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Research, recipes, news and tips for better, healthier living—created and curated by your friends at Pacific Science Center’s Wellbody Academy.


Grilling, Marinades & Cancer

‘Tis the season for grilling.

But before you sear chicken, steaks or even salmon over the coals, read about the danger of cancer hidden in charred meats, and learn how certain marinades can mitigate risk—research conducted by 13-year-old Lauren Hodge whose work won top honors at the inaugural Google Science Fair.

One night, when her mom was preparing grilled chicken for dinner, Lauren noticed the edges of the chicken turned white. Later, in biology class, she learned about denaturing, when proteins change shape and lose their ability to chemically function. “So I combined these two ideas and I formulated a hypothesis, saying that, could possibly the carcinogens be decreased due to a marinade and could it be due to the differences in PH?”

Her tests found that lemon, honey and salt water marinades inhibit carcinogenic formation, olive oil has a negligible effect and soy sauce seems to slightly increase cancer potential. Lauren chose to focus her research on chicken because it has more carcinogens than other grilled meats.

This doesn’t mean you need to stop grilling! Just be mindful of marinades, don’t overcook your meats and avoid eating char.

Most of all, remember that VEGETABLES ARE YOUR FRIENDS. They are not carcinogenic when grilled AND they also have antioxidants that help neutralize the free radicals that cause cancer.

On another note, YAY for girls in science! In the same TED talk, you’ll meet two other young women, who, along with Lauren, swept the top spots at the inaugural Google Science Fair.

Grand prize winner, Shree Bose, started researching cancer at age 15, after the death of grandfather. Armed only with freshman biology, Bose went on to figure out how to prevent cells from becoming resistant to a chemotherapy drug.

Naomi Shah studied the impact of indoor air pollutants on asthma. Watch the TED talk to find out which environmental factors most impact human health and what you can do at home to reduce asthma triggers.

Dealing With Teen Sleep Deprivation

The urge teens feel to stay up later isn’t completely driven by late-night movies, web surfing and hanging out with friends. Naturally changing circadian rhythms play a strong role.

Younger children tend to feel sleepy between 8 and 10 p.m. because the pineal gland releases melatonin (the hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle) early in the evening. But as children hit puberty, between the ages of 10 and 14, their bodies and brains go through myriad changes, including a delayed release of melatonin, usually 9 to 10 p.m. or later. That means they may have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m.

This natural shift, called “sleep phase delay,” can wreak havoc by preventing teens from getting at least nine hours of sleep per night. NINE hours? Yes, sleep researchers say, at least nine hours, preferably 9½ or 10.

Teens whose schedules are crammed with classes, sports, rehearsals, friends and homework may find getting nine or more hours of sleep per night a near impossible feat. One study found that only 15 percent of teens report sleeping at least 8½ hours per night during the week.

But the consequences of teen sleep deprivation are serious, including increased risk of depression, sickness, weight gain and acne. Studies show teens who are sleep deprived don’t learn as well, remember as much, or perform as strongly in sports.

And their risk of car accidents goes up. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration estimates that every year more than 40,000 injuries, and 1,500 people are killed in the U.S. in crashes caused by drivers who are simply tired. Young people under the age of 25 are far more likely to be involved in drowsy driving crashes. In one survey, half of teens reported driving a car while drowsy over the past year and 15% said they drove drowsy at least once a week.

Here’s an excellent summary article about the teen sleep cycle.

What to do?

Reset Your Body Clock

Though sleep phase delay is a natural part of puberty (lasting for most young people until they’re about 20 years old) researchers have found it IS possible for people to reset their body clocks.

  • Wake early in the morning and expose yourself to bright light for at least 20 minutes. During summer, take a brisk walk outside. During winter, if you live in a region where the sun doesn’t rise until late, sit in front of a bright “sun” lamp for about a half hour early in the morning – or take a morning walk when the sky lightens at 9 or 10 a.m.
  • In the summer, go camping and hiking for a week. Here’s a fascinating article about using nature to reset your body clock.
  • Wear orange goggles at night to block blue light.
  • Try F.lux, free software that helps your computer’s display adapt to the time of the day by gradually screening out blue light as it gets closer to bedtime.

Embrace Healthy Sleep Hygiene

Practicing sleep hygiene is critical during the teen and pre-teen years—and what better time to establish healthy sleep routines to last a lifetime?

  • Wake at around the same time each morning, even on the weekends.
  • Exercise in the morning, ideally outdoors in bright sunshine.
  • Keep bedrooms cool, dark, and free of distracting electronics and pets.
  • Stop watching electronic screens – especially screens close to your face – at least an hour before sleep.
  • Wear orange glasses or use the computer program f.lux (see above) to screen out blue light.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.

Public Policy

Some school districts have delayed high school start times to align more closely with teen circadian rhythms. Classes start closer to 9 a.m. instead of 7:20 a.m. Check if there’s movement in this direction in your district and join with likeminded families to push for it.

Visit Wellbody Academy‘s hands-on Slumbertorium to learn about circadian rhythms and for more tips on sleep hygiene and sleep-proofing your bedroom.

Healthy Summer Picnic Hacks

Summer’s here and it’s too hot to eat indoors – so why not head to park, lake or mountains with a picnic?

With seasonal produce at its peak, it’s the perfect time to load your picnic backpack with the fiber, antioxidants and vitamins found in fruits and vegetables – foods that can boost energy and help with weight management while reducing risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

A recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 90 percent of Americans still aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables—seriously?—despite years of public health messaging on this topic. Only 13 percent of adults eat enough fruits and only nine percent are eating enough vegetables.

How much is enough? Adults should eat at least 1.5 – 2 cups of fruit a day and 2-3 cups of veggies, according to government guidelines.

Boost your fruit and veggie intake with these quick and easy healthy summer picnic hacks.

On Lifebuzz

  1. Four whacks to cut a watermelon into cool sticks.
  2. Layer chopped salad in a to-go cup with a lid.
  3. Put a layer of peanut butter in the bottom of a jar. Add celery sticks (think vertical, ends dipped in the peanut butter). Top with lid.
  4. Transport strawberries in an egg carton, one strawberry per divot. Optional: Trim stems and fill each with a dab of peanut butter.
  5. Rainbow fruit skewers.
  6. Caprese skewers.
  7. Small wide-mouth mason jars filled with guacamole, hummus, bean dip.
  8. Refreshing iced water. (Prep this the day before your picnic.) To a mason jar, add a cucumber slice, lemon slice, mint leaves, a grape or raspberries. Fill with water, being sure to leave an inch of space at the top for liquids to expand in the freezer. Screw on cap. Freeze. Add to picnic bag to keep your food cold during transport. When you’re ready to picnic, your water will taste cool and refreshing.

Spray Parks Instead Of Screen Time

It’s summer and for many kids, the season without school can add up to a lot of extra screen time.

Screen addiction has become a hot topic in modern parenting, no more so than in China, where doctors consider Internet addiction a clinical disorder and have set up controversial rehab centers documented in “Web Junkie,” premiering on PBS Monday (7/13/15).

Here in America, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found the average 8- to 10-year-old spends eight hours a day in front of screens; tweens and teens log more than 11 hours a day on computers, tablets and phones. Researchers have had a field day with the psychological, social and cultural impacts of electronic media on children and many link increased screen time with rising rates of childhood obesity.

Need another reason to encourage kids to refresh their bodies instead of their Web browsers?

Recent research by scientists at the University of California found that mice that exercised while young were more likely to exercise as adults — and they weighed less, results that “may be relevant for the public policy debates concerning the importance of physical education for children,” the researchers say.

So kids, turn off your screens and head out to play. How ’bout running, jumping and spinning at the nearest spray park?

Spray Parks, Fountains, Wading Pools & Beaches

Here’s Red Tricycle’s round up of favorite of spray parks, splash zones and child-friendly beaches in the Seattle area. ParentMap details a few lesser-known gems in this spray park review.

And when you come to Seattle Center to enjoy the “big Kahuna” of all spray parks, the powerful jets choreographed to music at the International Fountain, stop by Wellbody Academy to explore how play and healthy choices can make you feel better for life.

Ahhhh-mazingly Gross Facts About Your Smile

Mouths are truly amazing. Without them we wouldn’t be able to eat, taste, talk, sing, make silly faces, or smile. And everyone’s mouth is unique. That’s right!

The shape, size, and position of your teeth is unlike anyone else’s in the world. Your tongue-print, just like your fingerprints, is one-of-a-kind. The exact shape and color of your lips are unique, too. All these make your smile 1 in 7 billion. As amazing as they are, mouths are also disgusting.

Here are 5 facts to prove it:

1. A clean smile has 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria living, feeding, and depositing waste on each tooth. There are 500 to 650 different types of bacteria, but not all are bad. Some secrete enzymes that kill bad bacteria.

2. The bacteria in our mouths and the food we eat cause bad breath. Rinsing with water or chewing sugar free gum between meals helps keep it fresh.

3. You’ll produce enough spit in your lifetime to fill two swimming pools! Everyone’s spit contains bits of urea, mucous (snot), and leftover food. Gross. But spit helps wash away bad bacteria which is good for your teeth, and besides, you wouldn’t be able to taste anything without it.

4. You swallow most of the bacteria and spit in your mouth. In fact, you swallow up to 1.5 liters of saliva each day. The acids in your stomach kill most of the bacteria you swallow and your body repurposes the water in your spit. It’s a pretty efficient system.

5. A sneeze shoots out of your mouth at over 100 mph and a cough at over 60 mph. Each contains bacteria and spit from your mouth. So please be sure to cover both as often as possible.

If you’d like to smell bad breath or get sneezed on, stop by the Germnasium in Wellbody Academy. Then check out GROSSOLOGY: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body for even more awesomely disgusting, hands-on experiences.

Visit DeltaDentalWAblog.com for fun tips to keep your smile healthy.

Healthy Red, White & Blue Recipes

This July 4, celebrate America’s birthday with delicious red, white and blue recipes that get their colors—and heart healthy, cancer-fighting powers—from natural antioxidants rather than artificial dyes.

Start the party with blue tortilla chips topped with sliced mozzarella and diced red tomato. Free of sugar, gluten and chemical additives, this patriotic snack gets snap from high-fiber corn tortilla chips, creaminess from low-fat cheese, and sweet tartness from ripe tomatoes. Spritz with fresh lemon juice for added tang and vitamin C. You can substitute low-fat feta, ricotta, cottage cheese or cream cheese for the mozzarella.

Our ever popular Red, White & Blueberry flag, an edible art project, is a terrific assemble-ahead dessert to make with kids. Stack raspberries, blueberries and banana slices on skewers for a treat filled with fiber, vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants including ellagic acid, a known cancer fighter.

Keep reading for more fabulous red, white & blue recipes!

Try this beautiful red, white and blue potato salad garnished with slivers of piquillo peppers reminiscent of bright red confetti. You can also roast and slice your own red bell peppers. They’ll take on a smoky sweetness when you char them on the grill, stovetop or in the oven, then peel and discard the blackened skins.

Use any combination of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries and blueberries for these red, white and blue fruit cups. Feel free to reduce or omit the sugar when whipping the cream. If you’re shying away from high-fat dairy, substitute a dollop of low-fat plain yogurt or drizzle plain coconut milk, almond, rice or soy milk instead of cream.

On a hot day, what could be more refreshing than red, white and blue popsicles? Whole raspberries and blueberries add anthocyanin, the pigment that gives berries their rich hue. To cut down on sugar and bump up creaminess, consider diluting the limeade with low-fat cow milk, coconut milk or other “not”-milks.

Have fun eating red, white and blue.

Remember, red foods like watermelons tomatoes, cherries and strawberries often get their rosy hue from lycopenes and anthocyanins–antioxidants that help fight inflammation and protect healthy tissues from free-radical damage.

White foods, including bananas, cauliflower and garlic and mushrooms contain alicin which some studies have shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

Blue and Purple foods, including blueberries, eggplants and plums, also get their gorgeous color and health benefits from anthocyanin which studies have shown to be effective in reducing risk of heart diseases, cancer and stroke.

Drop by Wellbody Academy’s Cafédium to play Apple A Day, an interactive, razzle-dazzle game that uses a Vegas-style slot machine to teach what foods have which nutrients and how those nutrients help your body.

Happy Campers, Healthy Smiles

There really is no place like the Pacific Northwest during summer. And warm summer nights are perfect for sleeping under the stars.

Whether you’re enjoying one of Washington’s many campgrounds, backpacking through the Cascades or Olympics, or enjoying the outdoors anywhere on the globe it’s important to take care of your smile.

Here are some campsite oral hygiene tips from our friends at Delta Dental of Washington:

  • Don’t forget your toothbrush! Store your toothbrush in a proper, well-vented case to keep it from getting dirty. Minimize bacteria growth by letting your toothbrush completely dry after use before placing it back in its case. Click here to learn how to brush your teeth in the woods.
  • Brush twice a day. While camping, it’s still important to brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day. Sugary s’mores and granola aren’t the best for your smile so it’s especially important while camping.
  • Don’t forget to floss. Flossing is always important no matter where you are. It’s how you clean between your teeth. So, it’s especially important to floss while camping. Favorite camping snacks like dried fruit and nuts can get stuck between your teeth.
  • Pack it in; pack it out. Whenever you head outdoors, remember to leave nothing behind—including used floss.

Everyone knows how important it is to pack a first-aid kit for medical emergencies, but have you ever packed emergency dental supplies? Dental emergencies can happen anywhere—even while you’re camping. So, you should pack an Emergency Dental Kit. These include items such as cotton, toothache drops, temporary cement and the guidance you’ll need to handle everything from toothaches to lost fillings until you can get to your dentist.

If you’re one of the many happy campers who head outside during this last bit of summer, don’t forget your smile. Taking care of your smile at home or at the campsite will keep it healthy for years.

Gourmet Kale Chips, Vitamin Rich, Dirt Cheap

Speaking of cravings and junk food, this simple recipe for kale chips is so delicious, so addictive, it elevates the bliss point of this nutritional superstar to the level of Cheetos.

First, there’s a satisfying crunch and tingle of salt. Then, the delicate green web of crisped chlorophyll melts in your mouth, spreading a warm glow across the tongue. Excellent with drinks; apple cider for the kids. Even children who won’t touch other green vegetables will scarf down a bowl of kale chips.

Kale, in the Brassica family along with cabbage, collards and broccoli, is packed with antioxidant vitamins A, C and K – and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. One cup of kale contains 36 calories, five grams of fiber, 15 percent of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40 percent of magnesium, 180 percent of vitamin A, 200 percent of vitamin C, and 1,020 percent of vitamin K. It is also a good source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

(The other primary ingredient, olive oil, is a vital component of the heart healthy Mediterranean Diet. Stay tuned for more about olive oil in upcoming posts.)

Yes, you can purchase a modest-sized bag of kale chips at the store for $5.79. Or, you can buy (or harvest) a bunch of the greens and make double the amount of kale chips for half the price. Bonus: just-out-of-the-oven aroma and warmth. Tip: Watch the kale chips carefully in the oven because they progress slowly from limp and wet to perfectly crisp and green (a short sweet spot) before quickly blackening.

Kale comes in curly, ornamental, green, purple and dinosaur varieties and can be grown all year round in the Seattle area.

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Cafedium to play Apple A Day, an interactive, razzle-dazzle game that uses a Vegas-style slot machine to teach what foods have which nutrients and how those nutrients help your body.

Call for recipes! Share your favorite healthy recipes and wellness tips with the Wellbody Blog by emailing professorwellbody@pacsci.org. Thanks.

Speaking Of Snot, Why Not Try A Neti Pot?

We love summer sunshine, but not the pollen, dust and other irritants riding zephyrs into our nasal passages. To celebrate summer allergies, snot, mucus and our GROSSOLOGY exhibit, we bring you tips on nasal irrigation and how to use a neti pot. (Perfect gadget for the dad who has everything, right?)

An ancient treatment used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries, nasal irrigation with salt water has been validated by scientific studies to treat many sinonasal conditions. But you have to do it right.

Nasal irrigation is a simple way to clean dirt, airborne allergens (dust and pollen), pollutants and bacteria-filled mucus from your nasal passages.

The flow of saline water not only flushes away debris, it also helps thin sludgy mucus, thus freeing hair-like cilia that line your sinus and nasal passages and allowing them to do the critical work of waving back and forth to move irritants toward your nose and back of your throat. Then, you can get rid of the pesky buggers by blowing your nose, swallowing or discretely spitting into a tissue.

A meta-review of nasal irrigation studies published in Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery found that nasal irrigation reduces the use of medication by sufferers of allergies and chronic sinusitis and reduces the need for surgery. It also improves quality of life for people with annoying sinus and nasal issues.

The comprehensive medical article discusses the pros and cons of adding more or less salt to the saline solution and includes recipes for making your own solution.

What is a neti pot and how do you use it?

A neti pot is a vessel that looks a bit like a small watering can. You fill it with a solution of sterile water and salt, tip your head, and pour the solution through one nostril. The solution will flow through your nasal passages and out the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. It feels strange the first time you do it, but shouldn’t hurt.

Dry your nasal passages by exhaling several times through your nose with your mouth closed. Or gently blow your nose into a tissue.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT use water straight from the tap! Boil and cool it, or use distilled or sterile water. Also, be sure to clean and dry your neti pot between uses.

There are many videos on YouTube demonstrating how to use a neti pot. And here’s a how-to diagram from American Family Physician.

Want to learn more about nasal irrigation? Here’s a good article from WebMD. Good luck and happy breathing!

Sitting: The UnExercise

Normally, when preparing to receive bad news, you’d sit down. In this case, you’d better stand.

Recent studies confirm prolonged sitting erases the benefits of exercise. So even if you run or pump iron for an hour every morning, if you sit for the next nine or ten hours – commuting, working at the computer, eating dinner, watching tv – you’ve wiped out most of the gains from your workout. Research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, calculates that an hour of sitting can undo eight percent of fitness gains from each hour you exercised. (Here’s a summary in Outsideonline.com)

Keep reading to learn why sitting erodes health and a simple way to solve the problem.

Even more alarming, a recent meta-analysis published in the The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that sitting is associated with a 24% increased risk of colon cancer, a 32% increased risk of endometrial cancer and a 21% increased risk of lung cancer. Partly that’s because sitting can lead to obesity which can contribute to diabetes, heart disease and various cancers.

But extensive sitting also damages your health in other ways. Sitting for long periods of time shuts down the enzymes responsible for burning fat and creating good HDL cholesterol. Sitting also seems to suppress a gene that helps control the type of inflammation at the root of many chronic diseases. (Here’s a good summary article of the research.)

The solution? Get up from your chair twice an hour and walk for two minutes to keep the blood flowing through your large skeletal muscles. Stand and walk in place while talking on the phone. During lunch, take a brisk walk. Here’s an interesting article about walking as a superfood. And here, in The Art of Manliness, are 7 Simple Exercises to undo the damage of sitting.

Finally, stand up to read this hilarious and informative diary by a New York Magazine writer who vowed not to sit for a whole month.

The takeaway? Ceaseless standing isn’t healthy, either.