A new study from the Journal of Neuroinflammation looked at the ability of caffeine to block serum cholesterol from entering the brain. The blood brain barrier is a membrane which prevents all but the smallest molecules from entering into the blood supply of the brain. This barrier helps protect the brain from infections and various toxins circulating in the blood stream.
One theory of the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is that it is associated with a breakdown in the blood brain barrier. This breakdown allows larger substances such as amyloid beta and other potentially harmful particles to enter and accumulate in the brain. The experiment looked at how the caffeine equivalent of about 1 cup of coffee a day is able to prevent damage to the blood brain barrier caused by a high cholesterol diet. The study was done with rabbits, not humans, but the blood brain barrier is something that evolved in all mammals so you would expect things to work the same for us.
In my opinion, coffee is the best delivery vehicle for caffeine because it also has some good antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid which have been shown to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal. However, if you can’t stand the taste of coffee or don’t want to pay Starbucks prices, you can always just swallow a pill. Caffeine is pretty much a commodity so you might as well shop for the cheapest caffeine tablets you can find.
Thanks to the amazing cooking skills of my wonderful and talented girlfriend, I was able to try the recipe mentioned in my previous post (see photo above). Since I have no cooking skills whatsoever, the only food-related tasks my girlfriend trusts me with are pouring the drinks and doing the dishes (both of which I am very good at having done them extensively in college).
The turkey had a delicious, subtle pinot flavor. The mixed vegetables included broccoli, carrots, snap peas, and water chestnuts (from a Birds Eye Steamfresh bag). Adding in the wine and the iced tea (a green and black tea mix with lemon), we should have had enough polyphenols to keep the malondialdehyde (MDA) at bay. Of course I have no idea whether this worked or not since neither one of us felt like drawing our own blood afterwards. Maybe someday I’ll have the funds to setup a clinical lab in the basement, but for now I’ll just have to trust the scientists on this one. Either way, it tasted good, so I’m considering this experiment a success.
A team of Belgium scientists recently tested 29 different fruits and vegetables to see what happens to their antioxidant capacity over time. Details of the study can be found here. Interestingly, most of the fruits and vegetables had stable levels of antioxidants even after visual signs of spoilage began and many actually expressed higher levels of antioxidants as they began to spoil. So apparently there must be some sweet spot between fresh-off-the-vine and rancid where you get the most health benefits without causing yourself to hurl.
Not surprisingly, I’ve decided not to optimize my fruit and vegetable intake to take advantage of this new insight. Taste trumps nutrition in this case – especially since the difference was usually not that much (except for onions, see below*). But it’s good to know that even if you don’t have a garden or have a farmer’s market nearby that you can get the same (maybe even more) nutritional value from the fruits and vegetables at your local supermarket.
* There where some notable fruits and vegetables that you do want to eat as fresh as possible. These include apricots, spinach, bananas, broccoli and leeks. In contrast, the vegetable with the biggest increase over time was the onion, which continually increased its antioxidant capacity over time – after 23 days onions had over 10 times more than they had when they were fresh!
An interesting study was just published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal that looked at how adding red wine to a meal (by drinking and cooking with it) reduced the after dinner levels of cytotoxic lipid peroxidation products. “Cytotoxic lipid peroxidation products” is just a fancy way of describing some of the harmful byproducts of a diet high in meat and fried foods. One of the theories is that the polyphenols in healthy fruits and vegetables work within the digestive tract by counteracting the effects of bad foods before they are absorbed. The scientists recruited 10 volunteers (4 men and 6 women) and gave them each three versions of a turkey meal. The setup was as follows:
250 g of turkey
glass of water
250 g of turkey soaked in red wine after cooking
200 ml glass of red wine
250 g of turkey soaked in red wine before cooking
200 ml glass of red wine
It was a randomized crossover study which meant that all participants ate all three meals (three weeks apart). Levels of lipid peroxidation in the blood where measured using malondialdehyde (MDA), a carcinogenic initiator associated with the breakdown fats (MDA is known to cause cancer in mice and damage DNA in human cells)
The results of the experiment are shown in the graph below. Soaking the turkey in wine before cooking completely prevented any increase in plasma MDA (see this paper for levels of MDA in different foods). In fact, half of the individuals tested actually lowered their MDA levels below their pre-meal baseline with Meal C. This is good news because it shows how red wine polyphenols can offset some of the cancer risk associated with consumption of meat. It may also suggest that meal times may be the best time to take antioxidant supplements. So if you don’t have time to marinate your meat in red wine before you cook, you could probably get some benefit from drinking red wine with your meal and perhaps taking a few capsules of whole grape extract beforehand.
Incidentally, I’m not sure why they didn’t also test a meal consisting of a glass of red wine and plain turkey, because that’s seems like the most common scenario. I’m also glad the pre-soaked turkey gave the best result because dipping already cooked turkey in wine doesn’t sound very appetizing. Something like this grilled marinated turkey breast sound really good (although I’d recommend substituting steamed asparagus for the fried rice).
You might want to add some black tea to that counter-terrorism kit you keep under your bed and pour yourself a nice hot cup before opening your mail. Scientists from the Biodefense Institute at the