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Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

Flattery to deceive

Posted by Callum Anderson on 14 April, 2010

Is orange juice a new superfood? Perhaps in some situations it can benefit the body. But the term ‘superfood’ often belies negligible effects in vivo.

A paper by Husam Ghanim, Chang Ling Sia, Mannish Upadhyay, Kelly Korzeniewski, Prabhakar Viswanathan, Sanaa Abuaysheh, Priya Mohanty and Paresh Dandona at the State University of New York at Buffalo (evaluated by our wonderful Faculty of course), suggests that consuming orange juice alongside a fatty, high-carbohydrate meal could limit the adverse effects of all that junk food.

On a slightly related note – while writing this post I was directed by RPG towards a list of The 40 Deadliest Fast Food Meals – and I wonder how much orange juice we might have to drink to alleviate the effects of the top entry? The article clogging, 1300 calorie, 38 grammes-of-saturated-fat-Baconator Triple from Wendy’s!

Right – back to more serious pontification now.

The paper hinges around a comparison of orange juice, water and glucose drink alongside a fatty, high carbohydrate meal and the subsequent production of reactive oxygen species by polymorphonuclear cells, measures of cytokine and endotoxin activation in mononuclear cells, and plasma levels of endotoxin and matrix metalloproteinase.

Bruce Bistrian of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says in his evaluation

Orange juice reduced the oxidative stress and prevented the formation of pro-inflammatory components, including the increase in plasma endotoxin, compared to either water or glucose. Somewhat surprisingly, there was no increase in plasma glucose with orange juice as found with the meal plus water or the meal plus glucose, despite the substantial carbohydrate and caloric load.

And he added

it is likely that the authors’ suggestion that the mechanism for the antiinflammatory actions was due to the flavonoids naringenin and hesperidin present in orange juice is correct.

So the flavonoids in orange juice may be preventing inflammation after an unhealthy meal, in short limiting the damage.

However, I would not go as far as to suggest that orange juice is particularly brilliant in this respect, especially as the highest concentrations of hesperidin are found in the white parts and peel of oranges, which do not provide a particularly appetising juice. Furthermore, this article suggests that grapefruit provides a significantly higher concentration of naringenin than orange.

But criticism aside; the mention of flavonoids in this paper got me thinking more generally about these so called superfoods. And then more specifically about a press release I saw doing the rounds recently concerning rhubarb. Scientists are inherently aware that test tube or laboratory work does not always transfer into the real world. And the rhubarb press release is a good example of why.

Rhubarb was christened as a new superfruit by some sections of the media due to its high concentration of polyphenols. And the point of these chemicals is that in test tube study, they scavenge free radicals and show other benefits when used in high concentration. But they also have currently undefined mechanisms by which they may reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease. I would be very surprised however if these benefits effectively make the transfer from vitro to vivo. Basically, the concentration levels of ingested polyphenols are usually extremely low, and may be too low in many cases to make any real difference.

A recently published paper by Balz Frei entitled Controversy: What are the True Biological Functions of Superfruit Antioxidants? highlights further problems when flavonoids in particlular find their way into the body. He says

Flavonoids are poorly absorbed into blood and rapidly eliminated from the body; thus, flavonoids have low eventual biological availability.

So really, despite having high levels of helpful chemicals; once ingested, concentration of many of these so called ‘super’ chemicals still lags way behind more common cellular antioxidants.

So eating rhubarb is not going to affect chemical levels for particularly long, because the unique chemicals simply don’t hang around for very long in the body. And this is why I really like the paper by Ghanim et al. Ghanim and his team acknowledge the short bioavaliability of flavonoids and test them in a situation where their effect is clearly measurable against the high calorie meal.

Perhaps I am being too harsh here? In the rhubarb press release, Dr Nikki Jordan-Mahy does admit that the real application of her research lies away from ‘Superfoods’. She says

But if we can extract the polyphenols they may be useful in helping to fight cancer along with chemotherapy.

And this point hits the nail on the head, we need to be thinking how to extract and concentrate these chemicals to make them worthwhile, and in the meantime, the mainstream media needs to understand that positive laboratory tests do not always signify benefits in vivo.


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Hair apparent

Posted by stevepog on 8 March, 2010

beware of the bearded man bearing breadfruit

Sometimes there’s a real life-changing thrust to blog posts, that drives at the heart of a pivotal issue in modern society and make people question their motives, passions, opinions or even educational goals.

But seeing as we’re all coming down off a post-Oscars high, let me preempt your own judgement by rating this one as an Inglourious Basterds compared to the Hurt Locker of more worthy blog scribblings.

Actually, it’s really more of a Valkyrie than QT’s latest effort but then Tom Cruise never won any awards for his ability at copying accents (and it obviously wasn’t nominated for the 2010 awards so it’s less zeitgeisty).

Anyway, my point is to direct your eyes to the picture of the man on the left, much-respected Stanford neuroscientist and f1000 Faculty Member Robert Sapolsky.

With a beard that would make Hagrid feel ashamed, Sapolsky must be a delight as a lecturer. He’d also make a great magician with no need for a top hat either.

Sapolsky is a seasoned reviewer for f1000 and contributed a very positive review of a recent paper in Nature which discussed Prejudice and truth about the effect of testosterone on human bargaining behaviour. The crux of the paper was in a press release we put out today but the first emailed responses from journalists focused not on the weighty issues being discussed but of course, the accompanying photo above.

In one reporter’s words, it encouraged her to ask for more information on him as “I’ve been meaning to do somethign (sic) on weirdy beardies for a while”.

This is not the first time we’ve discussed hirsute scientists and our friend Joanne Manaster has a similar penchant (purely scientific) for bearded biologists. But it reinforces once again how much we should respect a scientist who sports this look: if he shows half as much commitment to research as to beard growth, a cancer/malaria/Xbox-related RSI cure is surely not far away.

*it’s ok, I cringed while writing the headline as much as you probably did reading it. To me it felt like the title for a bad 90s C-grade comedy starring a faded stand-up comic.

Then I did an IMDB search (I’m writing this in real-time, so the punchline could be a fizzer) and whaddya know?

It was closest in wording to a bad Canadian comedy flick , a 1912 black and white romantic drama and best of all, the ridiculously titled, Michael Flatley: Eire Apparent, about the most arrogant Irishman to ever pull on a pair of tights. Riverdance fans, I’ll meet you in the car park if you want to take issue with that assessment.

Posted in Communication, f1000, FMs, Journalism, Press Releases, Random, Science | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

More food for thought

Posted by stevepog on 24 February, 2010

By Steve Pogonowski and Bea Downing

Work dramas, late bills, latent childhood trauma: adult life is full of potential for the average person to get stressed and deal with it by ‘comfort eating’.

As discussed in a previous post by Callum, labeled ‘Food for thought’ (hence my segued sequel/blatant rip-off title here), there are ongoing studies starting to appear in the earlier pages of top-ranked journals that look at the psychological, rather than purely physical, causes and effects of weight gain and obesity.

But the fact remains that there is still much to learn about the biological processes resulting from the mental stresses of daily life.

In a recent F1000 Biology Report, Faculty Member Achim Peters from the University of Luebeck and Dirk Langemann of Carolo-Wilhelmina-University looked at recent advances detailing how stress affects neurometabolism and eating behavior.

Stress increases the brain’s demand for glucose and, in some people, causes comfort eating and weight gain due to a weak sympathoadrenal response.

Under stress, the brain’s metabolic rate – and glucose demand – shoots up by 12%. Two mechanisms then come in to increase glucose availability to the brain: brain-pull and storage-push. Brain-pull mechanisms increase the percentage and amount of energy that the brain can withdraw from the blood across the blood-brain barrier, while storage-push mechanisms increase blood-glucose levels to flood the system with energy.

During periods of chronic stress, the stronger storage-push response results in the blood being loaded with energy. When the brain’s demand for glucose falls, the storage-push is still releasing glucose into the blood. The remaining glucose is mopped up by insulin and stored as fat.

Peters and Langemann said:

“Evidence accumulates that the stressed mind can choose a metabolic coping strategy by switching its supply mode from brain pull to ‘comfort eating’.”

Chronic stresses in adult life, such as job-related demands and difficulty paying bills, may weaken the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system. In adults with depression and anxiety, weight gain and the risk of obesity were increased in a dose-response fashion with the number of episodes of these common mental disorders.

Problems can also strike earlier in life: early-life stress and juvenile trauma result in long-lasting changes in the activity of the autonomic nervous system and body weight. Prenatal psychosocial stress exposure is associated with hyperinsulinemia in later life, a strong predictor of weight gain and a typical marker of brain-pull inefficiency.

Posted in Communication, f1000, FMs, Press Releases, Science | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on More food for thought

Worthless lie

Posted by rpg on 9 February, 2010

I’m on record as defending PR in the scientific sphere (and featured in Nature’s From the Blogosphere, so it must have touched a nerve somewhere). I maintain that we will continue to require good public relations, perhaps even more so with the looming spectre of swingeing cuts in publicly-funded science. (I’m a little less enamoured of paying PR managers at a research council double the average professorial salary, but that’s a story for another day.)

Although f1000 (obviously) isn’t associated with any particular institution or scientist, we do like to put out the occasional release covering interesting science that’s been picked up by the Faculty. This is an interesting exercise as a lot of newsworthy stories have usually already been released by the journal of the original article, or the author’s home press office, by the time our evaluations come in. But we do find a lot of important (or, let’s be honest, slightly quirky) work that hasn’t got much further than a couple of interested specialists, and we like to bring it to a wider audience. (Sometimes this attracts criticism from talentless hacks, but hey, it’s all good). Besides, if six month-old ‘news’ is good enough for the Beeb, it’s good enough for us.

Anyway, we’ve been reasonably successful in our forays into PR, getting quite a bit of attention from all sorts of places, including the national press. Some of our more popular topics have included cartilage repair, cocaine addiction and seasonal effects on multiple sclerosis (rather than deluge you with links, all our releases are archived at EurekAlert.) SP has made a glossy brochure of media coverage, which you can have a look at if ever you care to visit me in the shadow of the BT Tower.

Interestingly, the Royal Society of Chemistry has also been experimenting with PR. Brian Emsley recounts how ‘light’ news stories—such as the importance of adding soy sauce to your gravy— raise the profile of an organization (in this case the RSC), and basically prepare the ground for the ‘serious’ stuff. Like ground bait, or artillery barrages to soften the enemy before sending in the infantry. We’re trying to do a similar thing to the RSC; raising our own profile and that of science more generally. It’s all part of the science communication bug I have, and a way of getting people in general more ‘comfortable’ with the scientific process in general (as well as getting our content out to professionals—practice nurses perhaps—who might not have seen it).

So, we’re still experimenting, and we’ll probably get some things wrong, and hopefully we’ll get other things right, but I’d really like to know what you think about PR and the direction we should be taking it.

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Sarah Greene to head up The Scientist

Posted by rpg on 18 January, 2010


18 January 2010

Sarah Greene to head up The Scientist

Sarah Greene, publishing and new media entrepreneur, is to become Editor-in-Chief of The Scientist magazine. Sarah brings 25 years’ experience and strong editorial, business and leadership skills to this high profile appointment, and an unparalleled depth of specialist knowledge in biology and medicine.

Sarah most recently cofounded and was Managing Editor at the Journal of Participatory Medicine, a revolutionary Open Access journal seeking to transform the culture of medicine. Her previous appointments include Director of Online Health at the New York Times, President of Praxis Press and founder and publisher of Current Protocols and HMS Beagle. Sarah takes over from Richard Gallagher at the helm of The Scientist. Richard described his seven years in the role as “enjoyable and fulfilling” and said it is “the best job in science publishing”. He is moving to head up a new Custom Publishing unit for The Scientist.

The Scientist, the leading professional magazine for life scientists, publishes reviews of hot papers, the latest information on research, technology updates and careers as well as profiles of scientists to watch. The Scientist also publishes the greatly anticipated “Best Places” survey series. Sarah’s new role will include strengthening The Scientist’s online presence and overseeing closer ties with Faculty of 1000, the popular and respected international post-publication peer review service.

Sarah said, “I am thrilled by the challenges and opportunities presented by this exciting new role. The Scientist is already a great magazine and I’m looking forward to working with the Faculty of 1000 team in London to make it even better.”

Vitek Tracz, Chairman of Science Navigation Group, said of Sarah, “I have worked closely with her on some of my most ambitious, difficult and important projects, and she is the one of the most inventive, intelligent, talented and inspiring people I know. We are delighted that she is joining us to run The Scientist.”

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