Kissing Cousins, Dorm Pets, and Another Reason To Nap

  by  |  December 29th, 2008  |  Published in All, Blog

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In the spirit of keeping things simple for those enduring a post-holiday hangover, we offer some science news hors d’oeuvres to snack on before ringing in a new year with the heavy stuff.

It’s all relative

If you couldn’t help but sit there at Christmas dinner thinking to yourself, “Man, cousin Seth is looking fine tonight,” you can now feel a little less guilty about it. (At least as far as biological/genetic rationalizations go.) Professors Diane Paul (Harvard) and Hamish Spencer (University of Otago) think that the current laws banning marriage between first cousins are outdated.

In an opinion article published in the journal PLoS Biology, the zoologists argued their point, citing that a 2002 expert review showed a lower incidence of birth defects in the offspring of cousins than was generally assumed. The risk of a birth defect occurring in those children is similar to the risk if a woman in her 40s were to have children, Spencer said.

This is the kind of information I like to refrain from sharing with my great-uncle Ray, who once opened a conversation with “You missed out on a great family reunion; your cousin John is one fine-looking fellow. [Pause] So, marrying cousins isn’t against the law anymore, right?”

Is there any problem pets can’t solve?

Here’s an idea for parents of homesick college students who are loathing the end of winter break and a return to campus living: Send them back with the dog.

A survey published in the journal Society and Animals showed that almost a quarter of college students polled thought that their pets helped them get through difficult times in their lives. Research has already shown that pets can greatly improve the lives of the elderly or those who are chronically ill. But this study from Ohio State University now highlights the benefits for younger, healthier adults as well. Results showed that pets are useful for staying active, coping with stressful situations, and avoiding feelings of loneliness.

Personal anecdote: My dog, Apollo, was a guilt-trip gift from my parents because they moved us to a new town where I didn’t know anyone and had no friends. I am eagerly keeping tabs on new research in Society and Animals to see if their little experiment had any merit. Either way, Apollo is coming with me.

Let there be naps

Researchers report in the December 24/31 issue of JAMA that even one extra hour of sleep per night can help decrease the risk of coronary artery calcification, one of the first trips down the slippery slope to cardiovascular disease.

The researchers write that an extra hour of sleep was shown to be comparable to the health benefits of lowering blood pressure by 17 mm Hg. Of the study subjects—healthy volunteers in their 40s—about 12 percent developed coronary artery calcification over five years of follow-up. However, calcified arteries were found in 27 percent of those who slept less than five hours a night. The percentage dropped significantly with those who slept from five to seven hours a night, or longer. Further research needs to be done to find out why this correlation occurs, but one possibility is the fact that blood pressure generally lowers while a person is sleeping.

So, next time the kids try wake you up early on Christmas morning (or any morning, really), just yell that they’re going to give you a heart attack. It’s only kind of a lie.

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    May 15th, 2018 at 7:01 am (#)

    Totally agree with you cause napping for me is sort of a new religion. I can’t help myself not taking a short daydream between tasks I need to do.

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