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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Teenagers and Early Mornings

Bed JumpThis Morning, BBC5live were running a science story about why teenagers were biologically idle... OK, they didn't phrase it like that they said: Melatonin levels changed at different times of the day for teenagers and that is why they struggle to get up in the morning.
OK a word on this: All animals have a "circadian rhythm" this is a daily series of hormone level changes which occurs roughly on a 24hr cycle.  First thing in the morning, just before you USUALLY get up, there is a spike in cortisol (hydocortisone) and various other changes which make getting up easier (allegedly!).  This circadian rhythm is so robust that even if you chop certain nerve cells out of the brain all together and put them into a dish and keep the dish in darkness... they still change their pattern of activity on a more-or-less 24hr cycle for a while.
No wonder, when we travel transatlantic we feel dreadful jet-lag?  We are getting the hormonal wake up and go to sleep signals still, but they are all at the wrong times.  Over a few days, the "clock" gets re-set and we can return to normal (just in time to travel back transatlantically!).  So what causes the body clock to re-adjust and eventually sort out the jet lag?  Two things: (1) Your habits, if you keep going to bed the same time, the hormones pick-up this and go with it (2) Day light.  Daylight hits particular cells of the eye and transmits a trigger signal to an area inside the brain called the hypothalamus and to the pineal gland.  Each time those day light signal hit the hypothalamus, they bring the circadian rhythm slightly back into line until eventually they you are back in sync.
So, teenagers?  Well it stands to reason that if you make a habit of getting up late, and spending longer in doors with the curtains pulled the body clock cannot adjust correctly.  I hope to read the actual paper to which the BBC were referring and see if there really is anymore to it than that.  I hope this is not a peice of "stating-the-bleedin' obvious" type of research!! 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Antibiotic Resistance


Friday, 8 March 2013

Diets of Processed Food Shorten Life Expectancy?

Last night, I sat in a restaurant toying with the idea of just ordering (for a change) a simple beefburger.  I thought of the processed food story and decided I couldn't give a duck about that... then I looked straight at the "BEEF" word and thought... I bet it isn't.  It's pony isn't it :-(
I worry about the ethics of eating old beat up equines!
...But what about the processed food story?  Would I die if I ate a beefburger... like, more than if I chose a steak?  Well the media have decided you will.  The story is everywhere!
So I read the actual paper "Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition".  What does it show? Well its got masses of fancy statistics in it, but basically there is a simple correlation between the amount of process food you eat and your life expectancy... but the bad way around as the title of this blog implies!   ...but it is just a correlation! [i.e., it definitely does not mean that the processed food caused the deaths].  That means that if the people that eat lots of processed food are more likely to do other unhealthy things (like NOT eating vegetables) that other thing could be the cause of the premature death.  On page 23 of the initial PDF release of their paper/article they confess that they could not exclude the possibility that the people who eat more processed meat are more likely to smoke... and thus the real reason there appears to be an early death could be due to smoking.  So the whole thing is pretty much a waste of time.  I daresay processed food is not terribly healthy, but there are other key things that would probably make more difference.  The balance of the diet, i.e., do you eat veggies too! ....the fat content, high fat usually precipitates heart disease.  Drinking too much and smoking of course.
Gosh, why can't we get the same publicity to real science :-(

Monday, 4 March 2013

Drugs to Treat Ageing

10th March 2013
A nice review of the state of drug development to halt ageing right in its tracks just published:

"Longevity and aging- F1000Prime Biology Reports - F1000"
F1000Prime Rep2013, 5:5 (doi: 10.12703/P5-5), Published: 04 Mar 2013.
.... I could write quite a long article of this basically repeating what they say, but the bottom line is that there are a number of drugs being investigated that may extend life. The two most famous of these are rapamycin (sounds like he should be a singer? Is actually an inhibitor of the cell housekeeping enzyme called mTOR) and resveratrol (a drug found naturally in red wine... In addition to alcohol and a few other things). Both of these seem to potentially work like a calorie restricted diet to prolong life. Had you not heard that a calorie restricted diet was supposed to prolong life? No? Well many scientists believe that it does, however, naturally there are a bunch of experiments that contest this theory.
So the bottom line? The evidence seems to be strongest for rapamycin, but it is not yet proven. Benefits of the red wine chemical/ drug resveratrol is also debated, but if anything it seems to help best with people that have a high fat diet?
So watch this space. I will post updates as they become available. Rest assured scientist are on the case, and by the time we are all dead I dare say someone will have invented the secret of eternal youth. That will be a nightmare. Just think of the consequences!!!!!!

1st september 2013: Additional note, an interesting new paper by Boccardi et al., also suggest that statins may be more generalised treatments for ageing than previously thought...

Aging, Ageing, #AgeingResearch, #AgingResearch