Posts filed under ‘food’

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Increasingly, people are adopting alternative diets to improve their health or address ethical concerns. Vegetarianism and veganism are diet choices that attract debate, not only about their implications for health, but also about the associated ethical arguments. Vegetarian and Vegan Diets looks at the current debate on the pros and cons of these elimination diets and gives an overview of the related animal welfare issues.

The information in this book comes from a wide range of sources including government reports and statistics, newspaper features, magazine articles, surveys and literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editors: Lisa Firth and Cobi Smith
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
ISBN: 978 1 86168 406 6
Published: September 2007

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December 21, 2007 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

Problem drinking

People drink alcohol for various reasons – socially, to relax or sometimes just to get through the day. Problem Drinking explores the issues around alcohol dependency and abuse and considers their implications for health and society.

The information comes from a range of sources including government reports and statistics, newspaper reports, features, magazine articles, surveys, and literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editors: Lisa Firth and Cobi Smith
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
Price: £6.95
Cover: Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 86168 409 7
Published: September 2007

November 21, 2007 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment

You decide what science is funded

If you could choose what kind of scientific research was funded, do you think you would choose the same as what’s funded now?

The Institute of Food Research investigated this question with a competition at Norwich arts venue the Garage, on the 13th of June. The public were invited to an event called ‘you decide what science is funded’, where four scientists pitched their research proposals to a broad audience, who voted on which should get £500,000 funding.

The four research proposals asked: how do chicken eggs get infected with salmonella; how does eating broccoli reduce the risk of cancer; could eating good bacteria reduce allergic reactions; and does eating burnt meat increase the risk of colon cancer?

PhD student Jeff Temblay easily won the competition with his proposal to investigate the impact of good bacteria on allergies.

“As an early stage researcher and someone who had never wrote a grant research proposal before, I didn’t think I’d have much of a chance,” Jeff said.

Despite his modesty going into the competition Jeff had good reason to be confident, because in fact his research had already been funded and the evening’s competition was a hoax, designed to investigate public engagement with science.

Dr Dee Rawsthorne, the Norwich BioScience Institutes’ Outreach Coordinator, was behind the event, which was a pilot study for further research into public understanding of how science is funded.

“It’s given me faith that the public really do understand – even if they don’t understand the technicalities of DNA repair and how cancers work, they do understand the basic ethics behind the way we do scientific research,” she said.

Ethical concerns were raised in response to the fake research presentation by Dr Liz Lund, who proposed a colon cancer research study that involved making healthy volunteers eat lots of burnt meat and little fish or fibre. The volunteers would then have colon biopsies taken for study.

Liz’s ‘red herring’ proposal was the only one that got no votes.

“I think I was relieved, it’s very nice that the audience recognised it was false,” she said.

Read this story on the i10 website.

July 15, 2007 at 9:53 pm Leave a comment

Biologists and engineers unite to make gut

Scientists and engineers in the East of England have worked with intellectual property experts to create the world’s first biochemically and physiologically accurate human gut model.

Dr Martin Wickham, the project’s lead scientist at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in Norwich, worked with engineers from TWI in Cambridge to build the model.

Dr Wickham said the first six months of communicating with engineers was a challenge:

“We had to sit down and give them hours of biology lessons over several months, as we refined the model. I also had to learn a lot about engineering principles, like how stresses are applied to the gut. We’ve found middle ground and developed language that allows us to communicate about how the model gut works. The engineers now know more about the biology of the human gut than most biologists,” he said.

Dr Roger Wise, the lead engineer on the project, found it a rewarding experience.

“It was a very stimulating space that we explored together on the boundaries of biology and engineering. It took some time to acclimatise to the space but it was a very fertile and stimulating environment to work in,” he said.

After two years of cross-discipline collaboration the team have a sophisticated device that is already attracting the attention of major drug and food companies, as an accurate and non-invasive testing tool, with the potential to reduce human and animal trials.

Dr Wickham had the idea for the model gut twelve years ago whilst doing his PhD at the University of East Anglia studying the gut as a bioreactive model, and later developed the concepts further under funding at IFR from the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council).

Three years ago Dr Wickham took his idea to Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL), the commercialisation company at the Norwich Research Park. PBL filed patents on the invention and funded TWI to design and build the instrument.

PBL and Dr Wickham have started commercialising the model gut in a new space at the Norwich BioIncubator at the John Innes Centre. They’re developing the business with a select group of customers from different industries.

This article appeared in Innovation East magazine. Read this article on the i10 website or download the magazine.

January 27, 2007 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

Enhanced grains possible thanks to beta-glucan breakthrough

Dr Rachel Burton, Professor Geoff Fincher and a team of scientists associated with the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) have solved a puzzle that researchers have been working on for more than thirty years.

Their beta-glucan breakthrough was published in the March 31 issue of the journal Science. The scientists have identified a gene family, CslF, implicated in the synthesis of (1,3;1,4)-beta-D-glucans in cereals like wheat and barley. These beta-glucans are an important component of dietary fibre, and impact human and animal health, as well as the production of beer and spirits.

“This discovery means we now have the opportunity to modify beta-glucan levels in cereals, developing specialty cereals for different industries,” Dr Burton said.

“Beta-glucan is good for human health, so we can increase the levels in wheat and barley for human consumption. We can also develop low beta-glucan varieties for animal feed, because pigs and chickens can’t cope with too much beta-glucan,” she said.

The low varieties should also prove popular with breweries, because beta-glucan causes filtration problems in beer production. Beta-glucan can help prevent human health conditions like colorectal cancer, obesity, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, high serum cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. When the news of the discovery was made public, the media were particularly interested in the potential for enhanced cereal products to alleviate these medical problems.

Another possible outcome is cereal waste better suited for use as biofuel. Straw with higher betaglucan content and less cellulose may be easier to process, reducing the cost of producing fuel.

The gene discovery has not been an overnight success story. Emeritus Professor Bruce Stone from La Trobe University can attest to this.

“We first published on the biosynthesis of beta-glucan in 1973, but the biochemical route to the enzyme proved to be frustratingly difficult. Now, a generation later, using the tools of molecular genetics and gene transfer, the ACPFG team have made the breakthrough,” he said.

Professor Geoff Fincher of the University of Adelaide, with Tony Bacic and Dr Ed Newbigin of the University of Melbourne, received funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation in 2000 to apply emerging functional genomics technologies to the problem of identifying the betaglucan synthase genes in cereals. Dr Burton began working on the project then, following on from her work on cellulose biosynthesis.

The eventual breakthrough involved comparative genomics. Dr Andrew Harvey compared a chromosomal region in barley linked to high levels of beta-glucan to the completed rice genome, identifying the CslF gene family as the most likely candidates for beta-glucan synthesis in cereals.

To test whether the CslF genes were involved, Dr Burton built vectors containing the rice CslF genes for transformation into Arabidopsis plants. Research officer Melissa Pickering transformed the plants, some of which started producing beta-glucan in their cell walls, which does not normally happen in dicotyledonous plants like Arabidopsis.

Dr Sarah Wilson used transmission electron microscopy to locate the beta-glucan in the transformed Arabidopsis plants, using a gold-labelled monoclonal antibody generated in Professor Stone’s laboratory more than a decade ago.

“This work has been a fantastic team effort by staff in South Australia and Victoria, with great synergy between the different groups,” Dr Burton said.

Dr Burton is now working on altering the levels of beta-glucan in barley plants by manipulating the CslF genes, aiming to develop grains that will be the forerunners of specialty cereals.

You can download the magazine containing this article from the ACPFG website.

I also took this photo associated with this story.

 

May 31, 2006 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

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