Air Pollution Linked to High Blood Pressure in Children; Other Studies Address Air Quality and the Heart

A meta-analysis of 14 air pollution studies from around the world found that exposure to high levels of air pollutants during childhood increases the likelihood of high blood pressure in children and adolescents, and their risk for high blood pressure as adults. The study is published in a special issue on air pollution in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.

Other studies look at: the effects of diesel exhaust on the muscle sympathetic nerve; the impact of pollutants on high blood pressure; rates of hospital readmission for heart failure among those exposed to high levels of ambient air pollution; and risk of stroke and heart attack after long-term exposure to high levels of particulate matter. The studies include health outcomes of people who were exposed to pollutants in the United States, China and Europe.

High blood pressure during childhood and adolescence is a risk factor for hypertension and heart disease in adulthood. Studies on air pollution and blood pressure in adolescents and children, however, have produced inconsistent conclusions. This systematic review and meta-analysis pooled information from 14 studies focused on the association between air pollution and blood pressure in youth. The large analysis included data for more than 350,000 children and adolescents (mean ages 5.4 to 12.7 years of age).

“Our analysis is the first to closely examine previous research to assess both the quality and magnitude of the associations between air pollution and blood pressure values among children and adolescents,” said lead study author Yao Lu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of the Clinical Research Center at the Third Xiangya Hospital at Central South University in Changsha, China, and professor in the department of life science and medicine at King’s College London. “The findings provide evidence of a positive association between short- and long-term exposure to certain environmental air pollutants and blood pressure in children and adolescents.”

The analysis included 14 studies published through September 6, 2020, exploring the impact of long-term exposure (≥30 days) and/or short-term exposure (<30 days) of ambient air pollution on blood pressure levels of adolescents and/or children in China and/or countries in Europe.

The studies were divided into groups based upon length of exposure to air pollution and by composition of air pollutants, specifically nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter with diameter ≤10 μm or ≤2.5 μm. (The majority of research linking heart disease with particulate matter focuses on particle matter mass, which is categorized by aerodynamic diameter – μm or PM.) Fine particles are defined as PM2.5 and larger; coarse particles are defined at PM10; and the concentrations of particulate matter are typically measured in their mass per volume of air (μg/m3).

The meta-analysis concluded:

  • Short-term exposure to PM10 was significantly associated with elevated systolic blood pressure in youth (the top number on a blood pressure reading).
  • Periods of long-term exposure to PM2.5, PM10 and nitrogen dioxide were also associated with elevated systolic blood pressure levels.
  • Higher diastolic blood pressure levels (the bottom number on a blood pressure reading) were associated with long-term exposure to PM2.5 and PM10.

“To reduce the impact of environmental pollution on blood pressure in children and adolescents, efforts should be made to reduce their exposure to environmental pollutants,” said Lu. “Additionally, it is also very important to routinely measure blood pressure in children and adolescents, which can help us identify individuals with elevated blood pressure early.”

The results of the analysis are limited to the studies included, and they did not include data on possible interactions between different pollutants, therefore, the results are not generalizable to all populations. Additionally, the analysis included the most common and more widely studied pollutants vs. air pollutants confirmed to have heart health impact, of which there are fewer studies.

Source: American Heart Association

Two Compounds Can Make Chocolate Smell Musty and Moldy

Chocolate is a beloved treat, but sometimes the cocoa beans that go into bars and other sweets have unpleasant flavors or scents, making the final products taste bad. Surprisingly, only a few compounds associated with these stinky odors are known. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have identified the two compounds that cause musty, moldy scents in cocoa — work that can help chocolatiers ensure the quality of their products.

Cocoa beans, when fermented correctly, have a pleasant smell with sweet and floral notes. But they can have an off-putting scent when fermentation goes wrong, or when storage conditions aren’t quite right and microorganisms grow on them. If these beans make their way into the manufacturing process, the final chocolate can smell unpleasant, leading to consumer complaints and recalls.

So, sensory professionals smell fermented cocoa beans before they are roasted, detecting any unwanted musty, moldy, smoky or mushroom-like odors. Even with this testing in place, spoiled beans can evade human noses and ruin batches of chocolate, so a more objective assessment is needed for quality control.

In previous studies, researchers used molecular techniques to identify the compounds that contribute to undesirable smoky flavors, but a similar method has not clarified other volatile scent compounds. So, Martin Steinhaus and colleagues wanted to determine the principal compounds that cause musty and moldy odors in tainted cocoa beans.

The researchers identified 57 molecules that made up the scent profiles of both normal and musty/moldy smelling cocoa beans using gas chromatography in combination with olfactometry and mass spectrometry. Of these compounds, four had higher concentrations in off-smelling samples. Then, these four compounds were spiked into unscented cocoa butter, and the researchers conducted smell tests with 15-20 participants.

By comparing the results of these tests with the molecular content of nine samples of unpleasant fermented cocoa beans and cocoa liquors, the team determined that (–)-geosmin — associated with moldy and beetroot odors — and 3-methyl-1H-indole — associated with fecal and mothball odors — are the primary contributors to the musty and moldy scents of cocoa beans. Finally, they found that (–)-geosmin was mostly in the beans’ shells, which are removed during processing, while 3-methyl-1H-indole was primarily in the bean nib that is manufactured into chocolate.

The researchers say that measuring the amount of these compounds within cocoa beans could be an objective way to detect off-putting scents and flavors, keeping future batches of chocolate smelling sweet.

Source: American Chemical Society

Sweet Saffron Buns


Saffron Mixture

1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rum or another good strong liquor


Saffron Mixture, above
2 packages (1/2 oz) active dry yeast (4-1/2 tsp)
1 cup water
1 cup milk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup butter, cubed, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
sugar for dipping


  1. Mix the saffron, sugar, and rum in a bowl and let stand for several hours.
  2. Blend the saffron mixture with the remaining dough ingredients except the flour: Add about one-third of the flour and stir until the dough is smooth. Add the rest of the flour and stir until the dough holds together, or knead in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
  3. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a smooth ball by folding the edges in to the center. Turn the dough seam-sidedown. The principle here is the same as for shaping a round loaf. Sprinkle with some flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours or in the refrigerator for 10 hours.
  4. Divide the dough into 30 pieces and shape each piece into a smooth ball.
  5. Place the buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a baker’s couche or a heavy linen tea towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 2 hours.
  6. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) for at least 30 minutes before baking.
  7. Bake the buns until golden brown on top and bottom, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes under a kitchen towel.
  8. Brush the rolls with the melted butter and dip them into the sugar to coat.
  9. These buns are best when freshly made, but you can freeze them. Thaw frozen or reheat day-old buns for 10 minutes in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven.

Makes 30 buns.

Source: Bread Bread Bread

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