What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Broccoli with a kick of spice can fight cancer

Adding mustard, horseradish or wasabi to your broccoli has been found to significantly boost its cancer-fighting ability in a new study. The secret sidekick is an enzyme called myrosinase which is necessary to form sulforaphane, the vegetable's cancer-preventive component. When a food item containing the enzyme was eaten with broccoli, scientists at the University of Ilinois found that the combination revved up the production of sulforaphane in both foods.

To squeeze out maximum benefits, pair the broccoli with as much heat as you can, researchers said. Other foods that contain myrosinase which produced similar results include radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and Brussels sprouts.
In the study, when fresh broccoli sprouts — which contain myrosinase  — were eaten with broccoli powder, which is rich in sulforaphane but has no myrosinase, scientists observed that the activity of bioactive compounds peaked compared to when the foods were eaten alone.

Gene behind optimism and  self-esteem identified

“I have been looking for this gene for a few years, and it is not the gene I expected,” said Shelley E. Taylor, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and senior author of the new research. “I knew there had to be a gene for these psychological resources.”  The gene Taylor and her colleagues identified is the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). Oxytocin is a hormone that increases in response to stress and is associated with good social skills such as empathy and enjoying the company of others.

The researchers brought 326 people into a UCLA laboratory and had them complete self-assessments of optimism, self-esteem and mastery. Participants also completed an assessment of depression. The researchers obtained DNA from participants’ saliva and used UCLA’s Genotyping Center to analyze the DNA for the variants in the OXTR gene. Taylor said that while genes may predict behaviour, they do not determine it.

Musicians less likely to suffer from hearing problems

Lifelong musicians experience less hearing problems in old age than non-musicians, Canadian researchers have found.

The study led by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto sought to see if lifelong musicians were less prone to the hearing problems prevalent in the elderly, who often report having difficulty understanding speech through background noise, what scientists have dubbed the “cocktail party problem.”  Part of this difficulty is due to an age-related decrease in the ability to detect and discriminate acoustic information from the environment.

“What we found was that being a musician may contribute to better hearing in old age by delaying some of the age-related changes in central auditory processing,” said said lead investigator Benjamin Rich Zendel at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute. “This advantage widened considerably for musicians as they got older when compared to similar-aged non-musicians,” he added. The study suggests that lifelong musicianship mitigates age-related changes in the brain.

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