Sugar more dangerous than fat
A Swedish study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reveals that sugar might be more dangerous to the heart than fat, as a high consumption of sugar increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases. The study is built on analyses of diets in people ages 46 to 68. The people were divided into four groups according to their blood lipids, or blood fats, which are needed by the body to build cell membranes, produce certain hormones and store energy. The study shows that the people with the worst blood lipids were those who had consumed more sugar than the others. The differences weren’t enormous, but researchers think they are still important. “It’s a little surprising,” says Emily Sonestedt, PhD at the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University, and head of the study. “It seems like it’s more important to avoid sugar than fat.” Most diet advice is built on cutting fat in order to avoid problems with your heart. “And it is true that fat increases the levels of bad cholesterol,” says Sonestedt. “But mostly the larger cholesterol particles don’t seem to be as dangerous as the smaller particles.” The study also shows that moderate consumption of alcohol is good for both the heart and the blood vessels. “A little bit of alcohol is good,” says Sonestedt. Sugar consumption in Sweden has been relatively constant since 1980, varying between 37 to 45 kilos per person a year (that’s 81 to 99 pounds per person per year). The consumption of pure sugar has decreased from 19 kilos (41 pounds) per person in 1980 to 7 kilos (15 pounds) in 2009. But the consumption of chocolate and confectionary, on the other hand, has increased from 10 kilos (22 pounds) per person to 15 kilos (33 pounds). Swedes today drink three times as much soda and cider as they did in 1980, increasing from 30 liters (almost 8 gallons) a year to 91 (24 gallons).

Face of Birka girl
Take a look at the picture below. It’s the face of a girl who lived in Birka—an important center during the Viking Age in Lake Mälaren—some 1200 years ago. The girl was only 6 when she died, but now her face has been reconstructed at the Historical Museum by curator, sculptor and Birka expert, Oscar Nilsson. When archeologists found her grave north of the fortress, she had been buried almost 1000 years. Her skeleton was unusually well preserved for a child. By looking at her teeth, the experts could tell how old she’d been when she died. Nobody knows for sure, however, if the Birka girl really is a girl, though the gifts put into her grave indicate she was. Men and boys were buried with weapons and horse- and hunting tools, while women were buried with jewelry or textile tools. When the Birka girl died, she received a gold and bronze clasp, a pearl necklace, a knife and a container in bone for sewing needles to take with her into the grave—expensive gifts which show her family was wealthy, and that she was indeed a girl. She is on display at the Historical Museum in Stockholm where you can look at her face to face. In November there will be more opportunities to get to know her. For more information:

Independent work leads to worse math results
Giving students more responsibility at school may have dire consequences, at least when it comes to their knowledge of math. A new study from Göteborg University shows that results get worse for students in schools where teachers take less responsibility and give more to the students. The least support is given to the students that most need a teacher’s help. It was during the 1990s that the “independent work” trend exploded in the Swedish educational system. “During that same period the school results got worse, especially in math, it became more common to let the students themselves take responsibility for their learning,” says Åse Hansson, doctoral candidate in Mathematics Education. Independent work (“självständigt arbete”) has had miserable results for math. Hansson explains: “The effects of the method is that the students don’t learn as much. The more responsibility the teachers take, the better the results.” The study examines math results from 3000 13-year-old students, and shows that educational methods also have a clear connection to the students’ socio-economical conditions. Independent work was, for instance, more common in neighborhoods where there were a lot of children with immigrant backgrounds. “It’s not just about the teacher teaching and being the dominant figure in the classroom, but also about the students solving problems, arguing and reflecting over their work.” Monika Vinterek, professor of pedagogy at Umeå University, agrees. “For students who already have difficulties with math, it gets worse. The independent work method demands a lot of the student, they have to take their own initiatives and they have to have a strong drive. In such an environment, the ones who are already weak get even weaker.”