Wednesday, April 26, 2017

24 April 2017

Plastic-munching caterpillars may show us how to dissolve waste

Caterpillar on plastic sheet
Grub is served
César Hernández/CSIC
Caterpillars could hold the key to our growing problem of plastic waste. While doing some routine beehive maintenance, a team of researchers in Spain has chanced upon one type of caterpillar that seems to have a taste for the stuff.
Federica Bertocchini at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria was picking honeycomb moth caterpillars out of a beehive and placing the beeswax-eating pests in a plastic bag for disposal. After a while she found that the caterpillars had broken loose and were milling everywhere. She and her team later confirmed the caterpillars can eat through plastic, and they now want to develop a quick way of breaking down polyethylene – used to make plastic bags – with enzymes from the caterpillars.
The team found that 100 caterpillars of the Galleria mellonella moth can riddle a supermarket shopping bag with holes in under an hour, and can consume 92 milligrams of plastic in half a day – that’s just over 3 per cent of a shopping bag. “That’s quite fast,” says Bertocchini, considering that it takes at least 100 years for one to decompose naturally.
To make sure the caterpillars were actually digesting the plastic, the team ground some of them up and spread a thin layer of the paste on a polyethylene film. Within 14 hours and after some reapplications, the paste had broken down 13 per cent of the plastic. The team also found traces of ethylene glycol, a sign of polyethylene breakdown.
“Our study is the first scientific work to show that this species eats plastic with the chemical depolymerisation of polyethylene,” says Bertocchini. Such an ability might be down to the caterpillars harbouring certain gut microbes.
Wei-Min Wu from Stanford University, who has studied various plastic-eating species, says the results are exciting. But he says the paste has produced a much higher biodegradation rate than anything seen in polyethylene-degrading bacteria isolated so far, suggesting that what goes on in the caterpillar’s gut is more complicated.
Bertocchini is hoping that a single enzyme is what is breaking down the plastic. “If this is the case, I can picture a scenario in the future where we can isolate it, produce it on a large scale and use that to biodegrade plastics.” She has founded a biotech company with one of her co-researchers, but they don’t yet have the funds to test the idea.
They’re not the only ones working on this. BioCellection, start-up based in San Jose, California, is hoping to launch a pilot plastic waste-processing plant by 2020. Their plan involves chemically treating plastics to make them easier for bioengineered bacteria to digest.
In the meantime, it’s not unreasonable to think we will keep finding organisms that have evolved to digest plastic. But our plastic problem won’t magically go away. On the plus side, neither will these creatures start devouring our precious plastic goods.
“These animals don’t live on plastic,” says Bertocchini. “They eat it to get out of it, or get to the food behind it. If in the future something evolves to exclusively eat plastic, I don’t know. So far it hasn’t happened.”
Journal reference: Current BiologyDOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.060

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Best Time To Drink Milk: Morning Or Night

Best Time To Drink Milk

Starting your day off gulping down a glass of milk might seem like a quick and nutritious start to your day, but milk being heavy in digestion can leave you prone to stomach aches and heartburn as well. In accordance with ayurveda, milk may be better saved as an end of day drink to help you wind down and crank up the sleep inducing hormones in your body.
Milk drinking is a routine many of us get used to from childhood, and many carry well into adulthood. But have we been drinking milk all wrong? Milk may be better saved as an end of day drink to help you wind down and crank up the sleep inducing serotonin and melatonin levels in your body.
Milk is a calcium-rich drink that’s loaded with nutrients like protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B12, as well as Vitamin D if it is fortified milk.1 This makes it an excellent addition to your diet. But is there a good time or a bad time to drink milk? As it turns out, there may well be. Here’s how to make the most of that cup of milk by drinking to give your body what it needs, when it needs it.

Is It The Best Way To Start Your Day?

Starting your day off with a bowl of cereal with milk poured over, or chugging down a milk based drink might seem like a quick and nutritious start to your day, but it can get a little heavy if you’re not careful. Using whole fat milk can make the first meal of the day heavier than you want it to be. And it may not keep you as full as a breakfast that has a little more fiber in it (like oatmeal) to bulk it up or a richer protein source like eggs which keep you satiated longer.
In fact, Ayurveda suggests avoiding an overload of your digestive system in the morning. The body needs fuel that will help fire it up for the day.2 Heavy milk can bring on stomach aches or heartburn as well, due to the load on your digestive system.3 This is a time of day to have warm poached fruit or cooked vegetables, or incorporate a little milk into an oatmeal porridge(or have a nut milk instead!) to help ease your body into the day ahead and tank up on foods that release energy slowly(low glycemic foods like whole grains and fruit and vegetables can do this for you).

Why Nighttime Milk Drinking Is A Good Idea

Milk is best drunk at night when your body needs to wind down and switch from being active to calmer and more relaxed.

Tryptophan Manages Sleeping And Waking Cycle

Tryptophan is an amino acid that milk contains which helps improve the quality of sleep you get, as well as how long you sleep. It helps the body with creating serotonin and melatonin, two neurotransmitters that help the body manage its sleeping and waking cycle. You could have your cup of warm milk about half an hour before you turn in for the night.4

Magnesium Helps Ward Off Sleep Problems

The magnesium in milk is another reason to consider switching milk-drinking to the evening or night.5 The nutrient plays a key role in a whopping 300 biochemical reactions in the body6, including those that help you maintain normal nerve and muscle function. And it’s these latter two that are critical in the context of sleep and nighttime rest. By keeping the body plied with this nutrient you might be able to stave off restless leg syndrome and muscular cramping caused by magnesium deficiency, to get a proper night’s rest.7

Calcium Fights Insomnia

The calcium in milk also helps boost serotonin levels in the body, while the melatonin helps fight off insomnia in those struggling with this sleep disorder due to stress or other reasons.8

An Ayurvedic Approach

Make it part of your bedtime routine and you’ll help your body create a nice turndown process every day. And such routine is great for your body to establish a good rhythm, and maintain a balance of energies central to Ayurvedic philosophy. With this balance of energies or doshas you should help overall health and vitality as well.9

Start Drinking Turmeric Milk

As the body rests at night, it also recovers and heals from the day’s wear and tear. If you mix some turmeric into your milk, you can amp up the power of the drink due to the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and healing powers of the spice. So you’ll be able to go to sleep knowing the drink has helped ease inflammation, pain, and swelling, making it possible for someone with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or chronic pain, to actually be able to relax a little and get some rest. Even if the shear stress and pressures of the day have taken their toll on your body leaving you with a searing headache, you could find a cup of warm turmeric milk soothes your body, reducing swelling and inflammation.10

Avoid Milk If You Have Dairy Allergy

For some people, drinking milk is never a good idea, regardless of what time of day it is. Specifically, those with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy. So how can you tell if you have these problems?
If you are lactose intolerant, you will notice digestive issues crop up soon after you have a cup of milk or any milk product. Symptoms include gas or flatulence, diarrhea, and bloating. You may also experience abdominal pain and nausea. If that’s the case you may need to look at alternative lactose-free milk options like nut milks or rice or soy milk to get your daily fix.11 For those with a milk allergy that isn’t very severe, symptoms may include hives or a rash, stomach upset or vomiting after consumption. In some cases, bloody stools may also be present. The more severe form of this allergy however, is hard to miss, and like other severe allergies can result in Anaphylaxis, where breathing is significantly impaired and your body goes into a state of shock.12

Are Heart Attack Symptoms In Women Different Than In Men?

Heart Attack Symptoms In Women

Both men and women can have the "classic" or well-known symptoms of heart attack like cold sweats, crushing chest pains, and a sudden lightheadedness. But some less typical symptoms like pain in the abdomen, neck, jaw, or back, fatigue for hours or days before the attack, shortness of breath, and nausea are said to be more common in women. However, this doesn't mean that you should ignore them if you're a man.
You might already know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.1 22 But did you know that women have a higher chance of dying if they get a heart attack than men do?2One reason for this is that women often have less well known symptoms of a heart attack and may dismiss these signs as indicating something less threatening.
It’s critically important to recognize the signs of a heart attack because most treatments for clogged arteries – the chief cause of heart attacks – work best within an hour after a heart attack begins. And getting emergency medical attention could mean the difference between life and death. Here are the common heart attack symptoms in men and in women.

Common Heart Attack Symptoms

Some symptoms of heart attack like chest pain are fairly well known. However, it’s important to be on the watch for more subtle signs too. And do keep in mind that if you’ve had a heart attack before, you may not experience the same symptoms the next time.3 Look out for

Sudden Pressure Or Pain In The Left Chest

Discomfort or pain in the left side or center of your chest is the most common symptom of heart attacks. This can feel like uncomfortably heavy pressure, a squeezing sensation, or pain. It could even feel like indigestion or heart burn. This sensation usually lasts for a few minutes or recedes and comes back.4

Cold Sweats Without A Trigger

Breaking out into a “cold sweat” or excessive sweating without any apparent reason like a hot weather or a hot flash is another common sign of a heart attack.5

Sudden Lightheadedness

You may know that people can lose consciousness when they get a heart attack (it’s a familiar sight in the movies), but did you know that suddenly feeling lightheaded or dizzy could be an indication that you’re having a heart attack?6

Common Heart Attack Symptoms In Women

It seems that women do not always present the classic heart attack symptoms. For instance, some women may not feel any chest pain or discomfort at all.7 Here are some of the heart attack symptoms more common in women.

Fatigue Before An Attack

A lack of energy or feeling unusually tired is a common sign of a heart attack in women – more than 50% of women who have heart attacks experience weakness or muscle tiredness which can’t be accounted for by exercise. This symptom may come on suddenly or it can also be present for days before an attack.8

Upper Body Pain

A heart attack can cause discomfort, or pain in your back, neck, upper abdomen (above the belly button), jaw, or either one of your arms or both of them. Here’s what you need to look out for:
  • Tightness or ache around or in your lower jaw
  • Discomfort in your neck
  • A burning or choking sensation in your throat
  • Heaviness, pressure, or an ache around both or one of your shoulders
  • A dull ache between the shoulder blades
  • Numbness, tingling, heaviness, or pain in one or both your arms
But do keep in mind that while pain in the jaw, neck, stomach, or back are more common indicators for women, pain in these areas can be common warning signs for men too.9 10 11

Shortness Of Breath

You may experience shortness of breath either before or around the same time that you experience chest pain. It could even be the only symptom you experience. So you may suddenly find that you’re struggling to breathe though you’ve haven’t engaged in any physical activity that can account for this when you have a heart attack. Again, do keep in mind that men too commonly experience shortness of breath as a symptom.12

Nausea Or Vomiting

Women are two times more likely to experience indigestion, nausea, or vomiting during a heart attack when compared to men.13Unfortunately, they are also prone to dismissing this as a mere digestive upset.
If you experience any of these symptoms, get help immediately.

What Can You Do To Lower Your Risk?

Factors like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol levels are known to increase your risk for heart disease and controlling these is very important. Other factors like stress and depression are also associated with heart disease and need to be addressed.14 15Here’s how you can manage your risk:

Have A Healthy Diet

A balanced diet plays an important role in keeping your heart healthy. Your diet should be rich in fruit and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, fish, and pulses and you should limit your intake of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.16

Exercise Regularly

Exercise can lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, help to control your blood sugar, and reduce blood pressure. Getting in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (for instance, walking briskly or doing yard work) every day can help your heart.17

Do Not Use Tobacco Products

Tobacco in all its forms can harm your health. Being exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke can be dangerous too. But the good news is that your risk of a heart attack starts dropping as soon as you stop using tobacco products and can reduce by about 50% in a year.18

Try Breathing Exercises

A yogic breathing technique known as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga which involves rhythmic, cyclical breathing with slow, medium, and fast cycles can help you deal with stress as well as depression.
During the slow breath cycle which is known as Ujjayi or “Victorious Breath,” 2 to 4 breaths are taken per minute, while during the rapid breath cycle which is known as Bhastrika or “Bellows Breath,” air is inhaled and forcefully exhaled at about 30 breaths per minute. A trained practitioner will be able to coach you in the technique.19


According to research, meditation can be helpful for people who are dealing with depression and anxiety, which raise the risk for depression.20Sit comfortably, focus on your breathing, and keep your attention on the present moment without letting your mind drift into the past or future. Try to meditate for at least 20 minutes a day and do remember that regular practice can help you maximize your benefits.21
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CureJoy Editorial