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Coffee may kill you Ð but chocolate is better than exercise!



Date Published: {J}

There is a predilection – in tabloid newspapers in particular – for health scare stories based on surveys that really require much credibility but which must have a shock factor that draws in the reader.

On a news list, they’re known as ‘Coffee Can Kill You’ stories.

And they work in a sort of cycle whereby one quasi-scientist tells you that eating bacon will give you brain tumours before – two weeks later – another says a slice a day is the secret to a long life.

Never is this more apparent than with drink, where one survey tells you that wine is the source of all evil and another insists that a glass or two a day will keep you hale and hearty until you’re a hundred.

In the same context, everyone who reaches their century is always asked for their secret to long life. You despair when they put it down to a life of abstinence and hard work – and you’re thrilled when they advocate a glass of whiskey or a bottle of stout. Because if one nip can help you make 100, then surely a feed of them will keep you alive forever.

These survey play on our insecurities and sometimes – in a way that only the weirdest of minds can work – they help us to justify our unhealthy existence.

Not that you’d need any poetic licence with one such recent survey which proclaimed that chocolate was as good for you as exercise – not a word of a lie.

Scientists in Detroit, publishing their conclusions in the US Journal of Physiology, found that small amounts of dark chocolate may improve health in a similar way to exercise.

These ingenious researchers – who admitted were working with mice – focused on the mitochondria, these tiny powerhouses in cells that generate energy, and discovered that a plant compound found in chocolate, called epicatechin, appeared to stimulate the same muscle response as vigorous activity.

Aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, is known to increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells – and the study has found that epicatechin seems to bring about the same response – particularly in the heart and skeletal muscles.

A specific type of epicatechin from cocoa was given to mice twice a day for 15 days. At the same time, the animals underwent 30 minutes of treadmill training each day.

Researchers found that mice only fed epicatechin had the same exercise performance as those running on the treadmill.

Middle-aged mice who both exercised and ate epicatechin showed an even greater benefit – but the fact is that middle-aged mice have already lived longer than their pals because they were cute enough not to go chasing cheese in traps.

Anyone who suggests that chocolate is as good as exercise deserves the Nobel Prize for Medicine, but even when the findings aren’t this clear cut, we have an ability to selectively read these surveys so that you eventually come up with a health plan that includes drink, coffee, red meat and a lack of stress because of a hectic social life and a lie-in every morning.

That said, another recent survey to hit the headlines recently suggested that the morning lie-in is the last thing you should contemplate in your pursuit of happiness.

Because this survey has found that people who get up early in the morning – as in, that they are up and out of bed just before 7am – are slimmer, happier and healthier than those who enjoy a lie-in until just before 9am.

To be honest, I was happiest when I was up at seven in the morning – but that was when I was younger and only coming home from the night before. The only reason to be up now at seven is because the advance of years has seen a corresponding decline in bladder capacity.

And yet the compilers of our UK survey found that those who fight the urge to ignore the alarm clock complete morning chores faster, pack their children off to school earlier and thrive in the workplace, researchers concluded.

But people who can’t resist a lie in have a higher chance of feeling depressed or stressed and becoming overweight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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