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Aggression in people can be sparked by a variety of things, from feeling disrespected to anger over unmet goals. Human aggression can be divided into two categories: direct aggression and indirect aggression. While the former is characterized by behavior intended to hurt another person, the latter is characterized by performance proposed to harm an individual’s or group’s social relationships.Meaning of Aggression
Primarily, aggression is an overt or covert social engagement with the goal of causing injury or other harm to another person. It can happen either in response to or without cause.Aggression Symptoms
Aggressive behavior must involve action in order to be considered because it is meant to hurt someone who doesn’t want to be hurt; merely contemplating spoiling somebody or feeling enraged is insufficient, and unintentionally hurting someone is not acceptable.
Aggressive actions include −
Physical − Like inflicting physical harm—by striking, recoiling, or piercing another individual. Physical aggression can also take the form of property damage.
Relational − Which aims to damage the relationships of another individual. This can involve disseminating untruths and fabricating information about other people.
Verbal − Which might involve shouting, mocking, and name-calling.
Passive-Aggressive − Such as giving a person the cold shoulder at a social gathering or making indirect praise. Instead of directly harming someone, passive-aggressive behavior typically has the intention of allowing harm to occur.Types of Aggression
Aggression is divided into two major categories by psychologists. Whether one is the aggressor or the victim, both have negative effects on the people who are involved.
Impulsive Aggression − Impulsive aggression is a type of hostility that is also referred to as affective aggression or reactive aggression. The acute threat reply system in the brain, which involves the amygdala, hypothalamus, and periaqueductal gray, is triggered by impulsive aggression, particularly when it is brought on by anger. Aggression of this kind usually occurs in the heat of the moment and is not premeditated. You are displaying impulsive aggression if another vehicle cuts you off in traffic and you yell and scold the other driver.
Instrumental Aggression − Instrumental aggression, also known as opportunistic aggression, is characterized by actions taken with the intention of achieving a more significant objective. Instrumental aggression is frequently meticulously thought out and typically serves as a tool. An instance of this aggression would be harming another individual during a robbery. Inflicting harm on another person is the method by which the aggressor will acquire money.Causes
What specifically triggers excessive or inappropriate violence is unknown. It’s possible that a number of variables are at play, such as a person’s biology, environment, and spiritual background.
Biological Factors − Biological factors states that aggression may be influenced by sudden release of specific Harmon or may be because of genetic variables. Likewise, aggression may be associated with imbalances in a number of hormones, including cortisol and testosterone, as well as neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Genetics, on the other hand, is just one of the many causes of these abnormalities. . Aggressive behavior may also be influenced by alterations in other parts of the brain.
Environmental Factors − To and some extent, the environmental factors, such as culture, way of nurturing, types of school environment, social circle, parents’ relation, etc., are also equally responsible for the aggressive behavior. Children who observe hostility as they grow up may be more likely to think that violence and hostility are acceptable social behaviors. Trauma suffered as a kid can also influence an adult’s aggressive behavior.Aggression’s Effect
Your relationships and wellbeing may be impacted by aggression. According to research, there is a connection between chronic swelling, which can lead to secondary health issues like cardiovascular difficulties, and anger. Aggression and rage are linked to various mental health issues. However, it is unclear whether those circumstances themselves make it difficult to control strong emotions like rage and aggression or if they are caused by uncontrolled anger.
Aggression from a spouse, acquaintance, or family member can also have negative consequences. Even when their attacker doesn’t, those who have experienced physical or psychological aggression see those events as negative. These aggressive behaviors may eventually result in the breakdown of the relationship. Unimpeded aggression can also complicate job situations and deteriorate friendships. That might make the attacker feel more stressed out and alienated, which might make the situation worse.Assistance in Managing Aggression
Being aware of your anger’s warning signals, such as jaw clenching, a rapid heartbeat, or sweating.
Using relaxation methods like progressive muscular relaxation (PMR), deep breathing, or meditation.
Engaging your senses by paying attention to items you can see, hear, touch, or taste Exiting the situation.
Burning calories to get rid of extra energy.
Requesting social support from a reliable friend or relative Distracting yourself with another task.
Rephrasing unfavorable ideas.
Understanding and accepting the feelings that underlie the aggression.Legal Consequences of Aggression
Legal consequences of aggression are not fixed rather depending on the nature and severity of the aggression; besides, cultural environment also keeps importance.
However, depending upon the nature and degree of harm and damage caused to victim, the legal consequences of aggression may be −
Criminal charges − If because of the aggression someone hurt physically or even someone killed, it may lead to criminal charges. For example, in case of assault, battery, or domestic violence, the aggressor may face criminal charges. The severity of the charges will depend on the circumstances of the aggression, including the level of violence, whether a weapon was used, and whether the victim suffered any injuries.
Civil liability − If the aggression resulted into harm or damages to the victim or victim’s property, the aggressor may face civil liability. This means that the victim can sue the aggressor for compensation for their losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.Conclusion
According to Miller Dollard and colleagues’ aggression hypothesis, a person’s anger builds up over time as a result of frustrating experiences and eventually explodes at a particular moment where it is severe. The accumulation of frustrating experiences should be avoided to prevent violent outbursts.Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is reactive aggression?
Ans. Aggression that is reactive, also referred to as impulsive aggression, occurs in reaction to a particular trigger. This unplanned aggression is frequently accompanied by emotions of great rage. Reactive hostility includes hitting someone after being insulted.
Q2. What region of the brain regulates aggression?
Ans. Numerous cerebral areas are involved in aggression. The prefrontal cortex determines whether or not we take action based on our emotional reaction to an acute threat, which is mediated by the amygdala, hypothalamus, and periaqueductal gray.
Q3. What is microaggression?
Q4. What aims does violence pursue?
Ans. Aggression is intended to hurt someone who does not want to be hurt. It depends on the individual what drives them to do this. Another person may use aggression to further another objective, such as stealing another person’s money or property, while a third person may act destructively in response to pain or fear.
Q5. What does violence seek to achieve?
Ans. A person who doesn’t want to be hurt is the target of aggression. Different people have different reasons for doing this. Others may use aggression to further a different objective, such as stealing another person’s assets or money, while others may behave aggressively out of pain or fear.
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Gambling has been a contentious issue due to moral concerns and the possible harm it can do to players. Some believe it is a game of skill, while others consider it a game of chance.
Yet, all the controversy hasn’t been able to stop the market from flourishing over the years. In fact, the Online Casino and Gambling market was valued at roughly $58.2 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $145.6 billion by the end of this decade.
However, it is essential to remember that casinos are not legal in every country, and only a handful of nations have entirely regulated online casinos and gambling. In this article, we will learn about a few countries with a regulated gambling market.Countries That Have Regulated Their Gambling Market 1. Sweden
The Swedish Gambling Authority oversees and regulates the gambling industry in Sweden. The Swedish Gambling Act, which pertains to money gambling, went into effect on January 1, 2023. Any gaming geared at the Swedish market that does not have a license is prohibited and illegal.
Gambling represents 1% of Swedes’ discretionary income. Approximately 60% of all Swedes say they have gambled at least once within the last year. Another 2,500 individuals are hired by gambling enterprises based in Sweden, and approximately 10,000 are employed by businesses having a Swedish license but based elsewhere.2. The United Kingdom
British nationals have enjoyed the benefits of online casino gambling for many years. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is in charge of creating and upholding strict standards for this leisure activity. The standards make it simple to check the legitimacy of licensed online gaming firms that may operate legally in the UK.
The bulk of Britons put a high value on thrills and sports. It’s difficult to imagine England without stakes since they’re deeply embedded in the culture. Because they like unique gambling, local gaming establishments make millions of dollars.
Since there are so many local players in the United Kingdom, nearly all British gambling establishments are situated there. The love of citizens for gambling explains the incredible popularity of internet casinos.3. The United States of America
Because of its sheer size, the United States has the upper hand. Around 70% of global online wagerers live in the United States. In recent years, several states, particularly Arizona, Maryland, and Florida, have begun legalizing physical and digital gambling within their borders.
Even jurisdictions that do not have registered online gaming websites frequently allow their people to put bets on overseas sites. It is apparent why Americans spend over $35 billion on casino gaming yearly, which is likely to climb.
In the United States, federal legislation oversees gambling; municipal and state regulations also exist. The Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 empowers Native American tribes to regulate gambling on their land.
Because of the tight safety rules and their insatiable thirst for online gaming, Japanese customers spend an astounding $20 billion yearly on casino sites.5. Italy
Electric slot machines generate 50% of all gambling income in Italy. Italians frequent casinos, and their passion for gambling may have stemmed from their fascination with football betting. Because the business is adequately regulated, you may enjoy online casino games in Italy without worrying about breaking the law.Notable Mentions
Citizens in Spain can gamble on their favorite authorized online casino and engage in the activities provided on these sites. They can also discover land-based casino spots where they can play freely.
It’s worth noting that Australia has a significant gaming market compared to the rest of the world. Australia enables trustworthy sites and has excellent safety standards in place. It is one of the countries that allow casino gaming. In addition to their local expertise, Australian gaming companies have expanded their international footprint.
Only enterprises with local authorization and online gambling centers controlled locally are permitted in New Zealand. The government of New Zealand has never prohibited legal gambling in the country. It is also worth noting that gaming is tax-free in New Zealand.
Learning to Turn On the Aggression BU Hillel director teaches students to be fast and furious in their own defense
How to “turn on the aggression” is one of the more important lessons imparted by Rabbi Michael Beyo in his weekly class in Krav Maga, a self-defense system used by the Israeli Defense Forces. The acting executive director of the Florence & Chafetz Hillel House makes the point very loud and clear, repeatedly urging students in his class to scream furiously during fights with attackers.
“Fear is important,” says Beyo, “because it can drive us to react, but for somebody who does not study and does not train, fear often makes them freeze, and you don’t want to freeze in a situation. You want to react.”
Fear, in fact, is what compelled Caitlin Coons to enroll in the class. While traveling abroad Coons (SED’15) was assaulted on a subway, and to her great distress, she froze.
“You always think you know what you’re going to do when you’re attacked,” she says. “But it’s important to be able to power through the fear and defend yourself.”
Beyo makes the sessions lively, even fun. In a recent class, students demonstrated ways to escape from various grips and attacks, struggling intensely one moment and bursting out in laughter the next.
“Krav Maga, first of all, is not an art,” says Beyo, because martial arts focus on the perfection of specific techniques and may involve many classes before students get to actually fight. In contrast, he says, “Krav Maga is much more immediate and uses natural reactions instead of trying to impose new techniques to our body.”
Ideally, says Beyo, Krav Maga (or “contact combat,” קרב מגע, in Hebrew) is not about fighting. It’s about ending fights: the main goal is to neutralize a threat and finish a fight as quickly as possible. The defense system combines techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and grappling with realistic fight training.
Beyo’s classes are open to all students, and he tailors the scenarios to the campus environment. “The most important thing,” he says, “is for the students to be aware of their surroundings because so much can be avoided by doing the right thing at the right time.” He compares the real-world emphasis to that of BU’s rape aggression defense (RAD) classes.
The technique was developed in Bratislava, Slovakia, in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld, who defended the streets of the Jewish quarter against anti-Semitic thugs, along with a group of Jewish wrestlers and boxers. Today the defense system, which has been refined over the years, is officially used for combat training in the Israel Defense Forces and has been adapted internationally for civilian, police, and military applications.
“It is an extremely useful and versatile self-defense system,” says class member Andrew Filippi (CAS’15). “I’ve taken several in my life, but this one is probably the best.”
Beyo first learned Krav Maga in Milan, Italy, where acts of anti-Semitism and targeted vandalism were common. “There were many situations where I or other Jews would be harassed in the streets because we were Jewish,” says Beyo, who lived in Milan until age 16. “So I decided to learn Krav Maga in order to start learning how to defend myself and defend others.”
Beyo went to rabbinical seminaries in London and Paris and ended up in Israel, where he worked for a counterterrorism special unit under the office of the prime minister. The job made good use of his skills in Krav Maga, taught in every branch of the security apparatus of the State of Israel.
In 2005, Beyo moved to New York, where he consulted for international real estate conglomerates, then to Atlanta, where he helped build a solar and wind renewable energy company with partners in Israel and Italy. He was a guest lecturer on intra-Israeli conflict at the Georgia Institute of Technology and at Emory University, published two books on bioethics and Jewish law, and taught Krav Maga. He came to BU in August 2012 as a rabbi and associate director at Hillel, and in January, he took over as acting executive director while Rabbi Joseph Polak (Hon.’95) is on sabbatical.
Krav Maga is free and open to all BU students. The spring 2013 classes end with the semester; check for information about fall 2013 classes on the Hillel House website. Students must register ahead by e-mailing Jen Gutman at [email protected]. Visit Rabbi Beyo’s blog here or email him at [email protected].
Erin Thibeau can be reached at [email protected]; follow her on Twitter at @erinthibeau.
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Biopiracy, also known as scientific colonialism, is the illegal takeover of agricultural and indigenous communities’ knowledge and genetic resources by people or organisations trying to monopolise them through patents or other forms of intellectual property. While the act of bioprospecting is the search for previously unidentified chemical compounds that have therapeutic or anti-microbial properties in natural resources, commercial success from bioprospecting prompts the company to attempt to protect their intellectual property rights on native medicinal plants, seeds, genetic resources, and traditional medicines.
Furthermore, communities may suffer if indigenous or marginalised groups’ biological resources and traditional knowledge are appropriated for commercial purposes. Bioprospecting and biochemical research may have innovative and therapeutic uses, but they always result in exploitation when native peoples’ lands are taken without just compensation for their genetic riches.What is the Meaning of Biopiracy?
Biopiracy is the illegal exploitation and/or patenting of biological resources or bioresources belonging to other countries by certain organisations and multinational corporations without the required consent of those countries. The exploitation of indigenous local people’s traditional knowledge for the productive uses of locally sourced resources is referred to as “biopiracy” by large multinational corporations in order to generate financial gain. It is the act of using naturally existing resources or biological material for commercial purposes without paying the Indigenous peoples or communities where the material or pertinent information was first gathered, which is typically the case.History of Biopiracy
Historically, biopiracy has been linked to colonialism, which involved the unauthorised exploitation of indigenous peoples and developing nations with abundant natural resources. The richness of information regarding plant-based treasures has been highly prized ever since European settlers arrived in pursuit of gold, silver, and expensive spices. With the aid of the Spanish Crown, Christopher Columbus developed the “Spice Road” after Marco Polo’s travels through southwest India and China. Together with many others, these explorers had a notorious history of plundering native villages and depriving nations of their natural riches.
By lowering or getting rid of trade restrictions like tariffs and quotas, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1947 aimed to promote global trade. After the conclusion of the GATT, trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) were agreed upon. According to this, Columbus established a precedent in 1492 by obtaining land titles from European kings and queens that served as a kind of colonists’ patent. The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on TRIPS makes an effort to emphasise how crucial it is to keep commerce and intellectual property in balance.
Modern intellectual property regulations created by GATT and the WTO, which support colonial notions of “find and conquer” and “subdue, occupy, and own,” serve to perpetuate the Eurocentric roots of property claim and piracy. Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist and supporter of food sovereignty, refers to the patenting of genetic material and bioresources as “the second coming of Columbus” since it reinforces colonial power dynamics.Example of Biopiracy
Major examples are −Biopiracy of African Super Sweet Berries
Pentadiplandra brazzein is a plant that may be found in the west of South Africa. It is a crucial source of the protein brazzein. There, it is used as a low-calorie sweetener by the populace. It is known to be significantly sweeter than sugar (approximately two thousand times). Current research has focused on isolating the brazzein gene, which has been sequenced and trademarked in the USA.Patenting of Azadirachta Indica – Neem
Neem has proven to be beneficial in a number of ways since ancient times. Indians have disseminated their neem expertise to people all around the world. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and an American business named W.R. Grace were granted a European patent in 1994 that detailed a number of techniques for preventing fungal infections in plants using a neem-derived composition.Biopiracy of the Enola Bean
It was given the name of Larry Proctor’s wife, who was responsible for its 1999 invention. Mexican yellow beans are also known as enola beans. North Mexico is where this bean first became commercially successful. The patent owners then filed many lawsuits against Mexican yellow bean importers. Farmers thus faced a financial crisis. Farmers brought a legal claim, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided in their favour.The Rosy Periwinkle
Madagascar is where the rose periwinkle was first discovered. It has since spread to a number of other tropical nations worldwide. This makes it possible for researchers to collect data from one country and grow samples in another.Types of Biopiracy
According to Daniel F. Robinson, there are three types of biopiracy −Patent Biopiracy
Inventions based on biological resources and/or traditional knowledge that are obtained without the required authorization or benefit-sharing from other nations, indigenous communities, or local communities are referred to as “patent-based biopiracy” when they are patented.Non-Patent Biopiracy
Non-patent biopiracy is described as the creation of commercialised non-patented goods based on biological resources and/or traditional knowledge that were acquired without the required authorization from other nations, indigenous peoples, or locals, or benefit-sharing.Misappropriation
Misappropriation is the illegal taking of biological resources and/or traditional knowledge from local or indigenous peoples, other nations, or both without giving enough back in exchange.Biopiracy’s Effects on Biodiversity and Other Social Elements
Understanding how biopiracy affects biodiversity and other societal facets is crucial. Biopiracy has recently had a substantial impact on biodiversity on a global scale, including −
Disappearance of indigenous species
The nation’s natural resources and indigenous knowledge are being privatized.
Decrease in biodiversity
The appropriate balance of the environment has been harmed by the removal of an endemic species from a particular ecosystem. In various ways, the breakdown of biological ties is detrimental to long-term environmental stability.
The unauthorised export of living things has led to the extinction of endangered species. For example, the illegal exports of ornamental fish pose a threat to the Bulath Happaya (Puntius nigrofasciatus), an indigenous freshwater fish species in Sri Lanka.
Indigenous peoples’ cultural identities and traditional knowledge are impacted by biopiracy as well. Traditional agricultural productivity in Asian nations has dropped by 70% as a result of the loss of local knowledge. Indigenous species have vanished as a result of the emergence of genetically engineered creatures.
The biodiversity of a nation is impacted by biopiracy, as are its social and economic systems. It is a tremendously successful company. Because biopiracy is so profitable, the majority of multinational businesses with headquarters in wealthy nations opt to use the bioresources of underdeveloped nations and secure patents for them.Conclusion
In many ways, the dominance of biopiracy in the modern era may be understood as a development of the political and economic philosophy of neoliberalism (a modern politico-economic theory that favours free trade, privatization, minimal government intervention in business, reduced public expenditure on social services, and enhancing the role of the private sector in modern society).
The idea, which is incredibly problematic in and of itself, is closely linked to the idea of biological inventions having intellectual property rights. Because there are so many international agreements involved, patenting biotechnology inventions is substantially more complicated. The concept of biopiracy is influenced by a number of ideas, including the idea of proprietary intellectual property rights, community rights, national sovereignty, and humanity’s common history.Frequently Asked Question
Q1. Who Coined the term Biopiracy?
Ans. A Canadian environmentalist Pat Roy Mooney first used the term “biopiracy” in the early 1990s (Mooney, 2000; Robinson et al., 2014). Since then, other environmental and social rights movements have adopted and developed the concept.
Q2. Which country is highly affected by biopiracy?
Ans. India is home to the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. It is highly susceptible to biopiracy. Traditional knowledge has been indiscriminately exploited without a fair benefit distribution.
Q3. Why is biopiracy important?
Ans. The sustainability of rural and indigenous peoples depends critically on the conservation of habitat, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Biopiracy is the theft of genetic materials, particularly flora and other biological elements, through the patenting process.
Q4. What is Haldi (turmeric) biopiracy?
LAW Student Combines Legal Studies, Activism In a combustible year, Mario Paredes works the front lines of politics
Mario Paredes (LAW’18), here registering Latino voters, watched his immigrant parents work tirelessly to support their children. Photo by Jake Belcher
A Brazilian coffee shop shares storefront space with Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, and other businesses near the Maverick Square subway stop in East Boston, home to many immigrants from Central and South America. Outside the subway entrance on a sunny mid-October Saturday, Mario Paredes muscles a folding table upright—it holds two signs: “Registro de Votantes” and the English translation, “Voter Registration.”
Paredes (LAW’18) is on the board of Centro Presente, a nonpartisan East Boston immigrant rights group that has been busy signing up Latinos (and anyone else who happens by) for the November 8 election. When 72-year-old Florinda Leiva approaches the table, she tells Paredes and two fellow workers that she’s already registered, but the Salvadoran native needs the address of her polling place, which the workers look up for her.
This is one of a half dozen “tablings” to register voters by Centro Presente in recent months, says the 27-year-old Paredes. Add to such activities the monthly two-hour-or-longer board meetings he attends and it’s clear that he has ample extracurricular activities to juggle with the grind of law studies. While Paredes may practice immigration law after graduation, he says, his drive really comes from his personal experience of watching newcomers struggle and seeing the limits on their time for political involvement.
His parents, now US citizens, came here without documentation after his mother’s father was murdered in the strife-torn Guatemala of the 1980s, and he says he has “a lot of family who are undocumented in New York.” Growing up, he remembers his parents working multiple jobs to support him, his sister, and his half-brother. “My mom was working, and is still to this day, cleaning houses, you know, babysitting; my dad, in factories.…And because of that, and trying to keep us in school and keep food on the table…I don’t think there was always the opportunity for them to stay involved politically.”
Centro Presente is far from alone in encouraging Latinos to get involved in this year’s election. The English version of the New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton, ran its first editorial in Spanish earlier this month, along with a translation, calling for a high turnout among the nation’s 27 million eligible Hispanic voters to defeat the Donald.
“In a tight race, a resounding Latino showing could flip battleground states for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and change how political parties perceive and engage with Hispanic voters in the future,” the editors wrote, adding that “the implicit point of [Trump’s] campaign theme—‘Make America Great Again’—is that America was great when it was a less diverse nation and that resurrecting that era will require drastic measures,” such as the billionaire’s vow of mass deportations of immigrants who came to the country illegally.
But events other than Trump’s ascent suggest an increasing anti-immigrant hostility, Paredes argues, including this year’s defeat in Massachusetts of pro-immigrant legislative measures. “Because of all the hate that’s going around, if our voice isn’t heard, we’re risking putting our families’ and friends’ lives in danger,” he says. “If we have somebody in office who’s really just going to ignore the Latino community or spew hate about them, by that point, it’s going to be too late.”
Centro Presente was founded in the 1980s by Salvadoran refugees. In addition to encouraging voter registration, the group will operate phone drives reminding the folks it registered to get to the polls. It also sponsors citizenship classes, forums with local officials, and educational workshops about the political process—“how a bill gets created, how it passes, what role do our legislators play…and also how it works at the federal level,” Paredes says. He joined the organization after hearing a staffer speak at Harvard, where he studied for a master’s in education before coming to BU.
Once the voters choose the president in November, Paredes is hoping Bay State Latinos remain engaged in local and state politics, “because that’s where some of the change is going to happen.”
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This post has been updated. It was originally published on December 16, 2014.
Christina Agapakis is a biologist, designer, and science writer. She makes art with microbes, soil, and food. Lucky Peach was a quarterly journal of food and writing. Each issue focused on a single theme, and explored that theme through essays, art, photography, and recipes. This story is excerpted from Issue 13, “Feel the Joy: The Holiday Issue.”
On a Sunday that’s usually a week or two after “Western” Easter, my parents set up an electric spit to roast a whole lamb in their suburban Massachusetts backyard. We welcome guests to our Greek Orthodox Easter celebration with a kiss on both cheeks; we nibble on tiropitakia, little cheese pies made with phyllo dough, and kokoretsi, organ meats wrapped in intestines and cooked on the spit next to the lamb. When the lamb is ready, we begin the meal by cracking open dyed hard-boiled eggs. Over the next few hours, we eat way too much lamb, moussaka, dolmades, and tzatziki, finishing off with cookies, cakes, and chocolate bunnies bought at deep discount (cheap Easter sweets are one of the perks of celebrating according to the Julian calendar). Happy, sleepy, and extremely full, we adjourn well before sunset to rest and digest.
This ritual will be recognizable to millions of holiday overindulgers. Most will be too sleepy to wonder what’s happening inside their cells and nerves, or which enzymes and hormones control the biochemistry of postprandial sleepiness. But as a biologist, I can’t help myself.How much can your stomach hold?
That you can eat until you feel like you might burst without actually bursting tells us a lot about the physics and physiology of the stomach and the neuroscience of appetite. At maximum capacity, the stomach can hold a gallon of food, about sixty-five times its empty volume. As the stomach stretches to accommodate additional food, it inflates like a balloon, pushing against the other organs in the abdomen and making it increasingly uncomfortable to keep eating. Eventually the stomach will start pushing on the diaphragm, making it difficult to take a deep breath.
Well before you reach that maximum volume, the body begins to take action. The stomach is lined with bundles of nerves that can sense the level of stretching and work with gastrointestinal and peripheral hormones to signal fullness to the brain. Should you press onward past the first feelings of fullness, the nerve signals get more insistent.
Between “full” and reflexive vomiting—the body’s final defensive strategy for overfullness—there is a lot of room for holiday overeating. It’s easy to ignore those early signals, convincing ourselves that we’ve still got room to try a few things we couldn’t fit on our plates the first time, and still more room for dessert. And, in fact, the abundance of choice presented by holiday feasts actually enhances our penchant for overeating.
The variety-induced overeating typical of holidays is known as the “smörgåsbord effect,” and was first identified in 1956 by the French physiologist Jacques Le Magnen. To study the effects of food flavors on appetite, Le Magnen made tiny feasts for rats. When he fed the rats unlimited amounts of a single type of food, they would eat until they felt full, and then stop. But when he gave the rats a smörgåsbord with four different flavors of rat chow, the rats would eat about three times as much as normal, filling up again on each new flavor.
Humans are like rats in that way: when we’re eating one food, we get a little more bored and a little more full with each bite—the “hedonic rating” (basically the empirical enjoyability) of the meal goes down with every mouthful. If you’ve ever waddled out of a fancy restaurant, overstuffed after eating a tasting menu where many dishes were parceled out in tiny portions over a couple hours, you’ve experienced the reverse: without that sensory boredom kicking in, you can eat more and more enthusiastically throughout the meal.
This phenomenon was rediscovered in experiments on humans in the 1980s. Researchers served varied four-course dinners in their labs and asked the diners to rate their satisfaction at different points throughout the meal. They found that people would eat up to 44 percent more than when offered only a single dish, and that satisfaction and appetite were renewed by each new flavor.
At a fundamental level, our hunger instincts are controlled by the levels of fats and sugar in our bloodstream, and we eat in order to maintain these nutrients at a stable level. When our blood sugar begins to go down, we start to feel hungry, and hormones tell our brain that it’s time to eat again. But while we’re eating, both sensory pleasure and stomach stretching happen quickly. How we eat—and especially how we eat during the holidays—is influenced by forces beyond just our metabolism and our stomach capacity, namely our willpower and our senses.The symptoms of feasting and stuffing
Inevitably, we end up ignoring our bodies’ early warnings and overeat during the holidays. But how does this all translate to the inevitable postmeal yawns and shuttering of eyelids?
One oft-cited explanation is the sugar high and subsequent insulin crash phenomena. Consider the Halloween feast: Kids gorge themselves on pillowcases full of refined sugar. The sugar rapidly enters the bloodstream through the lining of the stomach. Cells in the pancreas absorb the sugar from the blood and start converting it into energy. The subsequent change in the level of energy activates a cascade of biochemical switches. At the last step in the cascade, specialized vesicles inside the pancreatic cells open to release insulin. The hormone insulin controls how the body’s cells and tissues process sugar.
All this happens in a matter of minutes. As the fresh dose of insulin flows through the bloodstream, it tells the muscles and fat cells to absorb the sugar and to start converting it into energy. Hence, sugared-up kids bouncing off the walls. But the sugar high has never been proven in double-blind studies: kids get hyper when they get treats whether they have real sugar or not. The psychology and rituals of food—like the excitement of trick-or-treating—have a bigger effect than sugar itself.
The sugar crash is likewise disputed. Insulin makes our tissues absorb sugar quickly, but that shouldn’t cause blood sugar to dip below normal levels. Let’s consider another theory. For the post-Thanksgiving food coma, blame often falls on everybody’s favorite celebratory poultry: turkey. High levels of the amino acid tryptophan in turkey are converted into melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles in the brain. Turkey does have a lot of tryptophan, but so does chicken, fish, cheese, and eggs—tryptophan levels aren’t enough to explain how sleepy you feel after overeating at Thanksgiving.
What makes holiday feasts sleep-inducing—Thanksgiving, in particular—is the combination of all of the above. First, you just eat a lot during the holidays. The same nerve bundles in your stomach lining that signal your brain to slow down your gorging also tell the brain to divert more of your body’s energy to digestion. Second, you eat a lot of carbs in the form of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and dinner rolls. The simple sugars trigger the release of insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin’s main job is to tell cells to absorb that sugar, but it also activates the absorption of some—but not all—amino acids, and raises the relative concentration of tryptophan. Tryptophan gets left behind to enter the brain. Cells in the brain convert tryptophan first into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy, and then into melatonin, which makes you sleepy.
After all the turkey and stuffing, you may manage to find room for a few bites of pumpkin pie, your appetite reinvigorated by the sight and smell of a new stimulus. The extra dose of simple sugars releases another spike of insulin, and perhaps your brain makes a little bit more melatonin. Sleep is thus irresistible. You pass out on the couch.
In the morning, your stomach is empty or somewhere close to it, your insulin levels are low, and you’re ready to do it all over again.
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