The human body: An inspiring biological work of art? Or a meaty sack of germs and fluids? Either way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what goes on in there — and scientists are constantly attempting to find out more. Here are the most interesting things they’ve discovered about our bodies in the last seven days:
Sorry Humanity, This is as Good As it Gets
Much like you since your senior year in high school, humans have peaked; we have nothing left to do as a species but backslide into oblivion. That, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Physiology, which analyzed 120 years’ worth of genetic and environmental data.
In the last century, we’ve seen the human race make huge gains in everything from life span to how fast we can run a mile. Unfortunately, researchers think whatever we’ve accomplished thus far is as good as we’re going to get — we’re not going to live any longer, grow any taller or ever, ever, run a 3-minute mile.
“Rather than continually improving, we will see a shift in the proportion of the population reaching the previously recorded maximum limits,” says professor Jean-François Toussaint from Paris Descartes University in France. “We are the first generation to become aware of this.”
According to Toussaint, environmental factors play a key role in humans hitting their metaphorical ceiling. “The current declines in human capacities we can see today are a sign that environmental changes, including climate, are already contributing to the increasing constraints we now have to consider.”
All is not lost, however. The first step is pinpointing the fact that we’ve hit our peak; second step is to reverse the trends that have landed us in this position. “Now that we know the limits of the human species, this can act as a clear goal for nations to ensure that human capacities reach their highest possible values for most of the population,” says Toussaint. “If successful, we then should observe an incremental rise in mean values of height, lifespan and most human biomarkers.”
In other words, fix the planet, and maybe we can start improving again.
Go Ahead and Let Out a Big, Manly Sneeze
The man flu — you know, the one all men get — is actually a real thing. Which means the men in your life aren’t necessarily crying wolf when they’re bedridden with a cold.
A Running Joke
Smiling more isn’t just good for your mood, it’s actually good for your workout, too: According to a new study, smiling helped runners perform better by reducing tension in their muscles.
And Now, Some Bad News, Probably
This is how long sex should last, according to women.
Drinking Soda While Pregnant Increases Your Kid’s Risk of Asthma
As if cutting booze weren’t bad enough, the pregnancy diet just became even more limiting: A recent study of 1,068 mother-child pairs published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society found that children between the ages of 7 and 9 may be at greater risk for developing asthma, if their mothers drank lots of sugary drinks while pregnant.
After their first and second trimesters, participating mothers filled out questionnaires concerning their food and beverage consumption, including sodas and fruity drinks. Once their children reached early childhood (3.3 years), the mothers filled out another questionnaire to report their child’s food and beverage consumption — again, including sodas and fruity drinks. The researchers then analyzed results based on sugar-sweetened beverage and fructose (fruit sugar) consumption, and came upon some unfortunate findings.
Mothers with the highest sugar-sweetened beverage and fructose consumption (two servings of sugary drinks and 46 grams of fructose per day) were 63 and 61 percent more likely, respectively, to have kids with asthma than those with the lowest such consumption (zero servings of sugary drinks and 21 grams of fructose).
What a surprise… sugary drinks are awful for you and your kids!
It should be noted that this is an observational study, which means it doesn’t necessarily prove causation. The participants were also mostly from affluent families, so findings may not be applicable to socioeconomically disadvantaged families.
Still, it’s best to err on the side of caution since your kid’s health is, y’know, somewhat more important than your daily soda fix.
Grumpy Old Men are Clearly Onto Something
Good news for all you curmudgeons out there: If you’re stubborn, you’re more likely to live happily into your 90s.
And Finally, Some More Bad News
In today’s “no, duh” news, our global pollution problem is also really bad for babies.