Stop Nutella! Not because of Cancer Risk…

“Nutella causing cancer” is now trending worldwide, although it was known for few years that some studies are suggesting the risk. So I thought, maybe new studies actually got published backing-up these hypotheses. I started checking the literature and no single study was conclusive regarding the risk of cancer, hence more studies are needed. So with evidence base science we cannot say that Nutella directly causes cancer.

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On the other hand, I stopped eating it for few years now for two main reasons. The first reason, you should always take into consideration the bias, I’m a pharmacist and I know how the big companies lobby their studies. The second reason, Nutella’s main component, Palm oil, has many evidence base health risks other than cancer that are already well established.
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Palm oil is composed mainly of Palmitic Acid, which is a saturated fat. According to the American Heart Association and the World Heart Federation, the high intake of such fat can increase the bad cholesterol in the blood and decrease the good one. On the other hand, sugar makes up tp to 55% of Nutella’s content, so eating  it without monitoring the intake can directly affect and modify the sugar control system in the bodies and specially in kids.

“Nutella is more sugar and fat than hazelnuts.”
Catherine Saxelby Via Food watch 

Finally, this post is not intended against Nutella per se, but the diseases are striking high in the last few years in our societies, which is mainly due to the big changes in our lifestyles including our diets. So as a start, we can decrease the intake of processed food in general, specially when it comes to refined sugars and processed fat. It’s easier than you think! For example here is a simple recipe for some homemade tasty “Nutella” :

Better Than Nutella (Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread)
via bon appetit:

Ingredient:

  • cups (heaping) hazelnuts, preferably skinned (about 10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out nuts on a rimmed baking sheet or in an ovenproof skillet. Roast, shaking sheet once for even toasting, until deep brown, 13-15 minutes. Let cool completely. (If nuts have skins, rub them in a kitchen towel to remove.)

Grind hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until a fairly smooth, buttery paste forms, about 1 minute.

Place chocolate in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water; stir often until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over saucepan; add butter and whisk until completely incorporated. Whisk in cream and salt, then hazelnut paste.

Pour gianduja into jars, dividing equally. Let cool. (Gianduja will thicken and become soft and peanut butter-like as it cools.) Screw on lids. DO AHEAD Gianduja can be made up to 4 weeks ahead; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to soften. Can stand at room temperature up to 4 days.

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How Common is Your Password?

After the security breach in Yahoo e-mails last week, a lot of people start panicking about their passwords and data. As a Yahoo user and non-IT scientist, I started wondering how do passwords work? What does encrypted mean? And how does hacking work anyways?

Well as usual, the answers came from DNews, they published a video yesterday, where they answered those questions and more.

And also, for a good laugh, check this other video, it’s a TED talk where James Veitch from Mashable responded to a spam email and shared his funny experience.

Enjoy those videos while I’m off to change all my passwords … Cheers!

 

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Antibiotic Resistance Re-challenged !

We are living in the era of antibiotics resistance… and even the thought of it should scare you and make you think, what alternative do we, as a species have?! Are we loosing the war against those microorganisms?!

Well those questions were partially answered, two decades ago… yep you read right.

The Soviets started working, before the fall of their power, on the concept of selective Bacteriophage treatment of bacterial infection. Bacteriophages are viruses that only kill bacteria; so imagine your doctor prescribing you a virus for the treatment of pneumonia!

Unfortunately the Soviets did not do their studies with respect to our modern evidence base concept, but those files are being revisited and some studies will start soon.

DNews details the idea in this awesome video… Cheers to such genius ideas!

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Tell me where it hurts

Our ability to feel pain allows us to survive, it’s our response to damage. It’s also hard to quantitate, hard to specifically target and this cloudiness affects more aspects of our lives than we are aware of. According to The International Association for the Study of Pain, it is an:

unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage

Here’s how it works:

As is obvious, addiction to painkillers is no joke. According to the CDC:

Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.  Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have also quadrupled since 1999.

For a brilliant account on the matter, check out Peter Grinspoon’s Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts his Addiction.  

Moreover, a recent report in Science alludes to the fact that exposure to opioids may lower pain tolerance on the long run, which is very bad news for people with chronic pain.

It is obvious that we would like to remove sources of pain away from anyone we love, and it has touched on key societal issues:

Abortion

Besides religious constraints, legalising abortion seems to be acceptable in cases of rape or incest, if the woman’s life is in danger, or if the foetus has medical problems. Some of the arguments also touch on the pain we might be inflicting on the foetus. Even though evidence points at no pain sensation before the third trimester, some states require anaesthesia administration to the foetus prior to the procedure, if not fight for its ban altogether. Poland has recently taken this fight to the streets.

Assisted Suicide

Canada recently announced legalising physician-assisted suicide to the incurably sick, joining a handful of other countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, Albania, Colombia and Japan.

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This Will Bring Tears To Your Eyes

No major drama is anticipated in this post, but I’m gonna talk about onions … yep that bastard veggie that will make you cry every time you cut it and will make your breath stink every time you eat it… Evolution at its best!

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Via: Joy Reactor

While chopping an onion, we are destroying the cell walls and releasing their content. This  is when Sulfenic Acid comes in contact with Lachrymatory Factor Synthase enzyme and gives a volatile end-product named Propanethiol s-oxide. When the latter sulfur-containing volatile compound comes in contact with your eyeballs it will be transformed to Sulphiric Acid, better known as BATTERY ACID!

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Via: Joy Reactor

This acid will burn your eyes, which will cause the brain to signal and induce tears drop to wash it off. hence, the waterworks start and  everyone around start with the never-ending crying-baby jokes.

The key to avoid those unnecessary tears is decreasing the volatility of those Sulphuric compounds released from the onion, so here are few tips from a chef on how to chop onions without crying Via Chowhound:

I’m not sure about the bread thing, and how much it’s effective, but the ice will definitely hinder the escape of sulfur compound from the onion.

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Via: quick meme

Likewise, several sulfur-containing compounds are also behind that foul smell that the onion will leave in your breath… I have say that those sulfur-containing compounds are just nasty bastards!

Those chemicals are readily absorbed from the GI tract to the blood stream and eliminated in the lungs, sweat, urine… The latter is the same as the “Sulfur Gang” that we discussed in our pervious post about Garlic Breath where we also tackled the best ways to eliminate or at least decrease the absorption of those smell-producing compounds.

 

Finally, onions are an essential component of our diet with tons of health benefits, but my advice to you is: Eat it “responsibly!” and that’s to avoid uncalled-for crying and social rejection because of your “aroma”. Cheers!

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Smelling Sunscreen and Tasting Sea Food

Smelling is a marvellous faculty; you’d never know the layers of complexity it adds to your life until you have that stupid cold. This post aims at exploring other areas of smelling your nose hasn’t been in yet!

How does it work?

Can we smell other things?

There’s also a report that witnesses can identify criminals by their body odor. It might be through its ability to trigger memories.

Lastly, if you’re feeling venturous enough, check out the goofy guys at Good Mythical Morning trying to fool their senses by smelling and eating weird combinations *hint in the title of the post*

 

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Coffee Breath: Not My Cup Of Tea

The smell of coffee grind in the morning is one of my favorite scents, and if you’re coffee fanatics as we are, you will enjoy this aromatic drink several times a day; but nothing comes without a price.

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Knowing that it’s very beneficial for the nervous and cardiovascular system in addition to its antioxidant effect, we can easily dismiss Coffee breath as a minor “side effects” of java. But the question is why does it stink your breath?

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We discussed in a previous post Garlic breath, explaining how difficult it is to enjoy the cloves without the scent…unlike our current aroma, which can be eliminated ! 😀

Caffeine is the main component in coffee; 200 mg of caffeine in a 240 ml of American coffee or it can go up to 1 mg in each 1 ml of espresso or Turkish coffee. The more concentrated, the worse the aftermath breath will be.

bad-breathCaffeine will drastically decrease saliva production in the mouth; which will cause a Xerostomia or simply dry mouth. Knowing that saliva has an antimicrobial effect, its scarcity will allow bacteria to multiply more freely. Making things worse is the acidity of caffeine; it decreases the PH of the mouth and transforms it into a perfect incubator for those smell-producing bugs. Furthermore, if you’re a “creamer”, you’re out of luck because those bacteria will actually feed on those sugar and cream that you added and multiply at an even higher rate. Finally, the more aromatic your drink is, the more residues it will leave in your mouth, hence more of that “side effect”.

Knowing that, the “cure” to coffee breath becomes simple hydration…

  • Drinking water and washing your mouth directly after a cup of java can hydrate your mouth and ease you from this burden.
  • Brushing your tongue after a cup of Joe is always beneficial, this way you will get rid of the pH altering aroma-causing molecules.
  • Finally, you can always switch to drinking tea, which also contains caffeine, but they are less aromatic and non-acidic. Disclaimer: Elia doesn’t agree this is a solution 🙂 “Tea has its own time and set of challenges…”

Sorry to interrupt but my cup of cardamom-infused coffee just dried, let me replenish it. In the mean time, let us know in the comments if you would like to know about more how food can affect the body odour. CHEERS!

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Connecting Us Faster than Internet Ever Could

As eloquently as he put it, the last footage with blood donors lining up is worth commending. It’s officially World Blood Donor Day, whose slogan this year is “Blood Connects Us All”.

As we mentioned before, the FDA had partially lifted gay men blood donation ban. The catch is that they would have to be abstinent for at least a year. An article on Wired appeared recently, claiming that individual risk assessment should be a safe enough option. It bases itself on the Italian model, analysing data from 2001, when they shifted from a complete ban to a more selective one, showing to significant increase in risk.

Around the world, people are pouring their souls into linking donors to recipient, as best shown by this motorcycle blood delivery effort.

In a different approach, blood not only links us because of our mutual need but also for not symbolising weakness. Both women and men should feel concerned…watch the clip below, and Happy Blood Donor day everyone.

[Signature drink by E.]

Pancreatic Cancer: Some Good (pre-clinical) News

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers that can hit the body; it’s aggressive enough that studies are even difficult to conduct, which makes new treatment discoveries a very hard task.

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Consequently campaigns are being made to increase awareness of the disease, its symptoms and maybe push scientists to work more to find new treatments. Some of the campaigns were even so provocative to the extend of being controversial. One of the latter campaigns is the Pancreatic Cancer Action ad back in 2014, where Pancreatic cancer patient wished they had breast or testicular cancer:

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Via DailyMail

(Click on the captioned link for the full video of the campaign)

October 2015 was a good day for pancreatic cancer, where a drug Iriotecan (already in the market) was successfully inserted in a Liposome, which can decrease the side effects and increase the efficacy of the medications (news via FDA). But frankly no major change in the treatment was due just yet.

BUT the good news is that someone is now thinking outside the box! Laura Indolfi a biomedical engineer and her team came up with a new drug delivery system. It basically looks like a patch and it’s now being tested in pre-clinical studies. It can deliver medication directly into the tumour while bypassing all the other organs even the blood, and it is inserted with minimal invasiveness and applied directly on the tumour. The latter, will drastically decrease the side effects, toxicities and definitely will increases the efficacy of the drug.

In her TED Talk (shared below) Indolfi explains why it’s hard to treat pancreatic cancer and how her invention can bypass all those difficulties.

Cheers to such inventions! Cheers to such innovators!

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Why Are They So Resistant to Change?

Some things just don’t budge. Changes in organisms happen very slowly if ever. Ironically, our exceptional “real-time” example of biological evolution is one we don’t want to see. It’s called bacterial antibiotic resistance.

We tackled this topic a while ago here on ScienceBar, here’s a brief introduction if you’re unfamiliar with the development of such a phenomenon.

In a brilliant paper by Baquero et.al, this issue is given a public health perspective, outlining possible intervention strategies that would benefit the community.

To break down the problem, 3 stages of development were described, along with strategies to fight them:

1. Emergence. Most prevention strategies are focused on this stage, using antibiotics to kill off bacteria and prevent any resistance showing up –>Aim to decrease absolute number of resistant organisms, host and environmental colonization.

2. Invasion and increasing the frequency of organisms having resistance within a specific milieu–>Aim to decrease host to host and water/food to host transmission

3. Occupation, as best described when resistant colonies remain in someone’s body or hospital settings –>Aim to select FOR susceptible population and maintain their presence. Sort of having local thugs you can crash when needed, versus needing SWAT for terrorist cells.

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This week’s news featured 2 stories that should help us better understand those stages.

Surprises About Antibiotic Resistance Uncovered Via ScienceDaily

“Recent findings revealed a complicated love story between antibiotic resistance and bacterial virulence. There was an ancient paradigm about the ‘fitness cost of antibiotic resistance,’ but the emergence of the new technologies of high-throughput sequencing has changed the field, allowing researchers to study bacterial pathogenesis at the genome scale,” said Dr. David Skurnik, senior author of a new Bioessays article. “This new, unbiased approached has revealed that unfortunately the worst case scenario of antibiotic resistant bacteria being more fit and virulent was not uncommon, particularly during infection.”

Addressing Antibiotic Resistance: Breath Analysis Aims to Reduce Unnecessary Prescriptions Via ScienceDaily

“To confirm whether patients have a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract, doctors currently have to take a number of different samples (blood and sputum), and even chest x-rays in the case of pneumonia,” explained Kejing Ying, who is coordinating the work and is based at the Zhejiang University School of Medicine.

Breathe in, breathe out

Analysing samples from 60 volunteers, the scientists have found a potentially useful link between the presence of exhaled acinetobacter baumannii derived volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and patients diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia.

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