Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Arsenic Found in Many U.S. Red Wines, but Health Risks Depend on Total Diet

Newswise, September 30, 2015 — A new University of Washington study that tested 65 wines from America's top four wine-producing states — California, Washington, New York and Oregon — found all but one have arsenic levels that exceed what's allowed in drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows drinking water to contain no more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic. The wine samples ranged from 10 to 76 parts per billion, with an average of 24 parts per billion.

But a companion study concluded that the likely health risks from that naturally-occurring toxic element depend on how many other foods and beverages known to be high in arsenic, such as apple juice, rice, or cereal bars, an individual person eats. The highest risks from arsenic exposure stem from certain types of infant formulas, the study estimated.

The two studies from UW electrical engineering professor Denise Wilson appear on the cover of the October 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

"Unless you are a heavy drinker consuming wine with really high concentrations of arsenic, of which there are only a few, there's little health threat if that's the only source of arsenic in your diet," said Wilson.

"But consumers need to look at their diets as a whole. If you are eating a lot of contaminated rice, organic brown rice syrup, seafood, wine, apple juice — all those heavy contributors to arsenic poisoning — you should be concerned, especially pregnant women, kids and the elderly."

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is toxic to humans in some forms, and can cause skin, lung and bladder cancers, and other diseases. As rain, rivers or wind erode rocks that contain arsenic, it leaches into water and soil. From there, the toxic metalloid can work its way into the food chain.

The UW study is the first peer-reviewed research in decades to look at the arsenic content of American wines. As a group, they had higher arsenic levels than their European counterparts, likely due to the underlying geology of U.S. wine growing regions.

The study looked at red wines, except from two areas in Washington where only white wines were produced, because they are made with the skin of grapes where arsenic that is absorbed from soil tends to concentrate.

Wilson also tested for lead, which is a common co-contaminant. The study found lead in 58 percent of the samples, but only 5 percent — all from New York — exceeded drinking water standards.

Washington wines had the highest arsenic concentrations, averaging 28 parts per billion, while Oregon's had the lowest, averaging 13 parts per billion. 

"There were no statistical differences among Washington, New York and California," she said. "The only star in the story is Oregon, where arsenic concentrations were particularly low."

Where possible, the study also compared wines grown in "new" vineyards and those that had been converted from other agricultural uses like orchards, where farmers likely used arsenic-based pesticides that were popular in the early 20th century. It found some evidence that higher levels of arsenic in Washington red wines could be a result of pesticide residue.

Because the average adult drinks far more water (between 1.7 and 3.2 cups per day) than even core or frequent wine drinkers (roughly a half cup per day on average), it's an imperfect comparison to gauge health risks based on the EPA drinking water standard of 10 parts per billion. That's why Wilson also evaluated how much arsenic individuals can safely consume from all the sources in their diet.

In a companion study, she compiled consumption data for foods that have been shown to contain arsenic — juice, milk, bottled water, wine, cereal bars, infant formula, rice, salmon and tuna.

From that, she was able to determine how much of an arsenic "dose" an average child or adult would get from each food source and how close it would come to risk thresholds set by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for total arsenic consumption across a person's diet.

For the core or frequent adult wine drinker, the arsenic consumed from that single source would only make up 10 to 12 percent of the total maximum recommended daily arsenic intake.

But if that person also eats large quantities of contaminated rice, tuna or energy bars, for instance, that could push that individual’s arsenic consumption beyond levels that are considered safe.

A person who eats an average or large amount of contaminated rice would get between 41 and 101 percent of the maximum recommended daily dose of arsenic from that one source alone, the study found. A child who drinks apple juice could get a quarter of the maximum daily arsenic dose from that single source.

The food that posed the largest risk of arsenic poisoning was infant formula made with organic brown rice syrup, an alternative to high-fructose corn syrup. Wilson estimated that some infants eating large amounts of certain formulas may be getting more than 10 times the daily maximum dose of arsenic.

Based on recent studies that have found arsenic in numerous foods and beverages, Wilson recommends that U.S. wineries test for arsenic and lead in irrigation and processing water and take steps to remove those contaminants if levels are found to be high.

But rather than litigate against vineyards – as some have done – she would encourage consumers to evaluate their diets more holistically and speak with a doctor if they have concerns. Tests are available that can detect high arsenic levels and tend to capture arsenic exposure over longer histories than other toxic chemicals.

"The whole idea that you would sue a winery for having arsenic in their wine is like suing someone for having rocks in their yard," Wilson said. "My goal is to get people away from asking the question ‘who do we blame?’ and instead offer consumers a better understanding of what they’re ingesting and how they can minimize health risks that emerge from their diets."


Monday, September 28, 2015

Would People be Happier -- and Healthier-- if They Thought Broccoli Tasted Like Chocolate?

Neurogastronomy is bringing internationally-renowned chefs and neuroscientists together to improve quality of life for patients with taste & smell deficits

Newswise, September 28, 2015-- Can we make people healthier by tricking the brain into thinking broccoli tastes like chocolate?

A group of internationally acclaimed chefs, bench neuroscientists, food scientists and clinical neurologists are confident that they can.

A new science called Neurogastronomy explores brain and behavior in the context of food. According to Dan Han, PsyD, a co-founder of the International Society of Neurogastronomy, this isn't about re-engineering food per se, but re-engineering the brain into perceiving food differently.

"The potential applications for this are extensive," said Han. "Just about everybody knows someone who's had cancer, Parkinson's disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, or some other neurological impairment, and these patients usually have altered sense of smell or taste as a result. To be able to help these people have continued quality of life despite their condition should be an important part of our clinical practice."

Research into olfactory function is providing the first steps towards success. A group of scientists led by Tim McClintock, PhD, has developed a new test, called "The Kentucky Assay," which can identify individual receptors and nerve cells in the nose that respond to specific odors -- the beginnings of a roadmap of human olfactory capability, which directly affects taste. It’s a sliver of proof that neurogastronomy isn’t just some fancy, pie-in-the-sky pop science but a real proposition with some scientific muscle behind it.

Gina Mullin is thrilled about the idea. Diagnosed with recurrent breast cancer in 2012, Mullin now has tumors in her liver, spine, brain and lungs. The chemotherapy she must have every three weeks for the rest of her life has ruined her appetite.

"Chemotherapy has definitely given me a different outlook," said Mullin. "Some days food tastes good, some days it doesn’t, sometimes I can eat, sometimes I can’t. Sometimes something sounds great to me and I make all sorts of effort preparing it, but then I can’t eat it."

"As you can imagine, as perception of taste and smell changes it’ll change your nutritional intake profile as well," Han added, "and nutrition is a critical component of getting or staying healthy for patients like Gina."

Han says only recently has quality of life been considered a clinical outcome, yet huge numbers of patients can't enjoy food as a result of their illness and never think to describe it to their doctors. He likens the concept to Masters & Johnson's work on sexuality in the 1960's.

"Back then it was barely considered a science, let alone a clinical enterprise," says Han, "but now it's a multibillion dollar industry."

The concept of Neurogastronomy wasn't on Han's radar until 2012, when a chance meeting in Montreal with chef Fred Morin at his internationally acclaimed restaurant Joe Beef.

"Fred was going from to table to table chatting with guests, and when he found out we were neuroscientists he sat right down," recalled Han. "It turns out he's a bioengineer by training and a big neuroscience fan. When we started talking about the need to bring disparate industries together to discuss neurogastronomy, he said, 'if you get the neuroscientists there, I'll bring the chefs.'"

And the International Society of Neurogastronomy was born.

The inaugural ISN Symposium will be November 7, 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky. This is the first time the "four pillars" of neurogastronomy: chefs, bench neuroscientists, agriculture and food technologists, and clinical neuroscientists will meet to share their knowledge and begin a dialogue that, they hope, will ultimately lead to real changes in brain behavior as it relates to food.

Han and his co-founders have structured the day to be very different than the typical scientific symposium. Instead of long lectures, there are several presentations in a TED-talk style format. Among the speakers:

Chefs: Next Iron Chef Runner-up Jehangir Mehta, James Beard finalist and Mind of a Chef host Ed Lee, Leah Sarris, Program Director for the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University, and Fred Morin of Joe Beef Montreal.

Scientists: Physiologist Tim McClintock, prize-winning experimental psychologist Charles Spence, and Gordon Shepherd, MD, Dphil, who coined the term Neurogastronomy -- first in 2006 in an article in Nature and six years later in an eponymous book.

The symposium will be a true culinary experience as well, with tasting breaks to help participants grasp the fundamentals of flavor perception (sweet, salty, umami, etc.) and chef-quality breakfast and lunch breaks.

The high point of the day will be the "Applied Neurogastronomy Challenge," where teams of chefs and scientists will prepare dishes judged by actual patients with neurologically-related taste impairments -- including Mullin.

"I am so excited about just getting to be a part of this," says Mullin about her role as a judge.

Han is anxious to begin the dialogue that might ultimately provide tangible improvement to quality of life for people with neurologically-related taste impairments. "When the concept of neurogastronomy was introduced, people realized it was a need that had been there for a long time – ever since mammals started eating," Han said. "If we could get together and simply provide ways to help these patients enjoy a meal, break bread with family and friends and enjoy that process again, then I would be very proud of that contribution to clinical sciences."

For more information about the ISN Symposium or to register, go to

Plum Good Health Benefits

Research shows dried plums can reduce risk of colon cancer

Newswise, September 28, 2015 — Researchers from Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina have shown a diet containing dried plums can positively affect microbiota, also referred to as gut bacteria, throughout the colon, helping reduce the risk of colon cancer.

The research was funded by the California Dried Plum Board and presented at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston.

“Through our research, we were able to show that dried plums promote retention of beneficial bacteria throughout the colon, and by doing so they may reduce the risk of colon cancer,” said Dr. Nancy Turner, Texas A&M AgriLife Research professor in the nutrition and food science department of Texas A&M University, College Station.

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. when men and women are considered separately, and the second-leading cause when the figures are combined. During 2015, colon cancer is expected to cause about 49,700 deaths nationwide.

A good amount of research has already shown that one’s diet can alter the metabolism and composition of colon microbiota, which has major implications for disease prevention and treatment, Turner said.

She said there are trillions of bacteria in the intestinal tract and so far more than 400 individual species have been identified. Previous research has shown that disruptions to the microbiota are involved in the initiation of intestinal inflammation and recurrence of inflammatory bouts that can promote development of colon cancer.

“Our research explored the potential cancer-protective properties of dried plums using a well-established rat model of colon cancer,” she said. 

“Dried plums contain phenolic compounds, which have multiple effects on our health, including their ability to serve as antioxidants that can neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals that can damage our DNA.

“The hypothesis we tested in this experiment was that consumption of dried plums would promote retention of beneficial microbiota and patterns of microbial metabolism throughout the colon. If it did this, then it might also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.”

“The microbiota are involved in the health of the host organism through physical interactions and, indirectly, through their metabolism,” said Derek Seidel, a doctoral graduate student and research assistant for Turner who assisted in the study. 

“The rats were fed a control diet or a diet containing dried plums, and both diets were matched for total calories and macronutrient composition so that the effect due to diet would be attributed to compounds uniquely found in the dried plums.”

The intestinal contents and tissues from different segments of the colon were examined. Results showed that the dried plum diet increased Bacteroidetes and reduced Firmicutes – the two major phyla of bacteria in the gut – in the distal colon without affecting the proportions found in the proximal colon. However, animals consuming the control diet had a lower proportion of Bacteroidetes and increased Firmicutes in the distal colon.

Another observation made was rats consuming dried plums had significantly reduced numbers of aberrant crypts, aberrant crypt foci and high-multiplicity aberrant crypt foci compared to control rats.

“These aberrant crypt foci are one of the earliest observable precancerous lesions and are often considered to be a strong indicator for cancer development,” Seidel said.

Turner said these data support the hypothesis that dried plums protect against colon cancer, which may be due in part to their ability “to establish seemingly beneficial colon microbiota compositions in the distal colon.

“From this study we were able to conclude that dried plums did, in fact, appear to promote retention of beneficial microbiota and microbial metabolism throughout the colon, which was associated with a reduced incidence of precancerous lesions.”

She said while additional research is needed, particularly in human studies, the results from this study are exciting because they suggest that regularly eating dried plums may be a viable dietary strategy to help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

NIH Awards Mount Sinai $9.9 Million to Study Role of Dietary Supplements in Promoting Resilience

Newswise, Sept 28, 2015-- Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have been awarded $9.9 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how dietary supplements based on chemicals found in grapes can promote psychological health and resilience to stresses and trauma that frequent the lives of most people.

The new center, led by Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD, Saunders Family Chair and Professor of Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine, is a partnership between several institutions and will employ a team of 30 researchers.

“It is essential to understand how resilience, also commonly known as mental toughness, can be enhanced in order to master daily life’s challenges,” said Dr. Pasinetti, Principal Investigator for the new center.

 “This center grant will pull together diverse levels of expertise from Mount Sinai’s Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience, Genetics and Genomic Sciences and the Friedman Brain Institute to advance the understanding of how to promote psychological and cognitive resilience through the use of botanical dietary supplements.

“Our plan is for the center’s research to result in safe, easily assessable and applicable drugs or dietary supplements to alleviate the means of stress leading to depression.”

Over the past decade, there has been increased focus on the study of resilience, which is the ability to maintain normal psychological and physical functioning and avoid serious mental illness, even when exposed to stress and trauma.

Psychological stressors such as social stress or sleep deprivation may trigger mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. The grant will create a new Mount Sinai research center that seeks to understand the role of supplements derived from grapes, known as polyphenols, in potentially protecting against stressful events.

In addition, scientists will also study the role of human gut bacteria and related genetics (the microbiome) in the promotion of psychological health.

“Mount Sinai is proud to be a leader in interdisciplinary studies on the understanding and promotion of resilience,” said Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, President for Academic Affairs, Mount Sinai Health System and co-author of the book, Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges.

“Dr. Pasinetti has assembled an outstanding team of interdisciplinary scientists to advance understanding of the mechanisms through which complex botanical dietary supplements may affect human health and resilience.”

This research is supported by a grant (AT008661) from the NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), and will be dispensed over five years, pending available funds. Partnering institutions of the newly-funded center include Purdue University, Rutgers University and the University of North Texas.

About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education.

Structured around seven hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—.from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The System includes approximately 6,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 12 minority-owned free-standing ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. 

Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. Seven departments at The Mount Sinai Hospital and one at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEE) ranked nationally in the top 25 in the 2015-2016 “Best Hospitals” issue of U.S. News & World Report. Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital also is ranked in seven out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report.

For more information, visit find Mount Sinai on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nearly Half of U.S. Seafood Supply Is Wasted

Researchers say waste adds to other problems threatening global seafood resources such as overfishing, pollution and climate change

Newswise, September 24, 2015 — As much as 47 percent of the edible U.S. seafood supply is lost each year, mainly from consumer waste, new research from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) suggests.

The findings, published in the November issue of Global Environmental Change, come as food waste in general has been in the spotlight and concerns have been raised about the sustainability of the world’s seafood resources.

 In the U.S. and around the world, people are being advised to eat more seafood, but overfishing, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and the use of fish for other purposes besides human consumption threaten the global seafood supply.

“If we’re told to eat significantly more seafood but the supply is severely threatened, it is critical and urgent to reduce waste of seafood,” says study leader David Love, PhD, a researcher with the Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture project at the CLF and an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The new study analyzed the food waste issue by focusing on the amount of seafood lost annually at each stage of the food supply chain and at the consumer level.

After compiling data from many sources, the researchers estimated the U.S. edible seafood supply at approximately 4.7 billion pounds per year, which includes domestic and imported products minus any exported products. 

Some of the edible seafood supply is wasted as it moves through the supply chain from hook or net to plate. They found that the amount wasted each year is roughly 2.3 billion pounds. 

Of that waste, they say that 330 million pounds are lost in distribution and retail, 573 million pounds are lost when commercial fishers catch the wrong species of fish and then discard it (a concept called bycatch) and a staggering 1.3 billion pounds are lost at the consumer level.

The researchers found the greatest portion of seafood loss occurred at the level of consumers (51 to 63 percent of waste). Sixteen to 32 percent of waste is due to bycatch, while 13 to 16 percent is lost in distribution and retail operations. 

To illustrate the magnitude of the loss, the authors estimate this lost seafood could contain enough protein to fulfill the annual requirements for as many as 10 million men or 12 million women; and there is enough seafood lost to close 36 percent of the gap between current seafood consumption and the levels recommended by the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommended increasing seafood consumption to eight ounces per person per week and consuming a variety of seafood in place of some meat and poultry. Yet achieving those levels would require doubling the U.S. seafood supply, the researchers say
Waste reduction has the potential to support increased seafood consumption without further stressing aquatic resources, says Roni Neff, PhD, director of the Food System Sustainability & Public Health Program at CLF and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School of Public Health. She says that while a portion of the loss could be recovered for human consumption, “we do not intend to suggest that all of it could or should become food for humans.”

“It would generally be preferable for the fish that becomes bycatch to be left alive in the water rather than eaten, and due to seafood’s short shelf life, it may be particularly challenging compared to other food items to get the remaining seafood eaten or frozen before it decays,” she says. 

Instead, focusing on prevention strategies involving governments, businesses and consumers can reduce seafood loss and create a more efficient and sustainable seafood system.

The researchers offer several approaches to reduce seafood waste along the food chain from catch to consumer. Suggestions range from limiting the percent of bycatch that can be caught at the production level to packaging seafood into smaller portion sizes at the processing level to encouraging consumer purchases of frozen seafood. 

Some loss is unavoidable, but the researchers hope these estimates and suggestions will help stimulate dialogue about the significance and magnitude of seafood loss.

Wasted seafood in the United States: Quantifying loss from production to consumption and moving toward solutions” was written by Dave C. Love, Jillian P. Fry, Michael C. Milli and Roni A. Neff.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beef vs. Bean Meals: Both Provide Similar Feeling of Fullness

Newswise, September 21, 2015—Today vegetarians aren’t the only group of consumers looking for foods that are meat-free and provide a satisfying meal.

All types of consumers are looking to manage and maintain weight with plant-based meal options with ingredients such as protein isolates, whole legumes, whole grains and vegetables. A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that a bean-based meal provided a similar feeling of fullness compared to a beef-based meal.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota had 28 participants (14 men and 14 women) consume two test lunches containing a “meatloaf” made from either beef or beans.

The beef meal provided 26 grams of protein and three grams of fiber, while the bean meal provided 17 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber.

Both meals were matched in weight, calories, and total fat. All the participants showed no difference in appetite ratings between the beef and bean meals over three hours. In addition they consumed the same amount of calories at the next meal eaten.

Protein is considered to be the number one nutrient that induces the feeling of fullness, with fiber coming in a close second.

While protein intake releases appetite suppressing hormones, the beneficial effects of fiber on appetite and food include slowing down the digestion process and helping control blood sugar levels to increase the feeling of fullness for longer. The findings of this study support the idea that plant-based proteins with high fiber may offer similar appetite regulation as animal protein.

Read the abstract in Journal of Food Science here

About IFT
Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is committed to advancing the science of food. Our non-profit scientific society—more than 17,000 members from more than 95 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government and industry. For more information, please

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Natural Compound Found in Herbs, Vegetables Could Reduce Breast Cancer Risk in Some Women

 Luteolin may inhibit growth of human breast cancer cells in postmenopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy

Newswise, September 16, 2015– More than 100 women die from breast cancer every day in the United States. The odds increase in postmenopausal women who have taken a combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy; these women also have an increased risk of developing progestin-accelerated breast tumors.

Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that luteolin, a natural compound found in herbs such as thyme and parsley as well as vegetables such as celery and broccoli, could reduce the cancer risk for women who have taken hormone replacement therapy.

“In most circumstances, hormone replacement therapies improve the lives of menopausal women and achieve excellent results,” said Salman Hyder, the Zalk Endowed Professor in Tumor Angiogenesis and professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center.

“Nevertheless, research has proven that a higher incidence of breast cancer tumors can occur in women receiving therapies that involve a combination of the natural component estrogen and the synthetic progestin.

“Most older women normally have benign lesions in breast tissue,” Hyder said.
“These lesions typically don’t form tumors until they receive the ‘trigger’— in this case, progestin—that attracts blood vessels to cells essentially feeding the lesions causing them to expand.”

His newest study shows that when the supplement luteolin is administered to human breast cancer cells in the lab, benefits can be observed including the reduction of those vessels “feeding” the cancer cells causing cancer cell death.

Hyder’s lab has found that as human breast cancer cells develop, they tend to take on stem cell-like properties, which can make them harder to kill.
Here, luteolin was used to monitor stem cell-like characteristics of breast cancer cells and his team saw a vast reduction in this phenomenon, further proving that the natural compound exerts its anti-tumor effects in a variety of ways.

Then, Hyder further tested laboratory mice with breast cancer and found that blood vessel formation and stem cell-like characteristics also were reduced in vivo, or inside the body.

“We feel that luteolin can be effective when injected directly into the bloodstream, so IV supplements may still be a possibility,” Hyder said. 

“But, until the supplement is tested for safety and commercialized, which we hope will happen after further testing and clinical trials, women should continue consuming a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables.”

The early-stage results of this research are promising. If additional studies are successful within the next few years, MU officials will request authority from the federal government to begin human drug development (this is commonly referred to as the “investigative new drug” status). 

After this status has been granted, researchers may conduct human clinical trials with the hope of developing new treatments for breast cancer in women who have taken combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapies.

Researchers involved with the study included Matthew T. Cook, a recent doctoral graduate and research scientist at Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center; Cynthia Besch-Williford, associate professor of veterinary pathobiology; Yayun Liang, a research associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at MU; and Sandy Goyette and Benford Mafuvadze, who are graduate students in biomedical sciences.

The research recently was published in the journal Springer Plus through the generosity of numerous donors to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at MU.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Resveratrol Impacts Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarker

Newswise, September 14, 2015— The largest nationwide clinical trial to study high-dose resveratrol long-term in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease found that a biomarker that declines when the disease progresses was stabilized in people who took the purified form of resveratrol.

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring compound found in foods such as red grapes, raspberries, dark chocolate and some red wines.

The results, published online today in Neurology, “are very interesting,” says the study’s principal investigator, R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, director of the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University Medical Center. Turner, who treats patients at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, cautions that the findings cannot be used to recommend resveratrol.

“This is a single, small study with findings that call for further research to interpret properly.”

The resveratrol clinical trial was a randomized, phase II, placebo-controlled, double blind study in patients with mild to moderate dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease.

An “investigational new drug” application was required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to test the pure synthetic (pharmaceutical-grade) resveratrol in the study.

It is not available commercially in this form.

The investigators enrolled 119 participants for the one-year study. The highest dose of resveratrol tested was one gram by mouth twice daily — equivalent to the amount found in about 1,000 bottles of red wine.

Patients who were treated with increasing doses of resveratrol over 12 months showed little or no change in amyloid-beta40 (Abeta40) levels in blood and cerebrospinal fluid.

In contrast, those taking a placebo had a decrease in the levels of Abeta40 compared with their levels at the beginning of the study.
“A decrease in Abeta40 is seen as dementia worsens and Alzheimer’s disease progresses; still, we can’t conclude from this study that the effects of resveratrol treatment are beneficial,” Turner explains.

“It does appear that resveratrol was able to penetrate the blood brain barrier, which is an important observation. Resveratrol was measured in both blood and cerebrospinal fluid.”

John Bozza, 80, participated in the study. Five years ago, his wife, Diana, began noticing “something wasn’t quite right.” He was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, but only a year later, his condition progressed to mild Alzheimer’s. 

Diana, whose twin sister died from the same disease, says there are multiple reasons she and John decided to participate in the resveratrol study, and they now know he was assigned to take the active drug.

“I definitely want the medical community to find a cure,” she says. “And of course I thought there’s always a chance that John could have been helped, and who knows, maybe he was.”

The researchers studied resveratrol because it activates proteins called sirtuins, the same proteins activated by caloric restriction.

The biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s is aging, and studies with animals found that most age-related diseases—including Alzheimer’s—can be prevented or delayed by long-term caloric restriction (consuming two-thirds the normal caloric intake).

Turner says the study also found that resveratrol was safe and well tolerated. The most common side effects experienced by participants were gastrointestinal-related, including nausea and diarrhea. Also, patients taking resveratrol experienced weight loss while those on placebo gained weight.

One outcome in particular was confounding, Turner notes. The researchers obtained brain MRI scans on participants before and after the study, and found that resveratrol-treated patients lost more brain volume than the placebo-treated group.

“We’re not sure how to interpret this finding. A similar decrease in brain volume was found with some anti-amyloid immunotherapy trials,” Turner adds. A working hypothesis is that the treatments may reduce inflammation (or brain swelling) found with Alzheimer’s.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and conducted with the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, began in 2012 and ended in 2014. GUMC was one of 21 participating medical centers across the U.S.

Further studies, including analysis of frozen blood and cerebrospinal fluid taken from patients, are underway to test possible drug mechanisms.

“Given safety and positive trends toward effectiveness in this phase 2 study, a larger phase 3 study is warranted to test whether resveratrol is effective for individuals with Alzheimer’s — or at risk for Alzheimer’s,” Turner says.

Resveratrol and similar compounds are being tested in many age-related disorders including cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. The study Turner led, however, is the largest, longest and highest dose trial of resveratrol in humans to date.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (U01 AG010483). Turner reports no personal financial interests related to the study.

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health).

GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person."

The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Blueberry Extract Could Help Fight Gum Disease and Reduce Antibiotic Use

Newswise, September 4, 2015— Gum disease is a common condition among adults that occurs when bacteria form biofilms or plaques on teeth, and consequently the gums become inflamed. Some severe cases, called periodontitis, call for antibiotics. But now scientists have discovered that wild blueberry extract could help prevent dental plaque formation. Their report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry could lead to a new therapy for periodontitis and a reduced need for antibiotics.
Many people have had some degree of gum inflammation, or gingivitis, caused by dental plaque. The gums get red and swollen, and they bleed easily. If left unchecked, the condition can progress to periodontitis. The plaque hardens into tartar, and the infection can spread below the gum line and destroy the tissue supporting the teeth. 

To treat this condition, dentists scrape off the tartar and sometimes have to resort to conventional antibiotics. 

But recently, researchers have started looking at natural antibacterial compounds to treat gum disease. Daniel Grenier and colleagues wanted to see if blueberry polyphenols, which work against foodborne pathogens, could also help fightFusobacterium nucleatum, one of the main species of bacteria associated with periodontitis.

In the lab, the researchers tested extracts from the wild lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Ait., againstF. nucleatum

The polyphenol-rich extracts successfully inhibited the growth of F. nucleatum, as well as its ability to form biofilms. 

It also blocked a molecular pathway involved in inflammation, a key part of gum disease. The researchers say they're developing an oral device that could slowly release the extract after deep cleaning to help treat periodontitis.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Laboratoire de Contrôle Microbiologique de l'Université Laval.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Feeding America Encourages All Americans To Join Hunger Action Month to Bring Awareness To The 49 Million People Struggling With HungerNationwide Network of Food Banks Unites this September in Common Cause

September 2, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The fight to end domestic hunger will be at the head of the table this September as hunger-relief advocates come together for Hunger Action Month™, a month-long effort to bring national attention to the startling reality that 1 in 6 individuals face food insecurity in the United States.   

Feeding America®, the leading domestic hunger-relief organization, created Hunger Action Month eight years ago to shine a light on this issue and encourage the nation to take action.

Throughout September, Feeding America, its nationwide network of food banks, philanthropic and corporate partners, as well as hunger-relief supporters and advocates across the country will hold events, volunteer and work to elevate the conversation around solving domestic hunger. 

Anti-hunger advocates will also commemorate Hunger Action Day®, Thursday, September 3, an opportunity for the country to learn more about how hunger affects their community.

"Hunger impacts every community in our nation, preventing millions of families, seniors and children from thriving," said Matt Knott, president of Feeding America. 

"This September, we all have a chance to make a difference in the lives of people in need by getting engaged and raising awareness of this very important cause.  With the collaborative efforts of the public, private and charitable sector, we can solve this issue."

Feeding America has outlined three simple ways that the public can engage in Hunger Action Month to make a significant impact in the lives of the 49 million Americans who may not know where they will find their next meal.

1.      Connect and join the thousands of volunteers expected to participate in local food bank activities throughout the United States this month.  Learn more about your local Feeding America food bank and how you can get involved.
2.    Join Spoontember™, a new social activation to engage the public and help raise awareness of the 1 in 6 Americans struggling with hunger.  To get involved, supporters can share a 'spoon selfie' of themselves attempting to balance a spoon on their nose – a utensil that is most often used to prepare and provide food for others.  Supporters can then spread awareness about domestic hunger by posting their spoon selfie to social media along with a hunger statistic and challenge their friends and family to do the same.
3.    Advocate for the 1 in 5 children in America who live in a household that struggles to put food on the table1.  Hunger Action Month 2015 falls just prior of the congressional deadline to determine terms of the reauthorization of federal child nutrition programs.  Join your local food bank's efforts to support kids in need and contact your state senator to invite them to visit a child-feeding site in their congressional district.Learn more about Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2015 and Feeding America's priorities to help feed more kids.
Household Food Security in the United States, 2013. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2014.

To learn more about Feeding America and Hunger Action Month 2015, please visit  

About Feeding America
Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. 

Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. 

Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. 

Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate.  Together we can solve hunger. Visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.