Me, myself, us | economist.com


The human microbiome

Looking at human beings as ecosystems that contain many collaborating and competing species could change the practice of medicine

WHAT’S a man? Or, indeed, a woman? Biologically, the answer might seem obvious. A human being is an individual who has grown from a fertilised egg which contained genes from both father and mother. A growing band of biologists, however, think this definition incomplete. They see people not just as individuals, but also as ecosystems. In their view, the descendant of the fertilised egg is merely one component of the system. The others are trillions of bacteria, each equally an individual, which are found in a person’s gut, his mouth, his scalp, his skin and all of the crevices and orifices that subtend from his body’s surface.

A healthy adult human harbours some 100 trillion bacteria in his gut alone. That is ten times as many bacterial cells as he has cells descended from the sperm and egg of his parents. These bugs, moreover, are diverse. Egg and sperm provide about 23,000 different genes. The microbiome, as the body’s commensal bacteria are collectively known, is reckoned to have around 3m. Admittedly, many of those millions are variations on common themes, but equally many are not, and even the number of those that are adds something to the body’s genetic mix.

And it really is a system, for evolution has aligned the interests of host and bugs. In exchange for raw materials and shelter the microbes that live in and on people feed and protect their hosts, and are thus integral to that host’s well-being. Neither wishes the other harm. In bad times, though, this alignment of interest can break down. Then, the microbiome may misbehave in ways which cause disease.

That bacteria can cause disease is no revelation. But the diseases in question are. Often, they are not acute infections of the sort 20th-century medicine has been so good at dealing with (and which have coloured doctors’ views of bacteria in ways that have made medical science slow to appreciate the richness and relevance of people’s microbial ecosystems). They are, rather, the chronic illnesses that are now, at least in the rich world, the main focus of medical attention. For, from obesity and diabetes, via heart disease, asthma and multiple sclerosis, to neurological conditions such as autism, the microbiome seems to play a crucial role.

A bug’s life Continuar leyendo «Me, myself, us | economist.com»

Key to being happy may not be in genes but in your choices

Working shorter hours did not necessarily lead to happiness, but working a lot more or less than they wanted made people very unhappy.

“It appears that prioritising success and material goals is actually harmful to life satisfaction,” Professor Headey wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Partner choice played a big role. Women were less happy if their partner did not prioritise family goals than if they had no partner, and people with a neurotic partner were far less happy over time. They never got used to their partner’s negative emotions, either – even after 20 years of marriage there was no decline in the effects on their happiness.

Doing exercise and being a healthy weight were beneficial, and obesity was strongly linked to unhappiness, particularly for women.

Professor Headey did not know why many people continued to prioritise goals which did not seem to make them happy. «I think people don’t often sit down and think about what really makes them happy, and then try to do more of that.”


Amy Corderoy | http://www.smh.com.au

Happy, happiness.Happiness … It’s a choice.

The sad sacks and Eeyores of the world are not doomed to gloom forever, according to new research that shows happiness is not dictated by genes.

Instead it found your choice of partner and life goals drastically affect your satisfaction with life – overturning the popular theory that happiness is largely decided by personality traits moulded early in life and genetic factors.

Up until now much research had seemed to show even extreme events such as becoming disabled or winning the lottery had little effect on people’s happiness, and studies of twins strongly linked happiness to genetics.

But in reality, over the course of their life about 40 per cent of people experienced large changes in their levels of happiness, said the study leader, Bruce Headey, an associate professor at the Melbourne Institute at Melbourne University.

The study, the first to track happiness over a long period, followed 60,000 Germans for up to 25 years. Continuar leyendo «Key to being happy may not be in genes but in your choices»

A Diabetes Cure?

With the obesity epidemic making diabetes much more prevalent, a possible cure couldn’t have come at a better time. The condition, which causes huge (and damaging) fluctuations in blood sugar levels because of the body’s inability to produce or utilize insulin, disproportionately affects people who are obese as well as those who are physically inactive. (Still, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of people with type 2 are not obese, including some of normal weight.)

Diabetes is a leading cause of death in America, where it affects one in 10 adults, including nine million women. For the vast majority of them, the disease is diagnosed after age 40. Type 2 dramatically increases the risk of heart disease for women at this age and contributes to complications such as stroke and damage to the eyes, kidneys and nerves. There’s no cure for the ailment. This form of diabetes is, at best, treated and managed, and even patients who are vigilant have a hard time keeping their blood sugar levels in check. So if bariatric surgery eliminates diabetes, should more patients be having it?


by Roni Caryn Rabin
Via more.com/2024/24133-a-diabetes-cure


The enormous health benefits of gastric bypass operations kick in before you even drop the pounds

Before her gastric bypass surgery two years ago, Mary Ellen Sweeney weighed in at 344 pounds and suffered from type 2 diabetes. Her blood sugar levels were so out of control that sweet desserts were forbidden. But now, as she sits in a restaurant at the Jersey shore, she orders a slice of raspberry Linzer torte that’s served on a streak of chocolate sauce, with whipped cream on the side. She can indulge because three days after she had a gastric bypass operation, a remarkable thing happened: Her diabetes disappeared. Continuar leyendo «A Diabetes Cure?»

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