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October 13, 2017

Weekend reads: Add a little guac—avocado might be good for your heart, study suggests

Daily Briefing

Ben Palmer's reads

Good news for avocado toast lovers. Foods that are rich in potassium—such as avocados, bananas, potatoes, and spinach—may help prevent heart disease, according to a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham published in JCI Insight. For the study, researchers fed groups of mice diets with high, medium, and low levels of potassium. They found that the mice fed high-potassium diets had the least-stiff arteries compared with those who were fed a normal amount of potassium and a low amount of potassium. According to the researchers, the findings could lead to "uncovered mechanisms that offer opportunities to develop therapeutic strategies to control vascular disease."

How Burmese pythons made Florida mosquitos more dangerous. When owning a pet snake became a trend in Florida in 1980s, it may have unwittingly kicked off a chain of events that resulted in increased risk to human health in the present day, Claire O'Neill writes for the New York Times. According to O'Neill, a particularly popular pet snake in 1980s—the Burmese python—had by the early 2000s overrode the Florida Everglades, either because owners were letting their pets go or, perhaps, because of Hurricane Andrew, a 1992 storm that destroyed a reptile breeding facility and potentially let loose its specimens into the state. As a result of the python influx, the mammal population all but vanished in the Everglades—all except for the hispid cotton rat, a rodent that happens to be one of the only known carriers of the Everglades virus, which can cause fever, headaches, and encephalitis  in humans. And since the mammal population had dwindled, mosquitos increasingly preyed on the hispid cotton rat, carrying the rodents' infected blood and passing on the infection to any human victims they bit.

Rachel Schulze's reads

Meet the woman who's making the New York Marathon her 'recovery run.' Twelve years after having part of her leg amputated, Krysten Chambrot is training for the New York City Marathon. She began running as an amputee seven years ago, when on a whim she stopped by a running workshop for lower leg amputees. In the New York Times, Chambrot reflects on how the challenge of running has become part of her recovery process, writing, "Running ... has been a constant reminder that I can push myself harder than I'd ever dreamed. I'm still plagued with certain worries—about my one good knee, or a permanent injury, or even not making it to the finish. But with every passing day, I'm grateful for what my legs give me—a chance to move forward."

Bye-bye, briefcase; hello, backpack. Male, white-collar workers in growing numbers are ditching the briefcase and opting to lug a backpack instead, Jacob Gallagher reports for the Wall Street Journal. Data from NPD, a market research group that tracks retail trends, show sales of men's backpacks have grown steadily over the past two years. According to NDR analyst Marshal Cohen, that trend is driven in part by the backpack's progression into a higher-end product. "Men's backpacks have gotten more executive," he said, citing a shift toward finely crafted backpacks in leather and other upscale, luxurious materials.  

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