Health & Science

Female bisexuality: It’s not just a phase; Tuna sushi high in mercury; The opposite of ‘the munchies’; Cut back on those nighttime minutes; A diabetic’s best bet

Female bisexuality: It’s not just a phase

Researchers in human sexuality have long contended that women who are bisexual in their youth are either actually gay, or engaging in a trendy experiment they’ll later abandon. But new research suggests that some women are authentically bisexual. University of Utah researchers followed 79 “nonheterosexual’’ women for 10 years, beginning with their college years. Some of the subjects thought of themselves as lesbian or bisexual, and others were not sure how to describe their sexuality. Over the course of the study, 20 percent of the women decided they were, in fact, straight. But by the 10-year mark, more than half of this group had switched back. A majority of women who identified themselves as bisexual continued to be attracted to both sexes for the entire decade, alternating between male and female lovers. Researcher Lisa Diamond tells USA Today that the persistence of the “pattern of non-exclusive desire” suggests that the women in the study truly are sexually attracted to both sexes. “If it was a phase,” she said, “it should have burned out.” One interesting postscript: After 10 years, 89 percent of the bisexual women were in a relationship—more than either lesbians or straight women. Apparently, the old Woody Allen line is true: “The good thing about being bisexual is that it doubles your chance of a date on a Saturday night.”

Tuna sushi high in mercury

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Sushi is often celebrated for being low in fat and high in protein. But you might want to think twice about ordering the tuna. The New York Times recently commissioned a study of the mercury content of sushi sold at 20 random New York City restaurants. It found that in most of them, mercury levels in bluefin tuna were so high that a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency. While all the samples were pulled in New York, experts said similar results would likely be found elsewhere. Bluefin tuna is particularly high in mercury because it is a top-level predator in the ocean ecosystem. By eating the fish below it on the food chain, the bluefin ends up consuming all the mercury that had been consumed by the smaller fish. Mercury accumulates in the human body, too, and even small doses have been found to impede brain development. It is especially dangerous for children and pregnant women.

The opposite of ‘the munchies’

The next diet craze could be ushered in by a drug that researchers have dubbed the “anti-marijuana.” The first clinical trials of a new diet drug from Merck, called taranabant, found that it erases food cravings by blocking the same receptors in the brain that cannabis stimulates, leading to an urge to scarf down Doritos and chocolate chip cookies. “The effects of marijuana on appetite have been known for millennia from its medicinal and recreational use,” study author Steven Heymsfield tells Scientific American. “The ingredient responsible stimulates cannabinoid receptors. When you block the cannabinoid system with an antagonist like taranabant, you suppress appetite.” A 12-week trial found that obese patients consumed 27 percent fewer calories when they were taking taranabant. But there’s a downside. Taranabant is the anti-marijuana in more ways than one: Researchers reported that while pot can make users hungry, giggly, and mellow, taranabant tended to make patients nauseous, irritable, and anxious.

Cut back on those nighttime minutes

The mild radiation that your brain receives from your cell phone can keep you up at night, says an international study. When people were exposed to mobile phone–grade radiation just before bed, researchers found, they reported a higher incidence of insomnia and headaches. They also had more trouble reaching a state of deep sleep, and they couldn’t maintain a sound sleep for as long as people who hadn’t been exposed to the wireless frequencies. “The study strongly suggests that mobile phone use is associated with specific changes in the areas of the brain responsible for activating and coordinating the stress system,” Swedish researcher Bengt Arnetz tells Several previous studies have indicated that cell phone radiation is not physically harmful. But “if you feel you have trouble sleeping,” Arnetz said, “you should think about not talking on a mobile phone right before you go to bed.”

A diabetic’s best bet

Weight-reduction surgery works much better than standard medical therapy to treat type 2 diabetes in obese patients, says a new Australian study. The surgery was so effective, in fact, that the study recommends surgery even for those who are short of morbid obesity but still overweight. Researchers monitored two groups of obese type 2 diabetics: Half of the patients underwent gastric banding, in which surgeons place a silicone strap around the stomach so that less food can enter it. The other half was put on a standard diet and exercise plan. After two years, the dieters had lost an average of 3 pounds, while the surgery patients lost an average of 46 pounds. Most dramatically, in 22 of the surgery patients, the diabetes went into remission, while that was the case in only four of the dieters. The numbers are unequivocal, study author Dr. John Dixon tells the Associated Press—surgery is “the best therapy for diabetes that we have today.”

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