fitness · health

A week in the life of metabolic research, or what a mouse should have for dinner…

One of the many demands on my inbox-reading time is the weekly newsletters I get about this, that and the other thing. In principle it’s a great idea to sort information into categories and aggregate information into weekly digests. In reality, I get backlogged and glutted with too much to read.

However, this Saturday, I decided to take some time to dip into one of these digests: Obesity and Energetics Offerings. Each week, Public Health researcher David Allison and lots of other folks collect the latest study releases and other relevant news items and send them directly to me.

One of my favorite things about this digest is that it is a snapshot of what kind of research work is ongoing about metabolism, nutrition, physical activity, etc. It’s not exhaustive, but if it were, I’d be exhausted well before finishing the reading for that week. Once again, less is more.

The digest is divided up into handy categories like “headline vs. study”, to alert us to misinformation coming out in the news, “contrary or null findings”, showing which hypotheses fell flat, and then a host of sub-categories, like “epidemiology”, “stigma”, “food and diet”, etc.

This week, my favorite study was about what male mice should have for dinner, partly because of this incredibly awesome graphic in the paper:

All you need to know here is this: "ad libitum" means "eat what you want, mousey", "meal fed" means they got one meal a day, and "CR" means "calorie-restricted diet". The calorie-restricted mouse had the best medical outcomes, but may not be the happiest of mice.
All you need to know here is this: “ad libitum” means “eat what you want, mousey”, “meal fed” means they got one meal a day, and “CR” means “calorie-restricted diet”. The calorie-restricted mouse had the best medical outcomes, but may not be the happiest of mice. However, the big take way was that it didn’t actually matter what they ate– high-carb, low, carb, etc. There was no difference in the outcomes based on diet composition.

Don’t you wish all scientific research papers had such explanatory and colorful graphs and tables?  Usually, they look much more hairy and complicated, like this one (which truthfully is entitled “The Hairy Graph”):

A hairy graph, titled "The Hairy Graph", with a jagged up-and-down curve and wispy hairy tendrils shooting up from various parts of te curve.  It's about the relationship between markets and LIBOR (a bank loan rate index, I think).
A hairy graph, titled “The Hairy Graph”, with a jagged up-and-down curve and wispy hairy tendrils shooting up from various parts of the curve. It’s about the relationship between markets and LIBOR (a bank loan rate index, I think).

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand…

Seriously, on any given week in metabolic (I don’t use the term obesity for a bunch of reasons; I blogged about it here a while back) research, we can see people hard at work on questions like the following:

  • Does BMI >30 affects recovery from ankle sprains? Not much, maybe a little, but it’s complicated.
  • Is a person’s gut microbiome affected by their ethnicity and their geography? Yes, it would seem.
  • Do community programs and policies aimed at reducing body weight in children work? So far not really. (me: although they have all kinds of other positive health effects, and maybe we should care more about those than we currently do).
  • Does increased body weight influence medical outcomes (like complications or death) following gun shot or stab wounds?  No. (me: seriously, this was a real study; heavier adults who went to the hospital after being shot or stabbed weren’t at higher risk for bad medical outcomes because of their weight.)
  • Is there good evidence linking consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)  in children and higher BMI? No. Is there good evidence that reducing availability of SSBs in schools reduce consumption? No.

There are also lots of more technical biochemistry studies, which are beyond my ken.

Most of the time, we get our science and health news from, well, the news. By the time it reaches us, sometimes it seems it’s been through several rounds of the telephone game. Anyone remember playing this? You start out with a word or phrase or sentence, and whisper it to the person next to you.  It goes down the line, through however many people you have, and by the time it reaches the last person, it’s generally been transformed completely and humorously. Like so:

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 1.14.17 PM
Kids playing the telephone game, where a word goes from peas to bees to knees to cheese to fleas.

As fun as that game is, we don’t want science and health news to be like that. So what can we do?  I rely on friends (FB and others) and reliable sources (like blogs, newsletters, social media feeds of people whose work I trust) to help me access and digest and put in context the newest results. I also like to go directly to the original research, but I still have to rely on expert sources to help me interpret it.

So readers, where do you go and who do you trust for the latest in health news and information?

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “A week in the life of metabolic research, or what a mouse should have for dinner…

  1. I like Consumer Reports On Health newsletter, the Mayo Clinic newsletter, or their online search, and Harvard University’s health newsletter. All of those are written for the lay person. Or, I go to JSTOR through the university if I really want to dig beyond the highlights and look at published studies.

    https://www.magazineline.com/consumer-reports-on-health-magazine
    https://healthletter.mayoclinic.com
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters

    Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.