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When Is the Best Time to Eat?

Around this time of year, much of the world is advancing their clocks by one hour to make efficient use of seasonal daylight. Americans switched to Daylight Savings Time last week, and this week Europeans will revert to Summer Time.

When this happens, we all “lose” an hour of sleep, because we have to get up and get things done an hour earlier than we have been. This is in relation not just to the light and dark cycles of the day, but also to our body clocks.

One hour sounds like a small change, but it can make a big difference in how we function, at least in the short term. For example, data from the past two decades shows that there is a statistically significant spike in the number of car wrecks on the Monday immediately following the shift to Daylight Savings Time in the US.

As we all adjust to the time change, it’s worthwhile to consider how other aspects of our lives can sway our circadian rhythms. Circadian clocks govern the rhythms of sleep and activity in virtually all animals and are responsive to a variety of stimuli like light and stress. Research is starting to suggest that our eating patterns – specifically when we eat – can also have a pervasive impact.


Introducing the humanOS Radio Podcast with Guest, Professor Matt Buman

I am very happy to announce our new podcast, humanOS Radio. The aim is interview three categories of people: 1) Researchers whose work informs us about some aspect of how we live, 2) Entrepreneurs who are translating science into solutions, and 3) Investors making bets to predict (and support) the major future influencers on health. The format will be flexible, but most shows will around 30 minutes or less. I think the best way to get a sense of what humanOS will deliver is to listen to an episode or two. Without further ado, please find my conversation with Matt Buman, PhD., who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University.


How Exercise Helps You Learn

In this series of articles, we look at the effects of exercise on the brain, including how it helps us maximize our capacity to learn. In the previous post, we saw how moderate-intensity exercise helps enhance cognition by increasing brain blood flow. However, this effect works in the short term, as long as we continue to maintain the right exercise-intensity level: Not intense enough and we don’t augment blood flow to the brain; too intense and blood flow returns to baseline flow levels all while the demands of exercise require us to increasingly focus on the exercise itself (not the problem you’re trying to solve in your head).

So, an interesting question to ask is this: can exercise induce lasting improvements in cognitive ability? Current research suggests that the answer to this question is yes. Exercise promotes an increase in the levels of certain substances that enhance the brain’s capacity to acquire and retain new information.


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.


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.