Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Will blueberries make you slim?

They will if you are an obesity-prone rat, apparently. This appears to be an unpublished study so the findings must be treated with caution at this stage. Was it a double-blind study, for instance?

Eating blueberries could help you lose weight, scientists revealed yesterday. Already regarded as a 'superfood' because of their high vitamin and antioxidant content, the berries may also have the power to trim excess fat from our bodies. Experts in the U.S. who carried out the latest study into the berries' health benefits, believe they may change the way the way we processes fat and sugar in our diet.

Their findings were presented to the Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans after tests on obese rats. Researchers found that if the animals were given meals enriched with blueberries, they lost fat from their stomachs. Belly fat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. The rats also showed improved blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.

Although the tests were carried out on rats, scientists from the University of Michigan hope they have implications for human health. The results offered 'tantalising clues' to the potential of blueberries to reduce cardiovascular disease and Metabolic Syndrome which can lead to heart attacks, diabetes and strokes.

In the tests, researchers used freeze-dried blueberries crushed into a powder. The rats' food contained just two per cent of the preparation. Even though the rats belonged to a breed which is prone to obesity, after 90 days they had less abdominal fat than those on a normal feed. They also showed lower cholesterol and 'improved fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity which are measures of how well the body processes glucose for energy,' the team said. The benefits 'were even better when combined with a low-fat diet', their report added, giving rats lower body weight, less overall fat and healthier livers.

The effect is thought to be due to the high level of phytochemicals - naturally occurring antioxidants - that blueberries contain. Lead researcher Mitchell Seymour, of the university's Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, said: 'Blueberry intake affected genes related to fat-burning and storage.

Dr Steven Bolling, a heart surgeon and head of the laboratory, added: 'Our findings in regard to blueberries and the naturally-occurring chemicals they contain, show promise in mitigating health conditions.'

Blueberries are rich in vitamins C and E, as well as other antioxidants such as anthocyanins and phenolics. They help protect the body against degenerative diseases. Another study recently found that blueberries contained a chemical called pterostilbene which could help prevent colon cancer.


Bid to help obese lose weight with Ventolin

THE main ingredient in Ventolin, the drug that has been used to treat asthma sufferers for 40 years, could soon help obese people shed up to five kilograms a week. An Australian firm is in talks to develop a slow-release capsule form of salbutamol, known as r-salbutamol, which it claims can reduce body weight by 2 to 3 per cent a week and could be on the market in three years. Stirling Products says it could prove to be a "massive blockbuster" because salbutamol had been proven safe and obesity and its related illnesses were soaring in Western countries.

Salbutamol administered to asthmatics acts on smooth muscle to reduce bronchial spasms, but managing director Peter Boonen said a capsule form of the drug could "turn off fat receptors". "It will move weight fairly rapidly, but it won't be available over the counter," he said. "Doctors will prescribe it for 14 days, then review progress."

Salbutamol is a beta-2 agonist, which has the same effect on the adrenergic system as exercise, resulting in weight loss, an increase in muscle mass and a reduced appetite. It is rapidly excreted in urine but tolerance usually develops within days. It has been listed as a fat-loss drug on bodybuilding websites and some athletes report taking up to 16 milligrams a day, but it has never gained ground as a credible treatment for obesity because the long-term side effects of oral r-salbutamol have not been tested on humans.

Stirling has tested the drug on obese rats and beagle dogs but is awaiting confirmation on a deal with a pharmaceutical company before applying to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for approval to conduct human trials.

"Short-term drug therapy can't be the long-term solution to a chronic problem," said Louise Baur, the director of weight management services at the Children's Hospital at Westmead.

R-salbutamol is being tested as a growth enhancer in pigs with a trial due to start in Canada next month. It is expected to improve lean meat yields for pork producers.

Months ago, Stirling was promoting r-salbutamol as a treatment for obese dogs and cats, but Mr Boonen said that since the company's restructure in February, the focus was now "more on humans". "Is everyone screaming for a drug for their fat kitten? I'd say the answer to that is no." Stirling has also scuttled plans to produce bottled water for pets. It had announced it would sell about $US20 million ($27.8 million) worth of PetQuench in three years, but Mr Boonen said: "If you want water for your dog, you get it out of the tap so there was no market for it."


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