Not only that, the results of eating badly is harmful. Holland and Barrett magazine reports: "If your diet isn't as balanced as you'd hope for, there's a chance you could be missing out on L. Trytophan - an important amino acid that plays a vital role in the production of brain chemicals." If one's diet is lacking it, the safest way to get this supplement is in the form of 5-HTP - a natural compound that the body produces from L-Trytophan. 5-HTP is believed to help the body produce serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood, sleep and other brain-related functions. (Pearce, 1999)
In aging people who seem to have no appetite, there actually may be a sensory dysfunction, which keeps that person from enjoying food and other things that are sensed through taste and smell. Susan S. Schiffman, Ph.D. pointed out that in the elderly these senses are not entirely gone, but the thresholds for them are higher. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that examined how much an elderly person would need to taste sweeteners, socium salts, acids and bitter compounds. The older members of the study needed more of the substance to pass their taste threshold; for instance, an elderly person needed 11 times more salt than a younger person in order to taste it. (Glezos, 2006)
While loss of taste and small reduce the quality of one's food and diminish one's enjoyment of life for affected individuals, there is actually an increase of risk for developing depression and unwanted weight loss. The good news is that in many cases the loss of these senses is temporary or minor. These disorders, it may be discovered, disappear when an undiagnosed medical condition is successfully treated or one stops ingesting certain chemicals or medications.
For many people with taste or smell dysfunctions, life has lost its gusto," Schiffman said, both figuratively and literally, "but food enhancers and other treatment approaches, when used properly and with a physician's guidance, can help 'nontasters' comply with dietary restrictions and at the same time enjoy food again." (Glezos, 2006)
Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., director of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, said Schiffman's work represented "a perfect example of the inextricable links between behavior, biological functioning, and health." This type of research, he added, "demonstrates how sensory deficits may alter dietary patterns in ways that may be health-damaging in many individuals." (Glezos, 2006)
As we are beginning to see, one's habits and diet, brain and bodily functions, activities and medications are all intertwined and if one of these things is affected, it may have an effect on one or all of the other parts of life.
One of the activities that Max enjoyed most, besides fishing, was drinking. He drank quite a bit more than the normal man his age. Usually by this age, someone who has habitually drunk a lot of liquor has developed some kind of illness because of it. The kidneys and liver are highly sensitive to constant, large quantities of liquor passing through them and begin to break down. There is pain and incontinence. Many people have begun to limit their intake of liquor because they recognize that it is harmful to their bodies, by this age.
But Max continues to drink. A lot of people think beer is not as harmful or intoxicating as hard liquor, but taken in large quantities, it contains the same amount of alcohol and has the same effect on the body as if one had drunk hard liquor. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, almost 18 million Americans abuse alcohol. More than 100,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes each year. Nearly half of all U.S. traffic deaths have alcohol as one of the factors involved.
Alcohol addiction occurs gradually as drinking alcohol alters the balance of some chemicals in the brain, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits impulsiveness, and glutamate, which makes the nervous system excited. Alcohol raises the levels of dopamine in the brain, which makes one feel good and in a pleasant state. Long-term consumption of alcohol can deplete or increase the levels of some chemicals, causing the body to crave alcohol to get back those good feelings or to avoid the negative ones. Low-self-esteem or depression may makes one more likely to abuse alcohol. Having a friend who drinks regularly may promote excessive drinking. It is difficult to distance oneself from "enablers" or at least from their drinking habits (Mayo. 2006).
Over time, excessive alcohol use can cause fatigue and short-term memory loss, as well as weakness and paralysis of the eye muscles. Other severe health effects may include liver disorders, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems, diabetes complications such as hypoglycemia, effects on sexual function, bone loss, neurological complications and increased risk of cancer (Mayo, 2006).
Alcoholism is an activity of the Type a personality. "Although there is strong evidence that psychosocial risk factors cluster in the same individuals," Redford Williams has reported, "it is equally important to note that they cluster in the same groups." Williams offered two plausible explanations to explain why those who have hard lives from childhood have increased risk factors: This group of people learns that the world can be unpredictable, dangerous, depressing, and alienating, and they cope by using food, alcohol, and nicotine to avoid or soften their stress. Secondly, these harsh conditions reduce the brain's serotonin function. A depletion of CNS serotonin in animal studies actually causes increased aggression and decreased bonding behaviors. Decreased serotonin also affects and leads to depression and increased alcohol consumption.
At a recent NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research seminar, Williams concluded "I am now convinced, after over 25 years of personal involvement in research on psychosocial risk factors and health, that these factors, and their biobehavioral accompaniments, do not occur -- or act -- in isolation. It is becoming increasingly clear that psychosocial and biobehavioral characteristics tend to cluster in the same individuals and groups." (Persons. 1997)
Although everyone is aware that behavioral/physical risk activities and conditions, such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, along with a sedentary life style increases the risk of life-threatening conditions such as coronary heart disease, Williams identified some psychosocial risk factors also detrimental to health. "It is increasingly clear that low SES, hostile personality, depression, social isolation, and job strain also contribute to poor health, and that these psychosocial risk factors have biobehavioral accompaniments." (Persons. 1997)
Max may or may not have the conditions discussed above, but he probably has some degree of alcoholism and/or depression (and, as we have seen, they often go together). His meeting and falling in love with Maria probably will not solve all his problems, but this is just a film and Max is just a dirty old man who someone made up to make this into a good story. Or is he?
About Dementia. http://www.about-dementia.com/.2006.
Davis, Alison. "Stress -- it might be even worse than you think," a Summary of the Conference "Biology of Stress" co-sponsored by the OBSSR and NIGMS, April 12, 2006.
Huang, Cindy S., et al. "Common Molecular Pathways Mediate Long-Term Potentiation of Synaptic Excitation and Slow Synaptic Inhibition." Cell (Journal), Volume 123, Issue 1, 7 October 2005, Pages 105-118.