Release Date 18 DEC 2014
Draft Report Compiled by
In this Issue:
- Cans lined with Bisphenol A may increase blood pressure
- Researchers identify hormone that reduces calorie burning, contributes to obesity
- Commonly prescribed painkiller not effective in controlling lower back pain
- Honeybee hive sealant promotes hair growth in mice
- New floor covering can lead to breathing problems in babies
- New study reveals Montmorency tart cherry juice accelerated recovery after intense cycling
- Even expectant dads experience prenatal hormone changes
- Non-gluten proteins identified as targets of immune response to wheat in celiac disease
- What was the ‘Paleo diet’? There was far more than one, study suggests
- Extra vitamin E protected older mice from getting common type of pneumonia
- Is the label ‘hypoallergenic’ helpful or just marketing hype?
- Wild blueberries (bilberries) can help tackle the adverse effects of a high-fat diet
Cans lined with Bisphenol A may increase blood pressure
American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report
Drinking or eating from cans or bottles lined with Bisphenol A (BPA) could raise your blood pressure, according to new research reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.
BPA, a chemical used as an epoxy lining for cans and plastic bottles, is everywhere, and its consumption has been associated with high blood pressure and heart rate variability. Previous studies have shown that BPA can leach into foods and drinks.
“A 5 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure by drinking two canned beverages may cause clinically significant problems, particularly in patients with heart disease or hypertension,” said Yun-Chul Hong, M.D., Ph.D., study author and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and director of the Environmental Health Center at Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea. “A 20 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
In this study, researchers conducted a randomized crossover trial recruiting 60 adults, mostly Korean women, over the age of 60 from a local community center. Each trial member visited the study site three times and was randomly provided with soy milk in either glass bottles or cans. Later urine was collected and tested for BPA concentration, blood pressure and heart rate variability two hours after consumption of each beverage.
Urinary BPA concentration increased by up to 1,600 percent after consuming canned beverages compared to after consuming the glass-bottled beverages.
Soy milk was the ideal beverage for the test because it has no known ingredient that elevates blood pressure, researchers said.
The study may provide important information for decision-makers, clinicians and the public on the heart risks associated with BPA, researchers said.
“Thanks to the crossover intervention trial design, we could control most of the potential confounders, such as population characteristics or past medical history. Time variables, such as daily temperatures, however, could still affect the results,” Hong said.
“I suggest consumers try to eat fresh foods or glass bottle-contained foods rather than canned foods and hopefully, manufacturers will develop and use healthy alternatives to BPA for the inner lining of can containers,” Hong said.
Researchers identify hormone that reduces calorie burning, contributes to obesity
Hamilton, ON (Dec. 8, 2014) – Researchers from McMaster University have identified an important hormone that is elevated in obese people and contributes to obesity and diabetes by inhibiting brown fat activity.
Brown adipose tissue, widely known as brown fat, is located around the collarbone and acts as the body’s furnace to burn calories. It also keeps the body warm. Obese people have less of it, and its activity is decreased with age. Until now, researchers haven’t understood why.
There are two types of serotonin. Most people are familiar with the first type in the brain or central nervous system which affects mood and appetite. But this makes up only five per cent of the body’s serotonin.
The lesser-known peripheral serotonin circulates in the blood and makes up the other 95 per cent of the body’s serotonin. McMaster researchers have discovered that this kind of serotonin reduces brown fat activity or “dials down” the body’s metabolic furnace.
The study, published today in Nature Medicine, is the first to show that blocking the production of peripheral serotonin makes the brown fat more active.
“Our results are quite striking and indicate that inhibiting the production of this hormone may be very effective for reversing obesity and related metabolic diseases including diabetes,” said Gregory Steinberg, the paper’s co-author and professor of medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. He is also co-director of MAC-Obesity, the Metabolism and Childhood Obesity Research Program at McMaster.
“Too much of this serotonin acts like the parking brake on your brown fat,” he explained. “You can step on the gas of the brown fat, but it doesn’t go anywhere.”
The culprit responsible for elevated levels of peripheral serotonin may also have been found.
“There is an environmental cue that could be causing higher serotonin levels in our body and that is the high-fat western diet,” said Waliul Khan, co- author, associate professor of pathology and molecular medicine for the medical school and a principal investigator at Farncombe Family Digestive Research Institute. “Too much serotonin is not good. We need a balance. If there is too much, it leads to diabetes, fatty liver and obesity.”
The majority of serotonin in the body is produced by tryptophan hydroxylase (Tph1). The McMaster team found that when they genetically removed or inhibited this enzyme that makes serotonin that mice fed a high-fat diet were protected from obesity, fatty liver disease and pre-diabetes due to an enhanced ability of the brown fat to burn more calories.
Notably, inhibiting the peripheral serotonin doesn’t affect the serotonin in the brain or central nervous system functioning, said Steinberg.
This is in contrast to earlier weight loss drugs which worked to suppress appetite by affecting levels of brain serotonin, but were associated with problems including cardiac complications and increased risk of depression and suicide.
“Moving forward, we think it’s a much safer method to work with increasing energy expenditure instead of decreasing the appetite, which involves more risks,” said Steinberg.
The researchers conclude that reducing the production of serotonin by inhibition of Tph1 “may be an effective treatment for obesity and its comorbidities,” and so the team is now working on a pharmacological “enzyme blocker.”
Commonly prescribed painkiller not effective in controlling lower back pain
A new study out today in the journal Neurology shows that pregabalin is not effective in controlling the pain associated with lumbar spinal stenosis, the most common type of chronic lower back pain in older adults.
“Chronic low back pain is one of the most common reasons why older adults go to the doctor and lumbar stenosis is the leading indication for surgery in this age group,” said John Markman, M.D., director of the Translational Pain Research Program in the University of Rochester Department of Neurosurgery and lead author of the study. “While physicians have increasingly looked for medication alternatives to opioid pain medication like gabapentin and pregabalin to help these patients manage their pain, until now there has been no credible evidence as to whether or not these treatments are effective for this problem.”
Pregabalin, which is marketed by Pfizer under the name Lyrica, is approved to treat chronic pain associated with shingles, spinal cord injury, fibromyalgia, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, it is also commonly prescribed as an “off label” treatment for chronic low back pain syndromes like lumbar spinal stenosis.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is brought about by a narrowing of the spinal canal caused by the degeneration of the vertebrae, discs, muscles, and ligaments that comprise the spinal column. This results in a compression of nerve roots that can trigger pain, tingling, and numbness in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. The pain is most commonly experienced when a person is upright or walking and can be lessened by bending forward at the waist, which is often why one sees older adults hunched over with a cane or a walker.
While some narrowing of the spinal canal occurs with normal aging and does not always cause pain, more severe compression of nerves limits mobility and leads patients to try stronger pain medications and epidural steroid injections in an attempt to control the pain that is associated with walking and standing.
Patients also often decide to undergo surgery that removes a portion of the bone or disc to give the nerve roots more room. The procedure – called a lumbar laminectomy – is the most common reason for spine surgery in people over the age of 60. While the surgery is initially highly successful, the pain often returns after a number of years. Also, for some patients, surgery is not an option.
For a long time, physicians have attempted to expand the arsenal of medications available to treat this condition. In fact, it is estimated that more than two thirds of the pain treatment regimens currently being used for lumbar spinal stenosis consist of drugs like pregabalin that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the condition.
The new study employed a novel approach to evaluating the effectiveness of pain treatments. Because the pain associated with the lumbar spinal stenosis is present when a person is upright or walking, the researchers asked individuals with the condition to report their pain levels while walking on a treadmill. They found there was no significant difference in the levels of pain experienced by those taking the drug and those that received a placebo.
“Given the cost and potential side effects associated with pregabalin, it is critical that we understand the efficacy of this drug,” Markman said. “This study convincingly demonstrates a lack of relief with pregabalin for the walking pain associated with lumbar spinal stenosis.”
Honeybee hive sealant promotes hair growth in mice
Hair loss can be devastating for the millions of men and women who experience it. Now scientists are reporting that a substance from honeybee hives might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy. They found that the material, called propolis, encouraged hair growth in mice. The study appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Ken Kobayashi and colleagues note that propolis is a resin-like material that honeybees use to seal small gaps in their hives. Not only does it work as a physical barrier, but it also contains active compounds that fight fungal and bacterial invasions. People from ancient times had noticed propolis’ special properties and used it to treat tumors, inflammation and wounds. More recently, research has shown that the substance promotes the growth of certain cells involved in hair growth though no one had yet tested whether that in turn would result in new locks. Kobayashi’s team wanted to find out.
When the researchers tested propolis on mice that had been shaved or waxed, the mice that received the treatment regrew their fur faster than those that didn’t. The scientists also noticed that after the topical application, the number of special cells involved in the process of growing hair increased. Although they tried the material on mice that could grow fur rather than balding mice, the researchers note that hair loss conditions often result from abnormal inflammation. Propolis contains anti-inflammatory compounds, so they expect it could help treat balding conditions.
They add that further testing is needed to see if the beehive material affects human hair follicles.
New floor covering can lead to breathing problems in babies
Pollutant levels before birth are apparently more critical than after
Leipzig. New flooring in the living environment of pregnant women significantly increases the risk of infants to suffer from respiratory diseases in their first year of life. This is the result of a study carried out by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the “St Georg” Municipal Hospital, which demonstrates that exposure to volatile organic compounds in the months before and after birth induces breathing problems in early childhood. The scientists therefore recommend that redecoration should be avoided during pregnancy or in the first year of children’s life. According to an article written by the scientists in the scientific journal Environment International this could prevent at a rough estimate around 20,000 cases per year of wheezing requiring medical treatment in infants in Germany alone.
The observed health risks are caused by increased concentrations of volatile organic compounds (in short: VOCs), such as styrene or ethylbenzene, which escape from new flooring and are then absorbed through the respiratory air. “We therefore do not recommend that laminate, carpet or floor coverings be laid in the homes of pregnant women. Although the concentrations of these volatile chemicals are lower if no adhesive is used when installing the flooring, even then the concentrations are still high enough to significantly increase the risk of infants suffering from respiratory complaints in their first few months”, explains Dr. Ulrich Franck from the UFZ. Thereby, in particular those children whose mother or father have already suffered from asthma, hay fever or other allergic diseases are affected with an up to fivefold increased risk for airway diseases.
Earlier studies from Leipzig had already shown that chemicals from home renovations lead to changes in the immune system of new-born children. “For example, we could determine an enhanced type 2 immune response in the cord blood of children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy, which plays an important role in the development of allergic reactions. The design of our long-term study with a comprehensive evaluation of environmental exposure before and after birth offers us a unique opportunity to study effects of this exposure on children’s diseases. According to our results, exposure to these volatile chemical compounds seems to be more critical in pregnancy than in the first year of a child’s life”, concludes Dr. Irina Lehmann from the UFZ, who is in charge of the LINA study on lifestyle and environmental factors and their influence on the risk of allergies in newborn babies. An analysis of the data showed that renovations after the birth of a child had a much lower impact on respiratory problems than during pregnancy. Hence, the recommendation to wait to lay new flooring until well after the birth.
The investigations were carried out as part of the LINA study, which monitors mother-child pairs since pregnancy in order to investigate the effect of environmental influences and lifestyle habits on health and well-being of the child. The LINA study includes both regular questionnaires and pollutant measurements in their homes and environment as well as laboratory tests and medical examinations. The recently published study refers to data from a total of 465 mother-child-pairs living in Leipzig. About two-thirds of the families carried out renovations during the pregnancy and every sixth of them additionally replaced the flooring. Tilo Arnhold
New study reveals Montmorency tart cherry juice accelerated recovery after intense cycling
December 15, 2014 – Cyclists who are preparing for race day may have a new sports drink to give them an edge in recovery: tart cherry juice. A new study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that Montmorency tart cherry juice helped accelerate recovery, maintain muscle function and reduce certain markers of exercise-induced inflammation among a group of cyclists participating in a simulated road race.
The research team, led by Glyn Howatson and Phillip G. Bell at Northumbria University in the U.K., conducted this double-blind, placebo-controlled study to identify the effects of Montmorency tart cherry juice on recovery from a metabolically challenging exercise: prolonged, high-intensity cycling. The study involved 16 well-trained male cyclists who were divided into two groups: one group consumed Montmorency tart cherry juice and the other group drank a placebo that contained an equal amount of carbohydrates.
The cyclists in the tart cherry juice group mixed 30 mL (or about 1 ounce) of Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate with 10o mL of water and drank the juice twice a day (8 a.m. and 6 p.m.) for eight consecutive days. Each glass contained the equivalent of 90-110 Montmorency tart cherries, which are the most common varietal of tart cherries grown in the U.S. These dark, ruby red cherries have been frequently studied for their potential role in exercise recovery, including a similar study with cyclists previously conducted by Howatson and Bell that examined the positive impact of Montmorency tart cherry juice after a three-day simulated road race.
The fifth day of the study involved a 109-minute cycling trial designed to replicate a road race.
The two groups were monitored after the race by assessing the blood for specific markers of physiological stress that helps evaluate the body’s ability to recover. The cyclists in the Montmorency tart cherry group maintained muscle function (as measured by maximum voluntary isometric contraction) and experienced a reduction in certain inflammatory responses following the simulated cycling race, compared to those consuming the placebo drink. The tart cherry juice also appeared to maintain exercise efficiency, reducing the amount of oxygen muscles need to do work. The VO-2 (maximal oxygen consumption) values were 4% lower at 24 hours compared to the placebo group.
To help assess dietary compliance, participants kept food diaries and were required to adhere to a low-polyphenolic diet that eliminated fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, alcohol, chocolate and whole grains for the duration of the study.
The authors conclude that this new study adds to the growing body of evidence providing support for the use of Montmorency tart cherry juice in exercise recovery. Given the existing research – among cyclists and marathon runners – they suggest future work should explore the potential benefits from strenuous exercises that are both metabolically and mechanically challenging, such as football, hockey and court sports.
Montmorency tart cherries are available year-round in dried, frozen and juice forms – including juice concentrate, which was the form used in the U.K. study. Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate can be mixed with water or other juices. It can also be consumed straight from the bottle or used as an ingredient in recipes, including smoothies and other beverages.
Even expectant dads experience prenatal hormone changes
Researchers recently completed one of the most extensive investigations to date of prenatal hormones in first-time expectant couples. Women showed large prenatal increases in salivary testosterone, cortisol, estradiol, and progesterone, while men showed significant prenatal declines in testosterone and estradiol, but no detectable changes in cortisol or progesterone.
While the results in women were expected, the results seen in men suggest that impending fatherhood might cause men’s hormone levels to change. Additional studies are warranted to understand whether partners’ prenatal hormone changes are linked with postpartum behavior and adjustment.
“Other studies have shown that men’s hormones change once they become fathers, but our findings suggest that these changes may begin even earlier, during the transition to fatherhood,” said Dr. Robin Edelstein, lead author of the American Journal of Human Biology study. “We don’t yet know exactly why men’s hormones are changing; these changes could be a function of psychological changes that men experience as they prepare to become fathers, changes in their romantic relationships, or even physical changes that men experience along with their pregnant partners.”
Non-gluten proteins identified as targets of immune response to wheat in celiac disease
NEW YORK, NY (December 15, 2014)–Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have found that, in addition to gluten, the immune systems of patients with celiac disease react to specific types of non-gluten protein in wheat. The results were reported online in the Journal of Proteome Research.
Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population, is triggered by the ingestion of wheat and related cereals in genetically susceptible individuals. The immune response results in inflammation and tissue damage in the small intestine, which can lead to severe gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as a number of extra-intestinal manifestations. Gluten proteins, which represent about 75 percent of the total protein content of wheat grain, are known to be the primary triggers of the immune response in celiac disease. While the role of gluten in celiac disease has been extensively studied since the 1950s, the possible involvement of wheat non-gluten proteins has not been characterized and is poorly understood.
“This work is the first to attempt mapping of the B cell response to non-gluten proteins of wheat in celiac disease,” said the study’s principal investigator, Armin Alaedini, PhD, assistant professor of medicine (in the Institute of Human Nutrition and the Celiac Disease Center) at Columbia University.
Dr. Alaedini and postdoctoral fellows Sina Huebener and Melanie Uhde, in collaboration with a team of scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, searched for the protein targets through two-dimensional separation techniques, immunoassays, and mass spectrometry. The new data identify a group of molecules known as serpins, in addition to four other types of wheat protein, as novel non-gluten immunogenic proteins in celiac disease.
Co-author Peter H. R. Green, MD, the Phyllis and Ivan Seidenberg Professor of Medicine and director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center, said, “These results indicate that immunologic reactivity in celiac disease may not be limited to wheat gluten, but can involve certain non-gluten proteins, too. I think the findings have implications for understanding the mechanism of the disease and developing new therapeutics.”
The authors caution that it remains to be seen whether the identified proteins play a role in contributing to the intestinal damage in patients with celiac disease. Dr. Alaedini noted that, “Although we can’t draw direct conclusions about the pathogenic effects of the proteins yet, these findings should prompt a closer look into their potential involvement in the inflammatory processes at work in celiac disease.”
What was the ‘Paleo diet’? There was far more than one, study suggests
ATLANTA–The Paleolithic diet, or caveman diet, a weight-loss craze in which people emulate the diet of plants and animals eaten by early humans during the Stone Age, gives modern calorie-counters great freedom because those ancestral diets likely differed substantially over time and space, according to researchers at Georgia State University and Kent State University.
Their findings are published in The Quarterly Review of Biology.
“Based on evidence that’s been gathered over many decades, there’s very little evidence that any early hominids had very specialized diets or there were specific food categories that seemed particularly important, with only a few possible exceptions,” said Dr. Ken Sayers, a postdoctoral researcher at the Language Research Center of Georgia State. “Some earlier workers had suggested that the diets of bears and pigs–which have an omnivorous, eclectic feeding strategy that varies greatly based on local conditions–share much in common with those of our early ancestors. The data tend to support this view.”
The co-author on the paper, Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy, is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Kent State University, well known for his reconstructions of the socioecology and locomotor behavior of early hominids such as “Ardi” (Ardipithecus ramidus, 4.4 million years old) and “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis, 3.2 million years old).
The study examines anatomical, paleoenvironmental and chemical evidence, as well as the feeding behavior of living animals. While early hominids were not great hunters, and their dentition was not great for exploiting many specific categories of plant food, they were most likely dietary “jacks-of-all-trades.”
The review paper covers earliest hominid evolution, from about 6 to 1.6 million years ago. This touches on the beginning of the Paleolithic era, which spans from 2.6 million to roughly 10,000 years ago, but Sayers suggests that the conclusions hold in force for later human evolution as well.
The researchers offer several points that need to be considered by people wishing to emulate the diets of our ancestors:
- It’s very difficult to characterize the Paleo diet. Advocates suggest certain types of foods and a percentage of energy that should come from protein, fats and carbohydrates. These recommendations are based largely on estimations from a limited number of modern human hunter-gatherers, but the diet of early humans was almost certainly much broader.
“I think that you would certainly have lots of variation way beyond what those recommendations are,” Sayers said. “When you’re trying to reconstruct the diet of human ancestors, you want to look at a number of things, including the habitats they lived in, the potential foods that were available, how valuable those various food items would have been in relation to their energy content and how long it takes to handle a food item.”
There’s more to dietary reconstruction than looking at teeth from a chemical perspective or under a microscope. It involves characterizing the environment and taking into consideration factors as disparate as locomotion, digestion and cognitive abilities, Sayers said.
- Our ancestors lived in a wide range of environments, which affected the types of food available. The variables important to feeding decisions would have differed greatly from place to place and over time, and thus greatly differing “optimal diets” would have been predicted, as suggested by modern evolutionary ecology. This is clearly observed today. Hunter-gatherers in a northern climate may have an almost exclusively animal-based diet, while hunter-gatherers near the equator might rely heavily on plant-based resources.
- Even the “same food” isn’t the same today as it was in the olden days. For example, in an earlier study, Sayers investigated the diet of langur monkeys living high in the Nepal Himalaya. At one point in the year, there were wild strawberries on the ground, which seemed to be an attractive food choice. However, the monkeys wouldn’t eat them. Sayers tasted the wild strawberries and found they were incredibly bitter.
“The strawberries that we’re eating in the market have been selected for certain properties, such as being large and sweet,” Sayers said. “The foods that we’re eating today, even in the case of fruits and vegetables, have been selected for desirable properties and would differ from what our ancestors were eating.”
- Early humans had shorter life spans, so it’s difficult to say if their diet was “healthier.”
“Individuals throughout the vast majority of the Stone Age were not living that long. Life expectancies are so high today, at least in many regions of the globe,” Sayers said. “A lot of the diseases that do come about today or have been linked with high-fat diets or things like that have been referred to by some researchers as ‘diseases of affluence.’ They’re diseases that come about simply because we’re living long enough that they can show their effects.”
In recent years, controlled studies have compared the Paleo diet with alternative approaches, and with respect to particular health issues, nutritionists are largely taking a “wait-and-see” attitude towards them.
- Our ancestors were focused on survival, not necessarily eating a balanced diet. “Throughout the vast majority of our evolutionary history, balancing the diet was not a big issue,” Sayers said. “They were simply acquiring enough calories to survive and reproduce. Everyone would agree that ancestral diets didn’t include Twinkies, but I’m sure our ancestors would have eaten them if they grew on trees.”
Extra vitamin E protected older mice from getting common type of pneumonia
BOSTON (Dec. 16, 2014) — Extra vitamin E protected older mice from a bacterial infection that commonly causes pneumonia. Microbiologists and nutrition researchers from Tufts University report that the extra vitamin E helped regulate the mice’s immune system. The findings, published online in advance of print in the The Journal of Immunology, show promise for studies investigating the effects of vitamin E and infection in humans.
Older adults over age 65 are at high risk for developing pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs typically caused by infection. The most common type of pneumonia that occurs in this age group is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. As a person gets older, the immune system can become weak, making them vulnerable to lung infection. Normally, the body fights this infection using specific white blood cells, known as neutrophils, that enter the lungs and kill the bacteria. If the numbers of neutrophils in the lungs are not well regulated, however, they can cause inflammation and damage. Aging can disrupt the ability of the body to regulate neutrophils.
“Earlier studies have shown that vitamin E can help regulate the aging body’s immune system, but our present research is the first study to demonstrate that dietary vitamin E regulates neutrophil entry into the lungs in mice, and so dramatically reduces inflammation, and helps fight off infection by this common type of bacteria,” said first author Elsa N. Bou Ghanem, Ph.D., postdoctoral scholar in the department of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM).
The research team studied older, male mice before and after they were infected with the pneumonia-causing bacteria. Before these mice acquired the infection, they were fed different levels of vitamin E, specifically alpha-tocopherol, over a period of four weeks. One group of mice was fed the recommended amounts of vitamin E (the control group), while another group was fed elevated amounts of vitamin E (the experimental group).
The older mice fed a diet containing extra amounts of vitamin E, the equivalent to about 200 IU/day consumed by humans – about 10 times the Recommended Daily Allowance but well below the upper limit – were far more resistant to the bacteria than the older mice that had a normal amount of vitamin E in their diet.
To measure the differences in immune system function between the two groups of older mice, the researchers examined the lungs to assess damage, counted the number of bacteria in the lungs, and calculated the number of the white blood cells (neutrophils).
Compared to the mice that had normal amounts of vitamin E in their diet, the mice fed extra vitamin E had:
- 1,000 times fewer bacteria in their lungs
- Two times fewer the number of white blood cells (neutrophils)
The reduced numbers of bacteria and white blood cells resulted in less lung damage in the older mice who received extra vitamin E. These mice were able to control the infection as efficiently as young mice.
“A growing body of research suggests vitamin E could make up for the loss of immune response caused by aging,” said co-senior author Simin Nikbin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, professor of Nutrition and immunology at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and member of the immunology program faculty at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. “Whether vitamin E can help protect people against this type of pneumonia affecting older adults requires more research.”
“Approximately 900,000 Americans get pneumonia each year; as many as 400,000 patients are hospitalized; and approximately 50,000 die. Vaccines are available but cannot protect everyone, and antibiotic resistance is a problem, particularly for older adults with pneumonia. Our work provides a better understanding of how nutrition can play a role in modulating how the immune system responds to infection,” said co-senior author John M. Leong, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of molecular biology and Microbiology at TUSM and member of both the immunology and molecular microbiology program faculties at the Sackler School.
A 2013 report on antibiotic resistance threats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified infections from Streptococcus pneumoniae as a serious concern that requires “prompt and sustained action.” The bacterium causes 1.2 million drug-resistant infections, 19,000 excess hospitalizations, 7,000 deaths, and $96 million in excess medical costs per year. Older adults and young children are at most risk for developing these drug-resistant infections.
Is the label ‘hypoallergenic’ helpful or just marketing hype?
Many consumers seek out shampoos, soaps and cosmetics that are labeled “hypoallergenic” or “dermatologist tested,” words that imply the products are safe to use. But recent research gives shoppers reason to question what those labels really mean. Now some scientists and consumer advocates are calling for change, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
Britt E. Erickson, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that the definitions of the terms “hypoallergenic” and “dermatologist tested/recommended” is currently left to the manufacturers that put them on their products. The Food and Drug Administration has not set any standards for using these descriptions. The last time the agency attempted to do so was in the 1970s, but cosmetic industry giants Almay and Clinique challenged the regulation and ultimately won in an appeals court.
A recent study on 187 personal care products formulated for children has shown that most contain at least one known skin allergen even if they’re marketed as hypoallergenic. Some companies are self-regulating and moving away from using certain compounds, such as those that release formaldehyde. But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a safer product. And one preservative that some manufacturers have turned to in place of parabens, which are endocrine disruptors, can cause allergic reactions. Some researchers are calling for the FDA to step in. But for now, it is up to consumers to shop by trial and error.
Wild blueberries (bilberries) can help tackle the adverse effects of a high-fat diet
Eating bilberries diminishes the adverse effects of a high-fat diet, according to a recent study at the University of Eastern Finland. For the first time, bilberries were shown to have beneficial effects on both blood pressure and nutrition-derived inflammatory responses.
Low-grade inflammation and elevated blood pressure are often associated with obesity-related diseases. The study focused on the health effects of bilberries on mice that were fed high-fat diet for a period of three months. Some of the mice were fed either 5% or 10% of freeze-dried bilberries in the diet. The researchers assessed the effects of the diets by looking at inflammatory cell and cytokine levels, systolic blood pressure, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and weight gain.
Mice on the high-fat diet experienced significant weight gain and detrimental changes in glucose and lipid metabolism, inflammation factors and blood pressure. Bilberries diminished the pro-inflammatory effects of the high-fat diet, indicated by an altered cytokine profile and a reduced relative prevalence of inflammation supporting T-cells. Bilberries also prevented elevated blood pressure caused by the high-fat diet.
Bilberries constitute an integral part of the Nordic diet and they could be better utilized also elsewhere in the world. Bilberries are associated with several beneficial health effects and their use involves plenty of traditional wisdom. The beneficial health effects of bilberries are thought to be explained by polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, the levels of which are significantly higher in bilberries than in commercially cultivated blueberries.
The original article was published in PLOS ONE, and it is openly accessible at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0114790