A feasible re-use of an agro-industrial by-product: Hazelnut shells as high-mass bio-aggregate in boards for indoor applications

The present work investigates the feasibility of producing boards, with unconventional materials, namely hazelnut shells as a high-mass bio-aggregate and a sodium silicate solution as a no-toxic adhesive, and discusses possible applications based on an extensive characterization. The aim is to define a feasible reuse of a largely produced agro-industrial by-product to reduce the high environmental impact caused by both the construction and the agriculture sectors, by proposing a building composite that improves indoor comfort. The presented combination of aggregate-adhesive generated a product with characteristics interesting to explore. The thermal conductivity is moderated, and the composite achieved values of σmax = 0.39 N/mm² for flexural strength and σmax = 2.1 N/mm² for compressive strength, but it showed high sorption capacity with a moisture buffering value of about 3.45 g/(m² %RH), and a peak of sound absorption between 700 and 900 Hz. Therefore, the boards' most promising performance parameters seem to be their high hygroscopicity and acoustic absorption behaviour, namely in the frequency range of the human voice. Hence, the proposed composite could improve indoor comfort if applied as an internal coating board.


High-Nut Diet Associated with Large Gains in Life Expectancy

Sustained shift toward a healthier diet can increase lifespan by up to 10 years

A recent study published in Nature Food used prospective population-based cohort data to show the effects on life expectancy of switching from an unhealthy diet to a longevity-associated dietary pattern over the long term.

Using data from the UK Biobank database on 467,354 participants, the researchers estimated the life expectancy gains associated with a sustained change from median or unhealthy dietary patterns to a longevity-associated dietary pattern.

The findings showed that sustained dietary change from unhealthy to longevity-associated dietary patterns was associated with gains in life expectancy of 10.8 and 10.4 years in men and women, respectively. The longevity-associated dietary pattern had a high intake of dairy, vegetables, nuts and legumes; moderate intakes of whole grains, fruit, fish and white meat; a relatively low intake of eggs, red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages; and a low intake of refined grains and processed meat.

The biggest gains in life expectancy were associated with increased intake of whole grains and nuts, and with reduced intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats. The researchers concluded that these food groups should be specific targets for clinicians in the guidance of patients and for policymakers in the development of public health policy.

Fadnes, L. T., Celis-Morales, C., Økland, J. M., Parra-Soto, S., Livingstone, K. M., Ho, F. K., Pell, J. P., Balakrishna, R., Javadi Arjmand, E., Johansson, K. A., Haaland, Ø. A., & Mathers, J. C. (2023). Life expectancy can increase by up to 10 years following sustained shifts towards healthier diets in the United Kingdom. Nature Food, 4(11), 961–965.

Walnut-Enriched Diet Changes Serum Oxylipin Profile in Healthy Older Adults

Oxylipins play a role in cardiovascular disease and aging

A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition investigated the long-term effects of walnut consumption on the generation and metabolism of serum oxylipins, which play a role in cardiovascular disease and aging.

Oxylipins are derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Walnuts are a source of α-linolenic acid, the primary plant-derived omega-3 PUFA.

This was a substudy of the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study, a dual-center, single-blind, randomized controlled trial. A total of 115 participants aged 63 to 79 years were randomly assigned to receive either a diet enriched with walnuts at ≈15% energy (30–60 grams/day) or a control diet (abstention from walnuts) over a period of two years.

Serum concentrations of 53 oxylipins were measured in all participants at baseline and post-intervention. Two-year concentration changes were calculated and group differences were assessed for age, sex, body mass index and baseline concentration of each oxylipin.

The study found that, compared to the walnut-free diet, supplementation with walnuts at ≈15% energy increased the serum concentrations of most examined oxylipins derived from α-linolenic acid. These findings add novel mechanistic evidence on the cardioprotective effects of walnuts.

This study was supported by a grant from the California Walnut Commission.

Cofán, M., Checa, A., Serra-Mir, M., Roth, I., Valls-Pedret, C., Lopez-Illamola, A., Doménech, M., Rajaram, S., Lázaro, I., Sabaté, J., Ros, E., Wheelock, C. E., & Sala-Vila, A. (2023). A Walnut-Enriched Diet for 2 Years Changes the Serum Oxylipin Profile in Healthy Older Persons. The Journal of Nutrition, S0022-3166(23)72794-6. Advance online publication.


Prune Supplementation May Mitigate Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women

Eating prunes improved immune, inflammatory and oxidative stress markers

A study published in The Journal of Nutrition sheds new light on the effect of prune consumption on bone loss in postmenopausal women. Specifically, given that an elevated inflammatory profile may be linked to accelerated postmenopausal bone loss, the researchers investigated the impact of prune supplementation on immune, inflammatory and oxidative stress markers.

This was an ancillary study of a larger 12-month randomized controlled trial called the Prune Study. A total of 183 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 75 years completed the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a “no-prune” control group, a group that ate 50 grams of prunes per day, and a group that ate 100 grams of prunes per day. Blood samples were collected at baseline and after 12 months of intervention.

The researchers found that dietary supplementation with 50-100 grams of prunes daily for 12 months reduced proinflammatory cytokine secretion from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and suppressed the circulating levels of activated monocytes. These findings suggest that eating prunes may have a role to play in reducing the effects of bone loss in postmenopausal women.

This study was supported by the California Prune Board.

Damani, J. J., Oh, E. S., De Souza, M. J., Strock, N. C., Williams, N. I., Nakatsu, C. H., Lee, H., Weaver, C., & Rogers, C. J. (2023). Prune Consumption Attenuates Proinflammatory Cytokine Secretion and Alters Monocyte Activation in Postmenopausal Women: Secondary Outcome Analysis of a 12-Mo Randomized Controlled Trial: The Prune Study. The Journal of Nutrition, S0022-3166(23)72732-6. Advance online publication.


Desensitization and remission after peanut sublingual immunotherapy in 1- to 4-year-old peanut-allergic children: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial

Background: Prior studies of peanut sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) have suggested a potential advantage with younger age at treatment initiation. Objective: We studied the safety and efficacy of SLIT for peanut allergy in 1- to 4-year-old children. Methods: Peanut-allergic 1- to 4-year-old children were randomized to receive 4 mg peanut SLIT versus placebo. Desensitization was assessed by double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC) after 36 months of treatment. Participants desensitized to at least 443 mg peanut protein discontinued therapy for 3 months and then underwent DBPCFC to assess for remission. Biomarkers were measured at baseline and longitudinally during treatment. Results: Fifty participants (25 peanut SLIT, 25 placebo) with a median age of 2.4 years were enrolled across 2 sites. The primary end point of desensitization was met with actively treated versus placebo participants having a significantly greater median cumulative tolerated dose (4443 mg vs 143 mg), higher likelihood of passing the month 36 DBPCFC (60% vs 0), and higher likelihood of demonstrating remission (48% vs 0). The highest rate of desensitization and remission was seen in 1- to 2-year-olds, followed by 2- to 3-year-olds and 3- to 4-year-olds. Longitudinal changes in peanut skin prick testing, peanut-specific IgG4, and peanut-specific IgG4/IgE ratio were seen in peanut SLIT but not placebo participants. Oropharyngeal itching was more commonly reported by peanut SLIT than placebo participants. Skin, gastrointestinal, upper respiratory, lower respiratory, and multisystem adverse events were similar between treatment groups. Conclusion: Peanut SLIT safely induces desensitization and remission in 1- to 4-year-old children, with improved outcomes seen with younger age at initiation.

Shipping Disruptions Continue in Red Sea

Commercial vessels transiting the region remain under threat

Disruptions in one of the world’s most critical shipping lanes continued this week as Houthi rebels defiantly continued their attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea despite strikes by US-led forces against targets in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen.

The latest alert issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration states: “There continues to be a high degree of risk to commercial vessels transiting the Southern Red Sea between 12N and 16N. While the decision to transit remains at the discretion of individual vessels and companies, it is recommended that U.S. flag and U.S. owned commercial vessels remain North of 18N in the Red Sea or East of 46E in the Gulf of Aden until further notice.”

A growing number of shipping companies have stopped using the Red Sea passage amid the escalating situation. As of January 17, the logistics company Kuehne+Nagel had identified 334 vessels impacted by the Red Sea situation, representing an estimated total capacity of 4.42 million TEU. The global shipping news service TradeWinds reported that Red Sea war risk insurance rates could soon exceed 1% of hull value, up from about 0.5% prior to this week’s Houthi attacks.

Breakthrough curve analysis of phosphorylated hazelnut shell waste in column operation for continuous harvesting of lithium from water

In batch-scale operations, biosorption employing phosphorylated hazelnut shell waste (FHS) revealed excellent lithium removal and recovery efficiency. Scaling up and implementing packed bed column systems necessitates further design and performance optimization. Lithium biosorption via FHS was investigated utilizing a continuous-flow packed-bed column operated under various flow rates and bed heights to remove Li to ultra-low levels and recover it. The Li biosorption capacity of the FHS column was unaffected by the bed height, however, when the flow rate was increased, the capacity of the FHS column decreased. The breakthrough time, exhaustion time, and uptake capacity of the column bed increased with increasing column bed height, whereas they decreased with increasing influent flow rate. At flow rates of 0.25, 0.5, and 1.0 mL/min, bed volumes (BVs, mL solution/mL biosorbent) at the breakthrough point were found to be 477, 369, and 347, respectively, with the required BVs for total saturation point of 941, 911, and 829, while the total capacity was calculated as 22.29, 20.07, and 17.69 mg Li/g sorbent. In the 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 cm height columns filled with FHS, the breakthrough times were 282, 366, and 433 min, respectively, whereas the periods required for saturation were 781, 897, and 1033 min. The three conventional breakthrough models of the Thomas, Yoon-Nelson, and Modified Dose-Response (MDR) were used to properly estimate the whole breakthrough behavior of the FHS column and the characteristic model parameters. Li's extremely favorable separation utilizing FHS was evidenced by the steep S-shape of the breakthrough curves for both parameters flow rate and bed height. The reusability of FHS was demonstrated by operating the packed bed column in multi-cycle mode, with no appreciable loss in column performance. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chroma.2023.464510

Effects of walnut seed coat polyphenols on walnut protein hydrolysates: Structural alterations, hydrolysis efficiency, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory capacity

The walnut meal is rich in nutrients such as protein from the kernel and polyphenolic compounds from the seed coat. However, the influences of seed coat polyphenols on walnut protein (WP) hydrolysis remained unclear. In this study, our findings indicated that polyphenols induced alterations in the secondary structure and amino acid composition of WP. These changes resulted in both a hindrance of hydrolysis and an enhancement of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. Furthermore, four peptides of 119 identified peptides (LR, SF, FQ, and FR) were synthesized based on higher predicted bioactivity and Vinascores in silico. Among them, FQ showed interaction with amino acid residues in AChE through the formation of four π-π stacking bonds and two hydrogen bonds, resulting in the highest AChE inhibitory capacity. The combination index showed that chlorogenic acid derived from the seed coat and FQ at the molar ratio of 1:4 exhibited synergistic effects of AChE inhibition. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2023.137905

Effects of Supplementary Pollination on Macadamia Nut Set, Retention and Yield in Murang’a County, Kenya

Macadamia is a promising prime dessert nut with the potential of alleviating poverty and enhancing food security in Kenya. Nut set and subsequent development of nuts to maturity is dependent on pollination which is mediated by animals, and honey bees are the dominant macadamia flower visitors. However, macadamia is pollen deficit as not all flowers set develop to mature nuts, thus supplemental pollination results to better nut yields. There is limited information in Kenya among the smallholder macadamia growers on the importance of supplementing pollination to enhance nut yields. This study was conducted at Kandara Macadamia Research Centre and in a smallholder macadamia farm located 15 km from the research centre, which was purposively selected from July 2021 to May 2023. Assessment of the influence of pollinators and supplementing pollination to nut set, retention and final yields was done. Honey bee, (Apis mellifera L.) colonies were also introduced at the Macadamia Research Centre to enhance pollination and mitigate deficits. Racemes were bagged to exclude pollinators, others left open to unlimited pollinator access while others received supplemental hand pollination. The results demonstrate that macadamia is pollen limited and pollination is highly reliant on insect pollinators. There were significant differences (p < 0.001) among the bagged (pollinator exclusion), open and hand pollinated racemes in both farms. The initial nut set and retention was increased significantly (21.54%) in hand pollinated racemes compared to those that were left to open pollination (unlimited pollinator visits) depicting pollination deficit in farm B. Introduction of supplementary honey bee colonies at the Kandara Macadamia Research Centre, resulted to higher nut set, retention, nut-in-shell and kernels. Macadamia growers are encouraged to introduce honey bee colonies in their farms to improve yields and also address pollination deficits. https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v16n1p63

Losing ground: projections of climate-driven bloom shifts and their implications for the future of California's almond orchards

Climate change is expected to impact the spring phenology of perennial trees, potentially altering the suitability of land for their cultivation. In this study, we investigate the effects of climate change on the bloom timing of almond orchards, focusing on California, the world's leading region for almond production. By analyzing historical climatic data, employing a model that considers hourly temperatures and fall non-structural carbohydrates to predict bloom dates, and examining various Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) scenarios, we assess the potential impacts of climate shifts on plant phenology and, consequently, on land suitability for almond farming. Our findings reveal that, within the next 30 years, the land suitable for almond production will not undergo significant changes. However, under unchanged emission scenarios, the available land to support almond orchard farming could decline between 48 to 73% by the end of the century. This reduction corresponds with an early shift in bloom time from the average Day of Year (DOY) 64 observed over the past 40 years to a projected earlier bloom between DOY 28-33 by 2100. These results emphasize the critical role climate shifts have in shaping future land use strategies for almond production in Central Valley, California. Consequently, understanding and addressing these factors is essential for the sustainable management and preservation of agricultural land, ensuring long-term food security and economic stability in the face of a rapidly changing climate. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-50688-y