Genetically Engineered Heme in Vegan Meat

Three Masters of Science graduates were overheard talking about the impossible burger— if you haven’t heard about it, it is a vegan-meat substitute produced by Impossible Foods Inc. which palatably mimics an actual ground-beef burger. The one was telling the others, that the burger was not only delicious and filing, but that it smelled and tasted like real beef. When questioned as to what gave it the beef-like sensation, she answered heme, but was unsure of the source of the heme. This was puzzling because most people are familiar with heme being a component of animal blood, and the idea that heme could be vegan or synthetically produced from amino acids in a lab seemed dubious. 

However, as it turns out, heme is ubiquitous to many living organisms, and can be found in  bacteria, fungi, protozoa, higher plants, and animals. In fact, the heme used by Impossible Foods Inc. is derived from a plant heme known as leghemoglobin, that is sourced from soybeans. The leghemoglobin is not directly extracted from the soybean, as extracting leghemoglobin from plant roots is tedious and not cost effective due to low yield. Therefore, to increase productivity, the leghemoglobin is synthesized through genetic engineering. Continue reading

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Cold-sore sufferers may be at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, is a neuro-degenerative disease that causes cognitive decline affecting memory and executive function. While rarely due to genetic mutation, the cause of most cases of Alzheimer’s disease is not known. However, new research indicates that the virus that causes cold-sores (fever-blisters) may also cause or contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

“Obese Microbiota” in Men linked to Lead Exposure

Lead (Pb) is a persistent environmental contaminant that is toxic to humans, primarily in the developmental stages of life. It is believed that environment and nutrition play a role in determining health. Most recently, it has been recognized by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that the interaction between pathogens and toxic agents may contribute to disease development in humans. In fact, epidemiological studies suggest that there may be a correlation between lead exposure and obesity in children and that this effect may be long-lasting, resulting in adulthood obesity.

Perinatal lead exposure in mice

The microbiome has recently been recognized as contributing to health and disruptions in gut microbiota constitution as been associated with chronic illnesses. To investigate the phenomena of Pb-induced obesity, mice were exposed to lead during the perinatal period.  Researchers studied how lead exposure around the time of birth impacted gut microbiota, and then watched to observe whether changes to the microbiome influenced bodyweight.micescale

Microbiome Imbalance

They found that exposure to lead early in development did alter the bacterial composition of the digestive tract.  Pb affected the resilience and diversity of bacteria normally present in the gut; disrupting the balance between aerobic and anaerobic bacterium. Continue reading

STOP! It’s a fact, Seedless Grapes are Natural.

Seedless grapes are in fact as natural and as healthy as grapes with seeds, and unlike popular conjecture, they are not genetically modified organisms. Seedless grapes are used in the production of raisins, jelly, jam, juice, and wine, and are preferred over seeded grapes for reason of edibility.

Grapes have been cultivated for thousands of years. Vitis Vinifera  was domesticated from the wild grape, V. Vinifera Sylvestris, but still bears close morphological and genealogical characteristics. In fact wild grapes can interbreed with domesticated grapes when they encounter each other, however they flower at different times which reduces the likelihood of gene transfer through pollination. Wild grapes are sometimes reintroduced into commercial grape breeding programs, but mutations occur frequently in grape cultivars leading to a diverse genetic pool Seedlessness is the result of a natural mutation that occurred in some cultivated grapes. This natural phenomenon was exploited by vineyards to improve the desirability of grapes by making them easier to grow and consume. Most seedless grapes are bred from the Sultania (Thompson seedless) landrace (traditional isolated cultivars), but also the Black Monukka, Malta, Beauty Seedless, and others. Continue reading

Fat is Alive & Talks to Your Brain

Fat Is Alive

Most people think of fat as being inert, having no real purpose in the body than to keep you warm, and to prevent you from ever having the perfect summer body. The role of fat in the body is so under-appreciated, that when the doctor says, “you need to lose weight”, people often see it as an issue of “body shaming” rather than one of health. This is because fat is not seen as being alive, but as a by-product of too much sugar and starch. While the reality is that fat IS alive, in fact the fat in our bodies is made up of cells called adipocytes, and these cells comprise the functional unit of adipose tissue. Adipocytes and adipose tissue are a part of the endocrine and central nervous system.

Adiocytes – Living Fat

Adipocyte are specialized cells within adipose tissue that contain lipids in the form of multiple round droplets of triglycerides. Triglycerides are the building blocks of fats, as amino acids are the foundation of proteins. Adipocytes simply put are fat cells that transport and produce fat.

There are three types of fat cells: Continue reading

WHY FLU KILLS CHILDREN

Influenza, colloquially known as “flu” is an infectious disease and public health issue. On a global level, the flu infects millions of people worldwide and circulates yearly. In the United States, “flu season” occurs predominantly in the winter, but can begin as early as October and extend through May. Many people confuse the flu with a common cold, and though both are caused by viruses, unlike a cold, the flu can kill! The 2017-2018 flu season has seen increased hospitalizations and deaths due to Influenza across the country. This year’s flu has been quite severe, particularly in children.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 22 pediatric deaths from Influenza have been reported nationally, since the start of 2018 (it is now mid-February), bringing the current total of Influenza associated deaths in children to 84 for the 2017-2018 flu season. That number is likely to increase before the end of it all.

Influenza affects everyone, but the elderly and children, primarily infants under 6 months of age, are most susceptible and at risk for suffering severe illness or death. Children are also primarily responsible for the spread of Influenza throughout a community, since they shed the virus for a longer time period after infection, than adults. Continue reading

SEEDLESS BANANAS ARE NOT GMO

The banana’s we eat don’t have seeds, they are a result of a naturally occurring mutation that was subsequently exploited by human selection for breeding. Banana’s are a cultivar; they are a domesticated crop, reproduced in manner that selects for and maintains certain desired characteristic, such as, being seedless.  Banana’s reproduce vegetatively through an asexually process known as parthenocarpy, in which no fertilization is required for their propagation. Parthenocarpy is a genetic trait or characteristic imparted  by a gene, but this process has nothing to do with genetic modification, and banana’s are not genetically modified organisms (GMO) — at least not yet. Continue reading

Healthy Diet: Milk Bioactives Protect Against Disease

A consequence of the obesity epidemic, which began in the United States during the 1980s, is the targeting of milk as a possible contributing factor for weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease, due to its high fat content. As a result, in the mid 1990’s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended switching to reduced-fat milk, and the consumption of whole milk fell drastically. As this was happening, the growth of soy and soy “milk” paved the way for other milk-alternative beverages, such as, almond, coconut, and cashew “milk”, and consumers began to question whether it was healthy or natural for human to consume animal milk at all. In addition to fears that milk milkcontributed to obesity, and the metabolic disorders that go along with excessive weight gain, milk allergy, and anecdotal reports of milk worsening rhinitis, and triggering asthma began to surface.

However, in the past decade, several studies have reported beneficial health effects of cow’s milk in the prevention of the development of asthma and allergy in children, as well as, protection against cancer, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in adults.

Further investigation into the composition of milk, and its components haves revealed that it may be time to reconsider the health benefits of milk again. In addition to its nutritional value, the ingredients in milk possess bioactive functionality. The protein, lipid, and saccharide components of milk contain molecules that are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and immunogenic (capable of modulating the immune system), in addition to improving the body’s response to insulin and regulation of fat. Continue reading

Healthy Diet: What Really Causes Cardiovascular Disease

Americans are increasingly concerned with eating healthy. Over the past two decades, there has been a myriad of changes in the public’s perception of what is and isn’t healthy. Initially, it was generally agreed upon and understood that a diet consisting mainly of greasy food and too much sweets was unhealthy. However, the consensus on what foods are to be considered healthy versus harmful has become complex and the subject of much debate. For instance, it was once considered unhealthy to eat eggs, though the medical consensus has changed— it turns out that eggs are not as high in cholesterol as once thought—many people still maintain that the yolks should be removed, and that egg whites are healthier.

Much of the focus on health has revolved around a single nutrient, food, or food group. For example, whole wheat  became preferred over bleached flour, then eventually, eating any wheat at all became controversial and wheat-free diets were promoted. The same happened with rice: white rice gave way to brown rice, which then gave way to quinoa. Super foods like soy, kale, and chia seeds became popular, along with fad diets, like the Atkins diet which emphasized low carbohydrate intake, and the Southbeach diet. Most recently,  health gurus promoted health concepts which lead to the  alkaline diet, out of which came alkaline water. Now, sensationalized documentaries are leading people to abandon meat and dairy all together.

As a result, many are unfortunately left confounded when it comes to what they should or should not eat. There is much fear surrounding food safety and health, due impart to a lack of understanding of nutritional requirements and technological advancements in food production, leaving many weary that meat and dairy, in particular, can lead to the development of Cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. However, focusing on the beneficial effects of a single nutrient, food, or food group does not comprise a healthy diet. What is more important is dietary pattern; the amounts, frequency, and variety of nutrients and foods that are consumed habitually, coupled with other lifestyle factors, are the greatest determinants in the association of diet and health, as Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes are consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle while being overweight or obese. Continue reading

Natural Food Contaminant: Aflatoxin

textgram_1503617864Aflatoxins are potential health hazard for human and animals, as it is a common natural contaminant of food and feed. Its prevalence is greatest in parts of the world where the climate is hot and humid. The Aspergillus fungi which produce the mycotoxins survive best in heat and humidity. As a result, although the prevalence of Aflatoxin is greatest in the developing world, climate change and global warming may lead to an increase in the occurrence of both the fungi and its toxic metabolites in parts of the world with temperate climates, like Europe and the United States.

Aflatoxin Toxicity

There are thousands of metabolites produced by filamentous fungi within the Aspergillus family, some of which are beneficial. However, approximately 400 of these metabolites have been deemed mycotoxins and are hazardous. There are four major types of Aflatoxin: B1, B2, G1, and G2; according to their fluorescent color under ultraviolet light (blue or green). Aspergillus parasiticus produces all four, while Asperigillus Flavus  produces strains B1 and B2. They are mutagenic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic; causing cancer and reproductive and development toxicity.Bio-Shield-Total-1

Commonly Contaminated Crops

Major sources of Aflatoxin in the food supply are peanuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cottonseed and maize. Aflatoxin is also a common contaminant of cereals (oats, rice, wheat, corn, and rye), dried fruit, coffee and cocoa beans, and cassava. Spices and herbs are often contaminated but to a lesser extent, and the toxin can be found in fermented beverages such as beer, wine, and fruit juices. Aflatoxin can enter the meat and dairy food supply through contaminated animal feed.

Aflatoxin B1

Of the major four, Aflatoxin B1 is of principal concern to human health. It is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it definitely causes cancer in humans.
Specifically, Aflatoxin B1 causes Hepatic (liver) cancer. When ingested by ruminant animals like cows, Aflatoxin B1 is metabolized in the liver to Aflatoxin M1, which may be excreted into the milk. Aflatoxin M1, is a Group 2B carcinogen, in that it is possibly carcinogenic to humans. There are set limits on the amount of Aflatoxin B1 that is allowed in the foods to which they normally contaminate, since it is not possible to completely remove them. In the case of milk and other dairy products no amount of Aflatoxin B1 should be present, trace amounts of its metabolite Aflatoxin M1 however are permissible.

Aflatoxin Mechanism of Action

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The toxic mechanism of action for all aflatoxin involve oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, mitochondrial damage, and cell death as a result of apoptosis (versus necrosis).

Toxic exposure may be an acute single exposure at high levels, or a chronic with low but  persistent levels—chronic exposure is most common. In addition to causing liver cancer, Aflatoxin may also have adverse affects on the immune system. It is also known that when Aflatoxin and infection with Hepatitis B are present at the same time, they cooperate to induce Hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatitis B is the leading cause of Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the fifth greatest malignancy worldwide, and is most prevalent in developing countries. As such the presence of Aflatoxin in the food supply, primarily in developing regions of the world, make it a significant pubic health concern.

Decontamination

Various treatment methods have been devised for the removal of Aflatoxin from contaminated food and feed. The amount of aflatoxin can be greatly reduced, but it does not appear that it can be completed removed. Physical methods of reduction include milling, microwave heating, and irradiation (ultra-violet or gamma). Chemical treatments involve using binders and sequestering agents or ozonation. However, ozonation is a rather expensive chemical process. Lastly, biodegradation can be used to decontaminate crops. Biodegradation is a biological method involving the use bacteria to detoxify aflatoxins. Flavobacterium aurentiacum as well as Mycobacterium are capable of this. However, lactobacillus does not metabolize aflatoxins, it only binds the toxin.

Summary

Aflatoxin are a family of toxic metabolites which contaminate crops used for food and feed, in humans and animals respectively.  Aflatoxin contamination and the fungi that produce the toxin are most common in developing nations and regions of the world where the climate is hot and humid. However, food supplies are regularly and increasing imported due to globalization. Likewise, global warming and climate change, may make it so that the environment here in the United States or parts of Europe favor the growth of aspergillus fungi, increasing the burden of their toxic metabolites in the environment, and food supply. Therefore, the public should have an awareness and an understanding of the presence of this natural toxin in the foods supply chain, especially with the increase in organic, vegetarian, and vegan dietary patterns.