Monday, March 31, 2014

Male Rape Is NOT Hilarious


http://www.baileylaughs.com/uploads/3/0/7/7/3077670/header_images/1334683143.jpg

Via Jezebel - a challenging video and a nice response from Mark Shrayber. The following text accompanies to video on YouTube"
Published on Mar 26, 2014
Warning: There will be triggers for some viewers but, if you watch, please watch the whole thing before passing judgment.

Written and Performed by Andrew Bailey
Camera: Justin Carter

This is the recording of a monologue originally performed at the Atomic Vaudeville Cabaret in June of 2012. | www.baileylaughs.com | atomicvaudeville.wix.com/atomic-vaudevil­le
It's a little challenging to watch, but if you do watch, stay until the end.

This Video Brilliantly Skewers the Idea That Male Rape is Hilarious


Mark Shrayber


When this video was first sent to me, it took me several minutes to bring myself to watch it. The screenshot on YouTube is of a smiling, anxious-looking male in his 20s and I braced myself for a ten minute defense of the use of rape jokes in comedy. What I saw was much more heartbreaking.

In only two minutes, actor and writer Andrew Bailey takes you on an emotional roller coaster with his painful monologue. Bailey introduces himself as Will and immediately launches into a defense of why rape is hilarious (but only when it happens to males). And about ten seconds after that, the monologue takes a very real turn when Will breaks away from a defense of how funny Adam Sandler is to discuss the fact that Lynndie Englund, one of the 11 soldiers convicted for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, wasn't a monster, she was a comic genius. And then Will drops a bombshell: He was molested at 13 by a teacher who was not a pedophile, but a woman. And it was awesome, because he'd always wanted to have sex and here he was doing it with a trusted adult.

Despite its short duration, the video is difficult to watch in one sitting. Even knowing that this is a monologue and may not be based on personal experience doesn't make it any easier because the experience Will describes is the experience of many. Just watching Will's eyes as he explains that what happened to him wasn't rape ("it was statutory") and how good it felt physically is painful. And it gets even harder when he discusses the reaction of others and tries to convince himself that everything is all right, but it's not.

An adult taking advantage of a child's trust will always take an emotional toll. This is true no matter how hard the victim tries to tell themselves that they wanted it (especially if the victim is socially pressured to want sex). The video is an excellent addition to the discussion of rape humor and the problem of sexual violence against males. Hopefully this video will challenge flippant attitudes common toward rape and particularly statutory rape so that we can have a serious discussion about how to help victims and help prevent this serious crime.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Military Men More Distressed by Sexual Harassment than Military Women


The Pentagon says about 3,000 service members reported being sexually assaulted in 2012, but a confidential Department of Defense survey suggests the figure is closer to 26,000 -- up 35 percent over 2010 ["Sexual Assault in the Military," CQ Researcher, 23(29)]. Of these, more than half are men, as the graphic at the top reveals.

New research suggests that male survivors suffer more distress than their female counterparts.

This makes sense. For men, in addition to the violation of their autonomy, they also lose their standing as masculine men. The FALSE belief is that a "real" man would not have been raped or assaulted. Further, a young male survivor (if he is hetero) may begin to question his sexuality, another powerful source of distress.

Military men more distressed by sexual harassment than military women

Date: March 27, 2014
Source: American Psychological Association (APA)

Summary:
Military men who are targets of frightening and threatening sexual harassment may experience more distress and work performance problems than military women who face the same treatment, according to research. "Men may be less likely to think they'll be sexually harassed, so it's a particularly strong violation of their expectations and that could result in stronger negative reactions," an author said of the situation.

Military men who are targets of frightening and threatening sexual harassment may experience more distress and work performance problems than military women who face the same treatment, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
A total of 52 percent of military women said they had been sexually harassed compared with 19 percent of military men, and women more frequently reported they were very frightened by the experience than their male colleagues, according to a study published online in APA's Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. "The surprise was that men were more upset and debilitated after experiencing frightening sexual harassment than women," said lead author Isis H. Settles, PhD, of Michigan State University.

"Men may be less likely to think they'll be sexually harassed, so it's a particularly strong violation of their expectations and that could result in stronger negative reactions," Settles said. "Another possibility is that men feel less able to cope with their sexual harassment than women, who know it's a possibility and therefore are perhaps more emotionally prepared."

Researchers examined data from a 2002 Department of Defense survey of 17,874 service members, of whom 9,098 were men. A total of 6,304 male and female soldiers reported experiencing sexual harassment while on duty in the past year. Of those, 28 percent were men, 64.5 percent were white, 21.5 percent were African-American and 14 percent were Hispanic.

To differentiate between frightening and less serious harassment, the survey asked participants to recall one incident during the past 12 months that had the greatest effect on them and to rate the experience from being "not at all frightening and threatening" to "extremely frightening and threatening."

"Individuals were free to define how harassment made them feel. As such, frightening or threatening harassment could include experiences that were menacing, threatened their sense of job security, or were those they believed could escalate to an assault," said Settles.

Male soldiers reported that men were the perpetrators 52 percent of the time, while the other incidents involved both a man and a woman or a woman alone. For women, 86 percent of the harassment was by men, while the remaining incidents involved both men and women or only a woman. While soldiers of both genders reported more distress if sexually harassed by a higher ranking soldier, women reported more fear than men when their harasser was higher ranking. A total of 46 percent of men and 68 percent of women were sexually harassed by someone of higher rank.

The researchers assessed victims' level of distress, role limitations and work satisfaction based on their responses to survey questions. For example, to determine role limitations, participants indicated how often in the past four weeks they had difficulty doing their work or other daily activities as a result of physical or emotional problems.

Since the military is male-dominated and adheres to hierarchical, hyper-masculine cultural norms, more research is needed to determine whether the same results occur for men outside of a military context, the authors said.

"Overall, the findings illustrate the negative impact that sexual harassment has for both women and men, emphasizing the importance of organizations like the U.S. military to continue working to reduce its prevalence," Settles said.


Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association (APA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Settles, I.H., Buchanan, N.T., Yap, S.C.Y., Harrell, Z.A.T. (2014, Mar 17). Sex Differences in Outcomes and Harasser Characteristics Associated With Frightening Sexual Harassment Appraisals.. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(2); DOI: 10.1037/a0035449

Abstract:
This study examined data from U.S. military personnel (1,764 men; 4,540 women) to determine whether appraisals of sexual harassment as frightening mediate the relationship between perpetrator characteristics (perpetrator sex and rank) and three psychological/job outcomes (psychological distress, role limitations, and work satisfaction), and whether these relationships were stronger for women than men. Results indicated that frightening appraisals mediated the relationship between perpetrator rank and all outcomes for both sexes. However, frightening appraisals mediated the relationship between perpetrator sex and outcomes only for women. As predicted, having a male perpetrator or a higher status perpetrator was more strongly related to frightening appraisals for women than men. However, unexpectedly, the relationship between frightening appraisals and more psychological distress, more role limitations, and less work satisfaction was stronger for men than women. We discuss the results in terms of expectancy norm violations and sexual harassment as a form of dominance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News and Information You Can Use

If it's Friday, and I think it is, it must be time for some good fitness info. In this week's edition, we have a great article on using bodyweight exercises for strength and size from Jason Ferruggia, two great articles from T-Nation (one on the "Olympic deadlift" and one on cortisol), and a final article from Eric Cressey on coming back from injury to do overhead presses.

Top 20 Bodyweight Exercises for Building Muscle and Strength

Jason Ferruggia
 
Bodyweight exercises need to be part of your program if you want to get jacked.
 

But not just pushups, sit ups and high rep calisthenics.
 

That’s beginner stuff that won’t build any real muscle.
 

We’re talking about really working hard on high tension, advanced bodyweight exercises that can only be done for somewhere between five and ten reps, on average.
 

The nice thing about these is that they’re very natural and can usually be done pain free by most people.
 

They can be added to any program along with barbells, dumbbells and strongman implements.
 

That’s the ultimate combination for building high performance mass.
 

Or you can use nothing but bodyweight exercises. The choice is yours.
 

Below is a list of my top 20 bodyweight exercises for size and strength. 
*****

This article from T-Nation has provided me with a new exercise I very much like, the Olympic deadlift.

The Olympic Deadlift

by Amit Sapir
3/26/2014
 

Here's what you need to know...

  • The Olympic deadlift is a hybrid of the deadlift and the traditional Olympic clean pull.
  • What makes this exercise different from the traditional deadlift is that it involves a much greater range of motion. Think vertical jump, except your feet don't leave the floor.
  • Since the Olympic deadlift and the conventional deadlift share some similarities, you can transition straight into deadlifts after finishing your Olympic deads without a warm up.
  • Olympic deadlifts will build huge calves, traps, and hamstrings without working on them directly in separate exercises. They'll also improve your conditioning.
The "Olympic deadlift" is an exercise I created that's a hybrid between deadlifts and the traditional Olympic clean pull. The grip width and the starting position is the same as it is for a regular deadlift with the bar above your toes and your shoulders over the bar, but your finishing position is like the end of a clean pull where you end up on your toes and your shoulders almost touch your ears. There's also a pause at the end of the movement to put more emphasis on the calves and traps.
*****

Cortisol is a necessary hormone in the human body, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Excess cortisol can result in muscle breakdown and other undesirable effects. This article from T-Nation offers a good primer on cortisol.

The Two Faces of Cortisol

by Dr. Jade Teta
03/26/14



Here's what you need to know...
  • Cortisol, despite its bad reputation, is required for optimal health and actually burns fat, under the right circumstances.
  • Chronically elevated or continuously suppressed cortisol can be destructive. The key is balance.
  • You WANT cortisol high while you're exercising. During exercise, cortisol works with your other fat burning hormones to increase fat release.
  • Cortisol can cause cravings for junk foods – simultaneously shutting off the goal oriented centers of the brain and ramping up the reward centers of the brain. Bad combo for dieters.
  • The three best ways to control cortisol are diet, exercise, and lifestyle. The three easiest ways to assess if cortisol is balanced is by paying attention to hunger, energy, and cravings (HEC).
How Many Calories Does Stress Have?

I'll admit, this is a silly question. You can't eat stress! But this question makes a critical point about metabolism that the entire health and fitness world seems to miss: calories don't control metabolism, hormones do. And when it comes to hormones, the stress hormone cortisol is critical.

Not only can stress hormones impact how many calories you eat in a day, they can also impact the quality of calories you choose to eat and even influence how, and where, those calories might get stored or burned from. But if all that is true, how does the whole thing actually work? And what can you do about it?

Understanding Cortisol

The best way to think about hormones is as cellular messengers. They deliver information about what's happening outside the body to cells inside the body. A good way to think about cortisol is as the 911 hormone. It sends a message similar to first responders like firefighters and police officers. Cortisol plays both a protective role and adaptation role. It works against inflammation and also releases the body's sugar and fat stores to meet the demands of stress. Anything that poses a potential threat to the body will result in cortisol being called in to help.
*****
Eric Cressey has a developed a well-deserved reputation as the "shoulder guy." In this recent post, he shares some of his knowledge on how to get back to overhead pressing for those coming back from a shoulder injury.


How to Build Back to Overhead Pressing

Written on March 27, 2014, by Eric Cressey
shoulder-performance-dvdcover 
A lot of people refer to me as the “Shoulder Guy.” This came about, in part, because of the “Shoulder Savers” series I authored all the way back in 2006. In spite of the fact that they’re almost eight years old now, I still get emailers and seminar participants saying that those three articles were complete game-changers.

Well, since that time, I’ve personally evaluated more than 3,000 shoulders. And, with that experience comes a lot of new expertise in the shoulder arena. Today, I'd like to share one observation I've made. First, though, I have to tell a quick story to set the stage.

My role of the “shoulder guy” was actually somewhat born out of necessity, as I have a right shoulder that is structurally a mess (bone spurs, partial thickness rotator cuff tear, and very likely a labral tear and cranky, degenerative biceps tendon). Still, I’ve managed to work around it to move some solid weight around for a guy my size, and it doesn’t give me any problems at rest unless I do something stupid – most notably overhead pressing, and even incline pressing. Still, I miss my overhead work, so I tinker and experiment with things quite a bit to see what works. Last year, I talked about how landmine presses had been working. Effectively, they’re a nice “middle of the road” between overhead work and true horizontal pressing exercises.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coerced Sex Not Uncommon for Young Men, Teenage Boys


The stereotype is of the horny teenage boy coercing a girl into having sex with him. Turns out that this stereotype, like so many others, is not quite so true. 43% of high school age and young college men reported being coerced into sexual relations, 95% of them by a female acquaintance.


Coerced sex not uncommon for young men, teenage boys, study finds

March 25, 2014
American Psychological Association
Summary:
A large proportion of teenage boys and college men report having been coerced into sex or sexual behavior, according to research. A total of 43 percent of high school boys and young college men reported they had an unwanted sexual experience and of those, 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the aggressor, according to the study.
A large proportion of teenage boys and college men report having been coerced into sex or sexual behavior, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. 
A total of 43 percent of high school boys and young college men reported they had an unwanted sexual experience and of those, 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the aggressor, according to a study published online in the APA journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

"Sexual victimization continues to be a pervasive problem in the United States, but the victimization of men is rarely explored," said lead author Bryana H. French, PhD, of the University of Missouri. "Our findings can help lead to better prevention by identifying the various types of coercion that men face and by acknowledging women as perpetrators against men."

Of 284 U.S. high school and college students who responded to a survey about unwanted sexual encounters, 18 percent reported sexual coercion by physical force; 31 percent said they were verbally coerced; 26 percent described unwanted seduction by sexual behaviors; and 7 percent said they were compelled after being given alcohol or drugs, according to the study. Half of the students said they ended up having intercourse, 10 percent reported an attempt to have intercourse and 40 percent said the result was kissing or fondling.

Being coerced into having sexual intercourse was related to risky sexual behaviors and more drinking among the victims, and students who were sexually coerced while drunk or drugged showed significant distress, according to the findings. However, having unwanted sex did not appear to affect the victims' self-esteem. "It may be the case that sexual coercion by women doesn't affect males' self-perceptions in the same way that it does when women are coerced. Instead it may inadvertently be consistent with expectations of masculinity and sexual desire, though more research is needed to better understand this relationship," French said.

The type and frequency of sexual coercion varied according to the victims' ethnicity. Asian-American students reported significantly fewer sexual coercion experiences compared with the other groups. Whites reported a significantly greater proportion of coercion that resulted in attempted sex compared to multiracial victims. In the written descriptions, significantly more Latinos reported sexual coercion, at 40 percent compared with 8 percent of Asian-Americans, 19 percent of whites and 22 percent of African-American students.

The study participants consisted of 54 high school teens and 230 college students, ages 14 to 26. High school students completed the surveys on paper in the classroom. College students completed them electronically or in the classroom. Among the high school students, 42 percent were white, 17 percent black, 15 percent Asian-American, 15 percent Latino and 11 percent multiracial. The college students were 46 percent white, 21 percent black, 18 percent Asian-American, 10 percent Latino and 5 percent multiracial.

To differentiate sexual coercion from possible incidents of child abuse, the survey instructed students not to include experiences with family members. Examples of coercion included "My partner threatened to stop seeing me" for verbal; "My partner encouraged me to drink alcohol and then took advantage of me" for substance; "My partner threatened to use or did use a weapon" for physical; and "My partner has tried to interest me by sexually touching but I was not interested" for seduction. For additional information, researchers also asked participants to describe in writing a time they felt sexually coerced. The participants also responded to several commonly used psychological assessments to measure their psychological functioning, distress and risky behaviors.

The findings revealed a need for more scientific study of the thin line between sexual seduction and sexual coercion, the authors wrote. "While not typically addressed in sexual violence research, unwanted seduction was a particularly pervasive form of sexual coercion in this study, as well as peer pressure and a victim's own sense of an obligation. Seduction was a particularly salient and potentially unique form of coercion for teenage boys and young men when compared to their female counterparts," French said.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Bryana H. French, Jasmine D. Tilghman, Dominique A. Malebranche. (2014, Mar 17). Sexual Coercion Context and Psychosocial Correlates Among Diverse Males. Psychology of Men & Masculinity; 15(2). DOI: 10.1037/a0035915

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06

I'm not totally obsessed with cars by any stretch of the imagination. But I do like a beautiful and powerful car when I see one. The 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 is one of those cars.

The 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 Is an All-American Supercar

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The Corvette Z06 has always offered an insane amount of performance for the money, but its Ferrari-caliber hardware was cloaked in bodywork that could be mistaken for that of lesser, base-model 'Vettes. The new Z06 not only gets, as GM puts it, "at least" 625 horsepower – more than a McLaren 12C – but it finally looks like a world-class supercar. (Either that or the landing craft for an alien race.) The old Z06's low-key styling almost begged you not to notice. The new one nakedly proclaims its bad intentions and ambitions for world domination.



The Z06's fenders are lasciviously flared, two inches in front and three inches in back, to cover tires that look like they were stolen from a race car. With the optional aero package, the Z06 makes more downforce than any car GM has ever built. This thing's got more carbon fiber than the Dreamliner factory. The Z06 isn't exactly GM's cash cow and isn't important to the company the way the F-150 is to Ford or the 200 is to Chrysler. What it is, however, is a 200-mph middle finger to everyone who danced on GM's grave five years ago and said it wasn't worth saving. It's a kickass bedroom-poster car with the goods to convince a new generation that American vehicles can command the same respect as anything with a prancing horse on the fender.

Ezra Dyer for Men's Journal

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dr. Sarah McKay - How Finding Your Purpose Protects Your Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains

Do you know what your purpose is in life? Why you are here? Is there a set of values or beliefs around which you organize.

How Finding Your Purpose Protects Your Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains

By Dr. Sarah McKay
March 23, 2014


What is your purpose in life? Your passion. Your bliss. Your calling … Whatever you call it, we’re all searching for it to some extent. Mastin Kipp’s words sum it up for me: “Your bliss and your purpose are the same thing.”

If finding your north star is an elusive task, then perhaps taking a scientific approach to defining and measuring "purpose" might work as a discovery strategy.

Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist who specializes in Alzheimer's research defines "purpose in life" as: “the psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior.”

To measure purpose in life, researchers from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago asked over 900 older folks living in residential communities to rate their level of agreement from 1 to 5, to each of the following statements:
  • I feel good when I think of what I have done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.
  • I live life one day at a time and do not really think about the future.
  • I tend to focus on the present because the future nearly always brings me problems.
  • I have a sense of direction and purpose in life.
  • My daily activities often seem trivial and unimportant to me.
  • I used to set goals for myself, but that now seems like a waste of time.
  • I enjoy making plans for the future and working them to a reality.
  • I am an active person in carrying out the plans I set for myself.
  • Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.
  • I sometimes feel as if I have done all there is to do in life.
The researchers found that a high purpose in life score was linked to many positive health outcomes including:
  • Better mental health
  • Less depression
  • Happiness
  • Satisfaction
  • Personal growth, self-acceptance
  • Better sleep
  • Longevity
Startlingly, in the seven years of the study, 155 of 951 people developed Alzheimer’s disease. A more detailed analysis showed that those folks with high purpose in life scores had:
  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Less mild cognitive impairment
  • Slower rate of cognitive decline in old age
Explaining her findings to Science Daily, Patricia Boyle explained: "Somehow, having a purpose allows people to cope with the physical signs of Alzheimer's disease."

So what might be is the biological basis linking purpose and passion with brain health?

The researchers in this study weren’t 100% sure, but neuroscience tells us that a lack of purpose in life is associated with the follower indicators of poor health:
  • High levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Markers of inflammation
  • Low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (the "good" cholesterol)
  • Abdominal fat
We know these factors probably combine to diminish the brain’s resilience to degeneration and aging. Brain resilience is also referred to as "brain reserve"—its ability to cope with increasing damage while still functioning adequately. So, if you’re still searching, neuroscience might just be able provide some pretty compelling evidence about why you should foster your purpose and passions. And maybe thinking about the questions posed to the older folks might just guide you to your north star.

If you're totally lost when it comes to your purpose, this piece may offer some pointers.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Do You Wanna Be a Dad? Four Important Questions to Ask Yourself


Too many men becomes fathers without actually thinking about it, without looking at the ways we must make sacrifices in our own desires and plans for the betterment of our children. In fact, in this country too many men become fathers because they don't practice safe sex and then must deal with consequences (or, as is too often the case, not take responsibility for the child they have created).

Perhaps we are not designed to think too deeply about these decisions - if we did, far fewer men would sacrifice 18+ years of their lives for a single unprotected orgasm.

And yes, I am childless by choice, so my bias is obvious here. Still, even though I am closing in on 50 years, I still get pressured occasionally to "have kids now before it's too late." Thank you, but no.

Do You Wanna Be a Dad?

Four important questions to ask yourself

Published on March 23, 2014 by Ellen Walker, Ph.D. in Complete Without Kids

Whether or not to have children is probably the most important choice in a man’s life. Just think about it: If you marry the wrong person, you can get a divorce. If you go into the wrong career, you can retool and try something else. If you move to the wrong neighborhood, you can pack up and relocate. But a child is your responsibility for the next eighteen years, and on some levels for the rest of your life.

Yet many men don’t step back and ask themselves if fatherhood is the right path for them until they have to jump into the role -- whether they really want to or not.

Instead of leaving your life to fate, why not consider these questions about fatherhood and how it would be for you?

1) Do you enjoy spending time with children and being in places that are child-friendly? Children don’t live in a bubble—they go to birthday parties and play soccer, and they like to have friends come over for play-dates. So, if you’re going to be a dad, you’d better think these activities are fun, because you’re going to be overseeing a lot of them!
Related Links
2) Do you have an easy-going temperament, and do you not mind clutter? Children cry in inappropriate places, have medical emergencies, and create clutter. It’s critical that a parent is flexible, patient, and able to change plans readily. Kids can be noisy and messy, and dinnertime in most homes is not an adult sanctuary! Having a child means giving up quiet, tidy meals and cleaning up spilled milk on a routine basis.

3) Do you like the idea of teaching and setting limits with children, and do you think that learning how to do this -- even with a challenging kid -- would be rewarding for you? Your child will need constant guidance and boundaries. And you cannot predict if you’ll have a child with special needs, requiring even greater levels of parenting. Remember, parenting is not being a best buddy. You’re there to raise your child so that he can go out into the world as a responsible, independent adult.

4) When you imagine your life ten years from now, do you see yourself as a father? Are you relishing -- rather than resenting -- this role? Keep in mind that raising a child to age 21 costs $241,000—and it takes on average eight hours a day to raise two kids to the age of eighteen. So if you’re going that route, you’d better think it’s well worth the expense, both in time and money! Does the idea of getting up in the night to take care of a sick child raise your blood pressure? Remember that parenting means being a doctor, nurse, social planner, math tutor, chauffer, bail bondsman, chaperone, and etiquette instructor to a small human who can be obnoxious and disrespectful.

Also consider that you may have to sacrifice your expensive and time-consuming recreational pursuits for fatherhood. If you’re not willing to do so, then it’s is probably not for you.

Don’t forget that parenting is an option (unless you’ve already had a child). Once you’re there, you can’t back out. As I discuss in my book, Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance, many young people today are making the decision to not become parents, and to instead focus their time and energy on other pursuits. Childfree adults, for the most part, describe their lives as rich and full. Meanwhile, being a parent is no walk in the park; it’s a serious and challenging job. More and more parents are admitting that they wish they’d thought it through more carefully because now they feel unfilled and frustrated in parenthood.So carefully consider the questions above -- and look before you leap!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News and Information You Can Use

Another Friday, and another installment of Fitness Friday - a collection of the week's best training information.

To start this week, here is some good information from T-Nation, featuring two of the smartest guys in the business, Dan John and Charles Staley:

10 Secrets to Building Mass

by Dan John   
03/18/14



Here's what you need to know...
•  If you have 14-inch arms and want to start a mass building program, don't worry about your stupid abs (for a while.)

•  The best movements for mass building make up a very short list and you need to do them every time you train, as mastery of the movements is a key to mass building.

•  There's something magical about mass gains around the 5-10 rep range and the last century of strength enthusiasts will bear this out, too.
So you want to put on mass, fast. I have a program that will do just that, but first, some guidelines . . . .
* * * * *

Training Hard vs. Training Smart

by Charles Staley
3/19/14

Here's what you need to know...
•  What better describes your training personality? Are you a detail-oriented training geek who's read all the studies? Or are you an intensity-focused, leave-blood-on-the-bar meathead?

•  Ideally, a combination of both is best, and the key is to find your sweet spot.

•  If you've never been injured you could be a really smart lifter... or you could be just not working hard enough.

•  If you fall too far on one end of the spectrum, answer a few questions honestly and you can trend toward your ideal sweet spot for making progress.
There are a number of ways you might break down the various elements that result in a successful training program, but let's look at a hypothetical "sweet spot" that resides on a continuum between two of these elements. Namely, training smart and training hard.
* * * * *

Front Squat vs. Goblet Squat

by Dan Blewett
3/20/14


Here's what you need to know...
•  The goblet squat is great for teaching technique to beginners and for major squat movements where weight isn't the focus. It's a great warm-up and good for when you're focusing on time under tension and higher reps. It's tough to progress though once you're ready to go heavy.

•  The front squat requires significant coordination, core strength, back rigidity, and overall leg strength. A more quad-dominant squat variation, the front squat typically allows for the best depth, even south of the goblet squat. But bar placement can be tough for many lifters.
Anteriorly loaded squat variations require significant core, quad, and upper back strength. We're mainly talking about the front squat and a relative newcomer, the goblet squat. Which is best for you? Let's match them up, grade them, and see which variation reigns supreme.
* * * * *

This excellent article comes from Eric Cressey High Performance Training blog.

5 Characteristics of Successful Metabolic Resistance Training Programs

Written on March 18, 2014, by Eric Cressey
1-armfarmers
Metabolic resistance training (MRT) has been all the rage in the fitness industry over the past few years. And, while people have started to appreciate that interval training is a better option for fat loss than steady-state aerobic activity, that doesn't mean that they've learned to effectively program this interval training – especially when it involves appreciable resistance, as with MRT. In other words, it's much easier to program intervals on the recumbent bike than it is to include kettlebell swings, as one obviously has to be much more cognizant of perfect technique with the swing. With that in mind, with today's post, I'll highlight five characteristics of safe and effective metabolic resistance training programs. 
Here are the five points he makes about well-constructed metabolic resistance training programs.
1. The must include self-limiting exercises.
2. There has to be sufficient total work to achieve a training effect.
3. The work intervals must be short enough to preserve a high effort level and good technique.
4. The programming must appreciate the influence of "other" stress.
5. There must be adequate equipment and sufficient space available.
* * * * *

Finally, for this week, here are five tips from Charles Poliquin on getting ripped for summer.

How To Get Your Body Ready For Summer: Five Steps To A Killer Physique

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Want to lose a few pounds of body fat so you have a lean, strong physique come summer?

Or are you planning on packing on some muscle, while simultaneously cutting excess flab so you finally have that killer body you’ve always dreamed of?

Here are five simple tips for making it happen. The good news: These five strategies will improve your metabolic health instead of killing your metabolism so that you’ll be able to keep the body fat off FOREVER.
Here are Poliquin's five tips - read the post for more information.
#1: Do Metabolically Stressful Training To Lose Body Fat Fast
#2: To Put on Muscle, Focus on “Stressing Out” Your Muscles
#3: Favor Sprints Over Steady-State Cardio
#4: Focus on Food Quality and Up Your Protein
#5: Reduce Stress with Diet—Focus On Recovery

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Irish Footballer Thanks “Girlfriends, Boyfriends” Of Teammates In Front Of Packed Crowd (Queerty)

The times they are a changing . . . and for the better it seems, if this is any indication.

Irish Footballer Thanks “Girlfriends, Boyfriends” Of Teammates In Front Of Packed Crowd

This is our kind of ally.

In a victory speech at the All Ireland club football championship, St. Vincent team captain Ger Brennan did what many team captains before him have done: thanked the families of his teammates for their support.

Except this is the first time the girlfriends and boyfriends of the footballers have been thanked.

What we really love about Brennan’s comment is how much of a total non-event it seems to be for him to acknowledge gay teammates in front of a crowd full of fans.

And in what’s sure to be a shock to socially conservative idiots the world over, the stadium doesn’t start to crumble. Parents aren’t forced to shield their young, and hell doesn’t crack the field open enveloping everyone in a torturous flaming abyss.

In fact, nothing happens at all except a seamless celebration of the teams victory.

It’s quite a beautiful thing to witness. And the accent isn’t hurting.

Teammates of high profile athletes like Michael Sam and Jason Collins take note.

Here’s the clip:


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dartmouth Student Publishes “Rape Guide,” and it Results in Rape of a Young Woman Named on the Website

Any man - any human being - who would do this is a person without a conscious, otherwise known as a psychopath (antisocial personality disorder). The men responsible for the website and/or the rape should not simply be expelled, they should be arrested and charged with rape and conspiracy to commit rape.

For those men who argue there is no such thing as a "rape culture" in this country, here is the smoking gun that all of your denials are bullshit. THIS is what happens in a rape culture - rapists post "guides" on how to rape specific women and then those women get raped.

Activists demand reform after Dartmouth student publishes “rape guide”

Nearly 50,000 activists have called on Dartmouth to take immediate action to "curb the sexual assault
crisis"

Katie Mcdonough
Friday, Mar 14, 2014 


(Credit: WeNews via Flickr Creative Commons)

A student at Dartmouth College who says she was sexually assaulted on campus last month has inspired nearly 50,000 activists to call on university officials to “take action immediately to curb the sexual assault crisis” on campus.

The student said she was raped at a fraternity party weeks after a a student-affiliated website published a “rape guide” providing her name and a series of “tips” encouraging students to assault her. The incident inspired the feminist advocacy group UltraViolet to start a petition demanding accountability from the Dartmouth administration, and the issue has generated an outpouring of support and demands for change from across the country.

“Student groups have asked the school to list expulsion as the punishment for rape in the student handbook and to block access to the ‘rape guide’ website on campus. But school authorities haven’t taken any of these recommendations seriously,” the petition states. “Usually, stories like this get little attention from the news media. But if all of us speak up, Dartmouth won’t be able to hide.”

As Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress notes, Dartmouth is currently under federal investigation for alleged Title IX violations, and students have also filed a Clery Act complaint stating that school officials have failed to properly report sexual assault and hazing incidents on campus.

UltraViolet campaign Director Karin Roland told ThinkProgress that she hopes the public outcry will lead to genuine reform. “Dartmouth has had a problem with rape and sexual assault for decades. They have a long history with this issue, and student groups on campus are finally fed up and are leading the charge,” she said. “With the help of an online network of members at Ultraviolet to capture the grassroots outrage, we can really make change on this right now.”

She also said that online advocacy has helped the movement to combat sexual violence — on campus and beyond — reach a tipping point.

“Women are really fed up with rape being excused. I think that’s true on campuses, I think that’s true in our justice system, I think that’s true at the high school level, and I think that’s just becoming true across the country,” Roland explained. “The ability to connect over online networks has really empowered women to stand up and do something. If you look at everything from the reaction to Todd Akin’s legitimate rape comment, to Steubenville, to Dartmouth, you can see that women aren’t putting up with it anymore.”

The outcry from activists across the country has helped keep Dartmouth in the headlines, but much of the work is coming from student activists and faculty members from the Dartmouth community.

An editorial from Women’s and Gender Studies Professor Giavanna Munafo called on campus officials to institute policies that directly addressed sexual assault on campus. “Dartmouth has harnessed a great many resources in recent months to combat sexual assault, and this is, indeed, a good thing. But it is not enough,” she wrote. “No bystander training program, no committee, no first-responder training or added staff positions will stop rape or transform a culture that accepts and even promotes it.”

Dartmouth officials have responded to the petition by pointing out that the student responsible for the “rape guide” is currently facing disciplinary action, and it committed to making the Dartmouth community “better and safer.”

Dartmouth is just one of the 41 colleges and universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for potential violations of Title IX.

~ Katie McDonough is an assistant editor for Salon, focusing on lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

Epigenetics: The Sins of the Father

From Nature News, this is an excellent overview of what we know - and how much we do NOT know - about epigenetics. We are beginning to see the degree to which epigenetic variations can be transmitted from one generation to the next, but we still have very little idea how that process works.

[NOTE: the title of this article refers to a study with mice in which male mice were trained to be afraid of acetophenone, a sweet smelling substance, by pairing the scent with a mild electric shock. The male mice were later mated with females who had not experienced the conditioning. Their offspring showed an unusual sensitivity to the acetophenone scent, more so than other scents. And the grandchildren of the original male mice also showed an unusual sensitivity to acetophenone.]

Epigenetics: The sins of the father

The roots of inheritance may extend beyond the genome, but the mechanisms remain a puzzle.

Virginia Hughes
05 March 2014


20th Century Fox/The Kobal Collection

When Brian Dias became a father last October, he was, like any new parent, mindful of the enormous responsibility that lay before him. From that moment on, every choice he made could affect his newborn son's physical and psychological development. But, unlike most new parents, Dias was also aware of the influence of his past experiences — not to mention those of his parents, his grandparents and beyond.

Where one's ancestors lived, or how much they valued education, can clearly have effects that pass down through the generations. But what about the legacy of their health: whether they smoked, endured famine or fought in a war?

As a postdoc in Kerry Ressler's laboratory at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Dias had spent much of the two years before his son's birth studying these kinds of questions in mice. Specifically, he looked at how fear associated with a particular smell affects the animals and leaves an imprint on the brains of their descendants.

Dias had been exposing male mice to acetophenone — a chemical with a sweet, almond-like smell — and then giving them a mild foot shock. After being exposed to this treatment five times a day for three days, the mice became reliably fearful, freezing in the presence of acetophenone even when they received no shock.

Ten days later, Dias allowed the mice to mate with unexposed females. When their young grew up, many of the animals were more sensitive to acetophenone than to other odours, and more likely to be startled by an unexpected noise during exposure to the smell. Their offspring — the 'grandchildren' of the mice trained to fear the smell — were also jumpier in the presence of acetophenone. What's more, all three generations had larger-than-normal 'M71 glomeruli', structures where acetophenone-sensitive neurons in the nose connect with neurons in the olfactory bulb. In the January issue of Nature Neuroscience1, Dias and Ressler suggested that this hereditary transmission of environmental information was the result of epigenetics — chemical changes to the genome that affect how DNA is packaged and expressed without altering its sequence.

Biologists first observed this 'transgenerational epigenetic inheritance' in plants. Tomatoes, for example, pass along chemical markings that control an important ripening gene2. But, over the past few years, evidence has been accumulating that the phenomenon occurs in rodents and humans as well. The subject remains controversial, in part because it harks back to the discredited theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a nineteenth-century French biologist who proposed that organisms pass down acquired traits to future generations. To many modern biologists, that's “scary-sounding”, says Oliver Rando, a molecular biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, whose work suggests that such inheritance does indeed happen in animals3. If it is true, he says, “Why hasn't this been obvious to all the brilliant researchers in the past hundred years of genetics?”.

One reason why many remain sceptical is that the mechanism by which such inheritance might work is mysterious. Explaining it will require a deep dive into reproductive biology to demonstrate how the relevant signals might be formed in the germ line, the cells that develop into sperm and eggs and carry on, at a minimum, a person's genetic legacy.

A mother might pass on effects of environmental exposures to a fetus during pregnancy. So, to study the phenomenon of transgenerational epigenetics cleanly, biologists are focusing on fathers, and have been looking at how sperm might gain and lose epigenetic marks. “In the past two to three years there's been a lot of new information,” says Michelle Lane, a reproductive biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia. But proposals for how it all works are themselves embryonic. “It's a huge black box,” Lane says.


Monster plants and obese children

The epigenetics revolution hit in the early 2000s, when scientists began reporting that environmental factors — everything from neglectful mothering and child abuse to a high-fat diet and air pollution — can influence the addition or removal of chemical tags on DNA that turn genes on and off. This idea of an environmentally responsive genome still stirs debate (see Nature 467, 146–148; 2010). But the notion that epigenetic marks are transmitted across generations is even more provocative.

Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus was among the first to spot changes resulting from this phenomenon. In the 1740s, he received a plant specimen that looked very similar to common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), but with very different flowers. Linnaeus was shocked because this challenged his theory that plant species could be categorized by the structure of their flowers. “This is certainly no less remarkable,” he wrote, “than if a cow were to give birth to a calf with a wolf's head.” He named the plant Peloria, after the Greek word for 'monster'.

In the 1990s, plant biologist Enrico Coen at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, found that in the monster plants, methyl groups litter a gene involved in flower structure called Lcyc, completely shutting it down. (DNA methylation usually turns genes off.) Coen's team also showed that these methyl marks pass through seeds to later generations4.

The public first started to take notice in the mid-2000s, after large epidemiological investigations in Europe began to show transgenerational effects in humans. One study of Swedish historical records showed that men who had experienced famine before puberty were less likely to have grandsons with heart disease or diabetes than men who had plenty to eat5. Similar work with children in Britain reported in 2005 that fathers who had started smoking before the age of 11 had an increased risk of having boys of above average weight6.

But many scientists remained sceptical. Epidemiological studies are often messy, and it is impossible to rule out all confounding variables. In the past few years, however, several studies in rodents have supported these observations and begun to attribute the transmission of various traits to changes in sperm.

Sperm signatures


Male rats fed a high-fat diet, for example, beget daughters with abnormal DNA methylation in the pancreas7. Male mice fed a low-protein diet have offspring with altered liver expression of cholesterol genes3. And male mice with pre-diabetes have abnormal sperm methylation, and pass on an increased risk of diabetes to the next two generations8.

“We and many other people have now shown these paternal effects,” says Rando, who led the low-protein study. “And we're all having a hell of a time figuring out how they work.”

The animal studies have triggered some strong debate. The most controversial results have come out of Michael Skinner's lab at Washington State University in Pullman. Skinner's team exposed pregnant rats to large doses of pesticides and fungicides, which led to organ damage in their adult offspring. The sperm of male offspring showed changes in DNA methylation that persisted for at least four generations9.

But at least two groups failed to replicate the data, and in 2010, federal investigators found that one of Skinner's postdocs had fabricated data for a related paper, which the authors had retracted in 2009. Skinner says that some teams have replicated his results, and that those who have not were using inappropriate protocols. Last year, his own team reported successfully reproducing the results of the retracted paper10.

Methylation mechanism


Explaining how transgenerational epigenetics works has been difficult in part because most studies track outcomes — such as changes in glucose, cholesterol and fertility — that can be affected by a range of factors, making it tricky to tease out cause and effect. By contrast, Dias and Ressler's work with acetophenone takes advantage of specific biology: the chemical binds to a particular receptor in the nose that is encoded by a single gene, dubbed Olfr151. “This is the massive pro of their study,” Rando says.

Dias and Ressler do not claim to understand exactly what is going on, but they do have a working hypothesis. Somehow, the information about the frightening smell gets into a mouse's testes and results in lower methylation of the Olfr151 gene in sperm DNA. The researchers even ran experiments using in vitro fertilization to make sure that the father was not in some way passing on a fear of acetophenone through interactions with the mother. The epigenetic tweak in the sperm is perpetuated in the offspring's DNA, leading to increased expression of the receptor in the animals' noses and, ultimately, enhanced sensitivity to the smell.

But the chain of causation is loose. “There are a lot of disconnects there,” says William Kelly, a developmental geneticist at Emory. “It's not beyond the realm of possibility or plausibility. It's just right now we don't know enough about how information is transferred between generations.”

The first question is how the effects of environmental exposure become embedded in an animal's germ cells — in this case, the mouse's sperm. Germ cells have been shown to express olfactory receptors11. So it is possible that Olfr151 receptors in sperm respond to odorant molecules in the bloodstream and then change the methylation of the corresponding gene in sperm DNA.

Alternatively, after being exposed to the odour and the pain, a mouse might produce RNA molecules — perhaps in the brain — that make their way into the bloodstream and then selectively target the Olfr151 gene in sperm. Many studies in plants have hinted at this sort of systemic RNA shuttling. RNA molecules expressed in a plant's leaf, for example, can travel through its vascular system to many of its other tissues and affect gene expression12.

But creating an epigenetic mark in the sperm is only the first step. To pass down through multiple generations, the signal needs to survive multiple rounds of rigorous epigenetic reprogramming. In mammals, the first of these happens just hours after conception, when most methylation is stripped from sperm DNA in the single-celled embryo. Then, as the embryo develops and divides, and cells begin to differentiate into various tissue types, methylation is gradually re-established. But even if some signal from the father were to survive this process, the embryo's own primordial germ cells, those that eventually become its sperm or eggs, undergo a second round of epigenetic scrubbing (see 'Without a trace').

Some genes manage to escape these periods of major reprogramming. The best example is genes that are imprinted — whereby one copy from the mother or father is robustly methylated and effectively silenced. These silencing marks crop up in the egg or sperm and are retained in the embryo.

About 100 genes are known to be imprinted, but some non-imprinted genes may also escape the scrubbing through a similar mechanism. “There is a growing consensus that there are more regions than previously thought that escape reprogramming in sperm,” says Sarah Kimmins, an epigeneticist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “Why this is, and how, is not yet known, although studying imprinted genes may reveal clues.”

Then again, even if Olfr151 does escape reprogramming, it is hard to explain how that could lead to a noticeable difference in the behaviour of fully formed offspring. Dias and Ressler reported that in sperm samples from mice trained to fear acetophenone, about 86 out of every 100 sperm show Olfr151 methylation, whereas in mice trained to fear a different odour it is about 95 out of every 100. This difference is statistically significant, but fairly small. And yet the behavioural effects in the second generation were robust: about half of the acetophenone-trained animals' offspring showed increased sensitivity to the odour.

'Something goofball'?


Although many are scratching their heads over the holes in the proposed mechanism, few are suggesting that the underlying phenomenon is a fairy tale. “Impossible things are happening every day,” says Kelly, quoting a line from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.

It is possible, for example, that the DNA-methylation tweaks reported in the odour study are simply a by-product of an altogether different mechanism.

One route might be chemical marks on histones, the proteins around which DNA wraps. Acetyl and methyl groups can attach to histones and affect the expression of nearby DNA. But during sperm-cell formation, DNA is stripped of most of its histones (and their attendant marks) and wraps instead around protamines, which pack it more tightly.

Nevertheless, about 10% of human histones — and about 1% of mouse ones — are retained. These sites might carry information from one generation to the next. In 2011, researchers reported that, in nematode worms, certain histone marks correlate with long life and can be passed down through several generations13. And last December, Kimmins and her colleagues showed that feeding male mice a diet low in folate — a nutrient that provides the raw materials for methylation — led to significantly reduced methylation of histone proteins in the animals' sperm and more birth defects in their offspring14.

Still other studies point to a mechanism involving short RNA molecules latching on to DNA and affecting gene expression. Twenty-eight microRNAs are expressed differently in the sperm of men who do and do not smoke, according to a study reported in 2012 (ref. 15). And these RNA patterns may persist through multiple generations. Last year, Lane's group found that obese male mice show abnormal expression of 11 microRNAs in their sperm — and that they pass on insulin resistance to the next two generations16.

Then there is the possibility that the mechanism is, as Rando puts it, “something goofball”. That might be prions — misfolded proteins that act as infectious agents — which have been shown to transmit heritable traits in budding yeast (see Nature 482, 294–296; 2012). Or it could be something in semen besides sperm. Researchers reported in January17 that mice born of fathers lacking seminal vesicles are fatter and have more metabolic problems than controls, suggesting that molecules in seminal fluid influence gene expression in sperm and the female reproductive tract.

If the mechanism involves DNA methylation, histones or RNA, the field is likely to make great progress in the next few years, Rando predicts. “But if it's something completely novel,” he says, “Maybe it will take decades to Figure out.”

Dias has his fingers crossed for the former. He is going to Boston, Massachusetts, in April for a Keystone meeting on epigenetic inheritance, to get a sense of the most promising mechanistic avenues to follow. “If science has taught me anything,” he says, “it is to not discount the myriad ways of becoming and being.”

Nature 507:22–24 (06 March 2014) | doi:10.1038/507022a

References

  1. Dias, B. G. & Ressler, K. J. Nature Neurosci. 17, 89–96 (2014). Article
  2. Manning, K. et al. Nature Genet. 38, 948–952 (2006). Article
  3. Carone, B. R. et al. Cell 143, 1084–1096 (2010). Article
  4. Cubas, P., Vincent, C. & Coen, E. Nature 401, 157–161 (1999). Article
  5. Kaati, G., Bygren, L. O. & Edvinsson, S. Eur. J. Hum. Genet. 10, 682–688 (2002). Article
  6. Pembrey, M. E. et al. Eur. J. Hum. Genet. 14, 159–166 (2006). Article
  7. Ng, S.-F. et al. Nature 467, 963–966 (2010). Article
  8. Wei, Y. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 1873–1878 (2014). Article
  9. Anway, M. D., Cupp, A. S., Uzumcu, M. & Skinner, M. K. Science 308, 1466–1469 (2005).  Article
  10. Skinner, M. K., Haque, C. G.-B., Nilsson, E., Bhandari, R. & McCarrey, J. R. PLoS ONE 8, e66318 (2013). Article
  11. Goto, T., Salpekar, A. & Monk, M. Mol. Hum. Reprod. 7, 553–558 (2001).  Article
  12. Dunoyer, P. et al. Science 328, 912–916 (2010). Article
  13. Greer, E. L. et al. Nature 479, 365–371 (2011). Article
  14. Lambrot, R. et al. Nature Commun. 4, 2889 (2013). Article
  15. Marczylo, E. L., Amoako, A. A., Konje, J. C., Gant, T. W. & Marczylo, T. H. Epigenetics 7, 432–439 (2012). Article
  16. Fullston, T. et al. FASEB J. 27, 4226–4243 (2013). Article
  17. Bromfield, J. J. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 2200–2205 (2014). Article

Related stories and links

From nature.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rethinking Decades of Bad Science on Saturated Fats and Health

Sausages

New research reported in many media sources yesterday refutes the connection between saturated fat and heart disease that has been taken as absolute truth for decades now. The article below is from Science 2.0. The researchers also found that consuming polyunsaturated fats like omega-3s also has little or no impact on cardiovascular disease.

That said, I will continue to enjoy grass-fed beef, eggs, and chicken sausages, as well as almond, sunflower, and cashew butters.


Do Saturated Fats Really Cause Heart Disease?

By News Staff | March 17th 2014

An international collaboration recently analyzed existing cohort studies and randomized trials on coronary risk and fatty acid intake and drew a conclusion that will surprise you if you only get your science and health news from mainstream newspapers or television - the evidence to support restricting the consumption of saturated fats in order to prevent heart disease isn't there.

And consumption of polyunsaturated fats is probably not a bad idea but there is insufficient evidence for guidelines which advocate the high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3 and omega 6) to reduce the risk of coronary disease.

When specific fatty acid subtypes (such as different types of omega 3) were examined, the effects of the fatty acids on cardiovascular risk varied even within the same broad 'family' – questioning the existing dietary guidelines that focus principally on the total amount of fat from saturated or unsaturated rather than the food sources of the fatty acid subtypes.

Lead author Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury of the University of Cambridge, said, "These are interesting results that potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage careful reappraisal of our current nutritional guidelines.

"Cardiovascular disease, in which the principal manifestation is coronary heart disease, remains the single leading cause of death and disability worldwide. In 2008, more than 17 million people died from a cardiovascular cause globally. With so many affected by this illness, it is critical to have appropriate prevention guidelines which are informed by the best available scientific evidence."

For the meta-analysis, the researchers analyzed data from 72 unique studies with over 600,000 participants from 18 nations. The investigators found that total saturated fatty acid, whether measured in the diet or in the bloodstream as a biomarker, was not associated with coronary disease risk in the observational studies. Similarly, when analyzing the studies that involved assessments of the consumption of total monounsaturated fatty acids, long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, there were no significant associations between consumption and cardiovascular risk.

Interestingly, the investigators found that different subtypes of circulating long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids had different associations with coronary risk, with some evidence that circulating levels of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (two main types of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids), and arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fat) are each associated with lower coronary risk.

Similarly, within saturated fatty acid, the researchers found weak positive associations between circulating palmitic and stearic acids (found largely in palm oil and animal fats, respectively) and cardiovascular disease, whereas circulating margaric acid (a dairy fat) significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, when the authors investigated the effects of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplementations on reducing coronary disease in the randomised controlled trials, they did not find any significant effects – indicating a lack of benefit from these nutrients.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the study, said, "This analysis of existing data suggests there isn't enough evidence to say that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. But large scale clinical studies are needed, as these researchers recommend, before making a conclusive judgment.

"Alongside taking any necessary medication, the best way to stay heart healthy is to stop smoking, stay active, and ensure our whole diet is healthy – and this means considering not only the fats in our diet but also our intake of salt, sugar and fruit and vegetables."


Full Citation:
Rajiv Chowdhury, MD, PhD; Samantha Warnakula, MPhil; Setor Kunutsor, MD, MSt; Francesca Crowe, PhD; Heather A. Ward, PhD; Laura Johnson, PhD; Oscar H. Franco, MD, PhD; Adam S. Butterworth, PhD; Nita G. Forouhi, MRCP, PhD; Simon G. Thompson, FMedSci; Kay-Tee Khaw, FMedSci; Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH; John Danesh, FRCP; Emanuele Di Angelantonio, MD, PhD , Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Ann Intern Med. 2014; 160(6):398-406-406. doi: 10.7326/M13-1788. Source: University of Cambridge

Monday, March 17, 2014

Robert Sapolsky - Metaphors Are Us (from Nautilus)

This is an old article (from April 2013) by Stanford professor of biology and neurology Robert Sapolsky, the author of many books, including Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (Third Edition) (1994/2004), Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals (2005), and A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons (2001).

In this excellent article from Nautilus, Sapolsky examines the use of metaphor in humans, perhaps the last vestige of human exceptionalism not yet demonstrated in other animals.

The topic of metaphors is rich territory for digging deep and going down the rabbit hole. Two excellent books, both by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, are Metaphors We Live By (1980/2003) and Philosophy in the Flesh: the Embodied Mind & its Challenge to Western Thought (1999). The latter book deals with how body-based metaphors permeate our language and our understanding of the world around us. After all, the first tool of measurement we had was a foot, and taking a leap of faith is not dissimilar to jumping off a cliff (physically).

Metaphors Are Us

War, murder, music, art. We would have none without metaphor.

By Robert Sapolsky
Illustration by John Hendrix April 29, 2013

THE OTHER DAY I fixed something—a rarity for me. The flotation device in the toilet water tank was rubbing against the side, getting stuck halfway up so that the tank didn’t fill completely. I own a hammer and know how to operate it. But I couldn’t fit it into the tank to whack the device back into place. Ditto for owning and using a wrench. It wouldn’t fit either. But fortunately I also own a plunger and I used its handle to push the floating thing back the other way, using the side of the tank as a fulcrum. It worked, although the device got bent so that the top of the tank didn’t quite fit. That overwhelmed me, so I called it a good day’s work.

I was proud of myself. “There,” I thought smugly. “It’s not just chimps who can use tools.”

Humans used to be unique in lots of ways. We were the only species who made tools, murdered each other, passed on culture. And each of those supposed defining features has now been demonstrated in other species. We’re not so special after all. But there are still ways that humans appear to stand alone. One of those is hugely important: the human capacity to think symbolically. Metaphors, similes, parables, figures of speech—they exert enormous power over us. We kill for symbols, die for them. Yet symbols generate one of the most magnificent human inventions: art.

In recent years scientists from leading universities, including UCLA, University College London, and Yale, have made remarkable insights into the neurobiology of symbols. A major finding from their work is that the brain is not very good at distinguishing between the metaphorical and literal. In fact, as scientists have shown us, symbols and metaphors, and the morality they engender, are the product of clunky processes in our brains.

Symbols serve as a simplifying stand-in for something complex. (A rectangle of cloth with stars and stripes represents all of American history and values.) And this is very useful. To see why, start by considering basic language—communication without a lot of symbolic content. Suppose you are being menaced by something terrifying and so scream your head off. Someone listening can’t tell if the blood-curdling “Aiiiii!” means an approaching comet, right-wing death squad, or Komodo dragon. It just means that things are majorly not right, a generic scream where the message is the meaning. This present-tense emotionality is what communication by animals is mostly about.

Symbolic language brought huge evolutionary advantages. This can be seen even in the baby steps of symbolism of other species. When vervet monkeys, for instance, spot a predator, they don’t just generically scream. They use distinct vocalizations, different “proto-words,” where one means, “Aiiiiii!, predator on the ground, run up the tree,” and the other means, “Aiiiiii!, predator in the air, run down the tree.” It’s mighty useful to have evolved the cognitive capacity to make that distinction. Who would want to guess wrong and dash up to the top of a tree when the problem is a raptor swooping down?

Language pries apart a message from its meaning, and as our hominid ancestors kept getting better at this separation, great individual and social advantages accrued. We became capable of representing emotions in the past and possible emotions in the future, as well as things that have nothing to do with emotion. We evolved a uniquely dramatic means of separating message from meaning and intent: lying. And we invented asthetic symbolism; after all, those 30,000-year-old paintings of horses in Chauvet cave are not really horses.

Our early use of symbols helped forge powerful bonds and rules of cooperation, as human societies grew increasingly complex and competitive. A recent study by Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia and Azim Shariff of the University of Oregon revealed that, across 186 societies, the larger the typical social group, the more likely it was the culture created a god who monitored and judged human morality—perhaps the ultimate symbol of rule enforcement.


HOW DID OUR BRAINS evolve to mediate this complexity? In an awkward way. As has been said, evolution is not an inventor, it’s a tinkerer, making do with the pieces at hand. While a squid can’t swim as fast as many fish, it swims pretty fast for something that evolved from mollusks. Similarly, while the human brain turns out to handle symbols and metaphors in an inelegant way, it still does a pretty good job for something that evolved from brains that only processed the literal. The best way to shine a light on this unwieldy process is through metaphors for two feelings critical to survival: pain and disgust.

Consider the following: you stub your toe. Pain receptors there send messages to the spine and on up to the brain, where various regions kick into action. Some of these areas tell you about location, intensity, and quality. Is it your left toe or right ear that hurts? Was your toe stubbed or crushed by a tractor-trailer? This is the meat-and-potatoes of pain processing, found in every mammal.

But there are fancier, more recently evolved parts of the brain in the frontal cortex that assess the meaning of the pain. Maybe it’s bad news: your stubbed toe signals the start of some unlikely disease. Or maybe it’s good news: you’re going to get your firewalker diploma because the hot coals made your toes throb. Much of this assessing occurs in a frontal cortical region called the anterior cingulate. This structure is heavily involved in “error detection,” noting discrepancies between what is anticipated and what occurs. And pain from out of nowhere surely represents a discrepancy between the pain-free setting that you anticipate versus the painful reality.

Now let’s go a little deeper, based on work by Naomi Eisenberger at UCLA. While lying in a brain scanner, you play a game of virtual catch, where you and two people in another room toss a cyberball around on a computer screen. (In reality, there aren’t two other people, only a computer program.) In the control condition, you’re informed mid-play that there’s a computer glitch and you’re temporarily off-line. You watch the virtual ball get tossed between those two people. Now in the experimental setting, you’re playing with the other two and suddenly they start ignoring you and only toss the ball between them. Hey, how come they don’t want to play with me anymore? Junior high all over again. And the brain scanner shows that the neurons in your anterior cingulate activate.

In other words, rejection hurts. “Well, yeah,” you might say. “But that’s not like stubbing your toe.” It is to your anterior cingulate. Both abstract social and literal pain impact the same cingulate neurons.

We take things a step further with work by Tania Singer and Chris Frith at University College London. While in a brain scanner, you’re administered a mild shock, delivered through electrodes on your fingers. All the usual brain regions activate, including the anterior cingulate. Now you watch your beloved get shocked in the same way. The brain regions that ask, “Is it my finger or toe that hurts?” remain silent. It’s not their problem. But your anterior cingulate activates, and as far as it’s concerned, “feeling someone’s pain” isn’t just a figure of speech. You seem to feel the pain too. As evolution continued to tinker, it did something remarkable with humans. It duct-taped (metaphorically, of course) the anterior cingulate’s role in giving context to pain into a profound capacity for empathy.

We’re not the only empathic species. Chimps show empathy when, for example, they become more likely to groom someone who has been unfairly thrashed by an aggressive jerk of a chimp. And we’re not the only species with an anterior cingulate. But studies show the human anterior cingulate is more complex than in other species, with more connections to abstract, associational parts of the cortex, regions that can call your attention to the pains of the world, rather than the pain in your big toe.

And we feel someone else’s pain like no other species. We extend it over distance to help a refugee child on another continent. We extend it over time, feeling the terror of what are now mere human remains at Pompeii. We feel it embodied in words, as we contemplate George’s sadness that Lennie is never going to get his rabbits. (That part of Of Mice and Men never failed to leave me a sopping, tearful mess when I’d reread it obsessively as a kid.) We even feel empathic pain prompted by symbols encompassed in pixels. “Oh no, the poor Na’vi!” we cry, when Home Tree is destroyed in Avatar. Because the anterior cingulate has trouble remembering “it’s only a figure of speech,” it functions as if your heart is literally being torn out.


LET'S CONSIDER another domain where our brains’ shaky management of symbols adds tremendous power to a unique human quality: morality.

You’re in a brain scanner and because of the scientist’s weirdly persuasive request, you bite into some rotten food. Something rancid and fetid and skanky. This activates another part of the frontal cortex, the insula, which, among other functions, processes gustatory and olfactory disgust. It sends neuronal signals to face muscles that reflexively spit out that bite, and to your stomach muscles that make you puke. All mammals have an insula that processes gustatory disgust. After all, no animal wants to consume poison.

But we are the only animal where that process serves something more abstract. Think about eating something disgusting. Think about a mouthful of centipedes, chewing and swallowing them as they struggle, wiping off the little legs that you’ve drooled onto your lips. Whammo goes the insula, leaping into action, sending out its usual messages of disgust. Now think about something awful you once did, something deeply shameful. The insula activates. It has been co-opted into processing that human invention: moral disgust.

Is it a surprise that the human insula is involved in processing moral disgust along with gustatory disgust? Not when human behaviors can make us feel sick to our stomachs, can leave bad tastes in our mouths, can stink. When I heard about the massacre at Newtown, “feeling sick to my stomach” wasn’t just some symbolic figure-of-speech way of saying that I felt distressed. I felt nauseous. The insula not only prompts the stomach to purge itself of toxic food; it prompts our stomach to purge the reality of that nightmarish event. The distance between the symbolic message and the meaning shrinks.

As shown by Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto and Katie Liljenquist of Brigham Young University, if you’re forced to ruminate on a moral transgression of yours, you’re more likely to clean your hands afterward. And the scientists showed something even more provocative. They ask you to ruminate on your moral failings; afterward, you’re put in a position where you can respond to someone’s request for help. Wallow in your moral turpitude and you’re more likely to help. Unless you had a chance to wash post-wallowing. Then that urge to compensate for your transgression is gone; you’ve washed away your sins and gotten that damn spot out. Pontius Pilate and Lady Macbeth could lecture at scientific conferences about this one.

Remarkably, the way our brains use symbols to discern disgust and morality also contributes to political ideology. Work by scientists such as Kevin Smith of the University of Nebraska reveals that on the average conservatives have a lower threshold for visceral disgust than do liberals. Look at pictures of excrement or open sores undulating with maggots, and if your insula goes atypically berserk, chances are that you’re a conservative—but only about social issues, say, gay marriage, if you’re heterosexual. And if your insula just takes those maggots in stride, chances are you’re a liberal. In a study by Yoel Inbar of Tilburg University, David Pizarro of Cornell and Paul Bloom of Yale, participants, placed in a room with a wastebasket marinated in a stink spray (note to self: never do research in that lab) “showed less warmth toward gay men relative to heterosexual men.” In a control room, without the stink, participants evaluated gay and heterosexual men equally. In a nutty, smart, real world example, Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino mailed out campaign flyers impregnated with the smell of garbage during his GOP primary campaign for New York governor in 2010. His campaign trumpeted, “Something really stinks in Albany.” Paladino won his primary. (He stunk, however, in the general election, losing by a large margin to Andrew Cuomo.)

Our wobbly, symbol-dependent brains are molded by personal ideology and culture, shaping our perceptions, emotions, and convictions. We use symbols to demonize our enemies and wage war. The Hutu of Rwanda portrayed the enemy Tutsi as cockroaches. In Nazi propaganda posters, Jews were rats who carried dangerous microbes. Many cultures inculcate their members into acquiring symbols that repel, doing so by strengthening specific neural pathways from the cortex to the insula, pathways that you’d never find in another species. Depending on who you are, those pathways could be activated by the sight of a swastika or of two men kissing. Or perhaps by the thoughts of an abortion, or of a 10-year-old Yemeni girl forced to marry an old man. Our stomachs lurch, and we feel the visceral certainty of what is wrong. And we belong.

The same brain apparatus is behind symbols that move us to our most empathic, inclusive, and embracing. It is often art that does this most powerfully. We see the artistry of a skillful photojournalist—a photo of a child whose home was devastated by a natural disaster— and we reach for our wallets. If it is 1937, we don’t look at Picasso’s “Guernica” and see a menagerie of anatomically deformed mammals. Instead we see the devastation and feel the pain of a defenseless Basque village immolated during the Spanish Civil War. We feel moved to act against the Fascists and Nazis who conducted the aerial attack. Today we can feel moved to care about the fate of animals when we look at the simple artistic symbol, like a panda logo, of an environmental group.

Our metaphor-making brains are unique in the animal kingdom. But clearly we are dealing with a double-edged sword. We can dull the edge that demonizes, and sharpen the one that urges us to good acts.