Friday, May 06, 2011

The fruit-juice/antioxidant religion gets another outing

Juice tested on pig arteries in laboratory glassware. People are too pesky

A HEART-healthy fruit cocktail devised by scientists could be just what the doctor ordered. The mix of berry, grape and apple juices provides the "ideal blend" of ingredients for lowering the risk of heart disease, experts claim.

Numerous studies have suggested that "polyphenol" plant compounds can improve the functioning of arteries and protect the heart. Now French scientists have come up with what they say is the healthiest and best-tasting combination of 13 different fruit juices.

Among the ingredients are grape, apple, blueberry, strawberry and lingonberry as well as more exotic additions such as acerola - a cherry-like fruit from the West Indies - and aronia, also known as chokeberry, from America.

Various blends of fruit juices or purees were first studied in a laboratory for their effects on isolated pig arteries.

The final recipe was chosen after a "taste test" by 80 volunteer consumers.

The "healthy heart" fruit cocktail consists of about 60 per cent grape juice, about 10 per cent apple, strawberry and blueberry, and smaller amounts of lingonberry, acerola, and aronia.

Lead researcher Dr Cyril Auger - from the University of Strasbourg, France's largest uni - said: "Among the various fruits investigated, the most active ones were predominantly berries ... characterised by the presence of high levels of anthocyanins, which are pigments responsible for the blue-red colours of fruits."

Laboratory tests showed that exposure to the fruit juice blend caused heart artery walls to relax. In a living animal this would improve blood flow to the heart and help to prevent it being deprived of oxygen and nutrients.

Measurements also were taken of the antioxidant power of different cocktail recipes, highlighting their ability to neutralise harmful molecules that can damage cells and DNA. The tests showed that some polyphenols were more potent than others, and this was more important than the amount found in each fruit.

The research was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Food and Function.


Starting solid foods BEFORE four months could cut risk of peanut allergy

Early introduction of peanut products is certainly the key preventive of peanut allergy

Parents who feed their infants solid foods or cow's milk before the age of four months could put them at lower risk for peanut allergy, according to a new study. Researchers said introducing solids early on could 'kick-start' the immune system, making children with a family history of allergies about five times less likely to develop sensitivity.

In contrast, experts generally recommend mothers breastfeed infants for the first six months because it is the best form of nutrition.

The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology last month, was conducted on 594 children, whose mothers were interviewed about feeding practices when they were one, six, and 12 months old.

Reuters Health reports blood samples were taken from children ages two and three years old and tested for antibodies against peanut, egg and milk. 'Eleven per cent of those tested were found to be at an increased risk of developing an allergy to peanut. 'The risk of sensitivity was lower among children whose parents had allergies or asthma, if they had been started on solid food or cow's milk before the age of four month,' according to reports.

Just under six per cent of those tested had peanut sensitivity, compared to 16 per cent of those whose mothers introduced solid foods or cow's milk later.

The findings were not consistent among children who did not have a family history of allergy.

Lead researcher Christine Joseph, an epidemiologist at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, said the study did not, however, prove early introduction of solid foods prevents peanut allergies.

Ms Joseph told Reuters Health: 'Intuitively, it does seem like the opposite of what you'd expect.' She explained early exposure to solids and cows milk could 'kick start' the immune system and make children more tolerant of peanuts.

Controversy over what infant feeding methods might cut risk of food allergies has long been subject to debate. Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended parents not feed children cow's milk until age one. That decision was reversed in 2008, after studies showed no evidence it lowered allergy risks. It's estimated that just over one percent of U.S. children are allergic to peanuts.


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