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High on Calories

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Obese people are not able to regulate high-calorie food intake because of changes in their brain.
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If your overweight children binge eat, blame it on their flawed brain circuitry. Scientists have now found that despite the desire to cut their food intake, obese individuals will not be able resist junk food, which is very high in calories. That’s because their persistent eating behaviour has precipitated changes in the brain similar to that found in heavy smokers and drug addicts. The study appeared yesterday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

After spending years studying brain changes associated with drug abuse and smoking, Paul Kenny — a neurobiologist at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, the US — recently turned his attention to obesity. He and his graduate student, Pal Johnson, wanted to understand the strong yet not-so-easy-to-fathom link between obesity and depleted levels of dopamine or D2, a brain chemical associated with feelings of pleasure.

Scientists in the past had observed that obese individuals have reduced levels of dopamine, but weren’t sure if it was triggered by obesity. It was also known that food intake was associated with dopamine release and the degree of pleasure from eating correlates with the amount of chemical released. Evidence has shown that in comparison to lean people, obese individuals have fewer dopamine receptors in the brain. And people with fewer dopamine receptors need to take in more of a rewarding substance — such as food or drugs — to get an effect that others get with a lesser amount. But the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood.

“What we have achieved is proven in our experiments with laboratory rats that obesity can elicit these brain changes,” Kenny told KnowHow over the telephone.

For this, the Florida scientists embarked upon a series of meticulously planned experiments. In the first, they offered rats — which were grouped into three categories — different menus. While the first group had access solely to less-appetising but healthier chow, the other two were offered a choice of high-calorie food such as bacon, sausage, cake and chocolate in addition to chow, but for varying durations. Some rats had access to the rich fare for just one hour, while the other group could gorge on it most part of the day. The animals were fed this way for 40 days. All of them were wired to record even the slightest change in their D2 levels.

The rats in the first set — which were fed only chow — maintained their weight, while those belonging to the second set — which had restricted access to rich food — exhibited insignificant increase in their body weight. On the contrary, the third group — which had unlimited access to calorie-rich food — gained weight rapidly. These animals were found to be gobbling up twice as much as the other two groups. As the days wore on, their dopamine levels plummeted, requiring them to consume higher quantities of high-fat food to get the feeling of satiation. This is quite like the case of a smoker who has to puff away more cigarettes to get the same high that he or she earlier got with one. Or a drug addict who has to continuously increase the dose for getting a kick.

A second set of experiments with the rats showed that this blunting of the reward sensitivity does not return for a good two weeks even after the high-calorie food was withdrawn.

A true addict, whether rat or human, will compulsively consume the addictive substance even when it is clearly detrimental to health. In the third experiment the scientists tested this hypothesis. To do this, the team trained the rats to expect painful foot shocks upon seeing a light signal. Although the normal rats stopped eating even the most delicious junk food when the light came on, the obese ones used to a high-calorie diet simply ignored the cue and kept feeding.

Anoop Misra, head of internal medicine at Fortis Hospitals in New Delhi, says this explains why obese people find it difficult to modulate their junk food eating habits.

“The US scientists’ experiment has substantiated many assumptions associated with obesity and dopamine levels in the brain fairly well,” says Nihal Thomas, an endocrinologist at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. “The exercise and methodology followed are exquisite.” The findings may help develop drugs that may target dopamine receptors to treat obesity, he observes.

Source : The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Can Our Natural Rhythm Heal Us?

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Nick Topper Headon from The Clash explains how drumming helped him
Could a natural rhythm – which some experts believe we all possess – be a cure for a variety of health problems? Some certainly think so.

Musician Simon Lee, from Kent, is called on to teach drumming to patients with problems ranging from addiction to autism, and learning difficulties to mental health issues.

He has even offered help to terminally ill patients needing palliative care.

And he says the results are amazing.

Experts believe that rhythmic drumming can aid health by inducing a deep sense of relaxation, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure.

Drumming health benefits :-

“Drumming has a number of benefits,” said Simon.

“It can energise or relax. It can foster a sense of playfulness or release anger and tension. It can also help in the conquering of social isolation and the building of positive relationships.”

One patient, an alcoholic, told Simon her drumming sessions had helped her so much it had given her the inspiration to continue with a gruelling detox course.

“She said when she came into the clinic she was extremely negative and the first two or three days the treatment was purely about detox and heavy stuff,” said Simon.

“The drumming was the first time she engaged and smiled.

“She said ‘I came out of myself and saw that I could survive’.”

Simon, who also carries out drumming sessions for the general public, said there was a growing interest in the therapeutic effect it could have, both on the individual and the community.

“There is strong evidence to suggest that drumming may actually be a healing activity,” he said.

“Some have gone so far as to prove that time spent drumming can positively affect our immune systems, levels of stress and psychological well being.”

Natural sense of rhythm
Stephen Clift, professor of health education at Canterbury University and director of research at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, Folkestone, said his centre had recently hosted a workshop into the benefits of drumming.

Drumming may help people relax

“It gives a general sense of well being,” he said.

“As a research centre we are interested in arts and health generally but particularly in regards to music.

“Most of the work we have been doing is in regards to singing, particularly in groups and community sessions – but these benefits apply to drumming.

“It is fun and challenging, but can produce very positive results very quickly.”

Dr Barry Bittman, a neurologist, and CEO of the Yamaha and Wellness Institute in Pensylvania, believes one of the great potential benefits of employing drums in therapy is that they are so easy use.

And although some might disagree, he believes that everybody has a sense of rhythm.

I believe we are hard wired for music there is evidence that even in the womb the foetus has rhythm,” he said.

“We are all naturally musical, although in the US less than 7% of adults over the age of 18 even pick up a musical instrument once a year.

“Drums are accessible and don’t present the challenge of a learning curve – anyone regardless of handicap can sit and beat out a rhythm on a drum.

“Drumming is affordable, accessible and sustainable.

“I think we all begin as drummers if you think about childhood the children are under the table banging on pots and pans.”

Nick “Topper” Headon, former drummer of the legendary 1970s punk group The Clash, is one who subscribes to the theory that drumming is good for the psyche.

Unfortunately a drug problem developed while he was playing with The Clash meant that he went 26 years without playing the drums, but now that he has finally kicked his drug habit he once again enjoys the buzz of hammering away on his kit.

He said: “Its a physical activity, it stimulates parts of the brain keeping the four limbs doing something different, and it is primeval as well – drums were the first instrument: before music, people were banging things together.”

Sources:Health reporter, BBC News  Dated:10th. Feb.’09

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