How does persimmon leaf flavonoid promote brain ischemic tolerance?

Released on EurekAlert! On December 4, 2013

Meng Zhao

Studies have found that brain ischemic tolerance is associated with endothelial cells, inflammatory factor and intercellular adhesion molecule, but its mechanism of action role in prevention and treatment of cerebral ischemia is still not very clear. Prof. Mingsan Miao and team from Henan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that persimmon leaf flavonoid mitigates pathological injury of brain tissue following cerebral ischemia/reperfusion in brain ischemic tolerance rats and elevates brain ischemic tolerance, and high-dose persimmon leaf flavonoid showed an identical effect to ginaton. These findings, published in the Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 28, 2013), provide the basis for the utilization and development of persimmon leaves and for drug development in the prevention and treatment of cerebral ischemia.


Article: ” Persimmon leaf flavonoid promotes brain ischemic tolerance ” by Mingsan Miao, Xuexia Zhang, Ming Bai, Linan Wang (Henan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Zhengzhou 450008, Henan Province, China)

Miao MS, Zhang XX, Bai M, Wang LN. Persimmon leaf flavonoid promotes brain ischemic tolerance. Neural Regen Res. 2013;8(28):2625-2632.

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Umami: an ideal sake pairing

Posted on December 12, 2013 On The Japan Times

Good combination: Chefs Kunio Tokuoka (left) and Chikara Yamada (center), speak at a sake-pairing seminar in California, along with Kumiko Ninomiya (far right) of the Umami Information Center.

On a recent September morning in Napa Valley, a sake-pairing session at the Culinary Institute of America’s annual Worlds of Flavor conference began with a lesson in organic chemistry. The theme of the seminar was “sake and umami,” a topic tantalizing enough to fill the room with food and beverage professionals who had traveled to the California conference from around the world to explore trends in gastronomy. Pens scratched notes furiously as Kumiko Ninomiya, of the Umami Information Center in Tokyo explained the science behind umami, the fifth taste, discovered by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908.

A fascination with umami has pervaded the food world for the past five years. Chefs are obsessed with it, food writers pepper their articles with references to it and the American hamburger chain Umami Burger spikes everything on the menu with umami-boosting seasonings.

But despite the ubiquity of the term, confusion remains as to what, exactly, umami is. The word describes the savory taste that comes from amino acids and nucleotides in foods such as fish, cheese, tomatoes and dried mushrooms. Unlike the other four basic tastes — sweet, sour, bitter and salty — umami is subtle, more of a feeling than a flavor. Imagine eating a piece of wagyū beef; the mouthwatering, tongue-coating sensation that follows chewing it, and the way that the meaty flavor blooms across the palate. Umami is the tool that allows your tongue to taste in three dimensions.

The amino acid glutamate, which is present in vegetables and fermented foods, is the primary substance associated with umami. But when glutamate is combined with the nucleotides inosinate (found in fish and meat) and guanylate (abundant in dried mushrooms), the result is a taste trifecta that can, according to Ninomiya, “magnify the umami taste up to eight times.” Imagine topping that piece of wagyū beef with Parmesan cheese and shaved truffles and you’ll start to get the idea.

Sake, too, is rich in umami: The enzymatic action of kōji (the catalyst that facilitates the conversion of starch into sugar) in sake-making breaks down proteins and releases high levels of glutamate. Sake contains approximately 180 mg of glutamate per liter, compared with 60 mg per liter for wine.

During the tasting session, celebrated chefs Chikara Yamada, of Tokyo’s Yamada Chikara, and Kunio Tokuoka, of Kitcho in Kyoto, demonstrated the synergistic effect of sake with other umami-rich foods. Yamada had prepared a “sake cocktail aperitif” — small cups containing equal amounts of green tea, dried shiitake mushroom broth and konbu (kelp) broth, alongside a dish of raw scallop.

The chef instructed the audience to first take small sips of each liquid individually, before trying them together with a fruity, floral Isojiman Junmai Daiginjo sake from Shizuoka Prefecture. The change in texture and the roundness of the flavors was remarkable. Next, Yamada paired the scallops with a bright and elegant Juyondai Nakadori Daiginjo from Yamagata Prefecture, a match that underscored sake’s natural affinity for fish.

The attendees were clearly impressed with the experiment. “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” remarked Richard Allardyce, a chef from Toronto, Canada. I’ve always told people that sake is at its best with food. Now, I have the science to back up that claim.

Original Article: The Japan Times

Winter Solstice: Return of spring

Temperature drops down day by day and the winter chill becomes severe. Well, it is not surprising because the winter solstice falls on upcoming Sunday, December 22nd. The sun’s maximum elevation gets the lowest level in the Northern Hemisphere, which gives the shortest daytime and the longest nighttime.

After the winter solstice, the elevation of the sun starts to increase. For that reason, the winter solstice is also called “return of spring,” “reversing yin to yang,” or “favorable turn of fortune.” It is also considered as a timing of rebirth.

In Japan, many people have still practiced a traditional custom to take a bath with Yuzu citrus fruits floating in the bathtub on the day of winter solstice believing that it will prevent from catching a cold throughout the year. This belief is based on the features of yuzu turee that it is strong against diseases and has a long life. Also, yuzu juice and skins contain abundant of vitamin C. Hot yuzu bath indeed has great effects on moisturizing our skins. Yuzu fruit has such a refreshing and relaxing fragrance. In addition, it is believed that evil spirits avoid strong scent, so taking a yuzu hot bath before a new year arrives is a meaningful ritual.

Besides the yuzu hot bath, we have another custom to eat pumpkin on the day of the winter solstice. Back in old days, there were little vegetables available during winter, so people would store pumpkins harvested in summer because pumpkins are rich in nutrients. Also, when the word a pumpkin is described in kanji, Chinese characters, it ends with a rhyme implying fortune. By eating pumpkins on the winter solstice day, we believe we gain much fortune.

The winter solstice is a day to reset ourselves. Why don’t we take a moment to reflect upon ourselves, detox our mind and body, and be ready to have a new year to arrive.

3 Stress-Busting Stretches

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If daily stress has you literally in knots, taking a short break to do a few simple stretches can go a long way toward unwrapping some of that anxiety and tension. With each of these movements, stretch only as far as comfortably possible and focus on your breathing. For your healthiest stress-relief plan, combine these moves with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and frequent contact with friends and loved ones.

Wall Roll-Down
What it does: Relaxes neck, shoulders, and lower back
How to do it: Stand with your back against a wall, feet hip-width apart and about 12 inches from the wall. Inhale, pulling your abdominal muscles in toward your spine, and press your entire back to the wall. As you exhale, roll down until only your tailbone and buttocks are touching the wall. Relax your neck and shoulders, and let your head and arms hang. Take deep, slow breaths and circle your arms inward five times, then outward five times. Slowly roll up.

Cat With a Twist
What it does: Relaxes shoulders, chest, abdominal muscles, and back
How to do it: Kneel with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Exhale, pulling your abdominal muscles in toward your spine, round your back, and drop your head and tailbone toward the floor, stretching like a cat. Inhale and reverse the move, arching your back and lifting your tailbone and head toward the ceiling. Do the sequence five times. Next, with your back flat, twist and slide your left arm, palm up, between your right arm and right leg. Reach far enough with your left hand so that your left shoulder, arm, and side of your head rest on the floor. Hold for five to eight deep breaths, then repeat with right arm.

Up the Wall
What it does: Relaxes hips and back of thighs
How to do it: Lie on your back with buttocks as close to a wall as possible. Extend your legs up on the wall, keeping your feet relaxed and about hip-width apart. Using your hands, gently press your thighs toward the wall. Hold for five to eight breaths. Then slowly bend your knees out to the sides and bring the soles of your feet together, sliding them down the wall as far as is comfortable. (The sides of your feet should rest against the wall.) Gently press your knees and thighs toward the wall. Hold for five to eight breaths. Release.

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What That Energy Drink Just Did To Your Heart

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By Markham Heid

Red Bull may or may not “give you wings.” But along with other types of energy drinks containing caffeine and taurine, it could cause your heart to work harder than it has to, shows a new German study.

Researchers monitored the hearts of 18 healthy young men and women before and after they downed energy drinks. One hour after consumption, heart contraction rates significantly increased among the study participants. Specifically, the heart’s left ventricle—which draws oxygen from the lungs before pumping it out to the rest of the body—strained more than usual, explains study co-author Jonas Dörner, MD, of the University of Bonn.

Past studies have linked energy drinks to insomnia, upset stomach, headache, heart palpitations and arrhythmia, seizure, and even sudden death, Dr. Dörner says. While his research didn’t reveal anything so alarming, he emphasized that his experiment only looked at the short-term effects of energy drink consumption. And though unusual, he said that increased contraction rates—at least among healthy adults—are not in themselves dangerous. “These changes mean a higher workload for the heart,” he says. But “how or if this affects older people or people with heart disease is still unknown.”

Put simply, the research shows your heart works harder after consuming even small amounts of energy drinks—probably because of the taurine, Dr. Dörner adds. (He says taurine appears to increase the release of calcium in the muscle fibers of the heart, which may increase the strength of contractions.) Whether this is dangerous to your health isn’t clear. “Further studies need to be done to address issues like long-term effects and effects in patients with cardiovascular disease,” he says.

So should you stay away from energy drinks? The answer’s yes for children and those with any type of heart condition, Dr. Dörner advises. But for healthy adults, his study didn’t uncover any immediate risks despite the heart’s increased workload.

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Active component of grape seed extract effective against cancer cells

Released on EurekAlert! On December 4, 2013

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published online ahead of print in the journal Nutrition and Cancer describes the laboratory synthesis of the most active component of grape seed extract, B2G2, and shows this synthesized compound induces the cell death known as apoptosis in prostate cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
“We’ve shown similar anti-cancer activity in the past with grape seed extract (GSE), but now we know B2G2 is its most biologically active ingredient which can be synthesized in quantities that will allow us to study the detailed death mechanism in cancer cells,” says Alpna Tyagi, PhD, of the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Tyagi works in the lab of CU Cancer Center investigator and Skaggs School of Pharmacy faculty member, Chapla Agarwal, PhD.

The group has spent more than a decade demonstrating the anti-cancer activity of GSE in controlled, laboratory conditions. For example, previous studies have shown the GSE effectiveness against cancer cells and have also shown its mechanism of action. “But until recently, we didn’t know which constituent of GSE created this effect. This naturally occurring compound, GSE, is a complex mixture of polyphenols and also so far it has been unclear about the biologically active constituents of GSE against cancer cells,” Tyagi says.

Eventually the group pinpointed B2G2 as the most active compound, but, “it’s expensive and it takes a long time to isolate B2G2 from grape seed extract,” Tyagi says.

This expense related to the isolation of B2G2 has limited the group’s further exploration. So instead of purifying B2G2 from GSE, the group decided to synthesize it in the lab. The current study reports the success of this effort, including the ability to synthesize gram-quantity of B2G2 reasonably quickly and inexpensively.

In the paper’s second half, the group shows anti-cancer activity of synthesized B2G2 similar in mechanism and degree to overall GSE effectiveness.

“Our goal all along has been a clinical trial of the biologically active compounds from GSE against human cancer. But it’s difficult to earn FDA approval for a trial in which we don’t know the mechanisms and possible effects of all active components. Therefore, isolating and synthesizing B2G2 is an important step because now we have the ability to conduct more experiments with the pure compound. Ongoing work in the lab further increases our understanding of B2G2′s mechanism of action that will help for the preclinical and clinical studies in the future,” Tyagi says.

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Japanese cuisine added to UNESCO intangible heritage list

Posted on Mainichi Japan on Dec. 5, 2013

In this Nov. 27, 2013 photo, Japanese dishes are served on a table for dinner at Japanese restaurant

Irimoya Bettei in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — “Washoku” traditional Japanese cuisine was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list Wednesday, raising the government’s hopes of enhancing its global recognition, attracting more foreign tourists and boosting exports of the country’s agricultural products.

The Japanese government’s proposal was formally approved by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization at a meeting of its Intergovernmental Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan, Japan’s cultural affairs agency said, adding that the panel valued the spiritual tradition of respecting nature associated with washoku.

The move comes as the country faces a low food self-sufficiency rate of around 40 percent on a calorific intake basis as well as the spread of Western eating habits. Washoku became the 22nd Japanese asset to be listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which also includes Kabuki, Noh and Bunraku.

“We are truly happy,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said of the UNESCO recognition in a statement released early Thursday morning. “We would like to continue passing on Japanese food culture to the generations to come … and would also like to work harder to let people overseas appreciate the benefits of washoku.”

The Japanese government is hoping that the registration will help ease safety concerns over the country’s food products following the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

As changes in social and economic structures as well as the globalization of food have raised concern about whether communities can continue to pass down traditional Japanese dietary cultures, the government also hopes the heritage listing will help the younger generation to recognize the value of such cultures.

Kiyotoshi Tamura, an official of the Organization to Promote Japanese Restaurants Abroad, expressed hopes that efforts will be made to advertise Japanese foods, saying, “The recognition of Japanese cuisine will definitely increase. I hope people around the world will familiarize themselves and promote it.”

The government made a proposal for UNESCO registration of the country’s food culture in 2012, backing a campaign initially launched by the Japanese Culinary Academy, a nonprofit organization made up of chefs in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto and other parts of Japan.

In its proposal, “Washoku: Traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese,” the government said Japanese food across the country has basic common characteristics but also has “great diversity” based geography and history, leading to the use of various kinds of seafood and agricultural products.

It also said Japanese food has developed as part of daily life, has a strong connection to seasonal events such as the celebration of New Year and is constantly recreated in response to changes in the natural and social environments.

In October, the UNESCO body recommended Japanese food be recognized as intangible cultural heritage, saying it plays a major role in social solidarity.

UNESCO had previously registered four food cultures — French cuisine, traditional Mexican food, the Mediterranean diet in countries such as Spain and Italy, and “keskek,” a Turkish ceremonial dish — as such assets.

December 05, 2013(Mainichi Japan)