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Kids on Mediterranean diet may not be obese

A new study has shown that children consuming a diet more in line with the rules of the Mediterranean one are 15 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than those children who do not.

The researchers used data from the IDEFICS study (Identification and Prevention of Dietary – and lifestyle – induced health effects in Children and infantS), funded by the European Commission. Weight, height, waist circumference, and per cent body fat mass were measured in children from these eight countries.

The parents of these children were interviewed by means of a questionnaire specifically designed for the IDEFICS study and enquiring about the consumption frequency of 43 foods. Additional dietary data have been complemented by a telephone interview performed on a sub-sample of parents.

The adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was assessed by a score calculating by giving one point for high intakes of each food group which was considered typical of the Mediterranean diet (vegetables, fruit and nuts, fish and cereal grains), as well as one point for low intakes of foods untypical of the Mediterranean diet (such as dairy and meat products). High scoring children were then considered high-adherent and compared to the others.

Interestingly, the prevalence of high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was found to be independent of the geographical distribution, with the Swedish children scoring the highest (followed by the Italians) and the children from Cyprus scoring the lowest.

The team found that children with a high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet were 15 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than low-adherent children. The findings were independent of age, sex, socioeconomic status or country of residence.

Tap brain’s self-repairing mechanism to fight diseases

Forget drugs and neurogenesis, the self-repairing mechanism of the adult brain can help preserve brain function and can be targeted as a potential therapeutic intervention in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Prion or Parkinson’s, says a study.

Researchers detected increased neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus that partially counteracts neuronal loss. Dentate gyrus is a simple cortical region that is part of the larger functional brain system controlling learning and memory, the hippocampus.

“This study highlights the latent potential of the brain to orchestrate a self-repairing response,” said Diego Gomez-Nicola from the University of Southampton in Britain.
Using a model of prion disease from mice, the researchers identified the time-course of the generation of these newborn neurons and how they integrate into the brain circuitry.


While this self-repairing mechanism is effective in maintaining some neuronal functions at early and mid-stages of the disease, it fails in more advanced phases.
This highlights a temporal window for potential therapeutic intervention, in order to preserve the beneficial effects of enhanced neurogenesis

Tiny molecule can help treat mental disorders

The badly needed anti-depressants could be a few steps away as researchers have identified a molecule that acts on the serotonin-producing nerve cells.

It is the brain’s serotonin system, which, when misregulated, is involved in depression and anxiety disorders. The existing anti-depressants are not good enough as they do not work for around 70 per cent of patients. The Weizmann Institute’s professor Alon Chen and his colleagues researched the role of microRNA molecules in the nerve cells that produce serotonin.

They succeeded in identifying, for the first time, the unique “fingerprints” of a microRNA molecule that acts on the serotonin-producing nerve cells.

Combining bioinformatics methods with experiments, the researchers found a connection between this particular microRNA (miR135) and two proteins that play a key role in serotonin production and regulation of its activities.

“These findings suggest that miR135 could be a useful therapeutic molecule - both as a blood test for depression and related disorders, and as a target whose levels might be raised in patients,” said Chen.

The scientists noted that in the area of the brain containing the serotonin-producing nerve cells, miR135 levels increased when anti-depressant compounds were introduced.

When this idea was tested on human blood samples, the researchers found that subjects who suffered from depression had unusually low miR135 levels in their blood.

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