Science shorts: Plant-based diet problems, gut microbe that triggers immune-signalling cascade and more

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

 Science shorts: Plant-based diet problems, gut microbe that triggers immune-signalling cascade and more

Related tags science Research study

In this round-up, we will look at new research findings surrounding plant-based diet and depression, the links between microbiome and immunity, autism, and ear infections.
Plant-based problem? Vegans and vegetarians with taste for processed products more susceptible to depression – study 

New research has found that vegan and vegetarians with a taste for processed foods are more susceptible to depression than those with diets high in fresh produce.

Megan Lee, a researcher in nutritional psychiatry at Bond University, said the findings were significant ​given the increasing popularity of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles and the proliferation of packaged foods targeting those markets.

Many of the products are high in refined vegetable oils and refined grains, salt and sugar, she said.

Diet, microbiome and immunity; Scientists pinpoint gut microbe that triggers immune-signalling ‘cascade’ 

New research in mice appears to show how diet alters the immune system by downregulating inflammation through a gut microbe.

Researchers say the findings, published in Nature​, offer a unifying explanation for the complex interplay between diet, gut microbiota and immune function.

They are the result of collaboration​ among scientists at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Seoul National University, and Monash University in Australia.

Higher protein intake does not increase DNA damage in older adults - first-of-its-kind study

Scientists have shown that protein intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) will not increase the risk of DNA damage in older adults,​ according to a first-of-its-kind study.

A high protein intake at old age is important for muscle protein synthesis and maintaining muscle mass and physical function. The RDA of protein for older people are usually in the range of 0.8 and 1.2 g/kg body weight (BW)/d worldwide.

However, there have been few studies that highlight the possible impact that higher protein intake via food as opposed to supplement, may exert on protein oxidation, which can potentially result in DNA damage.

Autism and the microbiome: Australian study claims to ‘flip the lid’ on link between behaviour and diet

A new Australian study​ is challenging the notion that the gut microbiome drives autism, suggesting that it is behaviour and dietary preferences that affect the microbiome, rather than the other way around.

The researchers found changes in the gut microbiome of people on the autism spectrum appear to be due to “fussy eating”,​ which is more common among autistic children due to sensory sensitivities or restricted and repetitive interests.

The collaborative study was funded by the Autism CRC and involved more than 40 researchers from Mater Research, The University of Queensland, Telethon Kids Institute, University of New South Wales, Children’s Health Queensland, La Trobe University, Queensland University of Technology and Microba Life Sciences. The findings are being published in the scientific journal Cell​.

Probiotics for ear infections? Researchers demonstrate microbiota linked to ear health 

Ear infections are typically treated with antibiotics, which could compromise the gut microbiome and reduce the ability of immune cells to kill bacteria. Now, fresh research indicates there could be a promising new approach to this relatively common childhood problem.

Growing research suggests there is a possible link between a probiotic bacteria and the prevention of ear infections. The latest research to delve into this area is a study published in Microbiology Spectrum​, which examined the nasal microbiota in relation to inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media) in Indigenous Australian children. 

The authors pointed out that recurring and chronic ear infections are disproportionately prevalent in disadvantaged communities across the globe and within Indigenous communities in particular.

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