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October 13, 2012 | By Mikaela Conley
Dieters used to shun that little bowl of salted and mixed nuts at parties - too fattening, they'd say. But nuts have moved beyond the cocktail crowd. They're an economical source of protein being used in every course of the meal for all kinds of eaters: as flour for the gluten-averse, milk for the lactose-intolerant and even as a snack for people watching their fat intake. Only a few decades ago, many doctors and nutritionists warned that nuts should be eaten on special occasions and even then only sparingly.
September 6, 2012 | By Alan Zarembo, Los Angeles Times
Researchers have identified what they say is a rare but potentially treatable form of autism. It stems from a gene that controls the breakdown of certain proteins, known as branched chained amino acids. The proteins are important in brain chemistry and must be gotten from food, since the body can't produce them. In most people, the gene slows down the metabolism of the proteins to maintain an available supply in the blood plasma. But certain mutations in the gene deactivate it, so the proteins get broken down too rapidly.
July 12, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
There's a new weapon in the fight against the flu: Researchers have discovered that a synthetic protein called EP67, commonly used as a helper molecule in vaccines, is highly effective on its own when taken within 24 hours of infection. Vaccines are currently the best weapon we have against the flu. But vaccines target individual strains of the virus, meaning that if public health experts guess incorrectly when they develop that season's flu shot, it will do little good for the population.
June 29, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details. Who hasn't heard of mad cow disease? Maybe there are a lot more diseases like that than we recognize -- such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's  -- that are caused by a rogue, mis-folded piece of protein that seeds other bits of protein to mis-fold as well. So argues Stanley Prusiner, a UC San Francisco professor, in a commentary in the journal Science. Prusiner won a Nobel Prize for finding that a class of neurodegenerative diseases (of which mad cow is one)
June 27, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
A calorie is a calorie is a calorie - or is it? Maybe not, a small study has found. Once the pounds are shed, the proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and fats you chow down on may determine whether you keep the weight off - or slowly but surely pack on pounds again. In an intensive, seven-month experiment during which 21 overweight men and women had their diets strictly controlled down to each last morsel, researchers showed that a traditional low-fat diet seemed to make the metabolism more sluggish than a high-protein one during the most difficult part of weight loss: keeping fat off once it's shed.
March 27, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Blocking "don't destroy me" signals that normally sit on the surface of tumor cells and render them resistant to immune-cell attack slows the growth of a broad range of human cancers when they're implanted in mice, researchers have found. The approach, reported by immunologists at the Stanford University School of Medicine, was effective against ovarian, breast, colon, bladder, liver, prostate and brain cancer cells. If the work can be repeated in people, the approach may someday help doctors marshal defender cells in patients' own bodies to fight cancers, the researchers said.
February 1, 2012 | By Eryn Brown
Everyone knows that it can feel really good to get a massage. Now scientists may have figured out why, by identifying how massage switches genes on and off, thus reducing inflammation and coaxing muscle adaptation to exercise. The discovery provides strong evidence that massage merits further study as a treatment for injuries and chronic disorders, said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a researcher at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and lead author of a study about the research released Wednesday.
January 19, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Human tears are thought to be unique in the animal kingdom, in that they're often tied to our emotional state -- but that's not the only special property they possess. Proteins in tears can protect against harmful bacteria, and now a team of UC Irvine researchers has shown how. Lysozymes are antiseptic proteins found in a number of bodily fluids, including tears. Their anti-bacterial properties were first identified by Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, in the 1920s, but it was unclear how these proteins could take out bacteria much bigger than them.
January 3, 2012 | By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Eating excess calories will add extra pounds, but eat too little protein and you could be putting more fat on your body, a study suggests. The study, released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. , looked at how three diets with different protein contents influenced weight gain and body composition. Those findings may have larger implications for combating obesity. Researchers, led by Dr. George Bray of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana,  put 25 people age 18 to 35 on a weight maintenance diet for 13 to 25 days.
December 26, 2011 | By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
At first glance, Susan and Herb Eckerling's kitchen doesn't look that bad, food-wise. A bowl of fresh fruit graces the tan tile counter, there's leftover steamed cauliflower in the refrigerator and some quick-cooking oats in the pantry. But scratch the surface and signs of poor choices and unnecessary deprivations emerge: Susan's diet is extremely short on whole grains, and neither eats much red meat - even though they like it - because they fear every cut is bad for their health.
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