Since omega-3 fats were discovered in the 1970s, growing evidence has found they have far-reaching benefits for the body and brain, from fighting heart disease and improving cognition, arthritis and eye health to warding off anxiety and depression.
More recently, studies have revealed these active fats may improve protein metabolism in skeletal muscles, which could have implications for loss of muscle mass and strength with aging.
Skeletal muscle comprises 45% of body mass and is critical for physical function, respiratory and overall metabolic health and recovery from illness or surgery.
Yet muscle mass and strength start waning with age as muscle protein breaks down more quickly than it can be regenerated.
This has been linked, in part, to low-level inflammation that often occurs with aging and is linked to frailty. Chronic inflammation has also been associated with abnormalities of mitochondrial function – the cells’ powerhouse – in aging skeletal muscle.
Combined with inadequate physical activity and poor diet, such declines can lead to sarcopenia, a debilitating condition afflicting one in three older adults, increasing risk of falls and fractures with detrimental impacts on health, activities of daily living and quality of life.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that form vital parts of all cellular and intracellular membranes where they support cell structure and a host of metabolic activities that impact gene expression and mitochondrial function, among other things.
The most studied omega-3s are the long-chain versions EPA and DHA, which also have properties that reduce inflammation and blood clotting and improve blood flow, accounting for much of their health benefits.
Accordingly, growing research has shown that EPA and DHA positively impact skeletal muscle regeneration, suggesting it can help muscles take up protein. This is likely to vary according to protein intake, which is very important to keep up.
Rich plant sources of omega-3s include nuts and seeds, especially linseeds and walnuts, dark leafy greens, and a succulent plant that grows like a weed in hot, dry areas of Australia called purslane or portulaca.
While these have their own health benefits and can be converted into EPA and DHA by the body, it can be more efficient to consume direct sources of these long-chain omega-3s. That includes algae and deep-sea fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel.
In combination with a healthy diet, fish oil supplements can also boost omega-3 levels, with numerous add-on health benefits.
Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Apr 23, 2019 in Protein
A powerful protein that protects women from the biological onslaught of pregnancy could be harnessed to prevent and treat a range of geriatric diseases, a recent study suggests.
Biological stresses created by pregnancy can induce protein damage – misfolding – in the pregnant mother’s body.
This misfolding can lead to preeclampsia – a pregnancy complication characterised by high maternal blood pressure and signs of kidney or liver damage that can endanger mum and baby.
Researchers led by Dr Amy Wyatt from Flinders University investigated how pregnant women’s bodies cope with protein misfolding.
They discovered that during pregnancy, women create an abundance of ‘pregnancy zone protein’ (PZP). The PZP stabilises the misfolded proteins, preventing them from forming plaques which lead to preeclampsia.
The researchers suggest the production of PZP during pregnancy represents a major maternal adaptation that helps to maintain protein homeostasis.
Protein homeostasis breaks down with aging and disease, causing protein aggregation, or plaques.
These plaques are not only associated with preeclampsia, but also with common ailments later in life including Alzheimer’s, arthritis and heart disease.
Amyloid beta peptide, for instance, which forms plaques in the placenta in preeclampsia, also forms plaques in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
Non-pregnant people can also produce PZP in response to certain diseases. Wyatt speculates this might be the body’s way to try and stop damaged proteins accumulating in response to stresses such as inflammation.
Exploring this is the next focus of their research. In the meantime, healthy lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can also reduce the risk of diseases with aging.
Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Apr 1, 2019 in Protein
Fancy some termites with your vegies for dinner? They taste rather minty, apparently. Or how about some grasshoppers – the Mexicans enjoy them roasted in chilli and garlic. In China you could try some fishy-tasting scorpions, or Cambodians might try and tempt you with fried tarantulas.
Many cultures have been eating bugs for centuries – including Indigenous Australians with delicacies like witchety grubs. Now, insects’ appeal as a cheap, nutritious and environmentally friendly food source is capturing attention as a potential solution for food security and sustainable agriculture.
By the year 2050 it’s estimated the world’s population will reach 9 billion people. To feed this growing population, current food production will need to nearly double.
But about one billion people around the world are hungry now. And food production is already unsustainable in the face of its ecological impact, climate change, land scarcity, overfished oceans and water shortages.
For this reason, leading organisations including the World Bank, United Nations and EAT Lancet Consortium are calling for radical overhauls of current agricultural and dietary practices.
They say multilevel solutions are needed that embrace and support small scale farmers, biodiversity and local knowledge. This includes widespread agreement that we need to eat more plant food and substantially less livestock for planetary and human health.
Insects rival conventional meat sources for their protein content, while putting significantly less strain on the environment.
Gram for gram, farming insect protein compared to beef needs 8 to 14 times less land, 5 times less water, and produces 6 to 13 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Packed with amino acids, crawly critters are a high-quality protein source. They also deliver other nutrients including healthy fats, minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium and selenium, and vitamins including the B group.
Unlike animal food sources, insects contain fibre – mostly from the chitin in their exoskeleton, making them a good source of prebiotics.
In support, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people who ate cricket powder in their breakfast every day for two weeks showed increased abundance of the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium animalis in their gut compared to controls who consumed the same breakfast without crickets.
But there are issues with foraging insects from nature for food; for instance, Australian honey ants and wood grubs are now threatened due to overexploitation by indigenous people for restaurants and ecotourism.
For this reason, insect farms are growing in popularity for animal feed or additives to human food. But they still need to overcome the “yuck factor” and pass regulatory tests for food safety.
That hasn’t stopped companies from producing insect-based products, for instance foods enriched from cricket protein seem to be growing in popularity – including cricket protein powder, organic roasted crickets and cricket energy bars.
Don’t fear. For vegans and vegetarians – and people who just can’t stomach the thought of eating insects – there are plenty of other nutritious, plant sources of protein including nuts, legumes, lentils, seeds, quinoa, and even hemp.
Animal protein – particularly whey powder – is popularly endorsed as the best source of amino acids for boosting muscle strength. But a closer look at the research suggests that plant proteins could be just as effective for building and maintaining lean muscle mass.
Whey protein contains more of the amino acid leucine than plant proteins. Extensive research shows that leucine activates muscle protein synthesis – i.e. helps muscle to use the protein. This is thought to explain its superior benefits for building lean muscle and strength after resistance training.
However, the evidence derives from studies of whey protein’s short-term impact over 3 to 4 hours. A recent meta-analysis combined nine studies that compared soy protein with various animal proteins over 6 weeks or more (5 studies tested whey and 4 used beef, milk or dairy protein).
Overall, the analysis found that combining protein supplementation with resistance training exercises (bench press and squat) increased muscle strength. But the effects of soy protein did not differ from whey powder or the other animal proteins.
Looking at whole dietary patterns, the Framingham Third Generation Study found last year that people with lower protein intakes had lower lean mass and muscle strength. But they also found no difference between the different types of protein.
According to Health.com, lead author Kelsey Mangano says, “As long as a person is exceeding the recommended daily allowance for protein, no matter the source in their diet, they can improve their muscle health.”
Losing muscle mass is one of the biggest health challenges of aging. Lean muscle does so much more than endow our bodies with a shapely physique.
Older adults need to maintain lean muscle mass to prevent falls, a major problem in aging that results in physical injury, reduced quality of life, and death.
Muscles store glucose to provide energy and can protect against diabetes and heart disease. Age-related loss of muscle mass can lead to sarcopenia, also associated with reduced quality of life, hospital admissions and chronic conditions like poor lung function and breast cancer risk.
Proteins are made from 20 amino acids arranged in thousands of different combinations. Nine amino acids are “essential” – i.e. we need to get them through dietary sources.
Animal proteins include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy foods. Protein also derives from abundant plant foods including nuts, legumes, seeds, lentils, grains, and even hemp.
Most plant protein sources are incomplete – i.e. they don’t contain all essential amino acids. Proteins derived from animal sources are complete; hence animal protein was deemed to be superior.
However, eating combinations of plant sources provides a complete protein, and it’s now established that the body can store amino acids, so a whole amino acid contingent doesn’t need to be eaten in one meal.
Most importantly, regardless of the source, research suggests that older adults who eat 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight each day are less likely to suffer disability. Combining this with regular physical movement will yield the greatest benefits.