Friday, June 08, 2012

LOL: The miracle molecule: Hidden vitamin found in BEER and MILK can make you stronger, slimmer and healthier

I'm not going to criticise this one!

If you were planning on having a quick pint tonight, then this will be welcome news.  Beer may contain a vitamin which can fight obesity and improve muscle strength, scientists claim.

The ‘miracle molecule’, which has been found in milk and may also be present in beer and some foods, has no side effects and could even lengthen lifespan, they say.

The snag is that the molecule, called nicotinamide riboside (NR), is extremely small, difficult to find and expensive to synthesise.

Johnan Auwerx, head of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, said experiments using mice revealed the molecule’s potential.

In an article in the specialist journal Cell Metabolism journal, Mr Auwerx called the results 'impressive'  'NR appears to play a role in preventing obesity,' said Mr Auwerx.

Working with Weill Cornell  Medical College in New York, his team found mice on a high-fat diet that were fed NR gained significantly less weight – 60 per cent – than mice eating the same diet without NR supplements.

And none of the NR-treated mice had indications that they were developing diabetes, unlike the untreated mice.

Mice which were fed NR supplements over a ten-week period had better endurance performance than those who were not.

They were also in better shape – and this was confirmed by observations of their muscle fibres under the microscope.

The molecule works by becoming trapped in cells where it boosts the metabolism, much like resveratrol, which is found in wine. No side effects were discovered during the experiments.

'It really appears that cells use what they need when they need it, and the rest is set aside without being transformed into any kind of deleterious form,' said study author Carles Canto in a statement.

Mice who had been fed the molecule also performed better in endurance tests, as well as in tests measuring heat loss.

The researchers believe an increase in the molecule reflects an improvement in mitochondrial function, the part of the cell that supplies energy.

Mitochondria are thought to play a part in the aging process. It is hoped that by stimulating mitochondrial function with the NR molecule, scientists may see increases in longevity as well as other health improvements.

But the molecule is difficult to reproduce and extremely small. 'At the moment, we can’t even measure its concentration in milk, so it’s impossible to know how much you would have to drink to be able to observe its effects,' Mr Auwerx added.

Research will continue with human testing at some point in the future.


Salt, Official Truth, and the New York Times

The New York Times recently published an interesting op-ed on the subject of salt. Its thesis is, first, that we have been and are being told by a variety of authoritative sources that we ought to consume less salt, second, that there is not and never has been adequate scientific support for that claim, and third that there is now evidence suggesting that the official advice is not merely mistaken but dangerous, that reducing salt consumption to the recommended level might well be bad for one's health.

What struck me about the piece was not mainly its contents—I had seen reports in the past on evidence that reducing salt consumption was bad for one's health—but its placement. I am not a regular reader of the Times, but my impression is that, in other contexts, it is sympathetic to arguments from official truth, arguments that start with some version of "all scientists agree that" and treat anyone who disagrees as either misinformed or in the pay of some interest group that wants the truth suppressed. Global warming is the obvious example, but I think there are others. So it was interesting to see them publish a piece debunking one version of that argument.

A close parallel to the case of salt is the case of saturated fat. A few decades back, the official wisdom, promoted by more or less the same sorts of authorities that now tell us to eat less salt, was that saturated fat was bad for the heart and one should therefor switch from butter to margarine. Further research eventually led to the conclusion that, while saturated fat was somewhat bad for the heart, trans-fats were much worse—and the margarine we were being told to switch to was made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, hence replaced saturated fats with trans-fats. In that case, as best I can tell, the official advice was not merely wrong but lethally wrong, a fact which led to less skepticism about official truth than it should have. Any readers better informed about the subject—nutrition is not an area where I can claim any expertise—are welcome to correct my account, but I think it is accurate.


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