Science shorts: Novel ingredients for gut health, omega-3 findings, and the latest medical cannabis research

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Science shorts: Novel ingredients for gut health, omega-3 findings, and the latest medical cannabis research

Related tags omega-3 Resveratrol Propolis Folic acid Cannabis

Our latest science round-up features the gut health benefits of resveratrol and propolis, omega-3's effects on pregnancy and depression, and BioCeuticals' latest research on medicinal cannabis.

Resveratrol and propolis: Two promising targets to boost gut microbiota

Recent studies have revealed how polyphenols can alter gut microbes​, suggesting they are worthy of further examination alongside probiotics to boost health outcomes.

However, better delivery systems and stability solutions will need to be found to maximise their potential.

Dr Michael Conlon, a senior research scientist at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), pointed out the above concept while speaking at the Probiota Asia Summit.

Resveratrol, which is found in the skin of berries, is an example of a dietary polyphenol that is capable of altering microbial activity in the gut.

Conlon said that a 2016 study showed that consumption of resveratrol increases the levels of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in the gut. In turn, these microbes inhibited the production of trimethyl-N-oxide (TMAO) – a known risk factor for artherosclerosis.

Omega-3 consumption and depression: 'Conclusive' evidence to be presented at first NutraIngredients omega-3 summit

The results of a 'world-first study​', showing how the consumption of fish and omega-3 helps alleviate depression, will be revealed at the first NutraIngredients Omega-3 Summit in Singapore in February.

The presentation will be delivered by Yutaka Matsuoka, Division Chief of Healthcare Research, Centre for Public Health Sciences at the National Cancer Centre Japan.

He said: "It has long been thought that fish-sourced omega-3 can helps not only to prevent depression, but also to alleviate its symptoms. This has now been confirmed by a major research project undertaken in Japan.

"This is the first time a study has used standard psychiatrist-diagnosed major depressive disorder as its foundation and targeted a population that traditionally eats a high-fish diet. As a result, its findings are both conclusive and of global significance."

Omega-3 and pregnancy: New Cochrane Review reveals reduced risk of pre-term births

Increasing omega‐3 intake during pregnancy, either through supplements or in foods, may reduce the incidence of pre-term births and the likelihood of having a baby with a low birth weight, according to a new Cochrane Review​.

The review was conducted by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institue's (SAHMRI) Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children team, in collaboration with the Women's and Children's Hospital and the University of Adelaide. 

Academics assessed 70 randomised controlled trials, involving 19,927 women, in order to update a review originally conducted in 2006.

Professor Maria Makrides, Theme Leader and Deputy Director of SAHMRI, said the study found that daily omega-3 supplementation reduces the risk of birth before 37 weeks by 11%, and reduces the risk of birth before 34 weeks by 42%. 

BioCeuticals invests $500K in medicinal cannabis trial while pushing for Aussie legalisation

Blackmores' practitioner-only firm BioCeuticals is investing heavily in medicinal cannabis research, recently announcing its $500,000-plus funding​ of the world's first clinical trial to investigate its effects on brain tumours and the symptoms common in patients.

The phase 2 RCT has already received ethics approval from the NSW Ministry of Health and the University of Technology Sydney, and will be led by Dr Janet Schloss from Endeavour College of Natural Health, together with renowned neurosurgeon Professor Charlie Teo.

The trial will seek to determine if orally ingested medicinal cannabis is safe for patients suffering from Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a highly aggressive type of primary brain tumour, as well as whether it can slow tumour growth when used in conjunction with standard cancer treatments.

In addition to funding the trial, BioCeuticals will also provide the whole plant extract medicinal cannabis to be consumed by the participants.

Folic acid most popular with pregnant Japanese, yet most do not know the 'right time' for consumption: Survey

Folic acid is the most popular supplement​ with pregnant Japanese women, according to a survey conducted by Beanstalk Snow, a Japanese manufacturer of infant nutrition products.

The survey involved 500 females who had given birth and were between the age of 22 and 45. Responses were collected via the Internet in March this year. Slightly more than half of the respondents (51%) said they had consumed supplements during pregnancy, of which more than 90% had consumed folic acid.

Studies have shown that folic acid is useful in preventing the onset of neural tube defects (NTDs), which usually occur in the third or fourth week of pregnancy. As such, authorities in different countries, including the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare, have advised women to take 400mg of folic acid daily even before conception.

However, the awareness of consuming folic acid before pregnancy remains low amongst Japanese women.

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