Science Catch-up. Why is Harvard Sticking the Knife into Butter Again?

Mortality rate from saturated fat trans fat and other fats_The Health Sciences Academy

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

Welcome to our Thursday’s Science Catch-up: curated links by The Health Sciences Academy. Get our email updates every other Thursday here (it’s free).

Let’s catch you up with studies and news that recently made the headlines!

Click on your favourite topics to read our summary:

1. Why is Harvard sticking the knife into butter again?

2. 6 ways to “train-low”

3. Farming on the moon and meat grown in a lab: 6 thoughts on the future of food from Elon Musk’s brother

4. Brains of overweight individuals look 10 years older with white matter atrophy

5. Meet me at Food Matters Live!

 

Why is Harvard sticking the knife into butter again?

News link

Harvard scientists say “butter is not back”. And that we need to watch out for saturated fat overconsumption. We talked about this debate before (see here, herehere, here, and here).

This new study explains that if you replace saturated fat (mainly found in meat and dairy) with unsaturated fat (from avocados, olive oil, and flaxseeds) you might lower your heart disease risk.

They also found a higher mortality rate from saturated fat consumption, illustrated in this graph:

Mortality rate from saturated fat trans fat and other fats_The Health Sciences Academy

Comparison of mortality rate percentages from the consumption of different fats. Higher saturated fat consumption (orange line) is correlated with a higher mortality rate (Hu et al., 2016)

Of course, some will continue to be pro, others against, saturated fat. While most keep debating this, in a moment you’ll know why you shouldn’t.

First, let’s look at the bigger picture.

Research findings are reported as “averages”. But the problem with this is that you are NOT average.

In nutrition science, we say that you are either:

  • a “responder” (beneficial effects) or
  • a “non-responder” (detrimental effects).

That’s why we need to pivot the conversation to personalised nutrition. This is something I keep saying on the basis of my research: If it’s not personalised, it’s not effective.

For example, there might be individuals who thrive on saturated fat. But there are other individuals who definitely need to minimise saturated fat in their diet. This includes those who have a specific mutation in the ApoE gene (epsilon4 alleles).

Why? Because they just cannot metabolise saturated fat properly, and tend to have lower levels of antioxidants in their blood. So saturated fat does increase their heart disease risk.

Today, we know that about 26-30% of the population carries that ApoE mutation (also called the “E4” genotype).

A lot of us!

Knowing that reminds us that nutrition science is NOT black and white, and that a personalised approach is the only way.

It’s no wonder the team and I are so fanatical about teaching different personalisation strategies in our specialist courses.

This stems from the scientific concept of “inter-individual variability”. Each of us is intrinsically different and respond differently to identical protocols and conditions.

Note: To learn about personalising your diet based on your inherited genes, see “Nutrigenetics 101: Eating Right For Your Genes” here.

 

6 ways to “train-low”

Article link

My genius friend and budding scientist, Dr Asker Jeukendrup, PhD, summarises 6 ways to “train-low”.

What’s training low? When you exercise with LOW carbohydrate availability. Training without breakfast, for example.

Although it might not work for every athlete, training low is getting a lot of attention. So here are those 6 ways to test (and personalise):

6 ways to train low_My Sport Science_The Health Sciences Academy

6 ways to “train-low” (Jeukendrup, 2016)

 

Farming on the moon and meat grown in a lab: 6 thoughts on the future of food from Elon Musk’s brother

News link

Have you heard of Elon Musk? He’s the planet-conscious founder of Tesla and SpaceX. His brother, Kimbal Musk, has a company called The Kitchen, which builds school gardens to teach children in low-income communities about healthy eating.

Kimbal Musk shared his futuristic ideas, advising innovators to get in the food industry now to have the front-row seat of this new wave:

Vertical Farming_The Health Sciences Academy_Creadit Valcenteu

Vertical farming example. Photo by Valcenteu.

1. Vertical farming is poised for prime time – and outer space! Family farms and access to LOCAL produce are in decline. So vertical farming could allow big cities like New York to grow fruits and vegs locally, during all 4 seasons, reducing carbon miles (pollutants from transportation). The same for moon citizens, primarily living off plant-based diets.

2. Farming could soon be ‘cool’ again. There are fewer farmers, as Millennials pursue other careers. But with vertical farming, you wouldn’t need to move to rural lands to break into the agriculture business.

3. Trust in the food system requires greater transparency. Whether it’s GMO ingredients or chemical additives, Musk said that consumers aren’t properly informed on how their food is made. (Note: If you’re wondering whether GMOs are safe, take a look here.)

4. Musk hopes the next generation of food growers and manufacturers are more transparent. He said: “If I were these guys, I would be thinking very much about transparency. What is the true impact of their product? What is the true nutrition of their product? Even if they have to use some futuristic ingredient, for lack of a better word, they’re very clear about what it is rather than hiding it from the consumer.”

You can read more in this news link.

Since many of you in our community are breaking into the food sector, these possible trends are worth keeping in mind. I’ll be chairing several sessions at Food Matters Live (London, UK), where you can meet other food innovators. If this is for you, be sure to register here (it’s free for our readers, students and grads).

 

Brains of overweight individuals look 10 years older with white matter atrophy

Study link

This new brain study from Cambridge and Yale scientists shows how the brains of overweight and obese individuals look 10 years older compared to lean individuals.

Brains of overweight individuals with white matter atrophy_The Health Sciences Academy

Comparison of white matter (yellow) in lean vs overweight individuals (Ronan et al., 2016)

The brain scans from 473 participants revealed a shrinkage in volume of white matter in the brains of those who are overweight and obese.

Although this does not appear to affect IQ, white matter is composed of nerve fibres. These fibres help with the communication between different regions of the brain. The more you have, the slower your cognitive decline.

So this raises the possibility that if you’re overweight, you may be more susceptible to age-related brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

Meet me at Food Matters Live!

Registration link

I’m chairing the Personalised Nutrition Seminar at Food Matters Live in London, UK, one of the largest events for food science and nutrition professionals. Mark in your calendar Thursday 24th November, 10.30 am. If you can make it, I’d love to meet you. Register here for free entry.

 

 

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What has inspired you this week? What are your thoughts on some of these topics? Leave a comment and let us know!

The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.
Connect with Alex via email.


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