Gut bacteria from wild mice boost health in lab mice

Laboratory mice that are given the gut bacteria of wild mice can survive a deadly flu virus infection and fight colorectal cancer dramatically better than laboratory mice with their own gut bacteria; researchers report (October 19, 2017) in the journal Cell.

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The immunological benefits from the wild mice’s gut bacteria may, in part, explain a persistent problem in disease research: Why disease experiments in lab mice, such as vaccine studies, turn out very differently in humans or other animals. “We think that by restoring the natural ‘microbial identity’ of laboratory mice, we will improve the modeling of complex diseases of free-living mammals, which includes humans and their diseases,” said Barbara Rehermann, M.D., senior author of the paper. Rehermann is chief of the Immunology Section, Liver Diseases Branch, of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). “By being so different, natural microbiota will help us to discover protective mechanisms that are relevant in the natural world and absent in the laboratory,” said Stephan Rosshart, M.D., first author of the paper and NIDDK postdoctoral fellow.

Mammals, humans included, depend on their microbiota, the collection of microorganisms they host in and on their bodies. Evolution shapes each animal’s microbiota, favoring populations of organisms that help the animal survive their environment and diseases they encounter. However, laboratory mice are not random house mice plucked from a field or basement. Laboratory mice are carefully bred, fed, and raised in tightly controlled conditions so that each mouse has predictable traits and genetics. This is an excellent advantage in basic biology research, but creating that predictability means that a controlled environment, and not the survival pressures of the outside world, shaped the microbiotas of laboratory mice.

“We hypothesized that this might explain why laboratory mice, while paramount for understanding basic biological phenomena are limited in their predictive utility for modeling complex diseases of humans and other free-living mammals,” said Rosshart. Therefore, the researchers tried to give laboratory mice back what they have lost: A naturally co-evolved wild mouse gut microbiota. The researchers trapped more than 800 wild mice from eight locations across Maryland and the District of Columbia to find healthy, suitable candidates for a gut microbiota donation. They then tested and compared the gut microbiomes (collective genomes of the gut microbiota) of the wild mice (Mus musculus domesticus) and a standard strain of laboratory mice, called C57BL/6, from multiple sources. The researchers confirmed that C57BL/6 mice had distinct gut microbiomes from wild mice.

Researchers then introduced (engrafted) the microbiota of wild mice to pregnant, germ-free C57BL/6 mice. Germ-free mice are raised in a sterile environment and don’t have microbiomes of their own. For a control group comparison, the researchers also engrafted microbiota from regular C57BL/6 mice into a separate group of pregnant, germ-free mice. Four generations later, the mice still carried either the wild microbiomes or the control laboratory microbiomes passed down from their foremothers.

When exposed to a high dose of influenza virus, 92 percent of the laboratory mice with wild microbiomes survived, whereas only 17 percent of laboratory mice and mice in the control group survived. In other experiments, the laboratory mice with wild microbiomes had better outcomes in the face of induced colorectal tumors, whereas the other mice had a higher number of tumors and more severe disease. The beneficial effects of the wild microbiota were associated with reduced inflammation in both models.

The researchers note that more work and evaluation is needed for definitive results, and they hope to improve and expand upon the method of using natural microbiomes in laboratory mice. “We are planning to create a complete microbiological fingerprint of natural microbiota and its potential trans-kingdom interaction by describing all components of the microbiome — for example, viruses and fungi — in parallel and at various body sites,” Rehermann said.

So, it’s ok not to be a germaphobe and let the little critters run free, every now and then!

Adapted from: Rosshart et al. Wild Mouse Gut Microbiota Promotes Host Fitness and Improves Disease ResistanceCell, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.09.016

Nutrition Nugget

Use A Vegetable Substitute! Love spaghetti? Try spaghetti squash. Sure it’s not pasta but just try it, you may like it! Love mashed potatoes? Try mashed cauliflower (OMG it’s heavenly! You will never go back to potatoes). Mix in some Greek yogurt to give it a thick, creamy texture like regular mashed potatoes. While vegetables most likely won’t be the carbs you know and love, they’re a good way to make your favorite meals healthier!

Inspirational Nugget

Even when things seem hopeless, life has a way of defying the odds, overcoming the obstacles and coming back strong. So never give up, regardless of how hopeless things may seem. There is ALWAYS a way.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Top 5 Detox Foods

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Even the most health-conscious among us can go a little crazy on snacks and drinks during the holidays and at springtime and during the summer months, and before we know it, we are back at the holidays. Really, where does the time go? If we are having fun with people we love and care about, then that may also be another reason for indulging in our favorite snacks and drinks. So, when is it not a perfect reason or season to fall victim of the snack trap?

Thankfully, you can kind of have your cake and eat it, too. It’s OK to indulge a little in the foods you love, as long as you know how to get your body back on track. One of the best ways to help your body feel like it’s working at an optimal level is to support the bodies natural detoxification. Your organs are already incredibly well-suited for detoxing things, such as heavy metals, pathogens, and other deleterious compounds from its system. However, sometimes, especially when it’s overloaded and working overtime, your body can use a little bit of detox support.

Eating these foods regularly will help you feel energized and clear-minded. You’ll also notice that side effects of chronic inflammation caused by toxins will disappear. For many people, common side effects are bloating, indigestion, and weight gain, so in a sense, these are “flat tummy” foods, too!

  1. Beets: The root veggie is available year round, but be sure to grab a few at the farmers market before your next summer cookout. Beets support healthy liver function and help it filter out toxins all thanks to something called betaine. This compound, unique to raw beetroot, encourages the liver to cleanse itself and promotes healthy bile production. Try wrapping beets in foil and throwing them on the grill next time you BBQ!
  2. Grapefruit: Juicy, sweet, and tart, grapefruits are good to keep on hand the morning after a heavy meal. The antioxidants in the citrus fruit protect cells from free radical damage. Grapefruit is also very high in fiber, which acts like a broom for your digestive system, sweeping out the gut and intestines until everything is clean and good as new.
  3. Dandelion Root Iced Tea: Not exactly something you can snack on, but still an excellent detoxifying ingredient to have in your pantry! Dandelion Root promotes the production of bile in the liver. In other words, it helps your liver break down and cleanse your internal organs. Make a big batch and sip on this stuff the morning after a night out.
  4. Asparagus: According to the Journal of Food Science, the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus protect liver cells. Because so much of detoxification happens in the liver, it’s important to support this critical organ however possible.
  5. Avocado: Next time you’re feeling a little woozy after one too many skinny margaritas, whip up some avocado toast. A study published in The Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry found that of all fruits, avocado has the most liver-friendly benefits. It’s even able to reverse liver cell damage!

Daily Nutrition Nugget

Be an advocate for healthier kids! Insist on good food choices at school and childcare centers. Contact public officials and make your voice heard.

Daily Inspirational Nugget

Life is so ironic. It takes sadness to know happiness, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.