Friday, October 28, 2011

Gut Bacteria: We Are What We Eat

Level: Advanced

Good Food

The human digestive system is full of bacteria -- mostly good bacteria. These organisms help break down food so the body can use the nutrients. Scientists are exploring the link between what kinds of bacteria live in our gut and what kinds of food we eat.

Gary Wu from the University of Pennsylvania and other scientists did two studies. Mr. Wu says the studies looked for connections between the food that people ate and the kind of microbes living in their intestines.

"We collected stool samples to look at the types of bacteria in the gut of people who provided us information about what they ate," said Gary Wu.

He says people with one kind of diet had very different bacteria than people who ate a different diet.

"So, we found essentially that there are two major categories in which individuals could be classified by the bacteria in their gut: one associated with sort of a western-type diet, and another one associated with a more agrarian or fruit-vegetable type of diet," he added.

In the second study, ten volunteers took part in a so-called controlled feeding experiment. They had to change their normal diet. Yet their digestive bacteria remained much the same. This suggests that the mix of bacteria is based on long-term dietary patterns, not what people ate in recent days.

Gary Wu thinks testing people's mix of intestinal bacteria might be a better way to measure their disease risk than asking about their diet. He says intestinal bacteria might even play a part in the development of disease. If so, this could lead scientists to new ways to help prevent diseases.

"It means that if you could switch the types of bacteria in your gut, perhaps you could influence the development of certain types of diseases -- perhaps the types of diseases associated with western or more industrialized nations. That's a little bit more speculative, but that's something that is certainly very much of interest in the field," Gary Wu said.

The two studies are in the journal Science. The research may add to understanding of how diet affects health.

Another recent study involving diet warned that obesity is increasing worldwide, but especially in the United States and Britain. The findings appeared in the Lancet medical journal.

Worldwide, experts say one and a half billion adults are overweight. Another half-billion are obese. At current rates, about half of all American adults could be obese by twenty-thirty. In Britain, obesity rates could reach forty-eight percent for men and forty-three percent for women.

Experts say the rise in obesity is likely to lead to an increase in cases of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other conditions.

Obesity is also on the rise among children.

Source: VOA News

Vocabulary Words: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
1. link (n.) - connection
Example: There is a link between sleep and mental illness.

2. gut (n.) - intestine, part of our digestive system
Example: My gut is so full!

3. microbes (n.) - bacteria / small organisms
Example: Some microbes can cause diseases.

4. stool (n.) - human digestive waste
Example: The stool of the baby contains blood.

5. agrarian (adj.) - relating to agriculture
Example: Prior to 1959, the Cuban economy was underdeveloped and primarily agrarian in character.

6. speculative (adj.) - theoretical or hypothetical
Example: Most of their projects, like the carbon tower, remain speculative.

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. What does the article say about the food we eat and the bacteria inside our gut?
2. How is the answer in number one (1) proven?
3. What are the results of the experiments done by Gary Wu's team?
4.  What was said about the study on obesity?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE.
1. It is alright to eat junk foods once in a while.
2. A healthy diet should always be accompanied by exercise.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Population to Hit 7 Billion on Halloween

Level: Intermediate
Billions of People
The United Nations says the world’s population is set to reach seven billion on October 31. Analysts are wondering whether it is a coincidence this milestone falls on Halloween. The U.N. Population Fund predicts that some time on Monday, the world will welcome its seven billionth person. They also forecast that the baby will be born in India. The birth of a newborn baby is usually a source of joy, but this one has got alarm bells ringing with environmentalists. They say the world cannot cope with so many mouths to feed. The population has exploded in the past two centuries. In the early 1800s, there were just a billion of us; in 1960 that figure had trebled to three billion. Half a century later, that figure has more than doubled.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute told CNN that “the consequences for humanity could be grim." Other experts also paint a bleak picture. CNN's Jack Cafferty warned of an "unsustainable" population of 9 billion and stated that "at some point there's not going to be enough stuff for everybody." The New York Times declared that "the Earth is full [and that] we are eating into our future”. John Davis, editor of the Earth First! Journal, went even further by saying we had no right to take so much from the Earth: "Human beings have no more value as species than slugs," he said. Critics say humans have the ability for billions of us to live on our planet in a sustainable way.

Vocabulary Words: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
1. coincidence (n.) - the occurrence of two or more events at one time by chance (and not planned)
ExampleOur meeting in France was pure coincidence.

2. milestone (n.) - a significant event
Example: A milestone in the history of technology has been reached when mobile phones were invented.
3. forecast (v.) - predict
Example: They forecast a defeat for the Prime Minister.

4. treble (v.) - to make or become three times as much
Example: The number of RareJob tutors trebled in just one year!

5. grim (adj.) - harsh, depressing or gloomy situation
ExampleThe grim task of burying the victims is very difficult to do.

6. slug (n.) - a worm-like animal
Example: There are many slugs near the river.

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. What did the United Nations say about the world's population?
2. How did the population change from the 1800's up to this year?
3. What can happen to the earth and humans if the population continues to increase?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE.
1. We can still solve the population crisis.
2. The time will come when people will have to live in neighboring planets.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some vocabulary words

1. projection (n.) - a prediction
Example: Population projections show a significant loss in the city up to the year 2010.

2. milestone (n.) - a significant event
Example: A milestone in the history of technology has been reached when mobile phones were invented.

3. trend (n.) - general tendency or direction leading to a point/situation
Example: Trend in mortality was evaluated by computing mortality rates and birth rates.

4. to take stock (v. / idiom) - to take account of the stock of; to take an inventory of; hence, to record the facts in regard to (something).
Example: The department store closes down for 3 days every March in order to take stock.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Doctors Separate Twins Joined at Head

Level: Intermediate

Joined together: The twins were born with their heads fused, a rare condition that only one in 10million survive
Credits to: Dailymail.Co.Uk

Doctors in the U.K. have successfully separated a pair of Sudanese twins who were born with the tops of their heads joined together. The 11-month-old baby girls, Rital and Ritag Gaboura, had four different operations over four months. They are now doing well in a London hospital and are expected to make a full recovery. The rare condition that joined their heads happens once in about 2.5 million births. Surgery to separate them can be extremely dangerous as surgeons have to cut the brains and deal with the major flow of blood between the two brains. Such operations can leave significant neurological damage, although that does not appear to be the case with Rital and Ritag.

The charity Facing the World, which helps disfigured children, helped the twins receive the operation they needed. The charity’s spokeswoman Sarah Driver-Jowitt described just how successful the surgery was: “Within days the twins were back on the general ward interacting and playing as before," she said. Lead surgeon Dr David Dunaway said: "Incidences of surviving twins with this condition are extremely rare. The task presented innumerable challenges and we were all very aware of our responsibility to the family and these two little girls." Another expert surgeon in this field, Dr James Goodrich, said: "So far the results have been exceptional. I think both kids will do quite well."

Vocabulary Words: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
separated (v.): removed connection, unconnected
  • The doctors separated the twins' heads.
operation (n.): surgery
  • The twins had an operation.
  • It is an operation to remove the cancer cells.
expected (v.): believed, 期待
  • He is expected to go to the store.
rare (adj.): uncommon
  • The case of Rital and Ritaj is very rare.
appear (v.): seem or look
  • The child appears to be healthy, but the doctor is concerned.
  • This appears to be a very difficult problem.
disfigured (adj.): deformed, 変形した
  • I don't want to look at his disfigured face.
incident (n.): event, 事件
  • There was a strange incident in the supermarket today.
innumerable (adj.): cannot be counted, too many
  • The assignments that the teacher gave are innumerable!
expert (n.): specialist, 専門家
  • He is an expert car designer.
exceptional (adj.): excellent, 例外的な
  • His piano playing is exceptional.

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. What did the doctors do to Rital and Ritag?
2. How many operations did the twins have?
3. What is the name of the charity that helped the twins receive their operation?

1. What do you think of the article?
2. What do you think of a surgery?
3. Do you want to have a normal twin brother or sister?