We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.
The recent inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse from anaphylaxis after eating a Pret A Manger baguette she was unaware contained sesame, could lead to a change in labelling legislation. Indeed, a recent investigation found that undeclared allergens were present in a quarter of foods sampled. But a more fundamental issue needs to be addressed: why are more people experiencing severe food allergies than ever before?
Healthy sleep leads to healthy brains. Neuroscientists have gotten that message out. But parents, doctors and educators alike have struggled to identify what to do to improve sleep. Some have called for delaying school start times or limiting screen time before bed to achieve academic, health and even economic gains.
Modern medicine’s ability to keep us alive makes it tempting to think human evolution may have stopped. Better healthcare disrupts a key driving force of evolution by keeping some people alive longer, making them more likely to pass on their genes. But if we look at the rate of our DNA’s evolution, we can see that human evolution hasn’t stopped – it may even be happening faster than before.
Recent headlines claim that a glass of wine or a pint of beer a day shortens your life. It’s enough to dampen any thoughts of a celebratory drink or two at Christmas. But those conclusions are based on a partial view of the alcohol debate.
Why is my awareness here, while yours is over there? Why is the universe split in two for each of us, into a subject and an infinity of objects? How is each of us our own center of experience, receiving information about the rest of the world out there? Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A gnat? A bacterium?
If you think you don’t have viruses, think again. It may be hard to fathom, but the human body is occupied by large collections of microorganisms, commonly referred to as our microbiome, that have evolved with us since the early days of man. Scientists have only recently begun to quantify the microbiome, and discovered it is inhabited by at least 38 trillion bacteria. More intriguing, perhaps, is that bacteria are not the most abundant microbes that live in and on our bodies. That award goes to viruses.
Changing the clock causes a temporary state of misalignment in our internal biological time. We may not feel ready to go to bed an hour earlier and our alarms will wake us up before we’ve had enough sleep.
Being depressed can negatively affect your appetite and what you eat, but can bad eating habits bring your mood down? Our latest study, a systematic review of the best available evidence, found a clear link between the quality of a person’s diet and their risk of depression. And it goes beyond the effect of diet on body size or other aspects of health that can affect mental health.
It’s a common misconception that hangovers are mainly the result of dehydration. An evening of heavy drinking can lead to inflammation of the stomach and intestines, poor-quality sleep and the production of toxic substances that lead to vomiting, sweating and an increased heart rate. Research also suggests that hangovers can hamper the ability to concentrate and remember information.
Say you meet an old friend at the train station. She is standing about a metre ahead of you, and on the tracks to your right a train has just pulled into the station. Behind your friend you see a bakery. We often remember such scenes in vivid detail. But exactly how we do that by forming mental images has long been a bit of a mystery.
Almost all life on earth is based on DNA being copied, or replicated, and understanding how this process works could lead to a wide range of discoveries in biology and medicine. Now for the first time scientists have been able to watch individual steps in the replication of a single DNA molecule, with some surprising findings. For one thing, there’s a lot more randomness at work than has been thought.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, medicines shouldn’t be your first option. Exercise regularly, cut back on coffee (and other caffeinated drinks) after midday, eat less in the evening, ease up on “screen time” before, and in, bed, practice meditation and try to have a quiet, dark bedroom dedicated mostly to sleep.
There are something like 37 trillion cells in your body, each doing its designated task to keep you alive and healthy. But sometimes, some of those cells, particularly in our brains, simply become inert — these cells, called senescent cells, aren’t quite dead but they’re not performing their jobs, either.
We all want other people to “get us” and appreciate us for who we really are. In striving to achieve such relationships, we typically assume that there is a “real me”. But how do we actually know who we are? It may seem simple – we are a product of our life experiences, which we can be easily accessed through our memories of the past.
There will be almost ten billion people living on Earth by 2050 and two billion of them will be over the age of 60. Growing old is the primary risk factor for multiple chronic and life threatening conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. This burdensome morbidity is the most distressing aspect of old age – compromising individual independence and straining collective healthcare systems.
If you drink alcohol, it’s likely you’re familiar with some of the effects of a hangover. Headaches, nausea and fatigue are just some of the unpleasant but common experiences of the morning after the night before. But have you ever wondered how a hangover may influence your thoughts and behaviour?
Everybody knows that to lose weight you should eat less and move more. But, of course, it’s not that simple; the combination of today’s environment and human biology can make it really, really hard to shed pounds. To reduce diseases caused by being overweight or obese, society needs to change, but those changes will be slow to come. We need effective weight-loss strategies now.