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April 21, 2017

Weekend reads: Your birth month may influence your personality

Daily Briefing

The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Sam Bernstein's reads

The case for "ugly" food. Recipe websites, social media, and dinner plates at fancy restaurants frequently showcase the Platonic ideal of a good meal.  We have been conditioned to value the decadent waffle, glistening tartare, and the sizzle of steak harvested from a cow massaged by hand and fed with beer in rural Japan. However, in their new book, "Ugly Food: Overlooked and Undercooked," Keith Floyd and Richard Horsey argue mainstream food culture presents a sanitized view of food that shuns the "messy reality" of food. "The food industry, like the fashion industry, seems driven by the pursuit of impossible perfection," they write, adding that this approach is frequently less sustainable and bad for the environment. Instead, they say people should embrace "ugly" food, such as char-grilled chicken heart or grilled mutton kidneys, among other shunned ingredients.

Is the juice worth the squeeze? The startup Juicero built a $400 juicer that squeezes packets of pureed fruits and vegetables that they sell for a few dollars each—a high-tech, if costly, way to get in your recommended fruits and veggies for the day. But the startup has hit a snag, thanks to a juicing investigation by Bloomberg. After pitting the juicer against a reporter's grip, it turns out you don't need the juicer—because squeezing the bag by hand works just as well, and sometimes more quickly.

Rachel Schulze's

The potential antibiotic lurking in dragon blood: A group of scientists from George Mason University recently produced an antibiotic chemical that was inspired by Komodo dragon blood. For their research, the scientists acquired a sample of Komodo dragon blood—which is no easy feat—and isolated a substance "that appeared to have powerful germ-killing abilities," Donald McNeil reports for the New York Times. The chemical the researchers made, called DRGN-1, helped speed healing in bacteria-infected skin wounds in mice. And just as importantly, Barney Bishop, one of the study's lead authors, noted that "no dragons were harmed in this process."

The ties between birth month and personality: Several recent studies offer some insight on how the season during which a person is born relates to their temperament. Spring babies score higher when it comes to hyperthymia—meaning general optimism, Jeffrey Kluger reports for Time. Summer babies have some of the hyperthymia of their spring-born friends, though rapid cycling between high and low moods can offset it. Fall babies have low levels of depression and are less likely to develop bipolar disorder, though they have a tendency toward irritability. Rates of depression and bipolar disorder—as well as seasonal affective disorder and schizophrenia—are higher among those born in the winter. But there's an upside for the January and February babies—being born during those months is correlated with creativity and imaginative problem solving.

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