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Elephants prefer being away from humans

Wild elephants prefer to live in safer, protected areas and become stressed when they come closer to humans, according to a new study.  Scientists have found African elephants living outside Serengeti National Park are more stressed than those within the protected area.  More elephants also choose to live inside the park, suggesting they “know” which areas are safer to live in, and actively avoid humans.

Serengeti National Park helps protect animals from threats such as illegal hunting and habitat disturbance.

The study, published in the African Journal of Ecology, aimed to determine African elephants’ (Loxodonta africana) welfare inside Serengeti National Park and in the partially-protected adjoining areas of Grumeti Game Reserve and Ikoma Open Area, where human disturbance is greater.  By testing elephant dung, the research team found animals outside the national park had significantly higher levels of the stress hormone, gluccorticoid.  Also, more elephants lived inside the park, while no single males were seen outside, suggesting the elephants preferred residing in potentially safer areas.

“The reason is most probably that elephants try to avoid human-elephant interactions,” said research team member Dr Eivin Roskaft from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

Air pollution linked to low birth weight

Mothers who are exposed to particulate air pollution of the type emitted by vehicles, urban heating and coal power plants are significantly more likely to bear children of low birth weight, an international study has revealed.

The study, led by co-principal investigator Tracey J Woodruff, PhD, MPH, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at UC San Francisco along with Jennifer Parker, PhD, of the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the largest of its kind ever performed.

It analyzed data collected from more than three million births in nine nations at 14 sites in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The researchers found that at sites worldwide, the higher the pollution rate, the greater the rate of low birth weight.

Low birth weight (a weight below 2500 grams or 5.5 pounds) is associated with serious health consequences, including increased risk of postnatal morbidity and mortality and chronic health problems in later life, noted lead author Payam Dadvand, MD, PhD, of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, Spain.

Woodruff noted that nations with tighter regulations on particulate air pollution have lower levels of these air pollutants.

Whether these pregnancy exposures can have effects later in life, currently is under investigation through an epidemiological follow-up of some of the children included in these studies.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Mediterranean diet may help control diabetes

Mediterranean-style diet that emphasizes on fruits, vegetables and legumes, whole grains, fish, and using olive oil and herbs in place of butter and salt may help people with diabetes lose weight and lower blood sugar. A review of evidence from the last 10 years found that diets lean on meat and rich in healthy fats like olive oil were most effective at promoting weight loss and lowering blood sugar among diabetics.

Benefits were also seen with diets low in carbohydrates, high in protein or low in simple sugars, Fox News reported.

People with type 2 diabetes cannot store glucose in their cells effectively, and their blood sugar levels can go dangerously high. Lifestyle changes like weight loss and cutting calorie intake can improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of complications from the disease, but it has not been clear which diet plans work best.

Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, thinks Mediterranean diets may be more successful because they are easier to maintain than restrictive low-carb or high-protein diets. But Zeratsky noted that a Mediterranean diet is not the only way to achieve weight loss and improve heart health.

It’s more important to take a balanced approach, including fruits and vegetables, eating moderate portions and talking to a doctor before embarking on a plan, she said.

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