Health,Stem Cells, and Technology

Friday, September 21, 2012

Man Made Global Warming: Results From Koch Funded Study

According to a new Berkeley Earth study funded in part by Charles Koch and led by global warming skeptic Dr. Richard Muller, a physicist at UC Berkeley, the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by 1.5 °C over the past 250 years. The good match between the new temperature record and historical carbon dioxide records suggests that the most straightforward explanation for this warming is human greenhouse gas emissions. Together with their most recent results and papers, Berkeley Earth also released their raw data and analysis programs ( ). The new analysis from Berkeley Earth goes back to year 1753, about 100 years earlier than previous groups’analyses. Interestingly, sudden drops in the early temperature record (1753 to 1850) correspond to known volcanic events. Volcanoes spew particles into the air, which then reflect sunlight and cool the earth for a few years. In the Berkeley Earth temperature plot , sudden dips in temperature caused by large volcanic explosions are evident back to the late 1700s. Berkeley Earth compared the shape of the gradual rise over 250 years to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials) and to solar activity (known through historical records of sunspot numbers), and to other events including rising functions such as world population. By far the best match of rising temperature was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice. Although the match between the data and the theory doesn’t prove that carbon dioxide is responsible for the warming, the good fit makes carbon dioxide the strongest contender.  Alternative explanations must match the data at least as well as does carbon dioxide to be considered seriously, and no other explanation matches nearly as well . A 2007 report from the IPCC ( ) concluded only that “most” of the warming of the past 50 years could be attributed to humans. According to the IPCC, it was possible that increased solar activity could have contributed to warming prior to 1956. Berkeley Earth analyzed about 5 times more station records than were used in previous analyses, and this expanded data base along with its new statistical approach allowed Berkeley Earth to go about 100 years farther back in time than previous studies. By doing so, the Berkeley Earth team was able to conclude that over 250 years, the contribution of solar activity to global warming is negligible. Many of the scientists on the Berkeley Earth team have admitted surprise that the new analysis has shown such clear agreement between global land-temperature rise and human-caused greenhouse gases. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Slowing Telomere Shortening

Here I list ways to better manage aging and prevent your telomeres from shortening.

Exercise regularly. By increasing amounts of physical activity, especially intense physical activity, research shows you could keep your telomeres long and healthy, even buffering the effects of chronic stress. Ref: Circulation. 2009 Dec 15;120(24):2438-47

Don’t smoke. Smoking has been found to increase rate of telomere shortening, which can lead to dysfunction and instability of chromosomes. Ref: Eur Respir J. 2006 Mar;27(3):525-8.

Reduce Stress. The more stress you have in your life, the greater risk of increasing the rate of telomere shortening and aging more quickly.The key is to always have a positive outlook on life. Enjoy friends and social activities, mingle with those people who have a positive lifestyle, receive plenty of sleep every night, and meditate. Ref: Brain Behav Immun. 2009 May; 23(4): 446–449.

Ingest plenty of antioxidants daily by eating fruits and vegetables. When high amounts of free radicals attack cells, causing oxidative stress, they attack chromosomes and leave their telomeres vulnerable to shortening. Ref: Ann Med. 2012 Jun;44 Suppl 1:S138-42.

Eat wild fish and supplement with fish oil. Fish oil contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are well-known for being healthy to the heart, and recent evidence has shown that increasing amounts in the diet is associated also with slowing telomere shortening over time. Ref: JAMA. 2010;303(3):250-257

Maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. Several discoveries have shown that one of Vit D  many benefits include an association with longer telomere length. You can make sure you’re getting enough by practicing safe sun exposure and supplementing with vitamin D daily. Ref: Mutagenesis. 2012 Sep;27(5):609-14. Epub 2012 Apr 29.

Maintain proper weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to keep telomeres long. Telomere length of subcutaneous adipose tissue cells is shorter in obese and formerly obese subjects than in people with normal weight. Ref: International Journal of Obesity 34, 1345-1348 (August 2010)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creativity Predicts Long Life

Researchers have long studied the connection between health and the five major personality traits: agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, openness and conscientiousness. Much of the data links neuroticism with poorer health and conscientiousness with superior health. In a new study, openness, which measures cognitive flexibility and the willingness to entertain novel ideas, has emerged as a lifelong protective factor, including older men. The interpretation is that creativity associated with the personality trait, creative thinking, reduces stress and keeps the brain healthy.

A study published in the June issue of the Journal of Aging and Health found that higher openness predicted longer life, and other studies this year have linked that trait with lower metabolic risk, higher self-rated health, and more appropriate stress response. The current investigation, led by Nicholas Turiano, used data from 1,349 men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. From 1990-1991 to 2008, 547 (41%) had died. They used exploratory factor analysis to extract facets of openness, followed by proportional hazards modeling to examine 18-year mortality risk.

The study sought to determine whether specific aspects of openness better predicted survival rates than overall openness, using data on more than 1,000 older men collected between 1990 and 2008. The researchers found that only creativity, not intelligence or overall openness, decreased mortality risk. Turiano argues that one possible reason creativity is protective of health is because it draws on a variety of neural networks within the brain. Individuals high in creativity maintain the integrity of their neural networks even into old age. This hypothesis is supported by a study from Yale University that correlated openness with the robustness of study subjects' white matter, which supports connections between neurons in different parts of the brain.


Monday, September 3, 2012

A Calorie Is Not Just A Calorie

Harvard Medical School (HMS) Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Cara Ebbeling, Ph.D. and Professor of Pediatrics Dr. David Ludwig, find diets that reduce the surge in blood sugar after a meal — either low-glycemic index or very-low carbohydrate — may be preferable to a low-fat diet for those trying to achieve lasting weight loss. Furthermore, the study finds that the low-glycemic index diet had similar metabolic benefits to the very low-carb diet without negative effects of stress and inflammation as seen by participants consuming the very low-carb diet.

Weight re-gain is often attributed to a decline in motivation or adherence to diet and exercise, but biology also plays an important role. After weight loss, the rate at which people burn calories (known as energy expenditure) decreases, reflecting slower metabolism. Lower energy expenditure adds to the difficulty of weight maintenance and helps explain why people tend to re-gain lost weight.

Prior research by Ebbeling and Ludwig has shown the advantages of a low-glycemic load diet for weight loss and diabetes prevention, but the effects of these diets during weight loss maintenance has not been well studied. Research shows that only one in six overweight people will maintain even 10 percent of their weight loss over the long term.

The study suggests that a low-glycemic load diet is more effective than conventional approaches at burning calories (and keeping energy expenditure) at a higher rate after weight loss. “We’ve found that, contrary to nutritional dogma, all calories are not created equal,” says Ludwig, who is also director of the Optimal Weight for Life Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Total calories burned plummeted by 300 calories on the low-fat diet compared to the low-carbohydrate diet, which would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity,” he says.

Each of the study’s 21 adult participants (ages 18-40) first had to lose 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, and after weight stabilization, completed all three of the following diets in random order, each for four weeks at a time. The randomized crossover design allowed for rigorous observation of how each diet affected all participants, regardless of the order in which they were consumed:
The low-fat diet, which reduces dietary fat and emphasizes whole grain products and a variety of fruits and vegetables, was based on 60 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 percent from fat, and 20 percent from protein.
The low-glycemic index diet, made up of minimally processed grains, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes and fruits, gathered 40 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 40 percent from fat, and 20 percent from protein. Low-glycemic index carbohydrates digest slowly, helping to keep blood sugar and hormones stable after the meal.
The low-carbohydrate diet, modeled after the Atkins diet, was based on 10 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 60 percent from fat, and 30 percent from protein.

The study used state-of-the-art methods, such as stable isotopes to measure participants’ total energy expenditure, as they followed each diet.

Each of the three diets fell within the normal healthy range of 10 to 35 percent of daily calories from protein. The very-low-carbohydrate diet produced the greatest improvements in metabolism, but with an important caveat: This diet increased participants’ cortisol levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. The very-low-carbohydrate diet also raised C-reactive protein levels, which may also increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Though a low-fat diet is traditionally recommended by the U.S. government and American Heart Association, it caused the greatest decrease in energy expenditure, an unhealthy lipid pattern, and insulin resistance.

Please note that although the very-low-carbohydrate diet (Atkins) produced the greatest improvements in metabolism, this diet increased participants’ cortisol levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. The very-low-carbohydrate diet also raised C-reactive protein levels, which may also increase risk of cardiovascular disease.