23July2019

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

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Nurture is More Important Than Nature

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Most people who choose dogs seem to have some physical similarity with them. High heeled coiffured ladies with long legged, high stepping dogs, overweight people with plumper dogs, shaggy haired master and dog. Sadahiko Nakajima is a psychologist at Japan's Kwansei Gakuin University who has researched not just the notion that humans and their pet dogs look alike, but also why that is so.

In 2009 Nakajima showed how people were able to match dogs and their owners simply by looking at photographs of their faces. This is one of the many experiments done that reinforce the popular belief that dog and owner have a physical resemblance to each other.

The next step was to understand why. Nakajima conducted another experiment, the results of which were published in the journal Anthrozoos.

He found that the reason lay in the eyes.

500 people were shown two sets of photographs. One set showed pictures of real dog-owner pairs, while the other set had random pairings of people and dogs. The participants were shown 5 sets of pictures where different organs were masked : no-mask (in which the human's and the dog's faces were unobstructed), eye-mask (the human's eyes were blacked out), mouth-mask (the human's mouth was blacked out), dog-eye-mask (the dog's eyes were blacked out), and eye-only (where just the eyes of the human and the dog could be seen).

The participants were then asked to select the dog-owner pairs that physically resembled each other. As in Nakajima's 2009 experiment,  80 % participants who were shown the unobstructed photos correctly identified the dog-owner pairs . When the owners' mouths were concealed, participants were correct 73 % of the time. But when the eyes of either humans or the dogs were blacked out, there was no accuracy at all – simply random guesses.  When participants were shown only the eyes of the dog and the human, their accuracy rose to 74 percent.

The conclusion reached was that people choose to get dogs that look similar to themselves – but mainly in the eye region.

The psychological mechanism, that explains why a person might choose a dog who looks similar to themselves, is”familiarity”, known in technical terms as the “ mere exposure effect”. That is why we like the same authors, the same “oldie” songs. That is why we vote for actors, and the wives/children of well known people, without caring about their competence. It is also the reason why fake news has so much strength - repeated every few weeks , it takes on a life in our imagination simply because we are familiar with it.

We are familiar with our own faces. So, anything that looks like us  arouses a warm response. In a test done by Dr Stanley Coren, 104 women were asked to look at the heads of four dog breeds: an English Springer Spaniel, a Beagle, a Siberian Husky and a Basenji. The women rated them on looks, friendliness, loyalty and intelligence. The women were divided into those with longer hair styles that covered the ears and those with shorter or pulled back hair that exposed the ears. 

The results ? Women with longer ear covered hair preferred beagles and spaniels with longer ears that framed the face. Women with shorter hair and visible ears chose the Siberian Husky and the Basenji with pricked ears.

Now a new study done by social psychologists at Michigan State University says that dog and owner  personalities also tend to be similar.

The study had 1681 owners of dogs evaluate their own personalities and the personalities of their dogs. Researchers found that most of them shared personality traits. An agreeable person was twice as likely to have a dog that is happy and less aggressive than one who was moodier. Loving responsible owners rated their dogs as amenable to training. Neurotic owners rated their dogs as fearful.

Obviously the study could not rely on just the observation of the owner, as it might be biased. But acquaintances rated the dog in the same way as the owner did.

This is the standard personality guidelines for personality comparison:

Neuroticism or emotional stability – is a person oversensitive and nervous, or secure and confident.

Extraversion – is the person outgoing, sociable and energetic, or solitary and reserved.

Agreeableness –is a person friendly and compassionate, or cold and unkind.

Conscientiousness – is the person hard-working, efficient and organized, or easy-going, lazy or careless.

Openness – Intelligence levels – is the person inventive and curious, or consistent and cautious

When the owners rate the personality of their dogs, using a test developed by the University of Texas to measure a dog's personality, the owners rated their dogs as similar to themselves in all five of the personality traits. Family members rated the dog as well and the results showed, that in four out of the five personality characteristics, these family members saw the same traits in the dog as in the dog's owner. However, both these studies apply to one dog households. If there are more than one, the similarities become less consistent.

A study by the University of Vienna, published in the journal PLOS, recruited 132 dogs and their owners, monitoring the stress of each member of the pair using both behavioural tests (how they reacted to perceived threats in the lab) and physical markers (heart rate and saliva samples to detect the stress hormone cortisol). The scientists found that the more anxious the owner, the more neurotic the dog. If the owner was relaxed, so was the dog.

Why do these similarities exist. Maybe because the owners tend to pick dogs who are similar to themselves. But even more, through our daily interactions with them we shape their personality. Of course  this is a complicated issue. Do friendly people choose friendly dogs. Or do friendly people take their dogs out more so that the dog becomes better socialized? Dr Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, researched 6000 people’s personalities in 1996 to bring out a chart that predicted the breed of dog that they were likely to choose. The data from that study, which resulted in the book Why We Love the Dogs We Do, was not a comparison of the personality traits of the dog and its owner, but on how the personality of the human affected his attitude toward certain types of dogs. For instance, the study found that individuals who owned aggressive breed dogs had life histories associated with aggression.

When Lambu came to me he had been thrown out of three homes for bad behaviour. Alpha male, he needed attention and would not tolerate any other dogs. For the first few months he drove away all the other 24 that live with me, and took the entire front of the house for himself. As time went on, he has become far less aggressive, gets on with the dogs and is a mature well balanced personality whom one can talk to. All my dogs are throwaways, or crippled in some fashion. When they settle down, none of them are competitive, all of them are curious and they tolerate people while wandering through the world with their own personal agendas. We share many traits. They came in having suffered through contact with the world. In my no-demand house they relax, as do the insects, birds, monkeys and the occasional snake

Dog personalities aren’t set in stone. They change as they grow and are influenced by their lifestyles and experiences. The dog you take home from the shelter isn’t the same dog you’ll have a year from now. You have the power to change it. Nurture is more important than nature. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Need to Stop the Baloons as Well

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

My mind and body have instinctively always had the right feelings towards things that are harmful for the planet – it is almost as if my relationship with Nature is so profound that we think as one. I have always hated kites and plastic straws, for instance, long before I knew how many millions of lives they took. Another phobia of mine is balloons. My family knows that I will not touch one and will not enter a space that has them. People who release pigeons and balloons at rallies have my undying hatred because the pigeons will die and the balloons will kill. Fortunately, because we have been so vociferous about bird releases at ceremonies, it is no longer done. Now we need to stop the balloons as well.

The deadliest ocean garbage for seabirds is balloons. In a small survey done on one coast, 1,700 dead seabirds were picked up. 500+ of these had swallowed plastic. Four in 10 of those deaths were caused by balloons.

Seabirds frequently snap up floating litter because it looks like food. When pieces of latex, or Mylar, are mistaken for food and ingested, they lodge in the digestive tract, inhibiting the animal's ability to eat, and causing a slow and painful death by starvation. Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food. In addition, many animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or cut their limbs.

A balloon floats to a high altitude where it bursts. The burst pattern makes it look like a jellyfish, that now comes down, is washed into the ocean, and is swallowed by predators like dolphins, whales and sea turtles.

If a seabird swallows a balloon, it's 32 times more likely to die than if it had gulped down a piece of hard plastic, researchers reported in a new study done by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia printed in Scientific Reports. "Among the birds we studied, the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections, or other complications, caused by gastrointestinal obstructions. Birds are especially likely to swallow balloons because they closely resemble squid. Sea turtles, among other wildlife, eat shrivelled, or exploded, rubber balloons because they look like jellyfish. Sea turtles are hit hard, as they surface to breathe and eat and commonly eat balloons. Scientists, doing necropsies on  turtles that washed ashore dead, have often found the necks of latex balloons blocking the entrance to the small intestine from the stomach, and four feet of attached ribbon in the intestine. In July 2018 a handful of boats held a competition on picking up balloons in the ocean. In one day over 600 balloons were collected.

The Sea Turtle Foundation estimates that 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 2 million sea birds die every year from ingesting or becoming entangled in marine debris, including indigestible plastic that blocks stomachs. In 2016, the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) named balloon litter as one of the three most harmful items to marine wildlife.

Balloons are made of latex/mylar or foil and fall to the ground as litter. They are as harmful as cigarette butts and plastic bags. The ones that are pumped with helium travel thousands of miles and their pieces are found in the most remote places, like wildlife refuges, where they pollute the earth. For example, more than a hundred balloons were recently collected at the Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey at a single cleanup on one beach. Petrels swallow shrivelled up balloons and die. On any beach in the world, you can pick up at least 10-15 balloons every day.

To use helium in balloons should be made a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Helium is a finite gas and should not be wasted on fripperies. Helium is used as a shield gas for non-ferrous welding and for cooling the superconducting magnets in MRI scanners . There is no substitute for it, due to Helium's low boiling point? It is also used in breathing ventilators for infants and the patients. In 1996, Nobel Prize winner Robert Richardson issued a warning that supplies of Helium are being used at an unimaginable rate and could be gone within twenty years. Because of balloons ?

According to the US-based Consumer Product Safety Commission, balloons are linked to more infant fatalities than any other child product, and death by helium inhalation consistently takes lives each year.

Balloon companies say that latex, or rubber balloons, degrade. They give different names to the balloon – Qualatex for instance. This is not true. There are no safe balloons. They degrade in decades and are eaten long before that.  While conservationists all over the world are asking for an end to balloons, the companies in America have predictably got together and have created the Balloon Council to fight any laws that restrict the buying and release of balloons. They are reinventing their selling techniques by calling themselves biodegradable. This nonsense, that they use “Natural” latex so it is biodegradable, does not hold, because the latex has had chemicals, plasticizers and artificial dyes added to it. It may degrade eventually, as even rocks do, but it is certainly not biodegradable. People who live in the desert have found thousands of them, some over 20 years old. 

The ribbons, or string that is sometimes tied to balloons, whether it is “biodegradable” or “ naturally dyed”, will last years and entangles animals that comes into contact with it. The balloon industry claims that when a balloon pops, it bursts into many little pieces, and that the pieces land far away from each other. How does that matter? Each piece is a time bomb.

People see balloons as an uplifting thing. Going to the skies and the heavens. They don’t reach heaven – but this flying trash makes thousands of animals and birds reach it before their time. Look at the site 'Balloons Blow' so that you can see pictures of the lakhs of creatures killed by balloons.

Birthday parties, weddings, graduations, sport events , political party jamborees – all these are now mass balloon littering events. It is time to make them illegal : they are pointless, useless, and an anachronism that nobody will miss if they were gone. I am surprised that the Environment and Forest Ministry has not moved to stop this industry. But then, they are equally useless at banning fireworks.

Are you, as a parent, not concerned about the state of the world. Start by changing the birthday party balloon use. Have fun, celebrate with environmentally-friendly alternatives. You want to have things that make your parties memorable and happy ? Flowers are the best way. Coloured lights, colourful streamers, flags and banners save money and time. Pinwheels, with flashy colours fluttering in the wind, attract attention. Tissue Paper Pompoms in different colours are pretty. Blowing bubbles is always fun; watching them bounce around towards the sky and twist with the wind like rainbow butterflies . There are companies that create giant bubbles which are a sight to behold. Chinese paper lanterns are not an environmentally-friendly alternative. Sky lanterns have started huge fires.

Here is a film that you should show in every school - Rubber Jellyfish by Carly Wilson is a documentary about the effects of released helium balloons on ocean wildlife - in particular, Australia’s population of critically endangered sea turtles.

Carly Wilson discovers that helium balloons, that are often released ceremoniously, usually land in the ocean. She examines the phenomenon that causes balloons to mimic the appearance of jellyfish, a prey that all sea turtles eat, when they rupture high in the earth’s atmosphere. She meets several turtles suffering from the excruciatingly painful and often fatal ‘float syndrome’, which is caused by the ingestion of balloons and other ocean rubbish.

Through the film Carly seeks to understand why and how the multi billion dollar balloon industry has led the public to believe that latex balloons are biodegradable and environmentally friendly, despite massive evidence to the contrary. She meets marine biologists, turtle activists, reps of the balloon industry and policy makers, to question why Australia has not taken action against mass balloon releases, when it's waters host all six sea turtles on the CITES endangered species list.

Listen to the reports scientists, wildlife rehabilitators and conservationists are filing about the impacts balloons have on animals and the environment Stop using them. Or invent edible, organic, biodegradable balloons made of unwaxed paper, or straw or even soya, that disintegrate when they are wet.  

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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How many eggs a week is safe?

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the body. It is produced by your body (75% by your liver). The rest comes from the food you eat. Cholesterol is present in every cell of the body and is important in digesting foods, generating vitamin D, building cell walls and producing some hormones.

While it is needed for good health, too much cholesterol can damage your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol in the blood doesn't move through the body on its own. It combines with proteins to travel through the bloodstream. Cholesterol and protein traveling together are called lipoproteins. The main types of lipoproteins are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL moves cholesterol out of your arteries and back to the liver for disposal. LDL cholesterol is known as 'bad' cholesterol because it brings and leaves cholesterol in your arteries.

The extra LDL-cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries, forming plaque. Plaque can block arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through and putting you at risk for heart disease, attacks and strokes. Having high cholesterol does not usually produce any symptoms, so you could be in danger even without knowing it. One sign is a gray-white line of fat deposits growing on the outside edge of your cornea. If you're under 40, it could be a sign of dangerously high cholesterol.

You can inherit a tendency towards high cholesterol. No one in my family has died of a heart attack so far. But I do have small yellowish white patches on my eyelids which I developed in my forties – and which are a symptom of extra cholesterol. They are more likely to develop during a person's middle years and are more common in women than men. My mother and grandmother had them too. My cholesterol levels have always been on the high side even though my lifestyle includes exercise and only non oily vegetarian food. The doctors say hypercholesterolaemia may be an inherited condition which occurs because of a mutated gene. This usually results in heart disease before 55 but I am past that now. Around 12% of females, who inherit the genetic mutation from a parent, will develop coronary artery disease before the age of 50 years, and 74 per cent by the age of 70 years. About 85 per cent of affected male children will have a heart attack before the age of 60 years. But this can be kept in check by diet and exercise.

In adults, total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered healthy. Between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high. 240 mg/dL and above is high.

LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.100–129 mg/dL is acceptable for people with no health problems but may be a concern for anyone with heart disease or heart disease risk factors.130—159 mg/dL is borderline high.160–189 mg/dL is high.

HDL levels should be 60 mg/dL or higher. Less than 40 mg/dL can be a major risk factor for heart disease.

Cholesterol only comes from animal foods like egg, milk, butter, cheese meat, fish, poultry, hydrogenated oils like lard, margarine, palm and coconut.

People who eat animal products may have more cholesterol in their bodies, at any given time, than those who don't. It is not just from the food they eat - the liver will also increase cholesterol levels when a diet is high in fat and trans fats. Having an increased amount of LDL cholesterol, caused by trans and saturated fats, increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

A report from Harvard Health has identified foods that actively decrease cholesterol levels:

Oats, barley and whole grains, beans, eggplant and okra, nuts, vegetable oil (canola, sunflower), fruits (mainly apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus), soy and soy-based foods, foods rich in fibre (no animal based foods have fibre.)

Reducing the intake of fat in the diet helps to manage cholesterol levels. Limit foods that contain:

Saturated fat: This occurs in meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried, and processed foods.

Trans fats: This occurs in some fried and processed foods.

Excess weight can also lead to higher blood LDL levels.

Other conditions that can lead to high cholesterol levels, include: diabetes (another lifestyle disease), liver or kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and steroids.

If your diet is high in fibre and you eat mainly fresh fruit and plants, plant sterols will lower your cholesterol. Physical activity will also make you maintain or lose weight. Exercising for an hour a day raises the heart rate, helps with keeping a healthy weight, and reduces LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.

Researchers of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago and published in Journal for the American Medical Association, JAMA, examined data from six study groups of more than 29,000 people followed for 17½ years. At the start, participants filled in questionnaires detailing the foods they ate. Over the follow-up period, a total of 5,400 cardiovascular events occurred, including 1,302 fatal and nonfatal strokes, 1,897 incidents of fatal and nonfatal heart failure and 113 other heart disease deaths. An additional 6,132 participants died of other causes.

When they analyzed the data, the researchers found an association between egg consumption as reported at the start of the study and participants’ risk of developing cardiovascular disease. As their egg consumption rose, so did their risk. An egg has 155 calories and 11gms total fat. Each egg has 186 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 124% of what you should be eating per day and sodium 124 mg - more cholesterol than a fast-food double cheeseburger.

Three or more eggs a week was associated with a 3.2% higher risk of heart disease and a 4.4% higher risk of early death. Each additional half an egg consumed per day was associated with a 6-8% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and higher risk of early death due to any cause.

The researchers factored in every other unhealthy behaviour, such as low physical activity, smoking and an unhealthy diet full of processed food and saturated fats.

Dr. Robert H. Eckel, of University of Colorado School of Medicine, wrote that the new report "is far more comprehensive, with enough data to make a strong statement that eggs and overall dietary cholesterol intake remain important in affecting the risk of cardiovascular disease, and more so the risk of all-cause mortality."

"Considering the negative consequences of egg consumption and dietary cholesterol in the setting of heart-healthy dietary patterns, the importance of limiting intake of cholesterol-rich foods should not be dismissed," he concluded. According to industry data, the world will eat more eggs in 2019 than any time for the past 20 years.

Are eggs eaten alone? The food they are eaten with is as terrible for the body - white bread, butter, salt, and/or processed meats like bacon or sausages.

How many eggs a week is safe?  None.

The more eggs a person eats, the more those risks increase. People in the study, who averaged an egg every day, saw their risk of a heart-related event, such as a heart attack or stroke, increase by 12% compared to someone who didn’t eat eggs. Those who averaged two eggs every day had a 24% increased risk of heart-related events.

Researchers saw similarly increased risks for people who ate processed and unprocessed red meat.

Those associations held even when researchers looked at the overall quality of a person’s diet. Those who included eggs as part of a healthy diet didn’t have lower risks compared to those who ate eggs along with less nutritious foods.

It follows a 2018 study that looked at the evidence collected from 28 studies that had people eat eggs as an experiment and then looked at changes to their blood lipids. The study found eating eggs boosted total cholesterol by about 5 points compared to people who were on diets that didn’t include eggs.  Most of that increase came from an increase in LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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