High levels of lutein are found in dark green vegetables, and researchers have compared different ways of preparing fresh spinach in order to maximise the levels of lutein in finished food.
Researchers found that reheating the food in a microwave to some extent compensated for the loss of lutein in cooked food. More lutein is released from the spinach as the plant structure is broken down further by the microwave.(Unsplash)
If you are wondering how to best reap the health benefits of spinach, consume it in the form of a smoothie or juice. According to a research from Linkoping University, Sweden – the findings of which are published in the journal Food Chemistry – this is the best way to obtain the antioxidant lutein.
High levels of lutein are found in dark green vegetables, and researchers at the university have compared different ways of preparing fresh spinach in order to maximise the levels of lutein in finished food.
Many people with atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) have low-grade, chronic inflammation that can be measured in the blood. This inflammation is linked to an increased risk of myocardial infarction.
A research group at Linkoping University previously studied the role of the antioxidant lutein. This is a natural fat-soluble pigment found in plants, particularly in dark green vegetables. The researchers showed in their last study that lutein can dampen inflammation in immune cells from patients with coronary artery disease.
They also showed that lutein can be stored in immune cells, which means it is possible to build up a reserve of lutein within your body. This led the researchers to wonder whether it is possible to influence the level of lutein in the blood by increasing lutein dietary intake.
In the new study, the researchers have investigated which method of preparation is the best way of obtaining lutein. They chose to study spinach, which contains comparatively high levels of lutein and is eaten by many people. Just as many other nutrients, lutein is degraded by heat.
“What is unique about this study is that we have used preparation methods that are often used when cooking food at home, and we have compared several temperatures and heating times. We have also investigated methods of preparation in which the spinach is eaten cold, such as in salads and smoothies”, said Lena Jonasson.
In order to simulate methods of preparation that are often used in everyday life, the researchers purchased baby spinach at a supermarket. They subjected the spinach to, for example, frying, steaming, or boiling for up to 90 minutes, and measured the lutein content at different times.
Spinach cooked in a soup or stew is not heated to as high a temperature or for as long as spinach in a lasagne, for example. This is why the researchers compared different heating times. It turned out that the heating time is important when spinach is boiled. The longer it is boiled, the less lutein the spinach retains.The cooking method is also important: when spinach is fried at high temperature a large fraction of the lutein is degraded after only two minutes.
Reheating lunch boxes in a microwave oven is a very common practice in modern life. The researchers found that reheating the food in a microwave to some extent compensated for the loss of lutein in cooked food. More lutein is released from the spinach as the plant structure is broken down further by the microwave.
“Best is not to heat the spinach at all. And even better is to make a smoothie and add fat from dairy products, such as cream, milk or yoghurt. When the spinach is chopped into small pieces, more lutein is released from the leaves, and the fat increases the solubility of the lutein in the fluid”, said Rosanna Chung, principal author of the article.
Balanced protein intake better for health
Researchers suggest that excessive consumption of protein for building muscle mass could have a negative impact on the body. However, wide-range of protein is best to maintain balance. Amino acids have long been touted by the fitness and bodybuilding communities for their muscle building benefits. From ultra-bulk protein powders to lean mass-promoting snack bars, there’s no shortage of products available for those seeking a muscle boost.
However, protein’s popularity has also meant that less attention has been paid to researching its potentially negative side-effects.
According to the study published in the Journal of Nature Metabolism, excessive consumption of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) may reduce lifespan, negatively impact mood and lead to weight gain.
BCAAs stands for branched-chain amino acids. It’s a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine, and are most commonly found in red meat and dairy.
BCAAs great for adding muscle mass, but science says you could pay for it later.
Researchers have investigated the complex role nutrition plays in mediating various aspects of metabolic health, reproduction, appetite and ageing.
“While diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates were shown to be beneficial for reproductive function, they had detrimental effects for health in mid-late life, and also led to a shortened lifespan,” one of the researchers, Dr Samantha Solon explained.
“What this new research has shown is that amino acid balance is important. It’s best to vary sources of protein to ensure you’re getting the best amino acid balance.”
The current research examined the impacts that dietary BCAAs and other essential amino acids such as tryptophan had on the health and body composition of mice.
“Supplementation of BCAAs resulted in high levels of BCAAs in the blood which competed with tryptophan for transport into the brain,” explained one of the researchers, Professor Stephen Simpson.
“Tryptophan is the sole precursor for the hormone serotonin, which is often called the ‘happiness chemical’ for its mood-enhancing effects and its role in promoting sleep. But serotonin does more than this, and therein lay the problem,” he added.
Dietitian and public health nutritionist Dr Rosilene Ribeiro recommend eating a wide range of proteins.
It’s important to vary protein sources in order to get a variety of essential amino acids, through a healthy and balanced diet rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.
BCAAs are essential amino acids present in protein-containing foods, with red meat and dairy being the richest sources. Chicken, fish and eggs are also nutritious sources of BCAAs.
Vegetarians can find BCAAs in beans, lentils, nuts and soy proteins.
Know the severity of falling sick in the morning
While sickness comes irrespective of the time, the severity of afflictions ranging from allergies to heart attacks differs in the morning from that in the night highlighted a new study. The study was published in the Journal Trends in Immunology which compiled studies, predominantly in mice, that looked at the connection between circadian rhythms and immune responses.
The body reacts to cues such as light and hormones to anticipate recurring rhythms of sleep, metabolism, and other physiological processes. The numbers of white blood cells, in both humans and mice also oscillate in a circadian manner.
Taking into account the above-mentioned facts, researchers in the study found that:
Heart attacks in humans are known to strike most commonly in the morning, and research suggests that morning heart attacks tend to be more severe than at night.
In mice, the numbers of monocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights off bacteria, viruses, and fungi –are elevated in the blood during the day. At night, monocytes are elevated in infarcted heart tissue, resulting in decreased cardiac protection at that time of day relative to morning.
Parasite infections are time-of-day dependent. Mice infected with the gastrointestinal parasite Trichuris muris in the morning have been able to kill worms significantly faster than those infected in the evening.
Allergic symptoms follow a time-of-day dependent rhythmicity, generally worse between midnight and early morning. Hence, the molecular clock can physiologically drive innate immune cell recruitment and the outcomes of asthma in humans, or airway inflammation in mice, the review notes.
“Investigating circadian rhythms in innate and adaptive immunity is a great tool to generally understand the physiological interplay and time-dependent succession of events in generating immune responses,” said senior author Christoph Scheiermann, University of Geneva.
ICMR develops affordable quick test kits for diagnosing genetic bleeding disorders
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has developed a cost-effective and rapid point-of-care test kit for diagnosing genetic bleeding disorders such as haemophilia A and Von Willebrand disease (VWD).
Diagnostics which are currently available require special equipment and are expensive.
“Both Haemophilia A and VWD are under diagnosed disorders in our country. There are only handful of comprehensive diagnostic centres for bleeding disorders,” an official at ICMR said.
“Lack of awareness and diagnostic facilities, high cost of tests are some of the factors for under-diagnosis of bleeding disorders in our country,” he said.
According to the ICMR, the kit is the world’s first point-of-care test for specific diagnosis of any common bleeding disorder and costs less than Rs 50 in comparison to existing conventional test that cost around Rs 4,000 to Rs 10,000.
The newly developed kit would help in diagnosis within 30 minutes of blood sample collection. Also, this will be available at any level of health care system including primary health care centres (PHCs) since it does not require any special expertise or infrastructure.
Worldwide, incidence of Haemophilia A is 1 per 10,000 male births and that of VWD is around 1 per cent of the general population.
“In India, there is no epidemiological data. We may have roughly 80,000-1,00,000 severe Haemophilia cases in our country, but the total number registered with Haemophilia Federation India (HFI) is only around 19,000,” the official said.
Patients with severe Haemophilia A or VWD can have life threatening spontaneous or post-traumatic bleeding like brain haemorrhage and gastrointestinal bleeding. In emergency medical setting, it is important to have a quick diagnosis of bleeding disorders for treatment.
This rapid test kit can be used for the diagnosis of menorrhagia cases/ post-partum haemorrhage (PPH), gynecological complications among others.
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