Volume 18. Number 2. 2013

Two Seasons of Golden Rice Trials in the Philippines Completed

The two seasons of multi-location field trials of Golden Rice have been completed in the Philippine province of Camarines Sur. Data generated from these multi-location trials are now being compiled to be submitted to the Bureau of Plant Industry under the Department of Agriculture (DA-BPI), who will evaluate the data as part of the government's biosafety regulatory process.
Golden Rice is a new type of rice that contains beta carotene, a source of vitamin A. Leading nutrition and agricultural research organizations are working together to further develop and evaluate Golden Rice as a potential new way to reduce vitamin A deficiency. Golden Rice will only be made available broadly to farmers and consumers in the Philippines if it is approved by DA-BPI and shown to reduce vitamin A deficiency. This process may take another two years or more.

Tadeusz Reichstein.The Alchemist of Vitamin Science.

There are people w hose inner lives are so rich that the footnotes to their biographies contain the material for an entire novel. Such a person was Tadeusz Reichstein (1897-1996). A Polish Jew who spent most of his working life in Basel as a natutalised Swiss, he gave his name to the Reichstein Process for the industrial manufacture of vitamin C and won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1950 inrecognition of his groundbreaking work in the field of adrenal cortical hormones. He also, in a retirement lengthier and more active than many a scientific career, published no fewer than a hundred works on the subject of ferns.
If ferns - Reichstein'sgreat passion in later life- seem a long way from vitamins,then vitamins might like wise seem a long way from coffee, another subject with which Reichstein was fascinated for many years. It was his attempt s to synthesize coffee in the 1920s, however, which lead eventually to his successful isolation of vitamin C,and ultimately to the creation of the Reichstein Process. Reichstein was a true researcher, who combined daring thinking with loving attention to detail: even his failures took him in productive new directions.
Sight and Life, January 2013, pg 44-48.

Is the Free-Radical Theory of Aging Dead?

The hallowed notion that oxidative damage causes aging and that vitamins might preserve our youth is now in doubt:
  • For decades researchers assumed that highly reactive molecules called free radicals caused aging by damaging cells and thus undermining the functioning of tissues and organs.
  • Recent experiments, however, show that increases in certain free radicals in mice and worms correlate with longer life span. Indeed, in some circumstances, free radicals seem to signal cellular repair networks.
  • If these results are confirmed, they may suggest that taking antioxidants in the form of vitamins or other supplements can do more harm than good in otherwise healthy individuals.
If free radicals are not always bad, then their antidotes, antioxidants, may not always be good - a worrisome possibility given that 52 percent of Americans take considerable doses of antioxidants daily, such as vitamin E and beta-carotinein the form of multivitamin supplements. In 2007 the Journal of the American Medical Association published a systematic review of 68 clinical trials which concluded that antioxidant supplements do not reduce the risk of death..... they found that certain antioxidants were linked to an increase risk of death, in some cases up to 16 percent.
W M Moyer. The Myth about Antioxidants. Scientific American. Feb. 2013. V308, No 2, pg 56-61.

Helping good bacteria reach their target

Most probiotic bacteria that are added to foods, such as yoghurt, to aid the digestive system are not reaching their intended target in the intestine. Instead, the majority are being destroyed in the stomach before they can do any good. Now, UK scientists have come up with a coating to overcome this problem. Probioticsare bacteria that naturally live in the small and large intestine. They provide health benefits by producing nutrients,compete with pathogenic bacteria for binding sites and stimulate the immune system. Materials scientist VitaliyKhutoryanskiy and microbiologist Dimitris Charalampopoulos and their colleagues at the University of Reading overcame the problem of the bacteria dying before they could enter the intestines by building them a coat of alginate and chitosan layer-by-layer. This coat protects the bacteria as the coating travels through the stomach into the intestine. Chemistry World-6 November 2012

Should scientific advice inform or instruct?

Steve Fuller says scientists should stick to the facts and let the public decide.
Public trust in scientists rivals medieval deference to priestly authority! In October 2012, an Italian court sentenced six seismologists and one politician to six years in prison for manslaughter, based on what turned out to be false assurances about an earthquake that left over 300 people dead, 1600 injured and 65,000 people homeless in L'Aquila, a district that is normally home to 100,000. To be sure, the scientists stated quite clearly - and accurately, given the best evidence available - that the earthquake was highly improbable.

Chemistry World. January 2013.

BPA Replacement Also Alters Hormones

Just like the controversial compound it's designed to replace, a chemical used in cash register receipts and other consumer products messes with hormones, according to research published in the study by the University of Texas scientist, the study is the first to link low concentrations of bisphenol S (BPS) - a bisphenol A (BPA) alternative - to disruption of estrogen, spurring concern that it might harm human health.
Scientific American Jan. 17, 2013.

Half of all food 'thrown away' claims report

As much as half of the world's food, amounting to two billion tonnes worth, ends up being thrown away, a UK-based report has claimed. (If every member read this article and passed it on to all their families and friends, we might just start to make an impression.
Also in this age of "righteousness" - greenness, eco-friendly, anti-animal cruelty, carbon footprint etc. - perhaps one could say that avoidable waste = avoidable injustice! Ed)

Modest weight gain may be good for you

The world's media also picked up a review paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, of reported hazard ratios (HRs) of all cause mortality for overweight and obesity relative to normal weight in the general population. Key to understanding the study is to recognise the terminology used; underweight (BMI of <18.5), normal weight (BMI of 18.5-<25), overweight (BMI of 25-<30), and obesity (BMI of <30). Grade 1 obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 to < 35; grade 2 obesity, a BMI of 35 to < 40; and grade 3 obesity, a BMI of 40 or greater. The authors note that these standard categories have been increasingly used in published studies of BMI and mortality, but the literature reporting these results has not been systematically reviewed. The 97 data sources used provided a sample size approaching 3 million people and more than 270,000 deaths. The reviewers found that relative to normal weight, both obesity (all grades) and grades 2 and 3 obesity were associated with significantly higher all-cause mortality. However, grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality. The reviewers state that their findings are consistent with observations of lower mortality among overweight and moderately obese patients, although they acknowledge potential bias in the available data, and potential flaws in their own analysis. Nonetheless the large sample size does dilute bias from specific source data, and the authors suggest possible explanations for their findings, such as earlier presentation of heavier patients, greater likelihood of receiving optimal medical treatment, cardioprotective metabolic effects of increased body fat, and benefits of higher metabolic reserves.RSSL Food e-News Edition 554: 19 December 2012 - 9 January 2013.
BMI calculator at:

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