Latest Articles

Which Exercise Intensity Makes You Smarter Right Now? Exercise and Cognition, Part 1

It was traditionally thought that total brain blood flow was not changed during physical activity. Research in the last 10 years, however, changed this perspective. We now understand that the increased neuronal and metabolic activity of the brain during exercise drive increases in blood flow to it. We have also learned that exercise that is too intense will reduce blood flow and oxygen delivery causing fatigue. So, what is the ideal intensity to stimulate blood flow to the brain, and perhaps, augment your mental abilities in the moment?

Does What You Eat Today Affect How You Sleep Tonight? Yes

Recently, research by Marie-Pierre St-Onge and colleagues evaluated whether sleep is modified in response to changes in dietary intake across the day. The study kept healthy participants in an inpatient unit, so there was a high degree of control to record what the participants ate and how they slept. During the first 4 days, the researchers gave the participants a controlled diet and monitored their sleep in response to what they ate. On day fifth day, however, the participants were allowed to choose their own food, and on that night, sleep changed: it took longer for the participants to fall asleep, they had less deep sleep and more arousals across the night.

Science Recap – New Science of Body Fat Regulation

To kick off the new year, our first recap will discuss new and interesting science related to the regulation of body fatness with a focus on the brain, the gut, and the food industry.

You may remember from previous posts – and from dialog regarding our Ideal Weight Program (first, second) – that the “fat thermostat” in the brain is of key importance for anyone interested to reduce body fat in a sustainable way. So, I was eager to see new research looking at how brain inflammation impairs the control of body fatness and blood sugar, as well as other new research highlighting the brain chemical neuropeptide Y (NPY) as a key regulator to the body weight setpoint.

Next, from NPR’s food-oriented blog called ‘The Salt,’ we highlight some of the interview with Michael Moss, who discusses how the food industry has exploited our natural preferences for sweetness and saltiness – and how that has impacted what and how we eat.

Lastly, find out if brain stimulation helps us to eat less, and whether a selective mixture of probiotics could help us shed body fat.

Science Recap: Fructose, Fitbits, Antibiotics and the Microbiota, and More

Here is a recap of some of the most interesting science and health information from the past few weeks.

This week, we learned from Dr. Arya Sharma about a recent study suggesting that Fitbit may indeed be useful for enhancing physical activity. Dr. Sharma also highlighted research showing that sleep loss and circadian misalignment can have a significant detrimental impact on insulin sensitivity.

Next we turn to Dr. Adel Moussa of Suppversity, who showed that artificial sweeteners might cause rodents to put on weight – though this study arguably raises more questions than it answers. In a separate post, Moussa also reveals how fructose, surprisingly, might actually help you keep your post-workout appetite under control.

Finally, Aeon published a fascinating video in which Dr. Martin Blaser explains vividly why microbial diversity in the human gut is crucial to our health – and how abuse of antibiotics may be silently decimating that ecosystem.

How Much Alcohol Should I Drink to Age Better? (Age Better Today, Part 4)

The research on alcohol and its effects on long-term health in humans can appear confusing and seemingly paradoxical. Conventional health organizations recommend moderate drinking – if you drink at all – due to potential beneficial effects for cardiometabolic health. On the other hand, they do not encourage teetotalers to start drinking, on account of the possible risks associated with alcohol consumption.

One basic principle of toxicology to keep in mind is “the dose makes the poison.” This applies to literally all chemicals – including vitamins and minerals that are essential to our survival. Even water can become toxic when too much is absorbed into the body. So, whether or not a substance can be characterized as a toxin is not a simple question. It depends upon the dose, as well as the duration of exposure. Epidemiology and basic science have suggested that alcohol can actually be beneficial to health and longevity – however only in the right amounts. Ethanol appears to work its magic by improving, among other things, insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles. But these benefits are largely lost in the context of heavy drinking. But new research looks at how various levels of daily alcohol consumption influences biological aging. Read more to find out what they discovered.

Does Protein Restriction and Fasting Slow the Aging Process? Better Aging Part 3

In the previous article on aging, we looked at three forms of dietary restriction: caloric restriction, prolonged fasting, and alternate-day fasting. These interventions have played an important role in providing a framework for researchers to begin unraveling the molecular details of how aging happens. But these dietary restrictions are quite extreme and are simply not practical for everyone. In this article, we will look at two less extreme forms of dietary restriction: protein restriction, and the Daniel fast.

Better Aging Part 2 – Slowing Down Aging with Dietary Restrictions

Can we improve how we age and how long we live by restricting what we eat? Nearly all signs point to yes. In this article, I will describe three major categories of dietary restriction that have been explored, the evidence of efficacy, and some of the limitations that stand in the way of our understanding of this topic.

Numerous studies on a diverse range of organisms, including bacteria, yeast, worms, flies, rodents, and primates, have shown that dietary restrictions, such as chronic or intermittent fasting, can slow down biological aging and increase maximum lifespan substantially, by up to 50% in some protocols. Some of the mechanisms by which these different dietary-restriction regimens work have been identified. Many of them are metabolic pathways that are shared across species, including humans. It is therefore reasonable to think that the beneficial effects on lifespan, in let’s say a worm or mouse, could also occur in humans. Definitively proving this, however, is difficult because longevity studies to utilize any type of intervention in humans inherently require decades of adherence to a protocol, along with decades of follow up by the research team. That’s why we love to do aging research in worms that have a twenty-day lifespan! But ultimately, in order to move from non-human intervention to safe and effective human application, we need to study promising interventions in humans. The good news is that human studies have been carried out, but instead of directly measuring lifespan, biomarkers are used. Biomarkers are biological characteristics that can be objectively measured today that can predict important health outcomes—in this case, biological aging. (Read More)

Do We Need Less Sleep than We Thought? What Hunter-Gatherers Tell Us (Podcast)

We’re getting much less sleep than we used to! Well, at least that’s been the story, but this story has largely been based on self-reported sleep times. If we are getting less sleep than we should, we need to know. One approach to understanding this subject better is to investigate what “natural” sleep looks like. Luckily, we now have more information on this due to a ground-breaking study recently published by Professor Jerry Siegel at UCLA, and colleagues in the journal Current Biology. In his study, he evaluated three societies living in natural conditions (e.g., modern day hunter-gatherers) to examine their sleep behaviors and physiology. He also analyzed external factors like natural light, ambient temperature and the season in which the data was collected. And by doing so, Dr. Siegel appeared to turn the wide-spread belief that we are chronically sleep deprived on its head. At least that seemed to be the emphasis of most news reports that came out describing the study. But to really understand what this data means, we need to discuss the study and interpret the findings with an emphasis to explain the difference between sleep period and sleep time. Along with an article investigating this subject, you can listen to my interview with Dr. Siegel where we discuss the study and his findings.

Age Better Today. Is This Really Possible? (Part 1)

We age every moment we are alive. But the process of aging appears different depending on where one sits on the curve of life. When we are young, aging develops us. When we are old, aging diminishes our abilities. But aging begins before its effects are apparent. It’s just that we’re more likely to care about it when it’s evident. The desire within humans to avoid the perils of biological aging is as old as time itself, but now aging is a field of scientific inquiry, and the promise of extraordinary solutions is imminent. One big aim of this field is to find ways to extend lifespan. Just as interesting, if not more so, is to find strategies that preserve abilities for the duration of the lifespan. This article is the first in a series to address both.