Four sob stories

Research on crying focuses on several different areas, including the chemicals in emotional tears and their purpose, and whether or not depressed people cry more. Tears provoked by emotion contain higher levels of proteins and the mineral manganese. In 2011, Israeli researchers reported results in the journal Science that suggested tears are capable of sending chemical signals. They conducted an experiment that involved having men sniff women's tears and a saline solution. Tests showed that the men reacted differently to a whiff of the real tears. Their testosterone levels dipped, and brain scans showed less activity in areas associated with sexual arousal. The researchers' theory: women's tears may counteract men's aggressive tendencies. Others have speculated on the role of tears in evolution and natural selection. Depression makes people sad, so it's presumed that depressed people cry more than those who aren't depressed. There's also an abiding belief that more severe bouts with depression can have just the opposite effect and rob people of their capacity to cry. Researchers found that an inability to cry was associated with severe depression. (Locked) More »

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines

The government has released the latest version of its dietary guidelines, but some health care professionals are disappointed, because they feel that the recommendations regarding sugar-sweetened drinks and salt consumption are not strong enough. The scientific advisory committee wanted the guidelines to say that people should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages — a simple, clear don't-go-there message. Instead, there's a much milder admonition to reduce intake, either by drinking fewer of them or smaller servings. Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, was a member of the scientific advisory committee for the 2010 guidelines. Rimm and his fellow scientists recommended lowering the sodium goal to 1,500 mg a day, although gradually, to give salt-crazed American palates time to adjust. But the writers of the 2010 guidelines stuck with 2,300 mg for the general population, noting that only 15% of Americans currently manage to keep their intake that low. More »

Proton-pump inhibitors

Proton-pump inhibitors are the strongest type of medicine available for treating stomach acid. There is some concern about their potential side effects and interactions with other medications. Initially, there was some worry that PPIs might increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. Those concerns were unfounded, but others have taken their place, partly because people often take PPIs on a daily basis for years, so the total exposure to the drug ends up being quite significant. Here's a rundown of the some of the drug interactions and side effects that are causing concern: More »

Accountable care organizations

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) aim to improve managed care by controlling costs and rewarding efficiency while maintaining high standards of care. The core idea of the ACO is that groups of providers — hospitals, physicians, some combination of both — will agree to be responsible for all of the medical care for a certain number of people, even for the care that they're not directly providing. The responsibility — or to match the coinage, the accountability — is supposed to extend to both the cost and the quality of the care being delivered. (Locked) More »