Friday, March 23, 2012

Get the Facts Before you Judge

As a biologist, I am an advocate for increasing the knowledge about women's health issues. In the wake of the very controversial Obama birth control mandate (which states that all employers must provide insurance that covers birth control), I've decided to write about the use of birth control. And guys, don't turn off on me here, because you need to know about these facts as well! Chances are the woman in your life would like you to be informed of this issue.
To begin, the birth control that is being talked about is "the Pill". If you are not a biologist or someone familiar with how birth control works, please visit the Discovery Health news link provided here: Birth Control Overview.  It is ignorant to have an opinion on something without knowing how it works/what it does, and birth control is no exception. Discovery Health News does a wonderful job at explaining in simple terms the biology behind the pill. Here is just a quick summery: the pill works by mimicking the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which prevents the follicles from releasing an egg into the ovary. Essentially, the body "thinks" it's already released an egg. Thus, they have been long used to prevent pregnancy.

However, pregnancy prevention isn't the only use of birth control. I am saddened to see how many people are ignorant of the many medicinal application of "the Pill". The fact is that doctor's are now prescribing birth control to treat a variety of women's health issues. I am going to list and explain just a few conditions which can be treated with birth control:

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: this is a condition in which (as the name suggests) cysts form on the ovaries. It is often associated with excess androgen and irregular menstrual cycles. Birth control helps balance hormones to normal levels so that the menstrual cycle is stabilized.
  • Endometriosis: This condition occurs when the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows in other places in the body, such as the pelvic lining, ovaries, and rectum. It often results in infertility. Birth control is often used to stop periods in women who have this condition. 
  • Menstrual Cramps, PMS, and Dysmenorrhea (Painful Periods): These are all unpleasant side affects of the menstrual cycle. Sometimes, they can become so severe that they become debilitating. Birth control works by thinning the uterine lining, which in the long run decreases uterine contractions associated with cramping and pain. 
  • Acne: By regulating the hormones the occur during the menstrual cycle, birth control helps prevent hormonal break outs. 
There are more conditions, but these are the most prominent. As you can see, birth control access is a crucial life line for many women. It is no longer just for pregnancy prevention. Today we live in an age where a woman's body is under her control. Women of all races, age groups, backgrounds, and income levels should have full access to the birth control they need. If it is against your belief, don't take it. Every woman should have the choice of whether she takes birth control or not. The Los Angeles Times published a statistic from the National Institute of Health that states 62% of women (out of an estimated 62 million women) use some type of contraception, with 28% using the pill. This is a staggering amount, and it shows that the pill is extremely relevant in the life of a modern day woman. Why are the men of this country deciding women's health issues? Maybe it's because they have their viagra covered by their health insurance. Which is something to think about....


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Red Meat Death Sentence

I hate to break it you all, but there is another study out on the consequences of eating red meat. This time, it can really impact you, as consuming red meat is now linked to shaving years of your life (Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality).  As shellshocked as you may be at this news, this isn't the first time red meat has been found unhealthy. Hot dogs have been notoriously pegged as bad for heart disease and cholesterol.  So put down that salami and pepperoni sandwich and consider this study from Harvard School of Public Health.

Researchers followed 37,698 men and 83,644 women who were free from Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and cancer at the the start of the study over a period a certain period of years (22 years for men and 28 years for women). The diets of the participants were assessed every 4 years through a survey. The study took into account disease risk factors, such as age, family disease history, body mass index, and physical activity. 
Here is a quick run through of the results:

  • 23,926 deaths were documented in the studies ( 5,910 from CVD and 9,464 from cancer).
  • Regular consumption of one  daily serving of red meat increased mortality risk by 13%
  • Regular consumption of one daily serving of processed red meat (hot dogs, bacon) increased morality risk by 20%
  • CVD disease mortality risk increased by 18 and 21% (for unprocessed and processed meat respectively)
  • Cancer mortality risk increased by 10 and 16% (for unprocessed and processed meat respectively)
  • Here is the scary one: 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women could have been prevented if all the participants had consumed less than 0.5 servings per day of red meat.

Why such a high risk factor? Red meat, especially processed meat, contains ingredients that increase the possibility of contracting CVD and developing cancer. These include saturated fat, nitrates (for all you hot dog and bacon lovers out there), and sodium, not to mention the carcinogenic compounds formed during cooking processes.

So the secret to a longer life? Cut down the red meat consumption! Instead substitute healthier sources of protein, such as poultry, fish, legumes, and grains. So the next time you order that cold cut sandwich at Subway, think that you may just be eating the years of your life away....

Original Paper:
An Pan, Qi Sun, Adam M. Bernstein, Matthias B. Schulze, JoAnn E. Manson, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality.Archives of Internal Medicine, March 12, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Wiles of a Woman in Red

Women wearing the color red. This seems to be a common "stunner" stereotype for men. She is so distractingly gorgeous that he can't but feel helpless.  Now, there is an actual scientific explanation for this mysterious phenomenon. According to an article on Science Magazine, (The Red Dress Effect) men rate women wearing red clothing as more interested in sex.
A simple experiment was done by Adam Pazda et al (an evolutionary psychologist from the University of Rochester), in which 25 men were shown pictures of a woman wearing red or white t-shirts. They were then asked to answer how they gauged her receptiveness to sex. The results? Men rated the woman dressed in red about 1-1.5 points higher in respect to being sexually receptive. Simply stated, men find that a woman wearing red is a "come hither" signal, thus she would be more readily accepting of any type of romantic advance.

Well here is finally an explanation for all the red and pink we see at Valentine's Day. And now we understand why lingerie is so popular around Christmas and Valentine's Day. Where does the preference come from? Scientists believe it passed down from our own evolution. When many female primates become fertile, their estrogen levels peak, opening blood vessels and flushing their faces. This "cue" is enough for the males to make their move.

So ladies, looking for some attention? Wear red on your next occasion. And guys? At least you are now aware that a lovely lady in red will probably catch your attention. Just be careful how you pursue, as the red may be a misleading clue.