Saturday, July 05, 2008

New study undermines anti-Junk-Food campaign

Findings Show that Smaller Packages Can Lead to Greater Indulgence -- Pesky!

It is a truism of public health that people consume more junk food from large packages than from small ones. In response, food companies have decreased portion sizes and introduced single-serve packages, particularly for foods like ice cream and snack chips that people have usually bought in bulk, deciding on their own what constitutes a proper portion, the NY Times reports.

But a study in Journal of Consumer Research suggests smaller packages can lead consumers to eat more, by blunting their wariness about how much they consume. In one experiment, students were primed to think about their body shape, then were given potato chips and left to watch television. They ate nearly twice as many chips when given nine small bags as when given two large ones. They also hesitated less before opening the small bags, reports Times writer Alex Mindlin.

The authors took particular aim at "multipacks" of single-serve portions, like the H„agen-Dazs ice cream cups known as "Little Pleasures." "Consumers may merrily consume the innocently small packages of Little Pleasures at an even higher pace," they wrote, "leading to over-consumption."


Cold sores could be banished for good

A way to banish unsightly cold sores forever has been found by scientists. Millions are affected with the painful blemishes around the mouth and, although there is an effective treatment, the virus is able to go into hiding and then launch another attack, notably when a person is run down and exhausted

Now scientists have found out how the cold sore virus hides and are testing a way to smoke it out, so that it can be eradicated, an approach that could be extended to other latent infections, such as shingles and genital herpes.

Duke University Medical Centre scientists studied how the herpes simplex virus 1 is able to lie dormant in the trigeminal nerve of the face until triggered to reawaken by excessive sunlight, fever, or other stresses. "We have provided a molecular understanding of how HSV1 hides," said Prof Bryan Cullen of Duke, one of the team that reports the study in Nature. The team focused on the one sign of a latent infection by the virus, when it is out of the reach of treatments, the production of a molecule called latency associated transcript RNA or LAT RNA. "It has always been a mystery what this product, LAT RNA, does," Prof Cullen said.

Now studies in mice have revealed LAT RNA keeps the virus dormant by sending out molecular signals that block the production of the proteins that make the virus reproduce. This reveals both how the virus can launch a new infection, and how to treat it too. After a larger stress the virus starts making more instructions to multiply than LAT RNA can block, and it starts to reproduce, travelling down the trigeminal nerve, to the site of the initial infection at the mouth.

Now the team is testing a way to block LAT RNA, so the virus starts to reproduce. Once the virus is active, a patient would then take acyclovir, a drug that effectively kills replicating HSV1. "In principle, you could activate and then kill all of the virus in a patient," Prof Cullen said. "This would completely cure a person, and you would never get another cold sore."

He and the team are working with drug development companies in animal trials to begin to answer questions about how to deliver this drug most effectively. "We are only beginning to do animal experiments, so it will be quite a while before anything reaches the clinic, even for trials," he told the Telegraph. However, he added that one company has recently launched phase one (preliminary) trials of an analogous drug to treat Hepatitis C. "If their studies go well, that is do not reveal excessive toxicity, that might speed up our efforts."

His group's findings, also provide a framework for studying other latent viruses, such as the chicken pox virus, which can return later in life as a case of shingles, and herpes simplex 2 virus, a genitally transmitted virus that also causes painful sores, Prof Cullen said


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