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Don't blame blues on weather

As the temperature slides ever lower, it's easy to chalk up your gloom to dreary weather. But a recent paper in Psychiatry Research suggests you find a new scapegoat for your bad mood.

"There is literally no association between weather and how people feel that day," says lead researcher Marcus J. H. Huibers, of Maastricht University (Maastricht, Netherlands). Huibers' team monitored more than 14,000 subjects' day-to-day affect for several years and found that daily variations in temperature, sunshine, and rainfall had no measurable effects.

It seems we misattribute cheer when it strikes us on bluebird mornings.

"Today is a beautiful day, and I felt great when I woke up and biked to work with the sun in my face," Huibers admits. "The question is, would I have felt differently if it had rained? Our study says it wouldn't have made much of a difference."

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Facing up to fatigue

You know it's important to get a good night's sleep before a big exam, but a new study suggests it would be wise to catch up on your rest before a big date, too. Researchers at the University of Berkeley (Calif.) found that acute sleep deprivation makes it hard to recognize faces as happy or angry, though the same effect wasn't found when looking at sad faces.

"Every emotion depends on a different brain network," explains study co-author Els van der Helm, "and sleep deprivation affects some more than others." While this study focused on the three emotions whose recognition is thought to be most commonly affected by loss of sleep, the findings have led the researchers to explore other emotions, as well.

Such research is critical, notes van der Helm, for people in notoriously sleep-deprived occupations, like doctors, military personnel, or new parents. Such people often rely heavily on emotional processing skills to make the right calls. New moms need especially take note: The study found the effect more pronounced in women .

The sleep-deprived can rest easy, though: After even just one night of recovery, processing levels return to normal.

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Coming: Menu calorie counts

Get ready for the end of guilt-free eating out. The new health reform law directs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus or menu boards. The FDA, which has not yet issued the rules, has indicated it may expand them to cover airlines, movie theaters, food carts and other establishments.

With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that the U.S. obesity rate is approaching 27 percent, Americans stand to benefit from more dietary disclosure. Many will undoubtedly be shocked to find that healthy-sounding options can be diet-busters, like Applebee's oriental chicken salad (1,310 calories) or McDonald's grilled chicken club sandwich extra value meal (1,120 calories). Both represent more than half the average person's recommended daily caloric intake.

If you don't want to wait for the new rules to make healthier choices, try the websites of major restaurant chains. Most post their calorie counts. Be prepared for what you find, though. Burger King's large chocolate shake runs 960 calories, but you can opt for fat-free milk at 100 calories.

Compiled from News wire sources

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