Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Time to Celebrate a Year-Round, Healthy Snack – the Strawberry

Strawberries health year-around snack
Newswise, May 2, 2017--- May is National Strawberry Month, a time to reflect on the history of this sweet, nutrition-packed fruit that grows well in Florida – and to extol its health benefits.

Strawberries originally grew in Europe. In France, people regarded them as the highest-quality aphrodisiac.

People believed Alpine strawberries provided various medicinal benefits. While some used the leaves, roots and fruits as a skin tonic, others ate berries to relieve diarrhea and an upset stomach. Folks also used the fruit’s juices to whiten teeth.

You can find these and other strawberry-related facts on a web page http://bit.ly/2q6hvB9 of the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Associate professor Vance Whitaker coordinates the strawberry breeding program at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast REC. Whitaker and his lab recently came out with a new strawberry variety – ‘Florida Beauty’ – continuing the decades-long tradition of UF/IFAS scientists breeding the top-quality fruit.

Today, farmers grow them in the United States, Chile, Mexico and Russia, among other nations, and, in contrast to the early multiple uses for strawberries, consumers usually eat or drink the fruit.

In addition to Whitaker breeding disease- and pest-resistant strawberries, UF/IFAS experts shed light on some of the many benefits consumers enjoy by eating the fruit.

“The most important aspect of strawberries, aside from their wonderful taste, is their nutritional value,” said Linda Bobroff, a professor of nutrition and health with the UF/IFAS department of family, youth and community sciences. “With very few calories -- something that is important to many people -- strawberries pack a nutritional punch.”

Bobroff gave a list of examples of the nutrition value provided by 1 cup of strawberries:

  • 3 grams of dietary fiber, something most Americans consume in insufficient amounts.
  • 230 milligrams potassium -- a nutrient of concern in the U.S., which soon will appear on all nutrition facts panels.
  • 90 milligrams of vitamin C

Also from a nutritional perspective, strawberries provide important non-nutritive compounds – known as polyphenols -- and antioxidants, said Anne Mathews, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science and human nutrition. Mathews gives interesting tips for ways to consume strawberries:

  • Add them to cereal, oatmeal or a leafy salad, especially one with balsamic dressing.
  • Consider swapping out a starch – such as white rice, roll or pasta for a serving of fruit with lunch or dinner.

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

No More ‘Superbugs’? Maple Syrup Extract Enhances Antibiotic Action

Newswise, April 20, 2017— Antibiotics save lives every day, but there is a downside to their ubiquity. High doses can kill healthy cells along with infection-causing bacteria, while also spurring the creation of “superbugs” that no longer respond to known antibiotics.

Now, researchers may have found a natural way to cut down on antibiotic use without sacrificing health: a maple syrup extract that dramatically increases the potency of these medicines.

The researchers will present their work at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 14,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

“Native populations in Canada have long used maple syrup to fight infections,” says Nathalie Tufenkji, Ph.D. “I’ve always been interested in the science behind these folk medicines.”

The idea for the project really gelled when Tufenkji, who had been studying the antimicrobial effects of cranberry extracts, learned of the anti-cancer properties of a phenolic maple syrup extract.

“That gave me the idea to check its antimicrobial activity,” Tufenkji says. “So, I sent my postdoc to the store to buy some syrup.”

Using the same extraction approach as other researchers have in the past, Tufenkji’s team at McGill University separated the sugar and water from the syrup’s phenolic compounds, which contribute to maple syrup’s signature golden hue.

In an initial test, the team exposed several disease-causing bacterial strains to the extract, but they didn’t see much of an effect. Rather than give up on maple syrup altogether, Tufenkji decided to check whether the extract could enhance the antimicrobial potency of the commonly used antibiotics ciprofloxacin and carbenicillin.

When her team mixed the phenolic extract with either of these medicines, they indeed found a synergistic effect, allowing them to get the same antimicrobial effect with upwards of 90 percent less antibiotic.

The approach worked on a variety of bacterial strains, including E. coli, which can cause gastrointestinal problems; Proteus mirabilis, responsible for many urinary tract infections; and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause infections often acquired by patients in hospitals.

Building on this work, Tufenkji’s team next tested the extract in fruit flies and moth larvae. The researchers dosed fly food with pathogenic bacteria and antibiotic, with and without the phenolic extract.

Flies with meals doused in maple syrup extract lived for days longer than those denied the syrupy topper. The researchers observed a similar outcome with the moth larvae.

To figure out how the extract makes antibiotics work better, the researchers investigated whether the extract changed the permeability of bacterial cells. The extract increased the permeability of the bacteria, suggesting that it helps antibiotics gain access to the interior of bacterial cells.

Another experiment suggested that the extract may work by a second mechanism as well, disabling the bacterial pump that normally removes antibiotics from these cells.

Currently, the researchers are testing the maple syrup extract in mice. While it is likely to be years before it would be available to patients as a prescribed medical protocol, and a pharmaceutical company would likely need to purify the extract further to avoid any potential allergic reactions, Tufenkji says, she’s hopeful that it may have an edge over other would-be medications thanks to its source.

“There are other products out there that boost antibiotic strength, but this may be the only one that comes from nature,” she says.

Tufenkji acknowledges funding from Canada Research Chairs, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the William and Rhea Seath Award at McGill University.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With nearly 157,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Monday, April 3, 2017

New Measurement Technique Lowers Estimated Vitamin D Recommended Daily Allowance

Recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D lowered
Newswise, April 3, 2017After re-measurement of vitamin D by improved technology, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D intake drops from 800 to 400 International Units (IU) per day, new research reports. The results of the study were presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Endocrine Society, in Orlando, Fla.

"The RDA is easily achievable with a supplement of 400 IU in winter, when vitamin D levels are lowest in North America," said principal investigator J. Christopher Gallagher, M.D., professor and director of the Bone Metabolism Unit in the Division of Endocrinology of Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb.

"This has important ramifications for public health recommendations. The amount of vitamin D needed, 400 IU daily, is less than the figure recommended by Institute of Medicine," said Gallagher, the study's principal investigator.

"In estimating the RDA for vitamin D intake, the laboratory method used for measuring serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D ̶ 25(OH)D ̶ can affect the results," he said. "The estimated RDA based on the older immunoassay (DiaSorin S.p.A., Salugia, Italy) system was 800 IU daily, whereas the newer liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) technique estimated that 400 IU daily would meet the RDA."

In their earlier double-blind dose-response clinical trial in the winter and spring of 2007 to 2008, Gallagher and his colleagues enrolled 163 healthy postmenopausal Caucasian women 57 through 90 years of age with vitamin D insufficiency and followed them for 1 year.

The women were at least 7 years postmenopausal and they had vitamin D insufficiency based on the World Health Organization cutoff (serum 25(OH)D 20 ng/ml or lower).

The participants were randomized to one of seven vitamin D3 doses: 400, 800, 1600, 2400, 3200, 4000, 4800 IU/day or placebo, for 1 year, and all the women were given calcium supplements to maintain a total calcium intake.

After analyzing the samples and estimating the RDA using the older immunoassay, the authors reported that 800 IU daily would meet the vitamin D intake requirement for 97.5 percent of the population.

But now that liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) has become the gold standard for measuring 25(OH)D, the researchers have reanalyzed the original samples using this new technology.

Able to determine a more precise dose-response curve, they have calculated the RDA for vitamin D to be 400 IU daily.

"Remember, this RDA is for bone health only," Gallagher cautioned. "It may be different for other diseases. Although trials looking into cancer, diabetes, and other diseases are ongoing, we do not have information about this yet."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Daily Consumption of Tea Protects the Elderly From Cognitive Decline
Tea protects elderly from Cognitive DeclineTea drinking reduces the risk of cognitive impairment in older persons by 50 per cent and as much as 86 per cent for those who are genetically at risk of Alzheimer’s

Newswise, March 20, 2017 — A cup of tea a day can keep dementia away, and this is especially so for those who are genetically predisposed to the debilitating disease, according to a recent study led by Assistant Professor Feng Lei from the Department of Psychological Medicine at National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

The longitudinal study involving 957 Chinese seniors aged 55 years or older has found that regular consumption of tea lowers the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly by 50 per cent, while APOE e4 gene carriers who are genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease may experience a reduction in cognitive impairment risk by as much as 86 per cent.

The research team also discovered that the neuroprotective role of tea consumption on cognitive function is not limited to a particular type of tea – so long as the tea is brewed from tea leaves, such as green, black or oolong tea.

“While the study was conducted on Chinese elderly, the results could apply to other races as well. Our findings have important implications for dementia prevention.

“Despite high quality drug trials, effective pharmacological therapy for neurocognitive disorders such as dementia remains elusive and current prevention strategies are far from satisfactory. Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world.

“The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life,” explained Asst Prof Feng.

He added, "Based on current knowledge, this long term benefit of tea consumption is due to the bioactive compounds in tea leaves, such as catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins and L-theanine.

“These compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential and other bioactive properties that may protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration. Our understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited so we do need more research to find out definitive answers."

In this study, tea consumption information were collected from the participants, who are community-living elderly, from 2003 to 2005. At regular intervals of two years, these seniors were assessed on their cognitive function using standardised tools until 2010.

Information on lifestyles, medical conditions, physical and social activities were also collected. Those potential confounding factors were carefully controlled in statistical models to ensure the robustness of the findings.

Future Research
Asst Prof Feng and his team are planning to embark on further studies to better understand the impact of Asian diet on cognitive health in ageing. They are also keen to investigate the effects of the bioactive compounds in tea and test them more rigorously through the assessment of their biological markers and by conducting randomised controlled trials or studies that assign participants into experimental groups or control groups randomly to eliminate biased results. 

Florida Peaches Pack a Punch as a Succulent Snack

Florida Peaches offer Nutrient Value to Seniors
Newswise, March 20, 2017 --- Florida peaches make for a succulent snack, say consumers surveyed by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

That’s encouraging news for Florida producers trying to expand their reach, not only in the Sunshine State but nationally, said Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication.

“I was surprised to see that one of the most common ways people reported eating peaches was as a snack,” Rumble said. “I thought that people would be consuming them as part of a meal such as lunch or in a dish such as cobbler or as a topping, like on yogurt. This finding is encouraging for the Florida peach industry because the Florida peach tends to be smaller than those produced elsewhere. There is an opportunity to position and market the Florida peach as the perfect snack.”

Rumble conducted a national survey of consumers to see if they’re buying peaches and if so, who’s buying them. Her survey results come as Tori Bradley, a graduate student in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and Sonia Tighe, director of membership for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, will give a webinar on marketing Florida peaches at 10:30 a.m. March 23. Register here for the webinar.

Rumble’s survey reveals that most consumers nationwide don’t know the dates of Florida’s peach season, which runs from March through May. The survey also showed that consumers really value a peach with the label “Grown in the USA” on it.

As the first domestically available peach of the year, the Florida peach has an opportunity to market and promote the “Grown in the USA” label as well as the “Fresh from Florida” label, Rumble said.

The survey is part of a specialty crop block grant focused on increasing the awareness and marketability of Florida peaches. This grant included a consumer survey and producer/marketer interviews done to inform a marketing plan to increase awareness and preference for Florida peaches.

For several decades, farmers have experimented with growing peaches in Florida, but it was not until recently that varieties of peaches suitable for Florida’s climate have been developed. In 2006, producers estimated that there were only 60 acres of peaches growing in the state. By 2012, the Census of Agriculture recorded 185 Florida agricultural operations growing 776 harvestable acres of peaches and today, growers estimate that the total acres of peaches in Florida has grown to approximately 1,400 acre
Despite increased acreage, Florida peaches have yet to gain significant popularity among Florida consumers, Rumble said.

Successful expansion of the Florida peach industry requires increased consumer and retailer awareness of the industry as well as an understanding of these audiences’ preferences for, and barriers to, buying Florida peaches, Rumble said.

The peach varieties growing in Florida tend to be smaller, which has led to a lack of acceptance among consumers and retailers. However, the Florida peach is tree-ripened and is “ready to eat” for the consumer and has higher sweetness than other peaches.

“The popularity of peaches from Georgia and California has overshadowed the entrance of the Florida peach into the marketplace,” she said. “For the Florida peach industry to remain viable and growing, it is essential that the product is effectively marketed, and promoted and that consumer and retailer awareness of the product increases.”

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.