Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

i-20c909918aabd75b86ed2eda622c7a18-daiquiri.bmp From the BBC on down, in the past few days the headline “Alchohol Makes Fruit Healthier” has been highlighted in nearly every news venue.

The fruit contains compounds [antioxidants] that can protect against cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

But having them with alcohol, such as in a daiquiri, boosts these antioxidant properties, the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says.

Nutritionists said the “detrimental effects” of such drinks could cancel out such benefits.

As a college student, no one takes this sort of study more seriously than I. Alcohol as health food? Surely you jest!

This deserved a bit more investigation.

UPDATE: I was threated by the publishers of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture with legal action if I didn’t take down the one chart and one graph from the published results. Seems ironic since they release one million press releases. Anyway, I complied and formally requested permission. Hopefully they will grant it!

UPDATE TWO: At the suggestions of commenters, I have reproduced the data charts and graph in Excel. While not as pretty, you’ll get the point much better than nothing at all. And I’m not stepping on any legal toes.

UPDATE THREE: I put the original figures back up. I also include a link to the abstract, as someone suggested.

(Continued below the fold…..)

The study that all these ‘blurby’ news briefs are referring to is a brand-spankin’-new paper published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture entitled ‘Natural volatile treatments increase free-radical scavenging capacity of strawberries and blackberries‘ by Chanjirakul et al. Quite the mouthful (forgive the pun). The paper was a collaboration between the USDA Fruit Labs and Produce Quality Labs, and the Dept of Horticulture in Thailand.

As many people know, certain fruits contain large amounts of healthful compounds called antioxidants which “scavenge” cell-damaging free-radicals in our bodies. Strawberries and blackberries fall into this category, both naturally containing high amounts of antioxidants such as anthocyanin and phenolic acid. These compounds interact with reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are byproducts of metabolic processes, and prevent them from damaging DNA and cells.

The other side of this is that improving the antioxidant levels in fruit not only increases healthful benefits to the people that ingest them, it increases the shelf life of fruit by slowing down decay. So obviously there is interest in getting fruit to last longer and reducing waste and allowing increases in transit time.

So the researchers tested whether treating strawberries and blackberries with natural volatile compounds (methyl jasmonate, allyl isothiocyanate, ethanol, and tea tree oil) would be effective in reducing decay in the berries. Natural volatiles occur naturally in some fruits, and were thought to have evolved as an antimicrobial and antifungal defense mechanism. But would they increase antioxidant activity as well?

The method was simple. Include a piece of soaked blot paper (saturated with a natural volatile) within a closed container of berries and wait 7 and 14 days at 4 degrees C. Antioxidant levels were examined before and after, and decay was measured visually. Results of treatment conditions and decay are below.

i-84747c284b7ad0fb44360dae48b3fecd-fruit chart 1.bmp
Compared to controls, allyl isotholcyanate treatment resulted in the least decay in both berry types. Ethanol treatment provided the little to no protection against decay.

As for antioxidant activity, that was measured by ‘ORAC’ test (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, no not Orac). Results are below, which show that compared to controls, all the natural volatiles except the allyl isotholcyanate provided modest increases in antioxidant activity. Methyl jasmonate (MJ) treatment provided the largest increase in antioxidant activity (see below) in both the 7 day and 14 day groups.

i-b43c676193772b1408fb8293e93a28f7-fruit graph 1.bmp View image in hi res popup

The group tested the quantities of specific reactive oxygen species and, overall, consistently found that methyl jasmonate treatment provided the best protection against ROS but that the other natural volatiles (ethanol included) provided some beneficial effect too. Take home message was that a combination of methyl jasmonate (to increase antioxidants) and allyl isotholcyanate (to reduce decay) would maximize shelf life.

So really, a dash of methyl jasmonate in your daiquiri might leave you healthier, but I can’t say what that would do for the taste and fun of your beverage.

Comments

  1. #1 steve
    April 24, 2007

    can you just reproduce the results in your own graph? that is completely legal and clearly falls under fair use.

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    April 24, 2007

    Yes, you can definitely recreate the graph yourself using their data. There is no copyright on data.

  3. #3 Shelley
    April 24, 2007

    Hmmm. Very interesting! I think I shall do that!

  4. #4 Redleg
    April 24, 2007

    Nice find, first it was Red Bulls – I’ve switched to the Monsters but have made Taurine a part of my daily brain diet, or so the rationalization goes – now daquiris. Awesome work!

  5. #5 Shelley
    April 24, 2007

    Makes a nice rationalization for Red Bull and vodkas, eh!

  6. #6 VJB
    April 24, 2007

    that’s not Elsevier, is it? I hate them. For Cause.

  7. #7 Jim
    April 25, 2007

    Is there any chance you can answer these questions for me:
    Is methyl jasmonate safe for human consumtion; Is there a “safe” quantity for people to injest; Where does one acquire it?

    A much better article than the ones I’ve read in the news recently. Yours includes (horrors!) scientific data that makes the reader think (more horrors). Overall, a very good report, Shelly. Thank You!

  8. #8 Shelley
    April 25, 2007

    Jim:

    Methyl jasmonate (MJ) is an aromatic compound (think jasmine flowers), and is produced by plants as a antibiotic/antimicrobial/insecticide. Its harmless to humans though, and according to these results probably beneficial. MJ is also used as a flavoring, most often in teas. Its also used in fragrances from perfume to detergent. So, quite safe.

    More info here: http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/jasmine/jasmineh.htm

    Here’s something cool: the most important drug in cancer comes from yew trees (called Taxol), and in the presence of MJ this effect is heightened. So, another plus for MJ.

    And if you want some MJ of your own, go here:
    http://www.chemicalregister.com/Methyl_Jasmonate/Suppliers/pid23337.htm

    Apparently you can get about an ounce for $30, and that is enough for a truckload of produce so a little goes a long way.

  9. #9 daedalus2u
    April 25, 2007

    Unfortunately, there is no evidence that antioxidants provide any health benefits at all. A recent JAMA article showed that supplemental antioxidants actually increased mortality.

  10. #10 Shelley
    April 25, 2007

    Yep, good point Daedalus. The point of this study wasn’t even to suggest any health benefits in people (although the press releases certainly didn’t hesitate to), but decay in fruit. They kinda extrapolated from there, but yes, whether antioxidants actually have any real benefit, who knows.

  11. #11 Brian
    April 25, 2007

    I actually looked up the paper after I saw the AP article. I mean, I have seen some writeups of research that have been wrong before, but this one took the cake. The AP article was not just wrong, but stunningly wrong, although I should have known that from the jocular tone of the article.

  12. #12 Shelley
    April 25, 2007

    Yeah, they were bad. Hence why I wanted to display the REAL graphs from the paper. ::sigh::

  13. #13 scott pilutik
    April 25, 2007

    As I’ve not seen the portion that was pulled that is claimed to be fair use, I’ll limit my comment to procedure (but note also that I’m in general agreement that overreaching is the norm amongst copyright holders on the web, as they lack serious disincentives not to overreach).

    I also sympathize with Shelly not wanting to escalate matters, not having the resources to engage in games. But until your ISP receives a formal takedown notice, you aren’t in any real jeopardy.

    The DMCA has a procedure that must be followed before an American ISP will remove an allegedly infringing item. The copyright holder must send a formal request to the ISP, informing it that an item is infringing. The ISP is then required to inform the customer that they can either remove the allegedly infringing item, or risk suit. The purpose of the DMCA is to provide a mechanism by which service providers can indemnify themselves, and get out of the way of the real dispute between the alleged infringer and rights holder.

    But the DMCA also commits the rights holder to stand behind its claim; a fraudulent takedown notice (without a good faith belief that an infringement has taken place) places the rights holder at risk for misusing the DMCA (section 512(f) – see OPG v. Diebold). Rights holders routinely send out a warning letter, but warning letters aren’t enforceable–only a DMCA takedown request is predicate to legal action for copyright infringement. If they were serious, you’d have gotten a takedown notice from your ISP.

    You might also want to send the whole story and correspondence to chillingeffects.org, who operate as a clearing house for this type of overreaching.

    [Cross-posted to Shelly's blog]

  14. #14 archgoon
    April 25, 2007

    When you say that the decay was measured ‘visually’, what exactly did they measure? They have 3 decimal places of accuracy in the percent decays, so I’m wondering how they did that.

  15. #15 Brian
    April 25, 2007

    I only became aware of this article because it was on the ‘most popular’ list at Yahoo news. This is yet another reason why open-access publishing is a necessity. Anybody with a high-school education could have figured out why that article was wrong. But almost nobody has access to it, and those that do (like you, Shelley), are apparently prohibited from placing the research results in an open forum.

    The public already pays for a great part (I can’t really figure the percentage) of the fees required for publication of research – “indirect costs” from grants pay for library access to journals. These payments for journal access keep the journals afloat, while the public has (at least until the recent 6-month NIH rule) no access to the research it pays for. If grants paid for publication costs, this would not be a problem.

    This would also provide a more fair model for publishing. Nature, for a midsize university, costs $9000/yr for site-wide access. A lot of what Nature’s budget goes toward is weeding out the excellent papers from the merely good. If scientists were willing to pay a fee to have their paper considered for publication in a Nature/Science/Cell/etc-class journal, this would be somewhat self-selecting for the more important papers, and more efficient. Also, it would prevent the more “important” journals from getting too full of themselves. Right now, the price of a university Nature subscription could pay for 20 third-tier journals or 5 second-tier journals. It’s not really a choice for universities – they have to have a Nature subscription. However, under an open-access model, scientists may decide that it is not worth 5x as much money to publish in a first-tier journal. Especially given that databases such as Pubmed have reduced the difference between first & second-tier journals to an extent that the distinction is almost meaningless.

  16. #16 Inoculated Mind
    April 25, 2007

    I was just talking to a vocal advocate of Open-Access scientific journals today, and we were talking about this very issue. I suggested reproducing the graphs from the data and his eyes lit up – he said he hadn’t done that but it sounds like it is perfectly legal. I came over here to suggest it, and now that I see you’re already on that, good show.

    Let this be a lesson to everyone – science should be free and open to everyone! And lets find something prettier than Excel, so we can make better graphs than theirs!

  17. #17 Joseph j7uy5
    April 26, 2007

    “Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture”? Probably hardly anyone had even heard of this journal before. Maybe it was a publicity stunt. A dumb one, but such things usually are.

  18. #18 Catherina
    April 26, 2007

    with an impact factor of under 1, they desperately need attention.

    I used to like Wiley and am a bit disappointed that they should resort to Elsevier style bullying. I am glad you found a solution :)

  19. #19 Ambitwistor
    April 26, 2007

    I wonder if anyone has brought this debacle to the attention of the authors of this study. I would think they’d appreciate their work being promoted here. I wonder if Wiley would take it seriously if authors, upon whose submissions their publications depend, disapprove of their bullying tactics.

  20. #20 Mr. Paperless Office
    April 26, 2007

    These scientific publishers are out of control, I can’t believe they’d threaten you over including a single graph on your site.. it seems to me the entire point of science and the scientific process is that work needs to be made public, reviewed, and commented on — their behavior is unscientific and shocking.

  21. #21 P. from Weston MA
    April 26, 2007

    To the above commenter, I think you just need to keep in mind that the lawyers are just trying to do their job…

  22. #22 S. Librarian in Pgh.
    April 26, 2007

    As a librarian, I know that copyright is a very hot topic, and has been for some time, but you would think that an obscure journal like this one would not only applaud your interest, but be grateful for the free publicity in the hope that it would increase readership and/or subscriptions. Oh well, it seems that for America the Free, our freedom is disappearing along with the ozone layer.

    As a side note, thank you Shelley for the interesting and insightful thread. You’ve got beauty AND brains. You go girl!!

  23. #23 trr
    April 26, 2007

    Off-topic, but to the Librarian: the ozone layer is not disappearing.

    As a result of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the concentrations of ozone-depleting substances in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) peaked around 1995 and are decreasing in both the troposphere and stratosphere. It is estimated these gases reached peak levels in the Antarctica stratosphere in 2001. However, these ozone-depleting substances typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere (more than 40 years).

    As a result of this slow decline, the ozone hole is estimated to annually very slowly decrease in area by about 0.1 to 0.2 percent for the next five to 10 years. This slow decrease is masked by large year-to-year variations caused by Antarctic stratosphere weather fluctuations.

    The recently completed 2006 World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Environment Programme Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion concluded the ozone hole recovery would be masked by annual variability for the near future and the ozone hole would fully recover in approximately 2065.

    [from http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/ozone_resource_page.html

  24. #24 Phil in Houston
    April 26, 2007

    “Unfortunately, there is no evidence that antioxidants provide any health benefits at all. A recent JAMA article showed that supplemental antioxidants actually increased mortality. ”

    Painfully misinformative, daedalus2u. The linked article only says that some/certain antioxidants can have a negative effect, not the entire broad range which was hammered in the quote above.

    CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality. The potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study.

  25. #25 Family Nutritionist
    April 26, 2007

    Great Job! You read the article — I’ve only read the abstract. Did the investigators report the ORAC scores for fresh berries, control and treated? Are they higher or lower than scores for the 2-week-old berries?

    “Everybody” seems to be assuming that these treatments are boosting antioxidant levels. I am wondering if they are merely reducing the severity of decline during storage.

    Personally, I don’t really want 2-week old blackberries, even if they are only 30% moldy.

  26. #26 Eivind Eklund
    April 27, 2007

    daedalus2a, that article against anti-oxidants has received some fairly heavy flak. Here is the most comprehensive attack on it I’ve seen: http://www.lef.org/featured-articles/consumer_alert_020307.htm

    I would not base my conclusions around anti-oxidants on that study; it just shows up as a “buyer beware” blip (low quality supplements may be worse than none at all.)

  27. #27 Daddy
    July 18, 2007

    to quote Arnold from ‘Total Recall’

    “what the fuck, did i do wrong!!!”

  28. #28 moisturizer
    December 18, 2007

    Hi,
    Antioxidants change them into harmless molecules, so if you build up a good store of them by taking antioxidant supplements, the damage will be minimized. The gold standard of arthritis treatment is anti-inflammatory medication.

  29. #29 oyun indir
    August 1, 2008

    I was just talking to a vocal advocate of Open-Access scientific journals today, and we were talking about this very issue. I suggested reproducing the graphs from the data and his eyes lit up – he said he hadn’t done that but it sounds like it is perfectly legal. I came over here to suggest it, and now that I see you’re already on that, good show.

    Let this be a lesson to everyone – science should be free and open to everyone! And lets find something prettier than Excel, so we can make better graphs than theirs!

  30. #30 sinema
    September 12, 2008

    Thanks for the resources on getting off mailing lists.

  31. #31 film izle
    September 25, 2008

    very nice…

  32. #32 film izle
    September 25, 2008

    Nice article, though.

  33. #33 film izle
    September 29, 2008

    Great Job!

  34. #34 film izle
    October 27, 2008

    Treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality. The potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study.

  35. #35 filim
    November 17, 2008

    thank you very very cooll

  36. #36 müzik dinle
    November 17, 2008

    thanks VERY_BEATIFULL, ONE, WRITING, MATURE,

  37. #37 film izle
    November 23, 2008

    To the above commenter, I think you just need to keep in mind that the lawyers are just trying to do their job…

    http://www.filmkalesi.com/

  38. #38 film izle
    December 10, 2008

    is The recently completed 2006 World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Environment Programme Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion concluded the ozone hole recovery would be masked by annual variability for the near future and the ozone hole would fully recover in approximately 2065. ?

  39. #39 Film izle
    December 27, 2008

    To the above commenter, I think you just need to keep in mind that the lawyers are just trying to do their job.. yeap

  40. #40 Siki?
    February 5, 2009

    thank you

  41. #41 film izle
    February 13, 2009

    thanl you or very good

  42. #42 ioffersearch001
    March 7, 2009

    Hii

    These scientific publishers are out of control, I can’t believe they’d threaten you over including a single graph on your site.. it seems to me the entire point of science and the scientific process is that work needs to be made public, reviewed, and commented on — their behavior is unscientific and shocking.

    Ioffersearch.com Blogs – Just another Ioffersearch.com weblog

    Thanks

  43. #43 VSC
    March 8, 2009

    I agree … Open Source Science – like open source software.

  44. #44 Dave
    May 12, 2009

    Way to go Allyl Isothiocyanate! I Have been doing a research project on this drug and I find loads of information on it that is just amazing.

  45. #45 18 film izle
    May 28, 2009

    I cant apply a twirl effect it’s grayed out.

  46. #46 yvonne
    August 6, 2009

    Hi, Great Site!!!!! Antioxidants are important for the body. They are the building block for a healthy body and well-being. Without good health we have nothing!!!!!

  47. #47 sikiş izle
    November 30, 2009

    And speaking of the death panel conspiracy theory, has anyone been checking out Arthur Goldwag’s coverage of Sarah Palin’s conspiratorial beliefs? How sad is it that we still have candidates for national office that believe things that fail the snopes.com test.

  48. wow ,you explain everything in a such easy way thank you there is something i want to mention that antioxidants can also help to recover better from exercise… and that means you can build more muscle and burn more body fat in the long term!
    by inhibition of free radicals produced during exercise. Any time you workout, free radicals are produced in the body that can create inflammation. Having an adequate supply of antioxidants about an hour or so before your workout can greatly reduce the damage caused by free radicals, hence, improving your muscular recovery from exercise.

  49. #49 College Grants for Mother
    September 17, 2010

    A recent article showed that supplemental antioxidants actually increased mortality.

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