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The Shocking Truth About Salt

Salt, or sodium chloride, is one of the most common ingredients of any food and it has become common knowledge that too much of it is not a good thing – especially if you have high blood pressure. It does seem to make sense because the theory is that if one consumes a lot of salt, you’ll start drinking a lot of water in order to compensate for the increase of salt in the bloodstream as your body requires a certain balance within (homeostasis), otherwise your organs will not function properly. As such, the increase amount of water would mean an increase in urine production in order to remove the access salt. However, a new discovery may prove this theory all wrong, and it might even cause us to switch the way we think about how our body deals with high intake of salt.

Dr Jens Titze, a kidney specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research in Erlangen, Germany, discovered that not only does a higher intake of salt makes patients less thirsty, it’ll also make them hungrier.

In his two latest research papers, Titze explains how he came to this discovery. It all started with a class on human physiology back in 1991, where the professor talked about an experiment that the European Space Programme did to see how subjects made to live in a small capsule over a 28-day period would get along in insolation.

While the experiment was done to find out more about human physiology in insolation, Titze noticed something interesting. It seemed like the patients’ amount of urine weren’t correlating to their increased sodium intake. You would think that subjects with a high sodium diet would consume more water and therefore produce more urine but this was not the case.

He noticed something similar in another isolation experiment held in 1994 by the Russian Space Programme. Once again, Titze studied the urine levels of the subjects living on a high sodium diet and once again, he found that an increased level of sodium did not cause an increase in urine volume from the subjects.

Titze’s discovery culminated with a series of experiments held in 2006 – one lasting 105 days and the other 520 days. Cosmonauts that formed part of the research were given diets with varying levels of sodium that changed with each day; this gave Titze a chance to finally figure out what really goes on in the body when high amounts of salt is consumed.

He realised that although the subjects were drinking more water when consuming high sodium diets, the volume of urine was the same as compared to those on a low sodium diet. Naturally, there was a higher amount of sodium found in the urine but what was more significant was the increased amount of urea excreted by those on a high salt diet.

That wasn’t the only thing the scientists observed. They also realised that subjects seemed to get hungrier when the sodium intake was higher, this seems to point to higher levels of glucocorticoid hormones released which increased the subjects’ metabolism rate.

Titze and his team decided to hold further research by doing similar tests with mice, where the test group were fed more salt and given less water to see if the effects correlated with what he had seen during the isolation experiment.

He realised that even though the animals weren’t receiving water, the levels of glucocorticoid hormones in their system caused their body to release water from the fat and muscle in their bodies.

It was an effect akin to what happens when you’re low on nutrients, and your body starts using its stored resources. This was also the reason why the mice and the cosmonauts on high sodium diets ate 25% more food: their bodies were telling them to eat more in order to gain more nutrients.

Dr Mark Zeidel, a nephrologist at Harvard Medical School, compared this process to what camels do when they’re in the desert and low on water –  their body metabolises the fats in their hump. Zeidel also commented that this discovery on salt and metabolism could prove salt’s involvement in weight loss.

However, Titze does not recommend trying to lose weight by eating a lot of salt, because besides burning fats for energy, high salt intake actually makes one want to eat more. To add to that, the higher levels of glucocorticoid hormones within the body can lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

It seems like there’s still a lot more we can learn when it comes to the effect that sodium has on our bodies and health, but in the meanwhile, just eat the amount of salt that your doctor recommends!


Photo Credits: The Alternative Daily, The Inquisitive Eater, Reader’s Digest

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The Shocking Truth of How Foetal Cells Affect Mothers

As we celebrate Mothers’ Day today, we’d like to take this chance to truly show how truly wonderful motherhood is. It is often said that mothers have a certain “maternal instinct” and how magical the bond is that mother and child(ren) share. While we all agree that this mother-child born happens naturally, there is an actual scientific explanation for why maternal instincts exists and it boils down to cells.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple and what happens is that during pregnancy, some of the foetus’ cells cross over from the placenta into the mother’s body. This process is called microchimerism and normally, the foetus’ cells which crosses over are  ‘cleaned’ up by the mother’s body once the baby is born but they often remain in the mother’s body, eventually becoming part of the mother’s body.

This phenomenon isn’t so weird among mammals; in fact, it’s been around since the first placental mammals roamed the earth. It was first discovered in humans several decades ago when a DNA report showed male cells inside of a woman’s bloodstream. The discovery caused an uproar, but they were unable to make further research due to a lack of technology at the time.

All of that has changed now. Thanks to deep-sequencing, researchers can go through a person’s DNA by exploring their genomes individually, allowing them to take a closer look at each gene that makes them.

Genes associated with immunity stand out in particular as they are unique to every person, thus making it easier to figure out who they belongs to.

However, this hasn’t stopped scientists’, such as Dr Amy Boddy and her team, curiosity in wanting to know why microchrimerism happens and how it can affect women who give birth.

Boddy explains that the reason for microchimerism comes when foetal cells from the baby can cross the placenta and enter the mother’s bloodstream. These foetal cells act like stem cells and are thus able to take on shelter among other tissues and can even take up that fabric’s form with the help of chemical cues. However, it’s still hard to tell why these processes happen in the first place.

There have been many effects listed when it comes to microchimerism. For example, a study on mice showed how foetal cells lodged in mammary glands can help improve the flow and quality of breast milk or how they can assist the mother’s healing mechanism.

There are still many aspects of it that biologists want to investigate, however, chief among them how a mother who has undergone multiple pregnancies can be affected and how it affects the babies as well.

David Haig, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University talks of the possibility that foetal cells from past pregnancies could influence the rate in which a mother can get pregnant again, they could even hinder other babies’ growth or delay their birth.

That’s not all, while some good things come out of microchimerism, scientists have also noted the adverse effects that can come from it. Chief among them is the fact that foetal cells can act in a similar way to cancer cells, meaning that they can increase the likelihood of developing some form of cancer.

Scientists are also trying to figure out exactly where foetal cells allocate once they enter the body. Scientists believe that aside from the breasts, these foetal cells can also enter the thyroid, which will then affect metabolism and thus, transfer more heat to the baby and the brain, which could potentially influence the attachment that a mother has to her children.

That is probably why a lot of mothers say that they often feel like their children are still part of them even after having given birth!

While all this is still in the midst of medical research, what does not change is how amazing pregnancy and motherhood are. We are grateful and thankful to all mothers and would once more like to wish them a Happy Mothers’ Day!


Photo Credits: Babble, Safety Kart, Forbes

Reference: Smithsonian

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Suffering From Poor Memory? Scientists May Have The Solution

Do you suffer from bad memory and are increasingly frustrated with this? Memories are part of how we understand and navigate the world, which is why when we start losing our memory, it becomes frustrating – whether it be ourselves or for our family and friends. The onset of ageing also brings about other diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s which affect memory too.

Your brain doesn’t just lose memory through diseases though, head injuries such as concussions (depending on how drastic they are) can also lead to memory loss or make it easier for the person suffering from such injuries to develop one of the mental problems mentioned above. This has been the case for veteran soldiers who have fought in wars as well as athletes (specifically American Football athletes) who have sustained a lot of head injuries for one reason or another.

Scientists are starting to make progress in discovering ways to win against dementia and head-trauma based diseases. All it takes is an electro-shock.

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In a recent study carried out by the University of Pennsylvania and funded by the US Department of Defense, scientists gathered patients who had acute epilepsy and monitored their brain waves and cognition abilities; this was done to see the level of damage their memory had taken.

Once recorded, patients had an array of electrodes installed through their skull. The electrodes were set up to send out electric pulses to the brain to (hopefully) kickstart their cognitive ability and allow their memory to improve.

The basis for how this works is rooted in the fact that our brains utilise electrons in other to connect the dots that make up our memories, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s or head injuries directly affect them, making it harder for them to send out their pulses.

Previous studies used this approach previously, specifically one in 2014 which was also funded by the Department of Defense. However, the results of that study were muddled, some patients seemed to have good results from the pulses while others got worse.

 

According to Michael Kahana, one of the leading researchers of the study, the reason for these failed attempts might’ve been due to the timing in which the electron pulses released. Just like how we can have days where we don’t feel like ourselves; people who suffer from memory loss also have moments where their cognitive abilities are better or worse.

Kahana and Youssef Ezzyat (the other leading researcher) believe that the timing of the pulses influence whether or not our memories can recover. They, in turn, made quite an exciting discovery. It seems like our cognitive abilities improve when the electrodes send out pulses as our memories are on the lower side than when they are better.

Using this hypothesis, they discovered that patients who had the stimulus at the time when their memory was at its lowest had a twelve to thirteen percent increase, whereas subjects who received the pulses when they could remember things easier had a fifteen to twenty percent decrease.

Of course, the results aren’t perfect; they can vary from person to person and sometimes they might not even work. There’s more research going into it though, and the team behind the project as well as the Department of Defense seem hopeful in what they’ve discovered so far. With any luck, they’ll be able to make more progress and open a path to new discoveries that can help revolutionise the way we look at our memory.


Photo Credits: Eczema Outreach Scotland, Eat Right Ontario, QuickBase

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Could This Drug Help Remove the Danger of Heart Disease?

Heart attacks are scary, that’s a known fact of life. In fact, humans have spent a long time trying to figure out ways to reduce the risk of heart attack or just eliminate it all together. We’ve heard it all too, from getting proper exercise to eating and living as healthy as possible, which usually requires you to have checkups and, if you’re at high risk of going through one, take medications that might hopefully help you out. But what if there was a drug that could do away with heart disease altogether?

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Real Men Play With (Barbie) Dolls

Who said that real men don’t play with dolls? Gone are the days where gender stereotypes were reinforced, especially by the patriarch of the family. In fact, studies have shown that fathers who take the time to play with their daughters helped their girls develop a higher sense of self-worth and confidence. The brand that is really trying to break its own stereotypes is Mattel, specifically for Barbie. Besides its new and updated look, Mattel saw fit to recognise and celebrate all the dads who take the time to play Barbie with their little girls with their new #DadsWhoPlaywithBarbie campaign.

The campaign focuses on showcasing actual fathers and daughters playing together, with the father, in particular, playing with a Barbie of his own. They released the first advertisement during the NFL’s AFC Championship game on 22nd January  (because what better time to grab the attention of fathers everywhere). The ad consisted of a 30-second video called “Doctor” which showcased a father playing Barbie with his daughter, with the father saying lines such as, “I’m a typical man’s man” and “Sundays are always football, and now that gets interrupted with a little Barbie time.”

This is the next step in a series of marketing campaigns that are trying to modernise people’s perception of Barbies and to give girls a new way to imagine themselves and their futures, while also increasing the public’s positive opinion of the doll.

This is fitting too, as Barbie had been gaining a lot of ire over the last few decades due to her lack of diversity and unrealistic body proportions which have been attributed to teaching young girls about negative body image.

Though it does make you wonder, why focus on fathers playing Barbies with their girls? And the answer is quite simple. Mattel has a partnership with Wake Forest University to do research on how girls’ development can be affected for the purpose of new narrative ideas. This study found that girls with fathers who contributed in their childhood (playing with them being amongst that) developed higher levels of self-worth and self-confidence, which affects how they see and conduct themselves during adulthood.

That’s not the only reason, however. Mattel is also trying to change its focus so that it doesn’t just feature toys for girls. They want to make sure to shatter gender norms with their new campaign, amongst that being the famous “men don’t play with dolls” phrase that gets turned around and taught to boys from a very young age. This way both boys and girls can grow up believing that they can be anything they put their mind to.

The campaign has been a success so far. Ever since it’s airing in January, it has become very popular and has increased expectations of the brand by 20 percent; something that only increased even more with the release of subsequent ads.

This is a nice way to move forward in giving children (and even adults) a chance to see that the world is diverse and that fathers too, play a very important part in shaping their children’s lives. Hopefully with this push, more fathers will try to play more with their daughters and be a bigger part of their lives as important role models.


Photo Credits: Mattel

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Pee To Get Your Health Analysed

What if you could know whether you were healthy or not based on your urine? Yeah, we thought it was a bit weird too, but it has some basis. Scientists from College London, Newcastle University and Aberystwyth University are developing a new urine analysis method where they can then tell a person’s health and therefore, enable the patient to know what he or she should eat more or cut back on.

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Calcium and Its Possible Effects On Memory

We’ve all heard about the effects of calcium. It’s the reason why you were told to drink milk when you were a child; since it allows your bones to become tougher and also lets you grow stronger. However, calcium has more than just physical benefits, it can also help the mind by increasing your learning capability as well as your long-term memory. Unfortunately, it wasn’t till recently that research on the effects that calcium has on memory was done in more detail.

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Could Hormonal Therapy Help Improve Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is one of the most common diseases that men can develop throughout their lives, akin to breast cancer for women. Because of this, a lot of research has been put into figuring out ways to deal with it as, even when treated, 30% of patients can have a recurrence at some point in their lives.

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