12 January - 20 June 2016

Other headlines

  • Different methods show similar impact of climate change on wheat
  • Zinc may help reverse brain changes caused by autism
  • Can an unhealthy diet damage red blood cells?
  • Teenagers more likely to avoid sugary drinks if there is a health warning
  • More people following a gluten free diet despite not having celiac disease
  • Booming seaweed industry need to learn lessons from agriculture and fisheries experts warn
  • Pomegranates may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s
  • Instant coffee by-product could be used to increase nutritional content of foods

Different methods show similar impact of climate change on wheat
A study led by researchers from the University of Florida and published in Nature Climate Change has used different simulation and statistical methods to predict the impact of climate change on wheat production worldwide and found all three methods used came to similar results. Study leader Senthold Asseng said these findings can be used to assess how much wheat and other crops will be needed to feed the world in the coming decades. Asseng is quoted in a press release as saying that “Predicting crop yields is important because rising temperatures tend to keep fruits, vegetables and other crops from growing as well as they should”. Asseng added that “This means we're closer to more precisely predicting crop yields and their response to climate change worldwide, but we have shown this only for wheat, so far.  Since the different methods point to very similar impacts, it improves our confidence in estimating temperature impact on global crop production”. The current study is a part of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) which involves agricultural scientists from around the world. Asseng concluded that "Reliable estimates of climate change impacts on food security require an integrated use of climate, crop and economic models”.

Zinc may help reverse brain changes caused by autism
Research by scientists from New Zealand, America and Germany and published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that zinc can reverse cellular changes on the brain caused by genetic mutations in people with autism. These cellular changes have been studied at the University of Auckland for a number of years and this research has shown that autism decreases brain cell communication. Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery is quoted as saying that the current study “looks at how zinc can alter brain cell communication that is altered at the cellular level and we are now taking that forward to look at the function of zinc at the dietary and behaviour level".  Previous studies have shown that there are normally high levels of zinc in the brain but that there can be a zinc deficiency in autistic children. Montgomery noted that the current study has focussed on genetic changes to a protein called Shank3 and shown this is “a key component of a zinc-sensitive signalling system”. Montgomery said that the research has shown that zinc can increase brain cell communication that has been by weakened by autism-associated changes to Shank3. The next stage of the research is to see how dietary zinc supplements can affect autistic behaviour and to determine optimum levels for prevention and treatment of autism. (Medicalxpress)

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Can an unhealthy diet damage red blood cells?
Findings from Swansea University scientists have found that people whose diets contained low levels of antioxidants were more likely to produce damaged red blood cells.  The scientists came across these findings after trying to develop a blood test for cancer.  The team studied red blood cells that are produced by stem cells in the bone marrow.  Stem cells were chosen as they are a good marker of overall health. If they are mutated, then they produce faulty red blood cells. Haboubi et al. found significant variations between healthy and unhealthy volunteers and this variation seemed to correlate with their diet.  A healthy person should have no more than three to five cells that have mutated per million.  People who eat low levels of fruit and vegetables had more than double the mutation rate.  Dr Haboudi is quoted by the Times as saying “People who consumed low levels of fruit and vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fish had more than double the mutation rate. There was a very statistically significant relationship between diet and mutation rate. Purely by chance we may have found a biomarker for the quality of people's diet.” (International Business Times)

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Teenagers more likely to avoid sugary drinks if there is a health warning
University of Pennsylvania scientists are reporting that teenagers are more likely to avoid sugary drinks if there is a health warning on the label.  The randomised trial published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine involved 2,202 demographically diverse adolescents aged 12–18 who completed an online survey.  The researchers randomly assigned the participants into one of six conditions: (1) no warning label (control group); (2) calorie label; (3–6) one of four text versions of a warning label (e.g., SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay).  Adolescents were asked to imagine they wanted to purchase a beverage from a vending machine.  They were shown online 20 popular 20-ounce beverages (12 sugar sweetened beverages) and asked to select one for hypothetical purchase. Beverages that spanned a range of added sugar content were included.  The adolescents were then asked questions about their perceptions of and intentions regarding ten randomly ordered 20-ounce beverages, of which six were sugar sweetened beverages.  In brief depending on the specific phrasing of the warning labels, participants were eight to 16 per cent less likely to select sugary beverages when health warning labels were present compared to no label.  The participants reported that the health warnings, made they feel like that drink would make them unhealthy.  Sixty two per cent of participants said they would support a warning label policy for sugary drinks.

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More people following a gluten free diet despite not having celiac disease
Scientists from the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School are reporting in Jama Internal Medicine that the number of people following a gluten-free diet has more than tripled.  The scientists suggest that more people are dropping gluten from their diets to stay healthy or lose weight, and not for any medical reason.  However there is no evidence that cutting out gluten has health benefits for those that are not gluten intolerant.  The researchers note that a variety of factors could be responsible including public perception that going gluten-free is healthier, gluten-free products becoming more widely available and less expensive, and people self-diagnosing gluten sensitivity.

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Booming seaweed industry need to learn lessons from agriculture and fisheries experts warn
Seaweed is currently used in food and fertilizer to pharmaceuticals and industrial gels and now offers sustainable employment in developing and emerging economies. The global value of the crop is thought to be US$6.4 billion (2014).  China produces over half of the global total of seaweed - 12.8 million tonnes and Indonesia, 27% of global production, 6.5 million tonnes.   However experts are urging the industry to learn lessons from agriculture and fisheries, which have experienced some pitfalls.  Advice has been published by UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, a UNU associate institute which includes information on how to avoid expensive mistakes and pursue best practice.  The advice draws on the expertise of 21 institutions worldwide and includes case studies involving crops like bananas and shrimp. The authors note that indirectly, seaweed farming has reduced over-fishing in many regions, providing coastal communities with an alternative livelihood.  The authors say the industry needs to guard against non-indigenous pests and pathogens, to promote genetic diversity of seaweed stocks and to raise awareness of mistakes in farm management practices (such as placing the cultivation nets too close together, making the crop more vulnerable to disease transfer and natural disasters). (Science Daily)

Pomegranates may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s
A mouse study published in Oncotarget led by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing has found that a diet rich in pomegranates, which contain high levels of polyphenols, had significant positive impacts for the brain health of mice with Alzheimer's disease.  The mice bred to provide a model of Alzheimer’s disease, were given a dietary supplementation of 4% pomegranate extract to a standard diet over a 15-month period.  After intervention the researchers found that in the brains of the transgenic mice fed pomegranate extract, there was a decrease in oxidative stress and neuroinflammation compared to the control group. The researchers note that further testing will be needed to determine whether the results translate in to the human population.

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Instant coffee by-product could be used to increase nutritional content of foods
Scientists are reporting in the journal Food Chemistry that the by-product from coffee could be a natural source of antioxidant insoluble dietary fibre, proteins, essential amino acids and low glycaemic sugars.  The authors added the grounds from Spanish private label coffee to six different sugar-free sample biscuits with varying amounts of grounds from 3.5-4.4%.  They found that up to 4% of the grounds could be added to the biscuit without affecting the quality of the product.  These biscuits were found to acceptable to about 70% of the tasting panel.

RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

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RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

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