Category: Times of India

Water on the brain

Course work

It’s coming up to that time of year again (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least). The daylight creeps longer into the evening hours, leaves on tree and shrub begin to glow in clouds of verdant splendour, migrating birds return to seek climactic asylum in our precinct of the ecosystem…and the mood on college campuses (and in many high schools) becomes afflicted by a shared anxiety. Yes, we are approaching Examination Season.

Another sign of Examination Season is the emergence of news stories in the mainstream media concerning Examination Season. Many such stories relate to the latest scientific finding that is somehow relevant to students and their exams. I suppose one reason for this is that most jobbing scientists work on or near college campuses, so their awareness of Exam Season is high. But the sheer availability of a huge population with bespoke occupational stressors might make research just a little too easy sometimes.

Consider this story, widely reported in the media the other day: “Taking water into exams could boost grades“, the Daily Telegraph declared. In what way, you ask? Well, according to the Daily Mail:

…one theory is that information flows more freely between brain cells when they are well hydrated.

Yeah, that’s how it works. In fact, that’s why we have grade inflation. Because of all the water in students’ brains.

Continue reading “Water on the brain”

Floss for fertility? Really?

As slogans go, the BBC News’s “Floss for Fertility” was definitely the catchiest. It was certainly more pleasing to the ear than alternatives such as “Brush Regularly to Get Pregnant” (as appeared in the Times of India) or “Women Who Want to Get Pregnant Need to Clean Their Teeth” (from the Daily Mirror). These toothy sound-bites featured in news stories published over the last few days, and refer to research presented at a major international conference on human reproduction that took place this week in Stockholm. The researchers reported a link between periodontal (i.e., gum) disease and pregnancy outcomes, which they derived from a large-scale study of over 3,400 Australian women. We already know that the inflammation caused by gum disease can create tissue-damaging events capable of passing into the circulation and contributing to conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The Australian team now suggest that such effects might also lead to a negative influence on fertility.

So, is it true that minding your choppers will affect your likelihood of conception? Well, maybe yes. But not perhaps in quite the way that this week’s media reports might have you believe. Continue reading “Floss for fertility? Really?”

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