General Health


Is Good Cholesterol Overrated? How to Make Your HDL Work Better

For years, we’ve heard that there are two primary types of cholesterol on a standard lipid panel that really matter for heart health.

The first one is the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol,” which you want to keep low. The other type is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol,” which you want to have as much of that as possible. Right?

Well, recent research has suggested that the relationship between HDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease is far more complicated than previously believed. In fact, having high HDL may not necessarily mean that you’re at reduced risk of having a heart attack.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at HDL, and discuss some important nuances.

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.

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.

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.

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?

Hot Sauce For Cancer Prevention (and more)

Chili pepper is a culinary element consumed worldwide, especially in China, Mexico, and Italy. Capsaicin is a biologically active alkaloid produced by chili peppers that produce their spicy flavor. The irritation produced by these plants is probably a protective mechanism, evolved to deter animals (like us) from devouring them. But ironically, these compounds, which ostensibly emerged to harm us, may actually offer certain health benefits when eaten – like with respect to cancer.

Get a 10-15% Increase in Lifespan from This Easter Island Substance?

In 1972, a compound was identified from a bacterial species (Streptomyces hygroscopicus) originally found off the coast of Chile on Easter Island. The compound was developed to prevent fungal infections but later was found to do other things like suppressing the immune system. In fact, a primary use for it currently is to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. It’s possible, however, that its primary use may change in not-too-distant future to something very different due to another feature: This compound also limits cell division (antiproliferation effects) and promotes an intracellular clean up process, immediately raising interest in the field of aging sciences.

The compound is called rapamycin. All of its effects listed above happen through the suppression of a biochemical pathway that it’s named after – the “mechanistic target of rapamycin”, or mTOR for short. Let’s first discuss the mTOR pathway, why it’s so important for aging, and then we’ll take a closer look at the anti-aging properties observed with the compound rapamycin. We’ll also discuss whether this is something you can benefit from now.