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Seven Deadly Sins: A Holiday Roundup

• December 21, 2012 • 11:34 AM

While the “seven deadly sins” may seem a misty morality lesson from the past, the cardinal vices are always with us–even in the strait-laced arena of academic research. Hold on to your souls for a quick rundown of how findings announced this last week alone reflect our sinful natures.

(PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK)

Lust

Mistletoe is suspected to serve a role greater than holiday kiss instigator. Australian researchers report that, contrary to its previous reputation as a parasite, mistletoe keeps forests healthy—its presence increases populations of birds, mammals, and reptiles.

Gluttony

As meat production is a heavyweight contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, scientists from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands propose a substitute for the beef in your Big Macs: meal worms. The wigglers are a climate-friendly alternative and contain more protein per pound than pork, so get over the gross factor and jump on the bandwagon: Some restaurants are serving meal worm desserts already.

Greed

Scrooge had it wrong all along—the National Academy of Sciences believes that the key to making money is by being happy. Their study found that, compared to their unhappy counterparts, content teenagers are more likely to have a higher income by the time they’re 29. How can one become happier? Researchers have found holiday-appropriate stimulators—active kindness and giving gifts.

Sloth

You best count your sheep, as recent studies show that chronic sleep loss lessens tolerance for pain. It’s not yet clear why, but losing sleep increases bodily inflammation, according to some researchers. And some extra sloth could help painkillers, which seem to get weaker for those missing some Zs.

Wrath

University of Utah researchers suggest that the ability to form a fist is less derived from our need to use tools, but rather an evolutionary move enabling us to channel our inner Rocky. As hands evolved with fingers and palms getting shorter—enabling humans to make a clenched fist—researchers believe that packing a punch was a huge advantage to our early-man ancestors.

Envy

Understanding the brain of a stalker may lead to medication that can subdue extreme jealousy, researchers from the University of Pisa Medical School believe. The team claims to have discovered the neural roots of jealousy: the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Researchers now want to know what happens within the brain when jealousy transforms into a dangerous obsession.

Pride

Be proud of yourself, or you might be a little colder this winter. Recent research suggests that when one feels lonely or excluded, their skin becomes cold. But this cold-shoulder feeling can be turned around by a touching something warm, a good sign for hot chocolate sales.

Sarah Sloat
Sarah Sloat is an editorial fellow with Pacific Standard. She was previously selected as an intern for the Sara Miller McCune Endowed Internship and Public Service Program and has studied abroad in both Argentina and the U.K. Sarah has recently graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara with a degree in Global and International Studies. Follow her on Twitter @sarahshmee.

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