January 10, 2020

Weekend reads: Just how important is flossing, anyway?

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Whole milk may be better for children's weight than low-fat milk. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children switch to skim or low-fat milk at age two, but a recent analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that whole milk may be better for weight control than low-fat milk. For the paper, researchers analyzed 14 prospective studies that involved 20,897 children up to age 18. The studies compared children who drank whole milk with those who drank milk with less than 2% fat. The researchers found that children who drank whole milk had a 39% reduced risk of being overweight or obese than those who drank low-fat or skim milk. The researchers also noted that as whole milk consumption increased, children's risk for obesity continued to drop. The authors suggested the explanation could be that children who drink whole milk consumer fewer calories from other foods, or that skinny children who need to gain weight are being given whole milk by their parents.

    The truth about flossing. The American Dental Association currently recommends flossing once a day However, the research behind the recommendation isn't as strong as you might think, David Freedman writes for Medium. For instance, one 2018 meta-study that looked at 22 previous studies on flossing found "little additional removal of plaque between teeth from flossing," according to Georgios Kotsakis, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the University of Texas, San Antonio. In addition, according to Freedman, many people don't know how to floss correctly. "The floss has to be pulled into a 'C' shape around the base of each tooth right at the gum line, and then pulled up against the tooth in a scraping motion." Still, Freedman writes, "Nightly flossing—done right—is probably the best way to remove plaque and reduce gingivitis."

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    What this 'old, crusty' waffle maker teaches us about buying products online.  During the holiday season last year, Brian McCarthy's daughter was happy to receive a mini waffle maker that her grandmother ordered for her through Amazon. But, when she opened the gift, according to her father, she found "an old, crusty-looking waffle" inside, Jason Del Ray writes for Vox. A review of the receipt shows the waffle maker was not marked as a used item and it was sold directly through Amazon Prime—not a third-party merchant. McCarthy in a tweet called the incident "disgusting," adding that Amazon has "no quality control." Amazon told Vox it is investigating the incident. While Amazon does exercise some control over what it sells, the incident further demonstrates the unknowns involved in online retail, especially with third-party sellers such as Amazon. In the last few months, people have reported shoppers buying unsafe products, banned items, and even counterfeit goods from Amazon, even though the company bans the sale of those products. The Wall Street Journal last month even reported some Amazon sellers have listed for sale products that they found in the trash. In the case of the waffle maker, though, what probably happened, according to Joe Kaziukenas, CEO of Marketplace Pulse, was a customer returned the item to Amazon and the package was accidentally marked as new and sent to McCarthy. 

    For parrots, sharing is caring. Most of us know that parrots are pretty smart, but a new study suggests that they are also kind. For the study, published in the journal Current Biology, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany gave a select number of African grey parrots metal tokens that they could trade in for walnuts. The study was constructed so that the parrot with the tokens had no way to exchange the tokens for food, while its neighbor parrot—who had no tokens—had an open exchange window. The researchers found the parrots would voluntarily give up their metal tokens to their neighbors so their friends could eat instead. Désirée Brucks, a biologist at ETH Zürich said, "Many of them transferred all 10 tokens, one after the other, always watching how their partner got the food for it, whereas they themselves did not get anything." Brucks added it was "really surprising that they did this so spontaneously and so readily." Before recent research, scientists previously thought that altruistic behavior, which can be seen in human children as young as one-year-old, was unique to humans.

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