Weekend reads: Which Winter Olympian is the best all-around athlete?

Interesting studies and stories from the past week

The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Paige Baschuk's reads

The war on processed foods. If you are feeling a cavity coming on after a parade of Valentine's Day candy (like I am), check out this New York Times' Q&A session with Robert Lustig—a pediatric endocrinologist who runs an obesity clinic at UCSF—on his tactics for avoiding processed foods. You may recognize him from his viral YouTube lecture, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth," where he discusses reasons why the United States is now facing an obesity crisis among six-month-old babies.

Stressed? Pass the aspirin. According to new research from the German Headache Consortium, the more stressed a person is feeling, the more pain and longer he or she will endure a headache.   Bad news: health care workers may be the nation's most stressed employees, according to a recent Daily Briefing article. Good news? You can reduce your stress by sharing it with others, practicing yoga, and bringing dogs to work.

Purchasing health coverage for the unborn and other odd circumstances. With a growing number of options to gain health care coverage—through state or federal insurance exchanges, expanded Medicaid, and more—many Americans are confused about their unique situations. Health care experts answer questions about their scenarios, like what happens when a dependent turns 26 after open enrollment has ended.

Dan Diamond's reads

Your dog may have the brain of a human. (Sort of.) A recent brain-imaging study found that dogs' brains respond to voices the same way that human brains do.

The tragic tale of a comic book creator. You may have seen a raccoon wielding a machine gun in the much-watched preview for "Guardians of the Galaxy," a new movie coming out this summer. The writer who thought up that character was a comic book creator named Bill Mantlo, who suffered an awful brain injury when he was hit by a car in 1992. Mantlo's been confined to a nursing home ever since, and this is a long and heartbreaking profile of what it's like to be trapped by a brain injury and institutionalized with few resources.

Hanna Jaquith's reads

Don't just sit there. Researchers found that every additional hour people over age 60 spends sitting increased their risk of not being to perform various daily activities—such as bathing and dressing—by 50%. Add that to the growing list of reasons not getting out of your chair will do you in.

Risk-taking of high-flying Olympians may be in their DNA. Individuals who are prone to extreme, daredevil conduct—like participants in slopestyle and half-pipe skiing at Sochi—might have an "innate, inherited need to turn to risky activities to reach 'their optimal level of arousal,'" even if their parents were content to sit on the sidelines.

Juliette Mullin's reads

Which Winter Olympians are the best all-around athletes? The Summer Olympics' decathlon—with its 10 track-and-field events—unofficially anoints "the world's greatest athlete" every four years. But what's the Winter Olympics equivalent?

Party matters. A new study finds that political factors can have an important effect on infant mortality rates in the United States. For instance, the data suggest that infant deaths increase by 3% when Republicans occupy the White House.


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