Excess Holiday Eating Disturbs Your ‘Food Clock’

And I didn’t even know I HAD a food clock!


Luckily, my little geeks and nerdlings, the guys over at ScienceDaily.com are here to set us straight!

A recent pre-Xmas article sets it all out for us.

“If the sinful excess of holiday eating sends your system into butter-slathered, brandy-soaked overload, you are not alone: People who are jet-lagged, people who work graveyard shifts and plain-old late-night snackers know just how you feel.”

All these activities upset the body’s “food clock,” a collection of interacting genes and molecules known technically as the food-entrainable oscillator, which keeps the human body on a metabolic even keel. A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is helping to reveal how this clock works on a molecular level.


Published this month in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the UCSF team has shown that a protein called PKCγ is critical in resetting the food clock if our eating habits change.

The study showed that normal laboratory mice given food only during their regular sleeping hours will adjust their food clock over time and begin to wake up from their slumber, and run around in anticipation of their new mealtime. But mice lacking the PKCγ gene are not able to respond to changes in their meal time — instead sleeping right through it.

It may also help explain why night owls are more likely to be obese than morning larks, according to Louis Ptacek, MD, the John C. Coleman Distinguished Professor of Neurology at UCSF and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

“Understanding the molecular mechanism of how eating at the “wrong” time of the day desynchronizes the clocks in our body can facilitate the development of better treatments for disorders associated with night-eating syndrome, shift work and jet lag,” Dr Ptacek added.


n most organisms, biological clockworks are governed by a master clock, referred to as the “circadian oscillator,” which keeps track of time and coordinates our biological processes with the rhythm of a 24-hour cycle of day and night.

Life forms as diverse as humans, mice and mustard greens all possess such master clocks.

The food clock is there to help our bodies make the most of our nutritional intake. It controls genes that help in everything from the absorption of nutrients in our digestive tract to their dispersal through the bloodstream, and it is designed to anticipate our eating patterns.

Even before we eat a meal, our bodies begin to turn on some of these genes and turn off others, preparing for the burst of sustenance — which is why we feel the pangs of hunger just as the lunch hour arrives.

Scientist have known that the food clock can be reset over time if an organism changes its eating patterns, eating to excess or at odd times, since the timing of the food clock is pegged to feeding during the prime foraging and hunting hours in the day. But until now, very little was known about how the food clock works on a genetic level.


What Ptacek and his colleagues discovered is the molecular basis for this phenomenon: the PKCγ protein binds to another molecule called BMAL and stabilizes it, which shifts the clock in time.

Well done and a toast with the old egg nog to the authors of the article [1], Luoying Zhang, Diya Abrahama, Shu-Ting Lin, Henrik Oster, Gregor Eichele, Ying-Hui Fu, and Louis J. Ptácek and appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


[1] Journal Reference: L. Zhang, D. Abraham, S.-T. Lin, H. Oster, G. Eichele, Y.-H. Fu, L. J. Ptacek. “PKC  participates in food entrainment by regulating BMAL1.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; 109 (50): 20679 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1218699110

Bats May Hold Clues to Long Life and Disease Resistance

Thanks once again to the intrepid geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com for this article.

Bats are amazing creatures. They’ve been around for at least 65 million years, and in that time have become one of the most abundant and widespread mammals on Earth.

The Bat Pack, a team of researchers at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, conduct a wide range of research into bats and bat borne viruses, and their potential effects on the human population, as part of the effort to safeguard Australia from exotic and emerging pests and diseases.

black-flying-fox[Black flying-fox, Australia. (Credit: © EcoView / Fotolia)]

Their paper, published today (Dec. 20/12) in the journal Science, provides an insight into the evolution of the bat’s flight, resistance to viruses, and relatively long life.

The Bat Pack, in collaboration with the Beijing Genome Institute, led a team that sequenced the genomes of two bat species — the Black Flying Fox, an Australian mega bat, and the David’s Myotis, a Chinese micro bat.


Once the genomes were sequenced, they compared them to the genomes of other mammals, including humans, to find where the similarities and differences lay.

Chris Cowled, post-doctoral fellow at AAHL says the research may eventually lead to strategies to treat, or even prevent disease in humans.

“A deeper understanding of these evolutionary adaptations in bats may lead to better treatments for human diseases, and may eventually enable us to predict or perhaps even prevent outbreaks of emerging bat viruses,” Dr Cowled said.


“Bats are a natural reservoir for several lethal viruses, such as Hendra, Ebola and SARS, but they often don’t succumb to disease from these viruses. They’re also the only mammal that can fly, and they live a long time compared to animals similar in size.”

Flying is a very energy intensive activity that also produces toxic by-products, and bats have developed some novel genes to deal with the toxins. Some of these genes, including P53, are implicated in the development of cancer or the detection and repair of damaged DNA.

“What we found intriguing was that some of these genes also have secondary roles in the immune system,” Dr Cowled said.


“We’re proposing that the evolution of flight led to a sort of spill over effect, influencing not only the immune system, but also things like ageing and cancer.”

The research was a global effort involving the Beijing Genome Institute in Shenzhen, China; Australia’s national science research agency, the CSIRO; the University of Copenhagen; Wuhan Institute of Virology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences; the Naval Medical Research Center and Henry M. Jackson Foundation in the USA; Uniformed Services University, USA; and the Graduate Medical School at the Duke-National University of Singapore.


This is my 250th blog post for Vampyre Fangs! Woohoo! 🙂

Vampyre Fangs

I hate Xmas. [1]

I sincerely mean that.

I… hate… Hate… HATE… Xmas!

(Holly, Red Ribbon, Bells… a triple threat!)

The whole Xmas season which, btw, starts about 2 minutes after Halloween! [2]

I hate it. I despise it. I loathe it.

To be fair, not all aspects of Xmas are the subject of my undying hatred.

(Written in 15 minutes by Mel Torme on a hot summer day in Vegas)

For instance, while religious Xmas carols in general turn my stomach and make me want to attack carolers with an ice pick, I don’t mind most secular ‘winter wonderland’ songs, like… well… ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ or ‘Sleigh Ride’. I like the sentimental ‘coming together’ songs like ‘White Christmas’, or ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas.’ I like Nat King Cole singing ‘The Christmas Song.’ I enjoy listening to Karen Carpenter singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and…

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Humans Are Getting Steadily Smarter, Especially Girls

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of researchers from Duke University have combed through nearly three decades of standardized test scores concluding that the general level of American intelligence is increasing and that girls are closing the gender gap. The first conclusion drawn by the researchers, that intelligence is steadily increasing, is based on the Flynn effect which states that average IQs around the world have been rising at the rate of 0.3 points a year for the past eight decades. The second conclusion states that part, but not all, of the historic difference between the brainiest men and women has vanished.


What’s the Big Idea?

Whether intelligence is determined more by nature or nurture remains a debate in the scientific community. It is a debate that cannot escape the social implications behind it, such as whether one gender is predisposed to be more intelligent than the other. Concerning the disproportionately quick rise of female intelligence, “[i]t is clear that the rise itself must be ‘nurture’ of some sort—possibly a change in teachers’ attitudes towards girls who are interested in maths—but the subsequent stasis could have either explanation.”


The Chemistry of Snow Flakes!

Here’s a few “Hey, look what I learned” fun facts to bring home today.

Ever been curious about exactly how snowflakes form their intricate and beautiful designs? Well, just like no snowflake is shaped the same, no snowflake forms quite the same either.

But all snowflakes start out as a speck of dust floating in the sky, and the story rolls from there. This cool video from the American Chemical Society walks us through the process.

Oh, and if you want to see some of the many amazing designs of snowflakes, check out this slideshow.


Have a wonderful winter. Happy holidays!


Movie Reviews: More of the Same

Did a bit of a DVD movie marathon this weekend.

Saw a few movies which were basically more of the same. Which isn’t a bad thing, really.

They were good. I liked them a lot.

But when it comes down to it, they were… well… more of the same.

the-dark-knight-rises-dvd-cover(The Dark Knight Rises)

If you are a fan of this trilogy, you will not be disappointed in The Dark Knight Rises… the last installment. It may not have a villain as deliciously brilliant as Heath Ledger’s Joker… but it does have Anne Hathaway at Catwoman, and that ain’t bad.

men-in-black-3-dvd-cover(Men in Black 3)

Men in Black 3 is perhaps the most ‘more of the same’ of the three movies I saw this weekend. Josh Brolin as young K is a hoot. If you love the Men in Black franchise, you’re going to love this one too.

Avengers(The Avengers)

This is a great idea. Take a bunch of Marvel superheroes. Give them each a movie. Then roll all of the characters into one big epic smash ’em up blockbuster. If you love Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man (and who doesn’t?) and Scarlett Johanssen as Agent Romanov (and who doesn’t?) and every other Marvel character in the other movies… then The Avengers is just the flick for you!