Oxo To Launch Plant-Based Beef Stock Cube

Beef stock cubes have become the unlikely target of a vegan makeover with Oxo scheduled to launch a meat-free version of the famous meat extract amid a boom in sales of plant-based foods.

Premier Foods, which is also behind brands such as Mr Kipling and Bisto gravy, said the beef-flavoured stock cubes would start appearing on supermarket shelves soon.

The UK is gripped by plant-based food fever. This year 130,000 people, up from 100,000 last year, have pledged to stick to a plant-based diet during what is billed as Veganuary. The lifestyle overhaul has been made easier by high-profile new vegan products such as Greggs vegan sausage roll and its meat-free steak bake.

This scale of the business opportunity is not lost on food manufacturers and retailers with one in five of all new foods launched last year labelled vegan. Market research firm Mintel predicts sales of meat-free foods will soon pass the £1 bn-a-year barrier.

The Premier Foods chief executive, Alex Whitehouse, said: “The whole plant-based eating thing is clearly very important. There was a clear role for a vegan but beef-flavoured cube.”

The meat extract was, according to Oxo, invented by the German chemist Baron Justus von Liebig in 1840. It started being sold as cubes in 1910, with soldiers serving on the western front receiving Oxo in their ration kits. In recent years the store cupboard staple has been given a new lease of life with flavours such as “red wine” and “garden vegetables” (which is also suitable for vegans).

The alchemy involved in a vegan recipe that tastes like beef stock includes extra yeast and an altered mix of herbs and spices, the company said. The distinctive red Oxo packaging will stay the same but the packs will be labelled “meat-free”. They will be the same price at £1.59 for a pack of 12.

Source: The Guardian

Spinach and Cheese Gnocchi


6 oz cold mashed potato
1/2 cup semolina
4 oz frozen leaf spinach, defrosted, squeezed and chopped
4 oz ricotta cheese
l oz grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp beaten egg
1/2 tsp salt
large pinch of grated nutmeg
black pepper
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
fresh basil sprigs, to garnish

Flavoured Butter

3 oz butter
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil


  1. Place all the gnocchi ingredients except the basil in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Take small pieces of the mixture, about the size of a walnut, and roll each one back and forth a few times along the prongs of a fork until ridged. Repeat until you have 28 gnocchi and lay on a tray lined with clear film.
  3. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, reduce the heat slightly, and drop the gnocchi into the simmering water. They will sink to the bottom at first, but as they cook they will rise to the surface — this will take about 2 minutes, then simmer for about 1 minute.
  4. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a lightly greased and warmed ovenproof dish.
  5. Sprinkle the gnocchi with a little Parmesan cheese and grill under a high heat for about 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  6. Divide gnocchi into 4 serving plates.
  7. Heat the butter in a pan and stir in the lemon rind and juice, basil and seasoning.
  8. Pour a quarter of the hot butter over each portion of gnocchi and garnish with fresh basil. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Vegetarian Classics

In Pictures: Popular Home-cooked Meatless Monday Dishes

Jamaican Jerk Tofu

Thai Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Kale Potato and Carrot Curry

Lemon Mint Quinoa Salad

Zucchini Tomato Curry

Grilled Vegetable Tacos

Research: Probiotic Drink could Offer New Way to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

A probiotic drink could become a promising new weapon in the battle against antibiotic resistant bacteria, after a team of scientists at the University of Birmingham engineered and patented a key genetic element that can tackle the genetic basis of resistance.

The team is now seeking funding for a clinical trial for the drink which has potential to work against many resistant bacteria commonly found in the human gut including E. coli, Salmonella and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

It works by targeting small DNA molecules, called plasmids, inside bacterial cells. These molecules frequently carry genes that give resistance to antibiotics, which the bacteria are able to use. The plasmids replicate independently, spreading between bacteria and carrying resistance genes with them.

By preventing the target plasmids from replicating, the team were able to displace the resistance genes available to the bacteria, effectively ‘re-sensitising’ them to antibiotics. Their results are published in the journal PLOS One.

Lead researcher, Professor Christopher Thomas, explained: “We were able to show that if you can stop the plasmid from replicating, then most of the bacteria lose the plasmid as the bacteria grow and divide. This means that infections that might otherwise be hard to control, even with the most powerful antibiotics available, are more likely to be treatable with standard antibiotics.”

The drink will contain bacteria (in a similar way to drinks like Yakult) carrying a new type of plasmid, which the researchers call pCURE plasmids. These work in two ways: they prevent the resistance plasmids from replicating and they also block a so-called ‘addiction system’ which the plasmids use to kill any bacteria that lose them. In this system, the resistance plasmid carries a stable toxin and an unstable antidote into the host cell. If the plasmid is lost from the cell, the antidote breaks down, leaving the harmful toxin to attack its host. pCURE plasmids also carry the antidote, ensuring that cells that lose the resistance plasmid survive and take over the gut.

Professor Thomas explains: “We manipulated our pCURE plasmids to incorporate genes that block the replication of the resistance plasmid. We also target the plasmid’s addiction system by designing our pCURE plasmids to ensure the antidote is still available to the host.”

The Birmingham team discovered that by doubling the number of copies of the pCURE plasmid in each bacterium it became very effective at displacing different types of resistance plasmids and would spread through laboratory cultures unaided, to clear out resistance.

The team then collaborated with colleagues in the University of Sydney, Australia, to test the pCURE plasmids in mice. They found the pCURE plasmids worked effectively, but needed to be ‘primed’ by giving the mice an initial dose of antibiotic to reduce the number of competing bacteria. The next step is to see if plasmids can spread fast enough in human volunteers to get rid of resistance plasmids.

“This is a promising start,” says Professor Thomas. “We aim to make modifications to further improve the efficacy of our pCURE plasmids before moving towards a first clinical trial.”

“Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest medical challenges of our time,” adds Professor Thomas. “We need to be tackling this on a number of different fronts including by reducing our use of antibiotics and searching for new, more effective drugs. Our approach, which tackles one of the causes of antimicrobial resistance at a genetic level, could be an important new weapon in this battle.”

Source: University of Birmingham

Study: Acid Reflux Drugs may have Negative Side Effects for Breast Cancer Survivors

Emily Caldwell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Acid reflux drugs that are sometimes recommended to ease stomach problems during cancer treatment may have an unintended side effect: impairment of breast cancer survivors’ memory and concentration.

New Ohio State University research shows an association between breast cancer survivors’ use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and reports of problems with concentration and memory. On average, cognitive problems reported by PPI users were between 20 and 29 percent more severe than issues reported by non-PPI users. PPIs are sold under such brand names as Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec.

The study, the first to look at PPI use in breast cancer survivors, used data from three previous Ohio State clinical trials examining fatigue, a yoga intervention and vaccine response in breast cancer patients and survivors. In each of those studies, participants had reported their use of prescribed and over-the-counter medications and rated any cognitive symptoms they had as part of routine data collection.

After controlling for a variety of factors that could affect cognition – such as depression or other illnesses, types of cancer treatment, age and education – the researchers found that PPI use predicted more severe concentration and memory symptoms as well as lower quality of life related to impaired cognition.

“The severity of the cognitive problems reported by PPI users in this study was comparable to what patients undergoing chemotherapy had reported in a large observational study,” said Annelise Madison, lead author of the study and a graduate student in clinical psychology at Ohio State. “PPI non-users also reported problems, but were definitely getting better. Based on what we’re seeing, we don’t know if PPI users might not be able to fully recover cognitively after chemotherapy. It’s an area for further investigation.”

The study is published online in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

Madison pursued this study based on her knowledge of PPIs’ known potential to bypass the blood-brain barrier and previous research suggesting that off-label use of PPIs in cancer patients may increase tumors’ responsiveness to chemotherapy and protect the digestive system from the ravages of chemo drugs.

“I thought there could be a cognitive effect from taking PPIs, particularly in this population, because breast cancer survivors are already at risk for cognitive decline,” she said. “PPIs are over the counter and generally considered safe so there haven’t been many long-term trials, especially looking at cognitive outcomes, because nobody was really thinking that would be a downstream effect.”

As part of her graduate program, Madison works in the lab of Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State. For this work, Madison conducted secondary analyses of three of Kiecolt-Glaser’s earlier studies examining inflammation’s connection to breast cancer treatment and survivorship.

Data from 551 women in those earlier studies, 88 of whom reported taking PPIs, were used in Madison’s analysis. The women in the previous studies had provided self-reports of PPI use and cognitive symptoms multiple times over varied periods of time depending on the design of each study.

Women in the studies looking at fatigue in newly diagnosed patients and investigating yoga’s effect on inflammation and fatigue in survivors had completed a questionnaire rating the severity of their memory and concentration problems on a scale of 0 to 10 over the previous five days. Madison’s analysis found that on average, PPI users’ concentration problems in the fatigue study were 20 percent more severe than those reported by non-PPI users. In the yoga study, PPI users’ concentration problems were 29 percent more severe than those reported by non-PPI users. There were no differences in reported memory problems.

In the third study, which featured data from the placebo visit of a typhoid vaccine trial, reported memory problems were 28 percent more severe in PPI users than in non-users, with no differences in reports of concentration issues. Breast cancer survivors in this study completed an additional questionnaire measuring the functional implications of their cognitive impairment. PPI users’ scores were lower than non-users’ scores on this assessment, where PPI users reported a poorer quality of life, greater cognitive impairment and poorer cognitive abilities compared to non-users.​

“The fact that this study found similar effects across three different sets of patients who are at different stages of cancer survivorship gives some weight to what we’re seeing,” said Kiecolt-Glaser, senior author of the paper and an investigator in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Had it been in only a single study, it could have been a chance effect.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved PPIs for short-term use to treat common gastric acid conditions and longer-term use for gastric ulcers and disorders involving excessive acid secretion. Madison noted that the off-label maintenance use of PPIs in cancer patients can last a long time: Her analysis showed that at least two-thirds of the breast cancer survivors using PPIs had taken them for between six months and two years.

Madison stressed that the study shows a correlation between PPI use and cognitive problems in breast cancer survivors, and that a clinical trial controlling PPI doses and obtaining objective cognitive data would be required to identify any causal effect.

Source: The Ohio State University

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