Beans Are Just As Filling As Beef, Validating Vegetarians Everywhere

Next time someone asserts that a meatless dinner doesn’t “feel like a real meal,” feel free to point them toward this recent study that found beans and beef can be equally satisfying.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota served study participants two lunches on two separate days. The first lunch was beef-based meatloaf, and the second was a bean-based meatloaf. Both meatloaves were equivalent in calories, total fat and weight, though the beef meal contained 26 grams of protein and three grams of fiber per serving, while the bean meal provided 17 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber.

Three hours after consuming each of the lunches, participants reported the same amount of fullness. They also ate the same amount of calories for their next meal, indicating they really were equally satiated by both dishes.

While the participant group of 28 people was small, the results could contribute to debunking the common myth that vegetarians don’t get enough protein. In truth, vegetarians can eat well and feel good.

Protein is touted for its ability to keep people fuller for longer periods of time; it’s often highlighted as the prime nutrient for losing or maintaining a healthy weight. But fiber, which is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, can offer the same benefits and then some.

Previous research has found some serious advantages to erring on the side of plant-based nourishment. Eating mostly vegetarian can improve heart health, digestion and even cut a person’s risk for certain cancers.

You don’t have to cut meat out of your diet cold turkey (heh). Simply adding more greens to your meals and going meatless a few times a week — you can easily join the Meatless Monday brigade — is a great place to start.

Old Red Cells Still OK in Cardiac Surgery

Transfusing red blood cells that have been stored for 21 days or more does not increase the risk of complications following cardiac surgery, according to a new U.S. trial involving more than 1,000 patients.

“It really doesn’t look like it makes much difference clinically,” said the chief author, Dr. Marie Steiner, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. She told Reuters Health in a phone interview that the findings will probably put “a significant damper” on people pushing for fresher blood in such instances.

Previous studies looking at whether older cells posed a risk have produced conflicting results. The new research, known as RECESS and published in the April 9 New England Journal of Medicine, is the first large prospective multi-center study to examine the question in cardiac patients.

It comes on the heels of the larger ABLE study, reported by the Journal last month, which showed no benefit for fresher blood among intensive care patients.

“It’s reassuring,” said Dr. Dean Ferguson, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital in Canada and a coauthor of the ABLE study, who was also involved in an earlier test of new versus old blood in premature infants that produced the same result.

“So now there are three major studies showing no difference,” he told Reuters Health.

Concern about stored blood has been around for nearly two decades.

“It’s a major issue for the blood providers because a lot of the observational work, less rigorous research and animal studies were showing that fresh was better,” said Dr. Ferguson. “They’ve been feeling that pressure for the last few years. That’s why these large trials are needed and helpful. The fact that there’s absolutely no difference is a relief for them.”

All of the 1,098 patients in the new study, from 33 U.S. hospitals, were age 12 and older. Among those who got a transfusion, the median number of units transfused was three.

Half the patients were randomly assigned to receive blood stored for 10 days or less, while the rest received units stored for at least 21 days.

“In the United States, the average storage duration of transfused red cells is 17.9 days,” the researchers said.

To assess any potential impact, they looked for a change in the Multiple Organ Dysfunction Score (MODS) from before surgery at the seventh postoperative day. Patients who died during that period received a maximum score of 24.

 The short-term-storage group, with a mean storage time of 7.8 days, had an 8.5-point change in their MODS scores versus a change of 8.7 in the group with a mean storage time of 28.3 days (P=0.44).

Among the components making up the MODS score, only the hepatic component, which uses total serum bilirubin, showed a significant difference between the groups (P<0.001). “This finding is not unexpected, because red cells hemolyze during storage,” the researchers note.

When they excluded patients who had received a unit that was older or newer than they had been assigned to receive, the outcome scores were still comparable.

Mortality rates were essentially the same — 15 died in the short-term-storage group (2.8%) versus 11 in the long-term group (2.0%) (P=0.43).

On average, people in both groups suffered 1.6 severe adverse events (p=0.75).

Only when it came to a hepatobiliary disorder was a different rate seen, with 5% in the short-term storage group having the problem versus 9% in the long-term group (P=0.02).

“This finding was due entirely to the fact that fewer participants in the shorter-term storage group had hyperbilirubinemia,” the researchers said.

So when it comes to the idea that fresher blood will give better outcomes, Dr. Steiner said, “it surely looks like it ought to be this way in the lab and in dogs, but if you look at the question in a large group of people, it just isn’t that important.”

“My bias is that there’s so much else going (in trauma and cardiac cases) on that the contribution of the red cells is probably not that much,” she said. “You’re talking about people who have been hit by a truck or are having their chest split open. You ask how can one or two units of blood make that much difference. It probably doesn’t.”

The trial was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

SOURCE: N Engl J Med 2015

Study reveals rats show regret, a cognitive behavior once thought to be uniquely human.

Study reveals rats show regret, a cognitive behavior once thought to be uniquely human

New research from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota reveals that rats show regret, a cognitive behavior once thought to be uniquely and fundamentally human.

Research findings were recently published in Nature Neuroscience.
To measure the cognitive behavior of regret, A. David Redish, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience in the University of Minnesota Department of Neuroscience, and Adam Steiner, a graduate student in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, who led the study, started from the definitions of regret that economists and psychologists have identified in the past.
“Regret is the recognition that you made a mistake, that if you had done something else, you would have been better off,” said Redish. “The difficult part of this study was separating regret from disappointment, which is when things aren’t as good as you would have hoped. The key to distinguishing between the two was letting the rats choose what to do.”
Redish and Steiner developed a new task that asked rats how long they were willing to wait for certain foods. “It’s like waiting in line at a restaurant,” said Redish. “If the line is too long at the Chinese food restaurant, then you give up and go to the Indian food restaurant across the street.”
In this task, which they named “Restaurant Row,” the rat is presented with a series of food options but has limited time at each “restaurant.”
Research findings show rats were willing to wait longer for certain flavors, implying they had individual preferences. Because they could measure the rats’ individual preferences, Steiner and Redish could measure good deals and bad deals. Sometimes, the rats skipped a good deal and found themselves facing a bad deal.
“In humans, a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex is active during regret. We found in rats that recognized they had made a mistake, indicators in the orbitofrontal cortex represented the missed opportunity. Interestingly, the rat’s orbitofrontal cortex represented what the rat should have done, not the missed reward. This makes sense because you don’t regret the thing you didn’t get, you regret the thing you didn’t do,” said Redish.
Redish adds that results from Restaurant Row allow neuroscientists to ask additional questions to better understand why humans do things the way they do. By building upon this animal model of regret, Redish believes future research could help us understand how regret affects the decisions we make

What to Do When Work Stress Eats Up the Evening.

Feeling the pinch of work stress in the evening? Before heading home for the night, take a moment to savor the day’s wins.

Forthcoming research  from the Academy of Management Journal shows that workers reported lower stress levels in the evenings after spending a few minutes jotting down positive events at the end of the day, along with why those things made them feel good.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, University of Florida and others, tracked a group of workers over 15 days, logging their blood pressure and reported stress symptoms, such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating and headaches, and observed changes as they wrote down their accomplishments, such as leading a successful sales call, or a presentation that earned a manager’s praise.

It’s no surprise that positive thinking can ease tension. But it might prove more practical than employers’ current approaches for fighting workplace stress, such as offering flexible work arrangements or creating a new org chart that doesn’t actually change daily life at the office, says Theresa Glomb, a work and organizations professor at University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and co-author of the report.

(Need proof that the minimize-negative-stressors strategy isn’t working very well? More than one-third of respondents to this American Psychological Association survey reported chronic work stress. And some tactics, such as offering unlimited vacation time and building community in an open office space, may do more harm than good.)

Listing the good things that happened over the course of a day is valuable in its own right, but Glomb says the real impact comes from writing down why those things led to good feelings. That act highlights the resources and support a person has in their work life—such as skills, a good sense of humor, an encouraging family or a compassionate boss.

The reflections don’t have to be work-related, Glomb adds. Even a tasty lunch brought from home can be a workday accomplishment. In the experiment, about 40% of the end-of-day reflections had nothing to do with work, and reflecting on them still made the subjects calmer later that evening.

Companies shouldn’t rush to institute mandatory reflection time each day, Glomb warns, since that could just add another stressor for time-crunched workers. Instead, they can embed the exercise in the regular work day, perhaps by asking employees to share details of something that’s going well in their lives at the start of a team meeting.

Antidepressants did not increase risk for bone loss in middle-aged women.

Although previous studies have suggested selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants have adverse effects on bone mineral density, a recent prospective study at five clinical centers in the United States demonstrates there is no increased risk for bone loss at the spine, total hip or femoral neck.

According to Susan J. Diem, MD, MPH,from the department of medicine and division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues, these findings did not vary by level of depressive symptoms.

“Our findings should provide reassurance for women in midlife regarding the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) on bone loss during the menopausal transition,” researchers wrote.

The study compared the annual BMD changes among community-dwelling women (aged 42 years and older) categorized as: nonusers (n=1,590), those taking SSRIs (n=311) or TCAs (n=71). All of the patients were enrolled in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), researchers wrote.

According to data, mean lumbar spine BMD decreased 0.68% per year in nonusers, 0.63% in SSRI users and 0.40% per year in TCA users, signaling no statistically significant increased rate of bone loss. Similarly, patients on SSRIs or TCAs displayed no significant bone loss at the total hip and femoral neck, researchers wrote.

In a secondary stratified analysis of depressive symptoms, Diem and colleagues reported no increase in the rate of bone loss among SSRI users or TCA users.

Source: Endocrine Today.


Non-food crops lock up enough calories to feed 4 billion.

Global calorie availability could be increased by as much as 70 per cent — feeding an additional 4 billion people — by shifting cropland use to produce food for humans rather than livestock feed and biofuels, according to new research.

Such a shift could free up calories roughly equivalent to the yield increases achieved for maize, wheat and rice between 1965 and 2009, researchers say in the study, published in Environmental Research Letters this month (1 August).

“When talking about the future of food security, people often suggest that we grow our way out of the problem: that if we just keep producing more corn and soybeans we will be able to feed the world.

Our study provides an alternative point of view,” Emily Cassidy, lead author of the study and environmental scientist at the University of Minnesota, United States, tells SciDev.Net.

Researchers looked at the 41 crops that provide more than 90 per cent of world’s calories. They analysed where the crops are grown, the overall production and also how the crops are used: for direct human consumption, animal feed or biofuels.

“Globally, 36 per cent of all calories are fed to animals. We found that decreasing grain-fed meat consumption by 50 per cent would be enough additional calories for two more billion people,” says Cassidy.

Reducing meat consumption, or shifting it away from beef to poultry and pork, has the potential to feed more people per hectare of cropland because beef is not energy efficient, Cassidy adds.

“When we feed 100 calories of average corn and soy to beef cattle we get only three per cent of these calories back, while the efficiency is better for pork and chickens,” she says.

“We found that decreasing grain-fed meat consumption by 50 per cent would be enough additional calories for two more billion people.”

Emily Cassidy

Researchers also looked at crop allocation in terms of proteins.

“Half of the protein that we produce with crops actually goes to animals for feed. We could have the right amount of protein and amino acids if we were to directly consume crops,” says Cassidy. “We are actually losing a lot of protein in the plant-animal conversion process.”

Yet, the authors recognise that the recent global trends are towards more meat consumption and biofuel production.

“Meat is part of the human culture and it’s important for food security in many parts of the world, but when we increase crop yields in affluent nations we are just feeding animals and this is not turning into much food for human consumption,” says Cassidy.

According to Cassidy, a shift from yield intensification for meat production in rich countries could redirect investments and attention to countries in Africa and South Asia that need to increase crop productivity to feed people.

But Barbara Adolph, a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development, in United Kingdom, believes that the problem is not just related to present agricultural resources and investments.

“One of the challenges is that most of the meat consumption will soon be happening in China and to a lesser extent India, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, where the growing middle class is consuming more and more meat and dairy products,” she tells SciDev.Net. “So re-allocation of crop land in the rich countries will only go so far — we also need to think about changing consumption patterns among the rich in the South.”

Barbara Burlingame, a deputy director at the nutrition and consumer protection division of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, says: “We cannot be dogmatic about meat and dairy consumption, because a little goes a long way in terms of quality nutrients for the diet”.

She adds that “bringing food losses and waste under control, fromagriculture through household and retail, will serve to relieve pressures on natural resources”.

However, she tells SciDev.Net: “If agriculture were nutrition-driven, we would see global demand for meat and dairy decrease, and we would see less land use for biofuels“.



Singing Happy Birthday Makes Cake Taste Better.

Story at-a-glance

  • Performing a simple ritual before eating makes the food more enjoyable – and it works whether the food is chocolate or carrots
  • Rituals may enhance enjoyment because they force you to become more involved in the experience at hand
  • Being mindful when you eat forces you to slow down and makes you feel more connected and involved in your eating experience
  • Rituals can be useful in other areas of your life too, such as before bedtime or helping you to de-stress after work

If you want to make your food taste better, and more thoroughly enjoy the experience of a meal, it may be as simple as performing a ritual first, according to new research from the University of Minnesota.

Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ before eating birthday cake is one example, but the beauty of this finding is that it works for healthy food too, giving simple strategies you can implement today to get more enjoyment out of your food.


Ritualistic Behavior Enhances the Enjoyment of Eating, Improves Flavors of Food

If you’ve ever wolfed down a meal while working, driving or engaging in another task, you probably didn’t feel too satisfied afterward, and this is partly because you didn’t take the time to sit and savor your food.

Along these lines, researchers conducted a series of experiments to test whether performing a simple ritual before eating makes the food more enjoyable, and in each case, the answer was ‘yes.’

  • Participants who broke an unwrapped piece of chocolate in half and ate one half before unwrapping and eating the other half rated the chocolate more highly, savored it more, and were willing to pay more for it than those who ate it however they wanted
  • Those who waited to eat carrots after performing a small ritual enjoyed them more than those who had no delay
  • Simply watching someone perform a ritual, such as making lemonade, was not effective at improving its taste, which suggests personal involvement in the ritual process is key

How You Can Harness the Power of Rituals

The researchers concluded that rituals may have such an impact because they force you to become more involved in the experience at hand:

“Rituals enhance the enjoyment of consumption because of the greater involvement in the experience that they prompt.”

Rather than simply eating a bar of chocolate, for instance, stopping to feel the texture in your hands, breaking it into smaller pieces and waiting to savor each bite slowly is likely to enhance your enjoyment, even allowing you to feel moresatisfied by eating less chocolate.

Of course, this should work for other foods, too, like a bowl of steamed broccoli or a handful of nuts or berries. It’s not so much the food that matters, it’s the ritual beforehand. So you could try shaking the nuts in your hand before eating them, or placing your berries in an attractive dish first to make them taste even better.

This might also mean that as you take steps to prepare your food, such as makinghomemade fermented vegetables, the preparation ‘ritual’ will enhance your enjoyment of them, providing extra incentive to spend more time in the kitchen (a major benefit for your health!).

This also helps explain why certain foods seem to taste so much better at certain times of the year, such as on Thanksgiving or other holidays that involve long-held traditions. This can backfire, too, though, if you’ve become accustomed to watching TV while you snack on chips, for instance. In this case, breaking the ritual may help you to break your reliance on an unhealthy food.

Giving Thanks Before Eating

One of the most rewarding rituals you can do before a meal is to stop and give thanks for your food. Not only might this make your food taste better, but also people who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals.

People who give thanks before they eat also tend to eat more slowly and savor the meal more so than those who do not, lending a natural transition to mindful eating, as described below.

It can bring your family together too, and it’s even been shown by visionary researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto that human thoughts and emotions can alter the molecular structure of water, with positive emotions, such as gratitude, leading tobeautiful crystalline structures within the water. Your food, of course, contains water, so giving thanks before you eat may actually be able to transform your food in beneficial ways that are only beginning to be understood.

Being Mindful When You Eat

Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. In terms of eating, this means you’re focused on your food and you’re really taking the time to chew, taste and savor each bite that goes into your mouth. Mindless eating would be the opposite. Similar to engaging in a ritual beforehand, being mindful when you eat forces you to slow down and makes you feel more connected and involved in your eating experience. There are other ‘side effects’ too, as when you eat slower you give your brain time to register that you’re full, so you’ll likely eat less.

Taking the time to thoroughly chew your food also allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food, helps you maintain a healthy weight, allows for easier digestion, and leads to fewer digestive issues like gas and bloating, all while allowing you to actually taste your food before you swallow… a novel concept if you’re used to eating on the run.

Using Rituals to Establish Healthier Habits

Rituals can be extremely powerful in all facets of your life, especially if you use them to help create healthful habits. For instance, if you want to start getting to bed earlier, washing your face and brushing your teeth can be the ritual you use to trigger your earlier bedtime. Another example would be to spend time journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea or even changing into loungewear when you come home from work as a ‘ritual’ to de-stress from your day and switch gears into relaxation mode.

Getting back to eating, a simple ritual like lighting a candle or two and setting your table can signal to your family that it’s time for a meal together. Saying grace or giving thanks before you eat, as mentioned, is another ritualistic way to enhance the enjoyment as you eat.

The opportunities to harness the power of rituals are truly endless, and only you can determine which rituals will be the most meaningful and productive in your own life. Chances are you have quite a few rituals already, and taking a few moments to create more is a simple way to live better.


Women are more vulnerable to infections.

Public-health officials discount role of sex in people’s response to flu and other infections.

Sabra Klein came to the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction this week armed with a message that might seem obvious to scientists who obsess over sex: men and women are different. But it is a fact often overlooked by health researchers, says Klein, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.


Her research on influenza viruses in mice, presented at the meeting in Montreal, Canada, helps explain why women are more susceptible to death and disease from infectious pathogens — and the reason is intimately linked with reproduction. “She’s one of the people that really gets the bigger picture as far as why do we see these patterns,” says Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in St. Paul.

Women generally suffer more severe flu symptoms than men, for example, despite the fact that they tend to have fewer viruses during an infection. To Klein, this suggests that women quickly mount a substantial immune-system attack to clear infections — and suffer the consequences of the inflammatory responses that flood their systems. “This is where females run into trouble,” Klein says.

She and her collaborators have found this disparity in mice infected with flu viruses1. But when the researchers castrated the males and removed the ovaries from the females, the difference disappeared as the males became more sensitive to infection.

But testes are not simply protective. Klein found that giving the neutered females the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone actually protected them from disease.

For females, infections appear to throw these cycling sex hormones out of whack. They elongate the oestrus cycle in non-neutered female mice — stretching the part of the cycle associated with the lowest amounts of oestrogen from 4-5 days to 8-9 days.

Researchers have long known that immunological cells have receptors for sex hormones, and that autoimmune disease strikes women more frequently than men. Nevertheless, Klein says that her work should have implications for current public-health practices.

Women, who are often less likely than men to get vaccinated against flu, should be encouraged to do so, she says. And researchers may want to examine whether hormone-replacement therapies and contraceptive drugs have unintended — possibly positive — effects on some types of infectious disease.

But most importantly, Klein says, medical studies should take sex differences into account. Many epidemiological studies do not break down results by sex, a practice that she has found can obscure crucial trends2. And clinical trials have traditionally worked around the female oestrus cycle, because it can interfere with results.

To Zuk, Klein has provided a voice of reason here. “Why is it viewed as interference when you have interaction with the endocrine system or some other aspect of the reproductive system?” she asks.

“The age-old answer we get is that funding is tight and if we’re going to compare sexes, we’ll have to double the groups,” says Klein. But on the basis of her work, she says, “I don’t know that that’s actually true”.

Source Nature