What’s That Smell? The Answer May Be in Your Genes

Comstock/Thinkstock(AUCKLAND, New Zealand) -- If that rose doesn’t smell as sweet to you as it does to the next person, you may have your genes to blame. Scientists from New Zealand have isolated a gene that is involved in people’s different perceptions of smell.

At the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research, scientists looked at B-Ionone, a key aroma in foods and beverages that is generally is thought to give off a pleasant floral scent. But as it turns out, people in the general population actually have a wide variety of responses to this scent: some perceive it as fragrant or floral, while for others it comes off as sour or sharp.

The researchers looked at the genes of 163 people, and what they found was that one gene in particular seemed to determine which of these two camps people fell into. So it turns out that many smells may, indeed, be in the nose of the beholder.

"We were surprised how many odors had genes associated with them," study author Dr. Jeremy McRae said of the study. "If this extends to other odors, then we might expect everyone to have their own unique set of smells that they are sensitive to."

McRae added that these smells are found in food and beverages that people are exposed to everyday, such as tomatoes or apples.

"This might mean that when people sit down to eat a meal, they each experience it in their own personalized way," he said.

Interestingly, the study authors, whose work is published in Current Biology, said they observed that women were better at detecting odor compounds than their male counterparts. They also found that our sense of smell deteriorates as we get older.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Anemia a New Risk Factor for Dementia, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Dementia is a condition that affects more than five million Americans, yet so much about it remains a mystery. Now researchers are looking at a surprising potential link between this condition and anemia.

After researchers at the University of California - San Francisco looked at more than 2,500 elderly people, the found that those with anemia -- who have decreased red blood cell levels -- were 41 percent more likely to develop the mind-robbing condition.

These findings, which are published in the journal Neurology, may be important since anemia is so common in older Americans, affecting up to one in five people age 65 and older.

Researchers postulate that the increased risk of dementia could be related to lack of oxygen supplied to the brain -- which may lead to brain damage. Anemia is also a marker for poor health overall and can be associated with nutrient deficiencies such as iron and vitamin B12. Deficiencies of these nutrients are associated with declining mental abilities.

The exact connection between anemia and dementia is still unclear, since both can occur for a variety of reason in older people. Fortunately, anemia is usually diagnosed and treated, so it should always be considered in an older person with dementia.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Could Camping Be the Key to Better Sleep Patterns?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Camping is a classic summer pastime. But new research suggests that its benefits may extend beyond bonding around the campfire. The benefits of camping may follow you to bed as well.

Past research as shown that exposure to modern conveniences like computers, smartphones and televisions that produce artificial light can lead to disturbances in circadian rhythm and sleep patters. Because of these disturbances, we are more tired during the day.

Researchers at the University of Colorado wanted to see what would happen if they took eight volunteers into the great outdoors. They studied the subjects in two settings -- one week in a typical, artificially lit environment, and the other week camping outside under natural light conditions.

While the subjects were camping, the researchers observed a change in the subjects' sleep cycles. The study participants reported feeling less tired. It appeared the participants' sleep and wake cycles had become more closely tied with the sunset and sunrise.

This new study, published Thursday in Current Biology, backs up the past research about synchronizing one's internal circadian clock to normal solar time.  

The good news here is that, while we might now be able to go camping for a week, we can all get more natural sunlight. Go outside during the day, turn off the TV and computer at night and have a better night's sleep.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


"Facts of Life" Actress Kim Fields Pregnant Again at 44

Moses Robinson/Getty Images for Stellar Awards(NEW YORK) -- Kim Fields, the actress who grew up before our eyes on The Facts of Life, is pregnant with another son at the age of 44.

Fields told the talk show The Real about the bumpy road she and husband Christopher Morgan traveled trying to conceive their second child, whom they’ve already named Quincy Xavier.

“I thought I was starting to get premenopausal because certain things were starting to be irregular, and then other symptoms started coming,” Fields explained. “My memory, and I was clumsier than normal, which I couldn’t even believe was possible.”

After trying to conceive for the past two years, the ’80s sitcom star said she’s now five months along, but at first couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with her body.

“There is no question the early symptoms of early pregnancy can mimic the symptoms of a lot of things, whether it is early menopause or cancer,” said ABC News senior medical contributor  Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, births for women between the ages of 40 and 44  increased 10 percent between 2008 to 2012.

“It only takes one egg and one sperm, and it can happen, so it’s important not to be really discouraged about that,” said Ashton.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Plastic Surgery Boosts Youthfulness, Not Attractiveness

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Thinking about a facelift? Before you spend the money, consider this: It might help you look a few years younger but not more attractive, a new study found.

The study of 37 women and 12 men who underwent facial rejuvenation procedures like facelifts and eyelid lifts and found that plastic surgery shaved about three years off their perceived age. But it had no effect on their perceived attractiveness.

“The drive to maintain a youthful appearance and attractiveness has been an important motivating factor leading patients to seek aesthetic facial surgery,” the researchers wrote in their study, published Thursday in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. “From this study, it seems that the attractiveness level will remain the same, regardless of age.”

A group of 50 men and women was tasked with guessing the patients’ ages and rating their attractiveness on a 10-point scale. As perceived age went up, attractiveness scores went down, according to the study. But those scores failed to improve with surgery.

The authors theorized that attractiveness is intractably linked to perceived age. So when the patients looked younger post-surgery, their attractiveness score shifted down since they were being compared to younger people. In other words, the old adage “you look good for your age” is only a factor when you know how old someone really is.

“Because a person’s age is perceived as younger following aging face surgery, his or her attractiveness level is also intuitively perceived to be better, commensurate with the apparent age reduction,” the authors wrote. “As long as a person ascribes a correct age to someone else, that person will perceive the other’s attractiveness with his or her assigned age in mind.”

Interestingly, female raters tended to ascribe higher attractiveness scores than male ones. And 75 percent of all of the raters’ scores landed in the four-to-seven range, according to the authors.

Americans underwent a whopping 1,594,526 cosmetic surgical procedures in 2012, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And eyelid lifts were the third most common procedure, with some 204,000 recipients – more than 98,000 of them 55 and older.

All in all, Americans spent more than $1.4 billion on facelifts and eyelid lifts last year, according to the ASPS.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Celebrity Trainer Shares Tips for Killer Arms

David Becker/Getty Images for The Licensing Expo(NEW YORK) -- We are in the midst of summer, those lovely three months a year that are filled with beach days and backyard barbecues. But if your winter arms didn’t get the memo that sundress and tank top season are in full swing, fear not -- celebrity fitness trainer Tracy Anderson has the workout that will help you say bye-bye to those flabby triceps otherwise known as “bingo wings.” And it may be easier than you think.

“You will see improvements to your arms faster than you will on other, more stubborn problem areas of your body,” says Anderson.

But the key to achieving toned muscles may be by utilizing one specific, and unexpected, muscle -- the brain.

“We have over 600 muscles in our body,” Anderson explains. “Most forms of fitness can only get to 200. If we use our brain activity to fire the movements and we stay engaged, we can actually get to about 400 of these muscles.”

By participating in mentally challenging activities, you are forced to think about the exercise that you are doing as you are doing it. For example, if you alternate the pattern of your weight lifting or the order in which you do an exercise, you are constantly thinking about what is coming next and automatically use a greater amount of physical and mental energy in your workout. This will lead to more dramatic results in a shorter amount of time.

“I like to do things where you are swinging [your arms] away at various degrees and angles,” Anderson says. She also recommends using lighter weights (or no weights at all), which allow you to do more complicated movements that dually simulate your brain and allow you to create evenly toned arms.

Focusing on you working and toning your arms can be good for your overall fitness routine. Anderson suggests incorporating arm exercises into your regular workout, which can drastically increase the number of calories you are burning overall. So add some arm raises while you burn it on the elliptical machine or add light weights or arm bands to your morning jog. By having all of your muscle groups work together, you can achieve amazing results and show off your summer arms before fall rolls in.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obese Man Gets Stuck in Turnstile, Gains Will to Lose 246 Pounds

Good Morning America / National News(NEW YORK) -- At 5-foot-9 1/2, Thomas McIntyre weighed more than 434 pounds and his waist measured 74 inches. He was used to making jokes about his size.

McIntyre, a soccer fan, went to watch a game one day and he got stuck while trying to go through a turnstile into the stadium. Dozens of spectators looked on and laughed, and so did he, but he was worried.

“I was the typical jolly, fat bloke, always making fun of myself before anyone else had the chance to do it,” said McIntyre, of Larne, Northern Ireland. “Deep down though, I’d reached the point where I thought about my mortality all the time and, the more I worried, the more I ate, to comfort myself, I suppose. It was a vicious cycle.”

At the urging of a friend, McIntyre joined Slimming World, a U.K.-based weight-loss organization that now operates in the United States.

In February 2012, McIntyre began following the group’s meal plan and started planning healthy, home-cooked meals while getting tips and recipes at group meetings. After the first week, he lost 10 ½ pounds and never looked back.

McIntyre lost a total of 246 pounds. Today, he weighs 188 pounds and things couldn’t be better for the 43-year-old, married fresh food manager at Dunnes Stores, a retail chain.

Before he joined Slimming World, McIntyre said he had no energy.

“My days off would consist of me just lying on the sofa,” he said in a Slimming World press release. “Now, everything’s easier and I’m so much happier. If we are lucky enough to have children, I’ll be the active dad I always wanted to be, and that’s really important to me.”

McIntyre -- who used to have four sausage rolls, a bag of chips, a chocolate bar and soda, all just for breakfast -- now opts for leaner, low-fat, homemade foods in controlled portions. He snacks on fresh fruit, yogurt and diet soda, runs three times a week and takes his dog on long walks.

McIntyre, who after getting stuck in the turnstile was forced to use the disabled entrance every time he went back to the soccer stadium, now has no trouble at all.

“I can fit through the turnstiles when I go now, so there’s no embarrassment there,” he said. “In fact, that’s the only downside to my weight loss because I have to queue with everyone else.”

McIntyre was named Slimming World Man of the Year 2013.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Company Recalls 50K Lbs of Ground Beef over Positive E. Coli Test

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- National Beef Packing Company is recalling more than 50,000 pounds of ground beef products that may have been contaminated with E. coli.

In a press release Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said one of the Liberal, Kan.-based company's products tested positive for E.coli O157:H7.  The contamination was discovered during routine FSIS monitoring.

"An investigation determined National Beef Packing Co. was the sole supplier of the source materials used to produce the positive product," FSIS said in the release.

"FSIS and the company have received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products," it added.

The products in question "bear the establishment number 'EST. 208A' inside the USDA mark of inspection," according to FSIS. They were produced on July 18, 2013, and shipped nationwide to retailers, wholesalers, and food service distributors in 40 to 60 pound cases.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Scientists Make Teeth Using Urine

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A team of scientists at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health have taken inspiration from urine.

Duanqing Pei, a professor of stem cell biology at the research institute, took epithelial cells found in urine and converted them into teeth.

"We have a long-running interest in tooth formation," Pei told ABC News.  "We want to use somebody's own cells to generate a tooth."  Pei added that if the cells came from somewhere else, they could be rejected by the host's body.

Don't expect your urine to just crystallize into a new set of dentures though.  Pei and his colleagues needed to first convert the epithelial cells into induced pluripotent stem cells -- iPS cells for short.  iPS cells can be grown into many different types of tissues, and it's those iPS cells that eventually turn into new teeth.

Sean Morrison, director of the Children's Research Institute of University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center, sees larger implications for this research.

"Normally, the way you get cells for reprogramming is that you do a biopsy on the skin," he said.  "It's not a big deal, but the kids will cry and parents are really reluctant to [let them] do that sort of thing."

It's easier to get a kid to pee in a cup than it is to hold still for a needle.

"Doctors are looking for noninvasive ways to get cells from children," said Morrison.  "This could represent a better way of getting a child's stem cells."

However, there's more than one way to get iPS cells.  Paul Sharpe, head of the craniofacial development and orthodontics department at King's College London, said that urine is an unlikely starting point to get iPS cells.

"You can derive a lot of iPS cells from a single hair," he said.  "You could make teeth from hair, or even teeth from other teeth."

Sharpe has also been able to synthesize teeth from stem cells, though his work takes a different route.  He put epithelial cells collected from the gums of adult humans next to embryonic mouse mesenchymal cells, which later develop into mouse teeth.  The two types of cells interacted with each other and formed hybrid mouse/human teeth.

In order to make a good tooth, Sharpe says that it's not the crown but the root that's most important.

"You're looking for a periodontal ligament, the soft tissue that attaches the tooth to the bone," he said.  "That's the biggest thing, and [Pei] has pretty good roots."

In addition, using urine to get these cells isn't as disgusting as you might think.

"Somebody may think that urine is very contaminated," Pei told ABC News.  "But from our experience, if you look at midstream urine, it's sterile.  We have never encountered any type of bacterial infection."

The peer-reviewed study is published in the journal Cell Regeneration.  Pei also serves as the editor in chief of that journal.  However, the journal is also managed by Biomed Central, an outside organization.  In addition, the journal's other editors contacted peer reviewers whose work was independent of Pei's.  Pei told ABC News that he excused himself from any editorial influence over the study.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Hidden America: Heroin Use Has Doubled, Spreading to Suburbs

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fans were shocked when Cory Monteith, the clean-cut star of the hit TV show Glee, was recently found dead of an overdose involving heroin and alcohol. Now the actor has quickly become the new face of the next generation of users of the highly addictive drug.

Though this growing group can be found all over the country -- a government study shows 620,000 people admitted to using heroin in 2011, twice the number in 2003 -- it’s mostly being seen in, of all places, suburbia.

“Every part of Bergen County is touched in some way, shape or form by the heroin epidemic,” said Lt. Thomas Dombroski of the Bergen County, N.J., Prosecutor’s Office as he drove through the leafy suburbs west of New York City.

Bergen County reported 28 overdoses last year, up from previous years. Most of the victims were younger than 22.

Dombroski said that most parents might not know that, often, the gateway drug could already be in their medicine cabinet.

“Prescription medication is a pathway,” he said.

That was the case for Dylan Young, 23, who first spoke with ABC News three years ago when he was still  using.

“I started using prescription painkillers that my father had,” he said then. “And it went from that.”

At 13, Young was smoking pot and drinking. Then he started stealing pills from his parents. Eventually, he moved on to heroin. The hold the drug had on him was so strong that he ended up in rehab six times.

“A lot of us are missing something and then end up filling that void with drugs,” Young said. “It can really happen to anyone and it also depends on the choices you make, the people you hang out with. And I just think if you are not staying busy, you might end up using. … When you are in that situation, you usually don’t see hope of a life ahead of you. You just see your next fix.”

Dombroski said heroin was cheaper than prescription medication, going for $4 a bag compared to $30 for just one 30-milligram oxycodone pill.

Most experts agree that intervention and treatment are key but the irony is that, like Monteith, many heroin addicts die when they start using again right after leaving treatment.

Monteith told Parade magazine in 2011, that, at 19, he’d gone to rehab. And in April, his rep confirmed that he’d entered treatment once again for addiction.

“Most of the overdose deaths that we’re getting are people who come back from rehab,” Dombroski said. “They get high for the first time since rehab and that high is what kills them.”

Young has been clean for three years.

“I just focus on life itself rather than waking up in the morning and thinking about how I am going to get high for the day,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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