To Gluten or Not To Gluten

By Anupum Pant

With every aisle in the supermarket mentioning “gluten free” at least 3 times, I was very curious to know what gluten really is, and if it really makes any sense to go for gluten free foods, or not. Like always, I didn’t just believe what was being seeded in my mind (that gluten free is a healthier food choice). This is what I’ve found after a simple online search. Thanks to the ASAPscience channel of Youtube.

Gluten is a combination of two proteins Gliadin and Glutanin. Hence the name, Gluten. It’s just protein. Gluten is like a binder, something that makes your bread spongy and makes food chewy.

Moreover, there’s no evidence that gluten is bad for you. Nor does it have any great advantages too. It’s just a part of a normal diet, which comes naturally with grains like wheat, barley and rye.

In fact, to bind gluten free foods artificially more fat and sugar is added. Which makes foods containing gluten a better choice actually.

Gluten is of course bad for people with the Celiac disease in which case, the affected people aren’t able to eat Gluten. But Celiac disease doesn’t affect most of us.

So, the supermarket evangelism mentioning “gluten free”, seeding the idea that gluten free food is healthier, is mostly out of confusion in this area – that it is bad for people with Celiac disease, not for normal people like you and me.

A very small percentage of us (people not having the Celiac disease) are also sensitive to gluten. Still, major part of the population falls out of both these categories.

So, unlike what supermarkets want us to believe, gluten free food isn’t automatically a healthier choice. In fact, it can be a worse choice in some cases where, to substitute the natural gluten protein, more fat and sugar is added artificially into foods.

A Ghost Heart

By Anupum Pant

Before I begin, I’m happy to announce that Awesci’s feed has been featured on a smartphone app, Dabblr. I covered it a couple of days back in the interviews section. If you missed it, you might want to know what Dabblr can do and why you should use it, especially if you are a student. 

At any given time, thousands of people are there on the heart transplant waiting list. Some of these people are eventually able to find a donor, while others aren’t able to. Hundreds of people who fail to find a donor, die every year. It’s a grim state, but little can be done to change it. Texas Heart Institute (THI) had a solution for this problem – use a Pig’s heart.

(There have been cases where people have survived for some time on artificial hearts too. It’s incredible how these things work.)

A pig’s heart is a lot like our own, in shape, size and function. Of course it can’t be just taken away from a pig and installed in a human. Or people from ancient times would have done it. The researchers from THI proposed this – make a ghost heart out of it first.

For making a “ghost heart”  – a kind of a structural scaffolding – they used a simple soap solution. Once they washed the pig heart in it and may be after some other processing, they had a pure protein scaffolding, stripped off of all living cells (decellularized), which could be customized and could be used to grow a custom heart for a specific human being – by using the patient’s bone-marrow stem cells. That way the new body where it would get installed won’t reject it.

In the near future, there’s a chance we could have humans with the hearts of pigs!

A Disease That Doesn’t Let You Sleep And Kills

By Anupum Pant

Background

In my very first article on this website, I talked about a 17-year-old boy, Randy Gardner who remained awake for an incredible 11 days and set a world record which no one had beat for a very long time. And then, in the 90s, Toimi Soini, of Hamina, Finland, set a new record of 276 hours of sleeplessness.

Well, no one should even try to beat it because depriving yourself of sleep can have some serious health issues and can even kill you. The seriousness of health consequences associated with such attempts is the reason that these records are no longer recorded in the Guinness books.

The disease

Not always do people decide to voluntarily break sleeplessness records. Some times, they can be the victims of a horrific and an extremely rare disease called fatal familial insomnia (FFI) – A progressively worsening form of insomnia discovered only 10-15 years ago. When it affects someone, the person starts having bouts of insomnia at first and then they aren’t able to sleep at all. Hallucinations, delirium, and confusional states occur and a person usually dies within 18 months from the first insomnia. 

The disease is caused due to a defective gene and the people having it start seeing symptoms from the age of 30 (never at an early age). It has been believed to have originated from an Italian man in the year 1765 (not necessarily).

Symptoms in detail

  • For the first four months there is an onset of insomnia and the person starts getting panic attacks and unfounded phobias.
  • For the the next 5 months the hallucinations become severe.
  • In the next 3 months, rapid weight loss and serious deterioration of mental ability happens,
  • Next comes dementia, unresponsiveness, and may be death.

[A list of couple of people who never slept]

Here’s a 10 minute documentary which discusses FFI in detail.

[Everything else you need to know about it]