Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another escalation in the fight against diabetes and obesity- New exciting development

There are three hormones in human system that control the metabolism and absorption of glucose and they are now the focus of attention in developing appropriate therapy to attack the diabetes and obesity syndromes widely considered to be reaching epidemic proportions in many countries. These are glucagon, glucagon like peptide (GLP) and gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) working in different ways in different locations in the body. In a remarkable breakthrough scientists have now achieved integration of these three hormones in a single molecule to derive all the benefits from them. While glucagon balances any hypoglycemia condition by releasing glucose from glycogen in the liver, GLP inhibits gastric secretion delaying carbohydrate absorption creating a satiety effect. GIP has a major role in neutralizing stomach acid besides slowing down transfer of food across the intestine. GIP also plays a role in insulin secretion enabling the body to metabolize glucose faster and its influence on lipid metabolism is recognized for its potential use against obesity. By combining these three hormones the researchers seem to have succeeded in creating a "silver bullet"  that can deal with both diabetes and obesity. Here is a gist of these findings which appears to be really path breaking in its impact.

"In 2012, we covered work led by Professor Richard DiMarchi that showed linking two hormones into a single molecule held promise as a treatment for obesity. DiMarchi followed this up last year by combining the properties of two endocrine hormones to provide an effective treatment for both obesity and adult-onset diabetes. Continuing in this vein, DiMarchi has now co-led a study whereby obesity and diabetes were effectively cured in lab animals by adding a third hormone to the molecular mix. Clinical work carried out last year, which included human clinical trials, showed a peptide combining the properties of two endocrine hormones, GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1) and GIP (gastric inhibitory polypeptide), provided an effective treatment for adult-onset diabetes. Now the team, co-led by DiMarchi, the Indiana University (IU) Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Matthias Tschöp, director of the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity at the German Research Center for Environmental Health, has developed a new molecule that includes a third hormone, glucagon. GLP-1 and GIP are involved in enhancing insulin action and reducing blood glucose in the body, with GLP-1 also acting to reduce appetite. Meanwhile, glucagon is involved in improving liver function and increasing the long-term rate at which calories are burned. Molecularly combining these three hormones forms what is known as a triple agonist, which can bind to and activate receptors in the body and produce certain biological responses. "This peptide represents the first rationally designed, fully potent and balanced triple agonist ever achieved in the treatment of any disease," says DiMarch. "The benefits of the previously reported individual co-agonists have been integrated to a single molecule of triple action that provides unprecedented efficacy to lower body weight and control metabolism." The researchers say that in preclinical trials, this new peptide lowered blood sugar levels and reduced body fat better than all existing drugs. By triggering improved glucose sensitivity, reducing appetite and enhancing calorie burning, it was able to reduce body weight in rodents by around 30 percent, (nearly twice as much as the preceding GLP-1/GIP double hormone), and essentially cured the animals of obesity, diabetes and associated lipid abnormalities. "This triple hormone effect in a single molecule shows results never achieved before,"said co-first author Brian Finan, a scientist at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center. "A number of metabolic control centers are influenced simultaneously, namely in the pancreas, liver, fat depots and brain."

According to the innovators of this novel 3-in-1 hormone peptide molecule, extensive animal studies and limited clinical trials have more or less confirmed about its efficacy in increasing glucose sensitivity, reducing appetite significantly and enhancing burning of calories dramatically. Reduction of body weight to the extent of 30% is a remarkable achievement which will gladden the hearts of millions of people with BMI beyond 30. Hopefully this hormone combination will become the standard bearer in the coming years for world wide use in bringing down obesity, curing diabetes and correcting many lipid abnormalities for which there are no satisfactory treatment protocols at present. Though lot has been said about the efficiency and effectiveness of the new peptide molecule, nothing is mentioned as to how it is produced or how stable it is when administered in human beings. Since only GIP works at the intestinal level, how effectively the peptide is absorbed in the blood is also not clear. As human clinical trials have been carried out one can assume that the claims made by the innovators are valid. Whether there will be any other side reactions in some people is also not known. Let us hope we will have one of the most effective medicines to overcome the twin curses in the form of diabetes and obesity soon and association of one of the giants of pharma industry with this study further reinforces our hope.  


Food safety bill being "dressed up"- Will the Indian citizen ever be freed from consuming unsafe and substandard foods?

How serious is the federal government in India in safeguarding the health of its citizens? If past history is any indication all programs and activities emanating from Delhi have been focusing on rehabilitating the bureaucrats rather than putting in place a deterrent regime to punish adultrators and fraudsters who are violating even the diluted food standards with impunity without getting punished for their heinous crimes. With great fanfare the food safety act was promulgated by the previous government, a toothless body called food authority was set up and a technically "innocent" bureaucrat was promptly appointed as its chairman! Rest is history. Though maintaining the food quality and insuring food against adultration and fraud is a state subject, federal government comes into the picture for bringing in a uniform quality and safety frame work for the states to work in harmony. With strictures being passed by judicial courts one after the other during the last 2-3 years on the deficiencies of the act, it is a welcome development that the new government is mulling over its modifications seriously. Whether this exercise will end up producing a "mouse" at the end remains to be seen. Read further below regarding this development at Delhi. 

"The Government will revisit the food safety Act to make it more stringent to check growing instances of adulteration and contamination. "Two days ago, we set up a task force, which will submit its suggestions in 45 days, which will be then be put up in public domain for inviting comments. Imported food items will also be covered by this," Health Minister JP Nadda informed the Lok Sabha on Monday. Replying to a calling by PV Midhun Reddy of YSR Cong and Satyapal Singh of BJP, Nadda admitted that food adulteration and contamination were one reason for the rising burden of non-communicable diseases across the country. "It is also proposed to revisit the punishment stipulated for milk adulteration and make it more stringent," Nadda said, adding that the Government would focus creating infrastructure and manpower to face the challenge, such as setting up testing labs under public-private partnership. Nadda further added that 13,571 out of 72,200 food samples analysed in 2013-14 were adulterated, resulting in launch of 10,325 civil and criminal cases. He also informed the House that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India was at present engaged in an exercise for harmonisation of the maximum residue limit of pesticides in food commodities. Earlier, Reddy said the threat from adulteration and contamination of water, milk, oil, etc, was "greater than the threat from terrorism", as it would take more lives in the long run. Terming the unregulated use of pesticides and antibiotics as "slow poison" and the use of hormone injections on cows to increase milk yield, as a more "serious crime than cow slaughter", Reddy particularly urged the Government to ensure "Shudh Bharat" (Pure India)" along with the initiative, "Swachch Bharat." 

The statistics put out by the minister tells a pathetic story about the safety programs of the government. In a country like India with a population of 1.2 billion the number of samples picked up for testing was relatively small working out to 200 samples a day across 30 states, again a paltry 7 samples per state! One wonders what type of inspection thousands of so called "Food Inspectors" in the pay roll of the states are doing if not checking foods in the market for quality and safety violations? Has the surveillance system in the country failed miserably? This is all the more appalling considering that more than 70% of food industry is in the hands of the so called "unorganized sector" which produces hundreds of diverse products with indifferent quality and safety credentials. When an enlightened law maker from Andhra Pradesh stated that adultrated foods pose much greater threat to the country than that posed by terrorists, we have to applaud him for stating the obvious. . 


Food quality for children to be come more and more diluted! Disturbing developments

If what is happening in the US legislative bodies is any indication, the citizens have decided to move on a suicidal path after electing representatives during the recent elections most of whom are retrograde politicians and who are captives of powerful vested interests and lobbyists having no regard or sensitivity to their well being.  How else one can explain the recent clearance of a gigantic spending Bill which has several anti-citizen and pro-vested interest riders harming the health of the population there. A classical example is a provision barring the American government in mandating lower salt levels and insisting on use of whole grains in school lunch programs! What a pity! Read further below to realize how far the industry lobby can go in preserving their profits at the expense of the health of the consumers they are supposed to serve.

"Health insurance companies preserved their tax breaks. Farmers and ranchers were spared having to report on pollution from manure. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas benefited from a travel promotion program. Also buried in the giant spending bill that cleared the Senate on Saturday and is headed to President Obama for his signature were provisions that prohibit the federal government from requiring less salt in school lunches and allow schools to obtain exemptions from whole-grain requirements for pasta and tortillas. The watered-down standards for school meals were a setback for the first lady, Michelle Obama, who had vowed to fight "until the bitter end" for tougher nutrition standards. But they were a victory for food companies and some local school officials, who had sought changes in regulations that are taking effect over several years. When an omnibus spending bill pops onto the floor of the House or the Senate in the waning days of a congressional session, some lawmakers invariably express surprise and outrage at special-interest provisions stuffed into the package. Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio and a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, criticized the $1.1 trillion spending measure as "a Christmas tree bill," decorated with "dangerous and unwelcome, nongermane riders." Such favors often have a long lineage. Lobbyists and lawmakers have, in many cases, been working on them for months or years. Some of this year's provisions originated as free-standing bills, languished on their own and were then revived in the spending package. Others block regulations that have been proposed, adopted and sometimes upheld in court. The School Nutrition Association, representing cafeteria directors, welcomed the bill's language on sodium and whole grains. The lower sodium standards would have been "extremely difficult to achieve," and the government needs more research before compelling schools to make such costly changes, said the association, which receives financial support from food companies. Republicans like Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, the committee chairman, said the riders were needed to halt wasteful spending and "overreach" by agencies that generate rules harmful to the economy." 

Implication of salt in blood pressure and other diseases like CVD and kidney disorders are well documented and has been proved beyond doubt through exhaustive scientific studies. It is well known that a major causative factor for ill health in the US is the tendency of the people to eat high fat, high salt, high sugar, high meat diets and though each citizen has liberty to eat what he wants, the government cannot shirk its responsibility to prevent social break down and growth of a population morbid and zombies in their living style which can ruin the country in the long run affecting productivity and entailing huge expenditure for treating such diseases.  If this is the attitude and mindset of the law makers in that country, even the God cannot help that country from committing hara-kiri!


Monday, December 15, 2014

A worm's way of controlling fat production at cellular level-Can this work in humans?

Furious research by different scientific groups at different places are slowly unfolding many ways to control uncontrolled fat deposits in human body which hopefully will lead in too distant a future some practical and universal treatment protocol for obesity affected people. Though there is almost unanimous agreement that consuming a healthy diet containing whole grains, fruits, vegetables and moderately eating animal derived food products, can preempt unnecessary accumulation of fat in the body, humans are not that strong willed to think about good health while opting for their daily foods. Organoleptic quality of food overwhelms them and tasty, flavorful and palate tingling foods are invariably made using high levels of ingredients like saturated fat, sugar, salt added singly or in combinations that can convert a healthy food into a "risky" one capable of spawning deadly diseases like CVD, blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and others. If obesity levels have reached dangerous proportions we have thank ourselves as well as the food industry as a whole for bringing about reckless changes in out dietary habits. One of the on-going studies for evolving a treatment regime for obesity affected "patient", published recently looked at a worm for getting the necessary "inspiration" to achieve the desired result. Read further below for getting an idea about the thinking process in the minds of these researchers and how successful they have been so far. 

"Research around how the body's fat levels are regulated and ways in which they might be manipulated has uncovered numerous potential fat switches. The latest is a particular protein that has long been known to regulate protein synthesis and has now been demonstrated to also control fat levels in worms. This has lead researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) to believe that the version found in the human body could provide a new target for fat-fighting pharmaceuticals. Scientists have studied the MAF1 protein for some time, but this has largely been limited to its ability to control the production of other proteins. In a study conducted at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, scientists found that the protein is actually capable of much more. "We've known about MAF1 for over a decade, but so far people have only studied it in single cells, where it is known to regulate protein synthesis," says Sean Curran, assistant professor at USC Davis and on of the study's co-authors. "No one really looked at its effect on the whole organism before." Curran and his team modified the MAF1 levels in transparent worms known as C. elegans and found that adding a single copy of the gene expressing MAF1 lowered stored lipids by 34 percent. Conversely, lowering MAF1 levels saw lipids boosted by 94 percent. The fact that the version of MAF1 in humans has the same protein-producing properties leads the researchers to suspect that it, too, could control the storage of fat cells. If this proves correct, the protein could offer a target for a new breed of pharmaceutical treatments for obesity and weight-related health problems. One other notable finding was that the MAF1 protein can also impact on lipid metabolism in cancer cells, suggesting that it could be used in suppressing cancer cells. Curran's team next plans to test the fat-fighting ability of MAF1 in mice. If successful, they hope to eventually investigate its potential in humans." 

Is it not a pity that man has to be guided by a worm to overcome his weakness vis-a-vis food gluttony and its disastrous consequences? May be man is a fast learner from the nature and this little worm might show the way to go, though the vastly complex human system may not be as receptive as the worm to new ideas to stop or reduce fat manufacture in the body. Still it is worth trying as for those "drowning", even a straw can be a relief! There are bound to be innumerable practical difficulties in repeating the positive results obtained with worms and it may take a few years before clinical trials are completed after further studies with animals. As MAF1 is a protein, how it can be delivered to cell sites in humans through the oral route remains to be seen. Any how the above study does raise a ray of hope for millions of fatty people with high BMI requiring urgent treatment to save their lives!   


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Land grabbing in the name of development-New revelations

The nexus between politicians and land grabbers, whether belonging to the industry sector or real estate groups is well known and no worthwhile action is visible in spite of the thousands of acres being passed on to them for a song under one pretext or the other. The usual modus operandi is for the government to acquire land from poor farmers at a notional price citing public interest and "allot" them to the "friends" for the avowed purpose of setting up Special Economic Zones, Mega Parks, Industrial Parks etc. The allottee after getting the land do not use the same for the purpose for which it was allotted to them, denotify a part of it and sell it at a "mega" price at market rates. This has been highlighted by the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)  which like other earlier reports may be forgotten by the citizens allowing the same to be re-enacted by these politicians after a lapse of time. These state actors know that public memory is very very short and public has other pressing concerns about the difficulties  faced by them for their very survival being which is their priority. Imagine how many billions of rupees the country has been losing over the years. Here is a peep into the latest CAG report.

 "Raising doubts on the fairness of allotment of government land to some top corporates for special economic zones (SEZs), the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) has said that 47 files related to them have gone missing in the commerce ministry and were not made available to the audit team despite requests. The auditor has published names of all the 47 SEZ developers who were allocated concessional government land at important locations in different cities whose files the commerce ministry refused to share for scrutiny. The CAG audit report on performance of SEZs was recently tabled in Parliament and will now be taken up for discussion by the public accounts committee (PAC).  Sources said when the audit team insisted on verifying details of these allotments and status of the projects, the ministry officials said these files were not traceable. "We wrote letters demanding these files, but were told they are not available," said a senior audit official."

Is it not interesting to see the list brought out by the CAG which contains most of the bigwigs of the corporate world who in the name of development gets huge tracts of land allotted to them at nominal prices for making a killing by selling their land at market rates?. While these corporate organizations are in the forefront in industrial and infrastructure development for which they must be applauded, the devious route they are taking through their contacts with government babus and mantris for getting manifold returns on their investment on land deserves to be condemned and the land value fully recovered with penal interest. Land appropriation and encroachment are a big business in this country and it is time that Supreme Court sets up a Special Investigation Team ( SIT) like the one created to chase black money recently. This SIT on land misappropriation and transgressions must cover all cases across the country over the last two decades.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Globe trotting" chickens-America's new folly!

Though America is known as the biggest beef eating nation, chicken has its own place in the cuisines of people in this country. Naturally chicken consumption goes up with people having more and more disposable income. U S Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supposed to regulate poultry industry and recent spate of safety episodes and unsavory reports about how the poultry farmers are running their show, can only generate a sense of disgust on one side and sympathy for the consumers on the other side. To day the US consumers eat about 18 million tons of chicken annually and the demand for white meat is ever increasing due to better awareness about health and nutrition. This demand has pushed the poultry industry to adopt many unfair, some times dangerous, practices compromising on safety and quality of the environment. The miserable conditions under which birds are raised in the American poultry farms are increasingly being criticized by animal activists and environmentalists and consumers should not be faulted if they have increasingly hostile opinion about them. A recent news report which is confirmed by the USDA speaks about the plans for sending frozen chicken carcass to China for converting into processed products and bringing them back for distribution and sale in the country! What a crazy idea! Knowing the reputation or rather the notoriety of China in the area of food safety, why Americans are taking such a big risk is a mystery. Read further below:. 

According to a report issued by the official website for the USDA and brought to the public through Living Traditionally, four chicken processing plants in China have been given the green light to process U.S.-raised chicken and ship it back to our country for distributive sale in groceries. Also, the processed poultry will not require a country-of-origin label and U.S. inspectors won't be on site at Chinese processing plants. With China's history for the avian influenza and food-borne illnesses, many food health experts are worried. Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, made a recent statement in the Houston Chronicle about the USDA's decision. "Economically, it doesn't make much sense. Think about it: A Chinese company would have to purchase frozen chicken in the U.S., pay to ship it 7,000 miles, unload it, transport it to a processing plant, unpack it, cut it up, process/cook it, freeze it, repack it, transport it back to a port, then ship it another 7,000 miles. I don't know how anyone could make a profit doing that." What Tom Super doesn't take into account is the fact that the USDA is allowing this so U.S. companies could cut cost through outsourcing. To put this all into perspective, American poultry processors are paid roughly $11. In China, the same worker makes significantly less at the USD average of $1 to $2. As a matter of fact, this tactic is already being done for U.S. seafood, specifically domestically-caught Pacific salmon and Dungeness crab, as reported by the Seattle Times. Right now, food safety enthusiasts and news sites are spreading awareness of the pending USDA agreement. They hope to stop the Chinese-processed chicken from ever reaching supermarkets and school lunchrooms. In that regard, do you side with the people whom are concerned, or do you think they're overreacting?

As the report rightly points out it does it make sense for an American chicken to go on a glob trotting exercise before ending up back on the dining tables of the consumers there. America is a country known to subsidize its farmers heavily forking out billions of dollars each year and probably poultry farmers also might be expecting such largess from the government which after all is a captive organization of the industry lobby. But the carbon foot print of these globe trotting chickens because of its long journey can be disastrous to the world and there must be strong reservations that should be expressed by other indignant nations. Even American citizens must boycott these chicken products for which they must insist on putting the "country of origin" on the label of these "China returned" chickens. Probably many informed consumers and consumer activist organizations are gearing up for stopping the deal as they feel it will affect the people at large and school going kids especially. Good luck to them!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Chickens want to roost!-Poultry industry does not allow!

"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" can be a very comfortable way of living, provided you do not have some thing called conscience! The fact that the world harbors a large number of carnivorous and omnivorous human beings cannot be denied and plant eating population is relatively a minority, We have to live with the custom of killing other animals to meet the insatiable desire for meat foods. Vow, how do we go about it! The inherent demand and potential new demand for chicken meat and related products can be met only by the so called industrial poultry farming where millions of birds are raised under conditions that cannot be called totally acceptable to the conscience of man. There are millions of poultry farms across the world which produce chicken carcasses that is the basis of a roaring international trade. From time to time cases of meat contamination and food poisoning are reported involving large number of recalls from the market. Most consumers are under the impression that chicken preparations they consume whether at home or in eateries come from hospital-like, clean, hygienic farm facilities where the birds enjoy a luxurious comfortable life! Unfortunately the truth is some thing else as revealed by a recent expose which is nauseating and abominable to say the least.  Look at the report more carefully and see whether you can resist throwing up, after watching the scenes in a typical poultry farm in the US.

"Most shocking is that the bellies of nearly all the chickens have lost their feathers and are raw, angry, red flesh. The entire underside of almost every chicken is a huge, continuous bedsore. As a farm boy who raised small flocks of chickens and geese, I never saw anything like that. One reason seems to be modern breeding: Chickens are now bred to have huge breasts, and they often end up too heavy for their legs. Poultry Science journal has calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as modern chickens, a human would weigh 660 pounds by the age of eight weeks. These chickens don't run around or roost as birds normally do. They stagger a few steps, often on misshapen legs, and then collapse onto the excrement of tens of thousands of previous birds. It is laden with stinging ammonia that seems to eat away at feathers and skin. I called Perdue to see what the company had to say. Jim Perdue declined to comment, but a company spokeswoman, Julie DeYoung, agreed that undersides of chickens shouldn't be weeping red. She suggested that the operator was probably mismanaging the chicken house. That doesn't go over well with Watts, whose family has owned the farm since the 1700s and says he has been raising chickens for Perdue since 1992, meticulously following its requirements. As Watts sees it, Perdue realized that consumers were concerned about animal welfare and food safety, and decided to manipulate the public. The claim about the chickens being raised "cage free" is misleading because birds raised for meat are not in cages. It's egg-laying chickens that are caged, not the ones we eat. So "cage free" is meaningful for eggs but not for chicken meat. Moreover, Perdue's chickens are crammed so tightly in barns that they might as well be in cages. Each bird on the Watts farm gets just two-thirds of a square foot. So why is our government giving its seal of approval to these methods as humane, in ways that seem to mislead consumers? "U.S.D.A. is the accomplice of Perdue in the fooling of consumers," says Leah Garces, American director of Compassion in World Farming, who calls it a marketing scam."
the tragedy is further compounded by the tacit recognition of this by the authorities who are supposed to prevent such animal abuses. Though animal activists and scientific community frown at these malpractices, nothing much is happening to take to task such powerful farmer lobby which is a law unto themselves with no accountability to the feelings and welfare of the consumers who form their "bread and butter". To add insult to injury the industry is brazen enough to proclaim on the product labels that their products are made from birds raised in a humane way!. Greediness for maximizing their profits through increased productivity per farm and minimizing their input cost drive most poultry farmers to use a variety of techniques and chemicals to torture the birds to increase their body weight. If the same techniques are used in man, he will be as heavy as 300 kg within 8 weeks, so say some experts! Every chicken meat consumer must introspect and decide whether he wants to eat meat from such birds!