Tag Archives: health

How Do Our Bodies Fight Off Dangerous Chemicals?

We’re all subjects in a massive experiment. Humans have created about 80,000 synthetic industrial compounds — including plastics, the flame retardants that cover our sofas, and pesticides. These compounds have structures that are not commonly seen in nature and present a risk to our health. Everybody on the planet is exposed.

It’s important to understand what these substances are doing to our bodies so that scientists can create a rule book for making these chemicals safer.

The challenge to understanding how dangerous compounds get into our body is complex. The way we have been doing this in the past is to test if a synthetic compound dissolves in fat. If it does then theres a high likelihood that it can easily enter our body’s cells where it can cause harm.

The problem with this method is that it doesn’t always accurately predict how much a compound accumulates in organisms. A historic example of this is DDT which was used on crops to get rid of pests, but ultimately found its way through the food chain. It’s now considered a risk factor for breast cancer in humans.

At UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Amro Hamdoun is looking at the biological properties of how these compounds interact with cells. The focus is on how the cell decides which compounds to let in and which ones to eliminate.

 

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:

The Next Frontier of Medicine


Following your gut takes on a whole new meaning as scientists find relationships between the brain and gut bacteria.

The next frontier of medicine isn’t in the depths of an Amazon jungle or in an air-conditioned lab; it’s in the rich and mysterious bacterial swamp of your gut. Long viewed as an enemy within, bacteria in the body have been subjected to a century-long war in which antibiotics have been the medical weapon of choice. But today, the scientific consensus about our body’s relationship with the trillions of microbes that call it home—collectively known as the microbiome—is changing dramatically. From potentially shaping our personalities to fighting obesity, the bacteria in our bellies play a much stronger role in our overall health than we once thought.

Developments in sequencing technology in the last decade have allowed scientists to better understand gut bacteria, and recent studies have shed light on how our digestive systems may mold brain structure when we’re young and influence our moods, feelings, and behavior when we’re adults. Scientists experimenting on mice have found links between gut bacteria and conditions similar to autism and anxiety in humans.

While it’s still early, the implications of better understanding how gut bacteria impacts our minds and bodies could change the way doctors treat myriad conditions, says Michael A. Fischbach, a microbiologist at UC San Francisco (UCSF). “If we use history as a guide, a lot of ideas probably won’t work out,” Fischbach says. “But even if one of them does, it’s a huge deal.”

Read the full article

Fake olive oil? To get the benefits of olive oil, it’s got to be fresh

Olive Oil - Olive Oyl

The Mediterranean diet has become a darling of medical researchers.  It’s known for its veggies and grains, limited amounts of meat, and a good helping of olive oil.

Researchers believe that olive oil is the key to the superior health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

“The health benefits of olive oil are 99% related to the presence of the phenolic compounds, not the oil itself,” explains Nasir Malik, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [1]

Polyphenols decrease heart disease risk factors by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing blood clotting and improving the health of artery linings. They also reduce cancer risk by lowering inflammation and cellular proliferation. They even reduce microbial activity and infections.

Sounds great, right? But here’s the catch…

When tested, polyphenols were surprisingly low in most commercially available olive oils.

It turns out that 69% of the “extra-virgin” olive oil imported into the U.S. has been shown to be substandard, according to a study out of UC Davis.

Often, the oil is just too old. It’s shipped from place to place before it’s imported and usually isn’t stored well.  By the time it arrives in the U.S., Many of the heart-health compounds have degraded and fizzled out.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Harvest date on the label: The bottle should have a “harvest date” instead of a “sell by” label. The olives should be harvested within the past year.
  • The container: Buy olive oil in a container that protects it from the light (dark glass or tin).
  • The taste & smell: If the oil stings the back of your throat a little that tells you the beneficial polyphenols really are there. High-quality olive oil is pungent and often described as “grassy” or “peppery.”

The brands that failed to meet the extra virgin olive oil standards, according to this study: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Star, Pompeian. [2]

The real deal: California Olive Ranch, Cobram Estate, Lucini. (Kirkland Organic, Lucero (Ascolano), McEvoy Ranch Organic are also noted by Eat Grown Local.)

Thirdhand smoke, what lingers after the smoke clears

Thirdhand smoke is a new frontier, and UC’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program has assembled a group of investigators, including at LBNL and UCSF,  to study the health risks caused by the remnants of cigarette smoke.

“Third hand smoke is what you smell when you go into a hotel room where people have been smoking or what rubs off on your skin when you touch a wall or if you visit somebody’s house and they’ve been smoking.  So that means its not only in the air but its also coming out of surfaces.  Third hand smoke is the residue in tobacco smoking that is in a building after people have smoked.”  – Laura Gundel, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

 

Using cell phones to detect harmful bacteria

Picture 2013-01-18 at 4.11.52 PMUCLA scientists have developed a cell phone attachment that acts as a microscope and detects pathogens such as E.coli, which contaminates food and drinking water.

“The platform is actually a microscope installed on the cell phone, but using some spatial microfluid devices, we converted to a specific sensor of bacteria. We envisioned that such a platform running on the cellphone, easy-to-use and cost effective, could be used in field conditions, wherever your cellphones work and ideally the field worker would take some samples.” – Aydogan Ozcan, Researcher, UCLA School of Engineering