by Omar Jamshed
In 2014, an outbreak of Ebola ravaged West Africa while the world welcomed the first baby born using a transplanted womb. The year also saw doctors growing vaginas in a lab and a debate on the merits of fat in our diets.
In a year packed full of huge science stories, it’s easy to miss the more weird and wonderful news. Here we have collated five endocrine stories that may have gone under your radar last year. They include news that men with bigger bellies last longer in bed and that hormones may shape the “gender” of our brain.
Brains are one of the most mysterious and complex organs in the human body. One of the trickiest questions we face when studying the human brain is whether it’s different in men and women.
Last September, BBC Horizon investigated whether the male and female counterparts of this little-understood organ are wired differently.
TV pop-scientist Dr Michael Moseley argued that sex hormones in the womb shape male and female brains in a different way, which helps explain why men are better at some tasks and women in others. Physical anthropologist Professor Alice Roberts thinks not, arguing that any differences found are spurious and potentially a product of social conditioning.
Great news for all the Homer Simpsons in the world – your belly may enhance your stamina in the bedroom.
Men with an obvious belly and high body mass index lasted an average of 7.3 minutes in bed, compared to a paltry 2 minutes in skinnier men.
But before you reach for the doughnuts, take the study’s findings with a pinch of salt. There are many health problems associated with carrying a few extra pounds, such as heart disease, diabetes and various types of cancer, which probably aren’t worth it – no matter what you’re like in bed.
Primitive human instincts of hunger and lust were a running theme in last year’s unusual endocrinology-related stories.
It’s great to love with all of one’s heart and soul but it seems that the stomach has a say in it too.
Psychologist Dr Viren Swami showed 266 men a series of cartoons and found that hungrier men were more attracted to large women with bigger breasts.
The findings, which were presented at a Society for Endocrinology talk at Cheltenham Science Festival, could be explained by the fact that a part of the brain full of the hormone oxytocin is stimulated by both appetite and sex drive.
The endocrine field never shies away from talking about sex, especially when the famous hormone oxytocin is involved.
A German study investigated the impact of oxytocin on the sex lives of 29 couples and found that men reported more intense orgasms and sexual satisfaction than those who took a placebo.
Sadly we may not see orgasm-enhancing drugs any time soon; the study administered oxytocin to the couples in the form of a nasal spray, which some endocrinologists doubt even gets into the brain at all.
Team founder Phil Southerland’s parents were told he may be blind or even dead by 25. Now 32, he has overcome adversity to compete in a major competitive cycling event.
“When people are diagnosed, doctors tend to say ‘your career is over’ or ‘you can’t do this with diabetes”, he told the BBC.
“There’s no malice in it, they want their patients to live safely, but for years people believed them and gave up their dreams.”
Phil says he wants every doctor to know that people with type-1 diabetes can do anything if it is managed properly.