Author Archives: Katherine Yuen

Is the food you eat going to effect your acne?

I’ve always heard a lot about how your diet can increase the amount of or the severity of your acne or breakouts. Since it’s an idea that seems to have been around for a long time, I just assumed that it was true and that my dairy intake could be causing some of my pimples I got in high school. As someone who does breakout sometimes, I’ve recently started paying more attention to how I eat in relation to any time I get a pimple. I know it’s a pretty relevant topic in a lot of college student’s lives, so I decided to do a little bit of research into if our diet could be causing us pimples.


There’s some research (such as in this study) with results that suggest that high glycemic food products, which are food with lots of carbohydrates which increase your blood sugar levels, can increase your acne. The previously mentioned and linked study found that their study subject who ate more high glycemic foods were more often experiencing bad acne. The other big concern in this regard are dairy products. This study yielded results which pointed towards low-fat dairy products causing problems for people in the form of pimples. Dr. Daniel Aires from the University of Kansas Hospital said that this could be because of the growth hormones in milk, which could be becoming more concentrated as more fat is removed from it. This study says that your eating habits won’t cause your acne, but could make it more or less severe. However, many of the studies on this topic weren’t too great. Andrew emphasizes that we need to look at the quality of the studies that are out there. Many studies about the correlation between diet and acne have small sample sizes, control groups that aren’t very great, biases, and even results that are poorly reported.

Chart showing the levels of glycemic foods

Chart showing the levels of glycemic foods

In conclusion, it seems like it’s definitely a possibility that what you choose to eat could effect how bad your acne is. A normal person’s reaction to this depends on their level of concern in relation to their acne, but it’s not a bad idea to limit your intake of high glycemic foods and dairy, but don’t alter your whole life or freak out if you want to have an ice cream cone.



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Apple or doughnut

Glycemic food chart

Is it possible to be extra allergic to mosquito bites?

When I was a camp counselor, I was getting mosquito bites left and right for three summers in a row. Sometimes my reactions to mosquito bites would be pretty average, maybe a little bit more of that swollen area or a little bit redder, but nothing crazy. However, every once in a while, I would get this ridiculously large reaction to a mosquito bite. I’m talking about a painful, baseball-sized reaction to a mosquito bite. I never understood why this happened to me and not other people, but the camp nurse and other random people would always give me the vague explanation of “you’re probably allergic to mosquito bites”. I’ve never fully understood that- aren’t we all allergic to whatever the mosquitoes put in our body when they bite us? This is what sparked my interest in researching if I could really be allergic to mosquito bites to a different degree than most others.


This is what my reaction would be sometimes- gross, I know.

To give some background on what these bites are, it’s when a female mosquito puts the front of her mouth into one of your blood vessels, effectively putting her saliva straight into your bloodstream. The bite itself isn’t what causes the itchy reaction, but rather proteins that are in her saliva which stop your blood from clotting while the mosquito eats.

Apparently, the normal reaction to mosquito bite are small bumps that are red and itchy, which last for around two days. There are some people who are lucky enough to not have any reaction to mosquito bites, and they might not be allergic to the saliva or they could now be immune to it. Someone, such as myself, who could have a mosquito bite allergy, deals with a much more severe reaction than that. This study, published on the Public Library of Science, found that there could even be a difference in how attracted mosquitoes are to biting you because of your genetics. From their study, they discovered that mosquitoes usually didn’t prefer one identical twin to the other when they had the same genes. When they put two non-twins who had different genes to the test, they found that the mosquitoes preferred one of them over the other. A similar study by 23andMe found that something chromosome 4 could be the cause of this genetic difference. More research could help to figure out better prevention for mosquito bites, which cold also cause more serious issues such as Malaria and Zika. The null hypothesis in that study would be that people’s genetics do not lead to any preference for mosquitoes to bite them, and the alternative hypothesis would be that people’s genetics do in fact lead to a preference for mosquitoes to bite them. This results that came from this study could also be because of chance, or even a third confounding variable as well.


What I found is that the answer to my question is a strong yes- different people have different reactions to mosquito bites, and this could be because of varying allergies to proteins in the saliva of female mosquitoes. As of right now, there’s not much you can do about this other than wear bug spray and put on some anti-itch cream, but keep an eye out for more research on this topic if you’re like me and hate this somewhat extreme reaction to the bites.


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Reaction picture


Are some people’s anxiety and depression actually because of Lyme Disease?

I’ll admit that in my mind, I view the answer to this question to be a resounding YES. However, I don’t know why it is or how common it is. My brother was diagnosed with bartonella Lyme about a year ago after four years of thinking he had depression and anxiety, so this is a very relevant topic in my life. What I’ve learned in the past year about neurological Lyme is limited to what his doctor says and what my mom tells me, but I have been continuously interested in how his Lyme disease faked us out into thinking he was depressed. This has happened to a few of our family friends too, and we never knew until we talked to them about what is happening to my brother. I’ve been curious for a while about how this pretty common disease is hardly ever talked about (the only way we realized that my brother needed to see a Lyme specialist is by talking to other people and noticing some unusual marks on his torso), and I wondered if it was because people might not even know that they have it.


A first sign of Lyme disease

The null hypothesis about this question would say that Lyme disease has no connection to and does not effect mental health/psychiatric issues in patients with both, while the alternative hypothesis would say Lyme disease does have a connection and effect mental health/psychiatric issues in patients with both. All of this could also possibly be a result of chance, or a third confounding variable that hasn’t been researched or published about just yet.

The psychiatric symptoms that often come along with Lyme disease was first documented in a 1994 study by Doctors Brian Fallon and Jenifer Nields. We now have confirmation that what Fallon and Nields wrote about was in fact correct. Lyme disease can have a very wide variety of symptoms, and the possible psychiatric ones such as anxiety and depression can be viewed as the only issue. Lyme disease oftentimes kills your receptors for serotonin, so anti-depressant medication that changes the chemicals in your brain aren’t going to be helpful to you at all. Lyme disease can imitate all sorts of different psychiatric and mental disorders, as well as cause an increase in the level of severity of problems you may have already had.


Lyme disease stretch marks

The answer to my original question is yes, some people could be suffering from Lyme disease under the false pretenses that it’s a mental disorder because it can mimic those mental problems, and therefore could be getting completely ineffective medicine for it. So if you’re depressed, should you be getting tested for Lyme? Maybe. Consider the issues you’re having, how medication or other treatment has affected you, and check yourself for stretch marks you’ve only recently acquired with no weight change. Lyme is a serious issue and getting a diagnosis could change your life for the better in beginning treatment and getting better!

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Lyme bullet

Stretch marks

Does Turkey make you tired?

People are always talking about how turkey comas or post-Thanksgiving meal naps, and only recently did I hear that it was somewhat common knowledge that it’s the turkey that specifically makes you tired. I had always assumed it was just due to the sheer amount of food you’re consuming at Thanksgiving dinner that made you sleepy later that evening. So, of course, I questioned this idea that turkey is actually making us tired. If turkey has something weird in it that’s affecting our level of sleepiness, why would we continue to eat it?


This can’t be a situation of reverse causation- the time frame rules out that your tiredness could cause you to eat more turkey, since you’re getting tired after you eat the turkey. There’s also always the possibility of chance. And of course, maybe I should be listening to everyone else talking about this turkey tiredness because they could all be correct, but I went into the research for this blog post with a sneaking suspicion that it was due to a third confounding variable. So, let me tell you what I now know, and what you should pass on to your uncle who won’t stop making excuses for why he has to nap on your couch after dinner.

Homemade Turkey Thanksgiving Dinner with Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, and Corn

The reason people have it in their minds that turkey has us all napping after Thanksgiving dinner is that turkey has an amino acid in it called tryptophan. Within the body, tryptophan is used to make the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has connections to our sleep. If this amino acid was by itself in our foods, it could make us more tired, but, it’s never on its own and therefore is not going to increase your serotonin. There’s this idea that turkey has more tryptophan in it than other foods that you eat on more of a daily basis, but that isn’t true. In fact, some nuts and cheeses are filled with more tryptophan than turkey. All poultry has this amino acid at just about the same amount as turkey and, according to a professor from Texas A&M University, you can find tryptophan in pretty much every protein.


So if turkey isn’t making us tired, why do so many people feel the need to nap after dinner? LiveScience mentions that some experts in this field say that it’s more likely because of the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating and alcohol you’re drinking. Maybe next year at Thanksgiving, consider going easy on the cheese plate, mashed potatoes, and champagne if you don’t want to sleep after your meal, and stop blaming turkey and tryptophan for how carbs and alcohol are making you feel!


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Thanksgiving dishes


Is the ‘Asian glow’ real?

As someone who is half Chinese, I was shocked to find out about “Asian glow”. Asian glow is the reaction that many Asians have after drinking alcohol- their face and neck redden and they can get a headache or feel nauseous, among a variety of other possible symptoms. When I asked my dad, who is full Chinese, about it, and he said he never had that issue. He had heard about it, but all throughout his career in the wine industry, he never had a problem. This only made me question this problem more- why is something that’s such a big deal not even affect the Asian side of my family?


“Asian glow” is actually Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR), and it affects about half of the Asian population. According to Yale Scientific, the reason behind AFR is that, while alcohol is usually metabolized in your liver, where it is oxidized into acetaldehyde which then is turned into acetate, people who deal with AFR don’t have the specific enzyme (ALDH2) that  turns acetaldehyde into acetate. If people lack this enzyme, it can cause as much at 10 times the average amount of acetaldehyde to be in their system. This large amount of acetaldehyde then causes this glow, headache, and nausea.


Man before versus after drinking alcohol, AFR example

Further studies about this could be beneficial in figuring out how serious AFR could be. One study is reporting research that points towards an increased chance of getting esophageal cancer. It’s not so much that AFR causes the increased potential of getting esophageal cancer, but rather that the lack of ALDH2 causes it. Some sort of longitudinal study of people who deal with AFR could be beneficial in seeing it they ever develop esophogeal cancer, and of course there would need to be another group of people in this study who do not deal with AFR. But then again, as Andrew often reminds us, it could always come down to chance, or even be a completely different third variable that hasn’t yet been considered or talked about.

So the answer to this question is yes- Asian glow is definitely real and could potentially be linked to more problems than just a flushed face and not feeling well, but more research needs to be done to better understand and increase our knowledge about the other dangers of not having ALDH2. My fellow Asians, depending on their level of concern about this, may want to get checked for esophogeal cancer at some point in their life.

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Asian glow example

Shot glasses

Are horoscopes accurate at all?

I have to admit that I have a horoscope app on my phone. I look at it every once in a while if I’m bored waiting for a class to start or sitting on the blue loop. I don’t really believe that it’s accurate, but I do think that it sometimes helps shape my mindset towards a certain day or situation, which in turn affects it. However, I do wonder if that’s a good enough reason to be reading these posts that some random person writes out every day. Will my horoscope ever be accurate, or will my days always just be due to chance?

First things first, apparently the zodiac signs we believe we are, aren’t even accurate themselves. Due to the Earth wobbling around its axis, which is called precession, the stars are no longer aligned as they once were, and therefore, the dates are different. I was born on June 14th, which is why I’ve always believed myself to be a Gemini. According to the list of dates that was posted in this article, I would actually be a Taurus if you take precession into account. Basically, we’re not even correct about the sign you’re supposed to be. If I’m not a Gemini, how could my astrological daily descriptions be right?!


This doesn’t really tell us if horoscopes have any accuracy, though. I had to do a little more research to learn about this question. A study from Cal Berkeley found that experienced astrologists were not able to match up people’s personalities with their sign, so they concluded it was all due to chance. Any studies that have been done that have found astrology to be accurate have been generally dismissed by the science community as being invalid and poorly done. The reason, it seems, that horoscopes are still relevant in our lives today, is that the American people enjoy them. Polls done, which were shared in the most recently linked article, found that 26% of people in America actually do believe in astrology. This happens to be a lot less people than those who believe in ghosts. On the other hand, it’s more than the amount of people who believe in witches!


In conclusion, there doesn’t seem to be any proven correlation between our lives and what our zodiac signs are. The cause of what happens in your life is probably up to chance, but of course, many different people believe in many different things. There doesn’t seem to be any real solid idea of why what happens in our lives occur, but I can personally rule out the alignment of the sun and the stars.


The Gemini twins
The Triton horoscopes

Should I turn up or turn off my music while I study?

Studying with music playing is a pretty common practice, but I’ve always wondered if it would hinder my ability to remember the information I’m trying to study. I’ve never cared enough to stop listening to music while doing schoolwork, in fact, I’m listening to Otis by Jay Z right now, which probably isn’t the most incredible studying music. So, what makes a song good for studying, and are there even any songs that are good for studying, or should we stick to silence?

USA Today College has informed me that it really depends on what it is that you’re listening to and what subject you’re working on. It’s better to listen to lyric-less music when you’re writing or reading, or otherwise using the language part of your brain. However, if you’re working on math homework, you’re probably okay to listen to all the lyrics your heart desires. This is because it may depend on your mood- if you’re in a angrier mood, you should listen to relaxing music so that your mood becomes more centered, which is the best point at which to study.

In a different study done at the University of Wales, they researched something a bit different. They looked at how much it matters if the test-taker enjoys the music that they’re listening to while taking it. What they found is that it didn’t really matter if the person liked the music or not, but what did matter was if you were listening to music at all. The constant group that took the test without any music got better scores than the people listening to music. It was also found that, although music listeners didn’t have as high of an average score as the non-music listeners, there was a significant amount of variation in the test results. What this means is that there could be a big difference between how music will affect your studying versus my studying.


After finding out more about the correlation between music and studying, I would say it’s safe to do whatever you think is best for you. If you study some nights with music and some nights without, maybe you can find out for yourself if you retain certain information better depending on the night. The cause of the bad scores or the lack of concentration could also be a third, confounding, variable. Maybe the reason your studying isn’t helping you very much is because of the distractions of your phone or the location in which you are studying. It seems like you should look at your own actions and decide yourself how music listening while studying will affect you. But maybe don’t go listening to rap if you’re easily distracted by lyrics.


That girl sitting in a meadow
Very artsy shot of headphones and a book

Does exercise really help to lessen Parkinson’s symptoms?

The reason I’m so interested in Parkinson’s Disease is because my mom was diagnosed with it in 2009, when I was just a little pre-teen who really loved One Direction. Throughout the years, I have done my own research and found out more and more about PD and what it entails, but I’ve never really looked into why my mom’s doctor always talks about exercising. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) effects somewhere around one million people here in America and is obviously a very large factor in my life, and yet, some people reading this might still have absolutely no clue what it is. I’ll explain it really quickly for you. Basically, Parkinson’s is when your body kills off the nerve cells in your brain for an unknown reason. One of the most noticeable symptoms of PD is a tremor, or shaking, which is because some of those nerve cells that are killed are this chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is what controls a lot of your movement (maybe all of it, I’m taking all of this from what I’ve learned from my mom so do some of your own research too), so when it’s killed, you could develop a tremor. Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali both have or had Parkinson’s.\

Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)

Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)

In my research online, I discovered that exercise is supposedly supposed to be able to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s as well as help to control some of the symptoms of the disease. The biggest clinical study of PD patients that has ever been done, which included thousands of people with PD in many different countries, found that exercise can help with symptoms such as balance and tremors and that both the level of intensity of the exercise and the length of the exercise (if you do it every day or just once a week) are factors. Researchers from the University of South Carolina also found, in a study on mice, that exercise helped the dopamine in their brains to stay where they needed it for longer due to an increase in the transporter that dopamine uses, and the cells that receive the dopamine had more area for the them to connect to. However, since we cannot look at the exact amount of dopamine in the brain until someone dies, we can’t be sure that this could be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. If someone has had PD for many years and likely has very few dopamine cells left, no matter how much better they’re being used, it may not be able to do much good.


After looking at this research, it seems that it’s very likely that exercise could be a great way for people in the earlier stages of Parkinson’s Disease to slow down the progression and lessen the symptoms. However, as Andrew always tells us, there’s always a possibility that it could all be due to chance. It’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t be reverse causation and, if this study was done well, there is pretty small chance that it would be caused by a third variable, since the study included so many different kinds of people from different places and living different lifestyles. It’s probably worth it for Parkinson’s patients to at least do a little bit of exercise regularly because it likely would not hurt them as long as they are careful and do not to any activities that they find too strenuous.


Here is where I found the picture of Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali.

Here is where I found that cool mouse getting in his daily run.

Science Stresses Me Out

Hi everyone, I’m Katie Yuen and I’m from Ridgefield, Connecticut. I’m taking SC200 this semester because I absolutely hated every science class I took in high school and fully expected to avoid any science class for as long as I could at Penn State. However, when I heard about this class, I thought it would be the perfect course for me to take to try to better understand science, beyond what I had to learn about in high school. I’m not a science major partially because I never liked middle school and high school sciences, but also because that idea that Andrew brought up on Tuesday of searching for a black cat in a dark room really stresses me out. I would never be able to handle repeatedly going into research without any clue if I’m looking in the right place or if my, or someone else’s, idea was even remotely true. I much prefer being able to read about, write about, and discuss ideas or information that already exists.
One scientific topic that I’m very interested in is Parkinson’s Disease, which I have an article about HERE, because I really want to learn more about diseases, how they occur, and how they can be found and treated. This picture will give you an idea about how many people are affected by this disease:
sc200 pd

Thanks for reading my first blog post!