What Does Your Voice Say about You?

Everyone has at some point been charmed by the sound of a person’s voice: but can we believe our ears? What can a voice really reveal about our character? Now an international research team led by the University of Göttingen has shown that people seem to express at least some aspects of their personality with their voice. The researchers discovered that a lower pitched voice is associated with individuals who are more dominant, extrovert and higher in sociosexuality (more interested in casual sex). The findings were true for women as well as for men. The results were published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

The researchers analysed data from over 2,000 participants and included information from four different countries. Participants filled in questionnaires about themselves to measure personality and provided recordings of their voice so that the pitch could be measured using a computer programme. This is the first time that an objective digital measure of voice pitch has been used in a study of this kind, rather than subjective ratings of how “high” or “deep” a voice might sound. The researchers measured “sociosexuality” by collecting responses about sexual behaviour, attitude and desire. They also collected data to provide ratings of dominance and other character traits such as neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The number of participants helps to confirm the robustness of the findings: the study involves the largest number to date compared to similar research in this theme.

The researchers found that people with lower pitched voices were more dominant, extroverted and higher in sociosexuality (eg were more interested in sex outside a relationship). However, the relationship between voice pitch and other personality traits (such as agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness or openness) seems less clear. It is possible that these traits are not expressed in the pitch of voices. The researchers found no difference between men and women.

“People’s voices can make a huge and immediate impression on us,” explains Dr Julia Stern, at the University of Göttingen’s Biological Personality Psychology Group. “Even if we just hear someone’s voice without any visual clues – for instance on the phone – we know pretty soon whether we’re talking to a man, a woman, a child or an older person. We can pick up on whether the person sounds interested, friendly, sad, nervous, or whether they have an attractive voice. We also start to make assumptions about trust and dominance.” This led Stern to question whether these assumptions were justified. “The first step was to investigate whether voices are, indeed, related to people’s personality. And our results suggest that people do seem to express some aspects of their personality with their voice.”

Source: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Study: Lots of Sugary Drinks Doubles Younger Women’s Colon Cancer Risk

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Rates of colon cancer among young Americans are on the rise, and a new study suggests that drinking too many sugary beverages may be to blame — at least for women.

Women who drank two or more sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, fruity drinks or sports and energy drinks per day had double the risk of developing colon cancer before the age of 50, compared to women who consumed one or fewer sugary drinks per week.

“On top of the well-known adverse metabolic and health consequences of sugar-sweetened beverages, our findings have added another reason to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages,” said study author Yin Cao, an associate professor of surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study included more than 95,000 women from the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II. The nurses were aged 25 through 42 when the study began in 1989 and provided information on their diet every four years for nearly 25 years.

Of these, 41,272 reported on what, and how much, they drank in their teen years. During 24 years of follow-up, 109 women developed colon cancer before turning 50.

Having a higher intake of sugar-sweetened drinks in adulthood was associated with a higher risk of the disease, even after researchers controlled for other factors that may affect colon cancer risk such as a family history. This risk was even greater when women consumed sodas and other sugary drinks during their teen years.

Each daily serving in adulthood was associated with a 16% higher risk of colon cancer, but when women were aged 13 to 18, each drink was linked to a 32% increased risk of developing colon cancer before 50, the study found.

But substituting sugar-sweetened drinks with artificially sweetened beverages, coffee or milk was associated with a 17% to 36% lower risk of developing colon cancer before age of 50, the study found.

“Reducing sugar-sweetened beverage intake and/or replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with other healthier beverages would be a better and wiser choice for long-term health,” Cao said.

The new study was not designed to say how, or even if, drinking sugary beverages causes colon cancer risk to rise, but some theories exist. People who consume sugary beverages are more likely to be overweight or obese and have type 2 diabetes, all of which can up risk for early-onset colon cancer. The high-fructose corn syrup in these drinks may also promote the development of colon cancer in its own right, Cao said.

The research does have its share of limitations. Participants were predominantly white women, and as a result, the findings may not apply to men or women of other ethnicities.

The study was published online in the journal Gut.

Researchers not involved with the new study are quick to point out that only an association was seen, and that more data is needed to draw any definitive conclusions about the role that sugary drinks play in promoting early-onset colon cancer.

“Clearly more research is needed before we can give this a stamp of approval and say with confidence that this association is actually causation,” said Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based gastroenterologist. “No one thinks sugar-sweetened beverages are health-promoting [and] you should reduce your sugar-sweetened beverage intake as much as possible.”

Dr. Patricio Polanco, an assistant professor in the division of surgical oncology in the department of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, agreed.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages cause a bunch of other conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and now we have more data that they could be related to colon cancer, too,” Polanco said.

Exactly why colon cancer is on the rise in younger people is not fully understood. Lifestyle factors such as higher rates of obesity and possibly greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may play a role. “We still believe there may be some genetic contribution that has not yet been characterized,” he said.

The best way to protect yourself from colon cancer is to undergo regular screening, Polanco stressed.

Due to the rise in colon cancer in young people, the American Cancer Society now recommends regular screening at age 45 for people at average risk for the disease.

Source: HealthDay

In the Virgin Islands, Fungi Tells a Story

Korsha Wilson wrote . . . . . . . . .

At Petite Pump Room, a waterfront restaurant in Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas, lunchtime usually finds locals and visitors filling the tables and bar, taking in the island’s hills and watching seaplanes take off and land in the harbor from nearby St. Croix.

Since 1970, the Petite Pump Room has been a meeting place, offering a menu of local favorites — stewed conch in butter sauce, fried local snapper with a Creole sauce of tomato and bell peppers — alongside typical fare like sandwiches and salads. But the restaurant’s fungi, a side dish made of hot cornmeal that’s easy to overlook, is cherished by those from the islands but remains unfamiliar to most visitors. “A lot of them will try it once you explain it to them,” said Judy Watson, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Michael Anthony Watson.

Fungi (pronounced foon-GEE), a cooked yellow cornmeal mixture dotted with tender okra and thinned with chunks of butter, is a staple on dinner tables and was once a fixture on restaurant menus across the Virgin Islands.

But it is hard to find at newer restaurants, leaving institutions like Petite Pump Room, De’ Coal Pot on the east side of the island and Gladys’ Cafe in Charlotte Amalie to keep the dish alive on their menus.

Most native Virgin Islanders fondly remember fungi as a part of their childhoods, and as a key element of fish and fungi, a common meal, said Mr. Watson, 59. “We ate it once a week or so growing up, and I’ve always enjoyed it,” he said. “I used to beg my older sister to make it for me.”

But the recipe also represents an important piece of Virgin Islands history. Fungi’s roots extend back to the 18th century when, under colonial rule, food was rationed for enslaved Africans on the islands as part of a 1755 law that required slave owners to provide enslaved persons with corn flour or cassava, as well as salt pork.

In his 1992 book, “Slave Society in the Danish West Indies,” the author and professor Neville A.T. Hall writes that this amount would have been two and a half quarts of cassava or cornmeal per week, a small amount considering the hard labor required during harvest season. To fill in the gaps, enslaved Africans grew their own provisions on land hidden from slave owners. Okra, a key ingredient in West African cooking brought to the Caribbean by the trans-Atlantic slave trade, was likely added to the cornmeal around this time, increasing the dish’s nutritional value, adding an earthy flavor and stretching it into a meal that could feed many.

Preserving this part of Virgin Islands history is important for Julius Jackson, the chef and manager at the cafe and bakery of My Brother’s Workshop, a nonprofit organization that teaches managerial skills and culinary arts in Charlotte Amalie. “When they make it, they usually say their grandparents and the adults in their life eat fungi,” Mr. Jackson said of his students.

The decline in the dish’s popularity isn’t unexpected, as it requires more preparation than other staples like fried plantains or rice and beans. The process of whipping, or “turning” it, is a time-consuming task that prevents lumps and aerates the mixture.

But the appeal of fungi is that it uses few ingredients to create a flavorful accompaniment to a stewed or fried protein.

In the cafe and in Mr. Jackson’s cookbook, “My Modern Caribbean Kitchen,” his recipe for fungi is simplified: Cook the okra until tender before whisking in a steady stream of cornmeal. The goal of his lessons at the cafe — and this simplification — is to encourage a new generation of cooks to make fungi at home.

He serves his fungi in a bowl of kallaloo, a hot soup made with spinach, pork and seafood, similar to the Nigerian dish efo riro. In teaching younger cooks about recipes like fungi, he hopes to illustrate how many Caribbean dishes are linked directly to West Africa. “There’s so much history in our food that tells our story, and I can actually show them that,” Mr. Jackson said.

As more restaurants specializing in global cuisines arrive on the island, traditional dishes have become harder to come by. But that doesn’t mean they should disappear completely, said Digby Stridiron, a chef who grew up on St. Croix. “If there’s a restaurant here that does traditional food, they should serve fungi,” he said. “Just like you see jerk in Jamaica or roti in Trinidad, because that’s what we eat here.”

Mr. Stridiron is in the process of opening a restaurant on St. Thomas and believes that one way to preserve fungi may be to modernize it. For his menu, he wants to source high-quality cornmeal from producers like Anson Mills as well as dehydrated okra pods to enhance the flavor as they are cooked with the cornmeal.

“The islands are a transitional place where people are coming together and leaving their mark through food,” he said. “It’s always evolving. As chefs, it’s our responsibility to keep dishes alive and innovate them, while getting to the root of the dish and not losing sight of the flavor and the concept.”

Source: The New York Times

5 Critical Steps to Help Prevent a Stroke

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

If there’s one good thing that can be said of strokes, it’s this: The vast majority of them don’t need to happen.

Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes and working with health care practitioners to control stroke risk factors. Researchers have identified numerous steps people can take to lower stroke risk, but health experts agree, trying to do them all at once can feel overwhelming.

“The biggest mistake people make is they are overly ambitious, and then they fail and give up,” said Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, a Canadian neurologist and global expert in the field of stroke. “You have to start small.”

The rewards are enormous, said Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, a neurologist and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s “not just for preventing stroke, but for preventing dementia as well. You can do the same things to prevent both. You are killing two birds with one stone.”

Here are five ways to get started on the road to prevention.

If you smoke, quit

Studies show that for every five cigarettes a person smokes each day, the risk of having a stroke goes up by 12%. For Black adults, smoking cigarettes more than doubles the risk of stroke compared to never smoking, a 2020 study found.

“People understand that smoking causes lung cancer, but they don’t understand it also damages the brain and blood vessels,” Bushnell said. “In terms of stroke prevention, quitting smoking is the lowest hanging fruit.”

Move more

More active men and women have a 25%-30% lower risk of stroke than those who are least active. Physical activity has been shown to lower cholesterol, help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure – all factors that can reduce stroke risk.

“The evidence for physical activity is undeniable,” said Bushnell, who co-authored a 2014 statement from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association on stroke prevention. “Even just moving around for 10 minutes every hour is better than sitting for an extended period of time. You don’t have to run a 5K.”

Hachinski placed exercise among the top three things a person could do to lower stroke risk – and agrees it needn’t be overly ambitious. “The worst thing that can happen is to sit all day. Walking is the best exercise there is. Get up and walk around.”

Keep blood pressure under control

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is the leading cause of strokes. Half of all men – 52% – and 43% of women in the U.S. have blood pressure that is too high, according to AHA statistics. While it can be controlled through lifestyle changes or by taking medication, only about 1 in 5 adults keep it properly managed. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and eating an unhealthy diet can push blood pressure out of the healthy range.

At-home monitoring and regular communication with doctors to make sure medications are working are important to keep high blood pressure in check, Bushnell said.

“People have to keep track of their own blood pressure,” she said. “They have to know what their numbers are, know their medications and how to take them.”

Eat a healthy diet

“One of the most subtle things that happens to people as they get older is they put on weight,” Hachinski said.

Being careful to choose healthy foods can minimize weight gain, he said. But there’s value to making healthier food choices regardless of weight.

“Nutrition is more important than weight loss,” agreed Bushnell. “There are multiple diets shown to decrease the risk of stroke,” such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets. Both emphasize eating a lot of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish and nuts, while cutting back on foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fats.

Start early

Strokes happen to young people, too. About 10%-15% of all strokes occur in adults age 50 or under. Recent research shows Black young adults have up to four times the risk as their white peers.

And recent research shows the same factors that cause strokes in older adults – such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes – are causing strokes in younger adults.

“You don’t think about disease when you are young,” Hachinski said. But that’s when good habits should start.

Hachinski recommends people start monitoring their blood pressure, cholesterol, lipids and blood sugar levels as soon as they transition from a pediatrician to a primary care physician as a young adult. “If you’re going off to college or leaving home, your habits will change at this time. You begin eating on your own. This is a good time to think about how to prevent disease.”

Other life transitions – such as moving in with a partner – should also be triggers for checking health metrics, he said. “It’s a good time to take inventory, because it’s when habits will change.”

It doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, Hachinski said. Focus on just one thing to get started. “Identify the most important thing you are lacking,” he said. “Is it exercise? Are you snacking too much?”

Set a specific and measurable goal, he said, and then break it into parts and stick to it until you reach it. Having a partner can help maintain motivation, as long as that person has healthy habits. “If you can get someone to do it with you, you double your chances for success.”

Source: American Heart Association

What’s for Lunch?

Mackerel with Miso Sauce Set Meal at Ootoya in Tokyo, Japan

The price is 810 yen (plus tax).