Author Archives: Alexandra Kaminsky

Are GMO’s Actually Bad for You?

GMO’s are a popular topic in today’s society. GMO’s are genetically modified organisms that are added to certain foods to make them taste better  They are known to produce more delicious tasting foods, meanwhile being environmentally friendly. But what about being body friendly? Why are GMO’s harmful to the body? Let’s look into some reasearch.

This study was performed by scientists at the National Institute of Toxicological Research in Korea and at Harvard University by Megan L. Norris. The study was a randomized control trial. They fed rats a genetically modified potato that contained a gene called the “bar” gene or a normal potato without the GMO gene. They measured to see if the GMO potato would have the same effects on consumer health. They used female and male rats, and studied their organs and tissues after they died. Nothing happened to the tissues or organs of that rats after they consumed the GMO potato.

Now, three years later a different group performed a study on rats, but used a GMO tomato and a GMO sweet pepper. The null hypothesis is that the rats would eat the GMO food and nothing would happen. The alternative hypothesis is that the rats would eat the GMO food and something would happen. The rats were split into 4 different groups (GMO tomato, non-GMO tomato, GMO pepper, non-GMO pepper). The rats were fed way over the average amount a human would consume daily. The study lasted for 30 days and as a result they still found no differences in health of the rats. Based on these studies we can accept the null hypothesis.

If this study was done on humans it would be unethical. However, we know rats are animals that resemble human responses. Because there is little documented evidence that GMO foods are potentially toxic, it is hard for us to believe that GMO’s are harmful to the body. There is a lack of evidence, however, this does not mean there is not evidence out there that could make us believe GMO’s are bad for your health.


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Is Diet Soda Bad for You?

My personal preference when it comes to soft drinks is diet soda. I like the idea of zero calories, however, I just prefer the taste of diet over regular soda. Soda is an extremely popular beverage for consumers in the United States. Coca Cola and Pepsi, being the top leaders in the soft drink industry, know how to make their products appealing to different types of consumers. Most people believe diet sodas to be the healthier option. However, diet sodas raise a red flag when it comes to overall health.

As we discussed in class, regular sodas are filled with sugars that can have health effects on your body. We looked at studies that showed how consuming regular soda leads to a two pound weight gain versus those who did not consume the soda. We know that switching from regular soda to diet soda reduces sugar and caloric intake, resulting in possible weight loss.

However, people who drink diet soda as an alternative to water, juice, etc., are more likely to be at risk for weight gain and obesity. Studies have shown that people that drink three or more diet sodas a day are almost twice as likely to gain weight.

Aside from possible weight gain, diet soda has brought up more interesting health effects. Researchers have been linking diet soda to metabolic syndrome and type two diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic risks that can lead to diabetes and abdominal obesity. An observational study was held by the food frequency questionnaire at baseline. Metabolic syndrome was studied by National Cholesterol Education Program criteria. Third variables were adjusted in the study, such as demographics and lifestyle. The researchers found that daily consumption of the diet soda had a significant increase of the risk of type two diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Since the data was observational, it is hard for us to believe that consuming diet soda daily is the only cause of the type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Third variables can have a huge affect on the type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome as well. Weight gain is another possibility. Eating unhealthy and not exercising are both variables that can have huge effects on weight.

Overall, scientists have done numerous studies that show that diet soda can have harmful effects on the body. The observational studies were done well, however, without being presented experimental data, it is hard to actually believe that the diet soda causes weight gain. A diet soda lover such as myself will continue on drinking them until more persuading evidence is presented.


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Is Yawning Contagious?

Have you ever been sitting in class and you see someone yawn, and then you yawn, and then everyone else starts to yawn? Is there a part of science that explains why this happens? Maybe there is a mechanism that triggers the response in people to yawn. Let’s check out some studies I found online.

The first study I came across was an observational study done by scientists in Switzerland, in which 11 volunteers watched a set of videos. Their brain activity was monitored through a fMRI to measure the mirror neuron network. The participants watched videos that displayed humans laughing, yawning, or with neutral expressions. The results showed that participants yawned more than half of the time when the video of yawning faces appeared on the screen,and not the same reaction when laughing or neutral expression came on the screen.This had a chain reaction among the participants. The fMRI signal lit up the frontal gyrus, which allows for mental representations of action.

Now, this study is pretty small, which could lead us to believe that third variables could have a large correlational or causal effect on the contagious yawning. To improve this study, running a larger sample would be more accurate. This allows for less error and allows use to believe the study is credible.

Another study I found was conducted by Elizabeth Cirulli at Duke University. The study measured certain variables that affect contagious yawning. 328 people participated and they were required to fill out a survey and questionnaire that measured 15 variables, including sleepiness, demographics, and empathy. Within the study, participants watched a three-minute video and then recorded the number of times they yawned during it. Out of the 328 people, 222 yawned contagiously at least once. Results showed that age was only a small percentage of variation in results. This means all the other variables could have showed correlation as well.

However, in previous studies, researchers have said that empathy and sleepiness do not show enough evidence to prove that they are correlated to contagious yawning. With such small evidence, the Duke study shows that not enough studies are done to which variables actually cause the chain reaction of yawning.

This study had a large enough sample, however we discussed hard endpoints versus soft endpoints in class. I would recommend using hard endpoints rather than the soft endpoints. This will allow for more experimental evidence to be provided.


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Are Energy Drinks Harmful to your Health?

Markets have been targeting the youth with high caffeinated energy drinks and consumption has been drastically increasing over the last 10 years. We have all heard that energy drinks are harmful to the human body. But how? I wanted to look deeper into the effects of the caffeine in the energy drinks. Let’s look at some studies I found online.

This experimental study published by Mayo Clinic shows the effects of what an energy drink does to your body. It was a randomized controlled trial, in which 25 people participated. Participants were randomly assigned either an energy drink (Rockstar) or a placebo drink. The placebo differed from the energy drink only in two key stimulants, caffeine and taurine. The measured variables were sugar levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. The stress hormone “norepinephrine” was also measured because it is known to raise the heart rate and blood pressure. The results of the experiment wound up showing that caffeine levels increased after drinking the energy drink. Heart rate remained the same from the beginning of the experiment until the end, meanwhile blood pressure increased after consuming the Rockstar. Norepinephrine increased after the consumption as well.

The study was good in regards to measuring variables and controlling for them, however, the sample size was relatively small. Rather than having a sample of 25, perhaps a few hundred could change the results. Take a look at this other study I found that had a larger sample size.

This study that was published by the Medical Journal of Australia did an observational study that analyzed data from calls regarding energy drink exposures at the Australian poisons information center. Nearly 300 calls were reported. The median age of the participants was 17 years , and more than half of those people were men. The people who called drank on average 5 energy drinks in one session. For this study, they measured agitation, tremor, gastrointestinal upset, and palpitations. After analyzing the data from the calls, most people reported the symptoms of agitation, tremor, gastrointestinal upset, and palpitations. Twenty-one people had signs of dangerous cardiac or neurological toxicity. They had extreme symptoms such as seizures,hallucinations, and even cardiac ischaemia. Overall, 128 participants were hospitalized.

Both of these studies provide credible evidence for me to conclude that energy drinks are actually harmful to your health. Luckily for me, I never drank energy drinks, so I did not get hooked on the caffeine and other harmful stimulants. I would suggest others to substitute their energy drinks in for natural caffeine stimulants, such as coffee or tea.


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Does Social Media Cause Depression?

What is your favorite social media platform? Leave your answer in the comments below!


Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other social media platforms have been growing for the past few years. People can connect to friends, family, and even strangers through social media. Constantly being connected to the world around you through an electronic device could have harmful drawbacks.People always have the need for more likes or to see what everyone else is doing. Perhaps this obsessive behavior could lead mental issues, like depression. I want to research is if Social Media causes Depression. Let us take a look at some studies.

A team from University of Pittsburgh published a study in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety that measured mental health after spending a lot of time on social media. It was an observational study that had 1787 American adults (age 19-32) participate in a questionnaire. The questionnaires measure variable was the amount of time each person spent on the following social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, etc. As a result of the study, the researchers found that on average, participants used social media 61 minutes a day.

The participants then were tested for depression by using the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Scale. This scale measured symptoms or signs of depression in the participants. The results showed more than a quarter of the participants signaled symptoms of depression. The most interesting I found was that those who checked their social media platforms most often were 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than others who did not check as often. According to the researchers, those who spent the most time on social media platforms had the probability of 1.7 of having depression.

We know that social media could have caused depression based on the study’s results. However, third variables are certainly a possibility. More importantly though, there could be a possibility of reverse causation. Perhaps depression is causing people to use social media more often than others. Depressed people could be using social media to fill the the aspect of their life that is bringing them down.


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Gender Colors

Pink and blue. The most distinctive colors between females and males. Why is the color pink associated with femininity and blue with masculinity? We actually don’t know. We’ve been told since day one that if you’re a girl, you wear pink. You don’t see men walking around in pink as often as women do, that’s for sure.

Why is that? Perhaps these colors are associated with human biology. The colors pink and blue may be rooted in previous generations, leading girls and boys to separate ways with the colors. Those are just my guesses.Some evidence actually suggests that this color separation really only arose in the twentieth century. A study was conducted at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom by neuroscientists Anya Hulbert and Yazhu Ling. Hulbert and Ling surveyed a group of women and men (about 200) in an odd age group (20-26). Some of the participants were British, Caucasian, and native Chinese. Throughout these tests, they put colored rectangles on a computer screen and allowed for each participant to choose the colored rectangle they like best. Studies showed that regardless of ethnic background, the women preferred the rectangles with red-tones, and the men, blue.

Perhaps these colors, after all, are rooted in evolution. Hulbert and Ling believe that these colors are rooted all the way back to mankind. So when I think of “mankind” I think of men hunting and women providing for the men. Well, these doctors suggest that the color blue is associated with men because of hunting and blue skies, and women with pink because they provided food, such as berries. This seems pretty random to me, but hey I’m not a neuroscientist.

Overall, I think it is very interesting that colors are associated with genders. It’s even more interesting to me that it roots all the way back to mankind.

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Women in Red

The iconic red lip. The iconic red lip was worn by Marilyn Monroe, one of the world’s most famous sex symbols. Men were swooned by her in the 50s, perhaps it was her unbelievable body, or maybe it was her red lips and her desirable red dress. This leads me to ask an interesting question. Does the color red enhance a man’s attraction to women? The answer is yes.

Andrew Elliot and Daniela Niesta, University of Rochester psychologists, led a study in 2008 testing men on their behavior towards the color red. During these experiments, evidence revealed that men became more attracted to the same woman wearing the color red, and they did not even realize it. In the first study, men looked at a woman in a photograph framed by a variety of colors. Of course, the woman framed in red was at the top of the men’s charts. For the other part of the experiment, the woman in the photographs wore different color shirts, such as red and blue. This time around, the men were asked about their intentions regarding dating, rather than attraction alone. Men responded that they would pay more on a date with a woman in red (ladies, start wearing red on your dates). Ultimately, the experiment led to the conclusion that the woman framed in red and the woman wearing a red shirt  were rated significantly higher than the other pictures that were not affiliated with the color red.

The “red” effect only changes male perceptions towards females, not female to female. This study shows that red enhances positive feelings towards women, making the women become more attractive and sexually desired.

So the next time you ladies decide to wear a red dress out in public, be sure to look at the men’s jaws drop as you walk by.

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Your Skin Can Be Crispy

Sunny days and UVA rays. Some enjoy the feeling of the hot sun beating against their skin, while others just seek to get that perfect deep tan. Then there are some that believe they “look” better with a tan. Luckily, there are two ways to achieve those desired results. Natural sunlight and indoor tanning beds. The real question is, is natural sunlight healthier than tanning beds? The answer is technically yes.

Now I wouldn’t go out laying in the sun at all hours of the day. We all know sunlight is damaging to the skin, and if you’re not taking precautions, you can end up with some pretty bad skin conditions. However, lets just focus on the idea that natural sunlight can be healthier than indoor tanning beds.

When your skin tans, it is protecting the deeper layers from the harmful ultraviolet rays that the sun and tanning beds give off. So, when you think you are getting a glamorous deep tan, your skin is actually crying for some protection. Now a days, you can wear a variety of sunblocks that protect you from the harmful rays. SPF ranges from literally SPF 2, all the way up to 100. You can even wear sunblock in a tanning bed, but why basically deny the service you paid for? Beats me.

When you are laying in a tanning bed, regardless of the level, your skin is exposed to UV radiation that damages DNA cells. These tanning beds emit twelve times the amount of UVA rays than natural sunlight does. We also know that tanning indoors increases the risk of melanoma and other skin diseases that may lead to cancer. Not only does indoor tanning affect the skin, it promotes premature skin aging, eye damage, such as cataracts, and even immune suppression. Some tanners actually believe that they get their vitamin D from tanning indoors. Little do they know, they can just eat a healthy diet and gain their daily dose of vitamin D.

So, next time you decide to go indoor tanning for your prom pictures or you think you’re pasty white during the winter time, think about the risks you are putting  not only your skin through, but your body too.

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Like Science, Hate Experimenting

Hi everyone, my name is Alex Kaminsky and I am from Toms River, New Jersey. The best part of growing up in Toms River is that it’s about three miles from my house to the beach! I am currently a sophomore hoping to double major in Accounting and Economics. I originally came to Penn State for Chemistry, however things changed rather quickly. I realized I loved science yet hated experimenting. I dreaded labs all throughout high school and I especially dreaded waking up at 8am to go to a four hour chemistry lab in the Ice rink. Not only was it extremely time consuming, it was pointless to me because the labs did not connect to the lectures we did in class. Yes, I know experimenting is a huge part of science, which is why I decided to not be a science major.

However, I am taking this course because I need to fulfill a science general education and Sc200 seemed liked a great and interesting fit. I decided to take this course because it focuses on a different side of a science that I’m used to. I took AP chemistry, physics and biology in high school and all of them consisted of experimenting. They were definitely a struggle, so rather than learning specific parts of science, I figured a critical thinking science course would fit me best today. Knowing that science is around us and in everything we do, I hope to learn why things are the way they are. That being said, I’m excited that Sc200 does not consist of research or experimenting, allowing me to look forward to the rest of the semester.

If I was actually going to be a science major, I’d most likely pick pre-med or biology just so I can be like Meredith Grey on Greys Anatomy (just incase you were wondering).