Cumberland Times-News

Columns

June 29, 2013

Unknown to us, we host a vast multitude

We have about 10 trillion human cells in our bodies. But on our skin, in our mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, intestines and colon are about 90 trillion bacterial cells.

These visitors have been with us since infancy. Most of these bacterial cells (far smaller than our human cells) are beneficial and dwell in your colon, breaking down fiber, producing certain vitamins and informing the pancreas to produce insulin to regulate the sugar level in your blood.

These bacterial cells reproduce by cell division several times an hour. Most bacterial cells die in a matter of hours; in fact, a good fraction of our stools by weight are a vast multitude of bacterial cells being expelled.

Examination of one’s stools reveal from 500 to 1,000 different species of bacteria. Each person has a different set of bacteria in their innards; their collection of bacteria (their microbiome) is as distinctive as their fingerprints.

As most of us know, about one third of U.S. adults are overweight (including this author) and another third are obese.

Do these bacteria have a role to play in this situation? Well, many of us rush through our days and rely on a quick meal of fast food. On a given day, one in four U.S. adults eats a fast food meal.

Early in the last decade, Dr. Paresh Dandora of Boston had nine volunteers eat a typical breakfast (eggs, muffin, sausage) at a well known fast food restaurant. Within minutes of eating, certain proteins spiked in their blood stream.

These protein levels were indicative of inflammation, the body’s response to invading infection or injury. It took hours for these elevated levels to return to normal. But by consuming sugary, fatty foods on a regular basis (read fast foods), the inflammation becomes chronic.

This can develop into the metabolic syndrome, where the afflicted have elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, low levels of ‘good cholesterol’ and an abdominal cavity filled with fat.

What role might our gut bacteria have in this condition? When we intake fast food or high caloric deserts, the bad bacteria in our intestines begin to produce endotoxin.

The endotoxin in our bloodstream signals invasion, leading to inflammation; the body begins to reduce its metabolism and crank out insulin (from the pancreas) and become less sensitive to leptin (governs the feeling of satiety or fullness).

With the reduction of our metabolism (energy needed to maintain all normal body functions), we need fewer calories. This cruel situation means that when people with the metabolic syndrome eat less food, they can’t lose weight as expected. The weight just hangs on.

One bad consequence of the metabolic syndrome is that the body calls for more and more insulin; this produces great strains on the pancreas until it collapses. With impaired insulin production, the person become a diabetic.

What can be done? The obvious solution is that most of us, including those of normal weight eat food rich in fiber, low in fat and avoid sugary snacks including most sodas.

The big underlying problem is that for many, their surest pleasures in life are eating their tastiest foods. This may involve going to their favorite restaurant and ordering delicious but injurious foods.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: On Tuesday, the dwarf planet Pluto is closest to the Earth for year, at a distance of 2,923 million miles away. Light from Pluto takes over four hours and 21.5 minutes to reach us.

Pluto is now in Sagittarius, above the stars that make up the “Tea Pot” seen late in the evening in the south. You will need a telescope with a mirror or front lens at least 10 inches wide to see Pluto as a faint point of light.

On the evening of July 3, the brilliant planet Venus is just north of the Beehive star cluster of Cancer. Use binoculars to see the cluster’s stars in the 9:30 p.m. western dusk.

At 11 a.m. on Friday, we are farthest from the sun for the year at a distance of 94.5 million miles. On Jan. 2, we were closest to the sun at 91.5 million miles. Our seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth’s axis, not the 3 percent variation in Earth-sun distance.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Mike Sawyers and his father, Frank Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim

    The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hugo Perez Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?

    We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Stopgap

    Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

    July 16, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014

  • Build it now Build it now

    Anticipated savings from demolition work that will provide ground for a new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain may allow the addition of an auditorium at the school.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014