Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] How used coffee grounds could make some food more healthful

How used coffee grounds could make some food more healthful 

From the 13 May 2015 American Chemical Society news release

 

Assessment of Total (Free and Bound) Phenolic Compounds in Spent Coffee Extracts
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Coffee has gone from dietary foe to friend in recent years, partly due to the revelation that it’s rich in antioxidants. Now even spent coffee-grounds are gaining attention for being chock-full of these compounds, which have potential health benefits. In ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers explain how to extract antioxidants from the grounds. They then determined just how concentrated the antioxidants are.

María-Paz de Peña and colleagues note that coffee — one of the most popular drinks in the world — is a rich source of a group of antioxidants called dietary phenolic compounds. Spent grounds, however, often end up in the trash. But recently, scientists have discovered that antioxidants aren’t just in the brewed coffee; they’re also in the used grounds. De Peña wanted to figure out the total phenolic content in extracts from these leftovers.

The researchers used three different methods to release antioxidants from spent grounds and found high levels of phenols in the extracts — sometimes at higher levels than in brewed coffee. Thus, they have the potential to serve as additives to enhance the potential health effects of other food products, the scientists conclude.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

May 18, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Vitamins: Potential Damage to Body’s Defences

From the 28 November 2013 ScienceDaily report

Vitamin supplements are a billion-dollar industry. We want to stay healthy and fit and help our bodies with this. But perhaps we are achieving precisely the opposite?

“We believe that antioxidants are good for us, since they protect the cells from oxidative stress that may harm our genes. However, our bodies have an enormous inherent ability to handle stress. Recent research results show that the body’s responses to stress in fact are important in preventing our DNA from eroding. I fear that the fragile balance in our cells can be upset when we supplement our diet with vitamin pills, says Hilde Nilsen to the research magazine Apollon. Nilsen is heading a research group at the Biotechnology Centre, University of Oslo.

Maintenance of genes

Our DNA – the genetic code that makes us who we are – is constantly exposed to damage.

In each of the hundred trillion cells in our body, up to two hundred thousand instances of damage to the DNA take place every day. These may stem from environmental causes such as smoking, stress, environmental pathogens or UV radiation, but the natural and life-sustaining processes in the organism are the primary sources of damage to our DNA.

How can the repair of damage to our DNA help us stay healthy and live long lives?

A small worm provides the answer

To answer this question, Hilde Nilsen and her group of researchers have allied themselves with a small organism – a one millimetre-long nematode called Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). This roundworm, which lives for only 25 days, is surprisingly sophisticated with its 20,000 genes; we humans only have a couple of thousand more.

C. elegans is a fantastically powerful tool, because we can change its hereditary properties. We can increase its ability to repair DNA damage, or we can remove it altogether. We can also monitor what happens when damage to DNA is not repaired in several hundred specimens and through their entire lifespan. Different “repair proteins” take care of various types of damage to the DNA. The most common ones are repaired by “cutting out” and replacing a single damaged base by itself or as part of a larger fragment.

Affecting lifespan with the aid of genes

In some specimens that do not have the ability to repair the damage, the researchers observe that the aging process proceeds far faster than normal. Is it because the damage accumulates in the DNA and prevents the cells from producing the proteins they need for their normal operation? Most researchers have thought so, but Hilde Nilsen doubts it.

One of the genes studied by the researchers has a somewhat shortened lifespan: on average, this mutant lives three days less than normal. Translated into human terms, this means dying at the age of 60 rather than at 70. -“We were surprised when we saw that these mutants do not in fact accumulate the DNA damage that would cause aging. On the contrary: they have less DNA damage. This happens because the little nematode changes its metabolism into low gear and releases its own antioxidant defences. Nature uses this strategy to minimize the negative consequences of its inability to repair the DNA. So why is this not the normal state? Most likely because it comes at a cost: these organisms have less ability to respond to further stress ‒ they are quite fragile.

Hilde Nilsen and her colleagues have now -for the very first time -“shown that this response is under active genetic control and is not caused by passive accumulation of damage to the DNA, as has been widely believed.

Can do great harm

The balance between oxidants and antioxidants is crucial to our physiology, but exactly where this equilibrium is situated varies from one person to the next.

“This is where I start worrying about the synthetic antioxidants. The cells in our body use this fragile balance to establish the best possible conditions for themselves, and it is specially adapted for each of us. When we take supplements of antioxidants, such as C and E vitamins, we may upset this balance,” the researcher warns.

“It sounds intuitively correct that intake of a substance that may prevent accumulation of damage would benefit us, and that’s why so many of us supplement our diet with vitamins. Our research results indicate that at the same time, we may also cause a lot of harm. The health authorities recommend that instead, we should seek to have an appropriate diet. I’m all in favour of that. It’s far safer for us to take our vitamins through the food that we eat, rather than through pills,” Hilde Nilsen states emphatically.

 

Read the entire article here

 

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Popcorn: The Snack With Even Higher Antioxidants Levels Than Fruits and Vegetables

Popcorn

Popcorn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 25 March 2012 article at Science News Daily

Popcorn’s reputation as a snack food that’s actually good for health popped up a few notches as scientists recently reported that it contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called “polyphenols” than fruits and vegetables…

…Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a pioneer in analyzing healthful components in chocolate, nuts and other common foods, explained that the polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4 percent water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90 percent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.
In another surprising finding, the researchers discovered that the hulls of the popcorn — the part that everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth — actually has the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber…

…The overall findings led Vinson to declare, “Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It’s the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called “whole grain,” this simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the product is whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way.”
Vinson cautioned, however, that the way people prepare and serve popcorn can quickly put a dent in its healthful image. Cook it in a potful of oil, slather on butter or the fake butter used in many movie theaters, pour on the salt; eat it as “kettle corn” cooked in oil and sugar — and popcorn can become a nutritional nightmare loaded with fat and calories.
“Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course,” Vinson said. “Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”
Likewise, Vinson pointed out that popcorn cannot replace fresh fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and other nutrients that are critical for good health, but are missing from popcorn.

 

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | 2 Comments

Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype & Dietary Supplement Web Sites

Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype

Antioxidant pills

From the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source Web page – Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype
This summary includes the following

Excerpt (Bottom Line)

The Bottom Line on Antioxidants and Disease Prevention

Free radicals contribute to chronic diseases from cancer to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease to vision loss. This doesn’t automatically mean that substances with antioxidant properties will fix the problem, especially not when they are taken out of their natural context. The studies so far are inconclusive, but generally don’t provide strong evidence that antioxidant supplements have a substantial impact on disease. But keep in mind that most of the trials conducted up to now have had fundamental limitations due to their relatively short duration and having been conducted in persons with existing disease. That a benefit of beta-carotene on cognitive function was seen in the Physicians’ Health Follow-up Study only after 18 years of follow-up is sobering, since no other trial has continued for so long. At the same time, abundant evidence suggests that eating whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—all rich in networks of antioxidants and their helper molecules—provides protection against many of these scourges of aging.

Information about ingredients in more than three thousand selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to determine what ingredients are in specific brands and to compare ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the health benefits claimed by manufacturers. These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Check out the Help section for tips on how to browse and search this site.

Prescription and over-the-counter medication information contains answers to many general questions including topics as what a drug is used for, precautions, side effects, dietary instructions, and overdoses. From the American Society of Health System Pharmacists

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

Somewhat lengthy drug and over-the-counter medicationinformation with these sections: description, before using, proper use, precautions and side effects. From Micromedex, a trusted source of healthcare information for health professionals. 

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

    March 29, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

    Poor Diet May Make COPD Worse, Study Finds

    From a November 2, 2010 Health Day news item By Robert Preidt

    TUESDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) — Certain vitamin deficiencies may lead to decreased lung function in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, says a new study……

    …..”Further studies are needed to clarify the role gender has on the loss of lung function in COPD and the impact of antioxidant nutrient intake,” Khan said.

    Khan added that antioxidants might also benefit people with severe asthma.

    “We would guess that the role of antioxidant nutrients in a well-controlled asthma patient would be less than that seen in patients with COPD,” Khan said. “However, in patients with severe asthma with poorly controlled symptoms and frequent, recurring exacerbations, antioxidant nutrient intake may indeed play an important role in the preservation of lung function.”…

    ……”Our study, along with other research, suggests that strategies for dietary modification and supplementation should be considered in patients with COPD,” Dr. M. Salman Khan of Akron City Hospital, Ohio, said in an ACCP news release.

    ….The study was to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) in Vancouver, Canada….

    …..COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in America, with 119,000 deaths annually, according to the ACCP.

    SOURCE: American College of Chest Physicians, news release, Nov. 2, 2010

    A good place to start for nutrition information….

    Nutrition.gov “Providing easy, online access to government information on food and human nutrition
    for consumers. A service of the (US)National Agricultural Library, USDA.”

     

    November 5, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

    New Antioxidants Fact Sheet

    The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
    is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

    This agency is presently adding antioxidants to its areas of sponsored studies. Antioxidants are substances that may prevent potentially disease-producing cell damage that can result from natural bodily processes from exposure to certain chemicals. 

    A fact sheet on antioxidants may be found here

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    June 9, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

       

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