Category Archives: Health

Immediate Genetic Impact of Relaxation

This is the second study that caught my eye showing evidence that practices that elicit relaxation response, such as meditation, prayer, yoga, etc. are changing the expression of people’s genes.

It has long been known that stress, through the action of cortisol has an immune-system dampening effect, and that is one of the ways it damages health. But it’s nice to see such potent validation of the practices used for millennia to reduce stress and improve the health of the body and mind through relaxation.

A systems biology analysis of known interactions among the proteins produced by the affected genes revealed that pathways involved with energy metabolism, particularly the function of mitochondria, were upregulated during the relaxation response. Pathways controlled by activation of a protein called NF-κB—known to have a prominent role in inflammation, stress, trauma and cancer—were suppressed after relaxation response elicitation. The expression of genes involved in insulin pathways was also significantly altered.

Here’s another one, specific to yoga.

“These data suggest that previously reported (therapeutic) effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level, which is initiated immediately during practice,” writes a research team led by Fahri Saatcioglu of the University of Oslo. The team’s study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

The high cost of sleep deprivation

In this thoughtful article in the Harvard Business Review, you get a good idea of the widespread and devastating effect of sleep deprivation on our society.

In a study our research team conducted of hospital interns who had been scheduled to work for at least 24 consecutive hours, we found that their odds of stabbing themselves with a needle or scalpel increased 61%, their risk of crashing a motor vehicle increased 168%, and their risk of a near miss increased 460%.

It’s bad enough that people are killing themselves by not sleeping adequately, but in many areas of society we’d certainly be appalled if we knew how many avoidable accidents are a direct result of sleep deprivation.

Metals and the mind

This is a really deep and fascinating article on metals and their effects on the body. It brings up the concept that the same compound that the body uses as a nutrient can also be a toxin if the amount is out of balance with complementary nutrients.

These two problems—adrenal fatigue and toxic metal buildup—are strongly related because you cannot excrete metal without good adrenal function. Adrenal function needs to be pretty close to normal or you will start retaining metals, because the adrenal glands have such a big part to play in the proper handling of metals in the body.

The first sign of adrenal fatigue is reliance on stimulants. If the idea of going without your stimulant is an issue, you have adrenal fatigue. There, you have taken the test, now you know.

via Metals and the Mind

Cooling Inflammation: Contagious Health

Several interesting ideas are presented in this blog post. I have heard of each individually, but they are brought together and related here.

In this sense, hygiene is unhealthy, because an individual is isolated from new sources of bacteria that could replace those lost by limited diets, antibiotics, etc.  Otherwise, health is contagious, since gut bacteria from healthy individuals can spread among the population.  Washing hands and food is unnatural and unhealthy.

via Cooling Inflammation: Contagious Health.

Wrong about obesity

So what happened? By the late 1950s, the University of Minnesota nutritionist Ancel Keys was arguing that fat caused heart disease, with little to no real data to back it up. But the American Heart Association quickly threw its weight behind the idea, the health reporters of the era followed, and even Congress got on board. The evidence never came around to support the idea—as the Women’s Health Initiative also demonstrated (PDF)—but with the AHA behind it, the low-fat-is-good-health dogma has dominated nutritional advice to this day. And because a low-fat diet is, by definition, high in carbohydrates, the latter stopped being perceived as inherently fattening and became known instead as “heart-healthy” diet foods.

via Why existing efforts to combat childhood obesity are bound to fail. By Gary Taubes – Time to Trim – Slate Hive.

Why Is Average IQ Higher in Some Places?

Another indication of the importance of the debate on childhood vaccinations. A lot is at stake.

So far, the evidence suggests that infectious disease is a primary cause of the global variation in human intelligence. Since this is a developmental cause, rather than a genetic one, it’s good news for anyone who is interested in reducing global inequality associated with IQ. If the primary factors were genetic, as some have suggested, IQ would be very difficult to change.

via Why Is Average IQ Higher in Some Places?: Scientific American.

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?

For people who aren’t fidgeters, apparently it can be.

Another study, published last year in the journal Circulation, looked at nearly 9,000 Australians and found that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11 percent. The study author David Dunstan wanted to analyze whether the people who sat watching television had other unhealthful habits that caused them to die sooner. But after crunching the numbers, he reported that “age, sex, education, smoking, hypertension, waist circumference, body-mass index, glucose tolerance status and leisure-time exercise did not significantly modify the associations between television viewing and all-cause . . . mortality.”

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”

The good news is that inactivity’s peril can be countered. Working late one night at 3 a.m., Dr. Levine coined a name for the concept of reaping major benefits through thousands of minor movements each day: NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In the world of NEAT, even the littlest stuff matters. McCrady-Spitzer showed me a chart that tracked my calorie-burning rate with zigzagging lines, like those of a seismograph. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to one of the spikes, which indicated that the rate had shot up. “That’s when you bent over to tie your shoes,” she said. “It took your body more energy than just sitting still.”

via Is Sitting a Lethal Activity? – NYTimes.com.