Weekend food: Mutant worms could help with hangovers
Hangover study uses worms
Mutant worms generated at a lab at the University of Texas may provide a pathway to prevent people from becoming intoxicated after drinking alcohol. The research could lead to new drugs to help people going through alcohol withdrawal or even prevent them from feeling the effects of a night of hard drinking.
"This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal," says study co-author Jon Pierce-Shimomura, an assistant professor in the University of Texas’ College of Natural Sciences.
Pharmaceutical applications could include a "James Bond drug" that would help a spy drink an opponent under the table and walk away without being shaken or stirred, he says. The team found in worms a mutation on a channel for neurons, called the BK channel, that does not allow alcohol to have intoxicating effects. The researchers were then able to recreate the mutation on a similar channel found in humans.
The type of worm used in the study indicates alcohol intoxication well by slowing their crawling and reducing their wriggling from side to side. Intoxicated worms also stopped laying eggs, the study said.
"We got pretty lucky and found a way to make the channel insensitive to alcohol without affecting its normal function,” Dr Pierce-Shimomura says.
Too many veggies add weight
Health websites often encourage people to fill up on fruits and vegetables if they want to lose weight. But a meta-analysis has found that simply consuming more of these foods has no significant effect on body weight and in many cases results in weight gain.
Fruits and vegetables are high in water and fibre, so people may feel full earlier. But without a reduction in overall calories, weight gain will be more likely than weight loss, researchers say. Although low in calories compared with other commonly consumed foods, fruits and vegetables can still add calories to an overall diet.
A research team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, analysed data from seven studies conducted in four countries from 1998 to 2013.
The participants numbered more than 1200 and ranged in age from mid-30s to early 70s. Most had a body-mass index above the normal range. The studies, conducted over periods of eight to 24 weeks, used various methods to achieve weight loss.
None of the participants reported significant weight loss related to increased fruit and vegetable consumption. In one study, subjects who consumed one extra fruit and two additional vegetables daily for 10 weeks gained about half a kilo, on average.
In another study, for 16 weeks, participants reported an average loss of about 0.2kg after consuming a minimum of two to five daily portions of home-delivered fruits and vegetables.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Childhood anti-obesity policies ‘lacking’
A University of Auckland study laments the lack of healthy food policies to promote childhood health and reduce obesity. The report highlights the policy priorities assessed by an expert panel of more than 50 New Zealand public health professionals, medical practitioners and non-government organisation leaders.
The panel reviewed all the evidence on recent government actions and rated the degree of implementation compared to international benchmarks. The panel also identifies the top priority recommendations to fill these implementation gaps.
Professor Boyd Swinburn says of major concern is the large number of food policies that are rated as having “very little, if any, implementation.”
“These were especially apparent in the areas of reducing the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and using fiscal policies, like taxes on sugary drinks, to influence food choices.,” he says.
“There is also no overall plan to improve population nutrition and reduce obesity, yet unhealthy diets are the biggest preventable cause of disease and New Zealand has one of the highest rates of obesity in OECD countries.”
The report card is the first systematic study on national food policies in the world and it shows, while there are some strengths, a large number of healthy food policies still need to be implemented.
University of Auckland