Beyond Food and Exercise: the Other Factors in the Obesity Epidemic

Everything you come in contact with, every second of every day, makes an impact on your health. It’s known as the exposome. It’s a relatively new concept, first defined in 2005. The exposome includes the food you eat, the beauty products you use, the air you breathe, your friends and family, and everything in between. Studying it, could be the key to understanding the obesity epidemic.

That was the focus of the 12th Annual Sugar, Stress, Environment & Weight Symposium put on by The Consortium for Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment at UCSF. Popular opinion would have you believe that obesity is a simple equation of too much food and not enough exercise. But, researchers say the problem is far more complex. In this eye-opening lecture series, you will hear how polluted air has been linked to obesity in children living in California’s Central Valley. You will learn about obesogens – chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system. And, you will understand how stress can create a vicious cycle of weight gain.

The final talk focuses on how you can remove toxins from your personal exposome and the progress being made around the world. New labeling in the food and beauty industries allows you to make smarter decisions. LEED buildings are becoming more common in the United States. And, monitoring systems for exposome pollutants are getting better. There is plenty being done, and plenty you can do, to make an impact.

Browse more programs in UCSF Consortium for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment

The Trees are the Instruments

“I’m profoundly influenced by the natural world and a strong sense of place…I hope to explore the territory of sonic geography–that region between place and culture…between environment and imagination.”
– John Luther Adams

John Luther Adams has been hailed by the New Yorker as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” After studying at the California Institute of the Arts, Adams embarked on a prolific career encompassing a variety of genres and media, including television, film, children’s theater, voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra, and electronics. His Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning orchestral composition, Become Ocean, has become one of the most popular concert pieces in the modern repertoire.

Much of John Luther Adams’ work as a composer and, increasingly, a conceptual artist is rooted in his love of nature combined with what he calls the “resonances” of a particular environment. For the Wind Garden, his installation commissioned by the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, that environment is a eucalyptus grove located in the campus Theater District. Based on a carefully determined site plot, 32 accelerometers were attached to the highest branches, measuring the movements of the trees in the wind. As the velocity of the wind changes so, too, does the amplitude of the sound. Tonal variations and harmonic colors are provided by two virtual “choirs,” a Day Choir tuned to the natural harmonic series, and a Night Choir tuned to the sub-harmonic series. The results are broadcast by 32 small loudspeakers hidden among the trees. Both volume and pitch change in real time throughout the day and with the sun’s movement over the course of the seasons.

Because the composition is driven entirely by wind and the sun’s light, it never repeats itself. The listener is surrounded by sounds that vaguely recall bells, voices, strings, and other acoustic instruments, but it’s impossible to describe them in just those familiar terms or to know their exact source. Like some of Adams’ other recent pieces, the Wind Garden has been described as “indeterminate,” but the composer argues that it’s more accurate to call it “self-determining,” not reliant on musicians or conventional instruments. Rather, Adams notes that “the trees are the instruments” while acknowledging the sophisticated technology employed to “give voice” to the trees.

Adams hopes that each unique encounter with the Wind Garden and its rich, ever-shifting harmonic palette will encourage both “deep listening” and an enhanced appreciation of the natural environment.

Watch The Wind Garden by John Luther Adams – Stuart Collection at UC San Diego

The Coming Wave? 2018 Midterm Election Panel

There are just days left before the 2018 midterms, and analysts are split over what we can expect. Will there be a so-called blue wave, or will Republicans retain control of all branches of government?

That’s just one of the questions addressed by three political heavy-hitters at the Goldman School of Public Policy during a live-streamed discussion this week. Professor Robert B. Reich, Dean Henry E. Brady, and University of California President and Goldman School Professor Janet Napolitano gave their best predictions for Tuesday. Napolitano predicts Democrats will take back the house, but possibly lose ground in the Senate. Reich points to gerrymandering and voter suppression, saying it’s unlikely Democrats will be able to pick up a majority in either house. Brady looks at historical methods of predicting midterm results, but questions whether the old rules still apply.

But, the discussion doesn’t stop at predictions. The panel weighs in on what they see as the biggest issues for voters, how we got to this point in American politics, and what might happen next. Reich lays out three things he believes the Democratic party needs to focus on whether they win or lose on Tuesday, and gives a riveting monologue about the role of truth in a democracy. The discussion ends on a high note, with Reich and Napolitano sharing why they’re optimistic about the future of politics in the United States.

Watch The Coming Wave? 2018 Midterm Election Panel Featuring: Robert Reich, Janet Napolitano, and Henry E. Brady

Genetics and Alzheimer’s Disease

Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. What can be done to stem the tide of this devastating disease? Researchers are looking to our genes. “One of the goals of genetics is to try and come up with as strong a set of predictors as is possible. This has influenced the way in which more recent genetic research has been done,” says Douglas R. Galasko, MD. On this episode of “On Our Mind,” Dr. Galasko shares the different types of genetic influences on people’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. He explains how these genes are being studied and what being a carrier of Alzheimer’s associated genes means.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit our archive.
https://www.uctv.tv/brain/alzheimers/

Watch What Role Do Genetics Play in Alzheimer’s? – On Our Mind

Cancer from an Evolutionary Perspective

Humans have a relatively high risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes. But cancer is not unique to humans. Across the tree of life, we can trace cancer vulnerabilities back to the origins of multicellularity. Cancer is observed in almost all multicellular phyla, including lineages leading to plants, fungi, and animals.

However, species vary remarkably in their susceptibility to cancer. And some organisms are much better at killing problem cells. Amy Boddy discusses how this variation is characterized by life history trade-offs, especially longevity. Interestingly, different species have evolved different ways to fight cell mutations that cause cancer. This may lead to a better understanding of cancer susceptibility across human populations.

Amy Boddy is an Assistant Professor in the Integrated Anthropological Sciences Unit and a Research Associate in the Broom Center for Demography at UC Santa Barbara. Boddy completed her PhD in molecular biology and genetics at the Wayne State University – School of Medicine in 2013. Her work uses applications from evolution and ecology to understand human health and disease. She uses a combination of genomics, computational biology and evolutionary theory to understand life history trade-offs between survival and reproduction across different levels of biological organization. One component of her research program examines how environmental cues, such as high extrinsic mortality, may guide resource allocations to cancer defenses and reproduction. Current cancer research topics include comparative oncology, intragenomic conflict, cellular life history trade-offs, and early life adversity and cancer outcomes later in life. In addition to her cancer research, she studies maternal/fetal conflict theory and the consequences of fetal microchimeric cells in maternal health and disease.

Watch Cancer Across the Tree of Life: New Insights into an Ancient Disease