Saturday, September 24, 2016

Brain, Brawn and Beauty

In the future all humans will be tall and beautiful look-alikes, as in GATTACA. Or they will split into frail beauties and sturdy beasts, as described in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. British evolutionary psychologist Oliver Curry and paleoanthropologist Matthew Skinner believe in the possibility of similar scenarios, based on either the rich and poor divide ("gracile" vs "robust" species) or climate change-related evolution (pale hairy giants vs aquatic and space humans).

The change may be already happening, as humans continue to evolve. What traits - end products of our individual developmental histories - are most important to succeed in the modern age? 




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Food to Restore a Heart

reproduced from Aurametrix

cereal fiber for survivors of heart attack
We know that diet, exercise and low-stress life will keep the heart healthy. But sometimes things happen that are beyond our control.

Thanks to more coordinated, faster emergency response and improved treatment, heart attacks aren't as deadly as they used to be. But survivors still face a substantial risk of further cardiovascular events.

How to restore after a heart attack and prevent another one? What to do besides obvious things such as taking medications, reducing stress, calories, avoiding urban air pollution and getting rid of bad lifestyle habits like smoking?

Increase Cereal Fiber

Dietary fiber helps to lower cholesterol levels (as it inhibits cholesterol synthesis, increases the production of short-chain fatty acid and the rate of bile excretion), blood pressure, glucose absorption, improving insulin sensitivity, and increasing levels of antioxidants. A high-fiber diet, in general, was associated with a 31% reduction in dying from any cause and a 35% reduction in death from heart disease among over 4 thousand heart attack survivors from the Health Professionals Study and the Nurses’ Health Study.

More recent Harvard study went a step further analyzing the types of fiber consumed by thousands of men and women who survived a first myocardial infarction (MI). All participants of the study increased their average dietary fiber intake after MI, and the greater the increase, the lower was the risk of subsequent all cause and cardiovascular mortality. among cereal fiber, fruit fiber, and vegetable fiber,  only intake of cereal fiber was strongly inversely associated with lower all cause and cardiovascular mortality: pooled hazard ratio 0.73 (0.58 to 0.91) for all cause mortality, 0.72 (0.52 to 0.99) for cardiovascular mortality. In the general population, a 20-40% risk reduction in coronary heart disease has consistently been observed among those who consume fiber-rich whole grains regularly

An earlier study of over 31,000 California Seventh-day Adventists found a 44% reduced risk of nonfatal coronary heart disease and an 11% reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease for those who ate whole wheat bread compared with those who ate white bread.

One minor change in diet could, indeed, save a life.  

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Don't overdo it on the protein

Low carbohydrate plant diets might be beneficial in reducing blood pressure ​and reducing cholesterol.

Yet, Dr Shanshan Li and her Harvard colleagues did not find a health benefit for heart attack survivors from a low carbohydrate diet even if it was low in fat and came from plant sources.

Greater adherence to a low carbohydrate diet high in animal sources of fat and protein was associated with higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality post-MI.

According to the Institute of Medicine. healthy individuals should get at least 10% of their daily calories, but not more than 35%, from protein. Heart attack survivors in the Harvard and the Nurses’ Health Study ate from 15% to 20% protein (65 to 40% carbohydrates) and the lowest intake of protein seemed to be the best. It also correlated with the lowest intake of fat. Associations between the animal-based low carbohydrate diets and mortality were diminished after additionally adjusting for saturated fat.

A few older studies suggested that low carbohydrate plant-based diet may slightly decrease coronary heart disease in women and heart-healthy individuals, but there might be different dietary benefits in those survived from a heart attack.   

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Plant diets are definitely good for restoring the hearts. A study by Cleveland clinic  found that a plant-based diet in conjunction with cholesterol-reducing medication reversed heart disease in 70% of patients over a 12-year period. Vegetable oils high in linoleic acid (afflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and cottonseed oil.), though, failed to reduce heart disease and overall mortality and seemed to be actually worse for heart health than eating butter.
Nuts - eaten several times a week in small amounts - shown a consistent 30% to 50% lower risk of myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or cardiovascular disease, as seen from several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study.

The Stanford Coronary Risk Intervention Project followed 300 people with coronary artery disease for four years and found the best predictor of new coronary blockages was dietary fat intake. As fat intake rose, the number of coronary blockages rose. Those patients with the lowest intake of dietary fat (about 10% to 15%) had the greatest amount of improvement and plaque shrinkage.

One day there could be probiotics for heart disease.

Research from Cleveland clinic proposes a new link between animal protein and coronary heart disease (CHD) that doesn’t involve cholesterol, but is mediated through "bad" for heart bacteria converting  trimethylamine to Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) in the liver. The researchers followed roughly 4,000 adults for three years. At the end of the study period, those with the highest levels of TMAO had a 2.5-fold increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death.

Firmicutes Ruminococci are some of those bad bacteria, while Bacteroidales S24-7, an abundant family from Bacteroidetes, are inversely associated with TMA and TMAO levels.
And here is the last tip from Dr. Oz  - a sample diet he claims could reverse your heart disease in 28 days:
Breakfast
  • Oatmeal with dried cranberries
  • 4oz. of natural vegetable or fruit juice
Eating oatmeal is a great non-fat way to get your complex carbohydrates.
Morning Snack
  • Non-fat granola bar
  • Banana
  • One cup of tea; green tea, without milk or sugar, is ideal
Lunch
  • Stir-fried veggies with low-sodium teriyaki sauce and brown rice
  • Green salad with edamame, chickpeas, beans and fat-free raspberry dressing, and one whole wheat roll
A lunch like this provides plenty of protein, from non-animal sources.
Dinner
  • Tacos: black beans, brown rice, fat-free sour cream, fat-free cheese and salsa; corn tortillas
These tacos are low in fat and high in protein.
Night Snack
  • Hummus with assorted dipping vegetables


REFERENCES

Li S, Flint A, Pai JK, Forman JP, Hu FB, Willett WC, Rexrode KM, Mukamal KJ, & Rimm EB (2014). Low carbohydrate diet from plant or animal sources and mortality among myocardial infarction survivors. Journal of the American Heart Association, 3 (5) PMID: 25246449


Li S, Flint A, Pai JK, Forman JP, Hu FB, Willett WC, Rexrode KM, Mukamal KJ, & Rimm EB (2014). Dietary fiber intake and mortality among survivors of myocardial infarction: prospective cohort study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 348 PMID: 24782515

Flight I, Clifton P. Cereal grains and legumes in the prevention of coronary heart disease and stroke: a review of the literature. Eur J Clin Nutr2006;60:1145-59.

Rimm EB, Ascherio A, Giovannucci E, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Vegetable, fruit, and cereal fiber intake and risk of coronary heart disease among men. JAMA1996;275:447-51.


Halton TL, Willett WC, Liu S, Manson JE, Albert CM, Rexrode K, Hu FB. Lowcarbohydrate-
diet score and the risk of coronary heart disease in women.
N Engl J Med. 2006;355:1991–2002.

Fung TT, van Dam RM, Hankinson SE, Stampfer M, Willett WC, Hu FB. Lowcarbohydrate
diets and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: two cohort
studies. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153:289–298.

Gustenhoff P et al. Effect of fish oil on heart rate variability in survivors of myocardial infarction: a double blind randomised controlled trial. Br Med J 1996;312:677-8.






Friday, April 1, 2016

Technology, Dreams and April Fool's Jokes

At least once per year, and more is likely better, laughter is the best medicine.

Today is April Fool's Day, when everybody from school-age kids to technology companies tried to trick people into believing into jokes.

Yet, as Sigmund Freud suggested, jokes often expose unconscious desires. Perhaps the technologies listed below, too,  have a grain of our desires wrapped in a smile?

reproduced with permissions of Aurametrix

Technology keeps marching ahead. And the future gets smarter with the Internet of Things. Here are a few announcements made today, on April 1 2016. 

CONNECTED CAR

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Ford Australia has announced new wearable technology connecting drivers to their car like never before. Based on ‘Mood-Ion Technology’, it would monitor a wearer’s body temperature and use cameras to track eye movement and feed this information into the vehicle. It is hard to foresee what exactlty the vehicle will do in response to driver's mood changes except powering lighting, but In selected Ford vehicles, there will be options to have the glove box retrofitted with a convection oven.

Lexus connects drivers and their cars too, using velcro adhesives to bond drivers to their V-LCRO seats.

​And so does the new LeisureVans app offering to experience the power of driving in a fully autonomous RV. Using the latest advancements in software and ultrasonic hardware, their engineers have perfected the future of the self-driving vehicle. Just download an app from the App store and let it control your self-driving leisure travel van. While driving, the app will suggest you to get some coffee or have a snooze, if you look too tired. It will also make the car to wash itself when needed.

And if you don't even want to think about cars while enjoying a drive, use Ola rooms, converting cabs into mini-hotels coming to your door step. The room will drive by the views you like and restaurants you prefer. Although you could use Deliveroo’s telepathic food order to make it easier. And pre-lick food photos to make sure you like what you are ordering. Or order Google Express parachutes if you want to have your lunch right away.  

VIRTUAL REALITY

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​Google introduced Plastic Cardboard VR Headset proving that "the future is clear." "Google Cardboard Plastic combines everything you love about virtual reality headsets with everything you love about reality," the company said in a statement.
The goal is to make virtual reality feel more compelling, more immersed, make it feel like actual reality.

The innovative gadget allows users to view the world in 4 dimensions with 20/20 resolution and 360 degrees of sound  - assuming that's what is provided by your own senses. But if you prefer to trust other people's senses - try "Snoopavision," a 360-degree viewing experience with rapper Snoop Dogg. After all, "Dre has Beats, Jay has Tidal, Kanye has himself and now the world has Snoopavision," as says promotional video.

And if Virtual Reality still doesn’t seem real enough, ThinkGeek offers VR rig that could spray you with water, shoot stuff at you with a built-in projectile launcher, emit scent, and ticket you with cat arms if you so desire. 

SMART HOME

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Wi-fi-enabled pillow Duolingo is making education more convenient by offering to  teach a language overnight. Thanks to synthetic fibers encouraging development in the cerebral cortex, high frequency sound system and a proprietary algorithm using Morse code to subtly teach the brain new language vocabulary and concepts in one's sleep.

There were more smart home announcements gimmicky enough to pass off as April fools jokes, but we won't be talking about them here. 

WEARABLES

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If you're struggling to keep up with your New Year's resolutions, consider JOLT - new Electrotherapy Fitness Shoes from Soft Star Shoes. High voltage sensors in the JOLT's footbed deliver an electric shock whenever you stop moving, while patented Lace-Lock™ technology makes the shoes impossible to remove - taking fitness motivation aids to "stunning" new heights. 

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We have certainly come a long way since the previous generation of wearables like Gluuv inspired by a Robocop movie (announced on April 1 2014 by HTC). The wearable could double as a self-defense device you’ll definitely want to have around if you ever find yourself in a Blade Runner-reminiscent d├ęcor.

Slightly less bulky Gloves announced by Samsung and Toshiba could use 25 appropriate fingergestures, replacing laptops, tablets, smartphones, fitness trackers, watches, glasses and any other future mobile innovation.

Perhaps we should come back to this later. 

Happy April Fool's Day!





References (in addition to those provided above)

Smith, Julian. "Apps for apes: Orang-utans want iPads for Christmas." New Scientist 212.2844 (2011): 69-71.

(2000). April Fool's Day and the Medicinal Value of Humor. The virtual mentor : VM, 2 (4) PMID: 23270623

Friedman, Joseph H. "APRIL FOOL'S COMMENTARY: IN PRAISE OF PLACEBOS." Medicine and Health Rhode Island 89.4 (2006): 124.

Redberg, R. (2015). The Prescription Is Laughter JAMA Internal Medicine, 175 (5) DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.574

Robertson R (1984). Science and technology - dreams and reality. Journal of dental research, 63 (3), 371-3 PMID: 6583238
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