Today’s Headlines: Dairy, Mini Stomachs and Political Leanings

Milk consumption related to increased fracture risk. If you’re a woman, you’ve probably been told many times to get enough milk to keep your bones strong into old age. But a massive study out of Sweden has found that advice may be woefully incorrect. “A team of scientists in Sweden examined the dietary habits of 61,400 women in 1987-1990 and 45,300 men in 1997 and then monitored their health for years afterwards…. In the 20-year follow-up period in which the women were monitored, those who drank more than three glasses, or 680 ml, of milk a day were more likely to develop fractures than those who had consumed less. The high-intake group had a higher risk of death too.” But dairy isn’t all bad. “When fermented milk products such as yoghurt were considered, the opposite pattern was observed–people who consumed more had a lower risk of fractures. The authors think this could be due to sugars in milk, which have been shown to accelerate ageing in some early animal studies.” (BBC)

Researchers have made mini stomachs for research. While the stomach might not seem like an overly complex organ, it’s been hard to replicate its microscopic structure in the lab. That’s because many different types of cells are involved in the digestion of your food. “These mini-stomachs aren’t exactly tiny versions of the organ that digests your food, but they’re a big step in the right direction. In fact, the organoid is basically like a stomach you’d find in a very developed fetus, or perhaps in a newborn baby. It’s not quite fully developed.” The development is a first step in allowing “researchers to better study illnesses of the stomach, like those that cause ulcers and even cancer. The tissue may even be used as a treatment in and of itself by way of tiny grated patches that would grow over ulcerated stomachs.” While the research is exciting, it still has its limitations. “Those stomach-like organoids grow from stem cells in around a month, but they don’t get past an embryonic stage of development.” (Washington Post)

Your brain reveals your political leanings. While many of us think we have well-thought-out reasons for our political leanings, it may have more to do with the nuances of how your brain is wired. “A team of scientists who studied the brains of liberal, moderate and conservative people found that they could tell who leaned left and who leaned right based on how their brains responded to disgusting pictures.” The researchers used MRI to look at at how the brains of participants responded to pleasant, neutral and disgusting pictures. “When shown a disgusting image–particularly one of a mutilated animal body–the conservatives’ brains reacted more strongly and in different ways, compared with the liberals’ brains. Although our results suggest that disgusting pictures evoke very different emotional processing in conservatives and liberals, it will take a range of targeted studies in the future to tease apart the separate contribution of each brain circuit. The difference between the two groups was stark in spite of the fact that, oddly enough, these neural responses didn’t match the conscious ratings that participants gave those pictures.” The research shows much more goes into why we hold out political ideas than just reasoned argument. (LA Times)