Margaret Malochleb

Margaret Malochleb

Wine glasses and cheese plate

A recent study by scientists at Iowa State University showed that wine and cheese consumption can help protect against cognitive problems later in life. ©artisteer/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Wine glasses and cheese plate

A recent study by scientists at Iowa State University showed that wine and cheese consumption can help protect against cognitive problems later in life. ©artisteer/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Boosting cognition with wine and cheese

Could consumption of cheese and red wine be one of the keys to cognitive acuity later in life? A large-scale study spearheaded by scientists at Iowa State University indicates that it could be. The research results, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, were based on an analysis of data from the UK Biobank, a biomedical database and research resource.

The 1,787 aging adults who participated in the study completed a Fluid Intelligence Test to create a snapshot of their ability to “think on the fly.” The assessments were conducted at baseline (2006–2010) and in two follow-up sessions (2012–2013 and 2015–2016).

The most significant findings showed that cheese provided the greatest protection against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life, while daily alcohol consump-tion, particularly red wine, corresponded to improved cognitive function. In addition, weekly consumption of lamb was shown to boost long-term cognitive prowess. For individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the analysis indicated that salt intake should be monitored to avoid cognitive problems.

“I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,” said principal investigator Auriel Willette in a press release.

“Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer’s, while others seem to be at greater risk,” added study co-author Brandon Klinedinst in a press release. “That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether.”

Personalized nutrition market to soar

The global personalized nutrition market is estimated to reach $16.6 billion in 2027, from $3.7 billion in 2019, delivering a compound annual growth rate of 13.6%, according to Research and Markets. Growth will be driven by rising health awareness, a shift to personalized approaches to nutrition, and the growing demand for customized diet plans.

Personalized nutrition focuses on dietary changes that help improve health and lower the risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and obesity. Ongoing breakthroughs and growth in personalized nutrition have resulted in a greater appreciation for healthier foods and better fitness, as well as an increasing inclination toward science-based and data-driven nutritional solutions tailored to reach specific health goals.

Regionally, North America accounted for nearly 44.6% of the personalized nutrition market share in 2019 and is anticipated to account for a significant revenue share through 2027. Europe accounted for 27% of market share in 2019 and is anticipated to exhibit a growth rate of 3% over the projected time frame, due to emerging digital health solutions in the region. Asia Pacific is estimated to witness the fastest growth rate of 14.8% through 2027 due to the growing prevalence of lifestyle disorders, an expanding geriatric patient pool, inadequate nutrition, and increasing consumer spending capacity in the region.

Helping wine survive climate change

Rising global temperatures may render many grape-growing regions too hot and dry to produce high-quality wine from traditional varieties. But grape varieties from stress-prone regions could hold the key to solving problems posed by climate change, according to scientists at the University of California, Davis.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the researchers detailed how the traits of grape varieties that produce their best wines in warmer, drier regions can conserve water, helping the vines to extend their water resources over a longer period.

The study examined how grapevines regulate their stomata, the pores on the leaf surface that allow the plant to take in CO2 for photosynthesis and expel oxygen. Grapevines must choose between opening their stomata to take in CO2 to produce sugars for growth and ripening or closing the stomata to reduce evaporation and water stress. Although water stress can concentrate flavors and aromas in the grapes, too much will prevent grapes from achieving an ideal balance of sugars, acids, and tannins.

The researchers examined traits for 34 varieties and used a global database of planting areas to define the associations between varieties and regions. The researchers found that varieties grown in regions more likely to experience water stress, such as Italy’s Sangiovese and Montepulciano, kept their stomata more closed than varieties from cooler, more humid regions.

“This strategy would help these varieties save water,” said study co-author Gabriela Sinclair in a press release, adding that the researchers must determine how the traits could affect grapevines as the climate reaches new extremes. “These findings show that traits will be important to consider when we predict what will happen to different wine regions,” she added.

Food traceability demand rises

A new research report by MarketsandMarkets projects the global food traceability market to reach $26.1 billion by 2025, from $16.8 billion in 2020, recording a compound annual growth rate of 9.1%. A primary factor affecting growth is an increase in the demand for tracking the safety of food and beverages.

Citing data from the World Health Organization, the study references nearly 600 million cases of foodborne diseases caused each year by the consumption of unsafe food. The role food safety can play in reducing health threats is projected to drive the demand for food traceability and positively impact market growth.

Regionally, Asia Pacific is poised to dominate the market and is also projected to be the fastest-growing area, owing to enhanced safety concerns due to the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Additional drivers include the region’s high population and the high purchasing capacity of its consumers. A shift in consumption habits due to heightened awareness about healthy food and beverages is also increasing the demand for food traceability services.

Stringent regulations set by the government in developed regions, such as Europe, are also projected to highlight the importance of food safety across all stages of the supply chain. The European Food Safety Agency, for example, is raising food safety awareness, and amendments in the General Food Law Regulation have been made to improve risk assessment across the food supply chains. These regulations will present additional opportunities for the adoption of traceability systems to assess and mitigate risks associated with food contamination.

Parkinson’s treatment in a tomato

Scientists at the John Innes Centre have cultivated a tomato that could become an affordable source of an essential medicine to treat Parkinson’s disease. The genetically modified tomato, enriched with the drug L-DOPA, has implications for developing nations where access to pharmaceutical drugs is restricted, and also offers benefits for people who suffer adverse effects of the chemically synthesized version of the drug.

Tomatoes on vine

A genetically modified tomato has been enriched with the drug L-DOPA, a key medication used to treat Parkinson’s.
© hdagli /E+/Getty Images Plus

Tomatoes on vine

A genetically modified tomato has been enriched with the drug L-DOPA, a key medication used to treat Parkinson’s.
© hdagli /E+/Getty Images Plus

L-DOPA is an amino acid precursor of the neuro-chemical dopamine and is produced from tyrosine, an amino acid found in many foods. In Parkinson’s patients, L-DOPA compensates for a depleted supply of dopamine.

To modify the tomato, the research team introduced a gene encoding tyrosinase, an enzyme that uses tyrosine to build molecules such as L-DOPA. The new gene elevates the level of L-DOPA in the fruit part of the plant, which results in higher yields than those associated with L-DOPA production in the whole plant. The levels achieved were comparable to those observed in other L-DOPA accumulating plants, without drawbacks that previously hampered plant metabolic production of the drug.

Cathie Martin, corresponding author of the study, believes L-DOPA can be extracted from the tomatoes and purified into a pharmaceutical product. “The idea is that you can grow tomatoes with relatively little infrastructure,” she explained in a press release. “As GMOs, you could grow them in screen houses, controlled environments with very narrow meshes, so you would not have pollen escape through insects. Then you could scale up at relatively low cost. A local industry could prepare L-DOPA from tomatoes because it’s soluble and you can do extractions. Then you could make a purified product relatively low tech, which could be dispensed locally.”

About the Author

Margaret Malochleb,
Associate Editor,
[email protected]
Margaret Malochleb