3 Things We Learned About Our Body in 2016

Repeated dieting makes you chubby; cancer is even deadlier if you don't have many friends; and monkeys have mouths capable of speaking English.

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Every month, we report on three body-related scientific discoveries, but as 2016 draws to a close, we’re looking at some of the biggest stories to come out this year. Keep an eye out for our other pieces focusing on our hair, our brains and, yes, our genitals, but for now, here are three body-related stories that made us sit up and take notice.

Repeated Dieting Just Makes You Fatter

Not seeing results from that 90 day low-calorie diet? According to a study published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, repeated dieting may actually add to your gut. That’s because the brain interprets the diets as short famines and encourages the body to pack on extra pounds for future shortages. The bodies of people who don’t diet, on the other hand, become accustomed to having a reliable food source, and so won’t store fat for the future. Surprise! Eating right-ish all of the time is better than wavering between six cashews a day one month and six cheeseburgers a day the next. Just like, deep down, you always knew.

Cancer is Even Deadlier if You’re Unpopular

A recent study of 9,267 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer found that those with more social ties—including spouses, community ties, friendships and family members—were 43 percent less likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer, 64 percent less likely to die from breast cancer and 69 percent less likely to die from causes unrelated to breast cancer. While the researchers aren’t exactly sure why popular ladies are more likely to beat cancer, previous studies suggest that high-quality personal relationships encourage people to keep fighting, and larger social networks generally lead people to live healthier lifestyles (which gives them an advantage in the fight against cancer). Who knew having friends was worth more than just a ride to the airport?

It’s (Technically) Possible to Teach Monkeys English

After decades of believing monkeys and apes were unable to learn human speech because of their different vocal anatomy—including the larynx, tongue and lips—research using an x-ray video revealed that their mouths and throats are actually a whole lot like ours. So much so, in fact, that primates could easily speak thousands of distinct words if their brains were as developed as ours (monkeys and apes lack the neural control over their vocal tract muscles to configure them in such a way that they’re able to speak, unfortunately). Their lack of brainpower hasn’t previously stopped us from communicating with them in other ways, though: A western lowland gorilla named Koko successfully learned American Sign Language and has since adopted a cat—be prepared to sob uncontrollably while watching the video below.