New research points to turning point in human diet

Updated 05 June 2013
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New research points to turning point in human diet

Human ancestors in Africa about 3.4 million years ago expanded their diets beyond the leaves and fruits preferred by most primates and began eating grasses and grass-like plants, setting the stage for expanded habitats, according to new research.
The research, by University of Utah geochemist Thure Cerling and an international team of scientists, refutes the previously held belief that those early humans shared the diets of forest-dwelling primates.
The research was published in four studies published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The studies analyzed the tooth enamel of ancestors of humans and great apes to show early man gained a taste for grasses and sedges, grass-like plants with edged stems.
“It was like the opening of a new restaurant and they didn’t have to eat the same old stuff,” Cerling told Reuters on Tuesday.
No longer dependent on forests for their supply of food, the change in diet helped pave the way for early man to explore new habitats, Cerling said.
The question of whether those ancestors were pure herbivores or carnivores remains unanswered.
“That is a mystery still to be unraveled,” Cerling said.
Earlier studies indicate that early man did not scavenge for meat until 2.5 million years ago and did not begin hunting for game until about 500,000 years ago.


Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

Updated 17 April 2018
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Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

  • Previous research has shown a new blood test has potential to detect eight different kinds of tumors before they spread
  • The research starts in April and will run until September

TOKYO: A Japanese firm is poised to carry out what it hailed as the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples, which would greatly facilitate screening for the deadly disease.
Engineering and IT conglomerate Hitachi developed the basic technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples two years ago.
It will now begin testing the method using some 250 urine samples, to see if samples at room temperature are suitable for analysis, Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira told AFP.
“If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organization for a blood test,” he said.
It is also intended to be used to detect paediatric cancers.
“That will be especially beneficial in testing for small children” who are often afraid of needles, added Odaira.
Research published earlier this year demonstrated that a new blood test has shown promise toward detecting eight different kinds of tumors before they spread elsewhere in the body.
Usual diagnostic methods for breast cancer consist of a mammogram followed by a biopsy if a risk is detected.
For colon cancer, screening is generally conducted via a stool test and a colonoscopy for patients at high risk.
The Hitachi technology centers around detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as a “biomarker” — a naturally occurring substance by which a particular disease can be identified, the company said in a statement.
The procedure aims to improve the early detection of cancer, saving lives and reducing the medical and social cost to the country, Odaira explained.
The experiment will start this month until through September in cooperation with Nagoya University in central Japan.
“We aim to put the technology in use in the 2020s, although this depends on various things such as getting approval from the authorities,” Odaira said.