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Showing posts from March, 2012

Swans, black and white

Here, in UCD, our lake houses 2 swans (He, a Cob and She, a Pen). They are white and often, as I pass them, I think of the philosophy of science, and I will explain the link. How do we know something is true?
That the sun rises in the east is a given. It happens every day since time immemorial and thus we can expect it to do so forever. It is a truth. That the truth is defined as something that can be seen time after time, was challenged by Karl Popper an Austrian philosopher. He argued that the truth was best observed from an opposite viewpoint. We do not attempt to show something to be true by means of endless philosophical machinations but rather we can show something to be false. No matter how often the sun rises in the east, we cannot be certain that, one day it will rise in the southeast or east-southeast and so on. However, if ever the sun rose in the east-southeast we could say for absolute certainty that the sun does not always rise in the east. The usual metaphor is the theo…

The concept of nutritional phenotyping

A little bit of Greek never hurt anybody so lets first look at the term ‘omics’. It is widely used in scientific literature to refer to the new sciences of genomics, which is derived from the term ‘genome’. According to Wikipedia, the term (‘Genom’), coined by a German scientist Professor Hans Winkler of the University of Hamburg in 1920, is from the Greek word ‘I become’. The term ‘ome’ is also of Greek origin and means ‘totality’. From the term genome, came the term genomics, the study of the genome. We then entered the freewheel of ‘omics’ where the study, not just of one protein, but of all proteins measurable within a biological sample, became proteomics. Not to be outdone, those interested in metabolites coined the term ‘metabolomics’ to refer to the science of studying not one but hundreds of metabolites at one time, using pattern recognition technology to seek patterns within the vast amount of data generated. There the matter rested although a proposal for the entry of a new …

Shading the sunshine vitamin

Just a few weeks ago, the nutrition community in Ireland gathered in the small town of Limavady in Northern Ireland to lay to rest one of ours, the late Dr Julie Wallace, an outstanding academic at the University of Ulster. Julie was young and in the prime of her scientific career which centered around vitamin D, the topic of this week’s blog and I will draw on a very recent paper of Julie’s in outlining what vitamin D does and doesn’t do. The main function of vitamin D is to facilitate the absorption of calcium from the gut, and then to facilitate its transport from blood into bone cells where it is used in bone growth. The earliest indication of vitamin D deficiency is rickets in children where their normal bone growth is impaired due to inadequate calcium levels, directly arising from poor vitamin D status. When expert committees sit down every so often to pour over the scientific literature to come up with dietary recommendations that ultimately find their way to your packet of Co…