Th New “Thrifty” Gene and Obesity

Article first published as The New “Thrifty” Gene And Obesity on Technorati.

thriftygene Th New Thrifty Gene and Obesity

Scientists recently discovered another “thrifty” gene called CRTC3 that affects obesity.  The concept of thrifty genes was first explored in the 60s. These genes are believed to slow down the body’s fat-burning process, and once helped our ancestors survive famines.

Mice bred without CRTC3 stayed lean irrespective of diet. Studies also showed that some humans have more potent variants of CRTC3 which makes it extra hard to lose weight, but only among certain ethnic groups. For example, Mexican-Americans with the variant-gene have greater rates of obesity, but non-Hispanic whites with the variant-gene do not.

While “thrifty” genes were once useful, they haven’t evolved at the same pace as society; they persist in making us retain excess fat though famines are unlikely in our current world.

So what can we do about these pesky genes?

Since “breeding” humans without them isn’t a viable option, and pharmaceutical companies will take time to develop a drug that turns CRTC3 and other similar genes “off”, we currently have only one choice. Consume fewer calories than we expend.

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Women’s fiction versus Chick Lit and Romance

When I tell people that my novel, “Speechless”,  falls within the genre  “Women’s fiction”, I’m often asked one of two questions:  “Is it a romance novel?” or  “Is it a Sex and the City kind of book?”

Women’s fiction, usually grouped with mainstream fiction in book stores, is neither. It is serious fiction written by women for women. It  can be commercial or literary and deals with the empowerment of women, the issues they face, the relationships that change them for better or worse. Think “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett or  “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana De Rosnay.

While Women’s Fiction often has elements of romance, the plot focuses on the female protagonist rather than the chemistry between lovers.  There is also deeper characterization, and more intricate sub-plotting than in a romance novel. The ending may not be happily-ever-after. And yes, the cover will not have Fabio holding a swooning  woman in his Photoshop enhanced arms.

Women’s Fiction is also different from the fun, frothy “Sex and the City kind of novel” known as Chick lit.  While both  genres are usually about women’s issues (relationships, motherhood, coming-of-age), Women’s fiction usually has a serious, strong plot requiring emotional investment from the reader, and so tends to be more memorable than Chick lit.

Lastly, the three  genres are  unique in terms of target audience. Though Women’s fiction, Romance and Chick lit are all read primarily by women, a woman who reads Romance is unlikely to read Women’s fiction or Chick lit and vice-versa.

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The Grace of Elizabeth Edwards

I was saddened to read about Elizabeth Edwards’ death yesterday. But only momentarily.

For this remarkable woman epitomized resilience and strength. Life dealt her blow after crippling blow. The death of a child. Stage Four cancer. The revelation that her husband was a philanderer. Public humiliation as he first lied about his affair with Ms. Man Hunter…oops…Rielle Hunter, then admitted he had fathered her child.

Yet Elizabeth accepted it with equanimity and grace. Refused to be a victim. Smiled for the cameras. Kicked out her cheating husband instead of being a doormat. Wrote a book. Moved on with life, her head held high.

You don’t mourn the passing of a woman like that. You applaud as the curtain comes down.

Bravo, Elizabeth Edwards.

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TSA scanners – Yay or Nay?


animals tsa nude airlines security body scanners rman11882 low TSA scanners   Yay or Nay?

Despite all the outrage about TSA security measures violating the Fourth Amendment (which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures), airline travel over the Thansgiving weekend went pretty smoothly with 99% of travellers choosing to use the Advanced Imaging Technology machines. Of course, there was the occasional hiccup – the  kid who was strip-searched  (what was the agent thinking??), the guy who opted out and got so thorough a pat-down that he threatened to have the TSA agent arrested if his”junk” was touched.

So should we accept body-scanning as another necessary annoyance during travel? Personally, I’m okay with it (those TSA dudes do have some basic policies in place: for example, the scanning-agent never gets to see the “real” passenger and images are immediately deleted) IF it ensures my safety. But does it really do that, given the apparent innovativeness of the modern terrorist?

What do you think? Yay or nay to these imaging devices?

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“We The Living” by Ayn Rand

 

russia1918 streetdemo We The Living by Ayn Rand

Though “We the Living” is one of Rand’s lesser known works of fiction, it is the most unforgettable. Set in the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution, it tells the story of Kira, a young woman facing the new communist regime, and her two lovers – Leo, an aristocrat and Andrei, a Party member.

Rand’s gritty narrative portrays the bleak life of non-proletarians in a totalitarian state, offset by the protagonists’ fierce determination to live life on their terms. Kira, Leo and Andrei, three people with different ideals stemming from common principles, unflailingly battle  their enforced destinies until the grim, yet triumphant climax.

A visceral, thought-provoking masterpiece. Read it…

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For Yogi

We adopted Yogi from a shelter in Camden, New Jersey. I remember seeing him for the first time in a dark run that looked too small for even his 16-lb body. He was this mix of pug, beagle and chihuahua. He resembled Yoda except he was good-looking and not green. His nose was slightly upturned, his whiskers were curly. And, despite the discomfort of his surroundings, Yogi’s tail wagged non-stop as he peered out at us with his saucer-eyes.

I took him home, of course.

Over the next decade, Yogi converted my clueless-about-canines husband into a dog-liker, but remained predominantly mine. It was me Yogi waited for in the evenings; it was on my side of the bed he slept (though he could be bribed over to my husband’s side with apples; Yogi loved apples above all foods). When we moved to California, he took the 7-day road-trip with us. We stayed overnight at dog-friendly hotels (one wasn’t, but we snuck him in anyway).

By 2004, Yogi could no longer leap onto my bed on his own. His eyesight and hearing deteriorated. He became incontinent about the same time my son got potty-trained. Good thing I had left-over diapers.

In 2006, Yogi was diagnosed with lymphoma. We held on as long as we could. But when he stopped eating mashed-up apples, we knew it was time. I held Yogi in my lap as the vet inserted the needle. Yogi raised his head slightly, then rested it back on my arm. His labored breathing slowed…then stopped.

My Yogi was asleep.

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Free Press or Devolution?

There’s a book on Amazon called “A Pedophile’s Guide To Love and Pleasure”.

No, I’m not smoking pot. I read about this on TechCrunch. See for yourself.
http://www.techcrunch.com/2010/11/10/kindle-pedophile-book

Someone’s twisted enough to write this? I only hope the venture is a misguided money-making ploy, not a presentation of the author’s true views. I can’t believe Amazon’s sanctioning such a thing. As a writer, I’m all for freedom with words. But shouldn’t the line be drawn somewhere?

And people are actually downloading this disgusting tripe. It’s the 158,221st bestselling kindle book in the store.

Words fail me…

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The Only Diet that Works

Constant diet-discoveries have made us chronic dieters, fickly abandoning one fad diet for the next, in our pursuit of lipid-blasting. So as we struggle into jeans that the washing machine has shrunk yet again, we wonder: What will actually WORK for me long-term?

Only one thing does. And it’s not even a diet.

It’s the Calories-In vs Calories-Out Lifestyle. It allows all foods, is simple, healthy and can be maintained long-term.

Here’s how you follow it:

Step 1: Record your InCal or the calories you consume per day(most packaged foods provide the calorie information per serving, others you can look up on http://www.thecaloriecounter.com

Step 2: Calculate your basic metabolic rate(BMR), ie., the calories you burn just to breathe, digest food etc.
If you’re female, use the formula 655+(4.3 x weight in pounds)+(4.7 x height in inches)-(4.7 x age in years).
If you’re male, use the formula 66+(6.3 x weight in pounds)+(12.9 x height in inches)-(6.8 x age in years).

Step 3: Record your OutCal or the calories you burn per day through physical activity. Most cardio exercise machines display calories burned. You can estimate calories burned for other activities (Ladies, think shopping. Gentlemen, think cleaning out the garage :-)) using http://www.www.healthstatus.com/calculate/cbc

Step 4: Calculate your Calorie-Deficit(CD)using this formula: BMR+OutCal-InCal. For example: If your InCal is 1600 calories, your BMR is 1500 and your OutCal is 600, your CD will be 500. Now, you need a CD of 3500 to lose 1 pound. So in this example, you can lose 1 pound every week.

I lost 43 of my 50 pregnancy pounds following this approach. But then I got greedy, wanted to lose the last sticky, sticky seven pounds in a minute. I tried the fad diets, lost some flab, gave up the disgusting meal-plan (whether Cabbage Soup, Starvation or Eat-All-Animals-You-Can-Find), regained the flab.

But I’m back on track this week with the Calories-In vs Calories-Out Lifestyle. If I succumb and eat half a bar of chocolate at dusk (Tragic Fact of Life: junk food doesn’t nourish, but has calories. So if you substitute nutritious food with junk, you’re substituting ONLY calories and may feel hungry (read nutrition-deprived) when you try to stay within your InCal allowance), I make up by eating a mound of greens for dinner.

And I’ve already lost a pound. Woohoo!

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Living in the Valley

I’ve been living in Silicon Valley for ten years now, for what they call the Lost Decade. I was here for the dotcom bubble of 2000, witnessed the crash of 2001. I saw the crazy real-estate spikes of 2007, the housing (and economic) ruin of 2008. I watched the Ex-Terminator run up our debt until it’s now riskier than Kazakhstan’s.

Through it all, I never wavered in my conviction that the Bay Area is the best place on earth.

I love Silicon Valley – let me count the ways. I love the gentle weather, the fabulous hiking trails. The bikers on the mountains in each clement season, the breathtaking ocean views, the ski slopes of Tahoe within driving distance. The ethnic diversity that makes me feel comfortable like I never did back East. The great eats, the crowds of Stanford students lining up outside the affordable sushi bars on University Ave in Palo Alto, the casual dress-code everywhere, the take-your-dog to work culture.

I’ve been around the world and I,I, I…consider Silicon Valley home.

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My novel “Speechless”

It’s not published. But it will be.

I just finished my third major revision. The first draft won third prize among 2700 entries in the Simon and Schuster First Chapters contest, but needed a lot of work. The second version had agents asking for a partial, and then the whole manuscript. But the “theme was too dark”. Now, finally, agents tell me I have a very good book ( though they won’t sign me on yet because the pacing needs some minor adjustment – with the publishing industry in such deep doo-doo, they can now only accept cut and polished diamonds).

But that’s okay. I’m willing to re-pace, revise and re-submit. Until I get that agent call asking for an exclusive contract.

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