Tag: diet

Thick, 1,000-Year-Old Dental Plaque Is Gross, Useful to Archaeologists

By Sarah Zhang | May 8, 2012 2:46 pm

dental plaque
What big plaque deposits you have!

A dentist will tell you to floss everyday, but an archeologist might, well, have different priorities. Turns out the nitrogen and carbon isotopes in dental plaque can give archeologists a look at 1,000-year-old diets.

The buildup of plaque on this set of teeth is, um, impressive. (Cut the skull some slack though, this was before we had dentists to chide us about daily flossing.) Without the benefit of modern dental hygiene, the plaque built up over a lifetime, layer upon layer like a stalagmite. In a paper recently published in the Journal of Archeological Science researchers exhumed 58 medieval Spanish skeletons and scraped off their dental plaque to test carbon and nitrogen isotopes. When they compared the isotope profiles of the Spaniards to that of plaque from an Alaskan Inuit, the scientists found the ratio of nitrogen-15 to be quite different. That makes sense, as the Intuit ate a predominantly marine diet, and there is more nitrogen-15 in the protein molecules of organisms living in sea than on land.

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Hyenas Change Their Diet During Lent, According to a Poop Analysis

By Sarah Zhang | April 6, 2012 8:26 am

spotted hyena
Did you know I can eat and digest bone? Plenty of calcium.

After painstakingly identifying all the animal hairs in hyena poop, scientists have determined that Lent forces spotted hyenas in Ethiopia to change their diets too. No, Ethiopians have not managed to convert hyenas—they just deprive them of butcher scraps.

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Investigating the "Charlie Brown Effect": Astronauts' Chubby Faces and Hot-Sauce Cravings

By Sarah Zhang | February 27, 2012 8:45 am

spacing is importantOne of these pockets must have Tabasco.

Does this zero gravity make me look fat? Yup. It’s called the Charlie Brown effect, according to Michele Perchonok, NASA’s shuttle food system manager, and it’s not because she’s fattening them up with shrimp cocktail and chicken consommé. Without the benefit of gravity, bodily fluids accumulate in the head, giving the astronauts rounder, cartoon-like faces.

As anyone who’s had a cold knows, more fluid in our facial cavities also means congestion and weakening our sense of smell. But is lack of gravity actually responsible to for all this? There’s only one way to find out: “Perchonok has asked [food engineer Jean Hunter] and her crew at Cornell to test the stuffy nose theory. To do that on Earth, volunteers will spend several weeks in a bed where their heads are lower than their feet to try to re-create that Charlie Brown effect.” This might not be what people had in mind when they volunteered for astronaut simulations.

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Mother's Fatty Diet Makes Baby Monkeys Afraid of Mr. Potato Head

By Jennifer Welsh | November 19, 2010 12:49 pm

creepy-potatoWhat monkey mothers eat has a large impact on how skittish their offspring act in stressful situations like stranger danger–or the presence of a Mr. Potato Head in their cage.

According to researchers, even normal monkeys find the toy’s large eyes to be “mildly stressful.” But baby monkeys from mothers who were fed a high-fat diet (over 35 percent of calories from fat, modeled after a typical American diet) had a much stronger reaction to an encounter with the spud man, and also spazzed in the presence of an unknown human.

The study, presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual conference, found that in stressful situations, the female offspring were more anxious and the males more aggressive, explains LiveScience:
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Nutritionists to America: For the Love of God, Don't Try the Twinkie Diet

By Jennifer Welsh | November 12, 2010 11:12 am

junk-foodIt’s been making headlines all week (“Twinkie diet helps man lose weight” and “Trying To Lose Weight… Try The Junk Food Diet” might be some of the worst health-related headlines I’ve seen in awhile) as the Ding-Dong Diet or the Twinkie Diet, but let’s just call it the worst diet ever for short.

The newsplosion came from an experiment by Mark Haub, an associate professor in the department of human nutrition at Kansas State University. In an effort to prove to his class the importance of calories in weight gain and loss, he decided to drastically change his eating habits.

He embarked from the shores of a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat (totaling about 2,600 calories per day) to a junk food diet consisting of Twinkies, Hostess and Little Debbie snack cakes, and Doritos–with sides of vitamin pills, protein shakes, and small portions of vegetables. He lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks. Why? Because he restricted his new diet to a total of 1,800 calories per day.

He expected to lose weight, but was unsure about the other health outcomes of the diet. Ten weeks later his blood tests showed that both his lipid levels and glucose had lowered, a fact that would put him in a healthier heart state, according to the American Heart Association‘s guidelines. According to ABC News, Haub even felt better:

The thing is, he began to feel healthier. He had more energy, stopped snoring, and not only did he lose enough weight to drive down his overall cholesterol and body mass index (BMI), his good HDL cholesterol crept up two points and his blood glucose — despite all that cream filling — dropped 17 percent.

Discoblog was skeptical about the hype over Haub’s junk food binge, so we asked some nutritionists and doctors what they thought of it. We came back with several different takes, but one general message. In a loud and clear voice, these nutritionists are telling America that this diet is a bad idea, and pleading with people not to try it.

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