Weekly News Bites: A backyard discovery, turmeric for indigestion, and friendly bacteria in breastmilk

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are a previously unrecorded species of ant found in someone’s backyard, comparing traditional medicine to drugs for indigestion, and how breastfeeding can help babies develop a healthy gut.

By looking at their backyard, an internet personality found a species of ant never recorded in the Philippines. This ant has a “unique red and black bumpy body” which sparked the interest of the ant enthusiast. The finding was confirmed by the University of the Philippines Los Baños and although this ant is new to the Philippines, it lives in neighboring countries and might be expanding its habitat.

Weightloss is difficult as restrictive diets can be hard to maintain, leaving people hungry or feeling pressured by the constraints of what they can and cannot eat. The brain has a major role to play in appetite and even how fat is “burned off”. The Institute for Basic Science in South Korea found an area in the brain that could be targeted to stop weight gain while maintaining a normal appetite. By supressing a certain gene in brain cells in mice, the team found that the mice continued to lose weight even while eating the same amount.

Turmeric has been used in traditional medicine to treat or prevent a variety of ailments.  A study by Chulalongkorn University has shown that it can be comparable to medication when treating indigestion. The researchers studied people suffering from dyspepsia and found no significant difference when comparing a common drug treatment with turmeric.  

Breastfeeding has multiple benefits for both mother and baby, helping with bonding and providing the baby with nutrients and antibodies. Yili Maternal and Infant Nutrition Institute and Tsinghua University have also found friendly bacteria in breastmilk that help babies’ gut microbiomes. The researchers looked at the composition of breastmilk and the babies’ stool samples and found beneficial bacteria such as C. butyricum and P. distasonis which contribute to a healthy gut.