Author Archives: Alexandra Nicole Iaccino

Exercise and the Brain

During the week, I try to go to the gym as much as possible. I always loved going to the gym and I always felt really good and accomplished after because f its many health benefits. In addition to obviously having really good physical health benefits, I found that exercising is extremely good for your brain as well. Specifically, exercising can make your brain grow new brain cells. This discovery could lead to something that would help thousands of people who are suffering from degenerate diseases.

An article by Forbes explains how recently a study found that exercising activates the creation if a specific protein in the brain, FNDC5. This protein activates anther protein, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which will then activate the production of new nerves in the brain. They recommend jogging as a basic exercise that would be able to strengthen and further develop your brain (DiSalvo 2013).

Researchers think that it would be possible to distribute this brain growing protein in a supplement. It would be able to imitate the same effects as though you were exercising and could e given to people with degenerate diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. researchers tested this protein on my mice and found a significant amount in the hippocampus of the brain, which is the main area for learning and memory. Further research has to be done to prove if this is safe for humans to take in a supplement as well (DiSalvo 2013).

This new discovery could potentially help the lives of thousands of people who are suffering from these horrible diseases. This could also help any person in general – exercising can bring you so many physical and mental health benefits and will now also make your brain stronger.


Man’s Best Friend

Anytime I’m with my dog, I instantly feel so happy and loved. Whenever I’m having a bad day, sitting and snuggling with my dog will always make me feel better. I think most people with dogs, or any pet, can understand the special bond that forms between pets and their owners. Even now, when I am away from my dog, whenever my mom sends a picture of my dog at home I get a feeling of joy and happiness. This made me start to think, maybe having a pet could have major mental and physical health benefits for people.

I decided to do further research on this idea and I found an article that explains how dogs, or any pet, can improve your overall health. The article shares a study performed by the American Heart Association that found many different health benefits linked to having a pet. Owning a pet is linked to a reduced risk of getting heart disease (Help Guide). Pets have also been proven to help people with anxiety and stress. One study found that playing with your pet increases the amount of dopamine and serotonin, which will make you feel more serene and relaxed. One major point the article makes is that having a pet can be therapeutic in that it takes the place of the human need for touch and contact with others.

There could be many different factors and third variables that cause all of these links between owning a pet and becoming overall healthier. As f right now, there is still no concrete evidence of pets directly causing a link to make people become healthier. However, from personal experience, I can say that having a pet dog has really made me feel overall happier and less stressed whenever I’m around her.


Importance of Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important things for a person’s health. Without sleep, people cannot function or think properly. I know that in order for me to feel refreshed and awake, I need a good night’s sleep of at least 7 hours. Sleeping is a time for rest, relaxation, and most importantly, clearing your mind. New studies have looked at what happens in the brain when a person is sleeping and found that sleep allows the brain to remove waste from the day before.

A study performed by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the brain gets rid of waste while sleeping. This system of removing waste is referred to as the glymphatic system. This system is particularly active while sleeping and removes many things that could lead to diseases or disorders. The study conducted focused on rats’ brains and how they were able to remove toxins from the brain. Researchers found that the cells in the brain reduce in size, therefore making it easier for the toxins and waste to leave the brain (Wood).

Scientists were able to back up this idea by using imaging technology to see what’s happening in the rat’s brain. A rat’s brain is very similar to a human’s brain, therefore, both brains have similar functions. Since it was seen in the study on mice that the blood-brain barrier in the brain removes toxins and waste in mice, it has to be a very similar situation in humans (Wood). In conclusion, the takeaway message would be to get as much sleep as possible to feel refreshed, awaken, and detoxed.



Social Media and Depression

Walking anywhere around campus, you will always see people staring intensely at their phones. I have to admit I am guilty of this too – whenever I walk by myself down the street I usually will take out my phone to check my social media accounts. Over the years, people have clearly gotten more addicted to the use of social media; whether its Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or any other site, people are constantly checking their feed to see what’s going on in their friends’ and family’s lives, even strangers’ and celebrities’ lives as well. However, it has come to the attention of some researchers and scientists that constantly checking social media can have bad health effects – specifically, it might be causing feelings of depression. The null hypothesis here would be that social media use does not cause depression and the alternative hypothesis would be that social media does cause depression.

An article by Medical Daily shares the findings of a study performed by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. The study included almost 2,000 people ranging between the ages of 19 and 32. They were required to answer questions on how much time they spent on specific social media sites. The researchers found that the participants used social media on average 30 times per week and 61 minutes per day (Olson 2016).

With this new information on how much time people sped checking social media, the researchers then decided to test the patients for depression. The tests showed that over 25% of the participants had depression (Olson 2016). They also found that people who checked social media the most were nearly three times more likely to become depressed than people who did not check as much. However, they found that this link between depression and social media use could be a reverse causation as well – people who are already depressed could be using social media as a type of escape to ease their feelings of depression (Olson 2016).

In conclusion, this is only the findings and opinions of one study performed. To really get a better understanding of the correlation between depression and social media use, more intense research would have to be done. Also, in addition to the possibility of there being a reverse causation, there could also be a third confounding variable creating a correlation between social media and depression. The takeaway here is that there is no definite link between social media use and depression. However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to limit the amount of time you check your social media accounts – it could make you feel better and overall happier.



Health Benefits of Chocolate

Ever since I was little, I would get terrible headaches. Although they have become less frequent over the years, they are still unbearable. I was never able to find something that would be able to alleviate the pain. I decided to research different remedies that could help get rid of headaches. One particular remedy was chocolate. As strange as this seems, many people believe that chocolate has health benefits that can alleviate the pain of a headache. As much as I wish that chocolate had a direct causation of getting rid of headaches – considering my love for chocolate – there is a good chance that it is not. I decided to do some further research on this topic; the null hypothesis would be that chocolate does not relieve headaches and the alternative hypothesis would be that chocolate does relieve headaches.

According to an article on Live Strong, the cocoa bean contains antioxidants that get rid of free-radicals. The definition on Merriam-Webster describes a free-radical is a reactive group of atoms. These atoms can cause blood vessels to become inflamed which leads to headaches and migraines. Therefore, eating chocolate is one possible way to reduce inflammation and pain (Bond 2015). However, dark chocolate would be the most effective because it contains the highest amount of cocoa powder. In addition, people with diabetes can sometimes get hypoglycemic headaches from a low amount of sugar intake. Eating chocolate has been proven to reduce the pain of these types of headaches (Bond 2015). These assumptions however still do not mean that there is a direct link between eating chocolate and relieving headache pain. However, in another article written by ABC News, they explain how one study conducted on rats found the same theory to be true – the cocoa powder in chocolate reduces inflamed cells, which therefore reduces headache pain. However, they also explain how many other studies cannot prove whether chocolate can or cannot relieve headaches (Chitale 2008).

Another theory is that chocolate can actually  generate headaches. In a double-blind placebo study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, researchers studied whether chocolate can cause headaches and migraines. The study was strictly based on women who had chronic headaches. The study was a double-blind trial where the women were randomly given two samples of chocolate and two samples of carob – a healthy substitute for cocoa (Merriam-Webster). The study found that the chocolate was no more likely to start a headache than the carob (Marcus, Scharff, Turk, and Gourley).

So in conclusion, there is no definite proof that chocolate can relieve headache pain or not. There’s also so evidence of chocolate provoking a headache. The main takeaway from this is that although chocolate is not the definite way to stop the pain of a headache, it wouldn’t hurt to eat a little piece the next time you do have a headache just to try it.


Out Cold

When I go to sleep at night, I have to have my room ice cold. If it’s too hot, I can’t fall asleep or I wake up feeling sick. Whether it’s Summer time and hot outside, or Winter and snowing outside, I will have some form of air conditioning on in my room. I started to wonder, were there any possible health benefits of sleeping in a cold room? I began to research and found that many scientists have studied how the cold effects your sleep and the benefits of sleeping in a cooler temperature.

An article written by Markham Heid of the New York Times explains the many benefits of sleeping in a colder environment. A study has found that being in a colder room activates the body’s sleeping systems giving your body the message to go to sleep. One study mentioned in the article found that sleeping in a cold room could cause you to burn more calories. The study involved older men who slept in 66-degree rooms for one month. The researchers found that this caused the brown fat in the body to become operative, allowing more calories to be burnt (Heid 2014).

As I went through my researching, I began to wonder if sleeping in a colder room could help people who have sleeping disorders as well. I found another study that has found that colder temperatures help people with insomnia fall asleep better; specifically, by wearing a cooling cap. People with insomnia have a high amount of activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which causes the brain to stay warm at night, rather than cool off. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. It involved 12 people who had insomnia who were given a cooling cap before going to sleep. They found that the participants were able to fall asleep within 13 minutes and slept for almost 90 percent of the time that they were bed (Park 2011).

It’s clear that sleeping in cooler temperatures has many health benefits. It is recommended by doctors and researchers to sleep in cooler conditions as an easy way to help you fall asleep quicker and prevent any sleeping problems or disorders (Park 2011).


You Asked: Is Sleeping In a Cold Room Better For You?

Tip for Insomniacs: Cool Your Head to Fall Asleep

Health Benefits of Dancing

Dance has been a huge part of my life since the age of three. No matter what type of dancing it was, I always knew that it was something I wanted to pursue in the future. Dancing not only kept me fit and healthy, but it overall made me happy. Scientists and researchers have conducted many studies to find the health benefits of dancing, whether competitive or just for fun.

In an article written by Scott Edwards from Harvard Medical School, he shares that many regions of the brain are triggered when dancing, which includes the motor cortex and cerebellum. With its requirement of mental exertion and attention to fine details, dancing is proven to improve memory, hand-eye coordination, and other movements and motor skills (Edwards).

In addition, dance can reduce the risk of health problems and diseases later in life. This article discusses the findings of a study performed by the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that dance was the only activity that reduced the risk of developing dementia. Dance has been used in studies for other diseases as well, such as Parkinson’s disease – a disorder in the nervous system that usually causes movement trouble (Mayo Clinic). Dance was proven useful as a therapy mechanism for patients with Parkinson’s disease. It’s exercise components and movement was proven to relieve the symptoms of the disease, which includes stiffness in the muscles and lack of balance (Edwards).

Further research proved that dancing helps decrease depression and stress as well as increase self-confidence. In a meta-analysis study, researchers were able to prove that dance is a beneficial mechanism for treating depression, stress and anxiety and is often recommended to many patients. When given the option of dance or meditation as a form of therapy, majority of the patients chose dance (Berkeley Wellness 2014). All in all, dance can provide many health benefits – psychological and physical. It is an activity that anyone can participate in and is fun to do.


Benefits of Interval Training

With my heavy amount of school work and extracurricular activities, I can barely take time out of my day to go to the gym. I try to go whenever I get the chance, whether it’s in between classes or later at night. But I never am able to get a good amount of time of exercising. Luckily, new studies developed show that short intervals of exercising throughout the day may be more beneficial than a long period of exercise at the gym.

One article explains how a study showed that as little as fifteen minutes of exercise could burn more fat than when exercising for a long period of time. It is proven that the high intensity work outs with short breaks in between increases endurance, stamina, and tolerance. Interval exercising can allow you to work to your highest potential, which long amounts of exercise usually cannot do for you (Sifferlin 2014).

Interval training has been proven to be beneficial to everyone, no matter their health conditions. Another study led by Dr. Thomas Solomon focused on people with diabetes and the exercise that is right for them. They found that short periods of walking, or any type of exercise, throughout the day was more beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes. They began the experiment by randomly assigning people with Type 2 diabetes into a control group, a group that did interval training, and a group that did continuous training. Participants went for five sessions a week for 60 minutes a day and were given a hyperglycaemic clamp in order to track the amount of insulin being produced. It was shown that blood sugar levels were only better in participants in the interval training group (Eurekalert 2014).

In conclusion, shorter amounts of exercise throughout the day will overall be more effective than long periods of exercise. Short interval training allows you to reach a maximum intensity of exercise that is harder to get than continuous training. Short intervals of exercise can also fit in better with hectic and busy schedules.


Short Bursts of Exercise Are Better Than Exercising Nonstop


I was never the type of person that went to bed early, especially now that I’m in college and the workload has become significantly heavier than it was in high school. I sometimes find myself doing homework and studying until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, only to wake up early for my 8 am the next morning. This is a similar case I find with most of my friends and I bet many other college students. I know that only getting 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night is not good for anyone, so I decided to research the negative effects of reduced hours of sleep.

The article, “Teens Who Stay Up Late Could Face Academic, Emotional Problems Later On”, shares a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley that found a correlational link between low GPAs and the time at which teens go to sleep. The study involved 2,700 teens in middle and high school. When surveyed, 30% of the teens said that they went to bed after 11:30 pm during the school year and after 1:30 am during the summer. The study concluded that with a decrease in the amount of sleep teens get during the school year, the worse they will perform in school. They also found that with a decrease in the amount of sleep during the summer, teens’ levels of stress and anxiety increase (Huffington Post 2013).

But how can we fix this issue? What is an easy way to start going to sleep earlier? Further into my research, I found another study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley. The study started with a couple dozen teens who went to sleep any time later than 10:30 pm in addition to having an emotional, social or academic issue. The purpose of the study was to biologically change the times at which the teens needed to sleep and when they would wake up to overall improve their sleeping habits. It was a four year-long experiment where participants would go to interventions and calming activities such as yoga. In conclusion, the improved sleeping habits will improve the amount of melatonin, an important hormone secreted in the brain (Merriam-Webster). This will overall improve the social, emotional, and academic problems that these teens had.

The right amount of sleep is necessary to perform well I school and in social aspects to reduce stress and anxiety. I think that the amount of sleep necessary is different for everyone, therefore it is essential to find the right amount for yourself. Overall, it is clearly important to get a good amount of sleep in addition to going to bed at a reasonable time, no matter how much you have to cram for an exam the night before.


Dim the lights: Study aims to get teen night owls to bed earlier


I think that almost everyone has heard from an adult at some point in their childhood to make sure they drink more milk because it will make your bones stronger. For generations, it has been believed that the calcium, that is mainly found in dairy products, could increase bone density and strength. I never thought to question whether this was actually true or not; I just took their word for it. However, recently this has become a big topic of issue. Scientists have begun to question whether calcium actually helps strengthen your bones and if it can reduce the risk of fractures and breaking. I decided to do some more research on whether calcium is beneficial.

Within my researching, I found a study, led by professor Mark J. Bolland, that analyzed the effects of extra calcium intake through dairy or supplements to see if there is a correlation to bone density. The study included male and female participants over the age of 50. They had randomized control trials where they would give the patients calcium supplements in addition to vitamin D supplements or a placebo. The researchers found that the chance of bone fracture was decreased by eleven percent after taking the calcium supplements. However, the results were not uniform with every trial. Therefore, it is concluded that there is not enough consistent evidence to prove that calcium, whether taken by supplements or through dairy products, can significantly reduce the chance of bone fractures or breaking (Bolland 2015).

I decided to look further into this topic and found many researchers and doctors who also not only believe that calcium does not contribute to a reduction in bone fractures, but calcium intakes could cause other health issues as well. In an article written by Maggie Fox, for NBC News, she explains how a study found that additional calcium supplements could cause build up in your arteries or kidneys, which could lead to heart disease and kidney stones. In addition, some studies have even found a correlational between a higher risk of cancer and an increased intake of calcium (Fox 2015).

The studies mentioned in the article have the same conclusion as the study conducted by Bolland: calcium intake can slightly increase bone density, but there is not enough evidence to prove that it is significantly beneficial. The article suggests exercising as a way of increasing bone density, instead of relying solely on calcium supplements (Fox 2015). These articles and studies prove to be very informative and helpful for people who are looking to strengthen their bones and trying to reduce the risk of bone damage.


Bad Effects of Milk

Every morning, the first thing I do is pour myself a bowl of cereal with ice cold milk along with a cup of coffee with half and half cream. Milk is a necessary part of my diet and I can’t imagine not having any dairy. From a young age, we have been taught that milk contains important vitamins and sources of calcium that is vital to intake. However, it is now being seen that milk is not as good for you as what you’ve been told.

In the article, “Milk is Dangerous for your Health”, by Doctor Mark Hyman, it is shown that milk might have more bad effects on your body than good. The article shares Dr. David Ludwig and Dr. Walter Willett’s findings that milk lacks the health benefits that the government promotes. Their studies found that milk can cause a wide variety of different problems from acne, constipation and weight gain to extreme effects such as cancer (Hyman 2016). Milk has also been found to cause sinus congestion, allergic reactions, diarrhea, and a lack of energy. In addition, Hyman explains how dairy contains proteins that are harmful to the body, such as casein, a phosphoprotein, according to Merriam-Webster. Many genetically modified proteins, such as casein, can cause many harmful diseases (Hyman 2016).

Even organic milk, that is not genetically modified, can be dangerous to your health. Hyman recommends some alterations in peoples’ dairy filled diets, such as taking a break from consuming dairy for a few weeks to see is any health issues get resolved. He also suggests having any dairy that does not come from a cow (Hyman 2016). It is crazy to think that milk can have so many bad effects on your health and body. From now on, I know that I am going to try to consume less dairy from cows and try maybe soy milk or almond milk.



As someone who has tried it before, I can honestly say that meditation is as relaxing and stress-relieving as everyone claims it to be. I love taking yoga classes as often as possible; I mainly take it before or after a big test or to try to relieve any anxiety I have related to school work. A major part of yoga, and truthfully my favorite part, is meditation. After meditating, I instantly feel relieved of all my worries and pressures. But why is meditation so relaxing? Does meditation do anything else for your health? I decided to research more on the health benefits of meditation and found the article, “Losing Focus? Studies Say Mediation May Help”, by John Cloud, which explains how studies have found that meditation strengthens functions of the brain.

This article focuses on a study performed by Katherine Maclean and 13 other researchers that tries to show a correlation between meditation and the strengthening of your attention span and overall brain activity. The study included two groups of 30, one group was sent right away to a meditation retreat and the other controlled group had to wait three months to go to their retreat. The study consisted of both groups meditating for a total of 5 hours a day. In addition, they took tests before, during, and after their retreat that measured their concentration (Cloud 2010).

The subjects took a purposely dull and tedious test that evaluated their focus and attention to detail. The results of the test from the group that went on the trip right away were astonishingly better than the results of the group that waited three months before going on the trip. The participants who meditated more were also quicker in picking up little details than the ones who meditated less. This proved that meditation causes your brain to process visual stimuli (Cloud 2010).

The article goes on to discuss how easy it is to meditate and how anyone can do it. Meditation can last as long as you want – it could be as long as an hour or even as short as five minutes. Meditation overall reduces stress, anxiety, and makes you more focused and detail oriented (Cloud 2010). I know that meditation during yoga classes has helped me tremendously whenever I was overwhelmed by school work and gave me a sense of calmness during my hectic schedule. I would recommend meditation to anyone who wants to relieve their stress, clear their minds, and become more focused.


Sugar, Sugar

Over the years, weight gain and obesity has become a major problem among children and teens. I’ve heard many different explanations on why and how people gain weight, but never heard one specific cause. Now as I enter my freshman year, I’m worried about gaining the “freshman 15” that everyone says is impossible to avoid. Therefore, I decided to research main causes of weight gain to note how to stay healthy and fit.

I found the article, “Sugar is Definitely Toxic, a New Study Says”, by Alice Park, which shares how a fairly recent study conducted found that sugar intake in foods plays a big role in weight gain and diseases rather than calorie intake. Scientists have found that Americans who try removing fats from their diet usually substitute it with sugars. The study conducted by Dr. Robert Lustig involved 43 minority children between the ages of 8 to 18 years old. The study began by having the children fill out a questionnaire that asked about their average daily caloric intake. Based on their answers, scientists create specific meal plans that substituted the sugar in their diets with starch and kept the calorie count the exact same. The kids would follow this meal plan for 9 days and eat more or less of their meals to remain the same weight (Park 2015).

The experiment showed that multiple children being studied became overall healthier. According to this study conducted by Dr. Lustig, once the children’s overall dietary sugar decreased, their fasting blood sugar decreased by 53%, and the amount of insulin, triglyceride, LDL, and fat in the liver decreased too (Park 2015). The researchers also proved that there is a direct causation link between sugar and metabolic syndrome after comparing the results of kids who lost weight and kids who didn’t lose weight during the experiment.

In addition to their findings, the scientists linked that the reduction of fat in the kids’ livers indicates that sugar is a main cause of metabolic syndrome and other chronic diseases. Despite many discoveries made during this experiment, many scientists are still skeptical. Experts and nutritionists want people to take away from this experiment that the main problem is people are over eating, which is the biggest problem related to weight gain, not just from sugar (Park 2015). I personally, however, agree with both the study findings and the idea of over eating causing weight gain. My Aunt had struggled with her weight for many years until she spoke with a nutritionist who told her to cut back sugar from her diet and eat less calorie-rich foods. She ended up losing around 70 pounds in a little under a year by cutting back on sugary foods and eating healthier options. Overall, this study holds valuable information and statistics that can not only help people who are struggling with their weight, but also help people who are looking for ways to stay healthy.


Sugar Is Definitely Toxic, a New Study Says


Hi everyone, my name is Alexandra and I’m from Bergen County, New Jersey. I’m currently undecided but considering majoring in psychology. I’m not really a science-type of person but my academic advisor said this was a good course for people who did not like science. With that being said, I figured I’d try out the class to see if I’d like it. So far, this class seems like a good fit for me – the topics seem fascinating and I’m interested in learning how science affects our everyday lives.

As of right now, I do not plan to become a science major. I took biology, physics, and chemistry in high school and I did not do that well in any of them (I almost failed chemistry). Therefore, I don’t think it would be the best decision to major in any type of science field.

I think science can be engaging if you can relate it to things that you are interested in. I found an article that might be interesting to anyone who has a coffee addiction like I do. This article explains how scientists performed a study on how a gene affects the breakdown of coffee in the body and how much caffeine we are actually retaining.