Monday, July 09, 2012

'Flab jab' could let you stay slim on a junk food diet by using immune system to fight weight gain

Tested  on mice only so far.  Side effects would be a big concern.  The effect would seem similar to stimulant drugs that were used in the past for weight loss

A ‘flab jab’ that allows people to gorge on junk food yet keep trim could be on the horizon.  Scientists have invented an obesity vaccine that uses the immune system to fight weight gain. In tests, mice given a single injection lost 10 per cent of body weight after four days.

What is more, the animals were being fed on high-fat food – suggesting the ‘flab jab’ might allow people to eat badly yet stay slim.

But don’t abandon your diet yet. Leaving aside the other damaging effects on health of eating too much high-fat food, the research is still at a very early stage and the drug is around seven to ten years from the market.

The vaccine works by fooling the body’s immune system into making antibodies against a hormone called somatostatin.  Somatostatin, which is made by the brain and the digestive system, interferes with other hormones, leading to the metabolism slowing down and weight being put on.

The antibodies stop it from working, the metabolism speeds up and the pounds fall off.

The mice that shed 10 per cent of their weight after one injection were given a booster jab three weeks after the first which helped to keep their weight in check, the Journal Of Animal Science and Biotechnology reported.

Importantly, levels of other vital hormones were not affected.

Lead researcher Dr Keith Haffer, of US firm Braasch Biotech, said: ‘This study demonstrates the possibility of treating obesity with vaccination.

Although further studies are necessary to discover the long-term implications of these vaccines, treatment of human obesity with vaccination could provide physicians with a drug and surgical-free option against the weight epidemic.’

The difficulty in formulating a safe diet drug means that just one prescription-strength diet pill, Xenical, is on sale in the UK.  It prevents the absorption of fats in the body but comes with unpleasant side-effects such as an upset stomach.


Does it pay to eat organic? 'Natural' tomatoes are packed with more disease-fighting antioxidants, claim scientists

The persistent antioxidant religion again.  They're actually BAD for you. See the sidebar

It's an argument that continues to exercise consumers and growers across the UK - organic produce may be good for the environment, but is it any better for your health?

A new study has found that when it comes to tomatoes at least, it really may pay off to fork out for the more expensive organic produce.  Researchers from the University of Barcelona have found the pesticide-free version of the fruit contains higher levels of disease-fighting chemicals than the conventional kind.

Known as polyphenols, the chemical compounds protect plants against disease and are thought to also benefit human health.

The nutrients have a natural antioxidant effect and studies have suggested they could help halt the spread of certain cancers as well as protect against chronic conditions such as arthritis. Other research has found they can protect against heart disease due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties.

The conclusion challenges the Food Standards Agency, which has long dismissed the health gains of organic food.  The Government's food watchdog released a report in 2009 that said there was no 'nutritional difference' between organic and conventionally produced food.

The team behind the latest study analysed the chemical structure of the Daniela variety of tomato. They detected 34 different beneficial compounds in both the organic and conventional versions - far more than you would get from a food supplement. However, they found that overall the organic tomatoes contained higher levels of the polyphenols.

The scientists said this difference between organic and conventional tomatoes can be explained by the manure used to grow them.

Lead author Anna Vallverdú Queralt, said: 'Organic farming doesn’t use nitrogenous fertilizers; as a result, plants respond by activating their own defence mechanisms, increasing the levels of all antioxidants.'

Co-author Rosa M. Lamuela, added: 'The more stress plants suffer, the more polyphenols they produce.'

The researchers said further clinical studies are needed to see if the organic tomatoes have a more potent effect on the body than the conventional type.

A team led by Ms Lamuela, had previously proved that organic tomato juice and ketchup contains higher polyphenol content than juice and ketchup made from conventionally grown tomatoes.  Tomatoes are known as a super-food as they also contain high levels of vitamin C.

The latest study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Peter Melchett, Policy Director, Soil Association, said: 'The study by the University of Barcelona which shows that organic tomatoes contain higher levels of antioxidants than non-organic tomatoes confirms a major meta-analysis of all research comparing beneficial nutrients in organic and non-organic food by Dr Kirsten Brandt and others at the University of Newcastle, published in May 2011.'


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