Wine and spirits are tallied in the “empty calories” column because they lack any nutritional benefits. Add cream or soda to make a mixed drink and you can more than double the caloric damage. So how can you enjoy a cocktail without wrecking your diet? Here are some options. Choose your alcoholic drinks wisely. A light beer has about a third less calories than regular beer. A shot of vodka, whiskey or gin — that’s 1.5 fluid ounces — has about 100 calories or less; so does a 4-ounce glass of wine or champagne. When you want a mixed drink, make your own lighter version of classics by limiting the amount of alcohol you put in. For instance, for a Bloody Mary, mix half the amount of vodka with extra tomato juice and spices. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to skip some drinks, especially those made with cream liqueurs, like those flavored with chocolate and coconut, as well as drinks with cream or creamy ingredients like Egg Nog, Pina Coladas and White Russians. Some of these indulgences have more than 400 calories — the amount in an entire meal of wholesome ingredients. Prepackaged drink mixers might be convenient, but they’re also very high in sugar. Make your own flavored frozen daiquiris and margaritas by blending a shot of liquor with unsweetened frozen…  read on >

Carefully targeted deep brain stimulation might one day enhance long-term memory, a small study suggests. The experiment involved just 14 epilepsy patients, all of whom had undergone an invasive procedure to insert electrodes deep within their brains as a means of identifying the source of future seizures. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the researchers asked the patients to participate in an additional memory study that involved presenting them with a series of 200 computerized images. Some of the images were viewed without any additional intervention. But some were viewed in tandem with exposure to highly controlled electrical impulses directed towards a specific part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is known to be a key center for the regulation and processing of both emotions and memory. The result? “We found that delivering small-amplitude brief electrical pulses at a particular frequency just after a patient viewed an image on a computer screen would significantly enhance their ability to recognize that same image the next day,” said study co-author Dr. Jon Willie. How? Willie said deep brain stimulation appeared to spark immediate changes in brain activity. And that led his team to conclude that “this type of amygdala-mediated memory enhancement works by telling the brain to prioritize certain experiences to remember later.” Willie is an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University’s departments of neurosurgery…  read on >

They may be touted as relatively harmless, but rubber and plastic bullets can cause serious injury and death, and should not be used when riots occur, researchers say. These types of bullets — widely used by police, military and security forces to disperse crowds — are meant to incapacitate people by causing pain or injury. But a team from the University of California, Berkeley, said the speed at which many rubber or plastic bullets leave the weapon is the same as live ammunition. In fact, the new study suggests “that these weapons have the potential to cause severe injuries and death,” said researchers led by Dr. Rohini Haar, of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. They looked at data from 26 published studies examining outcomes among nearly 2,000 people, mostly young adults, who suffered injuries after being hit by rubber or plastic bullets in numerous countries — Israel/Palestine, Britain/Northern Ireland, South Asian countries, the United States, Switzerland and Turkey. In total, 53 (3 percent) of the people died of their injuries, Haar’s team reported Dec. 18 in the journal BMJ Open. “Penetrative injuries” accounted for 56 percent of the deaths, and blunt trauma for 23 percent of the deaths, the research group said. Disability after being hit by a rubber or plastic bullet wasn’t rare, either: About 300 (16 percent) of survivors suffered permanent disability.…  read on >

What makes a poem touch your heart? New research suggests that poetry that triggers vivid mental images and positive emotions tends to be the most enjoyed. For the study, researchers had more than 400 people read and rate two types of poems — haikus and sonnets. “People disagree on what they like, of course,” said study author Amy Belfi, a postdoctoral fellow in New York University’s department of psychology. But, “while it may seem obvious that individual taste matters in judgments of poetry, we found that despite individual disagreement, it seems that certain factors consistently influence how much a poem will be enjoyed,” she said in an NYU news release. Study co-author G. Gabrielle Starr added that “the vividness of a poem consistently predicted its aesthetic appeal. Therefore, it seems that vividness of mental imagery may be a key component influencing what we like more broadly.” Starr, who was dean of NYU’s College of Arts and Science at the time of the research, is now president of Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. “While limited to poetry, our work sheds light into which components most influence our aesthetic judgments and paves the way for future research investigating how we make such judgments in other domains,” Starr said. The findings were published Nov. 30 in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. More information To…  read on >

The more college football referees know about concussion symptoms, the more confident they are in calling a timeout for a suspected head injury, a new study shows. Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 college football officials during the 2015 season and found that they called an average of one injury timeout for a suspected concussion every four games. Those with greater awareness about concussion symptoms were more confident in making such calls, according to the study published online recently in The Journal of Athletic Training. “Concussion education for officials is important,” said lead author Emily Kroshus, an assistant professor in University of Washington’s department of pediatrics. “When officials are more aware of concussion symptoms, they are more confident in calling injury timeouts,” Kroshus said in a journal news release. “Understanding the determinants of whether officials call an injury timeout when they suspect a concussion has important implications for the design of interventions that better support officials in this role,” she added. Study co-author John Parsons is managing director of the NCAA Sports Science Institute. “One way that officials can help ensure sports safety is to recognize potentially concussed athletes and call injury timeouts appropriately so that athletic trainers or other medical personnel can conduct evaluations,” he said. Said Kroshus: “When officials believe that coaches, athletic trainers, parents, fans, athletes and athletic administrators are equally committed to…  read on >

Good nail care is important, but it’s possible to overdo it. For instance, it turns out that too much clipping can actually be harmful. Trimming nails every day can create stress across the entire nail. Over time, it can change nail shape and even lead to conditions like ingrown toe nails. It’s fine to trim your nails with nail clippers or scissors, but no more than once every week or two. Fingernails should follow the shape of your fingertips, straight across and slightly rounded at the sides. Clip toenails straight across at the level of the toe. File in only one direction to keep nails strong. Here are other care tips: Keep nails clean and dry whenever possible. Moisturize nails and cuticles with hand lotion or cream. Nail polish offers some protection, but don’t use polish remover more than twice a month. Try to avoid all nail products with toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate. Avoid prolonged exposure to water when bathing and housecleaning. Protect nails from harsh chemicals by wearing cotton-lined rubber gloves when cleaning. It’s also important to check your nails regularly for warning signs of a problem that merits a doctor visit. Signs to look for include: Discoloration of the entire nail or a dark streak under a nail. Any change in shape. Any change in thickness — thinner or thicker. Separation of…  read on >

Texting, talking on cellphones, eating, drinking — distractions such as these are a driving hazard, and are more likely to occur among young men, new research shows. People most prone to distracted driving also often tend to think it’s “no big deal” — socially acceptable, the Norwegian study found. These drivers often also felt that they had little control over being distracted. On the other hand, older women, and people who felt they could control their distracted behaviors, were most able to keep their focus where it belongs — on the road ahead. “I found that young men were among the most likely to report distraction,” said study lead author Ole Johansson of Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics. “Others more prone to distraction include those who drive often, and those with neurotic and extroverted personalities.” According to the study authors, the World Health Organization estimates that more than a million lives are lost on roadways each year due to distracted driving. And it only takes two seconds of looking away from the road for risks of an accident to rise significantly, the researchers noted. There was good news, however, from the survey of Norwegian high school students and adults: Overall rates of distracted driving were low, and “fiddling with the radio” was the most common source of distraction. The study was published Nov. 17 in…  read on >

Using marijuana when you have HIV could lead to problems with brain function if you also abuse alcohol or drugs, a new study finds. “People with HIV infection have many reasons to have cognitive dysfunction, from the virus itself to medications for HIV infection and related conditions, particularly as they age,” said lead researcher Richard Saitz. He’s a professor and chair of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health. “They also have symptoms like chronic pain and mental health symptoms, and use of marijuana, medically or recreationally, may seem like an option to consider,” Saitz said in a university news release. “But at least among people with substance use disorders, it appears to have detrimental effects on cognitive function.” Little research has been done on the combined effects that alcohol and marijuana have on the brain function of people living with HIV, according to the researchers. “Such an understanding could contribute to efforts to reduce harmful substance use and prevent clinical consequences, particularly in an era in which ‘moderate’ drinking is at times discussed in terms of possible beneficial effects, and in which marijuana is discussed as a relatively safe and even therapeutic substance,” they wrote in the study. To investigate this issue, Saitz and his colleagues analyzed data on 215 adults with HIV who also had a substance abuse problem. The…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — Snoring is not only an annoyance, but also a potential health concern. Chronic snoring may be associated with sleep apnea, which can lead to sleep deprivation and potential heart issues. The National Sleep Foundation says certain exercises may strengthen muscles surrounding the airways and help prevent snoring: Push the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and slide the tongue backward. Repeat 20 times. Suck your tongue upward so that the entire tongue lies against the roof of your mouth. Repeat 20 times. Force the back of your tongue downward against the floor of your mouth while keeping the tip of your tongue in contact with your bottom front teeth.

Weight loss from dieting can slow the progression of knee arthritis in overweight people, according to a new study. But losing pounds from exercise alone will not help preserve those aging knees, the researchers found. Obesity is a major risk factor for painful knee osteoarthritis — degeneration of cartilage caused by wear and tear. Weight loss can slow the disease, but it wasn’t clear until now if the method of weight loss made a difference. Apparently, it does. “These results add to the hypothesis that solely exercise as a regimen in order to lose weight in overweight and obese adults may not be as beneficial to the knee joint as weight loss regimens involving diet,” said lead author Dr. Alexandra Gersing. Gersing made her comments in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). She’s with the University of California, San Francisco’s department of radiology and biomedical imaging. The study included 760 overweight or obese adults who had mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis or were at risk for it. The participants were divided into a “control group” of patients who lost no weight, and a group who lost weight through either a combination of diet and exercise, diet alone, or exercise alone. After eight years, cartilage degeneration was much lower in the weight-loss group than in the control group. However, that was…  read on >