Science Scanner: Stars Younger than Thought, E-Cigarettes Not Really a Healthier Alternative, Red Grapes Help Burn Fat

Posted February 6th, 2015 at 8:48 pm (UTC-4)
1 comment

A visualization of the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB, as detected by ESA's Planck satellite over the entire sky. ((C) ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

A visualization of the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB, as detected by ESA’s Planck satellite over the entire sky. ((C) ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

Stars Are Younger than Thought

A preliminary analysis of data gathered by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Planck mission has shown that the first stars of our universe are younger than first thought.

Scientists said data gathered by the Planck mission between 2009 and 2013 shows that the universe remained completely dark for about 550 million years after the ‘big bang’ some 13.8 billion years ago.

Previously conducted research estimated the universe’s ‘Dark Ages’ lasted between 300 to 400 million years after its creation.

Planck mission scientists have been studying the ‘cosmic microwave background’ (CMB), the primordial radiation left over from the big bang, for more than four years.

The space telescope’s data is also providing scientists with new insight into the structure of normal matter, dark matter and dark energy contained within the universe as well its age and rate of expansion.

 

Photo of a 117mm e-cigarette (Jakemaheu/Wikipedia Commons)

Photo of a 117mm e-cigarette (Jakemaheu/Wikipedia Commons)

E-Cigarettes Can Damage Lung Cells

Over the past several years, smokers have been switching from tobacco-based products to puff on the increasingly popular electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.   Some smokers see the e-cigarette as a way to help them quit smoking while others view them as a healthier alternative that helps them avoid the social stigma associated with smoking.

But new research from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that e-cigarettes aren’t such a healthy tobacco replacement after all, and that they can actually damage lung cells.

The vapors inhaled by e-cigarette smokers were found by the researchers to contain heavy metals and tiny particulate matter that can make its way farther into lung tissue, cell systems, and the blood stream.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers suggest that aerosols and flavorings found in e-cigarette vapors cause lung cell damage by creating harmful free radicals and lung tissue inflammation.

“Several leading medical groups, organizations, and scientists are concerned about the lack of restrictions and regulations for e-cigarettes,” said lead researcher Professor Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in a university press release. “Our research affirms that e-cigarettes may pose significant health risks and should be investigated further. It seems that every day a new e-cigarette product is launched without knowing the harmful health effects of these products.”

 

A glass of red wine (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

A glass of red wine (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Red Grapes Help Burn Fat

Having a hard time losing weight?  You may want add some red grape juice or wine to your diet.

A new study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests that eating dark-colored grapes, or drinking their juice or wine, can help people burn fat more efficiently. This could allow those who are severely overweight to better manage their obesity as well as metabolic ailments such as fatty liver.

Researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska found that ellagic acid – one of the chemicals found in dark-red Muscadine grapes, along with other natural chemicals – drastically slowed the growth of current fat cells and the creation of new ones, as well as improving the metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells.

“We didn’t find, and we didn’t expect to, that these compounds would improve body weight,” said Neil Shay an Oregon State University biochemist, molecular biologist and a member of the study team in a university press release. “But by boosting the burning of fat, especially in the liver, they may improve liver function in overweight people,” he said.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

One response to “Science Scanner: Stars Younger than Thought, E-Cigarettes Not Really a Healthier Alternative, Red Grapes Help Burn Fat”

  1. Barry Kfia says:

    There is no question that e-cigs may pose some health risks to nicotine addicts. So does living in an industrial city or mining town. The most important question and comparison is being disingenuously ignored, namely: is there any reason to believe that vaping e-cigs poses more of a health risk to the nicotine addict and potential second-hand inhalers than smoking regular tobacco cigarettes does? To my knowledge, the answer is no, there is absolutely no reason to believe that vaping is more harmful to nicotine addicts than smoking cigarettes. On the contrary, the general consensus of the medical community is that vaping is less harmful than smoking. And that fact should be mentioned in every article which addresses the potential risks of e-cigs. It could help save more lives than the warning on cigarette packs that “Smoking Kills.”