New Under the Sun:
Volume 2, Issue 5
Greetings!! Traditionally, the first of May was a day for celebrating happiness and joy. Part of the celebration was gathering flowers and flowery boughs to decorate oneself and one’s home. Dancing also played a role in the celebrations. Since happiness and joy are necessary for health and well being, you might consider instituting your own May Day celebration to remind you and those around you of the need for joy.
Targeting Obesity Gene has Harmful Side Effects: Obesity rates are skyrocketing in this country, and in many other countries as well. While the most effective way to deal with obesity is to alter one’s diet and to increase one’s activity level, researchers are looking for a “magic bullet” that will allow one to maintain a poor lifestyle and still lose weight. One of the areas of research is for genes associated with fat deposition that could be turned off or altered so that it would be more difficult for the body to convert calories into fat. A promising genetic candidate was FATP4 (fatty acid transport protein 4). Studies in the test tube seemed to indicate that altering this gene could limit or reverse obesity. However, another research team examining this gene found that altering the gene produced disturbing side effects in mice. Mice born with the modified fat gene had extremely smooth, tight, thick skin lacking the protein and lipid barrier that prevents water loss from within and the invasion of foreign substances from without. Hair growth was also disrupted. Death occurred soon after birth due to respiratory difficulties caused by the tight skin. The FATP4 gene is pleiotropic; that is, the gene has multiple effects. Body cells are enclosed by a membrane that is composed of fatty acids. While altering FATP4 may indeed prevent obesity, it appears that it also alters the body’s ability to effectively and appropriately use the fatty acids required by our cells. Moulson CL, Martin DR, Lugus JJ, Schaffer JE, Lind AC, Miner JH. Cloning of wrinkle-free, a previously uncharacterized mouse mutation, reveals crucial roles for fatty acid transport protein 4 in skin and hair development. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2003 Apr 15.
Comment: We now have the entire human genome sequenced. That is, we know the order of each A, T, C, G. This has led many to conclude that we will now be able to find cures to most diseases and genetic-based disabilities. However, this may well be wishful thinking as indicated by the research discussed above. So far, our attempts at genetic therapy have failed to live up to their promoters’ promises. Although there are single gene traits that can cause disease, most disorders are polygenic in nature. That is, multiple genes interact with each other and with environmental variables to produce a variety of outcomes. In addition, genes can be pleiotropic, as is FATP4. A disorder that is polygenic with one or more pleiotropic genes is one that will not be readily modified by gene therapy/manipulation. Obesity is a polygenic trait. Therefore, it should not be surprising if we find that genetic modifications to prevent or reverse obesity fail.
Soy Diet May Hurt Males: Soy-based products are being pushed as something of a dietary panacea by a variety of individuals and groups, especially agribusiness. While there are benefits to using soy, particularly as a low-cost protein, it is not necessarily a risk-free food. One of the chemicals in soy is genistein. Research on rats found that pregnant females fed genistein in their diet gave birth to males who had developmental problems with their reproductive organs. The males had smaller testes, produced less testosterone, and were less likely to mount and ejaculate than were males born to mothers on a genistein-free diet. The researchers point out that the incidence of reproductive abnormalities in human males is increasing at the same time that soy-based products are forming a larger portion of our diets, including soy-based infant formulas and soy milk given to children in place of cow’s milk. More research is required to determine if genistein affects human males in the same ways it affects rat males. Wisniewski AB, Klein SL, Lakshmanan Y, Gearhart JP. Exposure to genistein during gestation and lactation demasculinizes the reproductive system in rats. J Urol 2003 Apr;169(4):1582-6.
The AnthroHealth Way to be on the safe side and protect male reproductive development: Eliminate the use of soy products during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breastfeed rather than using infant formula. If using infant formula, use one that is not soy based. Do not give children soy ‘milk’.
Smoking, Obesity, and Hot Flashes: Yet another reason to avoid smoking and to watch your weight has been provided by research done on 1,087 women aged 40 – 60 living in Baltimore, MD. The researchers found that women who smoked had a doubled risk for having moderate to severe hot flashes and daily hot flashes compared to women who never smoked. The more one smoked, the greater the risk of hot flashes. Similar results were obtained for body mass index (BMI). Women with a high BMI were twice as likely to have hot flashes compared to women with low BMI. While smoking and obesity are not the only causes of hot flashes, they are modifiable behaviors that can reduce one’s risk. Whiteman MK, Staropoli CA, Langenberg PW, McCarter RJ, Kjerulff KH, Flaws JA. Smoking, body mass, and hot flashes in midlife women. Obstet Gynecol 2003 Feb;101(2):264-72.
COME, Sleep; O Sleep! the certain knot of peace,
Sir Philip Sidney, 1554–86
The Promise of Sleep by William C. Dement, MD, PhD is a fascinating compendium of facts on one of the most important, but neglected parts of our lives: the hours we sleep. Dement spent his entire professional life attempting to understand why we sleep, the value of sleep, sleep-related disorders, and how to obtain the best night’s sleep. The semi-autobiographical text, written with Christopher Vaughan, discusses sleep in the folksy, chatty style of a grandfather (which he is) telling bedtime stories. As with all good stories, there are heroes (sleep researchers) and villains (ignorance, particularly the ignorance of physicians). Dement is appalled that physicians know so little about the importance of proper sleep to good health and well-being. In fact, he states that physician ignorance can result in the deaths of improperly treated patients.
One of Dement’s earliest and most important insights is the concept of sleep debt. Every individual needs a certain number of hours of sleep which for adults averages 8 – 9 hours. When an individual does not meet her nightly sleep requirements, she begins to accumulate sleep debt. The sleep debt not only results in increasing levels of sleepiness, but in lower energy levels, poorer mood, and reduced cognitive ability. The problems associated with sleep debt have been highlighted during the current conflict in Iraq. Research at the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine headed by Harris Lieberman found that even highly-trained Navy Seals and Army Rangers perform remarkably poorly when deprived of adequate levels of sleep. There is concern that at least some of the many friendly fire incidents in the Iraq war were the result of sleep deprivation. [Combat leaves soldiers 'drunk' with fatigue by Eric Sabo; © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd. 2003] Dement asserts that driving while sleepy is as deadly as driving while drunk.
The Promise of Sleep covers a wide array of topics related to sleep including the dangers of snoring and the relationship of sleep to a properly functioning immune system. The concluding chapters provide advice on how to modify your relationship with sleep, thereby improving your health and well-being. According to Dement, one of the easiest ways to enhance your mood and your outlook on life is to make sure you are getting all the sleep you need.
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: In line with this month’s book review this Tip has to do with sleeping and is taken from Dement’s suggestions. Make sure your bedroom is dark for a good night’s sleep. If you need to go to the bathroom during the night, use nightlights because your biological clock can be reset with even a short burst of light as would occur when turning on the bathroom or hallway light. If bedroom windows face east and you need to sleep beyond sunrise, you may need to invest in a blackout liner for curtains or heavy window shades. Our bodies are adapted to sleeping during the dark of night, so replicating that environment, with only “starlight” to guide us to the bathroom, allows us to keep our biological clock in sync, maximizes our chances of obtaining optimal hours of sleep, and primes us for the new day.
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.