Obesity in America vs Europe: 2 maps explain it all
If your BMI is higher than 30, you're technically obese. These maps show how many people per European country (and U.S. state) suffer from that medical condition.
In Rubens' time, to pack a few extra pounds was the privilege of the powerful. Hence the adjective Rubenesque, describing the curvaceous ladies that fill out his paintings, who were rotund because they were rich, and all the more desirable for it.
A few centuries on, thanks to industrial farming, food is no longer a status symbol and the specter of famine has receded from our collective consciousness. In fact, food abundance is such that the link between calorie intake and social status has not so much been obliterated as it has reversed.
In the developed world, virtually everybody now has easy access to cheap, high-calorie fast food and ready meals. Keeping the pounds off requires more time, effort and money than most people can afford. Especially if you live in a 'food desert', where fast food is plentiful but the elements of a healthy, balanced diet are difficult to find.
As a result, the average Body Mass Index (BMI) has shot up across the developed world (and beyond). BMI is a measure of body fat based on an adult's height and weight (here's how to calculate yours).
If your BMI is under 18.5, you're commonly accepted as being underweight. The 'normal' weight range is from 18.5 to 25. You're overweight from 25 to 30, and obese if you're over 30. Obesity is a medical condition. It means you've accumulated enough body fat for it to negatively impact your health. If you're obese, you have a higher risk of getting diabetes, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer and/or cardiovascular diseases.
Even though obesity affects a rapidly growing number of people, the share of people with a BMI>30 shows a remarkable variation across national and state borders. This map of BMIs in Europe shows Turkey as the outlier in Europe, not just geographically but also with reference to BMI. The country on the southeastern edge of Europe has the highest score, with nearly one in three Turks (32.10%) being obese.
Number two at a fair distance, but way ahead of its immediate neighbors, is the UK, with well over a quarter of the adult population being clinically overweight. The rest of the top five, all at or just above 26%, are all in Eastern Europe: Hungary, Lithuania and the Czech Republic (in that order).
If, as indicated above, higher levels of obesity could be linked to higher levels of poverty, can national BMI levels be interpreted as an indication of a country's overall wealth? As this map indicates: probably not—at least not in isolation.
Take the countries with the continent's lowest rates of obesity, Bosnia (17.90%) and Moldova (18.90%). They are among the continent's poorest. Curiously, however, the next-best scoring countries are all high-income countries: Switzerland (19.50%), Denmark (19.70%) and Italy (19.90%).
Could it be that Moldova and Bosnia are too poor even to have the 'basic' fast food infrastructure present in food deserts elsewhere? And have Denmark, Switzerland, and Italy—surely rich enough to have easy access to greasy foods—developed successful coping strategies, say: constant exercise and healthy eating as desirable lifestyles?
Perhaps, but then the mystery is why the Norwegians (23.10%) score so much worse than their fellow Scandinavians in Denmark (and Sweden). Or why Portugal (20.80%) scores so much better than their otherwise fairly similar neighbors in Spain (23.80%).
While we're comparing: how are the Americans doing? The map above shows the percentage of adults in each country with a BMI higher than 30 and is based on WHO data for 2017. The map below does the same for U.S. states, and for the same year.
West Virginia leads the nation, with a whopping 37.7% adult obesity rate. Four more states have a score over 35%, all in the Deep South: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. That still leaves seven high-BMI-level states before the average drops to the level of Europe's worst offender, Turkey—with South Carolina (32.10%) and Nebraska (32%) achieving nearly similar scores.
In all, nearly half the states have an adult obesity rate of more than 30%. Interestingly, there is a clear geographic division, not just as far as four of the five worst-performing states are concerned, but also when it comes to the better-performing ones. With the exception of Hawaii, Florida, Minnesota, Maryland and Virginia, all states with adult obesity levels below 30% form two contiguous blocks, out West and in the Northeast.
Still, the success of the best-performing states is relative, as shown in the table below, ranking both U.S. states and European countries by their adult obesity rates. Colorado, the state with the lowest adult obesity rate (22.3%) scores just as high (or low) as Germany, firmly in the middle of the European ranking. California, with the fifth-lowest figure in the U.S., has exactly the same rate of adult obesity—one in four—as Bulgaria, which has the ninth-highest adult obesity rate in Europe.
Strange Maps #889
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It's the first time scientists have discovered an animal that doesn't perform aerobic respiration.
- The animal is a tiny parasite called Henneguya salminicola.
- The parasite infects salmon and lives within the fish muscle, though scientists aren't quite sure how it breaks down nutrients for survival.
- The findings are published in the journal PNAS.
H. salminicola inside of a salmon
An evolutionary advantage<p>Losing that mitochondrial genome appears to have been a less-is-more type of advantage for the parasite.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Myxozoans have gone through outstanding morphological and genomic simplifications during their adaptation to parasitism from a free-living cnidarian ancestor," the authors wrote. "As a highly diverse group with >2,400 species, which inhabit marine, freshwater, and even terrestrial environments, evolutionary loss and simplification has clearly been a successful strategy for Myxozoa, which shows that less is more."</p><p>The researchers aren't quite sure how <em>H.</em> <em>salminicola </em>breaks down nutrients without oxygen. One possibility is that it absorbs molecules from its host. It's hard to tell, however, because the researchers analyzed dead parasites — they'd need to look at parasites living within the fish to get a better understanding of how the creatures operate.</p><p>The discovery highlights how much scientists still have to learn about the diversity of life on Earth. Atkinson told <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/world/first-animal-doesnt-breathe-oxygen-scn-trnd/index.html" target="_blank"><em>CNN</em></a> that he expects <em>H.</em> <em>salminicola </em>isn't the only animal that can survive without oxygen, or in even "weirder modes of existence." </p>
The search for alien life<p>One interesting implication of the discovery is what it means for the search for alien life. It's long been thought that, if aliens exist, they'd likely breathe oxygen. After all, it's the best element that we know of for producing large amounts of energy for metabolism, allowing us to "grow large, run and jump and think," as David Catling, a planetary scientist at the University of Washington, told <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2012/11/20/why-e-t-would-also-breathe-oxygen/#48fdfed63c55" target="_blank"><em>Forbes</em></a>. <br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Because of oxygen's chemical advantages and the history of complex life on earth is so intertwined with oxygen levels," he said. "I think E.T. would also breathe oxygen."</p><p>This is one reason why many think Earth-like exoplanets with atmospheres that likely contain oxygen would be good candidates for harboring alien life. But, in a small way, the newly discovered parasite gives reason to think that the search for alien life — and their life-supporting planets — might be far more complicated.</p>
People remember when governments lie to them and it lowers their satisfaction in government officials.
- A recent study measured how the public's trust in government differs when exposed to rumors, government denials, and subsequent verification of the initial rumors.
- The study, conducted in China, also examined whether any changes in trust lasted over a three-week period.
- The results suggest that governments that deem negative information as "fake news" may persuade some people, but over the long term it can cost them in credibility and public satisfaction.
Credit: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images<p><br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The ability to label claims and explanations that the authorities deem objectionable as fake has long been regarded as a power," the researchers wrote. "Because the revelation of the falsehood of government denials could erode the government's power, it is important to investigate its consequences, particularly in the authoritarian setting."</p><p>In the study, the researchers conducted a survey on three groups of participants. Each group was shown different information regarding a new automobile registration policy, and they were also asked general questions about demographic information and political interests. The study explains:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The first group was exposed to a rumor regarding the government's automobile registration policy (<em>rumor group</em>), the second group was exposed to the government's denial of the rumor (<em>denial group</em>), and the third group was exposed to an event in which the rumor initially denied by the government was verified as true (<em>verification group</em>)."</p><p>Each group then reported how much they believed in the initial rumor and the government denial. The denial and verification groups were also asked to rate their satisfaction with the government's handling of automobile registration.</p><p>The results showed that government denial effectively decreased belief in the rumor, compared to the group that was exposed only to the rumor. Meanwhile, being exposed to a verification of the rumor increased belief in the rumor and decreased belief in the denial. Also, the verification group reported being slightly less satisfied with the government.</p>
Design of survey 1
Credit: Wang et al.<p>But do these effects last? After all, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/40982891" target="_blank">past research</a> suggests that the effects of persuasive communication — say, a negative political ad smearing a candidate — tend to disappear within days.</p><p>To find out, the researchers conducted a follow-up survey three weeks after the first. This time, the survey included only two groups: the verification group from the first survey, and a group of new participants. Both groups were exposed to a rumor and then a government denial.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The difference between the two groups was simply that one of them had previously experienced the revelation of the government's false denial of an online rumor, while the other group did not have such an experience," the researchers wrote.</p><p>The results showed that the verification group — that is, people who had weeks earlier been shown that the government had lied to them — was much less likely to believe in the government's denial. What's more, the verification group was also less satisfied with the government.</p>
Design of survey 2
Wang et al.<p>The findings suggest that governments can lose credibility over the long term when they call something "fake news" but it later proves true.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"As discussed earlier, while authoritarian countries can be awash with rumors and fake news, it is less frequent for the government's false denials to be caught due to the lack of independent news media and fact-checking organizations," the researchers wrote.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It is therefore a vivid and memorable experience to see the government's denial bluntly shown to be false. Unsurprisingly, such an experience would make people less willing to believe a new denial from the government, especially if it is somewhat similar to the one that had been shown to be false."</p><p>Ultimately, calling "fake news" on negative information does seem to effectively work on some people. But it seems to be a costly short-term strategy, one that comes with the added cost of a dissatisfied public.</p>
UNC School of Medicine researchers identified the amino acid responsible for the trip.
- Researchers at UNC's School of Medicine have discovered the protein responsible for LSD's psychedelic effects.
- A single amino acid—part of the protein, Gαq—activates the mind-bending experience.
- The researchers hope this identification helps shape depression treatment.
What is Bicycle Day?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d346092205da3c9ed10bad283222c9f1"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/L32mAiLXnLs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Back in the world of clinical science, LSD has always showed promise. That trend continues as restrictions are finally easing up. Understanding LSD's effects on our brain's complex system of networks is an important step toward discovering therapeutic actions. As Roth <a href="https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/how-lsd-binds-to-the-brain-study" target="_blank">says</a> of his research,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Now we know how psychedelic drugs work – finally! Now we can use this information to, hopefully, discover better medications for many psychiatric diseases."</p><p>Using X-ray crystallography, Roth's team discovered a single amino acid—a building block of the protein, Gαq—responsible for binding to serotonin receptors. As LSD is only a partial agonist, they also experimented with a full-agonist designer psychedelic in order to observe complete receptor activation. This amino acid appears to be the master switch for the psychedelic experience. </p><p>While psilocybin has been in the news, the psychedelic renaissance is expanding in all directions. Phase 1 clinical trials on the <a href="https://newatlas.com/science/landmark-clinical-trial-lsd-mdma-mindmed/" target="_blank">combination</a> of LSD, MDMA, and psychotherapy will soon commence. LSD's effects on <a href="https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03866252" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Major Depressive Disorder</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/first-clinical-trial-shows-micro-doses-of-lsd-can-increase-a-person-s-pain-tolerance" target="_blank">pain management</a> are ongoing. With the <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-18/-magic-mushroom-company-moves-toward-mainstream-in-nasdaq-ipo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first psychedelics company</a> to IPO on the American stock market, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of investment flowing into similar companies and organizations, the push for legalized psychedelics intensifies. </p>
Credit: ynsga / Shutterstock<p>Researchers are actively attempting to remove the hallucinogenic component of psychedelics for widespread therapeutic usage—<a href="https://www.healtheuropa.eu/could-ibogaine-offer-a-revolutionary-long-term-solution-to-addiction/100635/" target="_blank">trials</a> using ibogaine for addiction treatment, for example. Identifying the chemical effects of psychedelics on our brains is an essential step in that process.</p><p>Of course, believing psychedelics <em>only</em> matters to brain chemistry is problematic as well. The rituals associated with their use are just as relevant. The "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set_and_setting" target="_blank">set and setting</a>" model espoused by Timothy Leary reminds us that biology isn't everything; environmental factors play just as important a role in mental health. </p><p>Isolating specific chemicals without understanding the impact of the drug <em>and</em> the environment overlooks the holistic nature of the psychedelic experience. For example, ketamine trials <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/ketamine-depression" target="_self">were rushed</a> and could potentially backfire; we can't afford to make that mistake again. </p><p>Still, understanding the pathways LSD utilizes is an important step forward. As Roth says, "Our ultimate goal is to see if we can discover medications which are effective, like psilocybin, for depression but do not have the intense psychedelic actions." In a world where more people are growing anxious and depressed by the day, every intervention should be explored.</p><p> --</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
A team of researchers have discovered the brain rhythmic activity that can split us from reality.