This Way Up for Saturday 17 June 2017

The Clever Guts Diet, the cryptocurrency boom, Cycling Without Age, and how Parkinson's invades your brain.

How healthy is your gut?

Author and science journalist Michael Mosley wants to make the gut a healthier place to be.

woman clutching stomach

Photo: 123RF

Many of us are already fascinated with the state of our guts, sculling kefir, kombucha and other probiotics and munching on sourdough and other fermented foods. 

We're realising that our microbiome, the colonies of microbes living on us and in us, plays an important role in keeping us happy and healthy.

Michael Mosley

Michael Mosley Photo: (Joe Sarah)

Author and science journalist Michael Mosley once championed intermittent fasting and wrote a book devoted to preventing Type 2 diabetes.

Now he's written The Clever Guts Diet: How to revolutionise your body from the inside out

Tech news: cryptocurrency booms & the latest in gaming

$100 worth of Bitcoin purchased in 2010 is worth $75 million today.

E3 games conference 2017 Los Angeles

E3 games conference 2017 Los Angeles Photo: Christian Petersen GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA AFP

The market for digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum is booming, with huge fluctuations in value and reports of people making massive profits practically overnight. But what are the risks?

Also, the latest from the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017 (aka E3 2017) – a gaming conference in LA where Microsoft's Xbox One X console and 4K gaming took centre stage.

Words like "powerful", "immersive", "smoother" and "bigger" are only as good as the games they support, and from where I'm standing, right now, there's nothing out there except finely-rendered 4K tumbleweed - Peter Gothard in The Inquirer

Plus CrashOverride, the malware that can shut down power networks, causing major blackouts.

Cycling – the key to a happier & healthier old age?

Take one trishaw – a bit like a tricycle but with two wheels at the front – add two passengers and a volunteer driver, then get out in the fresh air for a pedal.

That's the essence of Cycling Without Age, a movement that started in Denmark 5 years ago and now has over 1,000 trishaws operating in 30 countries around the world.

Here in New Zealand, a large retirement village operator called Arvida is giving it a go, and there are plans to expand Cycling Without Age into the wider community, too.

Could cycling be the key to a happier and healthier old age?

This Way Up visits a retirement community in Rotorua to find out.

Science news: Parkinson's may originate in the gut

Further evidence Parkinson's disease may be triggered in the intestine raises hopes for earlier diagnosis and scientists in South Africa discover the disease trajectory of tuberculosis.

Parkinson's disease can invade from the intestines.

Parkinson's disease can invade from the intestines. Photo: SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI / SCIENCE PHOT / SKX / Science Photo Library

An estimated 10 million people worldwide are affected by Parkinson's disease.

The discovery of a possible pathway for the disease into the brain via the gut raises the prospect of earlier diagnostic tests.

Dr Smith says that the idea that Parkinson's could originate in the gut was first suggested in mouse studies conducted by a team at Caltech led by Sarkis Mazmanian last year.

They found that it was only mice whose intestines were colonised with bacteria, and 'germ-free' animals who went on to develop the neuro-degenerative disease.

But until now the route between the gut and the brain and nervous system has remained unclear. Now Duke University researcher Rodger Liddle and his team, in a paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, studied the colonies of cells and bacteria living in the gut.

They found a communication system revolving around enteroendocrine cells (or EECs) connecting to nerves in the gut wall. In certain circumstances, these EECs express a protein called alpha-synuclein that is known to accumulate in nerve cells damaged by Parkinson's disease.

The researchers think that the characteristics of some microbiomes could be causing the alpha-synuclein to accumulate in nerve cells and travel via the nervous system to the brain.

"The team don't think that it's a coincidence that patients with Parkinson's Disease frequently also develop bowel problems such as constipation, sometimes years before they show any neurological signs of the disease... it may even be possible to diagnose Parkinson's in future using a bowel biopsy," Dr Smith said.

And in other research news, tuberculosis kills at least 2 million people every year, and an estimated one-third of the world's population carry the disease.

Now scientists in South Africa have shown how TB overwhelms our immune system to become an active disease.