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Oct 11

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News: Health Herbal Medicine Research Latest NewsFor our clients and customers to keep up to date with current health and herbal medicine research and their conditions

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  • Catnip and grapefruit are ushering in a new era of insect repellants Tuesday March 16th, 2021

    If you’ve been out in the woods in your life, you’ve probably eaten, drank, or breathed in DEET, and then been filled with regret. But it might not be forever.

    Over the past year, decades of research into essential-oil-based insect repellents have begun to bear fruit. Earlier this month, research on nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip, [published in the journal](https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(21)00217-7) Current Biology, demonstrated the power of the chemical to ward off mosquitoes. And last August the EPA approved another essential oil, nootkatone, which usually comes from grapefruit, to be used as a commercially available bug spray.

    The push to develop essential-oil based repellents comes as mosquitoes have built up a resistance to synthetic products, says David Price, an urban entomologist with the mosquito control company Mosquito Joe. There’s lots of overlap between the repellents and pesticides used to control mosquito populations that carry diseases like yellow fever and malaria, and bugs are adapting to both.

    “We’ve come to this point where, oh my goodness, we are struggling to kill off Anopheles gambiae, the malaria mosquito,” he says.

    Two of the most widely used synthetic repellents, DEET and permethrin, are both over 40 years old. DEET was originally used as a repellent on military clothing in the 1940s, Price says, and was developed by the US government for wars in malaria-prone areas. In the 1970s, the military rolled out permethrin, a more powerful synthetic repellent that kills mosquitoes on contact.

    And even if mosquitoes weren’t developing resistance, the existing chemicals have significant dangers. DEET can be toxic to humans in large doses, and there are concerns about increased sensitivity in children. Pyrethroids, the family of pesticides that includes permethrin, are extremely toxic to bees and other pollinators.

    That’s the allure of catnip and grapefruit: it’s possible that they’ll be better targeted to mosquitoes, and better at warding off resistance.

    The new catnip research found that the essential oil works by triggering a powerful irritant receptor, TRPA1, in some insects. That makes it a bit like the mosquito equivalent of tear gas, which triggers the human version of the same receptor. The oil doesn’t trigger a response in humans, and not all insects are affected, which means that the chemical might be used to target solely mosquitoes.

    “The essential oils are targeted more towards that family of flies, so there’s less impact on our pollinators,” says Price. ” I look at it from a holistic point of view: what’s the effect on pollinators, on mammals, and on our environment?”

    The grapefruit oil seems to work through a different mechanism, although there isn’t definitive proof. So far, the theory goes that it interferes with an insect-specific neurotransmitter called octopamine. “It’s like adrenaline in mammals,” Price says. The chemical regulates communication between neurons, and when it’s disrupted, “the insect twitches itself to death.” (It probably bears repeating: the compound is safe for humans, and regularly shows up in food. It smells like grapefruit.)

    Other research on essential oils derived from cloves, pine, and cinnamon have found similar neurotoxic results in insects.

    The hope is that, unlike DEET, which “tastes” bitter to mosquito feet, those oils target chemical pathways that are more fundamental to insect biology, making it harder for bugs to adapt.

    “There is always a possibility that mosquitoes develop resistance if they are highly exposed over a long period of time,” says Nadia Melo, who studies blood-sucking insects at Lund University, and was the lead author on the catnip research. But, she says, mosquitoes use the same molecular pathways to detect other dangerous chemicals, and so probably can’t give up their ability to detect catnip easily.

    At the moment, only one essential oil based repellent is in widespread commercial use: citronella, which is derived from lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus, and a few other lemon-scented plants. It’s actually highly effective at repelling ticks and mosquitoes, Price says, although it doesn’t appear to kill them. “They pick it up through the olfactory nerves of their antenna, and they understand that this is not a good place.”

    The big difference between citronella and the synthetic DEET is their longevity. Citronella-based products need to be reapplied every 30 minutes to an hour. The same is likely to hold for other natural repellents, Price says. “[Catnip oil] is definitely comparable, if not exceeding, DEET’s capability in the first couple hours. You’ve just got to apply more frequently.”

    Although grapefruit oil has gotten an official seal of approval, and catnip oil is widely available online as an herbal medicine, Price says that the process of developing the inactive “blend” that binds together a repellant takes time. Still, you probably won’t need to wait long: the CDC has estimated that grapefruit oil-based products will be on the market by 2022. Hopefully someday your hikes can smell more like plants and less like an industrial cleaning solution.

    Source: Popular Science

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  • Why a ‘healthy’ sweetener may be bad for your gut: One of most popular sugar-free sweeteners may not be good for stomach bacteria, research suggests Tuesday March 16th, 2021

    Artificial sweeteners are used by millions of Britons to cut their calorie intake and lower sugar consumption.

    The thinking is that these sweeteners, which have few or no calories, are better for the waistline and don’t increase blood sugar levels.

    However, research suggests one of the most popular — stevia — may not be good for our gut bacteria, which play a key role in a host of functions including immunity and mood.

    Artificial sweeteners, which can be added to drinks or sprinkled over food, include sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and the sugar alcohols xylitol and erythritol.

    A more recent option, stevia is a natural, plant-based sugar alternative, which can be bought in liquid, powder and granulated forms and can be used in tea and coffee, or in baking.

    In some cases, it is combined with other sweeteners, and is also added to products such as fizzy drinks, chewing gum and soy sauce.

    Approved for sale in the EU since 2011, it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, so only a very small amount is needed (recommended daily dose is 4mg per kilo of body weight).

    It contains zero calories and, like other artificial sweeteners, does not raise blood sugar levels because it has a glycaemic index — a measure from 0 to 100 of how a food affects blood sugar levels — of 0.

    Because it is derived from a plant, some people see stevia as healthier than artificial sweeteners and it’s becoming increasingly popular.

    The Stevia rebaudiana plant is a member of the sunflower family, and is commonly known as candyleaf — it was discovered in Brazil and Paraguay, but is now grown all over the world.

    Shop-bought products are made from purified extracts of one type of compound found in the leaves of the plant, called steviol glycosides or rebaudioside A (Reb-A) and it is widely considered to be safe.

    But there have been suggestions from animal studies that sweeteners generally ‘trick’ the brain, increasing your appetite — the brain thinks the body is processing sugar, but it’s not getting the energy it expects, so makes you eat more. This was found by a study using fruit flies, published in Cell Metabolism in 2016.

    More recently, research specifically on stevia found it might have some unwanted side-effects on the gut.

    Over the past 20 years, medical research has increasingly looked at the gut, which contains millions of bacteria, known as the microbiome, and identified its importance not only for the health of our digestive system, but also in immunity and preventing diseases such as type 2 diabetes. It has even been linked to brain health and mood-related conditions including depression.

    It’s now known that a healthy microbiome depends on a diversity of ‘good’ gut bacteria. To ensure this we need to avoid the overuse of antibiotics.

    Too much red meat and processed foods can also have a negative effect on the balance of bacteria in the gut.

    However, a healthy diet with fibre and vegetables, plus fermented foods or probiotics containing live bacteria can all help promote good gut bacteria.

    A study, published in the journal Molecules last year, suggests stevia may upset the balance of beneficial gut bacteria. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel studied two forms of stevia: in a herb supplement and purified stevia extract (like you might sprinkle on food as a sugar substitute).

    They looked at how the different forms of stevia affect the way bacteria in the gut communicate with each other, which is important for regulating microbes in the gut and so our overall health.

    The team found that the stevia herb supplement had an ‘inhibitory effect on bacterial communication’, while the purified stevia extract showed ‘a molecular interaction and possible interruption of [some forms of] bacterial communication’.

    This suggests that stevia may contribute to an imbalanced gut and may explain reports of stomach pain and bloating from some people who use it over the long term.

    However, as the study was carried out in the laboratory, it is unclear how applicable the findings are to patients. More research is now needed.

    Dr Karina Golberg, a biotech engineer and lead researcher, said: ‘This is an initial study that indicates that more research is warranted before the food industry replaces sugar and artificial sweeteners with stevia and its extracts.’

    Tummy problems have been reported in people who use stevia products, which often also contain added sugar alcohols. This is owing to a sensitivity to the chemicals, although these reactions are rare.

    Other studies have shown stevia can reduce diarrhoea and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and sweeteners are better for you than sugar. Separately, stevia extract has been shown to reduce signs of fatty liver disease.

    A study on mice by U.S. researchers, published in the journal Scientific Reports last year, found that replacing sugar with stevia extract reduced markers for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, where fat builds up in the liver.

    Fatty liver disease affects one in three people in the UK and one in 20 has a more serious form of the condition, where the liver has become inflamed, which can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis.

    Risk factors for the condition include obesity and high sugar consumption including a large intake of drinks sweetened with sugar.

    The study also found that stevia lowered glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity.

    A reduction in cellular stress and changes in the gut microbiome may be responsible for the benefits seen with stevia.

    Commenting on the latest research on stevia and gut bacteria, Glenn Gibson, a professor of food microbiology at the University of Reading, said: ‘This study is not reflective of the real gut, where thousands of microbial species reside and are waiting to chop up carbohydrates like stevia to help their growth.

    ‘If stevia is broken down by gut microbes, this may circumvent any potential negative effects, perhaps even being positive —because carbohydrate metabolism by gut bugs is usually good news.’

    Source: Daily Mail

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  • The longevity diet: Two servings of fruit and three of vegetables is the ‘right’ combination for a longer life – but only one in 10 Americans are getting enough greens, Harvard study finds Tuesday March 02nd, 2021

    • Harvard University scientists found that the ‘five-a-day’ rule for eating that many servings of fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of death 
    • Eating two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables offered the greatest reduction to death risks 
    • But eating more of either was not linked to any better longevity 
    • The study did not look at how much longer fruit-and-veg-eaters live, but the authors say eating by the ‘five-a-day’ rule could add years to your life 
    • Only about one in 10 Americans eat two servings of fruit and three of vegetables
    • On average, people in the US eat one serving of fruit and 1.5 of veggies a day  

    Harvard University scientists believe they’ve found the ideal diet for living a longer, healthier life: Eating three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day.

    Just about any doctor or diet will encourage you that fruits and vegetables are a crucial source of the nutrients we need on a daily basis, but you might find wildly different advice on how much of each to eat, depending on where you look.

    But that Harvard team thinks they’ve found the Goldie Locks of fruit and veg, and they say the perfect pairing will add years to your lifespan.

    Currently it’s a rare American who gets the recommended two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day: Only one in 10 people in the US stick to the ideal balance according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

    Every year, 45 million Americans go on a diet, and spend a collective $33 billion on weight loss products like supplements or meal plans.

    They all make the decision to alter their eating habits, but when deciding what and how to eat instead, a new dieter is faced with an overwhelming barrage of choices.

    Do you want to go Keto? Whole 30? Intermittent fasting? Mediterranean? Atkins? Vegetarian? Vegan?

    The Harvard study suggests that the simplest plan may be the best one, at least if your goal is to live a longer, healthier life.



    1 medium apple, pear, orange, peach or nectarine

    1/2 of a medium avocado

    1/2 of a medium grapefruit

    16 grapes

    4 large strawberries

    1/4 of a medium pineapple

    1 half-inch thick wedge of sliced watermelon, honeydew or cantaloupe

    1 cup of berries

    1 orange

    A good rule of thumb: A piece of fruit the size of your fist is about one serving


    1/2 a large bell pepper

    5-8 broccoli or cauliflower florets

    6 baby carrots or 1 whole medium carrot

    1 cup of raw leafy kale, spinach or lettuce or 1/2 cup of cooked greens

    1/2 of a small squash or zucchini

    1/2 of a large sweet potato

    Lead author Dr Dong Wang, an epidemiologist and nutritionist at Harvard, and his team poured over two massive databases and 26 studies that encompass information on two million adults worldwide, looking for patterns linking diet and longevity.

    They found found that people who follow the ‘five-a-day’ recommendation made by the American Heart Association – that is, five servings total of fruits and/or vegetables – do indeed live longer than others.

    Compared to people who ate a total of two servings of fruits and/or vegetables a day, those who ate a total of five were 13 percent less likely to die of any cause.

    The link was particularly strong for heart and lung diseases.

    People who ate five servings a day of fruits and veggies were 12 percent less likely to die of heart disease, and a whopping 35 percent less likely to die of a respiratory disease, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

    Cancer deaths were also 10 percent less common among people who ate ‘five-a-day.’

    The data also showed that the greatest benefit was linked to eating one specific combination of the two food groups: Two servings of fruit and one serving of vegetables.

    That’s because death risks fell dramatically the more people reported they ate of each food group – fruits and vegetables – up to a point.

    Beyond two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day, there were no further benefits for longevity.

    There’s no harm in eating more of either group (unless you are overeating more broadly), but the study, published in the AHA’s journal, Circulation, suggests it won’t add any more years to your life.

    ‘While groups like the American Heart Association recommend four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get inconsistent messages about what defines optimal daily intake of fruits and vegetables such as the recommended amount, and which foods to include and avoid,’ Dr Wang explained.

    And not all foods were equal.

    The scientists found no link between higher intakes of certain starchy vegetables, like peas and corn, and lower mortality risks.

    Similarly, eating potatoes and drinking juices didn’t seem to improve longevity.

    In fact, the study authors said they have previously linked consumption of both to higher risks of type 2 diabetes and general.

    Production of juices or canned peas or corn can sap the fodos of their nutrients, and may reduce their natural antioxidant activities.

    Antioxidants are found in berries and and fiber-packed fruits, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.

    They help to protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that are the waste products of various biological processes.

    Free radical peel off from cells and bounce around wreaking havoc that the body then has to repair.

    They accelerate aging, and the human body is not very good at eliminating them on its own, which is why antioxidant food are so helpful.

    Oxidation also contributes to inflammation, which raises risks for and worsens all manner of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

    The study did not examine exactly why each of the foods help to improve longevity, or how many years they might add to your life.

    But inflammation and chronic disease are top risk factors for an early death, and decades of prior research shows that a healthy diet helps to combat each.

    Sadly, most people are not getting the best out of their meals.

    On average, Americans eat just one serving of fruit and 1.5 servings of vegetables a day – about half what the Harvard study recommends.

    Source: Daily Mail

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