Saturday, 19 March 2016

Calorie labels aren't the same value for everyone

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My Dear Sexy Readers,

Here is one from my blog 'My Bugs and I' I really wanted to share with you as we've addressed the subject of calories somewhere else:

We are not all equal when it comes to food. We’ve known this for a few years now, some people are just not equipped with the best genes. However, it seems that we may have missed a major player in the digestion equation, namely our microbiota.

Our gut microbiota have a formidable secondary role in extracting energy from food that ends up undigested in our gut.

Having passed through the small intestine, it is then our microbes’ turn to chew leftovers and extract as many calories as possible from them for their, as well as for our, benefit.

But, knowing that microbiota species identities are different from person to person, is extracting calories from food a unique and tailored process for each one of us?


Indeed, some of these micro-organisms are just better than others. Peter Turnbaugh was a PhD student when he conducted an experiment on mice that would change the way scientists think of calories-in/calories-out:

What he did was simple enough, he transferred the gut germs of obese mice into lean germ-free mice (let’s call them Batch O), he also transferred the gut germs of normal lean mice into lean germ-free mice (Batch L). He then fed Batch O and L with exactly the same food. Two weeks later, Batch O had gained a lot more weight than Batch L. Since he used recipient mice with no germs that could influence the results, the effect was directly linked to the germs from obese mice (see figure, excuse the mice's coat colours please).

Turnbaugh's experiment in 2006
Turnbaugh calculated that Batch O was getting 2% more calories from food because the germs from obese mice were better at extracting energy. For each 100 calories Batch L would get, Batch O would get 102 calories. Not much of a difference but think about it in the long-term: it all adds up!

Other experiments have been conducted in humans that reach the same conclusion:

It is our gut microbial content that determines how much energy we extract from food – Do you want to tweet this? 

This has some serious implications, imagine food labels for example: a 145 calories chocolate cookie may mean 148 for someone with an unfortunate set of gut bacteria super good at extracting energy.

This said, the set of microbiota that we are hosting is directly influenced by our day-to-day dietary habits. For example, someone who is not used to eating fats will not harbour the germs that are good at extracting energy from it, so the fat will go through undigested; whereas someone who’s used to a high fat diet, has the ‘right’ set of germs to deal with fat and get the most out of it.

Effectively, it means that the odd cookie won’t affect a no-cookie diet person the way it will affect a cookie lover who indulges frequently in cookie eating.

But this is only the first step, calories in. Calories out is the next step.  All that energy that has been kindly extracted by our microbiota needs to have a purpose: either it is used immediately, or it is stored away for later use.

But that is another story…

Are you a calorie counter? Will you change your attitude towards food labels?
I’d love to read your thoughts, feel free to leave me a comment, I’d love to read them.

The fascinating results from Peter Turnbaugh were published in the famous Nature paper in 2006 (yep, and we’re only catching up now!). Although it is unfairly hidden behind a pay wall, you can read its abstract here.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Why do I always feel so sh!t?

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My Dear Sexy Readers,

Feeling sluggish? Depressed, sad, longing for sunny days? I'm with you on that one!! Winter feels so long and summer so short! Especially this year with all these weather changes, and when is actually winter now? In Spring? OK, let's stop the rant now and see why I have this unstoppable need for ranting...

Winter blues, called SAD for Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a seasonal depression and mood variation known to be related to how much sunlight you receive. Your mood is influenced by a complexed relationship between sunlight, melatonin (sleep hormone) and serotonin (awake AND good mood hormone).

Winter Blues 

As the dark hours increase during winter, our body increases levels of melatonin, leaving less hours for the body to increase its serotonin levels. Whereas during summer, serotonin levels increase when you are exposed to bright light making you feel in a better mood!
Indeed it is well known that bright light therapy can bring quick benefits to people with depression or SAD because light affects the balance between melatonin and serotonin

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The truth behind detox plans

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My Dear Sexy Readers,

This is a topic that I covered about 4 years ago and unfortunately it is still true nowadays as this year again, after our multiple binge eating and drinking, we are being bombarded by those so-called Detox treatments!!!

Our body full of toxins needs to be purified using creams, brushes, special vitamin pills, food supplements, teas, etc.

Getting rid of internal or external toxins


Pollution particles accumulate on your skin and hair; detox gels/creams/pads help get rid of those impurities.
Companies sell you products that are made with special ingredients to detoxify your skin and hair. But if you look at the composition of those detox shower gels and special shampoos, you will see that the main active ingredients will always be the same as normal shampoos', i.e. a combination of detergent/foaming agent such as Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate with some derived glycerol compound for the texture, some fragrance, and preservatives such as paraben.

In 2010, the Voice of Young Science Network compiled a report analysing 15 products found on shelves of our major UK supermarkets and pharmacies. They called company sales representatives or advisors and asked them on what basis these specific products were efficient in detoxifying our body, they all admitted they weren't.

These products rely one one infallible mechanism: our body's own detoxifying system:

Let's explore our skin
Skin structure
Our skin is a fantastically well-made barrier: it consists of three main layers, each with its own unique function and purpose. 

The outermost layer, the epidermis is the key to the skin barrier. Made up of overlapping layers of dry cells, the epidermis helps keep moisture in the body and vital nutrients in and damaging substances and elements out.

Think about all the elements and substances you are exposed to every day, such as chemicals, pathogens and sunlight. The human skin does a good job of blocking out all these undesirable substances and forces. And all this happens around the clock, on a level so small you can't even see it.


The selling point of many products is that we absorb damaging toxins through food and drink. Those detoxifying pills target the build up of toxins inside our organs and help them flushing them out. Or according to representatives from companies that were interrogated by VYSN, toxins are stored in fatty acids and our body has difficulty breaking down those deposits.

Of course with all those detox pills, it will always be recommended to have a healthy low sugar low salt diet and drink plenty of water!!
Now, I'll hear you say, well of course you'll feel better if you stop binge drinking and eat healthy food!

Exactly, that's the point! Our body is perfectly capable of behaving by itself without the need for magic pills. Four organs are responsible for the detoxification of our body: the liver, the kidneys, the intestinal tract and the skin (see above)

Let's have a look at our liver - This chapter has now been extensively written HERE and HERE
Photo from HERE
Among others, our liver is
  • processing digested food from the intestine
  • controlling levels of fats, amino acids and glucose in the blood 
  • combating infections in the body 
  • clearing the blood of particles and infections including bacteria 
  • neutralising and destroying drugs and toxins 
  • manufacturing bile 
  • storing iron, vitamins and other essential chemicals 
  • breaking down food and turning it into energy 
  • manufacturing, breaking down and regulating numerous hormones including sex hormones 
  • making enzymes and proteins which are responsible for most chemical reactions in the body, for example those involved in blood clotting and repair of damaged tissues.
So the liver's roles in detoxification are to filter the blood from toxins and to convert fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins that will be excreted via the kidneys (and then urine) or via the bile (which also works as a bacteria killing detergent).

And those roles don't need no help from pills!!!

Now, these past few years, we have been witnesses of a very disturbing fashion, namely colon cleansing!!!

Colonic Therapy
This colonic irrigation is intended to remove feces and non specific toxins lining the walls of our intestinal tract that are responsible for general ill-health.
But if our body was accumulating toxins on its gut walls, it wouldn't be able to absorb essential nutrients, we'd all be starving to death!

So one of the claims of the beneficial effects of colon therapy being a help to losing weight is self contradictory!

Unfortunately, as well as being complete BS (and I don't mean to insist on the S), irrigating your colon is more damaging that anything else:

Colon cleansing may disturb the delicate but essential balance between bacteria and natural chemicals in the bowell and therefore may interfere with the colon functions. It also disrupts fluid and the balance in electrolytes leading to dehydration and cardiac problems.

Less unintended effect is also the inability to defecate without assistance!!!

Also, on rare occasions, gastrointestinal perforation for incorrect insertion and amoebic infections from poorly sterilized equipment have been reported.

If you really want to "cleanse" your colon , simple fact is eating a healthy diet high in fibers does the trick!!

Healthy low sugar, low salt, high fibers diet, and drinking lots of water is and will always be the best and cheapest Detox plan you'll find on the market!!!

See you Soon for more Sexy Science,
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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Pre-launch party for My Bugs and I

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My Dear Sexy Readers,

My Bugs and I will be live in less than a month and I wanted to share with you a little bit more information about this new venture in the form of a Giveaway!!!

A fantastic Kindle Fire tablet is to be won, and I know for a fact it is a fantastic little gem as I have purchased one for myself... Hmmm for my son, I mean... so I could download Hollyoaks during my daily commute... Hmmm I mean so I could download cartoons and games for my 3 year old for him to play while daddy and I are having lunch in a quiet restaurant... Yes, you've guessed it, possibilities are endless with this little device, I luuuurve it!!!

Go over HERE for a chance to win this beautiful Fire

Anyoooh, for a chance to win it, please go over to my new blog where you'll be able to enter the giveaway with your FB or email log in details. Alternatively, you can click on the Giveaway tab right here on Science is So Sexy ;)

Good luck and see you soon for more Sexy Science,

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