News bites, February 2016

This article was originally published in February 2016

Paleo peaches

The sweet, juicy peaches we love today might have been a popular snack long before modern humans arrived. Scientists have found fossilized peach pits in southwest China dating back more than 2.5 million years. The findings, reported in Nature Scientific Reports, suggest that peaches evolved through natural selection well before humans domesticated the fruit. (Penn State University)


Gluten sensitivity and the gut

Those who dismiss non-celiac gluten sensitivity as a fad may be proved wrong by a new Italian study suggesting gluten-sensitive people may harbor high levels of a protein in the gut called zonulin that’s linked to inflammation. Levels of zonulin in the blood already have been shown to be high in people with celiac disease, but in the new study, levels in gluten-sensitive people are almost as high. (NPR)


Yogurt prevents hypertension, stroke?

Eating dairy, especially yogurt, could go a long way toward reducing the risk of hypertension and stroke, according to new research in the British Journal of Nutrition. Researchers examined the association between dairy and changes in blood pressure, as well as the risk of hypertension, among more than 2,600 adults in the Framingham Heart Study and found that those who consumed more dairy had a lower risk of being diagnosed with hypertension over the course of the nearly 15-year analysis. Fermented dairy, such as yogurt, proved especially beneficial — one extra serving per week meant a 6-percent reduction in risk. (Dairyreporter.com)


Climate change and pesticides

A new study from Montana State University indicates climate change may make a pesticide less effective. Researchers exposed yellowfever mosquitoes — responsible for transmitting everything from yellow fever to dengue — to the pesticide permethrin and kept them at varying temperatures. In general, the higher the temperature, the less effective the pesticide. Other studies have shown that climate change can diminish pesticide effectiveness by reducing precipitation, which makes it harder for pesticides to sink into soil, or by increasing direct sunlight, which might burn the pesticides until they don’t work well anymore. (Modern Farmer)


Bacon vs. lettuce

Is eating lettuce more than three times worse for the environment than eating bacon? That was the finding of a study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers published in the journal Environment Systems and Decisions. The researchers found that eating USDA-recommended “more healthful” foods — a mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood — increased the environmental impact in terms of energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions. But experts warn it’s unreasonable to compare the emissions of foods on a per-calorie basis, and say comparative studies like CMU’s can yield vastly different results depending on how the foods are raised or grown. (Grist)


Fish farmed in rice fields

California entrepreneurs and researchers are working to use flooded rice fields to rear threatened species of wild Pacific salmon, mimicking the rich floodplains where juvenile salmon once thrived. The Nigiri Project, named after a kind of sushi because both combine rice and fish, has compiled persuasive evidence showing salmon benefit greatly by lingering in flooded rice fields. This technique also shows promise for growing forage fish, which are increasingly threatened in the wild. (Yale 360)


Fish oil helps burn fat?

Fish oil transforms fat-storage cells into fat-burning cells, which may reduce weight gain in middle age, according to a new study in Scientific Reports. It finds that fish oil activates receptors in the digestive tract, fires the sympathetic nervous system, and induces storage cells to metabolize fat. The new study corroborates previous research finding that fish oil has tremendous health benefits, including the prevention of fat accumulation. (scienceblog.com)


Transgenic chicken approved

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a chicken genetically engineered (GE) to produce a drug called Kanuma in its eggs. The drug replaces a faulty enzyme in people with a rare, inherited condition that prevents the body from breaking down fatty molecules in cells. Like the GE goat and GE rabbit the FDA previously approved to produce other pharmaceuticals, GE chickens are not intended to enter the food supply. (Nature)


Fish stocks in decline

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reportedly is the first global-scale study documenting that the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves is declining across the planet. Researchers looked at data from a global database of 262 commercial fish stocks in dozens of large marine ecosystems around the world and identified a pattern of decline in juvenile fish that’s closely tied to a decline in the amount of phytoplankton, or microalgae, that young fish eat. Decline in phytoplankton is linked directly to climate change: Change in ocean temperature affects the phytoplankton population. (NPR’s The Salt)

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