A comment and some science…

Paula Deen: this New York Times article talks about some support she is getting from fans; her show was cancelled by The Food Network. Frankly, this was a business decision by The Food Network: they figured that they’d lose advertiser revenue due to companies pulling their ads; my (uneducated) guess is that the pressure on advertisers would come from a much larger population than the viewership audience.


This is the crowd: as much as I’d love to lampoon the lack of physical fitness of this crowd….in terms of body type, this crowd is pretty much what you’d see at most places around here OTHER than the hiking trails, bike paths, gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts or participant oriented public sporting events. In fact, if you added black and brown people to this crowd..this could be a Democratic rally event. Given how white the crowd is, it could have also been a Republican event too. 🙂

Epigenetic Effects
Smoking while carrying a baby not only gives the baby a higher risk of asthma, but an increased risk extends to two generations:

Having a grandmother who smoked can increase your risk of suffering from asthma – even if your mother didn’t take up the habit.
Researchers say the discovery shows how the chemicals and environmental factors we are exposed to today could determine the health of family members for generations to come.
Writing in the Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the scientists cited a rat study they say has major ramifications for human health.
They found that pregnant rats given nicotine produced asthmatic babies.
These rats, in turn, went on to produce their own asthmatic children, despite the fact they had not been directly exposed to nicotine.
The researchers, from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, say the findings show that nictotine can leave a ‘mark’ on the genome (our complete set of DNA), making future generations more susceptible to respiratory conditions such as asthma.
In other words, the cause of the grandchild’s asthma was a genetic change caused by an environmental factor – in this case, smoking.
As a result, they concluded that environmental factors experienced during pregnancy – such as smoking – will not just affect the child in the womb, but those further down the line.

Note: if you click on the link, read the comments. So many make the comment: “MY mother/grandmother smoked but neither I nor my siblings got asthma”. Upshot: many people don’t understand what “increased risk of” means.

Botany and Math
There is evidence that plants can do some sort of biological calculation to figure out how to use starches during the hours when the sun isn’t shining; they can adjust for having less or more daylight:

Computer-generated models published in the journal eLife illustrate how plants might use molecular mathematics to regulate the rate at which they devour starch reserves to provide energy throughout the night, when energy from the Sun is off the menu1. If so, the authors say, it would be the first example of arithmetic division in biology.

But it may not be the only one: many animals go through periods of fasting — during hibernations or migrations, for example — and must carefully ration internal energy stores in order to survive. Understanding how arithmetic division could occur at the molecular level might also be useful for the young field of synthetic biology, in which genetic engineers seek standardized methods of tinkering with molecular pathways to create new biological devices.[…]

Plants make the starch reserves they produce during the day last almost precisely until dawn. Researchers once thought that plants break down starch at a fixed rate during the night. But then they observed that the diminutive weed Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant favoured for laboratory work, could recalculate that rate on the fly when subjected to an unusually early or late night2.

To Alison Smith and Martin Howard of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, and their colleagues, this suggested that a more sophisticated molecular calculation was at work. The team hypothesized the existence of two molecules: one, S, that tells the plant how much starch remains, and another, T, that informs it about the time left until dawn.

The researchers built mathematical models to show that, in principle, the interactions of such molecules could indeed drive the rate of starch breakdown such that it reflected a continuous computation of the division of the amount of remaining starch by the amount of time until dawn.

For example, the models predicted that plants would adjust the rate of starch breakdown if the night were interrupted by a period of light. During that period of light, the plants could again produce starch. When the lights went out again, the rate of starch breakdown should adjust to that increase in stored starch, the models predicted — a result that the researchers confirmed in Arabidopsis plants.

The researchers looked at mutants and found that a particular mutant could NOT alter its starch consumption rate. Hence some genes have been isolated; it will be interesting to see how the calculations are performed.

Taking on the “alternative medicine industry“: A famous doctor, Paul Offit, wrote a new book:

“Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine” in which he takes on the vitamin and herbal supplements industry, alternative medicine of all kinds, Congress and celebrity doctors who peddle their own products. It hits the shelves on Tuesday.

Here is one example of what is going on: remember Vioxx? It was pulled when it was found out that it increased the risk of heart attack. But some vitamins can increase health risks by at least as much, but they are on the market! The bottom line: the vitamin and nutritional supplement industries are not regulated as well but yet get a free pass.


June 25, 2013 - Posted by | biology, evolution, obesity, science, social/political | , ,

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