How fat may hurt the brain, and how exercise may help

The New York Times Syndicate

The Hindu

Early morning walkers at Visakhapatnam. File photo

Obesity may have harmful effects on the brain, and exercise may counteract many of those negative effects, according to sophisticated new neurological experiments with mice, even when the animals do not lose much weight. While it‟s impossible to know if human brains respond in precisely the same way to fat and physical activity, the findings offer one more reason to get out and exercise. It‟s been known for some time that obesity can alter cognition in animals. Past experiments with lab rodents, for instance, have shown that obese animals display poor memory and learning skills compared to their normalweight peers. They don‟t recognize familiar objects or recall the location of the exit in mazes that they‟ve negotiated multiple times. But scientists hadn‟t understood how excess weight affects the brain. Fat cells, they knew, manufacture and release substances into the bloodstream that flow to other parts of the body, including the heart and muscles. There,

which had high levels of interleukin 1 together with widespread markers of inflammation. should be insulated from those harmful effects. As they grew rotund and accumulated more fat cells. For the studies. the researchers found when they examined tissue from the animals‟ brains. a part of the brain critical for learning and memory. synapses were no longer functioning properly and messages between neurons likely jerked. which. after a few weeks of sitting quietly in their cages and eating at will. While inflammation can represent a healthy response to invading molecules. Synapses are the structures that connect one neuron to another and shunt messages between them. In obese animals. Healthy synapses respond to demands on the brain by slowing or speeding messages. They performed miserably. recent disquieting studies in animals indicate that obesity weakens that barrier. the scientists gathered mice bred to overeat and grow obese. the researchers found. leaving it leaky and permeable. the animals had obligingly accomplished. There. Other physiological factors . as interleukin 1 migrated to the head. substances released by fat cells can ooze past the barrier and into the brain. it passed the bloodbrain barrier and entered areas such as the hippocampus. keeping the brain‟s nervous-system traffic manageable. hiccuped or stalled. However. it essentially gummed up the works. But whether excessive fat cells alone were the underlying cause of the changes in the animals‟ brains was not clear. their blood showed increasingly hefty doses of a substance called interleukin 1 that is created by fat cells and known to cause inflammation. That possibility was borne out by subsequent tests on the memory and thinking of some of the remaining obese mice. The researchers also noted extremely low levels in these mice brains of a biochemical associated with healthy synapse function.these substances jump-start biochemical processes that produce severe inflammation and other conditions that can lead to poor health. Many thought the brain. The consequences of that seepage became the subject of new neurological experiments conducted by researchers at Georgia Regents University in Augusta and published last month in The Journal of Neuroscience. In these mice. It contains no fat cells and sits behind the protective blood-brain barrier that usually blocks the entry of undesirable molecules. But low levels of the marker of synapse health suggested to the researchers that in these obese animals‟ inflamed brains. it hurts cells if it persists. though.

whose brains may respond very differently.and haven‟t we all had nightmares about something like that happening to us in our sleep? . After 12 weeks. with encouragement provided by small puffs of air if they began to flag. they allowed all of them to grow heavy. But they had lost significant amounts of fat from around their middles. not people.” said Alexis Stranahan.“could have been contributing. and the takeaway from her study worth repeating. may respond in similar ways is tantalizing. the running mice still weighed about the same as the unexercised animals. Of course. these studies were conducted in mice. Algernon-like. soon were acing cognitive tests that had stumped them before surgery. even . who oversaw the study. But while provocative. when the researchers examined tissue from their hippocampi. these slenderized mice showed almost no interleukin 1 in their bloodstreams and. Conversely. to isolate the impact of the fat. performing far worse than previously on cognitive tests.” she said.the animals almost immediately grew dimmer. as a less-invasive alternative. since even the most extensive liposuction procedure in humans would remove far less fat than had been excised from the obese mice.and . too. More telling. while adding lean muscle. But the possibility that humans. a professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents. After recovery. but then started half on a daily 45-minute program of treadmill running.” even in animals born to be fat and that remained heavy. as the scientists write in the study. The results convincingly implicated fat cells as the primary cause of the mice‟s cognitive decline. So the scientists turned. Stranahan said. to exercise. The results suggested that. Gathering more of the obesity-prone mice. they did much better on cognitive tests than the sedentary mice and. So. “Get out and move. “treadmill training normalized hippocampal function. the researchers simply removed most of it. when the scientists implanted the preserved fat pads into previously lean mice . the findings had little practical value for people. The other mice remained sedentary. although nothing else in their lives had changed. Dr. showed little evidence of inflammation and robust levels of the chemical marker of synaptic health. the scientists realized. surgically excising the large bands of fat that each mouse bore around its middle.

Jai Prakash Singh.especially . Photo: Special Arrangement Jai Prakash Singh has won many awards for his work to preserve native seeds A Varanasi farmer.if you carry extra weight. Talk with your doctor about a safe and tolerable exercise program. many of which have been approved by the government to be used by other growers. J. and then try to stick with that routine so that extra pounds won‟t weigh too heavily on your mind. 30 pulse and four mustard varieties. Prabu The HinduJai Prakash Singh. . is a proud recipient of three awards — two from former Presidents in 2002 and 2009. The farmer has to his credit about 460 paddy. and the Plant Genome award from the government for his outstanding role in preserving hundreds of native seed varieties. A farmer who has made a difference M. 120 wheat.

.” he says. ‘More needs to be done’ Mr. Among the defoliators. Prakash. groundnut red hairy caterpillars. “The government must realise that preserving and using native seeds are the hope of our country‟s future if it is serious about overcoming food shortage.They include a wheat variety that yields more than seven tonnes from a hectare and a long-duration paddy variety that can be harvested in 130 days (long-duration paddy generally takes about 150 to 160 days to harvest). is not happy with the government‟s attitude towards native seed preservation. groundnut crop is infested with sucking pests and defoliators. The farmer distributes his seeds and gets a signed document from buyers saying they will sell the seeds at the same price to others. The importance given to GM seeds and the cost of their cultivation make me wonder if all my work in the last 25 years was worth it.” Mr. Durai Singh Collect and destroy the egg masses During active growth stage. Many agriculture and research institutions across the country have conducted research on his findings. however. Management of red hairy caterpillar in groundnut J. “This is an endeavour on my part to ensure that seeds are available at an affordable price to many small and poor farmers. cause devastating effect on the crop by devouring the leaves. Prakash recently participated in a National Seed Saviours exhibition in New Delhi where hundreds of native seeds from different parts of the country were exhibited. Adult moths emerge from the soil with the onset of the monsoon. Ramkumar R.

Adults are medium sized moths having white wings with brownish streaks. after receipt of summer showers to attract and kill the moths. — To check early instar larvae spray phosalone 35 EC at 300 ml/ac. They often migrate from field to field in search of food after devastating the foliage in the field where they have hatched. — Dig the trench around the field at 30 cm depth and 25 cm width to check the movement of migrating larvae. Prabu .00 P. Pupation takes place along field bunds or in moist soil at a depth of 10-20 cm where they undergo pupal diapause for about 10-12 months.M. Early instar larvae feed voraciously by scraping the under surface of the tender leaves. Incubation period ranges from 2-3 days.A female moth lays about 600-700 cream coloured eggs in groups mostly on the under surface of the leaves and occasionally on other vegetation. J. Control measures — Collect and destroy the egg masses and voracious early instar larvae. flowers and growing points. Severely damaged crop gives the appearance of having been grazed by cattle. Uttarakhand farmer’s seed saving movement holds promise M. — For grown up caterpillar spray fenitrothion or chlorpyriphos at 600 ml/ac in 300 lt of water. Larval period Grown up caterpillar is reddish brown with a black band on either end having long reddish brown hair all over the body. — The pupae may be collected at the time of summer ploughing and destroyed. Grown up larvae feed voraciously on entire foliage. — Set up bonefires or light trap up to 11. It is the destructive stage of the pest. Larval period lasts for 40-50 days.

His unique seed saving movement is a big hit in the region. 220 varieties of kidney beans (rajma). Some of these are resistant to droughts. Like hundreds of villages in the country agriculture is a major occupation here. Collection Presently. This is thanks to Mr. who has managed to save some hundreds of ancient seeds from different crops till date. four of barley. a small farmer and founder of seed saving movement called Beej Bachao Andolan (seed savers movement). Photo: Special Arrangement Jardhar village comprises of nearly 26 small hamlets in Uttarakhand. eight varieties of wheat. But the village is known for more than just agriculture. Vijay Jardhari. It houses some of the country‟s best and „lost‟ ancient seed varieties. thus ensuring some output even at times of major distress or natural calamity. floods and pests. eight of cowpea and 12 varieties of navrangi dhal. .Vijay Jardari . in his collection are about 350 varieties of paddy. The farmer is also credited with discovering an old tradition in Uttarakhand called Barahnaja (also called Bara anaaj in some places) meaning 12 grains/seeds.

But I was able to notice that the soil fertility was decreasing in the second year itself. He met several people in various villages trying to find out more about local seeds as well as older practices. “The farmers after selling these to the rich far-away markets had to buy either low quality ones from the open market which were not cheap. The village elders and his father seem to have admonished him for using new hybrid seeds because there were so many varieties of paddy and other crops once. mostly non food crop that were totally alien to this part. Jardhari. in their intention to corporatise agriculture pushed for mono crops. This high intensive farming and the input costs can only go up gradually and not scale down. “So we had to jump in again to the rescue of farmers. . in these parts they pushed for Soya.” he says and he started going around the whole region in search of finding and collecting traditional seeds. These were hybrid seeds designed to break the chain of cultivation that has come through to us for hundreds of years. after these 12 Barahnaja is harvested. where as now it is the same hybrid rice or wheat. But how did he get interested in this seed saving protection issues? Initial trial “I was into chemical farming initially and the yield did increase. That is how.“As a practice. “This opened my eyes. We asked the government as to who will process the bean into oil or milk? And for whom was the rich protein and cash they were drumming about. “During the third year I found that the seeds planted from the previous harvest did not yield well and I harvested only a small quantity for seed requirement. the fields are left fallow for sometime and then rice or barnyard millet is grown. Instinct So instinctively he stopped chemical farming and started using hybrid seeds. After this wheat is sown and the same procedure is repeated Thus a proper crop rotation is ensured.” says Mr.” he says. Intentions “The modern agricultural cartel.

“So our save our seed campaign caught up with and farmers and farming was saved and old traditional seeds and practices returned including this Barahnaja. Change in mindset Today Mr. with a smile of pride. Vijay has not only been able to change the mindset of people in Uttarakhand but also of the Government. Vijay Jardhari hold much promise for better agricultural practices in today's fast eroding farming sector. The agri dept professes about his Barahnaja system which is being popularised all over the region.” says Mr. . Vijay. Persons like Mr.