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Some Interesting Health Effects of Tart Cherries

Tart cherries (Prunus cerasus) don’t get quite as much love as their sweet counterparts – other than in baked goods like cherry pie and black forest cake.

But they might deserve a little more attention from you, because science has revealed that there are surprising health benefits associated with the fruit. Tart cherries are a rich source of phenolic compounds. These chemicals have been shown to exert amazing physiological effects when consumed, including reducing inflammation, improving sleep, and even speeding up exercise recovery.

Additionally, we know from prior research that some of these compounds can modulate vascular cells in vitro – which has caused scientists to wonder if adding fruit like tart cherries to the diet could lower blood pressure through its effects on vasculature. High blood pressure is a pervasive health issue, affecting as many as 1 in 3 adults in the US, so there’s a lot of interest in finding ways to address it via lifestyle.

But as we all know, applying chemicals to cells in a petri dish does not necessarily translate to real life. Researchers from Northumbria University designed a trial to put it to the test. Click here to find out what the researchers discovered.


Which Parts of a Meal Can Make You Sleepy? (Keith Murphy Interview)

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel sleepy after a big meal. Think of what happens after Thanksgiving dinner, or after getting a huge lunch at an Indian buffet. If you’re like me, you’re ready to crash.

But why does this happen? Is it the tryptophan in the turkey? Is it from too many carbs? What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it all play a role. Consequently, there has been some doubt as to whether the “food coma” is even a real thing.

But recently, some clever researchers identified a good model organism for studying this phenomenon – the fruit fly. And through studying the behavior of Drosophila, we now better understand what causes a food coma, and perhaps why it occurs.

In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I interview Keith Murphy of the Scripps Research Institute. He and his colleagues have been researching the so-called food coma, and have found some substantive evidence for this phenomenon. Listen here to find out more about his study – and some reasons why the food coma might be happening.


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.


Starving Cancer of Glucose and Glutamine

Biologists have known for nearly a century that some types of cancer cells consume significantly more glucose than normal cells.

Regular cells burn most of a sugar molecule in their mitochondria in order to make energy, which is why mitochondria are often referred to as cellular “power plants.”

Cancer cells, however, function quite differently. They rely heavily upon another energy-producing process in the metabolism of sugar called glycolysis. This produces energy faster, but also extracts much less of it from the sugar molecule. Cancer’s preference for glycolysis has been dubbed the “Warburg effect,” after German physiologist, and Nobel Prize winner, Otto Warburg, who was the first to demonstrate it experimentally.

It has never been entirely clear why the difference exists. Cancer cells presumably need a considerable amount of energy in order to grow and proliferate throughout the body. How do they do it?


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.