'Whole Grain' Foods Aren't Telling the Whole Truth

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Discovered: "Whole grain" labeling doesn't mean much; brown-eyed girls (and boys) deemed more trustworthy; birds are smart enough to hide their food; heel-to-toe barefoot runners gain ground.

What does that 'whole grain' sticker really mean? Don't take this as license to binge on over-processed white bread, but Harvard School of Public Health researchers have found huge discrepancies amongst products marked "whole grain," throwing the label into question. They even found that products bearing the standardized Whole Grain Stamp are usually more sugary and caloric than products without the stamp. "Given the significant prevalence of refined grains, starches, and sugars in modern diets, identifying a unified criterion to identify higher quality carbohydrates is a key priority in public health," says author Rebecca Mozaffarian. " [Harvard School of Public Health]

Never trust a blue-eyed man. When Czechoslovakian college students were shown pictures of people their age, they consistently rated brown-eyed people as more trustworthy than those with blue eyes. But eye color itself isn't the only culprit. Charles University in Prague researcher Karel Kleisner was able to demonstrate that face shape—a trait that's often genetically linked with eye color—profoundly affects trustworthiness ratings. For instance, when round-faced, brown-eyed people had their eyes photoshopped to blue, they were still deemed more trustworthy. "It was unexpected that some superficial sign like eye color could somehow be linked, by means of genes and hormones, to facial shape," says Kleisner. [Wired]

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Birds are mindful, and not just about their food. One prominent theory of mind holds that in order to have one, creatures have to be aware of others' mental states. And research that shows crows hiding their food so as to prevent devious thieves from getting at it seems to suggest that scrub jays can imagine what other crows might be thinking. So does that mean the birds have human-like cognitive awareness? University of Cambridge researcher Nicola Clayton studied this question, finding that scrub jays aren't just moving the food around due to stress. So the hypothesis that scrub jays possess a theory of mind remains in play, according to Clayton's graduate student colleague James Thom.  [ScienceNow]

The rare barefoot runners who jog heel-first. Most barefoot runners use a stride that plops the balls or mid-sections of their feet down first. But a new study shows that a significant minority of au naturel joggers run heel-to-toe. Kevin Hatala, a graduate researcher from George Washington University, found that most Nigerian Daasanach people run this way. "We were surprised to see that the majority of Daasanach people ran by landing on their heels first," says Hatala noted. "This contradicts the hypothesis that a forefoot strike characterizes the ‘typical’ running gait of habitually barefoot people." Most research so far has implicated heel-to-toe running as a cause for podiatric injuries, but the Daasanach people might be able to show scientists how the method could be used safely. [Scientific American]

Inset: N. S. Clayton and I. A. Cannell/University of Cambridge

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