Good results in the lab can lead to larger human trials. Here are some of the most promising recent findings.
Kefir yogurt combats Covid
Doctors isolated a molecule in kefir yeast that reduced damage from the pathogen that causes cholera by disrupting communication between bacterial cells. In a follow-up study, kefir had strong anti-inflammatory effects in several conditions and diseases.
In the lab, kefir eliminated the Covid cytokine storm in mice, restoring balance to the immune system. Doctors said this is the first study to demonstrate probiotic kefir molecules can reduce the virulence of pathogenic bacteria by disrupting communication, and can help restore balance to the immune system.
Reference: Microbiome; March, 2021, Vol. 9, Article No. 70
Jackfruit helps balance the microbiome, improve lipids
In the lab, doctors gave resistant fiber starch from jackfruit seed to some mice on normal or high fat diets, and in a second phase, added bifidobacterium, over a total of eight weeks.
In the first phase, jackfruit had a therapeutic effect on fatty liver cells. In the second phase, jackfruit combined with bifidobacterium corrected the intestinal damage from a high fat diet, helping to restore balance to the microbiome. Doctors believe jackfruit—a prebiotic—combined with probiotics may help develop a synbiotic treatment.
Reference 2: Foods; 2021, Vol. 10, No. 6, 1431
Tomato protects collagen cells
The several carotenoids in tomato may help protect skin cells in the dermis that produce collagen, the main structural protein in skin. Fibroblasts, the most common cell in connective tissue, help heal wounds, and produce collagen.
In the lab, doctors added tomato carotenoids to human dermal fibroblast cell cultures, then exposed them to the oxidant TNF-alpha, which can damage collagen and elastin fibers. As the dosage of tomato nutrients in the dermal cell cultures increased, collagen damage decreased.
Reference 3: PLoS One; 2021, Vol. 16, No. 3, e0248183
Ashwagandha and lung cancer
Ashwagandha is an annual evergreen that contains powerful phytochemicals. Traditional medicine has used ashwagandha to treat neurological disorders. Here, doctors wanted to test the ability of ashwagandha to limit the growth and spread of lung cancer cells, and to trigger programmed cell death, called apoptosis.
In the lab, doctors prepared water- and alcohol-extracts of ashwagandha, using a stain to see DNA damage in lung cancer cells. The alcohol extract killed lung cancer cells, showed significant anti-blood-vessel-forming activity, and decreased cancer cell spread.
Reference: Phytomedicine; 2021, Vol. 90, 153639
SAMe may treat traumatic brain injury
The journal Military Medicine reports over 400,000 service members have sustained traumatic brain injury, with lingering symptoms including headache, fatigue, irritability, cognitive problems, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain.
Here, doctors reviewed preclinical and clinical literature evaluating the role SAMe plays in cognition. Evidence suggests SAMe may reduce cognitive complaints without side effects, and decrease chances for dementia. The nutrient appears to work, doctors believe, by generating energy at a cellular level, helping serve the increased energy demands of the injured brain.
Reference 2: Military Medicine; April, 2021, usab130
Beta-sitosterol reduced anxiety
Safely reducing anxiety through drugs is a challenge because the same brain circuits are related to memory, awareness, and other functions that handle danger. In the lab, mice given beta-sitosterol had less anxiety than those not receiving beta-sitosterol, without any of the side effects typical of anti-anxiety drugs.
Doctors then combined beta-sitosterol with fluoxetine (Prozac®), which reduced anxiety at lower dosages than when the two are given separately. Beta-sitosterol may reduce the activity of certain genes activated under stress, doctors believe.
Reference 3: Cell Reports Medicine; 2021, Vol. 2, No. 5, 100281