Rochester Science

Mom’s diet may affect infant’s future stress-related illnesses, U of R study finds.

Consuming a nutrient found in eggs and meat during pregnancy may lower an infant’s vulnerability to stress-related illnesses. Choline influences whether or not a gene is expressed. . High-than-normal amounts of choline in the diet during pregnancy determine the fate of our genes.

The research team chose 26 pregnant women in their third trimester and assigned them to take 480 mg of choline per day, an amount above the recommended 450 mg per day, until delivery. They found that higher maternal choline intake leads to a great amount of DNA methylation. Choline has a handful of nutrients that provides methyl groups for this process.

“The study is important because it shows that a relatively simple nutrient can have significant effects in prenatal life, and that these effects likely continue to have a long-lasting influence on adult life,” said Eva K. Pressman, M.D., study author and director of the high-risk pregnancy program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “While our results won’t change practice at this point, the idea that maternal choline intake could essentially change fetal genetic expression into adulthood is quite novel.”

Choline can be made in the liver and the is used for liver disease, depression, memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and as a supplement taken by pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in their babies. Studying authors say the findings raise the exciting possibility that choline may be used therapeutically in higher than normal cases of maternal stress from anxiety, depression or other prenatal conditions. Further research is needed to one day figure out if choline is need to be prescribed to pregnant women, in the same way as folate, according to Pressman


Just how bad are sugary drinks, anyway? Bloomberg’s soda embargo

The announcement by New York Mayor Bloomberg that he plans on introducing a limit on the size of soda one can consume at just about any food station in the city has been met with all kinds of reactions, positive and negative.

But to the extent that this debate is about health, science can be a guide. So, just how much sugar is in those “sugary” drinks? And compared to what?

Well, when you talk about sugar, one frame is to think of it in terms of carbohydrates. That’s because there is a recommended allowance of carbohydrates – which include sugars and starches like bread, pasta and other stuff. How many carbs should you eat?

The true answer varies from person to person. But on average, doctors recommend between 70 and 90 grams of carbs per meal, or around 270 grams a day.

As for the soda? Well, according to, a fluid ounce of Classic Coke has 3.3 grams of carbs in it. Multiply that times the 44 ounces commonly found in a standard large cup of soda a the theater and you get a whopping 145.2 grams of carbs. Nearly half your total daily carbohydrate intake in a single drink. Double the low end of acceptable carbs for an entire meal.

Of course, we’re not counting the box of candy and the popcorn you bought at the movies along with that gargantuan drink. Or your breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just one big-ass cup of soda.

Put it another way: if you had the 16-ounce cup, you could have had only 52 grams of carbs. So, maybe a smaller drink isn’t such a bad idea, after all?


The refreshing taste of carbonated water, sugar, and flame retardant.

Any time I turn on the TV, radio, or even sign online, I feel as though I’m bombarded by a million and one different people or companies telling me not to eat something. High fructose corn syrup, splenda, preservatives, etc, etc. Essentially, I’ve accepted the fact that just walking outside and breathing will inevitably give me cancer or something else terrible and deadly, which is why I’ll proudly continue to sip my Diet Coke whenever I feel like it and happily enjoy the outdoors on a warm, sunny day. Needless to say, when I first heard the dangers of drinking Mountain Dew, my initial response was to disregard it – until I read this:

The thought of a mouse dissolving in a bottle of Mountain Dew certainly has the Ick! factor. But, does it really matter? The fact is that it’s fairly meaningless—but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to drink Mountain Dew.

I don’t think anyone was ever under the impression that Mountain Dew was necessarily healthy, but dissolving a mouse? That’s the kind of stuff horror movies are made of – and we’re ingesting it? Voluntarily? I can only speak for myself here, but I like my internal organs right where they are, solid and intact, thank you very much. And why is that not the only reason not to drink Mountain Dew?

Brominated Vegetable Oil, affectionately known as BVO.

BVO is a vegetable oil derived from corn or soy and bonded with the element bromine. BVO was originally patented by chemical companies for use as a flame retardant, but today is used in citrus flavored sodas like Mountain Dew , Squirt, and Fresca to prevent the flavoring from separating from the soda and floating to the top. Oh. Okay. Flame retardant to beverage ingredient. Got it.

Bromine is a scientifically proven endocrine disruptor which messes with hormones in the human body, competing for the exact same receptors used to capture iodine. What this means for us is consuming food or beverages that contain BVO will prevent our bodies from holding on to the iodine it needs – and iodine affects every single tissue in our body. Thyroid issues, skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders are all documented symptoms of ingesting quantities of the chemical – so while grabbing a Mountain Dew for a quick afternoon pick-me-up won’t melt our intestines like it melted the mouse, its impacts are still dangerously unpleasant.

BVO is already banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, and according to Scientific American “deserves a fresh look” from what was considered a safe limit in 1977.  However, that was 35 years ago – before Three Mile Island, the Challenger tragedy, and many other things that were considered harmless, so this fresh look should prove interesting. In the meantime, I’ll remain a Diet Coke fan.