Sunday, 15 November 2015

What Lies Beneath

On gut flora extinction:

"Years ago, impelled in part by their oldest daughter’s constipation problems, the Sonnenburg family revamped its diet. They threw out all processed food-stuffs, and began eating plenty of veggies and whole grains. They bought a dog. Justin Sonnenburg began hand-milling his own wheat berries for bread. He took up gardening. And when he compared his archived microbes from years ago with recent ones, he discovered that his microbial diversity had increased by half. “That’s a huge difference,” he told me, “as big as the difference between Americans and Amerindians.”"

Monday, 9 November 2015

Meat Shaming

The Problem With the WHO's Great Meat Conspiracy. A nice polemic from HuffPo.

Sleep & Mental Illness

Sleep - far from inactive, it's your body and mind's busy time for growth and repair:

"Circadian rhythms are innate and hard-wired into the genomes of just about every living thing on the planet. In humans, our physiology is organised around the daily cycle of activity and sleep. In the active phase, when energy expenditure is high and food and water are consumed, organs need to be prepared for the intake, processing and uptake of nutrients."

Friday, 16 October 2015

Natural Sleep and Its Seasonal Variations

Some interesting research picked up by the BBC and presented in Current Biology on sleep.  Biphasic sleep may not my innate nor optimal (although there is conflicting evidence).  The highlights are:
  • Preindustrial societies in Tanzania, Namibia, and Bolivia show similar sleep parameters
  • They do not sleep more than “modern” humans, with average durations of 5.7–7.1 hr
  • They go to sleep several hours after sunset and typically awaken before sunrise
  • Temperature appears to be a major regulator of human sleep duration and timing
Clearly season, light and temperature themselves are all linked by sunlight and day-length.  Sleep quality moves up a gear and the basics of sleep hygiene remain the same.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hidden Brain

Here is a new podcast many of you might appreciate called Hidden Brain,
  • The Hidden Brain project helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.

    Our audience takes uncommon pleasure in the world of ideas. Why do mild-mannered people turn into fearsome mama and papa bears? Does the way you park your car say something vital about you? Can hidden biases keep people from finding interesting jobs? Hidden Brain has the answers to those questions.

    Science correspondent Shankar Vedantam brings NPR listeners a wealth of knowledge from social science research. The Hidden Brain podcast will extend and amplify Shankar's radio stories, and link psychology and neurobiology with insights from art, music and literature. The goal of Hidden Brain isn't merely to entertain, but to give you insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.

Worth downloading a few of the podcasts/episodes for your next walk.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Shark Jumping

The Spectator has pissed away all credibility in its Health section by suggesting that exercise could be replaced by a pill.  The research looked at the metabolic effects of intense exercise noting over 1000 molecular changes in the muscle, and one of the researchers (Dr Nolan Hoffman), articulated the following:

  • ‘Exercise produces an extremely complex, cascading set of responses within human muscle. It plays an essential role in controlling energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity. While scientists have long suspected that exercise causes a complicated series of changes to human muscle, this is the first time we have been able to map exactly what happens.

    ‘This is a major breakthrough, as it allows scientists to use this information to design a drug that mimics the true beneficial changes caused by exercise.’
The hormonal and metabolic cascade from exercise is what exercise should be all about.  To view it as some kind of penance for eating pie/cake or as a means to exclusively burn calories misses the rich outcome of activity.

There are other neurological benefits of exercise that also seem to be ignored here.  Exercising in a 'green' environment and the social benefits of engaging in a collaborative team pursuit all go to build the value of the 'energy out' side of the equation.

The idea that you can simulate (some) of the beneficial changes caused by exercise in a pill really does diminish what exercise should be about; that the spending of calories should be a largely pleasurable and enriching endeavour.

I do however look forward to the first pharmacological fruits of this research - and their unwanted side effects.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Learning and the Immune System

The Conversation on the immune System:
  • Recent evidence also suggests immune learning is strongly affected by environmental factors, including diet, lifestyle, our surroundings and previous infections.

    Immune responses to the yearly flu vaccine, for example, are impacted more by environmental factors than genetic differences. This suggests we can improve our immune responses by altering life experiences.
 Plasticity is a hallmark of any successful species. Top down control is far from optimal for health.