Every year in science, there are new advancements and researches based upon the previous ones. The science world keeps molding its facts and figures with new experiments and techniques in order to dig deeper into the working of life, chemistry, physics and how their principles work. Scientists are a group of humans who work tirelessly around the clock in order to achieve something big.
The scientific field of food and nutrition interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in our food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health, and diseases of an organism. It basically includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism, and excretion.
I think the most interesting topic for gossip and chitchat is what we eat, what others eat, and how it affects our mood and body. Meetings, events, and plans all circulate around a common question; what’ll be the menu? When students are free from classes in educational institutes, they head straight to the cafeteria thinking, what should we eat today? When tea break time arrives, the decision of whether you should have a hot samosa or a creamy pastry with your cup is an important one to ponder upon. Even when you get up in the morning, the first thing you want is a nice cup of tea or the aroma of an egg sizzling. Let’s face it, one corner of most of our minds daydream or unconsciously think about foods and cravings.
On average, people may spend from 40 minutes to an hour of their day thinking about food, and it goes without surprise that chocolate is the most popular food to be thought of. While each of us has developed our tastes and preferences in the department of munching, little thought is devoted to our health. Is your daily food intake fulfilling the requirements of your body? Do you eat junk food on a daily basis? What about fast food? Fried food? Sugary ones? Fizzy drinks? How many glasses of water do you drink? Do you examine food labels and ingredients before you buy a pack of food? Are salad and fruits important for you? Do you eat red meat? What new diet trends are common in society for keeping yourself trimmed, and are they effective?
Let’s look at some of the latest research and findings in nutrition during the year of 2019.
1. Unhealthy habits can start young; Infants, toddlers, and added sugars. (Elsevier,14 November 2019)
It is usually believed that little babies should be given more sugar. It is added to their milk, baby food, etc. this makes them develop a sweet tooth from a very early age. Eating sweet foods can be bad for the teeth as well as increasing the likeliness for obesity. Little kids are always happy for sweets, chocolates, sugary cereals, and sandwich spreads, etc or want to eat boiled rice or milk with sugar as well. Mothers in Pakistan are happy to feed their kids with Ghee and sugar etc, believing that they are providing them with a healthy diet. This is utterly incorrect. A child needs to develop all the tastes from an appropriate age and eat a balanced diet of whole grains, meats, vegetables, etc along with sweet dishes. Also, since sugars are merely carbohydrates, children need a colorful diet with vitamins, minerals, etc which helps in their proper development. The main point to note here is that the present sugars in food are enough for a child. The extra ones added to ‘fatten’ him up will not be beneficial at all in the long run.
2. Micro-particles could help fight malnutrition. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 13 November 2019)
According to this research, staple food fortification has become much easier and efficient. The micro-particles are made from a biocompatible polymer that protects the nutrients from degrading during cooking. This new strategy makes it easier to fortify foods with vitamin A and Iron. According to a clinical trial that followed, it was shown that women who ate bread fortified with encapsulated iron were able to absorb it from the food, thus proving its compatibility. Fortified food is a better and more economical option than dietary supplements and neutraceuticals.
3. Food comas and long-term memories: New research points to an appetizing connection. ( New York University, 10 October 2019.)
Food comas refer to the periods of rest observed after eating. Neuroscientists have linked these with the formation of long-term memories in humans. After the intake of a hefty amount of calories, we start to feel drowsy. This helps us to form a long-term memory of the flavor of the food. Insulin and the insulin-like growth receptor II help in redistributing the energy away from active behavior to the storage of both nutrients and memory. That is why it is important to not busy yourself immediately, both mentally and physically, right after a meal.
4. No need to cut down red and processed meat for health reasons, controversial findings suggest. (McMaster University 30 September 2019)
Well, this one is a huge surprise. I’ve heard so many doctors and nutritionists highlighting the link of red meat with cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and even cancer that I had to read the heading twice just to make sure. Yes, the heading does mention a controversy, but it is still quite unbelievable that a paper could be published in favor of red and processed meat. The main point discussed here is that five systematic reviews by McMaster and Dalhousie researchers show that cutting back has a little positive impact on health. According to the professors, their studies were contrary to previous ones and no link was established between coronary disease or cancer and consuming red meat. Meat-lovers, dig in!
5. What and how much we eat might change our internal clocks and hormone responses (Helmholtz Zentrum Munich- German Research Center for Environmental Health. November 8, 2019)
Such research has been carried out for the first time, showing how glucocorticoid hormones e.g. cortisol control sugar and fat levels differently during the day and night, while feeding and fasting, rest and activity, over the course of 24 hours.
Each cell in the human body is driven by the circadian rhythm of 24 hours. It is synchronized with the natural cycle of day and night mainly by sunlight, but also through social habits. In a healthy system, glucocorticoid stress hormones are produced every morning by the adrenal gland. The secretion reaches a peak before awakening and propels the body to use fatty acids and energy sources for the day’s activities. When this rhythm is disturbed due to nightshifts, jetlags, etc, metabolic dysregulation like obesity and type2 diabetes, etc prevail.
The knowledge of the action of these hormones can be used to understand their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. They can be synthesized artificially and administered in patients with diabetes, obesity and liver disorders. A link can be developed between lifestyle, hormones and physiology and adaptation to a good routine can be encouraged with strong evidence. Chronomedicine explores the interaction between biological rhythms, medicine, and drugs.
6. Individuals with obesity get more satisfaction from their food (Elsevier, July 30, 2019)
We can all relate. It’s usually the chubby ones who enjoy every morsel of their food and describe it as scrumptious, finger-licking good and indulge in its flavor and aroma. Even in all the movies and cartoons, the fat characters are shown to be the foodies e.g. Homer Simpson, Joey Tribbiani, Fred Flintstone, Pumbaa, Garfield, Winnie the Pooh, Fuzzy Lumpkins, etc.
A new study found no significant difference in taste perceptions between participants of normal weight and those who were overweight. However, obese ones had higher initial taste perceptions, and this may explain why some people eat more than others. People who are foodies actually have good feelings and pleasure associated with foods and are eager to try more tastes and eat more to attain the satisfaction that they crave for.
7. Seeing greenery linked to less intense and frequent unhealthy cravings. (University of Plymouth, July 12, 2019)
This study is the first to demonstrate that passive exposure to nearby green-space is linked to both lower frequencies and strengths of craving. It supports the fact that greeneries be preserved and that eating in a peaceful, natural environment induces the brain to calm down and think about similar natural foods. No wonder expensive restaurants have outdoor fancy lawns and captivating raw salads and fruit drinks on their menus. Cravings for alcohol, sugary bakery items, cigarettes, etc decrease when sitting in a natural environment compared to a hotel crammed with loud music and a zillion people or a fast food outlet teeming with loud mobs. So next time you want to plan an outing, make some cold sandwiches and a nice salad and head to the park! I’m sure that’ll be light on your pocket too, along with your health!
8. It’s OK to indulge once in a while, study suggests: The body adapts to occasional short-term overeating. ( American Physiological Society April 25, 2019)
A smile is surely evident on the reader’s face upon reading this title! Yes, it sure does make everyone happy. Who doesn’t want a nice sweet bite here and there, or an ooey-gooey, cheesy one? Even the strictest of nutritionists allow a cheat day a week, because, yes, our body deserves a break once in a while too. Always worrying about dieting and weight control may affect our mood and body. Our body understands us and covers up our little bouts of snacking once in a while. If within a limit and not too frequent, these itsy bitsy trips down snack lane don’t hurt us at all!
9. The heart ‘talks’ to fat cells. (Temple University Health System. May 9, 2019)
Interesting, isn’t it? And cute, too. To imagine that the tiny cells of our body chitchat with each other in order to pass messages and perform functions. After all, all the cells of our body do reside next to each other in a community. Communication is rudimentary. So, what sacred message does Mr. Heart send to Mr. Fatty?
The senior investigator leading this research, Walter J. Koch, says that this is the first study to provide evidence of crosstalk between the heart and fat tissue that is regulated by the enzyme GRK2. The heart relies on GRK2 to relay information to fat cells regarding metabolism. It directs them on how and where to accumulate in the body and how to act in different body conditions.
10. Only-children are more likely to be obese than children with siblings. (Elsevier, November 6, 2019)
Now, this was quite an unexpected finding! The main point in this study was that families with multiple children tend to make more healthy eating decisions than families with a single child. Researchers also noted that mothers of singletons were obese themselves as well.
As to the conclusions, scientists were confused. Having siblings and eating with them leads to less intake than when a single child sits all alone. Social and domestic factors do also play a part in the food intake of a family. More surveys need to be done in this case to establish a link between eating habits and the no. of family members.
More similar researches regarding advances in Nutrition science research can be found on sciencedaily.com!
Aniqa Mazhar is a graduate of QAU in Biochemistry. She has taught sciences to O levels and is currently planning for her MS in Food Technology. Aniqa’s hobbies are reading, watching movies, writing, calligraphy, long walks, and nature photography.