Discovered: limits to black licorice consumption, learning from giant pythons, how to make generic food homey, and another benefit of moderate drinking.

  • A Halloween public service announcement for potential candy gluttons.  If your favorite candy is black licorice and you were planning on eating a preposterous amount of it as a holiday excuse, you should note this. The Food and Drug Administration has a sensible warning: just don't. If you're over 40, eating "2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks may lead to arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm, which could land you in the emergency room," the FDA warned and Healthland relayed. The outlet notes that actual sickness isn't a very widespread phenomenon: "the agency received one report of a black licorice-related problem last year." But still, the FDA advises: "No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time." [Healthland, Food and Drug Administration]
  • Are you happy? Please answer in 'Yes' or 'No' questions. This isn't another annoying online quiz. Blunt? Yes. Existential? Sure. Unsettling? Depending on how great you're feeling about life as you stare at the glowing screen in front of you. But if you take a second to fill out the Scientific American happiness quiz (it appears connected to this story on contentedness) you'll get a very candid answer in response. We won't ruin your own personal happiness mirror, either way it will tell you what you already know, but in a convincingly detached way. (see happiness: "You enjoy life and the activities of life." see mostly sadness: "if yesterday was a typical day for you, then you are a person who does not have many positive feelings and experiences.") [Scientific American]
  • Learning from giant pythons about human heart failure. Usually, it's from mice that we have studies that indirectly imply findings for humans health. Today, we're learning from digestive processes of a reptile that wouldn't even consider them a small snack: giant pythons. University of Colorado researchers have figured out how the giant pythons and regular pythons digest things: "huge amounts of fatty acids circulating in the bloodstreams of feeding pythons promote healthy heart growth," the news release goes. The New York Times reports that "the day may come when doctors literally prescribe snake oil for heart disease." Also worth noting: take a second look at the accompanying image The Times uses to illustrate the story. That's not just some curled up python--that's a giant python eating a whole alligator. [The New York Times, Eurekalert]
  • A reason why people prefer certain types of generic food products. They're packaged and sold in a way that makes you feel like it's home cooking. Which presumably makes you want to buy. Miller-McCune magazine relays a new study by French researchers that actually looked at salad, pie and meat dishes that were sold in a restaurant that served businesspeople on-the-go. It appears that the dishes with more personal names sold better: they found "patrons were significantly more likely to order the specially labeled dishes. Descriptive phrases that elicit warm family memories, such as 'Grandma’s Home-made Grilled Chicken, sold particularly well." [Miller-McCune]
  • We've ceased to become amazed at the counter-intuitive health benefits of alcohol.  Red wine drinking has been deemed something of a cure-all and even heavy alcohol drinkers have been shown to outlive the completely sober. The latest study in this vein links moderate drinking with living longer after a heart attack: "Women who drank anywhere from a few alcoholic drinks a month to more than three a week in the year leading up to a heart attack ended up living longer than women who never drank alcohol, according to a U.S. study," Reuters reported, noting that there is "mounting evidence that alcohol, regardless of the type of drink, can be good for the heart."[Reuters]