Issue 73, April 2016
bulletWhen Food Alters Gene Function: Maternal Diet Influences the Fat and Glucose Metabolism of Offspring through Epigenetic Alterations
bulletInterview with Nutritional Medicine Expert Prof. Dr. Hans Hauner
bulletMediterranean Diet Associated with Small Reduction in Risk of Hip Fracture
bulletMinimizing Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens in Poultry Production
bulletInnovation: Evonik Amino Acids for Eco-Friendly Animal Feed
Souping is the new juicing. Clean eating is all the rage. Seeds may be the new nuts. And celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is waging a war against sugar.
The messages we get on nutrition, mixed and constantly changing, can be confusing - as we shift back to full-fat dairy, push for more probiotics, and replenish with beet-infused sports drinks. Yet, as obesity and diabetes rates rapidly increase, our need to better understand this field of science has never been greater.

According to the NYT, fewer than 13 percent of Americans were obese in 1960. Today, that number has almost tripled and the percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased sevenfold. To combat these harrowing statistics, further advances in the nutrition sciences will be imperative.

The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). Pulses, which include beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas, are a key component of a healthy diet. IYP strives to heighten public awareness on their nutritional benefits, which can help address obesity as well as prevent and manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes, coronary conditions, and cancer. Pulses are also a part of sustainable food production, a key trend that aims to ensure food security for the present population while preserving natural resources for future generations.

This month's newsletter explores some of the advances that have been made in nutrition research in Germany - from diet-related epigenetic alterations to more sustainable, effective animal feeds.

As scientists throughout the world have observed, children of obese mothers have a higher risk of obesity and metabolic disorders. In addition, recent findings suggest that diet-related epigenetic effects may also play a causal role in this. Therefore, since humans and mice are genetically very similar, scientists at the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), under the direction of the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE), used a mouse model to study these effects under controlled conditions.
As the scientists were able to show, a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation leads to metabolic changes in the mice offspring, which affect hormonal pathways that are regulated by the gut hormone gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP). As a result, the adult offspring are more susceptible to obesity and insulin resistance, the precursor to Type 2 diabetes.

"The observed alterations could be partially traced back to DNA methylation, that is, epigenetic changes," said Prof. Dr. Andreas F. H. Pfeiffer, Head of the Department of Clinical Nutrition at DIfE. GIP, a hormone that the gut releases after food intake, stimulates the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Research findings indicate that it influences the metabolism of fat cells and fat oxidation in skeletal muscles and, as an anabolic hormone, promotes the build-up of body mass.

"Beyond that, our results indicate that GIP also plays a role in energy consumption, which is controlled by the brain, probably indirectly by reducing the insulin sensitivity of the hypothalamus," the endocrinologist added. This is an entirely new finding. However, it remains to be seen to what extent these results can be applied to humans. More research on this topic is needed. But it is clear that diet not only has a direct influence on individuals, but also may affect their offspring.

To read more about the study published in Science Daily, click here. To learn more about epigenetic mechanisms, click here.

Source: Kruse et al., Diabetes 65:1-11; 2016
Image: CC BY-SA 2.0

In his interview with GCRI, Prof. Dr. Hans Hauner discusses what constitutes a healthy diet, based on his research, and how his findings could be incorporated into diet and nutrition plans. He shares his opinion on vegan diets and elaborates on what he would like to focus on next in his research. Finally, he outlines the current state of Germany's research landscape with respect to nutritional science. To read the full interview, click here 

Since 2003, Prof. Dr. Hauner has served as Director of the Else Kr�ner Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine in Germany, with locations at the Technical University of Munich's university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar and the TUM Weihenstephan School of Life Sciences. His research expertise explores diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Prof. Dr. Hauner studied medicine at the University of Regensburg and TUM. Following his postdoctoral training at the University of Regensburg's Institute of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Genetics, he completed an internship at the University of Ulm, specializing in endocrinology/diabetology. After that, he became a senior consultant for the clinical department of the German Diabetes Center at Heinrich-Heine University in D�sseldorf. In 2003, he accepted the newly-created Chair of Nutritional Medicine at TUM.

Prof. Dr. Hauner is a member of the German Academy of Sciences - Leopoldina and has served as spokesman for the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research's "Adipositas" diabetes competence network. Since 2015, he has also been coordinator and spokesman of the nutrition cluster "enable - healthy food choices in all stages of life," which conducts interdisciplinary research on the interface of nutrition and food science with ICT and sociology.

Source & Image: Technical University of Munich (TUM)


Considerable efforts have been made to correlate single nutrients to bone health. Results thus far, however, have been inconclusive. Suboptimal single nutrient intake does not occur in isolation, but rather is indicative of a poor diet.

A research team headed by Dr. Bernhard Haring, a clinical fellow in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of W�rzburg, Germany, carried out a study to assess the association between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and other healthy diets and incident fractures in postmenopausal women. The researchers conducted this large, prospective study using longitudinal data from 40 clinical centers throughout the United States. 90,014 postmenopausal women were included in the analysis and were followed for approximately 15 years.

The results were surprising, in so far as the researchers did not observe any real significant association, i.e. risk reduction, between a healthy dietary pattern and the risk for fracture, in particular hip fracture. The researchers only observed small absolute risk reductions associated with adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which could be explained by residual factors. On the other hand, these findings provide assurance that widely recommended eating patterns do not increase the risk of fractures, although some of these patterns do not emphasize the intake of dairy. This being said, the average woman should lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes adopting a healthy dietary pattern, e.g. a Mediterranean diet, and being physically active.

Furthermore, there is significant evidence supporting the benefits of a Mediterranean diet with regards to cardiovascular health and other morbidities. Unfortunately, health care systems in the U.S. as well as other countries largely ignore nutrition and lifestyle measures in favor of pharmacology, although organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, do provide detailed suggestions and advice in these areas. Increasing adherence to current recommendations and guidelines would have a great impact on public health as it would reduce health care costs, on the one hand, while improving individual well-being on the other.

To read more about the study published last month, click here.

Source: Dr. Bernhard Haring, University Hospital W�rzburg 

Is your chicken meat safe? For years, meat producers have been feeding small doses of growth-promoting antibiotics to the animals we eat. However, more recently scientists have raised concerns that, in conjunction with the general overuse of antibiotics in the human population, this use of antibiotics in animals could lead to serious health risks for people, including the increased development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that each year AMR results in 25,000 deaths in Europe as well as over 1.5 billion euros in related healthcare expenses and productivity losses.

To tackle this growing issue, the German Federal Ministry of Nutrition and Agriculture (BMEL) recently launched the collaborative research project "EsRAM," short for the "Development of Reduction Measures for Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens in Poultry." The project will focus on reducing antibiotic-resistant pathogens at key stages of the entire poultry production chain and in particular will target ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Project partners like EW Nutrition GmbH and the Institute of Animal Nutrition at the Freie Universit�t Berlin, for example, will develop feed additives based on natural ingredients as a means of reducing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. EW Nutrition will draw upon its expertise in developing and producing feed additives for livestock based on secondary plant compounds.

The German government previously established a system to minimize the use of antibiotics in livestock production with its 16th amendment of the Medicinal Products Act (Arzneimittelgesetz).

The BMEL will fund EsRAM with 2.46 million euros over the next three years. For a complete list of project partners and to read more (in German), click here.

Source: German Federal Ministry of Nutrition and Agriculture

The UN estimates that the global population is increasing by about 80 million people each year. By the year 2050, nine billion people will need to be fed. The middle class will continue to grow, and with greater prosperity and urbanization, food habits will change: Meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs will become staples on many menus.
How will all these people be adequately fed, and how will the increasing demand for meat be satisfied in the future? Amino acids from Evonik Industries, used as animal feed additives, offer one solution: In addition to ensuring balanced animal nutrition, they also help protect the environment and save valuable resources.

The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global meat consumption will rise to 373 million metric tons by 2030 and to 465 metric tons by 2050. More meat means more livestock breeding and more animal feed - and therefore more arable land, higher consumption of energy and water, and correspondingly higher greenhouse gas emissions for cultivation and transport. Long-term solutions consist of sustainably reducing resource consumption in agriculture while simultaneously increasing productivity.

One key to this lies in animal feed and the protein building blocks they contain, known as amino acids. Corn, wheat, and soy meal, commonly used as feeds for poultry, pigs, and fish, however, have a serious shortcoming. They lack the amino acids methionine, lysine, and threonine. As a result, the animals need more feed because they cannot utilize it optimally. Accordingly, the animals produce more manure, which contaminates groundwater with nitrate and the air with ammonia.

This shortage of amino acids can be compensated by a higher proportion of protein-rich feed components, such as fish meal or oilseed meal; alternatively, the feed can be enriched with the missing amino acids, produced specifically for this purpose. Evonik has shown in life cycle assessments - from the production of the feeds and amino acids to the excretion of waste by the animals - that the latter is more sustainable.

If the amino acid DL-methionine from Evonik is added to the feed, emission of ammonia is reduced by a factor of 26, of nitrate by a factor of 7, and of greenhouse gases by a factor of 23. Moreover, energy consumption is reduced by more than 80 percent. These effects result from the fact that the added amino acids utilize domestic wheat rather than imported soy seed as a source of nutrition. This, in turn, eliminates the energy-intensive processing of soy beans as well as imports from the main producer countries U.S., Brazil, and Argentina, where crops consume increasing amounts of farmland and frequently cause the destruction of rainforests in the process.

Source & Image: Evonik Industries AG

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