Dairy products boost effectiveness of probiotics, new studies show

Probiotics, those living bacteria and yeasts that offer a variety of health benefits, especially for the digestive system, are now available to consumers in yogurt and a variety of other food products as well as in nonfood supplements. But little is known about how the products containing those probiotics might influence their effectiveness.

Could it really be important whether you consume a probiotic in yogurt or other fermented foods and beverages rather than in a supplement? And is there something about dairy products that makes them particularly well suited for probiotics?

New study analyzes “thinspiration” images of women on social media sites

By Jeffrey Day

Some of the most popular social media sites are filled with images of extremely thin women that might be harmful to those who view them — whether they are seeking them or not, according to research from the University of California, Davis. The images were often cropped to remove heads or focus on just a few body parts.

Doctoral candidate Jannath Ghaznavi and associate professor Laramie Taylor in the Department of Communication examined about 300 photographs from Twitter and Pinterest postings that used the terms “thinspiration” and/or “thinspo” to tag images and ideas promoting extreme thinness and often casting eating disorders in a positive light.

Rising carbon dioxide, less nutritious food?

This week’s report that the Antarctic ice sheets are in irreversible retreat grabbed headlines, but another report last week warned that rising carbon dioxide levels threaten the quality of the world’s food supply, as well.

Increased malnutrition and loss of life — due to declining levels of dietary zinc, iron, and protein in important food crops — will occur around the world as elevated atmospheric CO2 climbs to levels that are anticipated by 2050, reports an international team led by researchers at Harvard University and including UC Davis plant scientist Arnold Bloom. The study appeared online May 7 in the journal Nature.

Animal scientist receives Borlaug communications award

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) has announced that Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist and Cooperative Extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at UC Davis, is the recipient of its 2014 Borlaug CAST Communication Award.

Announcement of the award, which will be presented to Van Eenennaam on Oct. 15 along with the World Food Prize Symposium in Iowa, was made today at the World Bank in Washington, D.C..Alison van Eenennaam

Established in 1986 and named after Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, the award is presented to a food or agricultural scientist who is actively engaged in research; has made significant contributions to science; and communicates the importance of food and agricultural science to the public, policymakers and the news media

Symposia: Soap, health and the environment; and bugs, babies and breastmilk

The potential downsides of fragrances in personal care products, and microbes, milk and the infant gut, and will be the topics of two student-run symposia at UC Davis in September. Both events, including nationally-recognized experts, are the outcomes of year-long collaborative research projects by student teams.

On Monday, Sept. 12, undergraduates in the CLIMB program will hold a workshop on “The infant gut microbiome: prebiotics, probiotics and establishment” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in room 1022, Life Sciences Addition on the UC Davis campus.

Study reinforces obesity/high-fat diet/heart disease link

A team of UC Davis biomedical engineers, led by Assistant Professor Anthony Passerini, has established a link between inflammation of the arterial lining, waist size, and triglyceride levels in the blood after eating a high-fat, fast food meal. The study reinforces the link between belly fat and inflammation of the arterial linings, which is the main cause of atherosclerosis.

The study is published online by the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

NYT: Breast milk, bacteria and babies

Much of human breast milk is indigestible to babies and goes instead to feed bacteria in their tiny guts, writes New York Times science correspondent Nicholas Wade in today’s Science Times. In what science blogger Charlie Petit calls a “nifty” story, Wade reports on work lead by three UC Davis scientists: Carlito Lebrilla, Bruce German and David Mills.

Complex sugars in milk provide a food source for a subspecies of Bifidobacterium longum or “bifido” in microbiology slang. Bifido coats the lining of the baby’s intestine, crowding out other, harmful bacteria. Other sugars in milk might bind directly to bacteria and cause them to clump up so that they are easily flushed out of the gut.

GM goats for Brazil

Brazilian and UC Davis scientists James Murray and Elizabeth Maga are teaming up to develop a herd of genetically modified dairy goats, whose milk could protect against diarrhea, a major killer of the children around the world.

The goats will produce the human enzyme lysozyme, a natural anti-bacterial substance found in tears, saliva and human breast milk. The team plans to establish the herd in Brazil within two years and hopes to begin human trials with the genetically enhanced goats’ milk within three to five years.