UCL Research Domains


Media Digest: January 2018

11 February 2018

A roundup of current news articles and stories related to our core research themes in January 2018.

newspaper digest


Why science blogging still matters [NATURE, Jan 31 2018]

Blogs continue to be an effective platform for communicating your science to major stakeholders — and the public.

Science blogs have been around since the early 2000s, and in recent years the ‘microblogging’ platform Twitter and other social-media channels, which require less time to maintain than does a full blog, threatened to make them obsolete. But some scientists are keeping the practice alive, and it continues to play a major part in sparking collaborations, conveying crucial information and strengthening scientific communities.


Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of frailty in old age [REUTERS, Jan 30 2018]

The more “Mediterranean” older adults’ diets are, the less likely they are to become frail over time, suggests an analysis of existing research. 

The study team analyzed data on nearly 6,000 older adults who were part of four studies - three of them done in countries that actually border the Mediterranean Sea and one in Asia. No matter where they lived, people whose diets most closely followed Mediterranean diet principles were less than half as likely as those with the least-Mediterranean diets to become frail as they aged.

Scientists discover a bone-deep risk for heart disease [NEW YORK TIMES, 29 Jan 2018]

It’s been one of the vexing questions in medicine: Why is it that most people who have heart attacks or strokes have few or no conventional risk factors?

These are patients with normal levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, no history of smoking or diabetes, and no family history of cardiovascular disease. Why aren’t they spared?

To some researchers, this hidden risk is the dark matter of cardiology: an invisible but omnipresent force that lands tens of thousands of patients in the hospital each year. But now scientists may have gotten a glimpse of part of it.

Study Shows Long-Term Effects Of Diabetes And Prediabetes On The Brain [FORBES, Jan 28 2018]

One of the largest studies on the connection between blood sugar and brain function has found that people with prediabetes and diabetes experience worse long-term cognitive decline than people with normal blood sugar levels. The results underscore just how dangerous impaired blood sugar is for overall health, from heart to brain – but the study also suggests that there’s a possible good news side to this story.

The role of folate in mitochondrial translation [NATURE, 24 January 2018]

Folates have an important role in intracellular metabolism, as they mediate the biosynthesis of purines, thymidine and methionine by exporting one-carbon units from mitochondria to the cytoplasm. The mitochondria-localized folate enzymes are strongly upregulated in human cancer cells, for reasons that have been unclear. Joshua Rabinowitz and colleagues provide an explanation for this observation by showing that, in addition to their role in cytoplasmic metabolism, folates are required for protein translation within mitochondria.

Exercise Alters Our Microbiome. Is That One Reason It’s So Good for Us? [NEW YORK TIMES, January 3 2018]

Exercise may change the composition and activity of the trillions of microbes in our guts in ways that could improve our health and metabolisms over time, a new study finds.

Treating Disease by Nudging the Microbes Inside Us [THE ATLANTIC, January 4 2018]

We’ve spent centuries trying

Podcast: Medicine's dirty secret – your poo could save lives [MOSAIC, January 31 2018]

Brace yourself for the unbelievable next big thing in healthcare: faecal transplants. This week’s podcast looks into this emerging therapy, to get to grips with the power of poo.

Nearly half of children are dangerously overweight in parts of Britain, first ever child obesity map shows [TELEGRAPH, January 28 2018]

The research by Public Health England shows that children with the most and least healthy lifestyles are living cheek by jowl, with just five miles between the areas with the best and worst record. Senior paediatricians said the findings were a “deep indictment” of failures by successive Governments to tackle childhood obesity, and prevent millions of children from suffering “appalling life-long consequences” from being brought up on junk food.

Mediterranean diet linked to higher chance of successful IVF [NEW SCIENTIST, January 30 2018]

A study of nearly 250 women in Greece suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet might increase the chances of successfully having a baby via IVF fertility treatment.

Nikos Yiannakouris, at Harokopion University of Athens, and his team analysed the diet of 244 women for the six months before each of them underwent IVF for the first time. They found that those in the group who ate the most Mediterranean diets were around 66 per cent more likely to get pregnant and give birth to a live baby than those in the group whose diets were relatively less Mediterranean.


Child and maternal malnutrition biggest health risk: Economic Survey [LIVE MINT, January 29 2018]

New Delhi: Child and maternal malnutrition posed the most challenging health risk in India in 2016, followed by air pollution, dietary risks, high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18, presented in Parliament on Monday. The contribution of non-communicable diseases increased from 30% of the total disease burden in 1990 to 55% in 2016 and that of injuries from 9% to 12%. 

India’s Call to Action—Prioritize Chronic Cardiovascular Disease [JAMA NETWORK, January 29 2018]

India is a country of 1.3 billion people, with 4-fold the population of the United States and one-third the size. India has 29 states and 7 territories, with the populations of many states exceeding those of large countries. There are more than 2000 distinct ethnic groups in India who speak 415 languages, of which 23 are considered official languages that are spoken by more than a million native speakers. India also has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Along with rapid globalization and technological transformations, however, have come health problems, such as obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.


World must look at more sustainable ways of feeding livestock, report urges [FARMING UK, January 29 2018]

A new report has highlighted the need for the world to look at more sustainable ways of feeding livestock, as half of all agricultural land is used for feed production.

Titled 'The Feed Behind Our Food', the report highlights its significant impacts on environmental health and food security. This call for increased scrutiny comes at a time when animal feed production is projected to grow exponentially to meet future demand. Already, nearly half of global agricultural land is used for livestock feed production and more than a fifth of wild caught fish is fed to animals.

Using algae to promote agricultural sustainability and the circular economy [EUREKA ALERT, January 30 2018]

Algae are being used to develop new technology to clean up waste. The ALG-AD project could potentially result in a circular economy solution whereby excess waste nutrients produced from anaerobic digestion of food and farm waste are used to cultivate algal biomass for animal feed and other products of value.


Steps to the digital Silk Road [NATURE, January 30 2018]

Sharing big data from satellite imagery and other Earth observations across Asia, the Middle East and east Africa is key to sustainability.

The economies of many developing countries are rural, with agriculture accounting for more than 25% of gross domestic product. Often, more than 40% of a developing country’s workforce is involved in farming. Food supplies can be unreliable.

The Ancient Origins of Dieting [THE ATLANTIC, January 30 2018]

Diet dreams are splashed across magazine covers and blare from the TV, offering tips and tricks, that will, readers and viewers are promised, make weight loss easy and fast. Diet books making similar claims can be found at the top of the best-seller list without fail, every January. But where does this obsession with losing weight to reach some kind of idealized body type come from? How long have gurus and doctors alike made millions from the West’s preoccupation with the “d” word, and 

Holy chickens: Did Medieval religious rules drive domestic chicken evolution? [SCIENCE DAILY, May 2017]

Chickens were domesticated from Asian jungle fowl around 6,000 years ago. Since domestication they have acquired a number of traits that are valuable to humans, including those concerning appearance, reduced aggression and faster egg-laying, although it is not known when and why these traits evolved. Now, an international team of scientists has combined DNA data from archaeological chicken bones with statistical modeling to pinpoint when these traits started to increase in frequency in Europe.

Ancient Ale: Oldest Beer in Greece Dates to Bronze Age [LIVE SCIENCE, January 31 2018]

The ancient Greeks may have liberally indulged in wine, but that's not the only alcoholic beverage they imbibed, according to a new study that describes the discovery of two potential Bronze Age breweries. 

The "stout" discoveries mark what may be the oldest beer-making facilities in Greece and upend the notion that the region's ancient go-to drink was only wine, the researchers said.

"It is an unexpected find for Greece, because until now all evidence pointed to wine," study researcher Tania Valamoti, an associate professor of archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in Greece, told Live Science.

When Life Gives You Lemons: Tracking the Earliest Citrus in the Mediterranean [ASOR, January 2018]

One of the most famous Levantine exports of the 20th century was the Jaffa orange, and we have long associated the region with citrus. Today citrus orchards are a major component of the Mediterranean landscape and among the region’s most important cultivated fruits. But while citrus is now iconic, it may come as a surprise that it is not native to the Mediterranean Basin; these species originated thousands of miles away, in Southeast Asia. So how did the first citrus arrive in the Mediterranean, and why?


Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST): Topics of Interest in 2018 [Janaury 8 2018]

Topics of Interest 2018

This list sets out the topic areas identified of possible parliamentary interest under the 9 different category headings (Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Forestry, Crime, Defence, Education and Skills, Energy, Environment, Health, ICT and Robotics and Transport and Infrastructure).