Coffee and Eyesight, Kissing and Swine Flu, and More

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If you're straining to read this, put down the Starbucks—Harvard researchers recently found a link between glaucoma incidence in adults and consumption of more than three cups of coffee a day. Between squinting and sipping, Harvard researchers have made multiple discoveries in the past few weeks, from using genetics to figure out when the Neanderthals were most likely to have mated with modern humans to discovering that Mexicans are more likely than Britons to abstain from kissing to prevent the spread of swine flu.

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School, MIT, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently published an article that suggests that interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals may have occurred during and after the period in which modern humans emigrated from Africa. To do so, the researchers used linkage disequilibrium to determine the extent to which there was gene flow from Neanderthals to modern Europeans. Their findings indicated that any such flow occurred 37,000-86,000 years ago, just as modern humans were believed to have been emigrating from Africa to other continents.

The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study to assess global receptivity of swine flu prevention strategies, such as hand washing. Questionnaires were distributed via phone calls in the US, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, and the UK. Interestingly, the survey found that 46 percent of Mexicans versus only 2 percent of Britons refrained from kissing or hugging in order to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu. The study suggests that preventative measures such as abstaining from contact as well as using hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing is the best way to combat the pandemic.

Researchers from the Harvard and Yale medical schools confirmed that sugary beverages contribute to significant weight gain. Two hundred and twenty-four adolescents classified as obese or overweight who regularly drank sugary drinks were assigned to two groups. The control group continued their current diet, while the experimental group was placed on a program to decrease their consumption of sugary drinks. One year after the intervention, the researchers checked in with the experimental group. It was found that adolescents in the experimental group gained weight at a slower rate than their control counterparts who continued to drink sugary beverages.

The Harvard Medical School and the University of Bordeaux in France published a study linking sleeping pill usage and dementia in retirees. Out of 1063 patients who took benzodiazepines and were previously free of dementia, 253 developed dementia in a 15-year follow-up period. When coupled with a control group of the same age that did not regularly use sleeping pills, those who used the drug had a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia.

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