. Scientific Frontline: Nutritional Science
Showing posts with label Nutritional Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nutritional Science. Show all posts

Friday, January 27, 2023

Farming more seaweed for food, feed and fuel

Seaweed farmers in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Photo Credit: Eldo Rafael

A University of Queensland-led study has shown that expanding global seaweed farming could go a long way to addressing the planet’s food security, biodiversity loss and climate change challenges.

PhD Candidate Scott Spillias, from UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Science, said seaweed offered a sustainable alternative to land-based agricultural expansion to meet the world’s growing need for food and materials.

“Seaweed has great commercial and environmental potential as a nutritious food and a building block for commercial products including animal feed, plastics, fibers, diesel and ethanol,” Mr. Spillias said.

“Our study found that expanding seaweed farming could help reduce demand for terrestrial crops and reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by up to 2.6 billion tons of CO2-equivalent per year.”

Researchers mapped the potential of farming more of the 34 commercially important seaweed species using the Global Biosphere Management Model.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Small-scale octopus fisheries can provide sustainable source of vital nutrients for tropical coastal communities

Photo Credit: Blue Ventures

Research led by Cambridge scientists, and published in Nature Food, shows that tropical small-scale octopus fisheries offer a sustainable source of food and income to communities that face food insecurity, where the prevalence of undernourishment can exceed 40% and stunting in children under five commonly exceeds 30%. 

The high micronutrient density of octopus - including vitamin B12, copper, iron and selenium - means that human populations only need to eat a small quantity to supplement a diet primarily comprising staple plant crops. The new research shows that just a small amount of production in a tropical small-scale octopus fishery can deliver the micronutrient needs to a relatively large number of people.

The fast growth and adaptability of octopuses to environmental change can also facilitate sustainable production, and catch methods in the fisheries - primarily consisting of hand techniques, small-scale lines, pots and traps - are less environmentally harmful than those of large industrial fishing.

Monday, January 23, 2023

A soybean protein blocks LDL cholesterol production, reducing risks of metabolic diseases

Graduate student Jennifer Kusumah, center; postdoctoral researcher Erick Damian Castañeda-Reyes, right; and undergraduate student Elen Huang, left; examine the antioxidant effects of soybean proteins that can decrease LDL cholesterol storage in human liver cells, potentially curtailing the development of metabolic diseases such as fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis. 
Photo Credit: Fred Zwicky

A protein in soybeans blocks the production of a liver enzyme involved in the metabolism of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein, scientists found in a recent study.

Consuming soy flour rich in the protein B-conglycinin has the potential to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and lower the risk of metabolic diseases such as atherosclerosis and fatty liver disease, said Elvira de Mejia, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the corresponding author of the study.

Published in the journal Antioxidants, the study was co-written by Neal A. Bringe, a food scientist with Benson Hill Company; and Miguel Rebollo Hernanz, who at the time of the research was a visiting scholar at the U. of I. Rebollo Hernanz is the first author of the paper.

Scientists have long known of soybeans’ cholesterol-lowering properties and lipid-regulating effects, and the current project investigated two soy proteins thought to be responsible for these outcomes – glycinin and B-conglycinin – and found the latter to be particularly significant.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Not everyone aware sustainable diets are about helping the planet

Sustainable diets
Photo Credit: yilmazfatih

A new study has found that young Brits would be willing to change to a more sustainable diet, but a lack of understanding about what that actually means is preventing many from doing so.

Many people are also uncertain about what changes they should make.

Sustainable diets are defined by the UN as “diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.”

Previous research has suggested that 20-30% of environmental impacts in Europe and the UK originate from our diets, including impacts from food production, processing and retail. It is also now widely accepted that the consumption of meat and animal products typically has a higher environmental impact than plant-based foods.

“When thinking about how to live more sustainably, people seem to understand that this can mean taking fewer flights, using the car less, recycling more, but it seems that not everyone is aware of the difference that changing their diet can make as well,” explained Katherine Appleton, Professor of Psychology at Bournemouth University, who led the study.

Monday, December 5, 2022

FAU study finds low salinity can work to culture Florida pompano fish

Florida Pompano larvae (juvenile fish) pictured under a microscope.
Photo Credit: Victoria Uribe, FAU Harbor Branch

The Florida pompano, Trachinotus carolinus, a fish species that can live in waters of a wide range of salinity, is a prime candidate for aquaculture commercial fish production in the United States. Identified by its compressed silvery body with yellow dorsal and ventral surfaces, this species is found in warm water habitats along the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Florida pompano also is a popular target for recreational anglers along the U.S. Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts to Florida.

There are less than 10 aquaculture farms across the U.S. that have been successful in commercially raising and distributing Florida pompano. Many farms import their broodstock from countries such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. When attempting to rear Florida pompano from hatch to market, farms face a variety of challenges including access to seawater. On inland farms, seawater must be mixed on-site using artificial sea salt products, which can contribute to high production costs and lower profit returns.

While several studies have investigated using juvenile Florida pompano in low salinity, no low salinity experiments have been conducted on Florida pompano larvae (early stages of a fish). To address the knowledge gaps of the impact of low salinity on Florida pompano larval health, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, in collaboration with two local fish farms, Live Advantage Baits and Proaquatix, conducted a novel experiment that serves as a model study for future on-farm collaborations and helps build a bridge between scientists and farmers in aquaculture.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Small fish could play big role in fight against malnutrition

 Dagaa, a small pelagic fish, is the largest share of the catch around Lake Victoria in East Africa. Photo Credit: Kathryn Fiorella

According to new research, inexpensive, small fish species caught in seas and lakes in developing countries could help close nutritional gaps for undernourished people, and especially young children, according to new research.

The study, “Small Pelagic Fish Supply Abundant and Affordable Micronutrients to Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” published Dec. 1 in Nature Food.

The researchers found that fish such as herring, sardines and anchovies – known as pelagic fish, meaning they inhabit upper layers of open sea – were the cheapest nutritious fish in 72% percent of the countries.

They also found targeting small pelagic fish could help close nutrient gaps in sub-Saharan Africa, where nutrient deficiencies are rising and children under 5 years consume just 38% of recommended seafood intake. While cheap and nutritious, these small fish are also already caught in sufficient numbers. Just 20% of the current small pelagic fish catch could meet the recommended dietary fish intakes for all children under 5 who live near coastlines.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

New study reveals high rates of iron deficiency in women during late-stage pregnancy

Photo Credit: Juan Encalada

Pregnant women may need to take more supplemental iron than current Health Canada guidelines recommend, after two UBC researchers found high rates of iron deficiency in a recent study.

The research investigated iron deficiency prevalence among 60 pregnant women in Metro Vancouver and found that over 80 per cent of them were likely iron-deficient in late pregnancy despite taking daily prenatal supplements that provided 100 per cent of the daily iron recommendation in pregnancy.

“This was much higher than I expected to see, which worries us because a woman who is iron-deficient in pregnancy is at higher risk for having an infant with iron deficiency,” said faculty of land and food systems professor Dr. Crystal Karakochuk (she/her), the study’s principal investigator.

Iron is an important nutrient during pregnancy and infancy as it supports optimal growth and development for the fetus and, eventually, the baby.

Kelsey Cochrane (she/her), a PhD candidate in the faculty of land and food systems and the study’s first author, explains that, for the first six months of their lives, babies rely on iron stores they built throughout gestation.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Genetic ‘Hitchhikers’ Can Be Directed Using CRISPR

NC State researchers expand the CRISPR toolbox with possible agricultural implications.
Photo Credit: Atlas Green

In a new study, North Carolina State University researchers characterize a range of molecular tools to rewrite – not just edit – large chunks of an organism’s DNA, based on CRISPR-Cas systems associated with selfish genetic “hitchhikers” called transposons.

The researchers investigate diverse Type I-F CRISPR-Cas systems and engineer them to add genetic cargo – up to 10,000 additional genetic code letters – to the transposon’s cargo to make desired changes to a bacterium – in this case, E. coli.

The findings expand the CRISPR toolbox and could have significant implications in the manipulation of bacteria and other organisms at a time of need for flexible genome editing in therapeutics, biotechnology and more sustainable and efficient agriculture.

Bacteria use CRISPR-Cas as adaptive immune systems to withstand attacks from enemies like viruses. These systems have been adapted by scientists to remove or cut and replace specific genetic code sequences in a variety of organisms. The new finding shows that exponentially larger amounts of genetic code can be moved or added, potentially increasing CRISPR’s functionality.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Tiny molecules in breast milk may protect infants from developing allergies

A new study by Penn State College of Medicine researchers found that small molecules found in most humans’ breast milk may reduce the likelihood of infants developing allergic conditions like atopic dermatitis and food allergies.
Photo Credit: Gustavo Fring

Breastfed babies are believed to suffer fewer allergic conditions, like eczema and food allergies, than formula-fed babies; yet the reason has not been well understood. Now, a new study by Penn State College of Medicine finds that small molecules found in most humans’ breast milk may reduce the likelihood of infants developing allergic conditions like atopic dermatitis and food allergies. The researchers said the discovery could lead to strategies for mothers — such as encouragement and support for breastfeeding or dietary and exercise interventions — to help lower the odds of their babies developing allergies.

Atopic conditions, like food allergies, asthma and a skin condition called atopic dermatitis occur in approximately one-third of children as a result of inappropriate activation of the immune system to environmental exposures.

“Infants who breastfeed beyond three months may have a lower risk for these conditions, but we don’t fully understand the biology behind this,” said Dr. Steven Hicks, associate professor of pediatrics and pediatrician at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Workplace cafeteria study finds no evidence that physical activity calorie-equivalent labeling changes food purchasing

PACE labels alongside menus 
Credit: University of Cambridge

More than three in five UK adults are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. A major factor that contributes to this is excess energy intake – in other words, eating too many calories. Measures that can help reduce energy intake could help tackle the obesity problem.

In the UK, adults eat as many as a third of their meals out of home, including in workplace cafeterias, and these meals are often much higher in calories than meals eaten at home. Since April 2022 calorie labelling is now required on food and drink served out of the home in businesses employing 250 or more people. While many people welcome this information, evidence for its effectiveness in reducing calories purchased or consumed is limited in quantity and quality. For example, two previous studies conducted by the authors in nine worksite cafeterias found no evidence for an effect of simple calorie labelling (kcal) on calories purchased.

Another option is to show the amount of exercise required to burn off these calories – so-called PACE (physical activity calorie-equivalent) labels – for example, a 1014kcal ‘large battered haddock’ portion would take upwards of five hours walking (278 minutes) to burn off. A recent systematic review – a type of study that brings together existing evidence – concluded that PACE labels may reduce energy selected from menus and decrease the energy consumed when compared with simple calorie labels or no labels, but only one of the 15 studies reviewed was in a ‘real world’ setting.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Why late-night eating leads to weight gain, diabetes

The science behind the study is underpinned by research done at Northwestern more than 20 years ago that found a relationship between the internal molecular clock and body weight, obesity and metabolism in animals.
Credit: Diana Titenko

Health benefits come from eating during the daytime, demonstrating a potential link to energy release

The science behind the study is underpinned by research done at Northwestern more than 20 years ago that found a relationship between the internal molecular clock and body weight, obesity and metabolism in animals.

Northwestern Medicine scientists have uncovered the mechanism behind why eating late at night is linked to weight gain and diabetes.

The connection between eating time, sleep and obesity is well-known but poorly understood, with research showing that overnutrition can disrupt circadian rhythms and change fat tissue.

New Northwestern research has shown for the first time that energy release may be the molecular mechanism through which our internal clocks control energy balance. From this understanding, the scientists also found that daytime is the ideal time in the light environment of the Earth’s rotation when it is most optimal to dissipate energy as heat. These findings have broad implications from dieting to sleep loss and the way we feed patients who require long-term nutritional assistance.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Study calls for change in guidance about eating fish during pregnancy

Photo Credit: Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

A woman’s mercury level during pregnancy is unlikely to have an adverse effect on the development of the child provided that the mother eats fish, according to a new University of Bristol-led study.

The findings, which drew together analyses on over 4,131 pregnant mothers from the Children of the 90s study in the UK, with similar detailed studies in the Seychelles, are published in NeuroToxicology.

Importantly, the researchers also found that it does not appear to matter which types of fish are eaten because the essential nutrients in the fish could be protective against the mercury content of the fish. The more important factor was whether the woman ate fish or not. This contrasts with current advice warning pregnant women not to eat certain types of fish that have relatively high levels of mercury.

Although there are several studies that have considered this question, this research has looked at two contrasting studies of populations with mercury levels measured during pregnancy where the children were followed up at frequent intervals during their childhood.

The first is a study focused on a population in the Seychelles, where almost all pregnant women are fish eaters. The second study considered analyses of data from the University of Bristol’s Children of the 90s study (also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)), based in a relatively industrialized area in south-west England where fish are consumed far less frequently. No summary of the findings from this study has been published before.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Climate-resilient breadfruit might be the food of the future

Breadfruit on a tree on the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Credit: Nyree Zerega/Northwestern University/Chicago Botanic Garden
In the face of climate change, breadfruit soon might come to a dinner plate near you.

While researchers predict that climate change will have an adverse effect on most staple crops, including rice, corn and soybeans, a new Northwestern University study finds that breadfruit — a starchy tree fruit native to the Pacific islands — will be relatively unaffected.

Because breadfruit is resilient to predicted climate change and particularly well-suited to growing in areas that experience high levels of food insecurity, the Northwestern team believes breadfruit could be part of the solution to the worsening global hunger crisis.

The study was published today (Aug. 17) in the journal PLOS Climate.

“Breadfruit is a neglected and underutilized species that happens to be relatively resilient in our climate change projections,” said Northwestern’s Daniel Horton, a senior author on the study. “This is good news because several other staples that we rely on are not so resilient. In really hot conditions, some of those staple crops struggle and yields decrease. As we implement strategies to adapt to climate change, breadfruit should be considered in food security adaptation strategies.”

Horton is an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, where he leads the Climate Change Research Group. Lucy Yang, a former student in Horton’s laboratory, is the paper’s first author. For this study, Horton and Yang collaborated with breadfruit expert Nyree Zerega, director of the Program in Plant Biology and Conservation, a partnership between Northwestern and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Students Begin Creating Oil-Based Emulsions for Foods

The internship of Ural Federal University students was the beginning of joint work of the Ural universities in the field of biotechnology.
Credit: Elena Kovaleva

It will be done within the framework of a joint project of the Ural Federal University and the South Ural State University

The Ural Federal University and the South Ural State University started cooperation in the field of progressive biotechnologies. This year, four Master's students from Ural Federal University completed an internship at the university in Chelyabinsk under the supervision of researchers from the Laboratory of Synthesis and Analysis of Food Ingredients (School of Medical Biology) of the South Ural State University.

As part of this project, students will be trained to make double emulsions based on oils for their subsequent use in products. A new format of cooperation and joining efforts of two scientific teams will lead to the creation of new technologies in such an important sphere as food production, says Irina Potoroko, Head of SUSU Department of Food and Biotechnology.

As Elena Kovaleva, Professor at the Ural Federal University Department of Technology of Organic Synthesis, notes, Ural Federal University chemists are engaged not only in food technology, but also in industrial technology, developing methods of extracting biologically active substances from food and plant raw materials. The team is ready to accept students interested in internships.

Virtual reality may offer nutrition educators a new platform

Virtual reality may offer nutrition educators a new platform — and scalable approach — to teach students.
Credit: Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Virtual reality (VR) may provide nutrition teachers and dietitians with an entirely new way to serve real lessons on healthy eating, according to a team of Penn State researchers.

In one study, students learned about nutrition both through an interactive VR lesson, as well as during a more traditional lecture that was hosted in a VR environment. The research also showed that nutrition educators might not even need all the bells and whistles of VR interactivity for those lessons to be effective.

The findings suggest nutrition educators can use VR environments — in both immersive and traditional formats — for remote education. It could lead to a more scalable way to develop and distribute lessons on nutrition, including ones on portion control, according to Travis Masterson, who is the Broadhurst Career Development Professor for the Study of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Institute for Computational and Data Sciences affiliate.

“One thing that comes up in nutrition is there is a lot of time spent on education and, as education professionals, we try to provide very simple information to people, but that might not be the most effective way,” said Masterson, who is also the director of the Health, Ingestive Behavior and Technology Laboratory. “When you learn about food, you learn best by experience — by actually dealing with food. For example, if you’re watching a cooking show, you don’t suddenly know how to cook. You need some hands-on experience. So, in this case, we weren't trying to teach someone how to cook, but trying to get some of those food principles across the people.”

Friday, July 29, 2022

It Doesn’t Matter Much Which Fiber You Choose – Just Get More Fiber!

There are lots of choices on the drug store shelves, but which fiber supplement is the right one for you? All of them help, say Duke researchers.
Credit: Duke photo

That huge array of dietary fiber supplements in the drugstore or grocery aisle can be overwhelming to a consumer. They make all sorts of health claims too, not being subject to FDA review and approval. So how do you know which supplement works and would be best for you?

A rigorous examination of the gut microbes of study participants who were fed three different kinds of supplements in different sequences concludes that people who had been eating the least amount of fiber before the study showed the greatest benefit from supplements, regardless of which ones they consumed.

“The people who responded the best had been eating the least fiber to start with,” said study leader Lawrence David, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University.

The benefit of dietary fiber isn’t just the easier pooping that advertisers tout. Fermentable fiber -- dietary carbohydrates that the human gut cannot process on its own but some bacteria can digest -- is also an essential source of nutrients that your gut microbes need to stay healthy.

“We’ve evolved to depend on nutrients that our microbiomes produce for us,” said Zack Holmes, former PhD student in the David lab and co-author on two new papers about fiber. “But with recent shifts in diet away from fiber-rich foods, we’ve stopped feeding our microbes what they need.”

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Don’t Stress: Maternal Stress Affects Child’s Diet

Photo credit cottonbro
Maternal exposure to stress during pregnancy could have long term detrimental effects on their children’s diets, and thereby on health conditions related to diet – such as increased levels of obesity and obesity-related diseases – according to new research from Michele Belot, professor in the Department of Economics.

“Being exposed to stressful events when pregnant seems to impact the dietary preferences and diet of the children in a negative way, and for reasons that are actually aside from what the mother is eating herself,” says Belot, who has a joint appointment in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and College of Arts and Sciences. “So that means that we need to think about how to help pregnant women manage stress in a way that could be beneficial for the mother and also for the child.”

In the paper, “Maternal stress during pregnancy and children’s diet: Evidence from a population of low socioeconomic status” published in the journal Nutrition, Belot and her co-authors found that higher than average stress during pregnancy is linked with significantly less healthy food preferences for their children, as well as a weaker preference for sour and bitter foods.

“Stress during pregnancy could have long-term detrimental effects on the next generation in terms of a less healthy diet and subsequent health implications associated with these effects, such as higher rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases,” wrote the authors, which include Nicoli Vitt (University of Bristol), Martina Vecchi (Penn State) and Jonathan James (University of Bath). “As a consequence, we advocate for more research into understanding the sources of maternal stress and the extent to which these can be altered. Prenatal care and preconception counseling could be critical to develop preventive strategies to improve public health.”

For the study, the researchers selected 213 mothers of low socioeconomic status living in the area of Colchester, United Kingdom, with children aged between 2- and 12-years old. Their stress level during pregnancy was assessed using retrospective self-reporting. Specifically, they asked whether mothers experienced one or more of the following life events during the pregnancy with their child: Death of close family member or close friend, changes or difficulties in their relationship, legal issues, changes or difficulties in their family life, health issues, changes or difficulties in their or their spouse’s employment, financial issues, changes in their habits, other potentially stressful events.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Artificial photosynthesis can produce food without sunshine

Plants are growing in complete darkness in an
acetate medium that replaces biological photosynthesis.
Credit: Marcus Harland-Dunaway/UCR
Full Size Image
Photosynthesis has evolved in plants for millions of years to turn water, carbon dioxide, and the energy from sunlight into plant biomass and the foods we eat. This process, however, is very inefficient, with only about 1% of the energy found in sunlight ending up in the plant. Scientists at UC Riverside and the University of Delaware have found a way to bypass the need for biological photosynthesis altogether and create food independent of sunlight by using artificial photosynthesis.

The research, published in Nature Food, uses a two-step electrocatalytic process to convert carbon dioxide, electricity, and water into acetate, the form of the main component of vinegar. Food-producing organisms then consume acetate in the dark to grow. Combined with solar panels to generate the electricity to power the electrocatalysis, this hybrid organic-inorganic system could increase the conversion efficiency of sunlight into food, up to 18 times more efficient for some foods.

“With our approach we sought to identify a new way of producing food that could break through the limits normally imposed by biological photosynthesis,” said corresponding author Robert Jinkerson, a UC Riverside assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering.

In order to integrate all the components of the system together, the output of the electrolyzer was optimized to support the growth of food-producing organisms. Electrolyzers are devices that use electricity to convert raw materials like carbon dioxide into useful molecules and products. The amount of acetate produced increased while the amount of salt used decreased, resulting in the highest levels of acetate ever produced in an electrolyzer to date.

“Using a state-of-the-art two-step tandem CO2 electrolysis setup developed in our laboratory, we were able to achieve a high selectivity towards acetate that cannot be accessed through conventional CO2 electrolysis routes,” said corresponding author Feng Jiao at University of Delaware.

Monday, June 13, 2022

A Fresh Take on Fat: Nanoparticle Technology Provides Healthy Trans, Saturated Fat Alternative

Yangchao Luo, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.
 Credit: Jason Shelton/UConn Photo

The old adage that oil and water don’t mix isn’t entirely accurate. While it’s true that the two compounds don’t naturally combine, turning them into one final product can be done. You just need an emulsifier, an ingredient commonly used in the food industry.

Yangchao Luo, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is using an innovative emulsification process for the development of a healthier shelf-stable fat for food manufacturing.

Luo is working with something known as high internal phase Pickering emulsions (HIPEs). High internal phase means the mixture is at least 75% oil. Pickering emulsions are those that are stabilized by solid particles.

Previous research in Pickering emulsions has focused on non-edible particles, but Luo is interested in bringing HIPEs to the food industry as an alternative to trans and saturated fats.

This new approach could have a major impact on how food is produced and could make it easier for food manufacturers to include healthier fats.

Many processed foods are loaded with saturated and trans fats for flavor and to extend a product’s shelf life. Consuming these fats can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and LDL cholesterol.

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