I’ve been accepted to the master’s degree

28 07 2006

I’m really happy today. The emerging European Higher Education Area (EHEA) starts its first steps soon, and with this new education system comes the long awaited official master’s degrees in my country.

I finished my bachelor’s degree a few years ago, and now I will start an official master’s degree in Nutrition and Metabolism thanks to the EHEA. I hope that once I finish the MS it’ll give me better job opportunities, and maybe it’ll also open the door to the PhD. We’ll see.

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New promising weight loss and appetite suppressor molecule

27 07 2006

An international research team has discovered a protein, known as the ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), that acts directly within muscles to increase the body’s metabolism to burn fat and carbohydrates while simultaneously suppressing appetite. This research shows how CNTF activates similar pathways to those stimulated by exercise.

The study, titled “CNTF reverses obesity-induced insulin resistance by activating skeletal muscle AMPK” has been published by Nature Medicine.

This reminds me all the fuss about the ghrelin/leptin hormones, that were initially thought to be the cure-all for weight loss. Later on, they were found to be ineffective because the metabolic pathways leading to obesity are much more complex. But it seems that CNTF overcomes leptin resistance and the effects on fat burning are maintained.

Researchers already think that CNTF could play a key role as a weight loss agent and reducing the risk of metabolic abnormalities associated with excess weight. In the meantime, the best we can do is to stick to physical activity and a healthy diet as lifestyle factors to combat obesity and its related diseases.

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New enzyme degrades gluten

26 07 2006

SprueGood news for celiac disease patients, a new enzyme originally developed for commercial food processing turns out to also quickly and nearly-completely break down whole gluten molecules that cause sprue.

Celiac disease, or sprue, is a digestive disease caused by an uncontrolled immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye or barley. It causes diarrhea, malnutrition and failure to thrive because it inhibits nutritional uptake. There is no current effective treatment other than avoiding all kind of grain products, except corn and rice.

The new enzyme, called prolyl endoprotease (PEP) is derived from Aspergillus niger, a common fungus. PEP works best in the kind of physiological environment found in the human stomach, effectively digesting gluten.

Researchers think that now “there is a realistic chance that oral supplementation with an enzyme can ensure gluten degradation in the stomach before reaching the small intestine, where it causes problems for people with celiac disease”. Clinical trials with patients are the next step to prove the efficacy of this new enzyme.

The study titled “Highly efficient gluten degradation with a newly identified prolyl endoprotease: implications for celiac disease“, has been published in the American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

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Obesity surgery: Is not all that easy

24 07 2006

SurgeryWeight-loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is helping a lot of people around the globe to lose weight, thus reducing the risk of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. This technique reduces the number of calories that a person can consume and absorb, usually restricting the size of the stomach and the length of the intestine, where nutrients are absorbed.

With a high incidence of obesity spreading around western countries, the number of such surgical procedure has been rising rapidly. Many people think now about surgery as an answer to their weight problem, even though that problem may or may not need surgery.

Now those people should think twice about obesity surgery after the study done by the American Public Health Association, published in the august issue of their journal, Medical Care.

This study has found that 39.6% of patients who undergo bariatric surgery develop complications within six months. Many of the complications were so serious that patients were readmitted to hospitals or visited hospital emergency rooms. The most common complications included vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal hernias, infections, pneumonia and respiratory failure, as well as the leaking of gastric juices caused by imperfect surgical connections between the stomach and the intestines.

Some private clinics are making a lot of money with weight-loss surgery, whether patients meet criteria or not. While this surgery may benefit some people who are in a critical point, more efforts should be placed in promoting good health habits and preventing weight gain. High-calorie foods should be treated like tobacco and alcohol, they have to be taxed. Tax money coming from high-calorie food could pay prevention programs and the promotion of healthier food in the media. While surgery may be helpful in some cases, prevention is the highway that leads to health.

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When religion gets into the path of science

21 07 2006

StemcellI want to start this blog talking about science, basic science. It’s not directly related to metabolism or nutrition, but it can affect us some day in the future. I’m talking about the presidential veto on stem cell research in the United States.

George W. Bush has used a special power to ban the support given by the Senate to stem cell research funded by the federal government. I’m not going to discuss if this power the President has is right or not, that’s politics, I just want to say something about what drove him to do it. Religion and politics.

Again Mr. Bush is mixing both things, religion and politics. Mr. Bush could be against funding steam cell research for political reasons, you can agree or not, but that’s alright. But Mr. Bush reasoning is a religious one, with political interests, of course.

It seems that stem cell research “crosses a moral boundary”, and for the president the destruction of an embryo equates, morally, to the murder of a human being… Excuse me?

And what about the death penalty? How many of those Mr. Bush signed during his years as a governor in Texas? And what about Iraq Mr. Bush? I call ALL THAT immorality… and hypocrisy.

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