Today’s Headlines: Loud Noises, Dogs and “Natural Foods”

Loud noises predispose you to knee injuries. Ever been running down the street when a car horn makes you jump? It seems that those kinds of startling noises could make you more likely to injure your joints, in this case, the knee. Researchers placed 36 young men and women in a machine and asked them to resist while the machine bent their leg at the knee. Their muscles were monitored while this was happening. In half of the trials, a loud beep was sounded. “The beep induced a startle response that significantly increased muscle stiffness. As the startle response subsided, muscle activity and joint stiffness were significantly reduced as the knee continued to bend. The higher initial stiffness followed by markedly reduced stiffness likely reflects a disturbance in neuromuscular control that can lead to abnormal stresses on the joint and unintentional injury, the researchers said.” It seems running in tranquility is good for your physical as well as mental well-being. (Fox)

You love your dog like you love your children. Adopting a new pet can feel like adding a new member to the family. New research out this week has found that taking care of a new dog can feel the same as taking care of a new child. The researchers had a small group of women look at pictures of their children and pictures of their young children and their dogs along with pictures of unfamiliar babies and dogs. “There was a common network of brain regions involved in emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social cognition when mothers viewed images of both their child and dog, but unfamiliar photos didn’t have the same effect.” There were some differences in the way the mothers responded. “An area of the brain vital to processing faces was activated more by a dog picture than a child’s face, while parts of the midbrain were more active in response to children. It may be that facial cues are more important in human-to-dog communication, given our lack of common language. And the midbrain areas could be vital in forming human-to-human pair bonds.” (Washington Post)

That “natural” food may not be what you thought. Do a little research into products that use the word “natural” on their packaging and you’ll find the definition is pretty loose, at least among food producers. Consumer Reports looked at a variety of “natural” products to see whether they used GMOs. “While foods labeled as ‘non-GMO,’ or ‘organic’ were found to be free of genetically modified corn and soy, virtually all of the foods labeled as ‘natural’ or not labeled with any claim related to GMO content contained substantial amounts of GMO ingredients,” Consumer Reports said. While that might seem surprising, there’s currently no legal definition for what “natural” has to mean, leaving food makers to their own devices when it comes to using the label. Many studies have demonstrated the safety of GMO crops, but “critics point to studies that show links to human and animal health problems and environmental damage. An international coalition of scientists has said there is a lack of consensus in the scientific community about the safety of genetically modified crops. Health effects aside, there are also questions as to whether they deliver on their promise of reducing pesticide use. (Reuters)