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Cocoa could help obese people lose weight, study claims

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Cocoa could help obese people lose weight, study claims

It worked for mice, so could the chocolate diet work for you?

Penn State researchers have identified cocoa powder as a potential wonder drug for the health of those suffering liver damage due to obesity, according to experiments conducted on high-fat-fed mice.

Nutritionists are already well aware that cocoa, the primary ingredient in chocolate desserts and hot cocoa, contains relatively high levels of fiber, iron and antioxidants — despite the fact that it’s often also accompanied with plenty of sugar, a major factor in weight gain and poor health.

The aim of the study was not only to facilitate weight loss, though. Researchers were hoping to identify means by which obese individuals can improve their overall health, particularly in terms of non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, which affects more than 3 million Americans per year.

“While it is typically considered an indulgence food because of its high sugar and fat content, epidemiological and human-intervention studies have suggested that chocolate consumption is associated with reduced risk of cardio-metabolic diseases, including stroke, coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” said lead study author Joshua Lambert, a professor of food science at Penn’s College of Agricultural Sciences, in a press release tied to the study.

“So, it made sense to investigate whether cocoa consumption had an effect on non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, which is commonly associated with human obesity,” Lambert said. Furthermore, past mice studies concerning obesity have proven indicative of human metabolic processes.

Published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the findings revealed that, by supplementing cocoa powder in their diets, the mice gained weight at a rate 21% lower than those who did not receive doses of cocoa. They also demonstrated lower spleen weights — a marker for reduced inflammation.

After eight weeks of supplementation, those mice showed 28% less fat in their livers compared to control mice, 56% lower levels of oxidative stress and 75% lower levels of damage to the liver’s DNA — all of which are factors of inflammation, cancer and other health concerns.

What makes the study results particularly noteworthy is the accessibility of its methods: by administering “physiologically achievable dose[s]” of cocoa — an amount that could feasibly be consumed by humans.

“Doing the calculations, for people it works out to about 10 tablespoons of cocoa powder a day,” Lambert said. “Or, if you follow the directions on the Hershey’s box of cocoa powder, that’s about five cups of hot cocoa a day.”

Based on the results, Lambert suggests substituting low or no-sugar cocoa for high-calorie snack foods.

“This exchange is potentially beneficial, especially in combination with a healthy overall diet and increased physical activity,” said Lambert, who believes that chemicals in cocoa may inhibit enzymes that aid in digesting dietary fats and carbs, though more research is needed.

“If you go to the gym and work out, and your reward is you go home and have a cup of cocoa, that may be something that helps get you off the couch and moving around,” he said.

That’s not all it helps, according to an unrelated study published in November that revealed hot chocolate may also boost brain function thanks to cocoa’s high degree of flavanols, which are known to improve cardiovascular and cognitive functions in adults.

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Former President Obama’s dog Bo dies

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Former President Obama's dog Bo dies

Former President Obama’s dog Bo died Saturday, the ex-commander in chief revealed in a Twitter thread.

The cause of death was cancer. He was 12 years old.

“Today our family lost a true friend and loyal companion. For more than a decade, Bo was a constant, gentle presence in our lives — happy to see us on our good days, our bad days, and everyday in between,” Obama wrote.

“He tolerated all the fuss that came with being in the White House, had a big bark but no bite, loved to jump in the pool in the summer, was unflappable with children, lived for scraps around the dinner table, and had great hair,” Obama continued. “He was exactly what we needed and more than we ever expected. We will miss him dearly.”

Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog, moved into the White House shortly after Obama took office, and was colloquially known as the first dog. He was joined by a second canine of the same breed named Sunny in 2013.

The former president’s post swiftly went viral on Twitter, where it was met with an outpouring of sympathy from Bo fans.

“It always made the day incalculably better to see Bo wandering around the west wing,” said former Obama administration Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

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New Zealand trying to eradicate hedgehog ‘killing machines’

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New Zealand trying to eradicate hedgehog 'killing machines'

Everyone loves the hedgehog – except for New Zealand.

The creature that inspired Beatrix Potter’s “Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle” and the popular video game character Sonic was introduced to the country decades ago when New Zealand was still a British colony to remind the colonizers of their gardens at home. But with no natural predators on the island nation, the hedgehog population soared and is now a scourge of “killing machines.”

“Unchecked by the food chain, they meander blissfully through forests and gardens, hoovering up an astonishing number of native creatures,” the Guardian reports.

 “It’s increasingly coming to light how much damage they can do,” Nick Foster, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Otago who is researching hedgehogs, told the paper. A single, dedicated hedgehog will consume numerous native lizards, bird eggs, and wētā – a kind of large flightless cricket found only in New Zealand. One study found 283 wētā legs in a single hedgehog stomach. “That means in a 24-hour period this hedgehog has guzzled up 60 or so animals,” Foster said. “It’s a banquet.”

New Zealand is now trying to eradicate the animals by 2050, by way of trapping, hunting, and poisoning them — a plan that is despised by some locals due to the “cuteness” of the animals.

Foster told the Guardian there is “a bit of a psychological barrier” when it comes to hedgehog eradication. “It has been proposed to ship them all back to the UK. European hedgehogs aren’t doing so well in Europe. Still in good numbers, but they are declining.”

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Melting glacier reveals ‘open-air museum’ of World War I relics

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Adamello White War Museum, Temu, Valle Camonica, Lombardy. Image shot 08/2014. Exact date unknown.

Thawing ice has revealed a treasure trove of previously hidden World War I artifacts in the Italian Alps. 

Last month, a team from the Stelvio National Park White’s War Museum excavated a cave shelter, built by Austrian soldiers, atop Mount Scorluzzo and acquired 300 “exciting” artifacts, ranging from coins to corpses, helmets and weapons. 

No one had been inside the space, which was hidden and closed off by ice, in nearly 100 years. But as a result of rising temperatures, a glacier preventing access to the shelter had sufficiently melted in 2017 to allow researchers into what they’ve discovered to be a goldmine of items.

As the ice melted, relics — including bodies — have continued to appear in the area summer after summer. 

“A corpse is found every two or three years, usually in places where there was fighting on the glacier,” museum staffer Marco Ghizzoni told The Guardian.

“The findings in the cave on Mount Scorluzzo give us, after over a hundred years, a slice of life at over 3,000 meters above sea level, where the time stopped on November 3, 1918 when the last Austrian soldier closed the door and rushed downhill,” according to a museum press release, CNN reported. 

Inside, a world last accessed close to a century ago has offered researchers an abundance of antiques from a bygone era. Some of the recovered artifacts will be part of a collection set to open at the museum next year.

“It’s a sort of open-air museum,” historian Stefano Morosini told CNN of the northern Italy cave, where 20 servicemen lived their “very poor daily” lives while fighting Italian troops during the war. “Soldiers had to fight against the extreme environment, fight against the snow or the avalanches, but also fight against the enemy,” he went on. “The artifacts are a representation, like a time machine, of … the extreme conditions of life during the First World War.”

Italy’s White War Museum.

Alamy Stock Photo

Adamello White War Museum, Temu, Valle Camonica, Lombardy. Image shot 08/2014. Exact date unknown.

An upcoming exhibit here will display some of the findings from the cave expeditions.

Alamy Stock Photo

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