Latest Articles

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.


Feeding Time // Diabetes Reversal // Weight Maintenance

Here is a recap of some of the most interesting stories in science and health that we’ve been reading and discussing this week – focusing on regulation of body fat and blood sugar.

First, a group of Japanese researchers demonstrated how circadian misalignment, caused by shifted feeding patterns, can wreak metabolic havoc. Perhaps more importantly, they uncovered what precisely is happening inside of the brain and body to cause this.

Next, we look at an English study, which revealed a way to that we might be able to put diabetes in remission – without drugs.

Finally, we all know that losing weight is hard, and keeping it off can be even harder. Does the struggle ever get easier? This experiment determined that is you keep the weight off for a year, your body adjusts to help you maintain the new weight.


Certain Dietary Fats Disrupt the Coordination of Metabolism, Others Don’t

When the system in our body that controls the timing of our physiology becomes uncoordinated or misaligned, bad things happen. This can happen in several ways.

The most well-understood way is due to big fluctuations in the timing light exposure from day to day. This is why Apple recently introduce night shift to help limit the impact cell phones can contribute to this issue. But big fluctuations in the timing of light exposure is not the only way to misalign our rhythms. The type and timing of dietary fat also impact’s this system.