All Posts tagged sciences

Apple Benefits Could Rival Fish

Apples could become the next fish when it comes to boosting health.

In March 2005 Cornell University scientists discovered that phytochemicals in apples could help prevent breast cancer, found in a mouse study. Study author Rui Hai Lui concluded eating apples “may be an effective strategy for cancer protection” Studies also suggest that apples can thwart lung, prostate, pancreatic and other digestive cancers.

Quercitin found in apples might even prevent lung damage in smokers, found by UCLA researchers and published May 2008. Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and a professor of public health and epidemiology. “The findings were especially interesting because tobacco smoking is the major risk factor for lung cancer. The naturally occurring chemicals may be working to reduce the damage caused by smoking.”

The health benefits of apples also extend to the brain. A study underwritten by the apple industry found that mice with Alzheimer's disease and even normal mice experienced memory improvement from receiving apple juice concentrate in their water. Two to 3 glasses of apple juice a day should be enough and it's important to combine apples with an otherwise balanced diet.

Professor Thomas Shea who conducted the study starting in 2002 says mice that drank too much apple juice “became bloated and lethargic”, negating the positive effects of apple juice for boosting memory.

Pectin in apples and other fruit may play a key role in lowering bad cholesterol, shown in several observational studies. Apples are also high in soluble fiber. The American Heart Association recommends soluble and insoluble fiber intake daily as part of a heart healthy diet. Apple pulp is a soluble and apple skin is an insoluble fiber. The Apple Association also published a study May 2008 suggesting that apple juice antioxidants might prevent atherosclerosis, found in a rodent study and published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. Additional benefits include reducing the chances of metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes and heart disease, reported by the U.S. Apple Association.

This year, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign published findings that soluble fiber increased production of the anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-4. The amount of soluble fiber needed to keep infection at bay – for instance from eating apples – is obtainable and not pharmaceutical. For the study researchers used citrus based pectin.

According to Gregory Freund, a professor in the University of Illinois' College of Medicine and a faculty member in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' Division of Nutritional Sciences, “It's possible that supplementing a high-fat diet with soluble fiber could reduce the negative effects of a high fat diet, “even delaying the onset of diabetes.” Apples are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber, making them an especially appealing addition to the diet.

Apples are not a panacea that can fight disease, but they do have a wide array of health benefit. It's important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Added to a balanced, nutritious and heart healthy diet, apples might rival fish for their health benefits.

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Folate Helps Repair Damage Due to Ageing

Since the 1960s, researchers have been studying how the water-soluble vitamin supports the healthy functioning of cells. They discovered that it's essential for cell division and replication, making it especially important for expectant mothers.

It's also important to proper replication of DNA and RNA — a lack of folate has been linked to genetic mutations that can lead to cancer.

Folate is commonly found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and turnip greens. Since 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has mandated that many foods, such as rice, flour and cornmeal, be enriched with a synthetic folate known as folic acid.

While folate deficiency is no longer a problem in the U.S., it remains widespread in developing nations and much of Europe, where enriching grain products is not widely practiced.

This new research, funded by the National Science Foundation and originally sparked by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, links folate to the production or repair of compounds called iron-sulfur clusters through a recently discovered intermediary protein called COG0354.

These clusters are part of the mechanism cells use to produce energy and carry out other vital reactions. But they are also sensitive to a byproduct of the energy-producing process: highly reactive oxygen-based molecules, some of which are called free radicals.

The oxidative stress caused when these molecules pollute a cell has been linked to cell death and aging, as well as to conditions such as atherosclerosis, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, Alzheimer's, fragile X syndrome and many more.

Examining the folate-iron-sulfur cluster link required the team to pull experience from not only UF's microbiology and cell science and food science and human nutrition departments, but also the McKnight Brain Institute and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Expertise from the latter two institutions was needed because the researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance analysis to observe folate interacting with COG0354 protein — molecular-scale activity that could otherwise only have been shown indirectly, said Arthur Edison, the NHMFL's director of chemistry and biology and an associate professor with UF's biochemistry and molecular biology department.

The researchers have found that COG0354 is present in creatures from each of the six kingdoms of life, from mice and plants to one-cell organisms that may predate bacteria.

The findings will open new avenues of study into the overall mechanism of oxidative stress repair, and may someday lead to new medicines. For now, the researchers emphasize that this is another example of the vitamin's importance in one's diet.

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Clearing Up Confusion

People with lactose intolerance do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to break down lactose (the form of sugar naturally found in milk). Instead, when people with lactose intolerance ingest large amounts of dairy products, or foods or medicines containing lactose, lactose stays in the intestinal tract until it reaches the colon where it can cause gas, bloating, stomach cramps or diarrhea.

Last February, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a statement on lactose intolerance and health to provide health care providers, patients and the general public with the latest information on the topic.

“What many people fail to understand is that lactose intolerance is not an all-or-nothing situation,” says Susan Nitzke, professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and nutrition specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Nitzke points out that many people with lactose intolerance can consume small amounts of lactose–for example, a half cup of milk or yogurt–without experiencing any symptoms. “This is especially true if the milk or other lactose-containing food is consumed with a meal,” she says.

Nitzke urges people to consult their doctor or a dietitian (like Nastaran) before making drastic dietary changes for suspected lactose intolerance. Your doctor may do a blood, breath or stool test to find out if lactose intolerance is the true cause of your digestive problems.

Milk and dairy foods provide many important nutrients. Milk is a well-known source of calcium and vitamin D. “Dairy products are also excellent sources of protein, potassium and many other vitamins and minerals,” says Mallory Koenings, a graduate student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UW-Madison.

Because dairy products contain so many important nutrients, even people who are lactose-intolerant are urged to consider alternatives within the milk food group, such as yogurt or lactose-free milk.

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