Eating Your Greens Can Change the Effect of Your Genes on Heart Disease

Newswise — Hamilton, ON (October 11, 2011) – A long-held mantra suggests that you can’t change your family, the genes they pass on, or the effect of these genes. Now, an international team of scientists, led by researchers at McMaster and McGill universities, is attacking that belief.

The researchers discovered the gene that is the strongest marker for heart disease can actually be modified by generous amounts of fruit and raw vegetables. The results of their study are published in the current issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

“We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it,” said Dr. Jamie Engert, joint principal investigator of the study, who is a researcher in cardiovascular diseases at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and associate member in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University. “But it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect.”

The research, which represents one of the largest gene-diet interaction studies ever conducted on cardiovascular disease, involved the analysis of more than 27,000 individuals from five ethnicities – European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab – and the affect that their diets had on the effect of the 9p21 gene. The results suggest that individuals with the high risk genotype who consumed a prudent diet, composed mainly of raw vegetables, fruits and berries, had a similar risk of heart attack to those with the low risk genotype.

“We observed that the effect of a high-risk genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables,” said Sonia Anand, joint principal investigator of the study, and a researcher at the Population Health Research Institute and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University. “Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health.”

“Our research suggests there may be an important interplay between genes and diet in cardiovascular disease,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Ron Do, who conducted this research as part of his PhD at McGill and is now based at the Center for Human Genetics Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. “Future research is necessary to understand the mechanism of this interaction, which will shed light on the underlying metabolic processes that the 9p21 gene is involved in.”

Released: 10/11/2011

Source: McMaster University

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http://www.newswise.com/articles/eating-your-greens-can-change-the-effect-of-your-genes-on-heart-disease

500 Years Ago, Yeast’s Epic Journey Gave Rise to Lager Beer

Newswise — MADISON — In the 15th century, when Europeans first began moving people and goods across the Atlantic, a microscopic stowaway somehow made its way to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria.

The stowaway, a yeast that may have been transported from a distant shore on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly, was destined for great things. In the dank caves and monastery cellars where 15th century brewmeisters stored their product, the newly arrived yeast fused with a distant relative, the domesticated yeast used for millennia to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. The resulting hybrid — representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens — would give us lager, the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed by 15th century Bavarians and that today is among the most popular — if not the most popular — alcoholic beverage in the world.

And while scientists and brewers have long known that the yeast that gives beer the capacity to ferment at cold temperatures was a hybrid, only one player was known: Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast used to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. Its partner, which conferred on beer the ability to ferment in the cold, remained a puzzle, as scientists were unable to find it among the 1,000 or so species of yeast known to science.

Now, an international team of researchers believes it has identified the wild yeast that, in the age of sail, apparently traveled more than 7,000 miles to those Bavarian caves to make a fortuitous microbial match that today underpins the $250 billion a year lager beer industry.

Writing this week (Aug. 22) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Portugal, Argentina and the United States describe the discovery of a wild yeast in the beech forests of Patagonia, the alpine region at the tip of South America, that apparently solves the age-old mystery of the origin of the yeast that made cold-temperature fermentation and lager beer possible.

“People have been hunting for this thing for decades,” explains Chris Todd Hittinger, a University of Wisconsin-Madison genetics professor and a co-author of the new study. “And now we’ve found it. It is clearly the missing species. The only thing we can’t say is if it also exists elsewhere (in the wild) and hasn’t been found.”

The newfound yeast, dubbed Saccharomyces eubayanus, was discovered as part of an exhaustive global search, led by the New University of Lisbon’s José Paulo Sampaio and Paula Gonçalves. Aimed squarely at resolving the lager yeast mystery, the Portuguese team sorted through European yeast collections, combed the scientific literature and gathered new yeasts from European environments. Their efforts yielded no candidate species of European origin.

Expanding the search to other parts of the world, however, finally paid dividends when collaborator Diego Libkind of the Institute for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CONICET) in Bariloche, Argentina, found in galls that infect beech trees a candidate species whose genetic material seemed to be a close match to the missing half of the lager yeast.

“Beech galls are very rich in simple sugars. It’s a sugar rich habitat that yeast seem to love,” notes Hittinger.

The yeast is so active in the galls, according to Libkind, that they spontaneously ferment. “When overmature, they fall all together to the (forest) floor where they often form a thick carpet that has an intense ethanol odor, most probably due to the hard work of our new Saccharomyces eubayanus.”

The new yeast was hustled off to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where a team that included Hittinger, Jim Dover and Mark Johnston sequenced its genome. “It proved to be distinct from every known wild species of yeast, but was 99.5 percent identical to the non-ale yeast portion of the lager genome,” says Hittinger, now an assistant professor of genetics at UW-Madison.

The Colorado team also identified genetic mutations in the lager yeast hybrid distinctive from the genome of the wild lager yeast. Those changes — taking place in a brewing environment where evolution can be amped up by the abundance of yeast — accumulated since those first immigrant yeasts melded with their ale cousins 500 years ago and have refined the lager yeast’s ability to metabolize sugar and malt and to produce sulfites, transforming an organism that evolved on beech trees into a lean, mean beer-making machine.

“Our discovery suggests that hybridization instantaneously formed an imperfect ‘proto-lager’ yeast that was more cold-tolerant than ale yeast and ideal for the cool Bavarian lagering process,” Hittinger avers. “After adding some new variation for brewers to exploit, its sugar metabolism probably became more like ale yeast and better at producing beer.”

Released: 8/17/2011

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Via Newswise

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http://www.newswise.com/articles/500-years-ago-yeast-s-epic-journey-gave-rise-to-lager-beer

Environmental News: Aerosols Affect Climate More than Satellite Estimates Predict

Newswise — ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Aerosol particles, including soot and sulfur dioxide from burning fossil fuels, essentially mask the effects of greenhouse gases and are at the heart of the biggest uncertainty in climate change prediction. New research from the University of Michigan shows that satellite-based projections of aerosols’ effect on Earth’s climate significantly underestimate their impacts.

The findings will be published online the week of Aug. 1 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Aerosols are at the core of “cloud drops”—water particles suspended in air that coalesce to form precipitation. Increasing the number of aerosol particles causes an increase in the number of cloud drops, which results in brighter clouds that reflect more light and have a greater cooling effect on the planet.

As to the extent of their cooling effect, scientists offer different scenarios that would raise the global average surface temperature during the next century between under 2 to over 3 degrees Celsius. That may not sound like a broad range, but it straddles the 2-degree tipping point beyond which scientists say the planet can expect more catastrophic climate change effects.

The satellite data that these findings poke holes in has been used to argue that all these models overestimate how hot the planet will get.

“The satellite estimates are way too small,” said Joyce Penner, the Ralph J. Cicerone Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric Science. “There are things about the global model that should fit the satellite data but don’t, so I won’t argue that the models necessarily are correct. But we’ve explained why satellite estimates and the models are so different.”

Penner and her colleagues found faults in the techniques that satellite estimates use to find the difference between cloud drop concentrations today and before the Industrial Revolution.

“We found that using satellite data to try to infer how much radiation is reflected today compared to the amount reflected in the pollution-free pre-industrial atmosphere is very inaccurate,” Penner said. “If one uses the relationship between aerosol optical depth—essentially a measure of the thickness of the aerosols—and droplet number from satellites, then one can get the wrong answer by a factor of three to six.”

These findings are a step toward generating better models, and Penner said that will be the next phase of this research.

“If the large uncertainty in this forcing remains, then we will never reduce the range of projected changes in climate below the current range,” she said. “Our findings have shown that we need to be smarter. We simply cannot rely on data from satellites to tell us the effects of aerosols. I think we need to devise a strategy to use the models in conjunction with the satellite data to get the best answers.”

The paper is called “Satellite-methods underestimate indirect climate forcing by aerosols.” The research is funded by NASA.

Released: 7/29/2011  Source: University of Michigan

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/aerosols-affect-climate-more-than-satellite-estimates-predict

New Therapy May Help People with Unexplained Symptoms of Pain, Weakness and Fatigue

Newswise — ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new type of therapy may help people with symptoms such as pain, weakness, or dizziness that can’t be explained by an underlying disease, according to a study published in the July 27, 2011, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. These symptoms, which can also include fatigue, tingling and numbness, are also known as functional or psychogenic symptoms.

“People with these symptoms make up one-third of all clinic visits, but the outcomes are poor,” said study author Michael Sharpe, MD, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Previous studies have shown that intense cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce the symptoms, distress and disability in people with these symptoms, but there are obstacles to providing this therapy. Many people do not feel psychological treatment is appropriate and resist referrals to mental health services, and therapists trained in cognitive behavioral therapy are not available in all communities.

Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to improve people’s physical symptoms, emotional state and functioning by helping them to understand, and where necessary change, how they think about and respond to their symptoms and life situation.

For the study, the researchers developed a self-help workbook especially for patients with physical symptoms that was based on the therapy. A total of 62 people were given the workbook and over three months had up to four half-hour hour sessions guiding them in the use of the book with a nurse at their neurologist’s office in addition to their usual medical care. They were compared to 63 people who received only their usual medical care. Most of the participants also had psychiatric diagnoses, such as panic disorder, anxiety disorder and depression.

After three months, the people who received the extra therapy were approximately twice as likely to report improvements in their overall health as those who did not receive the extra therapy. A total of 13 percent more people who received the extra therapy reported that their health was “better” or “much better” than those who received only their usual care.

After six months, there was no longer a significant difference in improvements in overall health between the two groups. However, those receiving the extra therapy continued to have greater improvement in their symptoms than those who received the usual care and also in their physical functioning. They were also more satisfied with their treatment.

“This study suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy-based guided self-help may be a new and potentially useful first step in improving the management of these challenging symptoms,” Sharpe said. “This approach needs further evaluation but can be a potentially effective and cost-effective first step toward providing more help for these often neglected patients.”

Released: 7/19/2011    Source: American Academy of Neurology (AAN)

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/new-therapy-may-help-people-with-unexplained-symptoms-of-pain-weakness-and-fatigue