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Spacesuits – a look at their history

If you want to explore outer space, you need quite a fair bit of fancy equipment: a good ship, life support, and of course, a reliable space suit. Spacesuits aren’t just a piece of clothing astronauts wear in space — rather, a spacesuit is more like a miniature spacecraft in itself.

Image credits: NASA.

Spacesuits are festooned with life-support systems that protect the astronauts against the harsh conditions of outer space — the chic look is just a pleasant side effect. Despite multiple and different types of suits being developed over the years, they all have the same main purpose: to protect the astronauts from any harm they encounter during the expedition.

Three MAIN types of space suits are:

  • IVA (intravehicular activity) — inside a pressurized spacecraft, while ascending and descending and during inside operations;
  • EVA (extravehicular activity) — the “spacewalk” suite;
  • and IEVA (intra/extravehicular activity) — meant for both inside outside use, such as the Gemini G4C suit.

Astronauts often report the spacesuits they are compelled to wear on such expeditions as uncomfortable, but they don’t really have much of a choice: should the suit fall short, you’re toast.

Image credits: NASA.

The temperature in space can fall below -250° F and gets as hot as 250°F. So the spacesuits provide protection against extreme temperatures — but also against debris, radiations, and dust. The suits provide apposite air pressure for the astronaut and also water and oxygen for breathing in space. They essentially keep astronauts alive in the dead vacuum of space.

Spacesuit history

The very earlier concept of spacesuits came from Garett P. Serviss’ fiction novel “Edison’s conquest of Mars” in the late 19th century. This concept was further explored in the 1930s in a series of comic books. However, it was also in the early 1930s that the full pressure suits devised for extremely high altitudes made an appearance — the first real version of a spacesuit.

However, the very first actual spacesuit “Soviet SK-1” was worn by Yuri Gagarin in 1961. It weighed 20 kg (44 lb).

The SK-1 spacesuit. Image credits: Moscow Museum of Space.

With the advancements in the field of science and technology, spacesuits have undergone multiple noticeable changes – the modern ones look increasingly cool and are more efficient at the same time. We are once again standing on the verge of pristine space adventures which will eventually be gifting us with new and advanced spacesuits.

In 1946, the ‘Henry suit’ established by the US military was a partial pressure spacecraft – specialized for maintaining a healthy pressure for the human body when even at precariously high altitudes. The suit featured metal loops at the neck and wrist regions for helmet and glove attachment, essentially sealing the fully pressurized human body-shaped spacesuit.

NASA research pilot Tom Ryan snapped this self-portrait while flying NASA’s ER-2 Earth Resources aircraft on a high-altitude mission over New Mexico to check out the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) laser altimeter in April 2011.
Credits: NASA Photo / Tom Ryan

Ultimately, humans moved higher and higher in the sky, until they left Earth altogether. But space exploration wouldn’t have happened the way it did without reliable spacesuits.

The suit allows the space crew members to accomplish their tasks in the harsh environment outside the spacecraft while keeping them safe and fit. These xEMU spacesuits were worn by Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and other astronauts of Apollo missions while landing on moon fifty years ago.

The suit worn by Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Image credits: NASA.

Spacesuits also help astronauts go to the toilet… or rather, help them not go to the toilet. Astronauts wear a garment aptly called the ‘Maximum absorption garment’ (MAG), which is essentially a big adult diaper.

For a spacesuit to be considered safe and efficient, it must meet certain requirements – the most important being constant internal pressure. Lower than normal pressure accounts for greater movement while causing the increased nausea caused by decompression. Are they really multifunctional? Well, sixteen layered spacesuits are capable of performing numerous functions. The spacesuit provides oxygen for breathing, temperature control, communication techniques, movement, and fluid collection systems. Oxygen is supplied through a cord attached at one end to a backpack support system and a spacesuit at another. Lithium hydroxide canisters remove the carbon dioxide from the spacesuits.

Just some of the things that a spacesuit features. Image credits: NASA.

Spacesuits can also cause unexpected woes for astronauts. NASA called off all-woman spacewalk in March 2019 because the spacesuits available were only large-sized and suitable sized spacesuits were not accessible. But this might not be an issue for much longer.

Astronauts at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are about to get their spacesuits designed according to their individual body shapes. Using the 3D model, NASA design a modular spacesuit for astronaut which provide the astronaut with all possible movements and comfort. So, each spacesuit is now being customized fit to the size, height, and ease of the astronaut so that if a spacewalk gets terminated now, it won’t be due to the spacesuits don’t match.

Despite all these facilities provided with the spacesuits, wearing a spacesuit for too long can also cause health problems like multiple joints pain and swelling, backache etc. Having customized, sleeker suits could also reduce these problems.

The SpaceX spacesuits shared by Elon Musk in 2017. Image credits: SpaceX

The novel and unique spacesuits recently designed by NASA for Artemis expedition spacewalks are known as ‘Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit’ or xEMU.

The dawn of the Artemis mission (which aims to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024) has injected new vigor into the development of spacesuits. Boeing, SpaceX, and many others are working day and night to add to the developments in spacesuit technology to aid astronauts in security, agility, and comfort.

As our objectives become more and more ambitious (especially looking at Mars and beyond), designing better, more efficient space suits is essential. Emerging technologies liked 3D printing are already trialed for the construction and repairing of spacesuits, helping the suits keep up with the rest of our space exploration technology.

Space Suit Engineer Richard Rhodes demonstrates the Z-1 Protoype Exploration Suit in the Advanced Suit Lab in Building 34. Photo Date: November Photographer: Robert Markowitz

What are designer babies — a healthcare wonder or an ethical horror?

The very first designer baby was Adam Nash. Born in the 2000s, Nash was ‘designed’ in a petri dish in a lab to save his sister. His sister was born with Fanconi anemia, a rare and dangerous genetic disease that required a donor for her stem cell therapy. The solution devised by the parents and doctors was to conceive Nash so that the umbilical cord blood containing stem cells could be utilized to treat his sister.

During his in vitro conception, Adam was screened to make sure he didn’t have the disease and could serve as a donor. The plan worked, and Adam saved his sister, becoming the world’s first designer baby in the process. But what exactly are designer babies?

Image credits: Fé Ngô.

The term refers to an in vitro, genetically ‘designed’ baby. Genetic methods are employed to modify or alter certain genes in the baby’s genome, most often to avoid disease, but the method can in theory also be used to favor some traits like intelligence, height, gender selection, etc.

Before advancements in the fields of in vitro fertilization and genetic engineering, designer babies were considered little more than a sci-fi project. But rapid progress brought them into reality and by the early 2000s, designer babies started to trigger spirited debates regarding both the biology and the ethics of the practice.

It’s already happening

In one sense, genetically modifying a child with particular traits is already done on a fairly large scale. Couples with infertility problems have long been utilizing IVF technology to conceive, and one of the perks of IVF is screening and selection of the desired embryo prior to implantation.

For instance, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is employed to screen embryos for multiple genetic characteristics before their implantation in the mother. PGD can show whether the embryo carries genes responsible for conditions like sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis. PGD is nowadays considered a reliable method for the selection of traits.

But there’s another side to the prospect of genetically engineered IVF babies. As techniques become more advanced, they could entice would-be parents to engineer their babies. For instance, the gene-editing approach known as CRISPR-Cas9 can edit DNA with a single nucleotide precision utilizing a bacterial enzyme (Cas9). Thanks to CRISPR-Cas9 and other modern gene-editing technologies, we are now able to remove the mutated disease-causing genes – which might prove beneficial after a safety trial in humans. But going from that to actively trying to improve babies’ genetic material is just a step away.

The concept of Frankenstein’s monster still haunts people and many are against this procedure, fearing that it would lead to unnatural, engineered societies. There are strict legal restrictions on genetic alteration of the human genome in several countries. The medical research community has essentially banned the use of CRISPR-Cas9 in genome editing and human reproduction. But it’s still happening to some extent.

China has already been utilizing CRISPR-Cas9 to genetically alter unsustainable embryos. A developmental biologist of Francis Crick Institute, Kathy Niaken was granted authorization by Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to analyze the challenges faced in early developmental stages resulting in miscarriages utilizing CRISPR-Cas9.

Germline editing

Germline engineering, the process by which the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable, is even more controversial.

Even in a medical context, genome editing is sometimes regarded with criticism. Peter Mills, an assistant director of the UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics, says that since the 1970s (when innovations in the field first emerged) there is an unchanged agreement that germline alterations are off-limits. Germ-line modifications are against human decency, says UNESCO’s lead.

Michael Sandel, a member of the US President’s Council on Bioethics says that altering germ-line cells jeopardizes the ‘code of giftedness’. According to him, when we acknowledge our children the way they are, we welcome them as gifts, not as any item of our desire or product of our ambition.

Sandel juxtaposes this idea of giftedness to a parenting style he calls “Hyper-parenting”, which overlooks the talents and desires of children while pushing the child to do what satisfies the ambitions and desires of the parents. A hyper-parent will force his child into playing sports and pursuing a top university, even as the child may want to be an artist or a musician or pursue a more laid-back university.

Now, one may wonder that what hyper-parenting has to do with genetic engineering. Many parents would presumably want to modify the genome of their offspring, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are hyper-parents. But some parents would be more inclined than others to “push” their child with every means possible.

A turning point for designer babies?

The next 40-50 years will show us the direction society is ready to take for gene editing in babies, but it won’t be an easy discussion. In the long run, if designer babies become widespread, it could be a social disaster, widening gaps between the rich and the poor to unprecedented levels as the rich are able to use the technique to their advantage while the poor will not.

However, germ-line engineering can be used to tackle social injustices, by offering kids from an underprivileged background a leg up. Like any other tool, gene editing is neither good nor bad by itself — it can be both good and bad depending on how it is used.

This leads us to the scorching ethical debate about what would constitute an acceptable edit. Tampering with the predisposition for genetic diseases is one thing, but what about other physical traits? Is making an embryo more predisposed to physical prowess acceptable? Where do you draw the line? There are few clear answers.

Apart from that, gene editing is a complicated, costly, and pretty dubious way to get what others have long gotten by other means, especially by selecting an embryo containing the gene of interest. Most things you can achieve using gene editing can also be achieved by embryo selection, argues Henry Greedy, a bioethicist of Stanford University. Instead of modifying the embryo, you

Ronald Green of Dartmouth College says that due to the anonymous health perils associated with genetic engineering and lack of public trust, he anticipates a slow down for CRISPR-Cas9 applications in the coming few decades, not only for disease prevention but also for designer babies.

Ultimately, despite so much technological progress, we’re still not sure how to deal with the prospect of designer babies. For now, the risks of gene editing seem to outweigh the benefits, especially when alternatives exist. But in the future, who knows.

Testogen Review: Does This T-Booster Work?

As you grow older, certain hormonal changes take place in your body, causing you to have lowered performance levels in various areas. These are inevitable and external intervention is needed to stabilize them again. One such hormonal change that occurs in your body as you grow older is the decrease in testosterone levels in your body.

Testosterone is a hormone responsible for the development of reproductive organs, muscle, and bone mass in males. It is responsible for all masculine characteristics in men. It affects your physical, sexual, and mental well-being.

As the hormonal levels drop, you struggle to perform certain tasks more and more. These tasks could be sexual or they can be tasks needing muscle strength and mental focus.

Being unable to do these various tasks that you used to do quite well and easily before when you were younger can and does often cause fear. It can actually be downright terrifying. Self-esteem may drop dramatically and cause you to be hesitant and timid, even in the execution of small and easy tasks.

These feelings of inadequacy are not good for your morale and can, therefore, result in decreased enthusiasm for work and relationships at home. Depression can start to creep in, and if the problem is not dealt with, you can lose your family, job and end up merely existing and not living life at its optimal potential.

If you have no other underlying conditions and causes such as permanent injuries to testicles or chemotherapy for cancer treatment, do not despair.

This condition is not irreversible. Certain boosters made from harmless ingredients have been manufactured to help in increasing your testosterone levels. We will look at one called Testogen as a means of restoring your vitality and zest for life.

Who Should Use Testogen?

Testogen should be considered by any male experiencing low sex drive, fatigue, depression, increased body fat, hair loss, thin bones, lack of focus, weight gain, moodiness, and lowered energy levels.

When Testogen is used, the following improvements can be noticed within a few weeks:

  • increased sex drive
  • general lightening of mood
  • focus
  • energy, strength /stamina for tasks
  • a build-up of lean muscle
  • shedding of fat deposits in the body leading to loss of weight

If you live a life filled with depression, fatigue, weight gain, loss of libido, lack of focus, you can benefit from the use of Testogen.

Testogen is a natural testosterone booster you need to start using to enhance the quality of life, not only for yourself but for your family, employer, clients, and friends. It will restore that edge to life, which makes life worthwhile.

Testogen Overview

Testogen is an all-natural ingredient testosterone level booster that has been manufactured with aging men in mind. Research has indicated that testosterone levels in men peak at puberty and then start to drop as they age from as early, sometimes as the mid-twenties.

This is a cause of concern, and ways had to be found to restore these diminishing hormonal levels.

Testogen has been manufactured and approved in FDA facilities after extensive research and various case studies. The inclusion of zinc, magnesium and red ginseng, D-Aspartic Acid, vitamins, and other ingredients in Testogen has been proven beyond doubt that they have a very positive impact on increasing the levels of testosterone in the body.

It is a steroid-free dietary supplement and safe to use because of the natural ingredients used in it, and you can see results in a few weeks’ time if you use it according to specifications.

You will experience muscle build-up, increased libido, increased energy levels, lightening of mood, a general feeling of well-being in your body as you shed off fat and get into shape, and the need to achieve goals.

You will be able to perform tasks that require muscle strength and focus quite easily. If reviving family relationships is the goal, then Testogen will definitely be the right way to go.

Click here to Get the Best Deal on Testogen from the Official Website.

Pro & Cons

It is always wise to know the good and bad sides of any supplement before use. This can sometimes spare you life-threatening side effects or irreversible organ damage.

The following was compiled to help you make the right decision regarding the use of Testogen. 


  • increased sex drive
  • high energy levels
  • Boosts confidence and self-esteem
  • muscle strength build-up
  • increased ability to focus
  • increased motivation and competitiveness
  • burn fat easily
  • lightens mood
  • all-natural ingredients stimulate testosterone production
  • big discounts when purchasing multiple bottles
  • easy oral use
  • quick results
  • nutrition guides and free training with each purchase


  • Capsules should only be purchased from the official website for a fair deal. If you are buying elsewhere, you might not get the fair deals that are offered only on the official website.
  • Take 4 capsules at a time daily to see significant results. This may be daunting to those who are not used to taking medication.
  • Is expensive if you buy only one bottle at a time and so you are forced to buy three bottles at a time in order to benefit from the free 2 bottle bonus, they give at every purchase

Ingredients in Testogen

Magnesium (200mg)

Magnesium is a nutrient that is very important in testosterone production. It increases levels of testosterone if consumed in generous doses. Magnesium has been found to promote quality sleep as well, which is vital in testosterone production.

Because many adults do not get nearly enough quantities of this nutrient in their daily dietary consumption, Testogen comes generously fortified with it so that you get enough of it.

Fenugreek Extract 4:1 (40mg)

Fenugreek is a safe herb that has testosterone boosting seeds. High testosterone levels mean increased libido, stamina, and vitality. Fenugreek also has powerful antioxidant properties to ensure that any harmful free radicals in your body are dealt with so that your body can work at its optimal potential.

Korean Red Ginseng Extract 4:1 (40mg)

Korean Red Ginseng is a libido stimulator that is extracted from a root plant. It protects the testes from damage by dioxins, thereby assisting in strong erections. It is a well-known aphrodisiac that strengthens you physically and mentally, helping you achieve your goals.

Zinc (10mg)

Zinc is very important in the upkeep of many bodily functions. It is a well-known aphrodisiac as it is an effective testosterone booster. It is key to keeping your sperm healthy. Zinc is known to be lost through sweat, and so a generous amount of it in Testogen helps to keep your levels optimal.

D-Aspartic Acid (2352mg)

D-Aspartic Acid is an amino acid regulator that helps in the production of hormones, especially luteinizing, which stimulates the production of testosterone. 

This amino acid is said to increase testosterone production within a short space of time, and Testogen has generous amounts of it per serving than any other product. Increased testosterone levels mean an increased libido, strength, and general well-being of the body.

Nettle Leaf Extract 4:1 (40mg)

Nettle leaf has been found to bind itself to a protein called SHGB. Testosterone loves to bind itself to the same protein, which causes it to be ineffective. When nettle leaf instead binds itself to SHGB, it blocks the testosterone from doing the same and allows it to circulate into the system instead where it’s needed to perform other bodily functions.


There are quite a number of vitamins used in the production of Testogen. Vitamins are organic compounds needed by the body for normal human growth in small quantities. They are obtained through the foods we eat because the body cannot manufacture them.

Research on the relationship between testosterone production and vitamins has not yielded sufficient evidence to consolidate reports that validate vitamins as testosterone boosters. They are known merely as important compounds that are needed by the body to carry out its normal daily activities.

Click here to See the Full List of Ingredients in Testogen from the Official Website.

How Does Testogen Work?

Testogen helps increase your testosterone levels through the combined effect of the herb extracts used to manufacture it.

The main ingredients zinc, magnesium, red ginseng, and D-Aspartic Acid deal with issues of lack of sleep, dioxins that damage testes, free radicals, low and unhealthy sperm count.

Luteinizing hormone from D-Aspartic Acid stimulates Leydig cells in the testes to produce more testosterone. These extracts work effectively, counteracting these undesirables so that the body can function normally, producing the required testosterone levels, which help maintain your masculinity.

Red Ginseng helps relieve oxidative stress in blood vessels and tissues in the penis, helping to restore normal function. Magnesium helps in the contraction and relaxation of muscles, thereby helping in providing rest, which is crucial in testosterone production.

Testogen will help to give you back your masculinity by causing your body to start producing testosterone again. Increased levels will build stamina and focus on doing tasks and achieving higher goals. Fatigue, depression, and lack of interest will be a thing of the past.

Lack of sex drive, poor performance at work, and home will cease. You will begin to take an interest again in the world around you. You will have an increased sex drive and perform well in bed. A healthy sperm count can result in conception for those who are trying for a baby.

Irritability over small things will disappear. There will be general confidence in the way you handle and look at yourself as fat, and weight gain disappears, and you begin to get leaner and stronger. You will appreciate your body and others around you because a positive attitude appreciates all around it.

Click here to Learn more about How Testogen Works on the Official Site.

Benefits of Using Testogen

Testogen has a lot of benefits that outweigh the cons, and this could be considered a legitimate reason to go ahead and use it.

High Energy Levels

Testogen helps in burning fat and hence the shedding of extra weight. If you go to the gym, this will quickly help you to build muscle and stay in shape and give you a feeling of general well-being.

Muscle strength and stamina for tasks that need endurance are built, and more goals are achieved as a result. This keeps you at your peak psychologically and physically geared for even bigger tasks because of the past exploits.

Increased Libido

If sexual performance has almost come to a grinding halt, increased levels of testosterone will help you regain your prowess in bed. Sex drive is increased, and you can get stronger erections that last for much longer for both your satisfaction in bed. Confidence and stronger homes are built as a result.

Lightens Mood

Because of the increased energy levels, irritability is banished.  As your body begins to improve and you achieve more and more tasks, moodiness disappears as you get a different perspective when you look at yourself and the world in general.

The world somehow appears more colorful rather than gray, and tasks are no longer daunting and are just seen as merely challenges that need to be conquered. The need to live is ingrained even stronger in you, and you begin to enjoy life again.

High Focus

You are no longer disinterested in the world around you. Depression lifts because what you set your mind on can now achieve due to the high levels of energy you have.

You take a positive interest and can focus on achieving the desired goals. As goals are achieved, self-esteem is developed, and you can boldly confront issues headlong without feeling intimidated.

Sleep Better

When you feel strength and stamina, and you are able to achieve tasks, you are not worried about tomorrow. You feel you can handle whatever comes your way.

Worry and anxiety are a thing of the past, and so you sleep well at night. This, in turn, works better for you because sleep is important in the production of testosterone.

Click here to Learn more about the Benefits of Testogen on the Official Website.

Side Effects

Testogen is made up of all-natural herb ingredients. There are no steroid or chemical components in it. As a result, there are no known side effects to its use.

The minerals and vitamins in Testogen are compounds that your body needs from your daily dietary consumption. So, by consuming Testogen, you are not ingesting anything that is harmful or foreign to your body.

Using Testogen may help you meet some of your body’s daily mineral and vitamin needs that you are unable to get by simply eating your normal everyday food.

It is safe to use and will not harm you as long as you take only the recommended doses at prescribed times. Do not ingest more capsules than is prescribed because you are in a hurry to see results as this could harm you.

Who Should Refrain from Testogen?

Testogen should not be used by women though they do need testosterone in small amounts. Children and all boys below the age of 18 years should not use Testogen.

Dosage & Tips to Start

Before you begin using Testogen, please go and speak to your doctor if you are on any other medication. This is because certain drugs could interact with the testosterone booster causing unwanted side effects that could actually be harmful to you.

Testogen comes in bottles of 120 capsules each.

The recommended dosage is 4 capsules once every day with a glass of pure water.

You are recommended to take this 20 minutes before breakfast daily.

Where to Buy Testogen and Guarantees?

Testogen can be bought from the Official Website. They deliver free of charge around the world. You get 2 free bottles with each purchase of 3 and a free e-book to help you on your journey.

Since they offer these training materials, there is no room for errors in administering the supplement. Maximum positive results can then be experienced as directions are followed exactly.

They give you a 100- day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the product after use. You can return all unused and unopened bottles within 100 days and get a refund with no questions asked. The guarantee is applicable to purchases of over a month’s supply.       

If you try to purchase these supplements from any other dealer, you might not get the benefits of getting the two free bottles that come with the purchase of three, so it might be wiser for you to just get a month’s supply plus the 2 bonus bottles from the official website.

You might also lose your money since other dealers may not have the 100-day money-back-guarantee if you are not satisfied.

Final Thoughts

After all that has been discussed, Testogen appears to be a natural testosterone level booster that is safe and harmless to your body because of the natural ingredients that are used in its manufacture.

It only serves to enhance your body’s physiological functions that enable you to enjoy life and causes you to live life at its fullest.

Click here to Get the Best Discount on Testogen from the Official Website.

Disclaimer: Even though these products are natural, ZME Science recommends that you always consult a doctor before taking these products. 


Best Testosterone Booster Supplements [2021 List]

From increasing muscle mass to shedding pounds and improving bed performance, testosterone plays an essential role in human development and health. This hormone is also crucial for women, although the benefits are more visible to men. But sometimes, it undergoes a significant drop. Enter the testosterone booster.   

While hundreds of supplements claim to increase T-levels, only limited research was conducted to prove their efficacy. So, to avoid further confusion in finding the best testosterone booster, we compiled three of the trusted products you can use.

In this review, join us as we unveil each potent ingredient and how they can aid with testosterone and several other benefits. 

Top 3 Testosterone Boosters: A Sneak Peek 

  • Testogen – Most Powerful Testosterone Booster 
  • Testo Max – Best for Muscle Growth 
  • Testrx – Best for Men Over 40

How We Choose These Supplements

Before going into details, have us discussed first how we came up with this list of testosterone boosters. 

We have spent decent hours sifting through the internet – from several trusted websites – to find the best natural products available in the online market. 

We sorted out through numerous customer reviews, a list of ingredients, affordability, and a myriad of important data before arriving with the final list. Purchasing a testosterone booster is not cheap, and we want the right investment for you. 

Best Testosterone Booster Supplements to Buy Online

We aim to remove you from the hustle and bustle of looking for the right product, so here is what we recommend. Hopefully, with these best testosterone boosters, you can naturally achieve those optimal performance levels. 

  1. Testogen – Most Powerful Testosterone Booster

Testogen is advertised as an all-natural dietary supplement that can boost T-levels by up to 45 percent or even more. Among the proposed benefits include increasing strength, muscle mass, endurance, and stamina as well as strengthening libido and sex drive. Besides capsules, interested buyers can also get Testogen in the form of drops.

It is the creation of Wolfson Berg Limited. Berg is a reputable name in the dietary and supplement market that has been known for producing high-quality products; hence, you can also have confidence in this one. Elderly men are the core target of Testogen, although adults over 20 years old can also rely on its efficiency. 


Testogen has 11 active ingredients:

  • D-Aspartic Acid (2352mg) – can boost T-levels by 45% within a few weeks of consumption. It’s also useful in elevating sperm volume. 
  • Magnesium (200mg) – encourages good sleep while regulating nerve function, muscles, and blood sugar. 
  • Vitamin D3 (50mcg) – boosts free testosterone levels and builds stronger, healthier muscles and bones. 
  • Nettle Leaf (40mg) – works by linking itself to SHBG, therefore allowing T-level to travel profusely inside the body. Studies also show its beneficial use in maintaining the healthy function of the urinary tract and prostate. 
  • Red Ginseng (40mg) – this renowned aphrodisiac compound is known for stimulating sexual instinct. The ginseng helps to prevent testes damage and increase libido so you can have that full erection. 
  • Fenugreek (40mg) – an ayurvedic medical herb that heightens T-levels while promoting fat loss. 
  • Vitamin K1 (20mcg) – to attain complete benefits of Vitamin D, here comes Vitamin K1 that aids in its absorption. It keeps your bones healthy and in good condition besides boosting testosterone. 
  • Boron (20mg) – this essential mineral is usually found in soil and tons of food sources such as veggies. It adjusts testosterone production while at the same time reducing oestrogen hormone among women. 
  • Vitamin B6 (20mg) – talking about losing weight, Vitamin B6 has proven its efficacy time and again. It assists with breaking down, storing, and utilizing the energy obtained from body fats and carbohydrates. 
  • Zinc (10mg) – another popular aphrodisiac that’s deemed responsible for giving a significant boost to male orgasms and healthy semen counts. 
  • Bioperine (5mg) – getting the above mentioned benefits of each ingredient might seem impossible to achieve without Bioperine as one of the vital components. It makes sure you will reap the full benefits of Testogen as it boosts nutrient absorption by up to 2.5 times.

Click here to See the Full List of Ingredients in Testogen on the Official Website.

How Does Testogen Work? 

As you are aware, T-levels tend to decrease as your age adds up. It significantly lowers when you’re at a high-stress level, possibly due to work performance. Your lifestyle habits have an impact too. Testogen works by, well, increasing your testosterone but in a more natural and safe manner.  

Simply take it in a recommended dosage amount and prepare yourself for the incredible results it may bring – normally in a couple of weeks. Health benefits might start to notice, including better gym performance and improved energy. 

However, note that it may still differ from one user to another since human bodies react differently to the pills. Just be sure there are no gaps in your intake. 


  • All-natural ingredients 
  • Safe and effective formula 
  • Manufactured in an FDA-certified facility 
  • Clinically researched 
  • Increases testosterone production naturally 
  • Build muscles 
  • Remove excess fats 
  • Improve sleep pattern, mood, energy, and libido 
  • Free training and nutrition guide is included 
  • Attractive discounts for bulk packages 
  • Free international delivery 
  • 100 days money-back guarantee 


  • The price tag for buying one bottle could be somewhat pricey
  • Discounts are only available on the Official Website
  • The capsule is taken 4 times a day, which is inconvenient for some 

Who Should Buy Testogen? 

Unlike similar products, Testogen covers a wide range of consumers. If you are between 25 to 70 years old, this supplement can do wonders for your testosterone. It can be an economical replacement for therapy and injections. 

It is non-prescription, so anyone can include it in their diet without seeking medical approval. But if you’re hesitant, you can always visit a clinic and introduce the capsule to your doctor for extra assurance.

Click here to Get the Best Deal on Testogen from the Official Website.

2) Testo Max – Natural Testosterone Booster

Testomax helps improve your sexual performance. If you feel that you are not lasting a lot longer in bed, Testomax can help restore your testosterone levels to improve your sexual performance and endurance.

Aside from this, Testomax also helps with muscle growth and buildup. This testosterone booster restores your youthful strength so you can do the activities you long to do back when you are still young.

You may also notice that with aging, your testicles are deflating and have grown smaller. This effect is a common occurrence in adult men. Sperm production is not as fast as before when you were still young, so your testicles can shrink in the process.

Do not fret, however. Testosterone boosters like Testomax allow your body to produce more sperm and bring your testicle size back to normal in the process. If sperm production is one of your common concerns, you may want to check TestoMax oBoron ut. 


Below is the list of ingredients included in TestoMax to help give you insight if this testosterone booster is right for you.

We’re going to look into the ingredients that help you in achieving these benefits.

  • DAA 2352 mg – There are lots of studies that show that at least 3 grams of D-aspartic acid every day can really boost testosterone levels in men.
  • Vitamin D3 52 mcg – Vitamin D3 is another ingredient that helps with boosting testosterone level.
  • Vitamin K1 20 mcg – Helps with body’s testosterone production. 
  • Magnesium 200mg – Increases testosterone levels in sedentary and young men. 
  • Zinc 10 mg – Zinc plays an important role in boosting serum testosterone levels.
  • Ginseng Red Powder 40 mg 
  • Fenugreek Extract 40 mg 
  • Bioperine extract 95% Piperine 5 mg

How Does Testo-Max Work?

This testosterone booster helps promote the growth of your muscles. Aging can prevent you from growing any muscles despite your best effort to work out. Testo-Max helps you overcome that hurdle even with aging.

Another great benefit of Testo-Max is that it helps burn fat. The ingredients in Testo-Max help speed up your metabolism, promoting weight loss. Aging can cause you to gain weight because of slowed metabolism, so Testo-Max jumpstarts your metabolism back to normal.

Testo-Max also helps prevent diseases like osteoporosis by improving bone health. Another effect of aging is the deterioration of your bones. Testo-Max prevents the deterioration of your bones by strengthening up your bones. 


  • Increase strength levels and endurance
  • Promote muscle growth and burn fat
  • Improve bone health and lower risk of osteoporosis
  • Improve sexual performance


  • Not available in physical stores
  • Does not offer free shipping on all packages

Who Should Buy Testo-Max? 

TestoMax serves a broad range of customers. TestoMax can be a cost-effective replacement for injections and therapies. 

You don’t need a prescription for TestoMax so you can easily include it in your diet without your doctor’s approval. However, if you are uncertain, you can definitely visit a hospital and introduce TestoMax to your doctor for additional assurance. 

Click here to Get the Best Deal on Testo-Max from the Official Website.

Aging can cause multiple side effects. You can experience slowed metabolism, decreased energy levels, and weight gain. TestRX helps combat these effects while restoring the balance of your testosterone levels.

You may be experiencing a decrease in libido and sexual performance as you grow older as well, and this is one of the effects of aging. TestRx is a testosterone booster recommended for men aged forty and above, to help combat the decreased libido and sexual performance.

Aside from this, TestRx helps increase your energy levels so you can do the activities you want to do throughout the day. This testosterone supplement also helps improve your strength and endurance to help with workout sessions and daily tasks.

TestRx also has the friendliest and incredibly helpful customer service. If you have any questions or inquiries, be sure to ask them and they would gladly give you a hand. If you prefer a brand that gives excellent customer service, you may want to check TestRx out. 


  • Fenugreek Seed Extract (50% Saponins) – 300mg – Helps with increasing T-levels and it also helps with losing extra fat.
  • Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D3 boosts testosterone levels in the men’s body and builds healthier, stronger, muscles and bones. 
  • Vitamin K2 (Mk4) – 20mcg – Helps with the primary function of making more testosterone in the body. 
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hcl)
  • Magnesium (Magnesium Aspartate) – 200mg – It works by decreasing sex hormone-binding globulin and that helps with generating testosterone in the body.
  • Zinc (Zinc Monomethionine) 
  • Daa – 2300mg

How Does Testrx Work?

TestRx helps improve your sex drive and performance in bed. Increasing the levels of your testosterone can help improve sexual performance as well. Aging can cause a decrease in the sexual drive so you adding Testrx to your diet can help combat those aging effects.

Another great benefit of Testrx is that it helps lower the risk of heart illnesses. The testosterone supplement helps improve your blood oxygenation and prevent the risk of heart diseases and stroke. The supplement also helps lower your cholesterol levels. 

Another effect of aging is the loss of elasticity on your skin. You may experience loose skin and wrinkles because of aging. However, Testrx contains ingredients that can help combat that effect and bring back the elasticity of your skin. 


  • Drastically improve your testosterone levels 
  • Improves your libido and sexual performance
  • Gives you increased strength and endurance


  • Noticeable results may vary for each person

Who Should Buy Testrx?

Men with low testosterone levels are highly encouraged to use Testrx. Suitable for men who want to build strong muscles. It’s even suitable for seniors who want to improve testosterone production as a result of old age. You must stick with the recommended dose to achieve the best result. Take 2 capsules daily with water. 

Click here to Get the Best Deal on Testrx from the Official Website.

4) Prime Male – Best for Men Over 40

Another highly-reviewed testosterone boosting supplement we have tested is Prime Male. This powerful all-natural supplement is ideal for men over 40 years old. 

If you’re aiming for a 42 percent increase in your testosterone level without the likelihood of dealing with side effects, this product is worth the look. And similar to the other two supplements here, it doesn’t only address low T-level but provides overall health benefits as well. 

We can say it’s a reliable formula since all ingredients have undertaken years of research and clinical study before combining it into a single capsule. Not to mention the increasing number of satisfied users. The studies stress out that Prime Male doesn’t emit disagreeable effects when consumed by any ethnic groups or specific age. 


Prime Male consists of 12 active ingredients:

  • Vitamin D3 (5000IU) – one of the vital nutrients that has been shown to supplement testosterone levels in men, which include bioactive, total, and free. 
  • D-Aspartic Acid Calcium Chelate (1600mg) – beckons the Leydig cells to make testosterone by activating the release of luteinizing hormone. A study indicates that men who took D-aspartic acid were able to raise their testosterone by 42 percent in just 12 days. 
  • Mucuna Pruriens (300mg) – allows the brain to produce dopamine and, thus, increase T-levels. It has been linked to stress reduction and increased motivation too.  
  • Nettle Root (160mg) – aims to block and destroy the connection of SHBG to testosterone in order to promote sex hormone release. 
  • Korean Red Ginseng (120mg) – an immense potent herb that boosts libido and includes an anti-stress compound. As such, constraining the production of stress hormones. 
  • Magnesium (100mg) – works by lowering sex hormone-binding globulin, so free testosterone will be generated.
  • Luteolin (60mg) – a flavonoid that’s also present in an array of vegetables and fruits. In the formula, it is used to minimize estrogen production and restricts aromatase movement. 
  • Zinc (30mg) – T-levels and zinc are closely correlated with each other. Hence, the supplement ensures you are getting enough zinc.  
  • Bioperine (10mg) – proposes to enhance the ability of the human body to take up all nutrients. It’s known as a natural bioavailability booster. 
  • Vitamin B6 (7.5mg) – an efficient absorber of magnesium and zinc, although B6 also gives testes the signal to generate hormone through stimulating the receptors. 
  • Vitamin K2 (45mcg) – with a primary function of producing more testosterone in the body. 
  • Boron (5mg) – constrains its bond to SHBG protein and boosts T-levels by 29 percent in a minimum of sixty days. 

Click here to See the Full List of Ingredients in Prime Male on the Official Site.

How Does Prime Male Work? 

Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), and prolactin and estrogen are the three common elements that obstruct testosterone production within the human body. 

This is where Prime Male does its job. LH is an amino acid that stimulates Leydig cells to generate hormones, SHBG lowers T-levels if a higher amount of it is present in the body, while prolactin and estrogen also reduce testosterone. 

All of the ingredients work together to boost T-levels in the body. Once the pill stores in your body longer, you can see notable changes like less fatigue, increased muscle mass, improved weight loss venture, better energy, strength, enhanced cognitive capacity, an improved heart condition, and many other essential benefits. 


  • 100% all-natural ingredients 
  • Made in a facility that is approved by the FDA 
  • No moderate or severe side effects 
  • Boost testosterone levels quickly and naturally 
  • Improve muscle mass and strength 
  • Intensify levels of physical energy and performance both in the gym and bed 
  • Improve cardiovascular health & mental function 
  • Fight obesity or overweight 
  • Clinically proven formula 
  • Get generous discounts when you buy multiple bottles 
  • 90 days money-back guarantee 


  • Only available for sale on the Official Website
  • Shipping is limited to some countries 
  • A single bottle could cost you quite a dollar 
  • You should take 4 capsules every day 

Who Should Buy Prime Male? 

Unfortunately, the product is only suitable for men to ingest. As long as you are above thirty years old with no underlying condition or are not under medication, Prime Male could be an excellent aid in minimizing testosterone symptoms, including erectile dysfunction and fatigue.  

Especially for older people aged 60, it is best to improve your T-level, so you can better accomplish daily tasks with ease. Bodybuilders or individuals looking to build slender, healthy muscle mass should try it as well.

Stick with the suggested dose to reach peak results. Take four capsules regularly with either water or milk. Make sure to have a gap of four hours between each consumption. But unlike other capsules, you shouldn’t take it with an empty stomach. Combine with a snack or meal. 

Click here to Get the Best Deal on Prime Male from the Official Website.

5) TestoFuel – Best for Muscle Growth

Designed by Roar Ambition, TestoFuel is a completely natural dietary supplement that helps to increase T-levels and muscle growth. The creator claims it has only relied on scientifically proven ingredients with renowned history in medicine. 

Among the highlighted benefits are increasing sex drive, improving cognitive agility, enhancing physical strength, fast-tracking muscle growth, and improving your general wellbeing. 

Even better, it is manufactured in a cGMP and FDA approved facility. It means you can assure of its efficiency and safety once taken. It doesn’t have any form of stimulants or toxic substances, so side effects are not likely to crash you. This makes the capsule an incredible alternative to steroids or over the counter products.


Below are the 9 active ingredients that makeup TestoFuel:

  • Vitamin D3 (5000IU) – proves to be a beneficial ingredient by improving endurance level, diminishing muscle discomfort, and amplifying sex hormones. It promotes mental clarity, as well.
  • D-Aspartic Acid (2300mg) – holds accountable for maintaining two important hormones – growth and testosterone. Adding in the formula allows the substance to release the LH hormone to produce more testosterone. 
  • Magnesium (200mg) – offers several benefits, such as regulating the muscle’s energy and strength and getting a move on post-workout recovery. Magnesium additionally increases muscle mass, improves sleep pattern, and lifts T-levels. 
  • Asian Red Ginseng (100mg) – acts as a natural libido enhancer while increasing the release of adrenocorticotropic and luteinizing hormones. 
  • Fenugreek Seed (100mg) – a rich source of selenium, magnesium, and zinc. This aromatic herb aims to control SHBG to allow multiple testosterone production. 
  • Oyster Extract (100mg) – an aphrodisiac food that also works wonders for T-levels among males. Oyster extract is believed to have a higher amount of zinc, around then times than beef steak. Also deemed crucial for ensuring the health of the prostate. 
  • Vitamin K2 (18mcg) – while it is not as popular as other vitamins, K2 proves to be a good companion too when maintaining a healthy release of testosterone. It is also used in improving calcium metabolism and addressing blood clotting. 
  • Zinc (10mg) – zinc deficiency will weaken the ability of your androgen receptors, thus lowering T-levels in the bloodstream. The supplement is packed with a high dosage of zinc to increase your sex hormone naturally. It also reduces testosterone conversion to the hormone estrogen in women. 
  • Vitamin B6 (5mg) – also called pyridoxine. It will not only boost testosterone but will also reinforce general health. Your liver, skin, eyes, and hair will greatly appreciate it when you have a healthy amount of vitamin B6 in your body. 

Click here to See the Full List of Ingredients in TestoFuel on the Official Site.

How Does TestoFuel Work? 

This supplement facilitates the further release of testosterone, so you reap every opportunity to tackle basic to strenuous activities. The ingredients contained are responsible for making this happen – a powerful combination of plant extracts, vitamins, and minerals. It induces protein synthesis for developing muscles and suppresses catabolism. 

As soon as your body has an adequate amount of testosterone, expect to have more stamina, energy, strength, and libido, reduced excess weight, and improved mood. RBC production is also regulated. So, the result is a slimmer, healthier figure worth striving for. 


  • 100% natural ingredient profile 
  • Ensure safe, effective, and quick consumption
  • Backed up by research and experts 
  • Speed up muscle growth and testosterone production 
  • Improve stamina, strength, and libido 
  • Elevate mood level 
  • Promote weight loss 
  • Boost self-confidence 
  • Strengthen overall health
  • Easy to use 
  • Get discounted prices on bulk acquisitions 
  • 90 days money-back guarantee 


  • You can only purchase it from the Official Website 
  • The money-back-guarantee only applies for a three-month supply
  • The price tag is quite heavy on the pocket 
  • Results may take time 
  • Only works for a certain group of people 

Who Should Buy TestoFuel? 

Anyone can take the supplement; however, those with low T-levels are strongly encouraged to use it. Ideal for men aged 30 years and above who want to build lean muscles or suffer from fatigue and even for seniors who want to improve testosterone production as a result of old age.

And similar to Testogen and Prime Male, you need to take 4 capsules daily. Some may find this challenging to incorporate into their routine. But when consumed accordingly, it’s never impossible to increase your T-levels and get those anticipated benefits. Just swallow it along with fresh water after each meal throughout the day. 

Beginners may want to start with a low dosage first to check for any form of side effects. If there’s none, you can continue with the suggested intake alongside your natural diet plan.

Click here to Get the Best Deal on TestoFuel from the Official Website.

What Causes Low Testosterone in the Body? 

Poor lifestyle choices, aging, and stress are the common reasons why your T-levels exaggeratedly drop. However, the possible causes are as varied as what you think. 

Low testosterone occurs when the testes do not release the male sex hormone called testosterone. Men rely on it to develop bone thickness, muscle density, and reproductive and sexual function, among others. 

Low testosterone is quite common in men – targeting almost forty percent with an age bracket of 45 years old and above. But here’s the surprising part, even babies and young kids are prone to getting this condition as well. 

So, what causes it to decline? 

Normal Aging

This is mostly the core basis why your T-levels are starting to decrease and shouldn’t give you too much concern. It is called andropause or male menopause. Medical researchers indicate that approximately 20% of men over sixty, around 30% of those aged seventy, and 50% of men aged 80 suffer from testosterone deficiency as they age. You may notice a reduction in muscle strength and an increase in body fat. 


And yes, gaining weight would also mean changing hormonal levels within your body. Not only that, it exposes your body to several risks like diabetes, stroke, and heart problems. The excess fat cells could lead to low T-levels. It will start to cause some issues, including low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, and reduced libido. 

Childhood Disorders 

Perhaps you have acquired an infectious disease when you were a child. It could be mumps, HIV, or tuberculosis. This can have a long-term effect on how your testosterone is released. 

Hormone Therapy 

If you are currently taking a medication such as for treating prostate cancer, chances are your testosterone production is greatly affected too. Mainly because the cancer fuel is removed by reducing the number of hormones in your body. Your testosterone is no exception. 

Injury to the Testes 

Since the testes are not protected by the muscle and bone and just hang freely outside your body, these are susceptible to injury. Simple damage can cause a significant decrease in T-levels. So, in case you struggle with muscle loss, low sexual drive, and exhaustion, you should consider being checked as it might be causing the problem. 

Chronic Diseases

Another risk factor for a decline in testosterone is a chronic disease, whether rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, kidney, or liver. 


This is defined either by a reduction in testosterone production or the failure to release the hormone. The causes vary – from injury or ailment, genetic disorder, or malfunction of another hormonal gland. Some of the hereditary conditions include pituitary illnesses and inflammatory diseases like sarcoidosis.  

Chemotherapy or Radiation Treatment 

Undergoing radiation or chemo treatment is not really a problem, except if it damages the testes and completely interferes with the production of testosterone. Though generally, a certain prescription will be provided by a healthcare professional to supplement testosterone. 

Signs You’re Dealing with Low Testosterone 

Now that you have acquainted with why your testosterone levels drastically fall below normal, it’s time to determine the underlying signs and symptoms. 


Possibly the most common indication that your body releases low testosterone levels. Men have reported extreme weariness and reduced energy. This is why you always feel tired and yawn despite getting enough sleep. 

Loss Of Muscle And Bone Density 

Testosterone is an important element in building those abs and muscles you’ve been yearning to have. But if your T-level is lower, you might have a hard time attaining it. You may also experience bone thinning.

Decreased Sexual Desire 

Another area where testosterone plays a crucial part. It is normal to experience a reduction in libido as you step onto the next phase of your life. But if it’s due to low T, expect to deal with a more extreme drop. 

Erectile Dysfunction 

Also, maintaining or getting hard, strong erections may be close to impossible, especially if it’s coupled with anxiety or stress, smoking, and alcohol consumption. That’s because the hormone is responsible for activating brain receptors in the production of nitric oxide. This chemical allows you to get and maintain an erection.

Low Semen Volume 

Is the amount of your sperm lower than usual? A decline in T-level might be to blame. It can cause infertility, as well.

Reduced Testicle Size 

Aside from a significant drop in testicular size, your scrotum might also feel softer than it is used to.   

Build Up Body Fat

Those stored fats will cause further issues when the testosterone is experiencing a gradual waning. In some cases, men have reported dealing with a puffy breast or what they call gynecomastia – which is believed the result of the disparity between estrogen and testosterone. 

Mood Swings

If you find it easy to feel irritable even in simple things or constantly lacks focus, to the point of affecting your productivity, your testosterone might be what causes these things to occur. 

Difficulty Sleeping 

Almost everyone has trouble sleeping at some point, irrespective of having normal T-levels. But how about if you maintain a healthy routine yet still struggle from getting a sound sleep every night? That’s where your doctor should intervene to check if your insomnia or sleep apnea is primarily due to low testosterone. 

Hair Loss 

Testosterone affects hair production, so hair loss is another common indication. Men can experience balding of facial and body hair.  

Additional signs include depression, lack of interest or motivation to do certain things, and difficulty concentrating. Hot flashes likely occur as well, though it may not just become visible during menopause. 

Benefits of Using Testosterone Boosters

So, what are the effects of the supplement once stored in your body? 

More Muscles 

After all, this is the main reason why increasingly more fitness buffs, weightlifters, and athletes use a testosterone booster. It stimulates particular cellular pathways that allow muscles to expand. Your body also promotes growth hormones. 

Stronger, Healthier Bones 

Vitamin D should be credited for having developed bones as it boosts testosterone absorption while inducing bone growth simultaneously. People in their sixties to eighties would specifically benefit from this.

Improved Libido 

Finally, no more ‘pass’ moments in bed. You can have that increased sexual drive, activity, and performance for as long as you want without worrying about low semen volume or hard erection. 

Decreased Body Fat 

And talking about those stubborn fats that start to accumulate in your body, a quality testosterone booster will simplify your problem—no more issues about weight gain or obesity since those stored fats are always put to good use.

Improved Energy & Mood 

Those who continuously feel sleepy and lazy could largely benefit from taking testosterone booster as well. Improved T levels are connected to higher levels of energy and high-spirited moods. So, you always have reasons to be more productive every day.

Enhanced Cardiovascular Health 

Expect to improve the function of your blood and heart. There will be enough oxygen to maintain optimal performance as well as sufficient blood supply to your organs and muscles. 

Natural Ingredients in a Testosterone Booster 

While a certain ingredient claims to be derived from a clean and pure source, it lacks solid evidence authenticating its beneficial use. So, be wary of that. As much as possible, you want to indulge in a supplement with each ingredient carrying solid proof behind their effectiveness. 

Here are some of the recommendations from experts: 

D-Aspartic Acid 

It is a combination of two essential amino acids – L-aspartate and aspartic acid. Several studies support its ability to upsurge your natural T in just a matter of weeks. Fortunately, the three popular brands above possess such highly effective ingredients. 


Vitamins D3 and B6 are what commonly comprise most testosterone boosters. Besides improving T levels, they can aid with deep sleep. Whereas Vitamins K1 and K2 only hold limited research about their potent use. However, some studies reveal they can show promise for testosterone release and overall health.


Notable for its libido-enhancing components, Fenugreek’s primary compound (furostanolic saponins) is held responsible for a possible increase in testosterone release. It is living a hundred years already, delivering therapeutic effects with its minerals and vitamins.


The healthy benefits of ginseng are more than just being a stimulant. Your droopy T levels will experience a considerable boost once appropriately taken. The Journal of Urology conducted a study that involves more than fifty men. They consumed 900mg of Korean red ginseng, and the result was remarkable. They were able to experience improved sexual function in just 8 weeks.  


Human bodies cannot obtain the right amount of zinc; that’s why it is present in most testosterone boosters so you can sustain a higher T.

Do Testosterone Boosters Even Work? 

Yes! In fact, these booster supplements have already been tried and proven by hundreds of users worldwide. What makes them highly effective is the list of ingredients contained. 

They are organic and natural, well-received by experts in medicine, and supported by scientific studies. Plus, they are adequately dosed. 

Adding to the efficacy of each product are the creators themselves as well as the facility used for producing each bottle. The facility adheres to FDA standards and undergoes strict guidelines on sanitary and manufacturing processes. 

FAQs That You Should Know about Natural Testosterone Supplements

Are Testosterone Boosters Steroids? 

Absolutely not!

While they can help you build lean muscle and improve physical performance, testosterone boosters and steroids are entirely a different thing. Steroids are usually made of synthetic compounds that flood your bloodstream and possibly trigger side effects. 

Testosterone boosters, on the other hand, are a natural way to increase the production of your body. So, if you’re in search of a healthier alternative with minimal to zero side effects, a testosterone booster is a go-to option. 

Is It Safe to Take A Testosterone Booster? 

There are mixed opinions about this matter. Some argue about the risks or side effects associated, such as acne and headache, while others are confident in using it.

But generally, testosterone boosters are safe to take. They are composed of 100% all-natural ingredients and offer no side effects. It is important to scrutinize the list of ingredients when buying a supplement. A formula similar to our top 3 products ensures safe consumption.  

What Should I Look for in A Testosterone Booster? 

Finding the right testosterone supplement is easier said than done. A lot of factors should be taken into account, with ingredients being the most important. If possible, look for a product that doesn’t only promote increased T-levels but also support a healthy body and wellbeing. 

It should be able to facilitate nutrient absorption, regulate blood sugar, etc. Also, make sure there are no artificial or harmful substances included in the formula and that it is 100% legal to avoid possible health consequences. 

How Long Will It Take for the Testosterone Booster to Come into Effect? 

You surely don’t want to wait for several months before seeing incredible changes in your body. Testosterone boosters are not a magic pill and may take a few weeks – around 3 weeks – before you start to see the effects. Although, you have to be consistent in the dosage and intake. Missing any gaps could lengthen your waiting time. 

Are There Differences Between Testosterone and Free Testosterone? 

Yes, so don’t be confused in case. Testosterone often links itself to the components of human bodies, which we call sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Almost ninety-eight percent of testosterone that the body produces is total or bound. While the remaining two percent is called free or unbound testosterone. It binds receptors in the body cells. 

Conclusion: Should You Add Testosterone Boosters to Your Diet?

Summing it up, a testosterone booster is an excellent addition to your daily routine. Men aged 20 years and up who want to attain their maximum potential should consider using it. The most fascinating thing about the supplement? It is not only designed for improving T levels. The quality of your life is highly elevated too. Consider it as a lifestyle supplement. 

The ingredients are completely safe and natural, which saves you from the serious and costly effects of steroids and OTC products. However, do remember that it is still important to implement other pillars of a healthy lifestyle, like eating nutritious foods, having a healthy sleep, and working out, to further escalate the progress. 

In the meantime, choose your testosterone booster wisely with our top picks including Testogen, Prime Male, and TestoFuel. The best part of all: you risk nothing with the 100% money-back guarantee that these products offer. 

Disclaimer: Even though these products are natural, ZME Science recommends that you always consult a doctor before taking these products. [no_toc]

Coronavirus: the pandemic is changing our brains – here are the remedies

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

Whether you have contracted COVID-19 or not, your brain is likely to have changed over the past few months. The virus itself can cause a number of neurological problems, along with anxiety and depression. The isolation and worry caused by the pandemic can similarly alter our brain chemistry and cause mood disorders.

In our new paper, published inb Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, we have investigated how to best overcome the brain changes linked to the pandemic.

Let’s start with COVID-19 infection. In addition to mood disorders, common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, memory loss and problems with attention. There may be a number of reasons for these brain changes, including inflammation and cerebrovascular events (a syndrome caused by disruption of blood supply to the brain).

Research suggests that the virus may gain access to the brain via the forebrain’s olfactory bulb, which is important for the processing of smell. Loss of smell is a symptom in many patients with COVID-19.

As part of the system responsible for your sense of smell, the olfactory bulb sends information about smell to be further processed in other brain regions – including the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex and the hippocampus – which play a major role in emotion, learning and memory.

As well as having extensive connections to other brain regions, the olfactory bulb is rich in the chemical dopamine, which is important for pleasure, motivation and action. It may be that COVID-19 alters the levels of dopamine and other chemicals, such as serotonin and acetylcholine, in the brain, but we can’t say for sure yet. All these chemicals are known to be involved in attention, learning, memory and mood.

These changes in the brain are likely responsible for the mood, fatigue and cognitive changes that are commonly experienced by COVID-19 patients. This in turn may underlie the reported symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in patients who have contracted the virus.

But it’s not just people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus that have suffered from increased anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Excessive worry over contracting or spreading the virus to other family members, as well as isolation and loneliness, can also change our brain chemistry.

Repeated stress is a major trigger for persistent inflammation in the body, which can also affect the brain and shrink the hippocampus and therefore affect our emotions. Stress can also affect levels of brain serotonin and cortisol, which can affect our mood. Eventually, these changes can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Brain training

The good thing about the brain, however, is that it is incredibly plastic, which means it is changeable and can compensate for damage. Even serious conditions such as memory loss and depression can be improved by doing things that alter the brain function and its chemistry.

Our paper looks at promising solutions to combat symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression – in COVID-19 patients and others.

We already know that exercise and mindfulness training – techniques that help us stay in the present – are helpful when it comes to combating brain stress. Indeed, studies have shown beneficial functional and structural changes in the brain’s prefrontal cortex (involved in planning and decision making), hippocampus and amygdala following mindfulness training.

One study showed an enhanced density of grey matter – the tissue containing most of the brain’s cell bodies and a key component of the central nervous system – in the left hippocampus after eight weeks of training (in comparison to controls).

Importantly, these are all regions that are impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, gamified cognitive training can also help improve attention, memory function and increase motivation. Those who have persistent or severe mental health symptoms may require clinical evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist. In such cases, there are pharmacological and psychological treatments available, such as antidepressants or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Given that many countries haven’t completely come out of lockdown yet, and there are long delays in accessing healthcare, modern techniques such as wearable devices (activity trackers) and digital platforms (mobile apps), that can be easily integrated into daily life, are promising.

For example, activity trackers can monitor things like heart rate and sleeping patterns, indicating when the wearer may benefit from activities such as meditation, exercise or extra sleep. There are also apps that can help you reduce your stress levels yourself.

These techniques are likely be beneficial to everyone, and may help us to better promote cognitive resilience and mental health – preparing us for future critical events such as global pandemics. As a society, we need to anticipate future challenges to our brain health, cognition and wellbeing. We should be utilising these techniques in schools to promote lifelong resilience starting at an early age.The Conversation

Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, University of Cambridge; Christelle Langley, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, and Deniz Vatansever, Junior Principal Investigator, Fudan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Stella Immanuel’s theories about the relationship between demons, illness, and sex have a long history

A woman suffering the pain of cholic, illustrated by demons tugging on a rope wound around her stomach. Coloured etching after G. Cruikshank after Captain F. Marryat.

President Donald Trump has a new favorite doctor.

On July 27, the president and his son Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted a viral video featuring Dr. Stella Immanuel, in which the Houston pediatrician rejected the effectiveness of wearing face masks for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and promoted hydroxychloroquine to treat the disease.

Journalists quickly dug into Immanuel’s background and found that she’s also claimed that having sex with demons can cause illnesses like cysts and endometriosis.

These beliefs don’t come out of thin air, and she’s far from the only person who holds them.

As a scholar of biblical and apocryphal literature, I’ve researched and taught how these beliefs have deep roots in early Jewish and Christian stories – one reason they continue to persist today.

Hints of demons in the Bible

As in many religions, demons in Judaism and Christianity are often evil supernatural beings that torment people.

Although it’s difficult to find a lot of clarity about demons in the Hebrew Bible, many later interpreters have understood demons to be the explanation for the “evil spirit” that haunts King Saul in the first book of Samuel.

Another example appears in the book of Tobit. This work was composed between about 225 and 175 BCE and isn’t included in the Hebrew Bible or accepted by all Christians. But it is considered part of the Bible by religious groups like Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Beta Israel and the Assyrian Church of the East.

Tobit includes a narrative about a young woman named Sarah. Although Sarah doesn’t suffer any physical affliction, Asmodeus, the demon of lust, kills every man betrothed to her because of his desire for her.

The Christian gospels are full of stories linking demons and illness, with Jesus and several of his early followers casting out demons who afflict their victims. In one of the most prominent stories told in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus encounters a man possessed by a group of demons who call themselves “Legion” and sends them into a nearby herd of pigs who stampede off a cliff.

Demon lore spreads far and wide

Demons pervade biblical apocrypha, which are stories about biblical subjects that were never included in the canonical Bible and include various associations between demons, illness and sex.

The early Christian text “Acts of Thomas” was likely composed in the third century and became hugely popular, as it was eventually translated into Greek, Arabic and Syriac. It tells the story of the apostle Thomas’ travels to India as an early Christian missionary. Along the way, he encounters a number of obstacles, including people who have been possessed by demons.

In the fifth act, a woman comes to him and pleads for help. She tells the apostle how, one day at the baths, she encountered an old man and talked to him out of pity. But when he propositioned her for sex, she refused and left. Later that night, the demon in the guise of an old man attacked her in her sleep and raped her. Although the woman attempted to escape the demon the next day, he continued to find her and rape her every night, tormenting the woman for five years. Thomas then exorcises the demon.

Another demon story is found in the “Martyrdom of Bartholomew,” which probably dates back to the sixth century. Bartholomew also travels to India, where he finds that the inhabitants of a city worship an idol named Astaroth who has promised to heal all of their illnesses. But Astaroth is actually a demon who causes afflictions that he then pretends to cure in order to gain more followers. Bartholomew reveals the farce and performs several miracles to prove his own spiritual prowess. After forcing the demon to confess to his deceit, Bartholomew drives him into the wilderness.

Apocrypha like the “Acts of Thomas” and “Acts of Bartholomew” were popular in the medieval period, and even those who couldn’t read or write knew these stories. They also helped fuel the “witch craze” of the 16th and 17th centuries, in which zealous Christian leaders persecuted and killed thousands of people – mainly women – for their beliefs, often concocting claims that they consorted with demons.

Beliefs that persist today

It’s clear that Immanuel has profited from her beliefs in the supernatural, especially in right-wing and religious circles. She has over 9,000 followers on Facebook and over 94,000 on Twitter, with a dedicated platform as a pastor. In fact, she casts herself as a prophet and destroyer of demons.

It isn’t difficult to find other modern Christians who connect demons, sex and health issues. The conservative Christian magazine Charisma published a story claiming that sex with demons causes homosexuality. And researchers recently were able to show that belief in supernatural evil could predict negative attitudes toward abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, extramarital sex and pornography.

Meanwhile, many evangelical Americans believe that Trump is God’s chosen one, who has been tasked with fighting actual demons. Trump’s personal minister, Paula White, is just one conservative figure known to espouse these views.

If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has shown how many on the religious right continue to rely on faith over science. Studies have already emerged showing how the tension between faith and science has influenced many conservative Christians to resist the use of masks and other public health responses to the pandemic.

With many conservative Christians sharing some of the same views about demons as Immanuel – and conservative Christians forming a core base of support for the president – Trump’s promotion of the doctor’s beliefs makes perfect sense.

He’s preaching to the choir.

Brandon W. Hawk, Associate Professor of English, Rhode Island College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Using antibacterial agents in the COVID-19 era may promote antimicrobial resistance.

What was your reaction when you realized that COVID-19 was ravaging the world? Did you ignore it at first until you saw what happened in Italy?

Many people and governments had this exact type of response. It seems that dealing with a novel virus disoriented everyone, even as we were seeing the damage being done in other places. The extent of the problem became clearly visible as Italy and other European countries started having higher cases of infections. Eventually, COVID-19 was listed as a pandemic and this made it clear to everyone that COVID-19 is a serious disease.

What followed was a panic response. Everyone kept wondering what they were supposed to do to remain safe and free from the virus. One of the things that stood out for me was the discussion and panic buying of antibacterial agents, which was further amplified on social media.

As a microbiologist, this was astonishing.

Colorized E. coli. Image credits: NIAID.

Why are we focusing on antibacterial agents when we are dealing with a virus? Haven’t we had a lengthy discussion about antimicrobial resistance and the resulting challenges that antibacterial agents pose to this problem?

Looking at Google Trends, I realized that there has been an increase in search interest for ‘antibacterial agents’ from February and the peak was in March. Globally, people were searching for antibacterial options that would keep them safe from the virus.

There was also a search interest in ‘how to make antibacterial hand soap’ which might reflect the initiative that people might have taken at home. This is a risky scenario that might promote antimicrobial resistance.

So what’s happening?

Image via Google Trends.

First, what are antimicrobials?

Antimicrobials are agents that can either kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. The discovery of Tetracycline (by Paul Ehrlich) and Penicillin (by Alexander Fleming) as antimicrobial agents set the foundation for research into these agents.

Depending on the nature of antimicrobials, some agents are effective towards bacteria (antibacterial), fungi (antifungal), and viruses (antiviral). There is a common misconception that antimicrobial agents are effective against all microorganisms but this is not the case. For example, antibacterial agents are not effective against viruses.

At the moment, there are a variety of antimicrobials that have a wide scope of applications in hospital and healthcare settings, industrial settings, cleaning products, and pesticides.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics).”

Microorganisms continue to evolve as they strive to adapt to their environment. Since antimicrobials either kills or inhibits growth, microorganisms respond to environmental changes (through evolution), which can lead to antimicrobial resistance.

This occurs due to the presence of resistance genes that help the bacteria to withstand or avoid the action of antimicrobial agents and thereby creating resistance. Furthermore, mutations of microorganisms during replication and gene transfer can also lead to resistance.

Here’s how antibacterial resistance can develop:

Exposure of bacteria to antimicrobials shows that there are two populations of the bacteria (non-resistant that die after exposure and the drug-resistant one that withstands the drug and continues to multiply).

Photo Credit: NIAID

Exposure of bacteria to antimicrobials leads to mutation of the bacteria. Some of the mutants will withstand the treatment and continue to grow leading to resistance.

Photo Credit: NIAID

When different species of bacteria interact, gene transfer can take place. If some of the genes being transferred are resistant to antimicrobials, then resistance can also be transferred to other species.

Photo Credit: NIAID

We’re making it worse

Microbial evolution is accelerated by the inappropriate use of antimicrobials. Prescription of antibiotics when not needed and failure to take a full dose creates room for the evolution of microorganisms. Furthermore, hospitals form suitable breeding for resistant microbes due to the availability of a wide range of antimicrobials. This leads to the proliferation of resistant microorganisms.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest and most challenging healthcare problems in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and more than 35,000 people die.” This scenario is prevalent worldwide — and in the COVID-19 era, that’s even more pressing.

There are two main reasons why using antibacterial agents in the COVID-19 era is problematic. Firstly, antibacterial agents work against bacteria, not viruses. Secondly, the inappropriate use of antimicrobials may create a suitable ground for the development of bacterial resistance for these agents.

According to the US Food and Drug Association (FDA), “…there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health.”

This should be a wakeup call to all of us now and in the future. We should desist from using antibacterial agents especially in such cases where water and soap serve the purpose.

How antibacterial agents can contribute to antimicrobial resistance

The main challenge with this pandemic is that we don’t know when it’s going to come to an end. We have to wait for a vaccine and/or the availability of a treatment option to curb the menace. Until then, we might continue upholding health measures that are in place.

According to the Medical Futurist, there are some new habits that we have adopted in the COVID-19 era which might continue post-COVID-19.

“Awareness for personal and public hygiene measures saw a surge thanks to the contagion. Health authorities are advocating for regular handwashing with soap for at least 20 seconds. Social distancing measures are in place. People are getting used to wearing facemasks for grocery shopping. These new-formed habits could linger way after lockdowns are lifted, leading to overall better hygiene.”

This is a good thing and it might be encouraging to see improved personal and public hygiene. However, the reverse is also true. If wrong measures persist, then we can expect to see negative outcomes. This would be the case for some antibacterial agents. Although antibacterial soaps are banned in the US, we should be concerned that there was interest in ‘how to make antibacterial hand soap’ especially when done at the household level. Personal measures and activities should be guided by science and they should be based on the recommendations that have been put in place by reputable organizations such as CDC and WHO.

Alcohol-based alternatives especially for sanitizers are the recommended antimicrobial agents and those should continue to be used.

Using cleaning substances containing antimicrobial agents such as triclosan may be detrimental in the long run. According to the US FDA, the detrimental effects of triclosan have been established. In particular, bacterial resistance has been documented.

“Laboratory studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Some data shows this resistance may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments, such as antibiotics.”

Other antibacterial agents should also be looked at in the same lenses as triclosan. The ability of microorganisms to adapt and change through evolution should guide us while handling antibacterial agents. To achieve this, consumer awareness is vital as this would lead to the avoidance of these substances. They tend to give a false sense of security which further aggravates the problem. Consumers should evaluate the ingredients that are used to make antimicrobial-based products as well as seek medical advice before using them.

Running water and soap is enough

To some, using ordinary soap and running water to clean hands does not sound effective enough. This is farther from the truth. One of the health measures that was provided was using clean running water and soap to clean hands. Although soap does not kill microorganisms, it is highly effective in germ removal from hands. This is the main reason why the use of soap and running water is advocated for.

Since we live in a digital age, misinformation can lead people to take actions that they deem fit even when they are not. This explains why people were searching for antibacterial agents. To avoid these scenarios, consumers should seek advice from reputable organizations such as the CDC and WHO. We have seen that antibacterial agents do not confer additional benefits compared to running water and soap. Furthermore, these substances increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance and the best way forward should be to avoid these agents.

This is a guest article by Asaph Kuria.

Why don’t we hear about the low number of coronavirus deaths in Central Europe?

Jan Culik, University of Glasgow and Mirna Solic, University of Glasgow

While the English language media gushes over how successful New Zealand has been in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it has largely failed to report on another part of the world where both infection rates and fatalities remain low.

Image credits: Nicole Baster.

Significant success stories in Central Europe are being overlooked. Slovakia, home to 5 million people, has so far had only 28 COVID-19 deaths and only 1,607 infections. That’s five deaths per million inhabitants – New Zealand has had four per million inhabitants. The UK has had 628 deaths per million inhabitants, Spain 606, Italy 573 and France 455.

The statistics in some of the other Central European countries have been just as stunning. Croatia has had 26 deaths per million inhabitants, the Czech Republic 32 and Poland 37.

New Zealand has been consistently praised for its “swift and stringent lockdown” approach. The English speaking media is concentrating almost exclusively on the highly successful “test and trace” policy of New Zealand, which made it possible for that country to declare, perhaps slightly prematurely, the end of the pandemic on June 8.

But the Central European countries also quickly implemented the same approach extremely early. For instance, the Czech Republic imposed a total lockdown on March 15, when there were just 293 infections in the country.. On March 18 it ordered the population to wear masks. Testing has been freely available from the very beginning, international travel suspended, and travellers requested to self-isolate for 14 days.

In Croatia, the government daily briefing includes detailed information on the national test, trace and isolate strategy. The public is informed about the exact locations of positive cases, how many people were tested and how many contacts were placed in isolation as a result. This has been happening since the first patient was tracked at the end of February. Like New Zealand, Croatia also announced reaching zero cases on June 11. Some local outbreaks followed, but the death rate remains low.

But in the English-language media, Central European success has been notably under reported. When it has been the subject of coverage, some long-circulating cultural and geopolitical tropes are evident. Stereotypes about the history of Central Europe continue to shape how the region is viewed by the rest of the world. It is regularly depicted as suffering from continuous hardship and as being blighted by authoritarianism.

For example the headline of a recent New York Times article described how “Europe’s battle-hardened nations show resilience in virus fight” and explained how Croatia managed the pandemic successfully because of “tough recent experiences of war”.

References to wars (in Croatia’s case the 1990s War of Independence) are not a novelty in reporting Covid-19. But characterising Croatia as being defined by a war that ended a long time ago is one dimensional and patronising.

Xenophobic clichés

Central Europe is written about as though it is a region in a permanent state of crisis. That has been particularly jarring at a time when the whole world is in a state of crisis, and these countries actually seem to be handling it better than many others. The stereotypes the New York Times article enlists, such as the region’s experience of traumatic events, hardship, and passive suffering, are all too well known to scholars of the area.

Instead of focusing on themes of collective suffering, perhaps more media should look more closely at the public health systems in operation in Central Europe. Early research indicates these nations should be credited for a successful response to the pandemic.

Another kind of cultural stereotyping is at play too – that people in Central Europe are xenophobic. A recent article on Euroactiv Fondation argues that in those countries citizens are more “disciplined” and have taken on the virus in the same manner in which they “have staunchly opposed migration, as if the ‘aliens’ would destroy their societies in the manner of science-fiction movies. Eastern Europeans, in general, fail to understand the Western laissez-faire”.

It is never suggested that New Zealand introduced strict border closures because of some kind of innate underlying racism. But media coverage in general has a tendency to feed into an overall negative image of Eastern Europe as being guilty of precisely that.

Historical distortions have been playing a prominent role in reporting the coronavirus crisis. It is a shame that there seems to be so little information about what is really happening in Eastern Europe at a moment when every nation is looking to learn from each other’s successes and failures in dealing with this shared crisis. For this reason we need more coverage in English language media of what has happened in Central Europe.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Thousands of women have run out of tampons and pads under lockdown – time to talk about sustainable period products

Supriya Garikipati, University of Liverpool

To many people, this is a luxury. Image via Wiki Commons.

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered what has been described as a “sanitary pad crisis” in India. Priya, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, considers herself lucky: her parents can still afford pads. But several of her friends will have to go without. In some parts of India, schools are a critical part of the supply chain, providing a pack of pads to girls each month. With them closed, along with other supply chain issues, as few as 15% of girls had access to sanitary pads during the lockdown.

This is not only the case in India. Women in Fiji, the US, UK and other parts of the world have also reported severe supply shortages and hiked up prices for disposable menstrual products.

But in India, where I have spent much of the last few years researching how women choose to manage their periods, shortages are particularly severe. The situation escalated quickly as India went into an sudden and complete lockdown on March 24. This put an immediate stop to the monthly supply of pads that millions of adolescent girls received via their schools. The production of sanitary pads also came to a screeching halt for seven days, which lead to stockouts in several locations.

Pads were reclassified as essential items eligible for supply chain operations on March 30 but even now supplies have not resumed to normal levels in many places. Safa India, an NGO I work with, is busy teaching women how to make cloth pads at home. And several large charities, like KGNMT, have started distributing reusable pad kits to vulnerable women.

Women in India mainly use disposable pads or traditional cloth to manage their periods. The past decade has seen the government campaigning hard for women to use disposable pads, putting across the message that disposable pads are the only hygienic way to manage menstruation. They did so to encourage women to transition away from the use of traditional cloth, which was seen as difficult to maintain hygienically. But little has been done to create awareness of other, cheaper, more sustainable alternatives, such as menstrual cups and reusable pads.

I set out to investigate this – to find out what Indian women know about their options to manage periods, and whether giving them more information would change their approach. I found that their knowledge about other available options to manage periods is severely lacking, and that giving women more information created more demand for sustainable products like menstrual cups and reusable pads – products that would have been impervious to the shortages many women experienced under lockdown.

Good menstrual hygiene is so much more than just access to sanitary products – water, toilets and equitable gender norms also matter – but they are essential in the management of periods and current practises are far from sustainable.

Menstrual history

But first, how did disposable pads come to dominate the Indian market?

Disposable sanitary pads and tampons may seem indispensable today but they have been around for fewer than 100 years. Until the turn of the 20th century, women simply bled into their clothes or, where they could afford it, shaped scraps of cloth or other absorbents like bark or hay into a pad or tampon-like object.

Commercial disposable pads first made an appearance in 1921, when Kotex invented cellucotton, a super-absorbent material used as medical bandaging during the first world war. Nurses started to use it as sanitary pads, while some female athletes gravitated towards the idea of using them as tampons. These ideas stuck and the era of disposable menstrual products began. As more women joined the workforce, demand for disposables started to increase in the US and UK and by the end of the second world war, this change in habit was fully established.

A 1920 Kotex ad. Wikimedia Commons

Marketing campaigns helped further this demand by leaning heavily into the idea that using disposables freed women from the “oppressive old ways”, making them “modern and efficient”. Of course, the profit incentives were considerable. Disposables locked women into a cycle of monthly purchases that would last for several decades.

The technological advances in flexible plastics over the 1960s and 70s soon saw disposable sanitary pads and tampons become more leakproof and user friendly as plastic backsheets and plastic applicators were introduced into their designs. As these products became more efficient in “hiding” menstrual blood and woman’s “shame”, their appeal and ubiquity increased.

Most of the initial market for disposables was limited to the west. But in the 1980s some of the larger companies, recognizing the market’s vast potential, started selling disposables to women in developing countries. They received a considerable boost when in the early to mid-2000s concerns around the menstrual health of girls and women in these countries saw a swift public policy push for the take up of sanitary pads. Public health initiatives across many of these countries began to distribute subsidized or free disposable pads. Pads were largely preferred over tampons because of the patriarchal taboos against vaginal insertion that prevail in many cultures.

Tampons were largely shunned in India, due to patriarchal taboos.

As demand for disposable products has risen, so have the concerns over the sustainability of these products. With around 2 billion girls and women of menstruating age, the potential global menstrual waste burden can be significant indeed. The UK alone generates 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste every year. Much of this waste ends up in landfills or in the oceans where the plastic and other non-compostable material in these products takes hundreds of years to decompose.

And that’s not to mention the supply chain issues that disposable products heighten.

Sustainable alternatives

Even before COVID-19 imposed urgency around this issue, emerging environmental consciousness of menstrual waste resulted in an increase in a range of reliable and sustainable sanitary products available to women. While small-scale innovations have existed for a while, these alternatives only took off in the early 2000s when big manufacturers such as GladRags and Mooncup entered the market. The two main sustainable product lines on offer are reusable cloth pads and the menstrual cup. The low lifecycle cost of these products also make them a much cheaper alternative to disposables. For example, menstrual cups are estimated to have less than 1.5% of the environmental impact of disposables at 10% of the cost.

Cloth pads mimic what women used historically and so are easy to adopt. Some have a foldable shape that does not resemble a pad when drying, like Lilypads. Some, like Safepad, have an antimicrobial top layer for improved hygiene. They typically last for 12 to 24 months. Most are biodegradable. Lifecycle costs are significantly lower than disposable pads and they are easier to manage when compared to traditional cloth, although hygienic use still requires commitment to washing and drying. Around 12% of women in the UK are estimated to use reusable cloth pads. Ranges of “period pants” are also now on the market: underwear that absorbs menstrual blood and can then be washed normally and reused.

Menstrual cups, meanwhile, are flexible bell-shaped receptacles that collect blood (rather than absorb) and need insertion like tampons. In 2001, the most recognisable brand, Mooncup, started using medical grade silicone – a non-porous material resistant to bacteria – in its manufacturing. A single silicone cup can reportedly last for up to ten years and are very popular) among users. This clearly has huge implications for waste management. In 2018, the global menstrual cups market was estimated at US$1.2 billion and is expected to reach US$1.89 billion by 2026.

Although the markets for these products are growing, much of the focus of these companies has been on the west (echoing the initial phases for disposable pads). But clearly these products promise much for women in poorer regions of the world because they are a much cheaper and environmentally friendly alternative to disposable pads.

India’s menstrual health

I wanted to find out how much awareness there is of such products beyond the west, and how popular they would likely be if they were available. India is home to 20% of the world’s menstruating girls and women and was a good place to look for answers. Despite the prevalent cultural norms that prevent women from openly talking about periods, around 300 women from ten slum dwellings in the city of Hyderabad agreed to talk to my team and participate in our experiment.

Around 80% of the women we talked to during our fieldwork used disposable pads, and none of them were aware of the more sustainable options.

This is unsurprising. Since 2011, the Indian government has campaigned for women to use them. This policy goal can be traced back to the NGO Plan India reported that just 12% of Indian women could access sanitary pads. This raised concerns around the challenges women using traditional solutions could be facing in maintaining their menstrual hygiene and personal dignity. Traditional cloth is seen as unhygienic. While cloth is a hygienic menstrual solution, it requires adequate washing and drying, which is difficult to achieve in a country where taboos about menstrual blood are prevalent.

These concerns led the government of India to design national guidelines and strategies for the adoption of good hygiene. Above all, it favoured free or discounted distribution of disposable sanitary pads. This was seen as a tangible use of taxpayers’ money. It was also easy to piggyback on the marketing success of private companies that had already created public awareness and aspiration for pads.

Cheap commercial variants, government efforts and private philanthropy combined to cause a rapid surge in demand for sanitary pads. In less than five years, 2015-16’s National Family Health Survey reported pad users to have quintupled to 58%, with rural users at 48% and urban users at 78%. Meanwhile, public menstrual health campaigns remain totally silent on other reusable options.

Soiled sanitary pads end up in open gutters around slums, Hyderabad, India. © Supriya, Author provided

The other 20% of the women we spoke to used traditional cloth, but the aspiration to switch to pad for the promised comfort and convenience was high. Affordability of pads was the main barrier to switching. We came across cases where women were prepared to give up essentials to be able to buy pads or bought pads for their daughters but not for themselves.

Many women, both cloth and pad users, consider cloth to be unhygienic. At the root of this belief are the myths and taboos that limit women’s ability to wash and dry cloth in a hygienic way. Many do not have access to private washing facilities and choose not to dry cloth under open sunlight for the humiliation of being seen by male members of the family and outsiders. Women tend to dry their menstrual cloth indoors, concealed in closets and hidden under mattresses. Such practices render the cloth unhygienic and contribute to the belief that cloth is inferior to pad. But we also found unhygienic practices among the pad users – it was common practice to use the same pad for the whole day or to use it on two consecutive days if the flow was light.

The general culture of silence around periods meant that women did not feel comfortable seeking information from better informed people (health workers, teachers) and ended up believing what they are told by women in the family and friends. Although it was common for women to have had some schooling and for younger girls to have studied in college with some attending university, we found that formal education made little difference to beliefs about menstrual products. A college student who participated in our study told us that “cloth was bad because my aunt’s friend became infertile because of it”.

What happens to the used pads?

The vast majority of the women in our study threw their pads out with routine waste. It is also common to see soiled pads floating in open streams and gutters next to dwellings. In focus group discussions, women told us about how they discarded soiled pads in the waterways close to their homes as it was the most convenient way of disposing it. Participants in their late twenties told us:

We have a huge river behind us, the pad will just flow away with it.

I wrap it [used pad] in a plastic bag, before throwing it in the river, how can I throw it just like that?

Much of the wet waste sifting in India is done by sanitation workers manually. We spoke to some sanitation workers involved in this work. One of them, speaking about his experience with sifting used sanitary pads from other waste, told us: “When I handle this mess, I feel my life is cursed.”

The plight of sanitation workers and the growing concerns around sanitary waste in cities has led the government to commission small-scale incinerators for schools, hospitals and government offices. These efforts are being scaled up despite high emissions associated with use of such incinerators.

While there is no concerted public effort towards informing women about sustainable alternatives, there are several small initiatives. Particularly noteworthy is the menstrual cup initiative by the government of Kerala. Launched in 2019, the Thinkal project distributed 5,000 menstrual cups free of charge to women from the municipality of Alappuzha. The idea emerged out of the devastation caused by floods in 2018, where women in the relief camps faced a massive problem with the disposal of their sanitary pads.

Other initiatives, mainly by small private enterprises, have come up with a variety of innovations like Uger’s and EcoFemme’s versions of reusable cloth pads, also teaching women how to make their own pads and Anandi’s compostable pad which needs deep burial and is hence better suited for rural areas. But without the backing of government policy and funding, these efforts remain small and sporadic and have little overall impact on knowledge and consumer behaviour.

The women who spoke to us during the fieldwork got their information on menstrual products from TV adverts and billboards. Other than traditional cloth and disposable pads, little was known about other menstrual products. None of the women had heard of commercially made reusable cloth pads or of menstrual cups.

We wanted to find out whether women’s choice of menstrual products would change if they knew more about other alternatives to hygienically manage their periods.

Informing women

We decided to test this question with women from our study. We began by giving women complete and unbiased information on the entire range of menstrual alternatives, including compostable and traditional disposable pads, reusable cloth pads, tampons and menstrual cups. For each menstrual product they were informed of the pros and cons, including costs, hygienic use and implications for waste management. Then, some of the women were given a supply of disposable pads, others were given a supply of reusable cloth pads and the rest were given nothing.

We also wanted to test menstrual cups, but deep-seated patriarchal taboos against vaginal insertion meant that we could not secure approval from partner organisations in India who were worried about community acceptance. While we were disappointed at this, it also firmed up our resolve to understand the role of informed choice in women’s preferences for menstrual products.

We followed up with 277 women to find out about changes in their attitudes and preferences for menstrual products. Knowledge of menstrual materials and understanding of hygienic use was up significantly across all groups. Preference for sustainable menstrual materials also went up in all groups, with a 24% increase overall. But the cloth and the information only groups saw a much greater increase (37%) when compared to the group that received disposable pads (9%).

This suggests that receiving disposable pads may have reinforced the original belief that “pad is best”, causing women in the pad group to ignore the information given about alternative menstrual materials. It is also possible that these women valued the convenience offered by disposables over other products.

Several women in the cloth and information groups expressed an interest in learning more about alternatives to pads, especially about menstrual cups, as little was known about these, and gave suggestions on how information could be shared:

Someone should tell us no? Such group discussions, teachers, government … they can put posters.

I feel I could use a menstrual cup.

These testimonials suggest that, despite the taboos associated with vaginal insertion in India, women are willing to experiment with such products. The results of Kerala’s cup trial will inform the future of this product in India and are worth watching out for.

The menstrual cup (middle) has emerged as a promising alternative.

The future of menstrual materials

What does this mean for the future of menstrual management in India and elsewhere? This question is even more relevant now as COVID-19 exposes the vulnerabilities of global supply chains, with shortages in sanitary pad supplies emerging as a particular concern.

The menstrual product landscape has evolved considerably in the last few years and new sustainable innovations continue to emerge. But if women have information about and access to just disposable sanitary pads, then the demand for this alone will continue to increase – but not necessarily in an informed or hygienic way. The silence around alternatives continues largely because of social taboos surrounding menstruation which makes discussing talking about it difficult for everyone involved.

The dominance of disposable pads, meanwhile, is driven by companies motivated by profits and this hegemony continues as policymakers, community stakeholders and women watch in silence, not knowing the real cost of pads or of the availability of alternatives. The only way to reverse women and public health initiatives choosing disposable pads is to provide complete and unbiased information on the full range of menstrual materials.

Despite the general caution attached to studies with small sample sizes, our results suggest that as a policy tool, informed choice has the potential to steer the menstrual product market in a sustainable direction. If given comprehensive information on all available menstrual products, women are likely to make a choice that considers not only costs to themselves and their health but also costs to the environment. Increase in demand for a range of products, including sustainable alternatives, is likely to incentivise the markets into improving availability and access to these.

Breaking the silence around menstruation is the key to a future where there is “period equity” – where every woman in every situation, pandemic or not, has the ability to hygienically and sustainably manage her periods.

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Supriya Garikipati, Associate Professor in Development Economics, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Avoiding single-use plastic was becoming normal, until coronavirus. Here’s how we can return to good habits

Kim Borg, Monash University; Jim Curtis, Monash University, and Jo Lindsay, Monash University

As COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, we’re unlikely to return to our previous behaviours, from our work-life balance to maintaining good hygiene.

But there are downsides to this new normal, particularly when it comes to hygiene concerns, which have led to an increase in an environmental scourge we were finally starting to get on top of: single-use plastics.

Image credits: Hamza Javaid.

We’ve recently published research based on data collected in mid-2019 (before COVID-19). Our findings showed that not only were people avoiding single-use plastics most of the time, but one of the biggest motivators was knowing others were avoiding them too. Avoidance was becoming normal.

But then COVID-19 changed the game. Since the pandemic started, there has been a significant increase in plastic waste, such as medical waste from protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns, and increased purchases of sanitary products such as disposable wipes and liquid soap.

The good news is we can return to our plastic-avoiding habits. It just might look a little a different.

Avoidance was more normal than we realised

In our representative survey of 1,001 Victorians, we asked people about their behaviours and beliefs around four single-use plastic items: bags, straws, coffee cups and take-away containers.

We found people’s beliefs about how often others were avoiding these items was one of the strongest predictors of their own intentions.

Other influences that predicted intentions included personal confidence, the perceived self and environmental benefits and financial costs associated with avoidance, and whether others would approve or disapprove of the behaviour.

While beliefs about other peoples’ behaviour was one of the strongest predictors of intentions, there was still a gap between these beliefs and reported behaviour.

On average, 70% of our sample reported avoiding single-use plastics most of the time. But only 30% believed others were avoiding them as often.

Thankfully, our findings suggest we can encourage more people to avoid single-use plastics more often by sharing the news that most people are doing it already. The bad news is that COVID-19 has increased our reliance on single-use items.

Individual action can go a long way with plastic. Image credits: Jonathan Chng

Some single-use is necessary during a pandemic

Just when avoidance was becoming normal, the pandemic brought single-use plastics back into favour.

Despite the fact the virus survives longer on plastic compared to other surfaces and a lack of evidence that disposable items are any safer than reusable ones, many businesses are refusing to accept reusable containers, such as coffee cups.

Overseas and in Australia, some government departments delayed upcoming bans on single-use plastics and others overturned existing single-use plastic bag bans.

So even if consumers want to avoid single-use plastics, it’s not as easy as it used to be.

Avoiding plastic can still be part of the new normal

It is still possible to avoid unnecessary single-use plastic right now. We just need to get creative and focus on items within our control.

We can still pack shopping in reusable bags, make a coffee at home in a reusable cup, carry reusable straws when we go out – just make sure to wash reusables between each use.

Many Victorians can even order delivery take-away food in reusable containers, thanks to the partnership between Deliveroo and Returnr, the reusable packaging scheme. Boomerang Alliance also produced guidelines for sustainable take-away options, including practical tips for contactless transfer of food.

Our research focused on public single-use plastic avoidance behaviours, but now is a good time to look at private ones too.

There are plenty of single-use plastics in the home: cling wrap, coffee pods, shampoo and conditioner bottles, disposable razors and liquid soap dispensers to name a few.

But you can find reusable alternatives for almost everything: beeswax or silicone wraps, reusable coffee pods, shampoo and conditioner bars, reusable safety razors and bars of soap, rather than liquid soap.

Buying cleaning products in bulk can also reduce plastic packaging and keeping glass jars or hard plastic containers are great for storing leftovers.

Just because we’re in a period of change, doesn’t mean we have to lose momentum. Single-use plastics are a huge environmental problem that we can continue to address by changing our behaviours.

Many are calling on governments, businesses and individuals to use the pandemic as an opportunity to look at how we used to do things and ask – is there a better way?

When it comes to single use plastics during COVID-19, we can’t control everything. But our actions can help shape what the new normal looks like.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus shows how ageism is harmful to the health of older adults

Image credits: Siarhei Plashchynski.

An article by Paul Nash, University of Southern California and Phillip W. Schnarrs, University of Texas at Austin

People over 65 years old account for about 80% of the deaths related to COVID-19 in the U.S. But we have to consider comorbidity, not just the number of years lived. Older people more likely live with underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, lung conditions, diabetes and cancer. It is these complications, not just age, that dictate the mortality of COVID-19.

Yet the misperception persists that older adults are frail and weak. As educators in the field of health and gerontology, we can tell you that research shows that ageist attitudes harm the health of older adults. Indeed, the World Health Organization acknowledges ageism as the last socially accepted form of prejudice. And this impacts the kind of care they receive and the health care outcomes they experience.

In the U.S., these perceptions are reinforced in medical training; geriatric care doesn’t even appear on the list of required training for doctors. This approach may have contributed to the U.S.‘s arguably poor response to COVID-19. When the virus emerged, the narrative was focused on older people as the vulnerable group. Younger people, it was said, were not so much at risk.

Ageism: A not-so-funny joke

This public health message, quickly adopted, was sometimes turned into an ageism “joke” – hence the hashtag #BoomerRemover, which appeared around the end of February.

Other comments were more vicious. In an interview on March 22, Ukraine’s ex-health minister said people over 65 were already “corpses” – and the government response should focus on those “still alive.” In Texas, Dan Patrick, the state’s lieutenant governor, suggested those over 70 “sacrifice” themselves for the good of the economy.

These remarks do more than just legitimize ageism. And they are more than just cruel. They also impact care and support for older adults. Public health messages have a way of becoming public health realities. Some hospitals in Italy use 65 as a cutoff when providing ventilators for those with severe symptoms. Conversely, and ironically, ageist comments put younger people at greater risk; they suggest youth possess an invulnerability, which is hardly the case. Just look at Florida: As the rest of the U.S. was preparing to stay at home, hordes of young people gathered for spring break. The result: huge infection rates and death.

Image credits: Eberhard Grossgasteiger

Possible solutions

Instead of name-calling or withholding treatment for older adults, why not opt for practical solutions? The 1.5 million residents in U.S. nursing homes, more likely with the comorbidities that put them at risk for the virus, need specialized support and guidance. The fact that over a third of all deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. are from residents and workers in long-term care facilities is evidence alone that existing strategies are failing, and failing drastically. Potential solutions could include dedicated visitor rooms, enhanced screening for all visitors, sanitation stations, increased cleaning protocols and mandatory masks. The alternative, banning visitors altogether, isn’t necessarily the best idea: Isolating older adults from friends and family increases loneliness and potentially worsens health conditions, which could even lead to death.

Isolation isn’t the only problem. Nonessential medical services – podiatry, dentistry, physical therapy – have closed shop. Most people have gone without preventative and maintenance care, but for older people, there’s an increased risk of long-term complications for those with preexisting issues. Remote health services like telehealth work for some things, but they’re not for everyone. For millions of older adults, telehealth options are not feasible; half of those over 65 have no access to home broadband services.

Amid all this, some excellent policies have emerged. Ventilator guidelines in New York made it clear that clinical factors, not age, would dictate care.

Chance for a reset

Older people are not the helpless individuals they are so often portrayed to be. They hold jobs. They pay taxes. They are the backbone of the volunteer sector. This includes the COVID-19 crisis – they are the army of retired nurses and doctors returning to the front lines to support overstretched health services. This is not a population of vulnerable people, sitting around and waiting to die.

The COVID-19 emergency gives us the opportunity to examine health inequalities in the U.S. It gives us a chance to look again at the way Americans view and treat older people. And it lets us look at how pitting generations against one another only leads to disaster.

This is not going to be the last global health crisis facing the human race. What people learn from the catastrophic errors in policy and judgment this time will determine our future responses to another pandemic. Reducing age stigma and healing the intergenerational divide are clearly two of the worthy goals.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Quarantine bubbles – when done right – limit coronavirus risk and help fight loneliness

Image credits: Brooke Cagle

Melissa Hawkins, American University

After three months of lockdowns, many people in the U.S. and around the world are turning to quarantine bubbles, pandemic pods or quaranteams in an effort to balance the risks of the pandemic with the emotional and social needs of life.

I am an epidemiologist and a mother of four, three of whom are teenagers in the throes of their risk-taking years. As the country grapples with how to navigate new risks in the world, my kids and I are doing the same.

When done carefully, the research shows that quarantine bubbles can effectively limit the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 while allowing people to have much needed social interactions with their friends and family.

Reduce risk if you can’t eliminate it

A quaranteam is a small group of people who form their own social circle to quarantine together – and a perfect example of a harm reduction strategy.

Harm reduction is a pragmatic public health concept that explicitly acknowledges that all risk cannot be eliminated, so it encourages the reduction of risk. Harm reduction approaches also take into consideration the intersection of biological, psychological and social factors that influence both health and behavior.

For example, abstinence-only education doesn’t work all that well. Safe-sex education, on the other hand, seeks to limit risk, not eliminate it, and is better at reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection.

Quarantine bubbles are a way to limit the risk of getting or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 while expanding social interaction.

Mental health matters too

Image credits: Roberto Nickson.

Staying indoors, avoiding all contact with friends or family and having food and groceries delivered would be the best way to limit your risk of catching SARS-CoV-2. But the risks of the pandemic extend beyond the harm from infection. Health encompasses mental as well as physical well-being.

The negative mental health impacts of the pandemic are already starting to become evident. A recent survey of U.S. adults found that 13.6% reported symptoms of serious psychological distress, up from 3.9% in 2018. A quarter of people 18 to 29 years old reported serious psychological distress, the highest levels of all ages groups. Many people are experiencing anxiety and depression due to the pandemic or were already living with these challenges. Loneliness certainly doesn’t help.

Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk for depression and anxiety and can also lead to increases in the risk for serious physical diseases like coronary heart disease, stroke and premature death.

Quaranteams, therefore, are not simply a convenient idea because they let people see their friends and family. Isolation poses serious health risks – both physically and mentally – that social bubbles can help alleviate while improving social well-being and quality of life.

Quaranteams work

Social relationships enhance well-being and mental health but they also act as a vehicle for infection transmission. As people around the world emerge from lockdowns, this is the conundrum: How do we increase social interaction while limiting the risk of spread?

A recent study used social network theory – how information spreads among groups of people – and infectious disease models to see if quaranteams would work in this pandemic.

To do that, the researchers built computer models of social interactions to measure how the virus spread. They built a model of typical behavior, of typical behavior but with only half the number of interactions and of three different social distancing approaches that also had half the number of interactions as normal.

The first social distancing scenario grouped people by characteristics – people would only see people of a similar age, for example. The second scenario grouped people by local communities and limited inter-community interaction. The last scenario limited interactions to small social groups of mixed characteristics from various locations – i.e. quarantine bubbles. These bubbles could have people of all ages and from various neighborhoods, but those people would only interact with each other.

All of the social distancing measures reduced the severity of the pandemic and were also better than simply reducing interactions at random, but the quaranteam approach was the most effective at flattening the curve. Compared to no social distancing, quarantine bubbles would delay the peak of infections by 37%, decrease the height of the peak by 60% and result in 30% fewer infected individuals overall.

Other countries are starting to incorporate quaranteams in their prevention guidelines now that infection rates are low and contact tracing programs are in place. England is the latest country to announce quaranteam guidance with their support bubble policy.

New Zealand implemented a quarantine bubble strategy in early May and it seems to have worked. Additionally, a recent survey of 2,500 adults in England and New Zealand found a high degree of support for the policies and high degree of motivation to comply.

How to build a quarantine bubble

To make an effective quaranteam, here’s what you need to do.

Image credits: Julian Wan.

First, everyone must agree to follow the rules and be honest and open about their actions. Individual behavior can put the whole team at risk and the foundation of a quaranteam is trust. Teams should also talk in advance about what to do if someone breaks the rules or is exposed to an infected person. If someone starts to show symptoms, everyone should agree to self-isolate for 14 days.

Second, everyone must decide how much risk is acceptable and establish rules that reflect this decision. For example, some people might feel OK about having a close family member visit but others may not. Our family has agreed that we only visit with friends outside, not inside, and that everyone must wear masks at all times.

Finally, people need to actually follow the rules, comply with physical distancing outside of the quaranteam and be forthcoming if they think they may have been exposed.

Additionally, communication should be ongoing and dynamic. The realities of the pandemic are changing at a rapid pace and what may be OK one day might be too risky for some the next.

The risks of joining a quaranteam

Any increase in social contact is inherently more risky right now. There are two important ideas in particular that a person should consider when thinking about how much risk they’re willing to take.

The first is asymptomatic spread. Current data suggests that at any given time, anywhere between 20% and 45% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic and able to transmit the virus to others. The best way to know if someone is infected or not is to get tested, so some people might consider requiring testing before agreeing to join a quaranteam.

The second thing to consider is that consequences of getting sick are not the same for everyone. If you or someone you live with has another health condition – like asthma, diabetes, a heart condition or a compromised immune system – the assessment of risk and reward from a quaranteam should change. The consequences of a high-risk person developing COVID-19 are much more serious.

One of the greatest difficulties facing both scientists and the public alike is the uncertainty about this virus and what lies ahead. But some things are known. If individuals are informed and sincere in their quaranteam efforts and follow the regular guidance of social distancing, mask wearing and enthusiastic hand-washing, quaranteams can offer a robust and structured middle ground approach to manage risk while experiencing the joy and benefits of friends and family. These are things we could all benefit from these days, and for now, quaranteams may be the best step forward as we emerge from this pandemic together.

Melissa Hawkins, Professor of Public Health, Director of Public Health Scholars Program, American University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Science of ‘Seinfeld’ — How Much Was Actually True?

Article by Bill Sullivan, Indiana University

It’s been 31 years since a groundbreaking show about nothing first hit the air and…yada yada yada. What better time to revisit some memorable moments from “Seinfeld” that left viewers shouting, “Get out!”, and see what science has to say about the situation.

I was a biology graduate student when “Seinfeld” first hit the air. The show not only provided a welcome reprieve from a tough day in the laboratory, but also fueled fun debates among us students as to whether the inane scenarios were plausible. Thirty years on, these debates still swim in my head, better informed by the latest science relevant to them.

Credits: NBC.

Can men grow breasts big enough to need ‘the bro’?

On season 6, episode 18 (S6:E18), it was revealed that George’s father, Frank, had something he wanted to get off his chest but couldn’t: man boobs. After witnessing Frank’s condition, Kramer was inspired to make “the bro,” or “mansiere,” to help give Frank and his buddies support.

The development of enlarged breasts in men is nothing new: It is a rather common medical condition called gynecomastia. Gynecomastia can arise when the body makes less testosterone relative to estrogen. These fluctuations in sex hormones can happen as a newborn develops, during puberty or as a result of aging. In the young, the situation usually resolves on its own as hormones balance out.

Certain medications, illegal drugs and alcohol can produce gynecomastia as well. Men with this condition can opt for breast reduction surgery or wear a compression vest. Medications that reduce the effect of estrogen can also help.

Can someone die from licking envelopes?

In the season 7 finale, George and Susan were finally tying the knot and George’s wallet was taking a beating. When George was presented with the option to save a few bucks by purchasing old wedding invitations, he leaped at the opportunity. As she licked the 200 envelopes, Susan became dizzy and, in a shocking twist, died at the hospital. The doctor stated that they “found traces of a certain toxic adhesive commonly found in very low-priced envelopes.”

Another outlandish plot line, or could this really happen? According to “How It Works,” envelope glue is made from gum arabic, which is a product of the hardened sap from acacia trees. It is a nontoxic substance often used in candy to bind ingredients together.

Others state that dextrin, an edible carbohydrate produced from corn or potato starch, is used to make the adhesive. Most importantly, as far as I can tell, there is not a single report of someone dying from licking envelope glue. If you’re still anxious about potential toxins in the adhesive, or simply don’t like the taste, moisten the glue strip with a damp sponge instead of your tongue.

The government has been experimenting with pigmen

In S5:E5, Kramer wanders into the wrong hospital room and makes a disturbing discovery – a pigman: half man, half pig. Kramer is further convinced of the existence of pigman when the next day’s newspaper reads, “Hospital receives grant to conduct DNA research.” In the end, we learn that the pigman was, of course, just a man who is about five feet, hairless, with a pink complexion.

I’m telling you, Jerry.

Kramer might come across as a hipster doofus, but he’s not entirely wrong here. Scientists have indeed been working on pig-human hybrids, of sorts, for decades. Doctors have been using porcine heart valves to replace damaged ones in humans since the 1960s.

Since a pig’s internal organs are roughly the same size as our own, pigs are good candidate animals in which human organs for transplantation could be grown. In 2017, Dr. Jun Wu at the Salk Institute published the first report of human tissue being grown in a pig embryo. Much more careful research lies ahead, but the pioneering study supports the idea that human organs could be manufactured in a pig.

Why does Newman hate broccoli so much?

In S8:E8, Newman was challenged to eat broccoli but quickly gagged and demanded a honey mustard chaser to neutralize the taste.

Newman is what scientists call a “supertaster,” and he is not alone in hating broccoli. Approximately 25% of people are born with variations in genes like TAS2R38, which build taste bud receptors.

Taste buds bind to chemicals in food and signal the flavor to the brain. Many plants, including broccoli, evolved to produce bitter-tasting chemicals like thiourea to avoid being eaten.

Most humans don’t register these chemicals as intensely bitter, but supertasters do. Supertasters are literally born with a tongue that is unusually sensitive to the bitter chemicals found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, which tricks their brain into thinking that the food is poisonous.

Like a frightened turtle, why does it shrink?

A trip out to the Hamptons is usually a pleasant outing, but in S5:E21, Jerry’s girlfriend accidentally walks in on George as he’s changing out of his swimsuit. After catching a glimpse of his manhood, she says, “I’m really sorry.” George screams in self-defense, “Shrinkage! Shrinkage! I was in the pool!”

George wasn’t lying. Urologist Darius Paduch at Weill Cornell Medicine has stated that the penis can shrivel by about 50% in length and 20% to 30% in girth in cold temperatures.

The human body operates at an optimal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When we get cold, blood is redirected to our vital areas, namely our chest and head to keep our heart and brain functionally properly. Consequently, this draws blood away from appendages like fingers, toes and, in males, the penis. When blood rushes away from the penis, it shrinks. The position of the testes is a reflex controlled by the cremaster muscle, which brings them closer to the body in colder temperatures to maintain the warmth needed for sperm production.

The shrinkage issue.

Why you shouldn’t stress a model

Everything in life is coming up roses after George has a chance encounter with a hand modeling agent in S5:E2. Thanks to avoiding manual labor his whole life, George’s hands are exquisitely smooth and creamy, delicate yet masculine.

Appreciating that his extraordinary hands are the ticket to a new life, George protects them by wearing oven mitts and warning his bickering parents that “Stress is very damaging to the epidermis!”

It is tempting to assume that George is simply making excuses to get his parents to stop arguing, but science supports his assertion. Stress causes all sorts of health issues in the body, and the skin — our largest organ — is no exception. The body responds to stress by releasing hormones like cortisol, which cause inflammation.

In the skin, cortisol increases the production of oils, which can cause breakouts and exacerbate skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Stress hormones negatively impact the immune system and epidermal defenses, making the skin more susceptible to infection. Stress also causes some people to bite their nails, which could easily ruin a hand modeling gig.

Bill Sullivan, Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Police officers accused of brutal violence often have a history of complaints by citizens

As protests against police violence and racism continue in cities throughout the U.S., the public is learning that several of the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville share a history of complaints by citizens of brutality or misconduct.

Decades of research on police shootings and brutality reveal that officers with a history of shooting civilians, for example, are much more likely to do so in the future compared to other officers.

A similar pattern holds for misconduct complaints. Officers who are the subject of previous civilian complaints – regardless of whether those complaints are for excessive force, verbal abuse or unlawful searches – pose a higher risk of engaging in serious misconduct in the future.

A study published in the American Economic Journal reviewed 50,000 allegations of officer misconduct in Chicago and found that officers with extensive complaint histories were disproportionately more likely to be named subjects in civil rights lawsuits with extensive claims and large settlement payouts.

In spite of this research, many law enforcement agencies not only fail to adequately investigate misconduct allegations, they rarely sustain citizen complaints. Disciplinary sanctions are few and reserved for the most egregious cases.

Protesters went to the home of the Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who is now charged with George Floyd’s death.

Complaints, lawsuits – but few consequences

Derek Chauvin, the ex-officer who has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for killing Floyd, is no stranger to situations in which deadly force has been deployed.

During a 2006 roadside stop, Chauvin was among six officers who, in just four seconds, fired 43 rounds into a truck driven by a man wanted for questioning in a domestic assault. The man, Wayne Reyes, who police said aimed a sawed-off shotgun at them, died at the scene. The police department never acknowledged which officers had fired their guns and a grand jury convened by prosecutors did not indict any of the officers.

Chauvin is also the subject of at least 18 separate misconduct complaints and was involved in two additional shooting incidents. According to The Associated Press, 16 of the complaints were “closed with no discipline” and two letters of reprimand were issued for Chauvin related to the other cases.

Tou Thao, one of three Minneapolis officers at the scene as Floyd pleaded for his life, is named in a 2017 civil rights lawsuit against the department. Lamar Ferguson, the plaintiff, said he was walking home with his pregnant girlfriend when Thao and another officer stopped him without cause, handcuffed him and proceeded to kick, punch and knee him with such force that his teeth shattered.

The case was settled by the city for US$25,000, with the officers and the city declaring no liability, but it is not known if Thao was disciplined by the department.

In Louisville, Kentucky, at least three of the officers involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor while serving a no-knock warrant at her home – allowing them to use a battering ram to open her door – had previously been sanctioned for violating department policies.

One of the officers, Brett Hankison, is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit alleging, according to news reports, harassing suspects and planting drugs on them. He has denied the charges in a response to the lawsuit.

Another officer in the Taylor case, Myles Cosgrove, was sued for excessive force in 2006 by a man whom he shot seven times in the course of a routine traffic stop. The judge dismissed the case. Cosgrove had been put on paid administrative leave as his role in the shooting was investigated by his department, and returned to the department after the investigation closed.

Protesters took to the street the day after a grand jury declined to indict Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann for the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014. Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

Patterns of misconduct and abuse

I am a scholar of law and the criminal justice system. In my work on wrongful conviction cases in Philadelphia, I regularly encounter patterns of police misconduct including witness intimidation, evidence tampering and coercion. It is often the same officers engaging in the same kinds of misconduct and abuse across multiple cases.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that across the nation fewer than one in 12 complaints of police misconduct result in any kind of disciplinary action.

And then there is the problem of “gypsy cops” – a derogatory ethnic slur used in law enforcement circles to refer to officers who are fired for serious misconduct from one department only to be rehired by another one.

Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, resigned before he was fired from his previous department after they deemed him unfit to serve. A grand jury did not indict Loehmann for the killing, but he was fired by the Cleveland Division of Police after they found he had not disclosed the reason for leaving his previous job.

In the largest study of police hiring, researchers concluded that rehired officers, who make up roughly 3% of the police force, present a serious threat to communities because of their propensity to re-offend, if they had engaged in misconduct before.

These officers, wrote the study’s authors, “are more likely … to be fired from their next job or to receive a complaint for a ‘moral character violation.’”

The Newark model

The Obama administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended the creation of a national database to identify officers whose law enforcement licenses were revoked due to misconduct. The database that currently exists, the National Decertification Index, is limited, given state level variation in reporting requirements and decertification processes.

Analysts agree that this is a useful step, but it does not address underlying organizational and institutional sources of violence, discrimination and misconduct.

For example, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Department of Justice found that the department had a lengthy history of excessive force, unconstitutional stop and searches, racial discrimination and racial bias.

The report noted that the use of force was often punitive and retaliatory and that “the overwhelming majority of force – almost 90% – is used against African Americans.”

One promising solution might be the creation of independent civilian review boards that are able to conduct their own investigations and impose disciplinary measures.

In Newark, New Jersey, the board can issue subpoenas, hold hearings and investigate misconduct.

Research at the national level suggests that jurisdictions with citizen review boards uphold more excessive force complaints than jurisdictions that rely on internal mechanisms.

But historically, the work of civilian review boards has been undercut by limitations on resources and authority. Promising models, including the one in Newark, are frequently the target of lawsuits and harassment by police unions, who say that such boards undermine the police department’s internal disciplinary procedures.

In the case of civilian review board in the Newark, the board largely prevailed in the aftermath of the police union lawsuit. The court ruling restored the board’s ability to investigate police misconduct – but it made the board’s disciplinary recommendations nonbinding.

Jill McCorkel, Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Villanova University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Riot or resistance? How media frames unrest in Minneapolis will shape public’s view of protest

Article by Danielle K. Kilgo, Indiana University

A teenager held her phone steady enough to capture the final moments of George Perry Floyd’s life as he apparently suffocated under the weight of a Minneapolis police officer’s knee on his neck. The video went viral.

What happened next has played out time and again in American cities after high-profile cases of alleged police brutality.

Vigils and protests were organized in Minneapolis and around the United States to demand police accountability. But while investigators and officials called for patience, unrest boiled over. News reports soon carried images of property destruction and police in riot gear.

The general public’s opinions about protests and the social movements behind them are formed in large part by what they read or see in the media. This gives journalists a lot of power when it comes to driving the narrative of a demonstration.

They can emphasize the disruption protests cause or echo the dog whistles of politicians that label protesters as “thugs.” But they can also remind the public that at the heart of the protests is the unjust killing of another black person. This would take the emphasis away from the destruction of the protests and toward the issues of police impunity and the effects of racism in its many forms.

The role journalists play can be indispensable if movements are to gain legitimacy and make progress. And that puts a lot of pressure on journalists to get things right.

My research has found that some protest movements have more trouble than others getting legitimacy. My co-author Summer Harlow and I have studied how local and metropolitan newspapers cover protests. We found that narratives about the Women’s March and anti-Trump protests gave voice to protesters and significantly explored their grievances. On the other end of the spectrum, protests about anti-black racism and indigenous people’s rights received the least legitimizing coverage, with them more often seen as threatening and violent.

Forming the narrative

Decades ago, scholars James Hertog and Douglas McLeod identified how news coverage of protests contributes to the maintenance of the status quo, a phenomenon referred to as “the protest paradigm.” They held that media narratives tend to emphasize the drama, inconvenience and disruption of protests rather than the demands, grievances and agendas of protesters. These narratives trivialize protests and ultimately dent public support.

Here’s how this theoretically plays out today:

Journalists pay little attention to protests that aren’t dramatic or unconventional.

Knowing this, protesters find ways to capture media and public attention. They don pink “pussy” hats or kneel during the national anthem. They might even resort to violence and lawlessness. Now the protesters have the media’s attention, but what they cover is often superficial or delegitimizing, focusing on the tactics and disruption caused and excluding discussion on the substance of the social movement.

We wanted to explore if this classic theory fit coverage from 2017 – a year of large-scale protests accompanying the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency.

To do so, we analyzed the framing of protest reporting from newspapers in Texas. The state’s size and diversity made it a good proxy for the country at large.

In all, we identified 777 articles by searching for terms such as “protest,” “protester,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Women’s March.” This included reports written by journalists in 20 Texas newsrooms, such as the El Paso Times and the Houston Chronicle, as well as syndicated articles from sources like the Associated Press.

We looked at how articles framed the protests in the headline, opening sentence and story structure, and classified the reporting using four recognized frames of protest:

  • Riot: Emphasizing disruptive behavior and the use or threat of violence.
  • Confrontation: Describing protests as combative, focusing on arrests or “clashes” with police.
  • Spectacle: Focusing on the apparel, signs or dramatic and emotional behavior of protesters.
  • Debate: Substantially mentioning protester’s demands, agendas, goals and grievances.

We also kept an eye out for sourcing patterns to identify imbalances that often give more credence to authorities than protesters and advocates.

Overall, news coverage tended to trivialize protests by focusing most often on dramatic action. But some protests suffered more than others.

Reports focused on spectacle more often than substance. Much was made of what protesters were wearing, crowd sizes – large and smallcelebrity involvement and flaring tempers.

The substance of some marches got more play than others. Around half of the reports on anti-Trump protests, immigration rallies, women’s rights demonstrations and environmental actions included substantial information about protesters’ grievances and demands.

In contrast, Dakota Pipeline and anti-black racism-related protests got legitimizing coverage less than 25% of the time and were more likely to be described as disruptive and confrontational.

In coverage of a St. Louis protest over the acquittal of a police officer who killed a black man, violence, arrest, unrest and disruption were the leading descriptors, while concern about police brutality and racial injustice was reduced to just a few mentions. Buried more than 10 paragraphs down was the broader context: “The recent St. Louis protests follow a pattern seen since the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson: the majority of demonstrators, though angry, are law-abiding.”

As a consequence of variances in coverage, Texas newspaper readers may form the perception that some protests are more legitimate than others. This contributes to what we call a “hierarchy of social struggle,” in which the voices of some advocacy groups are lifted over others.

Lurking bias

Journalists contribute to this hierarchy by adhering to industry norms that work against less-established protest movements. On tight deadlines, reporters may default to official sources for statements and data. This gives authorities more control of narrative framing. This practice especially becomes an issue for movements like Black Lives Matter that are countering the claims of police and other officials.

Implicit bias also lurks in such reporting. Lack of diversity has long plagued newsrooms.

In 2017, the proportion of white journalists at The Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle was more than double the proportion of white people in each city.

Protests identify legitimate grievances in society and often tackle issues that affect people who lack the power to address them through other means. That’s why it is imperative that journalists do not resort to shallow framing narratives that deny significant and consistent space to air the afflicted’s concerns while also comforting the very comfortable status quo.

Danielle K. Kilgo, Assistant Professor of Journalism, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

While the world is distracted, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is devastating indigenous lands in the Amazon

Article by Brian Garvey, University of Strathclyde and Mauricio Torres, Federal University of Pará

Image credits: Lucian Dachman.

The Amazon fires of 2019 drove the greatest single-year loss of Brazilian forest in a decade. But with the world in the grip of a pandemic, forest loss in 2020 is already on track to dwarf the devastation of a year earlier. In April 2020 alone, 529 square kilometers of forest were destroyed – an increase of 171% compared to April 2019.

Worse may yet be on the way. In order to clear deforested land for farming, felled trees are burned. According to Ane Alencar, director of the Department of Science at the Institute of Environmental Research of the Amazon, “this was the main ingredient of the 2019 fire season, a story that could be repeated in 2020”.

The smoke that engulfed cities in Brazil during the 2019 Amazon fires caused widespread breathing problems. As cases of COVID-19 grow by the day – even in remote areas of the Amazon – Brazil risks exacerbating the public health crisis and causing lasting harm to the forest and indigenous communities.

Emboldening illegal activity

On May 22, the Federal Justice ordered the government to establish bases for environmental inspectors in hotspots of felling and burning. These are areas in the Amazon where 60% of all deforestation occurs.

This was intended to restrict the criminal market that drives illegal logging and mining, but also to help reduce the spread of the virus to indigenous people in the region.

Slash and burn agriculture in the Amazon. Image credits: Matt Zimmerman.

But Jair Bolsonaro’s government appears set against the aims of the prosecutors. With attention turned to the health crisis, the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, sacked Olivaldi Azevedo as director of the federal environmental inspection agency, IBAMA, in April.

Azevedo’s dismissal is thought to be linked to his unwillingness to stop an anti-mining operation on indigenous lands in the interior of Pará. The successful raid resulted in the burning of equipment used by illegal miners, with images of the arrests broadcast on Brazil’s most popular news channel.

These miners form a loyal base of support for Bolsonaro, hence the government’s irritation. But the television broadcast also featured people who had occupied indigenous lands to build farms. One of those interviewed made it clear that their incursions were encouraged by the speeches of President Bolsonaro and his Environment Minister, Salles.

It’s illegal for non-indigenous people to trespass on Brazil’s indigenous lands. But people eager to exploit the natural riches of these territories often claim support from the president, who recently promised to decrease the amount of land that is protected. In the interview, the trespassing farmer said “the people are with this hope, this expectation, that one day it happens … Meanwhile, we are occupying here”.

An opportunity amid crisis

During the recent surge in deforestation, the Brazilian government reduced the budget for the environmental inspection agency IBAMA by 25%. The government also replaced two of the agency’s chiefs with a military policeman from São Paulo, Walter Mendes Magalhães Junior, who was previously accused of releasing timber exports without the necessary license.

We interviewed Ricardo Abad from the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), a leading non-governmental organization in Brazil, who said “the dismissal of Ibama’s inspection coordinators sends a message that organized crime is liberated in the Amazon and punishes those who work to combat illegal activities.”

Image credits: Carolina Antunes.

Brazilian legislation allows inspectors to burn confiscated machinery from loggers and miners. This equipment is often expensive, and so its destruction greatly undermines criminal operations in the forest. It’s a tactic that President Bolsonaro has reportedly condemned. In 2019, the destruction of seized equipment fell by half compared to the previous year.

Many of the recent setbacks in Brazil’s environmental policy could be explained by a video that was released by court order on May 22. The video shows a meeting between Bolsonaro and his ministers from a month before, in which environment minister Salles suggests the government take advantage of press attention being focused on the pandemic to relax regulations in the Amazon.

Failure to control environmental crimes doesn’t only threaten the forest though. It also increases the vulnerability of indigenous peoples to COVID-19. A recent study found that indigenous lands that aren’t formally demarcated let in intruders much more easily, preventing these communities from isolating from the disease. Of the 1,005 cases of COVID-19 confirmed among indigenous people living in the country, there have been 44 deaths, with 41 in the Amazon, the region with the lowest number of intensive care units in Brazil.

The Brazilian Amazon may be on the eve of a catastrophe. COVID-19 could decimate indigenous communities, while the government response paves the way for profiteers to further degrade their lands and the forest. Bolsonaro’s legacy may be one of the highest national death tolls during the pandemic, and a point of no return for destruction of the Amazon.

Authors: Brian Garvey, Lecturer in Work, Employment and Organisation, University of Strathclyde and Mauricio Torres, Professor in Human Geography, Federal University of Pará

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lockdown: we need to experiment with reopenings now to prevent a second wave

Article by Johannes Lohse, University of Birmingham

Image credits: Brett Jordan.

With coronavirus infection rates falling – and the predicted economic and welfare costs of lockdown so high – governments across the world have tentatively started lifting restrictions and reopening their economies.

But to do this safely and prevent a second wave of infections, policymakers need to understand the effects that lockdown measures such as closing schools or businesses – known as non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) – are having on containing the virus. This will help predict the effects of rules being eased, and also show which interventions are most effective.

At the moment, though, we don’t know which lockdown measures work, and testing their effectiveness is difficult. So we need to get inventive. One overlooked way of assessing them is to use randomised controlled trials (RCTs).

The unique power of randomization

When it comes to testing new medicines, there’s a broad consensus that RCTs are the gold standard. These trials compare the outcomes of randomly selected groups of people that do and do not get a treatment. Researchers can use RCTs to be confident that a new medical procedure works. The same rules should apply when testing the effectiveness of NPIs.

By introducing or loosening an individual control measure in some randomly selected regions but not in others, the RCT method would offer the unique opportunity to show whether or not that intervention (and not some other common factor) causes a reduction in the disease transmission. What’s more, this method gives policymakers and researchers full control over implementing changes and directly measuring outcomes, reducing the scope for errors. These are advantages not shared with many other methods.

And although RCTs have not gathered much attention for studying NPIs during the current pandemic, economists and other social scientists have already shown that they can be used outside of clinical medicine. For example, over the past two decades RCTs have become a popular method among behavioural and developmental economists testing which interventions are most effective in alleviating poverty.

How an RCT would work in practice

As an example, consider the question of reopening schools.

In many countries, schools are all scheduled to reopen at the same time (and at the same time as other lockdown measures are being lifted). Changing several policies all at once will make it hard to attribute any subsequent rise in infections to the removal of a specific measure.

Researchers in Norway have floated an alternative plan. Why not randomly split districts where opening schools is generally considered as safe into two groups? Schools in the “treatment” group would be allowed to open two or three weeks earlier than those in the “control” group (what’s known as a “phase-in” approach). By closely monitoring and comparing infection numbers across districts, policymakers would gain a much clearer picture of whether opening schools causes cases to rise more rapidly, and by how much.

This example illustrates a broader principle. RCTs could be used to answer a large spectrum of policy questions about easing or introducing new lockdown restrictions. These could range from the number of students per classroom, to the requirement to wear masks in public, to the opening of parks and beaches.

However, as discussed in a recent study, there are several things needed to make RCTs a successful tool for evaluating NPIs. Foremost is the ability to accurately measure and model the effects of an NPI on virus transmission, as well as the economic and psychological costs associated with either lifting or maintaining the intervention.

RCTs can fix current errors in thinking

Now that several countries are beginning to lift some restrictions, political commentators are quickly giving in to the temptation of comparing infection or fatality rates between places with and without certain rules in place. However, such comparisons are easily misleading because they lack the random assignment that would show whether or not a particular measure has caused a reduction in disease transmission.

We would not trust a medical study that selectively treats patients based on their prior health status. And similarly, we should not place our trust in comparing fatality rates between states that have chosen to lift rules early and those that still have rules in place. Using the RCT method and lifting regulations randomly where it is safe would avoid falling into this trap.

Understanding which lockdown measures work is essential if we want to deal with a potential second wave of COVID-19 with more fine-grained policies that do not grind whole economies to a standstill. RCTs are the best way to identify such measures, and can help us optimally balance costs and benefits.

So why are policymakers reluctant to implement them more widely during this pandemic?

First, it would require them to admit that they do not yet know which policies work. Second, policymakers may worry that the public could perceive lifting rules randomly as unethical.

But in the current situation, where the optimal timing and extent of lifting or introducing different measures is unknown, such concerns may be largely unwarranted. Policymakers wouldn’t be knowingly withholding a beneficial intervention or introducing a harmful one if there are no existing reasons to believe that one policy is better than another.

Furthermore, if they follow a “phase-in” strategy, an intervention considered as safe would ultimately be applied to the whole population, first to the treatment group and then, after a short delay, to the control group too.

Johannes Lohse, Lecturer in Economics, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

If we want to address climate change, we could use the help of the military

As experts warn that the world is running out of time to head off severe climate change, discussions of what the U.S. should do about it are split into opposing camps. The scientific-environmental perspective says global warming will cause the planet severe harm without action to slow fossil fuel burning. Those who reject mainstream climate science insist either that warming is not occurring or that it’s not clear human actions are driving it.

What if the military could play a more proactive role in tackling climate change? Image credits: DoD.

With these two extremes polarizing the American political arena, climate policy has come to a near standstill. But as I argue in my new book,“All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change,” the U.S. armed forces offer a third perspective that could help bridge the gap.

I’ve studied military and security issues for decades. Although President Trump has called climate change a hoax and worked to reverse the Obama administration’s climate initiatives, senior U.S. military officers have long been aware of warming’s detrimental effects.

Military leaders believe climate change seriously threatens U.S. national security. They contend it is stirring up chaos and conflict abroad, endangering coastal bases and stressing soldiers and equipment, which undermines military readiness. But rather than debating the causes of climate change or assigning blame, they focus on how warming undermines security, and on practical steps to slow its advance and minimize damage.

The Pentagon knows about climate impacts

Senior Pentagon officials are familiar with the scientific literature on climate change and know about its expected impacts. Many also have served in climate-ravaged areas of the world, including North Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands.

People in those regions have experienced prolonged and crippling droughts, severe heat waves and catastrophic storms. In many cases, these developments have been accompanied by humanitarian disasters, resource disputes, and armed conflicts – phenomena that impinge directly on the overseas operations of U.S. forces.

“Changing weather patterns, rising temperatures, and dramatic shifts in rainfall contribute to drought, famine, migration, and resource competition” in Africa, General Thomas D. Waldhauser, then commander of the U.S. Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2019. “As each group seeks land for its own purposes, violent conflict can ensue.”

Bases and troops at risk

Military leaders are also contending with climate change impacts on bases, forces and equipment. Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018 and heavy inland flooding in the spring of 2019 caused an estimated US$10 billion in damage to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North CarolinaTyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Scientists widely agree that climate change is making storms like these larger, more intense and longer-lasting.

Threats to other bases – particularly those located along U.S. coastlines, such as the giant naval station at Norfolk, Virginia – are bound to grow as sea levels rise and major storms occur more frequently.

Rising temperatures generate other challenges. In Alaska, many facilities are at risk of collapse or damage as the permafrost on which they sit begins to thaw. In California, wildfires burn on or near key bases. Extreme heat also poses a health risk to soldiers, who must often carry heavy loads during sunlit hours, and to the safe operation of helicopters and other mechanical equipment.

“Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources,” the Defense Department told Congress in a 2015 report. “These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”

Practical steps to adapt

Recognizing these dangers, the armed forces are acting to reduce its vulnerability. They have built seawalls at Langley Air Force Base, adjacent to Norfolk Naval Station, and are relocating sensitive electronic equipment at coastal bases from ground level to upper stories or higher elevations.

The Defense Department also is investing in renewable energy, including solar power and biofuels. By the end of 2020, the armed forces expect to generate 18% of on-base electricity from renewables, up from 9.6% in 2010. They plan to increase that share substantially in the years ahead.

Military planning for climate change does not dwell on threats to habitats and species. It emphasizes the social strife, state collapse and armed violence that are likely to occur in countries already suffering from scarce resources and ethnic friction.

As this outlook suggests, human communities face far greater risks from climate change in the short term than scientists’ habitat loss projections into 2100 and beyond may suggest. Vulnerable societies are crumbling under the pressure of extreme climate effects, and the scale of chaos and conflict is certain to grow as global temperatures rise.

The armed forces as climate mediators

The military’s approach to climate change could bridge the divide between believers and doubters. People who assert that protecting endangered habitats and species is trivial next to health and economic problems, and that society has time to tackle whatever threats may develop, might be persuaded to take action when they hear from respected generals and admirals that the nation’s security is at stake.

This is already happening in some communities, such as Norfolk, Virginia, where base commanders and local officials have found common ground in addressing the area’s extreme vulnerability to sea level rise and hurricane-induced flooding.

Similarly, congressional Republicans – many of whom have long opposed addressing climate change – are starting to issue plans to curb it. Framing climate policy in national security terms might help win conservative support.

The armed forces continue to plan for conventional conflicts abroad, while recognizing that climate change will affect their ability to perform their combat duties. They must, like it or not, take steps to overcome warming’s damaging impacts. In my view, it’s a message all Americans need to heed.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

High-intensity aerobic exercises boost brain neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is defined as an increase or decrease in the strength of synaptic connections between neurons in the brain in response to various experiences. Every time we learn a new skill, travel to exotic places, and form long-term memories, our brains literally rewire themselves in order to be more adapted to novel situations. The better a person’s neuroplasticity is, the better equipped they are at facing challenges in life.

Work out: it’s good for your brain. Image credits: Anupam Mahapatra.

Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise enhances memory, cognitive control, executive function, and attention. These associations have been reported across diverse populations and using different exercise protocols, cementing the notion that aerobic exercise enhances brain performance.

However, the underlying mechanisms that govern this relationship are still poorly understood.

What we know so far is that aerobic exercise may improve cognitive performance through the upregulation or neurotrophic factors (biomolecules that regulate the proliferation, survival, migration, and differentiation of cells in the nervous system). Examples of such biomolecules include the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), cortisol, and lactate.

Studies carried out on both animals and humans suggest that BDNF promotes and modulates neuroplasticity. It is plausible that neurochemistry alterations to neuroplasticity induced by exercise could translate into changes in cognition.

Researchers from the University of South Australia performed a systematic review of the existing literature investigating the link between acute aerobic exercise and neuroplasticity. They included eight studies in their meta-analysis, which utilized a non-invasive brain stimulation technique to induce neuroplasticity and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to determine neuroplasticity outcomes.

The exercises included in the meta-analysis were not hypertrophy-inducing bodybuilding exercises and workouts, for example, such as 6 x Mr Olympia Dorian Yates’s back workout, this type of exercise is distinctly different. Rather aerobic exercises like cycling and treadmill were linked to neuroplasticity. Their intensity ranged from low but continuous exercise to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), with the participants’ heart rates varying from 50% to 90% of their maximum.

“We already know that engaging in regular aerobic exercise is good for the brain, improving memory, attention and learning,” says co-author Dr. Ashleigh Smith of the University of South Australia. “However, we need to understand why it is so beneficial and what the best exercise, intensity and duration is.”

Measurements of neuroplasticity performed before and after the exercises using TMS suggest that the most profound changes occur following 20 minutes of HIIT or 25 minutes of continuous moderate aerobic exercise.

What’s more, the research team also found that the stress hormone cortisol acts like a major mediating factor between aerobic exercise and changes in neuroplasticity. High levels of cortisol in the blood can block neuroplastic responses, the researchers reported in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Changing the tempo during HIIT sessions seems to allow cortisol levels to return to baseline levels, they added.

How the Use of the Proper Imagery Can Aid Online Educational Platforms

Whether referring to a teenager preparing for an upcoming examination or an adult who wishes to further his or her education, the notion of distance learning has gained a significant amount of steam thanks to the presence of the digital age.

The online environment has become an important asset in education.

It’s been clear for quite a while that the online environment can greatly benefit education. From MOOCs to dedicated university platforms, we’ve seen all sorts of initiatives meant to aid and complement conventional education. But the problem of attention still remains.

There are now numerous resources which can be leveraged to create a user-friendly environment that is highly conducive to a proactive sense of learning. However, we need to keep in mind that static material alone is not normally able to keep the attention of the learner for an extended period of time. It is a well-known fact that digital images and infographics are both important elements which should be included.

The main issue is that this type of imagery needs to be properly employed so that it has the greatest impact upon the viewer. Let’s look at some important professional suggestions in order to appreciate the wealth of options at your disposal.

Quality Above All

Educational images are often used to explain difficult concepts and to reinforce specific points that are mentioned within a section of text. However, images will also reflect upon the educational provide in question. This is why quality and originality are key. Generic imagery and stock photos will only detract from the efficacy of the site and they might even cause an individual to call into question the information itself.

Imagery must be clear and concise, not distracting from the goal of the course. Image credits: Nicholas Thomas.

Finding this type of imagery can be quite challenging, especially when working on a low budget. But you can be original and take your own images, or obtain images that contain no watermarks — Wikipedia has a rich trove of images you can use, and there are literally millions of photos in the Creative Commons which you can also use to this purpose. Alternatively, emailing authors and asking for permission to use their photos can also work, as most people have no problem with their photos being used in education.

Also, be sure that high-definition files are used. This is important due to the fact that some complicated pictures (such as flow charts and infographics) are likely to contain detailed elements. Furthermore, HD images will be able to display clearly when accessed with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and simply put, they’re more likely to draw attention. Quality trumps quantity in every case.

Keeping Basic Photographic Techniques in Mind

Let us assume for a moment that an educator wishes to upload his or her own proprietary images.

In such a situation, some basic principles need to be applied. It is interesting to note that these very same rules are just as applicable when photographing food as when displaying period-accurate historical clothing. Some suggestions include:

  • Consider how the items to be displayed should be arranged.
  • Be sure that an adequate amount of lighting is present.
  • If applicable, take multiple pictures from different angles.
  • Make sure that the image is visually balanced.

These and other suggestions are commonly used by retailers when utilising Shopify product photography in order to increase brand recognition. However, they are just as applicable within the educational community.

Images should never cause the reader to become distracted from the material at hand. On the contrary, their main purpose is to augment the information that is being presented. It might take a bit of time before the most appropriate media is found and yet, it is well worth the effort. Not only will images help to decrease learning curves, but they can help to maintain the attention of the viewer at all times — and can have excellent results.