Livin' on the MDedge

Microbiome’s new happy place: The beer gut


Your gut microbiome will thank you later

A healthy gut seems like the new catch-all to better overall health these days. Nutrition and diet culture has us drinking kombucha and ginger tea and coffee, but what if we told you that going to happy hour might also help?

In a recent double-blind study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 19 men were divided into two groups and asked to drink 11 ounces of alcoholic lager (5.2% by volume) or nonalcoholic lager with dinner for 4 weeks.

Beer? Yes. Beer.

Beer in a mug with plate of fries and a burger Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

We humans have trillions of microorganisms running rampant through our digestive tracts. When they’re happy, we have a lower chance of developing heart disease and diabetes. You know what else has millions of happy microorganisms from fermentation? Beer. It also has polyphenols that can help the body’s tissues fight cancers, as well as heart disease and inflammation. So beer is looking a little more healthy now, isn’t it?

In the study, the researchers found that both the alcoholic- and nonalcoholic-lager groups had a boost in bacterial diversity in the gut and higher fecal alkaline phosphatase levels, which showed improved intestinal health. They acknowledged, however, that the nonalcoholic route would be safer and healthier for overall health.

So add a lager to the list of gut-healthy foods that you should be consuming. It may give the phrase “beer gut” a whole new meaning.

We’ve lost our minds, but at least we know how fast they’re going

The phrase “quantum consciousness” sounds like something out of a particularly cheesy episode of Star Trek: “Oh no, Captain, the quantum consciousness has invaded our computer, and the only way to drive it out is to reverse the polarity of a focused tachyon beam.”

The Gran Sasso low radioactivity lab in Italy Massimiliano De Deo, LNGS-INFN

When it comes to understanding such basic existential issues as the origin of consciousness, however, quantum mechanics wasn’t off the table. The theory of the quantum origin of consciousness dates back to the 1990s (thanks in part to noted physician Roger Penrose), and goes something like this: There are microtubules within neurons in the brain that are small enough and isolated enough from the warm, wet, and chaotic brain environment where quantum effects can briefly come into play. We’re talking miniscule fractions of a second here, but still, long enough for quantum calculations to take place in the form of system wavefunction collapse, courtesy of gravity.

To plunge even deeper into the rabbit hole of quantum mechanics, the reason Schrödinger’s cat doesn’t occur in real life is wavefunction collapse; the more massive a quantum system is, the more likely it is to collapse into one state or another (alive or dead, in the cat’s case). The quantum origin of consciousness, or Orch OR theory, holds that human consciousness arises from electrical oscillations within the neuronal microtubules caused by the computations stemming from the collapse of small quantum systems.

That is an awful lot of overly simplified explanation, especially considering the study that just came out essentially disproved it. Oops. The research, published in Physics of Life Reviews, is pretty simple. The researchers went to a lab deep underground to avoid interference from cosmic rays, and sat around for months, observing a chunk of germanium for signs of spontaneous radiation, attributable to the same sort of wavefunction collapse that is supposedly occurring in our brains. They found nothing out of the ordinary, pretty definitively disproving most of Orch OR theory.

The researchers were unwilling to completely dismiss the idea (this is quantum mechanics, after all, uncertainty kind of goes with the territory), but it does seem like we’ll have to search elsewhere for sources of human consciousness. Personally, we’re big fans of the cymbal-playing monkey.


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