Human physical activities differ significantly from other species. How, when and why did these capabilities evolve? What adaptations underlie them? And how did the evolution of human physical activity affect other key human characteristics that have advanced our species?
Herman Pontzer explores the evolution of human metabolism and its role in our evolution and health. From an evolutionary perspective, life is a game of turning energy into offspring. The strategies that species use to acquire energy, in the form of food, and allocate energy to the essential tasks of growth, maintenance, movement, and reproduction, are incredibly diverse and reflect the ecological pressures and opportunities encountered. There is a deep evolutionary history of the human metabolic strategy and our divergence from other apes.
Timeline: 00:00 – Start 01:38 – The Evolution of Human Metabolism
It’s no secret that warming temperatures are transforming landscapes in extreme northern regions. In Alaska, where wildfires have burned through many old-growth spruce forests in the past half decade, deciduous trees—such as aspen and birch—are starting to take over. But little is known about the impact these changes will have on how much carbon the forests release and store.
To find out, researchers trudged through the Alaskan taiga, seeking out wildfire sites where spruce once dominated. They mined these sites for information on carbon and nitrogen stores and forest turnover over time. What they found surprised them: In the long run, their estimates suggest that intensifying heat and more wildfires may lead to more carbon sequestration in Alaskan forests, they report today in Science. It’s impossible to know for sure that the flames will subside, but it’s a bit of good news as the fires burn out the old growth and bring in the new.
“It may be good for you,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “I think we can say with good certainty it’s not bad for you.” (Additives are another story.)
After the link appeared between coffee intake and a reduced risk of heart failure in the Framingham data, Kao confirmed the result by using the algorithm to correctly predict the relationship between coffee intake and heart failure in two other respected data sets. Kosorok describes the approach as “thoughtful” and says that it “seems like pretty good evidence.”
Should you drink coffee? If so, how much? These seem like questions that a society able to create vaccines for a new respiratory virus within a year should have no trouble answering. And yet the scientific literature on coffee illustrates a frustration that readers, not to mention plenty of researchers, have with nutrition studies: The conclusions are always changing, and they frequently contradict one another.
Opportunities for enhancing brain health across the lifespan
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 March 2021
As we age, there are characteristic changes in our thinking, reasoning and memory skills (referred to as cognitive ageing). However, variation between people in the timing and degree of change experienced suggests that a range of factors determine individual cognitive ageing trajectories. This narrative review considers some of the lifestyle factors that might promote (or harm) cognitive health. The focus on lifestyle factors is because these are potentially modifiable by individuals or may be the targets of behavioural or societal interventions. To support that, the review briefly considers people’s beliefs and attitudes about cognitive ageing; the nature and timing of cognitive changes across the lifespan; and the genetic contributions to cognitive ability level and change. In introducing potentially modifiable determinants, a framing that draws evidence derived from epidemiological studies of dementia is provided, before an overview of lifestyle and behavioural predictors of cognitive health, including education and occupation, diet and activity.
Good oral health leads to benefits beyond a healthy mouth
People today want to be more in control of their own health and are more attuned to getting the support and information they need online, from apps, and from connected products. Yet there are gaps in both their knowledge and daily commitment to good oral hygiene, and they need help along the way. Depending on lifestage, patient’s oral health concerns can evolve from plaque removal and aesthetics to larger concerns around gum health and disease. Too often, by the time they begin thinking about gum health, it’s too late. Multiple studies have revealed linkages between periodontal diseases and certain systemic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease .
Prevention is key. Along with professional deep cleaning, good daily brushing and interdental cleaning are critical. It’s also important for patients to have regular conversations with their dentist about oral health issues and the linkage to their overall health.
Satchin Panda is a professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory. He explores the genes, molecules and cells that keep the whole body on the same biological clock, also known as a circadian rhythm. On this episode of Where Cures Begin, Panda talks about what a biological clock is, how living in sync with your clock can improve your health, and how growing up in India informed his research.
Since the COVID pandemic began, one in three Americans has had reduced quality sleep. Correspondent Susan Spencer pulls back the covers on how pandemic stress is among the factors affecting people’s already-tortured relationship with shuteye. Spencer talks with Drew Ackerman, a lifelong chronic insomniac whose storytelling podcast, “Sleep With Me,” lulls listeners to slumberland; and with professors Sharon Bowman, Jennifer Martin and Tiffany Yip about the importance of sleep hygiene, and the effects of reduced sleep on chronic health impacts and productivity.
The majority of global COVID-19 deaths have been in countries where many people are obese, with coronavirus fatality rates 10 times higher in nations where at least 50% of adults are overweight, a global study found.