Livin' on the MDedge

Charcoal could be the cure for the common high-fat diet


Charcoal won’t let high-fat diet weigh you down

Do you want to be the funniest person alive? Of course you do. It’s really simple too, just one joke can make you the greatest comedian of all time. All you have to do is go camping and cook food over a roaring campfire. When someone drops food into the fire (which they always will), get ready. Once they fish out the offending food, which is almost certainly coated in hot coals, tell them: “Ah, eat it anyway. A little texture never hurt!” Trust us, most hilarious and original gag of all time.

But before your hapless friend brushes off his hot dog and forces a laugh, consider this: Japanese researchers have found that a charcoal supplement can prevent weight gain in mice consuming a high-fat diet. Charcoal is actually quite the helpful substance, and not just for grilling. It’s been used as medicine for hundreds of years and even today is used as a treatment for drug overdose and excess gas and flatulence.

Group of campers around a fire at night PxHere

The study involved two groups of mice: One was fed a normal diet, the other a high-fat diet. After 12 weeks, the high-fat diet mice had gained weight. At that point, edible activated charcoal was added to their diet. From that point, weight gain was similar between the two groups, and the amount of bile acid, cholesterol, triglyceride, and fatty acid excreted by the high-fat mice increased by two to four times.

The researchers supported the notion that consuming an activated charcoal supplement before or while eating fatty food could prevent weight gain from said fatty food. Which works out well for the classic American barbecue, which is traditionally both high in fat and charcoal. All you have to do is buy some extra charcoal briquettes to pass around and munch on with your friends. Now that’s a party we can get behind.

There’s awake, and then there’s neurologically awake

Time to toss another urban legend onto the trash heap of history. Say goodbye to the benefits of uninterrupted sleep. It’s a fraud, a fake, a myth, a hit or myth, a swing and a myth, an old wives’ tale. You can stuff it and put it on a shelf next to Bigfoot, the Slender Man, and Twinkies.

A sleeping woman JackF/

We all thought we needed 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, but guess who we forgot to tell? Our brains. They’ve been doing exactly the opposite all along, laughing at us the whole time. Smug SOBs.

To straighten out this mess, let’s bring in a scientist, Celia Kjaerby of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Copenhagen: “You may think that sleep is a constant state that you are in, and then you wake up. But there is a lot more to sleep than meets the eye. We have learned that noradrenaline causes you to wake up more than 100 times a night. And that is during perfectly normal sleep.”

Those 100 or so sleep interruptions are so brief that we don’t even notice, but they are very important, according to a study conducted at the university. Those tiny little wake-up calls are “the essence for the part of sleep that makes us wake up rested and which enables us to remember what we learned the day before. ... The very short awakenings are created by waves of norepinephrine [and they] reset the brain so that it is ready to store memory when you dive back into sleep,” lead author Maiken Nedergaard, MD, explained.

The investigators compared the level of noradrenaline in sleeping mice with their electrical activity and found that the hormone constantly increased and decreased in a wavelike pattern. A high level meant that the animal was neurologically awake. Deeper valleys between the high points meant better sleep, and the mice with the “highest number of deep noradrenaline valleys were also the ones with the best memory,” the team said in their written statement.

Not just the best memory, they said, but “super memory.” That, of course, was enough to get the attention of Marvel Comics, so the next Disney superhero blockbuster will feature Nocturna, the queen of the night. Her power? Never forgets. Her archnemesis? The Insomniac. Her catchphrase? “Let me sleep on it.”

Words can hurt, literally

Growing up, we’re sure you heard the “sticks and stones” rhyme. Maybe you’ve even recited it once or twice to defend yourself. Well, forget it, because words can hurt and your brain knows it.

A little girl who has been insulted or offended PxHere

In a new study published in Frontiers in Communication, Marijn Struiksma, PhD, of Utrecht University, and colleagues incorporated the use of electroencephalography (EEG) and skin conductance on 79 women to see how words (specifically insults) actually affect the human body.

Each subject was asked to read three different types of statements: an insult, a compliment, and something factual but neutral. Half of the statements contained the subject’s name and half used somebody else’s. The participants were told that these statements were collected from three men.

Nobody interacted with each other, and the setting was completely clinical, yet the results were unmistakable. The EEG showed an effect in P2 amplitude with repetitive insults, no matter who it was about. Even though the insults weren’t real and the participants were aware of it, the brain still recognized them as hurtful, coming across as “mini slaps in the face,” Dr. Struiksma noted in a written statement.

The researchers noted that more needs to be done to better understand the long-term effects that insults can have and create a deeper understanding between words and emotion, but studying the effects of insults in a real-life setting is ethically tricky. This study is a start.

So, yeah, sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will actually hurt you.

This article was updated 7/21/22.

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