BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: food

E. coli is Beneficial to Plants?

An enzyme is a biological catalyst and is almost always a protein. It speeds up the rate of a specific chemical reaction in the cell. The enzyme is not destroyed during the reaction and is used over and over. A cell contains thousands of different types of enzyme molecules, each specific to a particular chemical reaction. Studies of scientists in the past focused on improving the photosynthesis of plants using the Rubisco, an enzyme that attracts carbon from carbon dioxide to create sucrose. However, Rubisco occasionally catalyzes a reaction with oxygen and CO2 from the air. By doing so, it creates a toxic byproduct and wastes energy, therefore making photosynthesis inefficient/unsafe.

“You would like Rubisco to not interact with oxygen and to also work faster,” said Maureen Hanson, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Plant Molecular Biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Scientists at Cornell, Maureen Hanson and Myat Lin, wanted to solve this problem. the conclusion they reached was to utilize E.coli. In order to do this, the researchers took Rubisco from tobacco plants and engineered it into E. coli. Their objective was to make mutations to try to improve the enzyme and then test it in E. coli in a quick and efficient way.

File:E. coli Bacteria (16578744517).jpg

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.

The fact that bacteria reproduces at a quick rate is an important in their experiments. The researchers were abler to test an altered Rubisco in E. coli and get results the next day. This is a huge improvement compared to normal Rubisco, which normally takes a few months for noticeable results.

The work by another group that engineered tobacco Rubisco into E. coli led to very weak expression of the enzyme. In plants, Rubisco is composed of eight large and eight small subunits. A single gene encodes each large subunit, but many genes encode each small subunit. The complex process of enzyme assembly and the presence of multiple versions of the enzyme in plants has made it very hard to experiment with Rubisco. By doing this, they attained expression of the enzyme in E. coli that matched what was found in plants.

With this newfound ability to develop new mutations of Rubisco in E.coli, researchers can pick out the improved mutations and distribute them to a crop plant which could help improve the economy immensely. The Rubisco in E.coli will help the photosynthesis of the plants, allowing them to produce more glucose as well as oxygen gas.  This will lead to an increase in cell respiration. The chemical energy released by respiration can be used by the plant for cellular activities such as protein synthesis or cell division. The plant will ultimately grow to be bigger, healthier, and in the crops case, more tasty.

Snacks That Smile Back…No More!

Throughout the world, child obesity is a global issue that has gone on for many years. With very few signs of progress, many people around the world are struggling to find innovative ways to save this worldwide problem. As more and more kids interact with many of these social media platforms including: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, many fast food chains use this as an opportunity to spread the word about their food. Disregarding the foods and beverages of high fat, sugar, and salt(HFSS) could be one of the leading factors to the growing percentage with children who suffer with obesity. As part of U.K. government’s plan to limit child obesity through 2030, the article states that the government is “considering limitations on television advertising for HFSS products between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.”.

This picture displays common junk food found in commercials.
This picture displays common junk food found in commercials.

The Study

Throughout this study, researchers used data on children’s exposure to HFSS advertising during the controlled hours(5:30 a.m.— 9 p.m.), as well as previously published information on the association between exposure to HFSS and children’s calorie intake in order to trigger a decrease in children being exposed to HFSS food. As the experiment was conducted, the ending results concluded that if all advertising containing foods with HFSS were to be limited or even terminated, 3.7 million children in the U.K. would experience on average 1.5 fewer advertisements per day, as well as decrease there calorie intake by an average of 9.1 kcal. The article states that these findings “would reduce the number of children aged 5 through 17 with obesity by 4.6% and the number of children overweight by 3.6%”. This data is equivalent to 40,000 fewer U.K. children who struggle with obesity and over 120,000 fewer children who classify as overweight. It it important to keep in mind that this study only focuses on the direct impact of HFSS advertising on children’s calorie intake and not the changing of children dietary preferences and habits.

Why is this Important?

This study proved that implementing a certain time frame throughout the day(5:30 a.m. -9 p.m.) to potentially reduce the exposure of less-healthy food(HFSS) advertising could provoke a valuable contribution towards not only protecting the future health of children who live in the U.K., but children all over the world. As children are becoming more connected with social media, it’s hard to avoid the mass amount of advertisements displayed throughout all these sites. “children now consume media from a range of sources, and increasingly from online and on-demand services,” says Dr. Oliver Mytton, researcher at the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at Cambridge University.

Many of these less-healthy food options contain saturated Fats. These fats have fatty acid chains with “single-bonds” between carbons. This allows chains to pack closely together forming a solid, which are less healthy to consume due to the formation of plaques in blood vessels. These fatty foods also contain lots of carbohydrates as well. When consuming an excessive amount of carbs, your blood sugar levels can get too high. This leads to your body creating more insulin, which tells your body to store extra glucose as fat, making the person gain more weight, as well as lead to other major health issues.

I believe that obesity is a prevalent issue throughout our world, and the more studies and experiments we conduct to try and prevent this condition, the more healthy our world can become. What do you think? Leave a comment below!

A Sweet Post About Sourdough!

When Covid-19 hit the US, some of the biggest quarantine coping mechanisms all revolved around a fan favorite carbohydrate: bread. With the copious amount of time on people’s hands, baking sourdough bread was the perfect activity.

Unlike any other bread, it’s hard to get the perfect tasting sourdough. Research has found that there are biological reasons behind sourdough bread and its taste, but before doing so, it’s important to learn what sourdough bread is made up of, and how it’s made. To help learn more about the process of making sourdough bread from scratch, I got a mini crash course from Little Spoon Farm. The starter (initial mixture) contains flour and water and sometimes salt, which will eventually grow into a diverse selection of microbes (these are tiny living organisms, which in this case are bacteria). The starter has to sit for 7-14 days, and within that time, the starter grows through the flour by eating the sugars within itself. With that growth comes bacteria/microbes and lactic acid, which eventually will allow the bread to be able to leaven in the oven.

Recent studies have shown that each starter is made up of different microbes. One study had 18 professional bakers from all around the globe make their sourdough, and send it to a lab in Belgium, where DNA sequencing was used to identify the microbes in the different starters. Although there were common yeasts and acids found like Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Lactobacillus, the strands and amount of each differed according to the starter. Another study done by Elizabeth Landis, at Tufts University, looked at 560 different starters submitted from all around the world. Through doing so, she found recurring microbe groups within these different sequences. There is still no definitive reason behind the microbe groupings, and why exactly they differ for each starter, but Landis mentioned that certain yeasts “specialize in feeding on distinct sugars,” due to the fact that they are made of different sugar mixtures. Some yeast also lack certain enzymes, which as we learned in class, help break down molecules. In this specific situation, the enzymes within different yeasts feed on and break down sugars. Differing yeasts could also be a reason why sourdough bread has different flavors. (Keep in mind that Landis’ findings are still under review, so there are still limited details on this experiment and not definitive reasoning).

Microbial ecologist, Erin McKenny, further elaborates on how “each microbial community can produce its own unique flavor profile.” For example, when more acetic acid is present in the starter, the bread will have a more sharp and vinegary taste. When the starter produces more lactic acid, it has a more sour and yogurt like taste. Metabolic byproducts within the starter could also potentially add to the complexity of the sourdoughs’ taste. In addition to each microbial community, scientists have identified other features that influence the taste of the bread like temperature. When lactic acid ferments in a warmer area, the bread has a more sour taste, and when it ferments in a colder area, the bread has a more fruity taste.

After looking at multiple articles showing how bakers get their sourdough to have a certain taste, I have learned how important the specifics are when it comes down to making sourdough. One article that gave tips on how to manipulate the taste of sourdough reinforces everything that the main article helped explain, and talks about the importance of keeping a warmer, dry climate to ensure that the bread tastes sour. It turns out that a quarantine treat may be a bit more complex than it appears. It’s interesting to see how biology plays a key role in one of the most prominent foods, and next time you consider making sourdough or get a bread basket from the Cheesecake Factory, you’ll now know the biology behind it.

Should You Pursue A Personalized Diet?

According to an article by Tina Hesman Saey on Sciencenews.org, the idea of dieting and restrictive eating aren’t so black and white like we previously believed it to be. There are many factors someone should think of when they’re considering a new dietary plan. One main tip that people often give is that one who is considering a new dietary plan should consider eating low glycemic foods. A glycemic index diet is an eating plan based on how foods affect your blood sugar. Therefore, pursuing a low glycemic food diet, you’re eating foods that do not raise your blood sugar to very high levels. Maintaining a good blood sugar is important for body health because high and low blood sugar levels can result in many diseases, both digestion and nervous system issues in addition to many other issues that come with these diagnoses. When thinking of foods that would fit this new low glycemic dietary plan, we tend to think of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, etc. that are often praised in a “balanced” diet. However, in Saey’s article we’re shown that foods have different affects on people’s blood sugar levels and other nutrient levels because of the way that their organs function in their body.

Saey uses two main examples to display the variety in body digestion of different foods. In her article, she provided a graph that displayed the varying blood sugar levels of different people who ate the same type of muffin. The main reason for having the graph of the study in her article was to display how people’s blood sugar levels can drastically vary purely off of the functions and traits of one’s body and organs. One main surprise that came from the study was that even identical twin sisters had different spikes in blood sugar from the muffin. Both sisters live different lifestyles, one being an athlete that ate mostly salads and the other being less active and eating foods like bread and cheese more frequently. Although one would assume that the more athletic sister would be able to deal with carbohydrates and other nutrients much better than the other, the two sisters share that different foods are harder on their bodies. For example the more athletic sister struggles to eat spaghetti bolognese because it spikes her blood sugar levels, even though it is considered a low glycemic food, and prefers to eat other carbohydrates like mashed potatoes; The less athletic sister struggles to eat mashed potatoes, but is able to freely consume spaghetti bolognese without any problem.

Another example given was of a man who ate the same meal of a sandwich and orange juice after a day of work. He realized that his blood sugar levels spiked after having this meal and continued to figure out what meals wouldn’t. He learned that his body is able to consume apples and pears without drastically raising blood sugar levels but not bananas. She then provides an example of a study where different people experience higher blood sugar levels from apples than cookies and vice versa. Evidently, the advice to eat more fruits and vegetables should be taken with caution as many people’s bodies aren’t able to consume these substances without having a spike in high blood sugar.

Unfortunately, this same rule applies to other organic compounds in our food such as dietary fats. These fats and carbohydrates work hand in hand as seen when the article says that the scientists are unable to see how quickly people cleared the fats from their blood after a meal until they were able to identify the blood sugar and insulin levels of the people who ate the food. Lipids and Proteins share many of the same molecular components which could be the reason for their similar affects on the body after consumption. Both lipids and proteins are both mostly made up of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen, however, the small differences in their composition can lead to these different reactions in the body. There are 20 different types of amino acids and each protein can act differently in the body due to the varying polarity, R-groups, etc. Although lipids do not vary as much as proteins do, lipid variation matters a lot in the foods we eat; we stress the importance of eating unsaturated fats much more than saturated fats because of the health effects they may have on our bodies, showing that even the smallest variation of a double bond to a carbon atom has severe affects on our health. There are so many factors in our bodies that are different with each individual. Everything is also intertwined and any huge change made to our nutritional intake can severely affect the way the organs and functions of our bodies work. We have to keep track and be wary of all these different factors and make sure we act accordingly in order to promote a healthy, body, mind and life.

 

According to Immunologist Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Technology,  gut microbes are probably the most important factor in determining which fibers and complex carbohydrates get digested. Microbes were also a huge role in the spiking of one’s blood sugar after a food is consumed. Coincidentally, what you eat affects the type of microbes present in your digestive system, so there is some room for exploring how we can possibly eat in ways that promote a specific type of microbiome or avoid excessively eating foods that don’t work well with the microbiome created by our current eating habits. However, we as consumers have the responsibility of reading the labels and tracking the traits of the foods that we eat. Jennie Brand Miller, a nutritionist at University of Sydney, states that although there are certain exceptions due to people’s digestive systems being different, there is a 99% chance that high glycemic foods will spike your blood sugar more than low glycemic foods. If people do intend on following any type of dietary plan they must use the information that they’re given to the best of their abilities to make inferences and conclusions to reach their ultimate goal.

We must take facts about food and nutrition with a grain of salt since everyone’s body isn’t the same. Evidently, there is some room for more research and experimentation for us to find a possible ideal microbiome and dietary plan for each individual person. With more research and experimentation we should be able to determine if personalized diets are an efficient strategy to allow people to reach the health and body goals they want to achieve. This also brings into question, what other areas of nutrition are not as simple as they seem. Is it really that bad to eat a lot of carbohydrates or fats? Are meat diets truly helpful or are they more harmful to our bodies? Is there truly an ideal dietary plan that works for every person? There is much promise to having personalized dietary plans, but there is no such thing as a flawless system and we must be wary of the consequences of following such a system.

The Impact of Newfound Generalized Taste Buds in Mice

Background Information on Taste buds

According to this article about how taste buds work, taste buds are composed of cells that are structural, and cells that are chemical receptors. The surfaces of the receptor cells have proteins that bind with the chemicals that cause our perception of taste. As you all (should) know, the tongue does not actually have different sections for each flavor but instead, it has many different types of receptors that are stimulated by certain chemicals in food. The different reactions of receptors, which recognize bitter, sweet, sour, and umami flavors, are determined by specific genes in the DNA (It’s important to take note that the production of certain proteins and certain sequences of the DNA will even affect something as “simple” as taste). The receptor for salt, aka the epithelial sodium channel, functions differently from these receptors. It is basically a membrane that allows ions of sodium to permeate into specific cells.

 

The Mouse Research

An article (source article) from sciencenews.org reveals the findings of a research project that resulted in the discovery of generalized taste buds in mice that have the ability to taste four of the five flavors that these cells can recognize. These flavors include bitter, sweet, sour, and umami. The traditional belief in taste bud functionality is that taste buds only sense one or two specific flavors. Although mice possess both types of taste buds, the new research shows that clearly, the process is not as simple as just sensing specific tastes. Another article from sciencenews.org explains an experiment that demonstrates how taste is not just dependent on the taste buds themselves, but the brain plays a significant role in taste reception. In this experiment, certain receptors in the brains of mice were stimulated while the mice were drinking normal water. This caused the mice to react as if they were tasting sweet or bitter substances. The results of this experiment show that taste buds work with the brain to stimulate the perception of flavor.

Going back to the first article, mice need a specific protein that allows the generalized taste bud to send signals to the brain. Through research, it was discovered that the taste buds with broader ranges did not function in the absence of this specific protein. This goes to show the many functions and the vast significance of proteins in organisms. Additionally, some of the taste buds that only sense specific flavors were not functioning as well. Due to this, researchers believe that these two different types of taste buds depend upon each other to send signals to the brain.

 

So What?

At this point, you may be wondering why certain functions of the taste buds of mice matter. In case you didn’t know, the taste buds of mice function similarly to those of humans. This means that further research on the taste buds of mice may contribute to human interests as well. For example, one’s sense of taste can be lost through certain treatments (ex: chemotherapy) and aging. This may potentially lead to loss of appetite, causing malnourishment and other issues. With more research, these conditions could be treated through artificial taste bud receptors and even more by understanding the relationship between taste buds and the brain. Personally, I believe that this research is good support for those who are struggling with the loss of appetite, as well as a gateway to even more possibilities. I’d like to know more about your thoughts on this research. Is it worth the time and effort to learn more about this topic? Do you think that there are more possibilities than just treating loss of appetite? What else could this research be useful for?

Drinking Tea Can Extend Your Lifetime

An article was written in the journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and refers to the recent work that some Chinese scientists have recently discovered: habitually drinking tea contributed to living a longer, healthier life. The data comes from 100,902 Chinese participants with no record of heart attack, stroke, or cancer. They were separated into two groups: those that drank tea habitually around and those that did not. The participants followed up for a median of 7.3 years per participant.

Generally, habitual tea consumption was linked to “more healthy years of life and longer life expectancy.”

The analyzed data reveals that “50-year habitual tea drinkers would develop coronary heart disease and stroke 1.41 years later and live 1.26 years longer than those who never or seldom drank tea.” And in comparison to non-habitual tea drinkers, habitual tea consumers “had a 20% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, 22% lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and 15% decreased risk of all-cause death.” In addition, tea drinkers “had a 39% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, 56% lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and 29% decreased risk of all-cause death compared to consistent never or non-habitual tea drinkers.”

The data points to the fact that drinking tea can certainly make one’s life healthier, decreasing the odds of potential heart issues in humans in the long run.

Dr. Dongfeng Gu, one of the main authors of the article, noted that “frequent tea intake over an extended period may be necessary for the cardioprotective effect.” The other authors found that green tea was the most beneficial, as it was linked with “approximately 25% lower risks for incident heart disease and stroke, fatal heart disease and stroke, and all-cause death.”

Green tea is a rich source of polyphenols, which “protect against cardiovascular disease and its risk factors including high blood pressure and dyslipidaemia.” High blood pressure usually exercises more strain on one’s blood vessels and heart and eliminating the risk to get high blood pressure can extend one’s life.

Drinking tea has shown to increase one’s lifespan and decrease potential heart issues. The ingredients of tea, specifically polyphenols in green tea, defend against the risk of heart diseases and problems.

Did ants originate from zombies? This fungus will give you the answers.

There is a certain fungus that turns ants into zombies, but afterward, they explode. When ants are just walking by minding their own business they step on fungal spores. It attaches to the ant’s body and the fungal cell goes inside of the ant. The fungus feeds from within and increasingly multiples cells and it is called, Ophiocordyceps,   mainly living in the tropics. The danger about this fungus is that the ant is unaware of this whole process, it goes about its daily life, searching for food and bringing back to its nest. However, the fungus takes up half of an ant’s body mass. It undergoes a parasitic relationship where the fungus benefits, while the ant is harmed.

Once the fungus is done feeding, the ant will feel a needle-like sensation. What is happening here is that the fungus is pushing on the ant’s muscle cells. And the cell signals also get sent to the ant’s brain, then the ant will climb upwards above its nest. Ophiocordyceps does something very weird where it allows the ants to move upwards to a leaf above ground and then the ant bites down, where it locks its jaw. Then it sends out “sticky threads that glue the corpse to the leaf.” The ant’s head then bursts open, called a “fruiting body”, where it looks like horns projecting from the ant’s heads and the horns disperse more of these fungal spores onto its nest below it leaving behind a trail of spores. 

Hornlike antlers that come out of the ant’s head

There is still so much that is unknown about Ophiocordyceps because scientists don’t even know what kind of chemical gets into the ant’s brain causing it to climb. There are ants that age back to 48 million years old gripped onto leaves.  Scientists thought there was one species that zombified ants but it turns out there are at least 28 different fungal species that attack other insects as well. Dr. Araújo drew out a family tree to see what was infected by Ophiocordyceps. It became known that all Ophiocordyceps species come from a common ancestor, first infecting beetles larvae, not hemipteran.

The beetles that are affected by the larvae live in eroding logs.

“They’re mostly solitary creatures, with a very different life history,” compared to ants, she said.

It can now be inferred that possibly millions of years ago when this was happening to beetles, ants picked up the fungus if they were living in the same logs. Thus a constant cycle and more spreading of fungal spores. Even though natural selection favored keeping the ant’s host healthy and away from parasites, Ophiocordyceps had to find a way to make the ant leave the nest, not far enough from its environment, but just in the right place to send out the spore to infect whatever other ants were living around it. 

Because this behavior is so unordinary it is not possible that only one gene is responsible for all of this. They keep finding new species. Dr. Hughes and Dr. Araújo are still researching to find that there are hundreds of other species of Ophiocordyceps that are yet to be discovered.

How our day-to-day food intake shapes our gut microbiota

Our diet is a significant modulator of changes in our gut microbiota structure, particularly at an individual level. The concept that what we eat is related to health is not a new idea. With new studies and experiments on the human gut microbiota, scientists are finally beginning to truly understand how exactly food impacts our health. The commonly heard phrase “you are what you eat” has been proven true. If you were to et a strawberry or hamburger, the food enters your digestive system and comes across the intestinal microbes. The way your body processes the food is influenced by the microbes that are living in your gut.

This is an image of food items that would help to create a balanced healthy diet.

Other than only being related to diet, levels of physical activity and sleep patterns can also affect the human gut microbiota. In a recent study, “for 17 consecutive days, 34 healthy participants were asked to self-record their food consumption using a food report.” From the results, the researches concluded that the variation in the daily microbiome is related to food choices, and not to standard nutrients.

For example, a vegetable such as spinach, which is rich in iron and also contains many other nutrients, such as fiber, minerals, and carbohydrates. All of these nutrients help to strengthen spinach’s relationship with the gut microbiome. Therefore, “nutritional advice should focus more on recommending people combine fruit and vegetables in their daily diet instead of prioritizing specific fibers.”

To conclude, a varied diet helps to maintain a well-balanced microbiome while also at the same time also giving your body the nutrients it needs in order to stay healthy.

Is it Time For a Raw Food Diet?

A recent article details a study by scientists at UC San Francisco details the effects of cooked food versus raw food on the gut microbiomes of mice. By feeding some mice raw potato and others cooked potato, scientists discovered that in mice, raw food damages certain microbes. Scientists discovered that raw foods contain antimicrobial compounds that damaged microbes in mice. Surprisingly, differences between the mice were due to chemicals found in plants. Turnbaugh’s is currently analyzing the specific chemical changes that occur after cooking in order to further understand how cooked food impacts the mice microbiomes.

 

Another interesting effect of the raw food on mice was weight loss. The researchers were curious as to whether the weight loss was due to the altered microbiomes. They were ultimately not due to the microbiomes, because when the altered microbiomes were put into mice eating a normal diet, those mice put on fat. The researchers are currently unsure of why this happens.

Interested in the possible ramifications of his discovery on human diets, Turnbaugh  conducted a second experiment using human test subjects. The raw food diets altered the microbiomes of the human test subjects, an exciting find for the researchers. The effects of these altered microbiomes are still unclear and is being further researched. For now, raw food diets don’t seem to have massive benefits and in cases of contaminated meat can be harmful to humans, but only further research will tell.

Should We Be Carbo-loading? The Effects of Resistant Starches on the Gut Microbiome.

What is Starch?

By definition starch is a polysaccharide composed of a chain of glucose molecules held together by glycosidic bonds. Starch is common in nearly all green plants and is used for short term energy storage.

Different Types of Starches

Starch can come in two distinct forms: amylopectin a compound with a complex system of branching glucoses, and amylose a simple straight chain of glucose molecules. Because of amylopectin’s larger and more complicated nature it has a much larger surface area than amylose making it significantly easier to digest. The amylose cannot effectively be broken down by the enzymes of the digestive system. Instead it is left to be dealt with by the human gut microbiome. For this reason it is commonly referred to as a resistant starch.

How are Resistant Starches Beneficial?

An international research article including authors from Harvard Medical School suggests that resistant starches have a myriad of benefits. Some resistant starches which thwart digestion in the stomach and small intestine, make their way all the way down to the large intestine where they are subject to fermentation by the microscopic bacteria of the human gut. The fermentation process can metabolize a multitude of different useful products. For example some significant and common place output of gut fermentation are simple fatty acids. One key short chain fatty acid created during this process is Butyrate, the preferred fuel oof the cells lining the colon. In addition to Butyrate there exist many other short chain fatty acids that help maintain and fuel the body. These fatty acids can be used for many different purposes, all beneficial to both the gut microbiome and the host. The benefits may range from weight loss to curbing the progression of chronic kidney disease.

In addition to their ability to be changed into more useful forms, resistant starches also serve to enhance the effectiveness of the gut microbiome. Constant ingestion of resistant starches can stimulate an increase in the size and health of gut microbiomes in addition to raising host metabolism.

Common Uses For Resistant Starches

Resistant starches are often used in weight reducing diets in order to encourage an increase in metabolic rates. Although results of these diets are often compelling, a diet must consist of all types of food groups and should contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Eating only amylose and other resistant polysaccharides will not on its own help you achieve weight loss. It should be paired with exercise and an otherwise healthy diet.

Should resistant starches be used in dieting or do they promote malnutrition? There are many benefits to a diet high in resistant starches, including building up a healthy gut microbiome. However you cannot survive solely on carbohydrates. This is a complex question, and I would be interested in hearing your opinions in the comments.

 

 

 

Can Processed Foods Soon Be Harmless?

Any discussion of processed foods usually revolves around the negative effects of consuming them. However, a new study has found a specific human gut bacterial strain called Collinsella intestinalisthat is capable of completely reducing the drawbacks of eating processed foods.

Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered that Collinsella intestinalis breaks down the chemical fructoselysine into pieces that do not affect the host’s body. Fructoselysine is one of the chemicals that are formed during food processing. It is commonly found in numerous processed foods that we eat, such as pasta, chocolate, and cereals. In the study, mice were given samples of Collinsella intestinalis as well as processed foods to see how the human gut bacteria would interact with the fructoselysine.

The primary function of the human gut microbiomes is to “digest food otherwise indigestible by human enzymes and deliver nutrients and metabolites for the biological benefit of the host.”

Results from the study showed that mice with the Collinsella intestinalis in their system showed “an increase in the gut microbial communities’ ability to break down fructoselysine into harmless byproducts.” The fructoselysine was “metabolized more efficiently” in the presence of the Collinsella intestinalis.

One scientist from the study noted that “future studies are required before scientists will be able to identify specific capacities of individual microbes to clean up potentially deleterious chemicals produced during modern food manufacturing.”  Humans aren’t completely immune to processed foods just yet.

However, it is still promising that scientists have found that Collinsella intestinalis is in our foreseeable future in terms of being able to eat processed food without any negative effects. Processed foods are consumed by many people throughout the world, and with this recent study they may not be as harmful as people think.

CRISPR Produce… the future of Food?

For years, people have been getting their food from, primarily, agricultural and cattle sectors; however, with CRISPR, everything is about to change. Or is it? Can CRISPR actually be used to make food in labs and completely change the way that the world receives their nourishment? These are questions that tech, scientists, and investor moguls have been asking for years, and Bill Gates’ new start up may have found the answer!  

Memphis meats, a new tech company that is backed two tech moguls, Bill Gates’ and Richard Branson, believes that they have found a new way to feed the world. The Memphis team have been successful in creating lab grown meat, using the CRISPR method. With their proprietary patented technique, Memphis meats could be changing the world. One may not understand how beneficial lab grown food would be. It would: save animals, lower the amount of water use (while raising the cattle), and be able to be made both healthier and tastier.

 

The company uses a special technique that allows them to manufacture skeletal muscle, that is edible, using cells from the poultry species Gallus gallus, and from the livestock species Bos Taurus. In addition, Memphis meats is also exploiting new and innovative ways to make their products better for the environment and public health, and more affordable, and in turn, scalable – mass produced. With all this great innovation and progress, Memphis Meats says that they are a long way from making a product that is ready for customers and consumers. However, the future of food and agriculture is promising.

What do you think? Could CRISPR and “lab meats” change the way that humans get their food? Only time will tell.

This article is by Jon Christian from Futurism. The research and technology is proprietary and patented and not for the public to see.

article: https://futurism.com/bill-gates-startup-crispr-lab-meat

Food For Thought!

 

A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector. Construction is underway to extend a secondary fence over the top of this hill and eventually to the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is some food for thought, what defines American Culture? Democracy? Freedom? As a matter of fact, for many immigrants, food is a defining factor of moving to the United States of America. Immigrants are fascinated by the combination of a wide variety and convenience of food. By the same token, the typical “American” diet is loaded with saturated fats, complex sugars and harmful chemicals. According to a recent Study from National Public Radio (N.P.R.), when immigrating to the United States of America, the typical “American” diet causes a completely new gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the natural bacteria found in the digestive system that assist the body in a wide variety of tasks.

In order for N.P.R. to test this hypothesis, they gathered 500 ethnically Hmong & Karen women, residing in either Thailand or the United States of America. Of these women, they were either a first or second generation immigrant. After recording their findings, N.P.R. moved back to the United States of America, solely. When observing the gut microbiomes of the of caucasian Americans, the researchers concluded that the presence of Bacteroides leads to the decreased function of the gut microbiome. Next, 19 of the 500 women from Thailand moved to the United States of America. After many observation hours and careful logging of food consumed, the gut microbiomes of the immigrants began to diverge from their natural affinity. When reviewing the food logbooks, the scientists/researchers concluded/discovered that the typical “American” diet leads to the disruption of the gut microbiome because of its lack of fiber and over use of sugars.

Although this is not an urgent issue, this is an issue that must be addressed in the near future; this article exploits a greater issue for the United States of America. The United States of America is in desperate need to change its diet, consisting rich in fats and sugars, the population is facing serious medical issues such as obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and more.  This article demonstrates the effects of the typical “American” diet has on the United States of America. The United States of America must work quickly to collaborate with citizens and the private sector in order to make healthy alternatives to food, cheaper and more convenient, in order to mitigate health issues as well as promote preventive medicine.

Thank you!

From your favorite bacteria,

     SAMonella

 

 

 

Whole-Grain Bread: The Healthy Choice…or is it?

Contrary to popular belief, whole-grain bread might not be healthier for everyone. A new study has determined that whether white bread or whole-grain bread is healthier for you depends on the microbes in your gut. After studying 20 people for one week each, researchers found that some people’s blood sugar levels raised after eating standard white bread while others did not. Similarly, they found that some people’s blood sugar rose when eating standard whole grain bread. The researchers, Eran Elinav and Eran Segal, studied the mix of microbes in the stool samples as well as their genetic makeup.

This study is part of a growing group of studies that support personalized nutrition that is customized to your genetic makeup rather than a plan for everyone. The same group has also done other research in the nutrition field in Israel, where they studied how people respond to eating certain foods.

Hunter-Gatherer to Westernized Human Gut Biomes

Somewhere between the time of early hunter-gatherer humans, and the present-day humans living in modernized Western societies, the human gut biome lost much of its diversity. New research has contributed another clue as to the evolution of the human gut biome.

An international team of scientists studied the fecal samples of an intermediary group between hunter-gatherers and Westernized humans. The Bantu community in Africa is a traditional, agricultural population that has incorporated some available Western practices, including the use of antibiotics and therapeutic drugs.

 

Bantu people; Steve Evans,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Bantu#/media/File:Mozambique001.jpg

The scientists compared the Bantu gut biomes to those of the BaAka pygmy population, who resemble early hunter-gatherer populations and have no Western influences, and to the gut biomes of humans living in modern, Westernized societies.

By analyzing the sequence data of the three human biomes, the scientists placed the Bantu’s biome composition in between the BaAka’s and Westernized humans’. The Bantu shared similar bacterial species as the BaAka, but lacked many of the traditional bacteria that the BaAka possessed. In fact, the BaAka had such a different biome composition that their gut more closely resembled wild primate biomes!

 

Based on the functions of the variable bacterial groups between the three populations, the team hypothesizes that the boosted carbohydrate-processing pathways in Bantu and American biomes is a result of the sugars in our diet, whereas the BaAka do not have much access to such foods and thus do not have such bacterial populations.

Ultimately, the scientists have accepted that our diet contributes significantly to our gut biome composition.

Junk Food Encourages Disease

According to a recent discovery posted in Science News, a typical American diet, consisting of poorly nutritional foods, leaves one prone to getting sick by weakening their immune system. Interestingly enough, this issue is rooted in cells that are not your own. In your gut microbiome, there are countless varieties and numbers of bacteria, all working away at the food that passes through your gut. Now, these bacteria are actually quite manipulative, and besides from feeding off of the food that you eat, teach your immune system what to attack, like an instructor or tutor for your immune system, albeit a biased one. These bacteria have colonized your body. They’re not just going to let some pathogen get in the way of their free meal ticket.

(What it looks like in there)

What happens when you eat certain foods, like junk foods, is that your gut microbiome changes. Different bacteria thrive on the fatty or sugary foods while other bacteria that survive off of more complex starches and carbs fade away, changing the demographic of your gut microbiome. This limited variety also limits the amount of invaders your immune system knows as hostile, or understands how to deal with, and therefore, you are more susceptible to disease, or medical complications.

(Actual photo of a biofilm found in the gut)

This was proven by taking samples from fit and obese humans and inserting them in otherwise sterile mice. Their resulting microbiomes grew, and the mice with the obese implant suffered more medical problems than the mice with the fit implant. This is because there were not enough “trainer” bacteria in the first mice’s gut to help train it to fend off disease, and thus it got sick more easily. So don’t go blaming your immune system the next time you get sick. It may be your fault for avoiding real, nutritional food (not just salad), and not taking care of it.

The moral of the story is to eat your vegetables and serve the bacterial overlords that have taken host in your body.

They’re good for you.

Trust me.

 

Artificial Sweeteners: Safe or Sweet Misery?

Picture of Splenda

Picture of Splenda

Have you ever drunk a zero-calorie soda or eaten a sugar free dessert as a “healthier” choice or perhaps to even “cut calories”? If you’re like me, you have probably begrudgingly done this numerous times, maybe even at the request of your mom, despite your desire for that sweet snack. Well, new research has been conducted that suggests that the artificial sweeteners used to substitute sugar actually increase blood sugar levels-the exact condition they aim to avoid.

A study conducted by biologists, Segal and Elinav, of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, showed that after 11 weeks of drinking water with the sweetener Saccharin, commonly found in Sweet’N Low, mice had higher glucose levels in their bloodstream, a symptom of diabetes. Additionally, the scientists conducted another experiment with seven volunteers who were given the maximum approved daily dose of saccharin for a week. This time Segal and Elinav found that four out of the seven subjects developed an unbalanced glucose metabolism similar to that of the mice. From this experiment, the scientists hypothesized that artificial sweeteners negatively affect our bodies and may promote disease.

Although these results are preliminary and are largely reflective of mice’s digestive systems rather than humans, the study raises a valuable caution for consumers to reassess their actions. As the science community continues to explore this study, are you going to continue consuming foods with artificial sweeteners.

For more information about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, please check out: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/artificial-sweeteners-may-disrupt-bodys-blood-sugar-controls/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Genetically Altered Soybean Might Be Just What America Needs

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bequer-B100-SOJA-SOYBEAM.jpg

Soybean oil

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs have long had an unfortunate reputation. Viewed on par with crops that make use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals, and often thought to be unhealthy. Organic farmers and magazines scorn their use and consumers think twice before purchasing products that make use of them. However, Monsanto, an extremely large and influential agriculture company that is similarly often cast in a negative light, has teamed up with DuPont Pioneer to revamp the genetic makeup of the soybean to create a bean that produces oil completely free of trans fats. It’s new fat composition is similar to that of olive oil, and it can potentially be produced on a larger scale and cheaper than it’s olive counterpart. Companies believe that this new innovation will help to improve the public image of GMOs and other biotech. As most endeavors up to this point have focused on resistance to weeds and parasites, rather than health and taste, it has been easy for consumers to create a negative view of  GMOs, but this new soybean, more consumer oriented, might help to sway that view.

The specific genetic modifications to the oil are the alteration of a gene that converts oleic fatty acids into linoleic acid. This conversion causes soybean oil to have an extremely short shelf life. The problem used to be solved by treating the oil with hydrogen gas, but this caused it to become saturated. With the gene silenced, there is no need for the hydrogen treatment, and the oil can remain unsaturated and free of trans-fats.

Genetically Modified Food? Now You Can Know For Sure.

Whole Foods Market has officially become the first grocery store to require the labeling of all genetically modified foods. In an article published by The New York Times, on Friday, March 8th, Whole Foods Market announced that they will be labeling all genetically enhanced food products.

According to Whole Foods president A. C. Gallo, the new labeling requirement was implemente due to consumer demand. Mr. Gallo stated that that their “manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled.”

Today, genetically modified foods are of great abundance in the global food supply. For example, most of the corn and soybeans grown here in the United States are genetically altered. The alterations make the soybeans resistant to a herbicide used in weed control, and causes the corn to produce its own insecticide. Scientists are currently working on producing a genetically modified apple that will spoil less quickly, and genetically modified salmon that will grow faster.

What do you guys think of the position Whole Foods is taking with labeling their products? What are your thoughts on genetically modified food in general? Do you believe that genetically modified foods are safe for humans to consume? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

 

Virtual eating: Can it really work?

Credit: vernhart flickr

Have you ever had a strong craving for a food that you know is bad for you?  For many of us, we experience strong cravings for some type of food on a daily basis.  Sometimes these cravings are so strong that the particular food we are craving becomes all we can think about or focus on until that food is consumed.  These cravings are usually triggered by something in our environment that reminds us of the specific food and they can lead to overeating.

A recent study, conducted by Carey Morewedge, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, concluded that by imagining yourself eating a specific food, you can reduce your interest in that food and therefore eat less of it. This is known as habituation and is thought to occur naturally when we eat.  Habituation was previously thought to only occur while you are actually eating but Morewedge’s study has found that this can occur through the power of your own mind.

The answer to stopping a food craving does not come by thinking just about how the food tastes, smells and looks, but rather forcing yourself to actually imagine eating the food repeatedly.

Morewedge conducted five different studies and they all ended with the same result.  The people who imagined eating more of a specific food would want to physically eat less of that food.  In one of the experiments, 51 people were divided into three different groups. One group had to imagine inserting 30 quarters into a washing machine (this is simulating the motions of eating an M&M) and then thinking about eating three M&M’s.  The second group had to imagine putting three quarters into a washing machine and then think about eating 30 M&M’s.  The third group acted as the control and they had to imagine putting 33 quarters into a washing machine and eating no M&M’s.

The people were then given a bowl containing 1.5 ounces of M&M’s and were told to eat as many as they wanted.  When all of the participants said that they were finished the bowls were taken and weighed.  The results showed that the members of the group who virtually ate 30 M&M’s ate less actual M&M’s then the members of either of the two groups.  This proves Morewedge’s theory that thinking about eating a food has the same effects on your body as physically eating the food with none of the consequences.

If more people become aware of this study, dietary problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes could be greatly reduced.  This study may also be the key to helping people quit smoking.

The next time you have a craving something sweet or unhealthy try imaging yourself eating it first.  You may be surprised with the results.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar