FOOD BITES: MAY 2018

Food, Mood and Aging

Young and mature adults require different foods to improve their mental health, say researchers from the State University of New York at Binghampton. The researchers used an anonymous Internet survey, asking people around the world to complete the Food-Mood Questionnaire, which includes....

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FOOD BITES: JUNE 2018

Vegetables Harvested in Antarctica Without Sun, Soil or Pesticides

Scientists in Antarctica have harvested the first crop of vegetables grown without soil, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to help astronauts cultivate fresh food on other planets. Researchers at Germany’s Neumayer Station III say eight pounds of salad greens, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes....

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FOOD BITES: JULY 2018

Magnesium Treats Depression

As little as 248 mg of magnesium per day leads to an astounding reversal of depression syndrome, according to research conducted at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and published in the journal PLoS One in June 2017.

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FOOD BITES: JULY 2018

Magnesium Treats Depression

As little as 248 mg of magnesium per day leads to an astounding reversal of depression syndrome, according to research conducted at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and published in the journal PLoS One in June 2017. Magnesium plays a critical role in many body functions, including heart rhythm, blood pressure and bone strength. It also combats inflammation. Over-the-counter oral magnesium tablets are as effective and comparable to prescription SSRI treatments for mild to moderate depression, according to Emily Tarleton, MS, RD, CD, the bionutrition research manager at the University of Vermont’s Clinical Research Center. Many foods are rich in magnesium, including almonds, flax, pumpkin and sesame seeds, chard, broccoli, spinach, dark chocolate and yogurt.


Authenticating Imported Plants and Superfoods

Medicinal plants from abroad are not always the real deal. Special medicinal plants that grow only in a single region but have a high global demand have led to a boom in counterfeits, according to Peter Nick of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Botanical Institute. “The caterpillar fungus is deemed to have a strengthening and aphrodisiac effect in traditional medicine,” Nick said. “Every year, however, the exported quantity of this mushroom is eight times that of its harvest.” Even experts have a difficult time identifying counterfeit medicinal plants and superfoods. Often, only a few species of a particular plant

have the desired properties. For example, of the 1,400 species of bamboo, only the leaves of three species can be used to prepare a popular health-promoting tea, according to Nick. Indian basil, also called holy basil and tulsi, may help breathing difficulties or bronchitis, but other species may cause allergic reactions. Such risks are the reason ingredients are checked for correctness in import controls. These checks are mostly carried out microscopically with the help of botanical descriptions. But with ingredients such as Chia powder, a type of sage, this method is useless. An alternative method of gene sequence readouts are time consuming and expensive. Nick and his team at KIT have developed a process based on small differences of the gene sequence to specifically apply gene scissors to certain points of the DNA strands of genetic material. Similar to key fitting a lock, the scissors only fit a specific pattern of gene fragments that may serve as a genetic fingerprint for the species. If the scissors snap shut, Nick knows the plant is authentic. The team has already collected 7,000 bar codes in its database.


ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

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