The Week in Relevant Non-Revelatory Revelations

Not every piece of research is a contentious "Study of the Day." Most of them actually confirm what we would logically conclude, and it's heartening and important to hear that we're right once in a while.

5075055865_aa1f911418_zmain.jpgChocolate Reviews/Flickr

While we're humming along, unknowingly shortening our life spans in all sorts of fascinating ways, researchers are hard at work quantifying anything and everything. A lot of what they find is interesting, and some of it may even help us improve our health. But for every study that shakes our worldview by insisting that eggs may be nearly as bad for your arteries as cigarettes, scores of others are far less groundbreaking. But that doesn't make them unimportant.

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  • Exercise is good for your heart.

It's even good for us in space. This new study looked specifically at markers of inflammation in over 4,000 men, lower levels of which were found in participants who exercised at least 2.5 hours a week. The researchers were able to conclude that moderate exercise lowered the risk of heart disease in the population they studied. They emphasize that, as a ten year follow-up study, this is able to tell us more about the long-term effects of exercise on the heart.

As a reminder to older adults with heart conditions who want to count sex as their daily cardio, it's probably safe.

["Physical Activity and Inflammatory Markers Over 10 Years: Follow-Up in Men and Women from the Whitehall II Cohort Study," Circulation]

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  • You can't hide your age.

A study confirmed that deep down in our brains, behind the botox, face-lifts, and anti-aging snake oil, the truth comes out. Researchers used brain scans to identify 231 biomarkers that combine to reveal an individual's age. They claim that this system is more accurate, at 92 percent, than any other biological indicators of age.

["Neuroanatomical Assessment of Biological Maturity," Current Biology]

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  • Young women prioritize skinniness at the expense of health.

A focus group comprised of college-aged women discussing body image and media messages revealed that the subjects were more concerned about calorie-counting than eating healthfully. Interviews with nutrition counselors confirmed that "lack of time and unhealthy food environments can keep college-age students from getting good nutrition." The professor who boasted of losing 27 pounds on a calorie-restricted, all-Twinkie diet is probably not serving as a great role model in these cases.

The degree to which these findings are not at all new is discouraging. It was found earlier this year that 11 percent of women over 50 have had an eating disorder, and from the looks of things, that statistic isn't likely to significantly decrease for the next generation of women.

["Confronting Contradictory Media Messages about Body Image and Nutrition: Implications for Public Health," presented at the annual Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference]

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  • Dark chocolate is delicious and (somewhat) healthy.

There have been a ton of studies aimed at justifying the incomparable pleasure of -- moderate -- chocolate consumption. The Atlantic has previously reported on data that says daily doses of flavanol-rich dark chocolate can reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes in people with metabolic syndrome and even help you lose weight. This newest chocolate study aggregates data from 20 other chocolate studies to modestly conclude that eating dark chocolate every day for several weeks is associated with a drop in blood pressure of about two to three points.

Like all chocolate studies, they emphasize moderation and not substituting chocolate for healthy foods and exercise.

["Effect of cocoa on blood pressure," The Cochrane Library]

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  • Confidence makes you popular.

In one of a series of experiments, researchers presented MBA students with a list of names and events from history and literature and asked them to identify which items they recognized. They did not tell the students that some of the items, such as "Prince Lorenzo" and "Windermere Wild," were made up. The overconfident students -- the ones who claimed to recognized the largest number of nonsense words and phrases -- were also at the top of the social ladder in their randomly-assigned groups.

It would seem that Mark Twain had already figured this out: "All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure." 

["A Status-Enhancement Account of Overconfidence," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology]

Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

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