Sunday, 31 January 2016

Seeing the Changes 1026


Another early arrival in Loughor with the flowering of the Primrose (Primula vulgaris).

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Cherry on the Top?


An interesting study involving more than 120,000 US subjects, some studied over more than 20 years (using a combination of measures and self-reported diets and life style activities), has suggested that a diet rich in brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables, rich in flavinoids, helps to limit weight gain especially in middle age (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/27/natural-compound-fruit-veg-flavonoids-help-prevent-weight-gain-study). This is interpreted as a possible help to countering the obesity epidemic (with its linkage to a variety of diseases including diabetes) but the association with these 'super foods' may be a bit more complex than meets the eye. The diets seem to have been self-selected and it is possible that the subjects eating blue berries, strawberries, cherries, citrus fruits, aubergines et cetera and drank tea were the kind of people who would be health conscious and keen to keep their weights down. These foods are also generally rich in fibre and would fill without fattening. Having said that, they sound like good food items to me!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Two Cheers?


Interesting news that some of the 24 million a day waste slices of bread in the UK are to be converted into Toast ale (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jan/22/toast-ale-beer-surplus-bread-feedback-food-waste). On the one hand, this is an interesting attempt to utilise some of the otherwise wasted food in the country but this news come out on the day that it is confirmed that the UK profits of beer, spirits and wine producers depend on encouraging folk to consume dangerously high levels of alcohol. The arrangement will only work if consumers of 'Toast' drink less of the other stuff.

Friday, 22 January 2016

You Can Always Count on Us?


An odd report that the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) can apparently 'count' in order avoid wasting 'energy' whilst attempting to catch flies, in order to provide scarce nitrogen (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/21/venus-flytraps-able-to-count-in-order-to-avoid-false-alarms-study-finds). I think that this is an odd use of the word count. This vegetable predator doesn't have anything like a nervous system to calculate with but it employs systems with its thigomosensitive (touch-sensitive) hairs and its closure mechanisms (which largely involve rapid movements of water) where priming occurs. One touch to get ready, Two touches to close and More to produce digestive systems.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Birder's Bonus 159


On a car journey between Rochester and Swansea, I was somewhat surprised to spot 4 Red kite (Milvus milvus) on the stretch from Windsor to Reading.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Seeing the Changes 1025



In Bynea, Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Alder (Alnus glutinosa) were both in flower.

Friday, 8 January 2016

What Did the Neanderthals Ever Do For Us?


Scientists have speculated that cross-species breeding between Homo sapiens and our Neanderthal cousins in Europe, have led to our species acquiring three genes that boost our immune competence (http://www.theguardian.com/science/neanderthals). The down side of this 'gift' may be that it causes our rejection systems to be somewhat over-active, increasing the probability of developing autoimmune diseases and allergies to items such as pollen (i.e. Hayfever). 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Trust Me, I'm an Energy Drink?


The new series of 'Trust Me, I'm a Doctor' on BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06vrb6l/trust-me-im-a-doctor-series-4-episode-1) explored some interesting myths about diet, exercise and health. They pointed out that 'energy drinks' could be be made in the home quite cheaply but I think they missed a trick. Decades ago, I was part of a team that showed that giving undergraduates a drink of glucose, caused many of our subjects to evidence reactive hypoglycaemia. The glucose triggered a surge of the hormone insulin that actually produced an under-shoot in the normal 'blood sugar' levels. As the brain doesn't store any glucose, this resulted in marked mood changes, notably increased irritability and hostility (Benton et al. 1982). These mood changes appear likely to reduce sporting performance in many contexts. Complex carbohydrates would appear to be a better bet.

Barbara Cartland Bay?


News that thousands of pink plastic bottles, apparently full of stain remover, have washed up on Cornish beaches is disconcerting (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-35241869). Not only are the pink plastic containers very slow to degrade but the contents of the bottles could have a devastating effect on marine life. And we used to think that only mass oil release was a serious problem!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Seeing the Changes 1023


As in other parts of the UK this winter, daffodils are in full flower in Gorseinon.

Vegauary: Celebrities on Celery?


I am not certain what to make of the move to use celebrity endorsement to encourage 50,000 people to sign up for a month free of meat, fish and dairy products (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/03/veganuary-stars-sign-up-animal-free-month). It is certainly the case that we (in the UK) tend to eat too much animal-generated protein (as well as tending to gain too much weight) and could benefit health-wise by increasing the proportion of fruit and vegetables that we consume. It is also true that some of the techniques used to produce animal protein can involve questionable animal welfare (as well as generating lots of methane). Having said this, I don't really favour using celebrities to get people to change their habits (some celebrity life-style habits are much less acceptable than that proposed here). Humans (in their dentition and digestive systems) are, however, clearly omnivores (and many of their pets, carnivores) so complete veganism seems to have potential pit-falls. Also choosing what we get to eat is not a luxury that all people have. Is the message likely to be 'I'm much kinder to animals than thou'? What happens after the month?

Seeing the Changes 1221

Visited, in Loughor, by a Blood-vein moth ( Timandra griseata ).