What's the buzz

What's the buzz

All-natural sweeteners solution to obesity

All-natural, zero-calorie sweeteners stevia and monk fruit are being hailed as Holy Grails of the food industry and key ingredients in the fight against obesity, in a report by an influential market research group.

In a Euromonitor report published this week, health and wellness analysts tout stevia, also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf, as a gamechanger that's revolutionizing the food industry, particularly the beverage world.

At a time when whole nations — Denmark and Hungary, for instance — have waged an open war on sugary, carbonated drinks with fat and junk food taxes, consumers are also being bombarded with a slew of messages urging them to avoid the consumption of empty calories.

And unlike artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which has developed a bad rap for being an artificial chemical and for its distinct aftertaste, stevia and monkfruit are hailed for being all-natural sweeteners which have long histories of being used in Asia and South America.

"Stevia's natural halo, by contrast, shines brightly, and the ingredients industry is on the cusp of resolving the aftertaste issue. And monk fruit extract has it all going on: not only does it tick the natural box, it is also aftertaste-free," writes analyst Ewa Hudson.

While stevia has been used in France since 2009, the European Commission gave the green light for the use of the natural, South American sweetener late last year.

Study finds stress makes men social, not angry

When it comes to stress, it's been a long-held belief that men either fight or flee, while women rely on their social ties for support. But a new study on stress claims to debunk that theory, finding that stress actually makes men trusting and social, and not so different from women after all.

"Apparently men also show social approach behaviour as a direct consequence of stress," study researcher Bernadette von Dawans, of the University of Freiburg in Germany, said in a statement. In the study, researchers recruited 67 male students and subjected the test group to stressful situations, such as public speaking or having to complete a mental math test.

After being stressed, the participants played a series of trust and sharing games with real money at stake with another group of volunteers. The men also completed a dice gambling game, done individually, to measure how much risk they were willing to take. Meanwhile, researchers monitored the men's heart rate and the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva, all while observing their behavior during the games.

Interestingly, the researchers found that stress increased men's gentleness; the higher the men's heart rates and cortisol levels, the more trusting and trustworthy they were in the games. In other words, the stressed men were friendlier and relied on social outlets to cope with the stress.

Wind-driven tumbleweed rover could explore Mars

Researchers at the North Carolina State University have developed a computer model of “tumbleweed” Mars rover that would be capable of moving across rocky Martian terrain. 

 “There is quite a bit of interest within NASA to pursue the tumbleweed rover design, but one of the questions regarding the concept is how it might perform on the rocky surface of Mars. We set out to address that question,” said Dr. Andre Mazzoleni, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.

Tumbleweed rovers are attractive because they can cover much larger distances, and handle rougher terrain, than the rovers that have already been sent to Mars. While they would lack the precise controls of the wheeled rovers, they would also not rely on a power supply for mobility.

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