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Latest Articles

Studying Preindustrial Societies Informs us About How to Be Healthy. Podcast with Herman Pontzer

For the vast majority of human history, our species lived hunter-gatherer lifestyles. We can therefore learn much about how humans probably once lived by studying preindustrial societies.

Research on preindustrial societies has consistently shown that these people have exemplary health. And when we consider that modern humans are succumbing to chronic diseases at an alarming rate, we clearly have much to learn from preindustrial people.

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Professor Herman Pontzer about what he has learned from his research on hunter-gatherers. Herman’s findings led him to develop the counterintuitive hypothesis that how physically active we are each day may scarcely affect how many calories we burn in the long term…

… no, I’m not kidding.

As he explains in the podcast, however, this hypothesis in no way discounts the importance of being physically active – far from it!

Tune in for more on Herman’s fascinating research on physical activity, diet, and more.


Why Using an iPad at Night Disrupts Your Sleep. Podcast with Jeanne Duffy

Did you get enough sleep last night?

If not, you are not alone. Self-reported sleep data suggests that Americans are getting less sleep than we need. One study that examined 669 adults found the average sleep duration was just 6.1 hours, which is simply not enough. Short sleep is associated with a plethora of problems, ranging from impaired immune function, worse glucose tolerance, and increased risk of traffic accidents. People who report less sleep tend to weigh more, and are more vulnerable to psychiatric conditions such as depression.

So why do we struggle to get enough sleep? Well, we know that the most powerful cue for our biological rhythms is bright light. Visible light regulates circadian rhythms by interacting with light-sensitive neurons in the eye. And our patterns of light exposure have changed dramatically over the past decades, due to the invention and spread of artificial lighting. Even when it is pitch black outside – when we would normally be asleep – we are often bathed in light. It’s not hard to imagine how this interaction might affect our sleep, and perhaps our health.

In this episode of humanOS Radio, Dan speaks with Jeanne Duffy. Jeanne is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a sleep researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has worked on some compelling studies that rigorously investigate how alterations in the light environment impact sleep and circadian rhythms.

In one recent study, she and colleagues examined how using iPads at night affected melatonin secretion and sleep patterns, and the results are pretty enlightening. To learn about what they found, and what you can do yourself to improve circadian alignment, please check out the podcast!


An Introduction to Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Podcast with Phyllis Stein

Stress is something we all experience all too frequently. While each stressor we experience has distinct effects, the effects of different stressors accumulate, and when the resultant load is excessive, we are at increased risk of a range of ailments, from gastrointestinal problems to cardiovascular diseases. So, to avoid the amount of stress we experience exceeding our bodies’ capacities to cope, it would be useful to have a way to monitor how we’re responding to stressors.

In the last few years, numerous wearable devices that claim to monitor how we’re responding to stress have become available, and most of these measure either heart rate variability (HRV) or pulse rate variability.

In this episode of humanOS Radio, Professor Phyllis Stein explains what you need to know about HRV, including what it is, why people measure it, and whether you should measure your own HRV. Tune in for more!


Should You Try to Pay off Sleep Debt on Weekends?

We all occasionally have periods of time in which we don’t get as much sleep as we’d like. When we repeatedly restrict our sleep, we soon suffer from widespread deterioration in metabolic health, brain function, and more.

Fortunately, when people who have been habitually restricting their sleep then extend their sleep, they experience improved health and performance. These sleep extension studies generally involve sleep extension for at least a week, but a more common scenario is for people to try to pay off sleep debt on weekends after restricting their sleep before workdays.

A recent study explored the effects of this kind of weekend recovery sleep on food intake and insulin sensitivity, a key determinant of risk of developing diabetes. The research received lots of attention and sparked much discussion.

So, what did the scientists do, what did they find, and how should we interpret their results?

Read on for more!


Stephan Guyenet vs Gary Taubes on the Joe Rogan Experience – Post-Debate Podcast

Nutrition is perhaps the most emotionally charged of all of the applied sciences. It’s not hard to see why. For one thing, all of us eat, meaning that every single one of us is personally invested in this topic, and we interact with it all the time. We all develop a sense of expertise, in a way that we might not for something a bit more removed from our daily life, like robotics or civil engineering.

In addition, food is arguably the most powerful and primal motivator for animals, ourselves included. And every single one of us has cultivated deep-seated dietary preferences, often established in our formative years. In other words, we are all biased, to varying degrees. It’s hard for us to view our favorite foods in an entirely objective way – even when they are slowly making us sick. To further complicate matters, nutrition is very difficult to research rigorously, and studies are often rife with confounders and apparently contradictory results.

The controversial nature of nutrition science was on full display this Tuesday, when Stephan Guyenet and Gary Taubes appeared together on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast to debate the causes of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Gary and Stephan have very different points of view on this subject, informed by rather different approaches to scientific literature. But as is often the case in debates, there was much that Stephan wanted to say but didn’t get an opportunity to address. That’s why we have welcomed him back to humanOS Radio, to reflect upon his experience on Joe Rogan’s podcast and to further elucidate the causes of obesity and insulin resistance. Click below to check out the interview!


Supplement Industry Trends: Natural Products Expo West 2019

Natural Products Expo West is an annual event in Anaheim in which nearly 3,000 food, drink, and supplement exhibitors come together to showcase their latest products. With the colossal number of exhibitors and more than 86,000 attendees, it can be tough to navigate an expo of this size. Fortunately, however, several members of the humanOS dream team came together to make sense of the bedlam, and in this blog we share the trends that were on show, also highlighting some products that piqued our interests.


Men Who Can Do More Push-ups Have Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

You probably knew somebody who passed away from coronary heart disease or stroke. Such cardiovascular diseases account for 31% of deaths worldwide – more than anything else – and the frustrating thing is that most of these deaths are preventable by sticking to the fundamental tenets of a healthy lifestyle.

To prevent cardiovascular diseases, it’s useful to have tests that identify people who are at high risk of them. And while assessments of health are becoming ever more sophisticated, we simply don’t know much about how to interpret and act on the outputs of many of the novel tests that have emerged recently.

As I’m often on the lookout for new ways of assessing health, I’m always pleased when people identify effective, simple, and affordable health tests. New research by Professor Stefanos Kales’ team from Harvard School of Public Health shows that the humble push-up may be one such test.

Read on to find out more!


The Fast Track to the Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

If you’re an experienced meditator, you’ve probably found that your practice has markedly improved your ability to regulate your responses to your emotions. You may have also benefited from improved mood, resilience, and focus. Perhaps you’ve noticed effects on your behaviors – how you eat, how well you sleep, and your ability to abstain from addictive substances. Or maybe you find that aches, pains, and infections simply don’t bother you quite so much now.

My guess is that most of you reading this are interested in whether you can sharpen your minds by using one of the dozens of mindfulness meditation apps that are now available. Honestly, we still know little about the effects of mindfulness training delivered in this way though. My curiosity was therefore piqued when Wendy Suzuki, a prominent neuroscientist from New York University, recently published an experiment on the effects of online mindfulness training in meditation newbies.

Read on to find out more about the remarkable results of Suzuki’s study!


What Is the Best Time of Day to Exercise to Improve Blood Sugar Levels?

Maintaining relatively stable blood sugar levels is relevant to all of us who wish to feel and perform at our best.

Physical activity is a key determinant of how blood sugar fluctuates each day. So far, scientists exploring whether physical activity influences blood sugar control have mostly fixated on the contributions of exercise modality and workload. Meanwhile, research on the importance of time of day of physical activity has largely been neglected.

Fortunately, this is changing. Timing’s time has come, and some of the best scientists are starting to identify how critical when we exercise might be for our health.

A group of scientists led by Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm published work on this topic recently. Their findings are especially relevant to those of us who wish to improve our blood sugar regulation.

Read on to find out more!


An Orderly Way to Better Blood Sugar Regulation

Picture this:

You’ve spent time and effort trying to lead a healthy life. In doing so, you’ve dodged the chronic diseases that many of your friends succumbed to in later life.

One day you go to your doctor because you haven’t been feeling as well as usual. After some testing, it’s clear that your blood vessels aren’t functioning as well as they used to, leading to problems with your eyes and your kidneys. Additional checks reveal that your troubles arise from poor blood sugar regulation.

This problem is all too common, for about 33% of US adults have prediabetes. Yet less than 12% of these people know they have it!

Historically, dietary advice aimed at improving blood sugar regulation has focused on optimizing the types and quantities of foods and drinks consumed.

But not everyone can stick to restrictive diets.

So, other than restricting dietary choices, are there things people can do to more tightly manage their blood sugar?

New research shows that a very simple strategy may dramatically improve your blood sugar responses to meals.

Read on to find out more!