The Peanut Paradox: A-State researchers shed new light on unique nutrition anomaly - The Herald: News

The Peanut Paradox: A-State researchers shed new light on unique nutrition anomaly

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  • Christina Matei and Dr. Nopo

    Christina Matei, a senior biology and chemistry major from Hot Springs, Ark., pipettes samples with Dr. Nopo to further their research on peanut compounds.

Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2016 10:15 pm

Few outside of the medical field and red wine enthusiasts are familiar with the “French Paradox.” However, a group of Arkansas State STEM students are bringing the phenomenon to light in a new research project.

The term “French Paradox” is commonly used to explain the phenomenon of a small portion of the French population having coronary heart disease or obesity despite the majority of the population indulging in diets typically high in saturated fats.

Fortunately for merlot and cabernet sauvignon lovers, the paradox points to red wine as the answer.

Indeed, red wine can actually help prevent heart disease and obesity. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, this connection was discovered in the late 1980s.

So where do peanuts come into this equation? The answer to that riddle is a group of researchers including Christine Matei, a senior chemistry and biology student from Hot Springs.

Matei is an undergraduate researcher working with Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, associate professor of metabolic engineering at Arkansas Biosciences Institute and Department of Biological Sciences. Matei, along with several other students, spends hours in the labs at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute everyday trying to complete the bridge between peanuts and coronary heart disease and obesity. She’s been working on this project since August.

“My research is focused on characterizing the anti-obesity activity of toxicity of various stilbenoids. An anti-obesity strategy that has been proposed, is the inhibition of the formation of cells that store fat,” Matei said. “There are so many diseases associated with obesity.”

But it’s not the peanuts themselves being studied—it’s the compounds within it. Luis Nopo, a research associate and ABI research technology manager, said one of the compounds found in red wine, resveratrol, is within the same family of another compound found within peanuts. According to LiveScience. com, blueberries also are known to contain resveratrol.

“There is some previous information that those compounds will have some benefits on health,” Nopo said.

More specifically, Matei is testing a group of compounds called arachidics. Not to be confused with arachnids, arachidics are long-chain fatty acids, according to Pub Chem.

“There are other reports these compounds can also be potentially good against cancer. That will be our next step,” Nopo said.

It’s also possible these compounds could help prevent Parkinson’s disease. But this study goes beyond just A-State. The team at ABI is working with several other universities on this study. If they are able prove the compounds have the same benefits as those found in red wine, the study will move on to cell testing and then animal testing.

“We have made progress. We’ve done two MTT assays to determine the toxicity of the compounds we are using in this project, and we are also doing another on Saturday,” Matei said.

An MTT assay is used to determine cell metabolic activity, according to ATCC.org.

While the research may not be completed by the time Matei graduates in the spring, her younger colleagues will continue their research on the peanut paradox.

If their hypothesis is correct, this study could change the way scientists and doctors prevent and treat obesity and the diseases associated with it.

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