PLACEBO POWER Move over, Prozac. It looks as if sugar pills can chase the blues away too. A six-week clinical trial in which doctors used PET scans to examine the brains of 17 patients hospitalized for depression shows that high-priced antidepressants and dummy pills both cause visible changes in the mood-regulating regions of the brain. Asked how they felt, patients on fake and real pills alike reported that their symptoms improved. But don't tear up your prescription just yet. The catch? The subjects' moods may have lifted in part because they had left their usual worries behind and moved into a supportive environment. Also, it's not clear that the effect will last; placebo effects are notoriously short-lived. Moreover, dummy pills work only if patients believe they are getting the real thing, which doesn't usually happen outside a clinical trial.
GO ORGANIC Worried that you're paying a premium for organic food but that it's chock-full of chemicals anyway? Well, the first detailed scientific analysis on the subject concludes that organic fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residue, but far less often than conventional produce does (23% vs. 73% of the time). And when residues show up, they're usually in very low concentrations. Why does organic food contain chemicals in any amount? Pesticides that were banned long ago, like DDT, can hang around in soil for years.
Sources: American Journal of Psychiatry; Food Additives and Contaminants Journal