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July 7, 2017

Weekend reads: Could your fat-burning ability be connected to your sense of smell?

Daily Briefing

Ben Palmer's reads

Meet Coko Loko—the chocolate you can snort. After trying the "chocolate-snorting trend" while traveling in Europe, Nick Anderson, the 29-year-old founder of Legal Lean, is now selling his own "raw cacao snuff" in U.S. stores. According to the Washington Post's Abha Bhattarai, the cacao-based powder, called Coko Loko, includes gingko biloba, taurine, and guarana, all of which are commonly found in energy drinks. Anderson claims the powder can give you an "almost energy-drink feeling, like you're euphoric but also motivated to get things done." Doctors, however, are concerned about the effects, as the product has not been approved by the FDA. "The question is, what are the risks of doing it?" said Andrew Lane, director of the Johns Hopkins Sinus Center. "There's no data, and as far as I can tell, no one's studied what happens if you inhale chocolate into your nose."

Your sense of smell could be connected to your weight. Mice stripped of their sense of smell burn fat more intensively than mice with an intact sense of smell—even when both groups of mice eat the same amount of the same type of food, according to a new study in Cell Metabolism. According to the researchers, even when the mice ate only high-fat foods, those without a sense of smell were less likely to develop diseases like fatty liver or to have the kind of fat deposits that settle around the midsection of the body. Further, when researchers disabled the sense of smell in some rats that had gotten fat off a high-fat diet while their sense of smell was intact, the rats lost nearly a third of their body weight, virtually all of it from fat. According to the researchers, the findings suggest that that a sense of smell is linked to apparently unrelated functions, such as metabolism and stress response.

Rachel Schulze's reads

Fighting plague on the prairie—with peanut butter. The Black Death—the disease that ravaged Europe centuries ago—has remained stubbornly persistent in several pockets of the American Southwest since it first arrived in 1900, in part because it infects rodents native to those areas of the country. But now, according to a new study, scientists have developed a vaccine that prevents the plague among one of those rodents: prairie dogs. For the study, scientists distributed peanut-butter-flavored sugar cubes in 58 prairie dog colonies around the Rocky Mountains and High Plains. The colonies that received cubes containing the vaccine were nearly twice as likely as colonies that received the placebo to survive a plague outbreak. But prairie dogs might view the intervention as a mixed blessing: Scientists came up with the vaccine in part to save the black-footed ferret—which eats prairie dogs.

Kangaroos spell trouble for self-driving car technology. The self-driving car has met a new foe: the kangaroo. According to the Huffington Post's Hilary Hanson, systems for self-driving cars are supposed to detect animals along the road, such as deer or cattle, by using the ground as a reference point. But Volvo, which originally tested the system with moose in Sweden, says the hopping of kangaroos throws off its "Large Animals Detection" system. David Picket, Volvo Australia's technical manager David Pickett told the Australian Broadcasting Corp, "We've noticed with the kangaroo being in mid-flight ... when it's in the air it actually looks like it's further away, then it lands and it looks closer." According to Hanson, researchers have been doggedly working on the kangaroo issue for more than a year. 

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