Friday, June 12, 2009

Mushrooms on superfood list

The report below is typical of a myriad of enthusiastic claims about the benefits of mushrooms. There is however no flavour of scientific objectivity about the report. It appears to be just a piece of PR puffery from yet another enthusiast. Note however that there have been suggestions that, regardless of what nutrients mushrooms may contain, they also contain a compound that INTERFERES with nutrient uptake in the stomach. I eat mushrooms myself but I do so because of the taste alone and always in small amounts combined with other foods. Normal edible mushrooms also been shown to have toxic effects to some degree. Uncooked edible mushrooms can certainly give you cancer. And we also know that "there are toxic levels of metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury as well as the presence of radioactive contamination" in common mushrooms. I could go on but I think I have said enough to show that the report below is unbalanced

Mushrooms have earned the ranking of a superfood by Australia's leading scientific agency. Studies suggest the edible fungus is capable of helping weight loss, preventing disease and possibly even could be a cure for vitamin D deficiency.

CSIRO Associate Professor Manny Noakes, a best-selling author who wrote The Total Wellbeing Diet, has released a report into mushrooms at the Australian Dietitians Association annual conference. Dr Noakes reviewed 11,000 international papers on the health benefits of mushrooms, finding a diverse range of nutrients. "I was always a mushroom-lover but the research has shown me even more about the rich range of essential nutrients they offer," Dr Noakes said.

The research showed mushrooms were the only non-animal food to provide a natural source of Vitamin D, delivering one of the strongest anti-oxidant effects of all foods.
WHY some experts saying eating mushrooms is good for your health:

THEY are a natural source of Vitamin D and provide essential B group vitamins riboflavin, niacin and biotin.

MUSHROOMS are low in salt and are packed with essential minerals such as selenium, phosphorus and potassium.

THEY help strengthen the body's immune system and attack killer cells that can lead to tumours and cancer. They also may hold clues to help combat Alzheimer's.

It also showed mushrooms contain a healthy dose of B-group vitamins riboflavin, niacin and biotin, and a range of essential minerals such as selenium, phosphorus and potassium while being low in salt.

The CSIR0 believes mushrooms may boost the body's immune system, increasing its ability to fight bugs and attack killer cells, beating off viral infections such as influenza and tumours that cause bowel and breast cancer.

"While many believe B12 is only found in animal foods such as milk, research has now confirmed that it is available in mushrooms in modest amounts and, more importantly, in a form that is easily absorbed by the body," Dr Noakes said. "It was believed to be coming from compost, but that has been disproven. "It is a major surprise. "The common mushroom is also unique because it contains glutamate, known to enhance flavour and associated with umami, which is the `fifth flavour' and creates what we call `deliciousness'. "It makes you feel satisfied and full. "This means it has the potential to maintain appetite control without having to eat a lot."

While many Australians are generally cautious about sun exposure, there is a growing body of evidence that low levels of vitamin D contribute to a range of diseases including osteoporosis, diabetes and some cancers. The unique nature of mushrooms is that the action of sunlight is able to trigger the production of vitamin D.

Growers are planning to deliver vitamin D-rich mushrooms for sale during the next 12 months, providing consumers with a natural solution to the vitamin D problem. The CSIRO is continuing a range of research projects into the benefits of mushrooms, including their ability to ward off Alzheimer's disease.

The above story by Suellen Hinde appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on June 7, 2009

Magnetic fields test “reflexes” of autism

This seems very crude but maybe it's a useful first step

Scientists are trying a new approach to unravel the workings of the autistic brain: the neurological equivalent of banging a patient's knee with a hammer to test reflexes. Instead of a hammer, though, researchers are pressing a flat paddle against patients' heads and creating a magnetic field that triggers brain cell activity.

As the quest to understand autism has grown more urgent, researchers have used brain scanners to peer into autistic minds, searched for faulty genes, and scrutinized the play of 1-year-olds.

The work has provided theories - but few concrete answers - about what goes awry to cause social isolation, repetitive behaviors, and communication problems that afflict an estimated one in 150 children with autism spectrum disorders. The hunt has focused on everything from "mirror neurons," brain cells some researchers think enable people to understand other's actions and intentions, to an overgrowth of local connections in the brain.

Now a small but growing number of researchers see hope in a tool called transcranial magnetic stimulation, which lets scientists spark activity in specific areas of the brain and watch what happens to patients' behavior. The technology may illuminate some of the biology behind the disease, and some specialists speculate it may one day offer a treatment.

"There's a lot of mystery about autism - it's not as if there's a well-understood story of what's going on at all, and there's a huge variety of autism, too," said John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Transcranial magnetic stimulation "is fantastic for identifying brain regions that are essential for specific mental functions. . . . I think if we can start to use it more systematically with autism, one could hope we'd understand a lot more about what's going on."

Gabrieli said he hopes to team up with researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who are already getting preliminary results with the technology, finding that autistic brains appear to be more malleable than those of other people.

Researchers at the Boston hospital's Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation used rapid, repetitive stimulation to simulate what happens in the brain when people learn a new task. Then they gave a single pulse of stimulation and measured minute muscle twitches that told them how long people's brains maintained connections formed by the initial stimulation.

In people with no evidence of autism, changes lasted about 30 minutes, on average. But in people on the autism spectrum, the initial stimulation caused brain changes that lasted much longer - on average an hour and a half. "As they're going through their world, their brains are changing their circuits much more and much longer," said Lindsay Oberman, a postdoctoral researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess. "They're making connections, just not breaking them at the same rate as normal people." That suggests to Oberman that important cognitive processes may be getting stuck on labyrinthine side roads.

Researchers in the laboratory are also investigating whether stimulating a specific area of the brain improves language skills.

John Elder Robison, 51, said he decided to participate in the experiments because it wasn't until he reached adulthood that he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a disease on the autism spectrum. "I have a strong desire to do this to benefit people like me," Robison said. "I knew how much I had struggled as a young person - not knowing, being called 'retard' or 'freak.' This might help young people."

Use of transcranial magnetic stimulation to investigate autism is in its early days, but the technology is well-established. In the noninvasive procedure, a current travels through two loops in a figure-eight-shaped paddle, creating a changing magnetic field. The paddle is pressed against the patient's head, and the changing field induces an electrical current in brain tissue.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as a depression treatment last fall. The main side effect is a risk of seizure, but the risk is low, researchers say, because years of research have provided insight into how to use the technology safely.

While such stimulation may turn out to be a useful tool in autism research, Michael Merzenich, emeritus professor at the University of California at San Francisco, cautioned that a limitation of the technology may be that so much has gone wrong in the autistic brain. "Virtually any way you would probe it in detail, you'd quickly reveal abnormalities," Merzenich said. "My question is, if I start poking around . . . it's a pretty complex, multivariable mess that I'm poking. How likely is it that's going to lead to great insight?"

Dr. Manuel Casanova, a neuroscientist at the University of Louisville, began using the technique on patients a few years ago. Casanova was interested in groups of brain cells called minicolumns, which are abnormally small in autistic people and seem to lack what he calls an inhibitory "shower curtain" that prevents activity from spilling into the rest of the brain. His idea was to boost the shower curtain using the stimulation.

Casanova reported last year in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders that when he used repetitive stimulation on 13 high-functioning people with autism spectrum disorder, the treatment seemed to improve synchronization between brain regions. The patients were also able to sit still longer, follow directions better, and reduce repetitive behaviors.

Initially, he paid for the research out of his own pocket, but last week he received gratifying validation - a grant from the National Institutes of Health to support his work over the next four years.

Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a psychiatry professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, recently submitted a grant proposing a study using the technique. He would like to use it to inhibit activity in a part of the brain that may be suppressing the activity of "mirror neurons" - brain cells that appear to be active both when a person moves and when the person watches someone move.

Robison, the Asperger patient, said he believes some of the experiments at Beth Israel Deaconess have helped him, and Oberman and colleagues have been encouraged by their attempts to use the tool as a treatment. But researchers embracing the tool also urge caution. "These are just the very first steps - it's the first man on the moon just collecting rocks and looking at the composition of the rocks," Iacoboni said. "There is a very strong rationale for doing this; that's why it's promising. But people shouldn't hope we've found anything yet."



Anonymous said...

"That taking antioxidants in pill form actually REDUCES your lifespan suggests that they are not what gives wine its benefits."

This is the type of sloppy overarching statement that I visit all of your sites to avoid ever running into. It's a subtle, background difference that goes unnoticed by me, but a huge distinction in fact between sites I actually visit regularly.

Even the MSM and popular scientific literature edits such cheeky and meaningless statements out (though they then use weasel phrases like "Most scientist believe..." to drop such bombs).

To translate your statement into the usual amateurish hogwash I need merely make it recognizable by making it shrill and uncontrolled:

"Duh!!! Taking antioxidants REDUCES lifespan so isn't what gives wine its benefits!!!"

Saying nothing while adopting a liberal's fighting spirit of immediate activism while posturing for status in an infantile manner is not a better way to say nothing than your offering of dry wit with typical English restraint. That the later CAN be charming and intensely and immediately confer a high status upon the speaker does not mean it always does. It is simply usually paired with restrained thinking so the tone alone works its wonders by association. Today, you broke that association.

Anonymous said...

Many studies show that certain antioxidants, taken in isolated mega-doses, cause harm, especially during some terminal body malfunctions or during certain extreme drug treatments that alter the entire immune system or even poison the body to near fatality. Lifespan, in scientific studies, does tend to center not around death by "natural causes" but around intensive care units where biochemistry is being precisely manipulated. Indeed, such studies show that antioxidants are a biochemically central actor in our body.

But can you really say, like you did, the following?

"That taking large numbers of different antioxidants in low dose pill form actually REDUCES your lifespan suggests that they are not what gives wine its benefits."

I really don't think so since not only do small doses of individual compounds lack the ability to short circuit balanced chemical systems, but a combination of many of them allows the body powerful wiggle room to use antioxidants correctly. Cancer seems to be the single major exception since when you have small cancers occurring, adding singular doses of concentrated antioxidants can feed your healthy cancer without being able to nourish your lifestyle degraded immune system.

Anonymous said...

Nowadays, finally, compact albeit expensive pills are available that contain lots of B vitamins along with a huge variety of low dose antioxidants. If I sip beer and snack on garlic and oil pasta and beef jerky most days of the week, is my lifespan going to be increased or decreased by taking my daily small packet of pills (along with a Vitamin D and some distilled fish oil)? That's pretty easy to figure out since beer, oil, pasta, and beef contain only calories.

I'm currently 43 and have the physique I did in high school, along with better skin tone, despite lack of exercise. Here again is a seemingly subtle issue that by my age becomes a huge distinction as my peers grow fat and tired and actually go to doctors where they receive statins and Viagra. In the kitchen I am always tinkering away with $2 meals that might be truly nutritious yet easy to make, the latest being dry noodles in cups from Chinatown, NYC along with dried whitecap shitake mushrooms and home grown radish sprouts (in a fully automated hydroponic misting unit). Having a new roommate who can't afford good vitamin pills, I suddenly am shopping around for frozen baby peas and other storage able rations. It's not easy to create the perfect meal. Seven types of cheap curry paste, also from Chinatown, will add variety and help control blood sugar.

Many days I will have full out induction wok stir fry with chicken, red peppers, curry, no rice, onions, garlic, avocado oil, sprouts, and some wine. With a non UNHEALTHY staple food or two though, addition of a few pills lets me be much more vital and of much younger apparent age than other male family members. That I utterly lack any hippie personality traits means I am not stressed out either. Sipping beer and chewing home made beef jerky fuels me just fine and soon I will have a perfectly healthy meal that costs even less than vitamin pills so I can live with healthy people too, namely a female roommate who pays half the rent yet is half my age. Keeping long term girlfriends young was a long term project of mine that worked well but since I dated high income gals, could be attacked with expensive pills back when you had to buy each item as a separate pill. This was not in old age so worries about "antioxidant toxicity" were silly.

Finally, compare the apparent age of youths and young adults of sexes at a typical medium sized camp site waterway. They divide themselves quite cleanly and almost equally into two groups: those in canoes who eat veggie sandwiches and those on river rapid running kayaks, mountain bikes or jet skis who eat barbecued meat. One looks half the age of the other! Might some "antioxidants in pill form" help the pale ones? That they fail to trip out on sudden bouts of acute stress might be their downfall though since their cold lentil salad with green olives and tofu cheese is no better than my jerky and beer in terms of making up for their deadly boring yet desperately angry (for status) lifestyle.


jonjayray said...

To Anonymous of 8:24

Instead of that discursive ramble would it not have been simpler just to ask me for a link?

I have now put one up in an update

Lena said...

Hah. The vitamin D in mushrooms is Vitamin D2. This has a very poor usefulness in humans and other animals. We need the D3 found in animal fats! Or Vitamin D3 oil-filled capsules if you really want to take a supplement.

Doctors still prescribe D2 for vitamin deficiencies...ridiculous!