Today In Research: Doubts About Vitamins; Hopes for Chocolate

And in today's round-up: why you believe the things you hear on TV

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Today in research: reasons to like chocolate, Vitamins get scrutinized again, the many false things to learn from TV, and another theory on why people are risk-averse about investing.

  • Chocolate and science go hand-in-hand. Researchers love trying to establish the health benefits of chocolate, and people like reading about how their sweet tooth habit might just be healthy. Satisfying this criteria today is a new study surveying the eating habits of 33,000 Swedish women which, as Reuters explains, "found that the more chocolate women said they ate, the lower their risk of stroke." Again, since the study is observational, the link can't be demonstrably proven. But it does make you feel better about your diet, right? [Reuters
  • Another salvo fired in the endless 'Vitamins are(n't) good for you' war.  Print out a copy of this ABC News report on new research finding that Vitamins "supplements may not be helpful, and in some cases, could even be harmful for older women" and wave it at your multivitamin-peddling friend. He/she will probably point you to another mound of research telling you the exact opposite is true. ABC News, does, however, cite a Mayo Clinic doctor noting the inconsistencies in the media with this takeaway: "It can be confusing for the public when something isn't entirely black and white ... But based on this new study, people should be even a little more cautious now about taking these supplements." [ABC News]
  • Whenever you misremember something, blame it on a Boston Legal marathon.  This is a quirky bit of research attempting to explain how the brain processes all those ficitional facts we learn from TV. As Miller-McCune reports from this study: "It asserts that, immediately after watching a show containing a questionable piece of information, we're aware of where the assertion came from, and take it with an appropriate grain of salt. But this all-important skepticism diminishes over time, as our memory of where we heard the fact or falsehood in question dims." The experiment, conducted on participants watching Boston Legal, found that the fiction-to-legal-fact turn around in the brain occurred over a period of two weeks. Enjoy your long nights staring at Netflix. [Miller-McCune]
  • Bill Gates Foundation's HIV prevention project is making progress in India. Along with the encouraging news that, as the AP relays, "An estimated 100,000 people in India may have escaped HIV infection over five years thanks to one of the world's biggest prevention programs," a disclaimer should be noted that the study touting this success--published in the medical journal The Lancet--was funded by the Gates Foundation, which has invested millions in the prevention project. As the AP notes, the program--named Avahan--"has been criticized by some for throwing large sums of money at the problem and creating more waste than results."  [Associated Press]
  • Gloomy weather makes some people a bit more risk-averse when investing.  Parsing the weather to divine why the stock market goes up or down is a time-tested research phenomenon (i.e. "sunny days" give lift to market, study says). The latest theory in this vein, from a researcher at Toronto's Rotman school of management, proposes that "seasonal depression may be sufficiently powerful to move financial markets." The study's abstract is more modest, noting that those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) "had significantly stronger preferences for safe choices during the winter than non-SAD-sufferers, and they did not differ from non-SAD-sufferers during the summer." [Press Release - Rotman School, Social, Psychological and Personality Science]
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