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How the Perfect Pancake Recipe May Help Us Treat Glaucoma

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Though it may be of great interest to breakfast lovers, you wouldn’t expect medical professionals to be too concerned with the physics of perfect pancakes. But according to a group of researchers at the University College London, the perfect pancake recipe may hold the key to better treating glaucoma patients in the future.

Glaucoma is the number one cause of permanent blindness worldwide, and as of now there's no way to cure it. The disease causes permanent eye damage when excess fluid builds up in the eye. The pressure this puts on the optic nerve is what eventually leads to loss of vision, and scientists believe that figuring out an escape route for the fluid could help save people’s eyesight in the future.

This is where the pancakes come in. In a study recently published in Mathematics Today, researchers tested the recipes of 14 different pancakes from around the world to observe how water escaped from the batter during the cooking process. Different recipes consisted of different thicknesses and consistencies. For example, the puffy Dutch poffertjes had an aspect ratio (the diameter of the pancake to the third power in relation to the volume of batter) of three, while thin French crepes had an aspect ratio of 300. The scientists also measured the baker’s percentage, which is the ratio of liquid to flour in the batter.

All of these varying factors contributed to how the pancakes cooked once they hit the griddle. According to Gizmodo, thick pancakes were better at trapping water vapor as it tried to escape upwards, creating irregular craters on the bottom side. This same process caused islands to form on the pancake's top half as it wasn’t a consistent thickness.

Thin batter with a high baker’s percentage resulted in pancakes with lots of tiny brown spots and a dark ring around the perimeter where the batter was the thinnest. This type of pancake was thin enough to allow water to pass through it, leaving small channels along the top surface where the vapors had escaped. Thin pancakes with a more mid-level baker’s percentage allowed water to escape smoothly through them while browning evenly at the same time.

The goal of studying all this delicious data is to help scientists better understand how flexible sheets, like the eye's retina, interact with fluids and vapors like those caused by glaucoma. This information could lead to better surgical treatments, which would mean less vision loss in the future. The findings could also be useful to people looking to improve their pancake game. (Just try not to think of eye fluid buildup when you’re in the kitchen.) You can watch study co-author Yann Bouremel whip up the scientifically significant breakfast in the video below, and you can see the full study here [PDF].  

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Health
Toddlers Are Now Eating as Much Added Sugar as Adults
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We know excessive amounts of added sugar can lurk in foods ranging from ketchup to juices to “health foods” like protein bars. We also know Americans get too much of it, often consuming up to 19 teaspoons daily, exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 6 to 9 teaspoons a day. That adds up to 66 ill-advised pounds of the stuff per year.

A new study that came out of the American Society for Nutrition’s conference last week demonstrates an even more alarming trend: Toddlers are eating nearly as much sugar every day as is recommended for adults.

The study, which was organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined survey data collected between 2011 and 2014 for 800 kids aged 6 to 23 months. Based on parental reporting of their food intake, the tiny subjects between 12 and 18 months old took in an average 5.5 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Older kids, aged 19 to 23 months, consumed 7.1 teaspoons. That’s at or near the recommended intake for a fully grown adult.

In addition to health risks including weight gain and reduced immune system function, sugar-slurping babies stand a greater chance of carrying that craving with them into adulthood, where complications like diabetes and heart problems can be waiting. The AHA recommends that parents avoid giving their kids sweetened drinks and snacks and look out for creative nutritional labels that disguise sugar with words like “sucrose” or “corn sweetener.”

[[h/t Quartz]

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Science Has a Good Explanation For Why You Can't Resist That Doughnut
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Unless you’re one of those rare people who doesn’t like sweets, the lure of a glazed or powdered doughnut is often too powerful to resist. The next time you succumb to that second or third Boston cream, don’t blame it on weak willpower—blame it on your brain.

As the New Scientist reports, a Yale University study published in the journal Cell Metabolism provides new evidence that foods rich in both carbohydrates and fats fire up the brain’s reward center more than most foods. For the study, volunteers were shown pictures of carb-heavy foods (like candy), fatty foods (like cheese), and foods high in both (like doughnuts). They were then asked to bid money on the food they wanted to eat most, all while researchers measured their brain activity.

Not only were volunteers willing to pay more for doughnuts and similar foods, but foods high in carbs and fat also sparked far more activity in the striatum, the area of the brain where dopamine is released. (Chocolate is one of the foods most commonly associated with increases in dopamine, working in the same way as drugs like cocaine and amphetamines.)

Presented with these findings, researcher Dana Small theorized that the brain may have separate systems to assess fats and carbs. Modern junk foods that activate both systems at once may trigger a larger release of dopamine as a result.

This study doesn’t entirely explain why different people crave different foods, though. Much of it has to do with our habits and the foods we repeatedly gravitate towards when we want to feel happy or alleviate stress. Another study from 2015 found that certain treats associated with high levels of reward in the brain—like pizza, chocolate, chips, and cookies—were considered to be the most addictive foods (doughnuts didn’t make the top 20, though).

It's still possible to turn down foods that are bad for you, though. While many people try to improve their self-control, one of the most effective ways to avoid an undesired outcome is to remove the temptation completely. Free doughnuts in the break room? Stay far away.

[h/t New Scientist]

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