Humans, mice — indeed all mammals — have two types of fat cells in their bodies; white and brown. White fat cells store energy. In contrast, brown fat cells dissipate energy as heat, thus counteracting obesity. Much to the chagrin of humans living in industrialized societies, most fat cells in our (adult) bodies are white fat cells. While this trait served our kind well throughout our evolutionary history, we now face a vast abundance of inexpensive, easily accessible, high energy content foods. This, combined with our body’s tendency to want to store up energy for times when food is scarce, leads to obesity and its accompanying adverse health effects. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have more brown fat cells and less white fat cells? (more…)
July 30, 2008
Leave a Comment
June 5, 2008
I studied T’ai Chi for a year and enjoyed it immensely, I hope to go back to it when my back is better. A fellow class mate had introduced me to Mantak Chia, a master of Taoist philosophy and healing. I sincerely hope that Western medicine, which I believe is just starting to open itself up to Eastern/Chinese medicine, will continue to open its mind to and absorb the immense genius of these Arts. (more…)
May 29, 2008
OK, today my pet peeve is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I always buy non-HFCS containing whole grain bread for myself and my husband, and I refuse to buy the commercially available HFCS containing breads. Even the whole grain varieties of these breads have HFCS as one of the first ingredients! I usually buy bread at Trader Joe’s or Fairway, but yesterday I wasn’t able to get to one of these stores and I really needed bread. So I went to the A&P down the block. I had looked for non-HFCS containing breads before and hadn’t found any. I searched the whole aisle again, and found not a single one. I have no doubt that for many years, HFCS has provided a cheap filler that allowed big companies to make much more bread with the same amount of grain, and charge the same as if the breads did not contain HFCS. I imagine that even with today’s commodity prices, this economic advantage for the companies still holds. The price of corn has skyrocketed, but the price of wheat has also, so I guess it evens out. Apparently, HFCS gets a bad rap in the media, in that it is generally popular to blame the ubiquity of HFCS for the obesity epidemic in the US. In a New York Times article from 2006, several expert scientists clarified the issue, saying that there is no hard scientific evidence linking HFCS consumption and obesity, and that it is no worse than refined white sugar. So how good is refined white sugar for you? The simple question is, then, that there are delicious breads that do not contain HFCS, so why put it in?
May 20, 2008
Leave a Comment
I was just listening to the BBC World Service discussing the obesity trend in Australia. As in the US and so many other wealthy nations around the world, this trend will bring a veritable tsunami of health problems. On the program, they mentioned that health officials in Australia believe that for the first time in many generations, the current younger generations will at some point begin to die off at a younger age than their parents did, specifically due to complications from obesity. Again, the excesses of our “I want it all and I want it now” society manifest themselves in real time and real bodies. There is no question that the quest for unsustainable levels of productivity and wealth influence everything in our society, including the portion sizes in fast food restaurants, which have grown significantly since the 1970s, along with our collective girth. In previous entries, I’ve written about the huge quantities of cheap meat that the fast food industry has arranged to have access to is contributing not only to obesity but to global warming as well. In poorer countries with tremendous wealths of natural resources, businesses and even individuals are clearing huge swaths of rainforest in order to raise more livestock and crops. And when people around the world object to this activity, the governments of these poor countries accuse those in wealthier countries of wanting to deprive their citizens of the very excesses that are causing all the problems mentioned above. There’s just no thought involved. Only greed. I hope at least some of the poor governments that want to improve the quality of life for their citizens take the lessons of excess in the wealthier countries of the world to heart, and build a smarter society. Is it too much to ask of human beings? I sincerely hope not.
March 27, 2008
Leave a Comment
It can be summed up in one word: excess. Most people I know live with mountains of debt. Many people bought houses that were way beyond their reach in price, only to find several years later that their house is worth less than what they owe on their mortgage. How did things get so bad?
Have you ever been at a performance where the audience begins clapping in unison to encourage an encore? Sometimes, the pace of the clapping becomes faster and faster until it eventually disintegrates, because it reaches a point where it is just too fast to maintain uniformity. The chaos currently running through our economy is the metaphorical equivalent of the clapping at the point where it loses its order and becomes random before petering out. (I’m sure that there are other examples of this phenomenon in nature, and if anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them.) Too many people have been in a race to catch the sun, which would be analogous to the race to acquire more STUFF. You can run as fast as you can, and you may outrun a lot of people, but the truth is, no one can catch the sun. It will inevitably set and come up behind you. In a race to attain unattainable levels of wealth, people will increase the amount of risk they are willing to take. Combine that with the decreasing value of the US dollar, and you have one big, tragic MESS.
Another symptom of excess in our society is the size of food portions served in many of the nation’s most popular restaurant chains. Portion sizes served have increased several times in size over the past 30 or so years. The largest companies have conspired with meat and poultry farms to produce obscene quantities of meat at very low cost to our ever more greedy society. These farms are rife with animal abuse, filth, and pollution, and produce huge quantities of greenhouse gases. And now, a lot of poor countries want the same access to cheap, plentiful meat and are destroying their countries’ ecosystems to achieve this goal. The American obesity epidemic is analogous to the economic excesses which have caused our current “economic diabetes” crisis.
March 16, 2008
Leave a Comment
Parallelaphors is a blog dedicated to my observations of the parallels and metaphors between our everyday lives and the natural world. I am a biological scientist and an animal-lover. My goal in creating this blog is to teach a little and learn a lot. I’m very new at blogging so this site should change quite a bit over time, but I’m very excited to finally exist in the blogosphere. I’m looking forward to your comments on my future posts.
Not all the posts will discuss specifically parallels and/or metaphors. They will pertain to my various interests which include, but are not restricted to:
- Obesity – the latest cutting edge research in biology, psychology, sociology, etc.
- Trends in American society, particularly work habits
- Animal welfare and the physiological and psychological benefits of human-companion animal interaction
- Politics and environmental issues
- Art, color and design
- The interface between art and science.