Recovery From Bunion Surgery Faster Than in Past

FRIDAY, March 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Improvements in bunion surgery have led to faster and less painful recovery, according to foot doctors.

A bunion is a bump near the base of the big toe that is caused by the misalignment of bones in the foot. About two-thirds of American adults will develop a bunion at some point in their life, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS).

Bunions can become inflamed and increasingly painful, especially if aggravated by tight footwear. Wearing shoes with a larger toe box can help, but surgery may be necessary if bunion pain is constant or interferes with the ability to work or do other activities.

“There is a common misunderstanding among patients considering bunion removal surgery that they won’t be able to walk for weeks or months,” Dr. Alan Catanzariti, a Pittsburgh-based foot and ankle surgeon, said in an ACFAS news release.

“The reality is that the surgery has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and recovery time is often four to six weeks,” he said.

Following surgery, most people can walk on their own if they use a special surgical shoe or walking boot. And most people recover fully from surgery in six weeks, according to researchers who presented findings recently at the ACFAS annual meeting in Phoenix. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Bunion surgeries have been performed for more than 100 years. Techniques used today ensure minimal pain, earlier and improved mobility, and decrease the likelihood that a bunion will return later in life,” Dr. Luke Cicchinelli, an Arizona foot and ankle surgeon, said in the news release.

“As long as people are realistic about the shoes they’re wearing post-surgery, there is minimal chance that a bunion will return,” Cicchinelli added.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about bunions.


Stem Cells, Fecal Transplants Show Promise for Crohn's Disease

By Amy NortonHealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Two experimental therapies might help manage the inflammatory bowel disorder Crohn’s disease, if this early research pans out.

In one study, researchers found that a fecal transplant — stool samples taken from a healthy donor — seemed to send Crohn’s symptoms into remission in seven of nine children treated.

In another, a separate research team showed that stem cells can have lasting benefits for a serious Crohn’s complication called fistula.

According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, up to 700,000 Americans have Crohn’s — a chronic inflammatory disease that causes abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation and rectal bleeding. It arises when the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the digestive tract.

A number of drugs are available to treat Crohn’s, including drugs called biologics, which block certain immune-system proteins.

But fecal transplants take a different approach, explained Dr. David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who led the new study.

Instead of suppressing the immune system, he said, the transplants alter the environment that the immune system is reacting against: the “microbiome,” which refers to the trillions of bacteria that dwell in the gut.

Like the name implies, a fecal transplant involves transferring stool from a donor into a Crohn’s patient’s digestive tract. The idea is to change the bacterial composition of the gut, and hopefully quiet the inflammation that causes symptoms.

And for most kids in the new study, it seemed to work. Within two weeks, seven of nine children were showing few to no Crohn’s symptoms. Five were still in remission after 12 weeks, with no additional therapy, the researchers reported in a recent issue of the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

Fecal transplants are not yet approved for treating Crohn’s, Suskind said.

They are, however, sometimes used to treat a gastrointestinal infection called C. difficile — with “astounding success,” said Dr. Arun Swaminath, who directs the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

So it’s “logical” to study the therapy for Crohn’s, according to Swaminath, who was not involved in the new research.

He said the new findings are “encouraging,” but also limited — partly because there was no comparison group that did not get a fecal transplant.

“We don’t know how many patients would have spontaneously gone into remission in this time,” Swaminath explained.

Suskind agreed that the findings are only preliminary, and his team is conducting a trial that includes children who do not receive a transplant.

“The preliminary data is promising,” Suskind said. “But research into how to manipulate the intestinal microbiome is still young. There are many things we don’t understand yet.”

It’s possible, according to Suskind, that for some Crohn’s patients, one fecal transplant could quickly alter the gut microbiome, and from there on, a careful diet could help maintain the benefit.

But much more work is needed to see how “durable” one transplant is, said Dr. Dana Lukin, a gastroenterologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Lukin also questioned whether any benefits in children would translate to adults, who likely have a more “diverse” microbiome than kids. Still, he called the early results “promising.”

In the other study, researchers in Korea used stem cells to try to repair a serious complication of Crohn’s: fistulas. Fistulas are tunnels that connect one loop of intestine to another, or that run beyond the intestines, connecting to the bladder or skin, for example.

The current treatments for fistulas — antibiotics, biologic drugs, “glues” and surgery — rarely banish the problem, Swaminath said.

So these researchers, led by Dr. Chang Sik Yu, tried a new approach: They took stem cells from the patient’s own fat tissue, then injected the cells, combined with glue, into the fistula during surgery.

Of 36 patients who were followed for two years, 75 percent were still doing well, with the fistula completely closed, Yu’s team reported in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Again, the study had no comparison group, Swaminath cautioned.

“But historically,” he said, “the best data is about 36 percent remission at one year. So the current study shows a stunning improvement on that.”

Lukin agreed that the early results are “impressive,” and warrant a larger trial.

Lukin added, though, that even if a big study confirms the stem cell therapy is safe and effective, it requires “specialized techniques” and expertise. So its use in the real world will be limited in the near future.

More information

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America has more on Crohn’s disease.


Lonely Seniors Visit Doctors More Often

TUESDAY, April 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Older adults who are chronically lonely visit the doctor more often than those who feel more socially connected, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that taking steps to reduce loneliness among older adults may lead to significantly fewer doctor visits and lower health care costs, the University of Georgia researchers said.

They looked at the responses of more than 3,500 American adults 60 and older who were living independently and took part in national surveys in 2008 and 2012. Those who said they were lonely in both surveys were considered to be chronically lonely.

There was a significant association between being chronically lonely and an increased number of doctor visits, but not with a higher number of hospitalizations, according to the study.

“This finding made sense to us. You build a relationship with your physician over the years, so a visit to the doctor’s office is like seeing a friend. Hospitalizations, on the other hand, require a referral from a doctor, and you don’t know who you will see,” study co-author Jayani Jayawardhana, an assistant professor in health policy and management at the University of Georgia School of Public Health, said in a university news release.

Results of the study were published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

Though the study only found an association between seniors’ feelings of loneliness and increased doctor visits, the findings suggest that health care providers should take loneliness into consideration when seeing older patients for other illnesses and complaints, according to the researchers.

Study co-author Kerstin Gerst Emerson, also an assistant professor of health policy and management, said it’s all about the way a patient feels.

“We often assume that if a person has enough friends and relatives, they are doing OK. But loneliness is not the same as being alone. You can be lonely in a crowded room. It’s very much about how you feel about your actual social relationships,” she said in the news release. Emerson is also a faculty member in the university’s Institute of Gerontology.

The study also found that the percentage of respondents who said they were lonely rose from 53 percent in the first survey to 57 percent in the second survey. Those who said they were lonely had more symptoms of depression, more problems with normal daily tasks, and were less likely to rate their health as good, very good or excellent.

Despite high rates of loneliness among older adults and the impact it has on health and the use of medical services, loneliness receives little attention from public health officials and medical professionals, said Emerson.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging explains the importance of social activities for older adults.


1 in 10 Americans Has Anger Issues and Access to Guns: Survey

By Alan MozesHealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Almost one in 10 Americans has a history of impulsive and angry behavior and ready access to guns, new research indicates.

The serious mental health issues that would legally prevent someone from purchasing a gun — such as involuntary commitment to a psychiatric ward for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — only account for about 4 percent of U.S. gun violence, noted study author Jeffrey Swanson.

“There is a potentially much larger group of individuals in our society who struggle with pathological impulsive and destructive anger that would not normally turn up as serious mental illness on a background check,” said Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

Yet these people — mostly young or middle-aged men — break and smash things and get into fights when they get angry, his study found.

The study of more than 5,600 adults found that 8.9 percent of them were admittedly short-fused people who had guns at home, “which I would say is something of a wake-up call,” Swanson said. And 1.5 percent of them also carried their guns outside the home.

Private citizens in the United States own upwards of 310 million firearms, according to background information in the study.

“More than 306,000 people have died in a domestic setting as the result of a gun shot, whether homicide, suicide or accident, over the last 10 years,” Swanson said.

“The idea that the solution is to simply fix our mental health care system to better identify serious mental illness is a little bit of a red herring,” he added.

Reviewing a prospective gun buyer’s history of misdemeanor convictions, including violent behavior and impaired driving, might more effectively prevent gun violence than screening for mental health treatment, Swanson and his colleagues said.

Emma Beth McGinty, an assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, agreed.

“These prohibiting criteria likely do a much better job at capturing the subgroup of individuals with impulsive anger issues that lead to violence than mental illness-focused firearm criteria would,” said, McGinty, who was not involved in the research.

“In layman’s terms, impulsive anger is concerning in that it’s characterized by repeated episodes of aggressive or violent behavior,” said McGinty.

These episodes can “flare up” quite suddenly, leading to violent situations that were not premeditated, she explained.

Swanson’s findings, published online April 8 in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, stem from a fresh analysis of a large mental health survey conducted by Harvard Medical School between 2001 and 2003.

To explore to what degree gun ownership and anger management problems overlap, the investigators pored over survey responses from a nationally representative sample of more than 5,600 men and women.

The respondents were asked about tantrums and other bursts of angry behavior. They also underwent diagnostic testing for relatively common mental health conditions such as anxiety and personality disorders, and were asked how many handguns, rifles, and/or shotguns they owned. All were also asked how many days they had carried a firearm outside the house in the prior month — apart from going to a shooting range.

While less than 10 percent of the quick-to-anger gun owners had ever been hospitalized for a serious psychiatric issue, this group had an elevated risk for more common mental health conditions such as personality disorders, alcohol abuse, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, the researchers said.

The study authors said these elements indicate inherent risk of violence.

Should everyone who gets angry lose their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms?

“No, that’s ridiculous,” said Swanson. “But even people who disagree over the politics of gun control tend to agree with the basic notion that people who are dangerous shouldn’t have access to guns.”

Efforts by HealthDay to reach the National Rifle Association for comment on the study were unsuccessful.

More information

For more on gun violence and prevention, see the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.


Ban Flavoring, Ads for E

By Steven ReinbergHealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should ban flavorings and television ads for e-cigarettes, a prominent physicians’ organization says.

There is scant evidence that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, as claimed by manufacturers. And the chemicals used in these devices may be harmful to both smokers and bystanders, said Ryan Crowley, senior associate for health policy at the American College of Physicians (ACP).

“There are over 7,000 different flavorings in e-cigarettes, and the evidence shows that young people are attracted to these products because of the flavors,” Crowley said. “There are also concerns that there are harmful chemicals in the flavorings themselves.”

Crowley added that calling for a ban on TV ads for e-cigarettes follows ACP’s continuing policy supporting bans on all tobacco advertising.

The organization also recommends taxing e-cigarettes and banning their use in both indoor and outdoor public areas, and urges more research on e-cigarettes.

The ACP’s position paper on e-cigarettes was published April 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Several experts applauded the move.

“We strongly agree with the American College of Physicians that the FDA should act now to regulate e-cigarettes,” said Vince Willmore, vice president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“The urgent need for action was underscored by the new CDC-FDA survey released last week that showed youth e-cigarette use tripled from 2013 to 2014, and surpassed use of traditional cigarettes,” he said. “We can’t allow the tobacco industry to addict our kids with a new generation of tobacco products.”

Stanton Glantz, professor of tobacco control at the University of California, San Francisco, said, “These are sensible recommendations, particularly in light of the major jump in e-cigarette use by kids.”

But Glantz said he doesn’t hold out much hope that the FDA will regulate these products anytime soon.

“The practical responsibility for controlling e-cigarettes will rest with localities and states, who have the authority to include them in clean indoor air laws and tax them — two things that the FDA cannot do,” he said.

The ACP joins a number of other organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the U.S. Surgeon General — in urging the FDA to start regulating e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are growing in popularity, with global sales expected to surpass $50 billion in the next 15 years, Crowley said.

The e-cigarette industry, however, sees the ACP’s recommendations as overreaching.

“The ACP’s policy recommendations read like a step-by-step guide to handing the vapor industry over to ‘Big Tobacco’ and making vaping a less effective alternative to smoking,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association. “The ACP justifies this by cherry-picking studies that support its ideology, while ignoring many of those that do not.”

Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health, believes that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, and regulation would destroy the e-cigarette industry.

“The problem with banning flavoring is that it would put an end to e-cigarettes, because they all have flavoring,” he said. “These flavors are the primary reason that these products are so attractive to smokers who are trying to quit or cut down.

“More importantly,” Siegel added, “it would have negative health effects, because people who are using e-cigarettes may go back to smoking.”

More information

Visit Smokefree.gov for more on e-cigarettes.


Why Colon Cancer in Younger People Is Different

 

TUESDAY, June 2, 2015 (HealthDay News)—Colon cancer is genetically different in older and younger patients, and young adults may require different treatments, a new study suggests.

While the overall rate of colon cancer in the United States is falling, the rate is rising among younger adults. And previous research has shown that colon cancer is more aggressive in patients younger than 50 than in older people, the researchers noted.

In this study, researchers compared the genetics of five colon cancer tumors from younger patients (half of them younger than 31) and six tumors from older patients (half older than 73).

“We saw differences in two important gene signaling pathways, PPAR and IGF1R, which are involved in regulating cell development, metabolism, and growth,” Dr. Christopher Lieu, an investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, said in a university news release.

Changes in these signaling pathways have been linked to several types of cancer, he and his colleagues noted.

The researchers also found that tumors from younger patients were enriched for pathways responsible for metabolizing drugs.

“Chemotherapies challenge cancer cells and younger people may metabolize these chemotherapies differently than older patients. This may explain why our traditional chemotherapy treatments may be less effective for younger patients with metastatic colorectal cancer,” study lead author Todd Pitts, a research instructor in developmental therapeutics program at the Cancer Center, said in the news release.

The study was scheduled for release this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, in Chicago. Findings presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The researchers plan a larger study to confirm their findings.

“If I were to shoot for the stars, I would say that our end goal is to be able to offer better treatments for this population of young colorectal cancer patients that seems to be at higher risk from the disease,” Lieu said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about colon cancer.


Hospice May Help Ease Depression After Loss of Spouse

By Dennis ThompsonHealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Hospice care may help a surviving spouse better cope with depression following the death of a loved one, a new study reports.

Survivors are just as likely to be depressed following the death of their life partner whether or not hospice eased the patient’s suffering and helped them pass with dignity, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found.

But hospice care seems to provide a modest benefit in terms of a survivor’s ability to recover from that depression, said lead author Katherine Ornstein, an assistant professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“If a spouse dies, you’re more likely to be depressed. That’s the way it is. Hospice doesn’t get rid of that,” Ornstein said. “But we found that the group in hospice is improving afterward. Your likelihood of having reduced depression going forward is increased because of hospice.”

Researchers embarked on this study to get a better understanding of how hospice might help families deal with the loss of a loved one. It’s the first national study to examine these potential benefits of hospice, Ornstein said.

Hospice is set up to provide care not only for the patient, but for the family as well, Ornstein said. Family members are given counseling prior to the patient’s death, and bereavement services after the person has passed.

“Hospice is sort of unique in that it includes provision of support for families,” she said. “It’s actually bundled into the payment for the patient.”

The study is published in the May 26 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

The new research focused on the spouses of more than 1,000 people who died between 2002 and 2011. The spouses had taken part in a regular national survey on aging called the Health and Retirement Study. About 30 percent of the deceased had used hospice services for three or more days in the year before their death.

Around half of the surviving spouses developed symptoms of depression following their loved one’s death, regardless of whether the patient died with or without hospice care, the study reported.

But about 28 percent of spouses of hospice users had improved depression scores over time, compared with 22 percent of spouses whose partners didn’t use hospice, the researchers found. They noted that this trend didn’t reach statistical significance, however.

There are some reasons why hospice might help spouses recover more quickly.

By treating the patient’s pain and distress, hospice could be protecting people from having to watch their loved ones suffer, suggested both Ornstein and Holly Prigerson, a professor of sociology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

“Patients who die better have family members who survive better, or adjust better to their loss,” said Prigerson, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study.

Prigerson speaks from experience, having sat with her father as he died of pancreatic cancer in 1999.

“I was sitting there in the hospital, looking at him. He was delirious. He was orange. He was choking. He would collapse and fall down,” she recalled. “There were all of these things that, as a loving family member, I was witnessing, and I felt hopeless and frightened.”

Counseling before and after death also likely helps ease the burden of survivors, Ornstein added.

Still, the positive effect of hospice was modest. Prigerson said she wasn’t surprised at all by that.

“The biggest predictor of prolonged grief is a dependent attachment on the person who’s dying,” she said. “These are more profound psychological issues than a health care service like hospice can be prepared to deal with.”

Hospice could improve its ability to help survivors by screening family members for risk factors that could hamper their ability to cope with loss, and providing them additional support, Prigerson said. These might include serious mental illness, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome and substance abuse.

Mental exercises, such as one called “affective forecasting,” also might help. Families are asked to imagine how they are going to feel after their loved ones die, and what might happen from there, Prigerson said.

“That would be helpful in preparing them for loss and preparing to take steps to prevent problems after their loved one dies,” she said. For example, spouses can plan how to manage tasks that the departed usually handled, such as housework or bill paying or taxes.

Following the patient’s death, hospice also can do a better job by stepping up contacts with the family and reassuring them that they aren’t alone, Prigerson said.

More information

For more information on hospice care, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.


Study Finds Drinking May Ease Fibromyalgia Pain, But Doctors Wary

By Maureen SalamonHealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Moderate to heavy drinking might cut the likelihood of disability for people with chronic widespread pain such as that related to fibromyalgia, new Scottish research suggests.

But U.S. pain specialists say consuming alcohol is the wrong approach to coping with disabling pain.

“It’s an odd way to suggest that chronic pain be treated,” said Dr. Lynn Webster, president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the research.

“I can’t imagine that any physician will suggest alcohol as a therapy,” he added. “The more you drink, the more you need to get the same effects.”

About 2 percent of Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, a mysterious disease characterized by the presence of chronic, widespread pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women outnumber men seven to one in their prevalence of the disorder, whose symptoms also include stiffness, sleep disturbances and thinking and memory problems.

Chronic widespread pain can also be triggered by other conditions, Webster noted, including complex regional pain syndrome and arthritic conditions.

The study — published recently in the journal Arthritis Care & Research — was conducted by Professor Gary Macfarlane and Marcus Beasley of the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Applied Health Sciences School of Medicine and Dentistry in Scotland.

The researchers surveyed more than 2,200 adults in the United Kingdom — 57 percent of them women — who suffered from chronic widespread pain. They found that disability stemming from pain was strongly linked to alcohol consumption, with moderate to heavy drinkers experiencing less disability.

The scientists found that people drinking 21 to 35 units of alcohol a week were 67 percent less likely than those who never drink to experience disability.

Those amounts translate roughly into 15 to 20 beers or 10 to 15 glasses of wine per week by American standards, U.S. physicians said, constituting moderate to heavy drinking.

Alcohol can ease pain by stimulating the brain’s limbic system, which regulates feelings of pleasure and pain. But “chronic drinking can make pain worse, and withdrawal from chronic alcohol use often increases pain sensitivity,” said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Manevitz, who subspecializes in pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, noted that the new study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between increased alcohol use and lower disability from pain, only an association between the two.

He said it was “inexplicable” that the study also showed that very heavy drinkers — those consuming more than 35 units of alcohol weekly — experienced similar levels of disabling pain as never-drinkers.

Webster said the amount of alcohol needed to produce lower pain-related disability varies by individual.

“In someone who doesn’t drink, even half a glass of wine will stimulate the limbic system, making them dizzy,” he said. “That effect will trump, then, the pain from fibromyalgia. They’re replacing that sensory input for pain.”

Manevitz agreed with the study authors that the study should not be interpreted to mean that alcohol has a therapeutic benefit for pain. “It’s a poor self-medication and it ultimately causes further deterioration in patients with pain,” he said.

The Scottish researchers could not be reached for comment, but in the study they note that a significant number of participants were drinking more than the recommended limit.

Webster suggested that people experiencing fibromyalgia or other forms of chronic widespread pain “create some alternate stimulation” that produces feelings of well-being, such as exercise, mindfulness or even watching a movie.

“Something that makes you feel good and stimulates the limbic system in a safe way would be an alternate experience,” he said.

More information

The U.S. National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association has more about fibromyalgia symptoms.


Women's Faces Are Redder During Ovulation, Study Says

TUESDAY, June 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Women’s faces are redder than usual during ovulation, but this subtle change isn’t detectable to the human eye, new research shows.

This change may be a possible signal of peak fertility, and it may have evolved to become less noticeable since controlling or hiding ovulation has greater benefits, the researchers suggested.

In primates, males only express interest in females when it’s apparent they’re ovulating. Among humans, however, ovulation is not obvious and sex is not limited to the period of time when women are ovulating.

Researchers investigated changes in the color of women’s faces over the course of a month. The study involved 22 women. They were photographed daily without makeup using a scientific camera able to capture color more accurately than a typical camera.

“We were able to recruit undergraduates in a number of colleges and photograph the women just before they had dinner in the college hall every evening. The collegiate routines and networks were vital to collecting data with such regularity,” the study’s leader, Hannah Rowland, from the zoology department at University of Cambridge in England, said in a university news release.

A computer program then selected the same patch of cheek from each woman’s photo. The images were converted into red, blue and green values to assess changes in color levels.

Meanwhile, the women tested themselves for hormonal changes at specific intervals during the month. The researchers identified when the women were most fertile based on these levels. Those who experienced a spike in their luteinizing hormone level were expected to ovulate within 24 hours.

Redness in the women’s faces changed significantly throughout the month, but peaked at ovulation, the study published online June 30 in PLOS One found.

The women’s faces remained extra red until after estrogen levels fell. The largest average difference in redness, however, wasn’t a level high enough to be detected by the human eye.

Once menstruation began, the redness in women’s faces dropped to much lower levels. The researchers said this redness closely matches changes in body temperature throughout an ovulation cycle.

“Women don’t advertise ovulation, but they do seem to leak information about it, as studies have shown they are seen as more attractive by men when ovulating,” said Rowland. “We had thought facial skin color might be an outward signal for ovulation, as it is in other primates, but this study shows facial redness is not what men are picking up on — although it could be a small piece of a much larger puzzle.”

Since people — and other primates — are attracted to red, women may subconsciously enhance this naturally occurring facial redness with makeup or red clothes, the researchers suggested.

“As far back as the 1970s, scientists were speculating that involuntary signals of fertility such as skin color changes might be replaced with voluntary signals, such as clothing and behavior,” the study’s co-leader, Robert Burriss, a psychologist from Northumbria University in England, said in the news release.

“Some species of primate advertise their fertility through changes in the color of their faces. Even if humans once advertised ovulation in this way, it appears that we don’t anymore,” he said.

Another theory is that women blush more often when they are in the company of attractive men, the study authors said.

“Other research has shown that when women are in the fertile phase of their cycle they are more flirtatious and their pupils dilate more readily, but only when they are thinking about or interacting with attractive men,” said Burriss. “We will need to do more research to find out if skin redness changes in the same way.”

More information

The American Pregnancy Association has more about ovulation.


Google Can Now Tell You When Your Gym Is Too Crowded

Hate waiting on a treadmill or locker-room hair dryer? A new tool that Google is rolling out will fix that: Search a place using your smartphone, and with your result you get a daily chart of when places like your gym, Whole Foods, or DMV are most and least crowded. It works by using foot traffic data collected from phones (yes, you’re being tracked, but it’s anonymous).

I Googled my gym—Equinox in Mamaroneck, NY—clicked on the more icon and learned that if I’m going after work (doubtful!), I’m way better off waiting until 8:30 rather than braving 7, the evening’s craziest hour. And going off-peak could even help you get stronger by making you more confident to tackle weight work.

Some of this is self-evident, for sure. But the new intel (which is only available on mobile devices) can actually be game-changing. What if you learned, as I did, that your typical time to hit Trader Joe’s (before dinner on Sunday) is ALL WRONG? That it’s in fact the absolute WORST hour of the week to pick up quinoa and zucchini and down free coffee? You might just go on Saturday at 9am instead. That is, if you aren’t too busy enjoying some peace and quiet at the near-empty gym.

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