Why People Around the World Trip Over Their Tongues Sometimes

Can’t quite spit out the right, uh, word at times? A new study helps explain why.

European researchers analyzed thousands of recordings of spontaneous speech in different languages from around the world. They included English and Dutch speakers as well as conversation from people in the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Himalayas and the Kalahari desert.

“We discovered that in this diverse sample of languages, there is a robust tendency for slow-down effects before nouns as compared to verbs,” study leaders Frank Siefart and Balthasar Bickel said in a University of Zurich news release.

Yes, nouns — words that describe people, places or things — slow you down. Action words, or verbs, not so much.

In other words, when you use a noun like “friend” or “town,” you’re more likely to pause a little first or throw in an “uh” or “uhm” than when you invoke a verb like “run” or “swim.”

It suggests the brain has more trouble planning some words than others, Siefart and Bickel said.

Siefart is a faculty member at the University of Amsterdam. Bickel is a professor at the University of Zurich.

For the study, the researchers examined slow-down effects before nouns and verbs. They measured how quickly the words were spoken, noting when people took short pauses in their speech.

“Nouns are more difficult to plan because they’re usually only used when they represent new information,” the researchers said.

On second reference, most speakers use pronouns instead. For example, “my friend” becomes “she.” Verbs communicate both old and new information.

This slow-down effect before nouns may also help explain why complex forms, such as prefixes, are more common in verbs, the study suggested.

The findings advance knowledge of how the human brain processes language, researchers said. Understanding how languages work is increasingly important as we communicate more with artificial systems — ones that might not slow down as humans naturally do, they added.

Future study should include rarer languages and investigate how the brain reacts to the information value of various words, the team said.

The study was published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: HealthDay

Spicy Pork with Frozen Fruits Chutney


1 piece pork tenderloin

Spice Rub

1 Tbsp salt
1/2 Tbsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp cumin

Rhubarb Chutney

7-1/3 cups frozen rhubarb
1 cup frozen cranberries
1-1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves


  1. to make the chutney, combine all ingredients in a heavy pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick and reduced in volume by about half.
  2. The chutney should still have some flow to it, as it will thicken more as it cools, and will have darkened significantly in colour.
  3. Take chutney off heat and let cool. Once cooled, reserve 1 Tbsp chutney for pork. Remainder can be frozen for later use.
  4. Combine rub ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
  5. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  6. Roll pork tenderloin in 3 Tbsp spice mixture. Remaining mixture can be kept in a sealed container to be used at a later date.
  7. Pan sear pork then place on a greased baking tray.
  8. Cook pork in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.
  9. Let pork rest for 1 minute, then cut into pieces and top with rhubarb chutney.

Makes 1 to 2 servings.

Source: ciao!

In Pictures: Character Bento


Pressured by Industry, U.S. EPA Slows Formaldehyde Study Release

Valerie Volcovici wrote . . . . . . . . .

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from the chemical industry, has delayed release of a study detailing cancer risks from formaldehyde, according to internal communications seen by Reuters, potentially keeping important health information from the public.

Top EPA officials have declined to review the study or be briefed by its experts on the findings, the internal communications showed.

The EPA already lists formaldehyde, used in building materials like plywood and foam insulation, as a probable carcinogen. The new report is expected for the first time to detail its links to leukemia.

The report, an update of the EPA’s existing human health assessment of the widely used chemical, was completed by scientists from the agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) late last year and must go through a months-long internal review process before it can be issued to the public for comment.

The delay could further heighten scrutiny of EPA, already fending off complaints that it and the White House considered blocking a study on water contamination by PFOA and PFOS, chemicals used in Teflon and firefighting. Politico reported on May 14 that a Trump administration aide had warned release of that study would cause a “public relations nightmare.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy group, said delaying the report fits a broader pattern of the agency’s political leadership interfering with public health research.

“By sweeping scientific assessments under the rug, EPA fails to fulfill its mission of protecting public health. The public has the right to know about public health threats,” said Yogin Kothari, UCS Washington director.

The EPA told Congress in early February it expected to start the agency review process for the formaldehyde assessment “shortly,” according to the EPA staff communications.

But in follow-up communications between agency employees in late April, one career staffer wrote that EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum, and Wehrum’s deputy Clint Woods had not given their permission to initiate the review and had refused offers from EPA scientists to brief them on it.

“No office in the EPA is interested in formaldehyde,” the staffer wrote.

The 60-to-90-day agency review and a subsequent inter-agency review of a similar duration must happen before the study can be issued for public comment.

Prior to the communications, the chemistry industry’s main lobby group, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), had been pressuring the EPA to avoid drawing links between formaldehyde and leukemia in its assessment.

EPA’s deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Nancy Beck, previously served as director of regulatory science policy at the ACC. Beck is not named in the communication.

Scientifically Indefensible

The lobby group met with EPA political staff, including Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development Richard Yamada, on January 24 to make a presentation on the subject, ACC Formaldehyde Panel spokeswoman Sarah Scruggs told Reuters.

She provided Reuters a link to the presentation, titled “Formaldehyde IRIS Assessment.” [tmsnrt.rs/2KRcVA2]

“Any draft assessment that attempts to associate formaldehyde exposure with leukemia is scientifically indefensible,” Scruggs said, adding that the ACC questions the “scientific rigor and methodologies” used by IRIS.

EPA spokeswoman Molly Block declined to comment on the delays or the ACC’s possible role.

“We continue to discuss the assessment with our agency program partners and have no further updates to provide at this time,” she said in an email.

Reuters was able to review the staff communications on condition that the identities of the people involved remained anonymous, given sensitivity of the issue.

EPA’s last attempt to update its assessment of formaldehyde in 2010 had been criticized by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for failing to draw “clear links” between formaldehyde and leukemia. The new attempt was meant to resolve that.

The NAS supported the prior EPA assessment’s finding that formaldehyde can, in certain cases, cause cancer in the nose and throat.

Democratic senators Ed Markey, Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Carper last week wrote to EPA chief Scott Pruitt to ask about delays to the report and request communications between the EPA and ACC related to the formaldehyde assessment, saying they were concerned the agency was bowing to industry pressure.

Source: Reuters

Study: Most Popular Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Provide No Health Benefit

The most commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements provide no consistent health benefit or harm, suggests a new study led by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the systematic review of existing data and single randomized control trials published in English from January 2012 to October 2017 found that multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C — the most common supplements — showed no advantage or added risk in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or premature death. Generally, vitamin and mineral supplements are taken to add to nutrients that are found in food.

“We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume,” said Dr. David Jenkins*, the study’s lead author. “Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm — but there is no apparent advantage either.”

The study found folic acid alone and B-vitamins with folic acid may reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke. Meanwhile, niacin and antioxidants showed a very small effect that might signify an increased risk of death from any cause.

“These findings suggest that people should be conscious of the supplements they’re taking and ensure they’re applicable to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies they have been advised of by their healthcare provider,” Dr. Jenkins said.

His team reviewed supplement data that included A, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folic acid), C, D and E; and ?-carotene; calcium; iron; zinc; magnesium; and selenium. The term ‘multivitamin’ in this review was used to describe supplements that include most vitamins and minerals, rather than a select few.

“In the absence of significant positive data — apart from folic acid’s potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease — it’s most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals,” Dr. Jenkins said. “So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits and nuts.”

Source: Science Daily

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