Author Archives: Amanda Strassler

Can Prune Juice be Dangerous?

I remember seeing this juice in cartoons when I was a kid and one of the characters would be tricked into it. However, I’ve never known what it is about the laxative that triggers such a harsh reaction in our bodies. I’ve seen things like the prune juice challenge (it’s gross), but I wonder how much is too much? I’m sure a small dose of prune juice is a fine beverage, but in what circumstances could it become harmful?

First, an overview of prune juice! Prune juice comes from processing prunes which are essentially dehydrated plums. This article states that the typical dried prune contains 6.1g of dietary fiber per 100g. Prunes also contain a high sorbitol content (a sweet, crystalline compound) which could explain the laxative function of the drink.  In 2013, WebMD discussed the pros and cons of consuming prune juice. The article points out that, “…dried plums contain many other beneficial compounds such as potassium, which is good for heart health, phenols (a class of antioxidant chemical compounds that seek out free radicals and can aid in cancer prevention), and a good amount of vitamin A, which helps to ensure good vision, skin, cellular health, and immune function.” So how could prune juice be bad for you?

The article goes on to warn against the over consumption of prune juice which can lead to chronic diarrhea. Since the juice does act as a laxative, it’s negative effects are limited to the gastrointestinal tract. Those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (a disorder that effects the large intestine) are strongly advised to avoid the use of laxatives, including prune juice.

In summary, I was unable to find any promising articles that claimed prune juice could be severely harmful. But knowing the mild laxative effects of the juice, I will just say: drink responsibly.


Other sources: PubMed

Girls, Boys, and Cooperation

One of my guy friends is in the marine corps and he is always telling me about his buddies who he trains with and how well everyone gets along. Another one of my guy friends just moved into a new apartment with random roommates and they are all getting along swimmingly. On the other hand, I’m seeing a lot of my girl friends who are living with other girls are starting to clash. I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between how well female and male young adult cooperate with the same gender. Before anything, I want to clarify that the people I’ve referenced above are NOT examples of this phenomenon since they all are different ages, have different personalities and are in different living situations.

I knew that a behavioral study like this would be difficult since cooperation can be defined in different ways. I came across one interesting article that suggested that attitudes shared among genders are influenced by media. Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Dana Mastro, associate professor at the University of Arizona, argued that exposure to teen movies influences gender beliefs and attitudes among young adults. The study conducted two experiments.

The first experiment sampled 20 teen movies released between 1995 and 2005. Several undergraduate students viewed each movie and were assigned as coders to examine character genders, character roles, and character race. They noted socially aggressive behavior (defined as the use of indirect aggression to damage another’s status or self-esteem such a s bullying tactics, private humiliation, or other malicious acts) and socially cooperative behavior (defined as cooperative and inclusive behaviors that fostered a supportive environment) of the primary and secondary film characters. 139 characters were identified. These results showed that female characters were more likely to be portrayed participating in socially aggressive behaviors than the male characters of teen movies.


The researchers followed up this study with another experiment that aimed to investigate the influences these teen movies have on gender-related beliefs and attitudes. 135 undergraduate students ( 87 female and 48 male) were chosen to participate in the experiment. The students were shown a list of teen movies and asked to record how many of the films they had seen the films, if they liked them, if you identified with any of the characters, and various opinionated true or false questions. The results showed that “…increases in viewing teen movies as well as greater affinity with the characters in teen movies each were associated with more unfavorable evaluations of females’ interactions in their friendships. Similarly, significant direct effect of teen movie viewing and affinity with characters in teen movies were found for attitudes regarding the role of women in society.”

This study was focusing more on how teen movies effect interactions and attitudes among same gendered young adults. While this study makes for a compelling read, and they are very thorough is their research, to me it seems that media (specifically teen movies) is only one, small component of cooperation attitudes formed among young adults.

Other sources: Social_Development

Can Squeezin’ Boobs Reduce Breast Cancer?

Ok. I know this is a pretty weird one, but my friend told me about this a few years ago and it’s been on my mind since. The myth is that applying gentle amounts of pressure to breast tissue prevents breast cancer. I was told that pressure stops the cells from mutating and over-multiplying. I know it sounds pretty bizarre. But I decided to look into it and here’s what I found.

First of all, no one really knows what triggers cancer. We do know that breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast tissue divide at an abnormal rate. These cells accumulate and create lumps in the breast. Abnormal cell growth can start at the milk-producing ducts, glandular tissue, or other tissues in the breasts.

Gautham Venugopalan, a member of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted several experiments to study the affects of physical pressure on malignant cells. The experiment involved the recreation of an artificial breast which was injected with malignant breast cells. The researchers then applied compressive force to the artificial breast as the cell when through their first stages of development. The results showed that over time, the malignant cells grew into more organized, healthy cells. The other malignant cells in the uncompressed artificial breast continued to multiply.

Venugopalan said, “People have known for centuries that physical force can influence our bodies. When we lift weights, our muscles get bigger. The force of gravity is essential to keeping our bones strong. Here we show that physical force can play a role in the growth – and reversion – of cancer cells.”Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 4.20.00 PM

Daniel Fletcher, a professor of bioengineering at the same lab said, “We are showing that tissue organization is sensitive to mechanical inputs from the environment at the beginning stages of growth and development. An early signal, in the form of compression, appears to get these malignant cells back on the right track.” He goes on to say that compression in itself is not likely to be a therapy to treat breast cancer, however it gives researchers more information on different aspects of molecular structures that can be addressed when searching for new therapies.

I was more persuaded by Fletcher’s opinion on the treatment. I’m not going to go around telling people that squeezing their breast will reduce the threat of breast cancer, however it does sound like a promising phenomenon that will hopefully lead to more answers in the field of breast cancer awareness.

Other sources: CBS Atlanta

Watching TV + Eating Food = Bad Combination?

When I was little, my dad and I used to eat dinner while watching the news on tv. While this did keep me up on current events, I know I paid a lot less attention to what was on my plate. So in this blog post I will address the question: is it unhealthy to eat while watching television?

Researchers at Cornell University studied this issue by having 94 undergraduates snack on various treats while watching 20 minutes of television. This study specifically focused on food consumption based on television content. They had one third of the participants watch a piece of an action movie, one third watch a talk show, and the other third watch the same action movie segment but without sound. The results showed that those who watched the action movie, with and without sound, ate 98% more than those who watched the talk show. The conclusion was that people who watch more distracting content on television consumed more calories.

I like this study because it has a clear control group. However, I feel like the time of day also should have been recorded. If the study was done around a meal time, it’s possible that the participants would have eaten more in front of the television, regardless of what was being viewed. I’m also curious to if gender played a role in the statistics. Were all of the undergrads male? Female? I know the majority of my male friends consume more food than my female friends do. So I decided to look further.

A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition argues that watching television does not necessarily lead to obesity, but television viewing while eating does effect the amount of food consumed. The researchers argued that when someone is watching television, they aren’t paying attention to food cues. Food cues are signals sent from the sensory, the neuronal, and the digestive system. This study focuses more on numbers from data and includes factors like BMI. Body Mass Index factors in height and weight to calculate body fat.

In conclusion, these studies both enforce the notion that eating food while watching television can lead to overeating since the body’s sensors are distracted. I’m not convinced that obesity necessarily stems from television viewing, but for now I will be eating my meals away from the tv.


Does the Internet Lead to Boredom or Does Boredom Lead to the Internet?

Everyone has those Facebook friends who post almost everyday with new status updates and filtered selfies. I’m not opposed to updating social media, but I’m always curious about the other half of Facebook who are media silent. Could it be that those people are living busier, more adventurous lives than the people who are online more often? Or are they just finding more innovative ways to entertain themselves?

Some researchers and authors, like Graham Linehan, argue that while the internet successfully reduces boredom, the constant stream of information leaves no room for innovative or creative thinking. Linehan says, “I have to use all these programs that cut off the internet, force me to be bored, because being bored is an essential part of writing, and the internet has made it very hard to be bored.”

Last year psychologists at the University of Central Lancashire conducted an experiment to study boredom and creativity. Two groups were picked for the study. One group was given a tedious task to complete before taking a creativity test, while the other group went straight to the creativity test. The results showed that the group who with the boring task came up with more creative ideas afterward than the other group.

So how does boredom relate to internet usage?

In 2012, the mobile company Flurry analyzed mobile usage for smart phone apps. The company found that the average time spent on the internet by a U.S. consumer was around 70 minutes per day and the average time spent using mobile apps was around 127 minutes.

However, internet and smart phone usage can’t always be linked to boredom. Students need to spend time on the internet in order to manage classes. It’s almost unheard of to not have an email account these days. The study conducted by Flurry does not keep track of what the internet and mobile apps are being used for. Accessing Google Maps for directions is different from signing on to Facebook or Twitter due to boredom. What this study does effectively illustrate is the amount of time U.S. consumers spend staring into a screen.

It can’t be determined whether some people have more exciting lives based on the amount of time they spend on the internet, but it is clear that the more time people spend looking into a screen is time they could have spent interacting with the world around them. Next time you find yourself bored resist the urge to grab your smart phone. Exercise your own creativity and focus on something that interests you!

Other sources: NPR


Initial Blog Post

Hi Everyone,

My name’s Amanda Strassler and I just switched into this class so I’m still getting used to this blog website and everything. I’m from Lee, Massachusetts and I’m a Film major with a Sociology minor. I was originally in Anthropology, but as a non-science major, I found it a bit overwhelming. This class fit into my schedule better and my adviser had really good things to say about it, so I’m pretty hyped for the course. Science was always iffy for me because I’m just terrible at math and the two subjects always seemed to intersect at some point. I do much better in the Arts which is why I’ve stayed away from science and math courses so far.

Here is a link to a <a href=”″>short_film</a> I worked on last semester and here’s one of my most recent drawings.


It’s pretty clear that math and science are not really my strong points.