News Wave 2 – from our regular trawl of the world’s news

Obesity, western diet. Photo credit MLazarevski via Visualhunt CC BY-ND
Photo credit MLazarevski via Visualhunt CC BY-ND

With more than two in three US adults considered overweight or obese, biomedical and clinical evidence suggests more strongly than ever that over-consumption of the extremely unhealthy “western diet” is behind the epidemic.

New research on rodents, by scientists at the University of California, and reported in EurekAlert, shows that chronic consumption of a western diet – characterised by high levels of sugars and fats – leads to overeating and obesity due to elevations in “peripheral endocannabinoid signaling.”

The endocannabinoid system is located throughout the body, including the brain and all peripheral organs, and is involved in the control of many physiological functions, including food intake, energy balance, and reward. The system is comprised of lipid signaling molecules called endocannabinoids that bind to cannabinoid receptors located on cells throughout the body.

The new research “describes for the first time that overeating associated with chronic consumption of a western diet is driven by an enhancement in endocannabinoid signals generated in peripheral organs”. The study results appear in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

Healthier option

At the other end of the healthy/unhealthy scale, it’s not exactly breaking news to declare that a Mediterranean diet is better for you than a burger-and-chips ‘western diet’. But a new study based on brain imaging in septuagenarians (reported in The Conversation) has found that over a three-year period – from age 73 to 76 – consuming a Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduction in age-related brain volume.

The conclusions of this are not being overplayed, and The Conversation article points out that the difference in volume loss associated with the diet is not large (about 2.5ml), and accounts for just a small fraction of overall volume variability. It is, however, further evidence in favour of fish as a basis for a healthy diet – a fact, as the article reminds us, backed up by previous research, such as a study from 2015 that concluded “Higher fish and lower meat intake might be the 2 key food elements that contribute to the benefits”.

The benefits of fish-derived fatty acids is one of the Mother and Child Foundation’s key nutritional messages, too.

Tears before bedtime

Crying baby Victoria Photo credit: via / CC BY
Photo credit: via / CC BY

Another one of our chief concerns is child health. It seems there might, ironically, be fewer tears before bedtime if tears are used in health tests instead of blood. Urine is not an ideal blood substitute in tests, as it suffers from hourly composition changes. But researchers have found the nutrient profile of tears to be similar to blood, which may enhance the speed of deficiency diagnoses. And reduce discomfort in the donors!

In a recent study, (reported in Nutraingredients), vitamin concentrations in infants were ascertained from tear and blood samples with both shown to be equally effective. Lead study author, Dr Khaksari, a research specialist at the Chemical Advanced Resolution Methods (ChARM) Laboratory at Michigan Technological University, commented:

 “Breast-fed infants demonstrated stronger concentration correlations with their parents. The correlations between the vitamin concentrations of infants and parents proved that an infant’s nutrition was dependent upon their parent’s nutrition.”

The research concludes “This work is the first to demonstrate simultaneous vitamin A, B, and E detection and to quantify correlations between vitamin concentrations in tears and blood serum. Our results suggest that tears are a viable biofluid to monitor nutritional health because they sufficiently mirror blood serum data and may enhance the speed of deficiency diagnoses.”

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