Coffee packs a healthy punch
Since Outliers can’t leave the house without our “happy morning drink”— as a large mug of steaming whole bean medium roast is known in our house—we were cheered to discover that not only can coffee boost our mood, but it may also cut the risk of dying from some common causes. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered that coffee drinkers have lower rates of dying from disorders such as heart and respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, injuries, accidents and infection. Only cancer rates showed no correlation with coffee consumption.
The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked 402,260 healthy people between the ages of 50 to 71 over a period of 13 years. When the researchers controlled for tobacco use, they found that men who drank at least two cups a day lowered their risk of dying from those causes by at least 10% compared with those who didn’t indulge, and women who drank the same amount had at least a 13% lower risk. Even a single cup a day lowered the risk by 6% for men and 5% for women.
But you don’t need to make that espresso a double: People who enjoyed both caffeinated and unleaded versions showed the same boost in health. Now that’s a reason to put on another pot.
Sniffing out a hoax
Dexter Haight says he’s not a pot smoker, but he seems to know something about inspiring paranoia.
Haight acknowledged in e-mails recently that he was behind two hoax news releases that purported to announce a new crackdown against San Diego-area pharmacies that dispense legal drugs in high volumes, according to a post at the eponymous website by media observer Jim Romenesko and a YouTube video apparently posted by Haight’s Federal Accountability Coalition. Before the hoax was revealed, the Los Angeles Times and another media outlet had posted stories based on the releases.
The fake news releases claimed that U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy was threatening to initiate asset-forfeiture actions against storefront pharmacies in three suburbs, which were supposedly chosen because of their high rates of pharmaceutical drug abuse and high property values.
“These pharmacies are not only about providing medicine to the sick. They are part of a pervasive for-profit industry that facilitates the distribution of drugs for illegitimate use,” the hoax e-mail said.
In an e-mail published on Romenesko’s site and the YouTube video, Haight says the hoax came about in retaliation for Duffy’s use of forfeiture proceedings against legal medical marijuana dispensaries, which have netted the office nearly $30 million in seized assets despite assur- ances from the Obama administration that federal powers would not be used for that purpose when medical weed is legal under state law.
“Our founding fathers grew hemp for papers and ropes. Nobody was taking their property,” Haight’s e-mail admitting to the hoax says. “Today, if someone threw a pot seed into my yard, they’d come and take my house. It’s criminal.”
And if such a seed does end up in Haight’s yard, who do you suppose will have planted it?
Twitter’s latest trick: predicting illness
Anyone who frequents Twitter has surely encountered the dreaded oversharer. We here at Outliers think that what you ate for dinner or how you’re feeling right now are topics best left to chats with your friends or just left unsaid. But researchers at the University of Rochester in New York have found a use for at least some of those TMI tweets: predicting the spread of disease, and maybe helping you avoid the flu altogether.
According to a blog post on New Scientist’s website, researcher Adam Sadilek and his University of Rochester colleagues found that by using data from Twitter, they can predict when a person will come down with the flu up to eight hours before he or she shows any symptoms. Researchers were able to predict with 90% accuracy when someone was going to fall ill by analyzing tweets tagged with location data from 630,000 users in New York.
The study looked at 4.4 million tweets over the course of one month in 2010, using a machine-learning algorithm trained to weed out tweets from healthy people as opposed to people actually showing flu-like symptoms. Sadilek says he believes this methodology could lead to an app that would predict an oncoming illness and help users avoid disease hot spots.
So add medicine to the topics Twitter has been credited with being able to make predictions about, along with the box office and stock market. Now if only it could predict what lottery numbers Outliers should play ...
“I do 100 sit-ups in the morning. I do my push-ups and then I do my sit-ups.” —U.S. Senate candidate from Wisconsin and former HHS secretary Tommy Thompson, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thompson, 70, who was visiting the newspaper’s editorial board, then proceeded
to do 50 push-ups in one minute. Watch a video at bit.ly/NfRwj0.
Feeling a bit under the weather? Twitter could have predicted that!
Dr. Outliers prescribes two cups to start every day.