Insulin production and food anticipation

April 8, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Anticipation is sometimes more fun than the actual event itself. This was shown in the case of vacations –  as well as in eating. And in the case of the latter, looking forward to a meal can actually have some physiological consequences, e.g. on the blood sugar level, for example. In a study on lab animals, researchers at Duke University observed that anticipation of a meal, either by sight or by smell, activates the parasympathetic nervous system to perform biological processes such as saliva production and increased insulin production. Increased salivation is expected to aid in the mastication and digestion of food whereas increased insulin production is in preparation of the event that glucose will be entering the bloodstream. In other words, our body anticipates what we need and prepares for it in advance. The parasympathetic nervous system therefore plays an important role in sugar metabolism.

Disruption of insulin secretion creates havoc with glucose levels in the blood and for those suffering from diabetes, can have some serious consequences. Researchers found that a certain genetic mutation can lead to ankyrin-B deficiency that impairs the parasympathetic production of insulin.

According to lead researcher Dr. Vann Bennett, professor in the departments of cell biology, biochemistry, and neurobiology at Duke University:

“We think this parasympathetic response is potentially important in type 2 diabetes. Our study showed there is a novel mutation in the gene encoding ankyrin-B, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. This happens through an impairment of the insulin secretion that is added by the parasympathetic nervous system.”

To confirm that this problem also occurs in humans, the researchers looked at genetic specimens of the American Diabetes Association’s GENNID collection from families with type 2 diabetes. They performed genotyping on 524 people with diabetes and 498 people without diabetes for comparison. They found that one of these mutations of ankyrin-B (R1788W) was associated with type 2 diabetes in about 1% of Caucasian and Hispanic individuals. You would think this is a very low percentage. However, according to Dr. Bennet

“Genomewide studies have failed to identify more than a small fraction of the genetic heritability in diabetes as well as in other complex diseases. There are estimates that only 6 percent of the heritability of type 2 diabetes has been detected, by multiple genomewide studies.”

There are still a lot of diabetes-associated genes out there that need to be identified. The gene mutation for ankyrin B deficiency seems to be relevant in 1% of patients with type 2 diabetes.

Does your vacation make you happy?

March 24, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

In the coming days, it’s Easter school holidays in most European countries, which can last from 1 to 3 weeks. Most people, especially those with school children will take off from work to take care of the kids, and perhaps travel a bit.

When it comes to number of vacation days per year, European employees get much more than their counterparts in North America and Asia. Almost all European countries require employers to give their employees at least 20 days of paid leave. Most people get more. In contrast, US law does not provide for paid leaves. Paid vacation is based on the generosity of the employer. See more details of the number of paid vacation days here.

Vacation means not going to work and for many Europeans, it also means travelling. Almost everybody goes on a vacation trip in Europe. But does vacation really make us happy? Are Europeans happier than Americans because they get more vacation?

This Dutch study looked at the effect of vacation on people’s overall happiness. 1,520 Dutch adults, of whom 974 went on a vacation during the last 32 weeks participated in the study. The researchers assessed the participants’ level of happiness before, during, and after vacation. The results can be summarized as

  • Highest level of happiness was measured before the actual vacation during the planning stage.
  • Happiness immediately drops back to the original levels after coming back from vacation. At this point, there is no difference in happiness between those who went on holidays and those who didn’t.
  • The actual vacation itself made many people happy although some reported it to be stressful due to illness or conflicts with fellow travellers.
  • The amount of stress or relaxation during the actual vacation influence postvacation levels of happiness. Moderate relaxation doesn’t seem to increase happiness after vacation. Only a very relaxing holiday trip can boost postvacation happiness.
  • Postvacation stress can actually increase as many people find it difficult to get back to work after a vacation. Work also tends to pile up during those days of absence.

The study results suggest that the joy of vacation lies in the anticipation, not in the vacation itself. The authors’ take home message: take many short holidays during the year rather than one long one.

“The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip. What you can do is try to increase that by taking more trips per year. If you have a two week holiday you can split it up and have two one week holidays. You could try to increase the anticipation effect by talking about it more and maybe discussing it online.”

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.