ELSEVIER FLASH ALERT TO NEW SCIENCE & HEALTH RESEARCH STORIES

December 16th, 2011

Issue 127

December 2010

If you report a story, we ask that you credit Elsevier’s journal as the source.

Welcome to the 127th edition of Flash, our monthly alert for science, health and medical journalists. Flash is a courtesy service with access to SciVerse ScienceDirect, Elsevier’s online platform, providing full text access to some 2,000 scientific, technical and medical journals.

Please use your Flash login and password to access each article’s full text on SciVerse ScienceDirect. For a new password, forgotten passwords or if you have any feedback, please contact Ruth Cespedes at newsroom@elsevier.com or at +31 20 485 3269.

ARTICLES

1. GARLIC MAY DO MORE THAN SCARE OFF THE VAMPIRES – IT COULD ALSO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE IN HYPERTENSION PATIENTS

High blood pressure is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so finding a way to manage one’s blood pressure is essential to achieve long-term heart health.

Now a new study, published in the latest issue of Maturitas has assessed the blood pressure lowering effect of garlic supplements in patients with hypertension. “Garlic supplements have been associated with a blood pressure lowering effect of clinical significance in patients with untreated hypertension,” said researcher, Karin Ried “Our trial, however, is the first to assess the effect, tolerability and acceptability of aged garlic extract as an additional treatment to existing antihypertensive medication in patients with treated, but uncontrolled, hypertension.”

Fifty adult patients participated in a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial. The active treatment group received four capsules of aged garlic extract daily for 12 weeks, and the control group received matching placebos. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure were captured at baseline, and at weeks four, eight and 12.

Results revealed systolic blood pressure was on average 10.2 ± 4.3 mm lower in the garlic group compared with the controls over the 12-week period. Additionally, aged garlic was generally well tolerated, and acceptability of the trial treatment was high.

The authors conclude that this trial suggests aged garlic extract may be used in conjunction with conventional medications to treat uncontrolled hypertension.

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2. DRINKING GREEN TEA: SWEET FOR YOUR HEALTH, SOUR IN YOUR MOUTH

The health benefits of drinking green tea have many individuals trying to incorporate the beverage into their everyday lives. To learn more about how individuals perceive green tea, in Elsevier’s latest Food Quality and Preference, researchers conducted several studies in which peoples’ saliva samples were collected at different time intervals before and after consuming the drink.

Specifically, salivary polyphenol levels were determined throughout the various experiments, since it is known that an astringent sensation has been associated with polyphenols. Results revealed that drinking green tea resulted in a highly significant increase in salivary polyphenol levels that persisted for some days. Additionally, astringency and sourness intensity ratings increased significantly during the period of tea drinking.

“These results indicate that people who regularly drink moderate amounts of green tea, or regularly consume other polyphenol-rich food, will have higher salivary polyphenol levels than those who consume foods of lower polyphenol content,” write the authors of this paper. “As a result, they may be more sensitive to astringency provoked by acids.”

Since the source of the liquid in saliva is blood and the levels of a number of compounds found in blood can be assessed by saliva measurements, it is likely that polyphenol levels in blood mirror those in saliva. This could be related to the beneficial or harmful effects of polyphenols on health.

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3. COULD A SOFT DRINK TAX BE THE CURE TO CHILDHOOD OBESITY?

Soft drink consumption has increased by almost 500 percent over the past 50 years, leading many to believe these sugary beverages are, at least partly, to blame for the skyrocketing levels of childhood obesity. In an effort to curb the problem, recent proposals at the U.S. federal, state and local levels has been made to place an additional tax on soft drinks. The question is can a tax lower consumption?

Elsevier’s Journal of Public Economics looks at the tax scenario by examining state soft drink sales and excise tax information between 1989 and 2006, while cross-examining the information with the National Health Examination and Nutrition Survey.

Numbers revealed 15 percent of children from the survey were obese and 30 percent were classified as either overweight or obese. Fifty-nine percent of the children consumed a soft drink beverage, adding 122 calories per day to their caloric intake. In general, sodas were shown to represent a significant component of a child’s diet compared to other beverages.

Factoring in a one percent tax increase, the authors found the soft drink tax rate reduced the amount of calories consumed by soda by nearly six calories per day, equivalent to about five percent of the average calories from soda. However, while soda consumption may have decreased slightly, children and adolescents often shifted their consumption to other high-calorie beverages, such as whole milk. Therefore, the net effect of soda taxes on caloric intake was minimal, scratching out any improvements on weight outcomes.

“Soda taxes seem to be an ineffective ‘obesity tax’ due to a standard behavioural response to the policy,” state the authors of this paper. “Basically, kids just swap one high-calorie drink for another – in many cases whole milk.”

Still, while there is no evidence that soft drink taxes improve weight outcomes in children and adolescents, the fact that kids substitute more nutritious whole milk for soft drinks, when taxed, suggests there may be broader health benefits that are not yet understood.

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4. DECODING THE SMOKING IDENTITIES OF ADOLESCENT BOYS AND GIRLS

Past research has found that young current “cigarette users” do not necessarily identify themselves as smokers. In fact, many kids who have smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days do not consider themselves to be a smoker.

To uncover more about youth smoking identities and how gender plays into the mix, Elsevier’s Addictive Behaviors obtained data from 7,185 adolescents on their basic demographics, smoking behaviours and perceptions. The individuals were asked a number of questions about how often they smoke, as well as how addicted they felt they were to the substance – both physically and mentally.

Based on the analysis, girls were significantly more likely than boys to report smoking a cigarette in the past 30 days. The girls were also more likely to report being ex-, social, irregular or regular smokers than the boys. The boys who labelled themselves “heavy smokers” had significantly higher perceived physical and mental addiction to tobacco scores as compared with the girls. The girls had lower scores on the tobacco dependence measures in each smoking identity category with the exception of the emotional dependence dimension.

“The lack of significant differences between boys and girls in five of the seven smoking identity groups may suggest that boys and girls conceive of, or endorse, these smoking identities in similar ways,” state the authors of this paper.

They conclude there may be an opportunity to assess youth for their “smoking identity stage” and to provide tailored education or intervention appropriate to the identity which adolescents might be most receptive.

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5. CUSTOMER SURVEY REVEALS YOUNG SERVERS TRUMP THE MIDDLE-AGED WHEN IT COMES TO SERVICE QUALITY

As you sit down for a meal at your restaurant of choice and your server approaches you for the first time, do you immediately start to form an impression based on the server’s age, how they dress, their smile?

A new study featured in Elsevier’s International Journal of Hospitality Management aims to explore whether various service quality conditions and age stereotypes would affect perceptions of service quality in customers of fine dining restaurants in Taiwan. A total of 406 people participated in the study with a 2 (scenarios of favourable vs. unfavourable service) x 2 (ages of server: young vs. middle-aged) factorial design. Nine young servers of average-looking appearance and nine middle-aged servers of average-looking appearance were randomly chosen, and their pictures were taken in order to be presented to the participants as they considered the different scenarios they faced in the restaurant. After reading their respective scenarios and looking at the picture of their server, they were then asked to fill out a questionnaire to rate their perceptions of the service quality of the server and the overall service quality of the restaurant.

Results showed the respondents’ perceived service quality of the server with a young appearance was better than the counterpart with middle-aged appearance under both favourable and unfavourable service quality conditions.

Researcher Hsiang-Fei Luoh concluded: “These findings suggest a highly qualified applicant should always be preferred over those who are poorly qualified, but those who are generally pleasant-looking, neat and tidy in appearance, and who look younger may be given priority if no distinction can be made based on resume.”

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6. DOES PERCEIVED UNFAIRNESS AFFECT CHARITABLE GIVING?

Non-profit companies have long tried to uncover what makes people give. Why do some individuals consistently give more than others? What prompts someone to donate?

In Elsevier’s latest The Journal of Socio-Economics, authors Matthew Rousu and Sara Baublitz used a modified version of the dictator game to study whether perceived unfairness affects giving. To earn money, participants first had to take a test, but the catch was that there were three different tests issued of different difficulty levels. A control group all took the same test. After all participants took the varying multiplication tests, they were able to see their results, and those who scored best received money in an envelope. Participants were told they must return the envelope, but could take either all of the money, or leave some money to share with a randomly assigned partner. At the end of the experiment, participants filled out a demographic survey.
“What we discovered is that there was greater generosity from people who were placed in a situation where some were faced with more obstacles to earning money than others, with average donations being over 15 percent greater,” said Rousu and Baublitz. “Regardless of whether they had a more or less difficult task at earning money, people in the environment with obstacles were more generous.”

They state this is consistent with research that indicates those who “self-made” their wealth were more generous than those who inherited wealth. Additionally, if someone considered their political views as “very liberal,” they gave significantly more money. Also, a person who noted that they placed a greater importance on religion in his/her life was more likely to give and contribute greater amounts.

This new research indicates that campaigns that focus on asymmetric opportunities to obtain wealth in life could indeed be effective, especially amongst individuals who overcame significant obstacles to earn his/her wealth.

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The Scirus tool bar makes it easier than ever to find scientific, technical and medical information on the Web and is quick and easy to install. After installing, the Scirus toolbar conveniently appears below your Internet Explorer address bar, meaning you have scientific searches at your fingertips, wherever you are on the Web. Link to Scirus: http://www.scirus.com/srsapp/toolbar/ If your browser does not support HTML, you may need to copy the links below and paste them into your browser to access the articles:
1. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.06.001
2. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2010.09.004
3. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2010.09.005
4. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.09.004
5. doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2010.09.002
6. doi:10.1016/j.socec.2010.09.007

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