New study into green tea’s potential to help tackle COVID-19
Swansea University, June 4, 2021
As India continues to be ravaged by the pandemic, a Swansea University academic is investigating how green tea could give rise to a drug capable of tackling Covid-19.
Dr Suresh Mohankumar carried out the research with colleagues in India during his time at JSS College of Pharmacy, JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research in Ooty prior to taking up his current role at Swansea University Medical School.
He said: “Nature’s oldest pharmacy has always been a treasure of potential novel drugs and we questioned if any of these compounds could assist us in battling the Covid-19 pandemic?
“We screened and sorted a library of natural compounds already know to be active against other coronaviruses using an artificial intelligence-aided computer programme.
“Our findings suggested that one of the compounds in green tea could combat the coronavirus behind Covid-19.”
The researchers’ work has now been highlighted by online journal RSC Advances and has been included in its prestigious hot articles collection chosen by editors and reviewers.
Associate Professor Dr Mohankumar emphasised that the research was still in its early days and a long way from any kind of clinical application.
“The compound that our model predicts to be most active is gallocatechin, which is present in green tea and could be readily available, accessible, and affordable. There now needs to be further investigation to show if it can be proven clinically effective and safe for preventing or treating Covid-19.
“This is still a preliminary step, but it could be a potential lead to tackling the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Mohankumar has worked in pharmacy education, research and administration around the world for more than 18 years and recently moved to Swansea to join its new MPharm programme.
Head of Pharmacy Professor Andrew Morris said: “This is fascinating research and demonstrates that natural products remain an important source of lead compounds in the fight against infectious diseases. I’m also really pleased to see this international research collaboration continuing now that Dr Mohankumar has joined the Pharmacy team.”
Dr Mohankumar added he is now looking forward to seeing how the work can be developed: “There now needs to be appropriate pre-clinical and clinical studies and we would welcome potential collaborators and partners to help carry this work forward.”
Turkish study finds high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in breast cancer patients
Ankara Numune Research Hospital (Turkey), June 1, 2021
According to news reporting from Ankara, Turkey, research stated, “We aimed to reveal vitamin D levels in women with breast cancer. 561 women with primary breast cancer were included in the study.”
The news correspondents obtained a quote from the research from Ankara Numune Training and Research Hospital, “The median age was 55.86 years (between 20 – 78 years). All of the patients were treated with curative intend. None of the patients had metastatic disease. The median 25(OH)D level was 11.92ng/ml and the mean 25(OH)D level was 13.91ng/ml. Deficiency was detected in 456 patients (81.28%) and insufficiency was detected in 61 patients (10.87 %).”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “This study points out that vitamin D levels in breast cancer patients should be measured and be corrected whenever diagnosed.”
This research has been peer-reviewed.
Low levels of omega-3 associated with higher risk of psychosis, says study
RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences (Ireland), June 1, 2021
New research has found that adolescents with higher levels of an omega-3 fatty acid in their blood were less likely to develop psychotic disorder in early adulthood, suggesting that it may have a potential preventative effect of reducing the risk of psychosis.
The study, led by researchers from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, is published in Translational Psychiatry.
During these assessments, blood samples were collected, and the researchers measured the levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which generally increase inflammation in the body, and omega-3 fatty acids, which generally reduce inflammation.
While there was little evidence that fatty acids were associated with mental disorders at age 17, the researchers found that 24-year-olds with psychotic disorder, depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder had higher levels of omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids compared to those without these disorders.
The researchers also found that 24-year-olds with psychotic disorder had lower levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid typically found in oily fish or dietary supplements, than 24-year-olds without psychotic disorder. In a group of over 2,700 individuals who were tracked over time, adolescents with higher levels of DHA at age 17 were 56% less likely to develop psychotic disorder seven years later at age 24. This suggests that DHA in adolescence may have a potential preventative effect of reducing the risk of psychosis in early adulthood.
These results remained consistent when accounting for other factors such as sex, body mass index, tobacco smoking and socio-economic status.
“The study needs to be replicated, but if the findings are consistent, these results would suggest that enhanced dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids among adolescents, such as through oily fish like mackerel, could prevent some people from developing psychosis in their early twenties,” said Professor David Cotter, senior author of the study and professor molecular psychiatry at RCSI.
“The results could also raise questions about the relationship between the development of mental health disorders and omega-6 fatty acids, which are typically found in vegetable oils.”
David Mongan, RCSI Ph.D. student and Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Fellow, analyzed the data with the supervision of Professor David Cotter and Professor Mary Cannon from the RCSI Department of Psychiatry. The ICAT program is supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Health Research Board, the Health Service Executive National Doctors Training and Planning and the Health and Social Care, Research and Development Division, Northern Ireland.
“We need to do more research to learn about the mechanisms behind this effect, but it could possibly be related to reducing inflammation or decreasing inappropriate pruning of brain connections during adolescence,” said Dr. David Mongan, the study’s first author, who is a psychiatry trainee and Ph.D. student at RCSI.
Foods that can help protect against sun damage
Blount Memorial Weight Management Center, May 31, 2021
As the summer season approaches and we all hopefully get a chance to spend more time outside, we mustn’t forget how critical it is that we take steps to protect our skin.
Whether you’re going on a beach trip or just doing outdoor chores, it’s important to remember to wear sunscreen and reapply it often. Just because you didn’t get sunburned last year or last week, that doesn’t mean you are immune to the sun’s harmful rays.
In fact, most experts recommend sunscreen use year-round, not just in the summer. The American Academy of Dermatologyrecommends using a waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 30, and that protects against UVA and UVB rays. But, did you know there also are certain foods that can help protect your skin from the sun’s rays, as well?
“A diet rich in certain foods actually can help protect your skin from harmful UV rays,” said Heather Pierce from the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center. “They, in no way, should serve as a replacement for traditional sunscreen, but they can act as additional ways to protect your skin this spring and summer. A few foods, in particular, are high in certain minerals and nutrients that support healthy skin and can give us a little extra protection from the sun,” she said.
First up, Pierce says, are tomatoes, which you may already be consuming on your burgers or salads at those backyard cookouts.
“Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is a phytochemical that has been shown in research to help protect the skin against sunburns, particularly with concentrated sources such as tomato paste and carrot juice. And the good news is that they just happen to be in season. Watermelons also are good sources of lycopene, and, fortunately, they’re pretty popular this time of year, too.”
Pierce says you also should look to avocados and pomegranates for a little extra sun protection.
“When the sun is damaging our skin, it’s typically the result of oxidative stress and inflammation, so a lot of the foods we would eat for anti-inflammatory diet for a condition, such as heart disease, actually are protecting our skin, too.
“Avocados contain healthy oils that work to keep your skin protected, so throw a little avocado on your sandwiches this summer, and you can easily get that added bit of protection. Pomegranates, too, contain ellagic acid, which supports glutathione production that can fight skin damage caused by free radicals. Citrus fruits, of course, contain vitamin C, but the skins of citrus fruits also contain an essential oil called limonene that offers skin protection, too. You can easily add this to your diet by putting a little lemon or orange zest in your drinks or foods.”
Two more sun-protecting foods, Pierce says, are green tea and those all-important Omega 3 fats.
“Green tea is, of course, high in antioxidants, which can help guard against UV radiation,” Pierce said. “It also promotes DNA repair and has anti-inflammatory compounds that are helpful for repair, as well. Omega 3 fats always are important, particularly if you’re eating a heart healthy diet, but Omega 3 also has been shown to reduce the risk of a particular type of skin cancer by nearly 20%. With that in mind, look for ways to add Omega 3 sources such as salmon, chia seeds or flaxseed to your meals. If you can, try getting fish in your diet at least once per week,” she explained. “It’ll taste great and your skin will get a little sun protection boost, as well.”
Seaweed could potentially help fight food allergies
Mount Sinai Hospital, June 2, 2021
Seaweed has long been a staple food in many Asian countries and has recently caught on as a snack food in America as a healthful alternative to chips. The edible algae that fall in the category of seaweed are low-calorie and packed with nutrients. In addition, now scientists have found that a type of commercial red algae could help counteract food allergies. They report their findings in mice in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Food allergies are a major global health issue that can be life threatening in some cases. One study by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital estimates that the condition affects about 8 percent of children and 5 percent of adults worldwide. In people who are allergic, certain compounds in food trigger a cascade of immune system reactions that lead to symptoms such as hives, wheezing and dizziness — and in the worst cases, anaphylactic shock. Previous research has suggested that certain seaweed varieties contain polysaccharides with anti-asthmatic and anti-allergy effects. But no one had investigated whether similar molecules in Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a commercial variety of red algae, might have similar properties. Guang-Ming Liu and colleagues wanted to find out.
The researchers isolated polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis and fed them to a group of mice sensitive to tropomyosin, a protein that is a major shellfish allergen. Another group of mice, also sensitive to tropomyosin, did not get the polysaccharides. After both groups were given the allergen, allergy symptoms in the treated mice were reduced compared to the untreated animals. Further studying polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis could help lead to a better understanding of food allergies and their prevention, the researchers say.
Barley lowers not one but two types of ‘bad cholesterol’, review suggests
St Michael’s Hospital (Toronto), June 8, 2021
Eating barley or foods containing barley significantly reduced levels of two types of “bad cholesterol” associated with cardiovascular risk, a St. Michael’s Hospital research paper has found. Barley reduced both low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and non-high-density lipoprotein, or non-HDL, by seven per cent.
The review also indicated that barley had similar cholesterol-lowering effects as oats, which is often the go-to grain for health benefits.
The research review, published in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 14 studies on clinical trials conducted in seven countries, including Canada.
It is the first study to look at the effects of barley and barley products on both LDL and non-HDL cholesterol in addition to apolipoprotein B, or apoB, a lipoprotein that carries bad cholesterol through the blood. Measuring non-HDL and apoB provides a more accurate assessment for cardiovascular risk, as they account for the total ‘bad cholesterol’ found in the blood.
“The findings are most important for populations at high risk for cardiovascular disease, such as Type 2 diabetics, who have normal levels of LDL cholesterol, but elevated levels of non-HDL or apo B,” said Dr. Vladimir Vuksan, research scientist and associate director of the Risk Factor Modification Centre of St. Michael’s. “Barley has a lowering effect on the total bad cholesterol in these high-risk individuals, but can also benefit people without high cholesterol.”
High cholesterol and diabetes are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, historically treated with medications. However, Dr. Vuksan’s research and work focuses on how dietary and lifestyle changes can reduce these risk factors.
“Barley’s positive effect on lowering cholesterol is well-documented and has been included in the Canadian strategy for reducing cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Vuksan. “Health Canada, the FDA and several health authorities worldwide have already approved health claims that barley lowers LDL cholesterol, but this is the first review showing the effects on other harmful lipids.”
Despite its benefits Dr. Vuksan said barley is not as well-established as some other health-recommended foods—such as oats. Barley consumption by humans has fallen by 35 per cent in the last 10 years. Canada is one of the top five world producers of barley—almost 10 megatonnes per year—but human consumption accounts for only two per cent of the crop yield, with livestock making up the other 98 per cent.
“After looking at the evidence, we can also say that barley is comparably effective as oats in reducing overall risk of cardiovascular disease” said Dr. Vuksan.
Barley is higher in fibre, has twice the protein and almost half the calories of oats, which are important considerations for those with weight or dietary concerns. Dr. Vuksan said barley can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. He recommends trying to incorporate barley into existing recipes, using it as a substitute for rice or even on its own—just like oatmeal.