If a pill could replace exercise's benefits, would it be worth it?
For sufferers of Alzheimer's, the answer is yes. But replacing movement with a pill is not the best option.
- One of the most beneficial aspects of exercising is staving off dementia.
- In both animals and humans, exercise plays a role in boosting memory.
- A pill could be beneficial to people who are too frail to exercise.
Years ago a close friend was trying to quit smoking. He asked for advice. I offered a few yogic breathing exercises to help him maintain composure and focus, hoping that if he took the time to notice his relationship to breathing it would inspire him to stop. His reply: "No, I meant a pill."
A few years later he did quit and even tried the breathing exercises. But the promise of a pill is seductive. There's little that pills (and powders and liquids) stocked on supermarket shelves aren't advertised to cure. If you have a problem, there's a pill for it, somewhere. Even, as it turns out, exercise.
One of the great benefits of exercise is the proliferation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that Harvard professor John Ratey spends an entire book championing—he calls it “Miracle-Gro for the brain." BDNF not only supports the survival of existing neurons; it also promotes the growth of new ones.
Specifically, BDNF interacts in the basal forebrain, cortex, and hippocampus, regions responsible for memory, learning, and higher thinking. While the protein plays a role in other processes—in the kidneys and motor neurons, for example—it is especially important for the sustaining of long-term memory.
As Ratey writes, one of the most beneficial aspects of exercising is staving off diseases of dementia. A lack of movement is implicated in cognitive decline (among other problems), so it makes sense that getting your heart rate up and loading your bones with strength training would have positive mental benefits.
And so a widespread team of researchers, led by Harvard neurologist Rudolph Tanzi, decided to see if they could mimic these effects in memory-suffering mice. The results were published in Science.
While 30 million people worldwide currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease, that number is expected to grow to 100 million by 2050 if an effective intervention isn't discovered. While the mechanisms for this—brain inflammation, the loss of neurons, neurofibrillary tangles, and β-amyloid plaques—are understood, why they play a role in memory loss is not.
Recent evidence from postmortem human brains and mice implicate neurogenesis in memory loss as well. In both animals, exercise plays a role in delaying the disease through neurogenesis, which is in large part why moving your body is packaged with other lifestyle habits as a means for healthy aging.
To understand why neurogenesis is involved in dementia, Tanzi and team hindered the ability of mice to grow new neurons; it turns out their form of Alzheimer's is even more severe than in humans. Once the mice were in the throes of dementia, the team attempted to induce neurogenesis through pharmacological and genetic means.
Neither worked—they were miffed. Then the mice exercised, and hello BDNF. Neurogenesis commenced. The team then increased BDNF through pharmacological and genetic means and the same effects were observed.
The pill replaced exercise.
Neurologist Samuel Gandy brings up an important point regarding this research: for patients that are frail and immobile, a pharmaceutical that mimics exercise is quite useful. The exercising-mimicking pill can be a game-changer. This is science at its best.
At its worst, however, would be healthy people avoiding exercise and relying on a pill. Of course, memory is not the only benefit of exercise. We are complex animals that rely on system-wide best practices to both sustain and thrive. A strong memory isn't that useful in a weak or broken body.
For some, there is no choice—take the strong mind. But for most of us: exercise now. Making sure pills stay unnecessary is the best we can hope for. Interventions should only be by necessity.
The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.
- Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
- The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
- Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
What makes an excellent educator?
- When it comes to educating, says Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, a brave failure is preferable to timid success.
- Fostering an environment where one isn't afraid to fail is tantamount to learning.
- Human beings are complicated and flawed. Working with those complications and flaws leads to true knowledge.
We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?
- In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
- Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
- The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
"It's about having employees that are empowered."
Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.
It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.
The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.
What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?
It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.
Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.
- New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
- Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
- Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.
- Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
- This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
- The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.
Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.
The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.
A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —
More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.
After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.
The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.
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