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Black-Bone Silky Fowl: An odd bird with meat to crow about

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 12 -- Food scientists from the Peoples' Republic of China report a biochemical explanation for the Black-Bone Silky Fowl's 1,000-year-old reputation as a marvel of traditional Chinese medicine. The study is scheduled for presentation at the 232nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held here this week.

One odd bird, indeed, this chicken sports an abundance of snow-white feathers that feel as smooth as silk. Underneath is black-colored skin, black meat and -- you guessed it -- black bones.

The Black-Bone Silky Fowl is a special bird in China, explained Mingyong Xie, Ph.D., of the Key Laboratory of Food Science of the Ministry of Education at Nanchang University in Nanchang. Xie and colleagues conducted the study.

"As a kind of folk invigorant and a source of traditional Chinese medicine, it [the chicken] is used to reinforce body immunity and protect from emaciation and feebleness," added co-researcher Ying-gang Tian in an interview. It also treats diabetes, anemia, menstrual cramps and postpartum disorders, according to Tian.

While looking for an explanation for the bird's reputed medical abilities, which date to at least the early 1000s A.D., Xie's group began to wonder whether carnosine, a naturally occurring peptide, might be partly responsible. Carnosine may be most familiar in the West as a dietary supplement. People take carnosine supplements in the hope of increasing muscle strength, warding off the effects of aging and alleviating diseases such as autism and diabetes.

Knowing that meat and poultry are good natural sources of carnosine, Tian searched for existing studies on the carnosine content of Black Bone Silky Fowl, but found that none had been done. His group decided to use a standard laboratory instrument -- high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) -- to fill that information gap.

They analyzed and compared carnosine levels in Black-Bone S
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12-Sep-2006


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