News and Notes February 2023

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Groundbreaking Research: Brain Tumour Cure

A study published in the journal Brain, shows an effective eradication of glioblastoma, a highly lethal type of brain cancer. Researchers discovered two critical mechanisms in the brain that support tumour growth and survival: one protects cancer cells from the immune system, while the other supplies the energy required for rapid tumour growth. Both mechanisms are controlled by brain cells called astrocytes, and when manipulated, the tumor cells die and are eliminated within days. All treated animals survived. Moreover, even after discontinuing treatment, most animals survived.

Brain tumour

Artificial sweeteners lead to toxic gut bacteria

And that is true for most artificial sweeteners. Six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k (ace-k)) and that of ten sport supplements containing these, were tested. Each sweetener produced different toxins at different concentrations of the sweetener. Natural sweeteners, such as stevia and monk fruit are not implicated here. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, or polyol and occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It is also commercially produced from birch bark and corn cob. Aspartame becomes aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol when consumed, all of which can have potent effects on the central nervous system.

Sweetener

Mediterranean diet and melanoma survival

The Mediterranean diet is known for reducing fat around internal organs, heart health benefits, a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels and that it protects against cognitive decline. According to a new study presented at United European Gastroenterology's annual conference, the Mediterranean diet can improve the immune response and 12-month survival of patients with advanced melanoma. So eat more fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. An important side note is that the researchers also found an increase in drug toxicity if the melanoma patients ate more red or processed meats.

Researchers found that people who would substitute olive oil for butter and have over half a tablespoon of olive oil a day are less likely to succumb to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, lung disease, and cancer. Be sure to check if the olive oil offered in restaurants is actually olive oil – liquid gold – and not a cheaper substitute seed oil.

Mediterranean diet

Arthritis treatment injections replaced with probiotic pills

The probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri, forms part of a novel oral drug delivery platform to treat rheumatoid arthritis. A peptide ShK-235, or short protein derived from sea anemone toxin, effectively and safely reduces disease severity of rheumatoid arthritis, but requires repeated injections. Dr. Robert A. Britton, professor of molecular virology and microbiology, said that they have developed the tools and expertise to genetically modify probiotic bacteria to produce and release compounds. In the current study, the team bioengineered the probiotic to secrete peptide ShK-235.

They chose L. reuteri because these bacteria are indigenous to human and other animal guts. It is one of the lactic acid bacteria groups that has long been used as a cell factory in the food industry. L. reuteri has an excellent safety profile in infants, children, adults and even in an immunosuppressed population.

Arthritis

The cancer risk of nitrites and nitrates from cured meat

Nitrites and nitrates are key preservatives used in the manufacturing of many cured meat products. The vast majority of bacon on supermarket shelves, for example, contains nitrites but a growing body of research has emerged to suggest these chemicals may be linked to cancer.

In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), linked diets high in processed meats with a significantly increased risk of several cancers.

Chris Elliot, director of the Institute for Global Food Safety at Queen’s University, said that this new study make the cancer risk associated with nitrite-cured meat even clearer and he argues nitrites should be banned from food products as they are easily replaced with natural, safer alternatives.

Professor in meat science in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal Science, Prof Osburn, has set out to find an innovative method to generate the nitric oxide and residual nitrite needed to cure meat and poultry products, but without the addition of natural or synthetic nitrite sources. This alternative curing system uses vegetable powder derived from celery as a natural source of nitrite to cure meat products. But these products may result in a detectable vegetable taste to the meat and a less favorable cured meat, or pink color, Osburn said.

Cured meat

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