Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Jet Lag Kills

La Shawn Barber asked for advice on beating jet lag, just before she flew out to California from the East Coast for GodBlogCon. The advice varied, from setting your watch to the new time zone ASAP, to avoiding sugar on the flight, to keeping hydrated, and much much more. When I looked at the various comments, one pattern emerged: Jet lag hits hardest when you return home.

But in a Reuters article, published yesterday in the International Herald Tribune, the effects of jet lag are proving not just hard, but deadly. In mice, anyway.

They didn't fly the mice anywhere. They left them at home in their cozy laboratory, separated them into three groups, and exposed them to varying light and dark cycles. The young did just fine, but the old mice had the problems.

To see if there was a correlation, the researchers tested three groups of mice, with about 30 old mice and 9 young mice in each group.

One group had its light and dark cycle shifted forward by six hours - the equivalent of waking people up six hours early - every week for eight weeks.

A second group had its schedule shifted back by six hours, and the third group's schedule was unaltered.

They found that 83 percent of old mice survived under the normal schedule, 68 percent lived after eight weeks of shifting steadily backward, but fewer than half - 47 percent - survived when the lights regularly came on six hours earlier.

When they speeded the schedule up, changing the light schedule every four days, even more mice died.

I'm not a mouse, and I'm not old, but it certainly gives a person pause. Jet-setting is obviously designed for the young. Old folks start to move more slowly as a general rule, and their travel plans should probably reflect that slowing. More sitting on the porch traveling back and forth in the rocking chair and less jetting around the world for the next Arts Festival or UN confab.

Still, this study makes me wonder how so many of the Rolling Stones can still be alive.

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