Make that One a Year, not One a Day

[Stomp those grapes, but don't drink the wine!]

In the department of confusing news department:
Swedish researchers are telling us that multivitamin use was closely associated with a higher rate of breast cancer.
We find this hard to believe. Take your vitamins, we're told. Did you take your vitamins? we're asked. Now the correct answer to that question is No.
Reporting in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the Swedish environmental medicine institute asked 35,000 cancer-free women to fill out a questionnaire. Some nine-and-a-half years later (Why not an even 10?), almost 1,000 of the women had breast cancer, and those women were more likely to have taken a daily multivitamin.
According to Reuters Health, Researchers found that women who reported multivitamin use at the study's start were 19 percent more likely than non-users to develop breast cancer. That was with factors like age, family history of breast cancer, weight, fruit and vegetable intake, and exercise, smoking and drinking habits taken into account.
But what if there is some other factor that wasn't taken into account? Like depression? Or exposure to toxic chemicals? Or dope smoking?
One of the researchers told Reuters that women who take multivitamins are more likely to have dense breasts, which in turn are more likely to become cancerous. Does that have to mean that taking multivitamins leads to the density? It could be that dense-breasted women are more likely to take multivitamins. Women with dense, fibrocystic breasts are sometimes told to take Vitamin E to help ease breast soreness. Who's to say whether these already-densely-breasted women decided to take their E as part of a multivitamin tablet?
The lead researcher told Reuters that women should get their nutrients directly from their food, not from a bottle.
Echoing that sentiment was a study in the same nutrition journal touting a healthy diet as a way to stave off breast cancer. Again Reuters tells us: An analysis of 18 published studies involving 400,000 people conducted by Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland found there was an 11 percent lower risk of breast cancer among women in the highest versus lower categories of a prudent diet.
Drinkers of alcohol were more likely to develop breast cancer.
There are so many studies churned out that the average person gets confused and then fatalistic. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. And I let the hair stylist convince me to dye my hair and I didn't get details about the dye first, except that it's semi-permanent.
We all know that fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts make up the best diet. There's really little mystery. When someone loses a good deal of weight everyone surrounds her asking, seeking: How did you do it? Like there was a magic way. What we're really asking is: How did you get yourself to do it? What made you stick with it? Because each of us knows the formula Eat less, exercise more.

Faster than the speed of light...

...or at least faster than the speed of the shutter. Here I am in front, far right (largest image),rowing 2,000 meters in 10 minutes and 34 seconds, shaving 20 seconds off my earlier score. Before we started, one of the young athletic rowers was saying she was nervous. It hadn't crossed my mind to be nervous, and I was afraid she was making me nervous. At home L said that being nervous can help athletes perform better.

The group of rowers are breast cancer survivors and previvors. For more info about ROW, go to: Thanks to the recession and a generous property owner, we have an unoccupied floor in an office building in the West Loop to practice in. Thanks to some parents of crew members from St. Ignatius high school (whose space it is), we no longer have white dust everywhere. We joked semi-seriously that breathing in the dust was was going to give us cancer. Ha ha. In trying to improve our health we would be hurdling headlong to our deaths. The parents came and covered the floor with what seems like thick cardboard made especially for covering floors. Now we just have to watch out for flakes falling from the ceiling.

More on Happiness: Can 79 College Students be Wrong?

The New York Times blog tells us that happiness comes from deep discussion, and not from shallow. That's based on the experiences of 79 human guinea pigs at the University of Arizona, and I see the conclusion as an argument for getting a degree in creative writing. The late Carol Bly wrote about creative writing classes as oases of meaning in "American junk culture." So how about a slogan for AWP:
Study writing, get happy.

Farewell, tortured poet. Leave your troubles inside your garret. Come to the cabaret.

You can read about the Suicidal Poet Predictor in Scary Place to see the difference in vocabulary and subject between suicidal and non-suicidal poets. According to Scary Place,The poets who committed suicide used many more first-person singular self-references such as "I," "me" and "my" and fewer first-person plural words than did the non-suicidal poets [according to a study by psychologist James Pennebaker and graduate student Shannon Stirman in Psychosomatic Medicine].

"Issues of identity, isolation and connection to others is revealed in pronoun usage," Pennebaker said in an interview. "One of the most telling words of all is the word 'I.' People who are suicidal or depressed use 'I' at much, much higher rates, and there's also a corresponding drop in references to other people."

The suicidal poets also generally reduced their use of communication words such as "talk," "share" and "listen" over time heading toward their self-inflicted deaths, while the non-suicidal poets tended to increase their use of such words. The suicidal ones also used more words associated with death, but surprisingly the amount of words with negative emotion (for example, "hate") or positive emotion ("love") did not vary significantly between the groups.

Those of you who read this blog know that suffering is included with the price of admission. I remember once when I came home from college I was talking to my aunt B and we had both read The Bell Jar. I told her that Sylvia Plath (pictured above) had described the way I felt. She was surprised. Alarmed. And that was the end of it. I think Plath had already killed herself by then. I have not. She died before the really good drugs were invented. And the good drugs aren't good for everybody.

I met a woman today who lectures and writes about humor in the Bible. The funniest story? The Book of Job, she said. Seriously.

Want vitality? Take political action.

[Young Californians protesting state-wide education budget cuts, East Bay]

That's the conclusion reached by British psychologists in studies described in a recent article in the Guardian.

They studied college students and found the happiest ones were politically active.

Reporter Aditya Chakrabortty notes that the study flies in the face of the popular wisdom that happiness
resides in creature comforts and relative affluence. Perhaps
activism gives people a sense of purpose, or of agency or
just a chance to hang out with other people. Most likely it
does all of the above.