Health Science Beats Evolutionary Storytelling
Let’s get practical. What is science good for? How about helping us live more satisfying lives?
Science is done by humans for humans. Like government, it should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. Abstruse topics about the edge of the universe or how many triangles can dance on the head of a pin have their place, but let’s get practical. Who cares what evolved from what millions of Darwin Years ago? Tell us: how can we use science to live better? Here are some new findings with that priority.
Body curiosities and how to manage them
Getting to the bottom of goosebumps (The Harvard Gazette). What are goosebumps for? They’re not just telling you it’s cold outside; you probably already feel that. They are activating the stem cells in your hair follicles, Harvard scientists discovered, turning them on to realize you will need more hair if you stay cold. They do this by bridging the muscles to the nerves, making the hair stand up, which also serves to warm up the muscles under the skin. Let the goosebumps grow! There are two reasons for them:
“You can regulate hair follicle stem cells in so many different ways, and they are wonderful models to study tissue regeneration,” Shwartz said. “This particular reaction is helpful for coupling tissue regeneration with changes in the outside world, such as temperature. It’s a two-layer response: goosebumps are a quick way to provide some sort of relief in the short term. But when the cold lasts, this becomes a nice mechanism for the stem cells to know it’s maybe time to regenerate new hair coat.”
All the Zoom calls and screen time are bad for your eyes. Here are ways to protect your eyesight (Medical Xpress). Basically, take eye breaks often to focus on long-distance objects outside. Here’s a rule of thumb:
It’s important to take breaks. Steinmetz recommends the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes on the computer, you need to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds,” said Steinmetz. “And this is shown to help alleviate eye strain and reduce stress on your … system. That’s an important one, especially for kids.”
The toll of shrinking jaws on human health (Stanford University via Medical Xpress). Want your baby to avoid impacted wisdom teeth later in life? Let him or her chew. Stanford researchers debunk an evolutionary tale that modern humans’ jaws evolved to be narrower, crowding the molars and causing our common problems with 3rd molars. (This agrees with what our contributing author Dr Jerry Bergman discusses in his book, right). Instead of modern society’s “jaws epidemic” being the result of an inherited problem, crowded teeth are caused by soft food, soft beds and other lifestyle habits, they say. Here’s how to pre-empt it in children:
To promote the proper development of the jaw, the answer is not to start sleeping on rocks. Rather, basic practices such as having children chew sugar-free gum, as well as giving babies less mushy foods as they transition to solid foods, can help, the researchers say. Kahn and Wong also practice what they call forwardontics, which includes exercises such as proper breathing and swallowing patterns to guide jaw growth in children as young as 2 versus waiting until children are older and require more severe interventions.
Change of direction in immune defense: Frankincense reprograms inflammatory enzyme (Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, via Phys.org). The Magi may have brought Jesus a gift of good health. The fragrant herb frankincense improves the immune response:
A research team from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (Germany) and Louisiana State University has clarified the molecular mechanism behind the anti-inflammatory effect of a natural product from frankincense resin. The enzyme 5-lipoxygenase plays a key role, reprogramming the normally pro-inflammatory enzyme into an anti-inflammatory protein.
Once upon a time [sic], the three kings [sic] brought precious gifts to the newborn baby Jesus: as well as gold and myrrh, they also had frankincense. “Even today, frankincense is a valuable gift,” says Prof. Oliver Werz of Friedrich Schiller University, although he is not really thinking about the biblical citation of frankincense. “The resin extracted from the bark of the frankincense tree contains anti-inflammatory substances that make it suitable for the treatment of diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis or neurodermatitis, among others,” he explains.
The researchers think that the particular enzyme they isolated in frankincense could be used to treat various inflammatory diseases.
A sound option for the removal of kidney stones (PNAS). Good news for those who have experienced the excruciating pain of passing a kidney stone: it may be possible to bust them up inside the kidneys using ultrasound. “With the development of ultrasonic arrays with a larger number of phase-addressable transducers the technique demonstrated here could indeed lead to a revolutionary way for noninvasive removal of kidney stones.” This is a great use of applied physics for health. Watch for this developing technology and hope it reaches the doctor’s office soon.
Researchers uncover novel approach for treating eczema (University of British Columbia). Those who have suffered from common atopic dermatitis may want to hear about this “novel approach” that targets an over-active enzyme in the skin.
Regenerative medicine could pave the way to treating baldness (Nature). Bald is beautiful, but those wishing to regrow their locks might want to read the latest promising technology using stem cells.* (If we can send a man to the moon, why can’t we… ?) For details, see the paper in Nature, “Hair-bearing human skin generated entirely from pluripotent stem cells.”
*Beware, though; the Methods section indicates that the research involved fetal tissue. CEH would condemn that, but accepts that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) are generally ethically sound. Investigators should determine whether the results depended on the fetal cells or not. It appears that the fetal cells were used to grow “organoids” with hair follicles to test the application of iPS or adult stem cells. If so, the use of fetal cells was unnecessary, and should have been avoided.
Healthy Eating Habits
How intermittent fasting changes liver enzymes and helps prevent disease (University of Sydney). Intermittent fasting is a hot trend these days, and appears to have empirical support for good health and weight loss. This study in Australia found beneficial effects in fatty acids of the liver in mice that were put on every-other-day fasts. See also this Medical Xpress article research at Johns Hopkins about the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Another study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found empirical evidence for weight loss among participants who ate normally, but restricted their intake to certain hours of the day. One group ate only between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 pm. Another ate between the hours of 1:00 and 7:00 pm. Both groups saw weight loss benefits. (Medical Xpress).
There are multiple ways to practice intermittent fasting. ID advocate Jay Richards (co-author of The Privileged Planet) has a new book out that explains how intermittent fasting works, why it fits our biological design, and offers suggested plans for trying it. The book is titled Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul―A Christian Guide to Fasting.
Review: A good vitamin D status can protect against cancer (University of East Finland). Cancer-fighting tips come and go, so it’s hard to know if this claim will last. You can read their arguments and decide. Many studies do recommend a proper intake of vitamin D, so it would not be surprising if it offers some “general cancer protection,” even if it is hard to prove.
Soy and wheat proteins helpful for building aging muscles, but not as potent as animal protein (Medical Xpress). Here’s advice for those wishing to build muscle on what kinds of protein are best, especially for vegetarians.
Could these ‘salt-loving’ edible sea vegetables be the new kale? (Florida Atlantic University, via Phys.org). Coming soon to your healthy salad plate: sea vegetables. Learn about sea asparagus, sea purslane, and saltwort. They are nutritious, and are already being consumed in Asian countries, Europe and Hawaii. They might be tasty with enough salsa or Tabasco sauce.
Brain benefits of exercise can be gained with a single protein (Medical Xpress). Exercise clearly benefits the post-cranial anatomy (from the neck down), but it also helps the brain. What if you could take a pill that gives your brain the benefits of exercise? See the embedded video in this article about research at University of California, San Francisco that identified a protein named Glpd1 that increased in mice that exercised. When given to sedentary mice, they improved at learning and memory tasks. The authors think that pills with this protein could be developed. The details are published in Science Magazine.
Prescription to fight cancer: Exercise (Duke University via Medical Xpress). Even athletes get cancer, so this advice must only be considered a way to improve the odds of preventing cancer and recovering after treatment. Duke University researchers do have evidence that the active body does better in the fight, and also helps the patient feel more empowered. Hospitals are prescribing that patients get up and walk as soon as they can after surgery, and keep it up at home. Your CEH Editor can testify to the fact that it does help.
Wildness in urban parks important for human well-being (University of Washington). This is one of many articles encouraging people to get out into the wild for mental health. Interaction with wild nature is better, the researchers say, than walking in urban parks in the city.
Reconnecting with nature key for the health of people and the planet (University of Plymouth). A weekly visit with nature seems to do the trick.
Individuals who visit natural spaces weekly, and feel psychologically connected to them, report better physical and mental wellbeing, new research has shown.
Alongside the benefits to public health, those who make weekly nature visits, or feel connected to nature, are also more likely to behave in ways which promote environmental health, such as recycling and conservation activities.
Health news for those getting along in years
Mailed colorectal cancer screening kits may save costs while increasing screening rates (Medical Xpress). If you know someone who has had surgery for colorectal cancer, you know how prevention is far better than cure! People over age 50 should be screened regularly. Afraid of colonoscopies? Try one of those mail-in test kits. This article recommends them as a cost-saving alternative to get more people screened.
Age-related impairments reversed in animal model (University of Bern). Frailty and immune decline are two of the fears of growing old. “Researchers from the University of Bern and the University Hospital Bern now demonstrate in an animal model that these two age-related impairments can be halted and even partially reversed using a novel cell-based therapeutic approach.”
Will your brain stay sharp into your 90s? certain factors are key (Medical Xpress). There’s still a lot of controversy about the causes of dementia, but Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter, offers some tips to stay mentally acute.
Is high blood pressure inevitable? (Medical Xpress). Blood pressure readings tend to go up as we age, but there are common-sense things you can do to keep it under control: reduce salt, keep weight in balance, exercise regularly and avoid smoking. Three doctors writing for The Conversation tell you the proper way to measure your blood pressure at home. They explain why readings at home are actually better than at the doctor’s office.
Receptor makes mice strong and slim (University of Bern). Oh, to feel young again! Maybe it will be possible for seniors. Mice treated with a therapy that increased the number of natural A2B receptors on their brown adipose tissue cells seemed to regain their youthful muscles again: they lost fat and increased muscle. Moreover, the mice seemed to have no adverse side effects. They think this could work on humans, too, since we also have A2B receptors. Think of the possibilities if they can add a drug for this to coffee. It’s also another hint that the infirmities of aging are not biologically inevitable.
See? Science can be practical. It should be. We all want to improve our lives, and controlled experimentation on large groups of people is the best way to find out what works. A lot of scientific health advice overlaps with common sense, but common sense can also be wrong. Testing is Biblical. Paul said, “Test all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). He also admonished us to think on things that are true, commendable, and excellent (Philippians 4:8). Peter warned against following cleverly-devised fables (II Peter 1:16), and the apostle John prayed that his friend Gaius would enjoy good health in body and soul (III John 2).
If you find any of these articles helpful, let us know your experience. If nothing else, this list may provide relief from headaches caused by political news, the pandemic, riots, and silly Darwin stories (although laughter can also be good medicine.)