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Health Officials Step Up Psychological Support Efforts at Boston Marathon


iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Bob Spiner, Jr. has breezed through several 20-mile runs in the past few weeks. The 50-year-old lawyer from Lynbrook, N.Y., has trained a steady 40 to 50 miles a week for the past year and said he is in top physical condition to run this year's Boston Marathon. He's just not sure he's mentally ready.

"I am emotionally fatigued by all of the new security measures and I'm not convinced I want to put myself through it or my family through it," Spiner said.

A lot of this year's 36,000 Boston Marathon entrants are wrestling with the same sort of ambivalence. On the one hand they want to be there for their fellow runners and show support for those who died or were injured during last year's bombing. On the other hand, they want to feel safe.

Boston Marathon organizers acknowledge this emotional dilemma. That's why they've upped the marathon's usual psychological support staff from two to 60.

"We'll have mental health professionals in 22 of the 26 medical tents along the route, at the chutes at the finish line and in both of the race's main medical tents," explained Jeff Brown, a cognitive behavioral psychologist who has been the marathon's psychology coordinator for the past decade. "We also have a private area at the runner's expo in case anyone wants to come in and talk anything from race strategy to how they're processing last year's events."

Brown said the beefed up mental health aid will help address the larger number of entrants in this year's race. Race officials increased the field of participants by 9,000 to accommodate runners whose times qualified them to run this year's race and those who were prevented from crossing the finish line last year.

Brown said he also anticipated the race could be a significant emotional experience for a lot of the marathoners. Though he said he wasn't expecting vast numbers of runners to be in psychological crisis along the course, he acknowledged that statistically about 10 percent of people who live through a traumatic event are later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.

"Different places along the course will mean different things to so many people, whether it's making it across the finish line or crossing the 21-mile mark where they might have been pulled off the course last year," he pointed out. "We just want to ensure there are people in place to deal with each case appropriately."

Licensed mental health volunteers from all over the world will staff the race this year, Brown said. The majority will be drawn from the Massachusetts Psychological Association's disaster response network and people trained in disaster response by the American Red Cross. All volunteers were required to go through a special training with Brown to ensure they know how to deal with athletes in general and runners in particular.

"Runners are certainly a different breed," Brown said.

In addition to the larger mental health team, medical coordinator Chris Troyanos said the marathon's entire medical effort has been stepped up this year. More than 1,900 medical volunteers will be working the race. Ranging from physicians, nurses and certified athletic trainers, they'll be available everywhere along the course including at least 350 medical staff in each of the main tents alone. More will be stationed in emergency rooms throughout the Boston area.

"If there's any sort of crisis this year, the medical team will be prepared, just as they were last year," Troyanos said. "The Boston Athletic Association has the resources, the volunteers and the equipment to do what no other marathon can do."

Spiner appreciates the effort race officials have put in to ensure the safety and well-being of runners. He said while reassuring, it didn't completely ease his anxiety. He's worried a copycat will try to gain notoriety by disrupting the race again and said he would not decide whether or not to run until a few days before the race.

"I can't shake my reservations -- 26.2 miles is a long way to protect," he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Weight Gain Is Another Occupational Hazard


Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Is your job weighing you down? Maybe it's because you're packing on the pounds at work.

A CareerBuilder survey of more than 3,000 job professionals finds that close to half of them claim they've put on weight at their current place of employment.

Of those who say they've gotten heavier, the majority report a weight gain of more than 10 pounds during time spent at the present job, and a quarter admit adding over 20 pounds.

In what might be a bit of fitting justice for those who don't like the boss, it turns out that managers are more susceptible to gaining weight than folks working in non-management roles.

CareerBuilder also found that more women reported gaining weight than men, and those in information technology (IT) positions were more prone than those in other industries to get heavier, although workers in government financial services, health care and professional and business services weren't too far behind.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Woman Reportedly Finds Bird Leg in Bagged Spinach


iStock/Thinkstock(AKRON, Ohio) -- An Ohio woman is unhappy with the food giant Dole after reportedly finding a bird leg in her bagged spinach.

Rose Carducci said, after she opened the bag, "As I started looking some more I saw what looked like nails, like talons, and realized, 'Oh my gosh, this is part of a bird.'"

Carducci says Dole offered to send vouchers for spinach and salad, but she turned it down.

"Birds carry diseases... it's in my salad... I mean could other bags be contaminated?" Carducci said.

Dole released a statement saying the company is investigating.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Laughing Makes Your Brain Work Better, New Study Finds


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ever have trouble remembering where you just left your keys? Just laugh it off. New research suggests that humor can improve short-term memory in older adults.

In a recent small study conducted at Loma Linda University in Southern California, 20 normal, healthy, older adults watched a funny video distraction-free for 20 minutes, while a control group sat calmly with no video. Afterwards, they performed memory tests and had saliva samples analyzed for stress hormones.

Those who got to laugh the 20 minutes away with the funny video scored better on short-term memory tests, researchers said. And salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol -- a memory enemy of sorts -- were significantly decreased in the humor group.

"Learning ability and delayed recall become more challenging as we age," said study author Dr. Gurinder S. Bains, a Ph.D. candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences. "Laughing with friends or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV, as I do daily, helps me cope with my daily stressors."

The less stress you have, researchers said, the better your memory. It works like this: humor reduces stress hormones, lowers your blood pressure, and increases your mood state, according to Dr. Lee Berk, a co-author of the study and associate professor of Allied Heath.

The act of laughter-- or simply enjoying some humor-- increases endorphins, sending dopamine to the brain to provide a sense of pleasure and reward, Berk said.

That, in turn, makes the immune system work better and changes brain wave activity towards what's called a "gamma frequency," amping up memory and recall.

Want to lower your stress levels?

"Begin by laughing more daily," Bains said. "It will improve your quality of life."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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SARS-Like MERS Virus Spreads Among Healthcare Workers


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A sudden uptick in the SARS-like corona virus called MERS-CoV for Middle Eastern Respiratory Coronavirus is partially related to healthcare workers becoming infected with the disease.

This month the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 32 cases of the virus so far, including a cluster of 10 healthcare workers, all of whom worked with an infected patient, who died on April 10. Nearly all the cases were located in the Middle East countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. One case was found in Malaysia.

Of the 32 cases reported this month, 19 were healthcare workers, according to the WHO.

For the first time, the disease has been found in Asia, after a Malaysian man was found to have contracted it this month. The 54-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after traveling to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The man traveled for a pilgrimage and during his vacation spent time at a camel farm, where he had camel milk. He died on April 13 and had undisclosed underlying health conditions.

The virus is a respiratory virus in the same family as the deadly SARS virus and common cold. Symptoms can include fever, shortness of breath, pneumonia, diarrhea and in severe cases kidney failure.

Since the virus was first identified in April 2012, the WHO has found a total of 243 confirmed cases of the deadly virus and 93 people have died from it.

The virus has been shown to spread between people in close contact. Currently officials do not know where the virus originated, but suspect it was likely from an animal.

No MERS-CoV infections have been reported in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers to the Arabian Peninsula monitor their health during the trip and in the weeks after.

CDC officials recommend that if a recent traveler to the region develops a fever or symptom of respiratory illness, including a cough or shortness of breath, they should see a doctor immediately.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Woman With Engineered Vagina Says She Has 'Normal Life'


iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) -- A woman who took part in a ground-breaking study in which scientists were able to use her cells to engineer lab-grown vaginas is speaking about the procedure that changed her life.

The unnamed woman was one of four subjects between the ages of 13 to 18 who took part in the study. All four suffered from a genetic condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauster (MRKH), which left them with vaginas that were incomplete.

The unnamed woman, who lives in Mexico, said in a translated interview that she was 18 when she found out about her condition and started to learn about her options.

"I thought I couldn’t believe it was true. I was informed about other procedures for this syndrome and it was unbelievable that it could be done in a lab," she said of first learning about the study.

To engineer the organs, researchers from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City biopsied cells from the women and were able to use a biodegradable scaffolds to then build the vagina in the lab. The organs were then implanted in each patient.

"For me to be able to have the surgery, I feel very fortunate because I can have a normal life,"” said the woman. "I know I'm one of the first. It is important to let other girls that have the same problem know that ... there is a treatment and you can have a normal life."

A woman with MRKH will often not develop a uterus or a full vagina, though external genitalia is unaffected by the disorder, which often means the syndrome is not diagnosed until the patient is in her late teens. Before the study, patients were limited to surgical options to recreate that vaginal canal. The disorder affects approximately one in 4,500 female births, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In the eight years after the original operation, researchers found that the subjects reported normal sexual function and that the engineered organs remained structurally and functionally normal.

"Truly I feel fortunate because I have a normal life, completely normal," said the woman who took part in the study.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Thirteen-Pound Baby Waldo Wows Parents


iStock/Thinkstock(DREXEL HILL, Pa.) -- A couple was in for a surprise when their newborn weighed a whopping four pounds more than expected.

Waldo James Mysterious Dwyer was born by C-section on Monday weighing 13 pounds, 8 ounces, according to ABC affiliate WPVI.

"We knew he was big but not that big," Danielle Dwyer told WPVI, explaining that doctors guessed Waldo would weigh about 9 pounds, 10 ounces. "I'm thankful he was healthy and well."

The median birth weight for boys is just less than 8 pounds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But baby Waldo was two weeks past due, WPVI reported.

"He had a little extra time in there to cook, to grow," said Dwyer.

"There were so many fat rolls you couldn't tell where his armpits were," said Waldo's dad, Brian Dwyer, who also explained the origin of Waldo's unusual middle name. "He was almost 14 pounds, under a blood red lunar eclipse. I don't know what any of that means but it seems like the first few sentences of a tall tale."

"If there is one child who could own that name Waldo James Mysterious, I think that it's him."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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'Pee Parties' Latest Baby-Making Trend


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Conception has gone social.

Pee parties -- also known as POAS, or Pee on a Stick Parties -- are the latest way women are taking what was once a very private moment very public.

The trend was first spotted by BabyCenter.com. "They will discuss what day they are going to test," said Rebecca Michals, director of global community and customer service, "and then come back to post the results."

Is this the ultimate in oversharing? Maybe not. The intention behind the parties and posts might be just the opposite.

"They [the women] may not want to tell people they are trying to conceive in real life, so they come to the message boards to talk," Michals said. "It gives them support during the two-week-wait.”

The two-week wait, also called the TWW, is the time between sex that intended to result in pregnancy and the time when an over-the-counter pregnancy test can give accurate results.

The boards have certainly served as a support system for Christine Straut-Kinnan of Albuquerque, N.M. She was pregnant in December but had a miscarriage. She's now anxious to conceive again and has participated in several pee parties.

"The ladies," she said, referring to the other women on the message boards, "have been a Godsend. We share in the excitement of the girls who get positives and in the sorrows of those who are still negative. It helps pass the time between the fertile weeks and when you eventually pee on a stick."

Straut-Kinnan said her next POAS party will be in about three weeks from now. How fast will she post the results?

"Within an hour."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Why ESPN Anchor Refuses to Let Cancer Win


Rich Arden/ESPN(NEW YORK) -- Stuart Scott is an ESPN original and the man GQ magazine once said put the hip-hop in sportscasting.

When the Sportscenter anchor is not at ESPN’s studios, he can be found once or twice a month practicing mixed-martial arts wearing sunglasses, for a very specific reason.

“I’m blind in my left eye,” Scott told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an interview this week.  “Contrary to what people say, it is not a glass eye so I have to protect my eyes at all cost.”

Scott, 48, was first diagnosed with cancer in November of 2007.

“That was just kind of a surprise when the doctor said, ‘We did a biopsy on your appendix and you have cancer,’” Scott recalled.  “Like the first thought [was], ‘I’m gonna die.’”

“There’s probably an expletive before the thought, ‘I’m gonna die,’ [but I] can’t say it,” he said.  “My second thought was, ‘I’m gonna die and I’m gonna leave my daughters and I can’t do that.”

After two surgeries and six months of chemotherapy, Scott emerged cancer-free.  Two years later, however, the cancer returned in the form of three tumors.

“After that time I kind of realized, at least for me, this is likely gonna be something I’m never gonna kick, so now what?,” Scott said.

Scott says he left his prognosis at that -- “something I’m never gonna kick” -- for a reason.

“I don’t want to know how many years you think I may have left. How many months you think I may have left,” he told Roberts.  “I don’t want to know what stage cancer you think I have because what’s that going to do?”

“Let’s say it’s Stage 4,” Scott said.  “Well, it’s just gonna make me scared, more scared.  I don’t need that.”

In addition to his medical treatments, Scott has taken to fighting his cancer in the gym, training in martial arts at Plus One Defense Systems in West Hartford, Conn.

“It’s for the mend better than any chemo to me. It’s better than any kind of medicine,” Scott said.  “It’s my way of trying to kick cancer’s a**.”

Scott conditions himself with intense workout sessions with his trainer, Darin Reisler.

“It feels good to be winded, having trouble breathing, chest hurts…,” Scott told Roberts in the midst of a workout. “I’m alive.”

Scott says he fights against cancer for his two daughters. “The most important thing I do is I’m a dad,” he said.

Scott’s oldest daughter, Taelor, was 12 when he was first diagnosed in 2007 and is now a 19-year-old college freshman.  His younger daughter, Sydni, was 8 when Scott was first diagnosed and is now a 14-year-old who loves to sing.

“I want to walk them down the aisle,” he said.  “There are a lot of great upstanding reasons why, because I’m their dad.  I want to share that moment with them.”

“There are a couple of reasons that are just selfish and competitive, because I don’t want no other dude doing it,” he said.  “That’s my job. That’s my role. I want them to call me when they’re 26-years-old and they want a condo that they can’t really afford but I want them to call me and say, ‘Dad can you give me a loan?,’ because I want to say yes.”

“That’s really what I’ve always wanted and needed with them for them is to be a dad for a long time, as long as they need a father,” Scott said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Rise in Women Using Surrogates for Social Reasons


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For most women, carrying their own baby is the ultimate joy. More and more women, however, are turning to surrogates to carry their babies, not because they cannot conceive, but because they do not want to.

It’s a trend many are calling “social surrogacy” and one that was recently highlighted in an article in the May issue of Elle magazine.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for women to have more choices,” said Dr. Saira Jhutty, CEO of Conceptual Options LLC, a California-based surrogacy agency.

Jhutty’s agency matches surrogates with women who have nonmedical reasons for not wanting to carry their own babies. The woman who come to her agency have a variety of reasons for wanting a surrogate, from not wanting a pregnancy to interfere with their careers to being afraid of what pregnancy will do to their bodies, Jhutty said.

“We have people who are afraid of being pregnant,” Jhutty said.  “Some people work in an industry where image is very important so they don’t want to have to go through the changes that happen to a woman’s body when they get pregnant.”

But the choice is still a touchy subject, despite the rising interest in “social surrogacy.”

“Women are really guarded about issues involving their bodies and surrogacy because they are afraid of being judged,” said Leslie Steiner, author of The Baby Chase: How Surrogacy Is Transforming the American Family.

The cost is another issue that might give women pause. With surrogacy running $100,000 or more per child, it’s not for everyone.

“You have to ask yourself why you are doing this,” said Dr. Vicken Sahakian, medical director of the Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles.  “Is there real benefit for bypassing the beautiful experience of carrying a child?”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Ohio Soccer Player Is Dangerously 'Allergic' to Her Own Sweat


Courtesy Caitlin McComish(NEW YORK) -- Caitlin McComish, a promising collegiate soccer player, set out for a run in her hometown of White House, Ohio, in May 2013 when she began to have trouble breathing and went into life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

As a child, she'd been diagnosed with food allergies and had two or three mild attacks a year.

"It's never the same, it's always like a group of symptoms," said McComish, 20.

But this one was different.

"I was right in front of my grade school," she said. "I had a really upset stomach, tingly palms and the bottoms of my feet. I was really, really itchy. It hit me like uncomfortable heat waves. Then I could feel the swelling in my throat, and my tongue got tingly and thicker."

Luckily, she said she was able to call her mother before she fell to the ground and "couldn't see straight and could barely breathe."

When the ambulance arrived, McComish's throat was nearly closed and she was barely responding.

"I don't remember much," she said.

By the time she was back in fall training at the University of Toledo, she had gone into shock 17 times, always near the soccer field.

It wasn't until she was referred to the Cleveland Clinic that doctors discovered she was having an inflammatory reaction to her own sweat. She had a relatively common condition in an unusually serious form: cholinergic urticarial.

Technically, McComish doesn't have an allergy; rather, she has a hives disorder when her skin is exposed to heat and sweat. The reactions are so serious, they can be life-threatening.

In a published survey of 500 high school students, researchers found an estimated 10 percent had some form of the disease, but its "true prevalence is underrated," according to Dr. David Lang, chairman of the department of allergy and clinical immunology at The Cleveland Clinic and McComish's doctor.

"It's a condition where people have itching and swelling and the major issue is heat or sweat as a provoking factor," said Lang, who has treated numerous athletes, including professionals, with the condition. "It's quite common in the general population, but in most cases, it's mild and patients either aren't aware of it or manage their symptoms well."

Strenuous exercise, even a "sit in the Jacuzzi," can trigger it, said Lang. Sometimes it's exercise alone, or eating before exercise -- "a one-two punch."

"The hives are very small in association with an increase in the core body temperature," he said. "Common triggers are hot baths or shower or exercise. It's one of a more common group of high-swelling syndromes."

Some people can react to cold in the same way, "when they walk outside and the winter wind blows on their face, they get swelling," he said.

Lang confirmed McComish's diagnosis with an "exercise challenge." He prescribed advancing doses of antihistamines and other medications.

She tried wearing a cooling vest while she played, she tried ice baths leading up to and following practice, but nothing helped. Finally, Lang put her on a drug used typically for asthma, Xolair injections. She showed a "dramatic response," and was also able to continue to play soccer.

McComish also delighted in the fact that she was no longer allergic to peanuts, mangoes, celery and sesame seeds.

She said she is telling her story now so that others with similar conditions might seek help.

"Somehow I got to see Dr. Lang, I think out of the grace of god," McComish said.

McComish, a nursing major, has been medically disqualified from competing by NCAA rules because of a separate diagnosis P.O.T.S., a form of dysautonomia, but she has no regrets.

"I had a come-to-Jesus moment with myself," she said. "I wasn't really worried about my health and I wanted to play soccer. I thought if I pushed it under the rug and kept working hard, it would go away.

"The harder I worked, the worse I got, until my favorite coach said, 'There is a difference between working hard and working smart.' And I kind of had to realize that and simplify my life," McComish said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Drinking Coffee When You're Tired May Keep You Honest


TongRo Images/Thinkstock(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- Caffeine as the ultimate truth serum? It certainly seems to make people less inclined to be dishonest when they feel tired, according to three professors from the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Co-author Michael Christian says that sleep deprivation weakens people’s resolve to be ethically strong, such as when a supervisor tells a worker to do something that’s not entirely on the up-and-up.

In fact, Christian and his colleagues speculate that people who work the hardest are the most susceptible to the power of suggestion because they also tend to be the most tired, thus increasing both hostility and dishonesty.

In an experiment, 171 nurses who worked long shifts were divided into two group in which one received plain chewing gum while the other chewed gum laced with caffeine that was the equivalent of two cups of coffee.

When encouraged to “go along with a lie in order to earn some extra money," the caffeinated group consistently refused to accede to the request.

Christian says this shows that “caffeine can help you resist by strengthening your self-control and willpower when you're exhausted.” Just the same, the researchers recommend employers don’t overwork their workers or put them in positions when significant control is needed when long hours can’t be avoided.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Many Looking Forward to New Scientific and Tech Breakthroughs


AlexRaths/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Advances in science and technology are moving faster than people can keep up with, but in spite of feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of everything, Americans are pretty optimistic about the way things are headed.

A new Pew Research center survey suggests as much even as the changes come fast and furious.

For instance, just over eight in ten respondents believe that science will have the ability to regularly grow replacement organs within the next half-century.

Furthermore, Pew found that about half believe computers will be able to make works of art to rival that of humans in the next 50 years while a third think that other planets will be colonized by 2064.

Teleportation? Four in ten say sure, why not? As for inventions they’d like to see in the next five decades, things that would improve health as well as time travel were among the favorites.

However, some also fear the brave new world of science and technology, particularly when it comes to robots that also serve as caregivers and altering the DNA of kids.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Food Texture Can Fool People


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Food texture is probably not high on the list of what people think about when they enjoy a meal.

Yet, somehow, there’s a perception that when a food is either hard or rough, it must contain fewer calories than soft and smooth foods.

Researchers from University of South Florida, the University of Michigan and Columbia University wanted to find “the link between how a food feels in your mouth and the amount we eat, the types of food we choose, and how many calories we think we are consuming.”

So they had volunteers chow down on a variety of foods with different textures and the general consensus was that if something was hard or rough, it was lower in calories. In fact, people were so convinced by that, they ate more.

In a perfect world, the researchers hope that their study will help people make more sensible diet decisions. However, they recognize the possibility that their research could also be skewed in an unscrupulous manner by the food industry.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Laziness Could Be Hereditary


KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Thinkstock(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- You might be lazy but perhaps, you’re not to blame. Instead, blame your parents. Or your grandparents. Or maybe go back all the way to when your family tree first sprouted.

That seems to be the takeaway from a study by researchers at University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine, who did a study on 10 generations of rats.

Frank Booth and Michael Roberts say based on an experiment in which active rats bred with similarly active rats and the least active did the same, there appears to be a genetic predisposition to laziness.

After repeating the breeding for 10 generations, the kin at the end of the line called “super runners” ran 10 times more on the running wheel than the so-called “couch potato” rodents.

Ultimately, the most significant difference Booth and Roberts found in the two groups was their genetic make-up while pinpointing 36 genes in the rats’ brains that might motivate physical activity.

They’re not saying humans necessarily have the same gene but it does give people a convenient excuse when accused of being lazy.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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