By Guest Nicole
Sitting for hours without moving can slow the flow of blood to our brains, according to a cautionary new study of office workers, a finding that could have implications for long-term brain health. But getting up and strolling for just two minutes every half-hour seems to stave off this decline in brain blood flow and may even increase it.
Delivering blood to our brains is one of those automatic internal processes that most of us seldom consider, although it is essential for life and cognition. Brain cells need the oxygen and nutrients that blood contains, and several large arteries constantly shuttle blood up to our skulls.
Because this flow is so necessary, the brain tightly regulates it, tracking a variety of physiological signals, including the levels of carbon dioxide in our blood, to keep the flow rate within a very narrow range.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/well/move/why-sitting-may-be-bad-for-your-brain.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth
By Guest Nicole
April 5, 2018
Researchers show for the first time that healthy older men and women can generate just as many new brain cells as younger people.
Researchers show for the first time that healthy older men and women can generate just as many new brain cells as younger people.
There has been controversy over whether adult humans grow new neurons, and some research has previously suggested that the adult brain was hard-wired and that adults did not grow new neurons. This study, to appear in the journal Cell Stem Cell on April 5, counters that notion. Lead author Maura Boldrini, associate professor of neurobiology at Columbia University, says the findings may suggest that many senior citizens remain more cognitively and emotionally intact than commonly believed.
"We found that older people have similar ability to make thousands of hippocampal new neurons from progenitor cells as younger people do," Boldrini says. "We also found equivalent volumes of the hippocampus (a brain structure used for emotion and cognition) across ages. Nevertheless, older individuals had less vascularization and maybe less ability of new neurons to make connections."
The researchers autopsied hippocampi from 28 previously healthy individuals aged 14-79 who had died suddenly. This is the first time researchers looked at newly formed neurons and the state of blood vessels within the entire human hippocampus soon after death. (The researchers had determined that study subjects were not cognitively impaired and had not suffered from depression or taken antidepressants, which Boldrini and colleagues had previously found could impact the production of new brain cells.)
In rodents and primates, the ability to generate new hippocampal cells declines with age. Waning production of neurons and an overall shrinking of the dentate gyrus, part of the hippocampus thought to help form new episodic memories, was believed to occur in aging humans as well.
By Guest Nicole
A new study adds evidence to the argument that exercise can help preserve brain health, particularly in the aging brain.
What makes this study different than most is a wrinkle in its methodology. Unlike many studies that look for a connection between exercise and brain health, this one used a specific way of measuring physical fitness, by testing the participants’ maximum oxygen consumption during aerobic exercise (known as the V02 max test, it’s a method recognized by the American Heart Association as an objective way of analyzing cardiovascular fitness--more reliable than people just self-reporting on how fit they think they are).
Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2018/02/20/study-finds-link-between-physical-fitness-and-brain-health/#6cb0e19172c9
By Guest Nicole
Children who eat fish tend to sleep better and score higher on IQ tests, a new study has found.
Using self-administered questionnaires, researchers collected information on fish consumption among 541 Chinese boys and girls ages 9 to 11. Parents reported their children’s sleep duration, how often they awoke at night, daytime sleepiness and other sleep patterns. At age 12, the children took IQ tests.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/26/well/eat/fish-brain-iq-intelligence-children-kids.html?_r=2
By Guest Nicole
Although the rising pandemic of obesity has received major attention in many countries, the effects of this attention on trends and the disease burden of obesity remain uncertain.
Read more: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1614362?query=featured_home&
By Guest Nicole
Obesity and weight problems are on the rise across the world, according to a new study. In fact, more than 2 billion adults and children (or more than 30 percent of the world’s population) suffered from health problems stemming from being overweight or obese in 2015, and more people than ever are dying because of weight-related problems, the study found.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study analyzed data from 195 countries between 1980 and 2015, collected as part of the Global Burden of Disease study (which looked at the health loss of more than 300 diseases and injuries). Scientists from the University of Washington found that more than 107 million children and 603 million adults worldwide were obese as of 2015, and even more are technically overweight. And in the U.S. alone, 79 million adults were technically obese in 2015, as compared to 57 million adults in China (which has four times as many people as the U.S.), the Associated Press notes. The U.S. also has the highest number of overweight or obese young adults or children.
Read more: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/06/obesity-overweight-global-population-study.html
By Guest Nicole
It’s pretty obvious that carrying around extra weight can make you feel sluggish, affect your self-esteem and put you at increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. But increasingly, researchers are also making connections between obesity and cancer—several different types of cancer, in fact.
Cancer is caused by mutations within cells, which cause those cells to grow and multiply at unnatural rates. Many cases of cancer occur because of genetic traits, or purely because of chance. But for others, obesity can be a big contributing factor.
“We know that a good third of cancers are associated with our lifestyle behaviors, such as what we eat, how much we exercise, and collectively, our weight,” says Melinda Irwin, director of Cancer Prevention and Control at Yale University. “And obesity is now the leading modifiable risk factor, even ahead of tobacco use, that’s associated with cancer risk and mortality.”
How does obesity encourage cancer growth?
High-levels of long-term inflammation—the immune system’s response to injury, illness, or other disturbances in the body—has been shown to fuel the growth of cancer cells. “And we know that obesity is basically a chronic inflammatory state,” says Irwin.
Not only can obesity itself trigger inflammation; so can some of the the eating behaviors that lead to weight gain in the first place—like high-sugar and high-fat diets. Having too much fat around the belly, regardless of body mass index, increases inflammation in the body, as well.
Some cancers are also linked to sex hormones like estrogen. Women’s bodies produces estrogen in their fat cells, especially after menopause. “The higher levels of body fat you have, the higher levels of estrogen,” says Irwin.
Then there’s the way that obesity contributes to insulin resistance—a condition in which the body loses its sensitivity to the hormone and can’t respond normally. This can lead to excess levels of insulin and insulin-related growth hormones in the body, which has been linked to cell proliferation and several types of cancer.
By Guest Nicole
Both sugary, diet drinks correlated with accelerated brain aging
April 20, 2017
Excess sugar -- especially the fructose in sugary drinks -- might damage your brain, new research suggests. Researchers found that people who drink sugary beverages frequently are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus. A follow-up study found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not.
By Guest Nicole
The differences in men and women even extend to the way our brains are built.
In the largest study yet on sex differences in the physical makeup of the human brain, researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have shown that men and women do, in fact, have different brain structures and sizes. Women tend to have thicker cortices, which are associated with intelligence, whereas men’s brains tend to be bigger overall. Although these differences can’t prove that men and women behave differently, they could shed light on why some medications work better in men better than women, and vice versa.
Researchers looked at the brains of over 5,200 participants older than 40, roughly half men and half women. This group was part of the larger UK Biobank study, which is in the midst of collecting health data on over 500,000 individuals. For this particular study, patients lay down in a structural magnetic resonance imaging. These MRIs are able to parse out different types of brain tissues, like the neurons and the connections between them, which can give scientists a picture of the various brain regions.
They found that on average, men’s brains were larger. But women’s brains had larger subregions of the cortex—the cortical subregions are discrete parts of this particular brain section associated with memory, sensory input, learning, and making choices. Additionally, there was a lot of variation in the sizes of different brain regions in men; women’s brains tended to be more similar to each other. The research, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, was published in BioArXiv earlier this month.
These findings aren’t brand new. But most neuroscience studies to date only looked at a sample size of a few hundred participants. The thousands of brains here validate a lot of previous work. The fact that men’s brains had more differences among them “fits with a lot of other evidence that seems to point toward males being more variable physically and mentally,” Stuart Ritchie, a psychologist and lead author of the paper, told Science. Similarly, it wasn’t surprising to find that women tended to have thicker cortices over all based on previous findings (paywall).
The differences between men and women’s brains were small enough that it’d be impossible for scientists to determine a person’s sex by looking at his or her brain alone. Brain size and composition are characteristics kind of like nose shape: they depend on a lot of different genetic factors, and can take on countless different forms. And although a lot of men have larger noses (and brains) than women, that’s not always the case.
And it’s important to consider that different brain sizes and regions don’t necessarily translate to actual behavioral differences, like intelligence. “Our manuscript is just about describing the differences, and we can’t say anything about the causes of those differences,” Ritchie told New York Magazine. Different environmental and social factors play a huge role in determining the ways we think and interact with each other.
Ritchie is confident, though, that understanding the structural variability can help determine why certain diseases affect men and women differently. Understanding variations in brain structure can help develop better, sex-specific treatments for them.
By Guest Nicole
Memory athletes like Sue Jin Yang — competing here in the 17th annual USA Memory Championship in New York City in 2014 — wear headphones to block out distractions as they memorize the order of decks of cards.
Carolyn Cole/LA Times via Getty Images
There is such a thing as a memory athlete. These are people who can memorize a truly insane amount of information really quickly, like the order of playing cards in a deck in under 20 seconds, or 200 new names and faces in a matter of minutes.
Neuroscientists writing Wednesday in the journal Neuron found these champs of memorization aren't that different from the rest of us.
"We were interested in what differentiates memory champions from normal people, like you and me," says Martin Dresler, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior at Radboud University in the Netherlands.
Were parts of their brains bigger, for example, or more dense with gray matter?
To find out, Dresler and Boris Nikolai Konrad — a doctoral student in Dresler's lab who happens to be a memory champion himself — rounded up nearly two dozen champs.
"We really took the world's best memorizers — 23 memory champions out of the top 50 of the world. You wouldn't find anywhere in the world people more capable of memorizing stuff than them," says Dresler.
They did MRI scans of their brains, to take a look at the anatomy.
Then they scanned the brains of 23 regular people who were matched in age, gender and even IQ to the memory athletes. When Dresler and his colleagues compared the brain scans, they found no difference. At least, no big, obvious difference.
"That was actually really a bit surprising," he says.
But, when Dresler and his colleagues did functional MRI scans, which measure brain activity by looking at how much blood is going to specific portions of it, they did see a subtle difference in brain activity.
When memory athletes were asked to recite a long list of memorized words, some portions of brain were activating in unison — making 25 connections that seemed particularly significant among different parts of the brain. The scientists didn't see that sort of unified activity in the brains of the regular subjects.
In particular, parts of the brain associated with memory and with spatial learning seemed to be interacting a lot.
That makes sense, when you consider the tricks these athletes had learned to use when they memorize.
They weren't born with extraordinary memorization skills. They had all learned and practiced the same kind of training to develop their seemingly superhuman abilities.
Konrad, the memorizing whiz in Dresler's lab who is also a co-author of the study, started using the memory strategy as a hobby in high school, after watching memory championships on TV. He holds the world record for memorizing faces and names — 201 people in 15 minutes.
"I use my visual memory," says Konrad. If he's trying to remember a person called Miller, he says, "I would picture this person looking at a mill, maybe during a vacation in the Netherlands."
For more abstract memory challenges, like memorizing the exact order of hundreds of digits, he'll build memory palaces. It's a method that's been around since the Greeks and is covered extensively in the book Moonwalking With Einstein by journalist Joshua Foer.
It works by recalling a building or place that is very familiar and charting a mental path through that building.
"The very first one I ever did was in the home of my parents, where I still lived back then when I was still in high school," says Konrad.
Then, he memorizes an order of walking through that house.
"It would start in my room," he says. The first location would be my bed, and the second one would be the shelf above my bed; then it's my desk, the computer on it, the window, the mirror and so on."
To memorize abstract information, like a list of numbers, he would translate numbers into images and then distribute them along the mental path through his house.
For example, to memorize my phone number, which starts with "1202," Konrad transforms pairs of numbers into images, using something called the Major System.
The combination "1-2," for example, brings to mind (for him) a dinosaur, Konrad says. "So I would then picture a dinosaur standing on my bed," says Konrad. "It's a weird image. That's why it sticks."
"And then, 0-2 would be a sun. So, I would picture the sun illuminating the shelf over my bed," he says. And so on.
In a second part of their study, Konrad and Dresler recruited 51 university students, and had one-third of them do memory palace training for six weeks — once a week in person with Konrad, and half an hour a day at home on the computer. (If you want to give it whirl, here you go.)
Another group did a different kind of memory training, and the last group did nothing special.
Then, they were brought into the lab and were asked to memorize a list of words, like "night, car, yardstick," and so on.
The researchers used functional MRI machines to scan the brains of subjects as they rested, and again as they recited the list of words.
In the group that did memory palace training, Konrad, Dresler and their colleagues found that the volunteers' brain activity had changed to become more like that of the champions of memorization. This was the case when they were reciting words, but also when they were at rest.
"We showed that, indeed, the brain is somehow driven into the patterns you see in memory champions," says Dresler.
The subjects came back into the lab four months after training and got a new list of words to memorize. The ones who had done memory palace training did really well compared to the others, and their brains were still connecting in that new way.
"Not only during a task, but even in the complete absence of any memory-related activity, we see this effect — that memory champions differ from matched controls, and that after memory training your brain shows similar patterns," says Dresler.
"There are very few actual studies of people with remarkably superior memory who compete in these memory contests. This is by far the largest," says Roddy Roediger, a psychologist with Washington University in St Louis.
Roediger has studied people with exceptional memory for a long time. He says people knew that something different had to be going on inside the brains of these people.
"These people are the first to really uncover what that something may be," he says.
But this method of memory training is not the key to unlocking intelligence. In fact, it doesn't even seem to be the key to unlocking overall memory capability.
For example, Roediger knows a man capable of playing dozens of games of chess at the same time, while blindfolded.
"He had never heard of memory palaces," says Roediger.
There are also people who have memorized the Bible in its entirety and can recite portions of it on demand. And there are others who have a condition known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where they remember every day of their lives in sometimes excruciating detail.
"And yet, when you put them in memory tasks that memory competitors can do very easily, they can't do them any easier than you or I could," says Roediger. "So that's a real mystery."
The same limitations apply to people who have trained their memories.
If, for example, you ask the chess player or a Bible memorizer to remember a long list of words, says Roediger, "none of them can do that." Their techniques are specific to their tasks.
And, he says, intense memory training doesn't cure everyday forgetfulness.
"They forget the milk on the way home from work just like we do," says Roediger.
Boris Nikolai Konrad says it has been years since he forgot something on his grocery list. But every now and then he does slip up with someone's name — and that's a moment people don't let him forget.
By Guest Nicole
France has banned restaurants from offering unlimited refills of soda and sugary drinks, the latest bid to decrease the rise in the nation's obesity rate.
The new order, implemented on Jan. 27, will mean that hotels, restaurants and school cafeterias will no longer have soda fountains. The move is part of a spate of health initiatives implemented by the country, which includes a "soda tax" imposed on sweetened drinks, a ban on vending machines in schools and a limit on the servings of french fries to once a week in schools, the New York Times reports.
Even though France's overall obesity rate is relatively low—41% of women and 57% of men between 30 to 60 were obese or overweight—the laws are in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. WHO presented statistics in 2016 on the good effects of imposing a sugar tax.
By Guest Nicole
Using a sauna may be more than just relaxing and refreshing. It may also reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, a new study suggests.
Researchers in Finland analyzed medical records of 2,315 healthy men ages 42 to 60, tracking their health over an average of about 20 years. During that time, they diagnosed 204 cases of dementia and 123 cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, in Age and Ageing, controlled for alcohol intake, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes and other health and behavioral factors. It found that compared with men who used a sauna once a week, those who used a sauna four to seven times a week had a 66 percent lower risk for dementia and a 65 percent lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
The senior author, Jari Antero Laukkanen, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Eastern Finland, said that various physiological mechanisms may be involved. Sauna bathing may, for example, lead to reduced inflammation, better vascular function or lowered blood pressure.
“Overall relaxation and well-being can be another reason,” he added, though the findings were only an association. “We need more studies to clarify mechanisms and confirm our findings.”
By Guest Nicole
It’s that time of year again. On November 6th, most of the United States will participate in that semi-annual ritual of changing the clocks by an hour. In the fall we gain an hour of sleep time, or an hour of loafing around on a Sunday morning…how bad could it be?
Our circadian clock is an elaborate system of chemical signals and hormonesreacting to all sorts of environmental inputs such as light, feeding, and even temperature. The system is quite elegant, with many interconnected parts that when working well keeps us healthy with brains and metabolism in tip top condition. We can compare the circadian system to an orchestra playing a symphony…if everyone is playing the same piece, well-timed and in tune, it sounds wonderful, but if one horn is off pitch, the whole experience can be ruined.
Sleep is necessary for the brain to wash away the build-up of toxic byproducts of cell metabolism accumulated over the day. Without sleep, we very quickly lose the ability to function. The effects of acute total sleep deprivation are very obvious. In folks with bipolar disorder it can cause a manic episode and seizures in those with epilepsy. Long term, even low level sleep deprivation can contribute to a myriad of bad health effects, such as obesity, depression, and dementia. It also increases risks of heart attacks and motor vehicle accidents. While one hour difference a couple times a year seems small, evidence shows us that the delicate human circadian clock doesn’t adjust well to the abrupt difference in time.
When looking at the acute affects of the one hour transition of daylight savings, there are a host of papers showing negative effects on workplace injuries, productivity, traffic accidents, and heart attacks. But what about mental health? Older papers remark on no changes in suicidal behaviors or increase in inpatient or outpatient admissions during DST changes, but large Scandinavian registries over decades give us the ability to get a bigger picture of daylight savings in spring and fall and mental health. Overall admissions could balance out if each transition (forward or backward) has different effects on major depressive disorder or mood disorders with more seasonal components.
It seems that the single hour change is not disruptive enough to lead to an increase hospitalization for bipolar manic episodes in this Finnish study (whereas there are cases of mania caused by bigger time shifts due to air travel). However, less dramatic but negative behavioral effects are seen in children during the days following daylight savings switches.
One hour of change in the timing of the day (that, in the fall, is often looked upon favorably as ‘that extra hour of sleep’) theoretically has it’s most debilitating consequences for those with depressive disorders. We don’t understand all the intricacies of circadian rhythm and mood problems, but we do know there are many therapies involving light, sleep deprivation, early awakening, and circadian advance to an “early to bed, early to rise” sleep schedule can effectively help treat depression. Sleeping later in the morning is associated with depression, particularly in women. It makes sense, then, that a government proscribed regimen of sleeping later could increase the risk of depression, and a recent large study seems to confirm this, with an 11% increase in hospitalizations for depression in the weeks after the daylight savings transition to standard time in Denmark. Autumn daylight savings in the high latitudes shortens the effective light in the working day, with biologic and psychological effects.
The one hour time change, even adding an hour of needed sleep, can be detrimental to the brain’s delicate circadian clock. It acts as one more stressor to the myriad of stress in our modern daily schedules. Given that daylight savings time may not even save energy, it’s a wonder that we subject ourselves to the disruption twice a year.
By Guest Nicole
Telling small lies desensitizes our brains to the associated negative emotions and may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future
October 24, 2016
University College London
Telling small lies desensitizes our brains to the associated negative emotions and may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future, reveals new research.
Researchers have shown that self-serving lies gradually escalate, and they have revealed how this happens in our brains.
Credit: © pathdoc / Fotolia
Telling small lies desensitises our brains to the associated negative emotions and may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future, reveals new UCL research funded by Wellcome and the Center for Advanced Hindsight.
The research, published in Nature Neuroscience, provides the first empirical evidence that self-serving lies gradually escalate and reveals how this happens in our brains.
The team scanned volunteers' brains while they took part in tasks where they could lie for personal gain. They found that the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with emotion, was most active when people first lied for personal gain. The amygdala's response to lying declined with every lie while the magnitude of the lies escalated. Crucially, the researchers found that larger drops in amygdala activity predicted bigger lies in future.
"When we lie for personal gain, our amygdala produces a negative feeling that limits the extent to which we are prepared to lie," explains senior author Dr Tali Sharot (UCL Experimental Psychology). "However, this response fades as we continue to lie, and the more it falls the bigger our lies become. This may lead to a 'slippery slope' where small acts of dishonesty escalate into more significant lies."
The study included 80 volunteers who took part in a team estimation task that involved guessing the number of pennies in a jar and sending their estimates to unseen partners using a computer. This took place in several different scenarios. In the baseline scenario, participants were told that aiming for the most accurate estimate would benefit them and their partner. In various other scenarios, over- or under-estimating the amount would either benefit them at their partner's expense, benefit both of them, benefit their partner at their own expense, or only benefit one of them with no effect on the other.
When over-estimating the amount would benefit the volunteer at their partner's expense, people started by slightly exaggerating their estimates which elicited strong amygdala responses. Their exaggerations escalated as the experiment went on while their amygdala responses declined.
"It is likely the brain's blunted response to repeated acts of dishonesty reflects a reduced emotional response to these acts," says lead author Dr Neil Garrett (UCL Experimental Psychology). "This is in line with suggestions that our amygdala signals aversion to acts that we consider wrong or immoral. We only tested dishonesty in this experiment, but the same principle may also apply to escalations in other actions such as risk taking or violent behaviour."
Dr Raliza Stoyanova, Senior Portfolio Developer, in the Neuroscience and Mental Health team at Wellcome, said: "This is a very interesting first look at the brain's response to repeated and increasing acts of dishonesty. Future work would be needed to tease out more precisely whether these acts of dishonesty are indeed linked to a blunted emotional response, and whether escalations in other types of behaviour would have the same effect."
Materials provided by University College London. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Neil Garrett, Stephanie C Lazzaro, Dan Ariely, Tali Sharot. The brain adapts to dishonesty. Nature Neuroscience, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nn.4426
Cite This Page:
University College London. "How lying takes our brains down a 'slippery slope': Telling small lies desensitizes our brains to the associated negative emotions and may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161024134012.htm>.
By Guest Nicole
A large study has found that body mass index, waist circumference and diabetes are all associated with an increased risk for liver cancer. Liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer, and its incidence has tripled since the mid-1970s in the United States.
For the study, in Cancer Research, researchers pooled data from 14 prospective studies with more than 1.5 million participants. After controlling for age, sex, alcohol use, smoking and race, they found that being overweight increased the relative risk for liver cancer by between 21 percent and 142 percent as B.M.I. increased. For each 2-inch increase in waist circumference, the risk of liver cancer increased by 8 percent, even after controlling for B.M.I. And those with Type 2 diabetes had more than double the risk of liver cancer, even among the non-obese.
There was no association of B.M.I. with cancer if the patient had hepatitis, a cause of liver cancer so strong that it overwhelms any other cause. But among those without hepatitis, the increased risk was significant.
“This study underscores that the parallel increase in obesity is part of the increase in liver cancer rates,” said the lead author, Peter T. Campbell, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society. “Now we have to accept the fact that obesity and Type 2 diabetes are strongly associated with liver cancer.”
By Guest Nicole
Do you see what I see? Not necessarily with these optical illusions! When you look at an image, your brain takes that information into perception. Sometimes, an image can trick the brain into perceiving it differently from what the picture actually is, creating an optical illusion.
Take a look at the following 10 images to find out if you can see the two images masking as one.
Is It a Man Playing a Horn or Woman’s Face?
When you stare at this black and white image, do you see woman’s face with hair on the right side of it or a man playing a horn? If you can’t see the man, look at the black shape. See him now?
Is It a Rabbit or a Duck?
If you look at this image one way, the two rectangular shapes on the left could be a duck’s bill. But if you look at it another way, those shapes might appear to you as a pair of rabbit ears.
Do You See One Face or Two?
When staring at this image, you might see two silhouettes facing each other. Look again and you may just see one face staring at a candlestick.
Do You See a Stream or People?
Some people may see a rushing stream going down a mountain in this picture, but if you take a closer look at that stream, you may see it as people wearing white robes. What do you see?
Is It a Frog or Horse?
At first glance, this image may just look like an illustration of a horse. However, if you tilt your head to the left you might see a frog sitting on a lily pad instead.
Is It a Vase or Two Faces?
In this popular optical illusion you might see a vase. Another person might look at it and see two silhouettes of faces. Do you see how the curves of the vase could form the shape of a face and vice versa?
Do You See an Old Man, an Old Woman, or a Girl?
Your eye might show you one, two or even three different images in this complex optical illusion. Do you see the large nose and mustache of a man who is wearing a hat? Perhaps you see the young girl wearing a hat who is looking away on her left. Or, you might see the old woman, also wearing a hat, who is facing to the left.
Are the Circles Intertwining or Concentric?
Do these circles look like they’re intertwining to you? Now, take another look and try to pinpoint the locations in which the circles meet. If you can’t find them, don’t worry. These circles are actual concentric and only have the illusion of intertwining with one another.
Are the Circles Moving?
Staring still at this image will show you two stationary circles with a black dot in the middle of the inner circle. Stare at the dot, but start moving your head closer to the image, and then pull it away. Did you see the circles move?
Do You See an Elderly Man and Woman or a Young Man and Woman?
When you look at this image do you see two elderly people gazing at each other? If not, you might see two people wearing sombreros while sitting down set against a larger scene. The man is playing the guitar. These people’s bodies make out the silhouettes of the elderly couple’s faces.
By Guest Nicole
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new device that would help obese people absorb fewer calories — by draining a portion of their undigested stomach contents directly into the toilet.
The AspireAssist is basically a small pump that attaches to a hose surgically implanted in a person’s stomach. Twenty to 30 minutes after every meal, they’d open the port valve, turn on the device, and pump out about 30 percent of the food they ate. The process takes five to ten horrifying minutes.
In a yearlong clinical trial, people treated with an AspireAssist device and nutrition and exercise counseling lost an average of 12.1 percent of their body weight versus 3.6 percent in a control group that received the counseling alone.
It’s meant for people age 22 and over with a body mass index between 35 and 55 — obesity is technically a BMI of 30 or more — who haven’t responded to other non-surgical weight-loss approaches. Last week, federal health officials announced that 38 percent of adults are obese.
But, the FDA warns, the device “should not be used on patients with eating disorders.” Perhaps that’s because critics say it mimics binge-and-purge behavior. In 2013, a nutrition professor characterized the device as a “bulimia machine.”
The FDA also writes that “patients require frequent monitoring by a health care provider to shorten the tube as they lose weight and abdominal girth, so that the disk remains flush against their skin.” Side effects of the device include occasional indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea plus “leakage, bleeding and/or infection around the site where the tube is placed and device migration into the stomach wall.”
Wait, I’m sorry: Someone thought this was an advancement in the treatment of obesity?
By Guest Nicole
MRI scans found infants who drank more of it had more brain tissue, study found.
TUESDAY, May 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Breast milk may help promote brain growth in premature infants, a new study found.
"The brains of babies born before their due dates usually are not fully developed," explained senior investigator Dr. Cynthia Rogers, an assistant professor of child psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis.
"But breast milk has been shown to be helpful in other areas of development, so we looked to see what effect it might have on the brain," Rogers said in a university news release.
"With MRI scans, we found that babies fed more breast milk had larger brain volumes. This is important because several other studies have shown a correlation between brain volume and cognitive development," she said.
The study included 77 infants born at least 10 weeks early, with the average being 14 weeks premature. Brain scans were conducted on the infants at about the time when they would have been born if delivered at full term.
The scans revealed that infants whose daily diets included at least 50 percent breast milk had more brain tissue and cortical-surface area than those who received much less breast milk.
The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, in Baltimore. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
By Guest Nicole
Scientists report that diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reverse the damage
April 22, 2016
University of California - Los Angeles
Consuming fructose, a sugar that's common in the Western diet, alters hundreds of genes that may be linked to many diseases, life scientists report. However, they discovered good news as well: an important omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose.
A range of diseases -- from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, and from Alzheimer's disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -- are linked to changes to genes in the brain. A new study by UCLA life scientists has found that hundreds of those genes can be damaged by fructose, a sugar that's common in the Western diet, in a way that could lead to those diseases.
However, the researchers discovered good news as well: An omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose.
"DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable," said Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology. "And we can see why it has such a powerful effect."
DHA occurs naturally in the membranes of our brain cells, but not in a large enough quantity to help fight diseases.
"The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through our diet," said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and of integrative biology and physiology, and co-senior author of the paper.
DHA strengthens synapses in the brain and enhances learning and memory. It is abundant in wild salmon (but not in farmed salmon) and, to a lesser extent, in other fish and fish oil, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, and fruits and vegetables, said Gomez-Pinilla, who also is a member of UCLA's Brain Injury Research Center.
Americans get most of their fructose in foods that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, an inexpensive liquid sweetener made from corn starch, and from sweetened drinks, syrups, honey and desserts. The Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans consumed an average of about 27 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup in 2014. Fructose is also found is in most baby food and in fruit, although the fiber in fruit substantially slows the body's absorption of the sugar -- and fruit contains other healthy components that protect the brain and body, Yang said.
To test the effects of fructose and DHA, the researchers trained rats to escape from a maze, and then randomly divided the animals into three groups. For the next six weeks, one group of rats drank water with an amount of fructose that would be roughly equivalent to a person drinking a liter of soda per day. The second group was given fructose water and a diet rich in DHA. The third received water without fructose and no DHA.
After the six weeks, the rats were put through the maze again. The animals that had been given only the fructose navigated the maze about half as fast than the rats that drank only water -- indicating that the fructose diet had impaired their memory. The rats that had been given fructose and DHA, however, showed very similar results to those that only drank water -- which strongly suggests that the DHA eliminated fructose's harmful effects.
Other tests on the rats revealed more major differences: The rats receiving a high-fructose diet had much higher blood glucose, triglycerides and insulin levels than the other two groups. Those results are significant because in humans, elevated glucose, triglycerides and insulin are linked to obesity, diabetes and many other diseases.
The research team sequenced more than 20,000 genes in the rats' brains, and identified more than 700 genes in the hypothalamus (the brain's major metabolic control center) and more than 200 genes in the hippocampus (which helps regulate learning and memory) that were altered by the fructose. The altered genes they identified, the vast majority of which are comparable to genes in humans, are among those that interact to regulate metabolism, cell communication and inflammation. Among the conditions that can be caused by alterations to those genes are Parkinson's disease, depression, bipolar disorder, and other brain diseases, said Yang, who also is a member of UCLA's Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences.
Of the 900 genes they identified, the researchers found that two in particular, called Bgn and Fmod, appear to be among the first genes in the brain that are affected by fructose. Once those genes are altered, they can set off a cascade effect that eventually alters hundreds of others, Yang said.
That could mean that Bgn and Fmod would be potential targets for new drugs to treat diseases that are caused by altered genes in the brain, she added.
The research also uncovered new details about the mechanism fructose uses to disrupt genes. The scientists found that fructose removes or adds a biochemical group to cytosine, one of the four nucleotides that make up DNA. (The others are adenine, thymine and guanine.) This type of modification plays a critical role in turning genes "on" or "off."
The research is published online in EBioMedicine, a journal published jointly by Cell and The Lancet. It is the first genomics study of all the genes, pathways and gene networks affected by fructose consumption in the regions of the brain that control metabolism and brain function.
Previous research led by Gomez-Pinilla found that fructose damages communication between brain cells and increases toxic molecules in the brain; and that a long-term high-fructose diet diminishes the brain's ability to learn and remember information.
"Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain," said Gomez-Pinilla. He recommends avoiding sugary soft drinks, cutting down on desserts and generally consuming less sugar and saturated fat.
Although DHA appears to be quite beneficial, Yang said it is not a magic bullet for curing diseases. Additional research will be needed to determine the extent of its ability to reverse damage to human genes.
The paper's lead author is Qingying Meng, a postdoctoral scholar in Yang's laboratory. Other co-authors are Zhe Ying, a staff research associate in Gomez-Pinilla's laboratory, and colleagues from UCLA, the National Institutes of Health and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
Yang's research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant R01DK104363), as is Gomez-Pinilla's (R01DK104363 and R01NS050465).
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Americans get most of their fructose in foods that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, an inexpensive liquid sweetener made from corn starch, and from sweetened drinks, syrups, honey and desserts. The Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans consumed an average of about 27 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup in 2014.
Credit: © AlenKadr / Fotolia
By Guest Nicole
THURSDAY, March 31, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- More people worldwide are obese than underweight, a new study found.
The researchers added that about one-fifth of adults could be obese by 2025.
The number of obese people in the world rose from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014, with obesity rates rising from 3 percent to 11 percent among men and from 6 percent to 15 percent among women, the study found.
Over the same time, the proportion of underweight people fell from 14 percent to 9 percent of men and from 15 percent to 10 percent of women, according to the study.
More than one-quarter of severely obese men and nearly one-fifth of severely obese women in the world live in the United States, the researchers said.
On average, people worldwide have become an average of 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) heavier each decade. At the current pace, about 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women will be obese, and more than 6 percent of men and 9 percent of women will be severely obese by 2025, the study found.
The findings were released online on March 31 in The Lancet.
"Over the past 40 years, we have changed from a world in which underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight," said study senior author Majid Ezzati, a professor at Imperial College London's School of Public Health, in England.
"If present trends continue, not only will the world not meet the obesity target of halting the rise in the prevalence of obesity at its 2010 level by 2025, but more women will be severely obese than underweight by 2025," he said in a journal news release.
"To avoid an epidemic of severe obesity, new policies that can slow down and stop the worldwide increase in body weight must be implemented quickly and rigorously evaluated, including smart food policies and improved health care training," Ezzati said.
Despite the findings, extremely low weight remains a serious public health problem in the poorest parts of the world, the researchers noted. For example, nearly one-quarter of people in south Asia are underweight, as are 15 percent of men and 12 percent of women in central and east Africa.
The study findings reflect "a fatter, healthier but more unequal world," wrote George Davey Smith in an accompanying journal editorial. He is a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Bristol, in England.
"A focus on obesity at the expense of recognition of the substantial remaining burden of undernutrition threatens to divert resources away from disorders that affect the poor to those that are more likely to affect the wealthier in low-income countries," he noted.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases outlines thehealth risks of being overweight.
SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, March 31, 2016
By Guest Nicole
They are renowned for meditation and moderation, but more than half the country’s Buddhist monks are obese, according to new research.
The early morning alms round by saffron-clad monks holding their donations bowls to collect food and drink is a familiar daily ritual in Thailand.
But scientists have now concluded that the tradition is contributing to anobesity epidemic among the Buddhist monkhood.
For according to a startling new study, nearly half the country’s monks are obese and suffering related health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
The expanding waistlines are largely filling out because of the donations to their daily diet, researchers concluded. For the alms often consist of drink juices, sweet tea, snacks and street foods – all laden with fat and sugar.
The largely sedentary nature of temple monastic life – with large amounts of time spent in prayer and meditation – is also exacerbating the health woes.
Academics and religious and heath officials and academics have now launched a new campaign to promote leaner clerical living by weaning monks off unhealthy food, teach them how to prepare nutritional balanced meals and encouraging them to exercise.
The aim is to help the monks lead longer healthier lives and also to reduce medical fees as the the government covers such costs for members of the clergy.
Jongjit Angkatavanich, a health and nutrition expert at Bangkok's prestigious Chulalongkorn University, said the study showed that 48 per cent of monks are obese.
"Obesity in our monks is a ticking time bomb," she told the Bangkok Post. Her study found 42 per cent of monks have high cholesterol levels, 23 per cent suffer from high blood pressure, and more than 10% are diabetic.
Although there has been disagreement about measures of obesity, the increasing challenge of overweight monks is not in doubt.
The university’s Faculty of Allied Heath Sciences university has teamed up with religious organisations to launch a national programme to combat monk obesity.
They have already started a trial project to train cooks and officials at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, one of Thailand’s two public Buddhist universities.
The emphasis was on preparing meals with added protein, fibre and calcium and encouraging monks to increase their physical activity.
The results were immediate. Among 82 monks with obesity problems who were attending religious programmes at the college, the clerics lost 2.2 pounds (1kg) on average and reduced their waistlines by more than half an inch during the eight-week programme. One monk said that he shed as much as 22 pounds (10 kgs).
Chulalongkorn Medical Hospital has also provided monks with a specially-designed girdle to wear so that they feel the squeeze if they over-eat and gain weight.
The obesity phenomenon is another blow to the image of a religious institution whose members are supposed to have opted for lives of austerity, meditation and asceticism, eschewing materialism and excess.
Several financial, sexual and jet-set lifestyle scandals and have embroiled senior clerics in recent years in a country that is 90 per cent Buddhist.
And Thai Buddhism does not currently have a spiritual leader as the appointment of a new Supreme Patriarch has been caught up in another long-running controversy.
The confirmation of the 90-year-old abbot nominated by the supreme clerical council has been ensnared in an investigation of an alleged tax evasions scam involving a vintage car and his links to a controversial temple.
The stand-off developed into remarkable clashes between monks and soldiers as supporters of the abbot, Somdet Chuang, tried to stage a protest in his favour.
The cleric is being investigated for allegedly acquiring a vintage Mercedes-Benz through a tax evasion scheme. He has denied any wrongdoing.
But he is also associated with the Dhammakaya sect that is under scrutiny for allegedly amassing a fortune as well as ties to the deposed ex-prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thailand’s ruling junta, which overthrew Mr Thaksin’s sister Yingluck as prime minister in 2014, has delayed seeking the required endorsement of the ailing King Bhumipol to confirm Somdet Chuang to the country’s highest religious position.
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