Courtesy Mila ZonkovaAm I right? Alligator powered trucks? Like, big ol’ trucks with alligators trotting along on treadmills? Or harnessed like vertically challenged oxen? Or with their feet sticking through the floor of the trucks, running all Flintstones-style?
Oh, wait, none of those things. Ha ha ha. My bad. Alligators will actually power trucks by being rendered into diesel fuel. Laugh out loud.
Or, at any rate, alligators could be rendered into truck-powering diesel fuel. There aren’t necessarily any plans to do so.
The idea to render alligators came from a recent study authored by researchers form the University of Louisiana and published in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. Most of the 700 billion gallons of biodiesel produced in this country each year come from soybean oil. As we increase production of biodiesel (we consume 45 billion gallons of diesel every year), some people are concerned that using soy as a feedstock will cause the price of food to increase, so scientists are on the lookout for alternative products to use for biodiesel. Alligator fat, it turns out, is pretty nicely suited to be turned into diesel—it has the right chemical composition, and requires less processing than many other feedstocks.
Are alligators taking the place of 19th century sperm whales as a living source of fuel oil, you ask? When does the scouring of the swamps begin? Weeeeell, sort of never. I know you’d like to go make your fortune by hunting alligators for their sweet, sweet fat, but the study is only proposing using fat from existing alligator farming and hunting operations. Apparently, the alligator meat industry disposes of about 15 million pounds of alligator fat every year. While processing that quantity would only make a very small dent in current biodiesel production, it’s still much more efficient than dumping it in landfills. And it’s much more hilarious.
Coming on the heals of a very successful effort to charge higher health insurance premiums to state worker who smoke (and thus leading them to quit), the state of Alabama is taking things to the next level. It's given state workers notice that they will pay higher insurance rates if they're overweight, don't get a regular check-up and don't show progress in lowering their weight. Read the full details here.
(With apologies to Woody Allen.)
Researchers in England have found that a high-fat diet is effective in reducing seizures among epileptics.
Meanwhile, doctors in Boston report that having fat around your bottom may help prevent diabetes.
*NOTE: as with all medical news, we here at Science Buzz are not qualified to give medical advice. If you suffer from epilepsy or diabetes, consult with your doctor before changing your diet. And if you do not suffer from these diseases, DO NOT use this news item as an excuse to pig out. Really, the basic fast food meal of a burger, fries and a soft drink is just about the worst thing you can put in your body, short of arsenic.
A new study finds that obesity and over-eating may be caused by the lack of one single gene. (Though there are certainly other causes as well.)
Courtesy Roger Cullman
Pretty bad. People who are overweight are more likely to die from diabetes and kidney failure than the general population. And people who are obese are more likely to die from heart disease and certain types of cancer.
These common-sense truths were reconfirmed last week by a report from the Centers for Disease Control, which analyzed decades of data from 39,000 Americans. However, the news was not all bad. For instance, obese people had the same overall mortality rate from cancer as the population as a whole. Which means that while they were at greater risk of dying from cancers that attack fatty tissues (including the breast, uterus, ovaries, kidneys, colon, throat and pancreas), they were actually less likely to die from other forms of cancer.
For folks who are overweight but not obese, the picture is even more complicated. Neither cancer nor heart disease killed this group at higher-than-average rates. In fact, researchers found lower mortality in this group for all other causes of death, including infectious diseases and accidents.
The researchers aren’t sure why this should be. One theory is that carrying a little extra fat – but not too much – gives the bodies the energy reserves it needs to fight off illness.
Another possibility is raised by the way the study defined “overweight” and “obese.” They did not measure the patients’ body fat directly, but rather used a mathematical calculation known as the Body Mass Index or BMI. This widely-used tool gives doctors a rough estimate of a person’s body fat – a number over 25 classifies a person as “overweight.” A BMI 30 or higher qualifies as “obese.”
The trouble is, BMI basically divides weight by height (with a couple other calculations thrown in for fun). The greater the weight, the higher the BMI for a given height. The problem is, people can add weight as fat, or they can add weight as muscle. Somebody who exercises a lot may be strong, healthy… and have a BMI that qualifies as overweight.
If that’s the case, then that would explain why the “overweight” group fights off disease and injury so well. Which is good news if you’re fit, but not so good news if you’re flabby.