Volume 20. Number 3. 2015

UN Report: Fewer Hungry People Worldwide

The number of hungry people has decreased to about 795 million worldwide, 216 million less than the number recorded in early 1990s. This is according to the latest report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015. The report covers the progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) and World Food Summit hunger targets, and recommends actions for the transition to the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.
The decline in the number of undernourished individuals is reported to be more evident in developing regions, despite significant increase in population. More than half or 79 out of 129 developing countries monitored have achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDG1c) hunger target, which requires that the proportion of undernourished individuals in the total population be reduced by half from 1990 to 2015. Crop Biotech Update. 10 June 2015.

Download a copy of the report from FAO.

Scientists Breed Omega-3 Rich Cattle.

A study, carried out at Northwest A & F University in China, has found a possible way to breed cattle that are rich in omega-3. In recent years the level of omega-3 wanted in the diet has increased dramatically, as research into their numerous health benefits have been released. Unfortunately, these long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are not easily obtained in the human diet. In comparison, omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-6 PUFA) consumed levels are high in the human diet, leaving an unbalanced ratio of n-6/n-3. It has been shown that a large difference in these values can have serious health effects including cardiovascular disease, obesity and neurodegenerative diseases to name a few. It is therefore an important task to try and find ways of decreasing this ratio.

The study looked into the introduction of the C. elegans fat I gene into the foetal cells of Luxi Yellow cattle, indigenous cattle with a high beef yield. This gene encodes for n-3 fatty acid desaturase (FAD3), which causes the conversion of n-6 PUFAs to n-3 PUFAs. Transgenic beef cattle were bred as part of this trial via the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Of the 20 calves that survived rearing, 14 of them were transgenic positive and it was found that these cattle had higher levels of n-3 PUFAs in their muscle tissue. This caused the ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFAs to decrease by 82% (from 5.33:1 to 0.95:1) compared to the negative control group. Food e-News 604: 7-21 May 2015.

Aspartame Sensitivity? A Double Blind Randomised Crossover Study.

This study was supported by the Food Standards Agency, United Kingdom, T01054
Aspartame is a commonly used intense artificial sweetener, being approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose. There have been concerns over aspartame since approval in the 1980s including a large anecdotal database reporting severe symptoms. The objective of this study was to compare the acute symptom effects of aspartame to a control preparation.
Using a comprehensive battery of psychological tests, biochemistry and state of the art metabonomics there was no evidence of any acute adverse responses to aspartame. This independent study gives reassurance to both regulatory bodies and the public that acute ingestion of aspartame does not have any detectable psychological or metabolic effects in humans. PLOS ONE DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0116212 March 18, 2015

Scientists X-ray Chocolate.

An X-ray study carried out at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) can improve the quality of chocolate. The study offers new insights into the formation of fat bloom, an unwelcome white layer that occasionally forms on chocolate. "Although fat blooming is perfectly harmless, it causes millions of US$ in damage to the food industry as a result of rejects and customer complaints," explains the main author of the study, Svenja Reinke, from the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH). "Despite this well known quality issue, comparatively little has been known until now about its root causes." The team from TUHH, DESY and the food company Nestlé presents its findings in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces published by the American Chemical Society.

Fat bloom can form when liquid fats, such a cocoa butter, migrate through the chocolate to the surface and crystallise there. "This can happen when liquid chocolate cools down in an uncontrolled manner and unstable crystals form, for example. But even at room temperature, a quarter of the lipids contained in chocolate are already in a liquid state," Reinke explains. Liquid fillings or ingredients such as nougat can accelerate the formation of fat bloom.
CS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2015; 150429095641005 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b02092

Folate Biofortified Rice Could Prevent Birth Defects

Folate biofortified rice (FBR) could help decrease birth defects, according to a new study by Ghent University in Belgium and the Liaoning Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China.

About 50-70 percent of all neural tube defects are attributed to maternal folate deficiency. The researchers suggest that the FBR they have developed could be one of the solutions to this health concern, particularly in Balrampur, India and Shanxi, China, where there is prevalent folate deficiency.

In their study, the researchers used Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY), which is the standard metric of the World Health Organization. DALY reflects the sum of Years of Life Lost (YLL), a measure of premature mortality, in addition to the Years Lost due to Disability (YLD), which accounts for both morbidity and mortality for those with health problems. By the team's count, folate biofortification could eliminate between 29 and 111 DALYs per year in Balrampur per 1,000 births and between 47 and 104 DALYs in Shanxi. Crop Biotech Update 6 May 2015

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