12 January - 20 June 2016

Other headlines

  • Team aims to brew beer on the moon
  • Chewing food properly can help immune system
  • Supermarket makeover project launched to encourage us to eat less meat
  • Prices soar as courgette supply is affected by the weather
  • Study finds genetic regions responsible for ectopic fat distribution
  • Study indicates eating disorders are affecting UK women in their 40’s and 50’s
  • Association between consumption of hot red chilli peppers and decreased mortality
  • Urine test to assess dietary patterns developed
  • Study finds that restricting calories does improve monkey health

Team aims to brew beer on the moon
Around 3000 experiments have been competing for a place aboard a moon-landing spacecraft, funded by Google’s Lunar XPRIZE competition and being built by an Indian start-up company, TeamIndus.  The entrants have been whittled down to 25 ahead of a final evaluation in March and one of the teams, “Original Gravity” are hoping to win the place aboard the craft by setting out to brew beer on the Moon. The students from the University of California, San Diego aim to understand how yeast behaves on the moon which could be important, not just for beer but also for development of foods and pharmaceuticals. The team plans to prepare the unfermented beer wort on earth and to combine the usually separate fermentation and carbonation phases. A canister will be split in to three compartments, the top being filled with the wort while the second will contain yeast. These would be mixed via a value once on the moon and once fermented, the yeast would fall to the third compartment via another value. Siddhesh Naik, from TeamIndus, is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that “The yeast study is among the coolest experiments to be performed on the lunar surface, and I am sure they are one of the top contenders to win the Lab2Moon competition.” (Daily Mail)

Chewing food properly can help immune system
A study by scientists from the University of Manchester and the US NIH, published in the journal Immunity, indicates that the mouth’s immune system could be helped protect by ensuring food is chewed properly. The study found that the action of eating is an important part of supporting the immune system. A specific type of immune cell, Th17, was previously only thought to be stimulated by friendly bacteria. The researchers discovered that abrasion from chewing activated Th17 in the mouth in a similar fashion but without the need for the friendly bacteria. Konkel et al. showed that the number of Th17 cells present in the mouths of mice could be altered just by changing the hardness of food, ad so the amount of chewing required. Lead researcher Dr Joanna Konkel is quoted in a press release as saying that “The immune system performs a remarkable balancing act at barrier sites such as the skin, mouth and gut by fighting off harmful pathogens while tolerating the presence of normal friendly bacteria.” The scientists also discovered however that too much chewing, and so too many Th17 cells, can lead to a common gum disease called periodontitis. Konkel concluded that “Importantly, because inflammation in the mouth is linked to development of diseases all around the body understanding the tissue-specific factors that regulate immunity at the oral barrier could eventually lead to new ways to treat multiple inflammatory conditions”.  (University of Manchester)

Supermarket makeover project launched to encourage us to eat less meat
As part of a £5m Welcome Trust Programme, Our Planet, Our Health, Oxford University scientists are teaming up with Sainsbury’s in an attempt to persuade consumers to buy less meat.  The project aims to improve human health by persuading consumers to eat more fruit and vegetable and less meat, reducing climate change and improving the environment. The programme will see the supermarket redesigning their aisles so that vegetarian alternatives are on the same shelves as meat products.  Customers will also be given vouchers when they choose vegetarian products, and leaflets and recipes will be distributed on how shoppers can eat less meat.  (The Guardian)

Prices soar as courgette supply is affected by the weather
Reported in the popular press and other media as a “courgette crisis”, a shortage of greens and salad items has hit some UK supermarkets. The shortage is due to bad weather in Europe, particularly in southern Spain. It is estimated that the Murcia region supplies up to 80% of fresh produce for Europe during the winter but due to heavy rain, only around 30% of the fields in this region are available.  Cold weather in Italy has also caused additional demand as Italy is now needing to import vegetables instead of exporting them. Courgettes and spinach have been worst affected but aubergines, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage are also in shorter supply than usual. Lower supply has inevitably pushed up prices.  New Covent Garden vegetable trader, Mark Gregory, is quoted by the BBC as saying that “Whereas normally courgettes are £6 or £7 [a crate], they're now 20-22 quid and we're struggling to get them.” Other traders were planning to import produce from the US and one, Michael Goodwin, said that despite being in business for 40 years he had “never known it so bad, where everything is so dear. I've got plenty of English parsnips, potatoes and carrots but foreign produce is like gold” (BBC)

Study finds genetic regions responsible for ectopic fat distribution
Researchers from the US NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute have found regions in the human genome responsible for the distribution of ectopic fat around the body. Ectopic fat, fat accumulated outside the usual fat stores of the body, is often found around organs in the abdomen, around the heart and in the liver. It has been linked to metabolic diseases but the reasons why this happens to some people and not others are not understood. The researchers in the current study, published in Nature Genetics, used CT scan data from the Metabolic Risk Complications of Obesity Study as well as genetic data from over 9000 women and 8000 men of European, African, Hispanic and Chinese ancestry. Chu et al. looked for associations with six ectopic fat traits and discovered seven unique genetic regions in the human genome which appear to regulate the distribution of fat. The scientists also found that genetics were responsible for 36%-47% of the differences between individuals and so note that depositing of ectopic fat is a “heritable trait”.  One of the senior researchers, Dr Michael Olivier, indicated that as the genetic regions are specific to fat, they be useful as targets for both prevention and therapy. Olivier is quoted in a press release as saying that “Understanding how these genes play a role in the development of fat distribution could provide answers not only for how to pre-emptively approach ectopic fat development but also how and where to target a potential therapy after fat has accumulated, essentially these could be targets for both preventive and therapeutic therapies”. Chu et al. also note that ethnicity pay little role here and Olivier added that “This study points to a more universal distribution, regardless of ancestry, which again could prove useful when developing therapeutics.” (Texas Biomedical Research Institute)

Study indicates eating disorders are affecting UK women in their 40’s and 50’s
In a UK study of 5,320 women aged 40-50 years published in the journal BMC Medicine, 3% were found to have an active eating disorder.  Micali et al. also report that around 15.3% of participants reported to have had an eating disorder at some point in their life, with 3.4% reporting an eating disorder in the past 12 months.  The lead author of the study states “Our study shows that eating disorders are not just confined to earlier decades of life, and that both chronic and new onset disorders are apparent in mid-life. Many of the women who took part in this study told us this was the first time they had ever spoken about their eating difficulties, so we need to understand why many women did not seek help. It may be that there are some barriers women perceive in healthcare access or a lack of awareness among healthcare professionals.” Factors that were associated with eating disorders included parental divorce, separation, life events and relationship with parents amongst others.

Association between consumption of hot red chili peppers and decreased mortality
The last issue of Food e-News, Edition 637, included a study which uncovered the chemical structure and processes which give the Indian Long Pepper anti-cancer properties. This week a prospective study published in PLoS ONE, has found that the consumption of hot, red chilli peppers is associated with a 13% reduction in total mortality.  The scientists measured the frequency of hot red chili pepper consumption in 16,179 participants involved the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III who were aged 18 years and above. After analysing the data from a median follow up of 18.9 years and analysing the number of deaths and the specific cause they found that total mortality for participants who consumed hot red chili peppers was 21.6% compared to 33.6% for those who did not consumed them. They report that “although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship.”

RSSL's can carry out tests on chilli pepper pungency by HPLC according to the ASTA Method. RSSL can also provide analysis of the red coloured compounds characteristic of capsicums of all kinds. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Urine test to assess dietary patterns developed
A study by researchers from the US, UK and Denmark, published in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and reviewed by NHS Choices, suggests that a urine test they have developed may be able to show how healthy an individual’s diet is.  Many studies into diets rely on self-reporting of participants eating habits but this is known to be unreliable as individuals tend to under report the amount of unhealthy and over-report the healthy food they eat. The researchers asked 20 participants, on 4 occasions, to eat four different diets and then tested the participant’s urine for 19 metabolites known to be associated with types of dietary patters, known as metabolic profiles, using proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR) spectroscopy. The study found that levels of the 19 metabolites were significantly higher in the healthiest diets than the unhealthiest and the metabolic profiles from the urine were distinct enough to assess each of the diets consumed. The researchers are quoted by NHS choices as saying that "Urinary metabolite models developed in a highly controlled environment can classify groups of free living people into consumers of diets associated with lower or higher non-communicable disease risk on the basis of multivariate metabolite patterns. This approach enables objective monitoring of dietary patterns in population settings and enhances the validity of dietary reporting." NHS Choices states that they consider the study to be well-designed although with a small sample size but that the tests have the “potential to be of benefit as a research tool”. (NHS Choices)

Study finds that restricting calories does improve monkey health
A study by previously competing teams from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and published in Nature Communications has concluded that restricting calorie intake does improve the health of rhesus monkeys. Previous research by the individual teams had shown conflicting results. While the University of Wisconsin-Madison team showed in 2009 that calorie restrictions provided benefits against cancer, cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance, a 2012 study by the NIA team found no significant improvement in survival but just a trend towards improved health. The teams wanted to work together to understand the differing results and having analysed many years’ worth of data discovered a number of differences in the studies which they think account for the different finds.  These included that the monkey’s diets were restricted at different ages in the two studies, that the control group in the NIA study ate less than the UW-Madison control group and that the diets used in the two studies were very different. Finally, the teams found differences in the relationship between diet, adiposity and insulin sensitivity between males and females with males being more vulnerable to the effects of adiposity than females. In conclusion, the new collaborative study concludes that calorific restriction does indeed improve the health and survival of rhesus monkeys but that age, sex and diet must be taken in to consideration. (Medical Express)

share this article
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.

Previous editions

Load more editions

Make an Enquiry