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The Sciences

Degrees of Separation: From Literacy Levels to Vitamins

By Anna FunkApril 23, 2019 5:00 PM
Reading - Shutterstock


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The number of books that adults with average literacy levels remembered having on the shelves of their homes at age 16. An international team of social scientists analyzed survey data from 160,000 respondents across 31 countries and found adult literacy was highly dependent on exposure to books as a teen — with positive effects of home library size tapering off at about 350 books.

2.5 percent

The proportion of American children up to age 17 who were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in their lifetime, based on a recent study’s analysis of data from 2011-2012.


The number of plays from Ivy League football games that researchers analyzed to see if a 2018 rule change intended to reduce concussions worked. The change was meant to decrease tackle opportunities in certain plays. As a result, the average concussion rate fell from nearly 11 per 1,000 plays to about 2 per 1,000 plays.


The length — measured in nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and RNA  — of a type of RNA that could expose blood doping. Duke University researchers found that this particular RNA marks previously drawn red blood cells as being older than ones still circulating in the body. This is important, since some athletes draw their own blood days or weeks before an event, store it, then reinfuse it to increase their blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, which boosts physical performance.


How many different over-the-counter diet supplements had undeclared, potentially harmful pharmaceutical substances, according to a recent study. One of the most common culprits added to products was sildenafil, better known as Viagra. Analysts also found unlisted laxatives and appetite suppressants in alleged weight-loss aids and anabolic steroids in muscle-building supplements.


The number of new vitamins, according to one researcher’s report in PNAS, that we should add to the current list of 30 vitamins and minerals recommended for optimal health. A growing body of evidence suggests these 11 compounds, including so-called carotenoids often found in red and yellow produce, could amp up proteins necessary for healthy aging.

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