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Popcorn’s butter flavouring may cause Alzheimer’s

A new study including Indian-origin researchers have raised concern about chronic exposure of workers in industry to a food flavouring ingredient used to produce the distinctive buttery flavour and aroma of microwave popcorn, margarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods and other products.

They found evidence that the ingredient, diacetyl (DA), intensifies the damaging effects of an abnormal brain protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Robert Vince and colleagues Swati More and Ashish Vartak explain that DA has been the focus of much research recently because it is linked to respiratory and other problems in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavouring factories.

DA gives microwave popcorn its distinctive buttery taste and aroma. DA also forms naturally in fermented beverages such as beer, and gives some chardonnay wines a buttery taste.

Vince’s team realized that DA has an architecture similar to a substance that makes beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain — clumping being a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

So they tested whether DA also could clump those proteins.
DA did increase the level of beta-amyloid clumping. At real-world occupational exposure levels, DA also enhanced beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells growing in the laboratory.

Gene linked to post-traumatic stress disorder identified

A gene known to play a role in protecting brain cells from the damaging effects of stress may also be involved in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study.

Investigators at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System, which reported the first positive results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of PTSD, suggested that variations in the retinoid-related orphan receptor alpha (RORA) gene are linked to the development of PTSD.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder defined by serious changes in cognitive, emotional, behavioural and psychological functioning that can occur in response to a psychologically traumatic event.

Previous GWAS studies have linked the RORA gene to other psychiatric conditions, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, autism and depression.
“Like PTSD, all of these conditions have been linked to alterations in brain functioning, so it is particularly interesting that one of the primary functions of RORA is to protect brain cells from the damaging effects of oxidative stress, hypoxia and inflammation,” said the study’s principal investigator Mark W. Miller, PhD, associate professor at BUSM and a clinical research psychologist in the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System.

Multivitamins just a waste of money

Popping a daily multivitamin pill could be a waste of time and money, consumer watchdog Choice has said.

An investigation by the watchdog found that healthy individuals who already eat a balanced diet but also take multivitamins could be spending money unnecessarily.
Although there at times there are clinical evidence to support taking a supplement, the doses can often be way below levels required to have a significant impact, the organisation said.

“If you have a healthy diet and you’re not a person with specific nutritional requirements, there’s a good chance you’re wasting your money,” News.com.au quoted Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just as saying.

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