Bruce Ames — Nutritional deficiencies and trace synthetic chemicals: Putting health risks into perspective

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Humanities 1, Room 210

Bruce N. Ames (Senior Scientist, Nutrition and Metabolism Center, Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UC Berkeley)

Bruce Ames’ research in nutritional biochemistry has examined exposure to health risks from a number of perspectives. Early in his career he developed the Ames test, an inexpensive method to measure the mutagenic and carcinogenic potential of chemicals which has become an essential tool of contemporary biochemistry. Although it contributed to public fears about synthetic chemicals, the common carcinogenic effects of ‘natural’ chemicals led Dr. Ames to assert that these fears were largely unfounded or exaggerated. More recently, his research has focused on the hidden biochemical costs of vitamin deficiencies, which are widespread even in wealthy nations. His triage theory posits that the human body protects against short term consequences of essential vitamin deficiencies by reducing the production of longevity proteins that are markers of long term health. This discovery led to his lab’s creation of CHORI-Bars, nutritional food bars that provide high densities of essential vitamins and minerals with very few calories. Preliminary research indicates that resolving nutritional deficiencies in this fashion can have positive effects on a wide range of health problems in wealthy and poor economies alike.

In this presentation, Dr. Ames will discuss the triage theory and what it means for the relative risks of competing nutritional strategies. Have food system reformers significantly over-stated the risks of synthetic chemicals to human health? Does the emphasis on reducing synthetic chemicals actually lead to more negative health outcomes, such as cancer, by making fresh fruits and vegetables more expensive? Can highly-engineered foods such as CHORI-Bars provide the least expensive solutions to a wide variety of negative health outcomes?

Posted in Past Events, Uncategorized.