Volume 16. Number 6. 2011


A person with genetic variant 9p21, that predisposes them to heart disease, lowered their risk with a healthful diet.
Researchers collected genetic and dietary information from more than 8,000 people of various ethnicities, as well as data from 20,000 Finish subjects. People who had the genetic variant, but who ate a diet rich in fruits, raw vegetables and nuts, ended up on average with a heart attack risk close to people who don't have this genetic propensity. While those with the trait who did not follow such a prudent diet had as much as twice the chance of having a heart attack. [Ron Do et al., "The Effect of Chromosome 9p21 Variants on Cardiovascular Disease May Be Modified by Dietary Intake: Evidence from a Case/Control and a Prospective Study," Scientific American October 11, 2011.


According to Bloomberg, world food prices fell for a third month in September, the longest stretch of declines in more than two years, after grain prices slumped amid concern that demand will be hurt by an economic slowdown. An index of 55 food commodities fell to 225 points last month from 229.5 points in August, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. The gauge reached a record 237.7 points in February 2011.
The last time the FAO food-price index dropped more than two months in a row was between July 2008 and February 2009, when the index slumped 37% from its previous peak of 224.1 points in June 2008. The gauge is still 16% above its year-earlier level of 194 points.
Maize dropped 23% on the Chicago Board of Trade in September, the biggest monthly decline in records going back to 1959. Wheat plunged 23% in the month, the biggest such drop since March 1974. The FAO Cereals Price Index dropped to 245.1 points in September from 252.4 in August, the lowest level since January.
Growth in agricultural output will slow to 1.7% a year through 2020, compared with 2.6% in the previous decade, the FAO and the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report in June. IFT Weekly Oct. 12, 2011.


A study published in Cell shows that saturated fats activate a key metabolic pathway associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, while polyunsaturated fats like omega-3s shut this pathway down.
The findings provide an answer to the question why some fats are beneficial and others aren’t. In addition, the results could lead to the development of new medications that prevent a person from becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes, the researchers from the University of California, San Diego said.
After studying the impact of various types of fat on cultured cells, the researchers found that saturated fats activate a set of cellular receptor sites known as Jun kinases. Activation of these pathways has previously been linked to the development of chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes. Yet this is the first study to show that saturated fats play a direct role in their activation.
The study also revealed that polyunsaturated fats deactivate the receptors and prevent them from being switched on in the future, which helps explain the metabolic and cardiovascular benefits of these nutrients.
“These findings not only explain the long-standing enigma regarding the differential health effects of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids,” said lead researcher Michael Karin. “They also provide improved tools and a mechanistic framework for the potential development of dietary supplements to treat obesity, estimated to be worth billions of dollars per year.” IFT Weekly Newsletter. 5 Oct. 2011


We can now genetically modify animals to kill off their own kind, while leaving other species unharmed.
IN THE urban jungle of Juazeiro in Brazil, an army is being unleashed. It is an army like no other: the soldiers' mission is to copulate rather than fight. But they are harbingers of death, not love. Their children appear healthy at first but die just before they reach adulthood, struck down by the killer genes their fathers passed on to them.
These soldiers are the first of a new kind of creature - "autocidal" maniacs genetically modified to wipe out their own kind without harming other creatures. The first animals being targeted with these "living pesticides" are disease-carrying mosquitoes and crop-munching caterpillars, but the approach should work with just about any animal - from invasive fish and frogs to rats and rabbits. If it is successful, it could transform the way we think about genetically engineered animals. New Scientist. 12 Sept. 2011


Research has found that ritual and context influences us to eat too much with no regard for quality.
At a ball game, you have a hot dog. And at a movie you have popcorn. And you may keep working on that popcorn long after you realise that this batch really isn’t so good. Why? Scientists analysed two groups of moviegoers, those who eat popcorn regularly at theatres and those who don’t. The subjects were offered either fresh just-popped popcorn or week-old popcorn. The ones who don’t usually eat popcorn ate much less stale popcorn than fresh popcorn. But the habitual popcorn eaters gobbled just as much stale stuff as fresh. The study is in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Environmental cures might be a cause for this kind of overeating. Because when offered the two kinds of popcorn in a meeting room, as opposed to the movie theatre, the popcorn eaters were picky, choosing fresh popcorn over stale. And here’s a neat twist: the researchers had moviegoers eat both fresh and stale popcorn using their non-dominant hand. And suddenly the popcorn lovers did care about the taste—they ate much less of the stale popcorn than the fresh popcorn. Yes, eating with your other hand may be awkward. But it beats eating old food. Scientific American Sept. 3, 2011


DRIP coffee on a table and let it dry and the stain will be shaped like a ring. Now there's a way to stop this pesky "coffee ring effect", which causes paints and inks to coat surfaces unevenly.
As a splotch of coffee loses water to evaporation, its outer rim refuses to shrink inwards, held in place by the microscopic roughness of the tabletop. Instead, water flows from the drip's centre to the rim and evaporates there, leaving behind the dark particles that give coffee its colour. The same thing occurs in particle-laden inks and paints. In a bid to beat the problem, Peter Yunker of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and colleagues watched drops of alcohol dry. When laden with polystyrene spheres, the particles concentrated into a ring. But when the particles were torpedo-shaped, they coated the surface uniformly after drying. This was also true when a small fraction of elongated particles made up a solution of mainly spherical ones (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature10344). The torpedoes don't slide along as easily as the spheres, it seems. Adding a few jamming torpedoes to ink or paint could be enough to block the flow of particles, leading to an even coat. New Scientist 2826. 18 Aug. 2011


A study published in Stroke shows that eating plenty of high-potassium fruits, vegetables, and dairy products may prevent strokes. The findings come from an analysis of 10 international studies involving 268,276 middle-aged and older adults, of which 8,695 suffered a stroke.
According to the researchers, stroke risk dipped as people’s reported potassium intake rose, with each 1,000-mg increase in daily potassium leading to a drop in the odds of suffering a stroke in the next five to 14 years of 11%. Potassium is specifically linked to a reduced risk of ischemic strokes, those caused by a blockage in an artery feeding the brain, which account for about 80% of strokes. The mineral was not linked, though, to a lower risk of haemorrhagic strokes, which occur when there is bleeding in the brain.
It should be noted that the findings do not prove that potassium itself is what produces the positive effect. IFT Weekly Buletin 24 Aug. 2011.

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. – / Fx 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.