Volume 17. Number 2. 2012


Dietary levels of acrylamide, the chemical compound and known carcinogen naturally produced from cooking food, cannot be shown to pose any health risk to humans, according to an expert panel organized by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) for a press web presentation on Thursday 26 January 2012.
Since its discovery in cooked food in 2002, acrylamide has prompted questions from governments, health organizations and the public regarding potential risks of consumption. In April 2011, Food Safety News reported on the European Food Safety Authority's attempts to encourage food makers to voluntarily reduce acrylamide levels in processed foods. Acrylamide gained its classification as a carcinogen back when it was only known in industrial settings, long before being discovered in food: Laboratory tests on rodents in the 1980s and 90s demonstrated increased cancer risks. In those tests, however, the mice and rats were given doses of acrylamide thousands of times greater than what comes in a normal human diet.
But the results of those lab tests have inspired public fear over acrylamide in food, despite scientific evidence demonstrating no links between dietary levels of the compound and any health risks in humans, said environmental toxicologist James Coughlin, Ph.D., one of the panel's presenters. Coughlin and two co-authors are publishing a review of dietary acrylamide studies in February. IFIC Food Safety News Jan. 2012.


Changes in agriculture, policy and personal behaviours can reduce the energy a nation uses to feed itself and the greenhouse gases it emits. Converting agricultural waste, such as manure, into power can cut energy use. Implementing new, pilot-level farming techniques such as drip irrigation, no-till planting, laser-levelling of fields and GPS-driven machinery; reducing spoiled and wasted food, which amounts to 25 to 30 percent of all food produced; and eating less meat, which is energy-intensive to create, could also reduce energy consumption. The same steps would make our bodies, and our ecosystems, healthier.
For more than 50 years fossil fuels and fertilisers have been the key ingredients in much greater global food production and distribution. The food-energy relationship has been a good one, but it is now entering a new era. Food production is rising sharply, requiring more carbon-based fuels and nitrogen-based fertilisers, both of which exacerbate global warming, river and ocean pollution, and a host of other ills. At the same time, many nations are grappling with how to reduce energy demand, especially demand for fossil fuels.
Although transportation, power plants and buildings receive a lot of policy attention as targets for reducing energy consumption, the food supply is often overlooked. In the U.S., about 10 percent of the energy budget goes to producing, distributing, processing, preparing and preserving the plant and animal matter we consume. That is a considerable wedge of the energy pie.
Examining our food supply through the lens of energy use reveals opportunities for smart policies, innovative technologies and new dietary choices that can potentially solve food and energy problems together. Scientific American. January 2012. Pp 62-67.


Abstract Infections with Shiga toxin (STx)-producing bacteria cause more than a million deaths each year and have no definitive treatment. To exert its cytotoxic effect, STx invades cells through retrograde membrane trafficking, escaping the lysosomal degradative pathway. We found that the widely available metal manganese (Mn2+) blocked endosome-to-Golgi trafficking of STx and caused its degradation in lysosomes. Mn2+ targeted the cycling Golgi protein GPP130, which STx bound in control cells during sorting into Golgi-directed endosomal tubules that bypass lysosomes. In tissue culture cells, treatment with Mn2+ yielded a protection factor of 3800 against STx-induced cell death. Furthermore, mice injected with nontoxic doses of Mn2+ were completely resistant to a lethal STx challenge. Thus, Mn2+ may represent a low-cost therapeutic agent for the treatment of STx infections. Science. Vol 335. Pp 332-335


If you thought all the news reports that wine was good for your health were too good to be true, you could be right. Some of the research was faked, says the University of Connecticut. After a three-year investigation, the university concluded that Dipak Das, a professor of surgery and head of the university's cardiovascular research centre, "is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data."
An anonymous tip of possible fraud in 2008 triggered the investigation. The result was a massive report, totalling nearly 60,000 pages that documents the case against Das. The report was drawn from examination of more than 100 papers and a summary is available online.
The university has notified 11 journals in which Das published suspect papers and has begun dismissal procedures.
The university says it is also investigating the possible involvement of former members of Das's lab.
Das gained public attention in recent years with research into the health benefits of drinking wine. Much of his work has been on resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, but in 2008 he published results showing that white wine also improves heart health in rats. "Beer is also cardioprotective," Das told New Scientist.
However, Das was not the first to publicise the health benefits of resveratrol - many other labs have reported promising results.
The investigation began after the US Office of Research Integrity told the university that it had received an anonymous allegation of falsified data in one paper published in 2008.
According to the Connecticut Mirror, the board concluded that Das had manipulated figures showing results of western blot protein analysis. The board also reported extensive evidence of other fraud, including files on Das's computer indicating that images had been manipulated. Faked images have been prominent in other research fraud. NewScientist January 2012.


(Late blight destroys up to 20 per cent of the global potato harvest.)
BASF, the largest chemical company by sales, has applied for EU approval to grow Fortuna, a genetically modified (GM) potato variety, and sell it as food. The company already has approval for Amflora, a GM potato variety used to produce industrial starch. In September 2010, BASF caused consternation in the environmental community when it revealed that Amflora fields had been contaminated with another GM variety, Amadea, which did not at that time have approval. The modification in Fortuna protects against late blight, a disease that affects potatoes and tomatoes. BASF has been testing Fortuna in field trials for six years. The variety will now be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). BASF expects to launch Fortuna as a commercial product in 2014 or 2015. RSC Chemistry World Dec. 2011


This work studies the effect of bran extrusion on bread quality. ? Extrusion of bran increased dough development time and tenacity. ? Extrusion also reduced loss of dough height during fermentation. ? Extruded bran breads with improver showed higher volume than breads with normal bran.

This study was designed to investigate the effect of bran extrusion (addition of 2.5 g/100 g to 20 g/100g of bran) on the rheological characteristics of bread dough, during fermentation, and on bread quality. Extruded bran increased dough development time and tenacity to a greater extent than non-extruded bran, and minimized the loss of stability if over-mixing occurred. Extruded bran, due to its greater gas production, also reduced loss of dough height during fermentation to a greater extent than untreated bran. However, breads with extruded bran showed a higher volume and lower initial firmness than breads with normal bran if improver was added. However, no differences were found in the organoleptic evaluation. Bran extrusion therefore modified dough rheology but did not negatively affect bread quality. It could even improve the quality of breads with bran when improvers are added. LWT - Food Science and Technology. Volume 44, Issue 10, December 2011, Pages 2231-2237


For hardened drinkers, it sounds too good to be true: a natural substance that keeps them sober no matter how much they drink, neutralises hangovers and eventually breaks the cycle of alcohol addiction.
Alcoholism is a huge problem globally, killing 2.5 million people a year according to the World Health Organization. There has been serious research recently looking for drugs that stop people drinking, or at least encourage them to drink less.
Extracts of a Chinese variety of the oriental raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis) could be the answer. The extracts have been used for 500 years to treat hangovers in China. Now dihydromyricetin (DHM), a component of the extract, has proved its worth as an intoxication blocker in a series of experiments on boozing rats. It works by preventing alcohol from having its usual intoxicating effects on the brain, however much is in the blood.
Soon, a preparation containing DHM will be tested for the first time in people. "I would give it to problem drinkers who can't resist going to the pub and drinking," says pharmacologist Jing Liang of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the research team.
"DHM will reduce the degree of drunkenness for the amount of alcohol drunk and will definitely reduce the hangover symptoms," says Liang. "In time, it will reduce their desire for alcohol." New Scientist Health. 9 January 2012.

"If we knew what it was we were doing , it would not be called research would it?" Albert Einstein.

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