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Sunday, February 03, 2019

WEEKLY PICKS - 26

This is a weekly selection of reading articles, free online exercises, YouTube videos, games, quizzes and resources for you to further improve your English language skills and have fun ENJOY!

📜 READING PICKS – Articles, blog posts, quizzes and more:

From BBC TRAVEL: Italy’s ‘practically perfect’ food, by Amanda Ruggeri.
Pound for pound, Parmigiano-Reggiano can compete with almost any food for calcium, amino acids, protein and vitamin A – and is prescribed by doctors to cure ailments. It’s also a dairy product… that can be eaten by the lactose-intolerant. (Continue reading)

From BBC CAPITAL: The cost of free public transport, by Marc Auxenfants. 
From March next year, commuters in Luxembourg will not be charged for trips on its trains, trams and buses. What’s the cost of such a move? (Continue reading)

BBC Reel: The amazing houses that build themselves At the touch of a button, these incredible homes of the future can self-deploy and build themselves in less than 10 minutes. (Go to videos + full article)

🎬 VIDEO PICKS – Short and fun videos:

LESS-THAN-5-MINUTE VIDEOS:
What Is the Sunday Evening Feeling? (4:58 minutes)
5-TO-10-MINUTE VIDEOS:
How parasites change their host's behavior - Jaap de Roode (5:13 minutes)
A LITTLE LONGER BUT WORTH IT!
Inside The Lives Of North Korean School Children (12:31 minutes)
💬 VOCABULARY PICKS:
Learners' Questions: Assure, ensure, insure (3:22 minutes)
💡 GRAMMAR PICKS – Assorted exercises and games:
Intermediate English grammar - Verb patterns, (verb + ing, verb + to) gerunds and infinitives (8:56 minutes)
MORE PICKS NEXT WEEK!

Saturday, February 02, 2019

When taking probiotics could backfire, by Martha Henriques (From BBC FUTURE)

👉 GO TO FULL ARTICLE: When taking probiotics could backfire
👉 By Martha Henriques

Taking a course of antibiotics could harm the beneficial bacteria living inside us. So should we be taking probiotics after we finish them? The answer may not be so simple.
Taking probiotics when your gut health is weak may not be a good idea (Credit: Getty Images)
Probiotics have been touted as a treatment for a huge range of conditions, from obesity to mental health problems. One of their popular uses is to replenish the gut microbiome after a course of antibiotics. The logic is – antibiotics wipe out your gut bacteria along with the harmful bacteria that might be causing your infection, so a probiotic can help to restore order to your intestines.

But while it might sound like sense, there is scant solid evidence suggesting probiotics actually work if taken this way. Researchers have found that taking probiotics after antibiotics in fact delays gut health recovery.

Part of the problem when trying to figure out whether or not probiotics work is because different people can mean a variety of things with the term ‘probiotic’. To a scientist, it might be seen as a living culture of microorganisms that typically live in the healthy human gut. But the powdery substance blister packs on supermarket shelves can bear little resemblance to that definition.

Even when researchers use viable, living bacterial strains in their research, the cocktail varies from one lab to another making it tricky to compare.

“That’s the problem – there aren’t enough studies of any one particular probiotic to say this one works and this one doesn’t,” says Sydne Newberry of Rand Corporation, who carried out a large meta-analysis on the use of probiotics to treat antibiotic-induced diarrhoea in 2012.

[…] A particular concern is a lack of research on the safety of taking probiotics. While they are generally assumed to be safe in healthy people, there have been worrying case reports of probiotics causing problems – such as fungus spreading into the blood – among more vulnerable patients.

A recent study by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel found that even among healthy people, taking probiotics after antibiotics was not harmless. In fact, they hampered the very recovery processes that they are commonly thought to improve.

The researchers, led by Eran Elinav, gave 21 people a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics for one week. After this, they had a colonoscopy and an upper-gastrointestinal endoscopy to investigate the state of their microbiome throughout the gut.

[…] The volunteers were divided into three groups. The first was a wait-and-see group, with no intervention after the antibiotics. The second group was given a common probiotic for a month. The third was given perhaps the least savoury option: a faecal transplant. This group had a small sample of their own stool – taken before the antibiotic treatment – returned to their colon once the treatment was over.

The surprising finding was that the group who received the probiotic had the poorest response in terms of their microbiome. They were the slowest group to return to a healthy gut. Even at the end of the study – after five months of monitoring – this group had not yet reached their pre-antibiotic gut health.

“We have found a potentially alarming adverse effect of probiotics,” says Elinav.

The good news, incidentally, is that the group who received a faecal transplant did very well indeed. Within days, this group completely reconstituted their original microbiome.

“So many people are taking antibiotics all over the world,” says Elinav. “We can aim to better understand this potentially very important adverse effect that we didn’t realise existed.”

And the evidence is mounting that taking probiotics when gut health is weak is not such a good idea. Another recent study has found that probiotics don’t do any good for young children admitted to hospital for gastroenteritis. In a randomised controlled trial in the US, 886 children with gastroenteritis aged three months to four years were given either a five-day course of probiotics or a placebo.

The rate of continued moderate to severe gastroenteritis within two weeks was slightly higher (26.1%) in the probiotic group than in the placebo group (24.7%). And there was no difference between the two groups in terms of the duration of diarrhoea or vomiting.

Despite evidence such as this, the demand for probiotics is large and growing. In 2017, the market for probiotics was more than $1.8bn, and it is predicted to reach $66bn by 2024.

“Given the very heavy involvement of the industry, clear conclusions as to whether probiotics are truly helpful to humans remain to be proven,” says Elinav. “This is the reason why regulatory authorities such as the US’s Food and Drug Administration and European regulators have yet to approve a probiotic for clinical use.”

But that is not to write off probiotics completely. The problem with them may not be with the probiotics themselves, but the way we are using them. Often probiotics are bought off the shelf – consumers may not know exactly what they are getting, or even whether the culture they are buying is still alive. […]

👉 GO TO FULL ARTICLE: When taking probiotics could backfire
💡 MORE FROM BBC FUTURE:

Friday, January 18, 2019

What the earliest fragments of English reveal, by Cameron Laux (From BBC CULTURE)

👉 GO TO FULL ARTICLE: What the earliest fragments of English reveal
👉 By Cameron Laux
The earliest fragments of English reveal how interconnected Europe has been for centuries. As an exhibition in London brings together treasures from Anglo-Saxon England, Cameron Laux traces a history of the language through 10 objects and manuscripts – including a burial urn, a buckle with bling, and the first letter in English.

The interconnectedness of Europe has a long history, as we’re reminded when we explore the roots of the English language – roots that stretch back to the 5th Century. Anglo-Saxon England “was connected to the world beyond its shores through a lively exchange of books, goods, ideas,” argues the Medieval historian Mary Wellesley, describing a new exhibition at the British Library in London – Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War – that charts the genesis of England.

Something like 80% of all surviving Old English verse survives in four physical books… for the first time in recorded history they are all together [in this exhibition],” she tells BBC Culture. “The period that is represented by Old English is about 600 years, which is like between us and back to Chaucer… imagine if there were only four physical books that survived from that period, what would that say about our literature?”

What we understand as English has its roots in 5th-Century Germany and Denmark, from where the Anglian, Saxon and Jute tribes came. As the Roman legions withdrew around 410 AD, so the Saxon war bands (what Rome called ‘the barbarians’) landed and an era of migration from the Continent and the formation of Anglo-Saxon England began. The word “English” derives from the homeland of the Angles, the Anglian peninsula in Germany. Early English was written in runes, combinations of vertical and diagonal lines that lent themselves to being carved into wood and were used by other closely related Germanic languages, such as Old Norse, Old Saxon and Old High German.

“The earliest fragments of the English language are likely to be a group of runic inscriptions on three 5th-Century cremation urns from Spong Hill in Norfolk,” Wellesley has written. “The inscriptions simply read alu, which probably means ‘ale’. Perhaps the early speakers of Old English longed for ale in death as well as life.”

The exhibition gathers together an array of documents, books and archaeological evidence to form a dense picture of the Anglo-Saxon period, including a burial urn with runic inscriptions in early English from Loveden Hill, Lincolnshire, England.

Anglo-Saxons cremated their dead and interred their remains in earthenware vessels. About 20 objects with runic inscriptions from before 650 AD are known from England, making this vessel – which seems to feature a woman’s name and the word for tomb – one of the earliest examples of English. (Continue reading)

Where did English come from? - Claire Bowern (4:53 minutes)

How did English evolve? - Kate Gardoqui (5:04 minutes)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

WEEKLY PICKS - 25

This is a weekly selection of reading articles, free online exercises, YouTube videos, games, quizzes and resources for you to further improve your English language skills and have fun – ENJOY!

📜READING PICKS – Articles, blog posts, quizzes and more:

From BBC FUTURE: Pork fat is rated as healthier than kale
In a list of the top 100 nutritious foods, pork fat came in eighth place – higher than peas, cabbage and kale. Apparently, pork fat is a good source of B vitamins and minerals.
The world’s most nutritious foods – After analysing more than 1,000 raw foods, researchers ranked the ingredients that provide the best balance of your daily nutritional requirements – and they found a few surprises. (Continue reading)

From BBC FUTURE: January is the best time of year to apply for a job, by Amanda Ruggeri and Miriam Quick. Google searches for "jobs" peak in January, but few people actually apply. Companies usually get their new hiring budgets for the year, and annual bonuses often pay out in December, so a lot of people wait until then to change jobs.
When it comes to life events like applying for a job, buying a house or even getting married, certain months are more advantageous than others. Want to ‘hack your year’? Here’s how. (Continue reading)


BBC Reel: A hairdresser created a substance that could withstand 75 nuclear blasts. Reported by Lee Johnson, produced, filmed and directed by Adam Proctor.
Maurice Ward invented a world-changing fire-resistant plastic called Starlite, refused to sell it or have it patented in fear of someone stealing the recipe, and died in 2011, taking the material’s secrets to his grave. 
(Continue reading)

🎧 LISTEN & READ the TRANSCRIPTS:

  • Budgeting Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma look at budgeting. They look at how to make a money plan, and how to know where your money goes.
  • The History of Money How did modern money develop? What are the earliest kinds of money? Christy Van Arragon and Katy Blake look at money.
🎬 VIDEO PICKS – Short and fun videos:
LESS-THAN-5-MINUTE VIDEOS:
5-TO-10-MINUTE VIDEOS:
How to... be vague (6:00 minutes)
A LITTLE LONGER BUT WORTH IT!
Silent Letters: When NOT to pronounce B, D, and L in English (13:06 minutes)
💬 VOCABULARY PICKS:
Learners' questions: 'How are you' and 'how do you do'? (2:28 minutes)
💡 GRAMMAR PICKS – Assorted exercises and games:
MORE PICKS NEXT WEEK!

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

How Resilient Are You? (From Mind Tools)

Find Out How to Bounce Back From Problems
From: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/resilience-quotes/
Imagine that you've been working on a report for several weeks. You're pleased with what you've produced, and you can't wait to hear what your boss thinks. However, the next day she meets with you to discuss your work, and she asks you to rewrite your report.

You're disappointed, of course, but do you sit down and despair, or do you start drafting the next version?

Resilience is our ability to bounce back when things don't go as planned. It's a quality that we all possess to some degree, but some of us can draw on it more easily than others can. Resilience is important because it keeps us on track until we reach our goals, it allows us to deal with difficult situations, and it helps us to grow by encouraging us to look at the positives and to manage stress.
From: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/resilience-quotes/
However, it's not about trying to carry on regardless of how we feel, and it's not about being superhuman! Instead, it's about understanding why we feel the way we do and developing strategies to help us deal with situations more effectively.

This quiz will help you to understand and assess how resilient you are, and it provides advice and guidance that you can use to become even more resilient.

QUIZ ⇒ How Resilient Are You?
From: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/resilience-quotes/
💡 You may also be interested in the quizzes below: