Latest Articles

How Olive Oil Keeps Your Blood Vessels Healthy

We’ve known for a long time that people who consume more olive oil – as opposed to other sources of dietary fat – are protected in certain ways from heart disease. And some recent research has started to uncover the reasons why.

One compelling and unappreciated way that olive oil prevents cardiovascular disease has to do with its impact on blood pressure.

High blood pressure is often characterized as a “silent killer” because it can cause permanent damage throughout the body without any obvious symptoms. Tragically, by the time the problem becomes obvious, it is sometimes too late to reverse the damage.
About 70 million adults in the US have hypertension – that’s 1 in every 3! And only around 52% of people with hypertension have it under control. It is also likely that many are walking around with the condition who don’t even know they have it.

In this post, we will discuss why consuming extra virgin olive oil seems to help keep blood pressure in check – and how you can best take advantage of this in your own diet.


Lifestyle Modifications to Extend Life by Limiting Growth

Does the ideal diet change across the lifespan? I couldn’t help circling back to this idea regularly while writing this article. In the last article on this subject of growth promotion and better aging, we discussed the concept of antagonistic pleotropy, which suggests that natural selection may favor genes that increase reproductive potential – even at the expense of long-term vitality and longevity. But can we harness an understanding of this idea to alter how we live in our post-reproductive window, to stay younger and live longer? In my latest post, I address just that – lifestyle modifications that may not only be effective to help us surviving longer, but also to live better along the way.


Attention Deficit: Biological Condition or Cultural Creation?

What is attention deficit disorder?

In this latest episode of HumanOS Radio (iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube) I speak with Professor Stephen Hinshaw of UC Berkeley. Much of his research has focused on the causes of and treatment for hyperactivity and similar behavioral problems in children and adolescents.

In our chat, we discuss the background of ADHD, how it was historically characterized and diagnosed, and some of the many theories of what causes the condition. Then we will explore some of the most common treatments, as well as some of the unique challenges associated with understanding and resolving mental illness in general.


Sweeteners Part I: Sensation & Metabolism

We evolved to love sweet food – which is an adaptive preference for a hunter-gatherer. But in the modern world, we are inundated with tasty sugary treats 24/7. For many of us, this ready access to palatable food has come to the detriment of our waistlines, and has driven demand for sugar substitutes. Ostensibly, this might allow us to continue to fulfill our urge for sweet stuff without paying the price in extra calories. But is this safe? Or is it even an effective strategy?

In this article series, we will examine some of the evidence surrounding these sugar substitutes, and try to determine if they are indeed safe and effective. We will begin by discussing how these sweeteners are sensed by the body, and how the body handles them once they are consumed.


Balancing Standing and Sitting Across the Workday (Podcast with Professor Travis Saunders)

Is sitting really the new smoking? This idea became popular a few years ago and research supports that, indeed, too much sitting really is bad for us. But, as I discussed with Professor Matthew Buman, while no amount of smoking is healthy, sitting is a health behavior, it just becomes problematic when we do it too much of it.

In the most recent episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Professor Travis Saunders of The University of Prince Edwards Island. Travis is also the founder the Sedentary Behavior Research Network, which is how I learned of his work. Much of his research looks at the influence of sitting behavior on health in both children and adults. In order to move the needle on this subject, he looks at the topic from a variety of research angles ranging from interventions done in the lab to population-level epidemiological studies and systematic reviews. In our discussion, we explore what’s known and not known on the subject, and also practical ways to find the sweet spot for daily standing time.


Research Reveals a Surprising Link Between Melatonin and Type 2 Diabetes

We typically associate the hormone melatonin with sleep. However, melatonin is actually involved in the timing and synchronization of a number of different physiological functions throughout the body. One of these functions is the regulation of blood sugar.

Recent research has found that a relatively large proportion of the human population is genetically predisposed to be more sensitive to the impact of this hormone on blood sugar control. This can lead to higher blood glucose levels, and ultimately greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Here’s how it works, and what you can do about it.


Brainy Beds? Professor David Samson on Sleeping Platforms, Sleep Quality, and Thinking Speed, plus News!

Did our brains evolve as they have due to how we slept? In part, likely yes. In this episode of the humanOS Radio podcast, I speak with Professor David Samson about his research looking at primate sleeping platforms and their potential role to increase the cognitive abilities of certain great apes beyond the capacities of other primates. How does this connection work? The primates who create more comfortable beds for themselves appear to achieve substantial amounts of deep and REM sleep over the night. This is turn may have lead to the expansion of cognitive abilities over time. Can you benefit from the information shared in this discussion to improve your own sleep?



Top Health News This Week (May 7-20, 2016)

Every day, we collect the most interesting health and biology news out there, and post it on our Facebook Fan Page and on Twitter. But news and social media move fast, and it’s hard to keep up with everything that comes out every day. Here is a handy roundup of all of the most compelling stories we encountered this week – in case you missed something awesome.

This week, we covered information related to 1) nutrition, 2) sleep & circadian rhythms, 3) physical activity, and 4) aging, fasting & inflammation.


Can Chocolate Help You Get Fit?

When we think of foods that improve athletic performance, chocolate is maybe not one of the first options that comes to mind.

We’ve known for a while that certain molecules found in chocolate, known as flavonols, are associated with health benefits to the heart and the brain. Epicatechin, in particular, has exhibited widespread effects throughout the body.

But some emerging evidence suggests that chocolate may also aid in exercise performance – weird as it may sound.

Here’s what the research says so far, and how it seems to work.