Fat Got Your Tongue?

By Scott LaFee

February 19, 2020 6 min read

A study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reports that for many Americans struggling to get sufficient rest due to obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, the culprit may be chubby tongues.

Overweight and obese people comprise up to 70% of cases of OSA, during which sleep is disrupted by brief but recurrent moments when people stop breathing. Previous studies have found that people with higher body mass indices, or BMIs, accumulate a higher percentage of fat in their tongues than people with lower BMIs.

The new findings indicate most of that fat accumulates toward the back of the tongue, which raises the likelihood that the excess squishy tissue will block the throat during sleep.

Potential remedies include, of course, diet and losing weight, and procedures that freeze and pare away excess tongue fat cells. There are also exercises to tone and strengthen the upper airway and tongue, such as repeatedly touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth or playing instruments like the Australian didgeridoo, though playing the latter at night might keep others awake.

Get Me That, Stat!

It's tough to be a teen, especially a female teenager. Since 2010, rates of depression, self-harm and suicide have risen among U.S. teens, but especially among girls, from 12% in 2011 to 20% in 2017. In 2015, three times as many 10- to 14-year-old girls compared with 2010 were admitted to emergency rooms after deliberately harming themselves. The suicide rate for adolescent girls has doubled since 2007.

Some experts are linking the phenomena to the rise of smartphones and social media, and noting numerous studies that suggest girls are more susceptible to their harm, such as cyberbullying and social ostracism.

Stories for the Waiting Room

Sleeping in a cool room is supposed to confer a number of benefits: You fall asleep more quickly (because the body is cooling). A cool temperature (60-68 degrees) boosts production of the hormone melatonin, which aids sleep and is touted as anti-aging. Higher melatonin levels prompt production of "brown fat," which helps burn calories, rather than store them, so maybe you even lose a few more pounds. Risk for diseases ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer's is lowered because you're presumably sleeping better, and insomnia is not as likely.

One thing that might keep you awake: Some research suggests sleeping in cooler rooms means a greater likelihood of nightmares. Perhaps dreams that you're freezing?

Doc Talk

Cicatrization: contraction of fibrous tissue formed at a wound site by fibroblasts, reducing the size of the wound while distorting tissue. In other words, scarring.

Phobia of the Week

Mageirocophobia: fear of cooking (presumably more common in males)

Best Medicine

Two guys at the gym.

First guy: "I do two hours of cardio every day."

Second guy: "Wow! Congratulations."

First guy: "I really need to find a closer parking spot."

Hypochondriac's Guide

In the days before protective eyewear, glassblower's cataract was caused by heating up glass or molten metal in a furnace, which released small amounts of radiation that were absorbed by the eyes, eventually forming cataracts. The condition was once common among blacksmiths and foundry workers as well.

Observation

"Half of modern drugs could well be thrown out the window, except that birds might eat them." — Physician-author Martin H. Fischer (1879-1962)

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, and yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of actual published research study: "No evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria."

Anna Wilkinson and colleagues at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom trained a tortoise to yawn in order to study social recognition in tortoises. The idea was that if other tortoises observed a yawning tortoise, they might do so as a sort of unconscious recognition and mimicry.

Turns out, at least in this case, tortoises don't experience contagious yawning, not even when they're bored doing weird science experiments. Wilkinson's findings were published in 2011 in Current Zoology.

Sum Body

A research team, writing in the journal Nature, described four distinct patterns of aging, during which specific biological systems age faster or slower, remain strong or weaken. There are, in fact, countless variations of the four and many ways to individually age, but the scientists said rates of aging basically come down to how well these systems hold up over time:

1. Immune

2. Kidney

3. Liver

4. Metabolic

Med School

Q: Deja vu is the feeling that you've experienced an event before in real life. What is the feeling called when you've previously experienced an event in a dream?

A: Deja reve (French for "already dreamed")

Last Words

"I was killed." — Last diary entry of an anonymous Union soldier killed at Cold Harbor, Virginia, in 1864

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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