The Science Behind Keeping Food Cold

by Jackie Edwards

1 in 10 people around the world become ill from after eating contaminated food. Chilling and freezing food is essential in preventing bacteria from multiplying on it, which can lead to illnesses, including food poisoning. However, sometimes bacteria can grow quicker than you’d think and by the time it’s chilled it may have already got bacteria growing on it. Research has helped our understanding for the best methods of chilling and freezing food to prevent bacteria growth and food poisoning.

Refrigerate When It’s Hot Or Cold?

It’s a common question whether you should let food cool down to room temperature before putting it in the fridge. Before modern fridges came along it was a good idea to let food cool down because putting hot or warm food in a fridge caused the temperature of it to rise, affecting everything else in the fridge. However, technology has made fridges more powerful and they can now easily handle warm food being put in them without the temperature of the fridge increasing much. Wait for food to stop steaming and when it reaches 60°F it can go in the fridge. This is better for food as it doesn’t give bacteria chance to multiply which is a common cause of food spoilage and poisoning.

Bacteria In Your Ice Cream

It’s an assumption that putting food in the freezer stops bacteria from growing or that it kills bacteria altogether. Most bacteria can’t survive in freezing temperatures, but unfortunately, this is not the case for all bacteria and some thrive in the cold environment. Freezers limit water and food sources, but some bacteria will thrive on frozen sugary foods, dairy and meat products. Ice cream contains a high sugar and dairy content, making it a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. One case in Kansas found at least three different strains of the Listeria bacteria in ice cream that led to five people being hospitalised and three dying. A study in Egypt found 42 out of 100 ice cream samples contained faecal coliform and 37 contained Klebsiella.

Stop Cross Contamination  

If you suspect that your freezer may have had a food in it that had bacteria growing on it then the best thing to do is to throw all food away and thoroughly clean your freezer. This is because the bacteria could have spread further than the originally contaminated food and it has the potential to grow on other foods and the sides of the freezer. You should also store food in containers in the fridge and freezer. This does take up more space, but it will keep food fresh and prevent cross contamination, so it can be beneficial to have a big enough fridge/freezer to adequately store food. This can prevent an outbreak within your fridge or freezer and the containers can be easily cleaned instead of having to throw food away or unknowingly eat contaminated food.

Food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses are often preventable, yet so many people are affected by them every year. A lot of this is down to a lack of knowledge and understanding about safely storing food in the fridge and freezer. As soon as food has stopped steaming, put it in your fridge to prevent bacterial growth. Be aware that bacteria can grow in cold temperatures, so use containers to separate food and prevent bacteria spreading.

The Science Behind The Perfect Cup Of Coffee Explained

by Jackie Edwards

Coffee drinking in the US is at its highest level for 6 years with 64% drinking coffee daily and 79% of those people preparing their daily cup of coffee at home. Scientifically speaking, the perfect cup of coffee has volatile oils and caffeine in abundance but with bitter organic acids kept to a minimum. Here’s how you can use science to influence the quality of your daily cup of coffee.

Beans And Roast

The perfect cup of coffee starts with the beans themselves. Arabica and Robusta are the 2 most popular beans in the coffee market. Robusta contains greater amounts of caffeine as well as chlorogenic acids which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as being linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, Arabica contains larger amounts of Trigonelline, a bitter tasting alkaloid linked to battling cancer cells. As far as roasting is concerned, the strength of the roast produced by the different roast time affects the way the sugars and fats in the coffee degrade and how the sugar and amino acids react with each other affecting how it tastes. Lighter roasts have a cleaner taste and are more acidic with the darker roasts tasting less acidic with a stronger, heavier taste.

Coarseness Of The Bean Grind

The coarseness of the bean grind affects the speed that your coffee is made, which, in turn, affects the taste. The finer the grind the shorter the time needed to make your coffee due to the greater available surface area for extraction. A finer ground also leads to stronger, tastier coffee because more caffeine, oils and organic compounds will be present. Take care though, if the grind is too fine it may end up tasting too bitter.

All About Brewing

How you brew your coffee is as important as the quality of the raw materials themselves. The ideal brew ratio is a subject of much discussion amongst scientists. Too much water and the coffee tastes weak; too much and it is overly strong and unpalatable. There is also evidence to show that the calcium and magnesium ions found in hard water make a more flavorful cup of coffee than if clean distilled water is used. Scientists know that temperature affects solubility and compound extraction and the same applies when you make your cup of coffee. The hotter the water used to make your cup of coffee, the faster organic acids and caffeine are extracted. However, if your coffee boils, your coffee will be bitter and the aroma and flavor evaporate. A temperature of 195°F to 205°F is ideal according to the National Coffee Association.

How you brew your coffee is as important as the quality of the raw materials themselves. The ideal brew ratio is a subject of much discussion amongst scientists. Too much water and the coffee tastes weak; too much and it is overly strong and unpalatable. There is also evidence to show that the calcium and magnesium ions found in hard water make a more flavorful cup of coffee than if clean distilled water is used. Scientists know that temperature affects solubility and compound extraction and the same applies when you make your cup of coffee. The hotter the water used to make your cup of coffee, the faster organic acids and caffeine are extracted. However, if your coffee boils, your coffee will be bitter and the aroma and flavor evaporate. A temperature of 195°F to 205°F is ideal according to the National Coffee Association. 

As in any science experiment, there are many variables to consider when making the perfect cup of coffee and everyone’s tastes differ. The type of beans, roast and grind influence the quality of your morning coffee along with the heat and amount of water used to make your cup of joe.

Researchers Test New Ways to Combat Brain Cancer

by Megan Ray Nichols 

Thanks to researchers testing innovative treatments, brain cancer patients have new hope. Glioblastoma is just one form of brain cancer that may be better treated in the future with one of these new methods. Discover the ways scientists are working to stop the progression of this potentially deadly cancer.

What Is Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme or GBM, is projected to affect 24,000 Americans in 2018. And 17,000 will die from these fast, aggressive tumors, which are the most common tumor-creating brain cancer. This cancer is a grade 4 tumor that may arise from an existing tumor or on its own. Most who develop GBM are older adults, where the disease typically grows in the frontal or temporal lobes. Without treatment, glioblastoma often kills its victims in about 15 months.

Treatment usually requires surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation and chemotherapy are added to ensure the removal of cancerous cells. Sadly, GBM recurs frequently in patients who have undergone treatment. That’s why new treatment options are so exciting for those with GBM and their families.

Virus vs. Cancer

Though you might not think of a virus versus cancer as much of a battle, researchers are discovering that a cold could help cancer patients live longer. Scientists took a common cold virus, called an adenovirus, and modified it to target glioblastoma. The virus attacked the tumor cells as it normally would other cells by taking over the cell and killing it. Viruses also use the cell’s natural reproduction to make copies of themselves. This allows viruses to spread to other cells.

The trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center gave 20 percent of patients three years or more of life where they’d have just months without treatment. Though the tumor came back in these patients, the viral therapy gives a few more years to those with recurrent tumors. To increase this number, additional studies are looking at combining the viral therapy with other treatments.

Space Age Lasers Blasting Glioblastoma

Laser ablation sounds more like a sci-fi weapon than a cancer treatment, but this option is currently showing promise in trials. Using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, and a laser, heat and light eat away at the tumor inside the brain. Unlike brain surgery, this option does not require completely opening the skull, making it much less invasive. Recovery is easier and faster for the patient.

New Drug Treatments

Though chemotherapy is common in GBM treatment, other drugs could be added to the regime. Many trials currently are studying combinations of drugs. Nivolumab and bevacizumab are being tested in a phase 2 clinical trial. The tolerance and effectiveness of changing bevacizumab to a low dose from a standard and combining it with nivolumab is at the core of this study. During phase 2 clinical trials, the researchers want to establish how effective this treatment is against glioblastoma.

Another phase 2 trial looks at creating a triple-method treatment, which would add to the traditional chemotherapy option, temozolomide. This study hopes to increase the length of time before a new tumor appears after treatment by combining the chemotherapy drug with pembrolizumab and TTFields. TTFields, also known as Optune, is an electromagnetic therapy for treating tumors. The control will only receive TTFields and temozolomide, while the experimental group will add pembrolizumab. Researchers will examine the length of time before the cancer progresses in participants.

Clinical Trials and Glioblastoma Treatment

Though it may take a while before the treatments tested in clinical trials today will be available to the public, it gives hope for future patients. Those who currently have GBM may discuss with their doctors the possibility of participating in clinical trials. As an aggressive, fast-acting cancer, new methods of treatment are always sought by researchers who want to lengthen the lives of those diagnosed with these tumors.