Women in Their 30s Are Having More Babies Than 20-Somethings

For the first time in human history, American women in their 30s are having more babies than women in their 20s, with the average age of first-time mothers sitting at about 28 – a massive two-year leap from 2014.

Not only is this a stark reminder of just how quickly our species can change in response to societal trends and pressures, it also contradicts conventional wisdom stating that later pregnancies are riskier – despite the increase in older mums, the infant mortality rate in the US remains stable.

The new figures, released by the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are based on an initial review of birth and death certificates filed across the US last year, and the CDC is expected to publish a full analysis in the coming months.

But even before that analysis is released, we can glean a lot from the raw data, which states that the birth rate for women aged 30 to 34 was 102.6 per 1,000, and the rate for women aged 25 to 29 was 101.9 per 1,000.

That might not sound like much of a difference, but just 12 months prior, the birth rate for women aged 30 to 34 was 101.5 births per 1,000, whereas women aged 25 to 29 were at 104.3 births per 1,000.

Now that the 30-year-olds have overtaken the 20-somethings, American mothers have broken a 30-year trend that had women in their late 20s as the group with the highest birth rate.

Another trend that likely helped the birth rate favor older mothers is the fact that teen pregnancies are becoming less common, with first-time births among teens dropping by almost half between 2000 and 2014.

As Katelyn Harrop reports for Attn: “In 2016, there were less than 25 births for every 100,000 teenage females in the United States. That’s a serious drop from the late 1990s, when there were 93 pregnancies for every 100,000 teen girls.”

Here are some more insights from the initial report:

  • Births for women older than 34 also increased, with 52.6 births for every 1,000 women in 2016 compared to 51.8 births per 1,000 women in 2015
  • The average age for first-time mums is now roughly 28 – as recently as 2014, that average was 26.3
  • The teen birth rate continued to drop in 2016
  • The infant mortality rate stayed about the same.

While these figures only apply to American women, they reflect a growing trend away from the ‘taboo’ of having babies later in life.

Any childless woman over 30 will be all too familiar with the risks of delaying pregnancy, but research is starting to show that the benefits of having a child when you’re better established in life can actually outweigh the biological complications that can come from an older pregnancy.

A study of 1.5 million men and women in Sweden last year found that when mothers decided to delay having kids until they were older – even into their 40s – they were more likely to have children who were taller, more physically fit, got better grades in high school, and were more likely to go to university.

The reasoning goes that while the physical risks of having a baby later in life are still very real, women in their 30s are more likely to be financially stable, so can offer their children better healthcare and education options than women in their 20s.

“The benefits associated with being born in a later year outweigh the individual risk factors arising from being born to an older mother,” lead researcher Mikko Myrskylä from the Max Planck Institute in Germany said at the time.

“We need to develop a different perspective on advanced maternal age. Expectant parents are typically well aware of the risks associated with late pregnancy, but they are less aware of the positive effects.”

What was also really interesting is how quickly things can change for children born of the same mother: the study found that a child born when their mother was in her 40s ended up being better educated than the child born in her 20s – her ‘fertile prime’.

“Those 20 years make a huge difference,” said Myrskylä. “A child born in 1990, for example, had a much higher probability of going to a college or university than somebody born 20 years earlier.”

Consider how different things are going to be for babies born two decades from now, with gene-editing technology set to revolutionize how we conceive and prevent genetic disease before our children are even born.

So while there are pros and cons no matter when you have your baby, it looks like women – in the US at least – are delaying pregnancy later than ever before.

And if that means we can focus on making the world a better place for the next generation, that’s a pretty great result for our species.

The CDC data has been published here.

The Best Way to Barbecue, According to Science

Unless you’re master barbecuer Ron Swanson himself, your grill game could probably use a little work — and fast, considering Memorial Day’s just around the corner. Thankfully, science is here to help.

Greg Blonder is an engineering professor at Boston University and author of the science explainer-slash-cookbook Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. Blonder has patents ranging from green energy to medical devices, but his real passion project is engineering food.

“My wife is a great pastry chef,” Blonder told Inverse. “Sometimes her recipes wouldn’t work and I’d look at the recipe, and say, ‘Well of course, this pastry recipe violates thermodynamics, that can’t possibly work!’” Together, they worked to improve her library of cooking books, with Blonder continuing to apply the same scientific rigor to his grill.

In 2016, his advice ended up in his cookbook, co-authored with rib expert Meathead Goldwyn (yes, that’s his real name). It busts dozens of common myths about meat and aims to ensure readers a perfect rack of ribs or moist drumstick. However, many avid grillers still don’t heed the duo’s advice.

Among all the misconceptions that keep carnivores from reaching their full potential, Blonder says the biggest problem should be the easiest to overcome: resistance to thermometers.

“One of the really big [myths] is that real men don’t use thermometers,” Blonder says, pointing to a sweaty contingent that believes you can tell when meat is perfectly done simply by gripping it between the fingers and sort of just feeling it out.

Blonder doesn’t buy it, though: “That’s all just blatant nonsense,” he says, arguing it leads people to overcook their food so the meat becomes tough.

Instead, people should invest in a reliable modern thermometer, he says, and use it religiously. While tastes vary, Blonder likes his meats on the rare side, so he cooks his pork to about 145, his dark meat chicken to 185, and his white meat chicken to about 150. (Note: Blonder’s recommendations fall well within the range of the USDA’s recommendations for safely cooking meat.) Thermometers are especially crucial for chicken, as “too low is not safe and too high is a doorstop,” according to Blonder.

The second mistake requires a little more foresight to rectify, but it makes a big difference. For the best taste, barbecuers need to brine their steak overnight — or, if it’s a bigger cut, for a full day — before they cook it.

“You’ll see chefs throwing some salt on the meat right before they throw it on the grill, usually in porno fashion these days,” Blonder says. But ultimately that does little for the flavor of the cut. That’s because it takes about a day for salt to diffuse half an inch into a piece of meat, so salting it right before you cook it doesn’t allow time for the salt to soak into the center of the steak or chicken breast. Blonder advises the dry brining technique, with ¼ teaspoon of salt for every pound of meat — and a lot of time.

Like most of his advice, Blonder’s preferred cooking methods go against the grain, too. He likes to cook his meat on a grill in an oily pan. This way, his meat is cooked equally browned all over, instead of the cool — but not super delicious — black streaks barbecuers often aim for. He also loves a technique he calls the “warp 11” maneuver. It requires cooking the steak in a 130- degree bath, then placing it on the chimney of your grill for a quick sear. This last step is “like hitting it with a blowtorch,” Blonder says, and just two minutes on each side will give the already-cooked meat a nice all-over crisp.

While this warp speed method might sound audacious, Blonder actually advocates against showmanship. He promotes instead the virtues of patience and consistency. But not all of his fellow barbecue experts abide.

Hailed as the “Gladiator of Grilling,” Steven Raichlen is one of the pioneers of the so-called “caveman” or “cowboy”-style grilling method. It requires placing meat straight on the coals, with no rack in between the food and the heat source.

This trend has caught on among a range of chefs, including Alton Brown of the Food Network, and been taken to extremes by YouTubers who somehow have access to real, flowing lava. But Blonder’s not sold.

“It’s not crazy,” he says of Raichlen’s methods. “But the problem is, it only takes one bite of off flavor to kind of ruin the steak and I don’t think that’s a good risk to take.” Blonder will concede, however, the cool factor might make up for this potential mouthfeel misfortune. “It’s a great thing to show your guests.”

In the end, the “perfect” barbecue or grilling technique will depend on what works for you and your tastebuds.

Just promise Blonder you’ll never use lighter fluid. “Jesus Christ, that’s a crime against nature,” he says of the pointless and potentially dangerous tool. “Even if that’s what your dad taught you. “

NOAA Advises To Prepare For Above Normal Hurricane Season

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season could be above normal, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Forecasters said there could be between 11 and 17 named storms, 5 to 9 hurricanes and 2 to 4 major hurricanes.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” NOAA Climate Prediction Center forecaster Gerry Bell, Ph.D., said in a release.

Last year 5 storms that hit land, including Matthew, caused $10 billion in damage and killed 34 people in the U.S. and 551 in the Caribbean, NOAA said.

Study Finds Magic Mushrooms Are the Safest Recreational Drug

Magic mushrooms are the safest recreational drug to take, according to this year’s Global Drug Survey.

The study looked at drug users who sought emergency medical treatment. Just 0.2 percent of people who took mushrooms were hospitalized — a number five times lower than those who took MDMA, LSD and cocaine, and three times lower than people who smoked weed.

“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” said Adam Winstock, the founder of the Global Drug Survey.

He explained to The Guardian that the main danger with mushrooms is picking the wrong ones. “Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms,” Winstock said.

Now we know what the safest drug is, what’s the riskiest? Unsurprisingly, synthetic marijuana got the top spot, with every one in 30 users seeking emergency treatment. Read the full results here.

What Does It Take To Save An Injured Sea Turtle?

With every one of the seven species of sea turtle at risk of extinction, every individual turtle matters. That’s why the South Carolina Sea Turtle Care Center pours so much time and energy into rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing these beautiful and unique marine animals.

Whether it’s a swallowed fish hook, a broken shell from a shark bite, or even a collapsed lung from ships dredging the seafloor where the turtles feed, the staff is ready to jump into action and do whatever is needed to ensure the survival of their reptilian patients.

Sea turtles face a myriad of challenges for survival. If it weren’t tough enough to evade sharks and find food, sea turtles now also have to dodge fishing lines, avoid plastic marine debris and pollution, cope with the loss of nesting habitat critical to future generations, and so much more. The troubles are overwhelming, but thankfully they have a little help.

More than 200 sea turtles have been given a second chance at life thanks to the Sea Turtle Care Center, and the behind-the-scenes work is revealed in the six-part series “Sea Turtle Rescue” on Smithsonian Earth.

Smithsonian Earth streams wildlife shows to any device connected to high-speed Internet, which means you can tune in to new shows about nature on your phone, laptop or tablet device. That includes six tear-jerking-yet-inspiring episodes delving into what it takes to save a sea turtle. If you’ve ever wondered how a vet performs surgery on a sea turtle, you can witness it in Episode 1 as a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle — the smallest and most endangered of sea turtle species — is put on the operating table for a serious lung injury. Or if you’ve ever wanted to witness a sea turtle’s release back into the wild, tune in to Episode 4 and be sure to have a box of tissues at the ready.

Can the vision of a loggerhead turtle be restored with a radical eye procedure? Can a turtle with major injuries from a ship be spared with a surgery that’s never been performed before? Each of the rescues the Sea Turtle Care Center performs is nothing short of a small miracle for conservation.

The series premieres on May 23, and later in the week on May 27, the center’s new Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery is set to open. According to the center “will bring sea turtle recovery to life with state-of-the-art technology and interactive exhibits that address water quality, marine debris, plastics consumption and environmental stewardship. The aquarium will boldly tell this critical conservation story, focusing on the inspirational process of sea turtle care and rehabilitation.”

If watching the episodes inspires you to learn more, you’ll have a state-of-the-art recovery facility to visit!

Drones Disguised as Bees Could Soon Pollinate Crops

It’s no secret that bees are dying at a alarming rate, but what does that actually mean for us? Since bees are responsible for pollination, they are essential to the production of fruits and plant seeds and the consequences of their absence would be devastating to the future of food. The recent decline in bee populations worldwide are forcing scientists to evaluate how mass bee deaths will affect the global environment, and look for alternate avenues to pollination.

After learning about the bee crisis, Dr. Eijiro Miyako, a chemist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan, took it upon himself to search for solutions to the pollination problem.

When Miyako stumbled upon a sealed up, long-forgotten gel in his lab, he witnessed the gel’s ability to trap tiny particles from the floor; similarly to the way that a honeybee’s hair gathers and carries pollen. Miyako’s lucky discovery might very well lead him toward revolutionizing the future of pollination.

He immediately took an interest in the gel, going on to formulate and test his theory of artificial pollination. In one test, he coated several ants with the gel and closed them inside a box of tulips. After three days, he discovered that the ants were covered in pollen. Miyako also added light reactive compounds to the gel to help camouflage the pollinators against potential predators.

In his latest experiment, Miyako took things up a notch by using drones as pollinators in order to have better control over their whereabouts. So far, he has successfully tested one small drone by combining his gel with short horsehair and electricity to give the drone bee-like fuzz that is perfect for pollinating. In this combination, the horsehair sticks to the drone by means of the gel, and the electricity makes the horsehair stand up to better collect the pollen.

Tests performed on Japanese Lilies so far indicate that successful artificial pollination has occurred more than a third of the time. Each test brings Miyako closer to the reality of artificial pollination.

Could this revelation mean a future with fleets of drones disguised as bees using GPS and artificial intelligence to pollinate crops? Miyako certainly thinks so. Perhaps this technological reality is not as far away as we once imagined.

Scientists Say That Caffeine Has More Pain-Relieving Power Than Morphine

Coffee is full of surprises, and one more was uncovered this week by researchers from the Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). They found that coffee’s secret weapon, caffeine, and another stimulating chemical helped sleep-deprived mice deal with pain. They concluded that if we want to help people with chronic pain, we must first address with the fatigue that so many endure.

BCH neurologists and neurobiologists induced chronic sleep deprivation in mice by entertaining them with toys when they would normally be sleeping. Then, they introduced mice to different forms of pain, and measured how long it took the mice to remove themselves from the source of the negative stimulus. As the mice became more exhausted, they became more sensitive to pain and reacted more quickly.

Then the scientists treated the mice with drugs to help them deal with the pain. Instead of responding to normal pain relievers like ibuprofen or even morphine, the researchers found that mice responded best to wakefulness drugs, namely caffeine and modafinil. However, the two drugs did not have an analgesic effect in well-rested mice, confirming that they were targeting the mice’s fatigue rather than the pain itself. They wrote their result in a paper, published in the journal Nature Medicine.

ENDING THE CYCLE

“This represents a new kind of analgesic that hadn’t been considered before, one that depends on the biological state of the animal,” said Clifford Woolf, director of the Kirby Center at BCH, in an interview for a press release. “Such drugs could help disrupt the chronic pain cycle, in which pain disrupts sleep, which then promotes pain, which further disrupts sleep.”

While these results have not been demonstrated in humans yet, the researchers believe that the study underscores the importance of helping people who suffer from chronic pain get the rest they need, said BCH sleep specialist Kiran Maski.

“Many patients with chronic pain suffer from poor sleep and daytime fatigue, and some pain medications themselves can contribute to these co-morbidities,” Maski, who did not participate in the study, said in the press release. “This study suggests a novel approach to pain management that would be relatively easy to implement in clinical care.”

Research Shows Cannabis Restores Memory and Could Reverse The Aging Process

One of aging’s most obvious signs is a decrease in cognitive function and learning ability. Usually, these issues express themselves in the form of memory deficiency. While this decrease in memory retention and recall is considered normal, it is often associated with more serious disorders, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Now, a team of scientists from the University of Bonn and their colleagues from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered a potential treatment to reverse aging in the brain.

In their research, which was published in the journal Nature Medicine, the team showed how that a cannabis-based treatment successfully reversed the biological state of the brains of mice 12 months and 18 months old. This is notable, as mice age remarkably fast and serve as a viable animal model when research potential treatments in humans.

The team used two-month-old mice as a control group. The older mice were given an active ingredient in hemp called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for a period of four weeks in non-intoxicating doses. Their tests revealed that mice who received THC displayed cognitive abilities as good as the control group mice.

Meanwhile, those older mice who received a placebo displayed the usual learning capacity and memory performance appropriate to older mice. The findings that stem from this are simply remarkable. “The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals,” said researcher Andreas Zimmer, from the University of Bonn’s Institute of Molecular Psychiatry [emphasis added].

Resetting the Clock

This age-reversing effects of cannabis occur as THC imitates the effect of naturally produced cannabinoids in the body, which are crucial for some of the brain’s important functions. “With increasing age, the quantity of the cannabinoids naturally formed in the brain reduces,” Zimmer explained. “When the activity of the cannabinoid system declines, we find rapid aging in the brain.”

Furthermore, the researchers realized that cannabis reverses aging by making the brain cells in the mice younger. To this end, they saw that links between nerve cells increased and their molecular signature resembled those of young animals. “It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock,” Zimmer added.

The treatment, once tested and proven to be effective in humans, could help improve the conditions of people suffering from dementia. This disease, which affects more than 47 million people worldwide, often leads to cognitive disabilities — memory loss and behavioral disorders — that hinder a patient from performing day-to-day tasks.

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Svenja Schulze, science minister of North Rhine-Westphalia,outlines exactly how helpful this study could be for future treatment in the elderly. “The promotion of knowledge-led research is indispensable, as it is the breeding ground for all matters relating to application,” he stated in the press release. “Although there is a long path from mice to humans, I feel extremely positive about the prospect that THC could be used to treat dementia, for instance.” To that end, Zimmer and his team are now preparing for human clinical trials.

The study adds to the number of potential benefits cannabis seems to have, particularly in treating neurological disorders. That said, as has been previously noted, much of this is still early work, and more peer review research is needed on the medical effects and uses of cannabis-based treatments before they can be deployed. Moreover, these studies use carefully controlled conditions, and as a result, similar benefits are not seen in individuals who use the drug recreationally.

Exercise In A Pill? Scientists Have Evidence It Could Happen Someday

High on the wish list of technological marvels, right behind guilt-free meat and hoverboards, is a way to avoid exercise entirely and still keep yourself healthy.

Amazingly, at least according to a new study published Wednesday in Cell Metabolism, such a thing may not be so far-fetched after all.

Researchers from the California-based Salk Institute used mice to learn how they could coax the body to produce more of a protein called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta, or PPARD. Their earlier work had found that mice genetically altered to constantly pump out PPARD resembled those who regularly exercised: They could run longer, avoid weight gain, and use insulin more effectively.

This time around, the researchers enlisted normal mice raised to be sedentary coach potatoes. They dosed them with a chemical compound known to increase PPARD levels for eight weeks, and found they could get the same gym rat effect, without the need for exercise. The findings were also a bit of a redemption for the team — earlier research of theirs that used a lower dose of the chemical for a shorter time failed to get the same tantalizing results.

Compared to a group of untouched mice, the chemically-boosted mice were able to run on average 70 percent longer before becoming fully exhausted, from 160 minutes to 270 minutes.

“Exercise activates PPARD, but we’re showing that you can do the same thing without mechanical training,” said lead author Weiwei Fan, a research associate at the Institute, in a statement. “It means you can improve endurance to the equivalent level as someone in training, without all of the physical effort.”

More intriguing, from the researchers’ perspective, is how PPARD seems to boost the mice’s endurance. It triggered genes that regulated when they burned their stores of fat, as expected, but it also suppressed other genes that urged their muscles to use glucose, their main source of energy. Presuming these same effects would translate over to people, the researchers noted, that suggests PPARD tells our muscles to avoid using glucose for the sake of keeping our brain fueled. And that then forces our muscles to switch to its secondary fuel of fat, allowing us to run longer.

Another study also published in Cell Metabolism this month found that PPARD’s influence on our fitness could go even deeper.

They found that PPARD seems to help the body maintain its level of mitochondria in skeletal muscle cells, as well as increase mitochondria following exercise. Mitochondria are considered the powerhouses of the cell, since they break down nutrients to provide fuel. Our body produces fewer mitochondria as we age, scientists have found, which could help explain why people become less active as they reach middle age.

Right now, the dream of using a pill to exercise is still just that, and no single study, especially one involving mice, should raise our hopes all too much. But human trials of drugs that increase PPARD are a likely reality in the near future, the Salk researchers said. Their chemical booster could theoretically be used to help people with chronic conditions like obesity and type-2 diabetes better burn fat, for instance.

Breakup Study Reveals the Smart Way to Get Over Your Ex

It’s a universal truth that breakups blow. Whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee, the end of a relationship is a far cry from the neurochemical swirl that made you fall in love in the first place. Because we’re a long way from being able to swallow an anti-love drug to get past the pain, other self-help techniques need to be employed. Luckily for the brokenhearted, a team of neuroscientists recently published some scientific advice for dealing with the relationship blues.

In The Journal of Neuroscience, a team of psychologists and cognitive scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder show that placebo treatments aren’t just for medical studies — they can treat emotional pain, too. Testing a placebo drug on people experiencing “social pain” after getting dumped, they discovered that the placebo actually reduced that pain. In other words, faking it until you make it isn’t a terrible idea when it comes to breakups. In fact, if you convince yourself that one (hopefully healthy) thing will dull the heartache, it might actually do the job.

The researchers tested this out by recruiting 40 people who had been dumped within the past six months and asked to bring in a picture of either their ex or a platonic friend. The scientists wanted to know whether looking at photos of their ex would cause pain, and if so, whether they could trick the brain into not feeling that pain.

First, to test whether emotional pain was really pain, each participant looked at a photo of their ex while their brain activity was scanned with an MRI machine. Then, while their brains were still being scanned, varying degrees of heat were applied to participants’ arms, and they rated, on a scale, the amount of pain that they felt. Similar regions of the brain were active when people looked at pictures of their exes and when they experienced physical pain, proving to the researchers that emotional pain triggered comparable neurological activity.

Then came the placebo: Every participant was given a nasal spray, but only half the participants were told that it was a “powerful analgesic effective in reducing emotional pain.” The other half knew it was just bogus. But that didn’t matter — the study showed that the bogus spray did have an effect.

The people who thought they had a special spray to dull the pain were revealed, in subsequent MRI scans, to experience less emotional and physical pain when they looked at pictures of their exes. The placebo also increased activity in the participants’ dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls emotions.

“These findings suggest that placebo treatments reduce emotional distress by altering affective representations in frontal-brainstem systems,” write the authors.

In the past, placebos have proven to effectively convince medical patients that they’re being healed, but there hasn’t been as much evidence of the placebo effect working in social situations. This research, however, demonstrates that placebos can indeed shape emotional experiences. So, if you’re feeling raw after a breakup, take solace in knowing you can placebo your way out of a rut, lowering the chances you’ll get back together with your ex and start the painful cycle all over again.