UC ANR NEWS
If you search the Internet today for stories on obesity, you'll find several stories from the U.K. about recent research that found a link between obesity and asthma, like this one in the Daily Mail. Coincidentally, one of the stories in the July-September 2007 issue of UC ANR's California Agriculture journal also addresses the link.
The U.K. researchers examined immune system cells known to be responsible for the lung inflammation behind many of the symptoms of asthma, according to the Daily Mail. The study showed that these cells also make a protein which can "trick" the brain into transferring hunger messages to the body.
The story in California Agriculture, by Alexandra Kazaks and Judith Stern of UC Davis, compared people with asthma to healthy controls and showed that total body magnesium stores decreased with increasing weight.
"Among the dietary variables associated with an increased risk of asthma is the low consumption of vegetables, milk and minerals, including magnesium," the article says.
Perhaps not coincidentally, dietary sources of magnesium are similar to the foods dieticians commonly recommend for overall good health: whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts.
California Agriculture journal
In yesterday's Fresno Bee, reporter Dennis Pollock opened a story about aging farmers with a vignette of Shigeo Yokota, who at 89 years old and suffering from arthritis still climbs on a tractor to till orchards and vineyards around his home. Yokota's son, Glenn Yokota, is a staff research associate in Kent Daane's lab at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center.
The article says that a fourth of American farmers are 65 or older. Half are 55 or older. The average age of California farmers went from 53.2 years old in 1974 to 56.8 in 2002, the last year the federal government conducted an agricultural census, according to the story.
For his story, Pollack sought comment from UCCE economist Steven Blank.
"They're unable to retire," Blank is quoted "They can't afford it. If the sole source of income is the agricultural operation, and they have no retirement or pension, they reinvest profits to expand or update facilities."
Pollock also talked to Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center. Sumner notes that people in general are living longer and that the agricultural census can be misleading because it includes farmers who are part time and retirees.
"It doesn't mean we're running out of farms," Sumner is quoted in the article. "Some are getting bigger and more multigenerational, to take advantage of scale. Consolidation means a good middle-class living that's attracting talented people."
UC's Blank added that some of those new generations are bringing innovations that will be needed to keep the United States in the game as it competes globally against countries where production costs are considerably lower.
More humid weather and slightly cooler temperatures are helping firefighters get a handle on California fires, according to media reports like this AP story which appeared in yesterday's Los Angeles Times. But concerns about fire prevention, suppression and associated costs won't die out soon.
A recent article in the Trukee Times said Tahoe residents were forewarned about fire danger. The Tahoe blaze was the most damaging in the state so far this year, with about 250 homes destroyed.
The report said the seeds of the fire threat at Lake Tahoe date back to the Comstock era, when miners stripped the Sierra basin of fire-hardy Jeffrey and sugar pines, giving way to a weaker and less fire-resistant species. The reporter, Sevil Omer, went to UC Cooperative Extension natural resources farm advisor Susan Kocher, for comment.
"Fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem, and we have replaced that natural process with fire suppression," Kocher is quoted.
UC ANR issued a news release this week about an online tool kit offered by UC Berkeley to homeowners living in wildland areas. The interactive program helps users assess the risk of wildfire damage to their houses and communities. Among the publications to pick up the story was Yreka's Siskoyou Daily News.
The Amador Ledger Dispatch reported yesterday on a recent meeting in Martell in which the sponsor, the Amador Resource Conservation District, provided grass-fed and conventional beef at lunch for a taste comparison.
The article, by Jennifer Gee, quotes Steve Cannon, director of the Amador Resource Conservation District.
"Some people have this view that grass-fed livestock meat is yellow and the meat isn't tender," Cannon is quoted. "We want to try and dispel some of this."
The article didn't say whether the participants could tell the difference, however, a press release on the ANR News Web site, reports on previous work by UC Cooperative Extension advisors and cooperators at CSU Chico that affirmed that grass-fed beef is healthier.
For the Amador Ledger Dispatch article, Gee also sought comment from UCCE farm advisor Scott Oneto about the RCD workshop. He said ranchers hope that local stores and restaurants will start to take notice of local producers and see the benefits of knowing the origin of their food.
"I think the big thing is there's not only becoming more and more of a demand but an awareness by the public for locally grown agricultural products," Oneto is quoted. "People like to know where their food is coming from."
Cattle eating grass.
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that West Nile virus is off to an early start in 2007 with cases of infected mosquitoes, horses or birds having been found in 26 of California's 58 counties. The newspaper said three Kern County residents are the only known human cases. However, a day later, a story in the Sacramento Bee reported a human case of West Nile infection in Stanislaus County.
The state could be on its way to beating the record for the disease set last year. In 2006, California recorded 276 human West Nile virus infections and seven deaths, according to a news release by Kathy Keatley Garvey of the UC Davis Mosquito Research Program. Fifty-four counties had West Nile virus activity. Fifty-eight horses tested positive for West Nile virus last year, and 24 died or were euthanized.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals by infected mosquitoes. First isolated in 1937 in the West Nile District of Uganda, the virus spread to New York in 1999 and reached California in 2002.
According to an informative Q&A by the Centers for Disease Control, the experience of West Nile virus infection in humans ranges from no symptoms at all to a severe illness that requires hospitalization and can lead to death. Symptoms of West Nile fever mimic the flu, with headache, fatigue, body aches and sometimes a skin rash.
A number of research projects aimed at better understanding and controlling West Nile virus will be presented at the annual UC Davis Mosquito Research Program Grant Proposal Presentation Day July 19 at UC Riverside. For more information see the program's news release, posted July 11 on the UC ANR news site.
A mosquito gets a blood meal.