Monthly Archives: April 2013

Maternal diet sets up junk food addiction in babies

Story is based on one orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Tuesday, 30 April, 2013

Research from the University of Adelaide suggests that mothers who eat junk food while pregnant have already programmed their babies to be addicted to a high fat, high sugar diet by the time they are weaned.

In laboratory studies in rats, the researchers found that a junk food diet during pregnancy and lactation desensitised the normal reward system fuelled by these highly palatable foods.

Led by Dr Bev Mühlhäusler, Postdoctoral Fellow in the University’s FOODplus Research Centre, this is the first study to show the effects of maternal junk food consumption at such an early stage in the offspring’s life. The study was published recently in The FASEB Journal.

Opioids are produced by the body as a reward response, including in response to fat and sugar. These opioids stimulate the production of the “feel good” hormone dopamine, which produces a good feeling.

“We found that the opioid signalling pathway (the reward pathway) in these offspring was less sensitive than those whose mothers were eating a standard diet,” Dr Mühlhäusler says.

This means that children being born to a mother who ate a diet dominated by junk food would need to eat more fat and sugar to get the same good feeling, increasing their preference for junk food. It would also encourage them to overeat.

“In the same way that someone addicted to opioid drugs has to consume more of the drug over time to achieve the same ‘high’, continually producing excess opioids by eating too much junk food results in the need to consume more foods full of fat and sugar to get the same pleasurable sensation,” says Dr Mühlhäusler.

“Mothers eating a lot of junk food while pregnant are setting up their children to be addicted.

“Although our research shows that many of the long-term health problems associated with maternal junk food diets can be avoided if offspring carefully follow a healthy diet after weaning, they are always going to have a predisposition for overconsumption of junk food and obesity. It’s going to make it much more difficult for them to maintain a healthy body weight.”

Dr Mühlhäusler says it is important to try and understand the effects of the maternal diet at a very early stage in the offspring to see what systems could be targeted, if any, to reverse the problem.

Initial findings from further work, however, have suggested the alterations to the opioid receptors are permanent.

“The take-home message for women is that eating large amounts of junk food during pregnancy and while breastfeeding will have long-term consequences for their child’s preference for these foods, which will ultimately have negative effects on their health,” Dr Mühlhäusler says.

New SA investment in Waite-based research to improve Australian diets

Professor Bob Gibson and his FOODplus team, in collaboration with the University of Manitoba in Canada, have been awarded $300,000 over three years to investigate more efficient and environmentally sustainable ways to increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the eggs and meat of chickens for better human nutrition.

The grant has been awarded through the State Government’s Premiers International Research Grant Program to improve collaborations between international partners and leading researchers in South Australia and was announced yesterday by the Minister for Science and Information Economy, Grace Portolesi.

As Professor Gibson explains “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal development and healthy living, but most Australians do not meet the recommended daily intakes from seafood or fish oil and increasing the amount from marine sources is not sustainable. The average Australian now eats more chicken than any other meat, so increasing the omega-3 fatty acid content of chicken meat and eggs provides a way for people to increase the intake of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids sustainably without requiring consumers to change their current purchasing or dietary practices”.

A previous project, funded by the Constellation SA scheme and aligned with the Manitoba Funding Initiative, showed that it’s possible to increase the omega-3 content of chicken meat and eggs, without affecting the sensory properties of these products, by modulating the chickens’ dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from sustainable plant sources. Importantly, this work also showed that birds fed a diet with an increased ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats (through addition of flaxseed oil, rich in ALA) had better growth rates and improved feed conversion ratio (FCR) compared to the birds fed a control commercial diet.

The new initiative project will examine the best ways to reduce the cost of providing the flaxseed diet, while still sustaining growth and feed efficiency benefits and retaining the increased nutritional attributes of the chicken products. It will build on industry interest in the preliminary work, translating this research into industry practice and has direct applications to flaxseed growers, chicken feed producers and chicken production industries, and is squarely aligned with the South Australian Government’s Strategic Priority for premium food and wine from a clean environment.

Protecting Aussie grapevines from new virus

Red Blotch on grapevine leaves. Photo courtesy of M.R. Sudarshana, United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service

Red Blotch on grapevine leaves. Photo courtesy of M.R. Sudarshana, United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service

Story orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Tuesday, 8 April, 2013

University of Adelaide researchers are working to prevent the introduction into Australia of a potentially devastating new grapevine virus.

Waite Diagnostics, at the University’s Waite Campus, has developed a diagnostic test kit for the detection of Grapevine red blotch-associated virus (GRBaV) using DNA analysis.

GRBaV was discovered and first reported in the United States in October last year, and is regarded as potentially far more damaging than the Grapevine leafroll-associated viruses which are established in Australia.

“Viruses in grapevines are insidious and often cause serious diseases which affect production and quality, and can even result in vine death,” says Professor John Randles, Director of Waite Diagnostics.

“We don’t have any way of immunising plants like we can with animals and so we need to employ different methods of control which require detailed knowledge of the virus’ biological properties.”

University of Adelaide grapevine virologist Dr Nuredin Habili said the Grapevine Red Blotch disease was the most recently recognised grapevine disease to date, and is apparently widespread in the US. It significantly reduces the levels of grape sugar by up to five brix (a measure of sugar content), reducing suitability for wine-making.

The symptoms of the Red Blotch disease resemble those of leafroll disease with unexplained reddening of the leaves and, on white varieties, leaf curling and chlorosis, but the depressing effect on sugar content is greater.

“The question is, do we already have this virus in Australia?” says Dr Habili. “If not, we need to import cuttings under tight biosecurity conditions. All cuttings imported from the United States or Canada should be tested before being released from quarantine.”

Waite Diagnostics has tested 10 grapevine varieties from Australian vineyards which have all tested negative.

The diagnostic test developed uses a specific ‘primer’ or piece of genetic material which recognises the matching DNA sequence of the virus, if present, allowing screening of cuttings.

“Viruses are very difficult to identify, the symptoms of virus infection in grapevine all look like each other,” says Professor Randles. “With this latest technology using DNA analysis, we now have 12 different tests for grapevine viruses and phytoplasmas. Our diagnostic kits already go all over the world.

Meet Giorgia, the durum breeding team’s newest member

"Giorgia" with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

“Giorgia” with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

The University of Adelaide’s durum breeding program officially launched their new, state-of-the-art small plot harvester yesterday.

“Giorgia” is a Wintersteiger DELTA, specifically designed for harvesting small experimental plots and can comfortably harvest more than 15,000 breeding trial plots per year. This machine is a significant new investment for the southern node of Durum Breeding Australia, which is part of the University of Adelaide.

Dr Jason Able, Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia, said “The new DELTA has significant new capabilities including on-board weighing, which will dramatically speed up the process of harvesting and downstream processes associated with the annual harvest. This will make our breeding program more efficient, and allow the breeding team back at base to get samples ready for quality testing in a quicker time frame than what was previously possible.”

The new machine has been christened “Giorgia”, a name which originates from Latin and means ‘Earth-worker, farmer’. Jason said that in naming the machine, he wanted her to be connected to the land, and this name was identified being very appropriate given also that the breeding program has a well developed collaborative relationship with San Remo Macaroni Pty Ltd which has very strong Italian heritage links.

"Giorgia" with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

“Giorgia” with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

Jason added “San Remo have contributed a significant financial contribution to the durum program over a number of years, and continue to do so. They see the value in being able to inject these much needed funds to a breeding program that ultimately supports their business through the development and release of new, improved durum varieties that are suitable for their very high quality pasta products.”