There may be a link between sleep and obesity

The Daily Herald ran this informative article on August12, 2013:

According to a new study, a major weapon in the battle against obesity might be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep, says USA Today.

A study by researchers at UC Berkeley revealed why just one sleepless night can make us crave calorie-dense junk food like hamburgers, potato chips and sweets. While previous studies have linked unhealthy foods and sleep deprivation, the UC Berkeley study may reveal the source of the connection.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of 23 healthy young adults after a normal night’s sleep, and again after a sleepless night.

Participants were shown images that ranged from foods like apples, strawberries and carrots to foods like pizza and doughnuts while their brain activity was measured. As an incentive, they were told they would receive the food they most desired after the MRI.

Not only did the sleep-deprived individuals crave the unhealthy choices, but their brains behaved differently as well. The study found impairment in the area of the brain that governs complex decision-making, and increased activity in the area of the brain that governs rewards.

“The results shed light on how the brain becomes impaired by sleep deprivation, leading to the selection of more unhealthy foods, and, ultimately, higher rates of obesity,” said Stephanie Greer, the study’s lead author.

Placenta power

No vital organ may be as underrated as the placenta. Often discarded as an afterthought of afterbirth, the placenta, which links mother and child during pregnancy, serves important health functions.

In “Life’s Vital Link,” Y.W. Loke takes a closer look at this little-understood organ.

Compared with such organs as the heart and lungs, the placenta has a very short life span. According to the book, it survives only for the duration of a pregnancy, about 270 days.

The book explains that the placenta marked a pivotal shift in evolutionary history, allowing humans and other mammals to birth live offspring instead of laying eggs that develop on their own.

For a fetus, the placenta is a protector and gatekeeper, the book says, providing oxygen and nutrients while its lungs, kidneys and digestive system form.

Because the placenta penetrates deeply into the mother’s uterine lining, it may provide clues to help transplant patients avoid organ rejection, according to Loke. Yet its invasive, aggressive reach makes it very much like cancer. As a result, it can also be of study for oncologists, the book says.

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