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:
New brain cells caught suppressing appetite
Appetite control starts in your brain. It’s an incredibly complex process involving the hypothalamus and other brain regions.
This new paper published in Nature is about the discovery of brain cells located in the diagonal band of Broca and their involvement in appetite suppression and feeding addiction.
In the video abstract below, Dr. Arenkiel, associate professor in genetics and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, explains the role of these brain cells, called cholinergic neurons.
We already knew about their existence, but not about their role in controlling appetite, which is a scientific breakthrough.
Watch this short 2-minute video to learn more:
Pleasurable food descriptions may help us choose smaller portions
This new experimental study shows how pleasurable sensory descriptions may help us eat less.
When the researchers described a chocolate cake as smelling of ‘roasted coffee’ with ‘aromas of honey and vanilla’ and an ‘aftertaste of blackberry’, participants selected smaller portions.
However, those who were simply offered ‘chocolate cake’ with no further description, selected larger portions.
What’s even more interesting is that, when choosing based on sensory pleasure, not only did people pick smaller portions of calorific foods, they were also willing to pay as much for these smaller portions as for the larger ones!
The lesson from this can apply both at home when giving food choices and in food marketing, focusing more on the sensory quality of calorific foods and less on quantity at lowest cost.
Edible petals: a nutrient source?
Have you ever tried edible petals before?
Well, if you’re a tea lover and enjoy your infusions, you might already have!
This new paper about edible flowers in infusions highlights that they could easily be included in people’s diet as a source of nutrients, including bioactive compounds and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
For example, rose petals are a natural source of carotenoids – powerful phytochemicals with an impossibly long list of health benefits, including DNA protection due to their antioxidant activity.
And calendula petals have the highest content of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E!), another potent antioxidant which also plays a key role in protecting Omega 3s in the brain – critical for intellectual performance.
Besides infusions, this team of food scientists argue that edible flowers could provide new colours, textures, and vibrancy to any dish, including sauces, soups, salads, and desserts.
Apart from the “glam” factor, they believe that petals have the potential to become promising sources of bioactive nutrients.
Health of Europe Report [PDF]
This new report (PDF download here) compares the health of individuals across 21 European countries, including the UK.
The interesting findings show that:
- females are more likely to suffer from severe headaches
- males are much more likely to smoke and view themselves as overweight in all 21 countries
- the highest self-reported overweight/obesity rates are in Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia – followed by Poland, Lithuania, Spain, and Germany (see the table on page 8)
- the UK and Portugal have the highest binge-drinking levels
- across Europe, men drink almost twice as much alcohol as women
You can find the latest alcohol guidelines here.
This European survey used a particular model for the determinants of health, illustrated below:
Sleep loss damages gut microbiota and metabolic health
It appears that disrupted or shortened sleep hours can alter the diversity of your gut bacterial colonies. Remember that this diversity is needed for metabolic health and for the prevention of excess weight gain and insulin resistance.
In this human study, after just 2 days of restricted vs. normal sleep, participants exhibited:
- almost 40% greater increased insulin resistance and
- 22% decreased insulin sensitivity after meals
Having adequate insulin sensitivity after meals is critical, so that most of the nutrients from your food are taken up by your lean tissue (e.g. your muscles) rather than your fat tissue.
Your sleep, your microbiome, and your metabolic health are all connected!
Note: For every cell in your body, there are about 10 bacterial cells… and they are essential to your survival. Protecting your microbial garden involves more than just having probiotics and fibre. As you’ve just seen, good sleep matters too! To learn what shapes the bacterial colonies that live in your gut and how this is linked to obesity, see our science report Are Your Genes, Gut Microbiome and Weight Connected?
Halloween candy deconstructed: ingredients of a few popular Halloween candies
It’s Halloween time… Tons of sweets are being sold (and consumed!) by children – and grown-ups too.
When it comes to sweets and candy, it isn’t just a matter of calories. Think about the excess sugar, excess fat, and other ingredients such as artificial food colourings.
The New York City Food Policy Center distributed a press release raising awareness about popular candy brands, the ingredients, and the risks associated with those ingredients. You can find it here.
Some of the food colourings in the spotlight include Blue 1 and 2 (E132, E133), Yellow 5 (E102), and Red 3 and 40 (E127, E129).
Note: We uncovered a long list of research studies showing how artificial food additives can negatively impact a child’s brain. This can have repercussions on their learning, concentration, and behaviour, even in children without ADHD. You can gain an in-depth understanding of how food impacts a child’s IQ, their memory, and cognition in our upcoming Advanced Child and Brain Development Nutritional Advisor course. It’s fascinating science and there’s a lot that you can do to help in this space. If you wish to be notified when the course goes live, please let me know here.
Boost levels of known detoxification compound to de-accelerate ageing?
A major hallmark of ageing is the disruption of our antioxidant defenses against a variety of environmental, oxidative, pathological, and toxicological insults.
Glutathione is a potent detoxification compound made in our body from precursors found in the foods we eat. It helps detoxify the toxic insults from everyday life – from air pollutants, to heavy metals, to painkillers.
However, as we get older, our glutathione production tends to decline, setting the stage for health problems. In fact, the decline of the glutathione detoxification pathway is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The good news is that this age-related decline of glutathione can be slowed down.
This new study highlights that an increased intake of the precursors used to make glutathione can actually help increase levels of this detoxification compound in the body.
One of these precursors is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), a substance derived from cysteine. Cysteine is a sulphur-containing amino acid found in eggs and in allium vegetables (garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives).
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is already used in emergency medicine to help patients in a toxic crisis, such as ingestion of poisonous levels of heavy metals, or to detoxify a paracetamol overdose.
This precursor is believed to significantly maintain glutathione levels and to improve health.
There you go, you now have new important ingredients to incorporate in your next shopping trip!
Note: The ageing process is very complex and learning the molecular mechanisms behind it is important to help slow it down in a smart and educated way. If you’ve recently joined our new course on longevity and cancer prevention, welcome!! And thanks so much for your beautiful messages and great feedback. For the rest of you, you can get a sneak peek here.
Meet me at Food Matters Live!
On Thursday 24th November, 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. I’d love to see you! Register here for free entry.
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What’s your key learning from today’s Science Catch-up? What do you think of some of these discoveries? Tell us in the comments below!