Weekly Newsletter

Study reveals on taste buds, tattoos and heat domes

We have taste buds in our organs! A massive heat dome is melting us like cheese! Learn what studies reveal about how our world works in our latest update.
A white woman with long dreadlocks and tattoos wearing a summer dress sits at an outdoor cafe, reading an ebook.

Humans know more about how bodies work now than we have at any other point in history. Yet there’s so much we still don’t know.

So this week, we'll explore a few areas researchers can help us understand a little better. Then, we'll close with news about concerning xylitol studies and promising IBD + climate change studies you’ll definitely wanna stay on top of.

  • Checkup: fans + carrots + fecal transplants
  • Know This: tastebuds + tattoo cancer + heat domes
  • Healthcare: xylitol + IBD + lower health emissions 

The Checkup:

So that's how taste buds work

A multiethnic group of friends with a young handsome Black man wearing a pink shirt and smiling at center sits outside, eating and drinking on a patio at a table surrounded with greenery.

According to the New York Times, new research reveals that the process by which we taste is not only incredibly complex, but it happens throughout our body!

Yes, taste cells across areas of our tongues comprehend sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami flavors in varying concentrations. (Umami, that delicious savory fifth taste, was only officially recognized in the 1980s.) But they also let our brain know when they encounter a nutrient or a toxin.

We also have taste receptor cells in our GI tract, fat cells, lungs, muscles + other places! When our gut tastes sugar, for example, it sends messages to our brain to signal other organs that they should get ready to digest it. Or, if our gut needs a particular nutrient, its taste-receptor-bearing cells alert our brain to send us a craving for food containing the nutrient.

What’s ahead on the research horizon? Researchers are looking to find out if we have a specific taste receptor cell for fat—which would explain why some of us have a sweet tooth, whereas others of us get down with a bag of Cape Cod chips. (Cough.)

Do tattoos cause cancer?

A fit white bike messenger with tattoos wearing all black clothing rides down a city street, looking over their shoulder into traffic, with the setting sun casting shadows around them.

A very early study out of Sweden found that those with at least one tattoo were 21% more likely to have malignant lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) than those with no tattoos. The lymphatic system helps our body fight disease. So the study authors speculate that tattoos may cause low-grade inflammation, triggering cancer.

Critics point out that prior studies found no lymphoma connection. And as this study did not find that the size or amount of tattoos changed risk, they claim the inflammation argument is rather thin.

Other past studies only suggest potential risk. Some suggest tattoo ink can travel and get stuck in lymph nodes. Others that it could slightly alter how parts of blood cells communicate. But none definitively conclude that tattoos cause cancer—and even infections from tattoos are rare.

Read more at CNN.

What's a heat dome?

A mother and her adult daughter in a casual kitchen, talking and smiling while drinking beer and preparing a meal together in their kitchen

Take cover—a heat dome is ascending! (Descending?) As explained by NPR, a heat dome is a high-pressure system that sits along a ridge in our upper atmosphere. The ridge crosses several states, creating a dome that covers a third to a half of our country. As the heat underneath has nowhere to go, it raises temperatures 20-30 degrees above averages for days or weeks at a time, causing drought + stagnation.

Visualize it like a lid on a pan with a grilled cheese sandwich below: the lid traps the rising heat, which concentrates and swirls back down to melt the cheese. So, yeah—we're the cheese right now.

Healthcare 411

How to reduce health care’s climate impact? Increase telehealth (NPR). In 2018, the healthcare industry generated 8.5% of US greenhouse gas emissions. A new study suggests moving qualifying oncology visits to telehealth and allowing patients to get blood work + other treatments closer to home can reduce nationwide cancer-care emissions by 33%! The test was done only on cancer patients. But the potential benefit to climate change (and patient convenience) is massive! Still not sure how Dr. B can help you save time + money when it comes to acute and chronic condition care? Here’s how we work.

Major cause of inflammatory bowel disease found (BBC). A team of UK researchers found that 95% of those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a genetic marker that makes it more likely for their immune cells to cause excessive inflammation in the bowels. Existing cancer treatments prove promising at reducing such inflammation in lab settings. But it’ll be a while before they’re ready for IBD patients, as they need to be reworked to reduce side effects on other areas of the body.

The popular sugar substitute xylitol could have some major heart-health risks (Time). A study of people with a history of heart disease or no history but several risk factors found that regularly consuming xylitol doubled the risk of heart attack, stroke or death. Studies on mice confirmed the sweetener increased blood clotting. Experts suggest considering xylitol like cholesterol—both are found naturally in the blood, and excess consumption can cause adverse health effects.  Read the article for specific recommendations. And if you take hypertension or high cholesterol medication, keep your prescription filled with a $15 online consultation. Explore Dr. B’s primary care.

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