Science, Music, Health & Beauty

These are the areas of life that I'm drawn to, and they overlap all of the time. I think that they culminate in cooking, and sharing that with people.

Food and health are science...Food and health are beauty...Dance and music are beauty...Beauty is science, and science (in its honest forms) is beautiful.

I'll be posting articles about science in music, health and beauty that I find interesting.

A connection between the flu and gut particular black tea, blueberries & wine. 

Another post on gut biome!

If you get the flu, eat blueberries, and drink black tea and red wine to stop lung infection.

In a nutshell, certain gut microbes (Clostridium orbiscindens) love to eat the flavonoids in foods like black tea, blueberries and red wine. When mice were given a by product of the digestion of these foods, and then given the flu,  they didn't get the severe lung problems that the other mice got.

To be specific, the digestion of black tea, blueberries & red wine results in in the production of DAT (desaminotyrosine) which alters the immune system. To be specific it triggers type 1 interferon.

Here's the abstract:

And here's a friendlier description of what happens:


How trauma lodges in the body 

Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk is an innovator in treating the effects of trauma on people.
In this interview, he talks at length about how bodywork, like yoga and eye movement therapy can restore a sense of well being.
Surprisingly, much is centered around training the body to have a greater heart rate the heart to be less even in its action! It turns out that the calmer people are, and the more mindful they are, the higher their heart rate variability.

Read a transcript of the detailed interview with Dr Bessel van der Kolk.

is Medical Director of the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts. He’s also a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School. His books include Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on the Mind, Body and Society and The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.


The Secret of Life ~ a play about science, by Bruce Coughran 

Tonight I saw just the most amazing play...The Secret of Life by Bruce Coughran. The title sounds like the play might contain "10 things to do in your life for happiness"...but nothing could be further from the truth of the reality of this play. It follows the years of the scientists involved in deciphering the structure of DNA. This is a play, basically set in two labs, with the characters of Rosalind Franklin, Watson and Crick.
I got turned on to DNA when studying biology in high school. I remember the day I learned about DNA. A new world opened to me. A world with a different way of thinking about what I was, and what we all are. I'd always felt as though I didn't belong where I was, and knowledge about DNA explained everything to me...I didn't belong where I was!...I was a throw back to who knows what....something else...and it was ok!
But I digress...
this play had me on the edge of my seat...beautiful biology and chemistry words, people's passions and jealousies, raw ambition...and love for finding what life, the energy of life, is all about.
The playwright, Bruce Coughran, created [and directed] an extraordinary work of art. The coming and going of the people and conversations...the bringing on of the wrong 3D model of DNA...and then the dismantling of the incorrect solution to DNA, to reveal the correct solution...and this 24" model [I'm embarrassed to say], brought tears to my was beautiful. To me, the structure, to see it 3D in front of me, was beautiful. And then when the characters looked at it with what they'd discovered, and said "it's beautiful"...well, I felt very at one with the playwright, and everyone that has come before him to lead him to where he is, to create this play, this work of art.
And as I watched Watson and Crick have their moments of insight, it reminded me of what it is, when you're composing music, to have moments of brilliant light...a flash of an outrageous thought goes through your mind...and suddenly the composition knows where it is going.
What a lovely night!!!

Sitting too much is not the same as too little exercise. 

Intense exercise for an hour a day will not fix the metabolic changes caused by sitting all day!
To be more exact, "the deep red quadriceps that are designed for postural support...quickly lost more than 75% of their ability to siphon off the fat circulating in the lipoproteins from the bloodstream when incidental contractile activity was reduced" and in the poor exercise-deprived rats had "a profound decrease in the concentration of plasma HDL cholesterol (22%) on the first day of inactivity."
So we don't need to burn ourselves out at the gym...just keep moving, and get up off our chair every hour. 
You can read the entire manuscript here by author Neville Owen PhD  from The University of Queensland, Australia, who fervently believes that this is a serious public health issue.

(Good) gut microbes like to feast on cocoa powder 

It's another gut microbe story!
By feasting on the cocoa powder, the microbes break the large polyphenols (potent antioxidants) of cocoa down into small sizes that can then cross from the gut and into the blood.

Polyphenols have many beneficial effects on the body, including anti inflammatory and cardiovascular.
Read here the rather amusing story of Professor John Finley, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, describing how he carried out his experiment. 
So this morning I had my first coconut/banana/cocoa powder smoothie. I found an organic non-alkaline cocoa powder at Berkeley Bowl - Rapunzel from Germany. I chose non-alkaline because alkalising during the processing of cocoa drastically reduces its polyphenol content. It tasted great!

Gut bacteria might alter anxiety and stress-related chemicals in the blood. 

There is an amazing amount of research going into gut flora and fauna at the moment!

When a team from the University of Missouri in Columbia transplanted gut bacteria from female Harlan mice into female Jackson mice, the animals became less anxious and had lower levels of stress-related chemicals in their blood.
[Harlan and Jackson are the names of laboratories where the mice came from]. Here's the link to their work.

Is there a future where happy people will be able to pass on their gut bacteria??

The types of fats in our cell walls change the types of proteins, etc that go in and out. 

“an imbalance between saturated and unsaturated phospholipids readily affects Endothelial Reticulum [ER] biogenic activity, inducing a stress response that can trigger cell death.”

That would be a fancy way of saying that every type of fat we eat alters the integrity and function of every cell in our body.
It also indicates to me why eating junky oils or fats, or eating low-fat or no-fat food makes no sense. Good fats and oils are literally holding the cells of our body [and mind] together...I feel good that I'm eating olive oil, coconut oil and ghee.
When we eat fats we are literally creating the walls of the cells in our body.

In Nature, Joost C.M. Holthuis and Anant K. Menon give an insight into lipids: the building blocks of cell membranes. The paper, “Lipid landscapes and pipelines in membrane homeostasis,” describes the processes that maintain cell integrity.

You can read highlights from the paper from the article in

2-4 day fasting brings about a revitalised immune system 

Scientists at the University of Southern California have found that 2-4 day fasting causes a drop in white cell counts, and that this effect triggers a stem-cell based regeneration of new immune cells.

Who would have guessed that the ancient ritual of occasional short fasts is beneficial for the health of the body?
It also explains how a simple fast could turn a person's 'diseased' condition around, almost overnight, by giving the body a 'clean out the old, and bring in the new' of the immune system.


Mature liver cells can revert back to stem cell-like state 

Researchers at Harvard Stem Cell Institute have found that it is possible to force mature liver cells to revert back to a stem cell-like state.
This follows findings that cells in other organs can undergo the same change - adrenal glands, kidneys and lungs.

I think that this has incredible consequences for how we treat dis-ease...our attitude should be, how can we force the body to get to this state...where it heals itself.
What pathways can we alter with life changes of diet, exercise and state of mind??

Placebos - Even if we know we're using one, still heal! 

A few weeks ago I heard a fascinating interview with Ted Kaptchuk, a  faculty member at Harvard Medical School, who has a degree in Chinese Medicine, and who, for the last 15 years, has been studying the biological changes associated with placebos.

In a nutshell, from a 2010 study he did with people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it was found that even when patients were told that they were getting a placebo, the placebo affect  [healing] still happened. Here's a quote from an article in Harvard Magazine in 2013

Kaptchul asked himself, "What if he [I] simply told people they were taking placebos? The question ultimately inspired a pilot study, published by the peer-reviewed science and medicine journal PLOS ONE in 2010, that yielded his most famous findings to date. His team again compared two groups of IBS sufferers. One group received no treatment. The other patients were told they’d be taking fake, inert drugs (delivered in bottles labeled “placebo pills”) and told also that placebos often have healing effects.
The study’s results shocked the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group. That’s a difference so significant, says Kaptchuk, it’s comparable to the improvement seen in trials for the best real IBS drugs."

This is startling! Read the article for more in depth info on this and other studies Kaptchuck has been involved with. To summarize: "researchers have found that placebo treatments—interventions with no active drug ingredients—can stimulate real physiological responses, from changes in heart rate and blood pressure to chemical activity in the brain, in cases involving pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue."
To quote Ted Kaptchuck,
“We have to transform the art of medicine into the science of care.”

I love this quote. It resonates with my belief that health and good science go together. If the placebo affect is so powerful we should look at out ways of working with it to harness the body's powerful healing mechanisms, rather than to dismiss it and eliminate it. 





Organic pasture-raised dairy and meat have a different (better) omega-6 to omega-3 ratio 

I was reading a study a few weeks ago, saying that there is a significant difference (improvement) in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in organic, pasture-raised foods,
and I thought....this goes against all the spin put out by food corporations and the organic versus non-organic media, who use the phrase they are "nutritionally identical" when talking about organic foods.
I found it startling that there could be such a fundamental difference between the type of fat found in organic and non-organic dairy and meat, fat being the very essence of the structure of cells 
                          The lipid [fat]  bilayer is a component of all cell membranes. Its role is critical because its
                          structure provides the barrier that marks the boundaries of a cell.
       The structure is called a "lipid bilayer" because it is composed  of two layers of fat cells organized into two sheets.

Here's a link to which talks about higher [healthier] omega-3 levels in organic dairy, and here's a link to a Penn State University study showing
significantly higher omega-3 levels [and lower omega-6 levels] in pasture-fed beef.
Their study is laid out in an easy to interpret single page chart.
But here we article from Oct 2012....Stanford University saying that published literature  lacks strong evidence  that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods, and this gets the support of no less than the  New York Times in Oct 2012 who wrote about the Stanford study.
You just have to wonder what conventional thinking determines as "nutritionally identical."  A different cell wall structure has to alter nutritional impact....different is not