Thursday, June 07, 2012

LOL!  Why that spare tyre could be GOOD for your health: Hard-to-shift fat helps to regulate your immune system

It has long been known that fat cells have complex functions but this takes the cake (literally)

Dieters desperate to get rid of that spare tyre can finally let it all hang out.  That muffin-top could actually help to regulate the immune system and provide a first line of defence against infection and viruses.

A hard-to-shift beer belly could even help regenerate damaged tissue after an injury.

The fatty membrane in the belly, called the omentum, has never seemed to serve much of a purpose.  But now the research by scientists in Chicago has shown it can be a health benefit - and their discovery could lead to the development of new drugs for organ transplant patients with auto-immune diseases such as Lupus and Crohn’s disease.

The omentum lines the abdominal cavity, covering most abdominal organs, and is where fat tissue is stored.

The research team found that cells from this membrane can differentiate into lung-type cells and bone cells.  They now believe the omentum may be assist tissue healing and regeneration.

'We now have evidence that the omentum is not just fat sitting in the belly,' said Dr Makio Iwashima, from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The team also found that the cells can suppress the immune system's response to an infectious agent.  This discovery could lead to new drugs to help transplant patients avoid the rejection of new organs.  Many drugs currently available can have serious side effects.


 Liquorice: Possible health benefits

Are you a liquorice lover? In news that will have fans reaching for the allsorts, The Atlantic has published an article suggesting that liquorice root contains anti-diabetic properties.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany identified a group of natural substances within liquorice root called amorfrutins. Testing on mice, the scientists found that the consumption of amorfrutins reduced blood sugar levels and inflammation that would otherwise be present in the mice suffering from Type 2 diabetes. The amorfrutins also prevented the development of a fatty liver - a common side-effect of type 2 diabetes and a high-fat diet.

Type 2 diabetes generally affects people who are already overweight or obese, causing the body to become resistant to insulin. Another action of amorfrutins is to bind to a nuclear receptor called PPARy which activates various genes that reduce fatty acids and glucose in the blood. The reduced glucose level prevents the development of insulin resistance, thereby blocking the cause of Type 2 diabetes.

But before you march off to your nearest Darrell Lea, take note. "The amount of amorfrutin molecules in a piece of licorice available for human consumption is far too low to cause the same beneficial effects that were identified in the diabetic mice." In response, the researchers developed a method of extracting sufficient concentrations of amorfrutins from the Amorpha fruticosa bush in which they are also found, which could be used to produce amorfrutin extracts on an industrial scale.

So is there any benefit to be had in eating liquorice sweets? Well, it depends on the sweet. What you're looking for is products containing liquorice extract or liquorice root. You won't get the same medicinal properties from anise oil, which is what is used to flavour many commercial liquorice products. Even if the sweet does contain extract, the quantity is usually far too small to have any sort of health benefit. As nutritionist Catherine Saxelby notes, Darrell Lea liquorice contains just 3 per cent liquorice extract, coming in after flour, sugar, molasses, and glucose syrup on the ingredient list.

Manufacturers of liquorice sweets are quick to point out that liquorice is a low-fat food. Saxelby says that while liquorice is a healthier snack than milk chocolate, care must be taken with portion size. "There's nothing wrong with having a few pieces of liquorice three or four times a week, so long as it's your only "treat food" that week," says Saxelby. "It's not safe for coeliacs though; the main ingredient of liquorice is wheat flour." Those with high blood pressure should also avoid the salty Dutch variety of liquorice, she says. Liquorice is slightly lower in sugar and carbohydrates than most other lollies, and contains small amounts of protein, iron and calcium.

Real liquorice also contains glycyrrhizin, a substance obtained from the root of the liquorice plant. Glycyrrhizin is the active agent in liquorice that combats illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, and is said to lessen the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. But the amount of real liquorice found in liquorice sweets is not standardised, making it far more safe and effective to take the recommended quantity of liquorice root or extract as a pill or powder. Those with high blood pressure may want to consider the deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) form of the product. In spite of its benefits, continued consumption of large amounts of glycyrrhizin may reduce blood potassium levels, lead to water retention, and increase blood pressure.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

liquorice sweets around here are all fake AND cheap.

As for any health benefits, bad for high blood pressure!

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