Medical notes this week…
A number of studies have found that people who drink diet soda end up gaining more weight than people who drink higher-calorie beverages. Now a study in the journal Current Biology explains why. Researchers say that a food’s sweet taste is just as important as its calorie count as far as your metabolism is concerned. In most foods, sweetness indicates high energy, but in artificially-sweetened foods there’s a mismatch, so the brain is confused. Diet foods trigger the metabolism to run as if the food contains many more calories.
Pregnant women who contract a fever in their first trimester have a risk of delivering a child with heart defects or facial deformities. Researchers have known of a connection for years, but didn’t know if fever itself was the cause or the virus or infection that caused it. Now a study in the journal Science Signaling concludes it’s the fever. Doctors say acetaminophen is safe for pregnant women so they shouldn’t hesitate to consider taking it to reduce fever.
And finally… science has come up with an answer as to whether cats or dogs are smarter, and the answer won’t please cat owners. A study in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy finds that dogs have significantly more neurons in their brains, the “little gray cells” associated with thinking, planning and complex behaviors. Dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons, researchers say, while cats have about 250 million. That compares with about 16 billion in people.