Making a Lipid Rap Video

Serious study of any subject, including lipids, requires many hours of careful reading. Yet putting science to music can make the process a more pleasant experience. Over 30 years ago, Dr. Harold Baum, now a retired but still active Professor of Biochemistry at Kings College of the University of London, composed a song on a particular biochemical pathway for his department’s annual Christmas party. A collection of these songs were published as The Biochemists’ Songbook by Pergamon Press in 1982 in honor of Professor Hans Krebs 80th birthday. A cassette tape with professional recordings of these songs was also released at that time. A second edition was later published by Taylor and Francis in the UK and CRC Press in the US in 1995. Since the tapes were no longer available, permission was recently obtained by Dr. Jeff Cohlberg, Professor of Biochemistry at California State University, to convert the tape tracks to MP3. These songs are now used in his biochemistry course and are available to anyone. One can only imagine an examination in which the normal sterile silence is replaced by a pleasant humming sound as students try hard to remember the lyrics of fatty synthesis or beta oxidation. Professor Harold Baum is a fellow Brumie (a person born in Birmingham, UK). While I did not know Harold personally, I was very friendly with his brother, the late Professor David Baum, who sadly passed away at a far too young age over twenty years ago.

The creation of this songbook suggested to me that it might be fun to create a rap based on lipid science. Instead of doing a plain poster on aspects of lipid education I decided to do it in the form of a rap. The main challenge was how to cover a lipid topic in 9 short verses. I pondered over this problem over the next few days by running through verses in my mind whenever I drove anywhere or in meetings that were far too long and unproductive. I finally thought of a suitable title for the rap, Lipids Get a Bad Rap: It Isn’t Fair!!! Once I had the title for the poster I could now focus on the content, which is where the fun really began. With such a catchy title I needed to have an equally engaging and dramatic opening verse. I used to teach a communications course to the final year students in which they wrote a scientific paper and a consumer-type paper on the same topic. I continually emphasized that unless you can catch the consumer in the first sentence, he or she won’t bother reading any further. With this in mind I came up with a dramatic verse that clearly stated why lipids are so important to the body. To help you read the verse in a rap style the word/words in bold must be emphasized to maintain the rhythym or beat.

Without lipids we can’t survive
They help the cells in our bodies stay alive
They control what enters and what leaves
By the way the phospholipids in the membranes interweaves

 

This verse states categorically how crucial lipids are to our life and the importance of phospholipids in membranes that help control what enters and what leaves. The instructor can then further elaborate on the important properties of membranes such as fluidity.

In the next two verses I wanted to emphasize some of the important properties that lipids contribute to the body, particularly insulation, and in animals and birds for their very survival. The following two verses illustrate both of these points;

Adipose tissue comes from lipids we eat
It covers our bodies and regulates heat
Without it we would constantly shiver
That’s why fat is also made in the liver
 
The lipids in the hump keeps camels alert
So they can travel for weeks in the hot dry desert
Lipids are also the sole energy I’ve heard
For hibernating animals and migrating birds

 

With these three verses I established the overall importance of lipids to our body, the remaining verses would now focus on specific aspects of lipids. In fact the next three verses were dedicated to demonstrating the importance of cholesterol, without a doubt one of the most maligned lipid components. I wanted to emphasize the crucial roles that cholesterol plays in our metabolism in a humorous yet informative style. This took a lot of playing around with the verses in which I focused on the importance of cholesterol to lipid digestion, its role in the biosynthesis of vitamin D, and of course in the production of sex hormones. These are shown in the following three verses:

Cholesterol, cholesterol gets all that bad attention
Without you there would be no lipid digestion
They are needed in the bile to emulsify the fats
So the body gets all those polyunsaturates
 
Without cholesterol where would we be?
When the sun shines you make vitamin D
Without it we would all suffer from rickets
Bow legged and chirping like a bunch of crickets
 
Cholesterol, cholesterol, we need you real bad
Without you we wouldn’t be a mom or dad
You make those sex hormones we can’t do without
So civilization continues when we seniors all die out

 

The concluding three verses starts with the importance of lipids as carriers of important vitamins A, K and E, as we have already discussed vitamin D. The next verse deals with the least desirable lipids, trans and saturated fats. The final verse focuses on the good omega-3 fatty acids and the importance of moderation in your diet to prevent obesity, blood pressure and constipation.

Besides the carrying of vitamin D
Lipids also carry A, K and E
Vitamin E tries to stop oxidation
While without K there’s no clot formation
 
Yes some lipids are really bad for you
So make sure your diet has very few
No trans fats as they raise your LDL
And less saturated fats to keep your body well
 
So my friends not all lipids are bad
As omega-3 fatty acids must be had
Everything in your diet must be done in moderation
To prevent obesity, high blood pressure, and even constipation

 

In putting together this poster rap it is important to find complimentary and colourful pictures to accompany the text to provide a pleasing visual display to the reader. Once the verses were completed and the rap recorded in our small recording studio, my very talented son, Ezra Eskin, composed the music, which he added to the recorded rap. The final product made for a very lively and interactive experience. The Lipid Rap Poster received a tremendous response at the 2012 AOCS Conference in California so they made a video of it with me performing next to the poster and put it on their web site. You can access the video on YouTube.

Since then I made a second lipid rap poster titled FATTY ACIDS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY that was presented at the 2013 AOCS Conference. It also received a lot of attention but a video was not made as the camera man was no longer with AOCS. On my return to Winnipeg, my department head, Dean, and Dr. Peter Jones of The Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, all contributed funds for the University of Manitoba Video Department to make the second video. My son Ezra encouraged me to put in a chorus with this video and we re-recorded the rap with the added choruses and music which was released on YouTube. One of the local and national TV networks picked up the new video and had me do two interviews which was a lot of fun. For those interested here is the link