If you are just tuning into these posts, please be aware that these are based on what I learned in my classes, readings and conversations with my professors. A quick note: last week was Spring Break and there were no classes, so that is why it might look like I skipped a week if you are going by the actual dates.
1) What and how the brain is fed is not so cut and dry as simply “glucose.” The original study design that “proved” this was not the best and it should be redone in order to test its validity. There is some research coming out now that seems to suggest that the preferred fuel source for the neurons in the brain might actually be lactic acid and it’s the astrocytes (neuronal support cells) that use glucose to manufacture this lactic acid for the neurons (I am currently reading a couple of papers about this.)
2) There are two types of white blood cells (eosinophils and basophils) that are both involved in dealing with helminth (worm) infestations and allergic reactions (eosinophils are well known to function in both of these states but the research on basophils is a little less certain as they are harder to study.) This would seem to support the ideas put forth by the book An Epidemic of Absence (check out my review here) that part of the reason that we have had such a boom in allergic and autoimmune disorders may be because we are missing the helminthes with which we evolved.
3) We really need to let go of the food-or-nutrient-in-isolation model that has pervaded nutrition. It is no wonder that people have tended to want to discuss nutritional components in isolation: it’s easier and in some ways it’s a holdover from the foundational aspects of the field. Nutrition as a science in many ways grew out of the attempts to cure deficiency diseases that could be traced back to one nutrient component: beriberi was cured with thiamin, pellagra with niacin and scurvy with vitamin C. This was the foundational model of nutrition, so it is no wonder that when the primary focus of the field shifted away from deficiencies and towards issues of excess it took this model with it. But as it has become readily apparent very quickly, the human body is a system of systems and so is the food that feeds it. There are so many moving parts, pathways, factors, and balancing acts, that to continue to work within the one-to-one model is not only inappropriate but is also not respective of the knowledge that we have gained and will continue to gain since the field was founded (which was only about a century ago.)
4) Just as in everything, there is bias in nutrition. Our basic intro to nutrition textbook uses a type of rhetoric that subtly and consistently pushes certain dietary choices over others. It even goes so far as to misrepresent certain facts and our professor has informed us more than once that it is wrong or misleading about something. I am very lucky to have a professor who points out such issues and encourages us to be critical but it does make me wonder about all of the other people out there who are studying nutrition and health, but have not had a proper course in critical thinking. Many people go through all of their schooling without ever learning to challenge the “accepted” wisdom or without ever learning how to think critically or are even discouraged from doing so.
What did you learn this week? Is any of this new to you? Is any of it concerning?