DAYP 21: The placebo effect and the maid study

Here’s what’s on the healthspan menu today:

  • Not all human fat is the same
  • Stop cramps with spiciness
  • The placebo effect and the maid study

Not all human fat is the same

Did you know that the body has 2 different types of fat, brown fat and white fat?

White fat is the one most people think about. It’s the fat that makes us pudgy, increases our risk of diabetes, and causes a bunch of other diseases when we have too much of it.

Brown fat, the lesser known fat, is less common in the body, but is known to use blood sugar and fat molecules to create heat and help maintain your body temperature.

This is the same type of fat that bears use to stay warm during hibernation and newborn babies have to keep warm (since they can’t shiver).

New research is coming out which shows potential health benefits with people who have more brown fat. These people were less likely to have:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Harmful levels of cholesterol
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure

While it’s still not clear exactly how we can increase brown fat levels, here are some potential ways:

  • Cold exposure (ice plunge, cold shower, or spending time in cooler temperatures)
  • Moderate to vigorous exercises
  • A bladder drug called “Mirabegron”

Stop cramps with spiciness

If you get painful muscle cramps, pay attention. Eating and drinking something spicy can help get rid of cramps in minutes.

Most people think cramps are caused due to electrolyte imbalance or dehydration. However, if you’ve ever had a muscle cramp and you down a bunch of water, the cramp doesn’t go away. So this means, water and electrolytes are not a good treatment for cramps.

Why does spiciness work?

Rod MacKinnon, a Nobel prize-winning neurobiologist, and Bruce Bean theorize the cramp is a result of a hyperactive nerve which causes your muscle to contract when you don’t want it to.

By ingesting something spicy, like mustard, you distract your nervous system to focus on the spiciness rather than keeping your muscle contracted.

MacKinnon became interested in finding a solution to cramps as he would get them while kayaking miles away from shore.Based on his findings he created a product called Hot Shot.

While you could buy Hot Shot, you can use anything spicy like pickle juice, tabasco sauce, mustard, jalapenos, etc… 

Try this out the next time you cramp up.

The placebo effect and the maid study

Do you consider helping your friend move into a new apartment or house a workout? Maybe you should.

Hotel maids typically exceed the surgeon general’s guidelines for fitness. They spend most of their days walking and moving equipment around hallways.

But most of these women that were studied by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer didn’t see themselves as physically active.

What seemed bizarre to Langer was that the majority of them reported they didn’t exercise. Langer decided to test her theory that perceptions matter by splitting the group into two.

One group was told exactly how many calories each task burned, while the others were told nothing.

1 month later, to everyone’s surprise, the group that was told they were getting healthy amounts of exercise saw a decrease in blood pressure, weight, and waist-to-hip ratio! 

The researchers  conclude that “These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.”

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"Healthspan is the period of life spent in good health, free from the chronic diseases and disabilities of aging."

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