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Monthly Archives: November 2006

The Fountain

A calorie-restricted diet can lead to an increased life-expectancy in humans. The intuition behind this fact is that when your body is starved, it goes into “survival mode” and directs resources towards body maintenance. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on a study showing the anti-aging affects of a chemical found in red-wine called resveratrol which is thought to mimic the effect of a calorie-restricted diet. The study, originally published in Nature, considered the difference in life expectancy and general quality of life between mice with standard diets, high calorie diets, and high calorie diets supplemented by large amounts of resveratrol.

In effect, they were looking for a solution to the “French Paradox“, which is the contradictory fact that the French typically have high-fat diets while maintaining lower heart-disease rates than Americans. It has been suggested that the resveratrol in red-wine could explain this paradox.

In short, the study found that taking huge doses of resveratrol did reverse some of the effects of a high-calorie diet in mice. One visually appealling example is the contrast between the livers of mice from each of the three groups studied:

Resveratrol Livers

In this figure (Baur et al., Nature 444, pp. 337-342), SD = ‘standard diet’, HC = ‘high-calorie diet’, and HCR = ‘high-calorie diet supplemented with resveratrol’. The three livers are representative of the mice from each group. While the HCR diet does produce a liver comparable in size to that of the SD mouse, it does look quite a bit more gnarly, doesn’t it? (the authors claim that the liver cells from mice on the HCR diet do look healthy when they are examined with a microscope.) In addition, the HCR mice had longer life-expectancies and better ability to do cool tricks like balancing on a rotating bar than the HC mice. Essentially, the HCR mice, while gorging just as much as the HC mice, enjoyed the benefits of a healthy lifestyle without suffering the burden of tiresome restraint in their diets.

So is this the panacea that the American fast-food industry has been waiting for? Some people have apparently started taking resveratrol supplements, but we’d be hard pressed to keep up with the mice in this study. The Times article explains:

The mice were fed a hefty dose of resveratrol, 24 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Red wine has about 1.5 to 3 milligrams of resveratrol per liter, so a 150-lb person would need to drink 750 to 1,500 bottles of red wine a day to get such a dose.

1000 bottles of wine per day! Clearly this is not the solution to American addiction to fatty foods, but a better understanding of the mechanism of action of resveratrol could have the potential to help counteract some of the deleterious effects of:

  • McDonalds
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Hydrogenated fat
  • Being surrounded by cheap, low-nutrition, high-carbohydrate food
  • Eight hours television of television per day
  • Seventeen stab wounds to the back
  • Diabetes
  • Machines that do our movement for us

Focusing on the effects of resveratrol to combat specific ailments (e.g. diabetes or hypertension) will be important in the future, because barring the classification of “aging” as a disease, resveratrol won’t be considered for a drug status anytime soon.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2006 in Alchemy

 

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Calico

Calico

A golden pothos plant turned calico, probably from lack of nutrition.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2006 in Photos

 

Dr. Debacle

For our post-dinner Thanksgiving entertainment, one of my housemates has long insisted that we watch “Doctor Zhivago“, a three-hour twenty-minute film (2 DVDs) made in1965 about a Russian doctor who experiences hardships with his wife and mistress during the Bolshevik Revolution. Needless to say, this classic tale of Communism doesn’t make anybody’s list of top thanksgiving movies, but I am a reasonable person who is at peace with everyone, so I was happy to oblige (it happens that I did my obliging with some of our like-minded guests playing football and other games).

While we were playing Tekken, Heath, one of our guests watching Dr. Zhivago, came upstairs with a knowing smirk on his face. He told us that they had reached the end of the first DVD only to discover that they were watching the second DVD! They sat through an hour and a half of a movie where they had little-to-no idea of what was going on, and *nobody* realized that it was the second disc until the credits actually started rolling. I can only imagine that everybody’s expectations were so very low initially that when they became paralyzed with boredom because the movie made absolutely no sense, they just assumed that was what it was supposed to feel like. I could not stop laughing for a full five minutes, and for the rest of the night I would burst into spontaneous giggling at the very thought. The most boggling part is that they proceeded to watch the first DVD anyways.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2006 in Entertainment

 

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I Already Ate

I Already Ate

The collaborative Thanksgiving meal is ready.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2006 in Photos

 

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By Saving You, Did I Save the World?

It’s Thanksgiving, and I just spent my morning catching up on Heroes while waiting for the turkey to cook.  Most of the T.V. viewing public I associate with have snubbed Heroes from the start, but there are those on the interweb who have dubbed it “the new Lost” (probably a positive association).  I like it alot, so I’ve made a point of reserving space for it on the DVR even when my housemate starts getting antsy because there are less than 30 hours of recording time left.

The most recent episode (November 20, “Chapter 8: Seven Minutes to Midnight“) finally addresses in real-time the show’s catchy slogan “Save the cheerleader, save the world”.  Without going into the specifics of the episode, I would like to say that for the last 12 minutes I was choking back my own tears.  I wasn’t quite sobbing like when I watched “The Muppet Christmas Carol“, but I definitely experienced an inexplicable upwelling of emotion that made me give thanks for whoever came up with the idea of mutant super powers (I’m betting that someone reading this will know who did in fact come up with that idea).

This all comes at a time when I’m generally extremely dissatisfied with television.  I feel like the producers at FOX, NBC, and ABC all got Ph.D.s in psychology and now delight in toying with my emotions “like a poodle that has been neutered twice” (-A.E.).  I gave up on all the other massively popular shows a while ago just because it seemed like every season was a repeat of the last.  Recently, I decided to open the gates again for Heroes.  I know they use the same “bait, hook, switch, skin, repeat” philosophy as all the other shows, but that bait just tastes so darn good.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2006 in Entertainment

 

Weakness Leaving the Body

On Monday I did a hard calisthenics workout consisting of repeated sets of squats, lunges, split jumps, and power jumps (a split jump is when you jump from one lunge into the next, alternating legs as you go, and a power jump is a vertical leap starting from a partial squat). This ended up being harder in practice than I thought it would be when I started. Through the course of the workout, I felt dizziness, nausea, acute pain, shortness of breath, hopelessness, and occasional urinary urgency, but the real torture didn’t set in until the next morning when I had to literally roll out of bed and crawl to the bathroom for my shower.

Now my legs still feel like they are about to break. I’ve never actually suffered a broken anything, but I imagine that if my legs were on the verge of snapping at the femurs, this is what it would feel like. When I lift my knee more that a few inches off the ground, my brain instantly gets this signal translating into something like “WTF are you thinking boy?!” It’s not a constant pain… Really I only feel it when I move.

It is supposedly a slogan of the U.S. Marines that “Pain is weakness leaving the body” (does that mean that pleasure is weakness entering the body?). Even if I disagree with the notion that “weakness” is necessarily a bad thing that we need to expel via excessive exercise, I do like the slogan. It’s nice to view the pain of excercise as a thrill, something to look forward to rather than something to apprehend over before, during, and after a workout. Beyond that, I actually sleep better when I’m tossing and turning from sore muscles (so while I may need more sleep because of the tossing and turning, I feel like my body is getting more out of the sleep it gets… does this make any sense?). Of course I’m only referring to muscle soreness here — pain from pulls, tears, or breaks should be investigated by a physician and probably won’t help anyone sleep.

Working calisthenics into my exercise is something I decided to try at the beginning of 2006. Normally I have a monogamous relationship with long distance running, but adding cross training via calisthenics and core strengthening exercises has made me a more well-rounded athlete, and in the end it has probably made me a stronger runner to boot. Now I devote 1-2 days per week to calisthenics, 1-2 to resistance training, and 2-3 to running. Cross training is also easier in the cold, cold winter.

In the end, exercise is just the gradual development of an immunity to the adverse affects of pain by repeated exposure… Because the pain really never goes away. You just learn to love it. You embrace your weakness as a part of you.

I can’t wait to do more power jumps.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2006 in No Easy Days

 

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First Snow

First Snow

A muddy pair of Nike Zoom Waffle XC Spikes on freshly fallen snow.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2006 in Photos