A tangerine a day keeps the doctor away?

As populations across the developed world age, policy-makers have become increasingly concerned with methods of controlling the rapid-rise of healthcare costs. Rising levels of insulin resistance, a physiological condition characterized by a decreased ability of the hormone insulin to lower blood sugar levels, and it’s associated maladies of obesity, increased blood lipid levels and diabetes increasingly present one of if not the greatest source of rising healthcare expenditures.

Presently aside from diet and exercise there are few widespread effective treatment for insulin resistance, a situation that has posed a concern for policymakers for quite sometime. However, recent research at the University of Western Ontario in partnership with the Ontario Heart and Stroke Foundation and Pfizer Canada’s Cardiovascular Research Program might just be the first step towards developing one.

The researchers have discovered that a flavonoid chemical, found in tangerines, known as Nobilitin when fed orally to genetically-engineered mice appeared to have helped them stave off the development of insulin resistance, as compared to a control group not given Nobilitin, when fed a high-fat/high-sugar diet.

After eating, a spike in blood-sugar levels leads to the secretion of insulin, a hormone used to control carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body, specifically insulin slows down the use of stored fat-cells as an energy source and the body switches to glucose. In a healthy individual this process is self-regulating, after the food has been digested, insulin levels will drop and the body will once again resume using stored fat as an energy source. In individuals with pre-diabetes however, the insulin receptors become phosphorylated during the uptake of insulin rendering them inoperable.  The body becomes less-effective at controlling blood-sugars, and levels can rise causing adverse health-effects.

Nobilitin appears to activate the same receptor-response mechanism as insulin without causing phosphorylation. Additionally Nobilitin prevents the release of VLDLs (very low density lipoproteins) an unhealthy fat associated with heart disease. When combined, these two factors appears to of prevented the mice from developing insulin-resistance and staved off the development of diabetes, obesity and coronary disease.

While a significant amount of further investigation remains to be done to determine if the findings are transferable to humans, this research is an exciting development nonetheless, towards a potential cure for insulin resistance and type-II diabetes mellitus.


Mulvihill, E. E., Assini, J. M., Lee, J. K., Allister, E. M., Sutherland, B. G., Koppes, J. B., . . . Huff, M. W. (2011). Nobiletin attenuates VLDL overproduction, dyslipidemia, and atherosclerosis in mice with diet-induced insulin resistance. Diabetes, doi:10.2337/db10-0589

NHS Choices. (2011). Tangerine chemical good for mice. Retrieved 04/06, 2011, from http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/04April/Pages/tangerines-prevent-diabetes-obesity-claim.aspx

Computer model brings better understanding of complex ecosystems

The spheres and colors represent the various species and trophic levels respectively, in Nevada Lakes, USA. (Picture Credits: Harper et al. 2005).

Numbers are numbing and data are messy. “Visualization tools can help untangle complexity,” says Eric Berlow—ecologist at Sierra Nevada Research Institute in California.  Good visualizations can bring out the details, organize information, and allow scientists to see data in a different way. A computer model called “Niche Model” emerged in the year 2000. It was developed by researchers of the applied mathematics department at Cornell University, Williams and Martinez. Before the model, many ecologists base their theories on “sharply focused” ecosystems with less species, to avoid “clutters” in their study.  However, this was problematic since it risks oversimplifying real-world phenomena.

Since 2000, Niche Model injected a healthy dose of complexity into the field of ecology and conservation biology research. By embracing the complexity, ecologists can now generate more accurate predictions that mimic real ecosystems.

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Strawberries: A Potential to Prevent Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a booming cancer diagnosis in the United states in the past 20 years. It is usually discovered at late stages thus has a very low survival rate.

In the U.S. somebody dies every 36minutes of this disease. Believe it or not, it is usually caused by persistent heartburn or acid reflux disease.

April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness month. Esophageal Cancer action Network (ECAN) has launched a nationwide public awareness campaign.

Here is a short clip of what Esophageal cancer is and its causes and symptoms.YouTube Preview Image

Yesterday i came across a couple articles from Medindia, Time, The wall street

straberries @ flickr

journal and WebMD, that talked about strawberries having a potential to prevent esophageal cancer based on a preliminary research  by Tong Chen. (a cancer researcher at Ohio State  Comprehensive Cancer Center).

Based on the results from her animal study showing that strawberries had anti-cancer effects, Chen decided to study strawberries as a cancer preventive in humans.  Her study involved a total of 38 participants all from China who were about 55 years old suffering from a mild to moderate dysplasia in the esophagus. 36 participants completed the study and biopsies of the esophagus were taken before and after the study.

These participants were instructed to consume 30 grams of freeze-dried strawberries (powder) in a glass of water twice daily for six months. Out of the 36 participants, 29 of them showed a decreased level of precancerous lesions.

So, Strawberries may be an alternative to prevent esophageal cancer. But this does not mean that we could gulp down pounds and pounds of strawberries to prevent or fight cancer. This research is still at its preliminary stage. There is more research and scrutiny that needs to be done for these findings to be valid.