Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Best infant formula milk?

Babies fed on formula milk made from cows’ milk show more rapid weight gain in their first year than those who are breast fed. The excess weight gain in this period is linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other diseases later in life.

Researchers from Philadelphia wanted to know if all types of formula milk suffered from this problem, so set up a test between a cows’ milk based formula (Enfamil), and a protein hydrolysate formula (Nutramigen). Protein hydrolysate formula is typically used for babies who are allergic to cows’ milk.

The babies’ weight and height started off the same when they were randomly allocated to milk type when just 2 weeks old.

By two and a half months, babies on cows’ milk were noticeably heavier, but not taller. At seven and a half months, when the study ended, those in the cows’ milk group averaged two pounds more than those in the protein hydrolysate group. Again this was excess weight gain rather than extra height. The protein hydrolysate group was only a little heavier than breast fed babies.

The researchers speculated that the protein hydrolysate breaks down into amino acids with a similar profile to human milk and that leads to baby feeling fuller faster. Videotapes of feeding showed the protein hydrolysate stopped feeding after fewer calories.

The study appears in the January issue of Pediatrics.


December 30, 2010 Posted by | Child Health, Diabetes, Health, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Pregnancy, Success, Weight management | Leave a comment

What did grandad eat?

First, there was genetics, which was going to tell us the whole story simply by sequencing our genes. However, when our genes got sequenced, the picture only got a little clearer.

Then there was epigenetics (epi means above, so epigenetics is above genetics). With epigenetics, your gene sequence does not change, but genes can be switch on or off (pretty much like lightbulbs) by events that happen. Things are getting more complex if you have to account for both the genes and the environment, and the picture is harder to read.

Now comes inherited epigenetics. This means information about the parents’ environment that is passed to offspring, even if the parent never sees the offspring alive (which cuts out passing this by the more simple route of learning). The genes aren’t altered in the child, but expression (whether on or off) is controlled by the environment of the child’s parent.

Various conditions in the mother’s environment appear to get passed on epigenetically, but in this type of study it is hard to rule out mechanisms such as shared environment while in the womb.

So scientists trying to unravel this puzzle are looking at situations where the parent involved is the father, and does nothing more than supply the sperm (with no other influence in the life of the mother or child).

Dr Oliver J Rando and team have been trying to make headway in this using mice. The father was fed a low-protein high-sugar diet, allowed to mate with a female on a standard diet, but with no other contact. Compared to controls (father on standard diet, mother on standard diet) it was found that the offspring had 1600 genes which expressed differently and 500 where the difference was major. This affected blood fat profiles and cholesterol production.

The team couldn’t say whether it was low protein that was important, or high sugar, or some other factor such as low micro-nutrients. And they couldn’t work out how, precisely, this information was passed on, since they couldn’t find a difference in the sperm of the mice.

Unless you are a scientist this is barely interesting. However, the authors point out that two studies have shown inherited epigenetics in the paternal line at work in humans – but it skips a generation.

To at least a certain extent, you are what your grandfather ate.

In 2002, a research team published “Cardiovascular and diabetes mortality determined by nutrition during parents’ and grandparents’ slow growth period”.

In 2006, another team published “Sex-specific male line transgenerational responses in humans”.

These show that a severely restricted diet at key points in your grandfather’s time increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular death, as you are pre-programmed by granddad’s famine-like environment.

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Cholesterol, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Diet, Epigenetics, Genetics, Health, Obesity, Success | Leave a comment

Long life and health.

In Feb 2010, our top story was that researchers in Australia had found that the body mass index (BMI) guidelines used for the general public are not the best ones for seniors. Later in the year, this article was cited by another one entitled “Survival of the Fattest”.

The BMI ranges used by the Australian team were 18.5 to 25 as normal, 25 to 30 as overweight, over 30 as obese, and under 18.5 as underweight.

The research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society compared all-cause mortality, and cause specific mortality (cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease) across the groups. Nearly 5,000 men and 5,000 women aged 70 to 75 at the start of the study were followed for a period of 10 years.

Compared to the normal weight group, those overweight had an 18% less risk of dying during the study. Even the obese group came in at the same risk as the normal weight people.

Another key finding was that being physically active made a large difference. Compared to an active lifestyle, men who were sedentary increased their risk of death by 28%, while inactive women more than doubled their risk.

The short meassage was fatten up a bit, but make sure you stay active. (Staying active is a theme we’ll return to in the rest of the year’s highlights).

This Australian research has already been cited by 5 other articles published in 2010.

In Sep 2010, 2 researchers wrote an article in the Journals of Gerontology Series A entitled ” Adaptive Senectitude: The Prolongevity Effects of Aging.”

This raised the question that some of the effects we normally think of as declines in old age, (including high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and obesity) may in fact be protective, while anti-oxidants and hormone supplements may be damaging. Or in other words, we don’t yet understand optimal aging.

Today, 29 Dec 2010, a group of scientists which appears to be related to those carrying out the February study has published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, uder the title ” Are the national guidelines for health behaviour appropriate for older Australians? Evidence from the Men, Women and Ageing project”.

Here is their recipe for long life and health.

“Current BMI guidelines may be too narrow because BMI in the overweight range appears to be protective for both older men and women. Across all levels of BMI, even low levels of physical activity decrease mortality risk compared with being sedentary. Our findings suggest that consideration should be given to having different alcohol guidelines for older men and women and should include recommendations for alcohol-free days. The benefit of quitting smoking at any age is apparent for both women and men.”

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Activity, Aging, Alcohol, BMI - body mass index, Health, High blood pressure, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Smoking, Success, Weight management | Leave a comment

Beauty v personality.

The next time you are trying to sum up someone’s personality, first ask yourself how attractive you rate that person.

A team from the University of British Columbia has found that though people tend to rate attractive people somewhat generously, they seem to pay more attention to them and so get the overall personality more accurate than they do for people they don’t find attractive.

80 men and women were split into groups of about 8 people. Each person in a group did a round robin, spending 3 minutes with each other before rating that person’s attractiveness, and how they placed their personality in psychology’s big 5 personality framework. OCEAN stands for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism (or need for stability).

The results were then compared against how the individuals rated themselves in terms of OCEAN.

Prof Jeremy C Biesanz and team reported in the journal Psychological Science that “Overall, people do judge a book by its cover, but a beautiful cover prompts a closer reading, leading more physically attractive people to be seen both more positively and more accurately.”

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Big 5 - OCEAN, Psychology, Success | Leave a comment

Make mine a placebo!

In double-blind trials, placebos have been found to be linked to improvements in a number of conditions, particularly those where the patient self-reports severity of the illness, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

A recent US national survey of internists and rheumatologists found that 50% were routinely prescribing medication they thought produced no specific effect other than that patients believed they worked – a form of placebo.

Dr Ted J Kaptchuk and team ran a study in IBS using people who were told in advance that they would be randomly assigned to get either a placebo or no medicine at all, and they would know which group they were in from the start.  The team wanted to find out what would happen to the placebo effect if people knew what they were getting was just a placebo.

80 patients were recruited via adverts for “a novel mind-body management study of IBS”. During enrollment, they were told that they would get “placebo pills made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes” or no-treatment.

The study ran for 21 days. Before being randomly assigned into the two groups, everyone was told exactly the same four points. 1. The placebo effect is powerful. 2. The body can respond automatically to placebo’s, just like the trained association of Pavlov’s dogs. 3. A positive attitude helps but is not necessary. 4. Taking the pills faithfully is critical.

Start statistics on symptoms were then taken, and at this point the patient (and physician) found out whether treatment was to be no intervention or the placebo.

Check on symptoms were carried out at 11 days and 21 days, using standard clinical questionnaires.

It was found that the placebo effect worked, even though the patients knew they were on a placebo. In fact, as 59% reported significant improvement, the effect was larger than normally found for placebos, which is typically in the 30 to 40% range. And 59%  makes this placebo result comparable to the response rate for current best-treatment medicines for IBS – alosetron and tegaserod.

December 28, 2010 Posted by | IBD, Placebo, Psychology, Success | 1 Comment

Newborn v SIDS this New Year?

If you have a newborn child, the best way to celebrate New Year is lay off the alcohol, and put baby to bed using the SIDS rules.

A team from the US analysed 130,000 cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) over 25 years. These were compared to all causes of death in infants (nearly 300,000) in the same period, and against alcohol related crashes (about 140,000) over a similar period. The study was published in the journal Addiction.

The findings are stark.

SIDS spikes by 33% over average on New Year’s Day. Like alcohol consumption, SIDS increases at the weekend. Children of mothers who consume alcohol are at a higher risk of SIDS than those where the mother does not drink alcohol. 

Lesser spikes in SIDS are 20th April, linked to cannabis, and 4th July, linked to alcohol.

The research team evaluated the clock change to see if it has anything to do with people sleeping in, but it does not.

Here at Team McCallum there are two little folks under 12 months who need the grown-ups to make sure they are safe this New Year.

If you have a newborn, celebrate New Year with a soft drink, make sure you use the best rules for SIDS, and in 2011, Happy New Year to you and your little angel.

December 27, 2010 Posted by | Alcohol, Child Health, Merry Christmas, Success | Leave a comment

Oranges v supplements.

Is an orange just a source of vitamin C say, as per a supplement, or is there more going on?

Prof Tory L Parker and team established the components of a standard orange and the amounts of each found in whole fruit. The team then systematically checked each combination of these compound to see whether the effects were the same as whole orange, more beneficial or less beneficial.

Whenever we eat carbs and fat, we release free radicals that increase the risk of hardened arteries and heart disease. Eating fruit as a dessert protects us from this, as these contain anti-oxidants that mop up the free radicals for a few hours.

The question is – which combination of anti-oxidants works best? Can you just throw everything together and it works?

The anti-oxidants (individual phenolythic compound) in a navel orange are quercetin, hesperidin, luteolin, myricetin, p-coumaric acid, naringenin and chlorogenic acid.

By systematically checking the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) for every possible mix, it was found that some had very high benefit, but one component actually reduced this. This means that while whole orange is good, it isn’t at the optimum.

The team found that hesperidin and naringenin were synergistic, giving an effective that is stronger than merely additive.

The university where the research was conducted has applied for patents on the results, in navel oranges and for similar work done on blueberries and strawberries. No doubt supplements with these mixes will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, remember you can get most of the benefits by ditching the sweet after a meal and eating an orange instead.

December 25, 2010 Posted by | CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diet, Fruit, Health, Success | 1 Comment

Eat yourself healthy.

First published in January 2010, here’s a list of food that not only tastes great, but also improves your health profile.

Almonds. Research just published in Dec 2010 show that these improve insulin resistance in those beginning to develop diabetes.

Apples (unpeeled) for quercetin. Located just under the skin of an apple, quercetin has been found to kill viruses directly. It also increases the level of sirtuin 1. Sirtuin 1 helps in the repair of damaged DNA, and is linked to improvements in type 2 diabetes, aging, and Alzheimer’s. It also appears to increase exercise capacity.

Baked beans for soluble fibre. This helps lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Research published in Jan 2010 found that higher blood sugar levels (irrespective of body mass index) are linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Chillies. Linked to an increase in calories burned as you break down food, lasting up to 2 hours after you eat them. Easy weight control!

Dark chocolate (or cocoa). Various studies published in 2010 found that eating just a couple of cubes of dark chocolate a day, or a cocoa at night, was linked to lower risk of heart attack and stroke.

Frozen peas for vitamins B and C. The B vitamins help the nervous system, the vitamin C helps cut the length of colds.

Green tea. Too many benefits to list! Research published in Jan 2010 found it cut the risk of lung cancer, in both smokers and non-smokers.

Oily fish for omega-3. Another one with too many benefits to list. In an area of the US known as the ‘stroke belt and buckle’, which has much higher rates of stroke than normal, Dec 2010 research linked this to low consumption of oily fish, and with high consumption of fried non-oily fish, which greatly increases uptake of omega-6, to the detriment of omega-3.

Grapefruit. Research in 2005 showed that eating fresh grapefruit before meal led to weight loss. Research published in 2010 tied this down to the active ingredient naringen. Check out all medications before using grapefruit because this potent chemical interferes with quite a wide range.

New potatoes. When new, these have a better glycemic profile, breaking down more slowly and providing a long acting, less peaked energy response than baked potatoes. And in December the head of the US potato marketing board finished a month of eating absolutely nothing but potatoes, to show that they get more criticism than they deserve.

Oats for beta glucan. This soluble fibre lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Olives for monounsatured fat and phenolics. The list of research in 2010 on the benefits of olive oli on the cardivascular system goes on and on.

Parsley for chlorophyl. A good source of antioxidants, but chewing a little parsley after a meal mops up any unpleasant odours.

Poached or boiled eggs, but not fried, for lecithin. Research shows two eggs for breakfast will cut 400 calories from your overall intake during the day. If you are not interested in the weight loss angle, the lecithin gets converted into a neurotransmitter involved in good memory.

Pomegranate juice. A very small glass per day has been found to reverse artery damage caused by cholesterol.

Prunes for ferulic acid, which helps to keep your bowels regular.

Tomatoes. Another in the ‘too many benefits to list category’. As an example, eating tomato products is linked with a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Wholewheat pasta. Another one that gives a long lasting energy source without pushing blood sugar levels through a dangerous peak. It has to be wholewheat!

Turmeric spice for curcumin. The active ingredient, curcumin, turned up ever so frequently in 2010, Protective against too many cancer types to list. Appears to protect the brain against the effects of stroke. Looks to have a neuro=protective effect in brain degeneration diseases, including MS, Alzheimer’s and more. Plus, it makes your rice look really nice!

December 25, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Alzheimer's, Cancer, Capsaicin - chillis, Chocolate, Cholesterol, Curcumin - turmeric, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Diet, Fibre, Fish, Fish oil, Glycemic index, Grapefruit, Green Tea, Health, Multiple sclerosis, Obesity, Olive oil, Omega-3, Omega-6, Parkinson's, Pomegranate, Stroke, Success, Vitamin C - ascorbic acid, Weight management, Whole grain | Leave a comment

Preventing falls in older adults.

The US Preventive Services Task Force is reviewing its recommendations on primary care and preventing falls in the elderly. A team of scientists has analysed extensive research studies to conclude that vitamin D supplements and exercise are the top treatments.

The report in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that the team evaluated nearly 3,500 published studies to identify good quality randomised control trials that related to primary care interventions for falls in elderly adults living in the community. Amongst other results, they ended up with 16 studies relating to exercise and 9 relating to vitamin D.

The exercise trials included gait, balance, or functional training, typically along with strength, resistance, or general exercise.

The exercise studies averaged a 13% reduction in the risk of falls, while the vitamin D trials averaged a 17% reduction.

Other approaches such as vision correction, medication assessment, home-hazard modification, and behavioral counseling weren’t found to be effective in reducing falls.

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Exercise, Health, Success, Vitamin D | Leave a comment

Xmas and New Year on Team McCallum.

The plan for Xmas and January is 3-fold.

1. Recent restricted reporting, due to a complete refurb of the premises, means there is a backlog of good stories to be published over this period.

2. The Twelve Days of Xmas will see what Team McCallum considers to be the top 12 stories of 2010, (with updates where required).

3. After allowing the Twelve Days of Xmas for seasonal indulgence, 7th Jan is the date when a series of reports will start on the best (evidence-based) ways to lose weight and keep it off.

If you’re busy over the festive season, enjoy and come back later to find out what you’ve missed.

But if you’ve got the time to give us a visit, publication will continue daily throughout, including Xmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Merry Xmas,

Team McCallum.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment