Sunday, October 31, 2010

Parents Haunt Kids’ Halloween Hauls

Kids don’t have to watch out for zombies, ghosts and ghouls on Halloween, it’s their parents they need to keep an eye on. According to Harry Baltzer, vice president of the NPD Group, parents eat one of every two candy bars their children bring home. Baltzer, interviewed for an article in USA Today, also says 5% of annual candy consumption is on Halloween and the week after, and the sweets that make trick-or-treaters happiest are chocolate, chewy candies and hard candy, in that order. Moms and dads tend to snitch the chocolate, Baltzer said.

The article also offers tips from dietitians on how to avoid gorging on the night’s sugary haul. Sorting the candy and giving away the kind you don’t like as much is one way to limit the amount you consume. Hiding or freezing the candy can also help keep the whole family from overindulging.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some 66% of home cooks will make their Thanksgiving meal from scratch,

Reader's Digest Association (RDA) brand and the #1 recipe site in the U.S., today announces "Thanksgiving Menu Mania," a collection of Thanksgiving menus created to satisfy the cravings of home cooks this holiday. Allrecipes compiled a collection of themed menus from the site's more than 3,700 Thanksgiving recipes from home cooks across the country. The menus include "Modern Twists to Old Favorites," "Gluten Free," "Bacon Lovers," "Ready In 2 Hours or Less," "Delightfully Light," and more at ( The star of the show is a menu selected from Allrecipes' community itself; "America's Thanksgiving Choice Menu" was created with top recipes based on the behaviors of millions of home cooks, then voted on by thousands of community members to create a nine-dish feast from appetizers to dessert.

"With millions of home cooks in our community, there is a wide range of tastes and expectations for the Thanksgiving spread, which is why we created Thanksgiving Menu Mania," said Lisa Sharples, president of Allrecipes. "Thanksgiving is the most important food holiday of the year and Allrecipes is consistently ranked the #1 food site for Thanksgiving. We are committed to meeting our community's expectations as the ultimate destination for Thanksgiving meal planning."

Thanksgiving Statistics

Allrecipes expects a significant increase from the 11.5 million home cooks who visited the site in November last year. Results from Allrecipes' annual Thanksgiving Trends survey demonstrate what the community will be looking for:

* 82 percent of respondents said they plan to try a new side dish recipe this year, while only 15 percent are willing to mess with the tried and true turkey.
* Preparing dishes from scratch continues to rise with 66 percent of home cooks making their meal from scratch, up 11 percent year over year.
* Positive ratings and reviews from peers are the most important factors that help home cooks choose holiday recipes.
* The top three challenges of Thanksgiving are having dishes ready at the same time (36 percent), finding room in the fridge for leftovers (12 percent) and finding time to shop, cook and clean (12 percent)...though women are three times more likely to feel pressed for time compared to men (13 percent vs. 5 percent).

Second Annual LIVE Thanksgiving Webcast

The use of technology to aid in Thanksgiving preparation continues to rise as 46 percent of home cooks report they will view recipes on a computer or phone while in the kitchen preparing Thanksgiving dinner. To help tech-savvy cooks, Allrecipes is hosting its second annual LIVE Thanksgiving webcast on Saturday, November 20, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST. The webcast will take place in Allrecipes' Seattle kitchen where staff and special guests will prepare America's Thanksgiving Choice Menu, answer home cooks' questions in real time on air via Facebook and Twitter, award prizes to live trivia questions and provide holiday cooking and entertaining tips and tricks. For the full schedule and segment topics, visit

Stuffing In, Or Out?

America is divided over what makes the perfect stuffing, according to Allrecipes Thanksgiving Trends survey. Forty-one percent of respondents prefer stuffing prepared outside of the bird, 27 percent prefer it prepared inside the bird and 32 percent don't care how it's prepared as long as it's on the table. Cooks in the Northwest are most likely to skip the stuffing, Midwest cooks are most likely to choose a boxed stuffing and Southerners are three times more likely to choose a cornbread stuffing compared to other regions. To flame the debate, " What's Cooking?" asked members of its community to weigh in and filmed their stuffing secrets and preferences. Video vignettes from these cooks will air at 9:30 a.m. PST, during the stuffing segment of the LIVE Thanksgiving Webcast on November 20.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Adults who regularly eat whole grains rather than refined grains have 10% less visceral adipose tissue

People who regularly eat whole grains rather than refined grains pack on less of the type of fat linked to a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.

In high amounts, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) -- the fat that surrounds the intra-abdominal organs -- is associated with the onset of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance, health risk factors collectively known as the "metabolic syndrome."

"VAT volume was approximately 10 percent lower in adults who reported eating three or more daily servings of whole grains and who limited their intake of refined grains to less than one serving per day," said study co-author Nicola McKeown, a scientist with Tufts University's nutritional epidemiology program at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

"For example, a slice of 100 percent whole-wheat bread or a half-cup of oatmeal constituted one serving of whole grains and a slice of white bread or a half-cup of white rice represented a serving of refined grains," she noted in a Tufts news release.

The findings, recently published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, stem from an analysis of dietary surveys and body-fat scans conducted among more than 2,800 men and women between the ages of 32 and 83.

Even after accounting for additional lifestyle factors including smoking history, alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, percentage of calories comprised of fat, and physical activity routines, the authors found that consuming several servings a day of whole grains is associated with lower amounts of VAT.

However, those who consumed three servings a day of whole grains and several daily servings of refined grains did not appear to benefit from the whole grain-lower VAT connection.

"Whole grain consumption did not appear to improve VAT volume if refined grain intake exceeded four or more servings per day," noted McKeown.

"This result implies that it is important to make substitutions in the diet, rather than simply adding whole grain foods," she advised. "For example, choosing to cook with brown rice instead of white, or making a sandwich with whole-grain bread instead of white bread."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Conserving plant genetic diversity crucial for future food security

The world’s food security could be threatened by the failure to conserve the wild plant species that are genetically related to the crops grown by mankind for food, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a new report released today.

In the 350-page report, FAO warns that the loss of biodiversity will have a major impact on the ability of humankind to feed itself in the future, with inhabitants of poorest regions of the world experiencing more shortages.

The report – “State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture” – covers topics ranging from gene bank collections to the effects of climate change on crop diversity, and is intended to highlight what is being done to protect biodiversity in food crops.

Genetic information held in certain crop varieties is crucial to the development of heat, drought, salinity, pests and diseases-resistant, fast-growing, high-yielding new varieties, necessary to reduce food insecurity in the face of climate change.

“Increasing the sustainable use of plant diversity could be the main key for addressing risks to genetic resources for agriculture,” said Jacques Diouf, the FAO Director-General.

“There are thousands of crop wild relatives that still need to be collected, studied and documented because they hold genetic secrets that enable them to resist heat, droughts, salinity, floods and pests,” he added.

According to the report, 50 per cent of the increase in crop yields in recent years has come from new seed varieties. Irrigation and fertilizer account for the other 50 per cent. A recent example is the fast-maturing New Rice for Africa (NERICA) that has transformed local economies in several parts of Africa.

The study calls for action, especially generating farmers’ interest, and building capacities to conserve and use the genetic biodiversity that still exists.

It does not attempt to quantify biodiversity loss, but points out that empirical evidence shows continued extinction of crop biodiversity, reducing the diversity of traditional food crops that survived the past century.

FAO estimates that 75 per cent of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000. A recent study predicts that as much as 22 per cent of the wild relatives of important food crops of peanut, potato and beans will disappear by 2055 because of a changing climate.

On a more positive note, the report states that over the past 12 years, there has been an increase in awareness of the importance of protecting and utilizing the genetic diversity of food crops. Gene banks have increased in both size and the number.

There are now some 1,750 gene banks worldwide, with about 130 of them each holding more than 10,000 plant genes. In 2008, the ultimate back-up of global crop diversity, the Svalbald Global Seed Vault, was opened in Norway.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Whole Grains Consumption Linked to Lower Body Fat

Experts recommend eating whole grains to reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. And a new study has uncovered part of the reason: People who consume several servings of whole grains per day while limiting their intake of refined grains appear to have less of a certain type of fat tissue believed to play a key role in generating cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Researcher Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University examined diet questionnaires submitted by more than 2,800 adult men and women enrolled in The Framingham Heart Offspring and Third Generation study cohorts. The scientists observed lower volumes of visceral adipose tissue (VAT) in people who ate mostly whole grains instead of refined grains.

“VAT volume was approximately 10% lower in adults who reported eating three or more daily servings of whole grains and who limited their intake of refined grains to less than one serving per day,” says lead author Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA. “For example, a slice of 100% whole wheat bread or a half cup of oatmeal constituted one serving of whole grains and a slice of white bread or a half cup of white rice represented a serving of refined grains.”

Visceral fat surrounds the organs vs. subcutaneous fat, which is found beneath the skin. “Prior research suggests visceral fat is more closely tied to the development of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors including hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels and insulin resistance that can develop into cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes,” explains co-author Paul Jacques, DSc, director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA and a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. “Not surprisingly, when we compared the relationship of both visceral fat tissue and subcutaneous fat tissue to whole and refined grain intake, we saw a more striking association with visceral fat. The association persisted after we accounted for other lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, fruit and vegetable intake, percentage of calories from fat and physical activity.”

The researcher also found that those who consumed, three daily servings of whole grains on average, but continued to eat a high volume of refined grains did not show a lower VAT volume.

Whole grains contain all the essential parts of the grain, including the bran, germ and endosperm, and the naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Consumers Confused about Green, Sustainable Labeling of Foods

Claims of sustainable and green are growing on foods and beverages, but is the consumer buying them? Yes and no, and maybe not for the right reasons in some cases, says market research firm Mintel.

The research shows that consumer demand for sustainable food and drink continues to grow, and food and beverage manufacturing companies are increasing the supply of products to meet the demand. The Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) has tracked more than 13,000 new sustainable food and drink products since 2005. A vast majority—84%—of consumers say they regularly buy green or sustainable food and drink, but a large number are unaware of what some the various claims actually mean.

“Packaging claims such as ‘recyclable’ or ‘eco- or environmentally friendly’ are fairly well known to consumers, but sustainable product claims such as ‘solar/wind energy usage’ or ‘Fair Trade’ have yet to enter the mainstream consumer consciousness,” David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel points out. “They may have heard of the terms, but they’d be hard-pressed to define them.”

In the Mintel survey, 40% of the consumers have never heard of the “solar/wind energy usage” claim. And those 37% that have heard of it say they’ve never purchased food or drink bearing the claim. “Reduced carbon footprint/emissions” is another lesser-known claim, with 32% of those queried never having heard of the claim. In addition, 34% say they’ve never heard of the “Fair Trade” claim.

Surprisingly, the biggest reason consumers buy into the sustainable claims is not environmental concerns, but quality. According to the Mintel research, 45% of sustainable food and drink users say that a perceived belief in superior quality is the reason they make their purchases. In second place, 43% say they buy sustainable food and drink because they’re concerned about environmental/human welfare. Food safety is a concern of 42% of the green consumers.

“These reasons vary in importance across different demographics. What’s most important to young adults may not be the primary deciding factor for affluent consumers,” notes David Browne. “Marketers should consider this in their claims closely; noting that health, welfare, and safety are important for nearly all consumers.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Farmers and ranchers are turning to social media

Farmers and ranchers are turning to social media such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate directly with the public to help ease concerns about food safety, establish a better level of trust and improve public opinion about their farming methodologies, according to the American Farm Bureau's 2010 Young Farmers and Ranchers Survey published in this month's edition of Food Nutrition & Science. The October issue features an interview with Jeff Fowle, president of AgChat who explains the importance of social media to the farmer and the consumer.

"This topic is fascinating and represents the future of the food industry where growers and food manufacturers have a direct conversation with their consumers—cutting out the middle person albeit the media or food processors—through social media sites," said Phil Lempert, founder of Food Nutrition & Science and CEO of The Lempert Report and "This way, consumers get to know the people growing their food. It's an integral part of sustainability and every issue of Food Nutrition and Science offers these types of stories that provide a unique perspective on the food industry."

With more than 26,000 subscribers that are mostly retailers, Food Nutrition & Science is a free monthly newsletter with articles relating to retailers, manufacturers, farmers, nutritionists, educators, government agencies and more. It's also a newsletter that services members of the National Grocer Association and offers breaking food news and articles on food safety and industry-wide green initiatives.

In addition to the Farmers and Social Media article, this month's publication also features a study on "foragers," a new position within a major national food service operation company who's charged with the task of finding yet-to-be-discovered food producers, and hidden gems from local farms within their particular region. The forager's job is to seek out unusual products and find synergies between the needs of the chefs who prepare the food for the company.

"This is terrific," says Lempert. "First and foremost it's about finding the best flavors and freshest foods that create a better product, and therefore it's sound business. But as a result, it's helping small business and growers and ultimately the environment, so it's a total win-win."

Other articles this month include results from a National Cancer Institute study about how American diets are not meeting dietary federal recommendations; an interview with the Sustainability manager for Oregon-based Willamette Valley Vineyards that's best known for its properties that are certified sustainable and Salmon Safe; and an article written by Registered Dietician Cindy Silver on how retailers and dieticians can better market fruits and vegetables to consumers.

In addition, this edition includes an article about Phil Lempert's Food Sense, a documentary that today starts airing nationally on public television stations across the country. Food Sense examines organic and conventional farming production and processing methods resulting in a comprehensive primer on farm-to-table methods and how it affects animals, food safety, the environment and everyone involved—from day laborers and farmers to retailers and consumers. There's also a one-of-its kind interactive website that provides comprehensive food news and information.

For more information or to subscribe to Food Nutrition & Science, please visit

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Aspirin May Cut Colon Cancer Deaths

Long-term use of low-dose aspirin reduces colon cancer risk, U.K. researchers find.

Low-dose aspirin takers have a 24% lower risk of colon cancer and a 35% lower risk of dying from colon cancer, find University of Oxford researcher Peter Rothwell and colleagues.

"The new findings on the effect of low-dose aspirin should be included in advice given to the public," Rothwell says in a news release.

The findings are based on analysis of 20-year follow-up data from five clinical trials. All of the studies were performed before sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy became widespread methods of screening for colon cancer. It's not clear whether better screening reduces the benefit seen for aspirin.

And aspirin can have serious side effects, including severe stomach bleeding. While low doses of aspirin reduce this risk, people should consult a health care provider before adding aspirin to their daily health regimen.

However, the findings suggest that aspirin has a particular effect on more aggressive and faster growing colon cancers, particularly those in the proximal colon, which can be detected by colonoscopy but not by sigmoidoscopy.

This makes the study findings significant, says Alison Ross, senior science information officer at Cancer Research U.K.

"This is the first large study to show that low doses of aspirin may be effective in protecting against bowel cancer," Ross tells WebMD via email. "Once it’s confirmed that the benefits of taking low-dose aspirin outweigh the risks, clear guidelines will be needed to help doctors inform their patients about long-term use."

Alison Ross, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, says via email: "Aspirin can have side effects, including stomach ulcers and internal bleeding. It should not be taken regularly without first talking to your doctor."

The Rothwell study appears in the Oct. 22 early online edition of The Lancet.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nearly 30% Of Americans Likely To Have Diabetes By 2050

The incidence of diabetes, mostly diabetes Type 2, is expected to rise from 8 newly diagnosed cases per thousand in 2008 to approximately 15 by the year 2050, researchers from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and Emory University report in an article published in Popular Health Metrics. Although a rise in diabetes type 2 incidence was expected, mainly because the number of obese and overweight people in America has been steadily rising, nobody expected estimates for the future to be so high, the authors wrote.

Approximately 1 in every 10 American adults currently has diabetes. There are several reasons why numbers are expected to rise, the report says:

* People are becoming fatter. Overweight/obesity are key risk factors for diabetes type 2.
* The percentage of the US population made up of minority groups known to have a higher risk of developing diabetes has been and will be growing
* People with diabetes in America are living longer thanks to better therapies and medications

The authors say their study is the most comprehensive yet on diabetes in America today and its expected incidence and prevalence during the coming decades. They gathered data from the 2000 Census as well as yearly updates up to 2007. They also incorporated specific data on minority groups, as well as individuals with pre-diabetes.

The economic toll of diabetes on the US economy in 2007 was over $174 billion - it is expected to grow considerably in the years and decades to come. Future policymakers need reliable and accurate estimates on the diabetes burden for proper planning of the country's future health care requirements and costs.

The authors estimate that the current 14% adult diabetes prevalence will rise to 21% by 2050 (diagnosed and undiagnosed cases). However, if they factor in longer life-spans for those with diabetes in the future as well as recent increases in the incidence of diabetes, the prevalence will possibly reach 33% by the middle of this century.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Starbucks Experimenting with Alcohol, are they Crazy!

Now the largest coffee house wants to serve alcohol. What happened to there roots.

They are having big problems.

Read below:

The latest in a series of shakeups in the company sees them trialing different ways of working, slower coffee production and higher hygiene standards, but the coffee retailer is also going to trial selling alcohol in one of its stores.

The Olive Way store in the Seattle-based chain has added craft beers and wines to its menu, the first of the chain's stores to do so. Beer and wine will go on sale each day after 4 p.m. The move is part of an overall effort to get customers spending time in Starbucks even after their morning jolt; additional offerings will include more options for savory afternoon treats.

Since most than two-thirds of its business comes before 2 p.m., the omnipresent coffee shop is looking to make a foray into serving liquor and cheeses, while transitioning into more of a bar-and-café atmosphere.

Starbucks will operate a test-run of the new style and feel of its locations at a store in Olive Way, Wash. near Seattle. The Olive Way Starbucks has concrete floors, according to USA Today, with empty burlack sacks hanging on the walls, chairs from a nearby university, and large tables for big groups.

If the location does well, Starbucks may offer alcohol at more locations in the future, TIME magazine said. Region vice president of Starbucks Kris Engskov said in an interview with TIME that he envisioned Starbucks shops that carry “a variety of options that you might find in more of a restaurant at night.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tocotrienols Lower Triglyceride Levels

A new study published in the October 2010 issue of Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis found gamma and delta tocotrienols, derived naturally from palm oil, are potent in lowering triglyceride levels by 28 percent in the blood of human subjects after two months of supplementation. Tocotrienol-treated subjects in the double blind, placebo-controlled human trial also showed a decrease in average weight, body fat mass, body fat percentage and waist measurement.

This study demonstrated that gamma and delta tocotrienols work to lower triglyceride levels, by directly suppressing genes that enable triglyceride production (SREBP1/2, DGAT2 and APOB100), suggesting that tocotrienols are able to directly regulate triglyceride synthesis in the body. At the same time, this down-regulation also translates into a reduction in the level of triglyceride transport lipoproteins (VLDL and chylomicron), which distribute fats around the body. The study supports its in vitro research findings, by demonstrating the triglyceride-lowering effect of tocotrienols in both mice models and human clinical studies.

Moreover, the study also showed that tocotrienols may inhibit the development of atherosclerosis, a medical condition in which fatty plaque, resulting from oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (also known as "bad" cholesterol), builds up inside the arteries. It was found that gamma tocotrienol can enhance the removal of LDL-cholesterol from the blood, by inducing the expression of LDL receptors. This is a key step in achieving healthy blood lipid levels.

This research study, which involved collaboration between scientists at Davos Life Science (Singapore), researchers at Malaysia Palm Oil Board (Malaysia) and Phytopharma Co. Ltd. (Japan), involved 20 human subjects with borderline hypercholesterolemia and was conducted in Takara Clinic in Japan. The subjects were not receiving any cholesterol-lowering medications at baseline.

"Our studies show that tocotrienols have the potential for the prevention or treatment of metabolic syndrome. This research contributes further evidence that natural tocotrienols is a far more powerful form of vitamin E with unique health-related benefits not shared by alpha-tocopherol, the common form of vitamin E," said Mr Arthur Ling, CEO of Davos Life Science Singapore, a company specializing in the research and development and production of tocotrienols.

Tocotrienols, which are members of the vitamin E family, are effective in lowering the levels of triglyceride, a form of fat in the blood. High levels of triglyceride are closely linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. An elevated triglyceride level is one of the risk factors for the identification of metabolic syndrome, which is linked to an increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and stroke.

"Other studies have shown triglyceride-lowering effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid found in oily fish, which is approved by Japan's Ministry of Health as a treatment for hyperlipidemia," said Dr. Daniel Yap, Head for Tocotrienol R&D, Davos Life Science. “This study reveals that tocotrienols have a more significant serum triglyceride-lowering effect than EPA. More importantly, tocotrienol did not have any observable side effects, suggesting that it could become a natural remedy to lower triglycerides effectively."


* Nutrition Horizon: Tocotrienols Shown to be Effective in Lowering Fat Levels in Blood

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Whey to Better Health

The nutrition benefits of whey protein make it an ideal ingredient for functional food and beverage formulations. Whey stimulates muscle protein synthesis and facilitates muscle-tissue repair after exercise. In addition, whey is satiating and can therefore assist with weight management. However, whey isn’t just one protein, but instead describes various types of proteins that differ in composition and, therefore, food applications.

Composition differences

There are three main types of whey protein, whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate and whey protein hydrolysates. Whey protein isolate contains 90% or more protein, very little fat and a minuscule amount of lactose. Whey protein concentrates vary in protein (29% to 89%, but typically from 34% to 80%), fat and lactose content; whey protein concentrates with a greater percentage of protein typically have less fat and lactose.

Whey protein hydrolysates are produced from purified protein heated with acid or broken down by enzymatic reactions into shorter chains for easier digestion and decreased allergenicity. Due to the different methods of production and degree of hydrolysis, the composition of whey hydrolysate ingredients vary based on their mixture of peptides and free amino acids. Hydrolysates are not only different from isolates and concentrates in composition, nutritionally they also produce a greater spike in insulin after ingestion in comparison to intact proteins (British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2006; 40: 900-905).

Whey proteins are made up of a number of individual protein components: beta-lactoglobulin (50% to 55% of the whey protein), glycomacropeptide (GMP), alpha-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, lactoperoxidase, bovine serum albumin (BSA) and lysozyme. These individual proteins can be commercially isolated and purified.

Research in brief

“Whey protein is a natural, high-quality dairy protein derived from milk, and a complete protein that contains all the amino acids the body requires for muscle protein synthesis," according to Matthew Pikosky, Ph.D., R.D., FACN, vice-president, scientific affairs, Dairy Research Institute, Rosemont, IL. “It also has a high biological value, which means that the protein is easily absorbed and used by the body." Whey proteins have a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of 1.14 and a biological value (BV) of 100.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Artificial Food Color Fight

Even though they make foods and beverages more vivid, more appealing and easier to identify, artificial colors don’t have many fans. The EU Food Standards Agency is currently soliciting comments on a proposal to reduce levels of the food colors quinoline yellow, sunset yellow and ponceau 4R in food and beverages. Earlier in the year, the EU mandated that foods with artificial dyes must have labels warning they may cause hyperactivity in children. Then there’s the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), who first petitioned FDA to ban the use of artificial colors, then released a report on the risks of artificial food colors.

An article in Environmental Health Perspectives, “The Artificial Food Dye Blues," offers both sides of the story with an overview of CSPI’s findings, as well as comments from the International Association of Color Manufacturers and a mention of FDA’s stance on the use of artificial food dyes.


* Environmental Health Perspectives: The Artificial Food Dye Blues

Monday, October 18, 2010

Compound in Carrots, Peppers Increases Brain Health

Individuals who eat more foods containing the plant compound luteolin may reduce the risk of age-related inflammation in the brain and related memory deficits, according to new study published in the Journal of Nutrition that found luteolin inhibits the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain.

Luteolin is found in many plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile.

Researchers at the University of Illinois examined the effects of dietary luteolin in a mouse model of aging. They focused on microglial cells, specialized immune cells that reside in the brain and spinal cord. Infections stimulate microglia to produce signaling molecules, called cytokines, which spur a cascade of chemical changes in the brain. Inflammatory cytokines induce sleepiness, loss of appetite, memory deficits and depressive behaviors that often accompany illness.

Inflammation in the brain also may be a key contributor to age-related memory problems, said University of Illinois animal sciences professor Rodney Johnson, lead author of the study. “We found previously that during normal aging, microglial cells become dysregulated and begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines," he said. “We think this contributes to cognitive aging and is a predisposing factor for the development of neurodegenerative diseases."

The researchers showed that microglial cells that were exposed to a bacterial toxin produced inflammatory cytokines that could kill neurons. When the microglia were exposed to luteolin before they encountered the toxin, however, the neurons lived. Exposing only the neurons to luteolin before the experiment had no effect on their survival.

The researchers next turned their attention to the effects of luteolin on the brains and behavior of adult (3- to 6-month-old) and aged (2-year-old) mice. The mice were fed a control diet or a luteolin-supplemented diet for four weeks. They assessed their spatial memory and measured levels of inflammatory markers in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important to memory and spatial awareness.

Aged mice normally have higher levels of inflammatory molecules in the hippocampus and are more impaired on memory tests than younger adult mice. Aged mice on the luteolin-supplemented diet, however, did better on the learning and memory task than their peers, and the levels of inflammatory cytokines in their brains were more like those of the younger adult mice.

“When we provided the old mice luteolin in the diet it reduced inflammation in the brain and at the same time restored working memory to what was seen in young cohorts," Johnson said. “These data suggest that consuming a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health."


* University of Illinois: Compound in celery, peppers reduces age-related memory deficits

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finally, Soda in the Lemon-Limelight

Lately, it seems like every day brings more bad news for carbonated soft drinks. But a new study puts one popular soda in the limelight (or the lemon-limelight to be more specific) for improving the effectiveness of an oral anticancer drug.

The study, published in the American Chemical Society’s journal, Molecular Pharmaceutics, notes that, in clinical trials with an artificial stomach, degassed Sprite improved absorption of the drug.

When the unnamed drug, referred to as Compound X for the clinical trials, was given to patients, there were wide differences in how the drug was absorbed, due to variations in stomach acidity and other factors. The researchers then combined Compound X with Captisol, a substance that helps improve the solubility of drug ingredients, as well as Sprite, to help improve solubility of the drug’s ingredients, then tested it with an artificial stomach.

They found that the combination increased duodenal concentrations, as well as the difference between duodenal concentrations for different gastric pH. Based on these results, the researchers are suggesting that patients in future clinical trials for Compound X take the drug with Sprite.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sixty-three percent of consumers purchased specialty foods this year

Sixty-three percent of consumers have purchased specialty foods this year, a 37 percent increase over 2009, according to “Today’s Specialty Food Consumer 2010,” the NASFT’s annual report on consumer purchasing habits and trends.

The research was conducted in July 2010 by Mintel International and Toluna USA based on an online survey of 1,500 adults. The NASFT and Chicago-based Mintel hosted a webinar Oct. 12 to discuss the results of the fifth annual survey, which gives a snapshot of who the specialty food consumer is, what she's buying and where.

The increase to 63 percent of consumers purchasing specialty food in 2010 -- up from 46 percent in 2009 -- means 51 million consumers have come back to specialty food after cutting their spending during 2008 and 2009, said Ron Tanner, VP, communications and education at the New York-based NASFT. That’s a return to 2006’s specialty food consumption numbers, he noted.

While 71 percent of specialty food consumers report purchasing more private label and store brands within the past year, only 49 percent say they plan to in the future.

Consumers continue to watch their food store spending. Twenty-five percent of specialty food consumers’ food dollars go towards specialty foods. Overall, specialty food consumers are actually spending a little less on their weekly shopping trips: In 2010, consumers are spending $90 a week on food purchases vs. $100 in 2009. It’s important to note that more consumers (70 percent) are buying specialty food as “treats,” not as everyday staples, Tanner said. Last year, 61 percent purchased specialty food as indulgences. “That’s a tremendous increase of people coming in to buy specialty foods,” he noted.

Who is Buying

Consumers age 18 to 34, especially those in the 25-to-34 age bracket with $100,000-plus household incomes, are 35 percent more likely to buy specialty food. These consumers tend to be in the Northeast or the Western United States, college educated and Hispanic.

The specialty food consumer is concerned about sustainability of the foods she purchases. Eighty-four percent believe it is important to purchase foods produced under sustainable conditions. Among specialty food consumers, natural or organic products were the most purchased in the past 12 months. The top five specialty food purchases reported were coffee, chocolate, olive oil/other specialty oils, cheese and cold beverages. Pastas and barbecue sauces posted the biggest gains, as more consumers are cooking more at home.

Mintel’s David Browne pointed out that the eco-friendly consumer hasn’t shifted her buying habits because of the economy. Product innovations in all price points and high-quality private label products that address sustainable concerns made it easier for consumers to continue to buy sustainable products, or products made with ingredients and/or packaging that don’t harm living creatures or the environment. Pointing to the Gulf Oil’s spill’s effect on the seafood industry and the recent recall of 500 million eggs, Browne said an increasing number of consumers are concerned about food safety.

More and more, “the specialty food consumer and the sustainable food and drink consumer overlap,” noted Browne.

Buying local, or products produced within 200 miles, continues to be popular. About one in four of the specialty food consumer’s food dollars is spent on local products.


Outside of shoppers' specialty food habits, the survey asked about other interests. The average specialty food consumer watches 4.5 hours of food television each week. Cooking competition shows, such as "Top Chef," are the most watched, more so than how-to cooking shows. Thirty-two percent of specialty food consumers say they can’t cook.

The specialty food consumer is most likely a fan of PBS, goes to at least one movie a month and listens to at least one hour of digital music per day, according to the survey.

Companies looking at attracting specialty food consumers should consider underwriting a PBS program or advertising on an NPR affiliate website, advertising their products near publications' movie listings, or buying ads on the music site Pandora, Browne suggests.

The specialty food consumer spends two hours daily on the Internet outside of work. Sixty-five percent use Facebook to stay connected, and 35 percent visit YouTube. The social networking sites Twitter and LinkedIn are less popular, with usage rates of 17 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

Specialty food consumers continued to buy their specialty foods at supermarkets (70 percent), followed by natural food stores (35 percent), and mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart and Target (34 percent.) One notable shift: More specialty food consumers are shopping at farmers' markets (30 percent)– more so than specialty food stores (25 percent.)

Buying specialty food online continues to be small, accounting for just 9 percent of specialty food sales. Coffee is the No.1 specialty food item purchased online.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Some 12% of college students identify themselves as vegetarian

FOR 18 YEARS while growing up in Dallas, Victor Galli ate the standard meat and dairy diet. But when he entered his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, Galli took notice of all the nonmeat eaters and, for no particular reason, decided to try vegetarianism.

People began warning him to "watch out" for vegetarianism, that it might be bad for his health, and Galli began to feel slightly bothered.

Now a junior biochemistry nutrition major at Penn, Galli is the co-founder of the Penn Vegetarian Society, an organization that he and two dormitory floor mates created during the spring of 2009.

"Coming into Penn, not all of us really knew that much about the food-related aspect of why people are vegetarian," Galli, who is now a vegan, said. He helped create PVS not only to educate college students about what's in their food, but also to guide those who, like himself, need support transitioning from eating meat to a meatless vegetarian diet or a vegan diet, which also omits dairy and eggs.

"Many more people are going through this, now more than ever," Galli said, noting that PVS has grown from 10 members at its conception to upward of 60 now.

Bon Appétit Management Co., which services Penn's dining facilities, has noticed an upswing in the number of students who say that they are vegetarian or vegan, said Terri Brownlee, the regional director of nutrition for Bon Appétit.

The company manages more than 4,000 corporate, college and university accounts. In a 2005-2006 feedback survey among college students at campuses that Bon Appétit oversees, an average of 8 percent said that they were vegetarian, and less than 1 percent identified themselves as vegan. The 2009-2010 survey, however, had very different results: 12 percent identified themselves as vegetarian and 2 percent said that they follow a vegan diet.

Likewise, on Drexel University's campus, Senior Associate Vice President for Business Services Rita LaRue Gollotti has seen a major swing in campus dining within the past 10 years.

"This is the millennial generation, and they've grown up with a lot more information on dining," said Gollotti, who came to Drexel in 1994 as a graduate student, when the dining options consisted of meat and mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese. "They've grown up on the Food Network, catered birthday parties, and they've grown up experiencing a variety of different flavors.

"There is a lot of interest in eating vegetarian and vegan, but I would say the students don't even know that's what they're doing," Gollotti said. "At this age, there are a lot of students for whom food is an issue, and they don't want to be different.

"Our goal is to make it as integrated as possible so we're not calling them out separately. Some are very, very proud of [being vegetarian or vegan] and have no problems putting it out there, but a lot of students who are 18, 19 years old just want to be part of a group."

When Leah Abrams' vegetarian mother served bean soup and vegetable dishes for dinner, Abrams used to cringe.

"I thought she was nuts," said Abrams, who grew up in Central New Jersey. "I didn't see why anyone would want to be a vegetarian. I loved chicken."

But during her freshman and sophomore years at Penn, Abrams, a senior English major, added Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food to her reading list. She also joined a campus environmental group, which furthered her knowledge regarding the amount of energy it takes to produce food.

"Hearing what everyone else was saying really clued me in," Abrams said, noting that she originally decided to become a vegetarian to reduce her carbon footprint.

Eventually, Abrams learned that meat and animal products, such as eggs and cheese, share the same chemical makeup, and she transitioned to veganism.

"The health reasons aren't enough to sustain it over a long period of time," Abrams said. "It's sort of like a diet. What really made me stick with it came down to the moral and ethical reasons."

Abrams' story demonstrates two of the main reasons people choose vegetarianism and veganism, other than for cultural or religious purposes: environmental issues, animal-ethics issues and human-health issues.

"Anecdotally, the growth in numbers [of vegetarians and vegans] is huge," Galli said. "Historically, when vegan discussions have come up, it's been in philosophy. The explosion that we're now seeing is, the majority of people who are doing it now are doing it for environmental or health reasons. If there is any focus as to what is going on right now, it's because of health awareness."

But Reed Mangels, a certified dietitian since 1979, said that the move toward vegetarianism and veganism for health reasons has been in place for some time. The changing factor now, she said, is the way others respond to one's food choices.

"I would have said originally, there were a lot of people doing it for health reasons, and then the animal-rights thing peaked," said Reed, who is also the nutrition adviser for the Vegetarian Resource Group and co-author of the American Dietary Association's position on vegetarianism.

"It's the attitude of the health profession toward vegetarianism and veganism that has changed. It's gone from doctors questioning whether this is medically sound to, 'You're a vegetarian? So am I.' "

The same could be said for college campuses and possibly all of Philadelphia as well. While Galli initially faced people who questioned his judgment about becoming a vegetarian, PVS has enabled vegetarian and vegan students to find others like themselves. The group also has worked with campus food providers to tweak menus for vegan and vegetarian tastes.

Ian Penkala, a sophomore Penn student majoring in chemical engineering, entered his freshmen year sparingly eating fish, then transitioned into veganism with the support of PVS. At first, Penkala said, he was a "frequenter of the salad bar." But as a member of PVS, he was able to meet with Bon Appétit to help voice the organization's desire for better vegan and vegetarian options, and better labeling, among other concerns.
The hunt for vegan pizza

At the King's Court College English House dormitory's dining hall, on Chestnut Street, Lydia Kumpa, a self-taught Bon Appétit chef, specially prepares fresh vegetarian and vegan dishes, such as cheeseless Roma tomato pizza and tamarind tofu dip, as well as meat options.

Everything that is vegan or vegetarian is labeled, and Kumpa said that she won't label something, like pita chips, as being vegan if she wasn't sure.

Penn switched food services from Aramark to Bon Appétit in fall 2009 and started working more closely with PVS to better its options for vegan and vegetarian students.

"It got easier as the year went on as we started to work with Bon Appétit," Penkala said. "If I didn't find things labeled well, how am I supposed to know there's not something like honey or cheese in it?"

PVS hasn't limited its advocacy to campus food services; it also reaches out to nearby restaurants that students patronize.

"When you are going through diet transition, one of the things you're used to is being able to walk in anywhere, and [getting] anything," Galli said.

"I can give people all the reasons in the world to change their diet, but if they don't have the food, they can't go anywhere," Galli said, adding that at 1 a.m. students are still studying and craving pizza. "There's no late-night Whole Foods open."

PVS approached Samer Albarouki, the owner of Ed's Buffalo Wings and Pizza, at 3135 Lancaster Ave., about one mainstay missing from the vegan college student's life: pizza. Since vegans cannot eat animal products, cheese on a slice of Ed's vegetarian pizza wasn't even an option.

Albarouki immediately began working with PVS to find the proper ingredient - Daiya cheese, a vegan-friendly Canadian brand, had just hit shelves - and now, Ed's vegan pizza is in high demand.

"Philadelphia has become more vegan-friendly, especially in recent months," Penkala said, adding that during Restaurant Week he was able to find at least one entirely vegan meal on several menus, with the exception of dessert.

And, though Abrams has occasionally had to use her "vegan veto" when dining out with friends, she said that around Philadelphia it's not as difficult, due to the abundance of ethnic restaurants and farmers markets.

"It's completely normal to walk into a coffee shop and ask for a soy latte now," Abrams said. "But I can only think of one restaurant at home that offers vegetarian food."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Potatoes No Longer Shunned in Diets

Long shunned from traditional diets, potatoes have been found to be a part of a weight-loss program when prepared in a healthful manner, according to new research presented Oct. 12 during the 2010 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Obesity Society.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis and the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology studied 86 overweight men and women over 12 weeks to measure the effects of a reduced-calorie modified glycemic index (GI) diet with the addition of potatoes.

Three groups with randomly selected persons were formed, each having a diet that included five to seven servings of potatoes per week. Results showed that all three groups lost weight.

One group was given a list of foods with a low-glycemic index (LGI) to include in their diet daily; the second group was given a list of foods with a high-glycemic index (HGI) to include in their diet daily; the control group was allowed to choose their daily meals and caloric intake on their own, but were encouraged to adhere to the U.S. dietary guidelines and the food guide pyramid. The only requirement of the third group was like the other two groups they had to include five to seven servings of potatoes each week. Both groups reduced their daily caloric intake by 500 calories and consumed five to seven servings of potatoes each week. All participants were guided and monitored for compliance by a dietitian to only eat foods on their lists or like foods along with the provided potatoes.

All subjects were provided recipes and counseled for successful dietary adherence. The results indicated that all three groups lost weight and there was no significant difference in weight lost between the low and high glycemic index groups.

One medium-size (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato contains just 110 calories per serving, boasts more potassium (620g) than a banana, provides almost half the daily value of vitamin C (45 percent), and contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol.

“The results of this study confirm what health professionals and nutrition experts have said for years; when it comes to weight loss, it is not about eliminating a certain food or food groups, rather, it is reducing calories that count," said lead researcher Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, MS. “There is no evidence that potatoes, when prepared in a healthful manner, contribute to weight gain. In fact, we are seeing that they can be part of a weight-loss program."


* Nutrition Horizon: New Research Shows Potatoes Can be Part of a Weight Loss Regimen

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Americans Need to Eat More Whole Grains

Americans are not eating enough whole grains, which is causing diet quality and nutrient intake to suffer, according a new study published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Researchers at Louisiana State University used data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and discovered adults aged 19 to 50 and 51+ years consumed a mean of 0.63 and 0.77 servings of whole grains per day, respectively. For both age groups, diet quality and intake of energy, fiber, and polyunsaturated fatty acids were significantly higher in those consuming the most servings of whole grains.

Intake of total sugars (19 to 50 year age group only), added sugars, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and cholesterol was significantly lower in those consuming the most servings of whole grains. Intake of all micronutrients, except vitamin B-12 and sodium, was higher among individuals who consumed the most servings of whole grains.

The researchers concluded that overall consumption of whole grains in the U.S. population was low using the recently updated whole-grain definition.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some 66% of Americans drink coffee daily

A cup of coffee is a daily occurrence for 66% of Americans, but sales have been relatively unchanged in recent years due largely to the sector's loyal, older customers. However, appealing to the younger coffee consumer may be just what companies ordered to heat up the market.

Demand for coffee is strong among those aged 45+, and over-55-year-olds are the fastest growing segment of coffee drinkers—but in order to sustain long-term growth, marketers will need to court their younger customers.Research found that while 40% of 18-24-year-olds believe coffee improves their concentration, only 27% drink coffee on a daily basis.

"Young adults are somewhat more likely than over-55s to associate negative health consequences with coffee consumption," notes Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel. "Among young adults in particular, understanding the choice between energy drinks and coffee needs significant marketing focus. If coffee companies can't convert these younger drinkers to everyday users, long-term growth may suffer."

Younger coffee drinkers also differ from their older counterparts in that they prefer sweetened coffee drinks to plain coffee (40% of 18-24-year-olds say so, compared to only 22% of 45-54-year-olds). Furthermore, just 28% of 18-24-year olds like the taste of coffee on its own, compared to 53% of 45-54-year-olds.

"Another obstacle coffee companies face when targeting a younger demographic is that they often prefer to visit cafes for their caffeine fix," adds Bill Patterson. "Offering products that are similar to those found in popular cafes, but can easily be prepared at home or at the office could prove successful with 18-24-year-old reluctant drinkers."

Research also highlights some interesting links between coffee and leisure habits of younger consumers. Some 22% of 18-24-year-olds like to have a cup of coffee on hand when they're running errands, while 46% say they like to relax with a cup of coffee.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Low Carotenoid Levels Common Among Younger Women

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals only about one third of American women are meeting their fruit and vegetable intake recommendations, which means they most likely have low levels of carotenoids that may help support women's health, including breast and ovarian health.

According to Nutrilite’s “America’s Phytonutrient Report: Women’s Health by Color," older women have total carotenoid intakes 20 percent greater than younger women after accounting for differences in caloric intake. Similar to the original “America's Phytonutrient Report: Quantifying the Gap," which found on average eight out of 10 American adults are falling short on phytonutrient consumption, the new report revealed a troubling shortfall, this time among women and carotenoids.

Carotenoids give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, which research suggests may offer breast, ovarian and other health benefits for women. Using NHANES energy-adjusted data to compare the diets of women 45 years and older with those younger, the report found many women of all ages lacked carotenoid-rich foods in their diet, but the relative magnitude of the "carotenoid gap" was greater among women less than 45 years old as compared to older women.

"This points to a troubling phenomenon where younger women may be missing some of the benefits of consuming more carotenoid rich fruits and vegetables, and yet calorie for calorie, older women are eating more of these important nutrients," said Keith Randolph, Ph.D., technology strategist for Nutrilite.

The new report examined consumption of five different carotenoids across three phytonutrient color categories including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin in the yellow/orange category; lutein/zeaxanthin in the green category; and lycopene in red. In every color category, older women consumed equal or greater amounts compared to younger women after adjusting for differences in caloric intake. Women age 45 and older consume 50 percent more beta-carotene; 40 percent more alpha-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin; and, 10 percent more beta-cryptoxanthin. For lycopene, younger and older women consume comparable amounts.

According to the report, a limited number of foods account for significant portions of carotenoid intakes. Following are the single, largest food contributors in the diets of American women by color category of phytonutrient:

* Green Carotenoid: Lutein/Zeaxanthin. Spinach accounts for 33 percent of lutein/zeaxanthin intake among younger women, and 31 percent among older.
* Red Carotenoid: Lycopene. Tomatoes (and tomato products) account for 93 percent of lycopene intake among younger women, and 89 percent among older.
* Yellow/Orange Carotenoid: Alpha-carotene. Carrots account for 76 percent of alpha-carotene intake among younger women, and 73 percent among older.
* Yellow/Orange Carotenoid: Beta-carotene. Carrots account for 33 percent of beta-carotene intake among younger women, and 30 percent among older.
* Yellow/Orange Carotenoid: Beta-Cryptoxanthin. Oranges (and orange juice) account for 61 percent of beta-cryptoxanthin intake among younger women, and 60 percent among older.

Choosing to increase the amount of the fruit and vegetables richest in carotenoids is important for long-term preventative health among women. While foods like spinach, tomatoes and carrots are certainly part of a healthy diet, there are opportunities for women to choose a wider variety of produce. For example, while carrots are among the top food sources of alpha- and beta-carotenes, cooked pumpkin is also a concentrated food source of not only those carotenes, but of beta-cryptoxanthin. However, based on the current data analysis, cooked pumpkin accounts for less than 3 percent of total intake of these carotenoids among American women.

"It's concerning that so many American women lack a variety of carotenoid-rich foods in their regular diets," said Amy Hendel, Nutrilite's phytonutrient coach. "By selecting the most carotenoid-rich produce choices, women can purposefully increase their carotenoid and phytonutrient intakes which can impact health significantly as they age."


* PRNewswire: Shortfalls in Carotenoid Intake May Impact Women's Health

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Obesity Leads to Rise in Arthritis

Did you know that there are more than 100 types of arthritis? WebMD reports, "the most common arthritis symptoms of inflammation, pain and stiffness are usually caused by degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis). Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis and gout."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that almost 50 million adults in the United States reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis during 2007-2009, and more than 21 million adults reported arthritis-attributable activity limitation (AAAL). Aging and obesity contribute to arthritis and AAAL, and based on the high prevalence of obesity in the US, researchers expect arthritis to significantly increase over the next 20 years.

Previous estimates of reported adult arthritis were about 46 million during 2003-2005, increasing to almost 50 million during 2007-2009; an increase of 1 million adults per year. The prevalence of AAAL significantly increased from 18.9 million patients to 21.1 million.

Previous analysis estimated nearly 52 million adults would be diagnosed with arthritis by 2010, and 67 million by 2030; based on the latest findings, the number of arthritis cases seem to be right on track. The same previous data indicated 19 million adults would suffer from AAAL by 2010 and 25 million by 2030, however the newest data reveals that 21.1 million individuals were living with AAAL by 2009.

"With the aging population and continued high prevalence of obesity, arthritis is predicted to increase significantly over the next 20 years," say report authors.

National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is an annual, in-person interview survey of the health status and behaviors of the noninstitutionalized U.S. population of all ages. Researchers analyzed a sample adult component of persons over 18 years of age. Participants were defined as having doctor-diagnosed arthritis if they answered "yes" to the question "Have you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia." Those who answered in the positive, were then asked "Are you limited in any way in any of your usual activities because of arthritis or joint symptoms?" Those who responded "yes" to both questions were categorized as having AAAL.

Knee osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is associated with obesity, often hastening disease progression, disability and the need for total knee joint replacement. Obesity also can be a factor in poor clinical outcomes after knee joint replacement and plays a role in the increasing impact of arthritis on disability, health-related quality of life and health-care costs.

Lifetime risk for diagnosis with knee osteoarthritis is 60.5% among obese individuals, double the risk for those who are normal and underweight.

Among the participants, 33.8% of women and 25.2% of men were obese, making up double the amount of participants who are normal weight or underweight, 13.8% of men and 18.9% of women.

Study authors noted the prevalence of arthritis increases significantly with age, and risk factors are affected by weight, physical activity and lifestyle factors such as smoking.

Osteoarthritis Basics:

The term "arthritis" means inflammation in joints. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease is the most common type of arthritis, associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints occurring mostly in the weight bearing joints of the hips, knees and spine, but can also affect the fingers, thumb, neck and large toe.

Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in a joint to lose its elasticity and become stiff making it susceptible to damage. As the cartilage wears away in some areas, tendons and ligaments stretch causing pain; with full progression, the bones could rub against each other.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

*Joint aching and soreness with movement
*Pain after overuse or after long periods of inactivity
*Bony enlargements in the middle and end joints of the fingers
*Joint swelling and joint fluid accumulation

Causes of Osteoarthritis:

*Inherited gene defect responsible for making cartilage
*Joint abnormalities at birth
*Injuries in or near joints
*Joint overuse, i.e. activities requiring repeated bending of the knee are at increased risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Enzyme may help unlock biofuels from waste

A new chemical process may help unlock biofuels from trees and plant waste in a shift from using food crops such as sugar cane to generate fuel, scientists said Thursday.

They said they found an enzyme that helped break down chitin, a stiff material similar to woody cellulose that is found in the skeletons of crustaceans -- such as lobsters or crabs -- as well as insects.

"We regard this as a breakthrough," Gustav Vaaje-Kolstad, a Norwegian scientist who led the study in the journal Science, told Reuters. "Our goal is to make more valuable production from waste."

Other scientists are also developing ways to accelerate the breakdown of "biomass" waste ranging from sawdust to citrus peel that could create a new generation of biofuels. Biofuels help cut use of fossil fuels blamed for stoking global warming.

In his lab in Aas near Oslo, Vaaje-Kolstad showed off a vial of cloudy white liquid where the enzyme had broken down a sample of chitin. Alongside was another vial without the catalyst with flakes of chitin lying at the bottom in clear liquid.

"There are strong indications that similar enzymes exist that work on cellulose," Vaaje-Kolstad and colleagues at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences wrote.

The enzymes seem to make wood, for instance, swell up and break down, he said. "One of the most important bottlenecks in producing second generation biofuels is the process of going from biomass to soluble sugars," he said.

Biofuels are far easier to make from crops such as sugar cane, sunflowers or maize, for instance. But that means using cropland to generate fuel, making fuel compete with food supplies for a rising human population.

The scientists used an enzyme from the bacterium Serratia marcescens, which seems to cause a reaction on the surface of crystallized chitin. That primes the chitin for breakdown by other enzymes.

Vaaje-Kolstad said the new method broke down samples of chitin within about 2 hours, far faster than a previous method they found 5 years ago that takes about 48 hours.

He said that further work was needed to see if it would work on a bigger scale. "We are working on a laboratory scale. Sometimes these things are not applicable on a large scale. But we think that it should be possible," he said.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Freedom, Lifestyle Hinder Public Health Policies

Today’s top health issues are closely tied in with individual lifestyle choice and freedoms, making it difficult for government intervention to protect the public’s health, said Professor Elizabeth Murphy, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the University of Leicester’s College of Social Science during a speech Oct. 6.

She compared the relative powerlessness of governments today to affect lifestyle choices contributing to conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, with major strides forward in the 19th and 20th centuries in public health policies that helped to eradicate infectious diseases through large-scale programs to improve sanitation, hygiene and air and water quality.

Murphy said that many public health problems cannot be solved by legislation and are the consequence of perfectly legal personal decisions made in private spaces.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Black Male Children Have Highest Rates of Food Allergies

Children, males and blacks have the highest rates of food allergies in the United States, and the risk is 4.4 times higher among male black children than in the general population, a new study finds.

Overall, 7.6 million people (2.5 percent of the U.S. population) are estimated to have food allergies, according to researchers who analyzed data from 8,203 people, aged 1 year to 60 and older, who were included in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2005-06. The participants had their blood tested for antibodies to four specific foods: peanuts, milk, eggs and shrimp.

Food allergy rates were highest (4.2 percent) among children aged 1 to 5 and lowest (1.3 percent) among adults older than 60. Compared to the general population, food allergies were two times more common among children aged 1 to 19, three times more common among blacks and two times more common among males.

Peanut allergy was the most common food allergy, affecting 1.3 percent of the survey participants. Rates of peanut allergy were 1.8 percent in children aged 1 to 5, 2.7 percent in children aged 6 to 19, and 0.3 percent in adults.

The study, which appears in the November issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

"This study is very comprehensive in its scope. It is the first study to use specific blood serum levels and look at food allergies across the whole spectrum, from young children aged 1 to 5, to adults 60 and older," senior study author Dr. Darryl Zeldin, acting clinical director at the institute, said in an agency news release.

The authors comment in the paper that food allergies may be under-recognized in blacks, males and children, because previous studies relied on self-reporting.

They also found that food allergies were twice as likely among people with asthma than among those without asthma and that the likelihood of having food allergies grew with increasing asthma severity.

People with asthma were 3.8 times more likely to have food allergies than those who had previously been diagnosed with asthma but no longer had it. Food allergies were seven times more common among people who had an asthma-related emergency department visit in the past year than among those who had ever been diagnosed with asthma but hadn't been to an emergency department.

The risk of a severe asthma attack was 6.9 times higher for people with asthma and food allergies than those without food allergies.

"This study provides further credence that food allergies may be contributing to severe asthma episodes, and suggests that people with a food allergy and asthma should closely monitor both conditions and be aware that they might be related," study author Dr. Andrew Liu, an associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, said in a news release from National Jewish.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about food allergy.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Walnuts, Walnut Oil Lowers Blood Pressure

New findings from Penn State researchers suggests a diet rich in walnuts and walnut oil helps a body cope with stress by lowering both resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, examined walnuts and walnut oils, which contain polyunsaturated fats, influence blood pressure at rest and under stress. Previous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids—like the alpha linolenic acid found in walnuts and flax seeds—can reduce low density lipoproteins (LDL) and may reduce c-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation.

"People who show an exaggerated biological response to stress are at higher risk of heart disease," said Sheila G. West, associate professor of biobehavioral health. "We wanted to find out if omega 3-fatty acids from plant sources would blunt cardiovascular responses to stress."

Researchers studied 22 healthy adults with elevated LDL cholesterol. All meals and snacks were provided during three diet periods of six weeks each. They found that including walnuts and walnut oil in the diet lowered both resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress in the laboratory. Participants gave a speech or immersed their foot in cold water as a stressor. Adding flax seed oil to the walnut diet did not further lower blood pressure.

"This is the first study to show that walnuts and walnut oil reduce blood pressure during stress," said West. "This is important because we can't avoid all of the stressors in our daily lives. This study shows that a dietary change could help our bodies better respond to stress."

A subset of the participants also underwent a vascular ultrasound in order to measure artery dilation. Results showed that adding flax oil to the walnut diet significantly improved this test of vascular health. The flax plus walnuts diet also lowered c-reactive protein, indicating an anti-inflammatory effect. West said that also may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.


* Penn State: Walnuts, walnut oil improve reaction to stress

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Coffee, tea linked to lower risk of brain tumor

Coffee and tea lovers may have a decreased likelihood of developing the most common form of malignant brain tumor in adults, a new study suggests.

The findings, from a study of more than 500,000 European adults, add to evidence from a recent U.S. study linking higher coffee and tea intake to a lower risk of gliomas, a group of brain tumors that makes up about 80 percent of malignant brain cancers in adults.

It does not, however, prove that the beverages themselves confer the protection.

"This is all very preliminary," said lead researcher Dominique Michaud, of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and Imperial College London. "This study shouldn't be the reason that anyone changes their coffee or tea intake."

And even if coffee and tea have some direct effect on glioma risk, the impact would be small. Brain tumors in general are uncommon; in Europe, for instance, annual rates are estimated at between four and six cases per 100,000 women, and six to eight cases for every 100,000 men.

Overall, the odds that a person will develop a malignant (cancerous) brain tumor in his or her lifetime are less than 1 percent.

Still, Michaud said, if higher coffee and tea intake is somehow protective against glioma, that could give researchers insight into the causes of the tumors. "Right now, we don't know much about what causes brain cancer," she noted in an interview.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, come from an ongoing study in 10 European countries investigating potential risk factors for cancer. At the outset, 521,488 men and women between the ages of 25 and 70 completed detailed questionnaires on their medical history, diet, exercise habits, smoking and other lifestyle factors.

For their analysis, Michaud's team focused on more than 410,000 participants who were cancer-free at the outset and had complete dietary information. Over an average of 8.5 years of follow-up, 343 of these men and women were diagnosed with glioma; another 245 were diagnosed with another, usually benign type of brain tumor called meningioma.

When the researchers divided the study participants into four to five groups based on their coffee and tea intake at the outset, they found no evidence of a "dose-response" relationship -- that is, a decreasing glioma risk as coffee and tea consumption climbed.

The findings were different, however, when the researchers looked at two groups: those who averaged at least 3.5 ounces of coffee or tea per day, and those who drank less or none at all.

The heavier coffee/tea consumers were one-third less likely to be diagnosed with glioma, with factors such as age and smoking history taken into account. There was no connection seen with meningioma risk.

According to Michaud, it's not clear why there was no evidence of a dose-response association between coffee and tea intake and the risk of glioma -- which is generally considered a stronger sign of a possible cause-and-effect relationship. But it may be related to difficulties in precisely measuring study participants' coffee and tea intake, which was dependent on self-reports.

It is biologically plausible that coffee and/or tea could affect glioma risk, Michaud said.

A recent lab study, for example, found that caffeine appeared to slow the growth of a type of glioma called glioblastoma. In addition, both coffee and tea contain antioxidants, which help protect body cells from damage that can lead to cancer and other diseases.

However, it's also possible that coffee and tea enthusiasts have other characteristics that might affect their likelihood of glioma development. Just what those characteristics might be is unknown, as the causes of most brain tumors are unknown.

Researchers know of some risk factors. People who undergo radiation therapy -- most commonly radiation of the head to treat other cancers -- have a heightened risk of a future brain tumor. And genetic predisposition appears to play a role in a small percentage of brain tumors.

But the evidence on dietary or environmental factors, like on-the-job chemical exposures, has been inconclusive.

Michaud said that more research is needed both to confirm that there is an association between coffee and tea intake and glioma risk, and to understand the underlying reasons.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Many Caught in ‘Dieter’s Paradox’

Individuals who view themselves as weight conscious are more likely to believe adding a healthy option to an otherwise indulgent meal lowers the total calorie count, according to new research from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“An important factor contributing to the obesity epidemic is the misguided belief about the relationship between a meal’s healthiness and its impact on weight gain. People intuitively believe that eating healthy foods in addition to unhealthy ones can decrease a meal’s calorie count," said Alexander Chernev, study author and associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School.

As part of the study, 934 participants from a nationwide online research panel were asked to estimate the caloric content of several meals. Some were shown a series of relatively unhealthy meals, and others were shown the same meals combined with a healthy option. For example, some of the participants were shown a bowl of chili with cheese, whereas the others were shown the same bowl of chili paired with a small green side salad. The other food pairs included a cheeseburger, which for some of the participants was paired with three celery sticks; a bacon-and-cheese waffle sandwich (paired with a small organic apple); and a meatball pepperoni cheesesteak (paired with a celery-and-carrot side dish).

Those who viewed the chili alone rated it as averaging 699 calories. Those who were shown the chili combined with the green salad estimated the meal to have only 656 calories. Adding a green salad to the bowl of chili lowered the perceived caloric content of the entire meal by 43 calories—as if the green salad had negative calories. This negative-calorie illusion was observed with all four meals tested, indicating the prevalence of the belief that one can consume fewer calories simply by adding a healthy item to a meal.

To combat the “dieter’s paradox," Chernev recommends that the focus of current public policy campaigns shift away from the stereotypes associated with “good" and “bad" foods. When product ads and public policy communications stereotype foods into virtues and vices, they tend to shift peoples’ attention away from the quantity of food consumed. He said this neglect of quantity might end up implicitly promoting the illusion of negative calories.

“The bottom line here is that motivating people to lose weight without educating them on how to monitor their caloric intake might not be enough to combat obesity. As the dieter’s paradox shows, motivation without knowledge can be counterproductive," he said. “Promoting the consumption of healthy foods without providing a complete picture of the factors influencing weight gain might paradoxically facilitate caloric overconsumption, leading to weight gain rather than weight loss."

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Researchers Turn Off Severe Food Allergies

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered a way to turn off the immune system’s allergic reaction to certain food proteins in mice, a discovery that could have implications for the millions of people who suffer severe reactions to foods, such as peanuts and milk.

The findings, published online in the journal Nature Medicine, reveal one kind of immune cell in the gastrointestinal tract called lamina propria dendritic cells (LPDC)—considered the first line of defense for a body’s immune system—expresses a special receptor, SIGNR1, which appears on the cells’ surface and binds to specific sugars. By targeting this receptor using sugar-modified protein, they were able to keep food proteins that would have induced a severe, even deadly, allergic reaction from causing any serious harm.

“There is no cure for food allergies, and the primary treatment is avoidance of the offending protein," the researchers wrote. “This could teach our bodies to create a new immune response and we would no longer be allergic to the protein."

The team took a food protein that causes allergies in mice and modified it by adding special sugars. They hypothesized that, when ingested by the mice, the modified proteins would be able to bind to what are known as the SIGNR1 receptors on the immune system cells. Bound in this way, the immune system would learn to tolerate the modified food protein, and the protein would no longer induce an allergic reaction, even when consumed in its unmodified form.

Lab mice were fed the modified protein once a day for three days. Five days later, the were fed the protein in its unmodified form. Another group of mice was not fed the modified protein at all. The severity of the allergic response to the unmodified protein—which in the control-group mice tended to be tremors, convulsions and/or death—was significantly decreased in those mice that had been pre-fed the modified protein. Some still had minor reactions like itchiness or puffiness around the eyes and snout, but none had serious ones. These mice appeared to be desensitized to the food protein, even when it was fed to them in its unmodified form. In this model, SIGNR1 plays a key role in shutting off some responses in the immune cells, but whether this is the only function of this receptor is, at present, unknown.


* Johns Hopkins: Johns Hopkins Researchers Turn Off Severe Food Allergies in Mice

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Poor Nutrition A Growing Trend in Affluent Countries

Adult intakes for a significant number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, E, D and folate, are well below the recommended intakes, according to new studies presented during the Second World Congress of Public Health Nutrition held in Portugal last month. The studies provided evidence that poor nutrition is growing in affluent countries, despite widespread consumer access to nutritious foods and nutritional education campaigns.

DSM organized a forum at the Congress to discuss this critical health issue and an area where DSM has been active in developing a variety of nutritional products.

Soon to be published data from the HELENA study, that investigated the micronutrient status of European adolescents, also shows that there is reason for concern among the younger generation.

“For many living in industrialized countries, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals only occur in the poor and developing world, but new research is showing that this is not the case," said Dr. Manfred Eggersdorfer, senior vice president of Nutritional Science & Nutrition and Health Advocacy of DSM Nutritional Products at a forum organized by DSM. “What is both surprising and alarming is that despite a relatively healthy diet and access to a wide variety of foods, research shows low intakes of many of the vital vitamins and minerals in many developed countries."

Based on the Triage Theory hypothesized by Professor Bruce Ames, an adequate micronutrient intake is not only required to prevent deficiency symptoms today, but also to reduce the risk of age-related problems in the future. And it is possible that the deficiency effects are not just those commonly read about in nutrition text books.

Research by Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari of the Centre on Aging and Mobility at the University of Zurich, shows that a deficiency of vitamin D does not only result in the well recognized increase in bone fractures due to its role in bone growth and preservation, but may also cause muscular impairment (weakness, pain and a waddling gait) even before adverse effects on bone occur.

A recent meta-analysis shows that vitamin D supplementation, at a dose of 700 to 1,000 IU vitamin D per day, can reduce falls by as much as 19% and the Zurich hip fracture trial showed that supplemental vitamin D at a dose of 2,000 IU, reduced the rate of hospital readmission significantly (39%) by primarily reducing fall related injuries (60%) and reducing severe infections by as much as 90%. This could have important consequences for already stretched health systems. This means the current reviews of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D are timely and potentially important for public health.

Dr. Mary Ward of the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health of the University of Ulster presented research showing that vitamin B2 or riboflavin might have a clinically important impact on lowering hypertension. Hypertension is a major global public health challenge accounting for 14% of deaths worldwide and an estimated 10% of global healthcare expenditure. The evidence suggests that there is a specific genetic polymorphism (TT genotype) affecting 10% of western populations that may be linked to blood pressure. The link between the genetic variation and hypertension is vitamin B2 as these individuals appear to be particularly sensitive to supplemental vitamin B2.

Recent research shows that in patients with the polymorphism and diagnosed with premature cardiovascular disease, giving a 1.6mg/day dose of vitamin B2 over a 16-week period resulted in a 9mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure. Current literature shows that as little as a 2mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure could lead to a 10% decrease in stroke mortality, emphasizing the clinically significant impact vitamin B2 could have on this group of hypertensive individuals.


* FLEXNEWS: DSM Warns of Low Intakes of Vital Vitamins and Minerals in Many Developed Countries

Friday, October 01, 2010

Garlic Oil Good for the Diabetic Heart

Garlic and garlic oil have significant potential to prevent cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease that is a leading cause of death in people with diabetes, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Building on past studies supporting the theory that garlic may protect against heart disease and help control abnormally high blood sugar levels that occur in diabetes, the researchers sought to identify garlic's effects on diabetic cardiomyopathy.

Researchers fed either garlic oil or corn oil to laboratory rats with diabetes. Animals given garlic oil experienced beneficial changes associated with protection against heart damage. The changes appeared to be associated with the potent antioxidant properties of garlic oil, the researchers wrote, adding that they identified more than 20 substances in garlic oil that may contribute to the effect.


* American Chemical Society: Garlic oil shows protective effect against heart disease in diabetes