Entries in Protein (6)


Protein May Boost Immune System, Keep Flu Away

Pixland/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Everybody knows that a good immune system helps to fight the flu. Now a new animal study, published in the journal PLoS One, found that a synthetic protein called EP67 can activate the immune system and help fight the flu if it is administered within 24 hours of exposure to the virus.

Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center tested the protein in mice by first infecting them with the flu virus and then giving them a dose of the protein within 24 hours.

Mice normally lose about 20 percent of their body weight when exposed to the flu, but the mice treated with the protein lost an average of only 6 percent. Some didn't lose any weight at all.

Even more important, researchers said that mice infected with a lethal dose of influenza did not die after receiving the protein.

"EP67 can protect from a lethal dose of influenza even when treatment is delayed for a full day after the time of infection," said Joy Phillips, lead author of the study. "This protection is not limited to a single strain of influenza, as is the case for the vaccine, but should protect against all strains of influenza A or influenza B."

Phillips said the protein has not been tested against highly pathogenic strains like the avian H5N1 influenza, but it's possible it would also protect against such strains.

"EP67 should be effective against a wide variety of pathogens," said Phillips. "Since EP67 works by stimulating local innate immunity, it should prove effective against viral, bacterial and fungal diseases."

While the protein requires much more pre-clinical research before it can be expected to be used in real-world application, Phillips said, in the future, it may be used as an emergency therapeutic for emergency workers, family members and close contacts of patients.

"As an emergency therapeutic, EP67 has the potential to protect against a myriad of possible pathogens without needing to first identify any specific organism," said Phillips. "This has significant implications in the fields of global health and bioterrorism, and to the field of veterinary medicine as well."

She recently discovered that EP67 appears to function in mammals, and even chickens.

"Work focused on bioterrorism often stresses protection against human pathogens, but protecting the world food supply is another extremely important concern," Phillips continued.

Nevertheless, the present study only involved mice, and only one strain of influenza, so the research will have to be extended to other species and involve challenges with multiple flu strains before predictions can be made about applications, said Philip Alcabes, professor in the department of allied health at Adelphi University, who was not involved in the study.

"Still, since surveillance and control of flu viruses circulating among many non-human species is very important for enhancing the protection of human health globally, information like this could point the way to further research that might be very useful," said Alcabes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Atkins-Like Diets May Increase Risk of Heart Disease

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Ever try the Atkins diet? Diets low in carbohydrates and high in proteins may increase the risk of heart disease, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ.

A group of European researchers led by Pagona Lagiou of the University of Athens Medical School in Greece assessed the diets of more than 43,000 Swedish women ages 30 to 49, and followed them for an average of almost 16 years. Women who consumed a diet consisting of low carbohydrate and high protein intake were at a 5 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease later. By the end of the end of the study period, 1,270 women developed heart disease.

Consuming as little as 20 fewer grams of carbohydrates and 5 more grams of protein per day accounted for the increase, the researchers found.

The actual number of women who developed heart disease was small -- about four or five extra cases per 10,000 women per year -- but the authors said that amounted to a considerable number over time.

Data from other studies that evaluated the relationship between low-carb diets and the risk of cardiovascular disease have been mixed.

The Nurses' Health Study from 1991 found no association between a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet and heart disease. Other more recent research, however, did find a link between these diets and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

But not all proteins are alike, which can make a difference in how heart-unhealthy this type of diet is.

"Low carbohydrate-high protein diets may be nutritionally acceptable if the protein is mainly of plant origin and the reduction of carbohydrates applies to simple and refined carbohydrates," the authors wrote.

One of the problems with Atkins-type diets is they are difficult to maintain, nutrition experts said. At the height of their popularity, there were also concerns that people who ate a lot of protein in the form of red meat and also ate very little fiber put themselves at risk for disease.

The goal of the once-popular diets, nutrition experts said, is short-term weight loss.

"These diets are not choice, but there have been some studies to show that a well-managed high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet in the short term can help an individual who needs to lose a large amount of weight," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Jana Klauer, a physician in private practice in New York, said she does recommend the diet for some people, but with an important caveat.

"A person who needs to lose weight can lose weight quickly, but it may not be such a good choice for people at risk for cardiovascular disease," she said. "If they did want to try a diet like that, they would want to be sure their source of protein is not fatty red meat, but fish."

However, in an accompanying editorial, German epidemiologists Anna Floegel and Tobias Pischon wrote that "the short term benefits of low carbohydrate-high protein diets for weight loss that have made these diets appealing seem irrelevant in the face of increasing evidence of higher morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular diseases in the long term."

Diekman said the study does not identify a definitive link between low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets and heart disease, but it is a step toward identifying what impact these diets have on the heart.

"We need a really good study that analyzes food intake, follows up on food intake and looks at disease outcome," she said. The Swedish study, she said, used food questionnaires, which can be unreliable. The study also did not separate the effects of healthier proteins and carbohydrates.

The authors acknowledged the study's limitations, but stressed that the research sends an important message.

The findings, they wrote, "draw attention to the potential for considerable adverse effects on cardiovascular health of these diets when they are used on a regular basis, without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates (complex versus refined) or the source of proteins (plant versus animal)."

But Atkins Nutritionals Inc. released a statement criticizing BMJ for sending out a press release referring to the diets in the study as "Atkins-style." The study, they said, was not specifically of the Atkins Diet, which "emphasizes a healthy balance of proteins and good fats, and includes vegetables, fruits and even whole grains."

The Atkins Diet, said CEO Monty Sharma, is "a healthy, scientifically proven diet that includes healthy carbs, doesn't cut out any food groups, and is being passionately supported by millions of successful dieters across the globe."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How Much Protein Helps with Weight Loss?

Creatas/Thinkstock(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- It’s no secret that consuming excess calories leads to excess body fat, and new research suggests that, despite the belief that packing in a lot of protein can pack on the pounds, protein intake may actually have no impact on body fat.

But, says the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, protein consumption does appear to be associated with the gain or loss of muscle mass and how the body burns calories.

Researchers led by Dr. George Bray of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., overfed 25 healthy adults during an eight-week period under very carefully controlled laboratory conditions. The participants were fed diets consisting of about 40 percent more calories than they normally consume. The only dietary elements that varied among participants were fat and protein levels: Some ate a low-protein diet (5 percent protein), others a normal-protein diet (15 percent), and a third group a high-protein diet (25 percent).

Participants who were fed the low-protein diet gained significantly less weight than the other groups, but all three groups gained a similar amount of body fat.

“The hypothesis was that the low-protein and high-protein diets might affect fat gain, but they didn’t.  Fat gain isn’t modulated to any significant degree by protein intake,” he added.

Although participants in the low-protein group gained less weight, they also lost more muscle mass, which experts say could be detrimental to their overall health.

“Five percent [protein] is too low and is not good, even if one loses weight, as dietary protein is used to build and repair tissue.  Low protein is a form of malnutrition,” said Carla Wolper, research faculty at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital.

But that doesn’t mean people should gorge themselves on protein.  The study’s normal and high protein groups gained muscle mass, but also gained body fat.

“What the public should take away here is that total caloric intake matters when it comes to weight gain,” said Lona Sandon, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.  “Choosing more of your calories from protein may help increase lean muscle mass, but people must keep calories in balance to avoid body fat gain.”

In an accompanying editorial, Drs. Zhaoping Li and David Heber of the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine wrote that the study highlights the importance of dietary protein.

“The results suggest that overeating low protein diets may increase fat deposition leading to loss of lean body mass despite lesser increases in body weight,” they wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Will Bugs Be the Next Meat Alternative?

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Bumble bee burgers, grasshopper pie, and beetle tacos -- are you hungry yet?

While these foods may sound outlandish and even unappetizing to most, scientists are predicting that as the global population grows, so will the demand for animal protein.

These factors -- along with the considerable strain that traditional methods of raising mainstream animal protein place on the environment -- make insects as a cheap and nutritionally sound alternative to beef, pork, chicken and other proteins consumed in Western culture a true possibility.

Long before Survivor contestants ate bugs, insects were considered a source of nutrition for ancient Romans.  Even the Bible mentions creepy crawlers as food in its reference to John the Baptist's diet of "locusts and wild honey."

However, insects as a main course isn't a relic of antique times, as a wide variety of insects are used in global cuisine.  Traveling throughout Asia, it's not uncommon to come across insects incorporated in rice dishes, snacks, and even delectable desserts.  Similarly, Mexican cooking is noted for making use of crispy grasshoppers, and many nouveau restaurants both at home and abroad are experimenting with insects in traditional dishes.

The Food and Drug Administration already permits "natural" and "unavoidable" allowances of insect matter in processed foods such as chocolate, peanut butter and fruit juice, which means that on average, most Americans eat about a pound of insects a year.

Furthermore, the traces of insects found in our food are anything but harmful, as less than 0.5 percent of insects carry harmful diseases and bugs are notably rich in zinc and iron, while low in fat and high in protein, making them the perfect food source.

Spearheading the movement to popularize insects as food in the Western world are entomologists Marcel Dick and Arnold van Huis of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.  The two are working under the umbrella of a federal $1.3 million research program to explore the possibility of using insects as food given rising food demands and production costs in a swelling global society.

In a recent publication, Dick and van Huis tackled the most controversial reasons regarding insects as a viable food source, maintaining that raising insects in a hygienic environment is cheaper, more nutritious, and more resourceful than raising a protein like cattle given increasingly expensive agricultural land prices, the rising risk of herd infection, production expenses, and the cost of fodder and water.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lower Protein Infant Formula Supports Growth Rate Similar to Breast Milk, Study Says

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MADISON, N.J.) -- In a recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that infants who were fed a lower-protein infant formula gained weight at a rate similar to infants who were breastfed.

"This study showed that when we fed infants with a formula that contained specially-adjusted levels of protein that more closely matched those found in breast milk, these babies grew at a rate similar to breastfed babies," said Rosario Capeding, M.D., from the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in the Philippines.

Dr. Capeding, a pediatrician, added that early childhood nutrition is especially important and that child growth and development are dependent on support from nutrients in the "most appropriate proportions."

Although not determined in the study, Dr. Capeding also emphasized the benefits of breastfeeding pointing to the immunity that breast milk provides.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


High-Protein Diet Factored Into Athlete's Sudden Death

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ONTARIO, Canada) -- Like many serious athletes his age, 20-year-old Ben Pearson wanted to increase his protein intake, by taking supplements in the form of shakes and nutrition bars, to boost his muscle development. For most anyone else, such supplementation would have been safe, but in the case of the six-foot-two, 240-pound junior hockey defenseman from Cambridge, Ontario, the additional protein may have been a contributing factor in his death last weekend.

Pearson had a rare genetic disorder that kept his body from properly breaking down the protein in those shakes and bars. No one knew that, since birth, his body couldn't make enough of a critical dietary enzyme to process the key nutritional building block.

His father, Stephen Pearson, told a Canadian newspaper, The Record, his son had been on a high-protein eating plan at the time, and as a result, the protein boosted ammonia levels in his blood that caused brain swelling and led to his death early Saturday.

Stephen Pearson didn't specify the name of Ben Pearson's diagnosis, and obituaries said he died "after a brief illness." But it appears that he suffered from a condition known as urea cycle disorder.

A healthy body breaks down protein into several components, including nitrogen. Substances in the body called enzymes then convert that nitrogen into urea, a waste product that leaves the body in the urine.  But in someone lacking the proper enzymes, nitrogen accumulates in the blood as ammonia, which poisons the brain. Brain damage, coma and death can follow.

Urea cycle disorders are incurable. They are thought to occur in about one in 14,000 people and they stem from deficiencies in any of eight enzymes. The most common of the disorders is called ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTC), with a prevalence of around one in 30,000, said Dr. Mark Batshaw, principal investigator of the Urea Cycle Disorders Consortium, part of the NIH's Office of Rare Diseases Research Network.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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