Janice Boekhoff
 

Dangerous Diet Coke?

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At a conference I recently attended, I sat next to a woman who told me about the terrible side effects of drinking diet soda. I’d honestly never thought much about my love for Diet Coke and how it might be affecting my body. So, I decided to see if she was right (and not just some naturalist espousing the philosophy that I should only drink water and only eat tree bark with a side of seaweed).

Turns out, she might have a good point. Here are some of the results researchers have seen in studies on diet soft drinks.

  • Kidney trouble—processing the chemicals in diet drinks stresses the kidneys. A Harvard Medical School study found that women who drank two or more diet drinks per day doubled the risk of kidney decline. This concerned me because I’m prone to kidney stones already.
  • Metabolic Syndrome—according to a University of Minnesota study, consuming just one diet soda a day puts you at a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome (symptoms include belly fat, high cholesterol and higher risks of heart disease).
  • Headaches—most of the evidence on this one is anecdotal, but drinking diet soda has been known to trigger headaches and migraines in susceptible people (some of this may also be due to the caffeine in the soda, not the artificial sweetener).
  • Teeth—all soft drinks are acidic and diet soda is no exception. The citric acid in soda (pH of 3.2, compared to water with a neutral pH of about 7) will weaken and destroy tooth enamel. A case study in the journal General Dentistry compared the mouths of cocaine/methamphetamine users with habitual diet soda drinkers and found similar levels of tooth erosion in both.
  • Bones—the phosphate in diet drinks leaches the calcium out of your bones, putting you at higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Type 2 Diabetes/Obesity—this is the big one (pun intended). Drinking diet soda can actually make you gain weight. Researchers have seen these effects but aren’t sure exactly why it happens. The leading theory is that the artificial sweetener in diet soda fools the body into thinking it is sugar, which triggers a flood of insulin to counteract the sugar in the blood stream. This then causes the body to go into fat storage mode, turning anything you eat into fat, plus it makes you more likely to overeat. One study from the University of Texas found that over 10 years, diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference when compared with non-diet drinkers.

Whew! That was a long list. Based on all of this, I have started a Diet Coke fast. It’s only been a week and it’s been harder than I thought it would be. Apparently, there’s something in there my body is craving (I don’t think it’s the caffeine because I usually drink caffeine-free diet). But I’m determined to stick with it for at least a month and see how my body feels after that.

How about you? If you’re a diet soda drinker, are you up for fasting with me?

As more research is done on the chemicals in our food and drink, it becomes more obvious to me that what God put down here for us to eat originally are the best things to put in our body—water, fruits, vegetables. I get it. I really do, but I just wish all the other stuff didn’t taste so good.

References: http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/diet-soda-bad-you/obesity, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/10/29/10-reasons-to-give-up-diet-soda/

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/58596940@N00/273375137″>IMG_0244</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

 

The Science of Generosity

dreamstime_s_33068655The Bible says to love others as you would love yourself (Matthew 22:39). I don’t know about you, but I treat myself pretty well. If I work hard, I get a Starbucks coffee. When I’ve got a function coming up, I get a new dress. But am I as generous with others as I am with myself?

I usually try to be and when I am generous with others, it makes my day so much happier. From experience, most people know the joy that comes from being generous and claim it as a life principle, often without realizing God told us to live that way.

And guess what? Scientists have started to look into the neuromechanics (did I just make up a word?) of generosity. Recent research has linked the good feeling that comes when we’re generous to a chemical in our brain called oxytocin—the so-called love hormone. Turns out our brains are flooded with this chemical when we give to people generously, which is partly why giving feels so good.

Some people might say this is an evolved trait that came when we realized that we could live longer lives if we cooperated in community. But I don’t buy it. Those who look out for themselves alone usually get along just fine in the world and sometimes they prosper. I can’t see any selective advantage to generosity. In fact, the tendency to give away more than you must should be a negative selection factor because it leaves you with fewer resources to survive. Plus, if you help everyone else survive, then you have more competition for limited resources.

No, this reward for generosity didn’t come from evolution. The oxytocin is a gift from God to encourage us to follow His word. Proving once again, God’s ways are the best ways to live.

 

References: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795.php, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-molecule/200911/the-science-generosity

Photo Credit: ID 33068655 © Nicoleta Ionescu | Dreamstime.com

Ice Quakes

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Ice Crystals

Anybody heard any sonic booms in the middle of this deep freeze? Maybe if you live in Florida or California or someplace outside the U.S., you don’t really care about those of us trapped in the swirling snow of the polar vortex, but much of the rest of this country has seen freezing temperatures on a record scale. And with those crazy temps comes a phenomenon that many have never heard of—ice quakes.

Called a cryoseism, it’s a cracking of the ground that comes from a sudden deep freezing of the water in the ground. Many times these quakes are heard as loud booms accompanied by a short-lived shaking. People have described them as sounding like a blown transformer, a sonic boom, a car accident and even a plane crash.

Ice quakes occur near the surface, so there’s no danger of prolonged shaking and little risk of property damage. If you want to hear one, they usually occur between midnight and dawn during the coldest part of the night. This explains why I’ve never heard one since I’m dead asleep at that time.

The explanation for ice quakes lies in the properties God gave to water. Unlike most liquids, water expands when it freezes because of the shape of the water molecule. If rain seeps down into cracks during warmer periods and then rapidly freezes when the temperature plummets, the ice expands and pushes on the surrounding material. Stress builds up until the pressure is released by the ground cracking.

Thanks to this frigid winter, ice quakes have been reported in the Midwest, Canada, the Northeast, and even parts of the south, like North Carolina and Tennessee. Ice quakes are nothing to be afraid of, but if a loud boom wakes you up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t blame you if you called the police.

What about you? Have you actually heard one? What do you think it sounds like?

 

References: http://abcnews.go.com/US/tennessee-residents-mistake-frost-quakes-airplane-crash-explosions/story?id=29101755, http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/icequakes-cause-earth-to-crack/21985456

Photo Credit: ID 7623341 © Kati Molin | Dreamstime.com

Diamonds of the Ocean Deep

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 Anyone remember that scripture that says God opened the fountains of the deep when He initiated Noah’s flood? I know, I didn’t either. I had to look it up. Here it is:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

Genesis 7:11

The reason I bring this up is because scientists have long suspected water exists deep in the molten core of our planet. And now they have evidence of it. Recently, geochemists have found a large quantity of molecular water hidden in of all things diamonds.

Diamonds have long been thought to originate from deep in the mantle and what we see today seems to confirm this. Minute specks of diamonds can be found coming out of currently active volcanoes.

In early 2014, Canadian geochemist Graham Pearson and his graduate student John McNeill found something unexpected in diamonds discovered at the edge of the Amazon rainforest. While shining a laser into the diamond, McNeill saw a rare mineral: ringwoodite (a variety of olivine formed after the mineral is put under great pressure). Previously seen only in meteorites, ringwoodite is thought to form in the dense interior of the earth, but until now no one could prove it.

As if that astounding discovery wasn’t enough, then McNeill noticed something even more unusual inside the ringwoodite structure—water. The water was trapped in the microscopic pore space of the mineral during formation, present not as liquid water but as hydroxide ions.

Although the amount of water in each ringwoodite mineral is small (1.5%), the mantle is vast—adding up to a huge amount of water held at high-pressure deep in the earth. The amount of trapped water is potentially close to all the water in Earth’s oceans.

When God said he released the springs of the great deep, perhaps He meant that He brought the hydroxide ions out of the chemical bonds of minerals stored in the mantle.

What do you think? Do you believe in Noah’s flood? Is it a surprise to know the mantle is full of water, even if only on a microscopic level?

 

 

References: Palus, Shannon. “Diamonds Reveal Hidden ‘Oceans’ in Earth’s Mantle,” Discover, January/February 2015, p.35.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rare-diamond-confirms-that-earths-mantle-holds-an-oceans-worth-of-water/

Photo Credit:ID 32784603 © Ingemar Magnusson | Dreamstime.com

Let it Snow (oops, I meant rain)

Rolling Storm
Can we control the weather? For thousands of years, rain, snow, sleet and drought has remained the eminent domain of God. In fact, the weather has brought many a man to his knees in desperation, crying out to the One who controls the entire earth.

As drought becomes more common, especially across the Midwest, scientists have stepped up their efforts to make it rain. Although cloud seeding has been around for almost 70 years, scientists are still at odds over its efficacy.

The principle of seeding a cloud is to spray the clouds with a chemical (usually silver iodide) that acts as a nuclei around which ice will form. When these ice particles become heavy, they fall through the warm atmosphere and melt into droplets of rain. While seeding, some pilots have said they can see the clouds change as they spray them.

With the right kind of cloud that has the right amount of micron-sized water particles available, the evidence seems strong that cloud seeding works, at least to a point. A professor at the University of Wyoming says he can increase rainfall by 15% under the right conditions. The Colorado ski resort, Vail, has the clouds above it seeded and claims to have 35% more snow.

But the question all of this brings up is: Would those clouds have produced the rain anyway?

There is no way to know. Scientists can’t run a controlled experiment to find out. The weather in a specific region is simply too large for scientists to control all the variables. So, we may never know the answer to how well this method works.

Despite the fact that cloud seeding shows evidence of enhancing the rain, the truth is scientists cannot make it rain. They can maximize the rain from the potential in the clouds that are already out there, but they cannot create something out of nothing.

Only God can do that.

What do you think? Does cloud seeding work? If so, why are many scientists still skeptical?

Reference: Baum, Dan. “Summon the Rain.” Scientific American. June 2014, 310(6), p. 56.

Photo Credit: © Dave Winfield | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Fun Science Fact

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Every day scientists discover more amazing things about our God-designed bodies. In 2005, scientists isolated a natural pain-killer from human saliva. Studies in rats show it’s even more powerful at blocking pain than morphine, without the dependency issues. Scientists are still working out the potential of this substance called opiorphin (no, I’m not making this up). I found the original article cited below, along with many other articles in 2006, but only a few studies on it since then. The chemical apparently breaks down easily in our gut (go figure, since it’s in saliva), so maybe researchers are still working on how to deliver the chemical for pain relief in a human? In the rats, they injected the opiorphin into their paws.

Our bodies are such incredible chemical factories. I imagine God smiling every time we isolate another piece of his handy work.

If anyone else finds out more about this, please let me know.

Reference: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10514-naturalborn-painkiller-found-in-human-saliva.html

Photo Credit: ID 34452628 © Citalliance | Dreamstime.com

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