Generating good fat by pushing the right buttons

Public Release: 30-MAR-2016
Study identifies mTORC1 as key regulator of browning white fat
Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute


Lake Nona, Fla., March 30, 2016 — Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified a protein complex that is required for conversion of “bad” white fat to “good” brown fat. The findings, published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could help treat metabolic disorders such as obesity.

“Our study points to mTORC1–a protein complex that senses nutrient levels–as a key regulator of fat browning,” said Sheila Collins, Ph.D., professor in SBP’s Integrative Metabolism Program and senior author of the paper. “Therapies that promote browning, or an increase in brown fat-like cells within the typical white fat tissue, are being actively pursued as a way to help people burn more calories independent of exercise.”

Brown fat burns energy as heat, and scientists believe it evolved as a way to stay warm and survive cold weather. Adults with higher-than-average amounts of brown fat are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and are less likely to develop insulin resistance. In contrast, white fat acts as a thermal insulator that protects internal organs. An excess of white fat is associated with metabolic disease, as well as an increased risk of certain cancers.

The proportion of brown fat-like cells in white fat deposits increases upon prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, which trigger release of the hormone/neurotransmitter noradrenaline. Collins’ team found a new step in the process by which noradrenaline induces fat browning. Previous research had shown that it involves turning on protein kinase A (PKA), and this study shows that PKA activates mTORC1.

“This result came as a surprise because we knew that mTORC1 is a key player in stimulating growth in many tissues, including white fat,” added Collins. “Fat browning is thought to be an opposing process, so the fact that it requires the same protein complex is big news.”

The scientists also found that the way mTORC1 is triggered by PKA is different from how it’s activated by growth-promoting signals, such as insulin.

“Fat regulation isn’t black and white–our results help fill in the color in the picture. Imagine mTORC1 is a machine with multiple capabilities, like a printer/copier/scanner. Energy-storage signaling pushes one set of buttons and gets one outcome (fat storage), while PKA pushes another set to get a different outcome (conversion to brown fat).

“These results add an important detail to the understanding of fat browning, which will help determine which steps could be targeted by future anti-obesity drugs,” Collins concluded.

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Natural Ways to Increase Probiotic Bacteria

Last Updated: Aug 15, 2015 | By Susan Kaye

b2Two yogurt parfaits with fresh raspberries. Photo Credit Piotr Adamowicz/iStock/Getty Images


Probiotics are helpful bacterial “bugs” that live and work in your intestines helping to maintain your health, according to the Dairy Council of California. Often, the level of helpful bacteria is reduced in the gut due to taking antibiotics, which wipe them out, or if you are under great stress or have a virus that wreaks havoc with the bowel. The result is digestive upset that takes the form of diarrhea and other bowel disturbances, like irritable bowel syndrome. Replacing helpful bacteria is easy when you consume foods high in probiotics. Adding probiotics to the diet daily can help reduce and relieve a variety of bowel problems, as well as reduce the effects of lactose intolerance for those who are unable to digest the enzyme lactase. Often found in creamy, white, comfort foods, probiotics are a great option to add to your diet.


One of the best sources of probiotics is yogurt. The pudding-like product has probiotics culture added to it, but not all yogurts are created equal. Those that have the seal saying they contain “live, active cultures” are the ones to look for.

Cultured Milks

Kefir and Acidophilus milks are cultured and have probiotics bacteria added to them. These milks taste somewhat similar to yogurt, having a tangy bite, and are available for purchase in most health food stores.


Fermented cabbage, also known as sauerkraut, is a good source of probiotics, according to the Medical University of South Carolina. The cultures are added and become active in the fermentation process. Choose sauerkraut if yogurt or cultured milks are not to your liking.

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic bacteria can be found in various supplements containing acidophilus and bifido bacterium. These are excellent choices for replacing the friendly bacteria in the bowel and are available for purchase at health food stores.

 Fermented Products

Eating a little bit of fermented products high in probiotics is advisable if you are able to tolerate them without digestive upset. Some fermented foods are fermented fish, and miso and tempeh, which are made from fermented soy. Buy these soy products from a health food store and not an Asian market. The miso at health food stores is usually naturally aged containing the actual cultures needed.

Original Article: LIVESTRONG.COM Natural Ways to Increase Probiotic Bacteria

What Vitamins Are in Cauliflower?

Posted on LIVESTRON.COM on Jan 24, 2014 | By Frank Whittemore

Cauliflower Photo Credit Oxana Denezhkina/iStock/Getty Images 

Cauliflower, is a cruciferous vegetable, in the same family with broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. As with broccoli, cauliflower is the immature flower head of the plant, picked while still creamy white and tender. Boiled, sauteed, steamed or stir-fried cauliflower is a nutritious vegetable that provides several essential nutrients including significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and several other vitamins in smaller amounts.

Vitamin C

A 1/2-cup measure of cooked cauliflower contains 27.5 milligrams of ascorbic acid, more commonly known as vitamin C. This amount equals almost 50 percent of the daily recommended intake for this vitamin. The University of Maryland Medical Center describes vitamin C as an essential nutrient for the absorption of iron and to maintain and heal tissues within the body, particularly connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, as well as teeth and gums. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to reduce the levels of harmful chemicals within the body that can damage cells within tissues.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is another essential nutrient provided by cauliflower. This vitamin plays a central role in the production of blood clotting factors, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Cauliflower provides 8.5 micrograms of vitamin K per 1/2-cup serving or around 8 percent of the required daily intake for the average adult.


The University of Maryland Medical Center also states that folate works with other B vitamins to help produce healthy red blood cells. Folate is also essential in the development of DNA. The support that folate provides in the production of this genetic material has led to women who are pregnant supplementing their diet with folate to help prevent certain types of congenital birth defects such as spina bifida. A single 1/2-cup serving of cooked cauliflower provides around 27 mcg of folate or around 7 percent of the amount needed per day.

Other Vitamins

Cauliflower also provides several other important nutrients, although in smaller quantities. These include 0.1 mg of vitamin B6 or approximately 4 percent of the daily requirement and around 0.3 milligrams pantothenic acid or around 3 percent of what is needed each day in a 1/2-cup serving.

Trace Amounts

The same 1-cup measure of cooked cauliflower also contains trace amounts of certain vitamins. These include thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, according to the USDA Nutrient Database.

What Vitamins Are in Cauliflower? LIVESTRON.COM



VIEWING CHERRY BLOSSOMS The centuries-old charm of Japan’s cherry blossoms

Posted on The Japan Times by Reiji Yoshida, Staff Writer, Mar 14, 2016


The time of year much awaited by many people across the country is finally near: the blooming period of the nation’s beloved sakura (cherry blossoms).

Numerous people plan hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) under the trees, one of the biggest spring events on the Japanese calendar.

But when did people first start cherishing sakura? And when and how did they start gathering for viewing parties under the trees?

Following are questions and answers about sakura and hanami:

What does hanami mean?

Hana literally means “flowers” in Japanese, and mi means “viewing.”

But when the two terms are combined, it usually means cherry-blossom viewing, indicating cherry blossoms have been adored for centuries.

Until the Nara Period (710-794), the nation’s most favorite flower was ume (Japanese apricot), most likely because of a strong cultural influence at that time from China, where ume originated.

But in the Heian Period (794-1185), sakura became more popular among Japanese aristocrats.

Many experts link this transition to the 894 abolition of Kentoshi, Japan’s official delegations to China. The abolition cut off Japan from Chinese influence and helped people cultivate their own culture based on the local climate and nature, they say.

After the mid-Heian Period, “the flower” mentioned in poems usually referred to sakura, even if it wasn’t stated explicitly, according to Yozaburo Shirahata, professor of comparative culture studies at Chubu University who published the book “Hanami to Sakura” (“Hanami and Cherry Blossoms”) in 2000.

Did the Heian Period have hanami parties similar to now?

a3No. During the Heian Period, hanami was an elegant custom among the well-educated aristocracy only and did not involve crowds eating and drinking under cherry trees.

In 1598, the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi held an extravagant hamani party at Daigoji Temple in Kyoto for feudal lords and their followers, but the practice had yet to spread to the common people.

According to Shirahata, today’s hanami parties are characterized by three elements: crowds, food and drinks, and a large number of sakura trees.

Today’s hanami parties trace their roots to after the mid-1600s in Edo, today’s Tokyo. One of the earliest hanami venues was Ueno of today’s Taito Ward, which is still a very popular place with numerous sakura trees.

How did hanami become popular with nonaristocrats?

During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Japan enjoyed freedom from warfare at home and abroad for more than two centuries. This allowed common people, in particular those living in Edo, to nurture a rich culture of their own. Edo was the capital of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684-1751), the eighth shogun, planted numerous sakura trees and created several hanami venues in Edo for common people to enjoy. This, too, greatly helped spread the hanami practice among the public, Shirahata wrote in his book.

Among the Edo hanami sites Yoshimune created were those in Asukayama, Mukojima, Gotenyama and Koganei. Some of those places are still among the most popular hanami spots in Tokyo today.

Are we seeing descendants of the Edo Period cherry trees?

Probably not. Until the end of the Edo Period, people viewed various cherry blossom varieties, including yamazakura, edohigan and kanhizakura.

But after the someiyoshino hybrid was artificially created, probably in the late Edo Period or early Meiji Era (1868-1912), the variety has become extremely popular in Japan thanks to its beautiful, slightly-pinkish blossoms.

Someiyoshino now probably accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all sakura trees in Japan, according to Toshiki Sato, professor at the University of Tokyo who published the book “Sakura ga Tsukutta Nippon” (“A Japan Created by Cherry Blossoms”) in 2005.

All someiyoshino trees are planted using a technique called tsugiki (grafting). This means all existing someiyoshino trees have identical DNA, the exact reason most sakura in Japan blossom, then subsequently fall, almost simultaneously.

This synchronization makes the scenery of cherry blossoms even more stunning, probably another reason someiyoshino are dominant in Japan.

When can we see sakura in Tokyo and elsewhere this year?

According to the “cherry-blossom front” forecast released by the Japan Weather Association on March 9, someiyoshino start blooming in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on March 21, and will be in full bloom about a week later.

Elsewhere, the cities of Fukuoka and Nagoya will see the first blooms on March 22, Yokohama on March 23, and Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe on March 25.

Hirosaki of Aomori Prefecture, known for beautiful cherry trees in Hirosaki Park, will see this year’s first bloom of someiyoshino on April 20, with blooms in Sapporo expected on May 2.

Original Article: The centuries-old charm of Japan’s cherry blossoms on The Japan Times @

The Advantages of Asparagus

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2015 | By Kiki Michelle


A baking sheet with asparagus. Photo Credit doji1989/iStock/Getty Images

Asparagus is a spring vegetable and member of the lily family. Also known as asparagus officinalis, it is a widely cultivated crop throughout Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It is one of the most nutritionally-rich vegetables available as it is rich in potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, thiamine and fiber.

Folic Acid
Asparagus is one of the leading vegetable sources of folic acid. Folic acid helps the body form red blood cells and genetic material. It also is necessary for protein metabolism, cell growth and division and the prevention of certain neural tube birth defects. A 1/2-cup serving of asparagus contains 132 mcg of folic acid, which is 33 percent of your daily folic acid needs.

Potassium and Vitamin C
Asparagus is a rich source of potassium. Six asparagus spears contain approximately 20 mg of potassium, which is half of the potassium you need in a day. Potassium is necessary for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves and digestive system. Richly-colored green asparagus spears are good sources of vitamin C, which is necessary for the formation of the body’s connective tissues.

Fiber, Thiamine and Vitamin B6
A 5.3-oz. serving of asparagus has 3 grams of fiber, as well as 15 percent of the thiamine and 10 percent of the vitamin B6 you need in a day. Dietary fiber helps normalize bowel movements, lowers blood cholesterol levels, aids in weight loss and lowers blood sugar levels. Thiamine and vitamin B6 help the body convert carbohydrates into energy.

Other Nutritional Benefits
Asparagus is also a rich source of rutin, a compound that strengthens capillary walls. Asparagus also contains glutathione, which is an antioxidant that can help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals that may cause cancer. A 5.3-oz. serving of asparagus also contains 8 percent of the vitamin A you need each day. Vitamin A is necessary in cell growth and development and retina formation in the eyes.

 LIVESTRONG.COM: The Advantages of Asparagus

Sweet discovery in leafy greens holds key to gut health

Public Release: 15-FEB-2016


IMAGE: IMAGE: A critical discovery about how bacteria
feed on an unusual sugar molecule found in leafy green
vegetables could hold the key to explaining how ‘good’
bacteria protect our gut
Credit: Photo: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

A critical discovery about how bacteria feed on an unusual sugar molecule found in leafy green vegetables could hold the key to explaining how ‘good’ bacteria protect our gut and promote health.

The finding suggests that leafy greens are essential for feeding good gut bacteria, limiting the ability of bad bacteria to colonise the gut by shutting them out of the prime ‘real estate’.

Researchers from Melbourne and the UK identified a previously unknown enzyme used by bacteria, fungi and other organisms to feed on the unusual but abundant sugar sulfoquinovose – SQ for short – found in green vegetables.

Each year, leafy green vegetables – such as spinach – produce the sugar on an enormous scale globally, comparable to the world’s total annual iron ore production.

The research, published today in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, was led by Dr Ethan Goddard-Borger from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Spencer Williams from the Bio21 Institute and University of Melbourne, and Professor Gideon Davies from the University of York, UK.

Dr Goddard-Borger said the discovery could be exploited to cultivate the growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria. “Every time we eat leafy green vegetables we consume significant amounts of SQ sugars, which are used as an energy source by good gut bacteria,” he said.

“Bacteria in the gut, such as crucial protective strains of E. coli, use SQ as a source of energy. E. coli provides a protective barrier that prevents growth and colonisation by bad bacteria, because the good bugs are taking up all the habitable real estate,” Dr Goddard-Borger said.

E. coli is a key bacterial coloniser needed by our gut. We speculate that consumption of this specific molecule within leafy greens will prove to be an important factor in improving and maintaining healthy gut bacteria and good digestive health.”

Professor Williams said the team had revealed how bacteria extract the sugar from plants in order to fuel their growth. “We discovered the enzyme YihQ, which is used by bacteria to absorb and metabolise these sulfur-containing sugars as food,” he said.

“Sulfur is critical for building proteins, the essential components of all living organisms. SQ is the only sugar molecule which contains sulfur, and ‘digestion’ of the molecule by bacteria releases sulfur into the environment, where it re-enters the global ‘sulfur cycle’ to be reused by other organisms.”

Professor Williams said that the pathway was unusual, but abundant in biological organisms.

“This work answers a 50-year mystery that has surrounded how sulfur – an element essential for life on Earth – was used and recycled by living organisms,” he said. “What is remarkable is that the YihQ enzyme was hiding in plain sight and is produced by the humble bacterium E. coli, present in nearly every biologist’s laboratory.”

The discovery also provides crucial insights that may one day be exploited to develop an entirely new class of antibiotics, Dr Goddard-Borger said. “New antimicrobial strategies are desperately needed as more and more bacteria acquire resistance to existing classes of antibiotics.”

“We think it will be possible to use these widespread enzymes to enable highly specific delivery of antibiotics to harmful forms of E. coli and other pathogens, such as Salmonella, responsible for food poisoning, while leaving the good gut bacteria untouched.”


The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Ramaciotti Foundation, veski, the Victorian Government Operational Infrastructure Support Program, UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the European Research Council.

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New Japan, Old Japan / A streetcar named ‘oden’

Posted on The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun on January 26, 2016


The Yomiuri Shimbun
While having oden and drinks, customers enjoy a ride on the Odensha special streetcar operated by Toyohashi Rail Road Co. in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture. Rail employees decorated the inside with red lanterns, a noren shop curtain and other ornaments.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerTOYOHASHI, Aichi — Around the time when red lanterns long associated with drinking establishments glow at dusk, Toyohashi Rail Road Co. runs a special streetcar from Toyohashi Station in Aichi Prefecture. It’s a moving oden stall, aboard which passengers can enjoy oden (a hodgepodge of ingredients including fish cakes, eggs and vegetables stewed in broth) with drinks, so the streetcar is called Odensha, a pun on the word for the winter delicacy and densha (train).

The streetcar runs daily from November through February, except for the New Year’s holidays. About 150 services, including those in daytime, are offered for its ninth season, but the Odensha has now become so popular that on the first day reservations were accepted almost all seats were booked by not just customers living in the prefecture, but also those outside.

qq5The Yomiuri Shimbun
Vehicles wait for the Odensha as it turns at a crossing. The streetcar runs at a slow speed to prevent oden soup and drinks from spilling.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A handmade paper lantern is hung at the rear window of the Odensha as a marker for the tram, which is called a hitotsume (one-eye) car as it has only one light on each end.

qq7The Yomiuri Shimbun
Oden served on the Odensha is now prepared exclusively for the service by a local fish cake manufacturer. Ingredients include chikuwa tube-type fish cakes, a local specialty, and quail eggs, as Toyohashi serves as the nation’s top producer.

qq8The Yomiuri Shimbun
Local sake in a cup and a masu wooden sake drinking vessel are offered as souvenirs to passengers. The cup’s label features the Odensha character, with the design on the masu changing every season.

Up to 30 people can board per run, which starts from and returns to Toyohashi Station, traveling on a five-kilometer route each way. The journey takes about 80 minutes, including a short break along the way.

A special feature of the train is the handmade nature of the operation, with the involvement of railroad employees in the Odensha. When the service was inaugurated, for example, the staff bought all kinds of packaged retort oden products available at supermarkets to compare them before deciding which to offer onboard the streetcar.

The Odensha’s oden is served in a container that can warm the contents through a chemical reaction when an accompanying string is pulled. Employees have decided to use the container so that customers can enjoy hot food.

In addition, the Odensha has already been registered as a trademark to prevent the name from being used elsewhere.

The streetcar used for the special service was manufactured in 1955. The railroad company decorated the single car with illustrations of an Odensha character and various oden ingredients on its body, while red lanterns and a noren shop curtain are hung inside. The company’s female bus tour guides wait on customers, while ready-made long dining tables that can be brought into the car from its entrances are used.

Employees remove these decorations when the Odensha season is over to return the car as it originally was.

Toyohashi Rail Road started to offer streetcar services in 1925, which served as a main means of transportation for the city over the decades. However, the annual number of passengers dropped from 9.57 million in fiscal 1963 to 2.6 million in fiscal 2003, mainly due to the increased use of automobiles.

With an aim to boost demand among people who do not regularly use the streetcar, the operator first offered a “beer streetcar” service in the summer, which proved to be a hit. The company then started the Odensha in 2007 as a winter treat.

Including this season, 24,000 customers will have enjoyed the Odensha service since it was inaugurated. The Odensha also has helped increase the number of customers for the beer streetcar, according to the operator.

The Odensha is the brainchild of Masahiro Toda, now a deputy manager of the company’s general affairs department.

“We make almost no profit [from the Odensha],” he said. “However, it is now regarded as one of the winter attractions in Toyohashi, having become well-known nationwide.”

Toyohashi Rail Road has also found the number of streetcar users recovering, with the figure exceeding 3 million in the fiscal year ended March 2015.

Hiroshi Miyachi, who organized a New Year’s party aboard the Odensha on a recent evening, said, “It was quite hard to make a reservation” because he, along with five others, spent 40 minutes trying to get through to the company on the phone.

Miyachi, who has ridden the beer streetcar and the Odensha six times put together, added: “We can feel closer together in a narrow space like this, while eating tasty oden at the same time