After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight:Contestants lost hundreds of pounds during Season 8, but gained them back. A study of their struggles helps explain why so many people fail to keep off the weight they lose.

Mr. Cahill left the show’s stage in Hollywood and flew directly to New York to start a triumphal tour of the talk shows, chatting with Jay Leno, Regis Philbin and Joy Behar. As he heard from fans all over the world, his elation knew no bounds.

But in the years since, more than 100 pounds have crept back onto his 5-foot-11 frame despite his best efforts. In fact, most of that season’s 16 contestants have regained much if not all the weight they lost so arduously. Some are even heavier now.

Yet their experiences, while a bitter personal disappointment, have been a gift to science. A study of Season 8’s contestants has yielded surprising new discoveries about the physiology of obesity that help explain why so many people struggle unsuccessfully to keep off the weight they lose.

It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.

Gina Kolata, Washington Post, May 2, 2016

The 2016 Guide to Political Predictions: How polls and prediction markets have fared so far.

Turns Out, the 2016 Polls Haven’t Been That Bad

There’s good news for those still looking to polls for insight: In our study, polls, particularly when taken in aggregate, remain a very accurate way to predict elections, and big discrepancies between polls and results are more the exception than the rule.

Of the 524 individual poll predictions collected by RealClearPolitics and HuffPost Pollster conducted within one month of a state primary or caucus, 450 of them (86 percent) correctly forecast the eventual winner. When we strip out the two biggest misses for polling this cycle, the Iowa Republican caucuses and the Michigan Democratic primary, where 33 out of 38 poll predictions missed the mark, this increases the overall accuracy rate to 92 percent.

Andre Tartar and Ben Brody, Bloomberg, May 3, 2016


How helpless babies helped make humans so smart

This may come as a surprise to anyone who has ever glimpsed a comments section, but humans are smarter than we need to be.

The answer just might have to do with how pathetic we are when we’re born. Helpless infants need smart parents to take care of them, and intelligent parents need bigger brains. But giving birth to offspring that will develop big brains is a challenge, because the mechanics of getting a big head out of a mother’s body are, well, difficult. That means babies need to be born at an earlier stage of development, before their heads get too big — when they’re even more tiny and helpless.

In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Piantadosi and his colleague Celeste Kidd modeled how this evolutionary positive feedback system could have led to runaway natural selection that resulted in absurdly smart humans (but still not smart enough to behave well on the Internet). The effect was surprisingly strong: “The comparative helplessness of the species was a stronger predictor of intelligence than almost any other factor,” Piantadosi said.

Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post, May 24, 2016

What hiring managers can learn from the NFL draft

Players who are known for having “team player” attributes — those who take rookies under their wing, who spend a lot of time watching film, who are known for spending extra time in the weight room — were picked earlier in the draft and paid more, according to a study published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

After controlling for several factors, such as physical prowess and the competitiveness of a player’s college conference, the researchers found that team-oriented behaviors were just as good at predicting success in the draft — as well as performance over their NFL careers — as how many tackles they had or passes they threw on the field.

Jena McGregor, Washington Post, April 29, 2016

The Quiet Research That Led to a Resounding Success in Diabetes Prevention

More than 86 million people, including 22 million people 65 or older, have pre-diabetes, which increases their risk of heart disease, strokes or diabetes. As we’ve watched that number grow, it has somehow felt that despite billions of dollars of research and intervention, there’s little we can do.

That feeling shifted last week when Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, announced that Medicare was planning to pay for lifestyle interventions focusing on diet and physical activity to prevent Type 2 diabetes. It’s an example of small-scale research efforts into health services that have worked and that have expanded to reach more people.

The trial was ended early because the results were so compelling. Those in the medication arm had a 31 percent reduction in the risk of developing diabetes. More important, those in the lifestyle intervention saw a 58 percent reduction in their risk. Moreover, if you were 60 or older at the beginning of the study, your reduction was 71 percent. A later meta-analysis confirmed that these results for lifestyle interventions were replicable across numerous different studies.

Aaron E. Carroll, New York Times, March 30, 2016

Hospital discharge: It’s one of the most dangerous periods for patients

Oyler’s death occurred at one of the most dangerous junctures in medical care: when patients leave the hospital. Bad coordination often plagues patients’ transition to the care of home health agencies as well as to nursing homes and other professionals charged with helping them recuperate, studies show.

Between January 2010 and July 2015, the analysis found, inspectors identified 3,016 home health agencies — nearly a quarter of all those examined by Medicare — that had inadequately reviewed or tracked medications for new patients. In some cases, nurses failed to realize that patients were taking potentially dangerous combinations of drugs, risking abnormal heart rhythms, bleeding, kidney damage and seizures.

One factor is the lack of organization and communication among these other parts of the medical system. Of the $30 billion that Congress appropriated to help shift the system to electronic medical records — to ensure better coordination of care and reduce errors across the board — none went to nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities or providers working with individuals in their homes.

Jordan Rau, Washington Post, April 29, 2016

What’s Good For The Heart Is Good For The Brain

Healthy brain GIF

The results were striking: Across all demographic groups, the people who had higher scores on the measures of cardiovascular health did better on the mental tests than those who scored low. And a check several years later of mental acuity showed that the apparent brain benefits of a heart-healthy life persisted. The higher a person’s score on “Life’s Simple 7” the better.

“When we looked at changes in their brain health over time they showed less decline in several of the brain-health domains — including better processing speed, better memory and better executive function,” Gardener says.

Patti Neighmond, NPR, May 2, 2016 

Sarcasm Spurs Creative Thinking: Although snarky comments can cause conflict, a little verbal irony also stimulates new ideas

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence,” that connoisseur of witticisms, Oscar Wilde, is said to have remarked. But not everyone shares his view. Communication experts and marriage counselors alike typically advise us to stay away from this particular form of expression. The reason is simple: sarcasm carries the poisonous sting of contempt, which can hurt others and harm relationships. By its very nature, it invites conflict.

And yet behavioral scientists Li Huang of INSEAD business school, Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University and I have found that sarcasm may also offer an unexpected psychological payoff: greater creativity. The use of sarcasm, in fact, appears to promote creativity for those on both the giving and receiving end of the exchange. Instead of avoiding snarky remarks completely, our research suggests that, used with care and in moderation, clever quips can trigger creative sparks.

Francesca Gino, Scientific American, May 1, 2016

Your Workout Data Might Be Helping Cities Build Safer Streets

A pedestrian stops to look at an automated real-time bike counter on Market Street in San Francisco.

[T]ransportation planners are turning to data from apps that cyclists and runners use to track themselves.

With the exploding popularity in bikes and many millennials’ distaste for driving, the need for better streets is gaining attention.

San Francisco has a goal to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. According to the city’s “Vision Zero” report, more than half of traffic deaths in the city are pedestrians, compared to 14 percent nationally.

Cassidy, now the spokesperson for the San Francisco Biking Coalition, says enforcement and smart engineering based on data are key to reaching that goal.

Zhai Yun Tan, NPR, May 7, 2016

Scientists Look To Insects To Diagnose The Health Of A National Park

NICHOLS: Everything we see here is an indicator of good water quality.

ROTT: This is a healthy stream. Nichols says that’s the case for most of the waterways here in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That’s not to say that all of the waterways here are healthy. There are non-native fish, pollution, acid rain caused by bad air quality.

But by and large, things are pretty good, which is one of the main reasons that streams in other largely undisturbed ecosystems in national parks like the Great Smokys (ph) are so important for researchers and scientists.

NICHOLS: It can serve as a baseline, perhaps, for other areas.

Nathan Rott, NPR, May 4, 2016