Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

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
Opinion
  • Life-saving law Life-saving law

    Not many pieces of legislation to come out of Annapolis can be described as a matter of life or death. But the CPR law signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley is just that.
    Known as Brenna’s Law, the legislation requires that all Maryland high schoolers will be required to complete CPR training as part of the graduation requirement.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cat sanctuary could use help with veterinarian bill

    Dawn’s Cat Sanctuary, Fort Ashby, W.Va., recently rescued 11 cats and one kitten from a home in Keyser, W.Va.

    April 24, 2014

  • Street flowers Street flowers

    Walk along Frostburg’s Main Street in the spring and summer and one can’t miss the beautiful floral arrangements that adorn the lampposts.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • President and Obamacare: Who needs Congress?

    Being a fellow from a small town like Cumberland I don’t always really understand what’s going on in Washington. But I have watched a few houses being built over the years. I even helped some with one house, but my brother fired me from that work pretty quickly, mainly because it was his house being built.

    April 22, 2014

  • Sweet Success Business Forum this evening in Frostburg

    As a member of the Frostburg Business and Professional Association (FBPA), I am pleased to inform the community of the “Sweet Success” event sponsored by the city of Frostburg and our organization.

    April 22, 2014

  • First base First base

    The idea of spending up to $7,500 for a study about the possibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area should at least be allowed to reach first base.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • You can help United Way reach its goal

    The United Way of Allegany County campaign for 2013-14 will end April 30 and to date has raised more than $430,000, which is over 86 percent of its goal. But there is still $70,000 to be raised in a very short time.

    April 21, 2014

  • Support Canal classrooms with tax-deductible gift

    While your April 17 article (“Park Service opens Canal classrooms,” Page 1A) described this exciting program accurately, your readers may be wondering how they can help support this new educational opportunity for school children in Allegany County.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ivan Hall story brings back memories of a unique man

    I enjoyed Mike Sawyers’ Ivan Hall story. It was well written and brought back some wonderful memories of my Cumberland days and especially, an unique man.

    April 18, 2014

  • It’s a secret It’s a secret

    Could someone enlighten us about why not even the names of the two entities bidding on development of the Footer Dye Works building can be divulged?
    A Times-News article about the bids included an explanation from a lawyer for the attorney general’s office about the need to keep the names and other information secret at this time. Despite that, the logic of not divulging at least a little more information escapes us.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo