Discovered: Vitamin D supplements won't prevent infections; desire to be skinny could be hardwired; a virus that makes you fat but staves off diabetes; and new dinosaur!
Vitamin D doesn't prevent the common cold. If you get your medical advice from Dr. Oz, you might think that taking Vitamin D supplements helps you keep the common cold at bay. Nonsense, says new research coming out of New Zealand. A new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association takes issues with previous studies claiming that people deficient in Vitamin D are more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), singling out issues with controlling and mixed results. The researchers staged their own randomized trial called the "Vitamin D and Acute Respiratory Infection Study," or VIDARIS. For a year and a half, 161 subjects took a monthly dose of Vitamin D while the other 161 took a placebo. In the experimental group, 593 cases of the cold were reported, while the control group experienced 611 colds. The margin is so small as to be insignificant, most likely due to chance. [Los Angeles Times]
Genetics could be one factor in "thinspiration." Whenever we discuss unhealthy obsessions with weight, we tend to blame the media's unrealistic portrayal of women. Such depictions deserve criticism, but new research suggests that some women's drive to maintain a super-slim physique comes from within just as much as without. Genetics play a large factor in the desire to stay skinny, concludes a new paper in The International Journal of Eating Disorders. Researchers interviewed 300 female twins between the ages of 12 and 22 about images from television, movies and magazine, asking them which women they'd most like to resemble physically. They found that twins who share genetic makeup were much more likely to share a preference for thinness, while the fraternal twins differed on the degree toward which they valued being skinny. Researchers interpret these findings to mean that up to 40 percent of the drive to be thin may result from genetics. [The Atlantic]
This creepy dinosaur once roamed the Earth. University of Chicago professor Paul Sereno has confirmed that bones discovered by paleontologists in Africa in the 1960s belong to a previously unidentified species of heterodontosaur, the Pegomastax Africanus. Heterodontosaurs were smaller proto-dinosaurs that went extinct long before T. Rex burst on the scene. The remains in question have been a subject of debate for decades, but Sereno is the first to sufficiently differentiate the Pegomastax as a distinct species. The newly minted dinosaur was about the size of a cat, and despite its long, sharp canines, subsisted on a plant-based diet. "It was one of the first plant-eating dinosaurs," Sereno tells Chicago radio station WBBM. The teeth came in handy during fights, but were not used to chew through flesh. [CBS Chicago]
Obesity virus counterintuitively reduces diabetes risk. After tracking patients infected with adenovirus-36 for decades, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center's Nikhil Dhurandhar and his colleagues have determined that the virus may make the body produce more fat cells, but it also helps stave off diabetes. The researchers periodically drew blood samples from 1400 volunteers exposed to the virus, 14.5 percent of which developed Ad-36 antibodies. After ten years, those infected had significantly higher body mass indexes than the control group, but maintained healthier blood sugar levels. Type II diabetes is often brought on by obesity, but the group of obese patients in this study had a much lower incidence of diabetes than expected. The researchers believe that by producing bigger, more numerous fat cells the subjects' bodies were able to regulate fat better than uninfected overweight subjects. "That is where the apparent paradox is not really a paradox," the University of Texas' Nicola Abate says, commenting on the study. "It's not how much fat a person has that determines the health complications, it's the function of adipose tissue." [New Scientist]