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How nutrition affects personalized health research

Nutrition impacts the field of personalized health here in Sacramento when it comes to continuing local research. For example, researchers in Dr. Bruce Hammock's Lab at the University of California, Davis have uncovered links between omega-3 fatty acids and reducing the spread of cancer.

How nutrition affects personalized healthcare.
Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Target

Researchers at the University of California, Davis have discovered a key mechanism by which dietary omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) could reduce the tumor growth and spread of cancer, a disease that kills some 580,000 Americans a year, according to a January 18, 2014 news release, "New Discoveries between Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cancer.

Bruce Hammock Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Entomology at UC Davis and Faculty Researcher at the UC Davis Cancer Center and Foods for Health Institute, and his research team discovered a link between omega-3 fatty acids and reducing the spread of cancer. It has been previously known that omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water oceanic fish oils and supplements, have cancer-reducing qualities but the process has not been fully understood.

Dr. Hammock’s team is led by post-doctoral researcher Dr. Guodong Zhang, who said, “Our investigation opens up a new understanding of the pathways by which omega-3 fatty acids exert their biologic effect,” according to a January 18, 2014 news release, "New Discoveries between Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cancer."

The body metabolizes omega-3 fatty-acids and releases epoxy docosapentaenoic acid (EDP), which helps combat cancer

Tumors grow and spread, disrupting the formation of new blood cells, a process known as angiogenesis. Dr. Hammock’s team found that EDP inhibits this process in mice, reducing tumor growth and blocking angiogenesis differently than certain anti-cancer drugs. Dr. Zhang says the study “provides a novel mechanism by which the omegas inhibit cancer," according to the news release. EDPs are the first signaling lipids that have been discovered with potent properties that combat cancer.

The ground-breaking work of Dr. Hammock’s Lab contributes to a growing body of knowledge on the relationship between diet and cancer. The results of their studies provide researchers with the knowledge to develop stronger anti-cancer drugs and therapies that emerge from knowledge of how the human body uses nutrition to promote health. Research findings from this study were published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and featured in Science Daily and popular publications like the San Francisco Chronicle. You also may want to see another recent announcement on a new book on nutrition from a UC Davis faculty member, "Affiliate Faculty Charlotte Biltekoff Publishes New Book on "Eating Right."

The local UC Davis Foods for Health Institute researches personalized health

The Foods For Health Institute was established to advance the research of personalized health by:

  • developing technologies to measure health accurately
  • translating the findings at the molecular level to personalized food and lifestyle solutions
  • educating California’s children on how to measure and manage their own person

In another study by a different university, researchers find the process that turns good cholesterol harmful

Cleveland Clinic researchers just discovered a process that turns 'good cholesterol' bad. It's a dysfunctional version of normally protective protein that makes HDL found to promote inflammation and coronary artery disease. You can check out the abstract of this new study, "An abundant dysfunctional apolipoprotein A1 in human atheroma," published online January 26, 2014 in the journal Nature Medicine

Cleveland Clinic researchers have discovered the process by which high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – the so-called "good cholesterol" – becomes dysfunctional, loses its cardio-protective properties, and instead promotes inflammation and atherosclerosis, or the clogging and hardening of the arteries. Their research was

The beneficial and cardio-protective properties of HDL have been studied and reported extensively, yet all clinical trials of pharmaceuticals designed to raise HDL levels have so far failed to show that they significantly improve cardiovascular health. This disconnect, as well as recent research showing that a protein abundant in HDL is present in an oxidized form in diseased artery walls, spurred the research team – led by Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Chair of Translational Research for the Lerner Research Institute and section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation in the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic – to study the process by which HDL becomes dysfunctional.

What happens when the artery wall gets oxidized, clogged, and develops disease?

Apolipoprotein A1 (apoA1) is the primary protein present in HDL, providing the structure of the molecule that allows it to transfer cholesterol out of the artery wall and deliver it to the liver, from which cholesterol is excreted. It's apoA1 that normally gives HDL its cardio-protective qualities, but Dr. Hazen and his colleagues have discovered that in the artery wall during atherosclerosis, a large proportion of apoA1 becomes oxidized and no longer contributes to cardiovascular health, but rather, contributes to the development of coronary artery disease.

Over the course of more than five years, Dr. Hazen and his colleagues developed a method for identifying dysfunctional apoA1/HDL and discovered the process by which it is oxidized and turned dysfunctional in the artery wall. They then tested the blood of 627 Cleveland Clinic cardiology patients for the dysfunctional HDL and found that higher levels raised the patient's risk for cardiovascular disease.

"Identifying the structure of dysfunctional apoA1 and the process by which it becomes disease-promoting instead of disease-preventing is the first step in creating new tests and treatments for cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Hazen in the January 26, 2014 news release, Cleveland Clinic researchers discover process that turns 'good cholesterol' bad. "Now that we know what this dysfunctional protein looks like, we are developing a clinical test to measure its levels in the bloodstream, which will be a valuable tool for both assessing cardiovascular disease risk in patients and for guiding development of HDL-targeted therapies to prevent disease." The research also points toward new therapeutic targets for pharmaceuticals, such as those designed to prevent the formation of dysfunctional HDL and the development or progression of atherosclerosis.

For more information on Dr. Hazen's research, visit this site.This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants P01HL098055 and HL119962).

Although infants use their memories to learn new information, few adults can remember events in their lives that happened prior to the age of three

In another new study, this one from Emory University, psychologists there have now documented that age seven is when these earliest memories tend to fade into oblivion, a phenomenon known as “childhood amnesia.” The study is the first empirical demonstration of the onset of childhood amnesia, and involved interviewing children about past events in their lives.

The journal Memory published the research, which involved interviewing children about past events in their lives, starting at age three. Different subsets of the group of children were then tested for recall of these events at ages five, six, seven, eight and nine.

“Our study is the first empirical demonstration of the onset of childhood amnesia,” says Emory psychologist Patricia Bauer, who led the study, according to a January 24, 2010 news release by Carol Clark, Psychologists document the age our earliest memories fade. “We actually recorded the memories of children, and then we followed them into the future to track when they forgot these memories.”

The study’s co-author is Marina Larkina, a manager of research projects for Emory’s Department of Psychology. The Bauer Memory Development Lab focuses on how episodic, or autobiographical memory, changes through childhood and early adulthood.

“Knowing how autobiographical memory develops is critically important to understanding ourselves as psychic beings,” Bauer says in the news release. “Remembering yourself in the past is how you know who you are today.”

Scientists have long known, based on interviews with adults, that most people’s earliest memories only go back to about age 3

Sigmund Freud coined the term “childhood amnesia” to describe this loss of memory from the infant years. Using his psychoanalytic theory, Freud made the controversial proposal that people were repressing their earliest memories due to their inappropriate sexual nature.

In recent years, however, growing evidence indicates that, while infants use memory to learn language and make sense of the world around them, they do not yet have the sophisticated neural architecture needed to form and hold onto more complex forms of memory. Instead of relying on interviews with adults, as previous studies of childhood amnesia have done, the Emory researchers wanted to document early autobiographical memory formation, as well as the age of forgetting these memories.

The experiment began by recording 83 children at the age of three, while their mothers or fathers asked them about six events that the children had experienced in recent months, such as a trip to the zoo or a birthday party.

“We asked the parents to speak as they normally would to their children,” Bauer says in the news release. She gives a hypothetical example: “The mother might ask, ‘Remember when we went to Chuck E. Cheese’s for your birthday party?’ She might add, ‘You had pizza, didn’t you?’”

The child might start recounting details of the Chuck E. Cheese experience or divert the conversation by saying something like, “Zoo!”

Some mothers might keep asking about the pizza, while another mother might say, “Okay, we went to the zoo, too. Tell me about that.” Parents who followed a child’s lead in these conversations tended to elicit richer memories from their three-year-olds, Bauer says. “This approach also related to the children having a better memory of the event at a later age.”

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