Ketogenic diet and health. Research by Dr. Natalia Drabińska

The increased popularity of the ketogenic diet is not followed by scientific knowledge on the safety of its use, points out Dr Natalia Drabińska from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn, who studies the effects of the ketogenic diet on metabolism, inflammation, selected nutritional parameters and oxidative stress in overweight and obese women.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet that involves putting the body into a state of ketosis. – It is quite a demanding diet, but one that gives quick results and allows you to lose unwanted kilograms in a short period of time. This is why it has become so popular in recent years – emphasises Dr Natalia Drabińska from the Department of Chemistry and Biodynamics of Food at the IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.

However, this does not mean that the ketogenic diet is scientifically well understood; there is still a lot of information published on the internet about the effects of this diet on the human body that is not supported by scientific research. – Although the available scientific literature indicates that the use of the ketogenic diet may be beneficial in reducing body weight, comprehensive studies guaranteeing the safety of its use are not available – she adds.

Seeking to fill this gap, the researcher, as part of an NCN-funded project, is investigating how the ketogenic diet affects metabolism, inflammation, selected nutritional parameters and oxidative stress in overweight and obese women.

The first correlation studied is the effect of the ketogenic diet on metabolism, i.e. the total biochemical processes in the body that process the energy of nutrients from food.

The next step will be to investigate the effect of the ketogenic diet on inflammation – whether and how it can reduce it.

In the effects of the ketogenic diet on selected nutritional parameters, the researcher will examine the levels of fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamins A, D, E and K; determine the amino acid profile and the fatty acid profile.

The effect of the ketogenic diet on oxidative stress, on the other hand, will be determined by the level of antioxidant activity – what from the diet increases it and how the body responds to it; the level of enzymes involved in neutralising free radicals; and the level of lipid and nucleic acid peroxidation products. – My previous animal research showed that the ketogenic diet, even in a fairly extreme form, did not induce oxidative stress, and in fact lowered it – says the researcher.

– We have now carried out most of the research and have begun to analyse the results. Thanks to them, we will be able to answer questions asked by many people struggling with obesity and overweight, wondering whether the ketogenic diet is a safe and effective way to lose extra kilograms – emphasises Natalia Drabińska.

The cohort included 80 women (72 completed) – healthy, slightly overweight (with a BMI of 25.5-35), with an average age of 35-40 years; they were volunteers from Olsztyn and the surrounding area. For 8 weeks, women received daily balanced meals, provided by a diet catering service, and attended regular check-ups. – All the ladies are satisfied with the results of this diet, as they have shed a total of 380 kg! – indicated the researcher, who also went on a diet.


The ketogenic diet involves balancing meals in such way that the main part of the calories comes from fats and the consumption of carbohydrates is maximally limited. Interestingly, the ketogenic diet was originally used to treat patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.

After four to six weeks of adaptation to such a diet, a state of ketosis occurs in the body, i.e. the body 'switches’ so that it derives energy from ketone bodies (i.e. fat accumulated in the tissues) and not – as before – from sugars (glucose).

– Before this happens, however, you need patience and determination, because the ketogenic diet can make you feel worse in the first few weeks. This is because when your body runs out of glucose and is not yet able to use ketone bodies, you will lose strength and may experience flu-like symptoms. This is when it is especially important to remember to drink plenty of water and to keep an eye on electrolyte levels. As a start, I also recommend supplementation with MCT oil – this is an oil containing medium chain acids that go directly to the liver (without passing through the pancreas) and are converted into ketone bodies there, says the researcher.

The scientist reminds us that in following any diet, it is important to proceed with caution and awareness. – In some situations, it is necessary to consult a doctor, as a high-fat diet should not be followed by people with kidney or liver problems, for example. We must remember that it is a diet based mainly on fat, which is metabolised by the liver. Therefore, loading it with a high-fat diet in people who are ill can be dangerous to their health. It is therefore worth doing a liver panel (ALT, AST, GGTP) before starting the diet, as well as checking kidney parameters such as uric acid, the level of which increases especially at the beginning of a ketogenic diet – she points out.

The ketogenic diet is an elimination diet, so it is important to ensure that it is varied and balanced. – The ketogenic diet is not about meat dripping with fat, but, above all, about healthy fat from, for example, eggs, avocados, nuts, olive oil or selected fruit and vegetables,” emphasises Natalia Drabińska.

As the researcher points out, according to current scientific knowledge, there are no contraindications to prolonged/longed use of the ketogenic diet.

Dr Natalia Drabińska’s research is being conducted as part of a project entitled 'KETO-MINOX: Effects of an isocaloric, reducing ketogenic diet on metabolism, inflammation, selected nutritional parameters and oxidative stress in overweight and obese women’, funded by the National Science Centre (NCN). The project will last until 2025.

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15 September – 'Packaging Day’

All you want to know about food packaging.

What the symbols on packaging mean, whether food packaging needs to be washed before throwing it away to make it recyclable and whether fresh fruit and vegetables need to be packaged – the answers to these questions are not obvious to consumers.

The European education campaign for responsible handling of food packaging, in which the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn participates, comes to help.

The EIT Food project 'InformPack’ is an international initiative of scientific and expert institutions from Denmark, the UK, Poland, Finland and Spain.

– The premise of the project is to investigate consumer behaviour, knowledge and attitudes towards food packaging. In the survey, we asked consumers, among other things, whether they pay attention to the material from which the packaging is made when buying food, whether they are able to resign from buying a product because of an excessive amount of plastic in the packaging or whether they find it difficult to segregate used packaging. On this basis, we develop educational materials to encourage consumers to behave responsibly with food packaging, both at home and outside – says Iwona Kieda of IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.

Analysis of the results so far has identified three key themes that consumers find most troubling and difficult. These are: lack of understanding of packaging symbols, misunderstandings about the need to clean food packaging before discarding and further recycling, over-packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables and handling of multi-material packaging.

On this basis, experts and researchers from the institutions involved in the project created educational campaigns with material in the form of infographics and animated videos.

Among other things, the materials provide information on whether food packaging should be washed, why manufacturers package fresh fruit and vegetables, what to do with multi-material juice packaging, where to dispose of bread packaging, what the triangles on packaging mean, which plastic packaging is most often recycled and the difference between compostable and biodegradable packaging

Materials on bioplastics and a campaign specifically aimed at children on good practice in the context of handling food packaging will also soon be available.

InformPack Infographics ca be found here.

InformPack Videos can be found here.

The InformPack project has also created a quiz (in adult and children’s versions) to test your knowledge. The quiz is available here.

Currently, project partners are disseminating the developed information on the Internet or in workshops in schools. In the process, they are measuring long-term changes in consumer behaviour.

– Next year, we plan to conduct consumer research in France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Finland. In addition, in the coming months, we will continue to work on new materials, and we will also continue to hold workshops for schoolchildren and organise educational activities during science popularisation events in Poland – announces Dr Joanna Fotschki of IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.

EIT Food InformPack

The EIT Food InformPack project is an international initiative of scientific institutions from the University of Aarhus (Denmark), the University of Reading (UK), the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland), the VTT research network (Finland), manufacturers: Bioazul (Spain) and Maspex Group (Poland), and the Spanish supermarket chain Eroski.

The aim of the project’s activities is first and foremost to change consumer behaviour so that they deal with food packaging in a responsible and sustainable manner. It is also important to involve and raise awareness among food producers themselves, as well as local authorities, who are responsible, among other things, for the availability of recycling bins in the streets.

InformPack is funded by the EIT Food, the Knowledge and Innovation Community for Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, under the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation.

For more information and free materials, visit:

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Structures around skeletal muscle linked to insulin resistance

The early stage of insulin resistance development is associated with the structures surrounding the skeletal muscles – show scientists from the Department of Prophylaxis of Metabolic Diseases at IARFR PAS.

The results of their research may be a step towards the search for a new drug for diseases associated with insulin resistance, which would have a targeted effect. 

Insulin resistance is the reduced sensitivity of tissues to insulin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels). Its development can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and many other diseases.

The most important tissue related to the action of insulin are skeletal muscles, which are responsible for about 80-85% of insulin-dependent glucose uptake. These tissues, along with the structures surrounding them, were examined by scientists from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn (their review paper on this subject can be read here).

– Our research shows that the extracellular matrix of skeletal muscle may be important in the development of insulin resistance – it is a kind of mixture produced by cells filling the free spaces between them. It includes e.g. integrins, i.e. protein receptors that transmit information between the external environment and the inside of cells. We have shown that they can be involved in the modulation of insulin action even at the early stages of insulin resistance development – explains Róża Aleksandrowicz, technologist from the Department of Prophylaxis of Metabolic Diseases IARFR PAS.

The results of research conducted together with Prof. Marek Strączkowski and Dr. Magdalena Stefanowicz, have just been published in the „Endocrine Journal” .

As the researcher explains, the role of factors related to the extracellular matrix in the development of insulin resistance is still not fully understood.

– The obtained results are the basis for further research on the role of integrins, which can help in better understanding the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, and in the future can be used to search for new drugs targeted specifically at the action of these integrins – points out Róża Aleksandrowicz.

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Let’s educate and inspire YOUNG PEOPLE about how food is made

„By educating the next generation about food, we can also engage them with the benefits and opportunities of working in our food industry. This is becoming increasingly important as many parts of the industry are experiencing a shortage of labour” – says Laura Elphick Ecosystem Manager for EIT Food and part of the EIT Food Educators programme  on the pages of „Baking Europe’s” magazine. 

The EIT Food Educators programme is inspiring children to learn about healthy and sustainable food production and consumption. Resources have been created for teachers to use in the classroom, including lesson plans.

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Raspberries help protect the liver

Raspberries contain high levels of antioxidants, which help protect the human body against many diseases, including cancer. Research by Bartosz Fotschki, PhD, from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn, has shown that in order to boost the pro-health effect of antioxidants from raspberries, combining them with prebiotics is recommended.

– Appropriate stimulation of intestinal bacteria, through prebiotic supplementation, increases the efficiency of the breakdown of raspberry polyphenols into chemical compounds with greater pro-health potential, e.g. with a beneficial effect on fat metabolism in the liver – emphasises study author Bartosz Fotschki, PhD, from the Department of Biological Function of Food of the IARFR PAS in Olsztyn.


Raspberries are one of the most popular fruit. They owe their success not only to their sweet, juicy taste, but also to their well-known pro-health properties.

As Bartosz Fotschki reminds us, these fruits are a rich source of bioactive compounds with strong pro-health potential, e.g. characterised by a high content of antioxidants, mainly phenolic compounds, e.g. cyanidins, anthocyanins, elagotannins and phenolic acids. Antioxidants are natural substances that can help protect the human body against the development of many diet-related diseases.

– In addition to their strong antioxidant properties, the polyphenolic compounds found in raspberries also exhibit other beneficial biological activities, including regulating inflammation, lipid metabolism, bile acid synthesis in the liver and the activity of the microbiota in the gastrointestinal tract – indicates the scientist, who is involved in exploring the pro-health properties of biologically active compounds towards the prevention and alleviation of diet-induced metabolic disorders (e.g. obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).


The pro-health effects of raspberries can be further enhanced, which is why Bartosz Fotschki examined how to influence the gastrointestinal bacteria to do more intensive 'work’ in breaking down the polyphenols from raspberries.

In his research, the scientist relied on the combination of a raspberry polyphenol preparation with the prebiotic effect of fructooligosaccharides (these are fibre products that support the growth of probiotic bacteria, which are essential for proper intestinal function).

– The results of the study confirmed an enhancement in the efficiency of metabolising polyphenols to chemical compounds with greater pro-health potential. The mechanism of action of this mixture combines an increase in the number of bacteria showing the ability to metabolise polyphenols in the gastrointestinal tract with an increased concentration of metabolites that reach the liver and regulate mechanisms related to lipid metabolism, oxidative stress and inflammation – the scientist points out.

The results of the research have been published in one of the leading journals in the discipline of food technology and nutrition: Food Research International.

In other words – by combining the consumption of raspberries with a prebiotic supplement, we boost the pro-health effects of the fruit, and this has a beneficial effect on liver metabolism, among other things.

– Further human studies are still needed, but the combination of polyphenols found in various products (e.g. juice, mousse, freeze-dried) with fructooligosaccharides could be a valuable dietary supplement to support health prevention and could already appear in many products with pro-health potential – concludes Dr. Fotschki.

The study was carried out as part of the project 'Raspberry polyphenols and their metabolites as regulatory factors in the mechanisms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease’ (UMO-2018/31/D/NZ9/02196), funded by the National Science Centre.

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Scientists investigate mechanism of long-term fetal cytomegalovirus infection

Scientists at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn are investigating the mechanism of long-term infection of the fetus with cytomegalovirus. The virus is usually harmless for healthy people. The problem arises in immunocompromised patients and pregnant women, as it crosses the placenta and can cause serious congenital diseases.

– We are investigating the molecular basis for establishing long-term cytomegalovirus infection in neural cells. We hope to find out the factors responsible for the persistence of the virus in neural cells, and thus identify the causes of the observed damage to the nervous system associated with cytomegalovirus-induced congenital disease – emphasises Dr Magdalena Weidner-Glunde, leader of the research project and head of the Molecular Microbiology and Virology Laboratory of the IARFR PAS in Olsztyn.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is very common, with more than 80 % of the Polish population infected. The primary infection in healthy people is usually asymptomatic or shows the symptoms of a slight cold, but in immunocompromised patients, e.g. after transplantation (when immunity is deliberately lowered to prevent transplant rejection) or those with AIDS, it can cause serious illness.

– HCMV is also a cause of congenital disease, as the virus is able to pass from the bloodstream of the infected mother through the placenta to the fetus. The disease resulting from congenital cytomegalovirus infection is associated with infection of the central nervous system and consequent sensory-nervous damage. Symptoms associated with HCMV congenital disease can include hearing loss, visual impairment or even intellectual disability, explains the researcher.

The herpesviruses (such as herpes virus and chickenpox virus), once they enter our body, remain in our body for the rest of our lives. The response of our immune system to their presence – i.e.  antibodies – can be detected by laboratory blood tests. They also allow us to determine whether a person has an active or latent infection.

In fact, the life cycle of herpesviruses comprises two phases: a latent (dormant) phase, from which the virus occasionally 'wakes up’ to enter the active (lytic) phase. – In the lytic phase, the virus actively multiplies by producing a large number of new viral particles. In contrast, in latency, viral protein synthesis is reduced to a minimum and there is no production of new viral particles, which prevents our immune system from effectively detecting the infection – explains Magdalena Weidner-Glunde.

HCMV has a circular genome (episome) that, during latent infection, has the ability to attach to host chromosomes and thus ensure the persistence of infection. – In other herpesviruses, it is known which protein is responsible for this binding of the viral genome to chromosomes. In the case of cytomegalovirus, we do not yet know this. In our research, we are investigating whether the viral protein IE1 is involved in the binding of the genome to the chromosomes and thus – determines the survival of the virus. Analysing the function of this protein will allow us to learn and understand how it is possible for the cytomegalovirus genome to survive in the cell for such a long time – points out Magdalena Weidner-Glunde.


Cytomegalovirus particles have different properties in terms of infection and multiplication in different cell types. So far, cytomegalovirus has been studied in its latent phase mainly in haematopoietic stem cells (from which, for example, red blood cells can arise). Recently, it has been shown that long-term HCMV infection can also take place in neural precursor cells (from which, for example, neurons are later formed). Long-term infection in these cells may be responsible for the sensory-neural damage that is symptomatic of HCMV-induced congenital disease.

Scientists from Olsztyn are also looking into comparing the mechanism of long-term virus infection in the two cell types in order to understand the differences and how cytomegalovirus disrupts the functioning of different cell types.

– For the active phase of virus infection, drugs are given to inhibit viral replication. However, there are still no drugs for the latent phase to help simply get rid of it. The results of our study will therefore be able to contribute not only to the understanding of the pathogenesis of congenital cytomegalovirus infections, but also to help develop new therapies – concludes the scientist. The research – led by Magdalena Weidner-Glunde, PhD – is being conducted as part of a project entitled “Exploring mechanisms of congenital human cytomegalovirus infection: replication, spread and latency establishment”, funded by more than PLN 3 million from the National Science Centre. The project is expected to end in May 2024.

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Improving bakery products for IBS patients

Up to one in five people may suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms can be mitigated through a diet that eliminates certain compounds found in food. A scientist from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn proposes methods for making bakery products in such a way that they retain their nutritional value while being tolerated by people suffering from this digestive disorder.

– The healthiest bakery products recommended by nutritionists are often the least beneficial for people with irritable bowel syndrome. An example is whole-grain rye bread, rich in dietary fiber, which, however, is not recommended for people with the disorder. Fortunately, nowadays, thanks to acquired knowledge and appropriate technological processes, it is possible to produce nutritionally valuable bread that will not exacerbate gastrointestinal symptoms in people with this disease,” emphasizes Dr. Marianna Raczyk of the Nutrigenomics Scientific Group at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn.

The conclusions are presented in a review article outlining the world’s most current reports on the subject, which appeared in “Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition”. The authors are Dr. Marianna Raczyk and Dr. Marcus Schmidt of the Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food at the Department of Safety and Quality of Cereals in Germany.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders for which a proper diet is crucial. Among other things, a group of carbohydrates called FODMAP – fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols – are responsible for exacerbating the symptoms of this chronic disease. This is a group of fermentable sugars and alcohols that the body is unable to break down and absorb in the small and large intestines. These are the ones that produce gases, causing, among other things, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and other discomforts in people with IBS.

One of the main sources of FODMAPs in the diet includes bakery products, particularly whole-grain bread. – Cereals high in fructans, such as wheat, barley and rye, should be significantly reduced in a low FODMAP diet, hence it is difficult to choose the right bread for IBS patients – says Marianna Raczyk.

People with IBS are thus faced with the question: whether to eat whole-grain bread and thereby worsen their well-being, or choose light bread, which, however, is less nutritious.

– In order to improve the quality of life for IBS patients, it is therefore necessary to provide alternative products low in FODMAPs while maintaining nutritional values, the scientist points out, adding that it is not possible to completely eliminate FODMAP compounds from food, but they can be limited to so-called minimum threshold values


The authors of the publication focused on bakery products. Collecting the most up-to-date world reports on the subject, they propose the following methods to reduce the FODMAP content in products: the use of yeast fermentation and fermentation with lactic acid bacteria, appropriate selection of raw materials, suitably modified dough fermentation process or the use of additional enzymes or microorganisms that eliminate unfavourable compounds.

– These technologies are mostly known to bakery product manufacturers, but it is necessary to improve them and use them in a controlled manner to preserve the maximum amount of nutritional value, the researcher points out.

You can also control the FODMAP content yourself – in the production of home baked goods by choosing the right raw materials and the right dough kneading or fermentation process. For details, see the article


The range of low-FODMAP foods on the food market is expanding. – Manufacturers are working all the time to improve and expand them, as there is growing interest by consumers themselves but also by catering companies offering boxed diets just for people with IBS – the researcher says.

Today, these products are slightly more expensive than the conventional ones. – However, I would compare this to gluten-free products – just a few decades ago they were a novelty, and today they are very popular and often at a price comparable to conventional ones. I suppose it will be similar with low FODMAP products – the scientist concludes. – Irritable bowel syndrome affects about 10-20 percent of the population. The number of people diagnosed with the condition is growing every year. Patients with IBS need the support of dietitians to work off the right diet for them, so it is estimated that the demand for low FODMAP products will increase – Marianna Raczyk summarizes.

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Scientists discovered a new mechanism supporting the function of corpus luteum in pregnancy

The corpus luteum plays an extremely important role in early pregnancy by secreting progesterone – an essential hormone needed for proper pregnancy development. Scientists at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn have discovered that this gland also secretes a protein called prokineticin 1, which increases the viability and stimulates the functions of the corpus luteum, and thus – benefits the development of early pregnancy.

– We hope that in the future, on the basis of the results of these studies, it will be possible to develop therapies that will support the development of a normal pregnancy in humans,” stresses Dr. Agnieszka Wacławik from the Department of Hormonal Action Mechanisms of the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research PAS.

Her team’s findings have just been published in „Scientific Reports„, a journal published by „Nature.”

The research team members are Dr. Agnieszka Wacławik, Professor of the Polish Academy of Sciences; Monika Baryła, PhD student (the results are an important part of her doctoral thesis); Dr. Ewelina Goryszewska-Szczurek and Dr. Piotr Kaczyński.


The corpus luteum is a temporary endocrine gland in the ovary. It synthesizes and secretes progesterone, which is necessary for the proper establishment of pregnancy, that is, for the implantation of the embryo in the uterus and the development of the placenta. The activity of the corpus luteum depends on the fate of the egg cell released in the process of ovulation – if the egg cell is not fertilized or the development of the fertilized cell is inhibited, the corpus luteum atrophies. The development of blood vessels during the formation and function of the corpus luteum is one of the most intense compared to other organs.

Disruption of corpus luteum function, both during the reproductive cycle and during pregnancy, carries a high risk of fertility disorders. However, the mechanisms regulating the function of this gland are not yet fully understood. Attempts to explain them are being made by the team of Dr. Agnieszka Wacławik.


In earlier studies, scientists from Olsztyn focused on a certain protein called prokineticin 1, demonstrating its important role in processes related to the establishment of pregnancy, primarily the development of blood vessels in the endometrium, as well as the development of the embryo and placenta in the pig (for ethical reasons, studies cannot be conducted on tissues from the female ovary during physiological changes in the sexual cycle or pregnancy, and certain mechanisms are universal to mammals).

Now scientists have shown that prokineticin 1 is present in the porcine corpus luteum and regulates the processes involved in the development of the corpus luteum and its function (both during the reproductive cycle and during pregnancy).

– We showed that prokineticin 1 and its receptors are mainly found in luteal cells (i.e., those that produce progesterone) and in the blood vessels of the corpus luteum. It was an important discovery to prove that the highest content of prokineticin 1 protein is found in the corpus luteum during early pregnancy,” says the researcher.

Already knowing that prokineticin 1 acts in the corpus luteum, the researchers also decided to see what processes it participates in. – Using in vitro tissue and cell culture models, we showed that the agent under study stimulates the expression of genes involved in steroid hormone production and progesterone synthesis by the corpus luteum. An important discovery was the demonstration that prokineticin 1 increases the viability of corpus luteum tissue and inhibits cell apoptosis (the process of cell destruction) in which progesterone is produced. Further studies allowed us to conclude that prokineticin 1 stimulates the processes of blood vessel construction (known as angiogenesis) in the corpus luteum, the scientist explained.

This means that the synthesis of prokineticin 1 in the corpus luteum during pregnancy may play an important role in preventing the regression of the corpus luteum and sustaining its function in the establishment and development of early pregnancy.

– Despite the presence of interspecies differences, certain physiological mechanisms occurring during early pregnancy are universal for mammals, so the results presented here may contribute to further studies involving other species, including humans, Agnieszka Wacławik concludes.

Dr. Agnieszka Wacławik, Professor of the Polish Academy of Sciences, has recently received a grant from the National Science Center (NCN), within the OPUS call. For the project „Effect of embryonic signals on methylome of the porcine endometrium as a novel mechanism contributing to pregnancy establishment” she received nearly PLN 2 million.

Full results can be found here.

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What should we know about celiac disease?

International Celiac Disease Day is celebrated on May 16 in all countries belonging to the AOECS. Established in 2006, it draws attention to gluten-dependent diseases and the challenges faced by consumers following a gluten-free diet, but also by food producers, for whom the market has growing expectations. Dr. Urszula Krupa-Kozak from the Department of Chemistry and Biodynamics of Food, talks about celiac disease and the relevant research being conducted at our Institute.

Many people who consume grain products report distressing symptoms, worsening health and reduced quality of life. Gluten, which is a complex of wheat reserve proteins (gliadin and glutein) and the homologous proteins of rye (secalin) and barley (hordein), can cause the development of gluten-dependent diseases, which include celiac disease, Dühring syndrome, gluten ataxia, wheat allergy and non-celiac gluten hypersensitivity. Celiac disease (a.k.a. visceral disease, gluten-dependent enteropathy) is an autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals, caused by persistent gluten intolerance. The disease is characterized by a varied clinical picture, the presence of specific serum antibodies and haplotype (group of genes inherited from one parent – ed.) HLADQ2 or HLA-DQ8, and enteropathy (pathological changes – ed.) in the small intestine. The disease leads to damage to the intestinal mucosa, followed by atrophy of the intestinal villi, whose function is to absorb nutrients.


Gluten-dependent diseases can manifest themselves with different symptoms, which can additionally vary in severity. Classic celiac disease (full-blown) is characterized by symptoms of malnutrition, abdominal pain, weight loss; it is accompanied by diarrhea, bloating, and in children, personality changes and developmental disorders. This form of the disease is relatively rare, and is diagnosed relatively quickly due to its characteristic symptoms. Much more often, however, patients with celiac disease have extraintestinal symptoms (anemia, chronic fatigue, aphthas, neurological disorders, bone and joint pain, premature osteoporosis, fertility problem), which should draw the attention not only of gastroenterologists, but also of endocrinologists, gynecologists, hematologists, rheumatologists or neurologists. Non-celiac gluten hypersensitivity (NCGS) is characterized by symptoms similar to celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome, with which it can be confused. The condition mainly affects adults and is characterized by symptoms beyond the gastrointestinal tract.

People who observe alarming symptoms in themselves after consuming gluten-containing products and suspect the development of gluten-related diseases should consult their GP. The doctor, based on the medical history, will order a consultation with a specialist – a gastroenterologist in a justified case. The specialist in the next step will order the determination of celiac disease-specific antibodies (tTG and EmA), the presence of which in the blood serum indicates the disease, but does not always mean changes in the small intestine, authorizing its diagnosis. Therefore, for a complete diagnosis of celiac disease, biopsy and histopathological evaluation of small intestine sections, which are the gold standard for diagnosis in adults, are necessary. In the case of NCGS, diagnosis relies on the exclusion of other gluten-dependent diseases (celiac disease and wheat allergy), as there are no specific markers to detect this type of hypersensitivity.

What’s next?

For gluten-dependent diseases, the basic and common form of therapy is to exclude gluten from the diet. The differences, however, are that in the case of celiac disease, a gluten-free diet must already be followed rigorously and for life, while in the case of allergies and NCGS, the diet can be followed temporarily.

A gluten-free diet involves eliminating foods made from grains, i.e. wheat (including spelt, flatbread, semolina), barley, rye and uncertified oats. Commercially, gluten-free products are marked with a crossed ear sign. However, unlabeled products can be a problem, especially those in which gluten is not expected such as cured meats, sauces, spice blends, dressings, yogurts or gum, and even some medicines that may have been contaminated with this protein in the manufacturing process.

In the initial stages of treatment, right after diagnosis, the support of a qualified nutritionist is very important and helpful in properly balancing a gluten-free diet. However, once you become familiar and „accustomed” to its principles, following the diet in your own home becomes a habit. Meals away from home, in restaurants, at school/preschool or while traveling can be a problem. That’s why it’s a good idea to ensure your safety by planning your meals well, choosing only reliable restaurants and catering companies. Although products with the crossed-thorn mark are now available for purchase, it is advisable to prepare a set of tried-and-true gluten-free products for trips, consisting, for example, of bread, cookies, nuts and fruit. It’s also a good idea to be mindful of your diet when traveling by air and to book a gluten-free meal in advance.

Trendy „gluten-free”

Without consulting a gastroenterologist and without a definitive diagnosis, you should not switch to a gluten-free diet on your own. This will make it more difficult and prolong the time for a proper diagnosis because when we eliminate gluten from the diet, the body will not be in contact with this factor and will stop producing characteristic antibodies, so that the results of serological tests will be inaccurate or falsely negative.

Flaxseed cake as an opportunity to improve gluten-free products

Recent research conducted by scientists at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research, in cooperation with the West Pomeranian University of Technology, has focused on improving the quality and enrichment of gluten-free baked goods with nutrients and bioactive ingredients derived from flaxseed cake, the pomace from linseed oil production. Compared to conventional bread, a common disadvantage of commercially available gluten-free baked goods is poor quality due to inferior taste, unsatisfactory texture and reduced nutritional value and short shelf life. The need to improve the quality of baked goods led researchers to study the nutritional and functional potential of flaxseed cake, which has been shown to be a good source of minerals and antioxidants. In addition, along with flaxseed cake, proteins and polysaccharides are introduced into bread recipes, which have a beneficial effect on the technological properties of bread, giving it the desired cohesiveness, porosity, colour and even aroma. The research conducted by the teams from Olsztyn and Szczecin is important from the point of view of consumers on a gluten-free diet, who have the right to expect that the quality of gluten-free products available commercially will be similar to conventional products. In reality, however, this is not easy to achieve and poses a great challenge for food technologists and producers.

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Adenomyosis – learn about a female disease similar to endometriosis

Until recently, it was believed that if a woman had a problem with heavy menstrual bleeding, fertility or menstrual pain, then „this is her beauty”. Today we know that these may be symptoms of, for example, adenomyosis – a female disease similar to endometriosis. The research results of scientists from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn may improve the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

The publication on this topic appeared in the journal „Journal of Clinical Medicine” .


Adenomyosis is an estrogen-dependent disease similar to endometriosis. In endometriosis, endometrial tissue, the lining inside the uterus, abnormally migrates to other places in the body, including the intestines or around the anus. With adenomyosis, these tissues get into in the uterine muscle – explains the author of the study, Maria Sztachelska, MD, PhD from the Department of Biology and Pathology of Human Reproduction IRZiBŻ PAS in Olsztyn.

The main symptoms of adenomyosis are very heavy menstrual bleeding, perimenstrual pain and pain during intercourse, thickening of the uterine walls in the ultrasound image, infertility problems, general malaise, and a tendency to anemia.

The exact mechanism of adenomyosis formation is not yet known. As Maria Sztachelska emphasizes, one of the theories is the presence of excessive contractile activity of the uterus, which leads to micro-trauma and the mucous membrane tissue inside the uterus instead of exfoliating outside (during menstruation) penetrates inside this wall.


Adenomyosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, which means that estrogens are the key hormones driving its growth.

“In our studies, we wanted to determine the profile of hormone receptors and we showed the presence of all nuclear and membrane estrogen and progesterone receptors. We suspect that in the case of adenomyosis – as in endometriosis – the mechanism of disease formation is most likely related to the expression of the beta estrogen receptor, which is not present in the normal endometrium – the researcher points out.

Studies have also shown that adenomyosis is able to drive its own development, because its tissues themselves produce estradiol (biologically active estrogen), and this promotes cell proliferation. – In addition, adenomyosis also produces prolactin, which inhibits apoptosis, i.e. the process of cell destruction. All this increases the lifespan of adonemiosis and therefore its complete recovery is still a challenge – emphasizes Maria Sztachelska.


Currently, adenomyosis can be treated in two ways. The first path is radical, surgical treatment.

– The second option, often used after the procedure, is pharmacological treatment. Currently, the therapy most often consists in the use of GnRH antagonists, which inhibit the production of estradiol. However, they cannot be used indefinitely, because estradiol is necessary for a woman – it affects e.g. skin, hair, nails, well-being. Our previous research, led by Dr. Donata Ponikwicka-Tyszko, on the biology of endometriosis, indicates that GnRH antagonist therapy in combination with estradiol can be used long-term and has good effects. Currently, the potential of targeted therapy, e.g. in the form of antibodies directed at specific receptors, is also being investigated, emphasizes Maria Sztachelska.

The test results may also contribute to better diagnosis. „Since we showed a high expression of the estrogen receptor beta, knowing this altered profile of receptors, it would be possible to determine whether a woman is potentially at risk of adenomyosis by examining the endometrial tissue taken in a biopsy, even before the onset of symptoms” – the researcher points out.

– Until recently, it was believed that if a woman has a problem with heavy menstrual bleeding, fertility or menstrual pain, then „this is her beauty”. Fortunately, today the awareness and detection of endometriosis or adenomyosis is increasing. And this is not a marginal problem, because these diseases can affect up to every fifth woman – sums up Maria Sztachelska.

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