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RESEARCH ETHICS By Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.
New nonanimal methods have made it easier, faster, and cheaper for chemical companies to produce new products, satisfying the growing demand for environmentally friendly products, such as household cleaners.
As companies test their new “green” products to show they are safer than the ones they replace, traditional animal tests are not up to the task. Aside from their obvious cruelty, they are also expensive, tediously slow, and unreliable.
Recent research by government agencies, companies, and universities has led to innovative nonanimal chemical testing methods. The Environmental Protection Agency’s ToxCast Program uses hundreds of “high-throughput” cell-based tests to screen green substances for a tiny fraction of the cost of animal tests.
Major chemical manufacturers and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of California, Berkeley, and other major universities are developing new nonanimal testing methods and linking them to environmental initiatives, which is good news for the environment, public health, and animals.
Sanderson, K. Chemistry: It’s not easy being green. Nature. 2011;469:18-20. doi:10.1038/469018a.
PCRM Helps Save 1,500 Animals from Chemical Testing
Approximately 1,500 animals were given a reprieve from fatal tests, thanks to PCRM and other organizations that proved to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the tests were not necessary.
The EPA had requested that producers of certain chemicals, including sorbic acid and sulfonated castor oil, test the chemicals for toxicity. Our scientists showed that some of the tests could be waived by using information from chemicals that had very similar properties and that other requested tests had already been conducted.
Federal Register, January 12, 2011.
Nonanimal Asthma Research Takes Off
Researchers in the United Kingdom have developed a new nonanimal method of studying asthma. Donna Davies, Ph.D., at the University of Southampton and Felicity Rose, Ph.D., at the University of Nottingham are growing lung cells from asthma patients in the laboratory. Researchers can study the tissues to see how they differ from tissues of a nonasthmatic person and can test potential therapies on them.
Research into asthma treatments often involves experiments using mice, dogs, and primates. Human cell and tissue methods have been underused, and dietary intervention studies with human patients, although very promising, have been neglected.
This new, promising, nonanimal method is getting a $1.6 million boost this year from the U.K. National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research.
NUTRITION By Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., and Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.
When it comes to losing weight, food choices have a much larger effect than exercise, according to a new study in the International Journal of Obesity. A review of school-based interventions found that weight loss could be achieved by diet changes alone, while exercise without diet changes was not effective. Researchers explain it is difficult to “out-exercise” dietary intake. A one-hour bicycle ride, for example, burns 240 calories, but one small order of french fries—which can be consumed in just a few minutes—contains nearly the same number of calories.
Katz DL. Unfattening our children: forks over feet. Int J Obes. 2011;35:33-37.
Obesity Increases Risk of Death
Overweight adults are more likely to die at any given point in time, compared with their normal-weight friends, according to a recent report based on results from 1.46 million adults participating in the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium studies. Moderately overweight women were 13 percent more likely to die over a 10-year follow-up, while obese women had a 44 percent to 151 percent increased risk of dying, compared with those of normal weight. Men had similar increased risks.
Prior studies have shown nonvegetarians have higher BMIs than those who consume plant-based diets.
de Gonzalez AB, Hartge P, Cerhan JR, et al. Body-mass index and mortality among 1.46 million white adults. N Engl J Med. 2010;363:2211-2219.
Vegetarian Diets Better for Kidney Patients
Vegetarian diets are healthier for kidney patients, compared with animal-based diets, according to a recent study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Patients who followed vegetarian diets had lower serum phosphorous levels, compared with those who consumed meat. Maintaining normal phosphorous levels is critical for patients with chronic kidney disease and is typically controlled by restricting intake.
Moe SM, Zidehsarai MP, Chambers MA, et al. Vegetarian compared with meat dietary protein source and phosphorus homeostasis in chronic kidney disease. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2011;6:257-264.
Women on Vegan Diets Have High Omega-3 Levels
Women following vegan diets had plenty of omega-3 “good fats” in their blood, compared with fish-eaters, meat-eaters, and ovo-lacto vegetarians, according to a new report from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study. Levels in vegan men were not quite as high as in vegan women.
Despite zero intake of long-chain omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and substantially lower intake of their plant-derived precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), vegan participants converted robust amounts of shorter-chain fatty acids into these long-chain fatty acids. Of the 4,902 men and women studied, five men and five women were considered vegan.
Welch AA, Shakya-Shrestha S, Lentjes MAH, Wareham NJ, Khaw KT. Dietary intake and status of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a population of fish-eating and non-fish-eating meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans and the precursor-product ratio of a-linolenic acid to long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: results from the EPIC-Norfolk cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92:1040-1051