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Friday, May 11, 2012

Hot Sauce Ingredient Reduces 'Beer Belly' Fat as a Weight-Loss Surgery Alternative

ScienceDaily (May 9, 2012) — According to research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), the ingredient that gives hot sauce its heat could play a role in the future of weight loss.

Ali Tavakkoli, MD, BWH Department of Surgery, and his team have published a study investigating whether two surgeries called vagal de-afferentation-which uses capsaicin, the component responsible for the chili pepper's burning sensation-and vagatomy can achieve weight loss and reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases with fewer side effects when compared to today's bariatric surgical options.
The study is published in the May issue of Digestive Diseases and Sciences. The study is accompanied by an editorial by Edward A. Fox, PhD, Purdue University.
After testing the two surgeries in the lab, the researchers found that vagotomy significantly reduced total body fat, as well as visceral abdominal fat-the "beer belly" fat that pads the spaces between abdominal organs. Vagal de-afferentation also reduced these fats, but to a lesser degree. However, according to the researchers, the reduction is still remarkable.
"The reduction in visceral fat is particularly important," said Tavakkoli. "High visceral fat volume is a marker of obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes. Preferentially lost visceral fat after vagal de-afferentation highlights the potential for this procedure."
Vagotomy involves removing the vagus nerve, which sends information between the gut and the brain. Vagal de-afferentation also involves the vagus nerve. But rather than removing the nerve completely, surgeons use capsaicin to destroy only certain nerve fibers.
Capsaicin destroys the nerve fibers that take signals from the gut to the brain, leaving intact the nerve fibers that send signals in the opposite direction, from the brain to the gut.
Between the two surgeries, vagal de-afferentation is associated with fewer side effects.
The researchers note that more work needs to be done on whether these surgeries can be used on humans, and whether capsaicin could be applied directly to human vagal fibers. The study results, however, provide promise of what the future can hold.
"As demand for surgeries that reduce weight and obesity-related diseases increases, procedures that can achieve success in a less invasive fashion will become increasingly important," said Tavakkoli. "This is an important and developing surgical discipline, especially as diabetes rates soar worldwide, and people try to find effective therapies to fight this epidemic."
This research was supported by Harvard Clinical Nutrition Center, Berkeley Fellowship and George Herbert Hunt Travelling Fellowship, and Nutricia Foundation Fellowship.

How Hot Chili Peppers Trick Your Brain

Written by: yvonne.mcarthur

Chilli PeppersPhoto: Paola Frogheri
Cooking up delicious spicy food can come at a price... a price many of us have paid! If you've ever cut up some jalapeños and scraped out the seeds with your bare hands, you know the symptoms: excruciating pain. This pain is caused by an oil-soluble substance called capsaicin (pronounced cap-say-sin). Capsaicin is the active component found in all hot peppers. It's what makes them so delicious to eat (provided you can take the heat) and causes the burning pain on your skin. The good news is that capsaicin doesn't actually cause any tissue damage. This may be of little comfort to you if your handsfeel burnt and the only way to sleep is by clutching an ice pack. But if we dig a little deeper, we'll discover a fascinating world involving neurotransmitters, pain signals, and a brain tricked into thinking your skin is engulfed in flames.

Fruits- Vegetables - PepperPhoto: Marius Iordache
When you eat or touch hot chilis, capsaicin particles penetrate your skin, move through the tissue, and trigger deeper nerves. Here's where it gets a bit technical. Capsaicin acts like a neurotransmitter and binds to a receptor called VR1 (vanilloid receptor one), forcing it to deform. Usually, the VR1 only changes shape at temperatures at or above 42ºC (108ºF). When it deforms, it releases charged particles called ions into the nerve cell, transmitting a signal through the nerves to the brain. The signal itself is the same as what VR1 would send if it were sensing heat. The brain doesn't know the difference, so you experience the same pain from chili peppers as you would from a burn.

Green CapsicumPhoto: Leon Brooks
Now this is where it gets really interesting. Scientists have figured out how to turn capsaicin, that little tastebud trickster, into a hero. Pain-triggering capsaicin can be utilized to combat muscle and joint pain as well as the chronic pain of diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This doesn't seem to make any sense, especially if you recently got some habanero juice under your fingernails!

First, you need to know that physicians differentiate between two kinds of pain, good pain and bad pain. Good pain is the fast and sharp pain which keeps us from hurting ourselves – for example, when we touch a burning pan and jerk away. Bad pain is chronic or long-term pain which builds slowly and takes a while to go away. It travels through nerves which are less insulated than the good pain ones, and thus, slower. The pain itself is caused by a protein called Substance P. Substance P is a neurotransmitter that signals bad pain and stimulates inflammation.

Splash of Chili PepperPhoto: Kyle May
When capsaicin triggers the nerves, it causes all the bad pain neurotransmitters (Substance P) to be delivered to or dumped off on other pain nerves. The Substance P supply is quickly depleted, leaving the nerves with no way to send a bad pain signal until they make more Substance P molecules — and no Substance P means no chronic pain!

So in a nutshell, capsaicin topical cream works over 1 to 4 weeks, continually depleting the Substance P supply, and thus reducing chronic pain. The disadvantage is that the patients have to endure the burning sensation caused by capsaicin until their pain threshold rises enough for them to no longer feel it. This takes time, but it's worth it, and eventually the patients are left with a lot less pain. Pretty cool, right?

Spicy ColorsPhoto: S. Pisharam
But say you don't have arthritis, and fate dictates you get mixed up with some hot chili peppers and want the pain to end. Unfortunately, once the capsaicin has penetrated the skin, it's nearly impossible to get off. Capsaicin is pretty hardy anyway and can survive cooking, freezing and even the rigors of our intestines. That's right, beware of eating too much, or it just might burn on the way out. Prevention is the best defense. Wear gloves to cut up hot peppers, or cover your hands in oil before you cut. Then wash it off with soap and water, and rub lemon juice into the skin. If it's too late and you are already suffering the effects, try soaking your hands in oil, vinegar, or simply wait it out with an ice pack. Make sure you don't put anything hot on the skin, as that will further deform the vanilloid receptors.

Whether capsaicin is a villain or a hero to you, just remember that those jalapeños and habaneros have led to ground-breaking pain research. Whether all the technicalities make sense to you or not, or whether your interest in the spice is limited to a spicy curry, you've got to admit, these fiery peppers are more complicated and more valuable than you may have thought!

Sources: 12345

Hanging Plant Balcony Works Like a Drawbridge

By: Alex Davies

We've covered a lot of ways apartment dwellers can bring some greenery into their homes, many of them remarkably clever. Here's one more that fits that description: "Volet Végétal," French for "plant shutter," is a folding balcony for a garden, built right into the window.
Volet végétal is the work of design firm Barreau & Charbonnet, a submission for the upcoming exterior design expo in Paris, Jardins Jardin. It's a pretty simple design. A wooden frame holds three planters that are set up to rotate, so that when the frame goes from vertical to horizontal, the plants remain upright. A pulley system raises and lowers the setup.
It's a lovely way to get your plants plenty of sunlight, and make sure your neighbors and people in the street below know just how great a gardener you are.