Science Catch-up. Plant Hormones. Skin Photo-Ageing. Hunger Hormones.


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. Plant hormones could be “educating” our cells and gut microbes

2. Why odd eating times may amplify skin photo-ageing

3. These sneaky food preservatives may be disrupting your hunger hormones

 

Plant hormones could be “educating” our cells and gut microbes

Review link

Did you know that salad gives us more than fibre, vitamins and minerals?

Plant foods also come with traces of hormones the plants produce themselves to control how they grow or manage water intake.

But it doesn’t end there…

New research tells us that our gut microbes and cells may respond to these plant hormones, opening a new field of investigation in nutrition science.

Plant hormones are revolutionising nutrition science (Chanclud and Lacombe, 2017)

Here are a few examples:

  • The plant stress hormone ABA (abscisic acid) could boost glucose uptake and reduce diabetes risk. ABA-rich fruits and vegetables include apples, carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes.
  • Gibberellic acids (GAs), another type of plant hormones found in grains and spinach, have anti-inflammatory properties. Meaning that GA-rich diets could be used for inflammatory disorders.
  • Indole acetic acid (IAA) increases cancer treatment efficiency by triggering an accumulation of free radicals in cancer cells, causing targeted cell death (without damaging healthy tissues).

And if that wasn’t fascinating enough, our own gut microbes and cells can mimic the production of these plant chemicals. Almost as if they were learning from them!

But how exactly that works is still unknown, making this a captivating area of new research…

Indeed, I expect to see ground-breaking studies on plant hormones and microbial interactions in the near future (stay tuned!).

 

 

Why odd eating times may amplify skin photo-ageing

Study link

It appears that your skin may be paying attention to when you’re eating, including that midnight snack.

If you’re a regular sunbather, vulnerable to sunburn, or just want to keep your skin looking young, you’ll want to pay close attention to these new findings…

Altered meal times disrupt XPA production and UV protection (Andersen et al., 2017)

A team of scientists discovered that eating at abnormal times disrupts our skin’s clock genes. That disruption is bad news, and here’s why.

Many genes in our skin get switched on during daylight. Some of those genes are the ones who tell our skin cells to increase the production of an enzyme that protects against the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

You can think of this enzyme (XPA) as a fire brigade, repairing UV-damaged skin.

However, if we change the times at which we normally eat, the genes that tell our cells to make those enzymes don’t get properly activated during daylight.

This means that less of those sun-protective enzymes are produced, increasing UV damage on skin cells and photo-ageing.

And all because skin genes are sensitive to the timing of food intake!

While this was a mice study (which is usual in circadian genetics) and human research should be following soon, there are some preventative measures we can take…

For example, keeping a consistent eating schedule is more likely to prevent a harmful shift in our skin clock and keep us better protected from UV damage during daytime.

Note: Besides disrupting skin protection against the sun, shifting eating patterns can have other consequences, including our body weight. See why in this Science Report: Chronobesity 101: Is Your Chronotype Making You Fat? (optional resource).

 

These sneaky food preservatives may be disrupting your hunger hormones

Study link

Preservatives and environmental traces found in popcorn, cookies, breakfast cereals and seafood may interfere with the levels of hormones that control appetite and weight…

PFOA, TBT, and BHT are considered endocrine disruptors, interfering with the function of hunger and satiety hormones (Rajamani et al., 2017)

The 3 hormone-disrupting chemicals studied here are:

  • BHT (Butylhydroxytoluene) – food additives, cookies, cereals
  • PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic) – popcorn, cookware
  • TBT (Tributyltin) – house dust

 

Through a series of epigenetic effects, small doses of these chemicals triggered the abnormal production and secretion of gut hormones and brain neuropeptides. These altered metabolic pathways that are associated with increased hunger and body weight.

The extent of these metabolic alterations is higher during foetal development, which means they can be programmed in the baby and impact their adult life too.

PFOA and TBT traces end up in food through packaging, cooking, and indoor air pollution. Whereas BHT has an E number: E321.

However, as you’ll often hear me say: “Everything is toxic… but what makes the substance toxic is the dose!”

So what are the toxicity thresholds in humans?

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the acceptable daily intake of BHT is no more than 0.25 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

PFOA is at 150 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day. And TBT is at 0.25 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

 

 

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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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8 Comments

  • Nicola Dawson

    Reply Reply August 25, 2017

    I found this fascinating and tells me yet again that governments and food companies tell us mere mortals nothing and get away with lots. The majority of people know nothing much about what actually goes into their bodies and a lot is to do with not being told, however a lot of people, I have found, don’t ever want to know.

    This course so far has opened up my eyes to a lot of interesting fact, just that we can change our health and weight by what we do, where we live and what we eat.

    Keep the info coming, I love it!

  • Sandy

    Reply Reply August 25, 2017

    It is fascinating to me that our skin has clock genes!!

    Thank you Alex :):):)

  • Barb

    Reply Reply August 25, 2017

    I am wondering if the popcorn that you mention here is microwave popcorn? We make our own with olive oil and butter. Should we be concerned?

  • Aditi

    Reply Reply September 3, 2017

    I found it very interesting that our skin has clock genes and eating times may affect skin ageing.Now my concern is about the right eating times to maintain skin health,so please tell me the proper eating times (day & night) and also if the type or amount of food may affect the clock ?
    Thank you

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