Summary of “Japanese Fasting Study Reveals Complex Metabolic Changes in the Human Body”

Fasting is gaining popularity among biohackers looking for an edge, but there’s remarkably little information on what happens inside the body during a fast.
To start filling in this knowledge gap, a small new study shows that fasting’s effects on human metabolism are actually much broader than previous research has shown, and intermittent fasting could have unrecognized benefits.
As a human is fasting, the body has to switch from using food for energy to using the energy that’s stored in the body, in the form of fat and glycogen.
The implications of these findings aren’t completely clear, as the study was small and didn’t track the participants’ long-term health over multiple fasts, but the researchers say they point to several potential benefits of fasting.
One thing is abundantly clear, though: Fasting really changes the body.
“Since the 44 metabolites account for one-third of all blood metabolites detected, fasting clearly caused major metabolic changes in human blood,” write the researchers.
With future studies, they hope to gain a clearer picture of how fasting affects the human body by recruiting more volunteers, lowering the chances that variations in metabolism will be due to individual differences.
We performed non-targeted, accurate semiquantitative metabolomic analysis of human whole blood, plasma, and red blood cells during 34-58 hr fasting of four volunteers.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A New Connection Between the Gut and Brain”

Over the last decade, studies across human populations have reported the association between salt intake and stroke irrespective of high blood pressure and risk of heart disease, suggesting a missing link between salt intake and brain health.
Interestingly, there is a growing body of work showing that there is communication between the gut and brain, now commonly dubbed the gut-brain axis.
In 2013, a couple of studies showed that high salt intake leads to profound immune changes in the gut, resulting in increased vulnerability of the brain to autoimmunity-when the immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues by mistake, suggesting that perhaps the gut can communicate with the brain via immune signaling.
Research published in “Nature Neuroscience” shows another connection: immune signals sent from the gut can compromise the brain’s blood vessels, leading to deteriorated brain heath and cognitive impairment.
Surprisingly, the research unveils a previously undescribed gut-brain connection mediated by the immune system and indicates that excessive salt might negatively impact brain health in humans through impairing the brain’s blood vessels regardless of its effect on blood pressure.
The researchers used mice, and found that immune responses in the small intestines set off a cascade of chemical responses reaching the brain’s blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the cortex and hippocampus, two brain regions crucial for learning and memory.
The impairment in learning and memory was clear even in the absence of high blood pressure; they observed that the gut is reacting to the salt overload and directing immune signals that lay the basis for deterioration throughout the brain’s vital vascular complex and compromise cognitive function.
These results motivate research on how everyday stressors to our digestive systems and blood vessels might change the brain and how we see, and experience, the world.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A New Connection Between the Gut and Brain”

Over the last decade, studies across human populations have reported the association between salt intake and stroke irrespective of high blood pressure and risk of heart disease, suggesting a missing link between salt intake and brain health.
Interestingly, there is a growing body of work showing that there is communication between the gut and brain, now commonly dubbed the gut-brain axis.
In 2013, a couple of studies showed that high salt intake leads to profound immune changes in the gut, resulting in increased vulnerability of the brain to autoimmunity-when the immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues by mistake, suggesting that perhaps the gut can communicate with the brain via immune signaling.
Research published in “Nature Neuroscience” shows another connection: immune signals sent from the gut can compromise the brain’s blood vessels, leading to deteriorated brain heath and cognitive impairment.
Surprisingly, the research unveils a previously undescribed gut-brain connection mediated by the immune system and indicates that excessive salt might negatively impact brain health in humans through impairing the brain’s blood vessels regardless of its effect on blood pressure.
The researchers used mice, and found that immune responses in the small intestines set off a cascade of chemical responses reaching the brain’s blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the cortex and hippocampus, two brain regions crucial for learning and memory.
The impairment in learning and memory was clear even in the absence of high blood pressure; they observed that the gut is reacting to the salt overload and directing immune signals that lay the basis for deterioration throughout the brain’s vital vascular complex and compromise cognitive function.
These results motivate research on how everyday stressors to our digestive systems and blood vessels might change the brain and how we see, and experience, the world.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Pay Attention: Practice Can Make Your Brain Better at Focusing”

Practicing paying attention can boost performance on a new task, and change the way the brain processes information, a 2017 study says.
The question is: which part of this attention equation is more important for learning, and how is it affected by practice? To find out, researchers led by Sirawaj Itthipuripat at the University of California, San Diego, subjected 12 research participants to the least entertaining computer game in the world, while measuring their brain activity.
The researchers suspect that this more automatic phase is the result of the brain fine-tuning what exactly it needs to pay attention to, basically switching over to a process that’s more like muting the volume on the rest of the orchestra.
For some of the sessions, the students were told where the contrast-boosted circle might appear, and to pay attention to that spot.
Turns out, the students got much better at picking out the correct, contrast-boosted circle after two or three days of training when they knew which part of the screen to pay attention to.
Itthipuripat suspects that this initial spike in activity accounts for the early gains in performance, when the brain is learning what to pay attention to.
Then as the task becomes more natural, another mechanism takes over that refines the pattern of brain activity that drives the task, cutting down on the neural background noise.
“The brain is still figuring out ways to make itself better.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Lovable 100-Calorie Snack Has a Backstory Too Weird to Ignore”

It’s become a standard unit of snack measurement.
The beloved 100-calorie snack has a weird backstory that’s too interesting not to share.
More than 20 years after he gave his 100-calorie presentation to snack food executives, cracks began to appear in Wansink’s research.
He’s at peace with himself, saying that he’s pleased at the wide adoption of the ideas in his plate and bowl research, as well as the 100-calorie snack research, both among researchers and dieters.
At the same time, Mondel─ôz has made a minority investment in Hu, a paleo snack company whose offerings include 90-calorie packs of grain-free crackers.
Soylent, the company famous for making soy-based shakes, has announced a 100-calorie snack square, branching into the chewable food market.
Market research firm Mintel observed in 2017 that 100-calorie snack packs had somewhat fallen out of favor, but there are still a lot of new 100-calorie products coming to grocery aisles.
Why is the 100-calorie stat one of the most important factors for snack food makers?

The orginal article.

Summary of “Time Has No Meaning at the North Pole”

At the North Pole, 24 time zones collide at a single point, rendering them meaningless.
With no other people within hundreds of miles in all directions and with no cues from the permanently dark sky, the very concept of a time “Zone” seemed meaningless.
Last fall the Polarstern captain pushed the time zone back one hour every week, for six weeks, to sync up with incoming Russian ships that follow Moscow time.
Every time the time changed, it jostled the delicate balance of clock-based communication-between instruments deployed on the ice, between researchers onboard, and between them and their families and colleagues on faraway land.
If drifting without established time zones isn’t alienating enough for people onboard, add the unsettling reality that there is no time of day either.
Communication with friends and colleagues who are in dozens of time zones involves convoluted time conversions-a reminder that the people on the ship are in suspended animation.
The polar bear, the animal that actually patrols the dark, frozen landscape, has no concept of time either.
Logistics meant connecting with colleagues in five time zones on land while trying to nail down the “Time” of a ship that could drift into another time zone at any instant.

The orginal article.

Summary of “From Fish to Humans, A Microplastic Invasion May Be Taking a Toll”

Ingested microplastic particles can physically damage organs and leach hazardous chemicals-from the hormone-disrupting bisphenol A to pesticides-that can compromise immune function and stymie growth and reproduction.
Microplastics in the water we drink and the air we breathe can also hit humans directly.
In a surprising study published in March 2018, not only did fish exposed to microplastics reproduce less but their offspring, who weren’t directly exposed to plastic particles, also had fewer young, suggesting the effects can linger into subsequent generations.
Most work on microplastic impacts has been done in the lab for short stints, with only a single type of plastic, often with larger particles than some species tend to eat, and at higher concentrations than are found in the environment.
Wagner spiked each one with different microplastic particles-some virgin polymers, some contaminated with pollutants-to see how freshwater insects and zooplankton fare.
Because it is unethical to intentionally feed doses of microplastic particles to humans, some researchers, like Browne, have turned to medical studies that use particles to deliver precise amounts of drugs to specific areas of the body to get a better sense of how easily microplastics might move through humans.
Stephanie Wright, a research associate at King’s College London, is trying to better understand how much microfiber humans are actually exposed to and whether airborne microplastics might penetrate the lungs.
Some scientists say the focus on microplastics in humans might be missing a larger point: People are continually exposed to plastic food and beverage containers, which could be a much bigger source of at least the chemicals added to plastics such as the endocrine disruptor BPA. The potential exposure to microplastics hasn’t stopped Rochman from eating seafood, however.

The orginal article.

Summary of “This little self-driving boat is changing the way we search for shipwrecks”

Divers flock from all over the world to see the wrecks for themselves each year – and last spring, they were joined by an unusual interloper: an autonomous boat named BEN. The boat was developed by researchers from the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping.
BEN is a self-driving boat that’s been tasked with making maps, and it was brought to Thunder Bay to help lay bare the long-lost secrets of the lakebed.
It’s why we know comparatively little about what lies beneath the surface of our oceans and lakes – by some estimates we’ve mapped just 9 percent of the world’s oceans to modern standards – and why BEN and vehicles like it hold so much promise.
In our oceans, there are countless more mysteries waiting to be solved, waiting for boats like BEN. At the local marina, there was no shortage of curious onlookers drawn to the sight of the tiny, strange-looking boat.
Val Schmidt, the university research engineer who leads BEN’s development, helped ease BEN down the boat launch and into place alongside one of the marina’s docks.
For the sake of expediency – and to minimize any chance of damage before reaching open water – a colleague back in the trailer manually guided BEN out into the lake using a knock-off Xbox controller, like a very expensive remote-controlled boat.
BEN is so small that – here, Moreno made a splat noise – a larger boat could run into BEN “Like it was nothing, and not even notice.”
BEN isn’t the only autonomous boat in operation, nor even the only boat to have emerged from the University of New Hampshire’s engineering department.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why don’t rats get the same ethical protections as primates?”

Follow-up studies found that rats would press a lever to lower a rat who was suspended from a harness; that they would refuse to walk down a path in a maze if it resulted in a shock delivered to another rat; and that rats who had been shocked themselves were less likely to allow other rats to be shocked, having been through the discomfort themselves.
In 2011, the issue of rats’ empathy resurfaced when a group of scientists found that rats will reliably free other rats who are trapped inside a tube.
The results of these studies are compelling, but they don’t show us much more than what we already suspected from the work done in the 1950s and ’60s – that rats are empathic; meanwhile, the studies have inflicted, and continue to inflict, significant fear and distress on the rats.
A recent article in the online magazine The Conversation raised the concern that rat-population management strategies might be unintentionally creating rats that are extremely fit or unusually prone to disease, but the logic was purely anthropocentric – the worry was that we might be creating rats that are even more dangerous and difficult to eliminate.
Rats need an ambassador, a Jane Goodall figure who can present rats as individuals.
Perhaps what rats need is an ambassador, a Jane Goodall figure who can tell the stories of their lives, and present rats as individuals, rather than as the referent of a generic-count noun.
‘ The rats are hand-raised by humans from infancy and trained to expect a treat when they smell TNT. The African giant pouched rats that APOPO works with are too light to set off the landmines, and they have suffered no losses in their work.
While the free use of rats in research might be less ethically controversial than the use of primates – given the relative lack of rat ambassadors – it is not more ethically justifiable.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Microplastics Are Blowing in the Wind”

A first-of-its-kind study finds these particles have blown in on the wind from at least 100 kilometers away and likely much farther.
It marks the first wave in what is likely to be a flood of such studies in the coming years, in an effort to fill in the picture of how microplastics move around the environment and how humans might be exposed to them.
Most research to detect microplastics in the environment has been done in the ocean, where they were first noticed, but scientists have slowly realized they are also present in freshwater systems, soil and the atmosphere.
A First PeekBecause the new study included smaller sizes of particles than previous studies, the researchers found more plastic particles overall; this bears out a recurring trend in microplastics research findings that the smaller the size of the particles, the more of them there are.
This could mean that the new study “Gives us a background level of microplastic that you probably get pretty much everywhere in the world,” says Melanie Bergmann, a marine ecologist with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, who studies microplastics but was not involved in the new research.
Because the samples were averaged over a whole month, it could be that the background level in the Pyrenees is lower but is punctuated by periodic plumes of microplastics coming in from populated areas.
The study did not pinpoint precisely where the microplastics originated, but used computer models of atmospheric currents to attempt to back-trace the air that brought them in-the first study to do so.
Many more samples from across the world-as well as lab experiments that see how different shapes, types and sizes of plastics behave in different meteorological conditions-are needed to understand the full scope of the situation, including how much microplastics humans might be inhaling.

The orginal article.