Newsletter #030: Tomatoes may help prevent skin cancer 🍅
Welcome to the latest edition of the humanOS newsletter! Here, as usual, is where we share our work, as well as the various cool studies and media that captured our attention this week. 🤓
First and foremost, we are excited to announce that the video for Dan’s TEDxMarin talk - which he delivered back in October - is now available! In this talk, Dan describes the myriad ways that light affects our health, including the obvious (circadian alignment) but also some other areas that people might not realize, like cognition or body fat regulation. Due to artificial lighting and other aspects of our lifestyles, our light exposure patterns have substantially deviated from what we experienced for most of our evolutionary history. And it’s very likely that our health and well-being pay a price for that. But luckily, there are things you can do about it! Listen to the talk to hear some useful guidance on how to optimize your own daily light exposure.
Finally, as we have mentioned before, Dan is on the board of directors at StandUpKids.org, a charity with the ambitious goal of getting a standing desk for every public school child in America in the next ten years. You probably already realize that sitting all day isn’t great for kids’ health, but did you know that standing may also help improve focus? One study found that children with standing desks were 12% more attentive and engaged with classroom tasks, which adds up big time. That is tantamount to 7 more minutes/hour, 45 more minutes per school day, or 135 more hours per school year of attention and learning.
To that end, StandUpKids.org is participating in Giving Tuesday, a global movement that celebrates philanthropy immediately after Thanksgiving. They have set a fundraising goal of $75,000, to further advance the dream of installing standing desks all over the country. If you’d like to pitch in (every little bit helps), please head on over to CrowdRise, where Dan is seeking donations for this very worthy cause.
This Week’s Research Highlights
Researchers at Ohio State University fed hairless mice a diet of 10% dehydrated tomato powder daily for 35 weeks, then exposed them to ultraviolet light. Compared to controls, male mice on the tomato diet experienced a 50% decrease in skin cancer tumors. Female mice, which tend to be less vulnerable to skin cancer, did not show the same benefits. Human clinical trials have shown that consuming tomato paste can reduce damage associated with sunburn. It is thought that carotenoids in tomatoes, such as lycopene, may deposit in skin and protect against UV damage, although it is not clear which specific compounds are responsible. Senior author Tatiana Oberyszyn notes, "However, when comparing lycopene administered from a whole food (tomato) or a synthesized supplement, tomatoes appear more effective in preventing redness after UV exposure, suggesting other compounds in tomatoes may also be at play.”
Researchers in Iran performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to assess how supplementation with curcumin affects biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress. Fifteen RCTs were included in their final analysis. They determined that curcumin supplementation significantly decreased high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (mean difference −0.65), a key biomarker of inflammation. They also found that curcumin significantly reduced interleukin 6 (mean difference −2.08), a pro-inflammatory cytokine, and malondialdehyde concentrations (mean difference −3.14), a marker for oxidative stress. It is important to note that curcumin exhibits extremely low systemic bioavailability when taken as an oral supplement. In order to realize these kinds of benefits, it needs to be taken with a fat source (curcumin is lipid-soluble), or you need to purchase a formulation with higher bioavailability such as Theracurmin.
💊 Higher levels of circulating long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with healthy aging.
Researchers measured levels of plasma phospholipid n3-PUFAs in 2622 older adults who were followed for 22 years. The primary outcome of interest was healthy aging. Healthy aging here was defined as survival without chronic diseases and without cognitive and physical dysfunction after the age of 65. They found that higher levels of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs were associated with an 18% lower risk of unhealthy aging per interquintile range. When they zeroed in on specific long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, they found that higher EPA and DHA levels were associated with 24% and 18% lower risk of unhealthy aging respectively.
Videos We Watched This Week That We Love
- Jerry Coyne: Why evolution is true and why many people still don't believe it. Via Harvard University.
- Steven Pinker: Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers. Via TED.
- Alex Honnold: How I climbed a 3,000-foot vertical cliff -- without ropes. Via TED.
Products We Are Enjoying
Ginny says: Appropriately timed exposure to blue light is obviously beneficial for our health and cognitive performance. However, I have personally found that prolonged daily exposure to the light emitted from my laptop, phone, tablet, lightbox, etc. causes some nasty eyestrain and trouble focusing. There’s also some concern about potential long-term effects on the retina. But you don’t really want to use amber lenses during the day either since you do want some blue light. These glasses, in contrast, look clear when you’re wearing them, and just filter UV and some high-energy light, so you get the right dose of blue light without ruining your eyes. I think they look pretty cool too 👓
New humanOS Content
- Blog: How Blue Light Lowers Blood Pressure. By Ginny Robards.
This week on the blog, Ginny discussed a fascinating new study that revealed that blue light might play a powerful role in blood pressure regulation. You likely already know how blue light affects the circadian system (if you play with your cell phone late at night, you have probably experienced it personally). But, as Dan alluded to in his TED talk, we’re increasingly realizing that visible light may affect the body in other surprising ways. In this study, researchers found that exposing men to 30 minutes of blue light lowered blood pressure by, on average, 8 mmHg - which is comparable to or even better than common antihypertensive medications! 😮Definitely check out the blog to learn more.
Media Featuring humanOS
- Dan Pardi: How to Optimize Light for Health. Via TEDxMarin.
humanOS Catalog Feature of the Week
This week, we’d like to highlight our How-to Guide for Smart Daily Light. We evolved in the presence of natural daily cycles of light and darkness. But obviously, the invention of artificial lighting means that we can now fully control when and how much light we’re exposed to, which has altered this relationship. Today, most of us spend the majority of the day indoors, under comparatively dim artificial lights. Then, after sundown, we are exposed to more bright light, and importantly more blue light due to our digital devices. Consequently, we are getting less bright light during the day and less darkness at night.
This is important because light sends crucial signals to the body, and the intensity and timing of this light matters for your health as well as your performance. But fortunately, there is a lot you can do about it. In this guide, we discuss how you can achieve a pattern of natural light and darkness in the modern world by adjusting behavior, modifying your indoor spaces, configuring your devices, and more.