Writer and runner Haruki Murakami has a great line in his book Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: Walking behind a beautiful young fat woman, the narrator speculates, "There must be as many paths of human fat, as there are ways of human death."
Well, some Wake Forest researchers have found an exception to Murakami's rule: The searchers fed monkeys an "average American diet," and the monkeys got fat. Shocker! But here's the wrinkle: The researchers also found that if the monkeys ate American food and experienced prolonged stress, they got fat in a particular, common way. They developed belly fat.
That's bad news because belly fat is linked to heart disease in monkeys and in humans. People with larger waistlines -- over 40 inches in men, and over 35 inches in women -- are at significantly higher risk for all sorts of trouble: Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, among others.
Yet another reason to manage your stress: Lose the belly, and nurture your own, natural, even literary, fat profile.
The Journal of Experimental Physiology publishes a new Japanese study on the pressing physiological question of sweat, which The Times' Gretchen Reynold's notes has received "surprisingly little scientific scrutiny" — all those anti-perspirant ads notwithstanding. Apparently, what's long been known is that fitter people, male and female, sweat more than unfit people; but the new study gets at the specific differences between men and women. Here's the short take:
- Fit men sweat the most. They start sweating early, and dump buckets. This allows them to maintain high levels of exertion without overheating.
- Fit women activate just as many sweat glands as fit men, BUT they generate less sweat from each gland.
- Unfit men are (seemingly) of no interest. Ha ha ha!
- Unfit WOMEN, however, "by a wide margin, perspired the least." Thus, they "became physiologically hotter — their core temperatures rising notably — before they began to sweat at full capacity."
What's it all mean, and why did evolution leave the ladies drier and hotter? “Prehistoric men followed the herds, whatever the temperature, while the women, cleverly, sought out the shade," says one of expert to The Times. “It’s not a bad survival strategy."More...
You may recall the fascinating finding that popping acetaminophen can ease the pain of social rejection. So headache, take Tylenol. Party snub, take Tylenol. Well, here's a related finding for people who prefer a more natural approach. Turns out love can ease physical pain. In the study, researchers took people who were in love, placed hot probes in their hands, and then scanned their brains. The people who professed to be in love and were then shown a picture of their loved one while holding the hot probe showed a 40% reduction in moderate pain and a 10-15% reduction of severe pain.
Ah jeez, another way people in love get to lord it over single people. Sheesh. But not so fast! Turns out distracting word games were just about as effective at dulling pain. Ta da! An equal-access solution! Who needs a boyfriend when you have Scrabble....
Wild new bio-molecular breakthrough—scientists have figured out how to give you a tan by monkeying with your enzymes. Or at least they've figured out how to give a mouse a tan, and you're next. The researchers discovered that when they blocked the enzyme PDE-4D3, melanin production kicks in, which in turn darkens skin pigment. Not sure I'll be signing up for a bio-tan anytime soon, but bodybuilders nationwide and the entire cast of the Jersey Shore must be rejoicing at this news.
Remember the study that showed that the better shape you're in the more you sweat? Researchers in Japan recently concluded a similar study, which confirmed the finding—if you've been training, you work up a sweat a lot faster. Good news for keeping you cool during hard workouts. But here's the bad news—women have to get hotter before they get their sweaty rewards. The order of sweatiness went like this (from most to least): In-shape men, in-shape women, out-of-shape men, out-of-shape women. It'd be nice if this just meant that ladies were just cooler. But nope. Just means we're at more of a risk for heat stroke. Boo.
Today's science beat: A whole bunch of fascinating stuff about your body you may not have known until this very minute...
- You can skip the snack packs. There are people who swear by lots of little meals throughout the day. Like Jackie Warner. One of the downsides of this approach, though, is that it pretty much necessitates carrying bags of food with you. It's one thing if it's baby carrots, but what if you want some protein? A bag of meat snacks in your pocket? That's got an awful lot of backfire potential... Luckily for you, a new study shows that for high-protein diets, three meals a day is actually more satiating than six meals a day. In tangentially-related news, there was a meat heist outside the Plaza Hotel yesterday.
- The transgender golf lowdown. Okay, not exactly science, but just in case you're considering gender reassignment surgery, keep in mind that the LPGA currently bars transgendered individuals from competing. But that might change soon!
Today in science:
- An Evil Glow. That freaky nightlight in the photo is a demon that makes everyone who comes in contact with it fat. Or, to put it in scientific terms, mice who spent eight weeks with a dim light on at night gained 50% more weight than mice who slept in the dark. So what, they were tired so they ate more and moved less? Not so simple! In fact, their physical activity and their food were held constant. So the real explanation is that sleep disruption messed with their metabolism.
- Sex vs. Puking. Did you know German drug makers were working on a female viagra? It was called flibanserin, and the company just pulled the plug on it. Why?
The dream of meal delivery is this: Perfectly balanced meals arrive at your doorstep. You consume these perfectly balanced meals, and only these perfectly balanced meals, and thus you're relieved from any food-related agony. You know exactly what to eat. You stick to the plan, and voila. You lose weight. Or you stay slim. Or whatever your goal is. Someone else does the thinking. You just do the eating.
But how does that work in real life? You can't just eat pre-prepared meals forever like some robot. What happens after you go back to eating regular food? A new study answers some of these questions. Summary: Most folks don't backslide as much as you'd expect.More...
Why are Americans so fat? (If you need more sadness in your day, here's a sad graph that shows our scary fat trajectory). There are lots of obvious reasons. We go to Cheesecake Factory. We're addicted to junk. We don't walk as much as everyone else. We watch too much TV. And then there are all sorts of fascinating micro-explanations. We're fat partly because we eat bacon at night instead of in the morning. We're fat because we don't sleep enough. Well, today, there's another scary and interesting micro-explanation to add to the list: We're fat because our mother's eat pesticide-laced food while we're in the womb. What? Here's the research...More...
There's the school of folks who say forget about fat or protein or type of exercise. It's much simpler than that—a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and if you burn more calories than you take in, you'll lose weight. Yeah, that's true, except when it's not. Here's an interesting little wrench in the works. In a recent study, scientists took two groups of people and put them both on reduced calorie diets. But then they told one group to sleep for 7-8 hours a night and the other group to sleep for five hours a night. Both groups lost weight. In fact, both groups lost the same amount of weight. But here's what's interesting—the sleep-deprived group lost a much greater proportion of lean muscle mass. Only 48% of the pounds they lost were fat pounds. For the group that slept enough, 80% of the pounds were fat pounds. So yeah, you'll lose weight either way if you're cutting calories, but if you sleep enough, you'll lose the fat you want to lose, not the muscle you don't.