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. 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 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:

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:


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?






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