Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Resveratrol may boost eye health: Study

The vascular benefits of resveratrol – a compound found in red wine, blueberries and peanuts – may extend to reducing the risk of blindness for diabetics and seniors, says a new study.

According to findings published in the American Journal of Pathology, resveratrol could reverse the abnormal formation of blood vessels in the retina of mice subjected to a laser treatment.

Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis identified a pathway called the eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF2) regulated pathway, which they proposed as being responsible for the compound's protective effects.

"We have identified a novel pathway,” said lead researcher, Rajendra Apte, MD, PhD. "And we believe the pathway may be involved both in age-related eye disease and in other diseases where angiogenesis plays a destructive role."

Apte and his co-workers note that this was a surprise the anti-ageing potential of resveratrol was proposed to occur via a different pathway.

“A great deal of research has identified resveratrol as an anti-aging compound, and given our interest in age-related eye disease, we wanted to find out whether there was a link,” said Apte. “There were reports on resveratrol's effects on blood vessels in other parts of the body, but there was no evidence that it had any effects within the eye,” he added.

The promise of long life

Resveratrol, a powerful polyphenol and anti-fungal chemical, is often touted as the bioactive compound in grapes and red wine, and has particularly been associated with the so-called 'French Paradox'. The phrase, coined in 1992 by Dr Serge Renaud from Bordeaux University, describes the low incidence of heart disease and obesity among the French, despite their relatively high-fat diet and levels of wine consumption.

Interest in the compound exploded in 2003 when research from David Sinclair and his team from Harvard reported that resveratrol was able to increase the lifespan of yeast cells. The research, published in Nature, was greeted with international media fanfare and ignited flames of hope for an anti-ageing pill.

According to Sinclair’s findings, resveratrol could activate a gene called sirtuin1 (Sirt1 – the yeast equivalent was Sir2), which is also activated during calorie restriction in various species, including monkeys.

For Info on Resveratrol and grape skin powder go to : Vinifera For Life

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

About 40% of consumers aged 35-44 years and those over 55 claim they have become much savvier as consumers

Maybe they're flattering themselves, but lots of Americans believe they've become more adept as consumers during the past couple of years. However, an AdweekMedia/Harris Poll finds they are less inclined to believe that brands have adjusted their marketing to keep pace with this greater savvy.

The first of a pair of questions asked the respondents whether they think they've become savvier as consumers since the economy's downturn began. The chart here excerpts the findings. In a breakdown by age group, the 35-44-year-olds and the 55-plusers were especially likely to say they've become much savvier as consumers, with 40 percent of each cohort voicing that opinion. The survey's 18-34-year-olds, who may have thought they were pretty savvy to begin with, were the least likely to say they have become much savvier (27 percent).

One surprise in the data: While men are notorious for thinking well of their know-how, the poll's male respondents were less likely than their female counterparts to say they've become much more savvy as consumers (31 percent vs. 38 percent).

While a majority of respondents believe they've changed since the economy's downturn, a second question in this poll finds many of these people saying they haven't seen a complementary change in the way marketers go about their business. Among those who'd rated themselves as savvier, just 18 percent agreed that advertisers have changed "a lot" in "the way they market brands or products since the economy has changed." Another 34 percent said advertisers have changed "a little" in that regard; 26 percent said advertisers have "not changed that much" and 8 percent said they've "not changed at all."

Educational level was a dividing line here. Among respondents who think they've become savvier as consumers, 47 percent of those with a high school diploma or less said they have noticed at least a little change in the way advertisers market their wares. Among college graduates, 58 percent said the same.

Monday, June 28, 2010

More than two-thirds of children surveyed would choose a snack with a known cartoon character on the package

Kids think snacks taste better when popular cartoon characters such as Shrek and Dora the Explorer are plastered on the packages, a study shows.

Nutrition experts have long argued that such images shouldn't be used to market junk food to kids, especially given the childhood obesity epidemic. About one-third of children and teens in the USA are either overweight or obese.

For the latest study, researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity gave 40 children, ages 4 to 6, three identical pairs of snacks: graham crackers, gummy fruit and carrots.

One package of each food had a cartoon character —Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer or Shrek — on the front; the other didn't. Children were asked if the foods tasted the same or if one tasted better.

The findings, reported online today in the journal Pediatrics:

•More than two-thirds said they would choose the snack with the character on the package.

•About half of the kids said the foods tasted better from packages with the cartoon characters.

"This shows how powerful and influential these characters can be," says Yale researcher Christina Roberto, the study's lead author.

Although some cartoon characters are on healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables, the majority of characters are pushing junk foods, she says.

Parents face an uphill battle when they go to the supermarket with their children because kids are drawn to the characters on products, Roberto says.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says companies have to stop marketing unhealthy foods to kids. "Parents are outgunned by the food industry, which has market research, cartoon characters and slick ads. We don't have Shrek, SpongeBob and the Disney princesses to get our kids to eat the foods that we want them to eat," she says.

"All we have is the role modeling of healthy eating and urging them to eat the right foods."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Probiotic Reduces Pounds

Drinking a probiotic fermented milk reduced abdominal adiposity, body weight and other measures, suggesting its beneficial influence on metabolic disorders in a recent study by the Technology and Research Institute at Snow Brand Milk Products Co. Ltd. (Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun;64(6):636-43).

Researchers evaluated the effects of the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 (LG2055) on abdominal adiposity, body weight and other body measures in adults with obese tendencies in a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trial. Subjects (n=87) with a high body mass index (BMI) (24.2-30.7 kg/m2) and abdominal visceral fat area (81.2-178.5 cm2) were randomly assigned to receive either fermented milk containing LG2055 (n=43) or fermented milk without LG2055 (n=44), and were asked to consume 200 g/day for 12 weeks. Abdominal fat area was determined by computed tomography.

In the group that received the probiotic in its milk, abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat areas significantly (P<0.01) decreased from baseline by an average of 4.6 percent. Body weight and other measures also decreased significantly (P<0.001) as follows: body weight, 1.4 percent; and waist, 1.8 percent. In the control group, by contrast, none of these parameters decreased significantly.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Supreme Court lifted a nationwide ban

The Supreme Court on Monday lifted a nationwide ban on the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa seeds, despite claims they might harm the environment.

In a 7-1 vote Monday, the court reversed a federal appeals court ruling that had prohibited Monsanto Co. from selling alfalfa seeds because are resistant to the popular weed killer Roundup.

The U.S. Agriculture Department must now decide whether to allow the genetically-modified seeds to be planted. It had earlier approved the seeds, but courts in California and Oregon said USDA did not look hard enough at whether the seeds would eventually share their genes with other crops.

"This Supreme Court ruling is important for every American farmer, not just alfalfa growers," said David F. Snively, Monsanto's senior vice president and general counsel. "All growers can rely on the expertise of USDA, and trust that future challenges to biotech approvals must now be based on scientific facts, not speculation."

A federal judge in San Francisco had barred the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa nationwide until the government could adequately study the crop's potential impact on organic and conventional varieties.

St. Louis-based Monsanto argued that the ban was too broad and was based on the assumption that their products were harmful. Opponents of the use of genetically engineered seeds say they can contaminate conventional crops, but Monsanto says such cross-pollination is unlikely.

"We agree that the District Court's injunction against planting went too far," said Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion.

Justice John Paul Stevens was the only justice to dissent. "It was reasonable for the court to conclude that planting could not go forward until more complete study ... showed that the known problem of gene flow could in reality be prevented," he said.

Alfalfa, which is used for livestock feed and can be planted in spring or fall, is a major crop grown on about 22 million acres in the U.S., Monsanto said in court papers. Monsanto's alfalfa is made from genetic material from bacteria that makes the crop resistant to Roundup.

Justice Stephen Breyer took no part in the case because his brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, issued the initial ruling against Monsanto.

The case is Monsanto v. Geerston Seed Farms, 09-475.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Proposed Dietary Guidelines Target Obesity

The issue of America’s rising obesity rates is one of the driving factors behind newly proposed 2010 Dietary Guidelines that suggest reductions in sodium, sugary drinks and saturated fats among others. The report was released earlier this week by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a 13-member board of scientists and nutritionists.

In addition to physical activity and enhanced nutrition education, the proposed guidelines suggest reducing sodium intake from 2,300 mg/d to 1,500 mg/d, reducing the amount of sugary drinks and beverages, and eating less saturated fat. The guidelines suggest a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds. The guidelines also suggest eating seafood and low-fat dairy products and moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs.

The dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years and issued by USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, are scheduled to be released by Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius jointly at the end of 2010.

USDA and HHS are requesting public comments on the proposed dietary guidelines. Comments are due by July 8, 2010. Comments can be submitted at or mailed to Carole Davis, co-executive secretary, Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Room 1034, Alexandria, VA 22302. Individuals who want to provide oral testimony at the July 8 public meeting must register by going to or by calling Crystal Tyler at (202) 314-4701 prior to 5 p.m. EDT on June 30.


* USDA: Public Comment Period Opens on Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, Public Meeting Slated for July 8, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some 90% of consumers will plan and watch their spending on food and beverages

It appears that a thriftier consumer may be emerging from the Great Recession. According to a new report by The NPD Group, a leading market research company, many consumers feel that their financial situation will not improve or will be worse over the next year. The food and beverage market research report finds that after two years of cutting corners, consumers have learned to get by with less and say they will continue to practice thriftiness at least for the next six to 12 months and perhaps well beyond that.

The What’s Next on the Road to Recovery report, which explores how consumers’ habits related to food and beverage purchasing and usage have been affected by the Recession, finds that nearly one in five consumers expect to be worse off 12 months from now than they are today, and half of all consumers expect their financial situation to be the same as it is today. Looking ahead 9 out of 10 consumers say they will plan and watch their spending on food and beverages outside the home.

“There are encouraging signs that the economy may be heading for recovery, but according to our findings, consumers, especially those with lower incomes, continue to struggle,” says Dori Hickey, director of product development at NPD and author of the report. “Most consumers have unquestionably felt the sting of tough economic times and have cut back on spending and adopted thriftier behaviors; behaviors that may become entrenched the longer the recession continues. Our findings suggest we may be looking at a new ‘normal’.”

Among the thriftier behaviors consumers say they will do more often than now over the next six months are decreasing spending on groceries, especially those with household incomes under $35,000; using coupons for food and beverage items from newspapers or magazines; stocking up on foods and beverages when they are on sale; searching store circulars for low prices on food or beverages that are on sale; buying less expensive brands of foods and beverages, and searching for manufacturer coupons online.

“As food and beverage manufacturers and retailers begin to rethink their marketing communication programs as they start their recovery planning, it’s important that they understand their consumer’s mindset,” says Hickey. “Consumers lost personal wealth in this Recession and they’re skeptical that ‘things will go back to the way they were.’ In their minds, it appears the road to recovery will be a long one.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pickle Juice Fights Muscle Cramps

Components in pickle juice appear to fight muscle cramping, not by impacting blood levels of electrolytes or fluids, but by impacting nervous system receptors, according to a new study (Med Sci Sports Exercise. 2010;42(5):953-61. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c0647e). Kevin C. Miller, Ph.D., from North Dakota State University (NDSU) worked with researchers at Brigham Young University to study the effects of pickle juice ingestion as a treatment for skeletal muscle cramps.

The researchers induced muscle cramps in mildly dehydrated male college students by stimulating the men’s tibial nerve in their ankles, which causes cramping in the big toe; average cramping lasted 2.5 minutes. After a 30 minute rest, a second cramp was induced, followed by immediate ingestion of 2.5 oz. of deionized water or pickle juice. Consuming pickle juice relieved the muscle cramps 45 percent faster than if the men consumed no fluids and 37 percent faster than the subjects drinking water.

While blood samples were taken before and after the men drank the fluids, there were no significant changes in levels of blood sodium, potassium, magnesium or calcium levels. As such, the effect on cramping could not be explained by restoration of body fluids or electrolytes. Instead, Miller suggested the pickle juice rapidly inhibits certain nervous system receptors that send out signals to disrupt the muscle cramping.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Healthy Diet Lowers Women’s Cataract Risk

Women who eat foods rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals may have a lower risk of developing the most common type of cataract that occurs in the United States, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of Ophthalmology (2010;128[6]:738-749).

Julie A. Mares, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, and colleagues studied 1,808 women (age 55 to 86) who participated in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease study, residing in Iowa, Wisconsin and Oregon. The estimates of daily food and nutrition intake were made from previous responses to a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire used at the time as part of the Women’s Health Initiative study.

According to the study, nuclear cataract was common in the sample with 29 percent (454 women) reporting the eye disease with a lens in at least one eye. Additionally, 282 women (16 percent) had reported cataract extractions in either eye. Overall, 736 women (41 percent) had either nuclear cataracts evident from lens photographs or reported having a cataract extracted. “Results from this study indicate that healthy diets, which reflect adherence to the U.S. dietary guidelines at the time of entry in the Women’s Health Initiative study, are more strongly related to the lower occurrence of nuclear cataracts than any other modifiable risk factor or protective factor studied in this sample of women,” the study stated. Diets considered to be healthy were intakes at or above recommended levels for vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, meat (or beans, fish or eggs) and below recommended levels for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

“In conclusion, this study adds to the body of literature suggesting that healthy diets are associated with lower risk for cataract,” the authors wrote. “Lifestyle improvements that include healthy diets, smoking cessation, and avoiding obesity may substantively lower the need for and economic burden of cataract surgery in aging American women.”

This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and by Research to Prevent Blindness. It was part of the Carotenoids and Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS), an ancillary study of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The National Eye Institute provided funding for the CAREDS, and the National Hearth, Lung and Blood Institute provided funding for the WHI.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reconsidering ALA Omega 3s

Thanks to a plethora of media attention, many consumers know that omega-3s are good for them. However, omega-3s encompass several healthful fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). And, despite the fact that ALA is the only omega-3 with an established Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) value, the majority of focus has been on the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for their myriad health benefits. Consequently, the efficacy of ALA has come into question.

Omegas dialed down

Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in a wide array of physiological processes in the body. For instance, they serve as a structural component for cell membranes, thereby regulating membrane fluidity and integrity of receptor sites. They also regulate serotonin and dopamine transmission, influence the production of anti-inflammatory compounds in the body, and play a role in eicosanoid synthesis, gene expression, cell growth and protection from apoptosis. In addition, omega-3s influence cognitive development and vision in infants (Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2009; 15(36):4,165-4,172).

Each omega-3 fatty acid has its own unique metabolic fate in the body. ALA is the only omega-3 that is considered essential (meaning the body must obtain it from food and cannot make it), whereas EPA and DHA are made from ALA through a series of enzymatic reactions. Though both EPA and DHA are manufactured from ALA, and therefore not (at the current time) considered essential for consumption, this process is inefficient and affected by other fats in the diet. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete for the desaturase and elongase enzymes and, therefore, the total amount of the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid (the only other essential fatty acid) affects the extent of ALA conversion to EPA and DHA (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000; 71(1):179S-188S). Studies show that approximately 8% to 21% of ALA is converted into EPA, and 4% to 9% of ALA is converted to DHA. Men are on the lower end of this scale, and women on the higher end (Current Opinions in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2004; 7(2):137-144).

Because so little ALA is converted to EPA and DHA, some argue that consumers should opt for EPA and DHA and skip ALA altogether, and that EPA and DHA should have established DRIs. However, others have a different take on the matter.

“For years, ALA was compared to EPA and DHA, but a compilation of ALA research has shown that ALA has its own health benefits, and consumers need to add all omega-3s to their diet,” says Carol Berg Sloan, R.D., nutrition consultant, California Walnut Board and Commission, Folsom, CA.

Several studies show that increased consumption of ALA-rich foods can improve some cardiovascular disease risk factors (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2001; 74:612–619; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999; 69:890–897; British Medical Journal, 1996; 313:84–90). However, all foods naturally rich in ALA also contain a variety of other bioactive compounds that may act independently or synergistically to improve cardiovascular disease risk factors (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009; 89(5):1,649S-1,656S). Common natural sources of ALA include flaxseed and flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, soybeans and soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, rapeseed (canola) oil, and olive oil. The Adequate Intake for ALA is 1.6 and 1.1 grams per day for adult men and women, respectively.

Although some evidence points toward ALA for health benefits, an abundance of research shows that EPA and DHA play an important role in health and disease prevention. EPA and DHA consumption decreases high blood triglycerides and coronary heart disease risk (Clinical Cardiology, 2009; 32(7):365-372) and improves blood pressure and vascular function (Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, 2006; 33(9):842-846). In addition, research shows that EPA and DHA show promise for taming inflammation in those with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2008; 52(8):885-897) and may help with some symptoms of depression (Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2009; 15(36):4,165-4,172). EPA and DHA are primarily found in fatty fish.

ALA emerging

At this time, the beneficial effects of marine sources of EPA and DHA are well-documented, while evidence on the health benefits of ALA lags behind, perhaps due to confounding variables associated with the metabolism of ALA. Despite this, ALA is an important source of omega-3s in the diet, especially for vegans. The average per capita intake of EPA and DHA in the American diet is just 0.1 to 0.2 grams per day, whereas average per capita intake of ALA is approximately 1.4 grams per day (Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 2003; 23(2):e20-e30). Most experts indicate that Western diets are out of balance, with too much omega-6 and too little omega-3.

“Consuming foods rich in ALA can help balance the amount of omega-6s eaten while increasing omega-3s in the diet,” says Bruce A. Watkins, Ph.D., professor and director of biosciences and nutrition, Department of Food Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Future research will hopefully better elucidate the differences between ALA, EPA and DHA, and how ALA exerts its effects—either independently or through its role as a precursor to EPA and DHA. However, consumers who include an array of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet will benefit not only from the healthy fatty acids they are consuming, but also from the wide variety of nutrients found within both plant-based and fish-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Peaches, Plums Kill Breast Cancer Cells

Consuming peaches and plums may help ward off breast cancer, according to new findings by Texas AgriLife Research that showed breast cancer cells died after treatments with peach and plum extracts in lab tests.

The researchers compared normal cells to two types of breast cancer, including the most aggressive type. The cells were treated with an extract from two commercial varieties, the "Rich Lady" peach and the "Black Splendor" plum.

A closer look at the extracts determined that two specific phenolic acid components—chlorogenic and neochlorogenic—were responsible for killing the cancer cells while not affecting the normal cells. The two compounds are very common in fruits, the researchers said, but the stone fruits such as plums and peaches have especially high levels.

"It was a differential effect which is what you're looking for because in current cancer treatment with chemotherapy, the substance kills all cells, so it is really tough on the body," said Dr. David Byrne, AgriLife Research plant breeder who studies stone fruit. "Here, there is a fivefold difference in the toxic intensity. You can put it at a level where it will kill the cancer cells—the very aggressive ones—and not the normal ones."


* Texas AgriLife Research: Peaches, plums induce deliciously promising death of breast cancer cells

Friday, June 18, 2010

Extracts from black tea may help reduce weight gain

Like green tea, extracts from black tea may also help reduce weight gain and cut body fat levels, says a new study from Japan with rats and mice.

Supplementing the diet of lab animals fed a high-fat diet with black tea extracts suppressed body weight gain and body fat levels, with the benefits linked to reduced fat absorption, according to findings published in Nutrition.

Interest in tea and its constituents has bloomed in recent years, with the greatest focus on the leaf’s polyphenol content. Green tea contains between 30 and 40 per cent of water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) contains between 3 and 10 per cent. Oolong tea is semi-fermented tea and is somewhere between green and black tea. The four primary polyphenols found in fresh tealeaves are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), and epicatechin (EC).

Most of the studies have focussed on green tea and its constituents, most notably EGCG. To date green tea has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's and certain cancers, improved cardiovascular and oral health, as well as benefits in weight management.

“Although black tea extract contains only small amounts of these components, significant physiologic effects of administering black tea extracts were observed,” wrote researchers from the Functional Food Business Project at Kirin Holdings Company.

“It has been reported that the primary polyphenols in black tea are theaflavins and thearubigins. However, it has not yet been clarified whether thearubigins also have a preventive effect on obesity. Our results are consistent with the possibility that black tea-derived polyphenols are responsible for the observed physiologic effects of the black tea extracts,” they added.

Study details

The Japanese scientists fed male rats a fat emulsion containing the black tea extract at a level of 500 or 1,000 mg per kg of body weight. Fat levels in the blood were subsequently evaluated and showed that the black tea extract “suppressed increases in rat plasma triglyceride levels in a dose-dependent manner”, said the researchers.

In a separate study with female mice, the researcher supplemented their high-fat diets with either 1 or 5 per cent of the tea extract for eight weeks.

“Administration of the 5 per cent black tea extract suppressed increases in body weight, adipose tissue mass, and liver lipid content (reduced to 56.9 and 81.7 per cent of control mice, respectively) in mice fed a high-fat diet,” they stated.

While more research is needed, the researchers concluded that the polymerized polyphenol fraction of the black tea was responsible for the apparent weight management benefits.

Source: Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.01.019
“Prevention of diet-induced obesity by dietary black tea polyphenols extract in vitro and in vivo”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

White Rice Increases Diabetes Risk, Brown Rice Decreases Risk

Consuming more white rice is associated with a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, whereas consuming more brown rice may be associated with a lower risk for the disease, according to a report in the June 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine (2010;170(11):961-969).

“Rice has been a staple food in Asian countries for centuries,” the authors wrote as background information in the article. “By the 20th century, the advance of grain-processing technology made large-scale production of refined grains possible. Through refining processes, the outer bran and germ portions of intact rice grains (i.e., brown rice) are removed to produce white rice that primarily consists of starchy endosperm.”

U.S. rice consumption is lower than Asian countries, but is increasing rapidly, and more than 70 percent of the rice consumed is white.

Qi Sun, M.D., Sc.D., of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues assessed rice consumption and diabetes risk among 39,765 men and 157,463 women in three large studies: the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study I and II. After adjusting for age and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, those who consumed five or more servings of white rice per week had a 17-percent increased risk of diabetes compared with those who consumed less than one serving per month. In contrast, eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with an 11-percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes than eating less than one serving per month.

Based on the results, the researchers estimated replacing 50 g (equivalent to one-third of a serving) of white rice per day with the same amount of brown rice would be associated with a 16-percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Replacing white rice with whole grains as a group could be associated with a risk reduction as great as 36 percent.

In general, white rice has a higher glycemic index—a measure of how much a food raises blood glucose levels compared with the same amount of glucose or white bread—than brown rice, the authors noted. “The high glycemic index of white rice consumption is likely the consequence of disrupting the physical and botanical structure of rice grains during the refining process, in which almost all the bran and some of the germ are removed,” they wrote. “The other consequence of the refining process includes loss of fiber, vitamins, magnesium and other minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens and phytic acid, many of which may be protective factors for diabetes risk.”

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half of carbohydrate intake come from whole grains. “From a public health point of view, replacing refined grains such as white rice with whole grains, including brown rice, should be recommended to facilitate the prevention of type 2 diabetes,” the authors concluded.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coffee contains over 2,000 different chemical components

When you wake up at the crack of dawn each day, like cafe owner Natalia Kost-Lupichuk, you need your coffee.

Milk, no sugar, please, Kost-Lupichuk says.

"I'm up every morning by 5 o'clock. Coffee gets the energy going," says the owner of Natalia's Elegant Creations in Falls Church, Va.

Kost-Lupichuk is among 56% of American adults who drink coffee regularly, the National Coffee Association says.

PHOTO GALLERY: Readers love their joe
TWITTER CHAT: Mayo Clinic expert answers your coffee questions

Though many refer to their java habit as an unhealthy indulgence, experts say that in moderation, a cup or two of joe a day actually has numerous health perks.

"People always talk about it as if it's a little bad for you. That's not necessarily true," says Donald Hensrud, associate professor of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition at the Mayo Clinic. "Coffee contains over 2,000 different chemical components, including cancer-fighting anti-oxidants."

Some studies suggest coffee can boost vision and heart health, says registered dietitian Elisa Zied, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. Research also has suggested coffee helps people with liver disease, but it has had mixed results when it comes to diabetes.

But be aware of how much caffeine you're consuming, because it varies among coffee drinks, says Mary Rosser, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

Loading up on cream and sugar is a bad idea, Hensrud says. A Starbucks venti 24-ounce double chocolate chip frappucino has 520 calories, 14 grams of saturated fat and 75 grams of carbohydrates. Pregnant women and people with anxiety and sleep problems should especially watch their intake, he says.

Also, people metabolize caffeine differently — the result of genetic differences, Hensrud says.

Caffeine's influence can last for 10 hours or more, says researcher Jim Lane, a professor of medical psychology at Duke. He recommends pacing yourself throughout the day: "It's nice to have places to meet friends that aren't alcohol-related, but it does sort of encourage people to ignore the drug effects of caffeine."

More on coffee's perks and pitfalls:

Recent research suggests caffeine could help protect against cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, says Mayo's Hensrud. Large clinical trials are still needed, though, says Duke aging expert Murali Doraiswamy. "We still don't know the right dose for seniors," Doraiswamy says. "Bottom line: I would not recommend caffeine solely as a preventive strategy for dementia."

Convinced you need a morning cup to wake up? Research online this month in Neuropsychopharmacology suggests frequent coffee drinkers develop a tolerance to the anxiety-producing and stimulatory effects of caffeine. A study last month suggests those who consume caffeine perform better on the job.

Coffee exacerbates bad breath, Zied says. It also can give teeth a yellow tinge.

Although research suggests drinking five or six cups a day might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, other studies show caffeine can exaggerate blood sugar problems in people who already have it, says Duke's Lane.

High levels of caffeine can exert a laxative effect in some people but constipate others, Zied says. Heartburn and peptic ulcer patients should steer clear, too.

Too much coffee at once can increase blood pressure, but a cup or two a day generally does no harm to heart health, says Carl Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans. Rarely, overindulgence can increase heart rate and cause heart rhythm disturbances, he says.

"Coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer," Hensrud says.

Hensrud says coffee can ease migraines in some people. Coffee lovers who drink at work each day should keep up the habit on weekends, because skipping coffee can lead to withdrawal headaches, he says.

Too much coffee can increase anxiety, Zied says, especially in people who are prone to panic attacks. Lane has done studies showing that caffeine ups adrenaline and stress, especially if the body is already under stress.

The March of Dimes and the Food and Drug Administration recommend no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day for pregnant women and nursing mothers, says Montefiore obstetrician Rosser. More can affect babies in utero — increasing the heart rate and possibly slowing fetal growth. Trying to get pregnant? Same recommendation. But if infertility is a concern, avoid coffee.

The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant. It can make you jittery and contribute to insomnia, says sleep expert Craig Schwimmer, medical director of The Snoring Center in Dallas. "It's all in how you use it," he says, explaining that caffeine has a half-life of about six hours. A couple of cups in the morning is fine, but for those with sleep troubles, cut coffee at least six hours before bedtime.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The expanding appetite for Latino cuisine among non-Hispanic Americans

The expanding appetite for Latino cuisine among non-Hispanic Americans, combined with the rapid increase in the United States' Hispanic population, will be a boon for the $7 billion Hispanic food and beverage market, helping to drive sales to $10 billion in 2014, according to Hispanic Food and Beverages in the U.S.: Market and Consumer Trends in Latino Cuisine, 4th Edition, the latest market research study by publisher Packaged Facts.

Along with population growth, buying power within the Hispanic population is expected to increase significantly in the next four to five years. Packaged Facts projects that the buying power of Latinos will reach $1.3 trillion in 2013 up from $984 billion in 2008, representing a cumulative growth rate of 31%. In addition, Hispanic shoppers spend significantly more than other groups on food consumed at home, due to the importance of family mealtime and larger family units.

Packaged Facts separates the Hispanic food and beverage market into three segments: Mainstream Mexican (tortillas, salsa, tacos, burritos, nachos, refried beans, Tex-Mex cuisine, and other products that have become part of the American culture); Authentic Hispanic (products either imported from Hispanic countries to the United States or products made domestically that use traditional recipes); and Nuevo Latino (products with south-of-the-border flair, including traditional American foods made with Hispanic ingredients, as well as unique new creations that meld a variety of Hispanic flavors and food traditions).

In particular, Authentic Hispanic and Nuevo Latino are garnering substantial sales boosts from America's population of adventurous food enthusiasts known as "foodies." The demand has caused new Hispanic food products to pour forth from manufacturers seeking to increase variety to meet the ever restless American appetite for the new and different. Foodservice operators are likewise creating innovative and exciting dishes to keep pace with consumer demand.

"All three segments of Hispanic food are becoming increasingly available throughout the U.S. due to expanded distribution through both retail and foodservice outlets and expanded awareness of these products as a result of mass communications on television and the Internet about Hispanic foods and cooking techniques," says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. "The fact that the Hispanic population is expanding beyond traditional enclaves in California, the Southwest, Florida, and major metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago to communities which previously had either no Hispanic presence or only a small one further benefits the market."

The 4th edition of a popular Packaged Facts title, Hispanic Food and Beverages in the U.S.: Market and Consumer Trends in Latino Cuisine, investigates the primary factors driving sales in the market. In addition to covering packaged products sold through various retail outlets and developments in the retail marketplace relevant to Hispanic foods and beverages, this report includes qualitative and quantitative information on foodservice sales through a variety of channels such as fast-food outlets, sit-down restaurants, mobile units, and more. Foodservice coverage focuses on those outlets that are owned and operated or founded by immigrants from Latin American countries or Hispanic-Americans and which feature exclusively or predominantly Hispanic menus. The report also includes coverage of the expanding presence of Hispanic foods and beverages in traditional "American" foodservice outlets.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Regulatory definitions of "natural" are not in line with consumer understanding

Regulatory definitions of 'natural' are not in line with consumer understanding of the term, a discrepancy that is causing big headaches for the food and drink industry, according to one senior executive at Coca-Cola.

Research conducted by the soft drinks giant had revealed that consumers had a "holistic understanding" of the term 'natural', connecting it with ingredients of natural origin, and healthier foods, Coca-Cola Europe functional ingredients and external technology acquisition director Dr Michele Kellerhals, told

By contrast, definitions of natural in regulatory guidance documents hinged on technical and arcane arguments over processing and extraction methods that were meaningless to the average consumer, suggested Kellerhals."The consumer has a broad, holistic understanding of natural, but regulators are narrowing the field."

In the absence of a legal definition of natural (with the exception of natural flavourings – which are defined in EU law), many European manufacturers relied on guidance produced by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), which had proposed a very narrow definition of the term 'natural' that excluded several ingredients derived from fruits and plants including inulin (a fibre from chicory roots) and orange juice concentrate, he said.

As a result, when it came to soft drinks, "all natural" or "100% natural" claims were only feasible on not-from-concentrate juices and mineral water, said Kellerhals, who was speaking at a Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) conference on natural trends in food and drink yesterday.

"In the legal sense, even beet sugar isn't natural although consumers probably think it is."

Coca-Cola research also suggested that the average punter did not realise that food colours with E-numbers could be of natural origin, and instead assumed that anything with an E-number was by definition artificial, he observed. "The E-number is not the best way to communicate natural colours."

Given the challenges and costs associated with sourcing large quantities of natural colours for high-volume soft drinks brands such as Fanta, Coca-Cola was also working hard to identify alternative methods of producing natural colours via fermentation, he added.

"But the big question is: will they be classified as natural or artificial? It's really not clear at the moment."

Regulatory limbo

Leatherhead Food Research regularly received calls from food and drink manufacturers asking whether they were allowed to use the term 'natural' on their packaging, said Dr Mary Gilsenan, head of regulatory services at LFR.

"We are asked about this all the time, but as there is no overarching legal definition of natural, it's a bit of a grey area. If you look at the FSA guidance, it says that certain processing techniques such as pasteurisation, bleaching and hydrogenation are not considered natural, whereas smoking, baking, distillation for example are OK."

While the FSA guidance was not a legal document, it did carry a lot of weight, she added. Indeed, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority had recently referred to it in some "hugely controversial" judgements, she noted.

"This is a real grey area. The interesting thing is that the FSA document repeatedly refers to consumer perceptions of natural, but there has actually been very little research into what consumers actually think natural means in relation to food and drink.

"So I very much welcome Coca-Cola's research. It would be really helpful if it were published."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Capsaicin Heats Up Fight Against Fat

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers that provide the heat, may cause weight loss and fight fat buildup by triggering certain beneficial protein changes in the body, according to a new study published in the Journal of Proteome Research.

Previous laboratory studies hinted that capsaicin may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue and lowering fat levels in the blood; however, researchers sought to find out how capsaicin might trigger such beneficial effects.

Scientists fed high-fat diets with or without capsaicin to lab rats used to study obesity. The capsaicin-treated rats lost 8 percent of their body weight and showed changes in levels of at least 20 key proteins found in fat. The altered proteins work to break down fats.

“These changes provide valuable new molecular insights into the mechanism of the anti-obesity effects of capsaicin,” the scientists wrote.


* American Chemical Society: New evidence that chili pepper ingredient fights fat

Saturday, June 12, 2010

56% of Americans Oppose Obesity Tax

Fifty-six percent of Americans are opposed taxing soft drinks and fast food as a way to deter obesity, while 31 percent support the tax, according to results of a new online Adweek Media/Harris Poll of 2,140 U.S. adults.

Location and age affect attitudes on the "obesity tax." Those who live in the East are the most supportive of the tax on soft drinks and fast food with 42 percent supporting it and just half opposing it, followed by those in the West where 35 percent support it and 53 percent oppose the tax. Just 25 percent of those who live in the South support the tax while 61 percent oppose it. About 28 percent of Midwesterners support the tax; 57 percent oppose it.

The youngest U.S. adults are those most likely to support the tax on soft drinks and fast food. Forty-one percent of those aged 18-34 support the tax and 42 percent oppose it. Baby boomers are most opposed with 68 percent of those aged 45-54 opposing the tax and only 24 percent favoring it.

Education and income also affect the stance on the obesity tax. Just 25 percent of those with a household income between $35,000 and $49,999 and 27 percent under $35,000 support this tax compared to 39 percent with a household income of $75,000 a year or more. Those who are more educated are more likely to support a tax on fast food and soft drinks. One-quarter of those with a high school education or less support the tax compared to 34 percent of those who have attended some college and 41 percent of those with at least a college degree.


* Harris Interactive: Over Half of Americans Opposed to Taxing Soft Drinks and Fast Food

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good as drinking plenty of water

Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits, say researchers.

The work in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition dispels the common belief that tea dehydrates.

Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers, UK nutritionists found.

Experts believe flavonoids are the key ingredient in tea that promote health.

Healthy cuppa

These polyphenol antioxidants are found in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been shown to help prevent cell damage.

Public health nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London, looked at published studies on the health effects of tea consumption.

They found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack.

Some studies suggested tea consumption protected against cancer, although this effect was less clear-cut.

Other health benefits seen included protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.

Dr Ruxton said: "Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it's got two things going for it."


She said it was an urban myth that tea is dehydrating.

"Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate. But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid.

"Also, a cup of tea contains fluoride, which is good for the teeth," she added.

There was no evidence that tea consumption was harmful to health. However, research suggests that tea can impair the body's ability to absorb iron from food, meaning people at risk of anaemia should avoid drinking tea around mealtimes.

Dr Ruxton's team found average tea consumption was just under three cups per day.

She said the increasing popularity of soft drinks meant many people were not drinking as much tea as before.

"Tea drinking is most common in older people, the 40 plus age range. In older people, tea sometimes made up about 70% of fluid intake so it is a really important contributor," she said.

Claire Williamson of the British Nutrition Foundation said: "Studies in the laboratory have shown potential health benefits.

"The evidence in humans is not as strong and more studies need to be done. But there are definite potential health benefits from the polyphenols in terms of reducing the risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancers.

"In terms of fluid intake, we recommend 1.5-2 litres per day and that can include tea. Tea is not dehydrating. It is a healthy drink."

The Tea Council provided funding for the work. Dr Ruxton stressed that the work was independent.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mediterranean Diet Helps Heart-Disease Sufferers

Eating according to the Mediterranean diet helped improve heart function in those who have acute coronary syndrome, according to a new study from First Cardiology Clinic School of Medicine University of Athens Greece (Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May 19). In the study, those who adhered to the diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, low-fat dairy, whole grains and olive oil experienced a preservation of left ventricular systolic function and a better long-term prognosis of their disease.

Researchers sought to evaluate the relation between the Mediterranean diet, the development of left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) at hospitalization, and the 2-year prognosis of patients who have had an acute coronary syndrome (ACS). During 2006 to 2009, 1,000 consecutive patients with ACS were enrolled; of these patients, 459 had LVSD at hospitalization (367 men with a mean age of 64 ± 14 years, and 92 women aged 71 ± 12 y), whereas 541 had preserved left ventricular systolic function (421 men aged 62 ± 12 years, and 120 women aged 67 ± 12 years). Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed by the validated Mediterranean Diet Score (MedDietScore; theoretical range: 0–55).

Researchers found those who stuck more closely to the Mediterranean diets had a 31-percent lower risk of suffering another heart attack or experiencing chest pain during the first month after they were discharged from the hospital, according to a Reuters article. Additionally, the Mediterranean-diet eaters were half as likely to have another heart-related event within a year, and about 40-percent less likely to experience repeat heart problems within two years.

According to Reuters, for every additional point on the 55-point Mediterranean Diet Score, a person's risk of having another heart-related event over the next two years fell by 12 percent. When researchers looked at the separate aspects of the Mediterranean diet, they found people who ate vegetables and salad or nuts daily or weekly were at 20-percent lower risk of repeat heart problems within two years of their initial hospitalization compared to people who ate these foods monthly or less often.


* Reuters: Mediterranean diet helps existing heart disease, too

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Demand for healthy low-fat breakfast cereals with more fiber

Demand for healthy low-fat breakfast cereals with more fibre or fortification with vitamins/minerals and claims pertaining to weight management, are some of the factors stimulating growth in the bakery and cereals market in Asia-Pacific, claims a new report from Datamonitor.

The bakery and cereals sector in Asia-Pacific will be worth $68.5bn, with an expected CAGR of 6.4 per cent between 2008 and 2013 according to the market researchers.

Nikhil Aggarwal, senior consumer goods analyst at Datamonitor notes that increased urbanization, rising levels of disposable incomes, exposure to Western culture dietary habits are some of the reasons for buoyance in the category.

“An affinity for healthy offerings is a key trend that reflects global consumer packaged goods (CPG) sentiments, and the bakery and cereals segment in Asia-Pacific is no exception,” continued the analysts, who is based in India.

The bakery and cereals market in Asia Pacific, reports Datamonitor, is led by cakes and pastries, which represent 48.5 per cent of the segment, followed by bread and rolls and sweet biscuits, with 23.2 per cent and 14.9 per cent market share, respectively.

Crackers such as savory biscuits, breakfast cereals and morning goods constitute the remaining categories with a 7.1 per cent, 4.9 per cent and 1.3 per cent market share, respectively.

The breakfast cereals category is expected to achieve sales worth $2.8b this year, representing a year on year growth of 6.3 per cent over 2009.

“The appeal of convenience as well as the overwhelming demand for healthy alternatives is expected to drive sales within the breakfast cereals category, specifically the ready-to-eat variety,” comments Aggarwal.

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Furthermore, the developing organized retail system within the Asia-Pacific region will increase both product visibility and availability, which is expected to act as a growth stimulus.

“As urban markets reach high penetration levels, companies are expected to dedicate significant resources into expanding distribution networks to reach large, lucrative, yet untapped rural markets,” said the analysts.

Indeed, Datamonitor’s Recovery from Recession (RfR) service, which tracks global consumer spending intentions on a monthly basis, found that the majority of consumers in the Asia-Pacific will continue to spend on baked goods and cereals.

In April 2010 for example, the market researchers note, 68 per cent of Australian consumers reported they would be maintaining their level of expenditure on cereals – considerably higher than the proportion who said the same about confectionery - 45 per cent.

In China, 56 per cent of consumers said they would maintain cereal spend, while a substantial minority of 11 per cent said they would actually be increasing their expenditure in this category, reflecting the potential of such products in the Asia Pacific region.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Supermarkets saw a 1% increase in sales of takeout eaten at home

Just beyond the canned goods and produce aisles where he usually grabs his groceries, Jack Curtin recently grabbed a pub lunch.

He started with the chicken breast sandwich special and a nice Belgian ale. His ex-wife had the crusted Atlantic salmon fillet. And they did it without ever leaving the store.

They were in "The Pub at Wegmans" in Collegeville, Pa. And the pub was in a Wegmans supermarket.

And it was all pretty good.

"Let's put it this way," says Curtin, who writes professionally about beer, "if I were shopping and a felt like having a beer, I would have no compunction about walking over there, sitting at the bar and having a beer."

And he can largely because the hugely popular grocery store salad bars of the '80s and '90s have given way to a more sophisticated approach to prepared foods. Shoppers now can dine in on sushi and chardonnay, or grab crusted salmon and grilled chorizo to go.

The grocer-as-quick-serve-restaurant model has done well in the recession, in part because the convenience is good and cost is low.

But even as the economy upticks slightly, ready-to-eat food continues to drive more traffic to grocery stores, increasingly blurring the traditional boundaries between supermarkets and restaurants.

"We don't want you coming to the store once a month, or once a week," says Jim Berndt, Wegmans Food Markets senior vice president for prepared foods, deli and specialty cheese. "We want you coming three or four times a week."

The prepared supermarket food available today is a far cry from the modest offerings of fresh coffee, potato salad and rotisserie chickens of years past. Many supermarkets now even make their eating spaces as inviting as possible with cozy chairs, faux-wood floors and unsupermarket-like soft lighting. They are hiring chefs, and the variety of supermarket eat-in or takeout food is unprecedented.

Wegmans, a five-state chain based in Rochester, N.Y., runs its full-service pub north of Philadelphia inside an existing sit-down area called the Market Cafe. Market Cafes are common in Wegmans stores and feature pizza, sushi bars, burrito bars, Thai food and vegetarian options to eat in or takeout.

Kroger, the nation's largest traditional grocer, has been removing underused salad bars to make space for prepackaged foods like sushi and carnitas. They also have The Bistro at Krogers featuring the likes of tilapia and pork loin. Roche Bros. stores in the Boston area offer meals like steak tip dinners ready for the microwave. If customers don't want to leave home, they can get it delivered.

Whole Foods Market, the natural and organic foods grocer, has pushed the prepared foods concept as far as any chain. Stores offer chicken fried tofu, press-to-order paninis and wheatberry quinoa Waldorf salad. Its flagship store in Austin, Texas, has wine for drinking either in or out of the store, a barbecue station and a place to have food enrobed in chocolate. Shoppers there also can buy a fresh fish, take it to the seafood restaurant 20 feet over and ask them to cook it for takeout.

Industry analysts say prepared foods are a growth area for many chains. Supermarkets saw a 1 percent increase in sales of takeout eaten at home for the year ending in March, even as total restaurant industry traffic was down 3 percent during the same period, according to The NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm.

"This is something that had been happening prior to the recession, and it has only gotten exacerbated by the recession," says NPD Group restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs.

Riggs expects supermarkets to continue to see decent takeout business as the recession fades, largely because NPD projects takeout meals eaten in-home will grow by 20 percent during the next decade.

Peter Romeo, a restaurant trade publication veteran and blogger at Restaurant Reality Check, says industry executives have been looking over their shoulders for decades at the looming threat posed by supermarkets. But he says it never really came until the recent profusion of more sophisticated fare.

"The big change in the last couple of years is that supermarkets have cracked the quality code so they're able to offer a restaurant-quality meal at a price that is usually lower than restaurants," Romeo says.

Consider that Sam's Club recently retailed a ready-to-heat 16-inch cheese pizza for $6.48, several dollars below the price at many pizzerias. Roche Bros. offers its steak tip dinner for $9.99, a price very competitive with casual dining chains.

Industry analysts say consumers often believe — true or not — that prepared supermarket food sold amid fresh produce and meats is fresher and healthier than restaurant fare. Supermarkets also can offer a more convenient choice for parents heading home from work, especially if they're already picking up groceries.

Restaurants are taking notice.

At least one private analyst suggested restaurants respond by promoting their strengths, such as quality food and service. Romeo noted that almost all the major casual dining chains now have curbside takeout, a move he said is partly driven by supermarket competition.

In December, Bob Evans opened a "Taste of the Farm" retail area connected to its restaurant in Westerville, Ohio, where customers can pick up a hot spaghetti dinner, a salad or — talk about blurring boundaries — Bob Evans-brand grocery products.

Company president and chief concept officer Randy Hicks says the retail centers fit customers' busy lifestyles. More are planned.

Despite the recent trends, a spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association says she didn't expect customers to abandon restaurants any time soon. Maureen Ryan says the industry group's research shows that more than a third of adults say they don't eat out as much as they'd like too.

"What the restaurant industry has to offer that the supermarkets don't is the experience of excellent service, in many case a wide variety of menu options," Ryan says. "And that's something you can't get in a supermarket."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Study Refutes Health Benefits of Organic Foods

Consumers who eat organic foods may not be getting additional nutrition benefits, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health systematically reviewed 12 previously published studies to assess the strength of evidence that nutrition-related health benefits could be attributed to the consumption of foods produced under organic farming methods.

The results of the largest study suggested an association of reported consumption of strictly organic dairy products with a reduced risk of eczema in infants, but the majority of the remaining studies showed no evidence of differences in nutrition-related health outcomes that result from exposure to organic or conventionally produced foodstuffs. Given the paucity of available data, the heterogeneity of study designs used, exposures tested, and health outcomes investigated, no quantitative meta-analysis was justified.


* The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Vitamin D3 Helpful in Crohn's Disease

Vitamin D supplementation may not only address low vitamin D levels present in Crohn’s disease (CD), but also reduce the risk of relapse, according to a recent trial reported in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics journal (published online ahead of print, May 11, 2010). Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital, Randers Hospital and Horsens Hospital conducted a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial featuring 108 patients with CD in remission (14 were later excluded.) The patients received either 1,200 IU vitamin D3 (n = 46) or placebo (n = 48) once daily for 12 months. The primary endpoint was clinical relapse.

The daily vitamin D3 treatment increased serum 25-OH-vitamin D from mean 69 nmol/L (standard deviation (SD) was 31 nmol/L) to mean 96 nmol/l (SD=27 nmol/L) after three months. The relapse rate was lower among patients treated with vitamin D3 (13 percent) than among patients treated with placebo (29 percent).

The researchers concluded oral supplementation with 1,200 IU/d vitamin D3 significantly increased serum vitamin D levels and insignificantly reduced the risk of relapse from 29 percent to 13 percent. They suggested larger studies are needed to confirm and explain these findings.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Food trucks are a rapidly growing phenomenon that's spreading across the U.S

We know construction workers often purchase lunch from trucks parked near job sites.

No offense to people who make their living erecting skyscrapers, but the thought of buying meals on wheels hasn't excited palates since ice-cream trucks went out of style.

But that could be changing. In such cities as San Francisco and Los Angeles, trucks bringing yummy, freshly prepared - even gourmet - delights have become something of a trend, thrilling foodies with their offerings.

"Food trucks are a rapidly growing phenomenon that's spreading across the United States," says Bob Tuschman, senior vice president of programming and production for the Food Network. And Tuschman has been quick to respond: On Aug. 15, the network will premiere "Food Trucks," a reality show in which food-truck owners compete against each other.

"We hope every show we do inspires viewers to become more adventurous, passionate and curious about the food they eat," Tuschman says. "So I imagine 'Food Trucks' will inspire a lot of people to search out the food trucks in their town."

Food trucks have yet to hit the fast lane in the Valley, but the movement is definitely revving up.

One business even invested in a food truck before opening its store.

"From a business perspective, this is a good way to test your concept from outside your neighborhood," says Jan Wichayanuparp, who owns Sweet Republic, an artisan ice-cream store. "It sort of spreads the word, because not everybody can come into the shop. Besides that, it's just a lot of fun."

Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung launched Sweet Republic two years ago in Scottsdale. In a nifty horse-before-the-cart scenario, the two had their truck on the road before opening the brick-and-mortar store at 92nd Street and Shea Boulevard.

"We always knew we wanted to do a truck," Wichayanuparp says. "That was always sort of the business model. We don't know when we're going to open a second location, so a truck seemed like a good idea."

They found a 1959 Chevrolet step van on Wichayanuparp admits the vehicle wasn't in pristine condition.

"It's like buying a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood that's in need of a little TLC," she says with a laugh. "It's an ongoing project."

The orange van makes appearances at Phoenix First Fridays and the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market. The two sell their savory treats in cups and cones.

Valley zoning laws make it tough for vehicles to roam about and sell food. In Scottsdale, for example, there are rules about keeping such public areas as sidewalks accessible. Phoenix laws state that vehicle-mounted generators are a no-no, and it's tough to prepare food without power.

That's why you're most likely to find upscale food trucks in such settings as festivals and farmers markets.

Joe Garcia's La Vida Locavore truck was probably the Valley's most recognizable high-end food truck. Last October, he launched the truck, which he would park at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market.

The creation of meals was exciting, he says.

"We showed up to the farmers market at 5:30 in the morning," Garcia recalls. "The majority of ingredients were not purchased until that morning. We created our menus based on what was available fresh that day from other vendors."

That led to such dishes as French toast made with piping hot bread, or black-bean burritos served with fresh cheese.

"It's such a great thing," Garcia says. "We had so much support, and people really seemed to get what we were doing."

The truck proved so popular he tried another spin on traditional dining: At, he announced a "private" dinner in which patrons paid $100 for a four-course meal prepared by four chefs on Valentine's Day. The twist: Ticket buyers didn't know where the dinner would be held until one day before the event.

"Things like that are fun to do, both for the (diners) and for the chefs," he says.

He plans to do more Stealthy Table dinners, and he is hopeful many will involve a truck. Garcia is truckless at the moment; last month, a business partner sold the vehicle. Garcia plans to have another truck within the next six months, but it's still a bit frustrating.

"I hardly got out of the gate with the whole concept," he says with a sigh. "I even purchased the Twitter handle 'La Vida Locavore' from a woman in Delaware. I haven't been able to take the concept where I've wanted to take it yet."

Indeed, the Valley is lagging behind some other cities when it comes to gourmet food trucks. Jeff Kraus started a Valley catering company in January that specializes in crepes called Truckin' Good Food last year. One thing Kraus doesn't have: a traditional food truck.

"We launched with every expectation of having a truck and of being a mobile creperie and bakery," he says. "But then we decided to launch without and make crepes like we do for the farmers market and private events and to get a feel for what people think of it."

Kraus says he thinks people in the Valley would be enthusiastic for a food-truck scene like the one that thrives in Los Angeles. There, gourmet-truck owners use such social media as Twitter and Facebook to alert diners where the trucks can be found. The scene's popularity is one reason why "Food Trucks" will feature West Coast businesses for its initial season.

"Because they are so much cheaper to run compared to a restaurant, food trucks are able to charge low, low prices," Tuschman says. "And the low cost of entry has allowed folks to launch trucks with an incredible variety of cuisines."

Here, we have the variety of cuisines, but our tougher regulations mean that the scene is largely limited to occasional Mexican food trucks and vehicles parked at farmers markets and festivals.

"Street food has been around forever," Kraus says. "I come from a humble background. I think good food shouldn't be a luxury. It should be available to everybody, which is kind of the whole concept of street food."

Garcia thinks if the regulations ever loosen up, the Valley would be excited about the food-truck scene.

"It's important for the government to open up the floodgates," he says. "It works. You don't need brick and mortar and somebody paying $4,000 a month in rent for great food."

Friday, June 04, 2010

Home-Cooking Trumps Take-Out

More adults are returning to the kitchen for home-cooked meals instead of opting for take-out or dining out, according to new research from the University of British Columbia presented at the 2010 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences meeting. According to the findings, cooking at home allowed for better control over food individuals prepared, more independence, and time to connect with family and friends.

Researcher Dean Simmons surveyed British Columbia families about their cooking habits, he was surprised to find that the vast majority of families were cooking at home on a regular basis. He also said people also use home cooking as a way to connect to their heritage, with immigrants in particular wanting to enjoy the foods of their homeland. Others just want to eat food like Mom used to make.

Simmons said plenty about cooking has changed. Though women still do the lion’s share of cooking, it’s increasingly becoming a shared task, and teens are less likely to see cooking as a gender-specific activity. Simmons also disputed the notion that we are collectively losing our cooking skills. All that’s happened, he said, is that the actual skills needed for home cooking have changed. Fifty years ago, cooks may have needed to be able to tell when home-baked bread was done, but they didn’t know how to microwave; today, they do.

He also noted men are increasingly adept at the new skills needed to cook.

If cooking was just a simple case of heating and preparing food, “you would expect the kitchen would disappear over time” as technology and industrial techniques improved.


* 2010 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences: Forget Take-Out: Families Still Big on Home Cooking

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Daily Ginger Intake Reduces Muscle Pain by 25%

Daily ginger consumption reduces muscle pain caused by exercise by 25 percent, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

Researchers conducted two studies examining the effects of 11 days of raw and heat-treated ginger supplementation on muscle pain. Participants in the studies, 34 and 40 volunteers, respectively, consumed capsules containing two grams of either raw or heat-treated ginger or a placebo for 11 consecutive days. On the eighth day they performed 18 extensions of the elbow flexors with a heavy weight to induce moderate muscle injury to the arm. Arm function, inflammation, pain and a biochemical involved in pain were assessed prior to and for three days after exercise.

The studies showed that daily ginger supplementation reduced the exercise-induced pain by 25 percent, and the effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger.

* University of Georgia: UGA researchers find daily ginger consumption eases muscle pain

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Children who consume numerous foods containing vitamin E may have a lower risk of eczema

At the same time, foods rich in vitamin A don't seem to protect against allergies, despite earlier studies suggesting they do.

Dr. Masayuki Okuda of Yamaguchi University in Ube and colleagues measured the levels of substances in the blood that showed how much of the two vitamins children were likely eating. They focused on asthma and eczema because both are allergy-related conditions.

Among 396 10- and 13-year-old children, 240 of whom had eczema, wheezing, or asthma, the researchers found no relationship between a child's risk of any of the conditions and his or her blood levels of vitamin A-related compounds.

However, kids with the highest levels of vitamin E-related compounds were at 67 percent lower risk of eczema than those with the lowest. Even those with only moderately higher than average levels of the compound had a similarly lower risk.

Although the study does not prove there is any cause and effect at work, it was more precise than earlier research, the authors note, because previous studies relied on food questionnaires. Such surveys can be somewhat unreliable because they depend on memory.

Yellow, red and orange fruits are rich in vitamin A and related compounds, while vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, and whole grains.

There are no commonly agreed-upon standards for levels of such compounds in the blood, but the U.S. recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 2,000 international units (IUs) for this age group. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin E in the same age group is about 16 IUs.

It's not clear why vitamin E would lower the risk of eczema, but Okuda and his colleagues suggest that its antioxidant and immune-boosting effects might play a role.

SOURCE: here Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, online April 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Cutting Sugary Drinks Lowers Blood Pressure

Drinking one less sugar-sweetened beverage a day may help lower blood pressure and further reduce other blood pressure-related diseases such as diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation.

Researchers used data on 810 adults, ages 25 to 79, with prehypertension (between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg) and stage I hypertension (between 140/90 and 159/99 mm Hg ) who participated in the PREMIER study, an 18-month behavioral intervention study with a focus on weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet as a means to prevent and control high blood pressure. At the start of the study, the participants drank an average 10.5 fluid ounces of SSB/day, equivalent to just under one serving. At the study’s conclusion, average consumption had fallen by half a serving/day and both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure had declined significantly.

After controlling for known risk factors of blood pressure, the analysis found that a reduction of one serving/day of SSB was associated with a 1.8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) drop in systolic pressure and a 1.1 mm Hg decline in diastolic pressure over 18 months. Researchers noted that this association was partially because of weight loss, but even after controlling for weight loss, the change in blood pressure was statistically significant.

The researchers noted that American adults consume an average of 2.3 servings (28 ounces) of sugar-sweetened beverages per day. In this study, sugar-sweetened beverages were defined as drinks sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup including regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade and fruit punch. Diet drinks were excluded.

In response to the study, Dr. Maureen Storey, senior vice president of the American Beverage Association, issued the following statement:

"This study does not show that there is anything unique about drinking sugar-sweetened beverages that leads to increased blood pressure, or that there is something unique about reducing their consumption that leads to reduced blood pressure. The authors themselves acknowledge the latter, noting that their study does not establish cause and effect.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, when it comes to preventing high blood pressure, the most important factors are maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, following a healthy eating plan, reducing dietary sodium and moderating alcohol intake. We know that losing weight by decreasing total calories consumed from all foods and beverages and increasing total calories burned through physical activity has the greatest effect on blood pressure, not the specific foods or beverages that are decreased. In fact, NHLBI states that blood pressure rises as body weight increases, and that ‘losing even 10 pounds can lower blood pressure—and weight loss has the greatest effect for those who are overweight and already have hypertension.

It's important to recognize that this particular study is a secondary analysis of another study designed to look at the impact of weight loss—not reducing or eliminating specific foods or beverages—on blood pressure. This study only further supports that weight loss is a critical factor to lowering blood pressure. And the key to losing weight involves either decreasing total calories consumed or increasing total calories burned or a combination of the two.

Importantly, those with borderline high or high blood pressure should seek the professional advice of their physician or other health professional to learn how best to manage hypertension, as well as how to maintain a healthy body weight through balanced diet and exercise."


* American Beverage Association: American Beverage Association Statement on Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake and Blood Pressure