The science of sugar: why we’re hardwired to love it was written by Daniel Marino and Gemma Ware for TheConversation.com, 20 January 2022.
What are the evolutionary origins of sugar cravings? What makes something taste sweet? And what does too much sugar do to the brain? In this week’s episode of The Conversation Weekly, we talk to three experts and go on a deep dive into the science of sugar.
Why is sugar so irresistible to us humans? It turns out, evolution is a big reason why. “The key to our love of sugar relates to it being a good source of nutrition,” explains Stephen Wooding, assistant professor of anthropology and heritage studies at the University of California, Merced. Sugar helps provide our body with energy, and our ancient ancestors evolved so that they could taste it as they went out foraging for food.
Wooding says humans are not very well adapted to the world today, where sugar is readily available in abundance. “We have this really deep-seated attraction to sugar that throughout evolutionary history was a really important advantage,” says Wooding. But our cravings for sugar are now ancient relics that “belong in a museum”, he adds.
An Apple a Day Keeps The Doctor Away? Here’s the Real Science was written by Maia Mulko for InterestingEngineering.com, 11 January 2022.
The proverb “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is very common in the English language today but it originated —at the latest— in the 19th century. A variant of the phrase, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread” was recognized as a Pembrokeshire saying in the 1866 edition of the Welsh magazine Notes and Queries. The modern form of the proverb first appeared in Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore (1913), by the English linguist Elizabeth Mary Wright. But what is the science behind the proverb? Is it really true that eating an apple a day can prevent illness?
Apples are rich in several kinds of antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that prevent damage to the cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are atoms, molecules, or ions that have at least one unpaired valence electron. They are formed naturally by your body during exercise and in processes such as inflammatory responses, and during normal metabolic activity in the cells such as converting food into energy. They can also come from a variety of environmental sources, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, industrial chemicals, radiation exposure, and sunlight.
This means that free radicals can’t be utterly kept from developing in the body (they’re actually believed to play a significant role in aging). But it’s good to keep them under control to prevent oxidative stress —an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants that can trigger cell and tissue damage. Antioxidants “donate” electrons to free radicals to help minimize the harmful instability of free radicals, and eventually reduce oxidative stress.
- In the laboratory, apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation, decrease the risk of certain types of cancer, and lower cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Apples also contain pectin, a natural fiber found in plants that may help lower cholesterol and regulate the beneficial bacteria in the gut
- Furthermore, apples are an excellent source of:
- Polyphenols, a kind of micronutrient in plants that passes to humans through apples and other fruits and vegetables. There is a specific type of polyphenols called flavonoids, and apples contain the flavonoid called quercetin, which is related to a lower risk of various chronic diseases.
- Vitamin C, an acid that boosts the immune system and promotes the formation of collagen —the main structural protein of connective tissue, essential for wound healing and tissue repair. Vitamin C also benefits the absorption of iron, a mineral involved in the fabrication of hemoglobin, the protein in the red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and organs.
- Vitamin A, which improves your vision, your immune system, and your body’s antioxidant activity. It also plays a role in cell division, growth, and reproduction.
- Vitamin B1 or thiamine, a water-soluble vitamin that is vital for converting food into energy and keeping a proper nerve function. In fact, a severe thiamine deficiency can cause an illness called beriberi, which affects both the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.
- Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2, is necessary for energy metabolism, cellular respiration, skin development, brain function, antibody production, and other processes.
- Vitamin B6, a vitamin that contributes to energy production through metabolism and creates essential neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Vitamin B6 also ensures proper brain development during pregnancy and infancy.
Read more: An Apple a Day Keeps The Doctor Away?