BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Obesity

Possible Links Between Gut Microbes and Obesity, Cancer & Autism

While the bacteria in our gut play a vital role in the digestion process, recent findings have suggested that it could effect much more in our bodies. New studies have found possible links between the bacteria in our gut and obesity, cancer and autism.

Creative Commons image link

A study done by Cornell University and King’s College London revealed that Christensenellaceae minuta, a strain of gut bacteria, was found more often and in larger quantities in people with lower body masses. To investigate whether the bacteria is actually linked with obesity, researchers added the same bacteria into the guts of mice and compared their weight gain to mice lacking the bacteria. The research showed that the mice with Christensenellaceae minuta gained noticeably less weight than the mice lacking the bacteria. While research is still in its early stages, these results have made an exciting connection between bacteria in our gut and weight gain, which could dramatically impact the future of our health.

In addition to obesity, the bacteria in our gut has also been linked to cancer- in both beneficial and detrimental aspects. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute tested the effect of gut bacteria on chemotherapy in mice and found that the chemotherapy was significantly less effective in the mice lacking the bacteria. Similarly, another study found that cyclophosphamide, an antitumor drug, was less effective in mice with insufficient gut bacteria compared to those with normal levels. While these studies showed positive links between gut bacteria and cancer, other studies have found adverse effects of gut bacteria.

Unfortunately, a study published in The Journal of Cancer Research in 2012 has made a possible connection between Lactobacillus johnsonii, a strain of gut bacteria, and lymphoma, cancer of the white blood cells. The study claims that the presence of this specific strain of bacteria could lead to the development of lymphoma. Another study done in the UK in 2013 found that a specific gut bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, has the ability to deactivate the part of our immune system responsible for regulating inflammation. In effect, this could cause stomach cancer and ulcers.

While it may seem like a stretch, numerous studies have found a possible link to autism and the bacteria in our gut. A study done in 2013 by Arizona State University found that compared to children without autism, children suffering from autism had lower levels of Prevotella, Coprococcus and Veillonellaceae, three strains of gut bacteria. Even more surprisingly, another study revealed that the presence of Bacteroides fragilis in the gut reduced autism-like symptoms in mice. Research in this field is still in its primary stages, as researchers are trying to figure out if these connection are in fact related, and if so, how the bacteria directly effects these conditions.

 

Obesity Related to the Brain

Lauri Nummenmaa has done research the connects obesity to the brain.  This research shows that people struggling with obesity have a lower amount of μ-opioid receptors available for binding in the brain.  (To learn more about μ-opioid receptors click here.)  Due to evolution, our brains are still “wired” to search for food and nutrients.  Since eating gives off a sensation in the brain, related to the opioid receptors, people with fewer receptors that are able to bind will therefore eat more to make up for the loss in sensation.  This reaction is the same as a reaction to an addiction would be, causing more neurotransmitters to be secreted.  The next step that scientists are taking is to discover whether being obese causes a lack in opioid receptors, or if a lack in opioid receptors, caused by another source, is what causes obesity.  One test that scientists did was testing μ-opioid receptors in people that had bariatric surgery.  Bariatric surgery causes more receptors to work again, shown by the fact that scientists could not distinguish between the μ-opioid receptors or healthy people and the μ-opioid receptors of people who had the surgery.

Some body fat, however, is helpful to the brain.  This article describes that “fat tissue in the bodies of mice releases an extracellular form of nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (eNAMPT), an enzyme that travels to the hypothalamus, and gives animals energy during fasting.”  (To learn more about eNAMPT click here.)

This photo shows how a neurotransmitter is sent from neuron to neuron generally.

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(Link to Photo Page and Link to Licensing Page)

The Relationship Between Girls and Their “Skinny Jeans”

New findings suggest that the dynamic between a girl’s gene and her early socio-economic environment can dictate if they have a larger fat intake or healthier consumption in relation to others within the same class background. The gene variant is called the DRD4 repeat 7 (7 repeats). According to the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics, girls from poorer families with DRD4 repeat 7 have an increased fat intake than other girls from the same socio-economic environment. However, girls with the gene variant from wealthier families and backgrounds have a lower fat intake. These studies portray how it isn’t solely the gene that determines an individual but how the gene influences an individuals sensitivity to environmental factors that contribute to a child’s preference to fat.

This research was done by collecting diaries by parents of 200 Canadian children (about 4 years old). Their fat, protein, and carbohydrate percentages were all measured along with their BMI and also saliva tests to see who are carries of the DRD4 repeat 7 gene. To categorize the children in their socio-economic environment, the family income was used while acknowledging the food environment (what type of foods are available in that neighborhood).

Plasticity genes,” where carriers of gene variants might be more “open” to their environment rather than those who are not carries of gene variants, is a term used to describe the DRD4 repeat 7 gene. Researchers realized that the fat intake has a direct correlation with any modification of the girls social environment and how they are raised. Therefore, the gene itself is not to blame for a high fat intake.

The data had only shown to be consistent with girls, not boys. From an evolutionary perspective, in order to sustain hard conditions and be able to reproduce, girls had to have more weight on them. Another reason may be because the age four is not old enough to measure the gene’s activity in boys because boys can gain weight at different stages than girls.

Furthermore, this research contributes to the idea that preventing childhood obesity cannot have a general and “one size fits all” type of approach. Instead, specific approaches for certain populations is what’s needed. Especially populations that are vulnerable in adverse conditions because they are more likely to respond better if their conditions improve.

 

Original article can be found here.

Is it Really Your Choice to Make Better Choices?

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Picture of scale (licensing information here)

Obesity has become an increasingly prevalent epidemic around the globe and especially in the United States. Obesity has numerous roots. Recently, researchers from the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics found that in some circumstances, it is possible to blame obesity not solely on genetic make-up, but rather on genetic make-up and socio-economic background combined. The McGill researchers discovered that the fat intake of a female who is a carrier of DRD4 VNTR with 7 repeats, a specific gene variant, is determined by the interaction of the female’s socio-economic environment with the gene. This gene variant affects about 20% of the population and is commonly related to obesity, especially in females. Males are typically not as affected by the gene because when comparing males and females at the same age, males do not typically show the same pattern of food preferences.

In order to research this topic, McGill researchers randomly selected about 200 Canadian children with an average age of 4 from the MAVAN birth cohort in Montreal, Quebec and Hamilton, Ontario to take place in the experiment. The McGill researchers used food diaries kept by the parents of every child in order to determine what was being eaten and how often the child was fed. The researchers were able to calculate the percentages of fat, protein, and carbohydrates the children were consuming, as well as the BMI of every child. Since the children were selected at random, the researchers tested every child for the gene variant using a saliva test. The researchers also analyzed the socio-economic background of every child and availability of particular foods based off of the family’s income.

Laurette Dubé, Scientific Director at this particular Centre at McGill and lead researcher on the study, analyzed the results. Dubé found that when comparing two females from the same socio-economic background, one with the gene variant and one without, the female with the gene variant had a higher fat intake, even though the two females came from the same socio-economic background. She also discovered that when comparing two females with the gene variant, one coming from a wealthy family and one coming from a poor family, the female coming from the poorer family had a higher fat intake, despite the fact the two females were both carriers of the gene variant. This newly found research led the McGill research team to believe that the gene alone does not determine an individual’s fat intake, but instead the gene causes an individual to be more sensitive to his or typically her environmental conditions that determine what are “good” eating patterns and what are “bad” eating patterns. Dr. Robert Levitan, co-invesitgator on the project, leader of the childhood obesity program of the MAVAN cohort, and Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), is an expert on the DRD4 gene in adult female “overeaters”. Levitan said, “We previously assumed that the 7-repeat variant caused weight gain in these patients by increasing the rewarding aspects of certain foods. These new results suggest a different way that the gene might affect food choices” (Biology News).

In certain cases, obesity isn’t all about genetic make-up, but the likeliness of obesity is determined by the socio-economic background of an individual as well! So, if you are a carrier of the DRD4 VNTR with 7 repeats gene variant, which, because of your environment, impacts your decisions, is it really your choice to make better choices?

Source: Biology News 

 

Have No Fear, Gut Microbes Are Here!

Ever dream about being a real life Captain America? Well, with the help of microbes, we are one step closer to achieving a “super soldier.” Microbes might not make a soldier muscular, but they can help with soldiers’ health and versatility. Scientist Jeff Tabor is working on engineering a probiotic organism that can help humans easily fight diseases, prevent obesity, and change their body’s ability to adapt to certain environments.

The gut bacteria affects many functions of the human body. The digestive system, immune system, and nervous system are all influenced by gut bacteria. Disrupting these microorganisms can cause indigestion, a weak immune system, depression, insomnia, and affect other cognitive abilities. Tabor’s goal is simply to create a microbe that can be consumed to prevent these problems.

Gut Microbe

Gut Microbe

Initially, Tabor wanted to use these microbes to target obesity because scientists have abundant knowledge of obesity at the molecular level. He recently succeeded in genetically modifying E.Coli to detect chemicals in the body that carry disease in mice guts. He hopes to use this modified E.Coli to sense chemicals in the gut that are connected to obesity and then use other molecules to prevent this obesity. The creation of a microbe that can control weight can be extremely helpful for the U.S. armed forces. For example, soldiers going from sea level to the top of a mountain way above sea level experience changes in temperature and pressure. Using this engineered gut microbe, the soldiers can put on weight to help them keep warm on top of the mountain and then lose weight to keep cool at sea level.

Another military benefit that these microbes can provide is to help soldiers operate effectively on little to no sleep or to help soldiers adapt to changes in their circadian rhythms, either from time change or going below sea level in a submarine. Scientists are interested in experimenting with the gut microbe to be able to achieve these goals in the future.

Some people might be afraid of the possible affects that these genetically modified bacteria might have on the human body. However, Tabor’s goal is for the bacteria to stay in the gut for about six hours to do its job and then self-destruct or die naturally to prevent the bacteria for staying in the body too long. There are other concerning issues about creating a microbe that can help prevent obesity. The creation would take away any incentive for humans to eat healthy and focus on their diets because they could just use the microbe to prevent gaining weight. Any new scientific experiment comes with its pros and cons, but using gut microbes for human health, especially for the military, can be a big step in the right direction.

Source Article

Sewage Does More than Just Gross You Out… It Carries a Signal For the Microbiomes of Humans

Who knew that sewage would ever be useful. Well, it is a successful way to collect fecal bacteria from people. It can monitor, through gut microbes, the public health of a population without invading people’s privacy. The human gut microbiome consists of huge amounts of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This gut bacteria has important functions in a healthy human. Recently, there has been much attention to the human microbiome, and more specifically, finding a “healthy microbiome” by identifying which bacterial communities are associated with healthy individuals. What has been hindering this experiment are financial concerns but also privacy concerns in terms of the individuals that can be screened.

Researchers from MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) and the UWM (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) School of Freshwater Sciences proposed the idea of using sewage as a population that consists of a signal for human microbiomes. The scientists used oligotyping to compare 137 healthy people’s gut bacteria (provided by the Human Microbiome Project) to the bacterial communities of more than 200 sewage samples from 71 different U.S. cities. Researchers realized that geographically distributed populations consists of a similar core set of bacteria and its members symbolize many different communities within U.S. adults. The percent of obese people in a city is used by the study as a measure of a lifestyle difference which indicates that this bacteria community structure is accurate in detecting obesity in a city. Lifestyle differences are important because they can change the human gut microbiome and an indicator of obesity is the microbial community composition. This process of working with microbiomes of individuals is similar to drawing a map of a specific geographical area and fishing out new understandings and patterns. If it weren’t for the sewage, the scientists wouldn’t have been able to differentiate the cities based on their level of obesity. This type of approach can be effective when it comes to answering concerns about public health, without undermining the privacy of individuals.

I found it interesting how this profound yet relatively small experiment is even part of a bigger plan to create better water pollution and public health assessments. Do you think it can lead a better water pollution and efficient public health assessments? Overall, it’s amazing how new technologies can aid in decrypting information from complicated environments. I’m excited to see where this experiment takes us as it leads researchers and scientists in a more knowledgeable outlook on our environment and in public health.

The original article can be found here.

Biggest Ever Epigenetics Project!!

 

Marian_and_Vivian_Brown

Identical Twins

 

This article is about a project that has recently been planned out with respect to

epigenetics. It is the largest project to date and will cost around $30,000,000 to complete. Epigenetics is the study of cellular and psychological trait variations that are not caused by DNA sequence, but rather what within the DNA is triggered and shown. It is a relatively new field and has exploded in recent years. The heads of this project are TwinsUK and BGI, both very credited organizations in the realm of epigenetics. Epigenetics is the newest and recently the most popular field of all genetics and the goal of this project is to use the twins and the resources given to understand why and how epigenetics occurs.

The plan is to review the patterns of 20,000,000 sites in the DNA of each identical twin (they must be identical because their DNA must be the same and not vary) and compare the DNA with the other twins. The aim is to not look at similarities, but to look at differences and figure out how twins get different diseases if their DNA is identical. They will focus on obesity, diabetes, allergies, heart diseases, etc. at first. Until recently, science did not understand why twins could receive different diseases since their DNA is identical to their other twin, but by studying epigenetics and how genes can be triggered to do different things based on surroundings and circumstance, this idea is plausible.

Being able to locate what genes turn on to trigger certain diseases along with how to control this is something that will benefit not only our general knowledge but will also advance health care to levels that it has never seen. Experiments such as this have been done before but only with a handful of twins. The goal in this experiment is to increase the amount of twins tremendously in order to increase the accuracy of their data.

The Executive Director of BGI, Professor Jun Wang stated that the goal of this experiment is to “unlock many secrets about human genetics that we don’t currently understand, and to accelerate research and applications in human healthcare.”

 

Links Between Human and Mice Obesity

A new study of the genomes and epigenomes of mice and humans is beginning to link the two, especially in regards to obesity.

As Andrew Feinberg, MD states, “It’s well known that most common diseases like diabetes result from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. What we haven’t been able to do is figure out how, exactly, the two are connected,”. Therefore, Feinberg began to study epigenetic tags to further understand gene usage.

His project with his team was to study the epigenetics of identical mice that were fed either normal or high-calorie diets. He found that the difference between normal and obese mice was the presence of chemical tags, or methyl groups, that prevent the production of proteins. This is significant because as we have learned, these types of modifications of DNA can be copied and inherited, which is then passed on into the next generation. This revealed that the normal and obese mice did not have the same location sites of their tags, giving them that alteration in their DNA. This is often seen in the alterations of the Agouti gene in mice.

Pictured here is effect of epigenetics on the physical appearances of mice (Agouti gene)

This proves that epigenetic changes are related to the environment and food sources that are around us, creating patterns based on one’s diet (which can create risk if a high-calorie intake is continuous).They also found that epigenetic changes affect genes that are already both linked to diabetes as well as those who aren’t, allowing them to further conclude that genes plays more of a role in diabetes than we previously thought.

This allows hope for future to provide epigenetic tests, which can prevent diabetes in those who are on track to have it later in life.

Article  Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150106130510.htm

 

Drinking Coffee May Have Health Benefits?

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Petr Kratochvil

A new study at the University of Georgia indicates that a chemical compound commonly found in coffee might prevent obesity-related disease. While previous studies show that coffee consumption can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes, scientists have recently focused on chlorogenic acid, a compound also known to be in tomatoes, apples, blueberries, and pears.

The test consisted of a group of mice that were fed a high fat diet for 15 weeks while giving them CGA solution injections twice a week. Researchers found that the CGA shots helped the mice maintain normal blood sugar levels, a healthy liver composition, and prevent weight gain. It is important to note, however, that the mice received an extremely high dosage of CGA, much greater than what the average human would obtain by drinking coffee on a regular basis or eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

For the past 20 years obesity has become an issue of increasing incidence in the US. Obesity often leads to two major side effects aside from weight gain: increased insulin resistance and fat buildup in the liver. In the paper published in Pharmaceutical Research, researchers write that the CGA, significantly reduced insulin resistance and accumulation of fat in the livers of mice. They plan to extend the project to develop CGA formulation for humans.

As the Liu Lab writes “CGA is a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation,” but they are not to quick to jump to conclusions. Scientists still believe that proper diet and regular exercise are the most effective ways to reduce obesity-related risks. That being said, I definitely think this makes us feel better about drinking coffee every morning.

Original Article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141114124907.htm

For More Info:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/antioxidant-coffee-might-lower-risk-weight-gain-obesity-related-diseases-310816

Dieting: Weight Loss Tool or Social Trend?

In today’s society, it is easy for us to assume that “going on a diet” is the cure for weight gain and can make you look and feel better. However, this is not necessarily the case.

Researchers have begun to counteract the common conception of diets, and how these beliefs are most likely misconceptions. Dr. David Katz, director of Yale Griffin Preventative Research Center is certain of the failure of diets, stating “Frankly, everyone falls off the wagon at 12 months, to say nothing of 24 months, and are gaining the weight back.”

In order to further evaluate this generalization, Dr. Mark Eisenberg of Jewish General Hospital/McGill University in Montreal, Canada conducted a study with his colleagues. He did this by studying the results of the four most advertised and popular diets, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and the Zone.

Image by Pixabay

Image by Pixabay

This study involved the interpretation of data collected from populations that successfully initiated the diet. Those on the Weight Watchers diet lost an average of 6.6 pounds, those on the Atkins diet lost an average of 4.6 to 10.3 pounds, and those on the Zone diet lost an average of 3.5 to 7 pounds. Similarly, people with nutritional guidance or counseling lost about 4.85 pounds. However, in all four situations, the population gained back much of the weight between one and 5 years after beginning the diet.

In addition, these types of ways of life didn’t necessarily improve ones health, showing constant rates of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels across the board. Inventors of diets such as the Zone and Weight Watchers defend their products as a “way of life” that people must stick with. However, additional opinions, including that of Linda Van Horn, an American Heart Association spokesperson, believe in the power of advertisements and social popularity that promotes the diets, not the promised results.

This article is interesting because is defies the commonly accepted myth of dieting, and how it can regress ones progress. Instead, it teaches us that moderation and healthy choices are key, rather than limiting oneself.

 

Article: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/diet-fitness/overcooked-baloney-diets-dont-work-long-review-shows-n246331

Image: http://pixabay.com/p-2354/?no_redirect

Additional Sources:

http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/weight-loss/why-do-diets-stop-working

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/weight-loss_b_1594441.html

http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/weight-loss/4-reasons-why-fad-diets-are-bad-you/

Is Exercise really that important?

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Yes, exercise can have a ton of benefits not only for your heart, but for your overall health. First of all, cardiovascular disease (CVD-or heart disease) accounted for approximately 30% of worldwide deaths in 2008. Coronary heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death. Why such terrible statistics? Well, let’s just say some people don’t take care of their bodies as well as they should be.

Obesity rates are sky high in people, mostly in the United States. It can drastically increase the risk of certain diseases like heart disease and diabetes (type II). Sometimes obesity and heart disease is beyond peoples’ control, either being born with a very slow metabolism or diabetes. However in most cases, heart illness can be prevented. The best way to fend off heart disease would be to exercise. In combination with a healthy diet, exercise is essential to a healthy heart. The essential benefactors of exercise are that it lowers ones blood pressure and lowers ones resting heartbeat. Your heart isn’t working so hard to pump at higher pressures, but it is being conditioned as the muscle it is to pump faster at certain points. Since you are exerting energy, you burn calories and lower your cholesterol levels (cholesterol levels in bulk could lead to clogged arteries). Of course there’s still more to exercise. Exercise leads to the release of natural endorphins, which create a sense of euphoria. Some people describe this state as a “natural high”. The release of endorphins could be considered positive reinforcement to exercise since it makes people literally feel good physically and mentally. In turn people would keep coming back to exercise to feel great and be in shape. This is overall highly effective for helping people to burn more calories (which would mean burning fat and stopping obesity from occurring within themselves). If one does not participate in exercise, they are much more likely to feel worse and overall have a higher risk of heart disease. According to the CDC, over 9 million cases of cardiovascular disease were due to lack of exercise. So why not exercise? Protect your health and well being. Even for a little bit every day, exercising is a helpful tool for better health and better morale.

Do you exercise on a regular basis?

 

Helpful link: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/exercise-healthy-heart

Artificial Sweeteners: Not So Sweet After All?

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Amy van der Hiel

A recent study conducted at the Weizmann Science Institute suggests that artificial sweeteners may trigger health problems instead of benefiting people. This is important because not only is saccharin in artificial sweeteners, but it is also found in salad dressings, vitamins, and in low/zero calorie items we often eat.

Previously, sweeteners were known to pass through the gut undigested, therefore allowing people with health issues to use the sugar substitute. Recent tests on mice and humans found that saccharin actually interferes and alters microbiota bacteria found in the gut and small intestines, leading to serious conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Mice were monitored for 11 consecutive weeks when given drinking water doped with saccharin and the results showed they had abnormally high levels of glucose in their bloodstream. When food is digested it is broken down into glucose, the most common carbohydrate, and then enters the bloodstream to either be used as fuel or stored. When glucose metabolism is blocked, the blood glucose level is high. The test was repeated with mice on high-fat diet and the results were the same, showing that the saccharin had the same effect irrespective of the animal’s weight. Four of seven humans that ate a high-saccharin diet were also found to have an impaired glucose metabolism.

Why the microbiota are affected is still unknown as the test is preliminary, but the conclusion has been made that certain saccharin sugar substitutes are not simply passing through the intestines.

Original Article: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/artificial-sweeteners-may-tip-scales-toward-metabolic-problems

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/amyvdh/425555319

More Links:

http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2014/09/17/gut_bacteria_artificial_sweeteners_and_glucose_intolerance.html

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/artificial-sweeteners-may-disrupt-bodys-blood-sugar-controls/

http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/gut-bacteria-artificial-sweeteners-and-glucose-intolerance#.VB48n4ARD1h

Can we fix the expensive problem of obesity??

Today, America faces what can be considered an “obesity epidemic”. An estimated 69 million americans are considered obese, and obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in America. Obesity can lead to a number of dangerous conditions and even life threatening conditions. Consequences of obesity include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, different types of cancers, stroke, live disease, sleep apnea, arthritis and more! In addition to health consequences, the epidemic of obesity in america also includes severe economic consequences.  In 2002, the estimated health care expenditure for obesity-related issues was $147 billion

taken from WikiMedia

 

 

The statistics concerning obesity, childhood obesity, money lost due to obesity etc. are shocking. America is deeply affected by a preventable issue affecting roughly 35% of adult americans and 20% of youth americans. Scientists and doctors have long explored ways to address this issue medically. Until recently, it was believed that the part of the brain controlling appetite is fully developed before birth, and therefore, cannot be altered. As genetics play a big role in weight and appetite control, the ability to alter the appetite control center (the hypothalamus) would be a huge step in “curing” obesity.

However, “research published in theJournal of Neuroscience has identified a population of stem cells capable of generating new appetite-regulating neurons in the brains of young and adult rodents”. This information suggests that altering the appetite regulation system in humans is a possibility.

There is now hope that “the neural circuitry that controls appetite is not fixed in number and could possibly be manipulated numerically to tackle eating disorders.

Link to Main Article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130405064253.htm

Link to Additional Articles:

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html

http://obesityinamerica.org/statistics/

http://www.getamericafit.org/statistics-obesity-in-america.html

Link to Photo:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Medical_Complications_of_Obesity.svg

 

 

The New Way to Diet

The New Way to Diet 

Today, obesity is a global epidemic effecting millions if not billions of people world wide. Whether it be a few pounds or even a couple hundred pounds, there are countless people out there looking for a way to drop excess weight. Some they try dieting and altering what they eat and others revert to more serious methods, such as surgery. Recently a new procedure has been created that can help those suffering from obesity. Called  GECA or (gastric artery chemical embolization), this surgery can change the lives of millions of individuals.

* Click on image for link to flickr page

GECA is a surgery much safer than a liposuction that can literally make you less hungry  This relatively simple surgery is carried out by blocking off an artery that leads to the stomach. Doing this cuts off the blood supply to a certain section of the stomach that can produce the hormone called gherlin. This hormone controls our cravings to eat food and the sensation we call ‘hunger.’ Removing this hormone from our bloodstream would take away the desire to constantly eat. We would still be hungry, but just for less. With the desire to eat dissipating  one’s intake would go down and, with some exercise, the pounds would drop easily.

What do you think of this new procedure?

Source Article: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=168362

 

 

 

Epigenetics, Dads, and Obesity

 

By Ynse. Photo from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/ynse/1531699476/

 

It turns out that kids with obese fathers have unique epigenetic changes that can affect their health… for the worse.

According to a recent study, “children with obese fathers have different epigenetic markings on the gene for insulin-type growth factor 2 (IGF2) than children with fathers of normal weight.”

Children with obese fathers have less methylation on a specific region of the IGF2 gene. Sadly, this occurrence is linked with many types of cancers such as ovarian cancer.

However, it is too soon to tell if these epigenetic changes are directly linked to the children’s’ health.

According to the biologist Gudrun Moore, “it is tempting to over-emphasize the role of a small number of parent-of-origin expressing genes and to speculate about the effects of modest variation in methylation, but we must not be too hasty to blame either parent for their offspring’s health outcomes.”

However, other researchers are sure that that your parent’s environment and habits affect children’s health.

According to Michael Skinner, this research “suggests that environmental epigenetics might be the mechanism for these effects.”

Maybe now both the mother and father have to be careful about what they eat during the pregnancy. Sorry Dads-to-be, you are going to have to eat healthy now!

For more information on epigenetics and health, you can visit these links.

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21565573-some-effects-smoking-may-be-passed-grandmother

http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/editorial/editorial.cfm/i/249/t/Understanding%20epigenetics/

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ynse/1531699476/

Pull-Ups, Biology, and Our Sexist Society

Men and women are different, right? Guys have more testosterone, which leads to greater muscle mass, facial hair, deeper voice, and greater height. Women have more estrogen, which leads to the development of characteristics like wider hips, and breast development. Having less testosterone means it is harder to gain strength, but not impossible. Anyone can, with the proper training regimen  increase their strength, regardless of sex. This, however, goes against what New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope writes in her article Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups. In it, she cites a study in which

 Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat.

According to the study, only four of the seventeen women were able to do one pull-up at the end of the study. I, along with several hundreds of people who have posted angry comments on this article, have several issues with this study, and with the title of the article.

First, they focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and latissimus dorsi. My question is, what about the deltoids and trapezius muscles, and the core muscles in the abdomen, and grip strength? All of these come into play to some extent in a pull-up.

Second, I know from personal experience that using an incline to work your way up to pull-ups, often called a supine row, does not work.  I tried this for months and still could not do a pull-up. What did work was jumping over the bar and lower myself slowly (this is called negatives), and using resistance bands to hold whatever weight I could not support while doing a full pull-up. Now, I can do pull-ups. And, when you really think about it, a supine row uses the same muscles but the movement is in no way similar, so it doesn’t make sense to see it as a “toned-down” pull-up for beginners.

Taken by Amber Karnes
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ambernussbaum/4472515271/
2010 CrossFit Games; Women did pull-ups with a 14 lb vest.

Third, how in shape were these women? This was not made clear in the article, and obviously, even after six months to a year, a morbidly obese woman may not be able to do a pull-up.  I think the issue with the study and the article comes down to two things: bad journalism and bad science.  When a 17 year old AP Biology student is able to poke a bunch of holes in your argument and find a bunch of flaws in your experimental procedure, the competence of the individuals involved comes into serious question.

So, readers, can YOU do a pull-up? Do you know any females that can do pull-ups? And, if you were to run the experiment, what would you do differently?

Comment!

Original Article:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/why-women-cant-do-pull-ups/

 

Additional Information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supine_row

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pull-up_(exercise)#Muscles_used

 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ambernussbaum/4472515271/

S U G A R !

Mmm, sugar, so yummy…

Dr. David Katz, the director at the Yale Prevention Research Center writes of the negative effects of sugar in our lives in his article “Medicine, Museums, and Spoons Full of Sugar.” It’s a fact: kids and adults are eating way too much sugar, and this excess is known to contribute to the obesity epidemic.  Obesity itself causes other complications like diabetes and other diseases.

We’ve always known that having too much sugar is a bad thing, but how does it all add up? Soda like Coke, Sprite and Fanta are regarded by some public health experts as “liquid candy.”  Soda adds tons of calories and sugar to a typical diet.  So there you have it: soda is one of the many guilty culprits in the add up of sugar.

Taken by Yasmin Kibria

That’s only part of the problem–most of the excess sugar actually comes from foods.  “A how much is too much? According to Dr. Andrew Weil, everyone has a different response to sugar.  For some it triggers modd swings, brings on a sugar rush followed by a crash, and for some, there are no noticeable effects.  Sugar tends to drive obesity, high blood pressure, and Type II diabetes in people who are genetically programmed to develop insulin resistance.

How does too much sugar lead to obesity? According to Dr. Robert Lustig, sugar causes more insulin resistance in the liver than does other foods.  The pancreas then has to release more insulin to satisfy the liver’s needs.  High insulin levels obstruct the brain from receiving signals form leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells.

Zoos Killing Elephants?

Credit: xrayspx on Flickr

According to a study conducted by zoologists, elephants that are kept in captivity die much earlier than elephants that remain in the wild. Wouldn’t you think that elephants being kept at a zoo would be more likely to live longer? After all, they are getting regular feedings that require little to no effort on their part, and they are purposely kept away from any predators . So what’s the problem?

Ironically, most of these elephants end up dying of obesity (can you imagine how big an obese elephant might be?), because they eat and eat and eat, but don’t get any exercise in their limited spaces at the zoo. In addition to that, the elephants die from the stress of being transported to a zoo, and being separated from their mothers.

According to a study led by Ros Clubb (wildlife scientific officer at the RSPCA), African elephants lived (on average) 16.9 years in captivity, while free African elephants lived (on average) 35.9 years.

In another study, led by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural affairs, seventy-seven elephants were studied in thirteen UK zoos. The results showed that the elephants spent 83% of their time indoors, 71 of the 77 elephants were overweight, and only 11 could walk normally.

That doesn’t mean that zoos are horrible for all animals, just read this article, but they certainly aren’t helping out the elephants!

 

Are bad bacteria really bad?

That moment you finish pumping your gas and you think about all of the other hands that may have touched the same nozzle, so you become so disgusted until you remember that there is a bottle of Purell in the car. You suddely have the urge to open the cap, squeeze half of the bottle into your hand and rub them until your hands have never felt cleaner. The soothing idea that only .01% of bacteria may still lay on your hand rushes upon you and then you are able to go about your day picking up food with your fingers and proceeding to place it in your mouth.

 

Funny thing is, studies show that using Purell is not good for our hygiene. Does this mean that using Purell and  other anti-bacterial creams, sprays and medicine have actually been the cause of some of our ailments? Purell should not  be used on a day to day basis because it removes 99.99% of germs that means that you are not only killing the bad germs but also the good germs, and maybe leaving just .01% of them behind. Anti-biotics have a similar affect as Purell.

 

The hypothesis:

H. pylori in the stomach- photo taken from healthmedicalarticles.com

Dr. Blaser, a profesor of microbiology at NYU, decided to research what are the consequences of killing all of the bad bacteria in the human body by using anti-biotics and anti-bacterial creams. He came upon the hypothesis that “the overuse of antibiotics increase the risk of obesity.”  He discovered that anti-biotics have been prescribed to patients with ulcers and gastric cancer, even when the patients showed no symptoms. These anti-biotics actually kill a bacteria called Helicobactor pylori (H.pylori). Studies show without H.pylori, a hunger hormone ghrelin, increases its secretion after a meal, when the hormone is actually suppose to drop in secretion levels. Thus by removing H. pylori the person is actually eating more frequently and consequently gaining more weight. It is also shown the children who have been treated with regular doses of anti-biotics to treat throat and ear infections had a marked increase in body fat while maintaining a constant diet. So can it be blamed on doctors that what they say is so-and-so “baby fat” is actually a result of their over prescription of anti-biotics when we had ear infections? Ok. maybe I went a bit to far, but it seems simple, some bad bacteria is meant to be in our system, not only to keep us healthy but also so that we can form some resistance to the bad bacteria.

Superbugs? 

By overusing anti-biotics we have created superbugs such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. What a big word, what does it mean? Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria better known as MRSA and is derived from a bacteria that was known to create staph infections. That bacteria was able to be treated through an assortment of anti-biotics but this new superbug does not respond to most anti-biotics. Thus more and more anti-biotics are being given to MRSA patients resulting in a large concern for obesity in these patients.

Back to the Hypothesis of Dr. Blaser: 

Yu Chen, an epidemiologist at NYU, has agreed with Dr. Blaser that the overuse of anti-biotics and the correlation to H. pylori has also been the cause of many childhood infections such as: hay fever, asthma, and skin allergies. Peter Turnbaugh, a Harvard University geneticist, and  Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a gastroenterologist at Washington University in St. Louis have also agreed with Dr. Blaser that the use of anti-biotics alter the healthy ratios of bacteria in the stomach, which results in an on-set of weight gain.

This is just the start of Dr. Blaser’s studies, he was granted over 100 million dollars from the National Institute of Health and plans on researching more bacteria, not only H.pylori. SO, what does this mean? Can anti-biotics be killing too much bacteria? Should we be waiting until our sickness has reached its peak before we take an anti-biotic? What about Purell is that creating superbugs?

A solution may be to wash our hands before we eat, but not be too narcotic and kill all of the bacteria that may lay on our hands, what do you think?

 

For more information please go to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/health/scientist-examines-possible-link-between-antibiotics-and-obesity.html?_r=2&ref=science

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicobacter_pylori

http://www.health24.com/natural/Probiotics/17-1940,33634.asp

 

 

 

 

 

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