Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A person’s entire immune system can be rejuvenated by fasting for as little as three days as it triggers the body to start producing new white blood cells, a study suggests.

By Sarah Knapton

Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable”.

Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.

Scientists at the University of Southern California say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy.

It could also help the elderly whose immune system becomes less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases.

The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.

“It gives the ‘OK’ for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system,” said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California.

“And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.

“Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells.

In trials humans were asked to regularly fast for between two and four days over a six-month period.

Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to ageing and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumour growth.

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” added Prof Longo.

“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” Dr Longo said.

“What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?”

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.

“While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy,” said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.

“More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”

“We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system,” added Prof Longo.

However, some British experts were sceptical of the research.

Dr Graham Rook, emeritus professor of immunology at University College London, said the study sounded “improbable”.

Chris Mason, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at UCL, said: “There is some interesting data here. It sees that fasting reduces the number and size of cells and then re-feeding at 72 hours saw a rebound.

“That could be potentially useful because that is not such a long time that it would be terribly harmful to someone with cancer.

“But I think the most sensible way forward would be to synthesize this effect with drugs. I am not sure fasting is the best idea. People are better eating on a regular basis.”

Dr Longo added: “There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.

“I have received emails from hundreds of cancer patients who have combined chemo with fasting, many with the assistance of the oncologists.

“Thus far the great majority have reported doing very well and only a few have reported some side effects including fainting and a temporary increase in liver markers. Clearly we need to finish the clinical trials, but it looks very promising.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10878625/Fasting-for-three-days-can-regenerate-entire-immune-system-study-finds.html

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If you’re grilling meat this Memorial Day, you should seriously consider stocking up on Guinness.

Grilling meat is a warm-weather tradition in America, especially on Memorial Day weekend. It’s also an ancient human tradition, uniting friends and family around food and fire as long as our species has existed. Unfortunately, it also unites us around chemicals that can cause cancer.

Warnings like that can make it seem like scientists ruin everything — they already took sitting, late-night snacks and fireworks from us. But science works both ways, and now it has found at least a partial solution for this carnivore’s conundrum. According to a recent study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the secret to safer grilling has been under our noses all along.

Beer is a common ingredient at backyard cookouts, usually as a beverage. But research suggests marinating meat with beer, particularly dark beer, can curb the creation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These carcinogenic chemicals form as fat and juices drip from meat onto flames or embers, which then send smoky PAHs wafting up to coat the surface of our food.

PAHs can exist in more than 100 different combinations, some of which are found in known toxic cocktails like cigarette smoke and car exhaust. These chemicals have caused tumors, birth defects and reproductive problems in lab animals, according to the U.S. EPA, but the same effects have not been seen in humans. The National Cancer Institute says PAHs “become capable of damaging DNA only after they are metabolized by specific enzymes in the body.” Nonetheless, health concerns raised in a 2002 report have led the European Union to set safety standards for PAHs in food.

Previous studies have shown that beer, wine, tea and rosemary marinades can reduce carcinogens in cooked meat, but until now little was known about how various beer styles affect this phenomenon. And according to the recent study, the kind of beer seems to make a pretty significant difference.

To reach that conclusion, the researchers marinated pork for four hours in one of three beer types: regular pilsner, non-alcoholic pilsner or black beer. They then grilled the pork to well-done on a charcoal grill and tested its PAH levels. Black beer had the most dramatic effect, reducing eight major PAHs to less than half the amount found in unmarinated grilled pork. (The researchers chose eight PAHs that are identified by the EU as “suitable indicators for carcinogenic potency of PAHs in food.”)

The two pilsners also showed an “inhibitory effect” on PAHs, but not as much. The regular pilsner suppressed PAHs by 13 percent, and the non-alcoholic variety went slightly further with 25 percent.

“Thus, the intake of beer-marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy,” the researchers say.

The study’s authors aren’t sure why beer marinade has this effect, or why dark beer fights PAHs better than pilsner does. It isn’t the alcohol, since non-alcoholic pilsner nearly doubled the PAH suppression of its boozier relative. They suspect it might be antioxidant compounds in beer, especially darker beers, since antioxidants could restrict the movement of free radicals that are required for PAH formation. More research will be needed to know for sure, but this theory could help explain why antioxidant-rich red wine, green tea and rosemary extracts also keep carcinogens in check.

Whatever you use, the American Institute for Cancer Research already recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes to limit both PAHs and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), another type of chemical compound that can damage DNA. It also suggests grilling fish and poultry more often than red meat or processed meats like hot dogs, which can increase the risk for certain cancers. Reducing temperature, time on the grill and smoke exposure are other options for limiting cancer risk.

And while it can’t take the place of a juicy, beer-marinated pork chop, there’s also another, even more surefire way to cut back your risk: Save some room on the grill for fruits, vegetables and mushrooms.

http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/how-dark-beer-can-make-grilled-meat-less-carcinogenic

Within a few more decades, dire food shortages may lead to global-scale conflict, warned a top plant scientist in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). There may not be enough land, water and energy to sustain the potential 9 billion people who are projected to share the Earth by 2050.

“Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today,” said Fred Davies, senior science adviser for tUSAID’s bureau of food security, in a press release.

Biotechnology, improved breeding and advances in farming techniques may not be capable of keeping up with the growing human population, according to Davies. Even if farm production can be increased through technology, those innovations may not trickle down to small-scale farmers, the very people who most need help to stave off starvation.

Recent history shows that even massive increases in production don’t solve hunger. In the middle of the last century, the “Green Revolution” dramatically increased crop yields. New varieties of wheat and other grains produced bumper crops, but required purchases of expensive seed, fertilizer and other materials.

Hypothetically, food abounded for all after the agricultural advances, and hunger was indeed reduced in many regions. Yet starvation continued because of economic inequalities and lack of access to food supplies. Plus, subsistence farmers couldn’t afford the new technologies or compete with the large farms that could afford fertilizers and high-yielding seeds.

Now, after less than a century, the human population has grown rapidly, fueled by the bountiful harvests of Green Revolution technology. Once again, the global food system approaches its maximum production limit, but this time, technology may not be up to the challenge, as Davies warned.

One way to partially address the challenge could be to shift farm production toward profitable horticultural crops, like chili peppers, as opposed to bulk commodities, such as corn, suggested Davies.

“A greater emphasis is needed in high-value horticultural crops,” Davies said. “Those create jobs and economic opportunities for rural communities and enable more profitable, intense farming.”

In many cultures, sociologists have observed that increasing wealth correlates to decreasing birth rates, a phenomenon known as the demographic-economic paradox. Although a wealthier nation, such as Japan, could support more children, citizens tend to actually have fewer kids.

By lifting people out of poverty, the food wars of the future could be averted, as long as those wealthier future people don’t demand the same amounts of resource-intensive foods, such as beef, that current rich populations enjoy.

http://news.discovery.com/earth/weather-extreme-events/food-wars-could-rage-by-2050-140418.htm

Thanks to Da Brayn for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.


Peanut butter dumped in New Mexico landfill after Costco refuses to sell it or let it be donated. The dumped peanut butter was deemed safe even though it came from the Sunland plant linked to a 2012 salmonella outbreak.

Nearly a million jars of peanut butter were dumped at a New Mexico landfill this week to expedite the sale of a bankrupt peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a 2012 salmonella outbreak and nationwide recall.

Bankruptcy trustee Clarke Coll said he had no other choice after Costco Wholesale refused to take shipment of the Sunland Inc. product and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons.

“We considered all options,” Coll said. “They didn’t agree.”

Melinda Joy Pattison, executive director of the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico, on Friday called the dumping of the peanut butter “horrendous.” She said as long as there was nothing wrong with the peanut butter, her operation would have found a way to store it, remove the labels and distribute it to the people who depend on the food bank.

“Those trucks carrying it to the dump went right by the front door of my food bank,” she said. “It wasn’t like it would have been out of the way.”

Pattison said peanut butter is a major source of protein and a staple for hungry people. Her food bank places single-serve peanut butter cups in packages it gives to children whose parents rely on its services.

“For it to just be deliberately thrown away is disappointing,” she said.

Costco officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment. But court filings indicate the product was made with $2.8 million worth of Valencia peanuts owned by Costco and had been sitting in the warehouse since the company shut down and filed for bankruptcy last fall.

After extensive testing, Costco agreed to a court order authorizing the trustee to sell it the peanut butter. But after getting eight loads, Costco rejected it as “not merchantable” because of leaky peanut oil.

Coll said “all parties agreed there’s nothing wrong with the peanut butter from a health and safety issue,” but court records show that on a March 19 conference call Costco said “it would not agree to any disposition … other than destruction.”

So instead of selling or donating the peanut butter, with a value estimated at $2.6 million, the estate paid about $60,000 to haul the 950,000 jars of nut butter — or about 25 tons — to the Curry County landfill in Clovis, where public works director Clint Bunch says it “will go in with our regular waste and covered with dirt.”

The last of 58 truckloads was expected Friday, the same day Golden Boy Foods of Canada was to close on its $26 million purchase of the plant.

Sunland made peanut butter under a number of different labels for retailers like Costco, Kroger and Trader Joe’s, along with products under its own name. But the plant was shut down in September 2012 after its products were linked to 41 salmonella cases in 20 states.

It later reopened for about five months, but shut down last October after the company’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

Sunland processed Valencia peanuts, a sweet variety of peanut unique to the region and preferred for natural butters because it is flavorful without additives.

Sonya Warwick, spokeswoman for New Mexico’s largest food bank, declined to comment directly on the situation, but she noted that rescued food accounted for 74 percent of what Roadrunner Food Bank distributed across New Mexico last year.

“Our fleet picks up rescued food from hundreds of locations weekly and brings it back to the food bank,” she said. “Before distributing it, volunteers help label, sort or repack it for distribution to partner agencies across the state.

“Access to rescued food allows us to provide a more well-rounded and balanced meal to New Mexicans experiencing hunger.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0328/Peanut-butter-dumped-in-landfill.-Costco-blamed

Could a new sugar substitute actually lower blood sugar and help you lose weight? That’s the tantalizing – but distant – promise of new research presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) this week.

Agavins, derived from the agave plant that’s used to make tequila, were found in mouse studies to trigger insulin production and lower blood sugar, as well as help obese mice lose weight.

Unlike sucrose, glucose, and fructose, agavins aren’t absorbed by the body, so they can’t elevate blood glucose, according to research by Mercedes G. López, a researcher at the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados, Biotechnology and Biochemistry Irapuato, in Guanajuato, Mexico.

And by boosting the level of a peptide called GLP-1 (short for glucagon-like peptide-1), which triggers the body’s production of insulin, agavins aid the body’s natural blood sugar control. Also, because agavins are type of fiber, they can make people feel fuller and reduce appetite, López’s research shows.

“We believe that agavins have a great potential as light sweeteners since they are sugars, highly soluble, have a low glycemic index, and a neutral taste, but most important, they are not metabolized by humans,” read the study abstract. “This puts agavins in a tremendous position for their consumption by obese and diabetic people.”

The caveat: The research was conducted in mice, and more study is necessary before we’ll know whether agavins are effective and safe in humans. In other words, we’re a long way from agavins appearing on grocery store shelves.

That said, with almost 26 millions of Americans living with diabetes and another 2 million diagnosed each year, a sweetener that lowered blood sugar levels rather than raised them would be quite a useful discovery. Not to mention the potential for a sugar substitute with the potential to help people lose weight.

In the study, titled “Agavins as Potential Novel Sweeteners for Obese and Diabetic People”, López added agavins to the water of mice who were fed a standard diet, weighing them and monitoring blood sugar levels every week. The majority of the mice given the agavin-supplemented water had lower blood glucose levels, ate less, and lost weight compared with other mice whose water was supplemented with glucose, sucrose, fructose, agave syrup, and aspartame.

Unlike other types of fructose, Agavins are fructans, which are long-chain fructoses that the body can’t use, so they are not absorbed into the bloodstream to raise blood sugar. And despite the similarity in the name, agavins are not to be confused with agave nectar or agave syrup, natural sweeteners that are increasingly popular sugar substitutes. In these products the fructans are broken down into fructose, which does raise blood sugar – and add calories.

López has been studying fructans for some time, and has published previous studies showing that they have protective prebiotic effects in the digestive tract and contribute to weight loss in obese mice.

A 2012 study by another team of researchers published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition found that fructans boosted levels of the beneficial probiotics lactobacillus and bifidus. And like many types of fiber, agavins also lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

But the news isn’t all good; a 2011 literature review of human studies of the relationship between fructans (not agavins specifically) and blood sugar found that of 13 randomized studies of fructans, only three documented positive results. It remains to be seen whether – as López argues – agavins are distinct from other fructans in their action.

The downside: Agavins are don’t taste as sweet as other forms of sugar such as sucrose, fructose and glucose. And not everyone can tolerate them; like other types of fiber they have the potential to cause digestive problems.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/03/17/new-sweetener-from-the-tequila-plant-may-aid-diabetes-weight-loss/

Thanks to Dr. Rajadhyaksha for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Suguki-640x426

Scientists have discovered that bacteria found in a traditional Japanese pickle can prevent flu. Could this be the next superfood?

The research, which assesses the immune-boosting powers of Lactobacillus brevis from Suguki – a pickled turnip, popular in Japan – in mice that have been exposed to a flu virus, is published today (06 November) in the SfAM journal, Letters in Applied Microbiology.

Lead researcher, Ms Naoko Waki of KAGOME CO., LTD. in Japan said: “Our results show that when a particular strain of Lactobacillus brevis is eaten by mice, it has protective effects against influenza virus infection.”

Suguki enthusiasts have often cited its protective powers but it is not known yet whether the same effects will be seen in humans. Human clinical trials using a probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus brevis KB290 bacteria are underway and scientists are hopeful that, given a suitable quantity of bacteria, foods containing them may turn out to be the next superfood.

What it is about the bacteria that gives them this amazing property is not known, but it is remarkably tolerant to stomach juices, which are too acidic for many bacteria. This is largely due to a protective layer of sugars called exopolysaccharides.

“We know that exopolysaccharides have immune boosting effects in other similar bacteria, so we wonder if the exopolysaccharides of KB290 are responsible for the effects we see,” said Ms Waki. Further studies will be undertaken to investigate this.

The effect of the bacteria is to increase the production of immune system molecules in the body – IFN-α and flu-specific antibodies – and to enhance activity to eradicate virus infected cells. In this study these effects were sufficient to prevent infection by the H1N1 flu and the scientists think that there could also be protection against other viral infections, including the deadly H7N9 flu, which has recently emerged in China.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-11/w-jsp110413.php

desert farming

A project to “green” desert areas with an innovative mix of technologies—producing food, biofuel, clean water, energy, and salt—reached a milestone this week in the Gulf state of Qatar. A pilot plant built by the Sahara Forest Project (SFP) produced 75 kilograms of vegetables per square meter in three crops annually, comparable to commercial farms in Europe, while consuming only sunlight and seawater. The heart of the SFP concept is a specially designed greenhouse. At one end, salt water is trickled over a gridlike curtain so that the prevailing wind blows the resulting cool, moist air over the plants inside. This cooling effect allowed the Qatar facility to grow three crops per year, even in the scorching summer. At the other end of the greenhouse is a network of pipes with cold seawater running through them. Some of the moisture in the air condenses on the pipes and is collected, providing a source of fresh water.

One of the surprising side effects of such a seawater greenhouse, seen during early experiments, is that cool moist air leaking out of it encourages other plants to grow spontaneously outside. The Qatar plant took advantage of that effect to grow crops around the greenhouse, including barley and salad rocket (arugula), as well as useful desert plants. The pilot plant accentuated this exterior cooling with more “evaporative hedges” that reduced air temperatures by up to 10°C. “It was surprising how little encouragement the external crops needed,” says SFP chief Joakim Hauge.

The third key element of the SFP facility is a concentrated solar power plant. This uses mirrors in the shape of a parabolic trough to heat a fluid flowing through a pipe at its focus. The heated fluid then boils water, and the steam drives a turbine to generate power. Hence, the plant has electricity to run its control systems and pumps and can use any excess to desalinate water for irrigating the plants.

The Qatar plant has also experimented with other possibilities such as culturing heat-tolerant algae, growing salt-tolerant grasses for fodder or biofuel, and evaporating the concentrated saline the plant emits to produce salt.

The Qatar plant—which is supported by Qatari fertilizer companies Yara International and Qafco—is just 1 hectare in extent with 600 square meters of growing area in the greenhouse. The fact that this small greenhouse produced such good yields, Hauge says, suggests that a commercial plant—with possibly four crops a year—could do even better. SFP researchers estimate that a facility with 60 hectares of growing area under greenhouses could provide all the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and egglants now imported into Qatar. The results “reveal the potential for enabling restorative growth and value creation in arid land,” Hauge says. “I personally think that it is very important that people promote and invest in these ideas. Protected agriculture (I call it “indoor food production”) is an important option for the desert areas, particularly in the Middle East,” says Richard Tutwiler, director of the Desert Development Center at the American University in Cairo. “The big question is economic feasibility. How much did it cost to produce 75 kg of cucumbers per square meter?”

SFP is now engaged in studies aimed at building a 20-hectare test facility near Aqaba in Jordan. “This will be a considerable scaling up from the 1 hectare in Qatar,” Hauge says, and big enough to demonstrate commercial operation.

http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2013/11/desert-farming-experiment-yields-first-results

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.