The 8 Most Nutritious Nightshade Fruits and Vegetables

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What are nightshade fruits and veggies?

Nightshade fruits and vegetables are a broad group of plants from the Solanum and capsicum families. Nightshade plants contain poisons, one called solanine. While ingesting nightshade plants can be fatal, fruits and vegetables in this same classification of plant, many of which you’ll find at your local grocery store, are actually safe to eat. This is because the amount of this toxic compound is lowered to nontoxic levels once the fruits and vegetables ripen. Still, the leaves and berries of the deadly nightshade plant are poisonous and shouldn’t be consumed. So, which nightshades are the most nutritious?

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a staple of many diets for numerous reasons. In addition to how easy they are to grow, they’re also packed with nutrition. This fruit is high in vitamins A and C and is also a good source of iron, potassium, vitamin B-6, manganese, and dietary fiber.

According to Penn State University’s Extension program, current research suggests that tomatoes contain carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that protect the body from certain types of cancers. Lycopene, the most common carotenoid found in tomatoes, may help reduce the risk for pancreatic, prostate, and digestive cancers.

Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most abundantly grown foods used in the Western world. They’re also part of the perennial nightshade family that can be mildly poisonous when eaten before they’re ripe, while the skin is still green. Potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin C, which helps aid immunity. They also contain enough potassium, vitamin B-6, and fiber to make a healthier staple than you may realize. Moreover, they provide carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, all forms of phytonutrients known to promote health benefits, according to the USDA.

There are also many different types of varieties, which have various health benefits. Potatoes are rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E, along with iron and zinc. They provide an easy way to get necessary, critical amounts of nutrients for people living in developing worlds. Potatoes aren’t as healthy when they’re prepared with high amounts of fats, salts, and oils, like french fries.

Bell peppers

If you need a boost of vitamin C, bell peppers are an excellent choice. One green pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange (who knew?). Bell peppers are one of the tastiest snacks in the nightshade family. You can slice them up and dip them in hummus, add them to a stir-fry, or ????? (You fill in the question marks).

Hot peppers

Hot peppers may be nightshades, but like the sun they can bring some heat, and if your tongue can endure the burn, these fiery devils contain proper nutrients. Common hot peppers, such as jalapenos, serrano peppers, and red or green chilies, are excellent sources of vitamins C and A as well as potassium. Capsaicin, what helps give spicy peppers their kick, has been shown to decrease inflammation, which can help people with joint disorders walk with less pain.

Eggplant

Eggplant is an excellent source of manganese, a mineral essential for both development and metabolism. Additionally, according to researchers, eggplant contains natural antioxidants that can help protect your skin from the oxidative stress of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Because of their meaty texture when cooked, they’re famous for vegetarians, think eggplant parmesan, as well as with vegans.

Tomatillos

The tomatillo is a nightshade that grows in a husk and is similar to a tomato. Common in Central and South America, it’s a staple of Mexican green sauces and can be boiled, fried, or steamed. While not as nutritiously plentiful as your garden-variety red tomato, they contain antioxidants and can help you sneak some extra fiber into your diet without adding in too many extra calories.

Goji berries

To find fresh goji berries, you’ll have to visit a Chinese plantation. However, they’re also typically found at specialty food stores in dried form, sometimes labeled as wolfberries. Goji berries contain protein and many healthy amino acids such as tyramine. They’re high in antioxidants, which help immune function and cell health. If you’re trying them for the first time, know that it’s possible to be allergic to them. You’ll want to stop eating them should you develop a rash or become ill.

Blueberries

Blueberries contain solanine alkaloid like nightshade plants, though they aren’t technically a nightshade plant. Blueberries are often touted as a superfood because many believe they contain cancer-preventing ingredients. They’re high in antioxidants, which are known to reduce inflammation. With that in mind, blueberries are thought to prevent inflammatory diseases such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease.

According to researchers at the Gerontological Society of America, evidence from recent studies show that blueberries contain flavonoids, specifically one called anthocyanin, that’s directly associated with cognitive benefits. A cup of blueberries provides a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs, as well as supplying some dietary fiber. The fiber, when combined with probiotics in yogurt, can keep your gastrointestinal tract in good working order.

Adapted by: Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT

Nutrition Nugget

Drink Plenty Of Water! Yes, you’ve heard that several times but are you taking the advice? Not only will water keep you hydrated but it will help you boost your metabolism. Drinking plenty of water improves your liver and kidney function, too!

Inspiration Nugget

It's better to be slapped by the truth than kissed with a lie. - Russian proverb

 

 

Zinc-binding is vital for regulating pH levels in the brain

Researchers in Oslo, Norway, have discovered that Zinc-binding plays a vital role in the sensing and regulation of pH in the human brain. The findings come as one of the first studies that directly link Zinc-binding with bicarbonate transporters.

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The Morth Group, led by J. Preben Morth, recently published the findings in Scientific Reports. The group is based at the Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway and studies the structure and function of membrane proteins, and their interaction with lipids in the biological membrane.  When we inhale, oxygen is distributed via our red blood cells to every living cell of our body. Human cells use oxygen to produce Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the molecule that fuels vital processes in the cells, such as maintaining the electrical potential across the membranes of the cells that allow us to think and feel. In other words, we wouldn’t “work” very efficiently without this process.

ATP generation is directly linked to the citric acid cycle also known as the Krebs cycle, which leads to the complete breakdown of nutrients. This process ultimately generates carbon dioxide (CO2) as the final waste product, which is expelled when we exhale. However, before we can emit the excess CO2, this critical molecule is involved in one of the most important biological functions in our body: It regulates pH in our cells. This process is incredibly important; if the pH in and around our cells is lower than 6.8 or higher than 7.8, then we are in danger of dying due to cell death and tissue damage.

An example of how essential pH levels are to our health is demonstrated by the fact that pH levels in blood from the umbilical cord are always tested in newborn babies. A low pH value is correlated with a low oxygen supply during birth, which can lead to severe brain damage. When in water, CO2 forms bicarbonate (HCO3-) and is transported by specific transport proteins across the cell membrane. How these transport molecules sense what the pH value is inside the cell is still an open question. However, the work performed by Alvadia et al.describes that the transition metal, Zinc, likely interacts with the proteins that facilitate the transport of HCO3– through the membrane.

This Zinc-binding, therefore, plays a vital role in the sensing and regulation of cellular pH, in particular in the transporters found in neurons of the human brain. This is one of the first studies that directly associates Zinc binding with bicarbonate transporters. Preben Morth, Group Leader at NCMM comments, “This is a basic research project, and at this stage, it is difficult to predict what the medical consequences will be. However, it is likely that Zinc may play a key role in the regulation of pH in the brain and therefore has implications for brain function and health.”

The results have recently been published in Scientific Reports from the Nature publishing group. The research group behind the discovery is M.Sc. Carolina Alvadia Dr. Kaare Bjerregaard-Andersen, Dr. Theis Sommer, M.Sc. Michele Montrasio, Asc. Prof. Helle Damkier, Prof. Christian Aalkjaer, Asc. and Nordic EMBL Partnership principal investigator, J. Preben Morth.

Adapted from: Carolina M. Alvadia, Theis Sommer, Kaare Bjerregaard-Andersen, Helle Hasager Damkier, Michele Montrasio, Christian Aalkjaer, J. Preben Morth. The crystal structure of the regulatory domain of the human sodium-driven chloride/bicarbonate exchangerScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-12409-0

Nutrition Nugget

Pre-Pack Your Meals And Snacks! It’s easy to get caught up with work and meetings during the day, leaving a quick fast-food lunch your only option. Spare yourself the empty calories and money by packing your lunch. Whether you meal prep at the beginning of the week or have leftovers from last night’s healthy dinner, you’re guaranteed a healthy option for lunch. Save even more money when you pack your own snacks to avoid any unnecessary trips to the vending machine!

Inspirational Nugget

Don’t forget to Thank God for keeping you safe through the night and every time you awaken to see a beautiful new day.

 

GP referral to Weight Watchers avoided type 2 diabetes in third of patients (UK)

More than a third of patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes who reside in the UK avoided developing the condition after they were referred by their family doctor (GP) to a diabetes prevention program delivered by the commercial weight management provider, Weight Watchers, finds research published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

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The initiative also helped more than half of those referred either to reduce their risk of developing diabetes or to get their blood sugar levels back to normal. The number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK has increased from 1.4 to 2.9 million since 1996. An even more substantial increase can be seen in the United States (U.S.) with a rise from 7.6 to 23.4 million. A new diagnosis is made every 2 minutes, and by 2025, an estimated 5 million people in the UK and 53 million in the U.S. will have the condition. Horrifying statistics! Risk of developing type 2 diabetes is strongly influenced by lifestyle factors but can be significantly reduced by weight loss, achieved by eating less and exercising more.

The UK’s national health and social care guidance organization, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that certain commercial weight management providers, such as Weight Watchers, can help obese people shed pounds. A U.S. study showed that participation in a commercial weight management program succeeded in reversing progression to type 2 diabetes. However, the effectiveness of this approach in UK primary care has not been thoroughly evaluated. Therefore, the researchers identified 166 patients from 14 general practice surgeries at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes: Those with impaired glucose regulation known as pre-diabetes or non-diabetic hyperglycemia and with a body mass index (BMI) above 30 kg/m2.

These patients were then invited to contact Weight Watchers to book a place on their diabetes prevention program, which included a 90-minute induction session followed by 48 weekly group meetings. From among the 166 primary care referrals, 149 patients were eligible. Some 117 attended the induction, and 115 started the weekly sessions, representing a take-up rate of 70%, which is high for a lifestyle intervention, according to the researchers. The program focused on improving diet quality, reducing portion size, increasing physical activity levels, as well as boosting confidence in the ability to change and a commitment to the process.

Blood tests were repeated at 6 and 12 months to check risk factors, and any changes in weight were recorded by trained Weight Watcher staff. Analysis of the results showed that the initiative led to an average fall in HbA1c (a measure of average blood glucose levels over several weeks) of 2.84 mmol/mol after 12 months to levels regarded as standard. Blood glucose levels also returned to normal in more than a third (38%) of the patients and only 3% developed type 2 diabetes after 12 months. The average weight loss amounted to 10 kg (22lb) at the 12 month time point (a reduction in BMI of 3.2kg/m2).

The researchers acknowledge that not all patients at high risk go on to develop type 2 diabetes, added to which the referral numbers were low, based on the funding available, with few black or minority ethnic participants, men, or those on low incomes. Nevertheless, they conclude that the initiative has the potential to have considerable impact. “A UK primary care referral route partnered with this commercial weight management provider can deliver an effective diabetes prevention programme,” they write. “The lifestyle changes and weight loss achieved in the intervention translated into considerable reductions in diabetes risk, with an immediate and significant public health impact.”

Adapted from: Carolyn Piper, Agnes Marossy, Zoe Griffiths, Amanda Adegboye. Evaluation of a type 2 diabetes prevention program using a commercial weight management provider for non-diabetic hyperglycemic patients referred by primary care in the UKBMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 2017; 5 (1): e000418 DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2017-000418

*If you are looking to knock $30.00 off of your next wine purchase, check out Bright Cellars! You can also find the link posted on the right side of the blog. Happy sippen! 

Daily Nutrition Nugget

Add Protein To Your Breakfast! A protein-packed breakfast will reduce hunger later in the day. This doesn’t mean load up on three kinds of breakfast meats, instead add a hard-boiled egg or some Greek yogurt to your first meal of the day. Try a cup of plain Greek yogurt with some sliced almonds, mixed berries, honey and chia seeds mixed together.

Daily Inspiration Nugget 

People change for two main reasons: either their minds have been opened, or their hearts have been broken.

 

Moringa, Maqui Berries, and More: 8 Superfood Trends Coming Your Way

Move over kale, quinoa, and coconut water! You were so last years. 

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There are some new superfoods on the block, packed with compelling nutritional benefits and exotic tastes. They might sound rather bizarre but, five years ago, who could have predicted we’d be drinking collagen and feasting on avocado toast. These are the superfood trends you should not only watch out for but get excited about.

1. Nut oils

In 2016, nut butter exploded into the mainstream, with many choosing to give up animal products in favor of a plant-based diet. Following suit, nut oils are the new breed of superfood cooking essentials, with cold-pressed almond, cashew, walnut, and hazelnut oils set to be a healthier alternative to the average olive, vegetable, or sunflower varieties. While the nutritional content may be primarily quite similar, it’s worth remembering that not all fat is created equal. Nut oils typically contain less damaging trans fats and are much healthier for the heart. If you’re allergic to nuts, you could try avocado oil, which is coined to be the next coconut oil, as it’s great for cooking!

2. Moringa

Matcha, maca, spirulina, and green tea powder have previously ruled the roost when it comes to supercharging your smoothies, but there’s a new super-green in town, and it sounds more like a new dance craze than something you’d actually consume. Packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and amino acids, the delicate, velvety powder comes from the fast-growing Moringa tree, native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Try sprinkling it into smoothies, yogurts, and juices. On the first impression, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a more peppery version of green tea, but the taste is a touch more bitter. Moringa is said to help manage blood sugar and stabilize histamine production. And despite being totally caffeine-free, it makes for a fabulous natural energy booster.

3. Chaga mushrooms

Admittedly, these don’t look very appetizing, with a lumpy exterior that resembles burnt charcoal. However, these important fungi are high in fiber, which makes them fantastic for regulating the digestive system, while its anti-inflammatory properties can also help soothe any inflammation in the bowels. The high level of antioxidants is another impressive superfood quality of the chaga, with further studies showing that it supports the immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells. While you can buy a packet of chaga to crunch on, it’s more likely to be seeing them on the hot drinks menu as “mushroom coffee.” Interesting!

4. Cassava flour

Move over buckwheat and coconut flour! Used traditionally in Bali and South Asia, this beautifully soft powder is a much closer alternative to wheat for gluten-free eaters. It’s paleo-friendly, vegan-friendly, and nut-free, too. It’s not necessarily a superfood in the sense that it doesn’t offer an overwhelming amount of nutritional benefits that we couldn’t get elsewhere. However, it deserved a place on the list because it’s a perfect fit for plant-based recipes due to its root vegetable base and non-allergenic properties.

5. Watermelon seeds

Taking over from chia, pumpkin, and sesame, watermelon seeds will soon be the new buzz word among superfood fanatics. To enjoy the full goodness, they need to be sprouted and shelled before consumption. But it’s worth the hassle; a one cup serving contains 31 grams of protein and is also a fantastic source of magnesium, vitamin B, and both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Eat them alone as a snack, try roasting them, or sprinkle them over fruit, yogurt, or atop your acai breakfast bowl for a nutritious boost!

6. Maqui berries

Apparently, goji and acai have had their moments, it’s time to let their low-sugar sister shine. With a less bitter taste and milder flavor, these hard working berries contain a big dose of antioxidants, and they can help regulate blood sugar, aid digestion, and boost metabolism. Likely to spring up in powder form and be consumed much like acai, in breakfast bowls, smoothies, and juices, it contains a rainbow of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as fiber. Add two tablespoons of freeze-dried powder to your breakfast smoothie for a superfood hit!

7. Tiger nuts

The incredible superfood benefits of tiger nuts are slowly but surely making their presence known and weaving their way into modern takes on favorite sweet and savory recipes. The small, raisin-shaped nuts contain high amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, and vegetable protein and have prebiotics which aid in digestion. They’re also an excellent source of magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxer that helps maintain healthy kidneys and also prevents menstrual issues in women. They can be easily ground to make flour, or compressed as an alternative to cow’s milk.

8. Probiotic waters

In addition to nut butter, 2016 was also the year where probiotics really started making their way into the mainstream rather than being purely something health-conscious individuals kept a secret. They’d not only crop up in supplements but also in chocolate and yogurts too. Making it even easier for us to boost our gut flora and maintain a healthy digestive system, gut-friendly waters will soon be in our refrigerators. Why eat your probiotics when you can drink them? Offering a more functional delivery, the good bacteria will be in the right place in a matter of seconds by drinking it in liquid form. If you experience regular IBS troubles and irritation, you may benefit weaving one into your daily routine.

So, there you have it. Before long, expect to be sipping chaga coffee while you chow down on a maqui and moringa bowl, topped with watermelon seeds and tiger nuts. You heard it here first!

 Adapted from: Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Eat Breakfast Within 1 Hour Of Waking Up!  When you eat right after waking up, you’re giving your body a chance to maximize your metabolism, regulate insulin levels and keep your appetite under control. By skipping breakfast, your body actually goes into conservation mode to preserve calories meaning you won’t burn calories and you’ll hang onto body fat.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful and magical person that your are. - Mandy Hale

 

 

 

5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy

Before you say goodbye to ice cream and mozzarella, here’s what you should know.

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What to know before you give up dairy

Thinking about eliminating milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products from your diet (God help you; I could never give up cheese!)? You’re not alone. Whether or not to give up dairy, and how to do it is one of the top questions Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is often asked. One possible reason why so many people are ditching dairy? It’s gotten the A-list stamp of approval from those in the spotlight, from Jessica Biel who says she “just feels better” when she doesn’t eat dairy, gluten, or wheat to the Kardashian family where the women claimed that by going dairy-free they lost over 11 pounds in two weeks. And I have to be honest here and say, “Who Cares” but unfortunately these are some of the most “prized” role models.

Many experts stress that quitting dairy is not something to be done spontaneously or without cause. “You don’t need to eliminate an entire food group unless there’s a legitimate reason,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York City. That said, if you do decide to give up dairy, there are five side effects you might experience.

You could miss out on some essential nutrients

Before you swap out your 1% for almond milk, it’s important to remember that dairy products can be part of a healthy diet. After all, there’s a reason why the USDA recommends adults have three cups of dairy per day; milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich sources of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, a critical nutrient for bone health. “It’s important to know how to replace them [if you give up dairy],” Sass says. If you’ve decided to eliminate dairy, work with a dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to create a diet plan that still includes plenty of these nutrients. “It’s not to say that someone who gives up dairy can’t get enough vitamin D and calcium, but it’s not as easy,” says Gans.

Dark leafy veggies, such as kale and collard greens, and fatty fish like sardines and canned salmon are good non-dairy calcium sources. Certain brands of plant-based milk and orange juice are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D, Sass notes, although “they’re low in protein so you may need to bump up your intake of foods like eggs, pulses, or salmon to maintain your total protein intake.” If you’ve eliminated dairy and are having trouble finding calcium and vitamin D alternatives that you enjoy, meet with an RDN to discuss whether or not you should start taking a supplement.

You might lose weight

Wanting to lose weight is often cited as the main motivation to cut out dairy, and Sass acknowledges that doing so may help you shed pounds. “I have had clients reduce body fat after giving up dairy,” she says. An important caveat, though: Weight loss after eliminating dairy “is often due to how they consumed it [before], how much, and in what form,” Sass explains. If pizza, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches were your go-to meals, and you replaced them with lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh produce, then yes, you’d probably see the numbers on the scale drop.

“It’s not dairy itself, it’s the way it’s being consumed,” says Gans. In fact, research suggests that full-fat dairy, in particular, may actually aid weight loss. In an extensive 2016 study in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed higher quantities of high-fat dairy products had an 8% lower risk of being overweight or obese. One possible explanation: Full-fat dairy contains more calories, which may keep you feeling satiated for longer, and less likely to reach for known weight-gain culprits like sugar and refined carbs.

You could feel less bloated

“When people inquire about giving up dairy, it’s usually because they’re feeling bloated,” says Gans, adding that the culprit is almost always lactose intolerance. People with this condition can experience bloating and gas, plus severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps when they consume dairy products. The reason: Lactose intolerant folks do not produce enough lactase, an enzyme that’s important for breaking down a type of sugar called lactase found in milk products. However, “not everybody with lactose intolerance needs to 100% remove dairy from their diet,” Gans says. Cutting back on your overall intake, or consuming dairy products along with other foods (such as cereal with milk instead of ice cream by itself) may be enough to ease symptoms.

If you have a condition that damages the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, you may also get relief from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)–like symptoms when you cut back on dairy.

Your skin might clear up

Some may swear that going dairy-free helps the fight blemishes, but the relationship between diet and acne is an ongoing source of debate among dermatologists. Research stretching back to the 1940s suggests at most a weak link between dairy consumption and breakouts. However, some experts believe the hormones in milk products could play a role in exacerbating hormonal acne, and many people do report clearer complexions when they give up these foods. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends noting any food triggers that seem to aggravate the skin and cutting back with the help of an RDN to make sure you’re still eating a balanced diet.

Other skin conditions may improve, too

There’s no scientific evidence to back up claims that dairy aggravates skin conditions. That said, some people with eczema and psoriasis report fewer symptoms after they cut back or entirely eliminate dairy. In general, when skin is acting up, an RDN may recommend an elimination diet to help pinpoint the offender. Dairy is considered one of the most common food allergens (along with wheat, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts), and is usually one of the groups excluded in such a diet. After a few weeks, food groups are added back to see which one is triggering inflammation.

The bottom line: Cutting out dairy is not a guaranteed fix for those with psoriasis and eczema. However, if you’re experiencing a sudden flare of symptoms, it may be worth trying an elimination diet to find out if a particular food is to blame; However, consult an RDN before attempting this diet.

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Drink Warm Lemon Water! Drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning will start your day off right! You’ll get a boost of vitamin C, clean out toxins from your body and keep your digestion system on track.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Just because some people are fueled by drama doesn't mean you have to attend the performance. - Cheryl Richardson

 

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

B6-dependent protein, potentially opening avenues for new antibiotics and drugs to battle diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, and diabetes.

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Specifically, the team used neutron crystallography to study the location of hydrogen atoms in aspartate aminotransferase, or AAT, an enzyme vital to the metabolism of certain amino acids. “We visualized the first neutron structure of a vitamin B6 enzyme that belongs to a large protein family with hundreds of members that exist in nature,” said Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Andrey Kovalevsky, a senior co-author of the study, which was published in Nature Communications. Vitamin B6-dependent proteins are part of a diverse group of enzymes that conduct over a hundred different chemical reactions in cells. The enzymes are of interest to biomedical, as well as bioenergy, researchers because of their role in metabolizing amino acids and other cell nutrients.

“These enzymes are unique in that each one performs a specific chemical reaction with exquisite accuracy while suppressing other viable chemical transformations,” Kovalevsky said. “How they accomplish this is not well understood, but it is of great significance for drug design.” The team’s previous research predicted that hydrogen atoms move in and around the enzyme’s active site, where the chemical reaction takes place, indicating that the hydrogen atoms’ positioning controls the reaction type. Knowing the precise location of hydrogen atoms can explain why the behavior of these enzymes is so specific, but hydrogen is hard to detect with standard methods such as X-ray crystallography.

To directly determine the positions of hydrogen atoms within AAT, the ORNL-led team turned to neutron diffraction techniques. The researchers exposed fine protein crystals to neutrons using the IMAGINE beamline at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor and the LADI-III beamline at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France. Surprisingly, the team observed a reaction within one AAT protein biomolecule while another AAT biomolecule was unchanged, providing a before-and-after perspective of the enzyme-catalyzed chemical reaction. “The data revealed that in one of the enzyme’s biomolecular structures the covalent bonds reorganized after a chemical reaction occurred in the active site and, in another, the reaction had not taken place,” Kovalevsky said. “Essentially, we were able to obtain two structures in one crystal, which has never been done before for any protein using neutrons.”

With this knowledge, the team will run molecular simulations to determine the hydrogen atoms’ specific behavior when interacting with the enzyme. The results could be useful in guiding the future design of novel medicines against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “This study highlights how neutrons are an unrivaled probe for identifying the location of hydrogen atoms in biological systems, providing us with an unprecedented level of structural detail for this important enzyme,” LADI-III beamline scientist Matthew Blakeley said.

Adapted from: Steven Dajnowicz, Ryne C. Johnston, Jerry M. Parks, Matthew P. Blakeley, David A. Keen, Kevin L. Weiss, Oksana Gerlits, Andrey Kovalevsky, Timothy C. Mueser. Direct visualization of critical hydrogen atoms in a pyridoxal 5′-phosphate enzymeNature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01060-y

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Eat the rainbow! A fun and tasty way to make sure your family is eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables is to eat as many different colors as you can each day.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen but felt only by the heart.

 

 

A dietary supplement dampens the brain hyperexcitability seen in seizures or epilepsy

Researchers have found that inducing a biochemical alteration in brain proteins via the dietary supplement glucosamine was able to rapidly dampen that pathological hyperexcitability in rat and mouse models. These results represent a potentially novel therapeutic target for the treatment of seizure disorders, and they show the need to better understand the physiology underlying these neural and brain circuit changes.

Image result for A dietary supplement dampens the brain hyperexcitability seen in seizures or epilepsy

Seizure disorders, including epilepsy, are associated with pathological hyperexcitability in brain neurons. Unfortunately, there are limited available treatments that can prevent this hyperexcitability. However, the *University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found that inducing a biochemical alteration in brain proteins via the dietary supplement glucosamine was able to rapidly dampen that pathological hyperexcitability in rat and mouse models.

 

These results represent a potentially novel therapeutic target for the treatment of seizure disorders, and they show the need to better understand the physiology underlying these neural and brain circuit changes. Proteins are the workhorses of living cells, and their activities are tightly and rapidly regulated in responses to changing conditions. Adding or removing a phosphoryl group of proteins is a well-known regulator of many proteins, and it is estimated that human proteins may have as many as 230,000 sites for phosphorylation. A lesser-known regulation comes from the addition or removal of N-acetylglucosamine to proteins, which is usually controlled by glucose, the primary fuel for neurons. Several years ago, neuroscientist Lori McMahon, Ph.D., professor of cell, developmental and integrative biology at UAB, found out from her colleague John Chatham, D.Phil., a UAB professor of pathology and a cardiac physiologist, that brain cells had the second-highest amounts of proteins with N-acetylglucosamine, or O-GlcNAcylation, in the body.

At the time, very little was known about how O-GlcNAcylation might affect brain function, so McMahon and Chatham started working together. In 2014, McMahon and Chatham, in a study led by graduate student Erica Taylor and colleagues, reported that acute increases in protein O-GlcNAcylation caused long-term synaptic depression, a reduction in neuronal synaptic strength, in the hippocampus of the brain. This was the first time acute changes in O-GlcNAcylation of neuronal proteins were shown to directly change synaptic function. Since neural excitability in the hippocampus is a crucial feature of seizures and epilepsy, they hypothesized that acutely increasing protein O-GlcNAcylation might dampen the pathological hyperexcitability associated with these brain disorders.

That turned out to be the case, as reported in the Journal of Neuroscience study, “Acute increases in protein O-GlcNAcylation dampen epileptiform activity in the hippocampus.” The study was led by corresponding author McMahon and first author Luke Stewart, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Theme of the Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program. Stewart is co-mentored by McMahon and Chatham. “Our findings support the conclusion that protein O-GlcNAcylation is a regulator of neuronal excitability, and it represents a promising target for further research on seizure disorder therapeutics,” they wrote in their research significance statement. The researchers caution that the mechanism underlying the dampening is likely to be complicated.

Research details

Glucose, the primary fuel for neurons, also controls the levels of protein O-GlcNAcylation on proteins. However, high levels of the dietary supplement glucosamine, or an inhibitor of the enzyme that removes O-GlcNAcylation, leads to rapid increases in O-GlcNAc levels. In experiments with hippocampal brain slices treated to induce stable and ongoing hyperexcitability, UAB researchers found that an acute rise in protein O-GlcNAcylation significantly decreased the sudden bursts of electrical activity known as epileptiform activity in area CA1 of the hippocampus. An increased protein O-GlcNAcylation in normal cells also protected against a later induction of drug-induced hyperexcitability.

The effects were seen in slices treated with both glucosamine and an inhibitor of the enzyme that removes O-GlcNAc groups. They also found that treatment with glucosamine alone for as short a time as 10 minutes was able to dampen ongoing drug-induced hyperexcitability. In common with the long-term synaptic depression provoked by increased O-GlcNAcylation, the dampening of hyperexcitability required the GluA2 subunit of the AMPA receptor, which is a glutamate-gated ion channel responsible for fast synaptic transmission in the brain. This finding suggested a conserved mechanism for the two changes provoked by increased O-GlcNAcylation — synaptic depression and dampening of hyperexcitability.

The researchers also found that the spontaneous firing of pyramidal neurons in another region of hippocampus, area CA3, was reduced by increased O-GlcNAcylation in normal brain slices and in slices with drug-induced hyperexcitability. This reduction in spontaneous firing of CA3 pyramidal neurons likely contributes to decreased hyperexcitability in area CA1 since the CA3 neurons directly excite those in CA1. Similar to the findings for brain slices, mice that were treated to increase O-GlcNAcylation before getting drug-induced hyperexcitability had fewer of the brain activity spikes associated with epilepsy that are called interictal spikes. Several drug-induced hyperexcitable mice had convulsive seizures during the experiments, this occurred in both the increased O-GlcNAcylation mice and the control mice. Brain activity during the seizures differed between these two groups: The peak power of the brain activity for the mice with increased O-GlcNAcylation occurred at a lower frequency, as compared with the control mice.

*I am very proud to say UA (though UA Tuscaloosa) is my graduate program home!

Adapted from: Luke T. Stewart, Anas U. Khan, Kai Wang, Diana Pizarro, Sandipan Pati, Susan C. Buckingham, Michelle L. Olsen, John C. Chatham, Lori L. McMahon. Acute Increases in Protein O-GlcNAcylation Dampen Epileptiform Activity in HippocampusThe Journal of Neuroscience, 2017; 37 (34): 8207 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0173-16.2017

Nutrition Daily Nugget…..and a bit of wine! 

Watch out for added sugars! They add extra calories but no helpful nutrients. Sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks are the number one source of added sugars for most of us.

AND….if you are looking for some excellent wine selections, check out Bright Cellars. The link is also on the right side of my blog for future reference.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Never stop believing in hope. Miracles happen everyday.