All diets ‘have similar results’


Bowl of salad

All diets – from Atkins to Weight Watchers – have similar results and people should simply pick the one they find easiest, say researchers.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analysed data from 48 separate trials.

The Canadian team concluded that sticking to a diet was more important than the diet itself.

Obesity experts said all diets cut calories to a similar level, which may explain the results.

Diets go in and out of fashion on a regular basis, with a current debate around the relative benefits of low carb and low fat diets.

All the same

Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario and the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto analysed data from 7,286 overweight dieters.

The range of diets covered included, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Biggest Loser, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Volumetrics, Weight Watchers, Ornish and Rosemary Conley.

It showed that after 12 months, people on low carbohydrate and low fat diets both lost an average of 7.3kg (16lb). Those on low carb meal plans had lost slightly more at the six-month marker.

The report said: “The differences [between diets] were small and unlikely to be important to those seeking weight loss.”

It concluded: “Our findings should be reassuring to clinicians and the public that there is no need for a one-size-fits-­all approach to dieting because many different diets appear to offer considerable weight loss benefits.

“Our findings suggest that patients may choose, among those associated with the largest weight loss, the diet that gives them the least challenges with adherence.”

Yummy steak
The Atkins diet has a focus on protein

However, the study did not look at wider health issues, such as levels of cholesterol, which may vary according to diet.

Prof Susan Jebb, from the University of Oxford and a government advisor on obesity, said diets were more similar than they appeared, advocating cutting calories to 1,500 a day, sticking to strict meal times and avoiding biscuits, cakes and chocolate.

“The issue is about adherence and it’s how closely and how long can you keep sticking to the plan over time that matters.

“That probably means finding the right diet for you, rather than one being so particularly better than the others.”

She said people should try to match diets to their lives.

Vegetarians would struggle more with a high protein, low carb diet, while people living on their own may find liquid (instead of meals) diets easier than those who would still have to cook for a family.

The best foods for coping with jet lag, motion sickness and sun damage


  • Lemons contain properties that help to fight off dehydration
  • Potassium and magnesium in bananas serve as muscle relaxants 
  • Quinoa is best for digestion problems, ginger is best for motion sickness 

Travellers who are looking for a way to cope with jet lag after a flight across several time zones should stock up on lemons, bananas and cherries when they reach their destination.

They are some of the ‘super foods’ that serve as natural remedies when the body’s internal clock is disrupted after a long flight.

Lemons have properties that will help to fight off dehydration, bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium, which act as natural muscle relaxants, and cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, a hormone that helps to reset the body’s clock.

Tired travellers can also gorge on goji berries to enhance the quality of their sleep or eat fresh ginger as another source of melatonin, according to a Swissotel infographic that reveals the best ‘super foods’ for travellers.

Quinoa is best for digestion problems, ginger is a natural remedy for motion sickness and cantaloupe acts as an energy booster.

For holidaymakers who are spending time in the sun, the cytokinins from coconut water help to protect skin from premature ageing.

Infographic shows the 'super foods' that can help to ease jet lag and other problems for travellers

Infographic shows the ‘super foods’ that can help to ease jet lag and other problems for travellers

Magnets diagnose malaria in minutes .


Tabletop device detects metallic excrement of blood parasites

portable device with magnetic sensors for detecting malaria

MAGNETIC MALARIA  Magnetic sensors packed into a new portable device provide faster and more accurate diagnosis in a malaria mouse model than does current technology.

“With malaria, a few days can be the difference between life and death,” says coauthor Peter Preiser, a parasitologist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “If confirmed in humans, our technique could detect disease roughly two to four days earlier.”

Infecting an estimated 207 million people worldwide, malaria is currently diagnosed in one of two ways. Splashing a few blood droplets on a dipstick can yield a color-coded answer in 15 minutes. These rapid tests can ensure early treatment; however, they miss about one of six cases in patients with low levels of the parasite. In the second method, expert eyes supply greater accuracy by spotting the parasites under a microscope, but this technique requires training, equipment and time.

small drop of blood being inserted into device

In a minuscule volume of blood, just 10 microliters (pictured), a magnet-based device can detect fewer than 100 malaria parasites.

SINGAPORE-MIT ALLIANCE FOR RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY CENTRE

In the study, researchers harnessed magnetic sensors to diagnose malaria infections in five minutes with even better accuracy than routine microscopy. Researchers detected parasites in mouse blood as low as one-fifth the levels perceptible with microscopes. Similar sensitivity in human samples would allow detection before symptoms even appear, upping the chance of successful treatment.“When diagnosis comes too late, it often leads to hospitalization. Healthcare costs go up, and sometimes even with great healthcare, the person still dies,” says Preiser.

The device relies on the inherent magnetism of red blood cells. Each cell is packed with iron-based proteins called hemoglobin.

In the bloodstream, malaria parasites invade and gorge on the hemoglobin, converting the protein into tiny crystallites called hemozoin, says micromechanist Weng Kung Peng, a coauthor at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology in Singapore. The nanocrystals boost the red blood cells’ magnetization, revealing the presence of parasites, Peng says.

The gadget is innovative because of its microelectronicsand because it tracks natural nanoparticles, says Hakho Lee, a biomedical engineer at Harvard University who wasn’t involved with the study.

The invention draws inspiration from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machines, which use magnetic fields to examine the chemical and physical properties of compounds. Less than a decade ago, NMR machineswere the size of minirefrigerators, and the electronic components resembled those from a 1960s television, Lee says. The new device, with its miniaturized NMR technology, could fit in a shoebox.

The next challenges will be to test the technique in humans and make the device even smaller, says MIT biomedical engineer and coauthor Jongyoon Han. Smaller means cheaper, says Han, and the team has already developed a handheld prototype.

Scientists develop flexible solar cell that can be woven into fabric.


Chinese scientists have developed a solar cell ‘textile’ that can be woven into clothes. It’s flexible enough to be bent more than 200 times, and can collect light on both sides.

solar-cells-fabric

Scientists have been trying for decades to develop functional, flexible solar cells, because they could be integrated into fabrics and used to coat irregular shapes and surfaces. And now scientists at Fudan University in Shanghai have developed polymer solar cells that are light, flexible, cheap to produce, and thin enough to be used in fabrics.

According to Jon Cartwright at Chemistry World, to create these new solar cells, they figured out that they could interweave microscopic metal wires – coated in an active polymer designed to absorb sunlight – with titanium dioxide nanotubes and a second type of active polymer to form a textile. Together these components work by having the metal wires absorb sunlight and generate electrons and their positive counterparts, known as ‘electron holes’. The electrons are then conducted by the titanium dioxide nanotubes, and the electron holes are conducted by the second active polymer. To complete the circuit, says Cartwright, the team painted each side of the textile with transparent, conductive sheets of carbon nanotubes.

Publishing their design in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the team report that the textile has been made to be symmetrical so it can absorb light from either side. It’s also extremely flexible, able to be bent more than 200 times with barely any effect on its overall efficiency. The one downside? It’s only the size of your fingernail. ‘The main difficulties encountered are how to scale up the solar-cell textile while maintaining high energy-conversion efficiencies,” lead researcher Huisheng Peng told Chemistry World.

Independent expert and materials scientist Anyuan Cao from the Department of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at Peking University in Beijing commented that while there is certainly potential in the technology, it will not hit the market until it can be upscaled and made more efficient. And that’s exactly what Peng and his team are working on now.

Pulmonary Hypertension Treatment Could Be Derived From “Good Cholesterol” Protein


UCLA researchers have shown that oxidized lipids may contribute to pulmonary hypertension (PH), a progressive and incurable disease that is responsible for narrowing the small blood vessels in the lungs.

In a study entitled “Apolipoprotein A-I Mimetic Peptide 4F Rescues Pulmonary Hypertension by Inducing MicroRNA-193-3p” and published in theCirculation journal, the team used two PH rodent models to understand the role of oxidized lipids in the progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), since these are known to play a crucial role in inflaming blood vessels and hardening arteries, causing diseases such as atherosclerosis.

Click to learn more about a new clinical trial for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.

The researchers observed that apoA-1, a key protein of HDL cholesterol, was able to reduce the production of oxidized lipids in PH, improving the rodent’s heart and lung function.

“Our research helps unravel the mechanisms involved in the development of pulmonary hypertension. A key peptide related to HDL cholesterol that can help reduce these oxidized lipids may provide a new target for treatment development.” Dr. Mansoureh Eghbali, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of anesthesiology at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said in a University press release.

Additionally, the team used a small peptide, 4F, that mimics the action of apoA-1, observing that it decreased the levels of oxidized lipids and rescued preexisting PH in both rodent models. This peptide specifically restored expression of microRNA-193, a micro ribonucleic acid that targets the action of certain enzymes involved in the production of oxidized lipids, such as lipoxygenases.

“The increased amounts of these oxidized lipids due to pulmonary hypertension keeps the expression of this molecule (microRNA-193) under check, which aggravates symptoms of the disease,” first author Dr. Salil Sharma, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher in anesthesiology added in the press release.

Moreover, the team found that the slow proliferation of smooth muscle cells in the lungs of PH patients was a result of low levels of microRNA-193 in the blood and lung tissue of these patients.  By overexpressing microRNA-193 in cells isolated from their lungs, the researchers were able to rescue preexisting PH and downregulate lipoxygenases and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) receptor, a tyrosine kinase that plays an important role in growth and anabolic effects.

The potential of this HDL-related peptide and microRNA-193 in human disease will be the focus of future research, since understanding how levels of oxidized lipids in the blood correlate with disease severity in people with PAH can prove of immense therapeutic value.

Deadly microbes found in US lab


Bubonic plague bacteria

The vials of poisonous substances had been safely sealed, but not stored properly

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A number of long-forgotten deadly microbes have been uncovered in US government laboratories.

The highly poisonous substances were found in a hunt triggered by the accidental discovery in July of vials of smallpox at a lab in the National Institutes of Health near Washington.

They included vials of ricin and pathogens that cause botulism, the plague and a rare tropical infection.

The substances, some dating from nearly a century ago, have now been destroyed.

Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said some of its laboratories were cleared to use poisonous substances and were checked regularly.

But the recent finds were from historical collections that were once allowed to be stored without regulation.

‘Constant vigilance’

They included a bottle of ricin, a highly poisonous toxin, found in a box with microbes thought to be 85 to 100 years old.

“NIH takes this matter very seriously. The finding of these agents highlights the need for constant vigilance in monitoring laboratory materials in compliance with federal regulations on biosafety,” a memo from the agency said.

The authorities said the newly discovered toxins had been improperly stored but were in sealed containers and no employees were in danger of infection.

The search for unregulated toxic substances was initiated after the discovery of long-forgotten vials of smallpox in July.

The virus, believed dead, was located in six freeze-dried and sealed vials. It was said to be the first time unaccounted-for smallpox has been discovered in the US.

The disease was officially declared eradicated in the 1980s.