Tuesday, 28 August 2018

A summer morning in Malham

Working in UL and using the Glucksman Library is part of the every day Journey... towards the Ithaca of knowledge.

A valued colleague in the library is Micheal and through his moving poetry, I met Damian who painted this for us... : The four of us enjoying the dry-stone walls and the Malham beauty.

A summer morning in Malham (Damian 2018)


BSc Food Science and Health in UL : graduation August 2018

my view during the official photograph shooting :)

47 graduates of our BSc in Food Science and Health in UL received their degrees yesterday in a beautiful ceremony!

My best wishes to all of them for Success and Happiness!

Ioannis Zabetakis

FAO 2016 report: The state of world fisheries and aquaculture


‘The state of world fisheries and aquaculture’, a new publication by FAO, highlights the critical importance of fisheries and aquaculture for the food, nutrition and employment of millions of people, many of whom struggle to maintain reasonable livelihoods. The data presented are from 2016.

the full FAO report is here ; some excellent graphs are here.

Friday, 24 August 2018

read of the month

“Empathy is inbuilt. Our brains are wired to mirror the emotions of others. But we filter our understanding through the biases we carry.”
“Empathy is inbuilt. Our brains are wired to mirror the emotions of others. But we filter our understanding through the biases we carry.”

What makes a new business idea succeed? We know that only 10 per cent of new businesses survive, so the answer is both important and elusive.

The makers of the Segway personal transporter were confident their revolutionary technology would change the world. Sadly, it turned out that few people had a burning desire to spend thousands of dollars to travel at walking speed while looking like an eejit.

The Segway is a prime example of an invention that nobody needed.
A successful new idea is one that provides value. If it makes peoples’ lives better, they will happily pay you a price that allows your business to survive and prosper. But, as Henry Ford famously observed: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” People aren’t very good at identifying the solutions that they need.

This is where empathy comes in. Very simply, empathy is the ability to see the world from someone else’s point of view. An empathy-based approach to innovation can connect deeply with people’s experience, identify unnamed problems and develop valuable solutions.

Empathy is inbuilt. Our brains are wired to mirror the emotions of others. But we filter our understanding through the biases we carry. It is a common innovation failing to assume you know what your customer wants. Truly understanding the perspective of another person requires deep listening and observing.

Human-centred design

The good news is that there are a number of ways of doing this, many developed by IDEO, the design agency that pioneered human-centred design. The starting point is to channel your inner four year old: be curious, be comfortable not knowing, keep it playful and ask “Why?” a lot.

The two basic ways of understanding someone’s behaviours, beliefs and problems are by asking and observing. When you interview someone, ask them to tell you a story.

Mark Campbell is the founder of Galway start-up Pocket Anatomy, which recently launched Anatomus. com – an innovative 3D map of the human body – to improve medical communication between doctors and patients. In the early stages, Campbell spent a lot of time with people who really needed his product – US medical students studying anatomy. These extreme users were time challenged, financially invested in their careers and preparing for a high-stakes exam that would shape their futures.

Mark used an IDEO technique – the unfocus group. Instead of showing users his prototype app, he got them to tell stories about how they studied, what materials they used, where they studied, what worked and what caused them frustration.

Another approach is to practice immersion. Put yourself into the context you want to understand. In the 1970s, a 26-year-old industrial designer, Patricia Moore, put on smeared glasses, ear plugs and uneven shoes to experience life as an 80-year-old woman. What she learned led her to redesign many everyday products, such as potato peelers, to be more inclusive.

Next step: create an empathy map. Put your user at the centre of the map and capture examples of what they say, do, think and feel. Highlight surprising insights, which are often tensions or contradictions. Finally, identify needs and pain points.
Now start inventing to meet this need, knowing you will be solving a problem that matters to people.

Rough sleepers

Emily Duffy is a student entrepreneur from Limerick. During transition year she spent time volunteering with homeless people. She identified the problem of people who choose to sleep rough rather than use a hostel. Our bias might lead us to dismiss these people for not taking the help offered. Duffy listened and learned that there are many reasons to avoid a hostel. For one, hostels don’t accept pets, and people will sacrifice a lot for their best friend.
She designed a special sleeping bag for rough sleepers. Durable, warm, waterproof, hi-viz and fireproof, it even includes a headrest that doubles as storage for valuables. The Duffily baghas potential for other uses such as disaster relief and even leisure camping (who doesn’t want to be warm and dry?).
Some people deliberately seek out extreme users, such as rough sleepers, in order to develop better solutions for mainstream markets. One type of extreme user is someone who is currently unable to engage with your idea. Maybe it’s too expensive or difficult to use.

Nike developed the FlyEase sneaker to be easy to get on and off after a request from Matthew Walzer, a teenager whose cerebral palsy made putting on hi-top sneakers impossible. The constraints of designing for specific needs can push you to innovative and exciting results. Three years after creating a one-off pair of sneakers for Walzer, Nike have just launched FlyEase as a mainstream line of products.

So try out your power of empathy? Observe, ask people their story, think about real problems. You might just uncover the next killer innovation.

Dr Rachel Hilliard is a senior lecturer in innovation management at the JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics, National University of Ireland Galway

Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Impact of Nutrition and Statins on Cardiovascular Diseases (1st Edition)

 The Impact of Nutrition and Statins on Cardiovascular Diseases

1st Edition

Authors: Ioannis Zabetakis Ronan Lordan Alexandros Tsoupras
Paperback ISBN: 9780128137925
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 1st January 2019
Page Count: 320 


The Impact of Nutrition and Statins on Cardiovascular Diseases presents a summary of the background information and published research on the role of food in inhibiting the onset and development of cardiovascular diseases.
Written from a food science, food chemistry, and food biochemistry perspective, the book provides an insight on the origin of cardiovascular diseases, an analysis of statin therapy, the side effects of statin use, and presents dietary intervention as an alternative solution to preventing cardiovascular diseases. This knowledge is important for practitioners and patients alike, as once a patient begins statin therapy, there is a risk to stopping. In addition, the book presents how the use of improved nutrition and dietary guidelines could decrease the dose of statins used to manage cardiovascular disease. The book focuses on the efficacy of nutrition and statins to address inflammation, inhibit the onset of cardiovascular diseases and provides nutrition information and suggested dietary interventions for people with high cardiovascular risk.

Key Features

  • Includes a bioscience approach, focuses on inflammation and revisits the lipid hypothesis, and challenges the view that statins are a panacea
  • Presents the view that nutritional interventions have considerable value not only for reducing cardiovascular risk for CVDs patients but also acting as the best precaution for "apparently healthy" people
  • Advocates that nutritional habits that are formed at a young age are the best way to tackle the global epidemic that is CVDs


Nutrition researchers, CVDs and public health researchers, CVDs clinicians, Nutritionists and Dietitians, Students in health related fields, Food Chemists and Food Biochemists (Academic, R+D, industrial), Regulatory bodies

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

  1. The Origin of Chronic Diseases with Respect to Cardiovascular Disease - Ronan Lordan, Alexandros Tsoupras, and Ioannis Zabetakis
  2. Inflammation - Ronan Lordan, Alexandros Tsoupras, and Ioannis Zabetakis
  3. Inflammation and Cardiovascular Diseases - Alexandros Tsoupras, Ronan Lordan, and Ioannis Zabetakis
  4. The Lipid Hypothesis and The Seven Countries Study - Ronan Lordan, Alexandros Tsoupras, and Ioannis Zabetakis
  5. The Role of Cholesterol in Atherosclerosis, CVD, and Dietary Patterns - Alexandros Tsoupras, Ronan Lordan, and Ioannis Zabetakis
  6. Statins: Rationale, Mode of Action, and Side-effects - Sherif Sultan, Ashwini D’Souza, Ioannis Zabetakis, Ronan Lordan, Alexandros Tsoupras, Edel P Kavanagh, and Niamh Hynes
  7. Cardiovascular Risk: Assumptions, Limitations, and Research - Alexandros Tsoupras, Ronan Lordan, and Ioannis Zabetakis
  8. Diet and Cardiovascular Disease: The Mediterranean Diet - Audrey Tierney, Ronan Lordan, Alexandros Tsoupas, and Ioannis Zabetakis
  9. Nutrition Versus Statins in Primary Prevention: Where do we Stand Now? - Ioannis Zabetakis, Ronan Lordan, and Alexandros Tsoupras


No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2019
Academic Press
Paperback ISBN:

About the Author

Ioannis Zabetakis

Ioannis Zabetakis has studied and worked in Greece, the UK and Ireland. Originally, a chemist, he fell in love with food science (sensory and functional properties of food). After an academic career in the Universities of Leeds and Athens spanning 15 years, where he developed a strong interest on lipids and cardiovascular diseases, Ioannis joined the University of Limerick in Ireland where he is focusing on the cardioprotective properties of food lipids with an emphasis on dairy and aquaculture products. He has written over 70 papers and 2 patents, promoting a healthier diet and lifestyle that will render us less dependent on medicines.

Affiliations and Expertise

Lecturer and Course Leader, Biological Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick

Ronan Lordan

Ronan Lordan graduated with a first-class honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences and Education from the University of Limerick in 2015. In 2016, he returned to the University of Limerick to begin his PhD scholarship in the study of the role of dietary polar lipids in inflammation and cardiovascular disease. He has lectured on various topics including lipids chemistry, genetics, and health and has published several peer-reviewed papers.

Affiliations and Expertise

Biological Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick

Alexandros Tsoupras

Alexandros is a Chemist-Biochemist with studies (BSc-MSc-PhD) in Athens University (Greece), where he has also worked as a Postgraduate Research/Teaching Assistant and Postdoctoral Research/Teaching Associate. After a Postdoctoral Semester at Albany Medical College (USA) he also worked as a Part-time Tutor/Instructor/Lecturer of Chemistry-Biochemistry in several private/public Schools/Post-Secondary Institutes and Universities/Colleges. Afterwards, he was selected by the “Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection” as a Public Scientist (Region of Attica, Greece). Alexandros is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Affiliations and Expertise

Chemist-Biochemist, Department of Biological Sciences, School of Natural Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Engineering


"Low-level inflammation is the core underlying cause of most illness and disease. This evidence-based book shines a ground-breaking light on inflammation’s negative effect with regard to heart disease and the use of statins. This is a book that all health practitioners should have on their shelves." ~Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, bestselling author of ‘How to Fight FATflammation’ View more >

Lipid Droplets in Cancer: Guardians of Fat in a Stressful World

This is a very interesting paper reviewing the role of lipid droplets.

= = =

Figure 4. Autophagy and phospholipase-mediated phospholipid hydrolysis stimulate lipid droplet biogenesis during stress. Nutrient starvation activates the autophagy-mediated breakdown of membranous organelles leading to the release of various saturated and unsaturated fatty acids (FAs) that drive diacylglycerol acyltransferase 1 (DGAT1)-mediated lipid droplet biogenesis. Cellular stress may also lead to phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activation and membrane phospholipid hydrolysis that predominantly results in the release of unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (FAs), which are typically found at the sn-2 position of membrane phospholipids. Intracellular phospholipases A2, such as the calcium-independent group VIA PLA2 (iPLA2β or PNPLA9), or secreted isoforms, such as the group X secreted PLA2, may drive lipid droplet biogenesis. Oxidative stress may lead to phospholipase D (PLD)-mediated redistribution of FAs from membrane phospholipids to triacylglycerols (TAGs) stored within lipid droplets in order to protect polyunsaturated FAs from peroxidation. Phospholipase D (PLD) converts phosphatidylcholine (PC) to phosphatidic acid (PA), whereas phosphatidate phosphatases (lipins) convert PA to diacylglycerol (DAG). The latter is then available for TAG synthesis by DGAT1 or DGAT2. Phospholipase activity-derived FAs could be preferred when a specific phospholipid and/or TAG acyl-chain remodelling is required instead of the bulk FA mixture provided by autophagy. Future studies will provide clues on the possible crosstalk between these pathways and the conditions that govern the predominant mechanisms of lipid droplet biogenesis during various conditions of stress in different cell types.


Cancer cells possess remarkable abilities to adapt to adverse environmental conditions. Their survival during severe nutrient and oxidative stress depends on their capacity to acquire extracellular lipids and the plasticity of their mechanisms for intracellular lipid synthesis, mobilisation, and recycling. Lipid droplets, cytosolic fat storage organelles present in most cells from yeast to men, are emerging as major regulators of lipid metabolism, trafficking, and signalling in various cells and tissues exposed to stress. Their biogenesis is induced by nutrient and oxidative stress and they accumulate in various cancers. Lipid droplets act as switches that coordinate lipid trafficking and consumption for different purposes in the cell, such as energy production, protection against oxidative stress or membrane biogenesis during rapid cell growth. They sequester toxic lipids, such as fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides, thereby preventing lipotoxic cell damage and engage in a complex relationship with autophagy. Here, we focus on the emerging mechanisms of stress-induced lipid droplet biogenesis; their roles during nutrient, lipotoxic, and oxidative stress; and the relationship between lipid droplets and autophagy. The recently discovered principles of lipid droplet biology can improve our understanding of the mechanisms that govern cancer cell adaptability and resilience to stress. View Full-Text

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

is this the right message?

A study of over 300 species of molluscs that have lived and died in the Atlantic over the past five million years found that those with high metabolisms were the most likely to be extinct. Photograph: Alamy

Forget ‘survival of the fittest’, it is more like ‘survival of the laziest’, or at least ‘survival of the sluggish’

Bruce Lieberman, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology

these words appear here.

With this message going across the globe, can we hope that obesity and related diseases will ever decrease?

In any case, humans' metabolism is so so different to molluscs'...

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Increased Adiposity as a Potential Risk Factor for Lower Academic Performance

this is an extremely interesting paper!

The authors found that:

(1) having obesity, abdominal obesity, or high adiposity was associated with lower school performance alone or in combination with unhealthy dietary habits or reduced time allocation for exercise;

(2) high adiposity and abdominal obesity were more clearly related with lower school grades compared to obesity;

(3) the association of increased fatness with lower school grades was more salient in males compared to females.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Glyphosate should be banned! This is why...

The evidence on the toxicity of glyphosate is not clear yet; 
with carcinogenic compounds the evidence would never be clear and also we need to remember that for political and money reasons, the legislation is always 10-20 years behind the scientific evidence...

example 1/ The story of hexavalent Cr [Cr(VI)] in drinking water 
(we all KNOW that Cr(VI) is carcinogenic but only California State in US has a separate legal limit for Cr(VI) in drinking water, in EU we still have a legal limit for TOTAL Cr but not a separate legal limit for Cr(VI)...  

example 2/ the recent scandal with Bute in horsemeat and the food chain...I can still recall top “Scientists” in UK and Greece saying that a bit of bute in the food chain is ...SAFE... (tragic joke!)

In the case of Cr(VI), bute and now glyphosate, the precautionary principle should be applied. This principle states that
"where scientific data do not permit a complete evaluation of the risk, recourse to this principle may, for example, be used to stop distribution or order withdrawal from the market of products likely to be hazardous".

As Scientists (and Food Scientists) we should use the precautionary principle in order to offer maximum protection to the Society and therefore... our customers.
The latest data on glyphosate in the food chain as reported here are rather alarming...
To sum up, using the precautionary principle, the use of glyphosate should be banned/restricted till further data are available.

Ioannis Zabetakis

Glyphosate and Cancer (part III)

It looks that it is a matter of political and scientific will!
Dublin and Limerick councils are experimenting with glyphosate replacements.
If people want to replace carcinogenic weedkillers (aka Glyphosate); solutions exist!
The next step would be for the farmers to have a similar to the ones of the local councils reaction. Some immediate guidance from the corresponding ministries is urgently needed so appropriate guidelines are issued for the farmers around the country.



Saturday, 18 August 2018

Glyphosate and Cancer (part II)

the news is rather alarming: glyphosate has been found in wide range of breakfast foods aimed at children (it was found in 45 products including granola, snack bars and Cheerios!).

The rest of the discussion about the "safe" levels of glyphosate in foods is purely academic - with the negative meaning of the word academic...

We can NOT have safe levels of a contaminant in foods/water that is linked to cancer.

Therefore, we need to pile up pressure to the food companies that produce these glyphosate-tainted foods and boycott them till they inform us that their products are glyphosate-free.

Any other discussion/delay puts the safety of everybody and especially of the young ones who have not fully developed their immune system at risk.

A risk that is avoidable!

Ioannis Zabetakis

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Belfast 2018: 16th Euro Fed Lipid Congress

In about a month, I am going to present some ideas at Belfast, in 16th Euro Fed Lipid Congress and Expo.

This is one of my slides...

Artist Pablo Picasso
Year 1907
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 243.9 cm × 233.7 cm (96 in × 92 in)
Location Museum of Modern Art. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, New York City[1]

Learning and working in UL

Since my first day in UL as a Lecturer, working and teaching here is a pleasure and an amazing challenge. My students are, as always, my driving force of inspiration and evolution.

It is great to see that what we offer here in UL has been recently assessed so favorably.

UL in top three in Europe for career preparation and gender balance

Living (learning and working) in a University is about exchanging views, ideas and data in a way that we can all grow in a mutually beneficial way.

In Greek, the word for University is Πανεπιστήμιο, i.e.  a place where all (Παν-) Sciences (Επιστήμες) live and prosper.

UL is a true Uni in this sense and I am looking forward to the next Academic year, my 1st as HoD in the Department of Biological Sciences.

And as my favourite Cavafy has said...

As you set out for Ithaka, hope the voyage is a long one,full of adventure, full of discovery.

Ioannis Zabetakis 


Glyphosate and Cancer

The first time I wrote on glyphosate was some 5 years ago, here.

I am copying here from that 2013 posting...

What now?
The implications of the new study are paramount: we need to re-assess urgently the use of glyphosate in agriculture. In many GMO-free countries, glyphosate based weedkillers are in use and this leads to human’s exposure to residues of this compound through cross-contamination of the food chain.

= = =

2018 update.

There is no doubt that Roundup, glycophosate is not safe to use. But in Science, when we talk about risk, health and money, the issue is not about Science but about politics...

Politicians and industrialists usually manipulate data or they rather use shortsighted data-glasses...so they can reach the decision they want to please their voters and shareholders, respectively.

This is the story so far...

In UL, in few weeks, at the autumn semester, I am going to ask my 3rd year Food Science and Health students to study the topic of glyphosate and the food chain. By Christmas 2018, they should have some strong texts in place that they will be posted here.


P.S. For now...I would rather agree with Nicolas Hulot


No one force feeds you junk food

the title of this post is one the phrases found in this George Monbiot article.

Nothing really new but all quite shocking.

Data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Examination Surveys (1960–2000).4

What is most worrying is that Governments and Dieticians bodies are not taking strong action to stop this trend.

The Lancer paper that George mentions in this article is very informative.

In my view, the problem of obesity is a problem of income, education and choices.
The lower your income, the more prone you are to eat junk food!
As I have written again on this blog, "Obesity is a political problem".

As Sir Michael Marmot has said: “if you want to tackle obesity, then tackle the social determinants of obesity. Tackle inequality”.

Education and income redistribution are the only two factors that can help towards this direction.
But, maybe, the status quo is ok for Goverments, Pharma and Food multinationals... Junk food is easy, selling statins and pills is profitable so all good...

Ioannis Zabetakis

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

New Publication of our team: Phospholipids of goat and sheep origin: Structural and functional studies



Laboratory of Food Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, 15771, Athens, Greece
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Limerick, V94 T9PX, Limerick, Ireland
Department of Food Science and Nutrition, School of the Environment, University of the Aegean, Myrina, Lemnos, 81400, Greece




The lipidomic profiles of goat and sheep meat were studied. Polar lipid fractions of raw and baked meat samples were tested for their in vitro anti-atherogenic properties. The total lipid (TL) content was extracted using the Bligh-Dyer method and was subsequently separated into total polar lipids (TPL) and total neutral lipids (TNL). The fatty acid profiles of the TPL and TNL of all three samples were determined by GC-FID. The TPL of all samples were further separated by preparative TLC into their constituent phospholipid and sphingolipid fractions. In all samples, polar lipid fraction 3 had a similar Rf value to phosphatidylcholine. These phosphatidylcholine fractions were tested for their in vitro capacity to inhibit platelet-activating factor (PAF) induced platelet aggregation (anti-inflammatory activity) using human platelets. The phospholipid content of each fraction 3 was determined using LC–MS. These results provide a novel insight into the structure of phosphatidylcholine derivatives in goat and sheep meat and highlight the nutritional value of these meats in terms of their antithrombotic and cardioprotective properties before and after the baking process.




Lipidomic profiles of raw and baked goat and sheep meat have been studied.
Anti-atherogenic activities of polar lipids of meat samples have been evaluated.
The most bioactive fractions of polar lipids have been studied by LC–MS.
The anti-anterogenic activities are due to phosphatidylcholine derivatives.
Sheep and goat meat are excellent sources of bioactive lipids against CVDs.

= = =

Full paper is available here

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

to gluten free or not to gluten free?

this article is interesting...not only for the gluten free mania that it describes but also for the info on glyphosate (a true killer!) and our shortsighted criteria when choosing foods.

worth checking, at next University term, what my students think about the issues mentioned in this article...


Sunday, 5 August 2018

Can yogurts and cheese reduce risk of heart disease?

Enjoy your full-fat fermented dairy

[our latest article on RTE Brainstorm]

Can yogurts and cheese reduce risk of heart disease?

Analysis: new research shows that increased consumption of fermented dairy foods is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases
By Ronan Lordan and Ioannis ZabetakisUniversity of Limerick

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a leading cause of mortality worldwide and 10,000 people die of CVDs in Ireland alone every year. There is a clear scientific and societal need to improve people’s health with specific focus on CVDs and offer healthy foods to the wider public. Hence, our research group’s interest on the cardioprotective properties of fermented dairy products. We want to understand what happens during milk fermentation and why and how fermented dairy is good for our hearts.

[full article is here]