Vigorous transport of cytoplasmic components along axons over substantial distances is crucial for the maintenance of neuron structure and function. The transport of mitochondria, which serves to distribute mitochondrial functions in a dynamic and non-uniform fashion, has attracted special interest in recent years following the discovery of functional connections among microtubules, motor proteins and mitochondria, and their influences on neurodegenerative diseases. Although the motor proteins that drive mitochondrial movement are now well characterized, the mechanisms by which anterograde and retrograde movement are coordinated with one another and with stationary axonal mitochondria are not yet understood. In this Commentary, we review why mitochondria move and how they move, focusing particularly on recent studies of transport regulation, which implicate control of motor activity by specific cell-signaling pathways, regulation of motor access to transport tracks and static microtubule-mitochondrion linkers. A detailed mechanism for modulating anterograde mitochondrial transport has been identified that involves Miro, a mitochondrial Ca2+-binding GTPase, which with associated proteins, can bind and control kinesin-1. Elements of the Miro complex also have important roles in mitochondrial fission-fusion dynamics, highlighting questions about the interdependence of biogenesis, transport, dynamics, maintenance and degradation.
There is a general perception that almost no one succeeds in long-term maintenance of weight loss. However, research has shown that approximate to 20% of overweight individuals are successful at long-term weight loss when defined as losing at least 10% of initial body weight and maintaining the loss for at least 1 y. The National Weight Control Registry provides information about the strategies used by successful weight loss maintainers to achieve and maintain long-term weight loss. National Weight Control Registry members have lost an average of 33 kg and maintained the loss for more than 5 y. To maintain their weight loss, members report engaging in high levels of physical activity (approximate to 1 h/d), eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, eating breakfast regularly, self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends. Moreover, weight loss maintenance may get easier over time; after individuals have successfully maintained their weight loss for 2-5 y, the chance of longer-term success greatly increases. Continued adherence to diet and exercise strategies, low levels of depression and disinhibition, and medical triggers for weight loss are also associated with long-term success. National Weight Control Registry members provide evidence that long-term weight loss maintenance is possible and help identify the specific approaches associated with long-term success.
Research on the effects of dietary polyphenols on human health has developed considerably in the past 10 y. It strongly supports a role for polyphenols in the prevention of degenerative diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases and cancers. The antioxidant properties of polyphenols have been widely studied, but it has become clear that the mechanisms of action of polyphenols go beyond the modulation of oxidative stress. This supplemental issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published on the occasion of the 1st International Conference on Polyphenols and Health, offers an overview of the experimental, clinical, and epidemiologic evidence of the effects of polyphenols on health.
Highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States are found among the lower-income groups. The observed links between obesity and socioeconomic position may be related to dietary energy density and energy cost. Refined grains, added sugars, and added fats are among the lowest-cost sources of dietary energy. They are inexpensive, good tasting, and convenient. In contrast, the more nutrient-dense lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit generally cost more. An inverse relationship between energy density of foods (kilojoules per gram) and their energy cost (dollars per megajoule) means that the more energy-dense diets are associated with lower daily food consumption costs and may be an effective way to save money. However, economic decisions affecting food choice may have physiologic consequences. Laboratory studies suggest that energy-dense foods and energy-dense diets have a lower satiating power and may result in passive overeating and therefore weight gain. Epidemiologic analyses suggest that the low-cost energy-dense diets also tend to be nutrient poor. If the rise in obesity rates is related to the growing price disparity between healthy and unhealthy foods, then the current strategies for obesity prevention may need to be revised. Encouraging low-income families to consume healthier but more costly foods to prevent future disease can be construed as an elitist approach to public health. Limiting access to inexpensive foods through taxes on frowned upon fats and sweets is a regressive measure. The broader problem may lie with growing disparities in incomes and wealth, declining value of the minimum wage, food imports, tariffs, and trade. Evidence is emerging that obesity in America is a largely economic issue.
Polyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases is emerging. Bioavailability differs greatly from one polyphenol to another, so that the most abundant polyphenols in our diet are not necessarily those leading to the highest concentrations of active metabolites in target tissues. Mean values for the maximal plasma concentration, the time to reach the maximal plasma concentration, the area under the plasma concentration-time curve, the elimination half-life, and the relative urinary excretion were calculated for 18 major polyphenols. We used data from 97 studies that investigated the kinetics and extent of polyphenol absorption among adults, after ingestion of a single dose of polyphenol provided as pure compound, plant extract, or whole food/beverage. The metabolites present in blood, resulting from digestive and hepatic activity, usually differ from the native compounds. The nature of the known metabolites is described when data are available. The plasma concentrations of total metabolites ranged from 0 to 4 mumol/L with an intake of 50 mg aglycone equivalents, and the relative urinary excretion ranged from 0.3% to 43% of the ingested dose, depending on the polyphenol. Gallic acid and isoflavones are the most well-absorbed polyphenols, followed by catechins, flavanones, and quercetin glucosides, but with different kinetics. The least well-absorbed polyphenols are the proanthocyanidins, the galloylated tea catechins, and the anthocyanins. Data are still too limited for assessment of hydroxycinnamic acids and other polyphenols. These data may be useful for the design and interpretation of intervention studies investigating the health effects of polyphenols.
For some classes of dietary polyphenols, there are now sufficient intervention studies to indicate the type and magnitude of effects among humans in vivo, on the basis of short-term changes in biomarkers. Isoflavones (genistein and daidzein, found in soy) have significant effects on bone health among postmenopausal women, together with some weak hormonal effects. Monomeric catechins (found at especially high concentrations in tea) have effects on plasma antioxidant biomarkers and energy metabolism. Procyanidins (oligomeric catechins found at high concentrations in red wine, grapes, cocoa, cranberries, apples, and some supplements such as Pycnogenol) have pronounced effects on the vascular system, including but not limited to plasma antioxidant activity. Quercetin (the main representative of the flavonol class, found at high concentrations in onions, apples, red wine, broccoli, tea, and Ginkgo biloba) influences some carcinogenesis markers and has small effects on plasma antioxidant biomarkers in vivo, although some studies failed to find this effect. Compared with the effects of polyphenols in vitro, the effects in vivo, although significant, are more limited. The reasons for this are 1) lack of validated in vivo biomarkers, especially in the area of carcinogenesis- 2) lack of long-term studies; and 3) lack of understanding or consideration of bioavailability in the in vitro studies, which are subsequently used for the design of in vivo experiments. It is time to rethink the design of in vitro and in vivo studies. so that these issues are carefully considered. The length of human intervention studies should be increased, to more closely reflect the long-term dietary consumption of polyphenols.
Folk wisdom has long suggested that stressful events take a toll on health. The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is now providing key mechanistic evidence about the ways in which stressorsand the negative emotions that they generatecan be translated into physiological changes. PNI researchers have used animal and human models to learn how the immune system communicates bidirectionally with the central nervous and endocrine systems and how these interactions impact on health.
Plant polyphenols, a large group of natural antioxidants, are serious candidates in explanations of the protective effects of vegetables and fruits against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Epidemiologic studies are useful for evaluation of the human health effects of long-term exposure to physiologic concentrations of polyphenols, but reliable data on polyphenol contents of foods are still scarce. The aim of this review is to summarize available epidemiologic data on the health effects of polyphenols, focusing on the flavonoid subclasses of flavonols, flavones, and catechins and on lignans. Data obtained to date suggest beneficial effects of both flavonoids and lignans on cardiovascular diseases but not on cancer, with the possible exception of lung cancer. There is a need for more research on stroke and lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Most studies to date have included only flavonols and flavones. With data becoming available for other polyphenols, these compounds should be included in future studies. Careful design of prospective studies is important to offset some of the major drawbacks of epidemiologic studies, including residual confounding (by smoking and other dietary factors) and exposure assessment.
Dietary polyphenols show a great diversity of structures, ranging from rather simple molecules (monomers and oligomers) to polymers. Higher-molecular-weight structures (with molecular weights of > 500) are usually designated as tannins, which refers to their ability to interact with proteins. Among them, condensed tannins (proanthocyanidins) are particularly important because of their wide distribution in plants and their contributions to major food qualities. All phenolic compounds are highly unstable and rapidly transformed into various reaction products when the plant cells are damaged (for instance, during food processing), thus adding to the complexity of dietary polyphenol composition. The polyphenol composition of plant-derived foods and beverages depends on that of the raw material used but also on the extraction process and subsequent biochemical and chemical reactions of plant polyphenols. The occurrence of specific tannin-like compounds (ie, thearubigins and theaflavins) arising from enzymatic oxidation is well documented in black tea. Various chemical reactions involving anthocyanins and/or flavanols have been demonstrated to occur during red wine aging. Current knowledge regarding the reaction mechanisms involved in some of these processes and the structures of the resulting products is reviewed. Their effects on organoleptic and nutritional quality are also discussed.
Foods and beverages rich in phenolic compounds, especially flavonoids, have often been associated with decreased risk of developing several diseases. However, it remains unclear whether this protective effect is attributable to the phenols or to other agents in the diet. Alleged health-promoting effects of flavonoids are usually attributed to their powerful antioxidant activities, but evidence for in vivo antioxidant effects of flavonoids is confusing and equivocal. This may be because maximal plasma concentrations, even after extensive flavonoid intake, may be low (insufficient to exert significant systemic antioxidant effects) and because flavonoid metabolites tend to have decreased antioxidant activity. Reports of substantial increases in plasma total antioxidant activity after flavonoid intake must be interpreted with caution; findings may be attributable to changes in urate concentrations. However, phenols might exert direct effects within the gastrointestinal tract, because of the high concentrations present. These effects could include binding of prooxidant iron, scavenging of reactive nitrogen, chlorine, and oxygen species, and perhaps inhibition of cyclooxygenases and lipoxygenases. Our measurements of flavonoids and other phenols in human fecal water are consistent with this concept. We argue that tocopherols and tocotrienols may also exert direct beneficial effects in the gastrointestinal tract and that their return to the gastrointestinal tract by the liver through the bile may be physiologically advantageous.