Monthly Archives: October 2012
Scientists have created a genetically modified (GM) cow that produces milk with low levels of a protein known to cause allergic reactions in a significant proportion of children. The researchers believe it could one day lead to the sale of “hypoallergenic” milk from herds of GM cows.
The calf had been cloned and genetically engineered with an extra piece of genetic material that switched off its natural gene for producing a milk protein called beta-lactoglobulin, which is not present in human milk and causes allergies in some young children.
Tests on the cow’s milk showed that it contained less than 2 per cent of normal levels of beta-lactoglobulin and was far richer than usual in other kinds of milk proteins, such as the caseins used in cheese-making. The researchers also believe the GM cow’s milk will also contain higher concentrations of calcium than ordinary milk.
The cow, however, was born without a tail which is a rare congenital abnormality. The scientists believe this was a result of the cloning process, similar to that used to create Dolly the cloned sheep, rather than the GM technique used to eliminate the milk protein.
The dairy industry produces hypoallergenic milk formulas by removing certain bovine proteins with the help of digestive enzymes but the industrial-scale processing is expensive, causes the milk to taste bitter and does not always remove the offending allergens, the scientists said.
In developed countries, between 2 per cent and 3 per cent of infants are allergic to the proteins found in cows’ milk so there is a demand to find ways of making milk that is safer for them, the researchers said.
A person who is allergic to milk proteins can suffer a range of symptoms, which can occur within minutes of drinking milk or some hours later. They include vomiting and gastrointestinal upsets, skin rashes and breathing difficulties.
A team, led by Goetz Laible from the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, used a revolutionary technique called RNA interference (RNAi) for “knocking out” the cow’s gene for beta-lactoglobulin. The RNAi technique uses a natural method for switching off genes without the need to generate DNA mutations within the genes.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the first examples of the RNAi technique being used to create farm livestock with novel traits. Other scientists are working on ways of using RNAi to create new strains of domestic animals that have a natural immunity to viruses and infections.
Bruce Whitelaw, Professor of animal biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the research, said the study demonstrates the power of the RNAi technique. But he added: “Whether this is commercially viable depends on how it would compare against other methods. RNAi has a long history of successful application in diverse species from plants to worms. This is the first report for livestock… Time will tell how widely applicable RNAi will be in GM livestock.
“This reduction in the level of one milk protein was accompanied by an increase in others, namely the caseins. This is notable since it represents one of the few RNAi success stories in mammals and offers a good example of how these technologies can be used,” he added.
Running slower and less often may be better for your health. A recent finding found that people who run less than 20 miles a week at a slower pace of 10 to 11 minutes per mile tend to live longer than people who run more miles at a faster pace. It might be that most of the cardiovascular and health benefits of exercise are obtained in the first 35 to 40 minutes. After that, runners burn more calories and get better at their sport, but there may be long-term negative changes to their hearts. The study found that people who do any running have a 19% lower risk of dying within a given time period than those who do not run at all.
Source: BOTTOM LINE Personal, October 15, 2012. Study of 52656 people by researchers at Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans, presented at a recent meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco.
Turn over many a nutrition bar or box of veggie burgers, and you’ll often find soy protein isolate (SPI) featured prominently on the ingredient list.
While there’s disagreement among nutritionists over whether soy is part of a healthy diet (some are concerned about its estrogenic properties but others like it as a protein source for those who don’t eat meat), most agree that SPI, its super-processed offspring, should be avoided.
“A big issue with soy is that we’re eating more of it than ever before and in very processed forms like SPI,” says Middleberg Nutrition founder Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD. So SPI may have started out as a plant, but once it gets to you, it’s far from it.
Here are four reasons nutritionists say you should probably ditch soy protein from your diet:
1. A lot of its nutrients have left the building. “Soybeans are a great quality protein because their amino acid content is similar to that in meat, and they’re a good source of fiber, minerals, and complex carbs,” says Middleberg. But to create SPI, soybeans are chemically engineered to “isolate” their protein, and this process strips out all of the other nutrients the original bean contained.
2. It contains unhealthy additives. Foodtrainers founder Lauren Slatyon, MS, RD, says that the chemical process used to isolate soy protein often leaves behind substances you don’t necessarily want to be eating, like aluminum and hexane. “Think of bathing in toxic bath oil,” Slayton says. “Even once you dry yourself off, some residue remains. Want to eat that residue?” The spray drying method used for soy can also form nitrites, compounds that can form carcinogens in the body, she explains.
3. It’s probably genetically modified. According to the USDA, over 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, so most SPI comes from altered beans. “This means soy protein isolate is chemically modified, processed, and filled with pesticides,” says Middleberg.
4. It may upset your stomach. Many people have allergies or intolerances that make it hard to digest soy. But even if you’re not one of them, soy protein isolate may make your stomach rumble, says Slayton. This is because SPI has a higher concentration of trypsin inhibitors, chemicals that reduce available trypsin—an enzyme that helps digest protein—in the body.
So what to do if you’re a soy-loving vegetarian? Skip products with SPI and opt for “natural, whole protein sources like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, and organic, non-GMO natural sources of soy like edamame, tofu, and tempeh,” Middleberg suggests.
Slayton also suggests sticking to fermented soy sources, like miso, tempeh, and natto. “Fermentation increases the digestibility of soy, adds good bacteria, and reduces the plant estrogen content in soy foods,” she explains.
And in the end, both nutritionists agree: Like most things, soy is best enjoyed in moderation—and sticking to whole (rather than processed) foods is always a good plan.
- Little Known Dangers of Soy (wendymyers.me)
- Dr. Joseph Mercola: The Health Dangers Of Soy (huffingtonpost.com)
- Edamame Health Benefits (naturalhealthezine.com)
- Study Says Soy Protein Ineffective for Muscle Growth (atlantablackstar.com)
The leaves are starting to fall. The hot, humid days of summer are giving way to crisp, cool, throw-an-extra-blanket-on-the-bed nights.
And your ragweed allergy has you running for the protection of your well-sealed home and slamming your windows shut. If you feel like your allergies are worse, or lingering longer than normal this year, it’s because they are. Climate change, and the resulting higher temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide, allow pollen-producing plants to live longer and to produce more potent pollen. And this year, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology announced that the season will extend through October, rather than ending in September as it normally does.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer for 4 more weeks. The foods you eat (and don’t eat) can help stifle your sniffling, particularly seasonal foods that are available now from your farmers’ market. So grab your reusable shopping bags and hit the market for these nine fresh finds.
This precious piece of produce serves two purposes in annihilating your allergy symptoms: It’s high in allergy-relieving vitamin C and it’s a member of the crucifer family, plants that have been shown to clear out blocked-up sinuses. Researchers have found about 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C a day can ease allergy symptoms, and just 1 cup of raw broccoli packs about 80 mg. For another fall-flavored vitamin C boost, try cabbage or cauliflower, two other, related cruciferous vegetables. Both pack 56 mg of vitamin C per cooked cup.
Don’t just admire kale as a garnish. Eat it! This superfood packs a one-two punch against allergies. Like broccoli, it’s a member of the crucifer family, but it’s also rich in the carotenoid department, packing a form of vitamin A thought to improve allergy symptoms. A number of studies have shown that people with low vitamin A stores are more likely to have asthma and allergy problems.
Hijacked by hay fever? Put collard greens on the menu. Their phytochemical content, mainly carotenoids, eases allergy issues. The darker the leaves, the higher the carotenoid content. They do require some patience to cook, however. Tough, fibrous veggies like collards need to cook anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour in order for your body to absorb their nutrients easily. Some vitamins will leach out into your cooking water, or “pot likker,” as Southerners call it. Use that water in soups or stews, or use it to cook some rice to serve with your leafy greens in order to maximize the nutrients your body absorbs.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are packed with quercetin, another secret weapon that helps fight allergies by acting like an antihistamine. Quercetin also acts like vitamin C and quells inflammation in your system, which helps stem the side effects associated with allergic inflammation, such as stuffy noses. However, quercetin isn’t absorbed very easily from food. So, although eating lots of onions and garlic may ward off some symptoms, you might consider a 400 to 500 mg supplement if you have severe fall allergies.
Like broccoli and leafy greens, pumpkins are rich in allergy-fighting carotenoids, the form of vitamin A that you need to stockpile in order to better ward off allergies. If your only dietary experience with pumpkin has been in breads or pies, you may not know how versatile it can be. Try it in a main dish, as in this recipe for Beef and Pumpkin Stew, or in Pumpkin Kugel.
Another carotenoid powerhouse, carrots contain lots of healthy beta-carotene to help ward off your ragweed misery. You’ll get more of the valuable vitamin if you lightly steam your carrots, rather than eating them raw, or sauté them with a healthy fat, such as coconut oil or ghee, a form of clarified butter.
Celery is full of vitamin C and anti-inflammatory compounds, making it a great tool in fighting not just allergies, but also high blood pressure and chronic pain. It’s one vegetable that you can eat raw or cooked without losing access to its nutrients. And don’t ignore the leaves; chop those up for use in soups and stews to get their vitamin C content, as well.
Even though it’s not necessarily a food, or a fall-specific herb, you can’t discuss natural allergy remedies without hailing stinging nettle. It helps stifle the inflammation that occurs when you’re experiencing allergy symptoms. Stinging nettle contains histamine, the chemical your body produces during an allergic reaction, so it helps you acquire tolerance. Look for 500 mg freeze-dried nettle capsules in your natural health store, and take three times a day. That’s the best form for allergy relief; it won’t sting because it’s freeze-dried. Long-term use of the herb is not recommended, since it can deplete your potassium stores.
There’s nothing like a warm bowl of soup when you’re feeling sick, and while this usually pertains to chicken soup for the flu, an expert on herbs developed this soup to naturally battle allergies. In The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns (Rodale, 2008), herb expert James Duke, Ph.D., recommends this allergy-fighting soup recipe:
Boil an onion (with skin) and a clove of garlic.
Add ½ cup chopped leaves and diced taproots of evening primrose.
After boiling for about 5 minutes, add a cup of nettle leaves and a cup of diced celery stalks, and boil gently for another 3 to 10 minutes.
Before eating, remove the onion skins and eat the soup while it’s still warm.
Season with wine vinegar, black pepper, hot pepper, turmeric, curry powder, or celery seed.
What Not To Eat
Even though foods can be great natural allergy cures, some can actually trigger allergy symptoms. The condition is called “oral allergy syndrome” and occurs when your body mistakes proteins in certain foods for the same allergic proteins in ragweed. On the upside, cooking those foods neutralizes the offending proteins. So if you’re a fall allergy sufferer, here are few foods to either cook first or avoid entirely during allergy season: apples, bananas, melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew), cucumber, zucchini, chamomile tea, echinacea, honey, and nuts.
- Stinging Nettle – This Undervalued Herb May Relief Allergy Symptoms (livingwithallergy.com)
- Mrs. Money: Eco-friendly Remedies to Help You Cope with Allergy Season (savings.com)
- Flea Allergy Dermatitis – Dogs Flea Allergy – PetCareRX (petcarerx.com)
- Finding allergy relief could be more difficult for Tennesseans under proposed regulations (timesfreepress.com)
- End the Allergy Suffering (lewrockwell.com)
- The Most Common Fall Allergies and How to Prevent Them (myallergysupport.wordpress.com)
- Fighting Fall Allergies? (everydayhealth.com)
- Allergies: Are You Making it Worse? (belmarrahealth.com)
- Fall allergies expected to be the worst in years (wtvr.com)
- Is there a connection between the Pill and food allergies? (ask.metafilter.com)
Myokymia, or involuntary eye twitching, is a condition that many of us are familiar with. And it seems everyone has an opinion on what triggers it: Is it fatigue? Eye-strain? Stress?
“Most of the time, myokymia is idiopathic, which is a fancy way of saying we have no idea why it happens,” says Dr. Andrea Thau, an associate clinical professor at SUNY Optometry and a spokesperson for the American Optometric Association. “It’s such a benign condition, and tends to resolve on its own, so there’s little incentive to research it.”
Essentially, myokymia is a twitch — an involuntary muscle spasm in the upper eyelid muscle that causes a fluttery sensation. The trick to stopping it, according to Thau, is to “break the twitch.” She recommends trying alternating hot and cold compresses, which can soothe the overactive nerve that’s causing the spasm. If that doesn’t work, “try drinking a glass of tonic water,” she recommends. “The quinine helps nerve impulses.”
Some doctors will prescribe antihistamines for particularly stubborn or enduring eye twitches. If eyes are a bit swollen — due to low-grade allergic reaction — that can cause the nervous system to overreact and trigger a twitch.
Huffpost Wellness Editor Patricia Fitzgerald has observed clinically — which is to say, in an observational, rather than a scientifically rigorous research setting — that patients of hers have mentioned fatigue and stress in connection to eyelid twitching. Fitzgerald finds that many of her patients’ twitches are resolved by acupuncture.
In very rare instances, eyelid twitching can indicate a more serious condition, like the beginning stages of multiple sclerosis or a lesion on the brain stem. Those conditions typically begin with a host of symptoms, and in this circumstance the eyelid twitch soon moves to the facial muscles, as well. It’s so rare, in fact, that Thau says she’s never seen it in clinic herself.
There is another condition that affects the eyelid muscles, a rare disorder called blepharospasm, in which the eyelids involuntarily close. This can take the form of brief, excessive blinking or squinting and can progress to full eye closure, according to Mary Smith of the Benign Essential Blepharospasm Research Foundation. Blepharospasm affects about 60,000 Americans, and is more likely to affect women and those over 40, Smith says. “It can be problematic, if you don’t know when your eyes are going to shut, you may walk into things or fall,” she says. “It’s definitely debilitating.”
There’s a genetic component to blepharospasm and also a trigger — sometimes trauma, a secondary condition like dry eye or even external factors like bright or rapidly changing lights. It is most commonly treated with regular Botox injections and, interestingly, blepharospasm was among the conditions listed during Botox’s first FDA approval in 1988, according to Smith.
If you experience occasional eye twitches, chances are it’s a benign. But it’s important to get your eyes checked each year by an ophthalmologist or doctor of optometry to rule out any other problems. Even if it’s simply eye strain or stress causing the twitch, it could indicate a need for glasses.
- Why Is My Eyelid Twitching? (jahsworld.net)
- 3 Things You Didn’t Know About Botox (aboutplasticsurgery.com)
- More Than Just a Wrinkle Releaser: 5 Other Botox Uses (aboutplasticsurgery.com)
- Botox Injections in a Nutshell (aboutplasticsurgery.com)
- Computer Eye Strain Explained (and How to Avoid It) (greatist.com)