Women’s Health and Fitness Series Part V: Pregnancy

In this last post of the Women’s Health and Fitness Series, we delve into the mother of all topics: pregnancy. As one of the few health topics that truly only affects women, pregnancy is highly stressful on for women’s bodies, but amazingly, they know exactly how to respond to this event. In addition, many of the issues previously raised in the series continue to carry weight when discussing pregnancy.

One aspect of pregnancy that carries a lot of weight is exactly that: the amount of weight a pregnant woman gains. Obesity in pregnancy is associated with a long list of medical complications for a mother and child, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, infection and many others.  A PLOS ONE study published in July 2012 investigates the link between healthy weight during pregnancy and the associated risks when the term “eating for two” is taken too liberally. Obesity in pregnancy is associated with a long list of medical complications for a mother and child, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, infection and many others.

The authors, from the University of Ulster in Ireland, wanted to see if regimented diet and physical activity was an efficient intervention to reduce excess gestational weight gain (GWG). They reviewed 5 studies that had examined a total of 971 pregnant women with a mean BMI of 26. They found that setting goals through 1-on-1 diet and lifestyle counseling was the most successful strategy to help women gain appropriate amounts of weight during pregnancy. The researchers also note that while weight is a primary concern, and behavior modification is an effective way to address the problem, more research is required “to target women’s psychological needs as well as their emotional and physical needs”.

Pregnancy is a unique experience for the female gender, as well as for each individual woman.  Much like we’ve discussed throughout the series, health incorporates a balance of many factors, like nutrition, weight, emotional well-being, and should be tailored to each person.

With that, happy Women’s Health and Fitness Day, and we hope this month’s series has been informative and inspirational!

Image Credit: makelessnoise on Flickr CC-by license

Citation: Brown MJ, Sinclair M, Liddle D, Hill AJ, Madden E, et al. (2012) A Systematic Review Investigating Healthy Lifestyle Interventions Incorporating Goal Setting Strategies for Preventing Excess Gestational Weight Gain. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39503. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039503





Women’s Health and Fitness Series Part III: Anorexia

As National Women’s Health and Fitness Day approaches on September 26th, there are only a few more topics left in PLOS ONE’s first blog series. Two recently published papers explore the various dimensions of Anorexia Nervosa (AN), a disease that affects both genders but is much more commonly found in women. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old. In addition to severe weight loss, the disease can also lead to heart conditions, kidney failure, and in some cases death, and even after a patient has recovered from the disease, it can leave lingering consequences. 

In their article published on Tuesday, researchers from The Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv wanted to explore anorexia’s long-term effects on growth, after patients had returned to normal eating habits and essentially “recovered”. Between January 1987 and December 1999, the researchers routinely measured the height and weight of 211 female adolescents who had been hospitalized for an eating disorder. They found that while nutritional rehabilitation can counter the growth stunting associated with the disease, “catch-up” growth is often incomplete, especially in patients who suffered from the eating disorder at a younger age. They conclude that early detection is most important for full “catch-up”.

The cause of AN is fairly complicated, but it is commonly associated with social expectations of body image and weight in the media. It is also often linked to psychiatric conditions like depression, and there are a variety of unidentified psychiatric implications and side effects that we still know little about. For example, in another recently published PLOS ONE article, 25 patients with anorexia and 25 controls were shown a door-like aperture and asked to judge whether or not it was wide enough for them (first person) to pass through, or for another person (third person) present in the room to pass through. The results indicated that AN patients had a skewed perception of their own ability to pass through a door, but not when judging a third party. This phenomenon has to do with neurological network impairment, where the nervous system does not appropriately update to reflect the AN patient’s diminished body size.

We may still be at the early stages of fully understanding anorexia, but one of the key solutions may be to emphasize the importance of healthy practices, as opposed to an overemphasis on weight – an idea that is certainly in line with Women’s Health and Fitness Day. This, along with a commitment to early detection and sustained support and treatment may help reduce the prevalence of anorexia, as well as other eating disorders.

Remember to check in next week for the last two posts of the series where we will discuss ovarian cancer and pregnancy.

Citation: Modan-Moses D, Yaroslavsky A, Kochavi B, Toledano A, Segev S, et al. (2012) Linear Growth and Final Height Characteristics in Adolescent Females with Anorexia Nervosa. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45504. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045504

Citation: Guardia D, Conversy L, Jardri R, Lafargue G, Thomas P, et al. (2012) Imagining One’s Own and Someone Else’s Body Actions: Dissociation in Anorexia Nervosa. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43241. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043241

Image Credit: cc-by license by daniellehelm on Flickr

Women’s Health and Fitness Series Part II: Heart Health

Last week we discussed the role of fitness in women’s overall health, and this week, we will address cardiovascular disease, which kills about 17 million people a year, and is the leading cause of death for women in the United States according to the CDC’s most recent estimates. A wide range of factors are associated with increased risk of heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, obesity, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and alcohol use, and since many  of these factors are behavior-related, they can be modified to reduce risk.

For example, stress can contribute significantly to poor cardiovascular health. To investigate this relationship, researchers from Harvard University observed 22,086 women working as medical professionals over a 10 year span. They found that this population, interpreted as having high-stress jobs, had a 38% increased likelihood of experiencing a cardiovascular disease (CVD) event compared to women who held low-stress positions. While this risk should never deter anyone from a career in medicine,  it is worth noting the importance of making efforts to stay active and lead a balanced lifestyle when evaluating any career choice.

However, there are other cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as age, family history, and, most recently observed, geographic variation, that are harder for individual women to control. A PLOS ONE study published last November examined data for 26,029 women from across the United States averaging 53 years of age who did not show signs of cardiovascular disease. The researchers, from Harvard Medical School, looked at the blood levels for certain compounds, or biomarkers, that are associated with and are known to increase the risk for heart disease in women, and compared the variation across the country. They found that those living in Southern and Appalachian states had high levels of specific biomarkers, indicating higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Even after implementing controls to account for environmental or behavior-related risks, the variation remained. The authors note, however, that more research is necessary to understand exactly why this variation exists.

There are a multitude of variables that affect heart disease, some controllable and others not, but research continues to show that there are steps we can take to actively improve individual and general heart health. And, as the scope of this research continues to expand, we are able to explore the finer details of the disease and how it affects different populations like women. For example, while the “elephant on the chest” metaphor works well enough to describe the symptoms associated with heart attacks in men, women tend to experience more subtle symptoms when having heart failure, which leads to a high rate of delayed and misdiagnosed cases. Specifically, women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries, but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/HB00040) – which makes their symptoms different from those that men experience.  There is a misconception that heart failure affects men more than women, but as medical professionals and the public have a clearer understanding of these anatomical particulars, they will be better equipped to target prevention and treatment for women.

Remember to check out next week’s post on the Women’s Health and Fitness Series where we will discuss anorexia.

Citation: Slopen N, Glynn RJ, Buring JE, Lewis TT, Williams DR, et al. (2012) Job Strain, Job Insecurity, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Study: Results from a 10-Year Prospective Study. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40512. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040512

Citation: Clark CR, Coull B, Berkman LF, Buring JE, Ridker PM (2011) Geographic Variation in Cardiovascular Inflammation among Healthy Women in the Women’s Health Study. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27468. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027468

Image Credit: Nattu from Flickr

New Monkey Species

Yesterday PLOS ONE published a fascinating article on the discovery of a new monkey species in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Lesula monkey (Cercopithecus lomamiensis sp) was found as a juvenile at the residence of the primary school director in the town of Opala.

The scientists note that this is only the second new species of African monkey to be discovered in the past 28 years.

In the above image: Cercopithecus hamlyni, captured east of Kisangani, DRC (left), and Cercopithecus lomamiensis, captured near Obenge, DRC (right). White nose stripe is variably present in juvenile C. hamlyni from the Kisangani region.

Image credit: Hart JA, Detwiler KM, Gilbert CC, Burrell AS, Fuller JL, et al. (2012) Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Monkey Endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Implications for Conservation of Congo’s Central Basin. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044271

Announcing: Women’s Health and Fitness Series

This month, in honor of National Women’s Health and Fitness Day on September 26th, we’ll be exploring upcoming and previously published work in PLOS ONE surrounding this topic. The breadth of this subject is wide and, sure, we could probably start a whole new blog just to discuss PLOS ONE articles about women’s health, but instead we’ve created a bite-sized series that will highlight a few important issues, including cardiovascular health, anorexia, pregnancy, and ovarian cancer.

We know that physical fitness has significant repercussions for overall physical and mental well-being, and the results of a clinical trial  published in PLOS ONE earlier this year further underscore how physical activity relates to other health issues. The study, led by researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana showed that for overweight women, 6 months of aerobic exercise reduced total counts of white blood cells and neutrophils, two markers commonly associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and death.

The researchers monitored 390 participants, who alternated between sessions of walking on a treadmill and riding a recumbent bike. One group acted as a control, and the other three groups were prescribed specific exercise “dosages.” The study showed that any increase in exercise improved the participants’ white blood cell and neutrophil counts, and that the effects were generally dose-dependent, with increased exercise resulting in increased health benefit returns.

The study was part of a broader trial called “The Dose-Response to Exercise in Women Aged 45–75 yr” (DREW) study. The most compelling part of this research was that the doses of exercise were strictly monitored in a lab, which led to adherence by the subjects and produced high-quality results.

PLoS ONE 7(2): e31319. Table 2: Mean (95%CI) change in anthropometric and fitness data and total WBC and WBC subfraction counts after 6 months of intervention.

Lack of aerobic exercise may also contribute to the ever-increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes found in Americans. The CDC estimates that 26 million Americans have diabetes, half of them women, and it is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type 2 diabetes, which is developed by adults late in life and is often a result of obesity and other environmental factors. (Type 1 is more commonly found in children born without the ability to produce insulin.)

There may also be a correlation between socioeconomic status and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, as explored in a clinical trial  published in December 2011. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston observed 23,992 women between February 1993 and March 2007 and found that during this period, 1,262 women developed Type 2 diabetes. Lower socioeconomic status was associated with increased diabetes risk in these women, and this correlation was largely explained by behavior, particularly increased weight.

These two studies only offer a small sample of the extensive research published in this field, both in PLOS ONE and elsewhere, but nonetheless provide compelling evidence that it’s important to get out there and get active.  I look forward to sharing more examples over the next month, so stay tuned!

Citation: Johannsen NM, Swift DL, Johnson WD, Dixit VD, Earnest CP, et al. (2012) Effect of Different Doses of Aerobic Exercise on Total White Blood Cell (WBC) and WBC Subfraction Number in Postmenopausal Women: Results from DREW. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31319. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031319

Citation: Lee TC, Glynn RJ, Peña JM, Paynter NP, Conen D, et al. (2011) Socioeconomic Status and Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Data from the Women’s Health Study. PLoS ONE 6(12): e27670. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027670

Photo Credit: Lululemonathletica w/CC-by License

Worth A Thousand Words

The flowers of different species of Loasaceae, shown above, have developed impressive techniques to lure pollinators. Initially, the stamens are hidden in the boat-shaped petals, and upon stimulus by a pollinator, rapidly move towards the center of the flower to present the pollen (e.g. Fig. 1 B, E).

This stunning flower morphology and function allows the plants to avoid pollen loss in the absence of pollinators, and to increase their breeding success.

Read the whole study here.

Image Citation: Henning T, Weigend M (2012) Total Control – Pollen Presentation and Floral Longevity in Loasaceae (Blazing Star Family) Are Modulated by Light, Temperature and Pollinator Visitation Rates. PLoS ONE 7(8): e41121. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041121

Worth A Thousand Words

(A–B) holoype of Glenea gestroi Gahan, female, from Myanmar. (A) dorsal view. (B) lateral view. (C) holotype of Glenea luteomaculata Pic, male, from Vietnam. (D) holotype of Glenea bicoloricornis Pic, female, from Vietnam. Scale 2 mm.

The newly described genus, Bifidunguiglenea gen. nov., which is part of the Glenea gestroi Gahan species was previously undescribed. However, a recent study published in PLoS ONE on July 17th identified a mysterious claw on the female, as well as different genitalia, classifying it as a new genus. The discovery was made in Thailand.

Read the article here.

Image Citation: Lin M-Y, Tavakilian GL (2012) A New Genus Bifidunguiglenea gen. nov. Is Erected for the Species Glenea gestroi Gahan (Cerambycidae: Lamiinae: Saperdini). PLoS ONE 7(7): e40768. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040768

PLoS ONE News and Media Roundup

Sequence of rapid inversion behavior in a cockroach, gecko, and a robot prototype.

Last month, some PLoS ONE papers in the news included research on: Body odor, robot mimicry and more!

New research shows that our body odor changes as we age, and it might not be so bad. Read more at Scientific American, NPR and TIME .

Scientists have developed a robot capable of mimicking the cockroach and geckos ability to run off a ledge at full speed and swing under to safety. Read more about this article in The Los Angeles Times, NPR, Wired.

500 different types of bacteria have been identified in office workspaces around the country. The study shows that many of the same bacteria species exist in the workspaces of men and women, however the offices that women inhabit, contained on average, 10 to 20 % fewer of them. Read more at Scientific American, The New York Times  and The Washington Post .

Extreme exercise may be unhealthy for certain people according to a new study. Scientists suggest that genetics could dictate the kind of physical activity we do, and how much of it we’re doing. You can read more at TIME, and The New York Times Blog

For more in-depth coverage on news and blog articles about PLoS ONE papers, please visit our Media Tracking Project.

Ask EveryONE: Where can I find Supporting Information in a manuscript?

If you’ve just created a manuscript in Editorial Manager and you’re reviewing it before submitting to the PLoS ONE office, or if you’re a reviewer or Academic Editor providing feedback on a paper, you may be asking yourself the above question.

You can access all supporting information at the end of a manuscript through the hyperlinks at the top of the page. It will look something like this:

Our submission system is designed to create these hyperlinks because most often, the kind of data in a supporting information file is quite large, making it far too cumbersome to embed directly into the pdf.

For answers to other questions you may have, visit our Most Common Questions page.  As always, if you still have questions, please don’t hesitate emailing us directly at plosone@plos.org.

PLoS ONE News and Media Roundup

This month in PLoS ONE news: Taste genes, capturing dog thoughts, and more!

Genetics may help determine how your meal tastes, and whether or not you like pork. Scientific American, Wired and TIME covered this article

Scientists have trained dogs to sit and stay in an MRI tunnel long enough to take a brain scan.  These scans reveal information about the way dogs think, and what they might be thinking about.  Wired Scientific American Los Angeles Times covered this article

New research shows that ants affected by a parasite that causes zombie-like behavior may be protected by an anti-zombie fungus.  Read more about this article at The Guardian  NPR, and Discover Magazine

The fascinating case of Phineas Gage has motivated researchers to use CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans, to investigate which regions of the brain were affected in Mr. Gage’s notorious accident, and led to such extreme behavioral changes.  Popular Science, The Huffington Post covered this PLoS ONE article.

For more in-depth coverage on news and blog articles about PLoS ONE papers, please visit our Media Tracking Project.

Happy Arbor Day!

Cross-sections of Q. palmeri stems.

Today’s internationally recognized tree holiday was founded in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, former Secretary of Agriculture to US President Grover Cleveland, and avid tree enthusiast. The holiday is generally observed on the last Friday in April, and today marks over 135 years of tree planting and conservation efforts across the globe. Highlighted below are some of PLoS ONE’s arboreal related articles. Take a moment to read about the  critical role trees have in our global ecosystem.

Sudden Oak Death, caused by a pathogen introduced to California forests, continues to disturb local oak populations. This research explores the clonal reproductive behavior of the pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have collected samples from Panamanian rainforest tree species to estimate total carbon content in tropical ecosystems. Read more here.

The fascinating colonization of Juniper trees, Juniperus brevifolia, a native species to the Azores archipelago, has been explored in the following article.

Recent analysis indicates that although forested areas have declined globally, the overall tree density in such areas has increased. Read more about how this is important in the sequestration of atmospheric carbon.

Logging practices in wood-producing forests pose risks for many endangered flora and fauna. Managing these areas sustainably could help conserve such species, as well as increase carbon storage. Read more here.

To find ways to get involved, or to learn how to plant a tree in your community, visit www.arborday.org

Image source: Figure 2 (May MR, Provance MC, Sanders AC, Ellstrand NC, Ross-Ibarra J (2009) A Pleistocene Clone of Palmer’s Oak Persisting in Southern California. PLoS ONE 4(12): e8346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008346)

PLoS ONE News and Media Roundup

Emperor penguin – Credit: British Antarctic Survey

This month in PLoS ONE news: Penguin populations recorded from outer space, super strength bacteria discovered in caves, and much more!

Satellite mapping provides the first comprehensive record of the Emperor Penguin population in Antarctica. Scientists found that the overall population is higher than previously estimated; however, other colonies may have disappeared altogether, most likely due to climate change. Wired Scientific American and BBC covered this article.

Strains of previously undiscovered bacteria found deep in the Lechuguilla Cave of New Mexico, show remarkably strong resistance to modern antibiotics. Scientific American, The Los Angeles Times and National Geographic covered this article.

The commonly used Body Mass Index (BMI) measure may vastly underestimate the ongoing obesity epidemic, according to new research. Read this study and more at The Huffington Post, TIME and The Los Angeles Times.

What makes a good athlete? Traits like problem solving, creativity and quick decision making are commonly referred to as “game intelligence” in sports. According to new research, professional soccer players show increased cognitive abilities, which may be linked to such athletic success. New York Times, Wired and CNN discussed this article.

For more in-depth coverage on news and blog articles about PLoS ONE papers, please visit our Media Tracking Project.

The commonly used Body Mass Index (BMI) measure may vastly underestimate the ongoing obesity epidemic, according to new research.

PLoS ONE News and Media Round-Up

Increasing your vegetable and fruit intake could improve your appearance, according to a new study. Scientists from the University of St Andrews in Scotland observed 35 participants who increased their fruit and vegetable intake over a 6 week period. They noticed significant changes in the skin’s yellow and red coloring, due to the absorption of carotenoids. To measure the impact of this change, undergraduate students then viewed images of those individuals with increased pigmentation and reported the subject’s appearance as more attractive and healthy. You can read more about this article at NPR, The Huffington Post and ABC News.

Fossil remains found in China’s Yunnan Province provide evidence of a prehistoric human species researchers are calling the “Red Deer Cave people”, as they were thought to feed on an extinct species of native deer. According to radiocarbon dating, this population lived just 14,500 to 11,500 years ago, and that these remains possess both modern (H. sapiens) and archaic (putative plesiomorphic) traits making the findings rather unusual. National Geographic, The Guardian and The History Channel covered this study.

In January of 2011, Daryl Bem of Cornell University published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggesting the existence of precognition, or the ability to predict future events. Dr. Bem invited other scientists in the field to replicate the study, to encourage scientific credibility. A team of researchers, led by Dr. Stuart Ritchie independently replicated the study three times, and were unable to replicate the results. The Chicago Tribune The Guardian and MSNBC covered this story.

No other animal can bite as powerfully as the crocodile, according to a new study covered by National Geographic, The New York Times and The Huffington Post. For the first time, scientists from the University of Florida used a transducer, a device that converts pressure into an electrical signal, to record bite forces and tooth pressures in all 23 existing crocodilian species. They found that the Crocodylus porosus, or the saltwater crocodile, bites with 3,689 pounds of force, the highest recorded of any living creature.

For more in-depth coverage on news and blog articles about PLoS ONE papers, please visit our Media Tracking Project.

Worth A Thousand Words: Stretchable Spider Silk

Egg sac of the spider Meta menardi.

Spiderman, watch out! There’s a new, super-strength spider silk in town! Researchers from Politecnico di Torino in Italy performed stress tests on the stalks of silk egg sacs produced by the cave spider, Meta menardi (pictured above), and suggest that it could be the most stretchable spider silk ever tested.

The scientists,  led by Dr. Nicola Pugno, collected 15 egg sacs from different caves in Piedmont (a north-western region of Italy), and used a tensile testing machine to pull on the stalk of the sac until the fibers broke. They recorded that silk strands produced by these spiders can stretch up to 7.5 times their original length, which could bode well for future understanding of nano-materials.

The researchers claim that such results may be linked to the fact that these egg sacs were collected from nature, and thus more reflective of actual stresses, as opposed to silk that may have been produced in a lab.

Read the full article here.

Worth a Thousand Words: Shall We Dance?

A dung beetle performing a dance on top of its dung ball

No, these beetles aren’t just trying to boogie down. The curious dance serves as a very important survival tactic, according to scientists.  After collecting their loot, the beetles must travel in a straight line away from the main dung pile, to avoid other competing beetles. So how does the beetle successfully push the dung ball in a straight line, while facing backwards and pointing its head down to the ground? Good question. I’m glad you asked.

The researchers of the article, led by Dr. Emily Baird, collected local beetles, Scarabaeus (Kheper) nigroaeneus (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) on a farm in South Africa. They placed the beetles in plastic bins filled with soil and dung, and documented the perfectly performed sequence. The beetle climbs on top of the ball, rotates, stopping briefly after every rotation, and then climbs down to roll the dung ball.

The researchers suggest that the so-called dance helps the beetle orient itself geographically, using “visual cues present in the sky, such as the sun, the moon, or the pattern of polarized light that forms around them”. The beetles take a “compass reading” just after preparing a ball, and another just before rolling it away. This reading gives the beetle an initial bearing, or a starting point. Disturbances like light reflection and physical obstacles were introduced to see whether this would affect dancing, which it did, signifying that the beetle must re-orient itself until the reading matches its previously identified position.

Watch the dung beetle dance caught on video!