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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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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