Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Why sleep?

It’s a study in rats, but it begs the question – why sleep?

Drs Radhika Basheer and Robert McCarley propose that the early part of sleep is to rebuild energy stores that we use up in daytime. More energy goes out than we put in during waking hours, so we need to shut down to re-boost.

Other experts think differently. Sleep is when we re-build our brain to take into account the new things we have learned today. To re-build takes energy.

Basheer and McCarley found that energy processing occurred in non-REM sleep, which appears to favour energy-recharging.

Take your pick. It might be that early sleep is like a battery recharge. Or we could be working our brain hard to cement what we learned today.


June 30, 2010 Posted by | Brain, Radhika Basheer, Robert McCarley | Leave a comment

Activity v brain decline?

Dr Laura E Middleton reported on the effects of activity at various times in over 9,000 women’s lives on cognitive impairment in old age (as measured by the MMSE – Mini-Mental State Examination).

Being active at any of the checkpoints – teen, age 30, age 50, late life – was associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.

The risk reduction at any individual checkpoint was small but significant.

However, the biggest risk reduction was being active as a teenager, suggesting getting teens to be active is important.

A potential flaw in the study is it recorded ‘activity’ as exercise excluding chores and child-rearing, which may affect the results in child-rearing years.

June 30, 2010 Posted by | Activity, Aging, Brain, Exercise, Health, Laura E Middleton, Success | Leave a comment

Why beetroot lowers HBP.

In Feb 2008, Prof Amrita Ahluwalia and team showed that beetroot juice lowers blood pressure, with 250ml providing peak protection after 3-4 hours and lasting for up to 24 hours.

The mechanism at that time was worked out to be nitrates converted to nitrites by saliva, converted by acid in the stomach to nitrous oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. The time of lowest blood pressure matched the time of peak nitrite concentration in the blood.

In the study currently in the news, Ahluwalia re-checked the mechanism, but also looked at whether the effect was dose-dependent.

She found both natural nitrate (beetroot juice) and nitrate supplements had a dose dependent effect on blood pressure.

The lowering effect was most marked in males with high blood pressure and low blood nitrite concentrations. Pre-menopausal females appear to be better protected against high blood pressure naturally.

The mechanics are not new. C Duncan et al wrote in Nature Medicine on the pathway of dietary nitrate + saliva -> nitrite and nitric oxide in rats, in June 1995. That team also established the tongue needs to have bacteria to do this – no bacteria and the reaction does not occur.

June 30, 2010 Posted by | Amrita Ahluwalia, Diet, Gender, Health, High blood pressure, Natural healing, Nitrates, Success | Leave a comment

Dark chocolate v HBP.

In an attempt to sort conflicting results about how cocoa works re blood pressure, Dr Karin Ried did a meta-analysis of studies between 1985 and 2009. 15 studies lasted long enough (14 days or longer) and also published enough data to be compared.

One difficulty came from the from the amount of active ingredient (30 to 1,000 mg/day) and what the researchers called this ingredient – polyphenol, flavanol, proanthocyanidin, epicatechin and catechin.

However, the mechanism is consistent. The flavanols increase the production of nitrous oxide in blood vessels, causing them to dilate and lowering blood pressure.

Ried found that in people with blood pressure in normal range (140mm systolic or 80mm diastolic) there was no significant reduction.

But in those with higher blood pressure, the reduction was significant. The mean reduction was 5mm systolic (2.7mm diastolic). The systolic reduction equates to a cut of 20% in risk of a cardiovascular event, and is comparable to the reduction achieved by 30 mins/day of moderate physical activity.

While benefits appeared in the short term, Ried and team questioned the wisdom of dark chocolate or cocoa as a long term method of reducing high blood pressure.

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Chocolate, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Exercise, Flavanols, High blood pressure, Karin Ried | Leave a comment

Location, location, location.

Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester are 3 of the UK’s largest cities. Shared characteristics include higher levels of poverty, poor health and almost identical socio-economic profiles.

Yet early deaths, (those dying younger than the national population), are 30% higher in Glasgow than in Liverpool or Manchester.

This excess mortality is seen everywhere across the population, with the exception of children. The rates are higher for both males and females, and for those living in deprived and non-deprived neighbourhoods.

Around a half of ‘excess’ deaths in people aged under 65 were directly related to alcohol and drugs.

This phenomenon is being called the ‘Glasgow effect’. The report by the Glasgow Centre for Public Health appears in the journal Public Health.

It appears ‘location, location, location’ affects more than just property prices.

June 27, 2010 Posted by | Health, Medical conditions, Success | Leave a comment

Blog of depression?

Prof Yair Neuman of Ben-Gurion University has developed software to detect depression in blogs and on-line texts.

The software was used to scan over 300,000 posts to mental health web sites. A panel of four clinical psychologists verified the accuracy of the results.

The software works on non-obvious emotive words and metaphors.

Although constructed for purely academic purposes, the software has potential as a first-line screen against depression and suicide, revealing problem areas at a time when a workable solution is still possible.

Given that Team McCallum is stuffed full of posts on death and disease, would this weigh against us? Or would the fact that our mission is living longer, living better, and succeeding in life sway the software in our favour?

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Depression, Loneliness, Psychology, Science, Yair Neuman | Leave a comment


With the World Cup entering the knockout stage, Gabriel J Diaz of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has recently released work on the science of saving penalties.

Diaz evaluated 27 possible indicators of the direction of shot – 12 from sports literature and 15 from computer analysis of real penalty kicks.

He found 2 of the sports literature indicators and 3 from the computer analysis reliably predicted the direction of the penalty.

4 of these 5 indicators seem to be used by some goal-keepers to to get a short head-start on the penalty taker.

However, other studies have found that professional Dutch goalkeepers are no better at using these indicators than novices.

The 2 predictors from sports literature are the angle at which the non-kicking foot is planted in the ground and the angle of the hips as the kicking foot swings forward.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Gabriel J Diaz, News, Science, Success | Leave a comment

Red wine v your eyes.

“Drinking red wine could stop your eyesight deteriorating, a new study suggests.” According to the newspapers.

The research is interesting. Dr Rajendra S Apte has found that an ingredient of red wine, resveratrol, clears up age-related eye-disease. (Protects against in the first place, but reverses damage if it has occurred).

Further, a claim is made that resveratrol is not only preventative against obesity and aging, but a new working mechanism has been discovered, which may be anti-cancer.

If the study is correct, resveratrol prevents and reverses ‘abnormal’ blood vessel growth, the way in which cancer tumours grow.

BUT – the mouse model of eyesight deterioration used was not the same as that in humans – AND – the amount of resveratrol given to mice was equivalent to several bottles of red wine.

June 25, 2010 Posted by | Alcohol, Blind, Grapes, Health, Rajendra S Apte, Sight | Leave a comment

Touch = thought.

Prof Joshua M Ackerman and team investigated whether touch influences the way we think.

A set of six experiments was published in Science, showing that we are conditioned in the way we think by the objects we have touched, without being aware of this.

People negotiating a deal in a comfortable chair drove a less-hard bargain than those in a hard chair.

Passers-by evaluated a job candidate’s CV on a clipboard. The same CV on a heavier clipboard was rated more highly than on a light clipboard.

Another clipboard experiment asking which public issues should receive government spending split the genders. Women acted consistently, but men were influenced by the clipboard weight.

People were asked to rate the same social interaction story, after handling rough or smooth objects. Those handling rough objects conluded the interaction was harsh, while those handling smooth deemed the interaction was friendly.

After touching a hard object, people rated a job candidate as strict in character, while the same candidate was seen as easier-gooing by those touching a soft surface.

According to Ackerman the effect of touch diminishes when people pay attention. “It’s when you’re distracted, thinking in a shallow fashion, that you get hit by these cues.”

June 25, 2010 Posted by | Brain, Gender, Joshua M Ackerman, Psychology | Leave a comment

Eye test for Alzheimer’s.

In Jan 2010, Prof Francesca Coredeiro reported on an eye test in mice that detected Alzheimer’s. It works on the basis that the retina is actually a part of the brain, and beta amyloid plaque can be stained to show up in the eye.

Now Prof Michal Schwartz and team have gone a step further.

In mice, they showed that Alzheimer’s plaques could be detected in the retina before they showed up in the rest of the brain. In humans, they confirmed these findings in those who died of Alzheimer’s, and those suspected to be in the early stages when brain tissue was examined.

In mice, they showed that therapy to reduce plaque in the brain also reduced plaque in the retina by the same amount, so the eye is an accurate way to monitor treatment.

Curiously, they used curcumin to stain the plaque to make it show up in eye examinations. Curcumin crosses the blood-retina barrier easily and so gives a non-invasive procedure.

June 25, 2010 Posted by | Alzheimer's, Curcumin - turmeric, Francesca Coredeiro, Michal Schwartz | Leave a comment