Monday, May 20, 2013

We’ll All Eat Insects in 2050

They’re creepy, they’re crawly, and they’re most definitely not welcome in our closets and cupboards. But on our dinner plates? That’s a whole different story. A new UN report says humans could become increasingly reliant on insect protein for nourishment. But before mourning the loss of civilized cuisine, we examined why eating bugs could be the next great thing in food — and indulged in a six-legged taste test.

You Want Flies With That? — What It Is

Population scientists generally agree the Earth will be home to roughly 9 billion people by 2050. The recent UN report comes as researchers and governments search for answers on how to feed our next great baby boom. Some estimates indicate we’ll need to double food production just to keep up with demand. One of the biggest challenges for future food producers revolves around protein.
As The Economist illustrates in a nifty series of graphs, current sources of animal protein — especially in livestock-reliant Western countries — are pretty inefficient when it comes to converting animal feed to human food. (For example, it takes a full 8 kilograms of feed to grow a single kilogram of beef.)
That spells trouble for humans and the environment. As we’ve written about before, raising insects requires significantly less water, waste, and space than most of our current go-to meat sources
((An exploration on greenhouse gas and ammonia production by insect species suitable for animal or human consumption. Oonincx, D.G., van Itterbeeck, J., Heetkamp, M.J., et al. Laboratory of Entomology, Department of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands. PLoS One 2010;5(12):e14445.)). Insects can also be downright healthy, high in nutrients like iron and vitamin B on top of their top-notch protein. So, on a planet where environmental and food resources are already stretched thin, population growth necessitates some radical new thinking.
That’s why the UN report, published May 13, is such a fascinating read for foodies (even despite its prodigious, 187-page length): It’s a logical call to arms for eaters worldwide, complete with suggested action plans and current successes in the world of "entomophagy," a fancy term for the eating of insects. From Europe to Asia, companies are already developing efficient, clean methods of producing edible bugs, though much of what gets hatched currently goes toward fish food. (Eating insects isn‘t new for non-Westerners, cultures all over the globe have been enjoying creepy crunchies since the dawn of time.) ((Potential of Insects as Food and Feed in Assuring Food Security. van Huis, A. Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, 6700 EH Wageningen, The Netherlands. Annual Review of Entomology.))
Given a big enough economic impetus — perhaps an impending global food crisis — a huge market could emerge to breed bugs as high in flavor as they are in energy. And that means we might not be far off from crickets, mealworms, and even cockroaches hitting dinner plates everywhere.

Grasshopper Tacos — The Taste Test

Of course, it’s one thing to postulate about the future of food; we had to put our bugs where our mouths were. That meant a trip to Toloache, an eatery in midtown NYC known for their margaritas and, uhm, grasshopper tacos. One takeout order of the "chapulines" — which the server assured me were freshly pan fried — and I was back to Greatist HQ, ready for my inaugural insect meal.
Grasshopper Tacos
I couldn’t help but feel an inherent twinge of hesitation before I took the first bite, and I worried my (largely senseless) American sensibilities could get the better of me.
That aversion isn’t entirely without merit, as most people who grow up in the U.S. aren’t first exposed to insects under sanitary conditions. But while popping non food-grade arthropods in our mouths isn’t the best idea, I reminded myself that it wasn’t all that different in principal than eating related exo-skeletal treats like lobster or crab. (I could see seafood aficionados as the first to adopt an insect-heavy diet.)
Another possible and momentary aversion was the vast number of individual organisms I was about to eat in one sitting. And if tacos full of grasshoppers are bad, imagine how many mealworms would go into an imitation beef patty. But as someone who’s enjoyed plenty of hamburgers over the last decade, I’m already used to sampling from potentially hundreds of animals per bite
With no excuses left, I took the plunge, along with a few other brave greatists who lurked too close to lunchtime. The verdict? Not bad, with an aftertaste like roasted nuts and lemongrass. While they won’t be replacing my favorite taco fillings anytime soon, the grasshoppers provided a nice salty crunch that worked especially well with guacamole. The other tasters echoed my sentiments, though we couldn’t agree on exactly what they tasted like beyond salsa verde (which they happened to be cooked in).
That illustrates a key point in modern cuisine that should give picky eaters some solace: At the end of the day — and in an age of both international seasonings and chemical flavor enhancements — insects will probably end up tasting however we want them to taste. Texture might be a tougher obstacle, as it is for almost all imitation meat. But it’s surely not an impossible issue to overcome, and hey, the grasshoppers I tested already lend themselves to crunchy, bagged snacks. So while eating insects will undoubtedly take some getting used to for Westerners, the question will inevitably shift from “Why do I have to eat bugs?” to “Are these crickets free range?”
Would you eat insects as a primary food source? Sound off below

New Drug May Help Immune System Fight Cancer

 An experimental drug that taps the power of the body‘s immune system to fight cancer is shrinking tumors in patients for whom other treatments have failed, an early study shows.
The drug binds to a protein called PD-L1 that sits on the surface of cancer cells and makes them invisible to the immune system, almost like a cloaking device.
"That [the protein] allows the tumor cell to grow unchecked and cause harm to the patient," said study author Dr. Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale University.
But with the protein blocked, the immune system can see and destroy cancer cells.
Of 140 patients in the pilot safety study, 29 (or 21 percent) initially saw significant tumor shrinkage after at least three months on the medication. Researchers say 26 patients have continued to respond over time, including some who have been on the drug for more than a year. One patient saw tumors disappear completely.
The drug also seems to work on a wide range of cancers, including some of the toughest to treat, including non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma skin cancer, colorectal cancer, kidney cancer and stomach cancer.
"This has all the characteristics of a really amazing drug," said Herbst, who has been testing new cancer medications for two decades. "I can count on one hand the number of times I‘ve seen response rates like this."
The study was funded by Genentech/Roche, the company that is developing the drug. The results were presented at a Wednesday news conference organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in advance of its annual meeting, which starts May 31 in Chicago.
Study results presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary because they have not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in a medical journal.
At least four other companies -- Merck, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, MedImmune and Amplimmune -- also are racing to develop drugs that target PD-L1 or the molecule that binds to it (PD-1).
"I don‘t think in the history of cancer therapy have you had five or more companies virtually simultaneously developing antibodies targeted at the same pathway," said Dr. Drew Pardoll, co-director of cancer immunology at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Baltimore.
Pardoll is testing a drug that targets PD-1 for Bristol-Myers Squibb. He was not involved in the current study.
The drugs are part of a wave of new treatments that work by spurring the immune system to take on tumors. These drugs are building on the successes of medications like Provenge, the first cancer immunotherapy, which was approved in 2010 to treat prostate tumors, and Yervoy, which was approved in 2011 to treat metastatic melanoma.
Yervoy works early in the immune reaction to wake up T-cells that are essentially napping on the job, Pardoll said. The PD-1 and PD-L1 drugs work later, at the cellular level.
"This is a whole new kind of treatment, and the early data has looked so impressive," Pardoll said. "I think this just reflects the excitement among biotechnology companies and big pharma in this field."
To understand why researchers are excited, it helps to understand how poorly most cancer drugs perform in early trials. A study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research in August 2005 found that middle-of-the-road response rates for cancer drugs in early trials was just 3 percent, with the best response rate topping out at 18 percent.
Response rates are so dismal in part because doctors usually don‘t try unproven drugs in cancer patients until they have run out of other options. All the patients in this study had seen their cancer progress despite several prior treatments. Most had seen their cancer spread beyond its original site.
Pardoll said he also has been impressed with the length of time that patients continue to see benefits from the medications in the new study.
"Among the patients that did respond to anti-PD-1, who had been followed for more than a year, roughly two-thirds were still in a response a year out," he said. "That‘s something you don‘t see with chemotherapy; you don‘t see it with current targeted therapies.
"We think this is because the immune system is being re-educated," Pardoll said. "If that‘s the case, will we be able to discontinue the antibody and have the patient‘s immune system take over and keep the cancer at bay?"
Although the drugs have great promise, the researchers said they also were keeping an eye on the adverse events they can cause, some of which have been very serious.
PD stands for programmed death, and together the two molecules work to switch off the body‘s immune response.
Blocking one or the other keeps the immune system active, which is good for fighting cancer, but there are also early signs that manipulating this response may have a downside.
Some patients had side effects that researchers believe are caused by autoimmunity -- the body mistakenly attacking its own organs and tissues. Those side effects include lung and liver inflammation, rashes and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), perhaps because of a problem with the thyroid gland.
In a study published in a June 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, three patients who were taking an anti-PD-1 drug died from pneumonitis, or inflammation of the lungs.
The researchers said they‘re working to understand why the drugs seem to be particularly toxic to the lungs and to mitigate their adverse effects.
"We need to be cautious about the toxicities," Herbst said. "It‘s great that we‘re making progress, and now we need to go to randomized trials."
More information
To find clinical trials that are testing immunotherapy drugs, head to the Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network.

College Women More Prone to Problem Drinking Than Men

 It comes as little surprise that college students sometimes binge drink, but new research shows that college women are more likely to drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol on a weekly basis than are college men.
Much of this difference is probably because the amount of alcohol that‘s considered safe on a weekly basis is much lower for women than it is for men: seven drinks for women versus 14 for men. But, there‘s good reason for that difference. Women don‘t metabolize alcohol in the same way as men, and lesser amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer and liver disease in women.
Throughout the study, 15 percent of women exceeded weekly drinking limits compared to 12 percent of men. In addition, men‘s weekly drinking appeared to go down throughout the year, but not so for women.
"College women adopt a drinking style that will cause toxicity soon. Overall, women drink less than men do, but they don‘t seem to know how much less they should be drinking in a week," explained Bettina Hoeppner, lead study author and an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.
Hoeppner said the biggest concern is that women may be setting themselves up for long-term health problems, particularly if they‘re not aware of the safe weekly alcohol limits. She noted that women might think they‘re fine if they don‘t binge drink, but it‘s easy to hit the weekly limit by just having a glass of wine with dinner every night.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines low-risk drinking as no more than three drinks a day or seven drinks a week for women. For men, those limits are four drinks a day and 14 drinks a week.
The daily limits were set to avoid the physical and thinking problems that can occur from drinking too much in one day. The weekly limits took into account how much alcohol someone would need to consume to raise their risk of chronic health conditions, such as liver disease, sleep disorders, heart disease and some cancers.
Hoeppner‘s study included 992 college students: 575 females and 417 males. The students provided biweekly reports of their daily drinking habits through a Web-based questionnaire.
Two-thirds of both the men and women exceeded the NIAAA weekly or daily guidelines at least once during the year, according to the study. Slightly more than 51 percent of the women and about 45 percent of the men exceeded weekly drinking limits at least once during the year.
Men were slightly more likely to exceed daily limits than women: 28 percent of men versus 25 percent of women, but the researchers said this difference wasn‘t statistically significant.
The study findings appear online May 17 and in the upcoming October print issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Dr. Marc Galanter, director of the division of alcoholism and drug abuse at the NYU Langone Medical Center, said he suspects that college women may be trying to drink as much as their male counterparts. "I think these young women are independent souls and are motivated to drink in a manner that‘s similar to the way that men are drinking," he said. "In terms of what‘s considered normative, there isn‘t much difference between men and women now."
But, he cautioned, "Comparable levels of drinking for women have a greater impact in terms of intoxication."
Study author Hoeppner said she didn‘t think that women were necessarily trying to drink as much as men, just that they might not be as aware of what‘s considered a safe weekly limit.
"Women need to be reminded that there are weekly limits, and women can exceed those limits quickly. It‘s important to track the number of drinks you have per week, not just on occasion. And, alcohol prevention information should address the rationale behind weekly limits," Hoeppner suggested.

Study Links Coffee to Lower Risk for Rare Liver Disease

 Just a few extra cups of coffee each month might help prevent the development of an autoimmune liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a new study suggests. 
Investigators from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found that drinking coffee was associated with a reduced risk of developing the disease, which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and biliary cancer. This association, however, does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
"While rare, PSC has extremely detrimental effects," Dr. Craig Lammert, an instructor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, said in a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association. "We are always looking for ways to mitigate risk, and our first-time finding points to a novel environmental effect that might also help us determine the cause of this and other devastating autoimmune diseases."
The study involved a large group of patients with PSC and an early form of liver cirrhosis, known as biliary cirrhosis. The researchers compared these patients to a healthy "control" group. The findings indicated that drinking coffee was linked to lower risk for PSC. Coffee consumption, however, was not associated with reduced risk for biliary cirrhosis.
The patients with PSC were much less likely to be coffee drinkers than those in the control group. The healthy participants spent roughly 20 percent more of their lives regularly drinking coffee, the investigators found.
A separate study found that enhancements to palliative care, or specialized comfort care for people with terminal illnesses, are needed to improve quality of life for cirrhosis patients who are rejected for a liver transplant. The review, conducted by researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada, found that only 3 percent of the patients examined died while in hospice care.
"In our study, less than 10 percent of patients had even been referred to palliative care," said Constantine Karvellas, assistant professor of medicine at the university. "We need to be better about ensuring quality of life for these patients."
Palliative care focuses on relief from symptoms, pain and stress. The study showed that more than half of the patients involved in the study had pain and nausea in their final days. Other patients examined also experienced depression, anxiety, breathlessness and anorexia. The researchers said 80 percent were repeatedly hospitalized and underwent invasive procedures.
"Palliative care offers a way to avoid some of these costly procedures and at the same time improve the quality of life for these patients," Karvellas said. "This data helps to start the conversation on how we can make a positive difference in the lives of many patients and families."
The findings of both studies were scheduled for Monday presentation at the Digestive Disease Week annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Studies presented at medical meetings should be seen as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Kale: One Superfood


Full of nutrients, rich in flavor and versatile in how it is prepared, Kale is a winner in the kitchen.  Chefs everywhere consider Kale to be a Superfood that shouldn’t be skipped. Kale can find its way to your table in no time at all, with simple cooking methods to make it a family favorite!
 Kale contains betacarotene and antioxidants, and is boosting with vitamins.  In fact one cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40 % of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C and 1,020% of vitamin K.  It also contains copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.  This superfood has been shown to have anti-cancer properties and can help to lower cholesterol as well. 
 Kale is one vegetable that can remain an integral part of your diet all year through as it actually thrives in cooler weather.  The freshest kale will have firm dark colored leaves and hardy stems.
 Now that you understand its health benefits, where can kale fit at your table?  Well for starters you can use kale as your leafy green when tossing a salad. Replace romaine or spinach for kale leaves for a change of pace.  Toss kale into your favorite pasta dish such as penne with kale and white beans, or cold pasta salad with feta and kale.   Perhaps you want to make a soup, to simmer with your carrots, onions and chicken, nothing is better than kale.  Kale sauteed with garlic can be a great side dish to accompany steak or fish for great color and taste. 
 Looking for another way to have your family fall in love with kale? Then look no further than these great recipes to make kale your kids new favorite food.  No one will ever guess it is kale that gives this smoothie its great color and taste.  Throw some kale, ice, water or soy milk and a frozen banana in the blender for a creamy smoothie that tastes delicious.  
 Or better yet kale chips will have your family munching on good taste and good nutrition.  It is as easy as spreading out cleaned kale leaves on a baking sheet, sprinkling with olive oil and cooking for 5 minutes, then toss and bake for another 5 minutes at 350 degrees.  When done sprinkle with sea salt and serve for a sure fire crunchy hit!
 It is no wonder that chefs everywhere are touting kale as a superfood that makes the grade. Both it’s nutrition and its flavor get an A plus!  Try it for yourself and no doubt it’ll find its way into your shopping cart week after week.

X-Rays May Up Breast Cancer Risk

Women with certain gene mutations are more likely to develop breast cancer if they were exposed to radiation from chest X-rays or mammograms before age 30, compared with those who have the gene mutations and weren't exposed to radiation, new research suggests. 
The study included nearly 2,000 women, 18 and older, in the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom. All of the women had a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which have long been linked to raised risks for breast and ovarian cancer.
Forty-eight percent of the women reported ever having an X-ray and 33 percent had undergone a mammogram, according to the report published online Sept. 7 in the BMJ. The average age at first mammogram was 29.
Between 2006 and 2009, 43 percent of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer. A history of any exposure to radiation from chest X-rays or mammograms between age 20 and 29 increased the risk of breast cancer by 43 percent, and any exposure before the age of 20 increased the risk by 62 percent, the researchers found. Exposure between ages 30 and 39 did not increase the risk of breast cancer, they noted.
For every 100 women, age 30, with BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations, nine will have developed breast cancer by the age of 40, and the number of cases of breast cancer in these women would have increased by five if all of them had had one mammogram before age 30, according to calculations by Anouk Pijpe of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and colleagues.
However, this estimate "should be interpreted with caution because there were few women with breast cancer who had had a mammogram before age 30 in the study," the researchers explained in a journal news release.
Pijpe and colleagues recommended that non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques, such as MRI, be used for women who carry these BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations.
Exposure to radiation is an established risk factor for breast cancer among all women, the study authors pointed out. Some countries recommend that women under age 30 avoid mammography breast cancer screening.
Experts in the United States said the study raises many questions.
"The authors should be applauded for carrying out such a complex study in a concerted effort," said Dr. Aye Moe Thu Ma, director of breast surgery at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. The study "brings into question the current National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines on the use of mammograms for BRCA patients as early at 25 years of age," she added.
Ma also agreed that for patients who carry the BRCA gene mutations and who have not undergone mastectomy, "they may be best to be screened with MRI if the patients are younger than 30 and after discussing the risks and benefits of the MRI with the patient."
Another breast cancer specialist agreed that screening these patients may require a tailored approach.
"Women with BRCA mutations should adhere to a screening program designed specifically for them based on personal and family risk factors, in addition to accounting for their BRCA status, so that they may maximize benefit derived from screening and minimize any potential risks," said Dr. Eva Chalas, chief of clinical cancer services at Winthrop University Hospital, in Mineola, N.Y.
And Ma also stressed that, "this study is focused on a small group of high-risk patients who are sensitive to radiation, and does not apply to the general public."
Experts currently disagree on the recommended frequency of screenings and the intervals between them. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force ignited debate when it recommended screening mammograms every two years for women ages 50 to 74. It advised women in their 40s at average risk of breast cancer to discuss the pros and cons with their doctors and then decide about the value of screening. Other organizations, including the American Cancer Society, continue to advise women 40 and older to get yearly screening mammograms.

More information
The American Cancer Society has more about breast cancer.
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Violent Video Games May Numb Players to Brutality

Teenage boys who play violent video games for hours on end may become desensitized to the brutality, a small new study finds. 
The research focused on 30 boys, aged 13 to 15, who were divided into two groups. One group typically played violent video games for three or more hours a day (high exposure) while the other group played such games for no more than an hour a day (low exposure).
The researchers monitored the boys‘ reactions after playing a violent game ("Manhunt") and a nonviolent cartoon game ("Animaniacs"). They played each game for two hours on different evenings.
Differences between the boys‘ reactions emerged later in the night after gaming. During sleep, the boys in the low-exposure group who played the violent game had faster heart rates and poorer quality of sleep than those in the high-exposure group. The boys in the low-exposure group also reported increased feelings of sadness after playing the violent game.
Both groups of boys had higher stress and anxiety levels after playing the violent game, according to the study, which was published in the May issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.
"The violent game seems to have elicited more stress at bedtime in both groups, and it also seems as if the violent game in general caused some kind of exhaustion," wrote Malena Ivarsson, of the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University in Sweden, and colleagues. "However, the exhaustion didn‘t seem to be of the kind that normally promotes good sleep, but rather as a stressful factor that can impair sleep quality."
The differences between the two groups‘ physical and mental responses suggest that frequent exposure to violent video games may have a desensitizing effect, the researchers said. The study, however, didn‘t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, and it‘s possible that boys with certain traits may be attracted to violent games, the researchers said.
More information
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has more about children and video games.
Health News Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.