Author Archives: Katelyn Ann Estelow

Milk: The Next Greatest Serial Killer?

Milk: The Next Greatest Serial Killer 

When someone asks me what the two things I hate the most are, I respond by saying, “Stink bugs and milk.” Though my loathing of stink bugs is rational, most people believe my hate for milk is very odd. What they don’t understand is that milk and I have been enemies for almost two decades. It began when I was in daycare. The teachers used to always make us drink a glass of milk with our lunch. In the beginning, I played the pity card to try to get out of this task. I would take a sip and start to tear up and gag. They didn’t buy it. Then, I began to plead with them. I begged for them to not make me drink the glass of milk. Still, they made me drink it. Desperate and disgusted, I resorted to straight-up refusal. Everyday I sat at the lunch table long after the other children. I sat through recess, story-time, and other activities. I’d sit at that table until nap-time if I had to, I was not drinking that milk. I’ve always eaten my cereal dry, I’ve never dipped cookies in milk, and I’ve allowed my throat to burn after eating hot, spicy foods because I refused to drink milk. Sorry to keep going on about this. I’m sure you get it by now and are wondering why this is important. Well, knowing I was a strong advocate against milk, my doctors were always worried about my growth when I was younger. They expressed how important drinking milk was for my bone development. They always tried to convince me that drinking a few glasses of milk was not the end of the world and that I should give it a try. But a new study has revealed that drinking a few glasses of milk a day might actually cause more harm than good.

Image courtesy of: this

According to Medical Daily, a study from Sweden insists that large consumptions of milk can cause an increased risk in mortality rates and bone fractures. The swedish study followed 106,772 people (45,339 men between the ages of 45 and 79 and 61,433 women between the ages of 39 and 74). The men were only tracked for 11 years, while the women were tracked for 20. The press release explains that lifestyle information, weight and height, and education proficiency levels were considered in this study. The study showed that risk of fracture was not reduced by milk consumption. It also showed that men and women who consumed more than three glasses (or 1400 mg) of milk a day had a higher mortality rate, particularly from cardiovascular complications. Men and women who drank less than a glass a day (600 mg) were not at a higher risk of death (boo ya!).

The study isn’t completely perfect. The researcher, Karl Michaëlsson, and his team warn that people should not interpret the results as, “milk causes death” because they still need more information.

The study as described is observational. It does seem to take confounding variables into consideration, and is certainly a very large-scale study. However, it cannot rule out reverse causation. Are people with bad hearts more-likely to drink more milk? Also, other dairy products do not have the same effects as milk. Therefore, it might not be the ingredients of milk, but rather the ingestion process of the beverage. The age ranges of the people studied and amount of time each person is tracked should be controlled better and kept the same regardless of gender.

But the study is intriguing in another way. Although there is not enough evidence to support that milk causes an increase in death, the study also found that people who drank more milk had more fractures.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who believe in drinking milk everyday claim it prevents osteoporosis and bone fractures. It goes on to say that along with exercise, vitamin intake, and exposure to sunshine, consuming 1,000 mg of calcium a day is enough to prevent osteoporosis. But you do not need to drink milk to get calcium. In fact, saveourbones believes that drinking milk can actually reduce our calcium levels in our bones. This concept is a little hard to understand, so I’ll try my best to simplify it. You probably already know that there is calcium in our bones. What you may not know is that calcium is a natural acid reducer. Most people believe that milk is a base, but it is actually slightly acidic (6.7 on the pH scale) in comparison to other drinks. In order for our bodies to reduce the acid in the milk we consume, it draws from the natural acid-reducer in our bodies, a.k.a. the calcium in our bones. Therefore, drinking milk actually causes a reduction in calcium in our bones, which causes weaker bones, which causes an increased chance of getting fractures and osteoporosis.

I have also found studies that claim milk might cause certain cancers. Basically, they say that cancer can be caused by high amounts of galactose, a sugar used to breakdown lactose, in the body. There is still a lot more research that needs to be done before I contribute these findings to my blog, but it is certainly a theory to keep in mind.

I have concluded from this information that drinking one glass of milk a day is fine; however, I’m still not going to do it. For everyone else who enjoys milk, just make sure to keep it at a glass or two a day. The swedish study from earlier only found danger in consuming more than 3 glasses of milk a day, and your body will only take a small amount of calcium from your bones to help process each glass. It is probably best to get the majority of your calcium through other dairy products. They taste better, smell better, and none of the articles I read contribute them to any of these adverse side effects. Although these findings seem hard to believe, remember these three things: cigarette smoking was once prescribed by doctors, Sigmund Freud claimed that cocaine was “magical,” and it took almost 100 years for scientist to realize that DNA is important. As science advances, we learn more and more about our bodies. In 20-years-time, milk might be sold on the black market. It might also remain a staple food item in households. Until further research is found, be wary of how much milk you are drinking each day.

Solar Explorer

To buy a solar home, or not?

When I was younger I always dreamed about having a solar mansion. I never understood why this technology wasn’t being utilized. It seems simple, if we can have homes powered by the sun, why don’t we? Well, there are many more factors that contribute to solar homes.

This is Tom Brady's Solar Mansion. Mine will be better (just kidding).

This is Tom Brady’s Solar Mansion. Mine will be better. (just kidding)

First off, solar homes might not be as good for the environment as we think. This is because the shade from trees effects how well the homes work. According to howstuffworks, “a poly-crystalline panel will substantially reduce its output if any part of the panel is shaded, a mono-crystalline panel will stop producing electricity entirely.” This means that shade can completely stop your home from working. If there is a solar home in a wooded area, the owner would have to cut the trees down in order to get there home to work. This seems counterintuitive. Also, if the homes stop working in the shade, that means they cannot work at night. If you needed to use power during the night time, you’d have to either tap into another power source or into a solar reserve.

Solar homes are also expensive to create; however, they would eventually save you about $20,000 a year on bills according to CleanTechnica. Solar energy is also never going to run out in our lifetime. If solar energy did run out, it wouldn’t matter because we would no longer be able to sustain life. According to the same article, solar energy can also help decrease global warming and create energy reliability. Instead of having to rely on gasoline for cars, oil for heating in the winter, and electricity to run our appliances, all we would need is the sun.

If we can develop a way to make solar-powered products more convenient, we would undoubtably go solar. There are more benefits than disadvantages and it is a renewable energy source. Hopefully by the time I’m ready to purchase a home, solar-powered houses are easy to find and maintain.

Sunny D(ioxins)

Sunny D(ioxins)

I remember my best friend’s mother yelling at me one day for trying to drink a water bottle I left in the car. The water bottle was only sitting in the car for about an hour, and I was thirsty. Her claim was that the sun’s rays gave my water cancer. It seemed ridiculous, and I was still thirsty. Now that I’m older, I constantly wonder if the sun’s rays shining into my water bottle really can induce cancer.

Most online sites say this is a myth. The original claim is that the sun’s warmth react with chemicals, such as dioxins and BPA’s, in the plastic of the water bottle, which then leak into the water, so when you drink the water you drink the cancer-inducing chemicals. According to Michael Trush, PhD, and Prevention: “Plastics do not contain dioxins, and the sun’s rays are not strong enough to create them.” However, Prevention also states that BPA’s in plastic might have estrogenic effects which can cause cancer. Most water bottles are BPA-free, though. And even if you are not drinking out of a BPA-free water bottle, it is still only a theory.

At this point it seems like this claim is completely false. Like I said before, most websites agree. However, there is not any evidence that says leaving a water bottle in your car does not cause cancer. In theory, it does not, but there is no actual evidence against it. There is research currently being done to either prove or disprove the theory, but these are not publish yet and may not even be well-designed. Since there is no evidence completely ruling out that cancer can be caused by drinking from a hot water bottle, I think we should still take precautions. There are still many variables that have not been considered and several questions we cannot answer.

Dr. Ravi Patel from the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center touches upon this. He explains that there are many types of plastic which can contain Dioxins and BPA but can also be completely safe. His advice is, “don’t want to wait for all the evidence to show you it causes cancer. There’s enough evidence right now that it can be carcinogens. So if it’s easy and simple to avoid the product in your life, you should try to avoid it.” I think this is good advice overall. Unless you’re dying of thirst, there’s no reason to drink water that you left in a car. Also, you could use an aluminum container or glass instead. The sun’s rays into the water are not causing cancer, but it is the reaction of the heat and the plastic that might cause the cancer-inducing molecules to get into your water. It’s a simple precaution. If you want to reduce your risk of cancer, don’t drink out of plastic water bottles that are hot until further evidence implies that it is completely safe.

I’ll Toast to That

Can drinking red wine help us live longer?

I think the Neil Diamond, Bob Marley, and the UB40 put it best when they sing “Red, red wine. Stay close to me.” But is aiding a person with getting over their ex all red wine is good for? (That and a terrible hangover the next day is probably what you 21 and overs are thinking right now.) But it is possible that the consumption of red wine helps you live longer too?


According to U.K.’s Mail Online, reservatrol, which is a polyphenol found in grapes and red wine, can increase the lifespan of people by up to 60%. The benefits of reservatrol were tested on animals such as worms. When it was tested on worms, it was found that there lifespan was increased by up to 80%. Women’s Day also believes that reservatrol is a miracle ingredient in red wine. The article states that it has “anti-aging… [and] anti-inflammatory properties.” At this point, I was pretty excited about Red Wine. I continued clicking the citations given in these articles, so I could look deeper into this phenomenon. What I found was very disappointing to say the least.

The link cited by Women’s Day completely contradicted the article. According to the researcher Heather Hausenblas at the University of Florida, “[d]espite numerous clinical studies on resveratrol’s tonic effects on animals, there is little evidence that it benefits human health.” This is because humans and animals, although genetically similar, are very different.

Reservatrol’s claim to fame is that it can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and have anti-inflammatory benefits. A study by Richard D. Semba and colleagues disproves these claims. The Johns Hopkins researchers conducted a test on humans and found that drinking red wine did not help their subjects live longer. The study lasted for 9 years and tested 783 65-year-old women in the Chianti area. Reservatrol levels found in urine had no impact on the subjects’ risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, or inflammation.

In my opinion, the studies supporting both sides of the issue aren’t too great. The studies claiming that red wine is beneficial for our health only have small tests conducted on animals and word-of-mouth as their evidence. Animals cannot prove that red wine is healthy for humans, because humans have longer lifespans and have the risk of getting many other diseases. These studies do not account for any of these confounding variables. The study by Semba and associates only contained women above the age of 65. These people also lived in the same area. It does not answer these basic questions: could red wine help people if they drank it their entire life? Does red wine help men more than it helps women? Is there an environmental factor prohibiting Reservatrol from working?

There needs to be more research on both ends of the issue in order to come to a valid conclusion. What I got out of this is that if I want to drink a glass or two of red wine when I’m 21, I’m going to! It certainly won’t kill me, it looks really classy, and it could possibly help me live longer. Seems like a win.

Is Frozen Yogurt Really Healthy?- The Cold Truth

The Cold Truth 

When it comes to late-night snacks, frozen yogurt and ice cream are my favorite. Some people swear there is a huge difference in taste, but I can barely tell. The only factor that weighs in when I’m deciding between fro-yo and ice cream is how heavy of a treat I’m looking for. If I feel like I want a lighter snack, I go for fro-yo. This led to me wondering is fro-yo is the right choice? Is there much of a difference between the two snacks?

Many people think Frozen Yogurt is the more natural option of the two. According to the Huffington Post, this is incorrect. In the article The Sad, Sad Truth About Frozen Yogurt, Laura Schocker states, [y]ogurt, by definition, only needs to include curdled milk and cultures, but the cold, hard truth is that many fro yo brands are loaded with hard-to-pronounce ingredients and sugar.” These ingredients include: guar gum, maltodextrin, sodium citrate, cellulose gum, disodium phosphate and propylene glycol monoesters. These are seen regularly in all processed foods, so they do not make frozen yogurt unhealthy; however, they do compromise the natural taste and feel of the product. So the next time someone tells you that your ice cream has more additives than their frozen yogurt, show them the truth.

The other factor that makes me choose frozen yogurt over ice cream is that it seems like a lighter snack. I also found this to be incorrect. I made a table according to this article by Kay Makkieh:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 9.05.56 AM

As you can see, ice cream and frozen yogurt are not too different. Since both treats contain the same amount of protein, this can be taken out as a factor of your decision. Frozen Yogurt has less calories (221 vs. 275) and saturated fat (4 grams vs. 9 grams), which are important parts of diet. However, the carbohydrates it contains (38 grams) are far above ice cream (31 grams). Excess carbohydrates are stored in your body as fat. I don’t regard this as a reason to consider frozen yogurt unhealthy all together. There has not been any research or news articles claiming people are dying from eating frozen yogurt. One also cannot solely blame moderate ingestion of Frozen Yogurt as a reason for their weight gain or obesity without examining confounding variables. The take-away from this article is that if you do want to eat Frozen Yogurt or Ice Cream, go for it! They both are equally delicious and pretty even on how unhealthy they are. Just make sure to eat them in moderation.

Break for Breakfast

Break for Breakfast

When I was little, breakfast was also an important meal. That was because my mom made it for me. As I got older and began to wake up earlier than she did (three cheers for high school), I stopped eating breakfast. I didn’t have time to make it and quite frankly I’d rather sleep for 5 extra minutes than eat. Was this a good choice? In recent years, as obesity rates have increased and society began to crack down on unhealthy lifestyles, breakfast has become a pretty big deal. This lead me to wonder if breakfast was actually important.

It seems that breakfast is very important. The health benefits of breakfast outshine the health benefits of my extra five minutes of snoozing. According to the Huffington Post, eating breakfast can: increase energy, decrease weight, speed up your metabolism, and improve memory and cholesterol levels. This article and this article and this article also have their share of health benefits from eating breakfast. Elle Paula with Demand Media had the most intriguing article to me. It appealed to students only, and the benefits we receive from eating breakfast. Which made me wonder if eating breakfast could improve my grades? The research seems to be on board with this.

A study in “the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine” shows that schools that participate in a breakfast program have higher student performances overall. A quote from the study states, “[s]tudents who increased their participation in the school breakfast program had significantly greater increases in their math grades and significantly greater decreases in the rates of school absence and tardiness than children whose participation remained the same or decreased.” This implies that breakfast does help school participation and performance.



The study looked at 3 schools and 1627 students. 62% of that group rarely ate school-supplied breakfast, and 15% ate the school-supplied breakfast everyday. The study does not rule out reverse causation, which would be that smarter children eat school-supplied breakfast. It also does not rule out third variables, if the children are just simply smarter to begin with. The study also only looked at math (logical, right-brain) functioning and not abstract, or creative, left-brain  functioning. Is this implying that eating breakfast only benefits right-brain functionality? The study was not well-designed and until there is further research in the topic we cannot conclude that eating breakfast increasing productivity in school; however, you should still eat it because it tastes good.

The Calm Before the Storm?

The Calm Before the Storm

We’ve all heard it before, whether we were enjoying a day at the beach or waiting for our uncles to fire up the grill, and it goes something like this:

Mom: “Ah, what a beautiful day!”

Dad: “It’s a wonderful day for grilling up some dogs”

Grandpa: “Ah, yes, the dreaded calm before the storm, mother nature’s finest trickery.” (okay, I may have just turned your grandfather into Ahab from Moby Dick, but just roll with it please.)

image courtesy of: the culturegeist

My sister used the phrase throughout our vacation this year. Every day we were there, it was supposed to rain. Every day it didn’t rain. But the water was always calm (thank goodness, because I am a terrible swimmer with a fear of drowning and I still choose to venture into the ocean. But that’s for another time.) So every day when we went to the beach, she looked at the water and said “it’s the calm before the storm.” But it never stormed? Which lead me to wonder if there was actually such a thing as “the calm before the storm” or if it is just a myth?

According to The Discovery Channel1, “storms are caused by an updraft of moisture and heat.” But I’m sure that means absolutely nothing to you, because it sure isn’t doing anything for me. So I turned to a very helpful demonstration from how stuff works2.

There are 3 steps to this “updraft of moisture and heat”:

  1. Moisture and heat are sucked up toward the storm. Powerful updrafts pull some of this upward (to the top of the cloud)
  2. Some saturated air is removed due to the updraft. It spills out of the top of the highest storm clouds.
  3. While it descends, it is compressed, which makes it warmer and drier. Warmer and drier air is more stable. It also causes a reduction in cloud formation, thus creating the calm before the storm.

*you can watch this short clip here. The visuals are a tremendous help

According to the same article by howstuffworks, large storm systems often do not bare any warning. This is due to their complexity, as smaller storm only have 1 unified system and large storms have several2. So basically, it’s a 50/50 chance. Some storms provide a warning while others leave it up to the meteorologists to track.

Although not all storms have a “calm”, several natural disasters do. As I learned from the Thailand/Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, tsunamis are known for their rapidly receding tide. But the warning only gives you a few minutes to reach higher ground3. Tornados also have a “calm”, but it occurs during the storm in the center of the tornado (known as the eye). I’m not sure if this is a comforting place to be, but it is much better than being on the outside of the tornado.

In conclusion, the “calm before the storm” certainly does exist. Because it usually only occurs before a small storm, it should probably not be seen as a threatening situation (unless you’re terrified of getting wet. In which case, go inside, the barbeque can wait.) “The calm before the natural disaster” would be a much more terrifying metaphor, because it always means danger.





*all of the links (the ones above and the superscripts) open in new tabs. So feel free to explore!

The Benefits of a Guitar String and Song to Sing

The Benefits of a Guitar String and Song to Sing

We’ve all done it before. We get into our cars after a bad day at school or work and we blast, I mean… listen to at a very reasonable level, our stereos. We sing along to all of our favorite songs. Suddenly, we feel much better about ourselves. Why is this?

image courtesy of: the karaoke channel

According to More Music Please1, there are several benefits of singing. These include:

  1. Mood Enhancement
  2. Increased feelings of well-being
  3. Increase in positive feelings

But why is our mood enhanced when we sing along to music? We have only our brain to thank. When we listen to and sing along with our favorite tracks, endorphins are released throughout the brain2.  According to How Stuff Works,3 “[e]ndorphins act as both a painkiller and as the pay-off for your body’s reward system.” Basically,endorphins make you feel very good. They come in handy when you break a leg, but are in a life threatening situation that causes you to have to ignore the pain and keep walking. Because our brain releases these endorphins while listening to music, it causes us to feel really, really good.

When we sing, our brain also releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that reduces stress, anxiety, and relieves nerves4. According to an article in Time Magazine, oxytocin also increases feelings of trust4. If you are more relaxed, you will feel better about your day. The reduction in anxiety will help you feel like things at work or school will be better tomorrow. Also, the increased feelings in trust may help you really believe that the day will get better. Anyone can tell you that your day will get better, but you’re only going to feel good about it if you believe it will get better.

So next time you feel horrible about your day, whether it’s because your students received the lowest averages on their first test you’ve seen in four years, or because you were the student who received a low grade on their first test, just remember to sing along to your favorite song! (Dancing would probably be beneficial too, but don’t go too hard- you might pull a muscle!)






(these are all hyperlinked in the text, which open in new windows, so feel free to explore!)

Attraction RXN

Attraction Reaction

Wouldn’t it be nice if the girl in your science class thought you were as attractive as you think she is? Or what if the boy who dumped you last year suddenly had a burning desire to be your boyfriend again? Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone you find attractive found you attractive too? Science is not able to do this yet, but is it a possibility?

Image courtesy of: Austin Carty

The ingredients:

According to the BBC U.K., there are three stages to falling in love. These are lust, attraction, and attachment1. In order to examine the likelihood of a pill that increases attraction one feels toward another, we are only going to focus on the chemical reactions of the brain in the second stage. During the attraction stage of falling in love, several chemicals are released into the brain. They are: Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine1.

Last year in psychology, I learned that Dopamine is the reward/pleasure chemical of the brain. It is often stimulated by drug usage2 but can also be affected by the foods you consume, amount of sleep you get per night, and your exercise3. If chemists already produce artificial Dopamine for anti-depressants, and natural foods can increase Dopamine reception in the brain, then chemists should have no problem making artificial Dopamine strong enough to release sensations of attraction.

Serotonin is a neural transmitter that is in charge of keeping a balanced mood4. Like Dopamine, Serotonin can be substituted by different medications and increased by consuming certain foods and vitamins5. According to Chatelaine Magazine, being exposed to sunlight also increases Serotonin levels in the brain5. It is common knowledge that sunlight gives Vitamin D, so it should be possible for this attraction-pill to contain natural extracts from peppers, oranges, strawberries and other fruits3, as well as artificial vitamins B and D5, to help release these hormones in the brain.

Norepinephrine seems like a big sciency word, so just think of it like adrenaline. They both are hormones that initiate the fight-or-flight receptors in the brain6. Like adrenaline, norepinephrine causes an increase in heart rate. (This would be the nervous, pounding, butterfly sensation you get when you find someone really cute.) Norepinephrine can also be taken in dosages. It is used to treat people with low blood pressure6. If doctors are able to add a small amount of the dosage into our attraction potion, it should be complete!

Why this hasn’t been done yet:

There are several reasons why this science hasn’t been tested yet. First off, it is extremely dangerous to mess with chemical outputs of the brain. A major contribution to drug addiction is assumed to be Dopamine dependence. When drugs are introduced to the body, they greatly increase the production of Dopamine. As the drug abuser continues the use of the drug, the body becomes less able to naturally produce Dopamine2. This causes the drug user to become solely dependent on the drug to feel the beneficial effects of Dopamine. If we began to test an attraction pill, the subject may become addicted to the feeling of being infatuated with someone. This could cause the test subject to develop drug dependency. The test subject could also develop mood disorders such as depression and bipolar, because of the lack of Dopamine and Serotonin being released in their brain.

The other reason we cannot scientifically test an attraction pill is because it is unethical. A person has free will to choose whoever he or she wants to be infatuated with. If we begin to drug people in order to get them to like us, it would be an extreme violation of human rights.



these are also hyperlinked in the text and they open in a new window so feel free to explore!

First Blog Post Woop Woop

Hello! My name is Katelyn Estelow. I am a freshman hoping to eventually major in Advertising.

1. I am taking this course because I need a science credit to cover my gen. eds. for my major. Out of all the options my advisor gave me, this one seemed to be the most interesting.

2. I am not planning to be a science major because I have never had a passion for the subject and you should probably aim to get a job in a field you are passionate about… or one that pays a lot (just kidding). There are some parts of science that I find very interesting. However, a majority of science is very uncertain and I have a hard time wrapping my head around the ideas because they are not definitive.

Have a great day 🙂

as      alpaca