BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: epideremis

Our Next Steps To Defeat Covid-19.

Introduction

Whether it is protection from an angry bear, a criminal on the loose, the simple flu, or for safe sex, the measures we take to ensure our safety is one of the most important steps to continue to stay healthy and safe. We must continue to educate ourselves on what actions we must take in order to keep ourselves and the people around us as safe as possible.

Recently, our society has had a lot of controversy around products like masks and their effectiveness. Although many of our methods may not guarantee complete safety, we must attempt to reduce the amount of spread of serious viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

To quickly clarify, SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that invades our bodies. When SARS-CoV-2 is able to bypass our bodies’ immune system functions and infect cells in our system, our bodies contract the disease Covid-19. If further information is desired, please refer to this study on SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 conducted by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

As we approach a whole year with the presence of Covid-19 in the United States of America, we must stop to reflect on our actions and see what we can do to prevent the virus from wreaking more havoc on our society. One of the most important factors for Covid-19’s ability to spread as much as it had, was the lack of proper protection techniques used by citizens of the United States of America.

Firstly, it is very important to understand how SARS-CoV-2 is able to transfer from person to person so easily. According to the CDC, The most common way for SARS-CoV-2 to spread is through people inhaling respiratory droplets, released through other people’s coughing, sneezing, talking, etc. into their own nose and mouth. Although much rarer, SARS-CoV-2 can sometimes be spread through airborne transmission and contact with contaminated surfaces.

Since breathing is a necessity to continue living, we obviously can’t perfectly avoid inhaling these respiratory droplets, but in what ways can we try to reduce the damage of possible Covid-19 cases in the United States of America…

Forms of Protection

According to the CDC, we can take very specific steps in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

To further elaborate on a few of these methods, we as a society must educate ourselves on the best and most efficient way to carry out these actions. One main example at the moment is mask usage in the United States of America. Despite constantly being told, I often see many citizens wearing their masks in ways that are strongly discouraged: some under the nose, some dangling from their ears, and some not on at all. Not only does this put their own bodies at risk of contracting Covid-19, but it also risks the health of others as well.

According to the articleStill Confused About Masks? Here’s the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus” by Nina Bai, a study conducted by health affairs, compared the Covid-19 growth rate before and after a mask mandate. Nina  states that “the first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage-points compared to the five days prior to the mandate; at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percentage-points.” Another study conducted by Christopher Leffler, Edsel Ing and many more professionals also found that out of the 198 countries that they had observed the Covid-19 death rate of “those with cultural norms or government policies favoring mask-wearing had lower death rates.”  Through studies, we can observe the effectiveness of such resources and use these materials such as masks to the best of our abilities to help each other stay safe.

If you are in need of instruction on how to properly use a mask and other small important pieces of information. Please refer to the CDC’s article “How to Select, Wear, and Clean Your Mask”

Another term that many have learned this year, is the term “Social Distancing.” Although staying 6 feet apart from one another like the CDC has told us, it becomes very difficult for every day citizens to abide to this rule as we have a natural tendency to gravitate towards our peers, family and other people in our communities. In order to reduce spreading the virus to other people we must stay socially-distant from others to allow people to live their lives much more comfortably, especially considering that most cases of SARS-CoV-2 transfer are caused through inhaling respiratory droplets.

Another luxury many people don’t use properly is the sinks that are in our homes and bathrooms. I’ve seen way too many people use hand sanitizer instead of going to wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds with soap and water. For many reasons, this practice can be extremely harmful if someone is trying to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2. According to the CDC, there are many cases where using regular hand sanitizer won’t be as efficient as a simple washing of hands with soap and water. For example, hand sanitizer is not as efficient on greasy and dirty hands: hands after handling food, playing sports, going fishing and many other activities that may lead to dirty hands. In cases as such, the CDC recommends using soap and water for 20 seconds. However, we must truly wash our hands by properly scrubbing our hands and not simply allow the water from the sink to run through our fingers and palms. The friction caused by scrubbing allows for the lifting of dirt, grease and microbes on your skin. Microbes are also extremely present under your nails which is why your parents always tell you to make sure to get your nails when you wash your hands. Without properly cleaning our hands and other parts of our bodies, we may accidentally bring harmful substances towards our face, where the virus may be able to easily enter our bodies. By cleaning our hands thoroughly and carefully, we significantly reduce the chances of spreading the virus to others and ourselves.

Biological Implication

The reason the CDC places so much emphasis on thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, is so that we can make sure to keep our hands clean from any harmful substances. If someone were to only wash their hands with water, they wouldn’t be able to wash off all the non polar substances like grease and oil off of their hands. For this reason, we use soap to and water rather than only water. Due to water’s polar properties, it can only bond with other polar molecules. When one adds soap into their cleansing routine, there are two new parts being tossed into the mix. The hydrophilic heads from the soap attach to the water molecules and the hydrophobic tails of the molecule bond with the non polar substances such as grease and oil. The water then continues to carry the soap and harmful substances away from our hands as other water molecules pull them down with them as gravity takes its course. Soap, being made of lipids, shows versatility as it’s able to bond with both polar and non polar molecules and allows us to fully wash our hands with its polar and non polar qualities.

Conclusion

With proper masks, socially-distant people, clean hands and many other precautions we can make sure that the spread growth is reduced way more than it previously was. Scientists are still trying to figure out all the details themselves. They’re human beings and they’re bound to make mistakes as well, so we must be understanding and flexible when new studies and information prove claims that could help us reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 even more. In these troubling times we must look out for each other and be strong yet malleable as we face hardships that many haven’t ever experienced before.

 

 

 

Should You Pursue A Personalized Diet?

According to an article by Tina Hesman Saey on Sciencenews.org, the idea of dieting and restrictive eating aren’t so black and white like we previously believed it to be. There are many factors someone should think of when they’re considering a new dietary plan. One main tip that people often give is that one who is considering a new dietary plan should consider eating low glycemic foods. A glycemic index diet is an eating plan based on how foods affect your blood sugar. Therefore, pursuing a low glycemic food diet, you’re eating foods that do not raise your blood sugar to very high levels. Maintaining a good blood sugar is important for body health because high and low blood sugar levels can result in many diseases, both digestion and nervous system issues in addition to many other issues that come with these diagnoses. When thinking of foods that would fit this new low glycemic dietary plan, we tend to think of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, etc. that are often praised in a “balanced” diet. However, in Saey’s article we’re shown that foods have different affects on people’s blood sugar levels and other nutrient levels because of the way that their organs function in their body.

Saey uses two main examples to display the variety in body digestion of different foods. In her article, she provided a graph that displayed the varying blood sugar levels of different people who ate the same type of muffin. The main reason for having the graph of the study in her article was to display how people’s blood sugar levels can drastically vary purely off of the functions and traits of one’s body and organs. One main surprise that came from the study was that even identical twin sisters had different spikes in blood sugar from the muffin. Both sisters live different lifestyles, one being an athlete that ate mostly salads and the other being less active and eating foods like bread and cheese more frequently. Although one would assume that the more athletic sister would be able to deal with carbohydrates and other nutrients much better than the other, the two sisters share that different foods are harder on their bodies. For example the more athletic sister struggles to eat spaghetti bolognese because it spikes her blood sugar levels, even though it is considered a low glycemic food, and prefers to eat other carbohydrates like mashed potatoes; The less athletic sister struggles to eat mashed potatoes, but is able to freely consume spaghetti bolognese without any problem.

Another example given was of a man who ate the same meal of a sandwich and orange juice after a day of work. He realized that his blood sugar levels spiked after having this meal and continued to figure out what meals wouldn’t. He learned that his body is able to consume apples and pears without drastically raising blood sugar levels but not bananas. She then provides an example of a study where different people experience higher blood sugar levels from apples than cookies and vice versa. Evidently, the advice to eat more fruits and vegetables should be taken with caution as many people’s bodies aren’t able to consume these substances without having a spike in high blood sugar.

Unfortunately, this same rule applies to other organic compounds in our food such as dietary fats. These fats and carbohydrates work hand in hand as seen when the article says that the scientists are unable to see how quickly people cleared the fats from their blood after a meal until they were able to identify the blood sugar and insulin levels of the people who ate the food. Lipids and Proteins share many of the same molecular components which could be the reason for their similar affects on the body after consumption. Both lipids and proteins are both mostly made up of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen, however, the small differences in their composition can lead to these different reactions in the body. There are 20 different types of amino acids and each protein can act differently in the body due to the varying polarity, R-groups, etc. Although lipids do not vary as much as proteins do, lipid variation matters a lot in the foods we eat; we stress the importance of eating unsaturated fats much more than saturated fats because of the health effects they may have on our bodies, showing that even the smallest variation of a double bond to a carbon atom has severe affects on our health. There are so many factors in our bodies that are different with each individual. Everything is also intertwined and any huge change made to our nutritional intake can severely affect the way the organs and functions of our bodies work. We have to keep track and be wary of all these different factors and make sure we act accordingly in order to promote a healthy, body, mind and life.

 

According to Immunologist Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Technology,  gut microbes are probably the most important factor in determining which fibers and complex carbohydrates get digested. Microbes were also a huge role in the spiking of one’s blood sugar after a food is consumed. Coincidentally, what you eat affects the type of microbes present in your digestive system, so there is some room for exploring how we can possibly eat in ways that promote a specific type of microbiome or avoid excessively eating foods that don’t work well with the microbiome created by our current eating habits. However, we as consumers have the responsibility of reading the labels and tracking the traits of the foods that we eat. Jennie Brand Miller, a nutritionist at University of Sydney, states that although there are certain exceptions due to people’s digestive systems being different, there is a 99% chance that high glycemic foods will spike your blood sugar more than low glycemic foods. If people do intend on following any type of dietary plan they must use the information that they’re given to the best of their abilities to make inferences and conclusions to reach their ultimate goal.

We must take facts about food and nutrition with a grain of salt since everyone’s body isn’t the same. Evidently, there is some room for more research and experimentation for us to find a possible ideal microbiome and dietary plan for each individual person. With more research and experimentation we should be able to determine if personalized diets are an efficient strategy to allow people to reach the health and body goals they want to achieve. This also brings into question, what other areas of nutrition are not as simple as they seem. Is it really that bad to eat a lot of carbohydrates or fats? Are meat diets truly helpful or are they more harmful to our bodies? Is there truly an ideal dietary plan that works for every person? There is much promise to having personalized dietary plans, but there is no such thing as a flawless system and we must be wary of the consequences of following such a system.

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