Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Diet and Exercise

Considering a cranberry side dish for Thanksgiving? New study shows regular consumption may lower cholesterol and prevent memory loss

Okay, I’ll admit this blog entry has nothing really to do with comparative physiology. I just happen to really like eating cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and was curious about the benefits of eating cranberries more often. Like many other berries, cranberries are a super-fruit rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that are associated with protecting brain health with aging. On their own they are rather bitter due to the high amounts […]

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Migratory birds create their own water to prevent dehydration

Migratory birds are amazingly adapted for long-distance flights and can switch the fuels they rely on to support their endurance activities. Unlike humans that burn mainly carbohydrates for endurance exercise, avian flight is fueled mainly by fats and some proteins. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology researchers examined how white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) prepared for migration. By altering the […]

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Ever wonder why humans are attracted to the smell of fatty foods?

There has been a lot of speculation that fast food establishments and bakeries intentionally waft smells that attract customers. I’ll admit I find the smell of cheeseburgers quite tempting. Researchers are seeking to understand what draws humans to the smell of fatty foods in an effort to target those sensations as a way to combat obesity and obesity-related diseases. The approach seems reasonable. If I couldn’t smell a juicy grilled […]

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Making heat to lose weight

There are many ways to stay warm on a cold day. We can seek shelter, turn up the thermostat, and huddle close together. Obvious physical adaptations to cold include fur, feathers, and clothing in the case of humans…and some pampered dogs. Blood vessels near the skin may also constrict to prevent heat loss and some animals develop a layer fat under the skin that acts like insulation. We may also […]

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Heat may activate muscle growth and prevent atrophy

Skeletal muscle is not only important for our ability to move, it also plays a major role in metabolism. Under normal conditions, the routine processes of muscle growth (hypertrophy) and breakdown (atrophy) are in balance. While many of us are aware that exercise and healthy diets promote muscle growth, diseases and sedentary lifestyles can promote muscle atrophy. Studies examining the effects of heat on muscle – from environmental heat, direct […]

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Killer whales scare off sharks

A pair of killer whales, nicknamed ‘Port and Starboard’, has been terrorizing great white sharks. In recent years as many as 8 sharks (possibly more) have succumbed to the pair. Many of the discovered sharks were missing their fatty liver and sometimes their heart. While orca hunting escapades are not particularly newsworthy, the antics of these orcas have attracted the attention of scientists as they are altering the ecosystem. Once […]

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Grappling with gravidity

In humans, pregnancy can be an uncomfortable time as the growing fetus makes it more difficult to breathe. It can also become more difficult for the expectant mother to get around. It may be surprising to find out that grasshoppers may develop similar issues when they are ‘expecting’. In fact, a gravid grasshopper can carry an egg mass that makes up as much as 40% of their weight! Could you […]

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EB 2022: Modeling human diseases and healthy aging

I sat through a very interesting session at this year’s Experimental Biology conference called, “The Power of Comparative Models for Accelerating Translational Healthspan Research: Underutilized Lab Animals, Companion Pets, Old World Monkeys, and Pumas.” While the title seems to capture the general idea of the symposium, I thought I would share a bit more information about the presenters and their exciting research. Dr. Karyn Hamilton from Colorado State University presented […]

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More on the uniqueness of humans when it comes to heart disease…

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, heart-themed items seem to be everywhere. It is no surprise that I started thinking more and more about how humans are unique from other animals when it comes to heart disease. In my last entry, we talked about a few genetic variants that protect some humans from heart disease as well as the observation that many carnivores do not develop atherosclerosis, even when […]

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Preventing Atherosclerosis

Researchers have identified variants in the B4GALT1 gene of Amish people that are associated with low levels of LDL (i.e. “bad”) cholesterol and fibrinogen, a gene involved in blood clotting. In fact, people with variants in this gene are 35% less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease. When the variant was expressed in mice, the animals had similar decreases in LDL cholesterol and fibrinogen. Researchers are hoping to create […]

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