Friday, 29 December 2017

Mesothelioma Treatment and Arthritis

[this is the first contribution by Virgil to this blog with many thanks!]
- - - - - 
- - -

My personal story of battling cancer is a difficult one, but I continue to share my experiences in the hope that I can help others. I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the tissue around the lungs, at age 50. While going through chemotherapy has helped slow the progression of the tumors and helped manage some symptoms, it has also caused side effects. One that many people don’t realize can happen, and can be long term is joint pain and arthritis.

My Cancer Story

My mesothelioma story begins when I was just a teenager. Growing up in West Virginia, I began working at a young age to help contribute to the household. My first job was in demolition and then I worked with cars and as a mechanic. In both jobs I was unknowingly exposed to asbestos dust. I didn’t know I needed to be protected from it, and now decades later I am suffering the consequences of having inhaled those toxic fibers.

Asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma, and when I got sick, really sick, it never occurred to me that this was the problem. I ended up in the emergency room and was diagnosed with pneumonia, but treatment didn’t help. I was then diagnosed with cancer. I have been fighting this cancer mostly with chemotherapy because it was too advanced to treat surgically. The chemotherapy has helped me feel better as it slowed the progression of the cancer, but it has also caused its own side effects. Most recently I started dealing with joint pain.


Chemotherapy and Joint Pain
Chemotherapy is like taking controlled doses of poison. Chemotherapy drugs target and kill any fast-growing cells, which is why it can cause so many side effects while also killing cancer cells. For me, I thought I had experienced all the possible chemotherapy side effects, but now I know that it can cause serious joint pain, even long after a cycle of chemotherapy is finished.

Chemotherapy can cause arthralgia or arthritis. Arthralgia is a symptom of joint pain, regardless of the cause, while arthritis is swelling and stiffness in the joints that causes pain. For most people who experience this side effect of treatment, the symptoms will resolve on their own. But, it can take many months for that to happen, meaning there can be months of pain.

There are ways to manage the pain in the joints caused by chemotherapy, but the first and most important thing to do is be evaluated by a doctor. If it really is arthritis rather than arthralgia, it may require different treatments. Generally, though, cancer patients can find relief and management of chemotherapy-induced joint pain with painkillers and alternative therapies.

Painkillers that help relieve joint pain include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, which can be purchased over the counter, prescription drugs that treat arthritis, and corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and pain. Some people also find that acupuncture helps relieve joint pain, and others get relief from massage, Reiki, and other types of therapy that complement cancer treatment.

Adding joint pain and arthritis to the list of symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment can make battling cancer more difficult. Anyone going through chemotherapy should inform their doctors of any side effects experienced, because like joint pain, these side effects can usually be managed, and if not eliminated, at least minimized so that treatment can continue. 

Article by V. Anderson

Sunday, 24 December 2017

fermentation is the Key!

I read with interest this article on food trends for 2018.

Special Ks: kefir, kimchi, kraut, kombucha

Fermented foods are filling fridges as shoppers get more gut-health aware. So far, the most impactful of this fizzing bunch is kefir, the bacteria-laden (usually yogurt-based) drink essential to balanced eastern European diets.
This year saw Russian ex-figure skater Natasha Bowes’s Bio-tiful brand get stocked nationwide by Sainsbury’s, and she’s set to unveil a new stomach-friendly creation in May. Water-based kefir sales were also up 34% at Whole Foods since last year. Meanwhile, Marks and Spencer will launch their own-brand kefir in January.

 = = =

Kefir is an ancient cultured drink rich in probiotics and known for its incredible health benefits. Its origins can be traced back more than two-thousand years to the Caucasus Mountains region, located between Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

In FLIPS @ UL, we have an ongoing project on kefir with some interesting data on bioactivities against inflammation and CVDs.

More to come in 2018!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, 22 December 2017

from FLIPS@UL to all of you

It started as a joke one day in the lab.
How would we name our research group?
After few minutes of active brainstorming, the name FLIPS was created.
F fod food
Lip for Lipids
s ...for the plural.

Here is a photo from all the FLIPS team saying goodbye to Martina, who has been visiting our group on the Erasmus scheme.

From left to right : Alexandros, Eoin, Yannis, Ronan and Martina

With our best wishes for Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy Polar-Lipid 2018!

May His Star bring you Warmth, Love and Courage!


Monday, 18 December 2017

We are the world – We are the children

[my Dec 2017 article in the International Aquafeed] 

by Ioannis Zabetakis


From November 12-19, 2017, we celebrated what we call “Science Week” in Ireland, when hundreds of different workshops, tutorials, talks and experiments took place all around the country.
Ioannis Zabetakis

During that week, I was invited to visit schools and talk to the students – Scientists of Tomorrow about Science, Food, Diet and Nutrition.

Tuesday November 14, was an exceptional day; a day to remember! I was invited to go to the secondary school of one of my boys where I had (the honour and) the chance to talk and interact with Year One boys (i.e. 13 year old) on diet, nutrition, Science and "How to Live Well?”. Because at the end of the day, we need to remember that we are Scientists in order to improve our lives, to help people live with fewer diseases, less pain and live more happily.

At St Munchins College, boys were interactive, inquisitive and happy! Talking to them, teaching them about Diet and Food Pyramids (and some endemic mistakes there...) was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my teaching career so far. We compared the Mediterranean diet pyramid and the Irish food pyramids, we tried to identify what mistakes the Irish pyramid has and how we can correct them so we can pass to the Public correct dietary advice, we talked about Science, Health and Diet and so many other things that affect our Lives in a positive or a negative way.

We discussed about food, cooking, exercise, happiness, love, addictions. But above all, we had FUN!

Boys were buzzing non-stop and though this collaborative experience, we all learned some useful things. From now on, it is up to us to start implementing them. By making small changes in the way we eat and live, we can improve our Lives.

By thinking (Food) Science when we choose and prepare our food, the quality of our life can be improved and then we can more easily reach further out like the song “We are the World” suggests... A special "Thank you" to all the Teachers and the Boys in St Munchins for this beautiful day!

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving!

Read the full article in International Aquafeed magazine, HERE.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Allons enfants

I need to make a confession.
I love French! The language; the People; the Culture.

Last weekend, Nathaniel had to choose which second language he will follow towards Junior and Leaving Cert ; the choice was either French or German...

Last week, St Munchins college held a parents/students evening where we heard about all the options...At the end of the meeting, I went to speak to the language teachers...
I asked them about the support that the lads will get in French/German.
I decided to be a bit cheaky and told them: I do not want my son to learn a language that is only spoken in Germany...
The teacher's answer: It is also spoken in Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Austria.
 My response: whereas, if u know French, you can learn Spanish that is spoken in the whole Latin America...

I left them with a smile.

The smile became bigger last Monday morning when Nathaniel chose French!

The smile is huge today...when Nathaniel told me that at school today they talked about La Marseillaise

'La Marseillaise': 
Allons, enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous, de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé

Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes!

Aux armes, citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

English translation:
Arise, children of the Fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody banner is raised

Do you hear, in the countryside
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They're coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!

To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions
Let's march, let's march
Let an impure blood
Water our furrows!

lipids and fish sperm

did you know that...
sea bass sperm freezability is influenced by motility variables and membrane lipid composition but not by membrane integrity and lipid peroxidation

great paper ...It gave me an idea for my next aquaculturist column.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

are you ready for this?

a book proposal for Christmas?

 Would you like to find out your life expectancy and how long you'll stay healthy?

Well, you need to be honest and try this test !

Pass the word to your colleagues and friends, and also your students!

It's an engaging way to talk about diet, lifestyle and quality of life!


Ioannis Zabetakis


is Dietary Cholesterol Related to Chronic Disease?

this is the question!
to be or not to be?
to bother about cholesterol or not to? Need to think about it?

The answer is clear and we are going to communicate it further with a commentary for this special issue of the Journal "Nutrients"

In the meantime, our book gets great shape!

After all, as mentioned above, writing a book is an opportunity to promote a novel idea. The idea that we are going to promote is that human diet is the only valid medicine against cardiovascular diseases. Drugs cause inflammation and therefore promote CVDs.

If you would like to share some information with us during the process of writing this book, please drop me a line. I would be happy to hear from you.


Friday, 24 November 2017

to publish open access or not ? this is the question

Source: © M-H Jeeves



here is an interesting story!

 Of good dogs and bad journals

 and the question is...(see title of the post)


my answer is rather simple: YES! Try to choose though wisely...there are definitely good and bad open access journals.

You can smell them...(keep an eye on the track record - how many years are round, how many journals with high IF they publish, if you can recognise any names on the Edit Board).

Thursday, 23 November 2017

How many coffees a day keep the doctor away?

Well....There is a clear answer now!

People who drink three to four cups of coffee a day are more likely to see health benefits than problems, experiencing lower risks of premature death and heart disease than those who abstain, scientists have said.

The full scientific paper is here

So... Enjoy your coffee!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

What are the estimated costs of childhood overweight and obesity on the island of Ireland?

Over the past 3 decades the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased markedly in Ireland and worldwide. In the Republic of Ireland it is currently estimated that 60% of adults and 25% of children are overweight or obese.

Obesity is a chronic disorder described by the World Health Organization as a condition of abnormal or excessive fat accumulation to the extent that health may be impaired. Excess body weight is associated with a significant burden of chronic disease, with attendant negative effects on overall life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, quality of life, healthcare costs and productivity.

[you can read the full report here]

Friday, 17 November 2017

Obesity kills and fish can combat that !

New Aquafeed article (November 2017 issue)

On October 11, 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released some rather worrying data: we are getting fatter and fatter at alarming rates

 In detail, the number of obese children and adolescents (aged five to 19 years) worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades.

If current trends continue, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022.

The study was published in The Lancet ahead of World Obesity Day (October 11) (Abarca-Gómez et al.).

It analysed weight and height measurements from nearly 130 million people aged over five years (31.5 million people aged five to 19, and 97.4 million aged 20 and older), making it the largest ever number of participants involved in an epidemiological study.

More than 1000 contributors participated in the study, which looked at body mass index (BMI) and how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016.

Obesity rates in the world’s children and adolescents increased from less than one percent (equivalent to 5 million girls and 6 million boys) in 1975 to nearly six percent in girls (50 million) and nearly eight percent in boys (74 million) in 2016.

Combined, the number of obese five to 19 year olds rose more than tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016.

An additional 213 million were overweight in 2016 but fell below the threshold for obesity.

So, adding obese and overweight people aged five-19 years old, we have a sum of 337 millions.

You can stop reading this article now.

And just think how many obese/overweight people under 19 years old you know. Do these people have a sports hobby? Do they exercise at all? What do they eat? How often do they eat fish?

In our January 2017 article, we mentioned that Irish Food Pyramid is full ofscientific mistakes; mistakes that could promote obesity by passing the wrong message to the public.

Meat and fish are not equal in terms of nutritional value and this fact has been overlooked in Ireland.

What about the health authorities in other countries? Do they convey accurate diet guidelines?

To see references and read the full article click, HERE.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

(Food) Science Week : We are the World - We are the Children

Tuesday 14th November was an exceptional day; a day to remember!
I was invited to go to the secondary school of one of my boys where I had (the honour and) the chance to talk and interact with year 1 boys on diet, nutrition, Science and " How to Live Well? ".

This activity was part of the Science Week where thousands of unique workshops, talks, tutorials etc take place all around Ireland.

At St Munchins College, boys were interactive, inquisitive and happy! Talking to them, teaching them about Diet and Food Pyramids (and some endemic mistakes there...) was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my teaching career so far.

We compared Med diet and Irish food pyramids, we talked about Science, Health and Diet and so many other things that affect our Lives in a positive or a negative way. We discussed about exercise, happiness, love, addictions.
But above all, we had FUN! 

Boys were buzzing non-stop and though this collaborative experience, we all learned some useful things.
From now on, it is up to us to start implementing them.
By making small changes in the way we eat and live, we can improve our Lives.
By thinking (Food) Science when we choose and prepare our food, our life quality can be improved and then we can more easily reach further out like the song suggests...

A special "Thank you" to all the Teachers and the Boys in St Munchins for this beautiful day!

(from a Dad)

We Are The World

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
We can't go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of God's great big family
And the truth, you know
Love is all we need
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me
Send them your heart so they'll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand
We are the world, we are the children

Friday, 10 November 2017

Are food colourings safe to eat?

that was a very interesting question at I'm a Scientist

My answer...

Ioannis Zabetakis answered on 10 Nov 2017:

I’ll tell you a story: if you drink squash at the house, have a look at the label, you can read about the flavourings and the artificial sweetenets you have there…
Each of these chemicals is safe to eat on its own but NOBODY has studied if eating two of these chemicals together is safe or toxic…Imagine now how many different chemicals (preservatives, sweeteners, flavourings etc) we eat every day. All these end up in our body…nobody knows if they react together or if they cause any synergistic effect. Synergy is when the end result is greater of the sums.
now look at this picture

two chemicals can have this synergistic toxicity…
conclusion: the less chemicals we eat, the better!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

What would be the greatest thing to happen to you in your career?

 One of the most challenging questions so far...
What would be the greatest thing to happen to you in your career?

Scientists reveal their career dreams in Food Zone of

fish is much more than omega 3s !!!

some fish that we have fished with spear guns and enjoyed with ouzo :)

on today's Guardian, there is this article

Struggling to eat two portions of oily fish a week? Time for a rethink 

what we need to remember is this:

1. fish is a very nutritious food in relation to inflammation (i.e. CVDs, cancer, stroke, diabetes etc)
2.there is much much more in fish than omega 3s.
for some fish specific bioactivities against chronic diseases, you can have a look here

and here

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

I am a Scientist - Food Zone

From Monday 6th November (yesterday) till Friday 17th November, primary school teachers and students can participate in an online chat about various science themes "I am a Scientist".

I am glad to contribute to the "Food Zone"

Please, pass this word around to encourage your kids, your students, your friends to take part!
It is great fun and a super way to communicate Science.

Yesterday, at my first chat, I was delighted to be asked questions ranging from which type of chocolate is best (white, dark or milk) to why oil is lighter than water.

Great time! Thanks to all of you for your questions and your Teachers for making this true!

Chat soon again,


Monday, 6 November 2017

new paper: Phospholipids of Animal and Marine Origin: Structure, Function, and Anti-Inflammatory Properties

In this review paper, the latest literature on the functional properties of phospholipids in relation to inflammation and inflammation-related disorders has been critically appraised and evaluated. The paper is divided into three sections: Section one addresses the relationship between the anti-inflammatory bioactivities of different phospholipids in relation to their structures and compositions. Sections two and three are dedicated to the structures, functions and anti-inflammatory properties of dietary phospholipids from animal and marine sources. Most of the dietary phospholipids of animal origin come from meat, egg and dairy products. To date, there is very limited work published on meat phospholipids, undoubtedly due to the negative perception that meat consumption is an unhealthy option due to its putative associations with several chronic diseases. These assumptions are addressed with respect to the phospholipid composition of meat products. Recent research trends indicate that dairy phospholipids possess anti-inflammatory properties, which has led to an increased interest into their molecular structures and reputed health benefits. Finally, the structural composition of phospholipids of marine origin is discussed. Extensive research has been published in relation to ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and inflammation, however this research has recently come under scrutiny and has proved to be unreliable and controversial in terms of the therapeutic effects of ω-3 PUFA, which are generally in the form of triglycerides and esters. Therefore, this review focuses on recent publications concerning marine phospholipids and their structural composition and related health benefits. Finally, the strong nutritional value of dietary phospholipids are highlighted with respect to marine and animal origin and avenues for future research are discussed.

Lordan, R.; Tsoupras, A.; Zabetakis, I. Phospholipids of Animal and Marine Origin: Structure, Function, and Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Preprints 2017, 2017110038 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201711.0038.v1).

Friday, 3 November 2017

the Inuit diet

a lot of fish in the diet --> a lot of polar lipids in the bloodstream --> no cardiovascular diseases!

but... there is another risk when they fish...

Enjoy the video 👦

research trends and product innovation

The students' presentations on Research trends started today. All of them top quality!
It was great to see that product development and research ideas can come into such a beautiful fruition like the photo above : a product that the students made themselves and distributed to all of us!

Well done Ellen, Danielle and Dian!


Thursday, 2 November 2017

Demonising cholesterol! What a mistake!

This article in the Irish Times is good! At last, some voices on how wrong it is demonising cholesterol!

Followers of this blog may remember this 

related paper

innovation challenge

This year, at the module "Research Trends in Health and Food", I asked my students to face 

Innovation challenge 
to propose a novel food that addresses the most important needs of Irish market

 Some excellent ideas were developed and some truly innovative products  have been suggested ranging from soup and yogurt drink to snack bar, tea drink and pasta sauce.
The beauty of the projects is that the food composition was linked to specific health claims.
After this, we are ready to R+D real foods and drinks!
Well done Everybody!


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Food Zone : come along next week

Ever wondered why some foods taste so good? Why don’t the bubbles in an Aero float out of the chocolate, how do you get a runny yolk in a Creme Egg and what chemistry is happening in caramelisation? Why is it safe to eat bacteria in cheese and yoghurt but not bacteria in meat?

Food scientists do lots of things: some develop new food products; some test food to make sure it is safe; others work with the public to work out the effect food has on our brain, including how it looks, tastes, smells and feels.. Some food scientists look at the structure of food and how the chemical and physical nature of food can influence our health. And some food scientists look at how we make food more nutritious and how we can add value to the food chain…

Ask, Chat and Vote!

more info here and here.

Looking forward to your questions!


Friday, 27 October 2017

Samhain (Halloween) : Festival and Food

Halloween toffee apples

 As millions of children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain (Samain) festival. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.

The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position to eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.

It is worth mentioning that Hibernia is the Classical Latin name for the island of Ireland. The name Hibernia was taken from Greek geographical accounts. During his exploration of northwest Europe (c. 320 BC), Pytheas of Massilia called the island Iérnē (written Ἰέρνη). In his book Geographia (c. 150 AD), Claudius Ptolemaeus ("Ptolemy") called the island Iouerníā (written Ἰουερνία, where "ου"/ou stands for w). The Roman historian Tacitus, in his book Agricola (c. 98 AD), uses the name Hibernia.

So, it is not surprising to discover that people in ancient Ireland and Stonehenge
had a Med type diet (e.g. honey, cheese, wine).  
How did they know about these foods? These foods have been first made in Messopotamia and Eastern Mediterranean... 
How did this knowledge travel to Ireland? 

 Most probably, by people moving to the islands here (there are numerous records that Greeks have been to Scotland and Ireland many years BC).

Talking about food and Halloween,

let's have a look at the latest and most valid literature about healthy eating patterns.

Table 1 Dietary and lifestyle components of the traditional Mediterranean diet
Dietary components
1.High consumption of food from plant sources, including grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
2.Emphasis on a variety of minimally processed and seasonally fresh, locally grown foods
3.Olive oil as the principal dietary fat used for cooking, baking, and flavoring
4.Total fat ranging from 25% to 35% of energy, with saturated fat accounting for ≤7% to 8% of energy
5.Daily consumption of low to moderate amounts of dairy products, mainly cheese and yogurt
6.Twice-weekly consumption of low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry; up to seven eggs per week
7.Fresh fruit as the typical dessert, with sweets containing concentrated sugars or honey consumed only afew times per week
8.Consumption of red meat only a few times per month
9.Moderate consumption of wine, normally with meals. Approximately 1–2 glasses per day for men and 1glass for women (optional)
10.Use of herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt or fat
Lifestyle components
1.Regular daily physical activity
2.Meals in the company of friends and family

Enjoy Halloween with a glass of red wine or a pint of Guinness,
both rich in polar lipids with strong anti-inflammatory bioactivities
(data to be shown very soon!) !

Ioannis Zabetakis

Thursday, 26 October 2017

I'm a Scientist, get me out of here!

A free online event where school students meet and interact with scientists.

It’s an X Factor-style competition between scientists, where the students are the judges.

Students challenge the scientists over fast-paced online live CHATs.

They ASK the scientists anything they want, and VOTE for their favourite scientist to win a prize of €500 to communicate their work with the public.

I 'm taking part in the food zone

Come along and bombard me with challenging questions!

Speak soon,


Monday, 23 October 2017

trout fed with insect proteins : would you buy it?

Following the settlement of a partnership agreement with the start-up InnovaFeed, Auchan announced that next year it will begin to market some of its growing insect protein-growing trout. In this way, the French retailer seeks to approach the natural fish diet and, at the same time, reduce imports of fishmeal.

[full story is here]

Would you buy a fish fed with insects?

Young Irish topped EU binge-drinking table

5.17 EU: Persons with heavy episodic drinking1 at least once a week, 2014

Irish people aged 18 to 24 had the highest rates of binge drinking in the European Union, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The data, released on Wednesday, showed more than a quarter of men and more than 15 per cent of women aged 18 to 24 in Ireland engaged in binge drinking at least once a week in 2014.
Binge drinking is defined as six or more standard drinks in one session, equivalent to three pints of beer or six pub measures of spirits.