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June 7, 2019

Weekend reads: It's a bird; it's a plane; it's … an 80-mile lady bug swarm?

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    For heart health, is it time to think ... blueberries? Eating a cup of blueberries a day correlates with a lower risk of heart problems for those at high risk, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For the study, researchers conducted a randomized, double-blinded trial with 115 overweight and obese adults ages 50 to 75 who had a high risk of cardiovascular disease. One-third of the group ate a cup of freeze-dried blueberries each day, while another third ate a half-cup. The final third ate a placebo. After six months, the researchers found the group eating a full cup of blueberries each day saw reduced arterial stiffness and increased levels of HDL—also known as "good" cholesterol. The study authors estimated that eating a cup of blueberries each day could reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by 13% and the risk of coronary heart disease by between 11.4 and 14.5%.

    Kids are still eating laundry pods—and so are patients with dementia. After cases of children eating laundry pods gained media attention a few years ago, a new study, published in Pediatrics, finds the pods still pose a danger to children and some adults with dementia. The study found that among children under age 6, there was an 18% decrease in exposures to laundry pods and hospitalizations due to those exposures between 2015 and 2017. However, in an editorial accompanying the study, Lewis First, editor and chief of Pediatrics, wrote, "Unfortunately, in individuals over six years of age, the number and rate of exposures continued to increase." According to CBS News, eight deaths have been associated with ingesting laundry pods, with two of those involving children under a year old, and six involving adults with a history of dementia.

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    Do you need more 'casual' friends? When it comes to low-stakes connections, "a lot of us think it's not worth our time," according to Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer of psychology at the University of Essex. But a 2014 study found that the more acquaintances a person has, including neighbors or friends from a yoga class, the happier he or she will feel.  Moreover, interactions with these "casual" connections can expand a person's social circles, which can in turn expand his or her knowledge base. "[W]e have more to learn from the people [whom] we don't already know so well," according to Sandstrom. To develop more casual relationships, which can take 30 hours to establish, Sandstrom advises that we keep an open mind, take the time to talk to more familiar faces, and to try to make small-talk more meaningful.

    Meteorologists spot 80-mile ladybug swarm. The National Weather Service (NWS) was confused on Tuesday when its radar picked up a giant, 80-mile "blob" flying over San Diego, especially since the weather team wasn't "really expecting any rain or thunderstorms," according to Casey Owsant, a NWS meteorologist. After consulting a weather spotter in Wrightwood, California, NWS determined that the blob was actually a "massive swarm of ladybugs," AP reports. The phenomenon, called a ladybug "bloom," usually occurs when the ladybugs are in the process of migrating from the California valleys to the mountains, where it's cooler, according to entomologist John Losey. According to meteorologist Joe Dandrea, the swarm appeared to be 80 miles long, but the ladybugs were spread out across the sky, flying thousands of feet away from each other. The largest, concentrated group was probably about 10 miles wide, he said.

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