For one moment put aside genetics, medical conditions and a lack of physical exercise to just imagine that your income could predispose you to become obese. It’s a frightening thought that in a well educated and resourceful country, residents might be physiologically doomed just by their occupying a certain socioeconomic position.
In the United States, the highest rates of obesity and diabetes are found within lower-income groups. Why? The plausible explanation is because of a lack of money. Unhealthy foods are not only cheap but are extremely energy-dense; this means that less of them are needed to produce the same energy compared to healthy foods. However, studies have proved these energy-dense foods to be less satiating than fresh nutritious foods, resulting in passive overeating and a higher risk of obesity.
Fast food, sweets, desserts and sweetened soft drinks have continuously been linked to obesity, so why are they still consumed, and on a massive scale? Unhealthy and processed foods are widespread for three reasons: they’re inexpensive, tasty and convenient. Healthy and nutritious foods such as fresh meats & fish, fruits and vegetables can be expensive to purchase and often difficult to source.
The consumption of unhealthy foods has also been linked to individual factors such as emotional state, personality and stress levels, however the underlying problem is a far more universal one. Economics is at the heart of the obesity-poverty relationship for two main reasons. Firstly, because low-income groups predominantly buy cheap and concentrated forms of energy i.e. fat and sugar which contribute to obesity. Secondly, as low-income groups are also more likely to reside within areas with less access to fresh and healthy produce.
The current solution is to inform and encourage the eating of healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables. There has been no attempt to address the serious and underlying issue that greatly contributes to higher rates of obesity: cost. What use is the knowledge that people should eat healthier, if they cannot afford to do so?
Perhaps focus should be moved towards changing the economy of obesity given that the evidence has suggests obesity rates do in fact conform to a socioeconomic gradient. A more effective solution to tackle the growing problem of obesity would be the widespread implementation of policies that make healthy foods affordable and accessible to all consumers.
How? Agricultural development, government subsidiaries, consumer education and price regulation are just a few ideas.
Drewnowski, A &Darmon, N. (2005) The economics of obesity: dietary energy density and energy cost. American Journal Clinical Nutrition 82: 1 265S-273S
Researchers at Nottingham University might have found the answer to developing an alternative treatment for the potentially fatal Long QT syndrome. By using patients skin samples, Professor Chris Denning has successfully produced stem cells, which were then transformed into heart cells. These heart cells contain the genetic predisposition that causes long QT, meaning that the effects of new drugs can be studied in the laboratory. Researchers hope that this technique can be used to help develop new treatments for the syndrome.
Long QT syndrome affects electrical activity within the heart, resulting in the sudden onset of potentially fatal arrhythmias in response to anxiety or exercise. The syndrome is currently treated with beta-blockers, however if medication does not work then a small device known as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is fitted. Neither treatment path is perfect and both have side-effects, which is why the new research is so important.
The research, which is backed by the British Heart Foundation and Heart Research UK is still in its infancy but seems promising. Indications have already shown the heart cells to have the same electrical activity as found in a whole heart.
Following on from our last post we wanted to share our first TED talk with you.
TED is a non-profit organisation that shares ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ from three different worlds: Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED invites the brightest and most brilliant minds to ‘give the talk of their lives’ in under 20 minutes. Previous talks have been given by Steve Jobs, Jill Bolte Taylor and Stephen Hawking, on a wide variety of subjects. The talks can be humorous, imaginative, informed and inspiring.
Our pick today is ‘How to build your confidence’ by David Kelley. Kelley co-founded the design giant, IDEO. Although you may not have heard of them, you’ve most probably seen their designs: Apple’s first mouse, Microsoft’s second mouse and even the thumbs up/ down button on Tivo’s remote control. But following a big change in his life, Kelley devoted himself to helping others unlock their creative potential.
Want to know more…
Here at The Science Behind Science, we want more people to get excited about science and we couldn’t think of anything more exciting than sharing the creativity and curiosity of science with you.
Creativity? It’s the phenomenon where something original and worthwhile is developed; it flourishes via imagination and is applied by innovation. Together, creativity and innovation make up the driving forces in scientific and technological advancement.
So to get our creative juices flowing we’re going to have to look at science a little differently. It’s no longer going to be the boring subject once studied in school; it’s the sunrise on the horizon, the complexity in an octopus’ eye, the discovery of new worlds and the hours of research dedicated to destroying cancer.
This is the stuff of science that makes us excited and we hope that we can share it with you. You’ll see more thought provoking posts about the art, thought, travel and ideas behind science.
There’s a scientist within all of us, it’s curious, creative and intelligent – and we hope to inspire it.