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Jun 30
Fish oil during pregnancy may not shield kids from obesity
An omega-3 rich diet and reduced consumption of meat that contains the so called "bad" fats during pregnancy may not offer children protection against obesity, the results of a long-term study show.

Administering a special diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, to pregnant women neither resulted in children being slimmer nor fatter than their counterparts from the control group whose mothers had enjoyed a normal diet, the findings showed.

"This special diet had no effect on the weight of the babies and toddlers," said Professor Hans Hauner, Head of the Else-Kroner-Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany.

Up to now, the general consensus had been that "bad" fats, especially omega-6 fatty acids, consumed during pregnancy increased the formation of infantile fat cells, while "good" omega-3 fatty acids protected the child against becoming overweight.

Since, in the animal model, an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation coupled with a simultaneous reduction in arachidonic acids resulted in offspring with a significantly lower tendency to become overweight, the researchers investigated whether this result was translatable onto humans.

Over 200 women took part in the long-term study. The study participants had an average age of 32 years and a body mass index (BMI) of 22.

While half of the study group continued with a normal diet, the other half ate an omega-3 rich diet coupled with a significant reduction in meat consumption from the twelfth week of pregnancy to the fourth month of lactation.

The children of the cohort mothers were examined once a year until the age of five.

"We then examined the children using three different methods: firstly we measured their skin fold thickness, then ultrasound investigations were added as these are more accurate and in one part of the cohort we also used MRS imaging to measure the fat inside the abdominal cavity," Hauner explained.

"The end result was negative: this special diet had no effect on the weight of the babies and toddlers," Hauner noted.

Jun 29
Drug that helps addicts may benefit cancer patients too
A drug which is used to treat addicts can have a beneficial impact on cancer patients also if it is given in low doses, say scientists.

The drug naltrexone (LDN) not only causes cancer cells to stop growing, but it also alters their internal machinery, making them more likely to kill themselves, the researchers found.

When used in small doses, the drug can alter the genes that regulate how a cancer cell behaves, the findings showed.

"We have shown that the genetic fingerprint of naltrexone differs according to the different doses used, which identifies new ways of using it as an anti-cancer treatment," said one of the lead researchers Wai Liu from St George's, University of London.

"Rather than stopping the cancer cells from growing, patients want to be rid of them. We saw that by giving the drug for two days, then withdrawing it, cancer cells would stop cycling and undergo cell death," Liu noted.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Oncology, the research team, led by Liu and Professor Angus Dalgleish worked with the company LDN Pharma.

The researchers found that LDN can reactivate genes that promote cell killing, as well as modify the genes that interact with the immune system to make it more unfriendly to cancer.

"We have taken a drug that is relatively safe in humans, and reformulated a new use for it; this has only been possible by understanding the dynamics of a drug," Liu added.

At present naltrexone is licensed in many countries for the treatment of alcohol and heroin addiction, but the doses used is much higher than in this study.

Liu believes his research will prompt clinical trials for the use of LDN on cancer patients.

Jun 27
Run daily for a super memory
A long-term exercise regimen may help boost memory as it triggers a protein that enhances brain cell growth, a new study has found.

The findings showed that the production of cathepsin B -- a protein that can be directly traced from the muscles to the brain in mice -- noticeably increased in muscle cells after exercise.

"In the study, we did a screen for proteins that could be secreted by muscle tissue and transported to the brain and among the most interesting candidates was cathepsin B," said Henriette van Praag, Neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging in the US.

The more time the mice spent on exercise wheels, the level of protein increased in the blood and muscle tissue.

"In humans who exercise consistently for four months, better performance on complex recall tasks, such as drawing from memory, is correlated with increased cathepsin B levels," van Praag added.

Additionally, when cathepsin B was applied to brain cells, it spurred the production of molecules related to neurogenesis.

"We also have converging evidence from our study that cathepsin B is unregulated in blood by exercise for three species -- mice, Rhesus monkeys and humans," van Praag noted.

For the study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the team compared memory recall in normal mice with that in mice lacking the ability to produce cathepsin B under both sedentary and running conditions.

Over the course of a week, both sets of mice were given a daily swim test in the Morris water maze, in which a mouse is placed in a small pool and must learn to swim to a platform that is hidden just below the surface of the water.

After doing this task for a few days, normal mice eventually learn where to find the platform.

However, when both groups ran before their daily swim test, the normal mice were better able to recall the location of the platform, while the mice unable to make cathepsin B could not remember its location, suggesting the potential of the protein in spatial learning.

Jun 25
Obese fathers may raise high risk of cancer in daughters
A new study states that paternal obesity may raise cancer risk in daughters. The study was conducted on mice and found out that female children born to obese fathers are at high risk of being overweight at their birth and throughout childhood.

The studies showed that female mice pups born to obese fathers are also prone to delayed growth of their breast tissue as well as being at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Obesity changes the microRNA (miRNA) signature -- epigenetic regulators of gene expression -- in both the father's sperm and the daughter's breast tissue, suggesting that miRNAs may carry the epigenetic information from obese dads to their daughters.

Lead researcher, Sonia de Assis, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University in the US says,'This study provides evidence that, in animals, a fathers' body weight at the time of conception affects both their daughters' body weight both at birth and in childhood as well as their risk of breast cancer later in life'.

The miRNAs were identified to regulate the insulin receptor signalling, which is linked to alterations in body weight and other molecular pathways that are associated with cancer development.

"Our animal study suggests that those epigenetic alterations in sperm may have consequences for next generation cancer risk," de Assis further added.

Eating a balanced diet, keeping a healthy body weight and lifestyle is imperative for both men and women not only for their own benefit but also to give their children the best chances of being healthy, said the paper published online in the journal Scientific Reports.

The next step is to see if the same associations regarding breast cancer risk hold for daughters of human fathers who are overweight around the time of conception, the researchers concluded.

Jun 24
Breastfeeding can reduce behavioural disorders in children
Longer durations of exclusive breastfeeding can lead to fewer behavioural disorders in children at the primary school age, finds a new study that focused on how the experiences of a child in his or her first years of life influences later behaviour and abilities.

Conduct or behavioural disorders that typically start in childhood and persist into the teenage years are associated with an increase in antisocial (and potentially violent or criminal) behaviours, poor long-term mental health and low academic achievement in later life.

The findings showed that children who were exclusively breastfed for the recommended first six months were approximately half as likely to have conduct disorders at the ages of 7-11 years, compared with those exclusively breastfed for less than one month.

"The duration of exclusive breastfeeding of an infant has greater importance than previously realised in several areas of development," said lead author Tamsen J. Rochat of the Human Science Research Council, Durban, South Africa.

"Childhood onset conduct disorders can lead to aggressive or disruptive behaviours, which interfere with learning and peer relationships, in turn leading to low self-esteem and further behavioural problems," Rochat added.

Further, children whose mothers had a current mental health problem or severe parenting stress were two-and-a-half times more likely to exhibit emotional-behavioural problems.

For the research, published in PLOS Medicine, the team assessed over 1,500 children in South Africa, 900 of whom had been involved in an early infant feeding study.

Jun 22
Increase vitamin D levels to cut kidney problems
A deficiency in the amount of vitamin D in the body may lead to high risk of chronic kidney diseases, especially in children, says a new study.

Vitamin D deficiency has been found common in children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) -- the longstanding disease of the kidneys leading to renal failure.

Researchers have identified certain modifiable and non-modifiable factors associated with vitamin D deficiency in children with CKD.

According to the study, nearly two-thirds of children suffering from vitamin D deficiency were also suffering from certain abnormalities like glomerulopathy -- a set of diseases affecting the nephrons.

Vitamin D levels were found lower in winter months than at other times of the year.

"Vitamin D levels are influenced more strongly by seasonal factors, the type of disease and nutritional supplementation than by common variants in vitamin D regulating genes," said Anke Doyon, at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Deficiency in Vitamin D may also increase the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders, the researchers said.

Children with kidney disease who took vitamin D supplements had vitamin D levels that were two-times higher than those who did not take supplements.

"Supplementation practices should be reconsidered and intervention studies are needed to define guidelines how to monitor and treat vitamin D deficiency in children with chronic kidney disease," Doyon suggested.

The team analysed 500 children affected with kidney diseases in 12 European countries.

The findings published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), could help physicians protect the health of these young patients, the researchers concluded.

Jun 21
Stick to '5:2 diet' to cut breast cancer risk
Ladies, you may want to reduce your intake of calories for just two days a week as a recent study has suggested that doing so can lower you risk of breast cancer.

The Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention study found that following a low-calorie diet for two days per week or a 5:2 diet can lead to cancer-preventing changes in the breast tissue.

The study saw overweight pre-menopausal women at high risk of breast cancer follow the 2-Day Diet, developed by research dietitian Dr Michelle Harvie and researcher Tony Howell, for one month. The diet features two days on a low-carb, low-calorie diet, with the remaining five days being spent on a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet.

Researchers took breast biopsies on 20 women before and after the four-week trial and found that on average, women lost around half a stone in weight, with 55 per cent of those taking part experiencing changes in their breast cells.

The changes involved the production of proteins that are known to make the cells more stable and less likely to become damaged. Therefore, experts said, the risk of developing breast cancer is reduced.

Dr Harvie noted that further research would need to be done to confirm how the diet could prevent breast cancer, adding "There are a number of reasons why some of the women didn't experience changes in the breast; for example, they may have needed to spend a longer period of time on the diet or perhaps follow a different version of The 2-Day Diet."

The study was published in Breast Cancer Research.

Jun 14
Vitamin deficiencies may up migraines
Deficiencies in certain vitamins are the likely reason behind the development of migraines in children, teens and young adults, finds a new study.

The findings revealed that a high percentage of children, teens and young adults with migraines had mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 -- a vitamin-like substance found in every cell of the body that is used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance.

While girls and young women were more likely to have coenzyme Q10 deficiencies, boys and young men were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency.

Further, patients with chronic migraines were more likely to have coenzyme Q10 and riboflavin deficiencies than those with episodic migraines.

"Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation," said lead author Suzanne Hagler from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in the US.

For the study, the team analysed patients with migraines who had baseline blood levels checked for vitamin D, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10 and folate, all of which were implicated in migraines by previous studies.

Many were put on preventive migraine medications and received vitamin supplementation, if levels were low.

Previous studies have indicated that certain vitamins and vitamin deficiencies may be important in the migraine process. However, studies using vitamins to prevent migraines have had conflicting success.

The results were presented at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society in San Diego, in the US, recently.

Jun 10
Confirmed: Second layer of information in our DNA!
Confirming a long-standing hypothesis, scientists from the Netherlands' Leiden University have shown that the genetic information in the DNA not only determines who we are, but also the DNA mechanics.

Since the mid-1980s it has been hypothesised that there is a second layer of information on top of the genetic code: DNA's mechanical properties.

Each of our cells contains two meters of DNA molecules, so these molecules need to be wrapped up tightly to fit inside a single cell.

The way in which DNA is folded, determines how the letters are read out, and therefore which proteins are actually made.

In each organ, only relevant parts of the genetic information are read, based on how the DNA is folded.

The theory goes that mechanical cues within the DNA structures determine how DNA prefers to fold.

In a study published in the journal PLoS One, Leiden physicist Helmut Schiessel and his research group provided strong evidence that this second layer of information indeed exists.

With their computer code they simulated the folding of DNA strands with randomly assigned mechanical cues.

It turns out that these cues indeed determine how the DNA molecule is folded into so-called nucleosomes.

Schiessel found correlations between the mechanics and the actual folding structure in the genome of two organisms ? baker's yeast and fission yeast.

With this finding we know that evolutionary changes in DNA ? mutations ? can have two very different effects.

The letter sequence encoding for a specific protein can change or the mechanics of the DNA structure can change, resulting in a different packaging and accessibility of the DNA and therefore a different frequency of production of that protein.

Jun 07
Soon, a bitter pill that could help you lose weight!
There could soon be a pill to reduce your calorie consumption as researchers have identified a bitter plant extract that can suppress food intake by stimulating the secretion of gut peptide hormones involved in appetite regulation.

Gut chemosensory mechanisms, particularly those involved in detecting and relaying to the brain the chemical composition of food during digestion, play an important role in regulating appetite and food intake.

The researchers hypothesised that activation of specific bitter taste receptors which are expressed throughout the gastrointestinal tract by hormone secreting 'enteroendocrine' cells, could also regulate food intake by triggering the release of satiety or 'fullness' hormones, a mechanism termed by the team as the "bitter brake."

The study was conducted by John Ingram and colleagues from the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited and University of Auckland, New Zealand.

The team screened over 900 plant extracts for their ability to stimulate enteroendocrine "I cell" hormone release before identifying a highly bitter, non-nutritive plant derived ingredient they have called "Amarasate extract" to take forward into clinical testing.

Twenty lean healthy male volunteers were recruited (mean body mass index 23.4 kg/m2) with 19 completing all three treatments within the randomised, double-blind study.

Treatments comprising 500 mg Amarasate extract or a placebo were administered for targeted intestinal (duodenal) or stomach (gastric) release.

The researchers found that, compared with placebo, both gastric and duodenal delivery of the Amarasate extract stimulated significant increases in the gut peptide hormones CCK, GLP-1 and PYY while significantly reducing total (lunch plus snack) meal energy intake by 218 calories and 226 calories, respectively.

However, no significant treatment effects were observed for any subjective ratings of appetite or nausea.

"We have demonstrated that activation of the 'bitter brake' mechanism by a bitter plant extract can stimulate the release of gut peptide hormones involved in appetite regulation and suppress subsequent feeding behaviour in healthy men," the authors noted.

The findings were presented at the 2016 European Obesity Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden.