Author Archives: Amanda Voirrey Rust

Gluten Free Diet: Should You Do it?

A small percentage of the world’s population suffer from Celiac Disease, also known as an allergy to gluten/autoimmune disorder.  Some people may not realize they have this disease until later in life, and eliminating gluten completely from tgluten1heir diet may feel like an epiphany, and solve many issues. However it has become a common diet and trend amongst people who do not have Celiac disease to go “gluten free”. Since gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye, cutting it out of your diet almost seems like a guaranteed method to loosing weight. Is that really accurate though?

Even people with Celiac Disease that go on gluten free diets are not guaranteed to lose weight. In fact, a study conducted over 2 years on 371 people with Celiac disease showed that 82% of people that were already overweight, gained even more weight once going gluten free. Of course, if you have a gluten allergy, you have no choice but to cut it out completely, but this supports the claim that people without the disease should keep it in their diet.

A study was conducted, in which 139 peoples recorded a food diary of their gluten-free lives in order to analyze levels of nutrients that were ingested. It was found that levels of magnesium, zinc, and iron were lower than what is recommended. Energy intake was also lower.(Robins) There are potential problems with this experiment though, because the sample size is not too big and there could be errors in people’s self reports.

Gluten free diets may be suggested to people with gastrointestinal problems such as IBS or even Autism Spectrum disorders. However, there is a lack of evidence supporting the claim that going gluten free will help these problems. Our body benefits from stomach bacteria that gluten provides.  Oligofrugluten-freectose is an important starch found in wheat that improves or metabolism of lipids and and absorption of minerals. When we cut gluten out of our diet completely, we are missing out on these benefits. (Gaesser)

One experimental study was done on a group of 10 subjects, in which they followed a gluten free diet for an entire month.  At the end of the month, researchers took fecal samples and found that were lacking beneficial bacteria. (Gaesser)

In another double-blind, randomized experiment, women were given 48g of wheat for breakfast for a 3 week period. Fecal samples were collected before and after the experiment, and after the diet, it was evident that one bacteria called Bifidobacterium increased 10%.  (Gaesser)

As it might seem like a desirable thing to cut out gluten from your diet, it is probably not a good idea if you do not suffer from Celiac disease.  There is no evidence that can prove weight loss benefits, and you will miss out on healthy bacteria for your body. Gluten free diets are also hard to abide by, and a lot of bread substitution products still contain carbs and  sugar, defeating the purpose of weight loss. It is not determined how detrimental these bacterias are to one’s life, however it is important to provide your body with nutrients in order to maintain health.



Will Marijuana Help You?

One major topic of discussion between politics, and people all over the US is whether to legalize marijuana or not. Some argue that is has more benefits than dangers, and will only bring more wealth to the economy. Others argue that People’s well being will be damaged.

Although studies say that it might decrease grades and induce laziness, this could very well be due to third confounding variables. It is common that teens that smoke marijuana will also often be consuming other forms of drugs. It has not been proven that minor intakes of cannabis severely impair someone from functioning properly.

Marijuana is often prescribed to people with pain or depression problems. I have always wondered if medical marijuana was truly beneficial for the patient.

thIn a systematic review testing the effects of marijuana in regards to helping patients with specific medical disorders, it is ultimately concluded that marijuana does not provide ill patients with significant relief or improvement. Studies regarding cannabis intake and lowering seizures in patients with epilepsy, and one about helping people with involuntary moving disorders, did not conclude with results that signified any correlation. In another study testing the effect of marijuana on tremors by people with MS, 337 patients were given either a placebo drug or actual marijuana and there was no significant difference in the reports. Effects of marijuana on bladder conditions due to MS were also tested, and no improvement was shown. (Volkow)

Since the placebo effect came in to play several times during these experiments, it is difficult to say whether marijuana has a positive impact on one’s medical condition or not. No “bad” effects have been reported showing significant evidence against medical marijuana use. Ultimately, the effects of medical marijuana are unclear. While some may argue that it helps their moods and mental health, others just feel as if it is a waste.

An observational study done on the suicide rate in areas with medical marijuana legalized vs not legalized, hypothesized that marijuana can aid in depression disorders. It found that suicide rates fell in the states, which legalized marijuana, while the suicide rate rose in the states where it was never legalized. Specifically males between 15 and 19 had a sharp decline in suicides post legalization, along with males between 20 and 59. 60 and above did not experience such a drastic decrease, but it was still pr7878545medical-marijuana-rxesent. In females though, there is less support defending marijuana decreasing the suicide rate after legalization. (Anderson) Although this experiment seems to provide strong evidence that marijuana decreases suicide, there could always be flaws and other factors that contribute to these statistics. People could be medicating themselves in other ways, or receiving therapy. This study simply only follows the trends, and not specifics of each individual. If another study were done, perhaps an experiment factoring for these other variables, it would be more likely that marijuana is responsible for the decrease in suicides.

Marijuana is a touchy subject in the legal world, but it is also challenging medically. If you suffer from a severe mood disorder or depression, there is no evidence as to support why you shouldn’t use it, but it shouldn’t be relied on completely. As to actual medical disorders, marijuana does not seem to be a cure. You should probably stick to protocol treatments from a physician.



Does The Amount Of Sleep You Get Affect Your GPA?

“Im going to stay up all night to study” is a common phrase you hear college students say before a big exam. Ideally, studying more seems like it would boost your grade. However is this really beneficial? I have really wondered how our brains function when our bodies are running on no sleep. Can we still think and act clearly and make proper decisions? Or does being tired impair our judgment and test taking ability? I know that for me, I struggle answering questions and holding a conversation when I am tired.

At one survey study done on high school students, it was reported that about 2/3 of them do not get a sufficient amount of sleep. The National Sleep foundation claims that 8 hours of nightly sleep is considered moderately sufficient. (Curcio)

tired-student-at-booksIt is hard to find hard evidence in experiments correlating amount of sleep and grades. Certain experiments call for many flaws, such as self-reports lacking verification, different grade biases and scales, and general intelligence/IQ. Multiple variables would need to be factored for in order to gain more accurate results.

In observational study conducted on 148 college students all enrolled in the same phycology class, with the causal variable being sleep duration, and the result variable being GPA, it was hypothesized that longer amounts of sleep will result in higher grades. 7-8 hours was considered average, and 9 or more was long. Third variables included age and gender, and the study concluded that these did not have a correlation to GPA. It did show though that the average of the long-sleepers GPA was a 3.4, the short sleepers was a 2.74, and the average, 3.01. (Kelly) This evidence supports the original hypothesis that more sleep does have a positive relationship with grades.

poor-report-card-because-of-poor-sleepA self-reporting survey done by Wolfson and Carskadon measured 3000 high school students’ grades and sleeping trends. It concluded that the students with the higher GPAs tended to have better sleeping patterns, and getting a larger amount of rest than those with lower GPAs. The evidence from a study like this would be more strongly supported if meta-analyses were done confirming the same results. However, there have been many other studies that have conclusions on the contrary. In another survey testing relationship between grades and sleep times, 1200 students from 6th-12th grade were asked to self report GPAs and their sleeping tendencies. Researches found no strong correlation that lack of sleep would decrease GPA. (Curcio)

Overall, it is up to each individual how much sleep they chose to get. Other things could prevent one from sleeping as desired, such as breathing problems, or insomnia, so some people may not even be at fault for lacking sufficient sleep. Neurologists and scientists would hands down advise at least 8 hours of sleep in order for our brains to function to their full potential, however each person is very different when it comes to sleep, and how they preform academically. Other factors need to be considered before concluding that more sleep and higher grades are directly correlated.




Are Tanning Beds Bad?

The simple answer seems to typically be yes. Many people that obtain skin cancer are guilty of frequently going tanning. I also do know several people that tan weekly but have not gotten skin cancer. So is there a true correlation? Tanning artificially indoors is a current trend that is influenced by social media and television. People tend to feel more attractive when their skin is sun kissed. Makeup and skin products are sold for the sole purpose of darkening skin too. Is becoming tan in order to boost confidence truly worth it though? Most scientists would most likely say no.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, there will be about 9800 deaths from skin cancer within the year. I am also aware that it is the most common cancers in the United States. People are dying every day, so can this cancer be prevented or avoided?

The Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology documented statistics from New Mexico comparing risk of skin cancer in relation to ethnicity. Non-Hispanic whites were 5-10 times higher to get skintanning-beds cancer than Hispanic-whites with darker skin. However, the light skin doesn’t appear to be the determining factor because in China and Singapore, incidence of skin cancer is lower than that in the US. (Armstrong) In China and Singapore though, tanning and darker skin is not as appealing as it is in the US. Indoor tanning tends to be more popular in Northern countries, in areas with less sun. It is in these countries that skin cancer is more prominent. A study done in Sweden showed that more than 50% of its female participants under 24 years old have already artificially tanned.
The relationship between tanning and skin cancer cannot be a coincidence or due to chance, because meta-analyses have been conducted in order to further validate various experimental trials that showed the link between the two variables. Epidemiological testing also supports the fact that one’s risk for getting cancer (melanoma and other skin cancers) is increased from using tanning beds. It also appears to be most risky to use tanning beds at an age younger than 40. (Dore)

There have also been other negative consequences faced by people using tanning beds such as skin fragility, blistering, and eye problems. (Swerdlow) There is no official risk percentage that you sign up for when you go tanning, however you are definitely taking one when you choose to do so. Science can prove that UV rays can cause skin cancers, but there is no simple answer as to whether you will get cancer or not.

Although it is not proven or guaranteed that if you go tanning you will get cancer, it would be a smart idea to stay away. Artificial tanning in adolescents should be avoided at all costs to reduce risk. There are many other alternatives to using tanning beds also, such as spray tanning, bronzers, and lotions. Until it is truly determined how dangerous tanning is, I would not suggest it!


Best Tanning Beds for Sale!divAbstract


Do Video Games Make Kids Aggressive?

A common stigma of parents with young children is that violent video games are a bad influence. Many people think that exposure to guns, fighting, and drugs will corrupt youth. However, video games – especially violent ones have become popular with many people in the US., so should parents allow their kids to play these games? Or should they ban them until the child has fully matured? Different adults may have conflicting opinions upon whether these games influence their children’s’ behavior and attitudes.

kids-playing-a-video-gameIn one observational study done in Japan and the US physical aggression was measured in accordance to high exposure to video games containing violence. The hypothesis was that holding gender and aggressive background constant, video games would increase violence over time. 181 Japanese students from 12 to 15 and 1050 from 13 to 18 were observed, along with a sample of US students between 9 and 12. Their behavior was observed once after 3 months, and once after 6 months. (Anderson) This study concluded that students who frequently played violent video games became somewhat more aggressive.

However this experiment fails to factor in the children’ home lives. Perhaps their families or communities were violent, or they were exposed in some other way. These other variables lead to the possibility that violence after video games could be due to chance. Personalities and upbringing can also differ from child to child.

Mark Griffiths analyzed a series of observational studies looking at children’s behavior relative to violent video game exposure. One study watched play time of 9 and 10 year olds after being exposed to aggressive games. It was reported that boy’s behavior remained pretty constant, but the girls were more aggressive. Another study found that behaviors mimic specific scenes and circumstances as seen in the games. One observation included a manipulative variable of the type of game played; one with aggression, one without, and it concluded that the children that played the aggressive games displayed a more aggressive demeanor during play time. (Griffiths)

Several experimental studies have also been conducted testing this relationship between video games and aggression. One study done on university students found no changes in aggression after playing violent games. Another watched eight graders after playing these games and aggression was not altered. (Griffiths)

It is definitely plausible that video games may cause an increase of temporary aggressive behavior, but there is not enough hard evidence to convince parents to put a complete ban on violent video games. Aggression is also a soft endpoint variable in these experiments, for there is no true way to actually get inside of children’s heads. In conclusion to multiple studies, it appears as if effects on these games tend to affect younger groups more so than older ones. This may be due to the lack of mental development, for young children are still learning about the world around them and tend to pick things up from what they see around them. As for older children and young adults, the effects do not appear to be as prominent. This may be due to the fact that they have already been exposed to more, or matured mentally.

In conclusion, it is probably a good idea to stray young curious children away from violent video games, but it is not worth a fight to stop school aged children from doing so.


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Guac, Fat of Fortune?

Whenever I am on the line at Chipotle, I face an internal battle with myself debating whether to pay the $1.00 extra for Guac on my burrito bowl. Just for the taste, $1.00 is completely worth it to me. However, I always wonder if those extra calories are, or if it a waste to my body. If I am at a party and I see chips and guacamole, I can never resist.

I can’t say that I am always good about my eating habits, but I typically like to know how many calories are in each meal and snack I consume. Chipotle may not be the best place to go when you are trying to diet, but I have definitely created a bowl or salad under 450 calories. After playing around with apps and nutrition facts I have learned that the typical serving of Guac at Chipotle is 230 calories. Today I had a hot pocket that was 250, and it definitely was more hunger satisfying then a big scoop of guacamole.

Guacamole in porcelain sauceboat

So is it worth it?

Well, Guacamole’s main ingredient is avocado. I know that an avocado is technically a fruit, but lacks the sugar content of typical fruits like apples and strawberries. Instead, avocados are high in fat content. The word “fat” definitly has a negative connotation associated with it because no one wants to be “quote on quote, fat”.

I found a really cool article about a study done at Penn State involving avocados in diets.  A group of overweight volunteers were split up and given different diet plans.  One of the diets was higher in fat, and included one avocado a day.  The group in this diet was found to have reductions in their cholesterol in comparison to the other diets. Although this does not prove anything and chance could be an option, it seems to me that avocados can indeed reduce cholesterol.


Even though avocados are fatty, they can have several health benefits.  The fat is not trans fat, rather it is polyunsaturated.  Protein, fiber, and potassium are other nutrients that avocados provide to our bodies. (Szalay)

Avocado individually, or added to a low calorie salad seems to be pretty beneficial.  But it is often used as an add-on ingredient, such as with chips or something else unhealthy.  I can conclude myself that there is enough evidence out there for me to continue eating it frequently.  The key is to eat it wisely.

Fun fact that I learned: The word avocado comes from an Aztec word meaning testicle. Weird right? (Szalay)


Caffeine, good or bad?

I remember the first day I tried a cup of coffee, I made a face of disgust.  I never thought I could drink it at all within my life, but my mom kept telling me to wait- I would be addicted to her one day.  Consequently, she was 100% right.  If I had to endure a day without a cup of coffee, it will most likely be a huge struggle.  When I was in the 6th grade, I recall learning from my drug abuse program that a drug was defined as anything that you could form a dependence on, and caffeine fell under that category.  I finally developed a taste for coffee, and I now crave it at all times. I know I am not alone, and millions of other people around the world share the same addiction.


The effects of coffee definitely have had mostly positive effects on me (from what I know).  It wakes me up in the morning, gives me a wave of energy, and boots my morale. However sometimes it may give me a little “too much” energy.  If coffee is iced, I tend to chug it down fast, and my body shakes.  Sometimes I even get a headache.  Also, If I drink coffee a few hours before I am trying to go to bed, falling asleep can be a challenge.

So should I keep drinking it?

According to a study at Syracuse University, researchers performed an experimental study on a group of people manipulating the amount of caffeine ingested.  Some were given a caffeine drink, while others were given a placebo one.  The people that had the caffeine performed better at the given task, but the group that was given the fake caffeine still reported that they felt the effects. Caffeine definitely has similar effects as other drugs and alcohol on people’s bodies and brains.

According to a researcher at John Hopkins, caffeine can make someone anxious, increase blood sugar levels, and negatively affect the stomach.  This definitely does not sound enjoyable. However, scientists have done studies that provide evidence that coffee can decrease one’s risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

There is no definite answer whether coffee is “good” or “bad” for your health.  There are studies that try to support both sides, but it is really up to each individual person to decide if the pros override the cons, or vice versa. Personally, I will take the risks because I enjoy drinking coffee every day, and the caffiene makes me feel energized.  Everyone’s body and mind are very different, therefore their reactions will be too.



Do You Get A Cold From Being Cold?

College is a time in life where going out at night in the winter does not call for a parka, gloves, a hat and scarf.  “Frackets” are a phenomenon that I have never heard of before coming to Penn State.  I suppose being warm is outdated, or everyone is just afraid of their nice coats being stolen.  It is all understandable, but everyone tends to blame their annual winter cold on putting themselves through the agony of the frigid weather.  My roommate has convinced herself that the pneumonia she acquired last semester was 100% a result of her duct tape Halloween costume that left her body without much protection on that late October night.  Most people have probably heard from their grandparents or an elder: “You better wear a scarf and a hat or you’ll catch a cold!”Sexy-girls-in-bikini-on-snow-8211-to-hot-for-show

I usually don’t speak up when I hear this discussion, but in my head I always question if being cold actually does make you ill.  It has always sounded ridiculous to me.

First I thought about the things I already know.

#1. A cold is a virus

#2. Viruses come from germs

My mom always used to tell me that “being cold doesn’t give you a cold”, but she also mentioned that the cold weather weakens your immune system.

So maybe being cold just leaves your body in a more vulnerable position to catch a cold? I have always had a lot of questions that I hope to answer for myself and everyone else within this blog.

After doing some research, I learned that colds are most definitely only caused by viruses, which derive from germs.  In order to get this virus, you must come in contact with these germs.  Illness is more common in the winter because people are more frequently inside, and not getting as much fresh air.  According to a CNN article about cold weather and colds, Dr. Sorana Segal- Maurer says that when the air is dry and cold, people are more at risk of catching viruses due to dry mucosa.  I have never heard of mucosa before but apparently it is located in the backs of our throats and sinuses.  When it is dry and cold out, the mucosa is also dry and more vulnerable towards viruses.


In another article I found that cold weather weakens the nose’s immune defense.  According to a team of Yale scientists,  cold weather makes it harder to fight off infection. They conducted an experiment on mice, where rodents were infected with a strain of the cold virus and then tested the cells lining their airways to see if different temperatures affected the mice’s ability to fight it off. A conclusion was made that colder temperatures resulted in a weaker immune response, or more prone to infection.

Moreover, I think I had the right idea that the cold weather does not form a cold virus.  However, there are factors in the colder months that contribute to the more frequent attainment of viruses.  It is probably a smart idea to bundle up in the winter, but more so to protect from frostbite than viruses!




“No Thanks” to Science.

Hello Everyone,

My name is Amanda Rust and I am a sophomore from Haskell, NJ (I will be very excited if anyone has heard of it!). My parents’ careers both lie in the Science field, with my mom being a pharmacist and my dad an engineer. By default it was assumed that I would follow in their footsteps.  I guess sometimes the apple falls a little far from the tree because I loathe science.

The thought of learning how our bodies function, and the mechanisms of germs and disease do interest me, but when it comes to in depth classes about that material, I have to force myself to stay awake. In every Science class I have taken, I find myself questioning the importance of being there.  I also asked things like, “Why do I care about the velocity of a ball being thrown across a field?” and “What good is knowing the process of photosynthesis going to do me?”.  That information may be extremely important to some, but unfortunately it does not interest me at all. Last semester I took an astronomy class because I thought that stars and space were fascinating, but it was my least favorite class I have taken at Penn State so far.  The professor was great and some people loved it, but the material ended up being very unappealing to me.


Business and the economy is much more interesting to me, and my career path will steer in that direction.  I decided to take this class because the description “Science for people who hate science” caught my attention.  Our universe is such a complex place, and there are definitely scientific questions and topics that interest me. I also love learning new fun facts, especially cool scientific ones like these.  However, I rather learn analytically and skip the little details that have to be memorized and regurgitated on paper.  Blogging is a fun way to share thoughts about a topic, and interact with other students.  I have very high hopes for this class, and I think I am going to enjoy it a lot.