Alcohol-free beer is just as much fun to drink, claim researchers

Alcohol-free beer has the same effect on the brain's pleasure centres as the genuine article, researchers at Wageningen University have found. Tests on a group of regular drinkers aged between 21 and 35 found that the taste of beer was enough to activate the brain's reward pathway, regardless of whether the drink contained alcohol, AD reported. Participants were placed in an MRI scanner where they saw either the word 'beer' or 'test' before being given a drink of beer or carbonated water. The group that drank beer was unaware if it was alcohol-free or not. A second scan revealed that the beer drinkers' reward system was just as likely to be triggered by alcohol-free as alcoholic varieties. 'This suggests that the taste of beer, rather than the presence of alcohol, determines the consumer's experience,' said researcher Paul Smeets. 'That could mean that consumers get just as much satisfaction from drinking alcohol-free or low-alcohol beer, as long as the taste is close enough to beer that contains alchohol.'  More >

Be brave, ask for a doggybag

Natuur & Milieu is happy the doggy bag is becoming an accepted part of eating out in the  Netherlands, the organisation writes on its website. According to the organisation 41% of diners are offered a doggy bag for surplus food at one time or another compared to 31% in 2015. The number of people asking for a doggy bag went up by 10%. However, 44% are too embarrassed to ask for one, the organisation found. ‘We are glad the doggy bag is going mainstream,’ marketing director Dorien Ackerman said. ‘But almost half of diners won’t ask for one because they think staff or the people they are with will think it strange. One in three is embarrassed to walk around with a recognisable doggy bag. It would be nice if people could just stop feeling embarrassed.’ Oddly enough the doggy bag fits in seamlessly with Dutch culture, Milieu & Natuur says. ‘66% of Dutch people were told by their parents to clean their plate when they were children and 85% claims to hate food waste. ‘So why the thrifty Dutch should be ashamed for asking for a doggybag is rather strange,’ Ackerman says. Natuur & Millieu has declared today doggy bag day and calls on all diners to ask for a doggybag while restaurant owners are invited to put the doggybag logo on their menus to encourage punters. According to the organisation 55,000 tonnes of food end up in the bin each year. Smaller portions and doggy bags can help prevent that, it says.  More >

Insurers won't pay out for Alpine snow

Winter sports enthusiasts have been warned that insurers are unlikely to pay out if they are unable to take to the ski slopes because of the extremely heavy snow in parts of the Alps. In France and Switzerland the amount of snow is close to the all-time record for the time of year, but snowstorms and the high risk of avalanches has forced some resorts to close the pistes. In the French resort of Tignes skiers were confined to their hotels and chalets as winter storms brought winds in excess of 200 km/h, while in the Austrian Tirol region two German skiers died in an avalanche on Friday. Some insurance companies such as Neckermann and Sunweb offer a package compensating skiers if there is not enough snow to ski, but the policy does not apply if the snow is too heavy. Holidaymakers who have to delay their journey home because of blocked roads or extreme cold may have a claim. 'The weather for winter sports is so varied at this time of year that we can't insure against it,' said a spokesman for the ANWB, which operates Pharos Reizen insurance policies. Not all of the Alps is under a blanket of snow; in parts of Bavaria, on the northern side of the mountain range, spring-like temperatures of up to 12 degrees have been reported.  More >

Maastricht has more shops than Amsterdam

Maastricht has more shops per head than Amsterdam, but the tourist hotspots of the Wadden Islands are a shopper's paradise, new figures show. The Limburg capital's 854 shops represent 7 for every 1,000 population, compared to a concentration of 6.4 in Amsterdam, according to statistics published on Tuesday by the national statistics office CBS. However, the islands have nearly three times as many shops per resident, largely because tourists outnumber locals during the holiday season. Vlieland, with 20.3 shops per 1,000 residents, leads the league table, followed by Schiermonnikoog in 13.8, Terschelling on 13.2 and Texel on 13.1.   The CBS said there are nearly 88,000 physical shops in the Netherlands. Clothing shops represent 18% of the total, followed by supermarkets at 7%, flower shops (4%) and bicycle shops, drug stores, furniture stores, butchers and shoe shops, all at 3%. Little has changed over the past 10 years the CBS said. The Wadden islands took pole position a decade ago and Maastricht headed the table of the 25 biggest cities.  More >