Wellbody Blog

At Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health & Wellness, we understand there's only one thing harder than making healthy behavior changes: Sticking to them! We all need a little help from our friends, and that's the purpose of the Wellbody Blog, a friendly online gathering spot--a community well--where you can dip into health news; wellness tips; recipes; latest research about nutrition, exercise, sleep and hygiene; plus, real stories from virtual neighbors who are also trying to change their lives for the better. Start from wherever you are; share ideas, information, inspiration. At Pacific Science Center, we believe each of us can do something everyday to improve our health and well-being.

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The tartar preserved on the teeth of ancient skeletons provides yet another reason to cut back on sugar-sweetened drinks and overall sugar.Ancient teeth nsf.govAncient teeth/NSF

In a study recently published in Nature, British and Australian researchers extracted DNA from dental plaque on 34 prehistoric northern European human skeletons to examine oral bacteria. Then they looked at oral bacteria in the last hunter-gatherers, the first farmers, people from the later Bronze Age, Medieval Times, the Industrial Age and today.

Genetic history encapsulated in the dental plaque reflects two major shifts in human diet – the adoption of a carbohydrate-rich Neolithic farming diet about 10,000 years ago and the uptake in industrially processed flour and sugar during the Industrial Revolution about 150 years ago.

As processed sugar and flour increased in the diet, diversity of oral bacteria plunged, letting caries-causing bacteria dominate. The dietary change spurred tooth decay, diabetes and heart disease—health problems we continue to grapple with today.

"The modern mouth basically exists in a permanently diseased state. Ironically, the introduction of sugar and carbohydrates contributed to the increase in dental plaque that now holds the vital information scientists are studying," one researcher noted in University World News.

"Until now, scientists have had to rely mainly on indirect evidence or historical documents to tell what people ate and what kind of illnesses they suffered from in the past. But now they can directly extract genetic information on diet and health from the tartar on teeth – which is very abundant and well preserved in the archaeological record – giving them a totally new source of unique information stretching back thousands of years."

Interested in genetics? Visit The Studio in Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health and Wellness to build DNA patterns, learn about cutting-edge genetic research in the Northwest and hear local scientists talk about their favorite genes. "Next Generation Genetics" will rotate out of The Studio at the end of May to make way for a new exhibit on neuroscience, so make sure to stop by before then.

And while you're here, check out the Odor Decoder in Wellbody Academy's Germnasium. Sniff different types of bad breath and try to trace the various causes!

Meet Bish Paul, a University of Washington graduate student who is using viruses to fight HIV in experiments at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

In this fascinating three-minute clip, Paul deftly explains how he and his colleagues remove the "bad parts" from certain viruses and then use those viruses to "block the door" so HIV can't enter cells. (And yes, in the video the young scientist wears jeans as he explains gene therapy and demonstrates laboratory technique.)

To learn more about our region's remarkable current research in genetics, visit The Studio in Wellbody Academy, now featuring Next Generation Genetics. Extract DNA from strawberries and build DNA models with your own hands, daily from 12:10 – 12:50 p.m. with additional afternoon sessions from 2:10 – 2:50 p.m. on weekends. The Studio will feature Next Generation Genetics through the end of May 2013. On deck for June 2013 – Nov 2013: Neuroscience.