Interesting studies that don't deserve their own thread

A thread for interesting studies that don’t deserve their own thread.


Fifty years after the famous ‘marshmallow test’ found that children who resist temptation do better on measures of life success, a study of preschoolers in Boulder and Japan reveals that what kids are willing to wait for depends on their cultural upbringing.

But 50 years after the seminal “marshmallow test” suggested this, a fresh, multicultural approach to the test adds a missing piece of the story: What kids are willing to wait for depends largely on their cultural upbringing.

The CU Boulder-led study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that children in Kyoto, Japan, waited three times longer for food than for gifts, whereas children in Boulder, Colorado, waited nearly four times longer for gifts than for food.

“We found that the ability to delay gratification, which predicts many important life outcomes, is not just about variations in genes or brain development but also about habits supported by culture,” said senior author Yuko Munakata, a research affiliate with the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at CU Boulder.

The findings provide good news to parents, showing that fostering simple, culturally appropriate habits in young children may influence their development in ways that make it easier for them to delay gratification later.

But it also calls into question decades of social science research, suggesting that some children deemed lacking in self-control may have instead just had different cultural values around waiting.

“It calls into question: How much of our scientific conclusions are shaped by the cultural lens we, as researchers, bring to our work?” said Munakata.

Marshmallow test redux

First conducted in the early 1970s by psychologist Walter Mischel, the marshmallow test worked like this: A preschooler was placed in a room with a marshmallow, told they could eat the marshmallow now or wait and get two later, then left alone while the clock ticked and a video camera rolled. While research is mixed, many studies found that preschoolers who waited longer did better on academic test scores, were less likely to exhibit problem behavior and had a healthier body mass index and better relationships later in life. Some studies also found that these same study subjects were less likely to end up in jail and made more money.

Early on, researchers focused on inherent and cognitive explanations.

“There was this idea that some kids simply have more self-control, and some kids have less,” said Munakata, now also a professor of psychology at University of California, Davis.

Munakata, who has Japanese heritage but grew up in the U.S., conceived of the idea of the new study while on sabbatical in Kyoto. On the first day of school, as her two young children tore into their lunchboxes, their peers quickly set them straight, telling them that in Japan no one ate until everyone sat down.

In contrast, while her children were used to waiting to open their gifts on birthdays and Christmas, their Japanese peers tended to open them the moment they got them, whether the gift-giver was present or not.

How much does culture influence what we’ll wait for?

To find out, she teamed up with Professor Satoru Saito at the Graduate School of Education in Japan and Kaichi Yanaoka, then a graduate student at University of Tokyo.

They recruited 144 children from Boulder and Kyoto, randomly assigning each to a test involving either a marshmallow or a wrapped present. Researchers and parents looked on through a video feed.

“One counted the dots on the ceiling. Another drew his name on the desk. Another paced around the room,” said co-author Grace Dostart, a professional research assistant with the Renee Crown Wellness Institute, who helped run the Boulder study.

“It was fascinating to see the self-soothing techniques these kids engaged in.”

The power of politeness

The children in Japan were overwhelmingly better at waiting for the marshmallow, with a median wait time of 15 minutes.

“If we had just looked at their behavior with the sweets, it would have looked like Japanese kids have better self-control,” said Munakata. “But that was not the end of the story.”

In Japan, kids waited less than five minutes to open the present.

The reverse was true in the U.S., with kids waiting almost 15 minutes to open the present vs. less than four to gobble the marshmallow.

Notably, kids who had a habit of waiting for meals at home and elsewhere waited longer to eat the marshmallow. And, across cultures, children who were more attuned to social conventions (as measured by surveys of children) waited longer.

“This suggests that the way you grow up, the social conventions you are raised around and how much you pay attention to them, are all important,” said Dostart.

Munakata said the study does not debunk the marshmallow test’s central finding: That the ability to resist here-and-now rewards is linked to success in long-term goals. And she acknowledges that genetics, neurocognitive factors and social factors play some role in how much willpower a child exhibits. (Her own 2018 study found that when other preschoolers in their “in-group” opt to wait for the second marshmallow, they tend to also).

But there are things parents and caregivers can do to reap the benefits of better self-control.

“Cultivating habits of waiting for others could be doing much more than supporting politeness,” said Munakata, noting that such habits may change brain systems in ways that make delaying gratification more automatic. “It could make it easier for kids to succeed in future life situations without having to work so hard.”

Source: ANI

“Children who don’t like marshmallows do better on measures of life success.”
That rings true.

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“This suggests that the way you grow up, the social conventions you are raised around and how much you pay attention to them, are all important,” said Dostart.

Munakata said the study does not debunk the marshmallow test’s central finding: That the ability to resist here-and-now rewards is linked to success in long-term goals. And she acknowledges that genetics, neurocognitive factors and social factors play some role in how much willpower a child exhibits.

Or maybe, just possibly, kids who grow up in stable environments where adults tend to keep the promises they make to kids, and kids don’t have food anxiety, are more likely to succeed than kids who can’t trust the people around them and sometimes don’t get enough food. Just maybe.

This is consistent with kids in different cultures waiting longer for things they are accustomed to waiting for (and actually getting, after the wait.)

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Calorie-free sweeteners affect microbiome and glycemic response: study

Since the late 1800s non-nutritive sweeteners have promised to deliver all the sweetness of sugar with none of the calories. They have long been believed to have no effect on the human body, but researchers challenge this notion by finding that these sugar substitutes are not inert, and, in fact, some can alter human consumers’ microbiomes in a way that can change their blood sugar levels.

In 2014, senior author Eran Elinav an immunologist and microbiome researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the German National Cancer Center (DKFZ) and his team found that non-nutritive sweeteners affected the microbiomes of mice in ways that could impact their glycemic responses. The team was interested in whether these results would also be found in humans.

To address this important question, the research team carefully screened over 1300 individuals for those who strictly avoid non-nutritive sweeteners in their day-to-day lives, and identified a cohort of 120 individuals. These participants were broken into six groups: two controls and four who ingested well below the FDA daily allowances of either aspartame, saccharin, stevia, or sucralose.

“In subjects consuming the non-nutritive sweeteners, we could identify very distinct changes in the composition and function of gut microbes, and the molecules they secret into peripheral blood. This seemed to suggest that gut microbes in the human body are rather responsive to each of these sweeteners,” says Elinav. “When we looked at consumers of non-nutritive sweeteners as groups, we found that two of the non-nutritive sweeteners, saccharin and sucralose, significantly impacted glucose tolerance in healthy adults. Interestingly, changes in the microbes were highly correlated with the alterations noted in people’s glycemic responses.”

To establish causation, the researchers transferred microbial samples from the study subjects to germ-free mice – mice that have been raised in completely sterile conditions and have no microbiome of their own.

“The results were quite striking,” says Elinav. “In all of the non-nutritive sweetener groups, but in none of the controls, when we transferred into these sterile mice the microbiome of the top responder individuals collected at a time point in which they were consuming the respective non-nutritive sweeteners, the recipient mice developed glycemic alterations that very significantly mirrored those of the donor individuals. In contrast, the bottom responders’ microbiomes were mostly unable to elicit such glycemic responses,” he adds. “These results suggest that the microbiome changes in response to human consumption of non-nutritive sweetener may, at times, induce glycemic changes in consumers in a highly personalized manner.”

Elinav says that he expects the effects of the sweeteners will vary person to person because of the incredibly unique composition of our microbiome. “We need to raise awareness of the fact that non-nutritive sweeteners are not inert to the human body as we originally believed. With that said, the clinical health implications of the changes they may elicit in humans remain unknown and merit future long-term studies.”

“In the meantime, we need to continue searching for solutions to our sweet tooth craving, while avoiding sugar, which is clearly most harmful to our metabolic health,” says Elinav. “In my personal view, drinking only water seems to be the best solution.”


Source: ANI

It is known.

Thank goodness I didn’t make a thread for it then.


Mosquitoes are known for hunting down their preferred ‘human snacks’ through CO2 exhalations, body heat, and odour. But, some of us often complain of getting more than our fair share of bites. There are numerous theories on why mosquitoes may prefer some humans over others – blood type, blood sugar level, being a woman or a child, all without enough credible data.

Vosshall and Maria Elena De Obaldia, a former postdoc in her lab, set out to explore the leading theory to explain varying mosquito appeal: individual odor variations connected to skin microbiota.

According to the study published in the article, “Differential mosquito attraction to humans is associated with skin-derived carboxylic acid levels.”

They recently demonstrated that fatty acids emanating from the skin may create a heady perfume that mosquitoes can’t resist. They published their results in ‘Cell’.

“There’s a very, very strong association between having large quantities of these fatty acids on your skin and being a mosquito magnet,” said Vosshall, the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor at The Rockefeller University and Chief Scientific Officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

In the three-year study, eight participants were asked to wear nylon stockings over their forearms for six hours a day. They repeated this process on multiple days. Over the next few years, the researchers tested the nylons against each other in all possible pairings through a round-robin style “tournament.”

They used a two-choice olfactometer assay that De Obaldia built, consisting of a plexiglass chamber divided into two tubes, each ending in a box that held a stocking. They placed Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes – the primary vector species for Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya – in the main chamber and observed as the insects flew down the tubes towards one nylon or the other.

By far the most compelling target for Aedes aegypti was Subject 33, who was four times more attractive to the mosquitoes than the next most-attractive study participant, and an astonishing 100 times more appealing than the least attractive, Subject 19.

The samples in the trials were de-identified, so the experimenters didn’t know which participant had worn which nylon. Still, they would notice that something unusual was afoot in any trial involving Subject 33, because insects would swarm towards that sample. “It would be obvious within a few seconds of starting the assay,” says De Obaldia. “It’s the type of thing that gets me really excited as a scientist. This is something real. This is not splitting hairs. This is a huge effect.”

The researchers sorted the participants into high and low attractors, and then asked what differentiated them. They used chemical analysis techniques to identify 50 molecular compounds that were elevated in the sebum (a moisturizing barrier on the skin) of the high-attracting participants. From there, they discovered that mosquito magnets produced carboxylic acids at much higher levels than the less-attractive volunteers. These substances are in the sebum and are used by bacteria on our skin to produce our unique human body odor.

To confirm their findings, Vosshall’s team enrolled another 56 people for a validation study. Once again, Subject 33 was the most alluring, and stayed so over time.

“Some subjects were in the study for several years, and we saw that if they were a mosquito magnet, they remained a mosquito magnet,” says De Obaldia. “Many things could have changed about the subject or their behaviors over that time, but this was a very stable property of the person.”

Humans produce mainly two classes of odors that mosquitoes detect with two different sets of odor receptors: Orco and IR receptors. To see if they could engineer mosquitoes unable to spot humans, the researchers created mutants that were missing one or both of the receptors. Orco mutants remained attracted to humans and able to distinguish between mosquito magnets and low attractors, while IR mutants lost their attraction to humans to a varying degree, but still retained the ability to find us.

These were not the results the scientists were hoping for. “The goal was a mosquito that would lose all attraction to people, or a mosquito that had a weakened attraction to everybody and couldn’t discriminate Subject 19 from Subject 33. That would be tremendous,” Vosshall says, because it could lead to the development of more effective mosquito repellents. “And yet that was not what we saw. It was frustrating.”

These results complement one of Vosshall’s recent studies, also published in Cell, which revealed the redundancy of Aedes aegypti’s exquisitely complex olfactory system. It’s a failsafe that the female mosquito relies on to live and reproduce. Without blood, she can’t do either. That’s why “she has a backup plan and a backup plan and a backup plan and is tuned to these differences in the skin chemistry of the people she goes after,” Vosshall says.

The apparent unbreakability of the mosquito scent tracker makes it difficult to envision a future where we’re not the number-one meal on the menu. But one potential avenue is to manipulate our skin microbiomes. It is possible that slathering the skin of a high-appeal person like Subject 33 with sebum and skin bacteria from the skin of a low-appeal person like Subject 19 could provide a mosquito-masking effect.

“We haven’t done that experiment,” Vosshall notes. “That’s a hard experiment. But if that were to work, then you could imagine that by having a dietary or microbiome intervention where you put bacteria on the skin that are able to somehow change how they interact with the sebum, then you could convert someone like Subject 33 into a Subject 19. But that’s all very speculative.”

She and her colleagues hope this paper will inspire researchers to test other mosquito species, including in the genus Anopheles, which spreads malaria, adds Vosshall: “I think it would be really, really cool to figure out if this is a universal effect.”


Source: ANI

:mosquito: :drop_of_blood:

I read a study at least 30 years ago that found that rats given saccharine water to drink gained more weight than rats given sugar water, who gained slightly more weight than rats who drank water.

The rats who drank sugar water decreased their consumption of rat chow, mostly offsetting the calories they got from the sugar. The ones who drank saccharin water significantly increased their intake of rat chow.

A friend with type 1 diabetes measures and injects insulin by hand, instead of using a monitor and a pump, because he said it’s better to get the insulin in your system before the sugar arrives. But…if that’s true, how do people who don’t have diabetes regulate their blood sugar level? Because their mouth signals “sugar is coming” is my best guess. That’s probably why saliva contains enzymes to break other carbs into sugar, too. Not because you need a head start in digesting the sugar, but to give the pancreas a heads-up.

It’s interesting that gut biome is also affected. But even without that, i would guess that eating a lot of artificial sweeteners messes up your glycemic metabolism.

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hmmmm, maybe I should cut my stevia use.

Monk fruit seems to be one that doesn’t affect glycemic functions. But it’s almost impossible to find. All the ones listed on Amazon are fake (contains monk fruit extract which is like 1% of the ingredients)

Um, with insulin that is already in their body?

Yes, but my question was, what tells the pancreas to increase production of insulin to cope with the food you just ate? It’s not as if we have constant levels of insulin, we make more or less as we need it.

I mean, something tells your stomach to produce stomach acid and your liver to produce bile.

Doesn’t seem that hard for your body to communicate with each other.



Congrats Lucy! You win this round.

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Absolutely. That’s why I avoid fake food – artificial sweeteners and those fake fats that slide right through you. I don’t want that communication to be messed up.

well…technically stevia is all natural

Yeah, bad terminology. By “artificial sweeteners” I really meant non-caloric sweeteners.

the question is which kills you faster

Been awhile since having a preschool kid around?