Science Catch-up. Does Adolescent Boozing Change the Shape of Our Brains?


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

Welcome to our Thursday 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. Does adolescent boozing change the shape of our brains?

2. Can vitamin E help prevent Kidney Disease?

3. Boosting kids’ preferences to healthy foods takes time…

 

Does adolescent boozing change the shape of our brains?

Study link

This time of year is famous for its alcoholic festivities, with St Patrick’s Day ranking as the fourth biggest drinking holiday in the US… But might there be a scar from adolescent drinking hidden in the brain?

Researchers in Maryland sought to find out by exposing adolescent mice to alcohol vapours over a long period of time, and comparing the effects to the same treatment given to adults.

So what did they find?

The subjects exposed to the alcohol during development showed a notably different neuronal structure in certain parts of the brain.

The thin spines that make up the neuronal pathways in the infralimbic cortex became more spaced out, and took on a different shape after adolescent alcohol exposure.

In other words, the alcohol changed the structure of some parts of the brain in very different ways to others…

Spine density was reduced among adolescents exposed to alcohol (CIE) compared to the sober control group (AIR) (Jury et al., 2017).

While this is a mouse study, it adds to the evidence that binge-drinking might interfere with brain development.

And for us humans, there’s evidence that drinking during brain development may nudge our brain biology towards addictive tendencies

For more information on how alcohol can affect your body, check out our article Can a Hangover Kill You?

 

Can vitamin E help prevent Kidney Disease?

Study link

Does a member of your family have Chronic Kidney Disease? Millions of people do – in fact up to 13% of the population…

And many more may be in the early stages of it… without being aware!

A recent study claims that vitamin E supplementation might reduce the risk of kidney disease in those who eat high-fat diets.

But before we go buy vitamin E supplements, let’s check the full study to get to the bottom of this…

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the slow deterioration of kidney function. This can be caused by a number of different factors. For example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can all put strain on the kidneys leading to CKD.

But what’s this got to do with vitamin E?

High-fat diets are thought to contribute to damaging calcification of the kidneys through oxidative stress.

And vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. So it makes sense that it might help prevent calcification, right?

Lower calcium build-up on a high dose of vitamin E (Rios et al., 2017).

To test this, scientists from the University of Cordoba in Spain gave vitamin E to rats fed a high-fat diet to see if it prevented the calcification.

The results were promising.

The high dose of vitamin E greatly reduced the calcification compared to the no-vitamin-E group!

But wait, there’s a problem…

To achieve this effect, each rat was given the maximum safe dose of vitamin E for a human! To give a person the same amount scaled up to our body size could be very dangerous indeed.

And that’s not all. Vitamin E can’t entirely protect us against the other causes of kidney disease, like high blood pressure…

Then… what can we make of this?

Making sure that we have enough antioxidants in our diet, including vitamin E, is still important. Besides sunflower and sesame seeds, other plant foods like beans, peas, and sweet potatoes are good sources.

Other antioxidants such as those present in berries and greens also have a range of beneficial effects – possibly including helping reduce kidney disease risk…

And obviously if excessive fat consumption is putting unnecessary strain on the kidneys, we need to do something about that too.

As you’ll often hear me say, it’s never a single nutrient but the compounded effect of your overall diet and lifestyle which may tip the risk scales one way or another!

If you want to find out more about the impact different nutrients have on our bodies, click HERE to save your seat in our brand-new Nutrition Workshop – it’s free to attend and 100% online.

 

Boosting kids’ preferences to healthy foods takes time…

Study link

Getting kids to eat their vegs may be a struggle for parents…

But, a new review has highlighted some important new ways to encourage children to eat healthier foods.

This review comes from scientists at the University of Buffalo who looked at research on ‘food preference learning’ from the past 10 years.

They found that exposure to healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables, is important even from the pre-natal period.

What mums eat when they are pregnant can influence the baby’s food preferences.

In fact, the smells and flavours the baby is exposed to in the uterus can go on to influence their likings after birth.

Summary of evidence on food preferences during prenatal period and recommendations (Anzman-Frasca et al., 2017).

So, eating healthy foods during pregnancy can prime the baby to prefer these foods too!

However, this learning process of food preferences continues throughout childhood.

For example, repeating a child’s exposure to a food, even if they have previously rejected it, will promote acceptance.

Furthermore, seeing parents, caregivers or siblings enjoying healthy foods can also encourage children to try the same foods.

The key message from this review is that promoting healthy eating preferences in children can take time, but it is possible! If you want to learn about the right foods for children (and even how to turn a bad eater into a good one), make sure you sign up for our free Child Nutrition training.

 

 

 

 

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The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right Alejandra "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 their students. She is a Harvard-trained scientist and UCL doctoral 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.

Connect with Alex via email.


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1 Comment

  • Jacqueline Bourne

    Reply Reply March 8, 2018

    Thank you Alex for three fascinating articles.

    I was particularly interested by the CKD information. I’m wondering and hoping that eventually I might read about foods and nutients that will help to heal damaged kidneys and improve function. I’m thinking that cells are renewed daily in their millions, and DNA can be repaired, so if all the damaging aspects of a person’s daily intake of food and drink are eliminated and replaced by only cleansing, nourishing and antioxidising substances, then perhaps the kidneys could become healthy again.

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