Mild Dehydration Could Mess Up Your Concentration

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Research has already shown us that enduring a heat wave without air conditioning can impair our mental performance. Now, a new paper reported by NPR shows that not drinking enough water in the summertime can have a similar impact. According to a meta-analysis published in July in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, even mild dehydration can negatively affect cognition.

Mindy Millard-Stafford, director of the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology, looked at 33 studies dealing with dehydration. She found that subjects performed worse in a range of areas—including attention, motor coordination, and goal-oriented thinking—when they were slightly dehydrated compared to when they had consumed enough water that day.

She defined mild dehydration as fluid loss equivalent to about 2 percent of body mass. On a hot summer day, reaching this stage can happen surprisingly fast. If you're hiking in the heat, it might take you an hour to become mildly dehydrated, and if you're going on an intense run, it can take just 30 minutes to sweat out 2 percent of your mass.

That level of dehydration isn't too noticeable (you may just start to feel thirsty), but if you have to do something that requires your full attention, it makes a big difference. In one study published last year, female subjects who were 1 percent dehydrated made 12 percent more errors while playing a game that required them to think quickly. (That paper was funded by PepsiCo, which sells bottled-water brands like Aquafina and Propel, but the researchers designed the study independently, according to NPR.)

Luckily, the brain fog that comes with dehydration has a simple antidote: a glass of water. The biggest roadblock keeping you from staying hydrated may be your inability to recognize dehydration in the first place. To see if you're getting enough water, use this easy skin test throughout the day.

[h/t NPR]

FDA Recalls Thyroid Medications Due to Contamination Risk

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Hypothyroid medications manufactured by Westminster Pharmaceuticals have been recalled after it was discovered that one of the company’s Chinese suppliers failed to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, CNN reports.

The oral tablets contain levothyroxine (LT4) and liothyronine (LT3), which are both synthetic hormones used to treat thyroid conditions.

The medicine was recalled as a precaution after it was discovered during a 2017 FDA inspection that the Chinese supplier in question, Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical Co., was not practicing good manufacturing practices.

However, patients with serious thyroid conditions shouldn’t throw out their pills just yet. No adverse effects from the medication have been reported, and the risk of not taking the medication outweighs the risk of taking a recalled pill.

According to the FDA, “Because these products may be used in the treatment of serious medical conditions, patients taking the recalled medicines should continue taking their medicine until they have a replacement product.”

For more information on the specific lots and products in question, visit the FDA’s website.

[h/t CNN]

A 'Zombie Gene' Might Be the Reason Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

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When it comes to cancer rates in the animal kingdom, elephants are an anomaly. As Popular Science notes, cancer should be more common among larger species, but with elephants, that simply isn’t the case. Only about 5 percent of elephants die from cancer, compared to 11 to 25 percent of humans.

In a new study, published in Cell Reports, University of Chicago researchers found what’s believed to be the genetic source of elephants’ cancer immunity. Elephants, like all mammals, have a gene called LIF that is known to suppress tumors. Humans have one copy of this gene, but elephants have 10 copies, which have developed over 80 million years of evolution. However, only one of those copies, called LIF6, is functional in elephants.

The other LIF copies are essentially dead because they lack a specific piece of DNA to make them function. At some point during the evolutionary process, the LIF6 gene copy turned back on, but scientists don’t know why or when this occurred. This “zombie gene” helps kill mutated cells, in true Night of the Living Dead fashion.

“This reanimation of LIF6 occurred perhaps over 59 million years,” Joshua Schiffman, who studies cancer in elephants but was not involved in the study, told Popular Science. “That’s an amazingly long period of time for nature to modify and perfect an anticancer mechanism.”

Scientists aren’t yet sure how this could be applied to cancer research in humans, but they say it’s a promising start and a creative approach to the problem. While these findings are still fresh and need to be duplicated, it raises the possibility of creating a drug that mimics the function of LIF6.

[h/t Popular Science]

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