Author Archives: Kara Duriez

Do bananas help alleviate cramps?


When I was growing up, I was a very athletic kid who was always playing a sport. Because of this I was constantly getting muscle cramps from working out a lot and over stressing my body. My parents always told me (and still do) that if I get a cramp in my leg or back, etc, to eat a banana because they can help relieve cramping. So, I decided to look this up and see how valid the connection really was.

According to Live Strong, “if you’re prone to leg cramps, chances are you’ve been told you should eat more bananas. It’s a common piece of advice in the United States, where bananas are the most popular fruit and a leading source of potassium.” This I knew. Bananas are a great source of potassium and so people believe that potassium has a connection to relieving cramps in the body, because “sometimes a symptom of an electrolyte imbalance — particularly low magnesium or potassium levels” is caused when we over work our muscles.

So it would all make sense that eating a banana could help your potassium levels to rise, which would hopefully then cause your muscle cramps to go away. However, Live Strong goes on to explain that bananas may not necessarily be the perfect solution to our problems. “While bananas are just as useful in protecting against muscle cramps” the source says that they may not prove to be that useful when one strikes.

Columbus Sports also argues that “many people think that eating a banana will help replace the potassium your body has lost, and while this is true, cramping is really thought to result because of sodium (salt) loss, not potassium loss.”

The source also adds that cramping can also be due to being dehydrated, so fueling up with lots and lots of water may be the way to go before doing a lot of physical activity that is causing leg cramps.


Below is a quote from Live Strong that explains what muscle cramps really are and other ways in which we can go about relieving and preventing cramps:

“Whether they’re mild or painfully intense, muscle cramps usually subside within minutes and rarely require medical attention. Although downing a banana in the middle of a leg cramp won’t alleviate the problem, stretching and massaging the affected muscle can provide immediate relief. Tight muscles are susceptible to cramping, so it’s important to stretch regularly. The stretches that you use to keep your muscles flexible are the same stretches you should use when a cramp strikes. Walking can also help — calf cramps tend to go away faster when you put your weight on your cramped leg. The American Osteopathic Association recommends applying heat to tight muscles and ice to sore or tender muscles.” –Live Strong

Therefore, eating a banana may help alleviate the pain of muscle cramps over time, and consuming more potassium as a person in one’s diet can be greatly beneficial. But to think that a banana will provide immediate relief for muscle cramps is not an accurate description for the fruit. I guess my parents weren’t necessarily wrong in asking me to eat a banana, but this proves that the notion that bananas can automatically help leg cramps is nothing but an exaggerated truth.

Although… a lot of this question still remains up in the air. No significant studies have been done to prove just exactly how bananas can effect cramping. In the future, I believe that there should be studies so we can learn once and for all the truth about bananas and their role.

But in all seriousness, who can deny a good banana anyways?

Grade obsession and why it’s a serious problem

As a freshman in my first few weeks of college life, I have been starting to realize the differences and similarities between college and high school. One big difference that I have picked up on is the idea of grade obsession. We live in a regurgitation society. Professors/teachers put information in, and all we do to learn it is spit it right back out on tests. When I was in high school, if I didn’t get an A on my test I would freak out and feel like my life was going to explode. I know, dramatic, but I bet that a lot of you guys secretly felt the same way. So…I wanted to look into why we were all so obsessed with getting B or A grades in high school? And when we didn’t, why did it feel like our world was coming to an end?

What is linked to grade obsession?

If a student is constantly struggling with their own personal issues and trying to keep up their grades at the same time, this constant need for A’s can lead to an immense amount of stress emotionally, physically and potentially even physiologically. Because “students are faced with a tremendous amount of pressure to get good grades,” there is a significant amount of evidence that “their mental well-being is at risk,” with the possible risk of suicide and other serious mental health issues.

Even though “grades do provide the desirable incentive to perform better, they also cause the undesirable effect of restricting student learning.” In addition to the mental health aspects, grade obsession can alter a child’s creativity, as “constantly thinking about what the teacher wants or what the rubric says for a paper injects a fear of not meeting standards for a good grade” and may “limit the domain our research, our thought process and the exploration of a topic,” or in gist our creativity and our willingness to explore and actually retain information on the desired topic.

Students’ desire to be perfect also plays a role in grade obsession. Because of the “pressure to be perfect” in the school setting for some, it is important to remember that “there is a big difference between striving for excellence and striving for perfection,” as striving for perfection is irrational and unattainable.

If students know that grade obsession is bad, why do they still do it?

Students have and will continue to obsess over grades because we feel the need that we have to. In order to be successful; get into the perfect college, get the perfect job, we have a desire for perfection even though learning should be about acknowledging what we know and don’t know and learning from it, so that we can take a true interest in the matter and be able to apply it to our own lives.

So…What are adults doing to solve the problem?

To be quite frank, all of the research seems to show that adult parents and even most teachers aren’t really seeing how serious of an issue grade obsession is. Below is a quote describing the problem:

“All too many adults seem to be oblivious to the issue of mental health in schools, especially in regard to grade obsession. A quick web search of “problems with the American education system” brings back pages upon pages of articles dealing with low test scores and high dropout rates.  Parents, teachers, and politicians all decry the failures of teens to stay in school. What isn’t considered is the fact that maybe the failure is in the school system, as well as in society.” – US Represented

It could be argued that it should really be up to the student to “know better than to attribute their self-worth to a letter on a paper,” but considering that teenagers and children are still learning how the world works, adults and their supervisors should be making sure they learn the value of education and not making it seem like grades are all that matters.

Why is this relevant to us?

As I said, there are many differences between high school and college, grade expectations being one of them. In college, it seems that students stress less about getting a perfect grade, and focus more on simply passing a course. In high school I pushed myself extremely hard to get into the college of my dreams, which meant good grades so colleges would see that on my transcripts. So I guess one of the differences is the fact that employers don’t necessarily look at your college transcript (or at least I don’t think they do) to see exactly what grades you got in each class. For example, employers seem to be more concerned about what’s on our resumes, than what’s on our college transcripts.

Why should we care?

So even though it’s not quite as prevalent anymore in our lives, I still think it’s an important issue to be addressed for the lives of middle and high school students. It may not be there all the time, but grade obsession still lingers in all of us. You know that deep down part of you wanting that A is because you feel the pressure to get good grades rather than striving to learn as much information as you can to improve who you are. Grade obsession is a serious problem and those students are more focused on what letter they receive than what they are actually learning and applying that knowledge. We were all there once, (and maybe you still are) and I think we owe it to those younger than us to advocate for change on this serious issue and help them understand that grades aren’t everything in life.  But is there a solution to this? Or is this how our society will always be? Comment what you guys think below.

Astrology & Horoscopes: is it reliable science?

As long as I have been alive, I have seen astrological signs in magazines and newspaper to help determine how one’s day will be and how they should act in their life, what to avoid, etc. As a little girl I always thought that horoscopes were really awesome and I would always read mine. On the astrological chart, I am an Aquarius, and apparently according to the science can help explain why I am the way I am. So how the stars connect can reflect on what my personality and future will be like? Huh?


As I grew up, I heard multiple times that horoscopes were not accurate and should not be used to interpret our lives, and neither should any type of astrology. For this reason, I wanted to look into what goes in to astrological signs and whether or not astrology in general should be addressed as a legit form of science.


According to the dictionary, the definition of astrology is “the study of the motions and relative positions of the planets, sun, and moon, interpreted in terms of human characteristics and activities.”

So, by definition astrology as a scientific study relates to motions and positions of the planets, sun and moon and how those astronomical links could possibly be linked to how humans react and interact with each other on planet earth. To help determine whether or not astrology should be considered credible scientific study, the The University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley looks at it from several important views listed below.

  • Focuses on the natural world?
  • Aims to explain the natural world?
  • Uses testable ideas?
  • Relies on evidence?
  • Involves the scientific community?
  • Leads to ongoing research?
  • Researchers behave scientifically?
                                                         – The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley

The museum looks at these factors to determine, almost as a checklist, whether or not a study or type of science is valid in its practice. The museum comments on the ideas that astrology does in fact focus on the natural world, because it has to deal with the planets and how they interact with the earth, which would be considered a natural aspect. The also would agree with the idea what astrology aims to explain the natural world; how humans are affected by the natural elements of the sun, planets and moon. They state that astrology’s goal is to “generate predictions and explanations for events on Earth and human personality traits.” As an example, the museum states that “some forms of astrology predict that a person born just after the spring equinox is particularly likely to become an entrepreneur (Berkeley).

One thing that the museum varies on whether or not astrology is a testable science. To explain this statement more clearly, below is the direct quote from the article

Some expectations generated by astrology are so general that any outcome could be interpreted as fitting the expectations; if treated this way, astrology is not testable. However, some have used astrology to generate very specific expectations that could be verified against outcomes in the natural world. For example, according to astrology, one’s zodiac sign impacts one’s ability to command respect and authority. Since these traits are important in politics, we might expect that if astrology really explained people’s personalities, scientists would be more likely to have zodiac signs that astrologers describe as “favorable” towards science.1 If used to generate specific expectations like this one, astrological ideas are testable.


In addition, they also comment on the fact that “In the few cases where astrology has been used to generate testable expectations and the results were examined in a careful study” the evidence given in the studies did not support the validity of astrology as a science. And the checklist from the museum mentions that “scientists often test ideas that turn out to be wrong,” but “one of the hallmarks of science is that ideas are modified when warranted by the evidence,” and make it very clear that studies in Astrology have not tried to alter the ideas they present by reacting to the “contradictory evidence” that is often presented in such studies.

Lastly, the article discusses the last three ideas on the “science” checklist, whether or not the science involves the scientific community, it leads to ongoing research, and if researchers behave scientifically. “Scientific studies involving astrology have stopped after attempting and failing to establish the validity of astrological ideas,” and so far “there are no documented cases of astrology contributing to a new scientific discovery,” which would conclude that astrology as a science fails by continuing to do valid research in its field. Moreover, the article also concludes that the astrological community almost always avoids or ignores contradictory evidence that is presented by other scientists. Doing this as a field of science is not good, because normally science, as we learned in class, is always and must be open to skepticism and be able to evolve with the times and new information. Studies in astrology are also rarely or credibly shared, which gives a lack of validity and would more than likely be thoroughly inspected by the rest of the scientific world (Berkeley).


Overall, looking at astrology as a whole and it’s lack of valid contribution to science, I wonder what the area of study has truly contributed to science throughout history up until now. The lack of credible evidence towards the relationship between the sun, moon, and planets and how humans will behave leads me and most of the scientific world to believe that astrology should not be taken very seriously. If they eventually find more sufficient evidence to help conclude their studies, maybe then astrology will have substance in the scientific world.

But even so, now that it is pretty clear that astrology is not a reliable way to ask scientific questions, my final question ponders why then do humans love astrology and reading about their signs? Why did I find it so interesting as a little girl? Sound off your thoughts below!

Does the Winter season cause depression?

Winter nature, alley in park, snowstorm

Winter and its weather may be bringing your mood down   – Health Today

I decided to look into this question because I have always wondered if there is any connection between how the weather is with the seasons and how humans feel. I myself would say that I tend to feel less energetic, often sadder in the winter, but I never really figured out or questioned why…until now. Is there a connection between how I feel emotionally and the season? Or does it just happen by chance that I personally feel less enthusiastic once winter comes around?


To look into this, I looked for research that tried to analyze the connection between winter weather and a person’s emotions. In my research I came across a diagnosis known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, in which people “suffer from serious symptoms of depression during the winter months, with symptoms subsiding during the spring and summer months.” This disorder is more commonly (and ironically) known as SAD. However, SAD is not nearly the same as the simple emotion “sad.”

According to Mental Health America, “SAD is a mood disorder associated with depression and related to seasonal variations of light.” This disorder is said to affect half a million people every winter between the months of September and April, usually peaking in December, January, and February. This disorder can be a serious problem and lead to even worse depression that occurs year after year. Symptoms of SAD are likely to include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, mood changes, sleep problems, lethargy, overeating, social problems and even sexual problems.

Below are typical targets of people who are the most likely to encounter SAD:

  • Three out of four SAD sufferers are women.
  • The main age of onset of SAD is between 18 and 30 years of age.
  • SAD occurs in both the northern and southern hemispheres, but is extremely rare in those living within 30 degrees latitude of the equator.
  • The severity of SAD depends both on a person’s vulnerability to the disorder and his or her geographical location.

Mental Health America

Studies from the News in Health organization from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show what just might be causing people to get such serious SAD cases. According to the article linked above, “shorter days seem to be a main trigger for SAD. Reduced sunlight in fall and winter can disrupt your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. This 24-hour “master clock” responds to cues in your surroundings, especially light and darkness.” For example, studies have shown that during the day, “your brain sends signals to other parts of the body to help keep you awake and ready for action. At night, a tiny gland in the brain produces a chemical called melatonin, which helps you sleep.” So the catch is that shortened daylight hours that occur in winter can “alter this natural rhythm” and potentially lead to symptoms of SAD.

SADSunlight Org.

In addition to SAD, there is something commonly known as the “Winter Blues” which highlights feelings of depression and insecurity during just the Winter months; more specifically December through February. “Winter Blues” is a generic term that is just identified as a more mild case of SAD. Unlike SAD, having the so called “Winter Blues” is much more common in people, but almost always much more easily treatable or tends to go away on its own (News in Health). I originally found this hard to believe with the amount of national holidays in this period, but then I researched and realized all of the potential factors that play into such an issue.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regards the “Winter Blues” as “a general term, not a medical diagnosis,” stating that it is in fact “fairly common” and “more mild than serious.” Winter Blues are known to usually clear up on their own, after the winter seasons are over, according to Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at NIH. “Winter Blues” are often linked to specific things, such as “stressful holidays, reminders of absent loved ones” or even slight symptoms of SAD that do not fully develop (News in Health).

As far as treating SAD and the Winter Blues goes, doctors have been looking into solutions since around the 1980’s. Most of the time “light therapy is usually considered a first line treatment for SAD,” but it is said that this solution does not work for everyone. “Studies show that certain antidepressant drugs can be effective in many cases of SAD. The antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating SAD and for preventing winter depression,” and doctors may even just prescribe other antidepressants to help deal with the signs of depression (News in Health).


All in all, even though just “10% of the US population” experience “some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)” and “only one or two percent of people experience symptoms severe enough to warrant medical care,” the danger is still out there (Health Today). SAD and “Winter Blues” is a serious thing and should not be taken lightly if you think you have a serious problem.

If you think you may be starting to experience the winter blues this coming season, try to help yourself by simply going outside for a walk, picking up a new hobby, eating healthy, venting to a friend, going to the gym, or getting a light-box to brighten up your room. Chances are if you do you’ll have a much better chance at being happier this winter.

Do you guys have any other ways that you help yourself stay joyful in the winter weather? Comment them below! 


US News

***All of the studies and information from this article and the pictures are not mine and have been cited appropriately***

Are midnight snacks bad for your health?

When I was growing up, my mother always told me to never eat something an hour or less before I went to sleep, because she always said it was bad for your health. So, I grew up following this path and rarely ate any midnight snacks, (only on a few sleepover occasions.) However, once I got to Penn State as a freshman that started to change. As a freshman here, I’m new to the super late hours, little sleep and late night studying, so naturally I’ve been snacking while studying late at night. I’ve always heard of the “Freshman 15” and I’ve always wondered why it happens…could eating late at night before sleeping be the cause? Does eating right before sleeping lead to gaining weight?

298703-midMidnight Snacking

Late night snack = future heart attack?

According to According to a Washington Post article, scientists have been working on whether or not the time of day that humans consume foods is related to negative health impacts, or if “night time calories” are the same as the ones eaten earlier for lunch. In the article it states that “Studies tend to show that when food is consumed late at night — anywhere from after dinner to outside a person’s typical sleep/wake cycle — the body is more likely to store those calories as fat and gain weight rather than burn it as energy,” according to their source, Kelly Allison of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.

This study has been trying to prove itself true through animal tests. The Washington Post writer Van Allen continues by commenting that some animal studies have shown significance in the idea that foods are processed differently at different times of the day. The differences could be “due to fluctuations in body temperature, biochemical reactions, hormone levels, physical activity and absorption and digestion of food,” to name a few. Studies used in this article have a main point that “when the participants ate late, they couldn’t metabolize, or burn off, carbohydrates as well as when they ate earlier. They also had decreased glucose tolerance, which can lead to diabetes.” (Washington Post) The major health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, presented make all of us question how serious of an issue late night snacking really could be.

The same source argues that even more serious health problems could potentially rise from eating bad snacks late at night. According to the Washington Post, two considerably significant studies have been done recently: one which tracked the weight loss/gain of 420 obese people and one that studied a small number of healthy women.

To highlight the obesity study, I looked further into what they had discovered. From their experiments that studied the 420 humans, their takeaways are below.

Late lunch eaters lost less weight and displayed a slower weight-loss rate during the 20 weeks of treatment than early-eaters (P=0.002). Surprisingly, energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones and sleep duration was similar between both groups. Nevertheless, late-eaters were more evening-types, had less energetic breakfasts, and skipped breakfast more frequently that early-eaters (P<0.05). CLOCK rs4580704 SNP associated with the timing of the main meal (P=0.015) with a higher frequency of minor allele (C) carriers among the late-eaters (P=0.041).

US National Library of Medicine

From their findings, the scientists concluded multiple things. In the experiment, other variables like amount of sleep, energy intake and weight of the participants was kept relatively similar or the same. The main issue discovered with their study is that the timing of eating could lead to serious problems. For example, those who are snacks later at night were eating less or late breakfasts, and potentially eating unhealthier foods than those who ate earlier and were able to work off the food throughout the day. Their main conclusion lies at this: “This is the first prospective longitudinal study to show that timing of food intake relates with weigh loss effectiveness in humans. In 420 overweight/obese patients undergoing a 20-week weight-loss diet, those who ate their main meal late lost significantly less weight than early eaters.” Which to me, seems like pretty conclusive evidence.

Diapositiva 1Body Weight and Weeks of Treatment

Once you midnight snack, you can never go back

Despite relevant results, scientists from the study are still looking into what other factors may cause the issues with the weight loss, such as “satiety hormones, such as leptin or ghrelin,” genetics playing a role, and even sleep patterns for each individual. So technically “the mechanisms linking meal timing and weight loss” is still “unknown.”

Yet however, because it is one of the first studies of it’s kind on this topic, there is of course difficulty in drawing direct conclusions from the data presented. This of course, causes others to poke and pry at accepting that late snacks can be bad for our health.

According to TIME Magazine, skeptics of the correlation of late night snacks and health difficulties / losing weight argue that snacks at night may not be the worst thing in the world, as long as those snacks aren’t a gallon of ice cream or three greasy hamburgers.

TIME’s article argues that we’ve “been told eating before bed is a no-no. But a little pre-slumber snack can help you sleep more soundly without packing on pounds-if you reach for the right foods.” I believe that the key words here are “the right foods.” What is the line between good foods to snack on and bad ones? And does that vary by person?

TIME supports their argument by using evidence from dietician’s that have opposing viewpoints from the previous study above. “If you tend to eat dinner a few hours before bedtime or you’re very active (or both), snacking before bed will help stabilize your blood sugar levels during the long, meal-less night,” according Stephanie Maxson, senior clinical dietician at the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center that TIME using for their input on the issue.

As one can tell, no clear lines have been drawn yet to indicate what really happens if you snack late at night. The varying possibilities could be endless: what your gender is, how old you are, previous illnesses, the type of food being eaten, a person’s sleep cycle, etc. For now, it seems that studies can only begin to prove that there is some type of correlation between the two matters.

 TIME photonighttime-eating-you-asked-time

Better safe (snacking) than sorry

So, as college students, even though the correlation=causation is still up in the air, maybe we should think twice about what we eat right before we sleep. Who knows, it could potentially help prevent that Freshman 15 (and gaining weight in any other year.) Instead of reaching for a cookie or candy before bed, if you do need a snack, I would argue that “better safe than sorry” is a good route, by eating some fruit or drinking water, because, let’s face it, a midnight snack is almost impossible to resist. But maybe, just maybe, my mom (and i’m sure your moms’ as well) do know a thing or two about that infamous midnight snacking.


Fridge Light Photo



***All of the studies and facts presented in this blog are not mine and have been cited to their sources appropriately. The information belongs to their authors and the pictures have also been cited***

Science In Our World


Hi everyone, my name is Kara Duriez, and I’m a freshman studying Print Journalism.

The reason that I decided to take this class was mostly because it fills a Gen Ed. However, I found it interesting as well, because it was different than any other science class that I have previously taken. I think that the material that will be taught in this course will be relatable to every day problems that will be useful even though I have no future in science, and that, I believe is a very valuable thing to have: life skills and the ability to question why things are the way they are.

Thus, leads into the reason that I am not a science major. Throughout high school, I hated my science classes because I never understood what my teachers were saying and never developed a strong connection to anything that I was learning regarding science. It all seemed too abstract for my thinking, so I never fell in love with it like the way I fell in love with studying Journalism. To add the main reason that I’m not a science major is essentially the fact that I have found an incredible passion in journalism and my future in that industry.

P.S. the picture of the panda is solely because panda’s are my favorite animal in the entire world. 🙂

OH and here’s a link to make you laugh endlessly because who doesn’t like funny cat videos.

Extremely Hilarious Cat Fails