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Study Finds Poppyseed Oil Treatment May Boost Fertility

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Hear us out: This is a lot less wacky than it sounds. Researchers say a common medical imaging technique involving poppyseed oil may actually help women conceive. They published their report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It’s called a hysterosalpingography, and you won’t want to try it at home. The process involves flushing a person’s fallopian tubes with contrast dye mixed with fluid, usually poppyseed oil, then using an X-ray machine to look for blockages. It’s a time-tested technique for getting a clearer picture of a patient’s reproductive workings.

Could it also be a way of getting those workings to, well, work? Researchers wondered if the flushing process had any effect on fertility success, and, if so, if the oil used had anything to do with it.

To find out, they recruited would-be parents from 27 hospitals in the Netherlands. Each of the 1119 women involved in the study underwent a routine hysterosalpingography as doctors tried to pinpoint the cause of their difficulty conceiving. Half of the procedures used poppyseed oil as a medium for the contrast dye; the other half used water. Six months after the imaging session, the researchers followed up to see who’d gotten pregnant.

The oil appeared to have provided a distinct advantage for women trying to conceive. At the six-month mark, 39.7 percent of women in the oil-flushing group were pregnant, compared to 29.1 percent in the water group—and they got pregnant faster as well. The benefits seemed to last through pregnancy and into childbirth; at the next follow-up, 38.8 percent of women in the oil group had had babies, compared to 28.1 percent of women in the control group.

Reproductive medicine expert Tim Child, of Oxford Fertility, was not involved in the study but expressed excitement. "I think this will change people’s practice," he told New Scientist.

Those people could include Child himself, who said he’d consider trying oil flushing on its own, unaccompanied by X-rays. "It looks like it’s not just an investigation [but] a treatment," he said.

The research team notes that their study had some limitations. All study participants were healthy and under the age of 39, and it’s possible the oil’s benefits may not extend to everyone. And flushing a patient’s fallopian tubes won’t help if the root of the issue lies elsewhere.

"If you know your infertility is due to poor semen quality or no ovulation, then this is not going to help," corresponding author Ben Mol, of the University of Adelaide, told New Scientist, "but if there’s any other cause this might be beneficial," he says. "It’s really cheap compared with IVF."

Mol says he may have the procedure to thank for his own existence. After starting the study, he learned that his parents had been trying to conceive for eight years before his mother had a hysterosalpingogram. And then, Mol says, they succeeded: "It’s highly likely my brother and I are the result of this."

[h/t New Scientist]

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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Uncombable Hair Syndrome Is a Real—and Very Rare—Genetic Condition
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Everyone has bad hair days from time to time, but for roughly 100 people around the world, unmanageable hair is an actual medical condition.

Uncombable hair syndrome, also known as spun glass hair syndrome, is a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation that affects the formation and shape of hair shafts, BuzzFeed reports. People with the condition tend to have dry, unruly hair that can't be combed flat. It grows slower than normal and is typically silver, blond, or straw-colored. For some people, the symptoms disappear with age.

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Although there have been only about 100 documented cases worldwide, one of the world's leading researchers on the condition, Regina Betz, of Germany's University of Bonn, believes there could be thousands of others who have it but have not been diagnosed. Some have speculated that Einstein had the condition, but without a genetic test, it's impossible to know for sure.

An 18-month-old American girl named Taylor McGowan is one of the few people with this syndrome. Her parents sent blood samples to Betz to see if they were carriers of the gene mutation, and the results came back positive for variations of PADI3, one of three genes responsible for the syndrome. According to IFL Science, the condition is recessive, meaning that it "only presents when individuals receive mutant gene copies from both parents." Hence it's so uncommon.

Taylor's parents have embraced their daughter's unique 'do, creating a Facebook page called Baby Einstein 2.0 to share Taylor's story and educate others about the condition.

"It's what makes her look ever so special, just like Albert Einstein," Taylor's mom, Cara, says in a video uploaded to YouTube by SWNS TV. "We wanted to share her story with the world in hopes of spreading awareness."

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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