12 January - 20 June 2016

Other headlines

  • Diet may have helped our brains grow big
  • NZ study shows weight-loss without counting calories
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency linked to weaker development
  • Trial finds no effect on cancer risk for vitamin D and calcium supplementation
  • Fruit juice banned at primary schools in Tayside due to high sugar content
  • Can drinking tea really keep dementia away?
  • Unlike her brother, Princess Anne supports GM crops
  • Is organic food better for human health and the planet?
  • Can moderate drinking be good for you?

Diet may have helped our brains grow big
While a theory called the “social brain hypothesis” has suggested for around 20 years that human brains became large due to social behaviour, a recent study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution by researchers from New York University suggests diet is a better predictor of brain size. DeCasien et al. examined 140 primate species and compared brain size and several other factors including group size, social structure and diet. While it has been known for a long time that primates who eat fruit tend to have larger brains than leaf-eaters, DeCasien et al. think that the complexity of finding fruit, which tends to be sparsely distributed in space and time, may be a factor in brain development over generations. The authors do think other factors, including social group size are relevant as well.  Given the sparsity of fruit, the longer journeys needed to find it, larger social groups tend to form for travel across larger ranges, and help if conflict arises over food. DeCasien is quoted by the BBC as saying that “All of these things are co-evolving, but the main problem with the social brain hypothesis is that it's explicitly saying that this one force is contributing more than another force. If you want to break it down like that, our study shows that it's the opposite force [diet] that is contributing more”. (BBC)

NZ study shows weight-loss without counting calories
A study by researchers from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practice suggests that weight loss can be achieved without calorie counting. The study asked 33 participants not to count calories or do more exercise than normal for 12 weeks. The participants were given cooking lessons and asked to eat a plant-based diet free from processed products and to limit intake of high-fat plant foods such as avocados. After the 12-week period, participants were found to have lost an average of 12 kg. Lead Author Dr Nicholas Wright indicated that the cooking classes helped contribute and is quoted as saying that “People need concrete skills they can learn and rehearse, especially in an enabling and comfortable environment”. Wright added that “Taking in less energy can be "eating less" - but we don't think this is the best approach, as it's hard to sustain being hungry. Consuming less calories doesn't have to be actually eating less food, it can be simply eating less dense foods”. (Daily Mail)

Vitamin B12 deficiency linked to weaker development
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by researchers from Bergen, Norway suggests that children lacking vitamin B12 could have weaker brain development. Kvestad et al. analysed blood samples from 500 children in Nepal to assess their vitamin B12 status. Five years later, 320 were examined again and given various developmental and cognitive tests. The researchers associated low vitamin B12 status with a decrease in test scores at the age of 5. Lead author Ingrid Kvestad noted that their results show the associations of early vitamin B12 status and the brain development that involves cognitive functioning and added that providing vitamin B12 for young children in developing countries could enhance their healthy development. (Science World Report)

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  It provides a full vitamin and mineral analysis service to assist with labelling, due diligence, claim substantiation and stability. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Trial finds no effect on cancer risk for vitamin D and calcium supplementation
A 4-year, double-blind, randomised clinical trial involving over 2000 women has investigated the effect of vitamin D and calcium supplementation on cancer risk. Women were divided into two groups, one receiving vitamin D and calcium, and the other a placebo. All incidence of cancer were recorded over the four years of the trial and statistical analysis was used to analyse cancer incidence with vitamin D and calcium levels. The researchers report that they did not find a “significantly lower risk “ of developing cancer in the supplemented group nor any statistically significant difference in breast cancer incidence between the groups. Lappe et al. suggest that this finding might have been because their participants had higher vitamin D levels than average and so conclude that further research is necessary to “assess the possible role of vitamin D in cancer prevention”. (Medical News Today)

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  It provides a full vitamin and mineral analysis service to assist with labelling, due diligence, claim substantiation and stability. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Fruit juice banned at primary schools in Tayside due to high sugar content
After parents expressed concern over the high sugar content of drinks, primary schools in Tayside have banned fruit juices.  The school children will be provided with water or milk as a lunchtime drink as of 31 March as a positive step towards healthier eating and improving the dental health of the young children.  A letter from the head teachers said that fruit juice was the main source of excess sugars consumed at lunchtime.  In a memo the body which supplies school meal states “It is frequently highlighted in school HNI (Health & Nutrition Inspections), which are part of school HMIE Inspections, that an excess of sugars are consumed by pupils during the lunchtime period, the main source of this being the fruit juice that is offered”.  Commenting on the removal of “pure fruit juice”, a spokesperson for The British Fruit Juice Association said: “Government research shows that the majority of school-age children do not achieve the recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetable intake”. (Daily Record)

Can drinking tea really keep dementia away?
The media has widely been reporting on a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging that investigated tea consumption and cognitive function involving 957 Chinese adults aged 55 and older.  The research team found that regular consumption of tea brewed from tea leaves, such as green, black or oolong tea, reduces an elderly person cognitive decline by 50%, while APOE e4 gene carriers who are genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease may experience a reduction in cognitive impairment risk by as much as 86 per cent. They indicated that the benefits of tea consumption is due to bioactive compound such as catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins and L-theanine, which are thought to protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration. 

RSSL can analyse green tea for catechins, including epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) and epigallocatechin (EGC). For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Unlike her brother, Princess Anne supports GM crops
Princess Anne has told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme that there are “not very many downsides” to gene technology, a view which disagrees with her brother the Prince of Wales who has previously warned GM crops could cause an environmental disaster.  Princess Anne discussed the benefits of GM crops, stating that she would be happy to grow them on her own land.  She noted that gene technology would "maybe have an occasional downside but I suspect not very many".  According to the BBC in the House of Commons last autumn, Farming Minister George Eustice indicated the government was open to re-examining its position with GM crops after the UK leaves the EU.

Using DNA-based methodology, we perform both qualitative and quantitative testing. Qualitative GMO detection screens raw materials and complex finished products for the presence or absence of GM soya and maize. Our quantitative GMO testing, meanwhile, determines the proportion of the soya or maize DNA in a product or ingredient that is GM. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Is organic food better for human health and the planet?
It has always been thought that organic food is better for human health and the planet, however a study by researchers from the University of British Columbia have found this might not always be true.  The study published in Science Advances analysed organic crop farming against 17 criteria including yield, impact on climate change, farmer livelihood and consumer health. The researchers, Seufert and Ramankutty report that in developed countries where there are pesticide regulation and diets are high in micronutrients, the health benefit of organic food could possibly be marginal.  However in developing countries there could be benefits for consumer and farm worker health.  Yield of crops was found to not differ between conventional and organic farms, although previous research has found that that yield of an organic crops is 19 to 25 per cent lower than under conventional management.

Can moderate drinking be good for you?
An observational study published in the British Medical Journal has suggested that moderate drinking (defined as no more than 14 unit (112 grams) of alcohol a week) may play a role in lowering risk of developing several cardiovascular conditions, including angina, heart failure and ischaemic stroke, compared with abstaining from alcohol. The scientists from the University of Cambridge and University College London investigated alcohol consumption and 12 cardiovascular disease, using 1.93 million health record from healthy, UK adults.  At the start of the study the participants were free from cardiovascular disease.  The participants were split into groups depending on their drinking habits.  Heavy drinking was related to an increased risk of first presenting with a range of such diseases, including heart failure, cardiac arrest and ischaemic stroke.  Moderate drinking carried a lower risk of heart attack and angina. It is noted that is this is an observational study no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.


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