We provide a review of recent health related research stories that made the news with six items comprising:
- ‘Can your blood type affect your memory?’;
- ‘Bad cholesterol assumptions questioned again’;
- ‘Case reveals possible allergy to antibiotics in food’;
- ‘How epigenetic memory is passed across generations’; ‘Breast versus bottle feeding’ and
- ‘Do artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance’.
Study shows how epigenetic memory is passed across generations
Researchers traced markers of gene repression through cell division and showed that both sperm and eggs transmit a memory of gene repression to embryos.
A growing body of evidence suggests that environmental stresses can cause changes in gene expression that are transmitted from parents to their offspring, making “epigenetics” a hot topic. Epigenetic modifications do not affect the DNA sequence of genes, but change how the DNA is packaged and how genes are expressed. Now, a study by scientists at UC Santa Cruz shows how epigenetic memory can be passed across generations and from cell to cell during development.
‘There has been ongoing debate about whether the methylation mark can be passed on through cell divisions and across generations, and we’ve now shown that it is,’ said corresponding author Susan Strome, a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UC Santa Cruz.”
We have published a number of articles recently on the topic of epigenetics and nutrigenetics including relevance at preconception. Links below.
‘Bad’ Cholesterol assumptions questioned again
“Study of Oxidized LDL Shows Early Promise For Treatment of Heart Disease – A team of investigators has made a thought-provoking discovery about a type of cholesterol previously believed to be a “bad guy” in the development of heart disease and other conditions. (University of Kentucky, Lexington)
Jason Meyer, a University of Kentucky M.D.-Ph.D. candidate, worked with Deneys van der Westhuyzen, a professor in the departments of Internal Medicine and Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, to study the role oxidized LDL plays in the development of plaque inside artery walls.
According to Meyer, the medical research community has traditionally believed that oxidized LDL plays a pivotal role in that process.
“Oxidized LDL moves rapidly into arterial walls and engorges them with cholesterol,” Meyer said. “Cholesterol ultimately converts into plaque, blocking the arteries or, in a worst case scenario, rupturing and sending clots into the bloodstream, causing heart attacks and/or strokes.”
However, more recent studies in animals and humans have brought that assumption into question, and the oxidized LDL theory is currently the subject of lively debate.
“Though in its very early stages, our research will add considerably to that controversy,” Meyer said, “because it seems to indicate that oxidized LDL might, in fact, be a ‘good guy’ in the process.”
Meyer says the implications of the study are potentially profound. Meyer and van der Westhuyzen’s findings were published in the August issue of the Journal of Lipid Research.”
Can your blood type affect your memory?
“People with blood type AB may be more likely to develop memory loss in later years than people with other blood types, according to a study published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. (Minneapolis)
AB is the least common blood type, found in about 4 percent of the U.S. population. The study found that people with AB blood were 82 percent more likely to develop the thinking and memory problems that can lead to dementia than people with other blood types. Previous studies have shown that people with type O blood have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, factors that can increase the risk of memory loss and dementia.
“Our study looks at blood type and risk of cognitive impairment, but several studies have shown that factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia,” said study author Mary Cushman, MD, MSc, of the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington. “Blood type is also related to other vascular conditions like stroke, so the findings highlight the connections between vascular issues and brain health. More research is needed to confirm these results.”
The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.”
Sensitivity to antibiotic residues in food?
“Case reveals possible allergy to antibiotics in food – People with food allergies always have to watch what they eat. Now, they may have to watch what their fruits and vegetables eat, as it seems it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to antibiotic residues in food. (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
An article published in the September issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), examines the case of a 10 year-old girl who had an anaphylactic (severely allergic) reaction after eating blueberry pie. Although she had a medical history of asthma and seasonal allergies, and known anaphylaxis to penicillin and cow’s milk, she wasn’t known to be allergic to any of the ingredients in the pie.
After weeks of testing on both the young girl and a sample of the pie, the article authors decided that what had caused the reaction was a streptomycin-contaminated blueberry. Streptomycin, in addition to being a drug used to fight disease, is also used as a pesticide in fruit, to combat the growth of bacteria, fungi, and algae.
“As far as we know, this is the first report that links an allergic reaction to fruits treated with antibiotic pesticides,” said allergist Anne Des Roches, MD,FRCP, lead study author. “Certain European countries ban the use of antibiotics for growing foods, but the United States and Canada still allow them for agricultural purposes.”
‘This is a very rare allergic reaction’ said allergist James Sublett, MD, ACAAI president-elect. ‘Nevertheless, it’s something allergists need to be aware of and that emergency room personnel may need to know about in order to help determine where anaphylactic reactions may arise. Anyone who is at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction should always carry epinephrine. They also need to know how to use their epinephrine in an emergency situation.’”
Breast vs Bottle feeding, intestinal bacteria & the immune system
“Breast vs. bottle feeding in rhesus monkeys – Infants receiving different diets after birth develop distinct immune systems. Infant rhesus monkeys receiving different diets early in life develop distinct immune systems that persist months after weaning, a study by researchers from UC Davis, the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) at UC Davis and UC San Francisco has shown. The study, which compares breast- and bottle-fed infants, appears online September 3 in Science Translational Medicine. (Sacramento, California)
While the researchers expected different diets would promote different intestinal bacteria (microbiota), they were surprised at how dramatically these microbes shaped immunologic development. Specifically, breast-fed macaques had more “memory” T cells and T helper 17 (TH17) cells, which are known to fight salmonella and other pathogens.
These differences persisted for months after the macaques had been weaned and placed on identical diets, indicating that variations in early diet may have long-lasting effects.
“We saw two different immune systems develop: one in animals fed mother’s milk and another in those fed formula,” said Dennis Hartigan-O’Connor, a CNPRC scientist in the Infectious Diseases Unit and Reproductive Sciences and Regenerative Medicine Unit, and an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis.
“But what’s most startling is the durability of these differences. Infant microbes could leave a long-lasting imprint on immune function,” he said.
Previous research has highlighted the relationship between breast milk, microbiota and the developing immune system. For example, sugars in breast milk help grow specific bacteria, which in turn support certain immune cells. This new study is an important step towards understanding how these separate pieces link together and how they might influence the immune systems response to infections or vaccinations.
While this research provides a fascinating window into immune cell development in macaques, Hartigan-O’Connor cautions that it doesn’t prove the same mechanisms exist in people. The lab is planning similar studies in humans to test that hypothesis. In addition, this study does not prove a link between breastfeeding and better health.”
Do artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance?
“Gut Bacteria, Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance – A new study reveals that certain gut bacteria may induce metabolic changes following exposure to artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners, promoted as aids to weight loss and diabetes prevention, could actually hasten the development of glucose intolerance and metabolic disease; and they do it in a surprising way: by changing the composition and function of the gut microbiota – the substantial population of bacteria residing in our intestines.
These findings, the results of experiments in mice and humans, were published today in Nature. Among other things, says Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department, who led this research together with Prof. Eran Segal of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department, the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in drinks and food may be contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is sweeping much of the world.
For years researchers have been puzzling over the fact that non-caloric artificial sweeteners do not seem to assist in weight loss, and some studies have suggested they may even have an opposite effect. Graduate student Jotham Suez in Elinav’s lab, who led the study, collaborated with graduate students Tal Korem and David Zeevi in Segal’s lab and Gili Zilberman-Shapira in Elinav’s lab in discovering that artificial sweeteners, even though they do not contain sugar, nonetheless have a direct effect on the body’s ability to utilize glucose. Glucose intolerance – generally thought to occur when the body cannot cope with large amounts of sugar in the diet – is the first step on the path to metabolic syndrome and adult-onset diabetes.
Elinav: ‘Our relationship with our own individual mix of gut bacteria is a huge factor in determining how the food we eat affects us. Especially intriguing is the link between use of artificial sweeteners – through the bacteria in our guts – to a tendency to develop the very disorders they were designed to prevent; this calls for reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.’”
I would like to add a personal comment in response to this research – I have been saying for years that artificial sweeteners upset glucose tolerance and it is great to have a definitive mechanism to explain it. One of main reason we have never added artificial sweeteners to our products and now I can justify it scientifically!. (Amanda Williams, Cytoplan)
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time. If you want to be alerted by email when a new post is published simply add your email address in the ‘Get The Latest Post By Email’ in the right-hand column.
Amanda Williams, Cytoplan Ltd
[email protected], 01684 310099