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.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

the true cost of a plate of food around the world

Where in the world is the most expensive plate of food?
This publication exposes the relative price of a nutritious meal in countries around the globe when compared to the average daily income.

The pdf file has some strong data on food insecurity and poverty!
While someone living in New York might spend just 0.6% of their daily income
on the ingredients to make a simple bean stew, someone in South Sudan would need to
spend 155% of their daily income...

Are the markers we use in cardiovascular prognosis correct?

Probably, the most difficult question that we need to answer as scientists working in the interface of Aquaculture and Health Sciences is this one: are the markers we use in cardiovascular prognosis correct?

It is a rather hard question; no easy answer is available. Latest publications which suggest that the current markers we are using in the prognosis of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are probably wrong.

According to (Fielding, 2017) : in 2004, the ‘Ω-3 index’ was described as the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20 : 5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22 : 6 n-3) in red blood cells (RBCs) as an index of coronary heart disease mortality.

However, recent studies have reported differential metabolism of EPA and DHA. High-dose supplementation with EPA and DHA led to increased levels of RBC DHA that were associated with decreased liver fat.

In summary, dietary intake or supplementation studies with n-3 fatty acids should include measurement of n-3 status in a standardized way.

The Ω-3 index, reflecting EPA and DHA status throughout the body, is convenient and may be appropriate in some cases, but as EPA and DHA assimilate differently in membranes, and have different potency, measurement of individual fatty acid composition in RBCs may be more informative.

In another recent paper, (Givens, 2017) reports the fact that it is now generally accepted that the effects of reducing intake of Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA) are dependent on what replaces them in the diet.

Reduced CVD risk has been associated with replacement of SFA with cis-polyunsaturated fatty acids (cis-PUFA) and/or cis-monounsaturated fatty acids (cis-MUFA), with replacement by carbohydrate leading to no reduction or even increased CVD risk.

For references and to read the full article, click HERE.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

towards a better conversation.

Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, Celeste Headlee shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. "Go out, talk to people, listen to people," she says. "And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed."

What did neolithic man eat after a hard day at Stonehenge?

A neolithic feast: some of the food that would have been eaten by the builders of Stonehenge. Photograph: English Heritage

Could the neolithic man eat "Sweet pork and rich cheese" after a hard day at Stonehenge?

Yes, according to this article where it is suggested that: analysis of bones and pottery fragments shows special foods were consumed in feasts at the ancient site.

A couple of points though:

Historically, how did they know how to make cheese? 
The first records of cheese production were in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia countries...

Where did they find honey to feed to the porks? Honey production in UK is rather weather limited...

It looks that the Stonehenge people had some Med background / skills. Could we suggest that it was actually people from Southern Europe who built Stonehenge and not "locals"?
The history of food consumed in these feasts might give us some insight on the true origin of the People!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

can fish kill obesity?

According to WHO, 
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 (11 October) (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 1% (equivalent to five million girls and six million boys) in 1975 to nearly 6% in girls (50 million) and nearly 8% 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 5-19 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 y 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?

obesity on the rise: what can we do?

the news are rather worrying...

Tenfold increase in childhood and adolescent obesity in four decades: new study by Imperial College London and WHO
World will have more obese children and adolescents than underweight by 2022

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, according to a new study led by Imperial College London and WHO.

[the full paper is here

What can we do to battle this trend?
What can we do as parents? as teachers? as Food Scientists?

Some ideas:
1. what about banning soft drinks at vending machines in schools? 
2. Updating the menus in canteens in schools so more fruits and less processed food is served? I don't think that sausage rolls are that healthy...
3. Diet and exercise is a philosophy that needs to be taught and re-taught and re-re-taught on a continuous base, not only to children but most importantly to parents as it is the parents who formulate healthy or non-healthy eating patterns in the family...
And let's not forget, that Irish food Pyramid has some severe scientific mistakes.

As a father of a child being taught this wrong food pyramid at school, I am concerned about the message that we pass to the young people...

Yannis Zabetakis

p.s. here is the correct Pyramid that should be taught

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Never refuse an opportunity to speak in schools

University of Limerick - The Lonsdale Building

One of the buildings I am teaching in UL is named after Dame Kathleen Lonsdale
Kathleen was very keen on encouraging science education and helped start the Young Scientist’s section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS). She made a note to herself: ’Never refuse an opportunity to speak in schools’.

People looking at posters and photographs of her work in Lonsdale building, they can see this phrase about speaking in schools.

Following her paradigm, it was a pleasure kicking off for this year school visits yesterday with a visit to Scoil na Tríonóide Naofa

where I was given the opportunity to talk to 5th and 6th year students about the School of Natural Sciences in UL.

As always, I enjoyed talking to a couple of students after the presentation.

It is hard to apply metrics in visits like this one; discussing to a young person and giving some advice...how can you measure this?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

WWF report: Appetite for Destruction

Workers on tractors harvest soybeans in the deforested land of Campo Novo do Parecis, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Photograph: Maurilio Cheli/AP

(from here)

Today, more and more people are eating animal products such as meat & dairy.

Our new report, ‘Appetite for Destruction’, highlights the impact that animal feed production is having on species, habitats and our health.

The huge amount of land needed to produce protein-rich feeds such as soy is having devastating effects on species & their habitats, especially in vulnerable areas such as the Amazon, the Congo Basin & the Himalayas. In fact, our UK food supply alone is directly linked to 33 species extinctions at home and abroad.

On average, we consume between 64 and 88g of protein per day, which is well above the 45-55g recommended by nutritional guidelines. This means that in 2010, we needed an area the size of Yorkshire to produce enough soy to feed our livestock. If global demand grows as anticipated, we’d need to step up our feed production by 80%, which just isn’t sustainable.

With over 23 billion chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and guinea fowl on the planet (more than three per person!), it’s not surprising that intensive farming has led to lower quality food. For example, you’d have to consume a whopping six chickens today to get the same amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acid found in just one chicken in the 1970s.

So how can we feed the world and have enough space for wildlife at the same time? Simply put, we need to consume and produce food differently. If everyone ate the nutritionally recommended amount of animal products, we’d need 13% less land to grow feed. This means we’d save an area the size of the European Union from agricultural production.

The Livewell principles below give guidance on how to make small changes to our diets to benefit people and planet.

Download the report.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

FT 4447 Food Quality : hazards in milk

Further to our discussion in the lecture theater today, please have a look at:

1. this review paper (especially figures 3, 4 and 5)
2. this example of hazard analysis (there is a slight mistake there: you do not need, though, to repeat the same biological hazard in all steps!)

Monday, 2 October 2017

the first pub in Ireland to receive a Michelin star

Dinner by the fire anyone? 🍷🍴

 The Wild Honey Inn has been elevated from a Michelin Bib Gourmand to a One Michelin Star venue and is the first pub in Ireland to receive a star. Congratulations to Chef Aidan McGrath for attaining a star for his “confident and robust” cooking, which he describes as Bistronomy.

[the full story is here]

People have the Power

In this blog, we don't like to talk about politicians, but we do like to talk about People and The Polis

When politicians learn to respect People, then we can hope that we can improve this World.

The news coming from Catalonia give a strong glimpse of Hope!


I was dreaming in my dreaming
Of an aspect bright and fair
And my sleeping it was broken
But my dream it lingered near
In the form of shining valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
That the people have the power
To redeem the work of fools
Upon the meek the graces shower
It' s decreed the people rule
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
Vengeful aspects became suspect
And bending low as if to hear
And the armies ceased advancing
Because the people had their ear
And the shepherds and the soldiers
Lay beneath the stars
Exchanging visions
And laying arms
To waste in the dust
In the form of shining valleys
Where the
Where there were deserts
I saw fountains
Like cream the waters rise
And we strolled there together
With none to laugh or criticize
And the leopard
And the lamb
Lay together truly bound
I was hoping in my hoping
To recall what I had found
I was dreaming in my dreaming
God knows a purer view
As I surrender to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you
Where there were deserts
I saw fountains
Like cream the waters rise
And we strolled there together
With none to laugh or criticize
And the leopard
And the lamb
Lay together truly bound
I was hoping in my hoping
To recall what I had found
I was dreaming in my dreaming
God knows a purer view
As I surrender to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you
The power to dream to rule
To wrestle the world from fools
It' s decreed the people rule
It' s decreed the people rule
I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth' s revolution
We have the power
People have the power
Songwriters: Fred Smith / Patti Smith