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Here are some unpalatable statistics: A total of 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease and nearly as many –– 1.4 million –– don’t know they have it. And ponder this: Nearly five times as many people have celiac disease today than in the 1950s, with the rate doubling every 15 years since 1974.

Adding to the problem is that the average person never even heard of this disease for decades after it was first discovered. Only in recent years has awareness risen and gluten-free diets and food become popular. Another major problem is that this autoimmune disease presents with symptoms common to other maladies –– bloating, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, anemia and joint pain.


Despite this gloomy picture, there now is some good news for celiac patients looking for another suitable grain to use in baking bread and cakes and cookies. Sorghum, a gluten-free grain popular in Africa, Central America and South Asia is a safe food ingredient for people with celiac disease, according to scientists. They say that to date the grain mainly has been used in animal feed in the United States. Recently, however, U.S. farmers have begun producing sorghum hybrids that are a white grain, known as “food-grade” sorghum.


Reporting in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Paola Pontieri and colleagues explain that the unpleasant symptoms, caused by body’s immune system attacking the digestive system, are set off by exposure to gluten, a protein composite found in such grains as wheat, rye and barley.  The only treatment is avoiding breads and other foods that contain gluten. Sorghum, they note, is a welcome, alternative grain for people with celiac disease.


They say that a recent analysis of the sorghum plant clearly showed that there was no evidence of any genes related to the troublesome gluten protein. And in addition to this positive finding, they noted that sorghum is a highly nutritional grain.


What do you think? Would you eat a sorghum pastry?  A sorghum cereal?

“Sorghum, a Healthy and Gluten-Free Food for Celiac Patients As Demonstrated by Genome, Biochemical, and Immunochemical Analyses,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry


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Jute, that scratchy, stiff vegetable fiber used to make burlap sacks and twine, could have a brand-new use in the near future. According to a study in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, it could serve as a sustainable strengthener for concrete and mortar.


Surprisingly, jute is the second most-widely used fiber after cotton. It’s part wood and part textile. India, China and Bangladesh grow the most jute. In fact, it’s even been dubbed the “Golden Fiber of Bangladesh.” And it is easy to grow — it just needs lots of water.


Concrete can crack over time, so researchers have been developing fibers to reinforce the cement compositions used to make concrete and mortar, which are some of the most popular building materials. And a stronger concrete won’t crack as much. A lot of people are now interested in using economical, sustainable natural fibers instead of those made from steel or synthetics.


In previous research, Subhasish Majumder and colleagues showed that jute works as a reinforcement fiber.


Their new study discovered another advantage of jute — it also delays the hardening of concrete and mortar, which must be trucked to construction sites.


“The prolonged setting of these fiber-reinforced cement composites would be beneficial for applications where the pre-mixed cement aggregates are required to be transported from a distant place to construction site,” the report states.


“Effect of Jute as Fiber Reinforcement Controlling the Hydration Characteristics of Cement Matrix,” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry




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Olive oil, that cooking liquid so popular today with chefs at home and in restaurants, hasn’t always been a culinary staple. There was a time when one of the few places you would find it was as a partner with red vinegar in salad dressing. And then, sometime in the latter part of the last century, olive oil began to come into its own.

A variety of restaurants, beginning with those featuring Italian cuisine, began serving this golden oil as a substitute for butter. Today, many restaurants serve olive oil flavored with herbs and spices, as well as the popular parmesan cheese. Pleasant flavor is not the only plus for olive oil. Scientists have reported that monounsaturated oils like olive, contrasted with high-fat, saturated shortenings like lard, for example, can actually improve your health. They say monounsaturated oils
may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) levels.

scientists also may be close to solving the mystery of exactly why consuming extra virgin olive oil helps reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). They say that the answer may be that one part of the olive oil helps push the abnormal AD proteins out of the brain. Noting that while 30 million people suffer from the disease around the world, a smaller percentage of people in Mediterranean countries have AD. The reason: scientists have thought that it was due to the large quantities of olive oil in the diet in that part of the world.

Amal Kaddoumi and his team note that recent studies, however, indicate that a substance called oleocanthal in the oil may protect nerve cells from the kind of damage associated with Alzheimer’s. The team has been looking for evidence that, in fact, oleocanthal does help decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain.  Researchers believe that beta-amyloid is a key player in AD.

Reporting in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, the team described how they followed the effects of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of lab mice. In both parts of the study, the substance clearly ramped up production of two proteins and key enzymes believed to be crucial in cleansing the brain of beta-amyloid.


“Olive-Oil-Derived Oleocanthal Enhances β-Amyloid Clearance as a Potential Neuroprotective Mechanism against Alzheimer’s Disease: In Vitro and in Vivo Studies,” ACS Chemical Neuroscience





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