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Interview with Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner (Researcher)
Julie Laurin, Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner
Julie Laurin 00:17
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner, welcome to the podcast.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 00:21
Julie Laurin 00:24
Okay, so it’s been a while since we last spoke the last time we spoke, we did an interview on Twitch for my science stream there. And you were doing I think it was a postdoc out in California. Is that right?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 00:38
Yeah, I’ve been in California for three and a half years. Right. And now you’re back in Austria. Exactly. So I just returned during the corona pandemic, which was quite interesting. But yeah, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve been here now since end of July. And I’m starting again. Rebuilding and, and reconnecting to people.
Julie Laurin 01:07
Yeah, it’s got to be weird to move during a pandemic.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 01:10
Yeah, it’s it’s coming with its own challenges, I think. But then, it wasn’t as bad as we thought. And really, everything went really smooth. No big problems, or no big things that happened during the travel. But you of course, had to prepare in a different way. As you would probably normally.
Julie Laurin 01:35
Yeah, I bet. I bet. Now, you, you really you have some fun research that you do? You are specialized in researching fat cells?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 01:45
Exactly. Yeah. I mean, they can be my best friend. And also my biggest nightmare, I think. So depending on, on how the experiments in the lab go. I just just so that people know, you’re not a medical doctor, you’re a biochemist, right? Yeah. I like by chemists by training. So I I not treating other people, I cannot give any advice. I can just like, I can interpret papers. And yeah, and and say what scientists before me and colleagues are researching, and how this makes sense. Yeah. Okay, so let’s dig right into it. First of all, let’s start with the very basics. I’m curious to know, what exactly are fat cells? And what do they do in our body? Yeah, so I mean, everybody knows this belly fat, or not everybody, but most people have a little bit of belly fat or a little bit of fat where they don’t want it, I guess. So you kind of know what that is. But fat cells are the cells that accumulate or that story, this fat that comes from nutrition from the food that you eat. And they’re quite important for the body because they also insulate organs. And apart from that, from disposing of fat storage, they can also release hormones, which regulate the body’s metabolism. So if a fat cell, for example, gets sick, that makes your whole body sick. And as long as that fat cell is healthy, I mean, it’s actually also a good thing that it can take up fat because the fat if it doesn’t get stored, it can also make your buddy sick. So I’m in fat cells actually good guys. But yeah, if they are having to store too much of the fat, because eat too much. So your energy consumption exceeds your energy exceeds the energy consumption at the energy intake exceeds your energy, energy consumption, then fat cells grow. And that leads to a whole bunch of problems. So this is also what I’m going to study.
Julie Laurin 04:13
have a quick question about that? Can because we we frequently hear that people have a slow metabolism. First of all, is there such a thing as a slow metabolism?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 04:23
Well, I mean, your metabolism is controlled by a lot of different things. And I mean, a slow metabolism, you might be able to say so because also genetic factors control your metabolism. And if your genetics kind of predispose you to having a I would say under cross a slow metabolism, then yes, this might also be true, but in general, um, I would say it’s more like ratio between your fat content and your muscle content. muscles are burning energy. And if you have a lot of trained muscles, they burn a lot of energy, muscle. And fat cells are more like the storage cells, as I already said in the beginning. So they kind of slow down your metabolism. They’re not, they’re not made for burning, then what made for storage? And so if your ratio between your fat and your muscle mass is like, in the in the wrong balance, then yeah, you could probably say, you have a slow metabolism. But usually, that’s not the reason for becoming obese, I would say.
Julie Laurin 05:45
Right, and and that’s one of the things that I like to do on the show is, you know, I had an immunologist on the show in a day. And, you know, we talked a lot about popular misconceptions about the immune system, especially right now, during a pandemic. I mean, it’s kind of crazy the kinds of assumptions that people have about how the immune system works, and all that stuff. So I’m really curious. And because you’re a researcher, and you know, fat cells really well, I mean, that’s your specialty, you, you’re probably very well acquainted with some of the myths and the misconceptions around fat. And for me, the big the big thing is, you know, hearing stuff like, I have a slow metabolism. Well, I’ve always been curious to know, well, is that such a thing? And if not, then what is, you know, what causes fat cells to to become? Essentially, I don’t want to say out of control, because that’s probably incorrect as well. But what causes people to become obese? is there is there is something that that is really an easy, as easy as saying they’re eating too much? Or are there genetic factors? Or there is viruses that can cause obesity? Like, what what? What would you say are like the top three reasons people gain a lot of weight?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 07:02
I mean, you’ve mentioned two of them. It’s, if you too much. And then also, if you don’t move enough, I mean, again, you you become obese, because your energy consumption or your energy intake, the food that you that you eat, exceeds what your body can burn. And if your body cannot burn the energy, it needs to be stored somewhere. It’s like energy good in and I, yeah, either it’s burned, or it’s, it’s going to go somewhere. And I’m basically going into this fat cells and fat cells are crazy dynamic, they can blow up four times their size, and store that. And they are mainly built out of fat. And little else, I mean, there is a little bit of a, of a cell nucleus and a little bit of other organelles in the cell, but mainly it’s fat. Um, well, this can make you obese is, of course, also your genetics. So it’s usually coming from a family history if your family suffers from, or a lot of people in your family suffer from obesity, you’re probably also more predisposed to develop obesity in some time in your life, so you have to be more careful and look out, then also, the energy content of our food changed in the last decades, I would say it’s a lot more energy dense than it used to be. There’s a lot more fat and there’s a lot more sugar in it. And also this high fructose, high glucose, corn syrup is really, really bad for you. And people don’t realize that I think they don’t realize how energy dense The food is, and how much more they would have to move to burn this type of energy that they actually consume. And also our lifestyle has changed so we are much more sedentary than before then we used to be decades before and also our transportation changed. I mean, everything is much easier accessible, you just take your car and you go to the city and you don’t really have to move a lot. You’re having a job where you sit on your on you in front of your computer most of the time to also that doesn’t burn a lot of energy. And all those factors accumulate and, and all of them together, cause obesity, and that’s why it’s a very multifactorial factorial disease. So not just one factor, cause disease? It’s a lot of factors playing together.
Julie Laurin 10:04
So is obesity considered a disease?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 10:07
Yes, definitely. Ah, it’s not some. So I think this is probably a misconception that is that I would go against in society that obesity is just something that people that are too lazy or people that are not having the life under control develop. It’s it is a disease that is caused by a lot of factors, as a lot of them are preventable, like, higher energy consumption, or also the sedentary lifestyle. But I think you could probably the easiest to compare it is addiction to food. And since addiction is also considered as he sees addiction to food should also be considered a disease. Because it changes also circuits in your brain where you cannot, your body needs this type of energy, or at least tells you that it needs this type of energy. And so this is part of obesity that can also be treated or that that scientists try to find drugs against this kind of addiction.
Julie Laurin 11:30
Is there is there a solution on the market though, for food, food addiction?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 11:34
Well, nothing that works. So far, it’s also a very complicated topic as as you might think, I mean, it’s not, it’s not as easy as it sounds to have like one pill, and then you get slim, you have to fight this disease from different angles. And most importantly, of all, is still a lifestyle change. So you have to, yeah, you have to get rid of this addiction, to get rid of to change the circuits in your brain that sport is a good thing, and that I am moving is giving you also this satisfaction that usually you only get out of food. So yeah, it’s definitely there is no one pill solution for this. And that probably will never be, but it’s still something that research is being done on. Yes.
Julie Laurin 12:42
And it’s so interesting that, you know, I recognize myself when you’re when you’re talking about food addiction, because, you know, my, my entire family, my entire family line has, you know, some some obesity issues, and my partner, and I would joke because I trace my ancestry, you know, to the north of France, which is very heavy on cream and butter, and, you know, all of these kind of like, larger women who, you know, who do very well, in the winter time, let’s say. So, I guess there there is a genetic component, then if you come from a long line of, you know, women who were rather large, and you know, whose bodies were adapted for being rather large, you’re really gonna have to fight harder, right? I mean, you’re gonna have to, like you said, really fight against everything that your body is almost programmed to do.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 13:37
Yeah, yeah. I mean, have you? Have you heard about epigenetics? Yes, yeah. So I mean, this is the imprinting of your DNA, it’s kind of if you if your DNA is, is your cook is a cookbook, then the epigenetics are like, post it notes in this cookbook, that give you extra information about the recipes. So and this is handed from one generation to the next generation. And so yeah, it could also definitely be that epigenetics is something that predispose predisposes you to, um, just having a little bit more trouble to, to keep your body weight because some genes are just, like, made more than others, or the other way around. And this influences your whole body metabolism. So yeah, you’re right. It’s, it’s often hard to tell which, which genes exactly, or it’s almost impossible to tell.
Julie Laurin 14:50
But a family history of obesity definitely gives your heart or start in Yeah, yeah, it It definitely does and it is It’s very frustrating when your friends can eat all the sweets and the desserts that they want. And
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 15:05
Julie Laurin 15:06
you have to be a little bit more careful not that you can’t. I think that there is a an extreme with any with any topic like this. There are always extremes. And then the other thing is people, there’s a societal factor, right? I mean, people succumb to marketing and advertising and like you said, less and or, or the you said that the food is too energy dense? Is that correct? Yeah,
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 15:30
it’s very energy dense. But I’m, I’m really glad that you mentioned that because the socio economic factor. So I mean, that’s basically the factor that comes from where you live and in which wealth you’re living is also affecting obesity development a lot. So I mean, people that are coming from low income countries are usually more prone to develop obesity later in life, because it’s just, if you think about it, you’re going to store and, and what are the what is the cheap food that you can buy? I mean, it’s, I don’t know exactly the prices, of course. But ah, a can of coke costs nothing. But then I can choose a really I mean, it’s probably not the right comparison. But let me get that give you another one. Let’s do with fruits and, and chips. I mean, you go into the store, and you have a bag of chips, which costs nothing, and then a bag of apples costs maybe three times as much. So what are you going to buy? Um, of course, this doesn’t make you fool I mean, the chips and, and apples would probably be a better option for snacking. But in the end is still probably go for the chips. And especially if you have less money. You’re not buying this three times more expensive bag of apples if you need some extra snacks or something like that. And I’m still not happy with my with my example. but you get the point, I guess.
Julie Laurin 17:20
Yeah. But it also leads me to I guess, to the next question, which is, if I have two types of food, so let’s say a bowl of oatmeal, and a bowl of chips, and let’s say if we measure the same, it’s the same calories, does it affect the fat cells the same way?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 17:39
I know actually doesn’t. So I mean, it’s also the composition of the food. In in the bag of chips, you have a lot of fat and a lot of like, fat that. So you mean you have the same same amount of calories? Right?
Julie Laurin 18:01
Yeah, yeah. So let’s say you have a bowl of chips in it a bowl of oatmeal.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 18:05
Yeah, I mean, the same same amount of calories should be handled by your body the same way. Because it’s calories calories. But usually this amount is a lot less in the chips. So it’s probably more likely that you eat the same amount of oatmeal and the same amount of chips. And then of course, the chips have a lot more calories. Indian. Yeah, it’s, it’s that’s a good question.
Julie Laurin 18:38
Yeah, it’s one of the things that it’s actually something that I see a lot of people asking about, which is like, Yeah, well, you know, can I eat like, the same calories? And does it affect my fat cells the same way? And I don’t know if science even has an answer for that.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 18:53
Ah, yeah. I mean, yes, it does in certain types of foods. I mean, for example, for those soda, this high fructose high glucose syrup is, is somehow making yourself more sick than other nutrients. And people try to understand why this is the case. It probably is because it activates different, activates the cells in a different way. So yeah, to understand what it causes in the cells, that’s what researchers do in the lab. So you are right. But I cannot give you specific examples about those things right now. So yeah, yeah,
Julie Laurin 19:45
that’s what I was curious about. I was like, Is there something you know, maybe that inside the like you said, like, a specific ingredient, especially manufactured things I was
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 19:54
really I mean, there are this trans fatty acids Did you did you hear about those airports? Yeah, I mean, they are definitely it’s something that is not occurring in natural food in a in a large amount, but it’s occurring in processed food. So this is definitely something that is more toxic to yourself than a normal occurring. fatty acid, a normal occurring fat. So yeah, I processed food and high content of also salt and fat and sugar. They’re always more Yeah, worse for your buddy then something like oatmeal that contains a lot of fiber. And yeah, and, and the fiber is also influencing your gut microbiota, this is the bacteria that live in your, in your stomach or another salming in your intestine influences this differently. So the oatmeal is definitely more. And how is it better for you and for you is healthier than the chips in any race? Um, but I’m glad that we kind of just depicted those two foods. Oh, boy, it took a while?
Julie Laurin 21:24
That’s a really good
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 21:25
question. I like your question.
Julie Laurin 21:28
I’m very curious. Again, it’s one of those things that I’ve kept. Because because I come from a family of especially women who are obese, or at least you know, overweight, let’s say, you know, it’s always, it’s always like for myself, I’m always trying to cut through the, you know, the the bullshit, essentially, you know, surrounding food and nutrition and fat. So, that’s why I asked these questions, because I’m like, you’re an expert in fat cells. So
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 22:00
I might as well. Well, I’m an expert in fat cells. I’m not in the creationist. So I mean, I might still say things that so my sister, she is a nutritionist, and she might be like, Ah, come on, why didn’t you? Why didn’t you say that better than? I don’t know about.
Julie Laurin 22:22
But so that So then why don’t you tell us what, what is exactly your specialty? I know. And I know, it’s probably going to be very specific and scientific. But if you could maybe say it in a way that, you know, people who aren’t scientists can understand exactly what your specialty is? Well,
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 22:40
I mean, what we already discussed, I’m looking into how fat cells developed. So there’s a certain program into cells that need to run, for them to become like to get from a normal cell or from a cell that does not contain fat to a fat cell. And so this is one of the things that I studied, but then also, I started the consequences of obesity, which is diabetes, for example. Um, so I am just trying to see which factors do influence the development of those diseases. And we do it in the lab that we have those factors that eventually or that we, we think that they might have big influence on this processes. And then we hinder these factors in either genetic ways, or we have drugs that we can use about against it. And then we look into those fat cells still develop or if it is in an organism, does this organism still develop? Maybe it is, and yeah, so this is basic research in a way. So you try to understand how the basic processes occur. And yeah, this is
Julie Laurin 24:13
okay. So I have to ask now, when it comes to diabetes, which is such a major problem in North America, and I know that it tends to run in the families and at least type one anyways, because type two, I don’t believe has that many weight. So let’s go back here, this type to also run in families.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 24:37
Yes, it does. I mean, my grandfather, my grandfather’s both had type two diabetes. And, and, and again, I have a good chance to develop type two diabetes that a person that has no cases of type two diabetes in their family, so I have to be a little bit more careful and how to be listed been more aware that I don’t gain too much weight or that I, I, I stay active? And yeah, I mean, it does run in the family as it is all of this metabolic diseases unfortunately do. But it’s only one factor. Again, if we if I know that I can stay healthy by just doing the right things eating healthy food and, and having enough physical activity. So just because it runs in my family doesn’t
Julie Laurin 25:42
mean that I need to develop it later in my life. Which is interesting, because in my case, we don’t have any history of type one or type two, as far as I know, anyway. And so I always wonder like, Oh, you know, do I have to work as hard? Because it’s not in the family, but it can be diabetes is something that can develop? Yeah, because of other factors other than genetic, right?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 26:09
Yes, exactly. And one of the biggest factor is obesity. So, overweight and obesity. s like, yeah, it’s it’s one of the biggest factor for type two diabetes. Hmm,
Julie Laurin 26:24
what what is your so what is your research shown in regards to the relationship between fat cells and diabetes?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 26:32
Well, obesity causes insulin resistance, which means that your body is not responding to the insulin it produces anymore. And insulin is this hormone that is very important that the organs in your body take up glucose from from the bloodstream. So if they get resistant, which means they just just, it just doesn’t don’t respond to insulin anymore, they get resistant to it, you develop diabetes. So yes, and insulin resistance starts also in fat, tissue, and obesity makes fat tissue sick. So fat tissue cannot pick up the glucose, it should. And that’s how it’s causing also diabetes, amongst other problems or amongst other consequences in other organs in the body.
Julie Laurin 27:31
Okay, and so is this what we would consider as it is a form of inflammation.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 27:38
Right, I mean, fat cells get inflamed. When they are obese, or fat, sugar gets inflamed, because fat cells can only blow up and take up lipids, and fat to certain degree and, and even during this process, they already start struggling. And some of them start dying. So immune cells come to get rid of this dying cells. And that again, leads tourists cert a cycle of that process processes that are running in your fat tissue that influence the development of insulin resistance.
Julie Laurin 28:28
It’s so fascinating to me, how how the body just react, it’s almost like a ticking time bomb, almost, you know, like, and have you found through your research, like, at what point this happens is there like a threshold that has to pass you know what I mean, by a mean threshold to develop into
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 28:48
instantly resistance and and by
Julie Laurin 28:53
the way, I’m understanding it based on how you’re, you’ve explained it is the cell becomes inflamed, the cell then dies, the immune system comes in fetches it, and then somehow that involves the pancreas.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 29:07
Yeah, I mean, the pancreas, so um, it’s like, communication between organs in your body all of the time. So it’s not just the fat tissue and the pancreas, it’s also the brain and the liver, or the muscles that are all kind of in communication with each other. So if you have an imbalance in this metabolism in one organ, it also influences other organs. So it’s kind of a domino effect. And, and, and often, it’s, it’s also difficult to say where it comes from, but it’s an interplay between all those orange And yeah, if if one of them, it’s not working fine anymore, the other ones have to work even harder. And that makes them again, sick. And it’s at that circle that Yeah,
Julie Laurin 30:16
it is. You know, one of the things we talked about briefly again, when when I had a podcast with Dr. Brian Hite, who’s an immunologist is inflammation. I couldn’t believe like, the effects of inflammation, I think are even understated. In media in in school would imagine that for you inflammation is a very serious red flag.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 30:44
Yeah, definitely. I mean, inflammation is not only a problem in in obesity, but it’s also a problem. You’ve heard of heart disease or cardiovascular disease, right. So that’s inflammation in your arteries. And they’re sometimes caused by obesity, or even often caused by obesity. So inflammation in your body, and especially chronic inflammation, which means that the inflammation is not resolved, so it doesn’t go away. That’s a bad thing. So that means that you don’t really, you don’t feel anything that you don’t feel worse than, I mean, if you’re really sick, and you have a really full blown inflammation in your body, you feel that you’re sick, you’re young, you’re probably have fever, but this low chronic inflammation, you can feel, but it’s there. So that means your immune system is always alert is always on, on an activated state. It’s always like looking for some threat. And unfortunately, this being this alertness also leads to destruction of something healthy tissue. And, and, and also to have some, some type of, of Yeah, of negative consequences on a on a lot of different angles. So it’s just your immune system is kind of crazy all the time.
Julie Laurin 32:32
It is and it’s just interesting, because it impacts you know, obesity as well. stressors, like, lack of sleep, you know, yeah, not enough sleep, and all of a sudden, you’re gaining weight.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 32:44
Yeah, I mean, this is this is also one of the factors that is probably underestimated. And shiftwork is a big factor in, in all these diseases, also, heart disease, heart disease, and obesity is often seen and shift in people that are doing shift work, because the body’s metabolism is also directed by a rhythm. And this rhythm is called circadian rhythm, which basically means that it has this type of 24 hour circle cycle, which is guided by outside light, it’s kind of for the sun. And that very fascinating thing to me, I mean, I’m a little bit fascinated by the circadian rhythm is that every single cell in our body has an insight clock, which kind of runs in this 24 hour circle. And, and for shift workers, this clock is often disrupted. And that shifts your metabolism in, I would say from from a storage phase to a consumption phase and the storage phase again, in a way way shouldn’t be I mean, it’s it should be in a, in a, in a in a stage where it It burns the fat, but it’s actually in people have to work during your face. Yeah, it’s just you know, it’s just confusing, the whole clockwork in yourself and then the whole clockwork in your body. And that’s often the reason also for development of metabolic disease. You
Julie Laurin 34:42
metabolic disease, what? So what what are those in include? I know that includes I guess diabetes is a metabolic disease. 100 metabolic diseases are, you know, influenced or that influence fat cells
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 35:00
Yeah, heart disease is one of this. Also, there is a metabolic kidney disease. So it’s, it’s often caused by obesity. It’s often caused by diabetes, but sometimes also the kidneys get sick, they can also influence other types of diseases. And then metabolic diseases, of course, also obesity. Yeah. So everything influences your body’s metabolism.
Julie Laurin 35:33
And really quickly, last question about fat and then we’ll get to other topics is, what is the difference between fat burning and fat storage? Or is are there cells that do the burning?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 35:46
Yeah, there are, there are specialized cells that are called brown fat cells, and they do some burning. And they are mainly found in babies. Because babies have to keep the body temperature and they have a lot surface for their body size. And so they lose also a lot of heat. And so the body has generated this cool system where they can actually generate their own heat to certain degree. And these are this brown fat cells. So for a long time in research to have been thought of as the holy grail in obesity control. Because if we could activate normal cells, normal fat cells to become brown fat cells, and they start burning fat instead of storing it, that would be of course, ideal to fight this diseases. But the reality doesn’t look as easy as it might sound. So you cannot just activate fat cells in your body to become brown fat cells. Although, in experiments, this of course, has been done. And the other thing is that in human adult’s we don’t have a lot of those brown fat cells, we do have them. But they kind of get lost after your, your baby. So yeah, but they’re pretty cool. To be honest, I really like to look at them. Also under the microscope, they look very cute. And, and they are fascinating cells, because they’re really, really specialist in this key producing versus storage function.
Julie Laurin 37:38
So is it incorrect, then when you see something like an advertisement that says burn fat? Or, you know, burn, burn this burn that it’s all it’s all a bunch of crap? Right?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 37:52
Yeah, I mean, I would say yes, in most cases, it is. I mean, you can, of course, increase your metabolism, you what we talked about in the beginning, that you that your body just consumes more energy in certain ways, but I think the best ways to do so is still physical energy, physical activity, and also a healthy diet, where you just don’t have as much that much energy in the healthy diet, you have fibers, you have fresh ingredients, all those things. I would not trust any of those advertisements. If, if I wouldn’t see the science behind it. I mean, let’s say frankly, if it is really proven that it works. I mean, why not try, but most of those things are just fake. Right? Yeah.
Julie Laurin 39:04
Yeah. It’s snake oil thing. So I have to ask you, you know, one of the things I’ve learned from a lot of friends who have done their PhDs, whether it’s in science or history, or whatever, is that they’ve always had some sort of personal connection with the topic that they’ve specialized in otherwise, it wouldn’t keep your interest for very long, I don’t think what is your personal connection to this research?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 39:32
Well, I think my personal connection are maybe really my grandparents. Just they have they suffered from diabetes. I mean, most of my adult life, and I, I’ve seen how that affects them how that affects their daily routine because they had to measure insulin levels and then they had to inject themselves with with insulin. So They are all like really dependent on this, on this, on this. Things and and I’m sure that it made the life harder. And so that’s definitely one personal connection that I have. And I am just naturally curious. I like to think I like to know how things in our body work. And I’m brought to the city where I did my university studies. It’s very specialized on all this obesity research and fats and research and also how fat cells work, what they do, what are the different factors that influence it. So it came naturally that I started with fat cells, and then I got very, very interested in understanding how they work further. Because it’s, it’s really fascinating. And it’s such a important topic to work on, because it’s just affecting so many people in the world. I’ve read a fact that since 1975, the cases in obesity tripled. And and in this, it’s just killing so many people every year. That, yeah, I just think it’s really important topic. It is,
Julie Laurin 41:33
it’s exceptionally important. And, and for me, what I find even, you know, as a, as a podcaster, as, as the person who’s asking the questions is, because I see the other side of things, which is all the myths and the misconceptions. And that gets so much more play time than the actual science sometimes, you know, like, so I think it’s so wonderful that you’re studying this topic, that you’re doing it, you know, like you said, For because you had a personal connection, but also out of curiosity, which is what I think will make it so that lasts even longer, right? You have to have the Curiosity as a as a student, and as a scientist, is this something that it’s something that that will allow you to just keep going, do you? Do you enjoy being I guess, I guess I I know the answer to this, but I would assume that you enjoy being a scientist?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 42:29
Oh, yeah, I definitely do. I mean, I like this. And figuring out stuff and and you never know where it leads you. I mean, you follow up the lead. And of course, you It could mean that you find it that you figure something out, but often you get new questions, rather than answers. And, I mean, it’s, it has some, it’s kind of cool to also have this first question. And then you realize, oh, but there’s all these other questions now that need to be answered to. I mean, it’s cool and it’s daunting and it’s also often very depressing to be honest. But But yeah, it’s this is it’s this vast majority, it’s this vast amount of knowledge that we can never really figure out completely. So there will always be an open an open question in the end and, and something that we can still follow up there will never be all the answers to everything. And I think that makes science really cool. In a way of at least for me this is it’s still something new to figure out. Yeah.
Julie Laurin 43:56
And the patience the the patience the long term thinking I think is what makes a scientist different from somebody who perhaps isn’t suited to become a scientist is is the ability to just be patient.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 44:11
Yeah, I mean, this is definitely something that every scientist needs for in and and then also not only being patient but only also being a little bit tolerant to yeah to bad things that happen to frustration. So if you’re not if you’re not frustration tolerance, it’s probably also not the job the right job for you. And this is probably also something where I am sometimes I have to say I’m struggling with this frustration part of science. I’m the curious the curious things that they that’s what gets me but then there’s often long stretch off off this, how to be very, very patient to get to the next point. And this can be hard. Yeah, we,
Julie Laurin 45:12
we spoke? Well, essentially we brought up the topic of imposter syndrome. At some point, you and I, and because you also for me, I try to bring it up as often as I can, because for two reasons, I find that there’s a link between the science, science and the arts. And in the arts imposter syndrome is so normal. It’s so, so common. And then I learned recently, though, that it’s also very common in academia. Oh, yeah, it is.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 45:46
It’s really, really, I mean, it’s very common, and I’ve heard something in on Twitter. I saw that a couple of weeks ago, and it kind of stuck in my mind. It’s like, the more you know, the less the more you know, the more you realize how little you know. And that’s probably why imposter syndrome even grows, the farther you get in your career. Um, at least I can tell from from people that are in the same stage of career like I am, that imposter syndrome is definitely a thing. Because you think that you should know things already. Because of your, like, like year long experience and and all the reading that you’re doing. And and then you don’t know it, because people are not made to remember everything or simply probably you haven’t really read about it. So there is no such thing as you have to know everything. But often scientists think that they are supposed to know everything, at least what when it comes to their field. And so imposter syndrome is definitely something that destroys a lot of good scientists also, if it is over boarding, and because they they’re never satisfied with what they doing and what they accomplished. And, and they always think that there’s somebody, someone out there that knows it better than them, which is probably true, but I think even this person that knows that better thinks the same. Again. So yeah, I mean, we always think that we are not suited to do the thing that we actually doing.
Julie Laurin 47:51
Yeah, it’s such a phenomenon that I think and I think it’s under discussed, I think, yeah, you know, I think everybody knows it, but nobody wants to talk about it, because nobody wants to admit, to feeling it. As though it’s somehow going to decrease their value if they admit that they feel like a charlatan, you know,
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 48:13
yeah, it’s, it’s really, um, yeah, it’s very interesting. Because in the, in the beginning of your studies, you think, Oh, my God, all those people they know so much. And then you’re at this stage, you know, and you think, Oh, my God, all these other people are so much and I know. Um, it never really ends. kind of crazy, but I guess we should all be more proud about ourselves. And
Julie Laurin 48:46
I think so. I think so. And and another thing I wanted to bring up, because it’s something that I see a lot on your Twitter accounts is that you do art.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 48:55
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ve always done art. I think that’s, I have to thank my mom for that. She was an art teacher or she’s an N hen and a crafting teacher, let’s say like this. And so she always let us do all those things at home. Maybe we’re crafting all the time or painting or doing other stuff and and so she first said that they early and then I also had or I actually have my best friend who is she’s just so creative. And so she she became my best friend. And so I was in this position where I I was I had to do something you know, I she was painting all the time. So I painted to kind of keep up with her. I was never that good, but I just realized that creativity is really, really important part of of my life. And that’s why I also tried to incorporate it now more into my into my career. And And so yeah, And I’m doing a little bit of science art, I would say, or I started with it. But what I also really want to do is communicate science through art. So in communicate science in general, because this is where I can put on both my parts together this crit creative part and the curious part. And I can, yeah, I can merge that. And and I think that’s a good fit for me.
Julie Laurin 50:32
It’s so beautiful. There is there is I think, really? And this goes back to the beginning of our talk, which is, there’s a connection between the curiosity in science and the curiosity in the arts. Oh, yeah. Did you do you find? Do you feel the same way? When you’re exploring something something scientifically, as when you’re painting?
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 50:56
Yeah, even I even sometimes have to add more if I’m painting or crafting. So I already tried a lot of techniques and a lot of different things in crafting. And every time I see, like, if I approach a project I might my my brain styles already going wild? Of how could I accomplish that? Which materials do I need, how to put them together to kind of get this result. And there’s a lot of same thinking in science as well. Although it’s not as easy to, to put into probably words, so into action as it is in in, in crafting, because you. Yeah, in the end, in crafting what I like if you have a product, and in science is often a little bit more difficult to show because your product is often just numbers on the page. And, but the thinking process is, is often similar, you have this problem, and then you try to find the things that you need to approach this problem. And I really do think that scientists can learn a lot of from artists in this creative process thinking and the other way around. I think also artists can learn a lot from scientists. So I really do think that this liaisons between scientists and artists can be very fruitful. I spend this workshop together with a performing art department in science communication, and I was just fascinated how performing artists approach communication and how to communicate science in a way that is very different from how scientists sometimes do. But But yeah, it also made me realize how we can learn from each other in this way.
Julie Laurin 53:01
Yeah, I think so. I really do. I really think that there’s a bigger link to explore between scientists and artists. Oh, yeah. I really, really do. So I’m thrilled that you’re doing this kind of work. What is your, what’s your long term? objective? What is the the thing that you want to be doing? Five to 10 years from now? Yeah, I
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 53:23
mean, if you would have asked that five years ago, and would anybody have sat in the middle of a pandemic? I don’t think so. Um, but, yeah, I mean, I think five years ago, everybody lied. But I try not to lie, right. Um, what I tried to do long term is really teach other scientists how to communicate their science better. That’s, I think this is the project of my heart now. Grab want to get to and, and taking the first steps by Yeah, promoting myself promoting my science promoting my communication skills a little bit more. But yeah, in the end, I want to be the one that is behind the scientists and helping them to become better communicators. And and this is just, yeah, again, I think it’s the perfect merge between my creative and my scientific side. So I’m not losing this. Things that I learned during my studies. This, I will still be a scientist. But um, yeah, I can also be a teacher or coach or other scientists to improve their skills. So that’s where I would do want to develop to And that’s so much interested anymore in staying at university and having my own research group. But yeah, this new project is what my heart is burning for.
Julie Laurin 55:14
I think it’s wonderful, because in a way you’ve already you already contributed to the research. So it almost you must feel at a certain point, like, okay, I’ve done this.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 55:25
Yeah, I mean, there is still more to come, I’m sure.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 55:32
also, there’s this this new way. And it’s kind of exciting, too. Yeah, we orient. Um, and I can just encourage people to make decisions to. Yeah, what do you want to do with their life, it took me quite a long time to realize that I was scientists much longer than I thought, am I a science communicator? And so it? I think part of it is also this imposter syndrome thingy that we talked about before, that you never feel like you’re able to do something like that. But then once you’re doing it, you realize, Oh, it’s actually working quite fine. And, and, yeah, it’s good to just jump and see what happens. Well, I’m super excited.
Julie Laurin 56:22
I’m definitely excited for you. I think you’re doing the right thing. If your hearts into it, go for it. And it’s a growing field. Science. Communication is a big, big deal right now. And it’s much much needed to fight, you know, the kinds of myths and misconceptions that we talked about earlier. So yeah, definitely. Listen, it’s been such a pleasure having you on the show. It’s been amazing to be able to kind of, you know, poke at you and ask you questions, even though some of them perhaps were kind of, you know, really complex and curious, but that’s, that’s the way it goes sometimes, you know, so,
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 57:00
Julie Laurin 57:01
I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 57:04
Thank you for having me.
Julie Laurin 57:05
It’s been fun.
Dr. Ariane Pessentheiner 57:06
Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Julie Laurin 57:10