UBC Chemist Helps Create New Compostable Coffee Pod

Dr. Zac Hudson believes your morning cup of coffee should be strong and guilt-free.

That’s why the University of British Columbia scientist has spent the past three years creating a new fully compostable coffee pod with Surrey-based NEXE Innovations.

“Every year more than 40 billion single-use coffee pods end up in landfill. If they’re made of plastic, they could be sitting there for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Dr. Hudson, an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Chemistry. “We wanted to create a compostable pod to tackle this problem – and make sure the coffee still tasted great.”

Enter the NEXE pod, which composts completely in as little as 35 days in industrial compost. The pods are made from two specially engineered components: an outer fibre jacket and a bioplastic inner capsule designed to break down into carbon dioxide, water and organic biomass – leaving no microplastic behind.

Engineering new sustainable materials

In order to create a fully compostable pod, Dr. Hudson – whose research focuses on the development of new materials to address issues of sustainability – had to formulate a new bioplastic.

Traditional plastics are made from chemicals, or monomers, derived from fossil fuels. Bioplastics use monomers derived from biomass such as wood or plants.

“We started out by importing bioplastics from overseas and trying them out for the pods we wanted to create. This helped us learn which materials worked well and which didn’t, so we could create new formulations in-house or with the help of our partners,” said Dr. Hudson, who is also now the Chief Scientific Officer at NEXE Innovations.

There were a number of challenges to consider. Many compostable pods already on the market are soft-bottomed, exposing the coffee grounds to moisture and air and allowing them to go stale quickly. They also hold fewer coffee grounds than plastic pods, which can lead to a relatively weak brew.

They also couldn’t look or feel too much like traditional plastic. “This has been a huge barrier to adoption of compostable pods in the past – consumers can’t tell them and regular plastic apart,” said Darren Footz, CEO of NEXE Innovations.

The team eventually settled on a two-part solution:

  1. a bioplastic inner capsule made from polylactic acid (PLA) compounded with other natural ingredients that addresses moisture, air and heat issues and holds a large volume of coffee grounds.
  2. an outer jacket made from bamboo that still looks and feels like plant fibre.

Tackling plastic waste with industry and government

The new bioplastic was tested in collaboration with Dr. Hudson’s research group at UBC, while the composting of the pods was tested at the Surrey Biofuel Facility, which handles all compost for the city of Surrey.

“We are now making our own bioplastics at our facility in Surrey, and are looking to bring significant bioplastics manufacturing capacity to Canada,” said Dr. Hudson. “We’re also working on home composting solutions for our pods.”

The pods are compatible with all Keurig K-Cup brewing systems and launched commercially this month – selling out of their entire launch inventory in one day. The company recently announced Nespresso-compatible pods set to begin production later in 2021.

Funding for research and production was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Engage grant; the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Wall Solutions Grant; and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCAN) Plastics Challenge. In January 2021, NEXE Innovations received a $1-million investment from NRCAN to scale up manufacturing of their Nespresso-compatible pods.

“Coffee drinkers are very discerning: if you make a product that is good for the planet, but the coffee tastes bad, they’re going to lose interest pretty quickly,” said Dr. Hudson. “We want our pods to be the best of both.”

Source: The University of British Columbia

Study: No Good Evidence Weight Loss Supplements Work

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Losing weight is hard, but many weight loss supplements promise to make the journey easy. Unfortunately, there’s little high-quality research to back these claims, a new study shows.

Hundreds of weight loss supplements like green tea extract, chitosan, guar gum and conjugated linoleic acid are being hawked by aggressive marketers. And an estimated 34% of Americans who want to lose weight have tried one, according to the researchers.

“The temptation is great because someone has a megaphone, but you don’t need a celebrity endorsement and/or splashy headlines to tell you how to lose weight. The medical establishment will speak loudly and clearly when there’s something to say,” said study co-author Dr. Srividya Kidambi, an associate professor and chief of endocrinology and molecular medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

To find out if 14 weight loss supplements and/or alternative therapies like acupuncture do what they claim, researchers identified 315 randomized-controlled trials, which are considered the gold standard in clinical research. Of these, 52 studies were deemed unlikely to be biased. Just 16 studies showed differences in weight between participants receiving treatment and those in the placebo arm.

The weight loss in these studies ranged widely, from less than 1 pound to just under 11 pounds. Weight loss was not seen consistently for any one weight loss treatment, and many had conflicting results, with some studies showing weight loss and others showing no such effect.

The studies included in the review looked at chitosan, a complex sugar formed from the hard shells of shellfish; ephedra or caffeine; green tea; guar gum; the tropical fruit extract Garcinia cambogia; chocolate/cocoa; conjugated linoleic acid, a natural substance produced in the gut by digestion of fats; white kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris); and calcium plus vitamin D, among others. Alternative weight loss therapies evaluated in studies included acupuncture, mindfulness, hypnosis and meditation.

“The dietary supplement industry is a Wild West of herbs and over-the-counter pills that have a lot of claims and little to no evidence supporting those claims,” said study co-author Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. “We all want a magic pill, but dietary supplements aren’t the magic pills that they are marketed to be.”

There are things that are proven to help you lose weight and keep it off, Kahan said.

“Support from a dietitian, nutrition education and, in some cases, medication or weight loss surgery can all aid weight loss,” he said.

The study authors issued a statement calling for tighter regulation of supplements and more high-quality studies to assess the risks and benefits of weight loss supplements. The study appears in the June 23 issue of Obesity.

Their work comes on the heels of another study that found weight loss supplements mostly ineffective. That research was presented virtually last month at the European Congress on Obesity and published in the International Journal of Obesity.

In the United States, supplements aren’t regulated in the same way that pharmaceuticals are so there is no way to know if you are actually getting what you’re paying for, said Kidambi.

Most weight loss supplements won’t cause any harm, but many peddle false promises, she said. “If supplements take the place of diet, regular exercise and behavior changes, they will harm you in the long run,” she added.

Some supplements sold online may be laced with ingredients that are harmful and banned in the United States, Kidambi noted.

Weight loss supplements can also be pricey, she said.

It’s buyer beware when it comes to weight loss supplements, agreed Dr. Louis Aronne, founder and director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

“There is very little research demonstrating that currently available supplements produce significant weight loss,” said Aronne, who was not involved in the new study.

Andrea Wong is senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group representing the supplements industry.

Wong, who has no ties to the research, pointed out that the new study did not include all of the dietary supplements on the market today, some of which may aid in weight loss efforts.

“Consumers should be wary of products that promise to make weight loss easy and to always talk to a health care practitioner for advice on responsible supplement use and weight management programs,” she said.

Source: HealthDay

In Pictures: Food of Beefbar in Central, Hong Kong

Contemporary International Steak House

The Michelin 1-star Restaurant

Some Blood Pressure-lowering Meds Linked to Less Memory Decline in Older Adults

Older adults taking blood pressure-lowering medications known to cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall over time compared to those taking other types of medicines to treat high blood pressure, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia in older adults. Nearly half of American adults have elevated blood pressure. Treating high blood pressure with blood pressure-lowering medicines reduced the cases of mild cognitive impairment by 19% in one large trial (SPRINT MIND).

ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers and diuretics are different classes of blood pressure-lowering medicines. Each class acts in a different way to reduce blood pressure, and some cross the blood-brain barrier, thereby impacting cognitive function.

“Research has been mixed on which medicines have the most benefit to cognition,” said study author Daniel A. Nation, Ph.D., ​an associate professor of psychological science in the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine. ”Studies of angiotensin II receptor blockers and angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have suggested these medicines may confer the greatest benefit to long-term cognition, while other studies have shown the benefits of calcium channel blockers and diuretics on reducing dementia risk.”

This is the first meta-analysis to compare the potential impact over time of blood pressure lowering medicines that do vs. those that do not cross the blood-brain barrier. The medicines were evaluated for their effects on several cognitive domains, including attention, language, verbal memory, learning and recall.

“Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body but also to the brain,” Nation said . “Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.”

Researchers gathered information from 14 studies of nearly 12,900 adults ages 50 years and older. These included studies done in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Japan. The meta-analysis found:

  • Older adults taking blood pressure-lowering medicines that cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to 3 years of follow-up compared to those taking medicines that do not cross the blood-brain barrier even though they had a higher level of vascular risk.
  • Adults taking hypertension medications that did not cross the blood-brain barrier had better attention for up to 3 years of follow-up.

“These findings represent the most powerful evidence to-date linking brain-penetrant ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory. It suggests that people who are being treated for hypertension may be protected from cognitive decline if they medications that cross the blood-brain barrier,” said study co-author Jean K. Ho, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine.

Blood pressure is considered elevated at 120/80 mm Hg and higher. The current American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines for treating high blood pressure suggest changes to diet and activity levels to lower blood pressure and adding blood pressure-lowering medication for people with levels of 130/80 mm Hg or higher depending on their risk status. If blood pressure reaches 140/90 mm Hg, blood pressure-lowering medication is recommended.

Limitations of this analysis are that the authors could not account for differences in racial/ethnic background based on the available studies, and there is a higher proportion of men vs. women in the group who took medications that cross the blood-brain barrier. This is an important area of future research since previous studies have shown that people from various racial/ethnic backgrounds may respond differently to different blood pressure medications.

Source: American Heart Association

Standing Rib Roast

Ingredients

One 3-rib prime rib roast (about 6 pounds), ribs removed and tied on end of roast
2 to 3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

  1. About 1 hour before roasting, remove the roast from the refrigerator so that it can reach room temperature.
  2. About 25 minutes before roasting, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Make slits in the meat with the tip of a small knife. Insert a garlic slice into each slit.
  4. Place the roast in a roasting pan on a roasting rack and sprinkle it with the thyme, salt, and pepper. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
  5. Roast the meat for about 1 hour, or 15 to 18 minutes per pound. Check the temperature of the meat after 50 to 55 minutes. For very rare meat, it should register 125° to 130°F. For medium-rare, roast the meat 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until the temperature is 140°F. For well-done meat, leave the meat in the oven until the thermometer registers 160°F.
  6. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Its temperature will rise about 5° during resting.
  7. Cut the strings that hold the ribs on the roast. Set the ribs aside. Carve the meat into slices and serve. The ribs can be served alongside the meat for anyone who likes them, or you can use them to flavor pan gravy.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: Lobel’s Prime Cuts


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