Saturday, January 31, 2015

Health Benefits of Whiskey | Organic Facts

Some of the health benefits of whiskey include its ability to aid in weight loss, slow down the onset of dementia, increase heart health, prevents and manages diabetes, boosts good cholesterol, fights against cancer, eliminates blood clots, strengthens the immune system. Generally, whiskey is one of the healthiest forms of alcohol available.

When people think of whiskey (also known as whisky), there are countless different images that come to mind. Hard-drinking cowboys in old western movies taking shots before barroom brawls, Prohibition-era speakeasies from Chicago to New York, or just that overwhelming smell of whiskey as it fills your head and sends chills down your spine. People tend to have a love-hate relationship with this particular form of alcohol, but if everyone knew all of the health benefits that it contains, plenty of people would likely change their tune and ask the bartender for one more whiskey, neat.

By definition, whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage that is made of some type of grain mash. The quality, flavor, price, and name of the whiskey in question depend on which type of grain you might be making your whiskey from, including barley, wheat, rye, corn, buckwheat, etc. Also, the amount of times you distill your alcohol changes the technical designation of your whiskey to either bourbon, scotch, or whiskey. The processes are very similar, but the tastes are distinctly different and preferred in different parts of the world. Finally, the method of storing and aging, which is usually done in cask barrels, also determines the quality and flavor of whiskey. A rye whiskey aged for 10 years in a charred white oak cask will taste completely different from a barley whiskey aged for 15 years in a wine cask, which some distilleries choose to do. This results in a massive variety of whiskeys throughout the world, and being a connoisseur of this particular alcoholic discipline is intoxicatingly enjoyable.

However, alcohol is generally regarded as something bad for you, which could potentially damage your liver, impact your lifestyle, and result in a number of unsavory outcomes. When it is not respected and consumed in moderation, that is completely true. If one drinks responsibly, whiskey, just like beer and wine, can actually confer quite a few health benefits to its drinkers. 2-3 ounces of whiskey every day won't be enough to get you drunk or negatively impact your health, but it will be enough to give you a healthy boost to a number of essential bodily functions. Before we delve into all of the healthy benefits of whiskey, let's first examine the components inside this powerful spirit.

Nutritional Value of Whiskey

First off, whiskey is extremely low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and it also has a very low level of carbohydrates. There isn't much to whiskey, frankly, except for a large amount of alcohol, but in terms of its organic compounds, whiskey is rich in ellagic acid, which is a very powerful antioxidant, and is responsible for a great deal of the health benefits from whiskey.

Health Benefits of Whiskey

 Weight Loss: Many people associate drinking heavily with developing a "beer gut" or losing their muscle tone due to excessive alcohol. That is completely true. However, drinking in moderation doesn't necessarily have to impact your weight, particularly if you drink whiskey. This delicious liquor has no fat, very little sodium. It does contain calories and carbohydrates, but in the form of alcohol, and the small amount it does contain is simple sugars that are quickly broken down to be used as energy for the body. Therefore, instead of pounding pints of beer at the bar, have a few neat whiskeys instead to maintain your weight while still having a good time.
Dementia: Studies have actually shown that whiskey can successfully boost your cognitive performance and reduce your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Although studies are ongoing and there is quite a bit of controversy regarding alcohol as a treatment/preventative method, there is no denying that ellagic acid is extrememly powerful in terms of fighting against free radicals within the body. These free radicals are often associated with interrupting neural pathways and contributing to the slow decline towards dementia. Whiskey can reduce that mental decline and improve our quality of life as we get older. Once again, this is useful when consumed in moderation; too much alcohol kills brain cells and does the precise opposite of protecting our cognitive activity.
Heart Health: A number of studies have shown whiskey to be a major player in protecting heart health. As our bodies get older, our systems become more frail, resulting in less efficient functioning of various organ systems, and weakness of our cardiovascular system. However, a study has recently revealed that those who consume a moderate amount of whiskey on a regular basis have almost a 50% lower chance of experiencing a stroke or heart attack, which is exceptional news for those at risk of cardiovascular issues.
Blood Clots: In a related note for heart health, whiskey has been shown to significantly reduce blood clotting. Blood clotting is important when you are wounded so you stop losing blood, but internally, if your blood clots at key junctures in your blood vessels or arteries, it can be disastrous. Atherosclerosis, which usually occurs due to a large build-up of cholesterol, can combine with blood clots to result in thrombosis, heart attacks, strokes, and death. Whiskey is a blood-thinner, so it significantly lowers your chances of excess clotting. It also increases the amount of "good" cholesterol, which counteracts the effects of "bad" cholesterol, further protecting your heart.
Cancer Prevention: Cancer is one of the most devastating and globally relevant diseases known to man. We are also constantly looking for ways to prevent and slow down the disease. There are new anti-cancer schemes and fads all the time, but many of them are just that, popular fads with very little medicinal information to back it up. However, whiskey has an extremely high level of ellagic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidant compounds that we can consume. An antioxidant is a compound that neutralizes free radicals, the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that cause a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and premature aging. This powerful antioxidant makes whiskey a very effective preventative measure against cancer.

Immune System Boost: There have been certain studies that have argued for the immune system-boosting capacity of whiskey. Alcohol does have a traditional role in preventing illness and improving the function of the immune system, but firm evidence was never in hand. Now, we see that the antioxidants and trace levels of vitamins in whiskey do in fact stimulate the immune system, thereby helping to fight off normal colds, illnesses, and infections. All of those old movies where they would pour whiskey on a wound to disinfect it is not just fiction! You can pour whiskey on a fresh wound to make sure it does not get infected!
Diabetes Control: Whiskey has been consistently shown to reduce the chances of diabetes, sometimes by as much as 30-40%. A moderate amount of whiskey can significantly improve your body's ability to regulate insulin and glucose levels, thereby lowering the possibility of developing diabetes.
A Few Words of Caution: Although these health benefits sound wonderful, there is also a dangerous side to drinking whiskey. Alcoholism and binge drinking are both very detrimental to your overall health, and can undo any possible good things that moderate amounts of whiskey can impart. Therefore, be watchful of how much alcohol you consume, particularly if you try to drink small amounts every day. Your tolerance will increase, and you may feel the desire to continue drinking until you feel that "buzz". That is a dangerous and unhealthy progression. Consume small to moderate amounts of whiskey for the best, healthiest results.

Tags: antioxidants, atherosclerosis, bourbon, cancer, cardiovascular, clotting, dementia, diabetes, heart attack, immunity, obesity, scotch, stroke, whiskey

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Stephen Fry on God | The Meaning Of Life | RTÉ One

“Suppose it’s all true, and you walk up to the Pearly Gates and you are confronted by God. What will Stephen Fry say to him or it?”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Subway / Stanley Kubrick

Long before Stanley Kubrick became known as one of cinema's great filmmakers, Look Magazine published a series of photograps by the then 16 year photographer. In 1946 he did a series about the New York subway and those who rode them.

Growing functioning brain tissue in 3D | RIKEN

Who needs artificial intelligent androids when we can manufacture organic parts and custom build humans?

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have succeeded in inducing human embryonic stem cells to self-organize into a three-dimensional structure similar to the cerebellum, providing tantalizing clues in the quest to recreate neural structures in the laboratory. One of the primary goals of stem-cell research is to be able to replace damaged body parts with tissues grown from undifferentiated stem cells. For the nervous system, this is a particular challenge because not only do specific neurons need to be generated, but they must also be coaxed into connecting to each other in very specific ways.
RIKEN researchers have taken up this challenge, and the work published in Cell Reports details how sequentially applying several signaling molecules to three-dimensional cultures of human embryotic stem cells prompts the cells to differentiate into functioning cerebellar neurons that self-organize to form the proper dorsal/ventral patterning and multi-layer structure found in the natural developing cerebellum.
Expanding from their previous studies with mice, the researchers first established that under specific conditions, culturing human embryonic stem cells with fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) leads to neural differentiation particular to the midbrain/hindbrain region—the location of the cerebellum—within three weeks, and the expression of markers for the cerebellar plate neuroepithelium—the part of the developing nervous system specific for the cerebellum—within five. These cells also showed early markers that are specific to developing Purkinje cells, granule cells, or deep cerebellar projection neurons—all types of neurons only found in the cerebellum.
The researchers then looked for mature cerebellar neurons. They found that cells treated with FGF2 expressed late Purkinje-cell markers and developed structures characteristic of those cells. Electrophysiological recordings of these cells after culture for about 15 weeks revealed proper responses to currents and to inhibition of receptors needed for normal cerebellar signaling, indicating that function had developed along with structure. Some FGF2-treated cells also expressed markers for the rhombic lip—the structure from which granule cells develop and migrate, and a marker specific to migrating granule precursors by week seven. Moreover, cells were seen to migrate and extend fibers that bent to form the T-shape characteristic of granule cell parallel fibers.
Where these neurons form and how they locate in relation to each other is critical in the developing brain. Early in cerebellar development, particular cell types become distributed unevenly from top to bottom, creating a dorsal-ventral separation. Researchers tested several factors, and found that adding FGF19 around day 14 to the FGF2-treated cells caused several flat oval neuroepithelium to form by day 35, expressing dorsal-specific markers on the outside and ventral-specific markers on the inside. By adding stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF1) between days 28-35, they were able to generate a continuous neuroepithelial structure with dorsal-ventral polarity.
SDF1 also induced two other important structural changes. The dorsal region spontaneously developed three layers along the dorsal-ventral axis: the ventricular zone, a Purkinje-cell precursor zone, and a rhombic lip zone. At one end of the neuroepithelium, a region developed that was positive for markers of progenitors of granule and deep cerebellar nuclei projection neurons and negative for Purkinje-cell markers, and whose origins could be traced to the rhombic lip zone of the cerebellar plate.
Lead author Keiko Muguruma says that, "the principles of self-organization that we have demonstrated here are important for the future of developmental biology." She added that, "attempts to generate the cerebellum from human iPS cells have already met with some success, and these patient-derived cerebellar neurons and tissues will be useful for modeling cerebellar diseases such as spinocerebellar ataxia."


  • Keiko Muguruma, Ayaka Nishiyama, Hideshi Kawakami, Kouichi Hashimoto, Yoshiki Sasai, "Self-organization of polarized cerebellar tissue in 3D culture of human pluripotent stem cells", Cell Reports, doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.12.051


Team Leader
Masatoshi Takeichi
Laboratory for Organogenesis and Neurogenesis
RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology
Adam Phillips
RIKEN Global Relations and Research Coordination Office
Tel: +81-(0)48-462-1225 / Fax: +81-(0)48-463-3687

Examples of mature Purkinje cells grown from human embryonic stem cells

CALB and L7 are Purkinje-cell specific late markers. GRID2 is a marker for a Purkinje-specific glutamate receptor. LHX5 is a marker for the early Purkinje cells.

Migrating granule cells derived from human embryonic stem cells

Fibers extend radially (left) on day 5 and bend to form characteristic T-shape morphology on day 8 (right). Magenta arrowheads and arrow show the parallel fiber-like axon and the branch point, respectively. Blue arrowheads indicate the trailing process of the reoriented cell.

Dorsal-ventral polarity induced by FGF19

(Left) A clear separation can be seen with the outer side expressing dorsal-specific markers (KIRREL2), while the inner side expresses ventral-specific ones (FOXA2, NKX6.1). (Right) A schematic of the self-patterned neuroepithelium induced by adding FGF19 to the FGF2-treated cells.

Continuous neuroepithelium and laminar structure induced by SDF1

(Top left) Continuous neuroepithelium with a rhombic lip-like region. (Top right) A closer look shows the development of a layered structure with KIRREL2 cells on the apical side and SKOR2 cells located more basaly. (Bottom left) Schematic of the three zones in the laminar structure. RLZ, rhombic lip zone; PCPZ, Purkinje cell precursor zone; VZ, ventricular zone. (Bottom right) A close-up of the rhombic lip-like germinal zone showing markers for granule and deep cerebellar nuclei projection cells.

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.