Proteins from Nuts, Seeds Are Heart-Healthy (But Proteins from Meat Are Not)

Researchers in California and France want to remind us that not all protein is created equal (at least when considering the nutrition of the entire protein-filled food). They say that meat protein is associated with a significantly increased risk of heart disease, while proteins from nuts and seeds are heart-healthy. [1]

Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study found that people who eat large quantities of meat protein had a 60% risk increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD). By comparison, people who consumed large amounts of protein from nuts and seeds experienced a 40% reduction in CVD risk.

Gary Fraser, MB ChB, PhD, from Loma Linda University, and François Mariotti, PhD, from AgroParisTech and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, said:

“While dietary fats are part of the story in affecting risk of cardiovascular disease, proteins may have important and largely overlooked independent effects on risk.”

Fraser said that he and his colleagues have long suspected that red meat increases the risk of CVD, while adding more nuts and seeds to your diet protects against it. [2]

The researcher hopes that the findings will lead to further research into the way certain amino acids found in animal proteins boost the risk of heart disease, as well as more research into the relevance of blood pressure, blood lipids, and weight.

Additionally, the study found that eating more refined grains, sugary foods and starchy foods like potatoes, may promote poor heart health. These foods tend to dominate many vegetarian diets.

Lead author Dr. Ambika Satija wrote:

“It is apparent that there is a wide variation in the nutritional quality of plant foods, making it crucial to take into consideration the quality of foods in a plant-based diet.”

Reducing meat consumption has long been associated with better cardiovascular health. For example, eating animal products has been shown to increase the risk of blood clots that lead to heart attack and stroke. And back in 2013, Harvard researchers wrote that reducing meat consumption could extend your life by up to 20%.

Though one 2016 study found that eating more plant-based foods offsets the dangers of eating meat. Cool, right?

Sources:

[1] Science Daily

[2] Independent

Could Umbilical Cord Blood Rejuvenate Brains’ Memory Functions?

When a baby comes into the world, the umbilical cord usually gets thrown away. But now scientists have discovered that they can reverse memory and learning problems in mice by using infusions of a protein found in human umbilical cord blood.

Parents already have the option of donating their child’s cord blood to blood banks. The stem cells are frozen for future use in treating various types of cancer and genetic disorders; but the liquid portion of the blood, the plasma, gets discarded. Neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray, however, thought that there had to be some redeeming value in the plasma. [1]

How Umbilical Cord Blood Could One Day Heal the Brain

As it turns out, a component of young blood might be the fountain of youth for aging brains that are losing their ability to create and retain memories. Wyss-Coray, along with his team of neurosurgeons at Stanford University Medical Center, say that cord blood rejuvenates the hippocampus in the brains of old mice. The hippocampus is a brain area that is vital for learning and memory.

However, Wyss-Coray says using actual cord blood plasma “is not something you’d ever want to develop as a treatment” because it’s “very cumbersome and difficult to collect.” But by identifying specific beneficial molecules in the plasma, Wyss-Coray hopes to be able to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss diseases. The team has already identified one potentially useful protein called TIMP2. [1]

When older mice were given the umbilical cord blood treatments, they acted like younger mice in a series of behavioral tests – they escaped a maze faster than before the treatments, had better memories, and started building nests again – something the rodents typically stop doing as they grow old. [2]

Read: Cord-Blood Transplants Provide Fresh Hope for Leukemia Patients

The discovery was made when Wyss-Coray and his colleagues noticed that there were unusually high levels of TIMP2 in cord blood compared with blood from older people. When they injected TIMP2 into the older mice, they saw amazing results.

The other researchers say the results of the study, published in Natureshould be interpreted with caution. Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London, says that Alzheimer’s research shows that everything works in mice, but so far scientists haven’t had any luck replicating results in humans. He explains:

“Having taken that on [sic] board, this is a really interesting way to understand how we might help people who are aged or in the early stages of the disease.” [2]

But even if the protein therapy using umbilical cord blood doesn’t reverse aging or stop Alzheimer’s, scientists are hopeful that it may boost what’s left of the remaining healthy brain and perhaps offset age-associated decline.

Sources:

[1] The Atlantic

[2] The Guardian


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Scientists Find Link Between Excess Sugar and Alzheimer’s Disease

We know (or think we know) that high blood glucose, or hyperglycemia, is linked to diabetes and obesity. But now scientists have also recently discovered a link between excess blood sugar and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have established a “tipping point” link between excess blood glucose and the disease, meaning that people who eat a lot of sugar could be more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s. [1]

Omar Kassaar, a biologist at the University of Bath in the U.K., said in a press release:

“Excess sugar is well-known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity. But this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets.” [1]

In the study, published on February 23, 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers looked at brain samples from people with and without Alzheimer’s disease, which is caused by an abnormal buildup of protein tangles between the brain’s nerve cells. This buildup progressively damages the brain and causes severe cognitive decline.

The team used a sensitive technique to detect the process of glycation. The researchers noted that in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, glycation damages an enzyme called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). MIF plays a role in insulin regulation and immune response. When MIF is inhibited or reduced, it appears to make it harder for the brain cell to respond to the accumulation of abnormal proteins. [2]

The researchers discovered that as Alzheimer’s progresses, glycation of the MIF enzyme increases. This, the team believes, is the “tipping point” in disease progression.

Read: 5 Simple Lifestyle Changes that Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Jean van den Elsen, a co-author and professor in the University of Bath’s biology and biochemistry department, said in a press release:

“Normally MIF would be part of the immune response to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain. We think that because sugar damage reduces some MIF functions and completely inhibits others that this could be a tipping point that allows Alzheimer’s to develop.” [1]

The next step for researchers is to determine whether they can detect similar changes in the blood.

Sources:

[1] Mashable

[2] Fox News


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