News for Nerds - The Puberty Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 11/15/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Puberty Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we'll explore the world of glow-in-the-dark ice cream, and we'll learn a thing or two about bathroom etiquette. But first, here are your headlines.

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Kids grow up fast, don't they? Especially girls?

You don't know the half of it. American girls are maturing at younger ages than ever before. The average age for girls to reach puberty is now eight years old -- eight! Keep in mind that puberty is not necessarily defined by when girls' begin menstruating, but rather by when they start to develop physically. That means wider hips, emerging breasts, hair development, body odor . . . and, of course, hormones.

Just a few decades ago the average age was nine. That's still pretty young, but that one year makes a big difference in the life of a child. So what's causing this shift?

It's impossible to identify all the factors, but there's one that nearly everyone seems to agree on: obesity. Says one pediatrician, "When the body has more fat cells, those fat cells produce extra hormones. So if your body is making extra hormones, you're going to show signs of puberty earlier."

It stands to reason, therefore, that as the rates of childhood obesity have risen, so too have the rates of early development.

Other possible causes include exposure to chemical modifiers in plastics and cosmetics, as well as environmental factors. Your ability to combat some of those unknown forces might be limited, but one thing any parent can (and should) do is teach their children good dietary habits from a young age. Easier said than done? Sure it is. But for reasons that extend beyond early puberty, it's worth the extra effort.

- from America Now News

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Speaking of growth and development, here's a depressing thought: people who suffer from depression may age faster than other people.

This according to a study from the Netherlands, which analyzed about 1,900 people who had major depressive disorders and another 500 who didn't. At issue was the length of cell structures called telomeres, which are caps at the end of chromosomes that protect DNA during cell division. Telomeres usually shorten slightly each time cells divide, so they're a pretty good indicator of a cell's aging.

What the Dutch researchers found was that people who suffer from depression had shorter telomeres than people who don't. What's more, the severity of a person's depression and the duration of their symptoms seemed to correlate with shorter telomere length, even after controlling for lifestyle factors such as weight, smoking, and drinking. This seems to indicate that cellular aging in people with depression is accelerated by several years.

Previous studies have also shown that depression is linked to an increased risk for diseases that tend to come with aging -- things like dementia, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

It's unfortunate that mental health issues, including depression, tend to carry a stigma with them. The more we learn, the more it seems that their reach extends beyond just emotional problems. Good health and wellness means more than just six-pack abs. Take care of yourselves, my friends.

- from LiveScience

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Here are a few other cool (and much happier) science stories you might enjoy:

  • For the low-low price of $225, you can have a scoop of glow-in-the-dark ice cream. A company called Lick Me I'm Delicious has synthesized the luminescence protein found in jellyfish. The man behind this novelty says, "It's glow-in-the-dark jellyfish ice cream using calcium activated proteins that react when they are agitated . . . or, to put it in a non-science-y way, it glows when you lick it."
  • And finally, this. While some scientists devote their lives to curing cancer or building rockets, others tackle the really important issues. Like, for instance, preventing 'urinal splash-back.' Guys, you know what I'm talking about. This might be the most important bathroom breakthrough since the Optimum Urinal Occupation test.

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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