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Here’s why saturated fatty acids are bad for our health

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New York, Dec 3: Using a new technique to visualise the distribution and dynamics of fatty acids inside living cells, researchers have found why excess saturated fats, such as those released from lard, are toxic to cells and cause a wide variety of lipid-related diseases.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), also showed why unsaturated fats, such as those from fish and olive oil, can be protective.

The researchers believe that the findings could have significant impact on both the understanding and treatment of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“The behaviour of saturated fatty acids once they’ve entered cells contributes to major and often deadly diseases,” said principal investigator of the study Wei Min, Professor at Columbia University in New York.

“Visualising how fatty acids are contributing to lipid metabolic disease gives us the direct physical information we need to begin looking for effective ways to treat them. Perhaps, for example, we can find a way to block the toxic lipid accumulation,” Min added.

The researchers developed a new microscopy technique that allows for the direct tracking of fatty acids after they have been absorbed into living cells.

The technique involves replacing hydrogen atoms on fatty acids with their isotope, deuterium, without changing their physicochemical properties and behaviour like traditional strategies do.

By making the switch, all molecules made from fatty acids can be observed inside living cells by an advanced imaging technique called stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy.

The researchers found that the cellular process of building the cell membrane from saturated fatty acids results in patches of hardened membrane in which molecules are “frozen.”

Under healthy conditions, this membrane should be flexible and the molecules fluidic.

The researchers explained that the stiff, straight, long chains of saturated fatty acids rigidify the lipid molecules and cause them to separate from the rest of the cell’s membrane.

Under their microscope, the team observed that those lipid molecules then accumulate in tightly-packed “islands,” or clusters, that do not move much — a state they call “solid-like.”

As more saturated fatty acids enter the cell, those islands grow in size, creating increasing inelasticity of the membrane and gradually damaging the entire cell.

“We found that adding unsaturated fatty acids could ‘melt’ the membrane islands frozen by saturated fatty acids,” said first author Yihui Shen, a graduate student in Min’s lab.

This new mechanism, she said, can partly explain the beneficial effect of unsaturated fatty acids and how unsaturated fats like those from fish oil can be protective in some lipid disorders.

IANS

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Obese teenagers can face pancreatic cancer risk

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Pancreatic cancer

New York, Nov 12: If your teenager or young adult child is obese, he or she can be at four-times the risk of developing pancreatic cancer later in life, new research warns.

Researchers from the Tel Aviv University analysed 1,087,358 Jewish men and 707,212 women between 16 to 19 years for the study published in the journal CANCER.

It showed that overweight and even higher weight within the “normal” weight range in men may increase pancreatic cancer risk in a graded manner.

Compared with normal weight, obesity was associated with a 3.67-times higher cancer risk among men and a 4.07-times higher risk among women, the report said.

In addition, high-normal BMI and overweight men were associated with 49 per cent and 97 per cent higher risks for cancer, respectively, as compared to those with low-normal BMI.

Pancreatic cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world and adult obesity has been linked with an increased risk for its occurrence.

It has an extremely low survival rate which has barely improved over the last 40 years.

The combination of complex chemical, biological, bio-mechanical and structural factors found in pancreatic cancer tissues makes it difficult to treat.

Systemic inflammation caused by obesity is a potential driver behind the development of pancreatic cancer. Thus, managing weight could help reduce the risk, the researchers noted.

IANS

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Salmonella resistant to different antibiotics: Study

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New York, Nov 11 : Salmonella, a common bacteria that causes foodborne diseases, are resistant to several antibiotics used to treat infections, suggests new research.

For the study, the researchers sequenced and investigated the genomes of 90 strains of a specific serological variant (serovar) of Salmonella enterica known as S. Typhimurium.

When the action of antibiotics in each of the 90 strains was tested, it was discovered that the vast majority were resistant to different classes of antibiotics that are part of the arsenal of medicine.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, also identified 39 genes responsible for resistance to antibiotics.

“It is striking that S. Typhimurium is resistant to antibiotics that can be used to treat the disease. These drugs are available to physicians for use in combating infections that display resistance,” said Amanda Aparecida Seribelli from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Salmonella comprises two species, S. bongori and S. enterica. The latter is the type species, with a large number of subspecies and serovars that cause more foodborne infections than any other species in Brazil and worldwide.

The human and animal intestinal tract is the main natural reservoir for this pathogen, with poultry, pork and related food products serving as major transmission vectors.

The six subspecies of S. enterica are subdivided into 2,600 serovars.

The most important subspecies of S. enterica from the epidemiological standpoint is S. enterica subspecies enterica, which causes the foodborne infection known as salmonellosis. The symptoms are diarrhoea, fever, stomach cramps and vomiting.

The most frequently isolated serovars of this subspecies are S. Typhimurium and S. Enteritidis.

All the 90 strains analysed in the study belonged to S. Typhimurium.

Whole-genome sequencing of the main bacteria that cause acute diarrohea was the focus of the research.

According to the study, 65 of the strains proved resistant to sulfonamides, 44 to streptomycin, 27 to tetracycline, 21 to gentamicin and seven to ceftriaxone, a cephalosporin antibiotic.(IANS)

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Social media use linked to depression, loneliness: Study

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Social Media

New York, Nov 10: Excessive use of social media including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram is associated with poor well-being which could lead to depression and loneliness, researchers have warned.

The study, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, showed that limiting screen time on these apps could boost one’s wellness.

“When you are not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you are actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life,” said Melissa Hunt from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

For the study, researchers from the varsity, included 143 undergraduate participants.

The team designed their experiment to include the three platforms most popular with the participants.

They collected objective usage data automatically tracked by iPhones for active apps, not those running in the background, and asked respondents to complete a survey to determine mood and well-being.

The participants were then randomly assigned to a control group, which had users maintain their typical social-media behaviour, or an experimental group that limited time on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to 10 minutes per platform per day.

In addition, the participants shared iPhone battery screenshots for the next three weeks to give the researchers weekly tallies for each individual.

The team then looked at seven outcome measures including fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

The results showed that using less social media than you normally would lead to significant decrease in both depression and loneliness.

However, young people aged between 18 to 22 should not stop using social media altogether, suggested the findings.

“Because these tools are here to stay, it is incumbent on society to figure out how to use them in a way that limits damaging effects,” Hunt noted.

IANS

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