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Herbs & Plants

Saccharina japonica (Konbu)

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Botanical Name : Saccharina japonica
Family: Laminariaceae
Genus: Saccharina
Species: S. japonica
Kingdom: Chromalveolata
Phylum: Heterokontophyta
Class: Phaeophyceae
Order: Laminariales

Synonyms:
Laminaria japonica J.E. Areschoug
Laminaria ochotensis Miyabe

Common Names:Dashi kombu,Kombu or konbu ,also called dashima in Koria,

Habitat :
Saccharina japonica is  native to Japan, but has been cultivated in China, Japan, Russia, France, and Korea. It is one of the two most consumed species of kelp in China and Japan. The harvest is also used for the production of alginates, with China producing up to 10 000 tonnes of the product each year.

Description :
Thallus consisting of root-like holdfast, short stipe and blade. Blade long-belt shaped, up to one meter long, 10-20 cm broad, with margin undulate and overlapping, thick at the middle and thin at the margin. A short and small stipe and holdfast at the base of the blade. Holdfast sturdy (presenting haptera) with which the algae is fixed to rocky substratum.  Colour: thick dark green; blade surface brown, occasionally glaucescent…..CLICK & SEE  THE PICTURES

Uses:-
Cooking:
Kombu is used extensively in Japanese cuisines as one of the three main ingredients needed to make dashi, a soup stock. Kombu is sold dried (‘dashi kombu’) or pickled in vinegar (‘su kombu’) or as a dried shred (‘Oboro kombu’ or ‘Shiraga kombu’). It may also be eaten fresh as sashimi. Making kombu dashi is simple though kombu dashi powder may also be used. A strip of dried kombu in cold water, then heated to near-boiling, is the very first step of making dashi and the softened kombu is commonly eaten after cooking. It can also be sliced and used to make tsukudani, a dish that is simmered in soy sauce and mirin.

Kombu may be pickled with sweet and sour flavoring and is cut into small strips 5 or 6 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide. These are often eaten as a snack with green tea.

It is often included when cooking beans, putatively to add nutrients and improve their digestibility.

Kombucha – “seaweed tea” is a beverage brewed from dried and powdered kombu. This is sometimes confused with the unrelated English word kombucha, a neologism for the fermented and sweetened tea from Russia, which is called k?cha kinoko   in Japan.

Kombu is also used to prepare a seasoning for rice that is going to be made into sushi.

Nutrition and health effects:
Kombu is a good source of glutamic acid, an amino acid responsible for umami, the Japanese word used for one of the five basic tastes in addition to salt, sweet, sour, and bitter, identified in 1908. Several foodstuffs in addition to kombu provide glutamic acid or glutamates. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is often used as a food additive and flavor enhancer.

Kombu contains iodine, a mineral that is essential for normal growth and development. However, the high iodine content of kombu has been blamed for thyroid problems after drinking large amounts of soy milk in which kombu was an additive. It is also a source of dietary fiber.

Medicinal Uses:
Ocean Plant Extract contains some of the purest nutrients to help you achieve our health goals. These nutrients include the following:

*Alginates absorb radioactive elements and eliminate heavy metals and free radicals from your body
*Organic Iodine supports your thyroid to stabilize metabolism and is essential for expecting mothers and anyone with a thyroid disorders.
*Contains fucose, mannose & glucuronic acid to enhance cellular communication & immune function.
*Laminarin is a polysaccharide that has been shown to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases
*Antimicrobial agents like vitamin C, vitamin A and B vitamins.
Ocean plants contain all the above nutrients and have also been shown to reduce cold symptoms, strengthen your immune system and cleanse your body of heavy metals and radiation.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes to take charge of your health

The ancient Chinese, prescribed for goiter a tincture and powder of these plants.  Employed as alterative in the treatment of goiter and other iodine deficiencies.   It is used to induce labor and abortion. Kombu possesses a strong anticancer activity and inhibits the growth of cancer.  Studies have shown that a regular use of Laminaria japonica reduces risk of the breast cancer considerably.
Imbibition is employed in medicine to dilate the ear canals so they will drain properly. A slender porous cylinder called an “ear wick” is inserted into the blocked ear canal where it gradually imbibes water and swells. This same mechanism also involves one of the most unusual uses for brown algae. A slender cylinder of Laminaria japonica called “dilateria” is used to dilate the cervix in routine gynecological examinations. The cylinder of brown algae is inserted into the cervix where it imbibes water and swells. Laminaria has been preferred by many Japanese physicians for more than a century; they have found its gradual dilatation far less traumatic than the rapid dilatation induced by rigid dilators.’

As a dietary supplement, Laminaria is rich in several constituents that can be very beneficial to the health, aside from being a great natural source of iodine for the thyroid gland. It is high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and trace minerals such as manganese, copper, selenium, and zinc. It also provides chromium, which is instrumental in blood sugar control, and vitamins B1 and B2.  Somewhat more interesting are the polysaccharides. It contains alginates, laminarin, laminine, and fucoidan as well as a number of other polysaccharides and simple sugars. The alginates are adept at absorbing toxic heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from the body by binding with them in the gastrointestinal tract when they are present in the bile. Levels of dangerous metals like mercury, lead and aluminum can be significantly reduced in the body if Laminaria japonica is consumed on a regular basis for at least 4 months. This period of time is necessary, as it takes time for the body to cycle accumulated toxins into the bile. Laminaria has been used with great success in treating radiation sickness in the victims of the Chernobyl, Russia disaster via this mechanism.

Fucoidan, a sulphated fucopolysaccharide constituent is the subject of extensive research for its anticancer properties. Studies have shown fucoidan to be effective in stopping the growth of tumors, inducing cancer cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) in leukemia, stomach and colon cancer lines, and in interfering with metastasis by inhibiting interaction between tumor cells and the host tissue basement membrane. Laminarin, another constituent, has been found to assist with this process via a tumor angiogenesis blocking mechanism.  Fucoidan also has some beneficial effects on the immune system. It enhances phagocytosis by macrophages, and helps to reduce inflammation.

Kombu is also excellent for the hair, skin and nails, taken either internally or applied topically in masks and creams. Because of its high mineral content and polysaccharides, the seaweed helps by adding important nutrients to the skin, and by removing toxins. In its extract form, this seaweed can be easily incorporated into a range of skin care products to help give the skin a silky smoothness.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccharina_japonica
http://search.myway.com/search/GGcached.jhtml?pg=GGmain&ord=1&action=click&searchfor=Laminaria%2Bjaponica&curl=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FKombu&isDirResults=false&tpr=sbt&cid=36NMEGceQzAJ&st=site&ct=GC

Russia’s “Miracle” Heavy Metal Cleansing Sea Vegetable, “Laminaria Japonica”


http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Laminaria_japonica/en
http://www.wellcorps.com/ingredients-benefits-wakame-and-kombu-suringar-and-laminaria-japonica-whole-plant-extract.html

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News on Health & Science

Lung Taste Receptors Discovery May Improve Asthma Treatment

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Researchers have discovered that bitter taste receptors are not just located in the mouth but also in human lungs. What they learned about the role of the receptors could revolutionize the treatment of asthma and other obstructive lung diseases.

You may click to see :Sensory Transducers :

The ability to taste isn’t limited to the mouth, and researchers say that discovery might one day lead to better treatments for diseases such as asthma.

“The detection of functioning taste receptors on smooth muscle of the bronchus in the lungs was so unexpected that we were at first quite skeptical ourselves,” says the study’s senior author, Stephen B. Liggett.

Dr. Liggett, a pulmonologist, says his team found the taste receptors by accident, during an earlier, unrelated study of human lung muscle receptors that regulate airway contraction and relaxation. The airways are the pathways that move air in and out of the lungs, one of several critical steps in the process of delivering oxygen to cells throughout the body. In asthma, the smooth muscle airways contract or tighten, impeding the flow of air, causing wheezing and shortness of breath.

The taste receptors in the lungs are the same as those on the tongue. The tongue’s receptors are clustered in taste buds, which send signals to the brain. The researchers say that in the lung, the taste receptors are not clustered in buds and do not send signals to the brain, yet they respond to substances that have a bitter taste.

For the current study, Dr. Liggett’s team exposed bitter-tasting compounds to human and mouse airways, individual airway smooth muscle cells, and to mice with asthma. The findings are published online in Nature Medicine.

Most plant-based poisons are bitter, so the researchers thought the purpose of the lung’s taste receptors was similar to those in the tongue – to warn against poisons. “I initially thought the bitter-taste receptors in the lungs would prompt a ‘fight or flight’ response to a noxious inhalant, causing chest tightness and coughing so you would leave the toxic environment, but that’s not what we found,” says Dr. Liggett.

There are thousands of compounds that activate the body’s bitter taste receptors but are not toxic in appropriate doses. Many are synthetic agents, developed for different purposes, and others come from natural origins, such as certain vegetables, flowers, berries and trees.

The researchers tested a few standard bitter substances known to activate these receptors. “It turns out that the bitter compounds worked the opposite way from what we thought,” says Dr. Liggett. “They all opened the airway more profoundly than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).” Dr. Liggett says this observation could have implications for new therapies.

Dr. Liggett cautions that eating bitter tasting foods or compounds would not help in the treatment of asthma.

Another paradoxical aspect of their discovery is the unexpected role that the mineral calcium plays when the lung’s taste receptors are activated. The study’s principal author, Deepak A. Deshpande, is an expert in how calcium controls muscles. “We always assumed that increased calcium in the smooth muscle cell caused it to contract, but we found that bitter compounds increase calcium and cause relaxation of airway muscle in a unique way,” says Dr. Deshpande. “It appears that these taste receptors are wired to a special pool of calcium that is right at the edge of these cells,” he says.

Resources:

Elements4Health

centredaily.com

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Categories
Ailmemts & Remedies

Smell Disorder

Introduction:
Our sense of smell & taste helps us enjoy life. We delight in the aromas of our favorite foods or the fragrance of flowers. Our sense of smell also is a warning system, alerting us to danger signals such as a gas leak, spoiled food, or a fire. Any loss in our sense of smell can have a negative effect on our quality of life. It also can be a sign of more serious health problems.

Roughly 1–2 percent of people in North America say that they have a smell disorder. Problems with smell increase as people get older, and they are more common in men than women. In one study, nearly one-quarter of men ages 60–69 had a smell disorder, while about 11 percent of women in that age range reported a problem.

Many people who have smell disorders also notice problems with their sense of taste.

CLICK & SEE

Other Names:
Loss of smell; Anosmia.

CLICK & SEE

How do we smell?
Our sense of smell—like our sense of taste—is part of our chemosensory system, or the chemical senses  or the chemosenses.Sensory cells in our nose, mouth, and throat have a role in helping us interpret smells, as well as taste flavors. Microscopic molecules released by the substances around us (foods, flowers, etc.) stimulate these sensory cells. Once the cells detect the molecules they send messages to our brains, where we identify the smell. Olfactory, or smell nerve cells, are stimulated by the odors around us–the fragrance of a gardenia or the smell of bread baking. These nerve cells are found in a small patch of tissue high inside the nose, and they connect directly to the brain. Our sense of smell is also influenced by something called the common chemical sense. This sense involves nerve endings in our eyes, nose, mouth, and throat, especially those on moist surfaces. Beyond smell and taste, these nerve endings help us sense the feelings stimulated by different substances, such as the eye-watering potency of an onion or the refreshing cool of peppermint. It’s a surprise to many people to learn that flavors are recognized mainly through the sense of smell. Along with texture, temperature, and the sensations from the common chemical sense, the perception of flavor comes from a combination of odors and taste. Without the olfactory cells, familiar flavors like coffee or oranges would be harder to distinguish....CLICK & SEE

Types of smell disorders:
People who experience smell disorders experience either a loss in their ability to smell or changes in the way they perceive odors. As for loss of the sense of smell, some people have hyposmia, which is when their ability to detect odor is reduced. Other people can’t detect odor at all, which is called anosmia. As for changes in the perception of odors, some people notice that familiar odors become distorted. Or, an odor that usually smells pleasant instead smells foul. Still other people may perceive a smell that isn’t present at all.You may click to see :Smell Dysfunction Glossary of Terms….
Sniff Test May Signal Disorders’ Early Stages ….

Symptoms:
Smell disorder  symptoms are : Reduced sense of smell, Anosmia, Olfactory dysfunction, Loss of smell, Lack of sense of smell in children, Paraosmia due to amebic meningitis or other types.

There are various symptoms related to “smell”. Having a particular smell or odor can be a serious symptom. There are various odor symptoms such as body odor, urine odor, stool odor, and other odor symptoms. The sense of smell can be subject to loss of smell, loss of taste, or other nose symptoms….


Considerations:

The loss of smell can occur as a result of nasal congestion or blockage of the nose and isn’t serious, but it can sometimes be a sign of a nervous system (neurological) condition.

Temporary loss of the sense of smell is common with colds and nasal allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis). It may occur after a viral illness.

Some loss of smell occurs with aging. In most cases, there is no obvious or immediate cause, and there is no treatment.

The sense of smell is often lost with disorders that prevent air from reaching the part of the nose where smell receptors are located (the cribriform plate, located high in the nose). These disorders may include nasal polyps, nasal septal deformities, and nasal tumors.

Other disorders that may cause a loss of the sense of smell include:

The sense of smell also enhances your ability to taste. Many people who lose their sense of smell also complain of a loss of the sense of taste. Most can still tell between salty, sweet, sour, and bitter tastes, which are sensed on the tongue. They may not be able to tell between other flavors. Some spices (such as pepper) may affect the nerves of the face and may be felt rather than smelled.

Causes:
Smell disorders have many causes, with some more obvious than others. Most people who develop a smell disorder have experienced a recent illness or injury. Common causes of smell disorders are:

*Disorders of the endocrine system
*Head trauma
*Nervous disorders
*Nutritional disorders
*Tumors of the head or brain
*Many medications may change or decrease the ability to detect odors.
*Sinus and other upper respiratory infections
*Polyps in the nasal cavities
*Frontal head injuries
*Hormonal disturbances
*Dental problems
*Exposure to certain chemicals, such as insecticides and solvents
*Numerous medications, including some common antibiotics and antihistamines
*Radiation associated with the treatment of head and neck cancers
*Aging
*Other health issues that affect the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease

In the year 2009, the FDA warned consumers to stop using several popular cold remedies because they could result in the loss of smell. Smoking also can interfere with our sense of smell.

Most people who develop a smell disorder have recently experienced an illness or an injury. Common triggers are upper respiratory infections and head injuries.  Some medicines have also been associated with smell disorders. People with head and neck cancers who receive radiation treatment are also among those who experience problems with their sense of smell.

Associated conditions
* Dysosmia
* Kallmann syndrome
* Zinc deficiency
* Cadmium Poisoning
* Holoprosencephaly
* Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis caused by Naegleria fowleri
* Refsum disease
* CHARGE syndrome
* Ageusia

Diagnosis:
Both smell and taste disorders are treated by an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. Some tests are designed to measure the smallest amount of odor that patients can detect. Another common test consists of a booklet of sheets that contain tiny beads filled with specific odors.In fact, an easily administered “scratch and sniff” test allows a person to scratch pieces of paper treated to release different odors, sniff them, and try to identify each odor from a list of possibilities. In this way, doctors can easily determine whether patients have hyposmia, anosmia, or another kind of smell disorder.

CLICK & SEE

An accurate assessment of your smell disorder will include, among other things, a physical examination of your ears, nose, and throat; a review of your health history, such as exposure to toxic chemicals or trauma; and a smell test supervised by a health care professional.

Risk Factors:
Like all of our senses, our sense of smell plays an important part in our lives.When smell is impaired, some people change their eating habits. Some may eat too little and lose weight while others may eat too much and gain weight. Food becomes less enjoyable and people may use too much salt to improve the taste. This can be a problem for people with certain medical conditions, such high blood pressure or kidney disease. In severe cases, loss of smell can lead to depression.

The sense of smell often serves as a first warning signal, alerting us to the smoke of a fire or the odor of a natural gas leak and dangerous fumes. Perhaps more important is that our chemosenses are sometimes a signal of serious health problems. Obesity, diabetes, hypertension, malnutrition, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Korsakoff’s psychosis are all accompanied or signaled by chemosensory problems like smell disorders.

Presentation
Anosmia or smell disorder can have a number of detrimental effects. Patients with sudden onset anosmia may find food less appetizing, though congenital anosmics rarely complain about this. Loss of smell can also be dangerous because it hinders the detection of gas leaks, fire, and spoiled food. The common view of anosmia as trivial can make it more difficult for a patient to receive the same types of medical aid as someone who has lost other senses, such as hearing or sight.

Losing an established and sentimental smell memory (e.g. the smell of grass, of the grandparents’ attic, of a particular book, of loved ones, or of oneself) has been known to cause feelings of depression.

Loss of olfaction may lead to the loss of libido, though this usually does not apply to congenital anosmics.

Often people who have congenital anosmia report that they pretended to be able to smell as children because they thought that smelling was something that older/mature people could do, or did not understand the concept of smelling but did not want to appear different from others. When children get older, they often realize and report to their parents that they do not actually possess a sense of smell, often, to the surprise of their parents.

Zicam controversy
On June 16, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Matrixx Initiatives, manufacturer of an over-the-counter nasal spray for the common cold, Zicam. The FDA cited complaints that the product caused anosmia. The manufacturer strongly denies these allegations, but has recalled the product and has stopped selling it.

Treatment:
Some people experience relief from smell disorders. Since certain medications can cause a problem, adjusting or changing that medicine may ease its effect on the sense of smell. Others recover their ability to smell when the illness causing their olfactory problem resolves. For patients with nasal obstructions such as polyps, surgery can remove the obstructions and restore airflow. Not infrequently, people enjoy a spontaneous recovery because olfactory neurons may regenerate following damage.

Home Care:
Treating the cause of the problem may correct loss of the sense of smell. Treatment can include:

*Antihistamines (if the condition is related to allergy)
*Changes in medication
*Surgery to correct blockages
*Treatment of other disorders
*Avoid using too many nasal decongestants, which can lead to recurring nasal congestion.

If you lose your sense of smell, you may have changes in taste. But, adding highly seasoned foods to your diet can help stimulate the taste sensations that you still have.

Improve your safety at home by using smoke detectors and electric appliances instead of gas ones. You may not be able to smell gas if there is a leak. Or, install equipment that detects the presence of gas fumes in the home.

There is no treatment for loss of smell due to aging.

If you have a loss of smell due to a recent viral upper respiratory infection, be patient. The sense of smell may return to normal without treatment.

Click to see:Herbs for Loss of Smell & Taste

Click to learn more about : Treatments for a Loss of Sense of Smell

Research:
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) supports basic and clinical investigations of smell and taste disorders at institutions across the nation. Some of these studies are conducted at chemosensory research centers, where scientists are making discoveries that help them understand our olfactory system and may lead to new treatments for smell disorders.

Some of the most recent research into our sense of smell is also the most exciting. In 2004, NIDCD grantee Linda B. Buck, Ph.D., together with Richard Axel, M.D., received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of a family of about 1,000 olfactory receptor genes that encode the receptors found on olfactory sensory neurons—one receptor per neuron. Recent studies on how olfactory sensory neurons recognize odors, aided by new technology, are revealing how our olfactory system detects and identifies the differences between the many chemical compounds that form odors.

Like our sense of taste, our sense of smell can be damaged by certain medicines. However, other medications, especially those prescribed for allergies, may improve the sense of smell. NIDCD-supported scientists are working to find out why this is so in an effort to develop drugs that can help restore a person’s sense of smell.

NIDCD-supported researchers have found that the loss of smell affects the choices an older person makes about eating certain foods. Food choices impact diet and overall health. They are looking at how and why this takes place in order to develop more effective ways to help older people—especially those with chronic illnesses—cope better with problems with smell and to maintain proper nutrition.

Olfactory sensory neurons—as well as sensory cells that help us taste—are the only sensory cells that our bodies regularly replace. Scientists are exploring why and how this happens in order that they might find ways to replace other damaged sensory and nerve cells.

NIDCD-supported chemosensory scientists are exploring how to:

*Promote the regeneration of sensory and nerve cells.
*Understand the effects of the environment (such as gasoline fumes, chemicals, and extremes of relative humidity and temperature) on smell and taste.
*Prevent the effects of aging on smell and taste.
*Prevent infectious agents and toxins from reaching the brain through the olfactory nerve.
*Develop new diagnostic tests for taste and smell disorders.
*Understand associations between chemosensory disorders and altered food intake in aging as well as in various chronic illnesses.
*Improve treatment methods and rehabilitation strategies.

MORE INFORMATION:-

Click For more information NIDCD Information Clearinghouse.

The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that can answer questions and provide printed or electronic information about hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language. This directory is available at www.nidcd.nih.gov/directory.

To find organizations with information specifically about smell disorders, click on Smell and Taste in the “Browse by Topic” list.

For more information, additional addresses and phone numbers, or a printed list of organizations, contact:

NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Toll-free Voice: (800) 241-1044 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (800) 241-1044      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Toll-free TTY: (800) 241-1055
Fax: (301) 770-8977
E-mail: nidcdinfo@nidcd.nih.gov
NIH Publication No. 09-3231
Updated July 2009

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
Resources:
http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/symptoms/smell-impaired/overview.html
http://www.righthealth.com/topic/Disorders_Smell/overview/healthocrates20?fdid=healthocrates_a1e23a7936222b32cbffcf28f010c155
http://www.medicinenet.com/smell_disorders/article.htm
http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/sym/smell_symptoms.htm#intro

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anosmia

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Featured

Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Fool Your Brain

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While artificial sweeteners may be able to confuse your taste buds, the suspicion is growing that your brain is not so easily fooled.

……………………...CLICK & SEE
Several studies suggest your brain has a way of detecting calories while food is still in your mouth. For example, researchers made eight cyclists perform 60-minute workouts on a stationary bike while measuring their work rate.

During workouts on separate days they were told to rinse their mouth with a solution of either glucose or saccharin, without swallowing either one. The glucose mouth rinse improved the cyclists’ performance by a small but consistent amount compared to saccharin.

Later, they were asked to rinse their mouths with either saccharin alone or saccharin plus a caloric (but non-sweet) sugar called maltodextrin. The cyclists did slightly better when they rinsed their mouths with maltodextrin, even though both solutions carried identical saccharin taste.

When scientists performed fMRI scans on the athletes, they found that the combination of saccharin and maltodextrin activated two reward-associated brain areas — the striatum and anterior cingulate — which saccharin alone failed to touch.

Source: New Scientist December 27, 2009

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News on Health & Science

New Chemical Alternative to MSG That is Coming Soon

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For anyone who’s ever wanted the savory taste of meats and cheeses without actually having to eat them, chemists have identified molecular mechanisms underlying the sensation of umami, also known as the fifth taste.

…………………CLICK & SEE.
The historically unappreciated taste is produced by two interacting sets of molecules, each of which is needed to trigger cellular receptors on your tongue’s surface.

“This opens the door to designing better, more potent and more selective umami enhancers,” said Xiaodong Li, a chemist at San Diego-based food-additive company Senomyx.

Four other basic tastes — bitter, sweet, salty and sour — were identified 2,400 years ago by the Greek philosopher Democritus, and became central to the western gastronomic canon.

In the late 19th century, French chef and veal-stock inventor Auguste Escoffier suggested that a fifth taste was responsible for his mouth-watering brew. Though Escoffier’s dishes were popular, his theories were dismissed until 1908, when Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda showed that an amino acid called glutamate underlies the taste of a hearty variety of seaweed soup.

In honor of Ikeda, the taste was dubbed umami, the Japanese word for delicious. It took another 80 years for umami to be recognized by science as comparable to the other four tastes.

In the meantime, monosodium glutamate became wildly popular as a flavor enhancer. But MSG can cause headaches and dizziness, and has been tenuously linked to long-term neurological disorders.

“The only way to have a substitute is to find the molecular target of glutamate. If we figure that out, then we can screen for agents that are not glutamate but could mimic it,” said Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Solomon Snyder, who was not involved in the new study.

Li’s team have taken human kidney cells and added the genes for receptors linked to umami taste. Receptors form on the cells’ surface, geometrically resembling the mouth of a Venus flytrap. When glutamate is caught on a receptor’s lips and a molecule called ribonucleotide lodged in its throat, the receptor snaps shut.

“The configuration of the receptor changes, sending a signal down into the cell,” said Li. In their engineered and disconnected cells the signal quickly fizzled — but in a tongue surface cell, said Li, “Your brain gets a signal: Something tastes good that is in my mouth.”
Sources:

WIRED December 22, 2008
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences December 22, 2008

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