of physiologic monitor alarm settings, which may result in missed alarms.

8. Injury risk from overhead patient lift systems.

9. Cleaning fluid seeping into electrical components, which can lead to equipment damage and fires.

10. Flawed battery charging systems and practices that can affect device operation.

Space junk is a huge problem, but this high-tech satellite net just might help

Experts hope to eliminate the debris before it becomes too risky to launch new satellites.

Image: The REMDEB satellite deployed in June from the International Space Station

The REMDEB satellite deployed in June from the International Space Station.NanoRacks, ISS and NASA

As some scientists try to clean up the world’s oceans and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, others are tackling the problem of pollution in space. Defunct satellites, spent rocket parts and thousands of other pieces of human-made debris have accumulated in orbit around Earth in recent decades — and the problem is getting worse.

Now a consortium of universities and aerospace companies has begun testing a suite of technologies that could address the growing problem of space junk. On Sept. 16, scientists with the consortium successfully tested a net designed to snag orbiting debris and drag it down into Earth’s atmosphere, where it would burn up harmlessly.

The consortium’s refrigerator-sized RemoveDebris satellite deployed the spring-loaded net and captured a tiny cubesat that had been released for the experiment. Footage of the test shows the web-like net shooting out and trapping the mock space debris.

Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre in England, said he was “very happy” with the test, adding that the net and the cubesat are expected to burn up in the atmosphere within a couple of months. The center leads the consortium, which also includes Airbus, ArianeGroup and other partners in Europe and South Africa.

In last week’s test, the RemoveDebris satellite released the net as it was deployed. But in a real space debris-grabbing mission, Aglietti said, the net would remain tethered to a “mothership” satellite, which would then reel it in and de-orbit it via some mechanism yet to be determined.

In February, Aglietti and his colleagues will use the satellite to test another debris-removal idea: a tethered harpoon that could latch onto space junk and remove it from orbit.

The RemoveDebris mission is focused on eliminating old satellites and other large debris — objects about the size of a bus and weighing a few tons — because they pose the biggest threat to the International Space Station and satellites in low-Earth orbit.

“If they collide with other things, they can explode and break into thousands of fragments,” Aglietti said of these objects. “Rather than trying to remove smaller bits, which would be technologically very challenging, we think the best thing is to remove large pieces — especially those in busy orbits.”

The U.S. Department of Defense tracks more than 500,000 pieces of space junk in orbit around Earth, including about 20,000 objects larger than a softball. As rocket launches continue and more debris is created, experts worry that we could reach a point where it’s too risky to launch new satellites.

Low Earth orbit (LEO), the region of space within 2,000 km of the Earth's surface, is the most concentrated area for orbital debris.
Low-Earth orbit, the region of space within 2,000 kilometers of the Earth’s surface, is the most concentrated area for orbital debris.NASA

“We’re at the tipping point,” said John Crassidis, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo, who is not involved with the RemoveDebris mission. “If we don’t do something, it’s not going to be that much longer before there’s so much space junk and the probability of a collision is so great that nobody is going to want to insure satellites anymore.”

Crassidis called the recent test “fabulous,” but added that the RemoveDebris scientists must eventually show they can control debris after it’s been captured without destabilizing the RemoveDebris satellite itself.

“If you have an object that is rotating, that is going to affect your own satellite,” he said. “So, if the net is tethered, you have this momentum transferred between the two objects, and that can cause issues with trying to keep your satellite stable.”

Aglietti said even if the technology works, the bigger challenge will be navigating the politics and finding the money to mount clean-up initiatives. The RemoveDebris satellite cost $15 million, he said, but a real mission designed to remove space junk would likely cost significantly more.

“Technologically, we can do these things, but the difficulty will be to find the necessary funding and the necessary world cooperation that we need for this,” Aglietti said. “I think honestly the organizational and administrative problems are the main challenges, and not the technical challenges.”

Green, leafy vegetables can decrease your risk of glaucoma by 20%

Image: Green, leafy vegetables can decrease your risk of glaucoma by 20%

Research provides another reason for you to eat more leafy greens: They prevent the onset of a serious eye disease called glaucoma. In a study published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers suggested that eating green leafy vegetables every day may cut one’s risk of glaucoma by 20 to 30 percent over many years.

Glaucoma is an eye problem that typically occurs when fluid in the front part of the eye increases and causes pressure, which in turn damages the optic nerve. This condition can result in loss of vision.

For the study, the research team followed about 64,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1984 to 2012. They also followed over 41,000 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 2014. The participants were all aged 40 and above and did not have glaucoma at the start of the study. They had eye exams every two years.

Throughout the follow-up period, nearly 1,500 participants developed glaucoma. To determine whether diet played a role in the onset of the eye disease, the research team evaluated the diet, particularly the consumption of green leafy vegetables, of the participants. Then, they grouped the participants into five according to how much green leafy vegetables they consumed. Those who consumed the most amount of green leafy vegetables averaged about 1.5 servings a day, or approximately one and a half cups each day; while those who ate the least amount averaged about one serving every three days.

Although there was an association between consuming more leafy greens and a lower risk of glaucoma, it did not prove cause and effect. However, study leader Jae Kang explained that green leafy vegetables contain nitrates, which are precursors to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays a key role in regulating blood flow to the eye, and in glaucoma, there is an impairment of blood flow to the optic nerve. As an individual eats more leafy greens, the levels of nitric oxide in the body also increase.

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Kang is an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Preventing glaucoma with diet

Earlier research has suggested that eating the right foods may help cut the risk of glaucoma, prevent the disease, and help keep eyesight healthy for many years. The study, published in the Archives of the Spanish Society of Ophthalmology, assessed the diets of people in two American ophthalmological studies, and in a study from Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

These large population studies found that consumption of foods rich in retinol, which is a form of vitamin A, helps lower the risk of glaucoma. However, there was no evidence that a diet rich in dietary fats promote the development of glaucoma, although too much fat intake is generally known to cause obesity and cardiovascular disease.

As the researchers dug deeper, they observed a link between lower rates of glaucoma and greater intake of leafy green vegetables, especially cabbage, carrots, fruits, and fruit juices, especially orange-colored fruits like peaches and apricots. In addition, the Spanish study suggested consuming flavonol-rich foods, such as green tea, dark chocolate, coffee (without sugar and little cream), and regular black tea. However, those who already have well-established cases of glaucoma should consume little or no caffeine because it can increase intraocular pressure and worsen the disease. (Related: Reduce glaucoma risk by drinking more green tea.)

In the study, the researchers provided a set of guidelines for lowering glaucoma risk:

  1. Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables.
  2. Patients with hypertensive glaucoma should not consume too much salt.
  3. Avoid high-calorie diets to prevent body fat increase.
  4. Try eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fatty fish and nut as they seem to reduce risk.
  5. Drink small amounts of liquid throughout the day. Don’t drink large amounts in one shot.
  6. Drink red wine and green tea and eat dark chocolate moderately.
  7. If you already have glaucoma, do not consume caffeinated drinks.

Read more news stories and studies on foods that keep the eyes healthy by going to SuperFoods.news.

Sources include:



An ancient pear endemic to Italy is a little-known superfood with high concentrations of antioxidant compounds

Image: An ancient pear endemic to Italy is a little-known superfood with high concentrations of antioxidant compounds

The Apennine mountains of central Italy are home to an ancient and rare variant of the European pear (Pyrus communis) called the Cocomerina pear. A study conducted by local researchers revealed that this pink-fleshed pear is a superfood bursting with natural antioxidants.

“Cocomerina” is derived from “cocomero,” the term for watermelon. This variant of pear is called that because of its sweet-smelling and pink flesh, which grows more vivid in color as the fruit ripens.

It is one of the so-called “ancient fruits,” which are very old and only found in a few small areas. The Cocomerina variant of the European pear is restricted to the Apennine area of Romagna and Tuscany. The early-ripening cultivar is harvested in August, while the late-ripening one is collected in October.

Many pears contain large amounts of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and polyphenols.  These plant-based compounds have powerful antioxidant properties that protect cell tissue and membranes from free radicals. (Related: The strange-looking tropical fruit graviola is a POWERFUL superfood against cancer.)


Researchers from the Universita di Urbino – Carlo Bo (UdU Carlo Bo) studied the nutritional value of the Cocomerina pear. They harvested ripe specimens of the early-ripening cultivar, as well as both ripe and unripe examples of the late-ripening cultivar.

The cores were removed from the sample fruits before they were chopped up and prepared into fruit extracts. Each extract was analyzed to determine the amount and types of anthocyanins, flavones, flavonoids, flavonols, and polyphenols that it contained.

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Armed with the knowledge of the bioactive plant compounds present in the fruits, the researchers tested the extracts for their antioxidant activity. They measured the effectiveness of each extract when it came to scavenging DPPH free radicals, as well as its capacity to absorb oxygen radicals.

Furthermore, they evaluated the ability of the extracts to prevent inflammation. In the 5’-lipoxygenase assay, they measured the amount of extract required to inhibit 50 percent of the inflammatory activity of lipoxygenase.

Phytochemical content of Cocomerina pear extract

To begin with, the UdU Carlo Bo researchers noted the different amounts of phytochemicals found in the cultivars of the Cocomerina pear. The late-ripening cultivar has higher levels of polyphenolic compounds. Likewise, its ripe fruits contain more polyphenols than unripe samples.

The unripe fruits of the late-ripening cultivar have the best number of flavonoids. Interestingly, the ripe fruits of both ER and LR strains contain similar levels of flavonoids.

When it came to flavones and flavonols, the ripe fruit of the early-ripening cultivar demonstrated the highest level. Dihydroflavonol levels were much higher in the late cultivar, however.

Comparison of the unripe and ripe fruits of the late-ripening cultivar showed that the levels increased alongside the maturity of the fruit. So ripe fruits of the Cocomerina pear contains more phytochemicals than unripe fruits.

The amount of anthocyanin in late-ripening cultivar is 126 times greater than in the early-ripening one. Ripe LR cultivars contain more anthocyanins than unripe ones.

Free radical scavenging and antioxidant activity

All three extracts were able to scavenge DPPH free radicals. The ethanolic extracts made from the unripe and ripe pears of the late-ripening cultivar were much more effective.

Next, the extracts were also effective at inhibiting the activity of the inflammatory enzyme 5’-lipoxygenase. Again, the late-ripening cultivar’s extracts displayed greater effectiveness.

The antioxidant activity was greatest in the ripe fruits of the late-ripening cultivar. When compared with commercial pear cultivars, the Cocomerina pear extracts showed comparable or superior activity.

The researchers concluded that the Cocomerina pear possesses significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. These health benefits could encourage the conservation and recovery of this ancient fruit.

For more stories about cocomerina pear and other fruits that serve as superfoods, check out Fruits.news.

Sources include:





Favorite ways to release stress and get back to peace

You know the feeling…

Shoulders tight. Neck tense. Your mind feels like it’s racing just a little over the speed limit.

And almost everything gets on your nerves. Kids. Pets. Spouse. Work.

Stress is an American epidemic. So you’re not alone.

But you don’t have to stay tensed up. There are solutions…

Some natural and some mental. Let’s dive in!

1. Unplug from the noise (or at least some of it)

We are constantly bombarded by new information; new sights, new sounds, notifications, and newsfeeds.

It’s too much. Our brains are overwhelmed and overworked. As a result, we feel fried.

The solution is to turn down some of the noise. Maybe there are some apps you need to delete from your phone. Some newsfeeds you need to unsubscribe from. Some shows you need to stop watching.

Whatever it takes to allow your mind to calm. Your mental state is much like water: as long as you keep throwing pebbles in it, the ripples keep going.

Once we stop all the input, our minds calm down and find a sense of stillness.

2. Venture outside

Did you know there’s actually a Japanese word for walking outside? It’s called shin-rin-yoku or “forest bathing” and it’s been part of national Japanese health programs since the 80’s.

That’s right. Walking outside has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, while increasing feelings of connection and happiness.

It lowers cortisol levels and helps you feel more like your “natural self.”

3. Spray on some transdermal magnesium

This tip is my absolute favorite.

Experts agree that the majority of America is deficient in magnesium, which could be part of the reason we feel so stressed…

Magnesium is known as the “calming mineral.”

It eases tension on a cellular level. Nourishing muscles, joints, and the brain.

While you can supplement orally with magnesium, using a transdermal spray gives you the extra benefits of faster absorption into the skin AND you get a nice little massage in the process 😉

If you’d like to try out the magnesium I use, go here for a great deal.

4. Get moving

Can stress get rid of stress? Interestingly enough…yes!

Exercise is known as “acute stress,” because you’re creating an artificial demand on your body.

You’re not really being chased by a cheetah or lifting a boulder out of your way, but your body doesn’t know the difference. It still feels excited in that moment.

But this intentional form of stress is actually very effective at reducing chronic stress (the stuff we want less of).

When you exercise, your body becomes flooded with endorphins and other feel-good hormones that help put your mind at ease.

(And be sure to use some magnesium spray to help your body recover faster.)

5. Chat with a friend

Sometimes we can get caught in a funk – mostly because we’re buried in our own thoughts.

Calling up a friend or meeting with them in person can be a great way to get out of your head and into the real world.

Human beings are designed for social interaction. We need a tribe like a bee needs a hive. Without relationships, we go stir-crazy.

Talking with a friend is one of the best ways to change your mood. And even if your mood doesn’t change much, it often helps to know that someone loves you even in the middle of your funk.

We need that too.

6. Write it out

Journaling is a powerful liberator of emotion.

It’s a chance to release all the thoughts being stored up in your head (and heart).

Often, after a good session of pouring my thoughts onto a page, I find myself thinking much more clearly.

You can also focus your journaling toward gratitude, writing down 10-20 things you are grateful for in this moment. This is one of the best ways to shift your perspective.

If you look for the good, you will find it more often. 🙂

Hope you got some value out of these tips today!

While stress is common, it doesn’t have to be permanent.

Let’s create a calmer world


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