Science Facts and Fallacies Podcast: Is coffee healthy or not? Public health officials encourage vaccine skepticism? Why childbirth is so hard

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Coffee is nutritious, according to the latest study. Also, coffee is linked to cancer, new research finds. How do we make sense of all the contradictory data about the health effects of coffee? Public health officials may be exacerbating the public’s skepticism of COVID vaccines. Why is childbirth so difficult? Evolution offers some insight.

Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP contributor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest news stories:

Going back to the early 1980s, research has both linked coffee to a wide variety of health benefits and suggested it could be harmful over the long term. A consensus has emerged in recent years that a couple of cups of coffee a day is harmless, and may even offer some important nutritional qualities. Why did it take so long to get there?

A number of explanations have been put forward to explain why vaccine hesitancy persists, especially on the tail end of a pandemic that we’re subduing with immunization.  There’s a strong case to be made that vaccine rejection is in large part fueled by distrust of governments. When this factor is considered alongside other common explanations for vaccine skepticism, the problem becomes much easier to explain—and perhaps easier to solve.

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As every mother knows, giving birth is no easy task. But why did we evolve to experience such painful childbirth? According to a new study, the answer has to do with balancing a woman’s ability to give birth while maintaining the integrity of her internal organs:

A study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that human childbirth is difficult because of evolutionary trade-offs that ultimately help protect organs in the body.

The main trade-off for women centers on the pelvic floor, which is a group of muscles that stretches from the pubic bone to the tailbone. These muscles help stabilize the spine, support the womb, and control bladder and bowel functions. The pelvic floor also stretches during childbirth, allowing the baby to pass more easily through the birth canal.

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta

Cameron J. English is the director of bio-sciences at the American Council on Science and Health. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

Related article:  Podcast: Geneticist Mary-Claire King nearly quit science—then discovered the first breast cancer gene
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