'Healthful foods should be price controlled'

Health Scan: low-fat dairy products, which are also healthier, should be cheaper than high-fat ones.

By
May 19, 2013 00:39
Frozen yogurt

Frozen yogurt 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons )

It seems idiotic that whole wheat bread, rice and other products should be more expensive than bleached products that undergo additional procedures before reaching the supermarket shelves. In addition, low-fat dairy products, which are also healthier, should be cheaper than high-fat ones, as the fat can be siphoned off and used to make ice cream, for example.

Thus, it would make sense for the government to encourage the consumption of whole-grained and low-fat products, as this reduces weight, minimizes clogged coronary arteries and lowers blood sugar and is more healthful than other products.

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Prof. Itamar Grotto, head of the Health Ministry’s public health services, is now attempting to change the list of price-controlled food products to include the healthful ones and eliminate those that are less so. In a letter he sent recently to officials in the Agriculture and Economic and Trade Ministries, Grotto urged that dairy products with under five percent fat, as well as wholegrained products, be added to the list, with butter, cream, fatty cheeses and standard bread removed.

He noted that the annual cost of treating chronic diseases caused by improper nutrition is NIS 9 billion.

Lower prices for basic foods encourage weaker socioeconomic groups to buy them, and as these populations generally suffer from poorer health than the well off, such a change would undoubtedly improve their health significantly once they get used to the new tastes.

The fact that senior Treasury bureaucrats have for decades backed putting VAT tax on fresh produce is also surprising, as though it would bring in short-term income, the cost in terms of health services for a sicker population would wipe out such financial benefits.

TRAFFICKING OF MATERIALS INTO CELLS A mechanism that permits essential substances to enter our cells while at the same time removing harmful components from the cells also has a downside. This negative aspect prevents vital drugs, such as anti-cancer drugs, from achieving their designed function, and also enables bacterial cells to develop resistance to penetration of antibiotics, according to researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and colleagues in Germany.



A study aimed at a fuller understanding of how this selective mechanism works – with a view toward better controlling it through new drug designs – is the subject of an article just published in Proceedings of the[US] National Academy of Sciences.

The trafficking of materials in and out of cells is controlled by a variety of proteins found in the membrane surrounding living cells, called transporters. It is these transporters that fulfill the important function of allowing entrance of vital compounds on one hand and disposal of toxic compounds on the other.

While providing an essential survival mechanism for the organism, the transporters that remove toxic compounds from the cell have also been associated with the ability of the bacterial cell to develop resistance to antibiotics. In mammalian cells, transporters are responsible for some types of resistance of cancer cells to antineoplastic drugs (drugs against abnormal/cancerous growths).

Since this resistance poses serious problems in the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases, these proteins are an important target for drug design.

To go further in this research, a more complete knowledge of the transporter mechanism is required. It is, however, a well-established fact that an essential part of the mechanism stems from the ability of the transporter to change conformations. Thus, the binding site of a particular transporter is alternatively exposed either to the cell cytoplasm inside the cell or to the outside environment, enabling the protein to bind materials on one side of the cell and transport them to the other side.

The research conducted by HU Prof. Shimon Schuldiner and colleagues at Frankfurt’s Max Planck Institute focused on a model transporter expressed in the brain named VMAT (vesicular monoamine transporter, which transports a variety of neurotransmitters in the brain such as adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. In addition, it can also transport MPP, a neurotoxin involved in models of Parkinson’s disease.

A computational method was used to develop a novel model simulating the protein’s 3D structure. The model led to a series of biochemical experiments, which in turn provided a better understanding of the transporter’s conformational changes. The researchers hope that this knowledge may, in the future, help in designing drugs for treating pathologies involving transporters similar to VMAT, including infectious and neurological diseases.

CIALIS FOR MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS? Erectile dysfunction drugs such as Cialis can improve the performance of mountain climbers, according to new research published recently in The Journal of Travel Medicine and reported on in Sheba Medical Center’s March newsletter. Prof. Eli Schwartz, who runs Sheba’s travelers’ clinic, said that the study was performed among 51 mountain climbers on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, among them Tel Aviv University psychiatrist Prof. Haji Hermesh.

Half of the sportsmen took a drug for treating height sickness, while the rest took Cialis. Those who took the erectile dysfunction pill did much better than those who took the height-sickness drug; they suffered less from edema (swelling) of the lungs and brain and more succeeded in reaching the summit. The study – the first of its type in the world – showed that there may be additional uses for drugs like Cialis and Viagra besides treating sexual impotence.

NURSING MOTHERS DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT DIET Many new mothers fear eating the “wrong” foods while breastfeeding will make their baby fussy, but no sound scientific evidence exists to support such claims, according to dietitian Gina Neill of a Loyola University in Chicago.

“One of the many reasons women stop breastfeeding is because they believe they have to follow restrictive dietary guidelines,” Neill said. “However, a nursing mom’s food and beverage intake does not have to be as regimented as you might think.”

However, there still are things to be careful of, Neill said. Breastfeeding women should minimize their alcohol intake ,and should not eat deep-sea fish containing high levels of mercury (other fish are fine). Most breastfeeding women can drink a moderate amount of coffee (up to three cups daily), but if their infants have trouble sleeping or become irritable, they should try drinking less.

Even when a baby does react to a particular element of the mother’s diet, the specific food involved will vary from infant to infant. A true allergy will usually produce a skin rash or blood in the baby’s stool. Such reactions usually occur between two and six weeks of age, but may occur earlier. Elimination diets can identify what is triggering an allergic reaction.


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