Category Archives: Food

What Does Sugar Actually Do To Your Body?

The effects of sugar can take your body down a vicious cycle known as metabolic syndrome. UC Davis’ Kimber Stanhope altered the diets of a group of volunteers for her study. Instead of her subjects eating food like rice, pasta or bread, she had them consume a sugary beverage. The effects on the body started in the liver and from there Stanhope explains how that set off a chain of responses in the body.

Learn more at: sugarscience.org

FEATURING: Kimber Stanhope, UC Davis

The research highlighted in this video has been supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, University of California, Office of the President and the Tanita Healthy Weight Foundation.

The gluten network in a bagel vs. a pie

Gluten develops in dough when two wheat proteins found in flour (glutenin and gliadin) are mixed with water. Because parts of these proteins don’t like to interact with water, the proteins begin to stick to each other much in the same way oil droplets come together when suspended in water. As a flour-water dough is mixed, the glutenin and gliadin molecules interact to form a protein network.

These networks give structure and stability to dough. Although dense networks are great for chewy bread dough, they are less than ideal for flaky, tender pie crust. An ideal pie dough has as just enough gluten to hold everything in the dough together. And while gluten development can be minimized by adding only scant amounts of water and handling the dough as little as possible, this is easier said than done.

What flour is the best flour for pie crust? This is a contentious question that has a variety of answers depending on personal preference, but the type of flour you use can have a major effect on the final texture of your crust. The protein content of flour, based on the type of wheat the flour was made from, will affect the extent of gluten formation in your dough. Bread flour has particularly high protein content, which can make pie crust dense and tough. Flours with lower protein content, such as pastry flour or cake flour, will create less extensive gluten networks and can produce a more tender crust.

Use science to make the best pie ever:

Sushi Meets Science: The Wasabi Receptor

Researchers at UCSF have pulled aside the curtain on a protein informally known as the “wasabi receptor,” revealing at near-atomic resolution structures that could be targeted with anti-inflammatory pain drugs.

The newly visualized protein resides in the cellular membrane of sensory nerve cells. It detects certain chemical agents originating outside our bodies — pungent irritants found in substances ranging from wasabi to tear gas — but is also triggered by pain-inducing signals originating within, especially those that arise in response to tissue damage and inflammation.

With many copies of the proteins suspended in this glassy ice, like insects trapped in amber, the researchers capture as many as 100,000 images, then computationally combine these thousands of two-dimensional views to generate the three-dimensional structure of the protein.

“The pain system is there to warn us when we need to avoid things that can cause injury, but also to enhance protective mechanisms,” said David Julius, Ph.D., professor and chair of UCSF’s Department of Physiology. “We’ve known that the protein is very important in sensing environmental irritants, inflammatory pain, and itch, and so knowing more about how it works is important for understanding basic pain mechanisms.”

Read more about The Wasabi Receptor

How One Scientist Is Helping Plants Survive California’s Worst Drought

Every living thing has its own natural responses to stress.

When critical nutrients are in short supply, our bodies, for example, find ways to maintain normal function until those nutrients are replenished. Plants do the same. In drought conditions, natural processes kick in to keep them alive until they can be watered again.

When faced with a water shortage, plants produce a stress hormone known as abscisic acid (ABA), which signals the plant to consume less water. ABA binds to a specific protein receptor in the plant, signaling stomata—or unique guard cells—to close and reduce the amount of water lost. This receptor is so important that its discovery by UC Riverside’s Sean Cutler, his team and others was listed as one of 2009′s breakthroughs of the year by Science magazine.

To help plants survive extreme drought conditions, some have tried spraying ABA directly on crops during water shortages. The move can improve crop yields, but ABA is expensive to produce and breaks down easily, even before a plant can absorb and use it.

Read more about how Sean Cutler is helping plants survive California’s worst drought

Image credit: Adam Shomsky

Why carrots taste sweeter in winter

UCLA’s Liz Roth-Johnson explains why carrots have more sugar when it’s cold outside.

Because plants are immobile, they must develop defense techniques against predators and the severe cold in winter. For example, carrots have developed the physiological response of increasing their sugar content when it’s cold outside. This helps stop ice crystal formations and prevents damage to the carrot’s cells.

Frost can do a lot of damage to a plant cell. It can squeeze and rupture the cells until they are completely demolished. But in some cases, the plant’s defense mechanism means a tastier vegetable for us to eat. When a carrot defends itself from frost, we get the benefit of enjoying sweeter carrots all winter long.

FEATURING: Liz Roth-Johnson, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, UCLA

For more information: https://scienceandfooducla.wordpress.com/

Fruit and Liquid Sugar

Liquid sugar, such as in sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks, is the leading single source of added sugar in the American diet, representing 36% of the added sugar we consume.

Research suggests that our bodies process liquid sugar differently than sugar in foods, especially those containing fiber.

Scientists argue that when you eat an apple (for example), you may be getting as many as 18 grams of sugar, but the sugar is “packaged” with about one-fifth of our daily requirement of fiber. Because it takes our bodies a long time to digest that fiber, the apple’s sugar is slowly released into our blood stream, giving us a sustained source of energy.

But when we drink the same amount of sugar in sugary drinks, it doesn’t include that fiber. As a result, the journey from liquid sugar to blood sugar happens quickly, delivering more sugar to the body’s vital organs than they can handle. Over time, that can overload the pancreas and liver, leading to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

Watch the full video with UC Davis nutritional biologist, Dr. Kimber Stanhope:

Caffeine helps your memory

Caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions who consume it to wake up or stay up. Now, UC Irvine neurobiologist Michael Yassa has found another use for the stimulant: memory enhancer.

Michael Yassa, assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior, and his team of scientists found that caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory in humans.

“We’ve always known that caffeine has cognitive enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans,” Yassa said. “We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours.”

The researchers conducted a double-blind trial in which participants who did not regularly eat or drink caffeinated products received either a placebo or a 200 milligrams caffeine tablet five minutes after studying a series of images. Saliva samples were taken from the participants before ingesting caffeine, and one, three and 24 hours afterwards to check for increased caffeine levels.

The next day, both groups were tested on their ability to recognize images from the previous day’s study session. On the test, some of the visuals were the same as from the day before, some were new additions and some were similar but not the same as the items previously viewed. Researchers say more participants in the caffeine group were able to correctly identify the new images as “similar” to previously viewed images versus erroneously citing them as the same.

The brain’s ability to recognize the difference between two similar but not identical items, called pattern separation, reflects a deeper level of memory retention, the researchers said.

“If we used a standard recognition memory task without these tricky similar items, we would have found no effect of caffeine,” Yassa said. “However, using these items requires the brain to make a more difficult discrimination – what we call pattern separation, which seems to be the process that is enhanced by caffeine in our case.”

[Image via yourcoffeeguru]

Read the rest of the most discussed UC research of 2014 →