Smells Good, No Smell Bad

By Scott LaFee

July 26, 2017 5 min read

It makes sense that foods that smell great are associated with gaining weight. Our sense of smell is a key to our eating enjoyment, and a dish that is enticingly aromatic will tend to induce us to overly consume.

But a series of experiments at UC Berkeley puts a twist on these assumptions. Researchers found that mice modified to possess super abilities to smell got fatter than normal mice, though both ate the same diet. The findings, if translatable to humans, suggest that the odor of what we eat may play a role in how the body burns calories. If you can't smell your food, you may burn it rather than store it.

This has relevance for people who have lost their sense of smell due to age, injury or disease. Often, they become anorexic. Part of the reason is loss of pleasure in eating, which can lead to depression, which is itself an appetite depressant. The new study points to a neurological cause as well, and perhaps a new path for treatment.

Flower Power

Malaria is a serious public health threat in the nation of Mali, as it is in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world (212 million cases globally in 2015). Looking for new ways to fight back, researchers have experimented with pruning the flowers off non-native shrubs that mosquitoes feed upon.

In tests, they found that in villages with the pruned plants, mosquito numbers fell 60 percent and the number of older female mosquitoes — which are more likely to spread malaria — dropped to the same level as in villages without the invasive shrubs.

The results suggest another way to improve public health and reduce the impact of invasive plant species.

Body of Knowledge

The average human blinks 15 to 20 times per minute, 1,200 times per hour, 28,800 times per day. Our eyes are closed roughly 10 percent of waking hours due to blinking. Women blink nearly twice as often as men. Blinking helps lubricate the eyes and provide protection from dust or other debris, but researchers say it may serve another purpose: Briefly closing our eyes provides a momentary respite for the brain, allowing it to "go offline" and reset itself.

Life in Big Macs

One hour of getting dressed burns 136 calories (based on a 150-pound person) or the equivalent of 0.5 Big Macs.

Doc Talk

EFT: Acronym for Eleventh Floor Transfer (in a 10-floor hospital). The term refers to patient who is very close to death.

Phobia of the Week

Scelerophobia: Fear of bad men

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for tacos is 126 in eight minutes, held by Joey Chestnut. Chestnut set the record at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minn., making him the taco the town.

Best Medicine

Nine out of 10 doctors agree that 1 out of 10 doctors is an idiot.

Observation

"Many ordinary illnesses are nothing but the expression of a serious dissatisfaction with life."

—Swiss physician and author Paul Tournier (1898-1986)

Medical History

This week in 1978 Louise Joy Brown was born in Oldham, England, the first test tube baby. She was conceived through in-vitro fertilization. By 1999, when Brown reached her 21st birthday, more than 300,000 babies had been born throughout the world using IVF, 29,000 of them in Britain. Brown became a nurse.

Med School

Q: What happens when you get "butterflies" in your stomach?

a) Blood sugar levels drop rapidly, causing mild nausea

b) There is a rush of adrenaline, redirecting blood from gut to muscles

c) Food digestion accelerates due to stress or emotion, causing reverberations in stomach

d) Cortisol levels rise, sending more blood to the gut

A: b.

Curtain Calls

"Can you get a shot of this gun?"

—Harry Collinson, chief planning officer for the Derwentside District Council in England. On June 20, 1991, Collinson was supervising the demolition of an illegal structure built by Albert Dryden. A BBC camera crew accompanied Collinson to film the demolition. Dryden produced an unlicensed handgun. Collinson asked the BBC crew to film it. Dryden then fatally shot Collinson, and wounded a BBC reporter and policeman. He was subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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