Obesity and Diet 3

Adolescents' cooking skills strongly predict future nutritional well-being

Confidence in cooking ability led to fewer fast food meals, more meals as a family, and more frequent preparation of meals with vegetables in adulthood

April 17, 2018

Science Daily/Elsevier

Evidence suggests that developing cooking and food preparation skills is important for health and nutrition, yet the practice of home cooking is declining and now rarely taught in school. A new study found that developing cooking skills as a young adult may have long-term benefits for health and nutrition.

 

"The impact of developing cooking skills early in life may not be apparent until later in adulthood when individuals have more opportunity and responsibility for meal preparation," said lead author Jennifer Utter, PhD, MPH, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. "The strength of this study is the large, population-based sample size followed over a period of 10 years to explore the impact of perceived cooking skills on later nutritional well-being."

 

Data were collected as part of the Project Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults longitudinal study conducted in Minneapolis-Saint Paul area schools. Participants reported on adequacy of cooking skills in 2002-2003 when they were 18 to 23 years old. Data was then collected in 2015-2016 on nutrition-related outcomes when participants were 30 to 35 years old. Questions assessed the perceived adequacy of cooking skills, how often they prepared a meal that included vegetables, how often they ate meals as a family, and how often they ate at a fast food restaurant.

 

Most participants perceived their cooking skills to be adequate at age 18 -- 23, with approximately one quarter of adults reporting their cooking skills to be very adequate. There were no differences in perceived cooking skills by sex, race or ethnicity, educational attainment, or age. Perceived adequacy of cooking skills predicted multiple indicators of nutrition outcomes later in adulthood including greater odds of preparing a meal with vegetables most days and less frequent consumption of fast food. If those who perceived their cooking skills as adequate had families, they ate more frequent family meals, less frequent fast food meals, and had fewer barriers to food preparation.

 

"Opportunities to develop cooking skills by adolescents may result in long-term benefits for nutritional well-being," said Dr. Utter. "Families, health and nutrition professionals, educators, community agencies, and funders can continue to invest in home economics and cooking education knowing that the benefits may not be fully realized until young adults develop more autonomy and live independently."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180417181125.htm

Quality of children's sleep may affect eating habits and weight

Poor sleep is associated with obesity, which can increase cancer risk

January 26, 2018

Science Daily/American Association for Cancer Research

Several measures of poor sleep quality were associated with higher body mass index (BMI) in children, according to new data.

 

About one in five children between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese, according to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of U.S. children with obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, with significant immediate and long-term effects.

 

"Childhood obesity very often leads to adult obesity," said the study's lead author, Bernard Fuemmeler, PhD, MPH, professor and associate director for cancer prevention and control at Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center. "This puts them at greater risk of developing obesity-related cancers in adulthood."

 

Fuemmeler explained that previous research has shown that sleep patterns play a role in obesity in adults, but most research exploring the connection between sleep and obesity in children has focused on the duration of sleep, rather than the way quality of sleep or circadian patterns affect eating behaviors and weight.

 

In this study, Fuemmeler and colleagues enrolled 120 children whose mothers had participated in the Newborn Epigenetic Study, a federally funded project that examines how environmental exposures and nutrition, both pre-birth and during early childhood, affect how genes work. The average age of the children was 8. Researchers controlled for age, sex, race, and maternal education as an indicator of socioeconomic status.

 

To track the sleep-wake cycle, the children wore accelerometers continuously for 24 hours per day for a period of at least five days. To gauge eating habits, children completed the "eating in the absence of hunger test." Children ate a meal and reported when they were full; the researchers then tracked how much food they ate once they had reached the point of satiety.

 

The researchers found:

 

·     Shorter sleep duration, measured in hours, was associated with a higher BMI z-score (body mass index adjusted for age and sex). Each additional hour of sleep was associated with a .13 decrease in BMI z-score, and with a 1.29 centimeter decrease in waist circumference.

·     More fragmented rest-activity rhythms and increased intradaily variability, a measure of the frequency and extent of transitions between sleep and activity, were also associated with greater waist circumferences.

·     Earlier onset of the most active period during daytime, diurnal activity, was associated with higher intake of calories once the children had reached the point of satiety.

 

Overall, Fuemmeler said, the study results indicate that while sleep duration is important, examining markers of sleep quality may also be useful in designing childhood obesity prevention strategies.

 

"Today, many children are not getting enough sleep," Fuemmeler said. "There are a number of distractions, such as screens in the bedroom, that contribute to interrupted, fragmented sleep. This, perpetuated over time, can be a risk factor for obesity. Because of the strong links between obesity and many types of cancer, childhood obesity prevention is cancer prevention, in my view."

 

Fuemmeler said that while further research is necessary to understand more about the way poor sleep affects weight, families would benefit from following guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

The study's primary limitation is that it did not include prospective data that might have helped researchers assess whether sleep quality influences weight gain or weight in children affects their sleep. Fuemmeler said that data will be encompassed in future studies.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180126085445.htm

Healthy eating linked to kids' happiness

December 13, 2017

Science Daily/BioMed Central

Healthy eating is associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as having fewer friends or being picked on or bullied, in children regardless of body weight, according to a new study. Inversely, better self-esteem is associated with better adherence to healthy eating guidelines.

 

Dr Louise Arvidsson, the corresponding author said: "We found that in young children aged two to nine years there is an association between adherence to healthy dietary guidelines and better psychological well-being, which includes fewer emotional problems, better relationships with other children and higher self-esteem, two years later. Our findings suggest that a healthy diet can improve well-being in children."

 

Examining 7,675 children two to nine years of age from eight European countries -- Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden -- the researchers found that a higher Healthy Dietary Adherence Score (HDAS) at the beginning of the study period was associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems two years later.

 

The HDAS aims to capture adherence to healthy dietary guidelines, which include limiting intake of refined sugars, reducing fat intake and eating fruit and vegetables. A higher HDAS indicates better adherence to the guidelines -- i.e. healthier eating. The guidelines are common to the eight countries included in this study.

 

The authors found that better self-esteem at the beginning of the study period was associated with a higher HDAS two years later and that the associations between HDAS and wellbeing were similar for children who had normal weight and children who were overweight.

 

Dr Arvidsson said: "It was somewhat surprising to find that the association between baseline diet and better well-being two years later was independent of children's socioeconomic position and their body weight."

 

The authors used data from the Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Study, a prospective cohort study that aims to understand how to prevent overweight in children while also considering the multiple factors that contribute to it.

 

At the beginning of the study period parents were asked to report how often per week their children consumed food from a list of 43 items. Depending on their consumption of these foods, children were then assigned an HDAS score. Psychosocial wellbeing was assessed based on self-esteem, parent relations, emotional and peer problems as reported by the parents in response to validated questionnaires. Height and weight of the children were measured. All questionnaires and measurements were repeated two years later.

 

The study is the first to analyze the individual components included in the HDAS and their associations with children's wellbeing. The authors found that fish intake according to guidelines (2-3 times per week) was associated with better self-esteem and no emotional and peer problems. Intake of whole meal products were associated with no peer problems.

 

The associations were found to go in both directions; better wellbeing was associated with consumption of fruit and vegetables, sugar and fat in accordance with dietary guidelines, better self-esteem was associated with sugar intake according to guidelines, good parent relations were associated with fruit and vegetable consumption according to guidelines, fewer emotional problems were associated with fat intake according to guidelines and fewer peer problems were associated with consumption of fruit and vegetables according to guidelines.

 

The authors caution that children with poor diet and poor wellbeing were more likely to drop out of the study and were therefore underrepresented at the two-year follow-up, which complicates conclusions about the true rates of poor diet and poor wellbeing. As the study is observational and relies on self-reported data from parents, no conclusions about cause and effect are possible.

 

Dr Arvidsson said: "The associations we identified here need to be confirmed in experimental studies including children with clinical diagnosis of depression, anxiety or other behavioral disorders rather than well-being as reported by parents."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171213220122.htm

Your mood depends on the food you eat, and what you should eat changes as you get older

Young adults and mature adults require different food to improve their mental health

December 11, 2017

Science Daily/Binghamton University

Diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus older adults, according to new research.

 

Lina Begdache, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, along with fellow Binghamton researchers, conducted an anonymous internet survey, asking people around the world to complete the Food-Mood Questionnaire (FMQ), which includes questions on food groups that have been associated with neurochemistry and neurobiology. Analyzing the data, Begdache and Assistant Professor of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Nasim Sabounchi found that mood in young adults (18-29) seems to be dependent on food that increases availability of neurotransmitter precursors and concentrations in the brain (meat). However, mood in mature adults (over 30 years) may be more reliant on food that increases availability of antioxidants (fruits) and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the sympathetic nervous system (coffee, high glycemic index and skipping breakfast).

 

"One of the major findings of this paper is that diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus mature adults," said Begdache. "Another noteworthy finding is that young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood. Regular exercise leads to build-up of these and other neurotransmitters as well. In other words, young adults who ate meat (red or white) less than three times a week and exercised less than three times week showed a significant mental distress."

 

"Conversely, mature adult mood seems to be more sensitive to regular consumption of sources of antioxidants and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the innate fight-or-flight response (commonly known as the stress response)," added Begdache. "With aging, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases. Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress. Also, our ability to regulate stress decreases, so if we consume food that activates the stress response (such as coffee and too much carbohydrates), we are more likely to experience mental distress."

 

Begdache and her team are interested in comparing dietary intake between men and women in relation to mental distress. There is a gender difference in brain morphology which may be also sensitive to dietary components, and may potentially explain some the documented gender-specific mental distress risk, said Begdache.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171211192738.htm

Screen time before bed linked with less sleep, higher BMIs in kids

December 7, 2017

Science Daily/Penn State

It may be tempting to let your kids stay up late playing games on their smartphones, but using digital devices before bed may contribute to sleep and nutrition problems in children, according to researchers.

 

After surveying parents about their kids' technology and sleep habits, researchers found that using technology before bed was associated with less sleep, poorer sleep quality, more fatigue in the morning and -- in the children that watched TV or used their cell phones before bed -- higher body mass indexes (BMI).

 

Caitlyn Fuller, medical student, said the results -- published in the journal Global Pediatric Health -- may suggest a vicious cycle of technology use, poor sleep and rising BMIs.

 

"We saw technology before bed being associated with less sleep and higher BMIs," Fuller said. "We also saw this technology use being associated with more fatigue in the morning, which circling back, is another risk factor for higher BMIs. So we're seeing a loop pattern forming."

 

Previous research has found associations between more technology use and less sleep, more inattention, and higher BMIs in adolescents. But even though research shows that 40 percent of children have cell phones by fifth grade, the researchers said not as much was known about the effects of technology on a younger population.

 

Fuller said that because sleep is so critical to a child's development, she was interested in learning more about the connection between screen time right before bed and how well those children slept, as well as how it affected other aspects of their health.

 

The researchers asked the parents of 234 children between the ages of 8 and 17 years about their kids' sleep and technology habits. The parents provided information about their children's' technology habits, sleep patterns, nutrition and activity. The researchers also asked the parents to further specify whether their children were using cell phones, computers, video games or television during their technology time.

 

After analyzing the data, the researchers found several adverse effects associated with using different technologies right before bed.

 

"We found an association between higher BMIs and an increase in technology use, and also that children who reported more technology use at bedtime were associated with less sleep at night," Fuller said. "These children were also more likely to be tired in the morning, which is also a risk factor for higher BMIs."

 

Children who reported watching TV or playing video games before bed got an average of 30 minutes less sleep than those who did not, while kids who used their phone or a computer before bed averaged an hour less of sleep than those who did not.

 

There was also an association between using all four types of technology before bed and increased cell phone use at night, such as waking up to text someone, with watching TV resulting in the highest odds.

 

Fuller said the results support new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about screen time for children. The AAP recommends that parents create boundaries around technology use, such as requiring their kids to put away their devices during meal times and keeping phones out of bedrooms at night.

 

Dr. Marsha Novick, associate professor of pediatrics and family and community medicine, said that while more research is needed to determine whether multiple devices at bedtime results in worse sleep than just one device, the study can help pediatricians talk to parents about the use of technology.

 

"Although there are many benefits to using technology, pediatricians may want to counsel parents about limiting technology for their kids, particularly at bedtime, to promote healthy childhood development and mental health," Novick said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171207182512.htm

Healthiest college students keep weight down, spirits up

November 7, 2017

Science Daily/University of Michigan

Optimists and happy people are healthier overall, enjoying lower blood pressure and less depression and anxiety, among other measures, research shows.

 

Research shows that optimists and happy people are healthier overall, enjoying lower blood pressure and less depression and anxiety, among other measures.

 

However, data on the effect of weight and Body Mass Index on physical and mental health are rare -- especially among college students, who suffer high rates of anxiety and depression and often neglect physical self-care and exercise.

 

To that end, researchers from the University of Michigan and Fudan University in China set out to learn the extent to which BMI and positive outlook affect the physical and mental health of college students in China's Fudan University.

 

They found that a positive outlook and BMI both contributed significantly to good health, said Weiyun Chen, associate professor of health and fitness at the U-M School of Kinesiology.

 

Researchers asked 925 students to rate four indicators of psychological well-being: hope, gratitude, life satisfaction and subjective happiness. They also calculated students' BMI based on self-reported body weight and height. To assess physical and mental health, researchers asked students various questions about their sleep quality and how often they felt healthy, energized, worthless, fidgety, anxious or depressed.

 

Chen said that taken together, the four psychological variables and BMI accounted for 41 percent of the total variance in health. Individually, subjective happiness had the most significant impact, followed by hope, and then BMI.

 

By themselves, gratitude and life satisfaction didn't influence overall health. Also, interestingly, BMI was correlated with physical and overall health, but not with hope, gratitude, life satisfaction or mental health.

 

In light of the intense academic pressure Chinese college students face, especially at elite institutions like Fudan, Chen said she was surprised by how many students rated themselves happy and healthy. This could point to China's emphasis on well-being in schools.

 

"They have structured, organized physical educations classes," Chen said. "It's not just fitness, it's a variety of things so you can meet different people's needs. They realized that emphasizing only academics isn't good for overall health, and that they needed to emphasize the wellness part."

 

These numbers might look different for college students in the U.S., where two of three adults are overweight or obese, and 17 percent of youth ages 2-19 are considered obese, according to the CDC.

 

By contrast, 714 Fudan students, or 77.2 percent, were classified as normal body weight, while only 83 students were overweight, and just 5 students were obese, with 123 students considered underweight.

 

"Over the past 20 years, the United States has shrunk physical education in elementary school and in college," Chen said. "In China, especially in the past decade, they have started to emphasize physical education, and they are taking a holistic, whole person approach."

 

Chen said the findings suggest that universities should creatively design wellness programs and centers that dynamically integrate body, mind and spirit into a seamless unit.

 

The study has several limitations: all students were recruited from one university, and the results cannot be generalized; the research design prevented establishing causal effects; and the study did not account for gender differences.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171107112415.htm

Early puberty linked with increased risk of obesity for women

March 15, 2018

Science Daily/Imperial College London

Girls who start puberty earlier are more likely to be overweight as adults, finds new research

 

The researchers say their findings, published today in the International Journal of Obesity, strengthen existing evidence of a link between the onset of puberty and a woman's body mass in adulthood.

 

Previous studies have established a link between obesity and puberty, with increased bodyweight known to be a risk factor for girls starting puberty earlier.

 

However, these observational findings can be influenced by situational factors, such as ethnicity, economic background, education level, and diet, making it difficult to determine whether early puberty or these other factors are the cause.

 

But now this latest research shows that early puberty is itself a risk factor for being overweight, with girls who have their first period earlier more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI).

 

According to the authors of the study, their findings help to untangle these complex external factors and add insight into an underlying causal link, showing that early puberty has a significant impact on a woman's risk of obesity.

 

Dr Dipender Gill, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow in the School of Public Health and first author of the study, said: "Previous studies have shown there is an association, but we didn't know whether early puberty caused obesity in adulthood, or was simply associated with it. In our latest study we've generated evidence to support that it is a causal effect."

 

In order to get around the effects of confounding factors, the Imperial team used genetic variants as a tool to look at the effect of the onset of puberty (known as age at menarche), measured as the age of a girl's first period.

 

The genes in every cell of our bodies are randomly gifted to us from our parents when their sperm and egg cells fuse, with the outcome of this random jumble being the genetic basis of the embryo -- influencing everything from hair colour to risk of disease for the rest of your life.

 

But single 'letter' changes to the DNA sequence of a gene can alter its function. In terms of disease risk, these single letter variants (called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs) can result in a small increase or decrease in risk. The combination of variants of more than 20,000 genes contribute towards our cumulative genetic risk.

 

In the latest study, researchers employed a statistical technique called Mendelian Randomization which uses these genetic variants as a tool to show the causal relationship between earlier puberty and increased BMI.

 

Using data from 182,416 women they identified 122 genetic variants that were strongly associated with the onset of puberty -- with the women's age at first period obtained via questionnaire.

 

The team then looked at data from the UK Biobank, which holds biomedical information on hundreds of thousands of people, incorporating physiological measurement data with genetic sequence data and questionnaire responses. Specifically, they looked for the effect of the genetic variants related to age at menarche with BMI in a second set of 80,465 women from the UK Biobank, for whom they also had measurements for BMI.

 

Initial analysis revealed a link between these genetic variants and BMI, with those women who had variants associated with earlier puberty having an increased BMI. The researchers then tested for this same association in a third group 70,962 women, finding the same association.

 

Dr Gill, added: "Some of these genetic variants are associated with earlier puberty and some with later onset, so by taking advantage of this we were able to investigate any association of age at menarche with BMI in adulthood.

 

"We're not saying that it's a genetic effect, but rather that by using these genetic variants as a proxy for earlier puberty, we are able to show the effect of earlier puberty without the impact of external factors that might confound our analysis. We performed a range of statistical sensitivity analyses to test the robustness of our findings and they remained strong through this, so within the limitations of the study design, we are confident of findings."

 

Previous research from the group has used the same technique to show that low iron levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, as well as showing that girls who start puberty earlier are likely to spend less time in education.

 

Future studies will use the same Mendelian Randomization approach to look at genetic variants in relation to drug targets for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

 

The technique is not without its limitations, and it is possible that these genetic variants could be influencing bodyweight independently of age at menarche, such as through altering metabolism or fat production. However, even after the team had removed any genetic variants that were also associated with childhood obesity (12 in total), they came to the same finding.

 

According to the researchers, it remains unclear how maturing earlier has a direct impact on bodyweight, but they indicate that differences between physical and emotional maturity may play a role. It could be that young women who mature earlier than their peers are treated differently or have different societal pressures than girls of the same age who have not started puberty.

 

Another explanation could be the physical effects of hormonal changes during puberty, such as increased fat deposition in breast tissue, which when established earlier may move them to a higher risk profile for higher BMI or obesity in later life.

 

"It is difficult to say that changing someone's age of puberty will affect their adult risk of obesity and whether it is something that we can clinically apply -- as it would unlikely be ethically appropriate to accelerate or delay the rate of puberty to affect BMI," added Dr Gill. "But it is useful for us to be aware that it's a causal factor- girls who reach puberty earlier may be more likely to be overweight when they are older."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180315203819.htm

Feeling anxious? Blame the size of your waistline!

New study links waist-to-height ratio to anxiety in middle-aged women

March 7, 2018

Science Daily/The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders, and it's more likely to affect women, especially middle-aged women. Although anxiety can be caused by many factors, a new study suggests that the amount of abdominal fat a woman has could increase her chances of developing anxiety.

 

Everyone is familiar with the term "stress eating" that, among other things, can lead to a thicker waistline. In this study that analyzed data from more than 5,580 middle-aged Latin American women (mean age, 49.7 years), the cause-and-effect relationship was flipped to determine whether greater abdominal fat (defined as waist-to-height ratio in this instance) could increase a woman's chances of developing anxiety. Although this is not the first time this relationship has been examined, this study is the first of its kind known to use waist-to-height ratio as the specific link to anxiety. Waist-to-height ratio has been shown to be the indicator that best assesses cardiometabolic risk. A general guideline is that a woman is considered obese if her waist measures more than half of her height.

 

The article "Association between waist-to-height ratio and anxiety in middle-aged women: a secondary analysis of a cross-sectional multicenter Latin American study" reports that 58% of the study population were postmenopausal, and 61.3% reported experiencing anxiety. The study found that those women in the middle and upper thirds of waist-to-height ratios were significantly more likely to have anxiety, and those in the upper third were more likely to actually display signs of anxiety compared with women in the lower two-thirds.

 

Anxiety is a concern because it is linked to heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders, and drug abuse, among other documented medical problems. Research has shown an increase in the frequency of anxiety in women during midlife, likely as a result of decreased levels of estrogen, which has a neuroprotective role.

 

"Hormone changes may be involved in the development of both anxiety and abdominal obesity because of their roles in the brain as well as in fat distribution. This study provides valuable insights for healthcare providers treating middle-aged women, because it implies that waist-to-height ratio could be a good marker for evaluating patients for anxiety," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180307095201.htm

 

Gut microbes may contribute to depression and anxiety in obesity

Study in mice links gut microbes with signs of negative feelings and brain chemistry

June 17, 2018

Science Daily/Joslin Diabetes Center

Like everyone, people with type 2 diabetes and obesity suffer from depression and anxiety, but even more so. Researchers now have demonstrated a surprising potential contributor to these negative feelings -- and that is the bacteria in the gut or gut microbiome, as it is known.

 

Studying mice that become obese when put on a high-fat diet, the Joslin scientists found that mice on a high-fat diet showed significantly more signs of anxiety, depression and obsessive behavior than animals on standard diets. "But all of these behaviors are reversed or improved when antibiotics that will change the gut microbiome were given with the high fat diet," says C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., co-Head of the Section on Integrative Physiology and Metabolism at Joslin and the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School .

 

"As endocrinologists, we often hear people say that they feel differently when they've eaten different foods," notes Kahn, who is senior author on a paper in Molecular Psychiatry describing the research. "What this study says is that many things in your diet might affect the way your brain functions, but one of those things is the way diet changes the gut bacteria or microbes. Your diet isn't always necessarily just making your blood sugar higher or lower; it's also changing a lot of signals coming from gut microbes and these signals make it all the way to the brain."

 

His lab has long studied mice that are prone to developing obesity, diabetes and related metabolic diseases when given high-fat diets. Earlier this year, the team showed that at least part of this development is driven by changing bacteria in the gut microbiome. The condition was reversed in mice who were given antibiotics in their drinking water, which altered the microbiome.

 

In the most recent study, the Joslin scientists followed up by giving mice on a high-fat diet four classic lab animal behavioral tests, which are often employed in screening drugs for anxiety and depression. In each case, mice on high-fat diet showed higher signs of anxiety and depression than mice on a regular diet. However, when the mice were given antibiotics with the high fat diet, their behaviors returned to normal.

 

One of the ways the researchers showed this was an effect of the microbiome was by transferring gut bacteria from these experimental mice toto germ-free mice, who did not have any bacteria of their own. The animals who received bacteria from mice on a high-fat diet showed began to show increased levels of activity associated with anxiety and obsessive behavior. However, those who received microbes from mice on a high-fat diet plus antibiotics did not, even though they did not receive the antibiotics themselves. "This proves that these behaviors are driven to some significant extent by the gut microbiome," says Kahn.

 

But what exactly were the microbes doing? The Joslin looked for clues in two areas of the brain, the hypothalamus (which helps to control whole body metabolism) and the nucleus accumbens (which is important in mood and behavior).

 

"We demonstrated that, just like other tissues of the body, these areas of the brain become insulin resistant in mice on high-fat diets," Kahn says. "And this response to the high fat is partly, and in some cases almost completely, reversed by putting the animals by antibiotics. Again, the response is transferrable when you transfer the gut microbiome from mice on a high-fat diet to germ-free mice. So, the insulin resistance in the brain is mediated at least in part by factors coming from the microbiome."

 

The Joslin team went on to link the microbiome alterations to the production of certain neurotransmitters -- the chemicals that transfer signals across the brain.

 

Kahn and his colleagues are now working to identify specific populations of bacteria involved in these processes, and the molecules that the bacteria produce. The eventual goal is to find drugs or supplements that can help to achieve healthier metabolic profiles in the brain.

 

"Antibiotics are blunt tools that change many bacteria in very dramatic ways," Kahn says. "Going forward, we want to get a more sophisticated understanding about which bacteria contribute to insulin resistance in the brain and in other tissues. If we could modify those bacteria, either by putting in more beneficial bacteria or reducing the number of harmful bacteria, that might be a way to see improved behavior."

 

Overall, this study highlights how basic research that draws on expertise from multiple fields can lead in unexpected directions, Kahn emphasizes. "Understanding one area of biology, like diabetes and metabolism, can often give new and different perspectives in another field, like psychiatric and behavioral disorders," he says. "Even if that's not what you start out to do!"

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180617204413.htm

Fish oil may help improve mood in veterans

September 22, 2016

Science Daily/Texas A&M University

Low concentration of fish oil in the blood and lack of physical activity may contribute to the high levels of depressed mood among soldiers returning from combat, according to researchers.

 

In a study titled "Fatty Acid Blood Levels, Vitamin D Status, Physical Performance, Activity and Resiliency: A Novel Potential Screening Tool for Depressed Mood in Active Duty Soldiers," researchers worked with 100 soldiers at Fort Hood to identify which factors affected moods in returning soldiers.

 

The research was conducted by Major Nicholas Barringer when he was a Texas A&M doctoral student under the direction of Health & Kinesiology Professor and Department Head Richard Kreider, in collaboration with several current and former members of the U.S. Army, and colleagues at Texas A&M.

 

"We looked at how physical activity levels and performance measures were related to mood state and resiliency," Kreider says. "What we found was the decrease in physical activity and the concentration of fish oil and Omega-3s in the blood were all associated with resiliency and mood."

 

Kreider says fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids that help to boost brain function. He says studies also show that fish oil acts as an anti-inflammatory within the body -- helping athletes and soldiers manage intense training better. Fish oil content is especially important for soldiers due to the consistent training and physical regiments performed in and out of combat and risk to traumatic brain injury.

 

The study originated from research conducted by Colonel Mike Lewis, M.D. who examined Omega-3 fatty acid levels of soldiers who committed suicide compared to non-suicide control and found lower Omega-3 levels in the blood were associated with increased risk of being in the suicide group.

 

Barringer says he believes these findings to be significant toward addressing some of the issues many soldiers face.

 

"The mental health of our service members is a serious concern and it is exciting to consider that appropriate diet and exercise might have a direct impact on improving resiliency," Barringer notes.

 

In order to properly measure soldiers physically, Kreider and Barringer developed a formula they say has the potential to assist in effectively screening soldiers with potential PTSD ahead of time. The formula measures a number of factors including: fitness and psychometric assessments, physical activity, and additional analysis.

 

"By improving resiliency in service members, we can potentially decrease the risk of mental health issues," Barringer says. "Early identification can potentially decrease the risk of negative outcomes for our active service members as well as our separated and retired military veterans."

 

"The military is using some of our exercise, nutrition, and performance-related work and the findings may help identify soldiers at risk for depression when they return from combat tours," Kreider notes. He says that by working to identify such high-risk issues faced by soldiers, it can set a precedent that will benefit not only military leadership, but also the general public.

 

"The public must realize that our soldiers need support before, during, and after their service," Kreider explains. "There needs to be a time for soldiers to transition, become re-engaged within a community, and stay engaged in that community."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160922104406.htm

Diet shown to reduce stroke risk may also reduce risk of depression

February 25, 2018

Science Daily/American Academy of Neurology

People who eat vegetables, fruit and whole grains may have lower rates of depression over time, according to a preliminary study.

 

The study found that people whose diets adhered more closely to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were less likely to develop depression than people who did not closely follow the diet. In addition to fruit and vegetables, the DASH diet recommends fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar. Studies have shown health benefits such as lowering high blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL), along with lowering body weight.

 

"Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke," said study author Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression."

 

For the study, 964 participants with an average age of 81 were evaluated yearly for an average of six-and-a-half years. They were monitored for symptoms of depression such as being bothered by things that usually didn't affect them and feeling hopeless about the future. They also filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods, and the researchers looked at how closely the participants' diets followed diets such as the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet.

 

Participants were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to the diets. People in the two groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely. The odds of becoming depressed over time was 11 percent lower among the top group of DASH adherers versus the lowest group. On the other hand, the more closely people followed a Western diet -- a diet that is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables -- the more likely they were to develop depression.

 

Cherian noted that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression; it only shows an association.

 

"Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and to determine the best nutritional components of the DASH diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy," said Cherian.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180225191804.htm

Pilot study in Kenya shows link between chronic pain and glutamate consumption

Researchers test theory that diet change can alleviate pain

February 16, 2018

Science Daily/American University

Preliminary research from a small pilot study carried out in Meru, in eastern Kenya, shows a link between chronic pain and consumption of glutamate, a common flavor enhancer found in Western and non-Western diets worldwide.

 

Chronic pain is among the most vexing health problems, including in the developing world, where most research suggests that the prevalence of pain is similar to the United States and other developed nations.

 

Preliminary research from a small pilot study carried out in Meru, in eastern Kenya, shows a link between chronic pain and consumption of glutamate, a common flavor enhancer found in Western and non-Western diets worldwide. Results demonstrated that when study participants cut monosodium glutamate from their diets, their symptoms improved. The findings are published in the journal Nutrition.

 

"This preliminary research in Kenya is consistent with what I am observing in my chronic pain research here in the United States," said Kathleen Holton, lead author of the study and assistant professor of health studies at American University. "We don't know what exposure is leading to this susceptibility to dietary glutamate, but this pilot study suggests the need for a large-scale clinical trial, since dietary change could be an effective low-cost treatment option for developing countries."

 

As researchers study glutamate, they're gaining insights into how the chemical works in the human brain and body. In the brain, glutamate is a common neurotransmitter. It also can act as an excitotoxin, over-stimulating and damaging or killing nerve cells. Some research has found that increased consumption of glutamate may enhance chronic pain symptoms, so there is biological cause for scientists to examine the chemical in relation to pain.

 

Glutamate is also a naturally occurring chemical in some foods, like soy sauce and parmesan cheese, but is more commonly found as a food additive. In the U.S., glutamate is added to many food products and found under many names including 'monosodium glutamate,' 'hydrolyzed protein,' 'protein isolate,' 'protein extract' and 'autolyzed yeast extract,' just to name a few. In Kenya, people's exposure to glutamate is only from a few foods which contain MSG, with the largest exposure being from a mixed seasoning spice called Mchuzi Mix, which is typically used in cooking daily.

 

In the Kenya study, the goal was to test whether a dietary intervention could perform as well as or better than over-the-counter medication in relieving pain. With a sample size of 30 participants, the researchers tested the effects of removing MSG, increasing water intake, or a combination of both, relative to acetaminophen (the main treatment option available in Meru). Study participants experienced chronic pain for at least three months or more and in at least three quadrants of the body. Similar to what is seen with widespread chronic pain patients in the U.S., most also suffered from other neurological symptoms, including headaches or migraines, chronic fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and sleep issues.

 

Holton's collaborators in the research were University of Michigan Professor Dr. Daniel J. Clauw, M.D., and Dr. Peter K. Ndege, M.D., of Meru University of Science and Technology in Kenya. This research came about after Clauw learned about Meru villagers' plight with chronic pain. When the team initially surveyed residents in the area, an estimated 60 percent reported chronic pain, twice the amount typically observed.

 

The participants were broken into four groups. Because dehydration is associated with headache pain, the researchers factored that into the study design. The groups consisted of the following: If subjects commonly consumed Mchuzi Mix, they were given a similar mixed seasoning substitute that contained no MSG. Those reporting low water intake and no MSG were given bottled water and instructed to increase water consumption to eight cups a day.

 

Those with low water consumption who also consumed MSG were given water and the substitute spices. The control group had neither exposure and was given acetaminophen. The group that removed MSG from its diet and consumed more water reported significant improvements in their symptoms, as did the group receiving acetaminophen.

 

In the future, Holton, Clauw and Ndege plan a larger, epidemiological survey to further understand the prevalence of widespread chronic pain in the region and to train Kenyan research staff how to conduct a large-scale clinical trial to test if dietary change could be an effective, low-cost treatment option for pain in countries like Kenya.

 

"This would be incredible if we could impact chronic pain simply by making slight modifications to diet," said Clauw, a leading expert on chronic pain.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180216142702.htm

Weekly fish consumption linked to better sleep, higher IQ

December 21, 2017

Science Daily/University of Pennsylvania

Regular fish consumption has been shown to improve cognition. It's also been known to help with sleep. A new study connects all three for the first time. The team found that children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have higher IQs by an average of 4 points.

 

Children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have IQ scores that are 4 points higher, on average, than those who consume fish less frequently or not at all, according to new findings from the University of Pennsylvania published this week in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal.

 

Previous studies showed a relationship between omega-3s, the fatty acids in many types of fish, and improved intelligence, as well as omega-3s and better sleep. But they've never all been connected before. This work, conducted by Jianghong Liu, Jennifer Pinto-Martin and Alexandra Hanlon of the School of Nursing and Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Adrian Raine, reveals sleep as a possible mediating pathway, the potential missing link between fish and intelligence.

 

"This area of research is not well-developed. It's emerging," said Liu, lead author on the paper and an associate professor of nursing and public health. "Here we look at omega-3s coming from our food instead of from supplements."

 

For the work, a cohort of 541 9- to 11-year-olds in China, 54 percent boys and 46 percent girls, completed a questionnaire about how often they consumed fish in the past month, with options ranging from "never" to "at least once per week." They also took the Chinese version of an IQ test called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, which examines verbal and non-verbal skills such as vocabulary and coding.

 

Their parents then answered questions about sleep quality using the standardized Children Sleep Habits Questionnaire, which included topics such as sleep duration and frequency of night waking or daytime sleepiness. Finally, the researchers controlled for demographic information, including parental education, occupation and marital status and number of children in the home.

 

Analyzing these data points, the Penn team found that children who reported eating fish weekly scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ exams than those who said they "seldom" or "never" consumed fish. Those whose meals sometimes included fish scored 3.3 points higher. In addition, increased fish consumption was associated with fewer disturbances of sleep, which the researchers say indicates better overall sleep quality.

 

"Lack of sleep is associated with antisocial behavior; poor cognition is associated with antisocial behavior," said Raine, who has appointments in the School of Arts and Sciences and Penn's Perelman School of Medicine. "We have found that omega-3 supplements reduce antisocial behavior, so it's not too surprising that fish is behind this."

 

Pinto-Martin, who is executive director of Penn's Center for Public Health Initiatives, as well as the Viola MacInnes/Independence Professor of Nursing and a professor of epidemiology in Penn Medicine, sees strong potential for the implications of this research.

 

"It adds to the growing body of evidence showing that fish consumption has really positive health benefits and should be something more heavily advertised and promoted," she said. "Children should be introduced to it early on." That could be as young as 10 months, as long as the fish has no bones and has been finely chopped, but should start by around age 2.

 

"Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable," Pinto-Martin said. "It really has to be a concerted effort, especially in a culture where fish is not as commonly served or smelled. Children are sensitive to smell. If they're not used to it, they may shy away from it."

 

Given the young age of this study group, Liu and colleagues chose not to analyze the details participants reported about the types of fish consumed, though they plan to do so for work on an older cohort in the future. The researchers also want to add to this current observational study to establish, through randomized controlled trials, that eating fish can lead to better sleep, better school performance and other real-life, practical outcomes.

 

For the moment, the researchers recommend incrementally incorporating additional fish into a diet; consumption even once a week moves a family into the "high" fish-eating group as defined in the study.

 

"Doing that could be a lot easier than nudging children about going to bed," Raine said. "If the fish improves sleep, great. If it also improves cognitive performance -- like we've seen here -- even better. It's a double hit."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171221101341.htm

Green tea ingredient may ameliorate memory impairment, brain insulin resistance, and obesity

New research identifies potential therapeutic intervention for memory impairment, neuroinflammation, and brain insulin resistance induced by high-fat, high-fructose diet

July 28, 2017

Science Daily/Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

A new study involving mice, suggests that EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), the most abundant catechin and biologically active component in green tea, could alleviate high-fat and high-fructose (HFFD)-induced insulin resistance and cognitive impairment.

 

"Green tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and is grown in at least 30 countries," said Xuebo Liu, Ph.D., a researcher at the College of Food Science and Engineering, Northwest A&F University, in Yangling, China. "The ancient habit of drinking green tea may be a more acceptable alternative to medicine when it comes to combatting obesity, insulin resistance, and memory impairment."

 

Liu and colleagues divided 3-month-old male C57BL/6J mice into three groups based on diet:

 

1) a control group fed with a standard diet,

 

2) a group fed with an HFFD diet, and 3) a group fed with an HFFD diet and 2 grams of EGCG per liter of drinking water.

 

For 16 weeks, researchers monitored the mice and found that those fed with HFFD had a higher final body weight than the control mice, and a significantly higher final body weight than the HFFD+EGCG mice. In performing a Morris water maze test, researchers found that mice in the HFFD group took longer to find the platform compared to mice in the control group. The HFFD+EGCG group had a significantly lower escape latency and escape distance than the HFFD group on each test day. When the hidden platform was removed to perform a probe trial, HFFD-treated mice spent less time in the target quadrant when compared with control mice, with fewer platform crossings. The HFFD+EGCG group exhibited a significant increase in the average time spent in the target quadrant and had greater numbers of platform crossings, showing that EGCG could improve HFFD-induced memory impairment.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170728100933.htm

Maternal diet could affect kids' brain reward circuitry

Rats that ate junk food during pregnancy had pups that preferred the taste of fat during childhood and had altered brain circuitry into adulthood

September 25, 2017

Science Daily/Frontiers

Researchers have found that rats who ate junk food during pregnancy had heavier pups that strongly preferred fat straight after weaning. However, a balanced diet in childhood seemed to reduce the pups' desire for fat. The pups also showed altered brain reward circuitry into adulthood. The findings could have implications for childhood nutrition and obesity in Western countries.

 

The Western diet is full of energy-rich foods -- from hamburgers to chocolates, we consume significant quantities of fat and sugar. The health costs of this are well known, and conditions such as obesity and diabetes are related to overeating.

 

Factors underlying obesity include how we metabolize food, and our tendency to overeat and seek out energy-rich foods. The pleasure we derive from food stems from the brain reward circuitry, and changes in these reward circuits can contribute to overeating.

 

Surprisingly, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers who eat significant quantities of energy-rich foods can increase their child's risk for obesity in later life. However, scientists don't yet fully understand the mechanism behind this phenomenon.

 

In a study recently published in Frontiers in Endocrinology, scientists used rats to investigate the relationship between a mother's diet and their offspring's weight, relationship with food, and brain circuitry. The research team fed rats a high fat/high sugar diet (which they called the 'Western Diet'), or a balanced diet, during pregnancy and suckling. They monitored the mothers' pups straight after weaning, during adolescence and into early adulthood.

 

The pups primarily ate a balanced diet once they were weaned, but at specific times the researchers allowed some of the pups to choose between tasting a fatty or non-fatty liquid. The liquid wasn't fatty enough to affect the pups, but allowed the team to assess their preference for fat. Using brain tissue samples, the team also investigated gene expression and brain changes associated with the pups' reward circuitry.

 

While the pups from Western Diet mothers were a normal weight at birth, they gained more weight during suckling and were abnormally heavy at weaning. This may have been caused by the Western Diet mothers producing richer milk or more milk.

 

When the team allowed the just-weaned pups to choose between a fatty and non-fatty liquid, pups from Western Diet mothers strongly preferred the fatty liquid compared with pups from the balanced diet mothers.

 

However, when the team repeated this fat preference test with adolescent pups, they found that both groups showed a similar high preference for fat -- and interestingly, the pups from Western Diet mothers gradually lost their interest in fat after a few days. This might have been a compensatory mechanism to protect the pups from further exposure to fat. By adulthood, both types of pups had similar strong preferences for fat.

 

The pups from Western Diet mothers also showed significant changes in their reward circuitry, including differences in a brain region call the hypothalamus and changes in gene expression associated with a neurotransmitter called GABA.

 

"Previous studies have shown that when pups from Western Diet mothers have unlimited access to junk food they maintain their preference for fatty food into adolescence," says Vincent Paillé, a researcher involved in the study. "While the pups from Western Diet mothers in our study showed extensive changes in their reward circuitry, a balanced diet in childhood seemed to protect them from an increased fat preference at adolescence."

 

These findings could have implications for nutrition and obesity in human children in Western countries.

 

The team plan to further investigate the changes in reward circuitry caused by a maternal Western diet. "How these altered reward circuits integrate information could be different, and these pups might behave differently under stress or when they have free access to fatty food," says Paillé.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170925104719.htm

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

Study is first to document causal relationship in study of nonhuman primates

July 21, 2017

Science Daily/Oregon Health & Science University

A high-fat diet during pregnancy alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of offspring, new research in an animal model suggests. The new study links an unhealthy diet during pregnancy to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression in children.

 

"Given the high level of dietary fat consumption and maternal obesity in developed nations, these findings have important implications for the mental health of future generations," the researchers report.

 

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology.

 

The study, led by Elinor Sullivan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of Neuroscience at Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU, tested the effect of a maternal high-fat diet on nonhuman primates, tightly controlling their diet in a way that would be impossible in a human population. The study revealed behavioral changes in the offspring associated with impaired development of the central serotonin system in the brain. Further, it showed that introducing a healthy diet to the offspring at an early age failed to reverse the effect.

 

Previous observational studies in people correlated maternal obesity with a range of mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders in children. The new research demonstrates for the first time that a high-fat diet, increasingly common in the developed world, caused long-lasting mental health ramifications for the offspring of non-human primates.

 

In the United States, 64 percent of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35 percent are obese. The new study suggests that the U.S. obesity epidemic may be imposing transgenerational effects.

 

"It's not about blaming the mother," said Sullivan, senior author on the study. "It's about educating pregnant women about the potential risks of a high-fat diet in pregnancy and empowering them and their families to make healthy choices by providing support. We also need to craft public policies that promote healthy lifestyles and diets."

 

Researchers grouped a total of 65 female Japanese macaques into two groups, one given a high-fat diet and one a control diet during pregnancy. They subsequently measured and compared anxiety-like behavior among 135 offspring and found that both males and females exposed to a high-fat diet during pregnancy exhibited greater incidence of anxiety compared with those in the control group. The scientists also examined physiological differences between the two groups, finding that exposure to a high-fat diet during gestation and early in development impaired the development of neurons containing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that's critical in developing brains.

 

The new findings suggest that diet is at least as important as genetic predisposition to neurodevelopmental disorders such as anxiety or depression, said an OHSU pediatric psychiatrist who was not involved in the research.

 

"I think it's quite dramatic," said Joel Nigg, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, and behavioral neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine. "A lot of people are going to be astonished to see that the maternal diet has this big of an effect on the behavior of the offspring. We've always looked at the link between obesity and physical diseases like heart disease, but this is really the clearest demonstration that it's also affecting the brain."

 

Sullivan and research assistant and first author Jacqueline Thompson said they believe the findings provide evidence that mobilizing public resources to provide healthy food and pre- and post-natal care to families of all socioeconomic classes could reduce mental health disorders in future generations.

 

"My hope is that increased public awareness about the origins of neuropsychiatric disorders can improve our identification and management of these conditions, both at an individual and societal level," Thompson said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170721164037.htm

Nutrition protects against the impact of stress on the brain in early life

November 14, 2016

Science Daily/Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA)

Young mice that grow up in stressful circumstances go on to have fewer cognitive-impairments and memory problems as adults if they are given enriched breast milk, scientists report.

 

In both humans and other animals, severe stress in early childhood (human examples are abuse and neglect or war trauma) results in impaired brain development and health issues later in life. For example, people exposed to early-life stress have a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety disorders and other diseases such as obesity, and on average have a lower IQ and a less effective memory.

 

Long-term hospital stay

 

Previous research conducted by neuroscientists Eva Naninck, Paul Lucassen and Aniko Korosi revealed that stress during early development also permanently changes the brain in mice. This current study conducted by the same group demonstrates that supplementing the nutrition of the mother during this early period can mitigate the harmful consequences of this early-life stress later on. Korosi: 'The fact that nutrients can influence impaired brain development deriving from stress in early childhood is hopeful. It enables us to look in a targeted way for nutritional interventions for children who are growing up in stressful circumstances, for example babies that have to undergo long-term hospital stays.'

 

To induce stress in young mice, the researchers gave mother mice only a limited amount of material with which to build their nests. As a result, their care for their young changed, and they left the nest more often in order to look for nesting material. Mothers in the control group who had plenty of nesting material at their disposal, on the other hand, stayed in the nest with their young for much longer periods of time.

 

The researchers gave half of the stressed mother mice a dietary supplement containing various nutrients which the body is unable to produce on its own, such as vitamins B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12 and the functionally related aminoacid, methionine.

 

The researchers found an increased hormonal stress response and reduced methionine levels in the brains of those young mice whose mothers were stressed, but were not given the nutritional supplement. In addition, these mice had an impaired memory as adults; they were less able to remember locations and objects.

 

The young of stressed mothers that were given supplemented nutrition were more similar to conspecifics growing up under normal circumstances. They had higher methionine levels in the brain and a lower hormonal stress response when young, and as adults they performed better on several memory tasks than the early-stress exposed mice whose mothers did not receive a nutritional supplement.

 

Human breast milk

 

The researchers emphasise that this explorative study was unable to fully explain precisely how the stress system and metabolism work together in this early period and in brain development. It is unclear whether the impaired development is due to the fact that stress-exposed mothers produce less nutritious milk, or if the problem lies with absorption in the body or brain of the young mice, who may also experience stress as result of the mother's unpredictable behaviour. However, according to Naninck the results are still valuable: 'Scientists tend to view metabolism and stress as unrelated systems, but we have demonstrated that in fact they work together in early brain programming. We hope that our insights can contribute to new nutrition strategies to mitigate the lasting effects of a seriously disturbed childhood.'

 

Before this kind of nutritional intervention can be used in people, it first has to be established whether human mothers and babies under serious stress, experience similar disturbances to mice. Currently, the group's first step is to investigate whether the nutritional content of human breast milk also changes under stress.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161114082239.htm

A spoonful of oil: Fats and oils help to unlock full nutritional benefits of veggies

October 9, 2017

Science Daily/Iowa State University

Some dressing with your greens may help you absorb more nutrients, according to a new study. The research found enhanced absorption of multiple fat-soluble vitamins in addition to beta-carotene and three other carotenoids. The results may ease the guilt of countless dieters who fret about adding dressing to their salads.

 

The song says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but an Iowa State University scientist has published new research suggesting a spoonful of oil makes vegetables more nutritious.

 

A new study led by Wendy White, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition, shows that eating salad with added fat in the form of soybean oil promotes the absorption of eight different micronutrients that promote human health. Conversely, eating the same salad without the added oil lessens the likelihood that the body will absorb the nutrients.

 

The study appeared recently in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the results may ease the guilt of countless dieters who fret about adding dressing to their salads.

 

White's study found added oil aided in the absorption of seven different micronutrients in salad vegetables. Those nutrients include four carotenoids -- alpha and beta carotene, lutein and lycopene -- two forms of vitamin E and vitamin K. The oil also promoted the absorption of vitamin A, the eighth micronutrient tracked in the study, which formed in the intestine from the alpha and beta carotene. The new study builds on previous research from White's group that focused on alpha and beta carotene and lycopene.

 

White said better absorption of the nutrients promotes a range of health benefits, including cancer prevention and eyesight preservation.

 

The study also found that the amount of oil added to the vegetables had a proportional relationship with the amount of nutrient absorption. That is, more oil means more absorption.

 

"The best way to explain it would be to say that adding twice the amount of salad dressing leads to twice the nutrient absorption," White said.

 

That doesn't give salad eaters license to drench their greens in dressing, she cautioned. But she said consumers should be perfectly comfortable with the U.S. dietary recommendation of about two tablespoons of oil per day.

 

The study included 12 college-age women who consumed salads with various levels of soybean oil, a common ingredient in commercial salad dressings. The subjects then had their blood tested to measure the absorption of nutrients. Women were chosen for the trial due to differences in the speed with which men and women metabolize the nutrients in question.

 

The results showed maximal nutrient absorption occurred at around 32 grams of oil, which was the highest amount studied, or a little more than two tablespoons. However, White said she found some variability among the subjects.

 

"For most people, the oil is going to benefit nutrient absorption," she said. "The average trend, which was statistically significant, was for increased absorption."

 

Research collaborators include Yang Zhou, a former ISU postdoctoral researcher; Agatha Agustiana Crane, a former graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition; Philip Dixon, a University Professor of Statistics, and Frits Quadt of Quadt Consultancy, among others.

 

Unilever, a global food company, provided funding for the research. The company had no input in the publication of the study.

 

So a spoonful or two of salad dressing may indeed help you derive the optimal nutritional benefit from your veggies. The relationship between a spoonful of sugar and the medicine going down, however, remains outside the scope of White's research.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171009124026.htm

 

Study strengthens evidence linking autism to maternal obesity-diabetes

January 29, 2016

Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Children born to obese women with diabetes are more than four times as likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder than children of healthy weight mothers without diabetes, new research suggests.

 

The findings, to be published Jan. 29 in the journal Pediatrics, highlight what has become a leading theory about autism, that the risk likely develops before the child is even born.

 

"We have long known that obesity and diabetes aren't good for mothers' own health," says study leader Xiaobin Wang, MD, ScD, MPH, the Zanvyl Krieger Professor in Child Health at the Bloomberg School and director of the Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease. "Now we have further evidence that these conditions also impact the long-term neural development of their children."

 

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by severe deficits in socialization, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Since the 1960s, the prevalence rates have skyrocketed, with one in 68 U.S. children now affected by it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and diabetes have also risen to epidemic levels in women of reproductive age over the same time period.

 

For the study, the researchers analyzed 2,734 mother-child pairs, a subset of the Boston Birth Cohort recruited at the Boston Medical Center at birth between 1998 and 2014. They collected data on maternal pre-pregnancy weight and whether the mothers had diabetes before getting pregnant or whether they developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy. They also followed up the children from birth through childhood via postnatal study visits and review of electronic medical records. They identified 102 children who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder over the course of the study. Those children with mothers who were both diabetic and obese were more than four times as likely to develop autism compared to children born to normal weight mothers without diabetes, they found.

 

"Our research highlights that the risk for autism begins in utero," says co-author M. Daniele Fallin, PhD, chair of the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health and director of the Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. "It's important for us to now try to figure out what is it about the combination of obesity and diabetes that is potentially contributing to sub-optimal fetal health."

 

Previous studies had suggested a link between maternal diabetes and autism, but this is believed to be the first to look at obesity and diabetes in tandem as potential risk factors.

 

Along with pre-conception diabetes, children of obese mothers who developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy were also at a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with autism.

 

The biology of why obesity and diabetes may contribute to autism risk isn't well understood. Obesity and diabetes in general cause stress on the human body, the researchers say. Previous research suggests maternal obesity may be associated with an inflammation in the developing fetal brain. Other studies suggest obese women have less folate, a B-vitamin vital for human development and health.

 

The researchers say that women of reproductive age who are thinking about having children need to not only think about their obesity and diabetes status for their own health, but because of the implications it could have on their children. Better diabetes and weight management could have lifelong impacts on mother and child, they say.

 

"In order to prevent autism, we may need to consider not only pregnancy, but also pre-pregnancy health," Fallin says.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160129091631.htm

 

Obesity, diabetes in mom increases risk of autism in child

January 29, 2016

Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Children born to obese women with diabetes are more than four times as likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder than children of healthy weight mothers without diabetes, new research suggests.

 

The findings, to be published Jan. 29 in the journal Pediatrics, highlight what has become a leading theory about autism, that the risk likely develops before the child is even born.

 

"We have long known that obesity and diabetes aren't good for mothers' own health," says study leader Xiaobin Wang, MD, ScD, MPH, the Zanvyl Krieger Professor in Child Health at the Bloomberg School and director of the Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease. "Now we have further evidence that these conditions also impact the long-term neural development of their children."

 

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by severe deficits in socialization, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Since the 1960s, the prevalence rates have skyrocketed, with one in 68 U.S. children now affected by it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and diabetes have also risen to epidemic levels in women of reproductive age over the same time period.

 

For the study, the researchers analyzed 2,734 mother-child pairs, a subset of the Boston Birth Cohort recruited at the Boston Medical Center at birth between 1998 and 2014. They collected data on maternal pre-pregnancy weight and whether the mothers had diabetes before getting pregnant or whether they developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy. They also followed up the children from birth through childhood via postnatal study visits and review of electronic medical records. They identified 102 children who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder over the course of the study. Those children with mothers who were both diabetic and obese were more than four times as likely to develop autism compared to children born to normal weight mothers without diabetes, they found.

 

"Our research highlights that the risk for autism begins in utero," says co-author M. Daniele Fallin, PhD, chair of the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health and director of the Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. "It's important for us to now try to figure out what is it about the combination of obesity and diabetes that is potentially contributing to sub-optimal fetal health."

 

Previous studies had suggested a link between maternal diabetes and autism, but this is believed to be the first to look at obesity and diabetes in tandem as potential risk factors.

 

Along with pre-conception diabetes, children of obese mothers who developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy were also at a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with autism.

 

The biology of why obesity and diabetes may contribute to autism risk isn't well understood. Obesity and diabetes in general cause stress on the human body, the researchers say. Previous research suggests maternal obesity may be associated with an inflammation in the developing fetal brain. Other studies suggest obese women have less folate, a B-vitamin vital for human development and health.

 

The researchers say that women of reproductive age who are thinking about having children need to not only think about their obesity and diabetes status for their own health, but because of the implications it could have on their children. Better diabetes and weight management could have lifelong impacts on mother and child, they say.

 

"In order to prevent autism, we may need to consider not only pregnancy, but also pre-pregnancy health," Fallin says.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160129091631.htm

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