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Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations.
A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.
In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent.
In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting.
A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.
The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas.
The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.
“This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call – a clarion call – that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” said David Wagner, an expert in invertebrate conservation at the University of Connecticut who was not involved with this research.
He added: “This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”
If Puerto Rico is the island of enchantment – “la isla del encanto” – then its rain forest is “the enchanted forest on the enchanted isle”, he said.
Birds and coqui frogs trill beneath a 50-foot-tall (15 metre tall) emerald canopy. The forest, named El Yunque, is well-protected. Spanish King Alfonso XII claimed the jungle as a 19th-century royal preserve.
Decades later, Theodore Roosevelt made it a national reserve, and El Yunque remains the only tropical rain forest in the National Forest system.
“We went down in ’76, ’77 expressly to measure the resources: the insects and the insectivores in the rain forest, the birds, the frogs, the lizards,” Lister said.
He came back nearly 40 years later, with his colleague Andrés García, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. What the scientists did not see on their return troubled them.
“Boy, it was immediately obvious when we went into that forest,” Lister said. Fewer birds flitted overhead. The butterflies, once abundant, had all but vanished.
García and Lister once again measured the forest’s insects and other invertebrates, a group called arthropods that includes spiders and centipedes. The researchers trapped arthropods on the ground in plates covered in a sticky glue, and raised several more plates about three feet into the canopy. The researchers also swept nets over the brush hundreds of times, collecting the critters that crawled through the vegetation.
Each technique revealed the biomass (the dry weight of all the captured invertebrates) had significantly decreased from 1976 to the present day.
The sweep sample biomass decreased to a fourth or an eighth of what it had been. Between January 1977 and January 2013, the catch rate in the sticky ground traps fell 60-fold.
“Everything is dropping,” Lister said. The most common invertebrates in the rain forest – the moths, the butterflies, the grasshoppers, the spiders and others – are all far less abundant.
“Holy crap,” Wagner said of the 60-fold loss.
Louisiana State University entomologist Timothy Schowalter, who is not an author of the recent report, has studied this forest since the 1990s.
The new research is consistent with his data, as well as the European biomass studies. “It takes these long-term sites, with consistent sampling across a long period of time, to document these trends,” he said. “I find their data pretty compelling.”
The study authors also trapped anole lizards, which eat arthropods, in the rain forest. They compared these numbers with counts from the 1970s.
Anole biomass dropped by more than 30 percent. Some anole species have altogether disappeared from the interior forest.
Insect-eating frogs and birds plummeted, too. Another research team used mist nets to capture birds in 1990, and again in 2005. Captures fell by about 50 percent.
Garcia and Lister analyzed the data with an eye on the insectivores. The ruddy quail dove, which eats fruits and seeds, had no population change. A brilliant green bird called the Puerto Rican tody, which eats bugs almost exclusively, diminished by 90 percent.
The food web appears to have been obliterated from the bottom. It’s credible that the authors link the cascade to arthropod loss, Schowalter said, because “you have all these different taxa showing the same trends – the insectivorous birds, frogs and lizards – but you don’t see those among seed-feeding birds.”
Lister and Garcia attribute this crash to climate. In the same 40-year period as the arthropod crash, the average high temperature in the rain forest increased by 4 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 degrees Celsius). The temperatures in the tropics stick to a narrow band.
The invertebrates that live there, likewise, are adapted to these temperatures and fare poorly outside them; bugs cannot regulate their internal heat.
A recent analysis of climate change and insects, published in August in the journal Science, predicts a decrease in tropical insect populations, according to an author of that study, Scott Merrill, who studies crop pests at the University of Vermont.
In temperate regions farther from the equator, where insects can survive a wider range of temperatures, agricultural pests will devour more food as their metabolism increases, Merrill and his co-authors warned.
But after a certain thermal threshold, insects will no longer lay eggs, he said, and their internal chemistry breaks down.
The authors of a 2017 study of vanished flying insects in Germany suggested other possible culprits, including pesticides and habitat loss. Arthropods around the globe also have to contend with pathogens and invasive species.
“It’s bewildering, and I’m scared to death that it’s actually death by a thousand cuts,” Wagner said. “One of the scariest parts about it is that we don’t have an obvious smoking gun here.”
A particular danger to these arthropods, in his view, was not temperature but droughts and lack of rainfall.
Lister pointed out that, since 1969, pesticide use has fallen more than 80 percent in Puerto Rico. He does not know what else could be to blame.
The study authors used a recent analytic method, invented by a professor of economics at Fordham University, to assess the role of heat.
“It allows you to place a likelihood on variable X causing variable Y,” Lister said. “So we did that and then five out of our six populations we got the strongest possible support for heat causing those decreases in abundance of frogs and insects.”
The authors sorted out the effects of weather like hurricanes and still saw a consistent trend, Schowalter said, which makes a convincing case for climate.
“If anything, I think their results and caveats are understated. The gravity of their findings and ramifications for other animals, especially vertebrates, is hyperalarming,” Wagner said.
But he is not convinced that climate change is the global driver of insect loss.
“The decline of insects in northern Europe precedes that of climate change there,” he said. “Likewise, in New England, some tangible declines began in the 1950s.”
No matter the cause, all of the scientists agreed that more people should pay attention to the bugpocalypse.
“It’s a very scary thing,” Merrill said, that comes on the heels of a “gloomy, gloomy” UN report that estimated the world has little more than a decade left to wrangle climate change under control.
But “we can all step up,” he said, by using more fuel-efficient cars and turning off unused electronics.
The Portland-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental group that promotes insect conservation, recommends planting a garden with native plants that flower throughout the year.
“Unfortunately, we have deaf ears in Washington,” Schowalter said. But those ears will listen at some point, he said, because our food supply will be in jeopardy.
Thirty-five percent of the world’s plant crops require pollination by bees, wasps and other animals. And arthropods are more than just pollinators. They’re the planet’s wee custodians, toiling away in unnoticed or avoided corners.
They chew up rotting wood and eat carrion. “And none of us want to have more carcasses around,” Schowalter said. Wild insects provide US$57 billion worth of six-legged labor in the United States each year, according to a 2006 estimate.
The loss of insects and arthropods could further rend the rain forest’s food web, Lister warned, causing plant species to go extinct without pollinators.
“If the tropical forests go it will be yet another catastrophic failure of the whole Earth system,” he said, “that will feed back on human beings in an almost unimaginable way.”
2018 © The Washington Post
This article was originally published by The Washington Post.
Recipe by Pete Evans
Spaghetti and meatballs: It’s a perfect example of a classic
home-cooked meal that any person, whether adult or kid, would love to indulge
on. It’s also versatile — you can use any type of protein for the meatballs
and/or replace the traditional red sauce with a creamy white sauce.
Today I’d like to share with you a truly unique spaghetti
and meatballs recipe, created by renowned Australian chef Pete Evans, who I
teamed up with to write the soon-to-be-released “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic
Cookbook.” Instead of the typical grain-based pasta, this recipe uses zucchini
and carrots, for a more flavorful yet healthy dish that would surely satisfy
your taste buds without expanding your waistline.
4 tablespoons coconut
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 pound organic
free-range pork mince
1/4 pound organic free-range beef
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 free-range egg yolk
Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves, finely
chopped, to serve
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups organic canned crushed tomatoes, deseeded and peeled
8 basil leaves, chopped
3 large carrots,
cut into spaghetti strips on a mandolin or slicer
deseeded, peeled and cut into spaghetti strips on a mandolin or slicer
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a saucepan
over medium heat.
Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds, or until
lightly browned. Pour in the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water, and then simmer for
20 to 25 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Add the basil and simmer for two minutes longer.
Season with salt and pepper. You can blend the
sauce if you prefer it smooth.
Keep warm and put to the side for meatballs.
Meat Ball Procedure:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a frying
pan over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook for two minutes until just
wilted. Drain the spinach and leave to cool. Once cool, squeeze out any excess
liquid, roughly chop and transfer to a bowl.
Return the pan to medium heat and add 1
tablespoon of the coconut oil, the shallot and garlic. Fry for three minutes or
until the shallot is translucent and the garlic is lightly browned. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the pork mince, beef mince,
spinach, shallot and garlic, parsley, egg yolk and some salt and pepper until
well combined. Roll into golf ball-sized portions and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large
ovenproof frying pan. Add the meatballs and fry until golden on one side. Turn
the meatballs over and place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes until the
meatballs are cooked through.
Remove the pan from the oven, add the tomato
sauce, cover and keep warm.
Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil
over medium heat.
Add the carrots and cook for 30 seconds, then
add the zucchini and cook for another 30 seconds, or until tender.
Drain, toss with a splash of the olive oil and
season with salt.
Divide spaghetti between four serving plates,
top with the meatballs, spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with the parsley or
basil and serve.
and tomatoes, two main ingredients of this dish, actually contain plant
lectins, which may have problematic effects on your health. To safely reduce
the lectin in these foods, I advise deseeding and removing their skins, as
these are what contain the most lectin.
For the zucchini, use a spiralizer that removes the seeds.
You can also manually peel and deseed the zucchinis, and then cut them into
thin strips using a knife. It may take a bit more effort, but the results are
surely worth it.
Make Sure You’re Eating
Organic, Grass Fed Meats
This recipe blends two kinds of protein, pork and beef, for
the meatballs. But as much as possible, stay away from the meats sold in
supermarkets and groceries, as they most likely come from concentrated
animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
These corporate-controlled environments characterized by
large scale, centralized productions are operating mainly for processing,
producing more meat for less money — and consumers are paying the price,
because what you’re getting is antibiotic-loaded meats that are nutritionally
Instead, seek organic, antibiotic-free, grass fed meats that
are raised by local farmers who follow the principles of regenerative farming.
This will ensure that you get meat from animals that are raised on their
natural diet and are allowed to roam free instead of being cramped in small
Don’t be tempted to overeat meat as well, no matter how
healthy the other components of the dish are. High protein intake will activate
your mTOR pathway and pose unhealthy consequences on your health. Ideally, keep
your serving size to 4 ounces, if you’re a large male, and 2 ounces if you are
a small woman or child.
Reminders on Cooking
and Buying Tomatoes
Tomatoes are incredibly healthy, but they must be properly
prepared before cooking (Again, remember to remove the seeds and peel, as they
have the highest lectin content). They’re rich in flavonoids, phytochemicals
lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamins A, C, and E, as well as B-complex vitamins.
Potassium, manganese and phosphorus are also found abundantly in tomatoes.
However, the most sought-after nutrient in this food is
lycopene, the carotenoid antioxidant that gives it its vibrant red color.
Lycopene is valued for its antioxidant activity, potential to reduce your
stroke risk and role in bone health. It’s also shown promise in combating
When buying prepacked tomatoes, I advise looking for
varieties that come in glass containers or jars, as most cans today are lined with
material containing bisphenol-A (BPA), an endocrine-disrupting chemical linked
to various health problems. Because of their acidity, tomatoes can cause the
BPA from the cans to leach into your food.
In addition, you can also use fresh tomatoes that are grown
and harvested from your own garden. It’s a fairly easy-to-grow crop, which is
why as much as 95 percent of home gardeners are planting tomatoes in their
You can grow tomatoes in containers, raised beds or anywhere
there’s soil; however, there are some important pointers you need to remember
to make the most of them. Read my article “How to Grow the Most Flavorful Tomatoes” for useful tips in planting tomatoes.
Ingredients Make This a Wholesome and Satisfying Dish
Carrots and zucchinis both impart an impressive array of
health benefits, but they’re not the only vegetables that make this a standout
meal. Just take a look at what these other ingredients can do for your
This popular leafy green offers high
amounts of niacin and zinc, as well as fiber, protein, thiamin, magnesium,
potassium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. It also contains vitamins A, C, E
Spinach is also abundant in flavonoid antioxidants
that can help protect you from free radicals. Studies have also shown that this
vegetable can be useful for brain health by helping maintain vigorous brain
function, mental clarity and memory.
This herb has impressive amounts of vitamin K, a vitamin essential in
maintaining bone strength that is believed to play a role in preventing
Alzheimer’s disease through minimizing neuronal damage in the brain. It also offers
vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants
zeaxanthin and lutein. Iron, copper,
folate, manganese and fiber are present in parsley, too.
Basil — Thanks
to its high amounts of vitamins A, C and K, as well as manganese and essential
oils such as geraniol, cinnamate, citronellol, terpineol, linalool and pinene,
basil has been valued for its immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory,
pain-reducing and blood vessel-protecting properties, just to name a few. It’s also
fairly easy to grow — check out this article, “How to
Grow Basil,” for more helpful gardening
is an internationally renowned chef who has joined forces with Dr. Mercola to
create a healthy cookbook that’s loaded with delicious, unique Keto recipes,
ideal for people who want to switch to a ketogenic diet. The “Fat for Fuel
Ketogenic Cookbook” will be released November 14.
has had numerous noteworthy contributions to the culinary world. He has not
only cooked for the general public, but he’s also cooked a royal banquet
for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart,
and even represented his hometown at the gala G?Day USA dinner for 600 in
New York City. Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room
with many TV appearances including Lifestyle Channel’s “Home show,” “Postcards
from Home,” “FISH,” “My Kitchen Rules” and “Moveable Feast.”
Inflammation is an important process for your body, as it helps remove microbes and diseases. Essentially, it is a defensive reaction to anything harmful that enters your body.1
However, inflammation can become harmful for you, especially when it becomes acute or, worse, chronic. Diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of inflammatory conditions that are harmful to your health.2 Bursitis, another inflammatory condition, is something that can develop throughout your body, especially if you are physically active.
What Is Bursitis and What Causes It?
Bursitis is the inflammation of your bursa, a small sac that helps prevent buildup of friction between a bone and the surrounding soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles. The specific part of the bursa that becomes inflamed is the synovial membrane, which makes up the entire bursa.3,4
There are various circumstances that can cause bursitis, and one of the most common is repetitive pressure on the bursa, caused by kneeling or running. Trauma or injury to the area can also damage the bursa, causing it to fill with blood and swell. Certain activities are also known to increase your chances of bursitis such as:5
- Falling on your elbow
- Leaning on hard surfaces, thus affecting the elbow bursa
- Lifting items overhead, which can damage the shoulder bursa
Bursitis can also arise from a bacterial infection: Due to the close proximity of certain bursa to the skin, bacteria can enter your body through an open wound or puncture and infect the bursa. Those who have weakened immune systems, or who have HIV/AIDS or lupus have an increased risk of bursitis.
How to Tell if You Have Bursitis
The most significant indicator of bursitis is pain in the affected joint area, such as the pointy end of your elbow. The area may hurt if pressure is applied, even if it’s very little. You may also notice redness and swelling. If the situation worsens rapidly, you may not even be able to move your joint at all.6
Learn How to Deal With Bursitis
Bursitis can strike suddenly and unexpectedly, making it a major inconvenience that can hamper your ability to perform your daily work or tasks. If you develop bursitis, one of the first treatment options you should follow is to rest the affected area. This means that you should not do any strenuous activities, because they can damage the bursa further. Applying ice packs may help speed up the healing process.
This guide will introduce you to methods to deal with bursitis. There are specific exercises for commonly affected areas, such as the knee, ankle and shoulder, that can help prevent inflammation from occurring or recurring once you’re healed. You will also learn the best foods you can eat to help reduce your risk of bursitis.
Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., is a leading researcher in a very important field of study: the circadian rhythm, which is the topic of his book, “Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy and Sleep Well Every Night.” It’s a great read, written at a level that is easy to understand.
Growing up on a farm in India, he was initially intrigued by the fact that he slept best during the summertime. Then, going through agricultural school, he realized that different plants flower at certain times of the day.
“A few years later, when I was thinking about grad school, I realized there are so many things about biology of time,” Panda says. “Every biological system depends on time; just like throughout the day we have a clear timetable when we should be doing this and that — meeting people and having conversation and having dinner.
Every organism has that [but] we haven’t learned the biology of time. That’s why I got excited about circadian rhythms, because this is a universal timing system, starting from pond scum to humans … Every organism has to go through this 24-hour timing schedule.
If this is disrupted, then plants will flower at the wrong time and animals will not reproduce well. In humans, lots of different diseases can happen. That’s why I got excited about circadian rhythms and got into my Ph.D. Now I’m at the Salk Institute, a nonprofit research organization in San Diego, California.”
Circadian Rhythms Are Under Genetic Control
Last year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three U.S. biologists — Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young — for their discovery of master genes that control your body’s circadian rhythms.1,2,3,4,5 Panda explains:
“The bottom line is almost every cell in our body has its own clock. In every cell, the clock regulates a different set of genes, [telling them] when to turn on and [when to] turn off.
As a result, almost every hormone in your body, every brain chemical, every digestive juice and every organ that you can think of, its core function rises and falls at certain times of the day [in a coordinated fashion].
For example, your growth hormone might rise in the middle of the night, in the middle of sleep. At the same time, if there is not [too much] food in your stomach, then the stomach lining will start to repair. For that repair to work perfectly, the growth hormone from the brain has to coincide with the stomach repair time.
In that way, different rhythms in different parts of our body have to work together for the entire body to work optimally. In fact, to have these daily rhythms and sleep-wake cycle, being more alert in the morning, having the bowel movement at the right time, having better muscle tone in the afternoon, these rhythms are the fountain of health. That’s the indication of health.”
Shift Work Disrupts Your Circadian Rhythm
The idea that you could possibly micromanage this intricately timed system from the outside is foolish in the extreme. As Panda notes in his book, the key, really, is to pay attention to and honor ancient patterns of waking, sleeping and eating.6 By doing that, your body more or less takes care of itself automatically.
“Yes, to leverage these daily rhythms that are so ingrained in our body, we just have to do a few things: sleep at the right time, eat at the right time, and get a little bit of bright light during the daytime. That’s the foundation. We can do very simple things to reap the benefits of the circadian rhythm and the wisdom of our body,” Panda says.
One of the most common circadian anomalies in today’s modern world is shift work. If you’re like me, you might be under the misconception that it’s a relatively small minority of people that engage in this activity, but Panda cites research showing a full 20 to 25 percent of the American nonmilitary workforce disrupt their natural circadian rhythm by working nights.
In his book, shift work is defined as any work that requires you to stay awake for three hours or more between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for more than 50 days a year (basically once a week).
The fact that 1 in 4 is exposed to this circadian rhythm aberration is bad enough, but on top of that there are the health effects of dirty electricity and the unhealthy light spectrum emitted by pulsing light-emitting diodes (LED) and fluorescent lighting, which further exacerbates the problem.
“Only in the last 16 years we have come to understand the impact of light on our health,” Panda says. “Before this, we thought that lighting is only for vision. Our eyes just have retinal cone cells to guide us throughout the world. Sixteen years ago, myself and two others … discovered this blue light-sensing light receptor called melanopsin.
These light-sensing cells in the retina — 5,000 of them per eye — are hardwired to many parts of the brain, including the master clock in the hypothalamus, and the pineal gland that makes … melatonin.
That discovery completely changed how we look at light. It’s not only lighting for safety or security. We have to now think about lighting for health … We [also] have to now think about blue light.
It’s not that we should get rid of blue light completely. We need more blue light during the daytime, and we need less at least three to four hours before going to bed.
The bottom line is in the last 100 to 150 years, we have cleared the man-made world without paying attention to circadian rhythms. Now we have the excellent opportunity to recreate and rebuild this entire world that will optimize our health.”
The Price You Pay for Chronic Sleep Disruption
It’s extremely difficult to estimate the price paid for widespread sleep disruption, but what is known is what happens when you chronically disrupt your circadian rhythm. Panda explains:
“Starting from babies all the way to 100-year-olds, we know that a few nights of staying awake for three to four hours or even eating at the wrong time can cause irritation, foggy brain, mild anxiety, loss of productivity and insomnia.
At the same time, this can flare up underlying autoimmune disease … We can look at shift workers in controlled clinical studies. When we make a list of diseases that circadian rhythm disruption contributes to, it’s a huge list.
It goes from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder [to] obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease …
Many of these affect more than 10 percent of the population. And then you bring in gastrointestinal diseases: irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, and even heartburn and ulcerative colitis.
If you combine all of these, then we can see clearly why nearly one-third of all adults in the U.S. have one or more of these chronic diseases, more than two-thirds of adults at the age of 45 have some of these chronic diseases. Nine out of 10 at the age of 65 have two or more of these chronic diseases.
Now, the question is, ‘How much of this is due to circadian rhythm disruption and other factors, or maybe circadian rhythm disruption with underlying genetic cause?’ We cannot come up with a clear figure, but it’s very clear that if we optimize circadian rhythm, we can really move the needle.”
Sleep Deprivation Induces Glucose Intolerance in as Little as Four Days
Research by Eve Van Cauter, director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago, also shows that sleeping less than six hours a night dramatically increases your risk of insulin resistance, which is at the core of most chronic diseases, including those mentioned above. There’s actually a daily rhythm in insulin sensitivity.
For example, if you do a glucose tolerance test in the morning, it may be normal, but done in the evening, it may suggest you have prediabetes. She also showed that when otherwise healthy people are deprived of sleep and allowed to sleep only five hours or less per night, they develop glucose intolerance in as little as four days. As noted by Panda:
“That’s really eye-opening. Because many of us go through that kind of disruption on a monthly or weekly basis. Shift workers go through that half of their life. That might explain the rise in glucose intolerance and having 85 million prediabetics in [the U.S.].”
Melatonin Production and Sleep Disorders
In his book, Panda discusses how melatonin production changes with age. With increasing age, melatonin production starts going down such that a 60-year-old may produce one-tenth the melatonin of a 10-year-old. As noted by Panda, reduced melatonin production is at the heart of many sleep disorders seen in the elderly.
So, how can you optimize your melatonin production as you age? One common solution is to take a melatonin supplement. Melatonin receptor agonist drugs are also available. However, a simpler solution that anyone can do, which costs nothing, is to control your lighting.
“Just imagine, 150 years ago, the firelight, the lamplight or even the full moon light was only 1 to 5 lux. Full moon light is maximum 1 lux. Now, we have 50 to 100 lux. In some department stores you can get 600 to 700 lux of light in the evening. That’s a tremendously high amount of light. That would slam your melatonin [production] down to almost zero,” Panda says.
Ideally, replace LEDs and fluorescent light bulbs in key areas where you spend time in the evening with low-watt incandescent bulbs, and avoid electronic screens for a few hours before bedtime.
An alternative is to wear blue-filtering eyeglasses at night. Just make sure don’t wear them during daytime. Also, make sure the glasses filter out light between 460 to 490 nanometers (nm), which is the range of blue light that most effectively reduces melatonin. If they filter everything below 500 nm, you should be good to go.
The Importance of Meal Timing
Panda has also investigated the impact of meal timing on circadian rhythm. Just like many cleanout functions occur in your brain during deep sleep, all other organs also need downtime. Many organs actually need between 12 and 16 hours of rest, meaning a minimum of 12 hours without food, to allow for repair.
In time-restricted feeding trials, Panda has shown that mice whose feedings are restricted to a window of eight to 12 hours are protected from obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, systemic inflammation, high cholesterol and a host of other diseases. This, despite the fact they’re eating the same amount of calories and the same type of food as animals allowed to graze throughout the day and night.
More importantly, when fat mice are placed on an eight- to 10-hour time-restricted feeding schedule, many of these diseases can be reversed. Human trials suggest the same results can be obtained in humans who adopt a time-restricted eating schedule where all food is eaten within a window of eight to 10 hours.
According to Panda, at bare minimum, you should fast for 12 hours a day — that’s eight hours of sleep, plus three hours of fasting before bed, plus another hour in the morning, to allow your melatonin to level off. At 12 hours of fasting per day, you will maintain your health, but you’re unlikely to actually reverse disease. For that, you need to fast longer.
“The question is how short one can go. This is where there is some limitation in doing controlled studies like we do on animals, where we can do this for a long period of time, because if you reduce access to food for less than six hours in many animals, they will reduce their caloric intake.
So, then we cannot figure out whether the benefit or harm we are seeing is due to the reduction in calories or reduction in timing,” Panda says.
The way I look at it, 12-hour time-restricted eating is something everybody should do. It’s like brushing your teeth every day. What is surprising is only 10 percent of the population consistently eat within 12 hours … [Then] once every six months or once a year, [go down to] eight-hour eating for a month or so.”
There’s an App for That
Panda has developed a very helpful free app, available on Android and iOS, called myCircadianClock. By using this app, you will contribute to Panda’s circadian research.
“We ask people to self-monitor themselves for two weeks, because we know their weekdays and weekends might be different. We just want to get a broader picture of what is your lifestyle from one day to another. And then after two weeks, people can self-select whether they want to eat all their food within 10 hours, 12 hours or eight hours.
You’re free to do whatever you want to do … Over a long period of time, we can figure out what is good or bad for people. In this new app, you can log your food. It also has other bells and whistles. The app can be paired with your Google Health or Apple Health Kit. It can extract your step count, sleep, et cetera. …
After 12 weeks, we also want you to enter your body weight. If you have been collecting lots of other health data, then it’s good to enter that. That’s how it will help to figure out, at the epidemiological level, in real life situations, what our habits are and how we can change it.
The same app is being used in many controlled clinical studies. There are nearly 10 different studies going on in different parts of the world that use the same app … In that way, we can benefit from a controlled study as we launch this large open-to-all kind of studies.”
According to Panda, most people will notice improvements in their sleep within two to three weeks of time-restricted eating. Symptoms of heartburn will also typically begin to resolve. Between weeks four and six, daytime energy levels typically increase while evening hunger pangs are reduced.
Between six to 12 weeks, people with prediabetes or diabetes will begin to see improvements in fasting blood glucose. Those with mild hypertension also tend to notice improvements at this time, as do those with irritable bowel syndrome, as the microbiome improves and the gut begins to repair.
“Once the gut repair improves, then systemic inflammation goes down. Between eight to 12 weeks, that’s when a lot of people report that their joint pain goes down, because that’s a good sign of inflammation.
Once in a while, we get random reports. For example, some people who have inflammatory disease or autoimmune disease, they sometimes say the severity has gone down,” Panda says.
On NAD and Circadian Rhythm
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) — one of the most important metabolic coenzymes in your body that helps redox balance and energy metabolism — is primarily generated through a salvage pathway rather than de novo or building NAD+ from scratch pathway.
The rate-limiting enzyme is nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT), which is also under circadian control. When your circadian rhythm gets disrupted, it causes NAMPT impairment. NAMPT also helps set the circadian rhythm. In short, by optimizing your circadian rhythm, you’re going to optimize your NAD production. Panda explains:
“Studies say it goes both ways, because NAD also affects sirtuins, and sirtuins integrate with circadian rhythm. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) ratio also affects your [circadian] clock and transcription factors bind to DNA.
The bottom line that we have seen with circadian rhythm is if the clock regulates something, then there is a reciprocal feedback regulation from that output into the clock. That’s the best way you can clear the homeostatic system. It’s the chicken and egg story.”
To learn more, be sure to pick up a copy of “Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy and Sleep Well Every Night.” Also consider downloading myCircadianClock. It’s free of charge, and will help you track your circadian rhythm while simultaneously contributing to Panda’s research.