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Science

Time to Get Squatting

Update: Fnord tells me that weight lifting is considered "muscle-strengthening" and not "weight-bearing" and that what i'd actually have to do is jump and run. It's entirely possible that i responded with something highly uncomplimentary.



The Toast has an article up on bone health. Before we get into that, can i just point out that the author has a PhD in "bioarchaeology". It's like she went to a school that just said "What do you like doing? We'll create a degree for that thing." I either went to a shit university or i didn't take advantage of the opportunities at my school to make up a goddamned major that i might have actually enjoyed. I am so bitter.

Anyhoo, back to bone health.

There are two types of cell responsible for bone maintenance - osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts build bone, and osteoclasts take it away. The body is highly responsive to changes in activity, and bone is constantly updating itself accordingly. The general principle is that your body thinks what's happening now will happen forever. In response to more activity (known as physical stress), bone will accumulate more osteoblasts to strengthen itself. Each step makes tiny microfractures, which tells the bone "Come on, I'm breakin' here! Give me more strength!" and the osteoblasts pile on. In the absence of activity - during periods of prolonged sitting or lying down - the osteoclasts come in to take away unnecessary bone. Generally it gets sent out of the body in your urine. The basic principle is that the more activity you do, the stronger your bones will be.
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I will now tell you the Secret Tricks to Maintaining Bone Density Doctors Don't Want You to Know: you had to build it in puberty, and you have to keep exercising to maintain it. As far as my research has shown, you can keep building bone and increasing bone density up until your 20s. After that, you can maintain or decrease your bone density. It's quite easy to decrease bone: just do nothing. To maintain it, you need weight-bearing exercise. Osteoblasts respond to microfractures, so the way to keep those osteoblasts occupied is by running, jumping, bouncing on your bosu, Zumba, those crazy-intense boot-camp push-ups. Things that (sadly) will not work: cycling, swimming, yoga. Not that those aren't healthy activities! They are still excellent for the heart, for weight maintenance, for stress. But they do nothing for your bones.

The bad news (for me, obliviously. i don't know what you do): i hate running, jumping, and push-ups. I'm also a HUGE fan of doing nothing.

The good news: i don't hate weight lifting (except split squats. split squats are the devil, i tell you. The. Devil.).

What about supplements, you say. Well, like most vitamin supplements,

There are a number of recommendations around the web, including eating eggshells, leaping like fleas, consuming 1200 milligrams of calcium daily, and taking various supplements. The problem with taking supplements is that if you aren't actively processing the calcium, you'll just pee it out.

Stupid expensive pee.

At this point, fnord and i can only work on maintaining the bone density we have. There's no way to increase it. That ship has sailed, my friend. [emphasis mine]

The best time to build bone is right around puberty, during the adolescent growth spurt. Yes, the time when you might get your period any moment and you smell terrible and your limbs are flying around all uncoordinated - this is when you needed to be doing the most exercise. (But watch out! Too much exercise, especially combined with eating disorders - I'm looking at you, ballet and gymnastics - and your periods stop and your bones get weaker.) Bones continue to grow with less velocity until the early 20s, stopping slightly earlier in women than men, and generally have completed their growth (in both length and density) by age 25. Sorry, over-25s: it's all downhill from here.

I guess now's the time to thank my mom for forcing me to take ballet for 9 years. Take that, osteoporosis!


By min | March 28, 2015, 12:36 PM | Science | Comments (2)| Link



Never Forget to Take Your Fiber Supplements

Or microbes will eat out your stomach lining. Or something like that.

Fiber has long been linked to better health, but new research shows how the gut microbiota might play a role in this pattern. One investigation discovered that adding more fiber to the diet can trigger a shift from a microbial profile linked to obesity to one correlated with a leaner physique. Another recent study shows that when microbes are starved of fiber, they can start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut, possibly triggering inflammation and disease.
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As gut microbes are starved of fermentable fiber, some do die off. Others, however, are able to switch to another food source in the gut: the mucus lining that helps keep the gut wall intact and free from infection.

In a recent study presented at the Keystone meeting, Eric Martens of the University of Michigan Medical School, postdoctoral researcher Mahesh Desai and their colleagues found that this fuel switch had striking consequences in rodents. A group of mice fed a high-fiber diet had healthy gut lining, but for mice on a fiber-free diet, "the mucus layer becomes dramatically diminished," he explained at the meeting. This shift might sometimes have severe health consequences. Research by a Swedish team, published last year in the journal Gut, showed a link between bacteria penetrating the mucus layer and ulcerative colitis, a painful chronic bowel disease.

A third group of mice received high-fiber chow and fiber-free chow on alternating days--"like what we would do if we were being bad and eating McDonald's one day and eating our whole grains the next," Martens joked. Even the part-time high-fiber diet was not enough to keep guts healthy: these mice had a mucus layer about half the thickness of mice on the consistently high-fiber diet. If we can extend these results to humans, he said, it "tells us that even eating your whole fiber foods every other day is still not enough to protect you. You need to eat a high-fiber diet every day to keep a healthy gut." Along the same lines, Swanson's group found that the gut microbiomes of his adult subjects reverted back to initial profiles as soon as the high-fiber bars were discontinued.

I guess pandas never suffer from ulcerative colitis, what with all that bamboo they can't actually digest. *shakes fist* Pandas!!


By min | March 27, 2015, 1:09 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



Who Doesn't Like a Little Measles with Their Ebola?

Keeps things interesting not knowing which horrible disease will kill everyone you know. Link

The epidemic that already killed almost 10,000 people in west Africa also upended daily life and scuttled plans to vaccinate thousands of kids against preventable diseases. As a result, an additional 100,000 children may have been left vulnerable to measles, according to new projections. If those inoculation gaps are not addressed, measles could deliver a death toll rivaling the Ebola epidemic itself, warns a new study published today in Science.
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Although one Ebola patient is projected to infect one or two other people, one measles sufferer can infect an estimated 12 to 18 additional people (assuming no one is immune to the disease via vaccination or natural immunity). To make matters worse, unlike Ebola, someone with measles may be contagious without showing symptoms.
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But the Ebola outbreak probably exacerbated the problem by further depressing inoculation rates, according to the new research in Science. With such alarming vaccine gaps a large outbreak could conceivably tear through communities and cause as many as 16,000 deaths, the international research team wrote. Their analysis assumes that the Ebola outbreak festered for about 18 months in total and led to a 75 percent drop in vaccination rates.

By min | March 25, 2015, 11:03 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



Babies Come Pre-Polluted

And it's all because your grandparents were exposed to DDT.

Obesity stems primarily from the overconsumption of food paired with insufficient exercise. But this elementary formula cannot explain how quickly the obesity epidemic has spread globally in the past several decades nor why more than one third of adults in the U.S. are now obese. Many researchers believe that a more complex mix of environmental exposures, lifestyle, genetics and the microbiome's makeup help explain that phenomenon. And a growing body of work suggests that exposure to certain chemicals--found in nature as well as industry--may play an essential role by driving the body to produce and store surplus fat in its tissues. Evidence of that cause-and-effect relationship in humans is still limited, but in laboratory animals and in petri dishes data linking the chemicals to problematic weight gain are mounting. Moreover, the effects in animals appear to be passed on not just to immediate offspring but also grandchildren and great-grandchildren--potentially [emphasis mine] accounting for some multigenerational obesity.
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Scientists already know that humans are exposed to a potent soup of chemicals even before birth. Some of those chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, may shut off, turn on or modify signals that hormones produced by the body would otherwise carry. That disruption appears to short-circuit regulation of energy levels and how the body reacts to stress, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Hundreds of contaminants typically found in consumer products, including dozens of flame retardants, numerous pesticides and endocrine disrupting bisphenol A, have been detected in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies--which means that "to a disturbing extent, babies are born 'pre-polluted,'" according to the President's Cancer Panel.

The presence of these chemicals in the womb, in itself, does not mean they will cause any harm. Animal research, however, suggests that many of these substances may cause serious, long-term consequences. For example, tributyltin, an endocrine disruptor found in water pipes and used in plastics, increases fat mass, reprograms stem cells and produces more fat cells in mice across multiple generations, according to a study published in 2013. Meanwhile, when pregnant rats were exposed to pollutants including common plastics, agricultural chemicals and jet fuel, their great-grandchildren were more likely to be obese or have other disorders, according to research from Washington State University biologist Michael Skinner. As Skinner noted in the August Scientific American, "Some part of the increases in obesity, diabetes and other fast-rising diseases among baby boomers and more recent generations might have originated with their parents' and grandparents' exposure to pollutants such as DDT and dioxin." Some of this trend may be due to alterations that occur in sex cell DNA that are then passed on through affected sperm but more studies need to firm up that relationship.

Researchers need to discover some endocrine un-disruptors so that we can turn on the de-activated gene expressions and pass that on to our offspring.


By min | March 10, 2015, 1:16 PM | Science | Comments (1)| Link



Surviving a Zombie Outbreak

2 problems -

1) New Jersey has the lowest survival rate
2) I have absolutely no clue where Glacier National Park is. I've never even heard of it until just now. Damn you, geography! *shakes fist*

Best places to hide during a zombie apocalypse

Eric Mack reports at Cnet that a team of researchers at Cornell University, inspired by the book "World War Z" by Max Brooks, have used statistical-mechanics to model how an actual zombie outbreak might unfold and determined the best long-term strategy for surviving the walking dead: Head for the hills. Specifically, you should probably get familiar now with the general location of Glacier National Park so that when it all goes down, you can start heading in that direction. The project started with differential equations to model a fully connected population, then moved on to lattice-based models, and ended with a full US-scale simulation of an outbreak across the continental US. "At their heart, the simulations are akin to modeling chemical reactions taking place between different elements and, in this case, we have four states a person can be in--human," says Alex Alemi, "infected, zombie, or dead zombie--with approximately 300 million people."

Alemi believes cities would succumb to the zombie scourge quickly, but the infection rate would slow down significantly in more sparsely populated areas and could take months to reach places like the Northern Rockies and Glacier National Park. "Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down--there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate," Alemi says. Once you hit Montana and Idaho, you might as well keep heading farther north into the Canadian Rockies and all the way up to Alaska where data analysis shows you're most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. The state with the lowest survival rate? -- New Jersey. Unfortunately a full scale simulation of an outbreak in the United States shows that for `realistic' parameters, we are largely doomed.

I'm also a terrible runner. And have bad eyesight. I think i'm pretty much dead in any apocalypse scenario.


By min | March 10, 2015, 8:47 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



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