February 7th, 2014
09:18 AM ET
Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.
Yogurt may lower diabetes risk
Type 2 diabetes is a big public health problem. According to the World Health Organization, 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, and 90% of those cases are type 2, which is associated with excess body weight and physical inactivity.
A new study by University of Cambridge researchers looks to yogurt as a possible means of prevention.
Scientists examined dietary records from 753 people who developed type 2 diabetes during an 11-year period. They compared that data with eating habits of 3,500 healthy people from the same population. Participants were part of a large study in Norfolk, England.
They found a 28% decreased risk of diabetes in people who chowed down on low-fat yogurt at least four times a week, compared to people who did not eat yogurt.
This study does not prove that yogurt directly protects against diabetes or causes any outcomes. But Forbes notes that yogurt does have ingredients associated with good health: calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and fatty acids. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Heat-related deaths to climb 257% in the UK
Our planet is warming. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, emitted from human activity, are responsible for rising average temperature increases and inevitable shifts in climate patterns, scientists say.
One result may be an increase in heat deaths in the United Kingdom, according to a new study. By 2050, heat deaths in the UK will rise 257%, researchers report. Elderly people 75 years and older will be most at risk. Researches attribute this to climate change and population growth.
The good news is that cold-weather deaths will decrease by 2% in the 2050s, researchers reported.
"As the contribution of population growth and ageing on future temperature related health burdens will be large, the health protection of the elderly will be important," the authors wrote.
Mice in the dark hear better
Does vision loss help musicians? Researchers at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that adult mice, when put in a dark setting, appear to hear better and are more skilled at telling pitches and frequencies apart.
At the same time, the brains of these mice showed changes that normally occur early in development, including stronger connections between neurons, Nature reported.
It appears that the brains of the mice compensate for the loss of vision by strengthening hearing, even during a temporary deficiency of vision. But whether sensory adaptation would happen the same way in humans remains to be seen.
“Future work will identify if such deprivations are effective in humans. For example, while one week of deprivation showed effects in mice, for humans longer deprivations might be needed,” study co-author Patrick Kanold, a biologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, told Nature.
HPV vaccine doesn't affect teen sexual activity
Just because a teen gets a vaccine that prevents human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection, doesn't necessarily mean she will go out and start having unsafe sex.
A new study gave surveys to more than 300 girls ages 13 to 21. They answered questions immediately after receiving the HPV vaccine, and then two months later and six months later.
Researchers found that the sexual activity of participants did not change as a result of getting the vaccine, nor did it change how they felt about safe sex.
This is evidence against the fears of some who advocate against the vaccine.
The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys beginning at age 11 or 12.
Your face may only show four emotions
We might like to think that our faces can convey an intricate complexity of emotions, but researchers at the University of Glasgow say we can only show four. This goes against the established idea that our faces can express six: Happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.
The face has 42 muscles, Smithsonian.com reports, and there are actually some people trained to use every single one of them - so-called "super facers." That's not even a big part of the study, but we thought that was kind of cool.
Researchers filmed these face muscle wizards and used the footage to create a computer model that could flex individual face muscles. Study participants watched the model make different faces, and judged what expressions they resembled.
It appears that there are facial signals common to certain emotions that we think of as distinct: The wrinkled nose is associated with both fear and disgust, and widened eyes signal both fear and surprise.
“Over time, and as humans migrated across the globe, socioecological diversity probably further specialised once-common facial expressions, altering the number, variety and form of signals across cultures," lead author Rachel Jack said in a news release.
Jack would like to test the model in other cultures.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.