Will the type of fat you eat today predict your risk of osteoporosis in the future? Using borage oil and shortening, Sarah Gress (biology) set out to answer this question. Borage oil, extracted from a blue star-shaped flower, is believed to have a positive effect on the aging body. High in gamma linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid, it is thought to improve the health of bones. In the femoral neck, the typical location of hip fractures in elderly women, Gress found, borage oil did have a protective effect, as compared to shortening. In another aged bone, the tibia, however, both borage oil and shortening proved destructive. The higher the amount of fat in the diet, independent of type, the weaker the aged bones became.
Nuts over Nuts
Do walnuts do your body good? Matthew McGuiness (biobehavioral health) studied the effects of a diet rich in walnuts in men with slightly high cholesterol but regular blood pressure. Walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, a form of unsaturated fat that has been proven to reduce blood pressure and to help keep cholesterol levels low. A walnut-enriched diet, he found, helps decrease diastolic blood pressure—blood pressure when the heart is relaxing. Ideally, walnuts should replace other oil sources. But simply adding them to the diet is also beneficial.
That glass of Cabernet you drank may help prevent a heart attack. Wine contains antioxidants—natural compounds that, over time, avert heart disease and cancer. The level in the wine depends on the grape used—red grapes provide a higher dose of antioxidants than white grapes, according to Elizabeth Foley (pre-medicine). No Cabernet? Consider one of your child's juice boxes. Christine Konrad, Christi Kolarcik, and Cristen Stephansky (biology) say the health benefits of wine also apply to nonalcoholic juices. The same antioxidants in wine grapes, polyphenols, are also found in juice grapes. The apples in apple juice contain polyphenols too.
—Elizabeth M. Stieber
Labor pains are often lessened by an anesthetic procedure called an epidural. How does a future anethesiologist practice that technique? Brian Minarcik (pre-medicine) is helping build an Epidural Simulator that uses haptics, a virtual robotic force-feedback technology, to mimic the feel of clinical procedures. To make the simulations more realistic, Minarcik had practicing anesthesiologists push epidural needles into a wide array of materials (such as apples, potatoes, and balsa wood) and compare the force they encountered to that of human tissue. He then correlated the perceived and actual forces to arrive at the true force typical for the procedure.
Finding a Voice
Imagine wanting to live on your own, but not being able to open the door to your apartment. Many people with cerebral palsy experience frustration with independent living. Julie Auker (communication disorders) is working on a mentor program to help them. The augmentative and alternative communications project, or AAC, uses symbols, aids, and computer-animated voice to enhance communication skills. Auker pairs successful AAC users with new users, who communicate via e-mail at least once a week. Protégés gained new knowledge about how to cope with social and living situations through the advice of their mentors.