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Apr 20
US researchers find way to stop disease spread
US researchers found that cannibalism is a new way to stop the spread of disease and it may be an understudied factor in disease control, according to a statement by the Louisiana State University (LSU).

Bret Elderd, associate professor of LSU Department of Biological Sciences, and his colleagues has found that in the fall armyworm system, cannibalism decreases the rate of disease spread, Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying on Monday.

The new study, led by former LSU postdoctoral researcher and current University of California at San Diego (UCSD) postdoctoral researcher Benjamin Van Allen, along with researchers in Elderd's lab and Volker Rudolf's lab at Rice University, will be published in the American Naturalist journal.

The paper contrasts the human agricultural practice of culling livestock to remove sick individuals and prevent disease spread, for example in the case of foot-and-mouth outbreaks in livestock, to cannibalism.

It turns out that cannibalism can be far more effective at culling diseased individuals from a population.

Elderd and his colleagues have provided a first step toward empirical evidence of exactly how cannibalism affects disease spread in insect populations.

Apr 20
Eating blue maize may reduce BP, cholesterol, fat
Consuming blue maize may help prevent metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure and blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol, a study conducted in rat models has found.

Physical inactivity, genetic profile and a diet with inadequate energy intake are other factors that drive metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome also raises an individual's risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, the researchers said.

The natural antioxidants present in blue maize may help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes as well as cancer, said Rosa Isela Guzman-Geronimoa from the University of Veracruz in Mexico.

In the study, the rats were fed on a high-sugar and high-cholesterol diet for 12 weeks. They were given blue maize extracts during a period of 4 weeks.

The rats showed significant improvement in systolic blood pressure, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels compared to those not given the extract.

The findings may raise interest in using blue maize as a component of functional foods and nutraceuticals, the researchers said.

Anti-obesity food materials are always in demand and this study brings out not only the importance of blue maize in controlling adipocity, but also the potential role of cholesterol in the development of obesity, the researchers stated.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

Apr 20
Infant cereals don't have nutritional consistency everywhere
Premixed complementary foods sold in lower-income countries lack consistency in their nutritional content, a global analysis of infant cereals has revealed.

The findings suggest that there is a need for basic quality assurance services to improve nutritional consistency and healthy growth of infants from 6 to 24 months age.

Premixed infant cereals or complementary foods can be a vital source of the solid food needed for healthy child growth after the age of six months, when infants outgrow the nutrients provided by breast milk alone.

This conclusion was reached after researchers from Tufts University in the US analysed 108 commercially available premixed complementary foods from 22 low-and-middle-income countries.

The findings, published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition, said premixed complementary foods can be extremely effective at protecting infants against malnutrition and stunted growth.

"In countries where we sampled, some products can readily meet children's needs, but others fall far below requirements for both macro and micro-nutrients," said William Masters from Tufts University.

"Our results are a call to action for establishing and enforcing nutritional quality standards, which would help ensure access to lower-cost, higher-quality products and enable parents to meet their infants' needs more easily," he added.

Researchers said that childhood malnutrition was the main cause of stunted growth, that may lead to delayed mental development and poor school performance -- a serious and irreversible condition that affects individuals with greater risk for illness and death throughout their lives.

According to UNICEF, nearly half of all deaths in children under age five are related to under-nutrition, which is particularly widespread in Africa and Asia.

"A healthy child consuming breast milk alongside the average sampled complementary food would experience zinc and iron deficiency from six to nine months, and dietary fat deficiency at 12 months," the study said.

The study noted that nutritional content claims on packaging labels did not meet their reported caloric content.

"Slightly more than half of the products misreported protein, and two thirds misreported fat content. For zinc and iron, products exceeded labeled values about as often as they fell short," the study further added.