Well, the medicine file is filling up fast so it’s time to take another excursion into the wonderful world of the human body and its functions. Our first story has great relevance here. I teach a course for teachers called Hands-On Science. In this class, teachers learn a little science connected with the presented activity, and then do the activity themselves so it’s easy for them to do these activities with their students.
All the presented activities have a ‘local’ spin. They use coconuts and Palo Maria nuts, teach about natural phenomena that can be observed only in the tropics like mangrove swamps and “The Day of No Shadows” or deal with cultural topics like carving Chamoru proas from soap bars.
One of the most popular activities with all the teachers is one called “How Sweet it Is” by Tom Terlaje. In this activity, teachers use the nutrition labels on snacks and soft drinks to determine how much sugar they contain. These amounts are measured out into zip bags with coded labels. The students then match the sugar bags with the empty snack bags and soft drink cans. The amount of sugar contained in common drinks and snacks is frightening. And that brings us to our first article.
HOW SWEET IT ISN’T!
A Princeton University scientist has presented new evidence that demonstrates sugar can be an addictive substance, that wields its power over the brains of lab animals in a manner similar to many drugs of abuse.
Professor Bart Hoebel and his team in the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute have been studying the signs of sugar addiction in rats for years. In previous studies, the rats he’s used have met two of the three elements of addiction. They demonstrated a behavioral pattern of increased intake and then showed signs of withdrawal. His current experiments show craving and relapse, the third element of addiction to complete the picture.
"If bingeing on sugar is really a form of addiction, there should be long-lasting effects in the brains of sugar addicts," Hoebel said. "Craving and relapse are critical components of addiction, and we’ve been able to demonstrate these behaviors in sugar-bingeing rats in a number of ways."
In a recent report, Hoebel showed profound behavioral changes in rats that, through experimental conditions, have been trained to become dependent on high doses of sugar.
Lab animals that were denied sugar for a prolonged period after learning to binge worked harder to get sugar when it was reintroduced to them. They consumed more sugar than they ever had before, suggesting craving and relapse behavior. Their motivation for sugar had grown. "In this case, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder," Hoebel said.
The rats drank more alcohol than normal after their sugar supply was cut off, showing that bingeing behavior had made changes in brain function. These functions served as "gateways" to other paths of destructive behavior, such as increased alcohol intake. And, after receiving a dose of amphetamine normally so minimal it has no effect, they became significantly hyperactive. The increased sensitivity to the stimulant is a long-lasting brain effect that can be a component of addiction.
Hoebel has shown that rats that eat large amounts of sugar when hungry, a phenomenon he describes as sugar-bingeing, undergo neurochemical changes in the brain that mimic those produced by substances of abuse, including cocaine, morphine and nicotine. Sugar induces behavioral changes, too. In certain models, sugar-bingeing causes long-lasting effects in the brain and increases the inclination to take other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol.
The researchers conducted the studies by restricting rats from their food while the rats slept and for four hours after waking. "It’s a little bit like missing breakfast," Hoebel said. "As a result, they quickly eat some chow and drink a lot of sugar water." And, he added, "That’s what is called binge eating — when you eat a lot all at once — in this case they are bingeing on a 10 percent sucrose solution, which is like a soft drink."
In experiments, the researchers have been able to induce signs of withdrawal in the lab animals by taking away their sugar supply. The rats’ brain levels of dopamine dropped and, as a result, they exhibited anxiety as a sign of withdrawal. The rats’ teeth chattered, and the creatures were unwilling to venture forth into the open arm of their maze, preferring to stay in a tunnel area. Normally rats like to explore their environment, but the rats in sugar withdrawal were too anxious to explore.
The findings are exciting, Hoebel said, but more research is needed to understand the implications for people. The most obvious application for humans would be in the field of eating disorders. "It seems possible that the brain adaptations and behavioral signs seen in rats may occur in some individuals with binge-eating disorder or bulimia," Hoebel said. "Our work provides links between the traditionally defined substance-use disorders, such as drug addiction, and the development of abnormal desires for natural substances. This knowledge might help us to devise new ways of diagnosing and treating addictions in people."
So . . . sugar is probably addictive. That comes as no surprise to me and shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you. Think about how many sugared sodas you drink every day! And our next story should also come as no surprise.
THE WAGES OF ANOTHER ADDICTION
The association between tobacco smoke and cancer deaths and NOT just lung cancer deaths has been strengthened by a recent study from a UC Davis researcher, suggesting that increased tobacco control efforts could save more lives than previously estimated.
The researchers linked smoking to more than SEVENTY PERCENT of the cancer deaths in men living in Massachusetts. According to the lead author of the research the study provides support for the growing realization that smoking is a cause of many more cancer deaths than those caused by lung cancer. The full impacts of tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke, have been overlooked in the rush to examine such potential cancer factors as diet and environmental contaminants. As it turns out, much of the root cause of all cancer deaths was probably smoking all along.
The researchers used National Center for Health Statistics data to compare death rates from lung cancer to death rates from all other cancers among Massachusetts males. The assessment revealed that the two rates changed in tandem year-by-year from 1979 to 2003, with the strongest association among males aged 30-to-74 years.
Smoking is a known cause of most lung cancers, and the study authors concluded that the very close relationship over twenty-five years between lung and other cancer death rates suggests a single cause for both: TOBACCO SMOKE.
The head researcher had this to say about the study. "The fact that lung and non-lung cancer death rates are almost perfectly associated means that smokers and nonsmokers alike should do what they can to avoid tobacco smoke. It also suggests that increased attention should be paid to smoking prevention in health care reforms and health promotion campaigns."
A new analysis linked smoking to more than 70 percent of the cancer death burden among Massachusetts men in 2003. (Credit: iStockphoto)
What’s the bottom line here? If you want to live to see your grandchildren grow up, STOP SMOKING!!!
And now since we’ve had such downer stories, let’s do one that tells us what we can do in our communities to make us all healthier.
EXERCISE FOR YOUR HEATH
What if free exercise classes were offered in public spaces such as parks, beaches and recreation centers? When a city government in Brazil tried such a program, it greatly increased physical activity among community members. A group of health researchers who have studied the program believe it could also work in U.S. cities with warm climates. (And who has warmer climates than the Marianas?)
In Recife, the fifth largest city in Brazil, an initiative was developed and managed by the city that encourages physical activity in 21 public spaces. Physical education instructors teach free calisthenic and dance classes, lead walking groups and provide nutrition information. These activities are offered free of charge each day from 5 – 9 a.m. and from 5 – 9 p.m.
Since 2002, the program, called the Academia de Cidade program (ACP), has enrolled more than 10,000 residents per year and taught 888,000 exercise classes. In the study of the program, researchers found that current and past participants were three times as likely to exercise than residents who had never participated.
The researchers randomly surveyed over 2,000 Recife residents by phone about leisure-time physical activity and walking or biking to destinations. They also observed participation and the level of physical activity at ACP exercise sites. Additionally, researchers evaluated factors related to exposure to one of the exercise sites, such as living near a site, hearing about or seeing the exercise activities and participating in activities. Rates of moderate-to high-level leisure-time physical activity were 19 percent overall, 26 percent among men and 14 percent among women.
Eduardo J. Simoes, M.D., the first author of the paper and director of the CDC’s Prevention Research Centers Program says the project is an effective strategy to stimulate life-long exercise. When exercise is coupled with healthy eating, the physical activity can help prevent and control diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, resulting in improved quality of life and health.
He also hopes local governments in the United States will someday consider similar programs. "We’ve seen that providing free, accessible exercise and nutrition programs in an urban setting can benefit thousands of people," he says. "We could take related steps to increase exercise and improve Americans’ overall health."
Residents in Recife, Brazil, exercise in the Academia de Cidade program. (Credit: Marcia Munk, Universidade Federal de São Paulo
So . . . Guam legislature and CNMI legislature, are you listening? Mayors, are you listening? Would you like to spend some money to help improve the quality of life for all your citizens? And to you, the reader. Stop drinking the sugared soft drinks, stop smoking and get off your daggan and exercise. Then you probably WILL live to see your grandchildren grow up!
Cruise on over to the Deep Website at www.thedeepradioshow.com to learn more about your health and many other topics. Enjoy!