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Jun 30
Depressed? Go for red grapes and wine
A new study has found that red grapes and wine can help ease depression.

University of South Carolina School of Medicine's study found that resveratrol, a natural anti-inflammatory agent found in the skin of red grapes, can prevent inflammation as well as depression-related behaviors in rodents exposed to a social stress.

Susan K. Wood said that the research is very relevant to today's society because it investigates potential treatments for people with an increased susceptibility to depression and related disorders that arise due to social stress.

Wood added they hope their findings will encourage scientists who are running clinical trials to test the effectiveness of natural anti-inflammatory agents on depression, which is currently an understudied area.

Resveratrol appears to knock down inflammation throughout the body, said researcher Julie Finnell, adding that they found that administering resveratrol blocks the inflammation normally seen in animals undergoing the bullying stress and brings it to control levels.

In addition to being naturally present in the skin of red grapes and in red wine, resveratrol is also sold as supplement. Studies have shown that the natural agent might be responsible for red wine's ability to prevent blood vessel damage and reduce LDL cholesterol, and experiments using high doses of resveratrol in animals have suggested it might help protect from obesity and diabetes.

Jun 29
Beat post-race sniffles with tart cherry juice
A new study has suggested that tart cherry juice can reduce post-race respiratory tract symptoms after a marathon.

The study found that Montmorency tart cherry juice reduced upper respiratory tract symptoms associated with marathon running in study participants. Post-race sniffles are a common problem among endurance athletes.

The team, led by Glyn Howatson at Northumbria University and Lygeri Dimitriou at Middlesex University, found that marathon runners, who consumed the tart cherry juice had lower markers for inflammation than a placebo group at 24 and 48 hours post-marathon and had no reported incidences of upper respiratory tract symptoms (URTS) up to 48 hours after the race. For the runners who did not drink the tart cherry juice, 50 percent suffered from URTS.

Howatson said that many athletes can suffer from colds and sore throats following strenuous bouts of exercise, like marathon running and triathlons. This is the first study to provide encouraging evidence of the potential role of Montmorency tart cherries in reducing symptoms associated with the development of exercise-induced respiratory problems.

He added that researchers should be looking at all the potential ways they can help athletes recover from strenuous exercise, and protection of the respiratory system is another dimension.

The authors conclude that the results of this pilot study offer an important new opportunity for research, building on the existing body of evidence providing support for the use of Montmorencytart cherry juice in exercise recovery. They suggest future work should examine the prevalence of URTS beyond 48 hours post-marathon.

The study appears in International Society of Sports Nutrition Journal.

Jun 27
Kiwi blackcurrants good for brain
New Zealand blackcurrants are good for keeping us mentally young and agile, finds a study.

The berries help in managing the mental decline associated with aging populations and also helps people with brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease or depression.

"This study is the first to look at the effects of berry consumption on the cognitive performance of healthy young adults," said Arjan Scheepens, the plant and food research scientist who led the study.

The juice from a specific New Zealand blackcurrant cultivar, 'Blackadder' also reduced the activity of a family of enzymes called monoamine oxidases which regulate serotonin and dopamine concentrations in the brain.

These chemicals are known to affect mood and cognition and are the focus for treatments of both neuro-degenerative symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease and mood disorders, including stress and anxiety.

"This research has shown that New Zealand-grown blackcurrants not only increase mental performance but also reduce the activity of monoamine oxidases," Scheepens said.

"One of the key trends in the food industry is the development of ingredients and foods that have beneficial effects on human health," said professor Roger Hurst, science group leader food and wellness at plant & food research.

The study was published in the Journal of Functional Foods.

Jun 26
Coffee Helps Reduce Risk Of Stroke, Heart Disease
New research suggests that drinking at least three cups of coffee a day can help reduce mortality risk, particularly from stroke and heart disease.

"It is important to acknowledge factors which might have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease mortality," researcher Doutor Antonio Vaz Carneiro, said in a news release. "Moderate coffee consumption could play a significant role in reducing cardiovascular disease mortality risk which would impact health outcomes and healthcare spending across Europe."

The research was based on two 2014 meta-analyses suggesting an association between coffee consumption and reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. The findings suggested that drinking anywhere between three to four cups of coffee per day is associated with an approximate 25 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes when compared to consuming none or less than two cups a day.

However, it's important to note how the study's results differed basted on varying populations, suggesting that lower or higher amounts of coffee may benefit certain groups over others. (For instance, two cups a day may provide the greatest protection for a Japanese population while three cups a day is better for populations in the United States and the United Kingdom.)

"It is important to acknowledge factors which might have a protective effect against CVD mortality. Moderate coffee consumption could play a significant role in reducing CVD mortality risk which would impact health outcomes and healthcare spending across Europe," added Professor Doutor Antonio Vaz Carneiro of the Faculdade de Medicine da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal.

The exact link between coffee consumption and lessened cardiovascular disease mortality risk is unclear at this time. However, areas of interest regarding new research and the topic include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties on coffee and the known association between coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes risk reduction as well as CVD mortality rate.

The study results highlight research presented at a Satellite Symposium held during the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation 2015 congress in Lisbon, Portugal, on the subject of "Coffee and CVD Mortality."

Jun 25
Prescription Pill Makes You Forget To Be Addicted To Drugs
Addiction is more complex than a chemical need for a particular substance - it's a conjunction of circumstantial and social cues that remind an addict that they need to take a hit. Now researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found that a blood pressure medication that's already on the market can help decrease the potency of some of the non-chemical drivers of addiction, according to a study published this week in Molecular Psychiatry.

Studies over the past few decades have shown that a lot of addiction comes down to classical conditioning; just like Pavlov's dogs that salivated because the bell was associated with food, recovering addicts can be pushed back to their substance of choice depending on the people, places, sights, and sounds around them that are associated with their addiction.

In the study, researchers trained rats to associate either a white or black room with a dose of alcohol or cocaine. After they were conditioned, rats always chose the color room associated with their addicted substance. The researchers wanted see if they could break the cycle by giving the rats a drug called isradipine, which blocks the transmission of calcium ions to cells in the body. While isradipine is primarily prescribed to lower blood pressure, other studies have indicated that it may also make the brain more plastic and able to be rewired.

Immediately after taking isradipine, the rats made the same conditioned choice to return to the room associated with the drug. But in the days that followed, they didn't express a strong preference for either room. "The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol," Hitoshi Morikawa, a neuroscience professor at UT Austin and an author of the study, said in a press release.

Though there are already treatments on the market that dampen the euphoria of taking a drug, Morikawa says isradipine could be much more effective. And because isradipine is already on the market, FDA approval of the drug to treat addiction could be fast-tracked. However, the researchers do not yet know if the drug is as effective treating addicted humans as it is treating rats.

Jun 24
Inexpensive generic heart disease drugs may treat Ebola
New York: Generic drugs used to treat heart diseases also have the potential to bolster the immune systems of patients with Ebola virus and some other life-threatening illnesses, research has found.

Unlike other medications in development for Ebola, which attack the virus, statins and angiotensin receptor blockers typically used for heart disease work on the host response, or a person's biological reaction to the virus, said lead study author David Fedson, retired professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in the US.

The statin/angiotensin receptor blocker combination was found to help improve survival in 100 Ebola patients treated in Sierra Leone, Fedson said.

"This approach to Ebola treatment has two advantages," Fedson said.

First, it uses inexpensive generic drugs that are widely available in any country with a basic healthcare system, and most physicians who treat patients with cardiovascular diseases are familiar with these medications.

Second, because this strategy targets the host response to infection, these drugs might be used to treat patients with any form of acute infectious disease in which a failure to overcome endothelial dysfunction could lead to multi-organ failure and death, Fedson noted.

In a pilot study, patients were given the drugs atorvastatin (40 mg/day) and irbesartan (150 mg/day) at several hospitals in West Africa.

The researchers found rapid clinical improvement in most patients.

Specifically, the drugs stabilise or restore the integrity of endothelial cells lining the blood vessels.

Endothelial cell dysfunction has been a central feature of human Ebola virus disease, leading to severe fluid and mineral losses, Fedson explained.

The findings appeared in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Jun 23
Experimental drug shows promise to treat Alzheimer's
An experimental drug has been found to protect Alzheimer's-inflicted mice from memory deterioration, despite a high-glycemic-index (GI) diet meant to boost blood sugar levels.

The experimental drug from the US-based Eli Lilly and Company mimics the hunger-signalling hormone ghrelin.

"The present results suggest that ghrelin might improve cognition in Alzheimer's disease via a central nervous system mechanism involving insulin signalling," authors of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports wrote.

"With chronic diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer's, you need to do a long-term study," said examiner Inga Kadish, assistant professor at University of Alabama School of Medicine at Birmingham.

"So we did an experiment with the worst-case scenario, a high-GI diet. Alzheimer's disease has 10 or 20 risk factors and some of the strongest risk factors are diabetes or metabolic syndrome."

In contrast to short-term administration of the "ghrelin agonista drug -- which impairs insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, which are signs of metabolic syndrome and diabetes -- the researchers found that the long-term ghrelin agonist treatment did not impair insulin signalling and glucose tolerance in Alzheimer's disease mice fed with a high GI diet.

In the study, the Alzheimer's disease-model mice showed a deterioration in spatial learning as they turned older -- in other words, they got lost when trying to swim to a platform hidden just beneath the water surface that they previously were trained to find in a four-foot-wide pool.

The test mice fed with the ghrelin agonist and the high-GI diet showed long-term cognitive enhancement in this water maze test as compared to the mice fed with a normal diet or high-GI diet only.

The test mice also showed more activity, reduced body weight and fat mass. They also showed a beneficial impact of the long-term ghrelin agonist treatment on insulin signalling pathways in hippocampal brain tissue.

Alzheimer's patients show significant shrinkage of the hippocampus, a part of the brain cortex that has a key role in forming new memories.

Jun 22
Eating grapes, berries daily can prevent weight gain
Eating berries, grapes and other fruits daily can convert excess white fat into calorie-burning "beige" fat to prevent weight gain, scientists have found.

In the study, Washington State University scientists fed mice a high fat diet. Those receiving resveratrol in amounts equivalent to 12 ounces of fruit per day for humans - about two or three servings daily - gained 40 per cent less weight than control mice.

Resveratrol is a polyphenol, a type of antioxidant found in most fruits.

Previous studies have suggested that resveratrol can help prevent obesity but how it did that was unclear. Most of the research, including highly publicised studies on wine, also used very large concentrations of resveratrol, much more than a human could consume in a normal diet.

Professor of animal sciences Min Du and visiting scientist Songbo Wang demonstrated that mice fed a diet containing 0.1 per cent resveratrol were able to change their excess white fat into the active, energy-burning beige fat.

"Polyphenols in fruit, including resveratrol, increase gene expression that enhances the oxidation of dietary fats so the body won't be overloaded," said Du.

"They convert white fat into beige fat which burns lipids off as heat - helping to keep the body in balance and prevent obesity and metabolic dysfunction," Du said.

The researchers also showed that an enzyme called AMPK, which regulates the body's energy metabolism, stimulates this transition of white fat into beige fat.

Du said resveratrol is only one of the polyphenolic compounds found in fruit that provides beneficial health effects.

Du said those compounds are high in all fruits but especially rich in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes and apples.

Wines like merlot or cabernet sauvignon, in contrast, contain only a fraction of resveratrol and other phenolic compounds found in grapes, he said.

"Many of the beneficial polyphenols are insoluble and get filtered out during the wine production process," he said.

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Jun 20
Potential 'new osteoporosis' therapy identified
Researchers have identified a new therapeutic approach that, while still preliminary, could promote the development of new bone-forming cells in patients suffering from bone loss.

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI study focused on a protein called PPARy (known as the master regulator of fat) and its impact on the fate of stem cells derived from bone marrow (mesenchymal stem cells).

Since these mesenchymal stem cells can develop into several different cell types-including fat, connective tissues, bone and cartilage, they have a number of potentially important therapeutic applications.

The scientists knew that a partial loss of PPARy in a genetically modified mouse model led to increased bone formation. To see if they could mimic that effect using a drug candidate, the researchers combined a variety of structural biology approaches to rationally design a new compound that could repress the biological activity of PPARy.

The results showed that when human mesenchymal stem cells were treated with the new compound, which they called SR2595 (SR=Scripps Research), there was a statistically significant increase in osteoblast formation, a cell type known to form bone.

Researcher Patrick Griffin added that these findings demonstrate for the first time a new therapeutic application for drugs targeting PPARy, which has been the focus of efforts to develop insulin sensitizers to treat type 2 diabetes.

He added that they have already demonstrated SR2595 has suitable properties for testing in mice; the next step is to perform an in-depth analysis of the drug's efficacy in animal models of bone loss, aging, obesity and diabetes.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Jun 19
Large parental age gap ups autism risk in kids
Children born to teenage mothers and whose parents have a large gap between their ages are at an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), says a large study involving 5.7 million children in five countries.

The study also confirmed that older parents are at higher risk of having children with ASD which is characterised by social avoidance, repetitive behaviours and difficulty communicating.

"When we first reported that the older age of fathers increases risk for autism, we suggested that mutations might be the cause. Genetic research later showed that this hypothesis was correct," said study co-author Abraham Reichenberg, neuropsychologist and epidemiologist with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.

"In this study, we show for the first time that autism risk is associated with disparately-aged parents.

Future research should look into this to understand the mechanisms," Reichenberg noted.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, looked at autism rates among 5,766,794 children -- including more than 30,000 with autism -- in Denmark, Israel, Norway, Sweden and Western Australia.

The children were born between 1985 and 2004, and the researchers followed up on their development until 2009, checking national health records for autism diagnoses.

Autism rates were 66 percent higher among children born to fathers over 50 years of age than among those born to fathers in their 20s. Autism rates were 28 percent higher when fathers were in their 40s versus 20s.

Autism rates were 15 percent higher in children born to mothers in their 40s, compared to those born to mothers in their 20s.

Autism rates were 18 percent higher among children born to teenage mothers than among those born to mothers in their 20s.

Autism rates rose still higher when both parents were older, in line with what one would expect if each parent's age contributed to risk.

Autism rates also rose with widening gaps between two parents' ages. These rates were highest when fathers were between 35 and 44 and their partners were 10 or more years younger.

"These results suggest that multiple mechanisms are contributing to the association between parental age and ASD risk," the authors concluded.