Halloween candy spooks aging digestive systems. And each year, some dentists around the nation buy the holiday candy from kids. Research in fruit flies helps explain why. Have you ever wondered why young children can eat bags of Halloween candy and feel fine the next day – compared to adults who experience all sorts of agony following the same junk food binge? Besides the fact that most of the candy might rot children's teeth, evolution and a gene called Foxo may be to blame. You can check out the study or its abstract, "Misregulation of an Adaptive Metabolic Response Contributes to the Age-Related Disruption of Lipid Homeostatis in Drosophila" Cell Reports, published online, September 12, 2013.
Working in fruit flies, scientists at the Buck Institute have identified a mechanism that helps the flies adapt to changes in diet when they're young. They've discovered that same mechanism gets misregulated as the flies age, disrupting metabolic homeostasis, or balance, according to an October 15, 2013 news release, "Halloween candy spooks aging digestive systems! Research in fruit flies helps explain why." Maybe it's time for more pumpkin or sweet potato side dishes or desserts and less sugary candies. At least the winter squash has more fiber and dense nutrients.
In a study appearing in Cell Reports, researchers focus on the function of the Foxo gene in the intestines of fruit flies. Foxo is widely expressed throughout the body (both in flies and in humans), particularly in muscle, the liver and pancreas – and can regulate many aspects of metabolism in response to insulin signaling.
Lead author Jason Karpac, PhD, Assistant Research Professor at the Buck, says when young animals experience a change in diet, insulin signaling gets repressed, which turns on Foxo. "In normal young animals Foxo turns on and off quite easily, allowing for a seamless adjustment to changes in diet," explains Karpac, according to the news release. "The process is evolutionarily conserved, it protects young animals and helps guarantee their survival," he says.
Karpac says as the animals age, Foxo stops responding to insulin signaling (not a good thing for non-youngsters who crave that Halloween candy)
"In the flies Foxo gets chronically turned on, which disrupts lipid metabolism. The process reflects the development of a general inflammatory condition in the aging gut. It has been proposed that our modern high-sugar/high fat diets can lead to misregulation of evolutionarily conserved dietary responses," says Buck Institute faculty Heinrich Jasper, PhD, lead scientist on the study, according to the news release. "That may be the case. Metabolism is a very complex process -- lots of things can go wrong which increases stress in the animals."
So maybe you shouldn't eat all that candy handed out on Halloween to save your kids from sugar saturation. It may be better to bake your own goodies using natural foods such as real fruit instead of candies. Kids quickly get hooked on sweets and crave it for the rest of their lives if given sugary foods early enough. As you age, you probably are going to lose a lot of your metabolic balance, or at least it's a risk factor to eat as many sweets as you age as you did when younger. So why get your kids used to the taste and craving of too many sweets so early in life?
Jasper says age-related loss of metabolic balance is a risk factor for many human pathologies
The goal is to identify age-related changes in metabolic pathways with the hope of being able to intervene. "Our aim is to develop treatments that would preserve well-functioning metabolism as part of healthy aging – something that would likely not ever include indulging in candy binges," says Jasper in the news release. Also you may wish to check out another study, "People of Higher Socioeconomic Status Choose Better Diets – But Pay More Per Calorie | Elsevier."
Other contributors to the study include Benoit Biteau, Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. The work was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIH RO1 AG028127) and American Federation of Age Research and the Ellison Medical Foundation.
About the Buck Institute for Research on Aging
The Buck Institute for Age Research is the U.S.'s first independent research organization devoted to Geroscience – focused on the connection between normal aging and chronic disease. Based in Novato, CA, The Buck is dedicated to extending "Healthspan", the healthy years of human life and does so utilizing a unique interdisciplinary approach involving laboratories studying the mechanisms of aging and those focused on specific diseases.
Buck scientists strive to discover new ways of detecting, preventing and treating age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, cancer, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, osteoporosis, diabetes and stroke. In their collaborative research, they are supported by the most recent developments in genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and stem cell technologies. For more information check out the Buck Institute website.
Does your child believe in Halloween because of the candy, the trick or treating experience, the costume parties, or because of a possible link to the supernatural?
Why don't people hand out packaged, shrink-wrapped organic fruit instead of candy on Halloween? Too expensive? It's a lot healthier than sugary candies, considering kids' teeth, weight, or possible prediabetes status. Or is the event all about costumes and pumpkin desserts? According to a new study on why belief in the supernatural is only natural, for Halloween: New research on rituals and belief in the supernatural were studied, according to the October 25, 2013 news release, "Why belief in the supernatural is only natural."
From disguises to belief in magic, Halloween is rich with stories that share insight into human behavior. Check out this new research to be presented at the SPSP annual convention in Austin, Feb. 13-15, 2014 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
Why Belief in the Supernatural is Only Natural
In many parts of the world, belief in witchcraft and magic is alive and well, with people relying on rituals for everything from treating asthma to curbing infidelity. Even if you don't believe in witchcraft outside of Halloween, chances are you believe in some form of the supernatural, even if just the power of the ritual -- whether wearing a lucky jersey to bestow luck on your favorite sports team or praying for a sick friend.
From a young age, many people develop beliefs in the supernatural, often through participation in rituals, to influence events in the natural world. By studying real-life Brazilian rituals, Cristine Legare and André Souza of the University of Texas at Austin were able to create their own rituals to examine why people think they work. They are now finding that rituals help people gain a sense of control over their environment.
Experts Cristine Legare and Michael Norton will both present their research on Friday, Feb. 14, 2013 in Symposium S-D6: "Symposium S-D6: "Rituals Make Life Better -- By Enhancing Consumption, Communicating Social Norms, Treating Illness, and Relieving Grief" at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) convention in Austin, Texas.
Experts on rituals and Halloween include, Cristine Legare. Her past work looks also at why beliefs in witchcraft and science are not psychologically incompatible and Michael Norton, Harvard School of Business, who studies how rituals relate to control and help people to mitigate grief.
Other Halloween-related experts include: Don Forsyth, University of Richmond, who studies the effects of anonymity on people in groups and can speak about the psychology of Halloween disguises, and Nathan Dewall, University of Kentucky, whose new work looks at the Voodoo Doll task, which builds off the idea that people transfer characteristics of a person onto a voodoo doll representing that person, in order to study aggression.
With all this scary Halloween theme part of scientific research in human behavior, parents might focus on why so much candy is being given out at Halloween instead of fresh fruit, considering the effects of many candies on children's teeth. The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. The Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. Follow SPSP on Twitter at @SPSPnews.