Is this the key to eating less?
New research on the hypothalamus shows that body heat matters.
While diet trends cycle through media at a dizzying rate, one reality about nutrition is persistent: if we consume fewer calories, we’ll lose weight. This is not the same as the “calorie in/calorie out” mentality, which often does not differentiate between food choices. Beyond debates over fat and carbs, however, calorie restriction is an important mechanism for weight loss.
Simple math, yet the challenge is emotional. Once you’re accustomed to consuming a certain number of calories, you’ve adapted to that nutritional load. Cutting back a hundred calories a day might not take much work, but a thousand? The monkey mind is just waiting to assault you with a reminder of the pleasures of food.
Announcing that exercise will suppress your appetite is not going to make many headlines. But the mechanism for why that is offers an important insight into the fascinating operations of our brain. And a new study on mice, published in PLOS Biology, offers just that.
Villagers dry chili peppers under the sun at Baba Village on September 20, 2017 in Zhangye, Gansu Province of China. (Photo by VCG/Getty Images)
The hypothalamus is in many ways your body’s command center. It is the brain region responsible for homeostasis: regulating your body’s internal heating system. It plays a role in hunger and thirst, as well as sleep and emotional activity, which might help explain why eating and drinking offers such pleasure (and pain when we can’t imbibe). The mechanisms of being “hangry” might just be located here.
This new research, led by Young-Hwan Jo, associate professor of endocrinology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that the internal thermometers inside the mouse brain responsible for suppressing appetite are the same that are stimulated by vigorous exercise, causing Jo to speculate that body temperature can play an important role in weight loss. As he says in a press release,
Our study provides evidence that body temperature can act as a biological signal that regulates feeding behavior, just like hormones and nutrients do.
Jo, whose specific focus is the hypothalamus, is also an avid exerciser. He runs three times a week for 30-45 minutes. Upon noticing that cardiovascular activity raises his body temperature and reduces his appetite for hours afterward, he decided to study this link. He already knew about these heat-detecting receptors, TRPV1, in the body thanks to capsaicin, an irritant in chili peppers which gives fans of spicy food that wonderful high.
Aerial view of chili peppers dried under the sun at Yongning Town on October 7, 2017 in Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. (Photo by Que Hure/VCG)
As it turns out, those same receptors reside in the mouse’s arcuate nucleus, part of the hypothalamus. The researchers applied capsaicin to this region, which suppressed the mouse’s appetite. They also had the mice run on a treadmill for forty minutes, which instigated the same effect. When they disrupted this sensor, those effects were wiped out. As they write of this finding,
Our results propose that elevated hypothalamic temperature can activate temperature-sensitive TRPV1-like receptors in [these] neurons, which may result in a reduction in food intake.
Previous research on capsaicin found that the compound’s pungency might prove to be a barrier for many people to comply with usable dosages. Researchers in this study suggest a possible alternative with CH-19 Sweet, a “non-pungent cultivar of pepper” that increases both oxygen consumption and body temperature—an interesting parallel to Jo’s research.
Whether or not capsaicin therapy will be hitting shelves anytime soon is unknown. Cheap pills filled with it exist in supermarkets around the world; creams marketed for arthritis are widespread. If body temperature matters for the suppression of appetite, running, cycling, HIIT, and swimming will all get you there. A different experience from eating Ma Po Tofu at your favorite Szechuan restaurant, but pleasurable in their own way, and you know you’re doing your body good.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
- Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
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Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco!
Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.
It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.
Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.
Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.
The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.
It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.
In their findings the authors state:
"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."
With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
- Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
- Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
- We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
- If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.
There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:
"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.
This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.
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