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Rates of obesity are rising across the globe; a third of the world's population is now overweight and nearly a fifth is obese.
Public health policy has mainly focused on diet to reverse these rising rates, but the impact of these policies has been limited. The latest science suggests why this strategy is failing: one diet does not fit all. Dietary advice needs to be personalized.
The reason one diet does not suit all may be found in our guts. Our previous research showed that microbes in the digestive track, known as the gut microbiota, are linked to the accumulation of belly fat. Our gut microbiota is mostly determined by what we eat, our lifestyle and our health. So it is difficult to know exactly how food and gut microbes together influence fat accumulation and ultimately disease risk. Our latest study provides new insights into these interactions.
Animal studies have been valuable in showing that gut microbes alone can reduce the build-up of fat, resulting in better health. But translating these findings to humans is difficult, especially considering that we can eat very different foods.
Gut microbes don't lie
In our study, we aimed to disentangle the effect of gut microbes and diet on the accumulation of belly fat in 1,700 twins from the UK. We found that the composition of the gut microbiota predicts belly fat more accurately than diet alone.
We identified a few specific nutrients and microbes that were bad for us and linked to an increase in belly fat, as well as a few nutrients and many microbes that were good for us and linked to reduced belly fat. The observed link between belly fat and bad nutrients, such as cholesterol, was not affected by the gut microbiota.
In contrast, we found that the gut microbiota plays an important role in the beneficial effect of good nutrients, such as fibre or vitamin E. We show that specific gut bacteria play an important role in linking certain beneficial nutrients to less belly fat. In other words, changes in a person's diet are less likely to lead to weight loss if the relevant bacteria are not in their gut.
Diet alone did not have a strong impact on the observed links between gut microbes and belly fat, as specific gut bacteria were linked to belly fat accumulation regardless of diet. This confirms what was previously seen in mice, that gut microbiota alone could affect fat accumulation. Our findings also provide further evidence that the human gut microbiota plays an important role in the individualized response to food.
Personalized dietary advice
A limitation of our study was that we analyzed measurements taken at a single point in time. This means that we cannot establish causal links. Also, we focused on reported nutrient intake in the study participants' diets, but did not assess the effect of total food consumption on its own. Another drawback is that most people misreport what they eat. Researchers are working on improving the way that diet is reported, which should lead to more accurate work in the future.
Our results mean that in the future, you may need to have your gut microbiota checked so that your doctor or dietitian can give you personalized dietary advice. Although bacteria may be partially to blame for the rise in rates of obesity, until we know more it is best to stick to a healthy, varied diet rich in fibre, fruit and vegetables, which in turn may result in a healthier gut microbiota.
- Deconstruction is exactly what it sounds like—a method for breaking your life down into its simplest component parts.
- Ayse Birsel argues that deconstruction is like taking a camera apart: you can't possibly put it back together in the same way.
- Be sure to check out Design the Life You Love, Part 2: Reconstruction to learn how to put the pieces of your life back together in a realistic way. Sign up for Big Think Edge to see exclusive more content!
- July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing — Apollo 11.
- Today, we have a strong scientific case for returning to the moon: the original rock samples that we took from the moon revolutionized our view of how Earth and the solar system formed. We could now glean even more insights with fresh, nonchemically-altered samples.
- NASA plans to send humans to a crater in the South Pole of the moon because it's safer there, and would allow for better communications with people back on Earth.
- Facebook joke event to "raid Area 51" has already gained 1,000,000 "going" attendees.
- The U.S. Air Force has issued an official warning to potential "raiders."
- If anyone actually tries to storm an American military base, the use of deadly force is authorized.
Conspiracy theorists, Ufologists, and, more importantly, internet satirists' most favorite target of scorn and alien memes, Area 51, has garnered a lot of attention as of late. Recently, a Facebook event called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us" riled up over 1,000,000 users who declared they were "going" — with another roughly 900,000 saying they are "interested."
Obviously created as a joke, the event's description reads:
"We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens."
A pinned post from one of the organizers of the event, Jackson Barnes, also reiterates the fact that this upcoming shindig is all in jest.
But as the event has gone viral and inspired countless jokes and memes, the United States Air Force released a statement about the potential military base raid.
It seems like the comedy of this convoluted, self-referential and juvenile "meme culture" might be lost on both the military and some unsuspecting UFO enthusiasts, who might take the opportunity to turn this thin line of shoddy internet satire into reality.
Storm Area 51 raid
A majority of news organizations reporting on this situation are taking it with a hefty grain of salt and some light-hearted jokes. No doubt the creators of this event are reveling in the extended coverage, as the "event" isn't meant to go live until September 20th.
But that hasn't stopped the United States Airforce from issuing a very stern warning.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews informed the news agency that officials knew about the event. Although she didn't give any specifics on what would happen to any would-be trespassers, she stated:
"Area 51 is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces. The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets."
The facility was officially acknowledged by the U.S. Government in 2013 when the CIA confirmed its existence through public record. Additionally, other reports have been released about that nature of Area 51 as just an aircraft testing facility. But no amount of publicly-released data will ever quell conspiratorial theorists — or, by extension, good-natured humorists.
A number of celebrities have RSVP'd to the event or referenced the joke, among them are singer Kevin Jonas, Game of Thrones actor Liam Cunningham, and Jeffree Star. Expect more celebrities and "social media stars," to start cashing in on the memes in the coming months.
Alert! Turn back, Area 51 raiders
Toward the end of Jackson Barnes' Facebook post is the message:
"P.S. Hello U.S. government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan. I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the internet. I'm not responsible if people decide to actually storm area 51."
Out of the millions who've either signed up or interacted with this internet joke, in some way or another, it's inevitable that some stooges will take this event seriously.
For instance, a hotel in Rachel, Nevada, called the Little A'Le'Inn, which has glommed onto the Area 51 hype throughout the years has just recently received an unusually high number of reservations for September 20th.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Connie West, a co-owner of the establishment stated that, "My poor bartender today walked past me and said, 'I hate to tell you, but every phone call I've had is about Sept. 20," she then added, "They're pretty serious; they're coming. People are coming."
Many people that called had mentioned the Facebook post when reserving the rooms. The Facebook post had invited people to Amargosa Valley, which is actually a few hours away from Little A'Le'Inn and further from Area 51 on the opposite side.
There are multiple signs surrounding the Area 51 perimeter and border which state that not only "photography is prohibited," but the "use of deadly force is authorized."
But hey, the fool who persists in his folly will become wise. After all, who's to say the Ufologist persisting in his alien search won't find some. Maybe our Naruto running raiders can use this show of force as a bargaining chip with the officials for a tour of the facility. . . if the government officials really have nothing to hide that is.
- The photo shows the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth, as it does every 90 minutes.
- The photo is remarkable because it offers a glimpse of the star at a time when there were no sunspots.
- In November, astronauts aboard the ISS plan to grow Española chili pepper plants.
NASA published a stunning photo showing the International Space Station cross in front of the sun. Regarding the picture, which was captured by Rainee Colacurcio, NASA officials wrote:
"Transiting the sun is not very unusual for the ISS, which orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes, but getting one's timing and equipment just right for a great image is rare. Strangely, besides that fake spot, in this recent two-image composite, the sun lacked any real sunspots. The featured picture combines two images — one capturing the space station transiting the sun — and another taken consecutively capturing details of the sun's surface."
The photo is remarkable because it offers a glimpse of the star at a moment when it was devoid of sunspots. As NASA further described:
"Sunspots have been rare on the sun since the dawn of the current Solar Minimum, a period of low solar activity. For reasons not yet fully understood, the number of sunspots occurring during both the previous and current solar minima have been unusually low."
The solar minimum is the lowest point of activity during the solar cycle — the 11-year period during which our sun's activity fluctuates. During its highest point of solar activity, the sun can bring about observable changes on Earth.
Image source: NASA
Illustration of a solar cycle
"Giant eruptions on the Sun, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, also increase during the solar cycle," NASA officials wrote. "These eruptions send powerful bursts of energy and material into space. This activity can have effects on Earth. For example, eruptions can cause lights in the sky, called aurora, or impact radio communications. Extreme eruptions can even affect electricity grids on Earth."
An image of a coronal mass ejection observed by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, satellite in 2001. Image source: ESA/NASA/SOHO
Because of these effects, scientists do their best to forecast solar activity:
"Some cycles have maximums with lots of sunspots and activity. Other cycles can have very few sunspots and little activity. Scientists work hard to improve our ability to predict the strength and duration of solar cycles. These predictions can help them forecast these solar conditions, called space weather. Forecasting of the solar cycle can help scientists protect our radio communications on Earth, and help keep NASA satellites and astronauts safe, too."
The ISS and its astronauts won't be hurt by increased solar activity, but they will likely have a better chance of seeing auroras — commonly known as the northern lights.
In November, NASA astronauts aboard the ISS plan to grow Española chili pepper plants. If successful, it will be the first fruit grown in space by the space agency. The ability to grow nutritional food in space would be a necessity for long-distance space missions.
"We were also looking for varieties that don't grow too tall, and yet are very productive in the controlled environments that we would be using in space," NASA plant physiologist Ray Wheeler told Dylan Bida at the Rio Grande Sun. "The astronauts have often expressed a desire for more spicy and flavorful foods, and so having a bit of hot flavor also seemed to be a good thing. Plus, many peppers are very high in vitamin C, which is important for space diets."