Salt linked to “Immune Rebellion”

SaltThe amount of salt in our diet could be involved in driving our own immune systems to rebel against us, leading to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, early laboratory findings suggest.

Several teams of scientists have simultaneously published data in the journal Nature suggesting a link.

Salt may activate a part of the immune system which can target the body.

Experts said the findings were very interesting and plausible, but were not a cure for people with MS.

The body’s defence against infection can go horrible awry, turning on the body and leading to autoimmune diseases including Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Continue reading Salt linked to “Immune Rebellion”

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Gut-microbe swap changes Eating Habits

Chinese-ManWEIGHT gain bugging you? Evidence is mounting for the central role that bacteria play in causing obesity.

Liping Zhao and his team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China put a morbidly obese man on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics and non-digestible carbohydrates for 23 weeks. The diet was designed to inhibit the bacteria thought to be associated with weight gain by increasing the pH in the colon.

The 175-kilogram volunteer lost 51 kg, despite not exercising. People who have had weight-loss surgery lose on average 49 kg. Continue reading Gut-microbe swap changes Eating Habits

The Hologenome: A new view of Evolution

BacteriaFar from being passive hangers-on, symbiotic microbes may shape the evolution of the plants and animals that play host to them

DISPOSING of corpses can be tricky. Bury them in a shallow grave and hungry animals are liable to dig them up. Our body faces a somewhat similar problem when it comes to disposing of unwanted substances. One of the ways the liver purifies blood is by adding the equivalent of a “chuck this out” label to molecules, but this label is made of a kind of sugar – and the bugs in our gut have a sweet tooth. Some produce a special enzyme that allows them to cut off the sugar and eat it, which often results in compounds being recycled within the body rather than disposed of.

Back in the 1980s, Richard Jefferson used the enzyme to develop a powerful technique now relied upon by thousands of genetic engineers around the world. At the same time, he was intrigued by the enzyme’s normal role. Its recycling effect helps determine the blood levels of many compounds, including important substances such as sex hormones. Jefferson realised that the bacteria within us, far from being passive hangers-on, must affect us in profound ways. Continue reading The Hologenome: A new view of Evolution

Abnormal gut bacteria linked to severe malnutrition

MalnutritionThere’s more to malnutrition than poor diet. Two complementary studies suggest that microbes have an important role to play in both the onset and treatment of a poorly understood form of malnutrition called kwashiorkor.

Malnutrition, the leading cause of death among children worldwide, remains something of a puzzle. It is unclear, for instance, why some children are especially prone to becoming malnourished when siblings they live with appear to fare better.

Now Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and his colleagues have found that a child’s risk of malnutrition may come down to the microbes in his or her guts. Continue reading Abnormal gut bacteria linked to severe malnutrition

Zinc “Keeps Immune System in Check”

ZincResearchers say they have gained a key insight into how zinc helps the immune system fight infection.

A study shows that zinc stops the immune system from spiralling out of control, as happens when people develop sepsis.

The researchers say the findings could also explain why taking zinc supplements at the start of a cold can stem its severity.

It is thought the finding could have implications for other diseases.

Although research has highlighted the importance of zinc for the immune system, because the mineral has many complex roles in the body it is not understood in any detail how it helps fight off infection.

After previous studies in mice, the researchers from Ohio State University had shown that zinc-deficiency could lead to excessive inflammation. Continue reading Zinc “Keeps Immune System in Check”