Tuesday, November 30, 2010

15% of U.S. Households Faced Food Shortages in 2009

More than 17.4 million U.S. households—about 15 percent of all households—struggled to put enough food on their tables in 2009 because they lacked money or other resources for food, according to the USDA’s recently released “Food Security in the United States 2009" report. The report also noted that one in eight U.S. households at least one person did not get enough to eat at some time during the year and normal eating patterns were disrupted.

Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were essentially unchanged from 14.6 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, in 2008, and remained at the highest recorded levels since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted.

According to the report, federal nutrition assistance programs have seen dramatic participation growth, with major programs at or near record levels. In fact, 57 percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal nutrition assistance programs within the past month.

Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, among households with children headed by single parents, and among black and Hispanic households.

The typical food-secure household spent 33 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition.


* USDA: Household Food Security in the United States, 2009

Monday, November 29, 2010

Coffee, Tea Reduce Brain Cancer Risk

Individuals who drink half a cup of drink coffee and tea daily may reduce their risk of glioma by 34 percent, according to a new study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at Brown University analyzed data from 410,309 men and women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, who reported coffee and tea consumption in food-frequency questionnaires and were followed over 8.5 years. The researchers used Cox proportional hazards models to examine the relation between coffee and tea and brain tumors.

During the study 343 cases of glioma and 245 cases of meningioma were newly diagnosed in nine countries. The researchers observed no associations between coffee, tea, or combined coffee and tea consumption and risk of either type of brain tumor when using quantiles based on country-specific distributions of intake. A significant inverse association was observed for glioma risk among those individuals consuming ≥100 mL coffee and tea per day compared with those consuming 100 ml/d (hazard ratio: 0.66; 95% CI: 0.44, 0.97; P = 0.03). The association was slightly stronger in men (hazard ratio: 0.59; 95% CI: 0.34, 1.01) than in women (hazard ratio: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.42, 1.31), although neither was statistically significant.


* American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Coffee and tea intake and risk of brain tumors in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Researchers Seek Clues to Obesity Epidemic

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests the current obesity epidemic goes way beyond eating too much and lack of physical activity. University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers suggest exposure to light, infections and epigenetics also may contribute to the battle of the bulge.

Obesity researcher David B. Allison, Ph.D., examined data on small primates called marmosets from the Wisconsin Non-Human Primate Center. He noted that the population as a whole showed pronounced weight gain over time; however, there was no compelling reason. The nature of the diet had changed, but controlling for the exact date of the change, easily doable with animals living in a controlled laboratory environment, only strengthened the phenomenon.

Allison analyzed recorded data on more than 20,000 animals for at least a decade, the scientists believe that their parallel (to humans') increase in obesity rates cannot be explained away by diet and activity levels alone. The variety of animals in the study, and their diets and lifestyles ranged too far for that conclusion, they added. The scientists studied cats, dogs, feral rats, laboratory rodents, monkeys and chimpanzees. The researchers collected 24 data sets and found that a pattern of weight gain emerged in all of them over time. In 23 of the data sets the proportion of animals classed as obese had gone up.

"And yet there was no single thread running through all 24 data sets that would explain a gain in weight," says Allison. "The animals in some of the data sets might have had access to richer food, but that was not the case in all data sets. Some of the animals might have become less active, but others would have remained at normal activity levels. Yet, they all showed overall weight gain," he wrote. “The consistency of these findings among animals living in different environments, including some where diet is highly controlled and has been constant for decades, suggests the intriguing possibility that increasing body weight may involve some unidentified or poorly understood factors."


* University of Alabama at Birmingham: Why are we getting fatter? UAB researchers seek a mysterious culprit

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Four Home-Based Businesses in Demand

The small-business market has traditionally been populated by corner stores and family-owned businesses. For women with an entrepreneurial streak, small-business opportunities have always been abundant. It's turning ideas into profitable enterprises that takes dedication and hard work. From stylists and bakers to bookkeepers and designers, women have played an important role in the small-business marketplace.

Today, women continue to influence their communities and the business world as a whole by launching successful, home-based companies. The economic downturn has been a catalyst for home-business growth. Take Indianapolis-based writer Emily Suess, for example. "In my case, my home writing business began because I simply needed the money to make ends meet," she says. "In tough economic times, people become increasingly resourceful about how they market their talents and skills."

Home-based businesses are proving again that necessity really does bring about innovation. For a couple of reasons, home-based opportunities have become popular as a result of the recession. First, technology makes communication effortless and affordable for entrepreneurs. In addition, a number of large businesses have downsized -- resulting in a growing number of contracting opportunities for professionals.

Freelance writers aren't the only people succeeding in the home-based market. A wide range of businesses are able to thrive in today's economy.

Here are some home-based opportunities that look good for 2011.

Catering services
Catering services are ideal for the home-based marketplace. After all, when will those hard-working entrepreneurs find time to prepare meals for themselves and their families? Food preparation and delivery are hot right now, and they can bring in extra cash or sustain a household. From family mealtime to Thanksgiving meals and parties, the demand for catering remains high. Home-based catering and bakery businesses are expected to do well in 2011 because these services are always in demand. People get married and throw parties in every economy, although they might cut down on the cost during a downturn.

Event planning
Weddings, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, corporate holiday events -- all of these things require a great deal of effort to coordinate. Event consultants can save the day, and earn a decent living. If you're organized and know how to throw a good party, you can launch an event-planning business from the comfort of your own home without a lot of startup capital. Event planners will be in demand in 2011 for the same reason as catering services. In fact, networking among caterers and event planners can be good for both businesses.

Virtual assistant
With a growing number of websites dedicated to helping independent professionals connect with virtual assistants, you really don't need much more than a reliable internet connection and a home computer to start working from home. Virtual assistants often work on a part-time basis for several business professionals, helping them with everything from travel arrangements to bookkeeping. These kinds of home-business opportunities are ideal for moonlighters looking for extra cash to help pay the bills. As the number of virtual offices increases in 2011, so will the need for qualified virtual assistants.

Online retailers
From pet clothing to handcrafted jewelry and unique paintings, you can sell just about anything online. Small, home-based merchandisers can operate successfully thanks to sites such as Amazon, Etsy and Ebay. At a time where the missteps of large corporations have left the public mistrusting big names, home-based artisans can take advantage. Retail merchandise is another safe bet for 2011. People who want to make their bucks go further, in particular, are looking for unique, handcrafted items that are still affordable. And green items are also gaining in popularity – from organic skin care to organic kids’ clothing.

Of course, the possibilities for home-business opportunities are practically limitless, and the home-based market is expected to continue growing as the economy takes its time recovering. The unemployed and underemployed -- people who might never have thought of themselves as entrepreneurs -- are expected to join the ranks of work-at-home professionals.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Consumers Seek More Intense Flavors and Experiences From Products

Do you sometimes think that you spend too much time online and in front of a screen? Do you find yourself craving real sensual stimulation and experiences? If the answer is yes, you are not alone -- there is a growing demand and thirst for extreme sensations and tangible experiences.

One of the most interesting drivers of this trend has been the extent to which our online experience fuels offline behavior. Despite stimulating the imagination, the online world does little to satisfy the primal need for stimulation by touch, smell, taste and tangible human experience.

The entertainment industry has been quick to respond to demands to push emotional and sensation boundaries. The new generation of 6-D cinemas include seats that move and fragrance jets that allow audiences to experience even greater sensory thrills. The explosion of 3-D TV and 3-D technology has provided a new way for people to enhance the visual experience and make them feel alive. In many ways entertainment is moving towards a reality not unlike 'the feelies' in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

These sensory-enhancing techniques are filtering into brand communication with the rise of multisensory brand experiences. At the recently-opened Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, visitors are invited to experience multisensory immersion into the sights, sounds and smells of Ferrari's Italian heritage and rides that simulate the G-force of Formula 1 racing. Pioneering brands are focusing on all aspects of the multisensory brand experience. Nissan plans to launch in-car aromatherapy forest air conditioning, which will deliver scents that assist in maintaining alertness and deliver vitamin C to help hydrate human skin. What's interesting about these examples is the extent to which they demonstrate how physical sensations are able to create deeper emotional connections by activating people's primal needs and desires.

Taste thresholds continue to expand, particularly in the food and beverage category, where previously intense (sour, spicy, bitter) or exotic flavors have been adopted by the mainstream. U.S. spice company McCormick has reported a 70% increase in sales of its extra-hot chipotle pepper since its launch five years ago. People are now far more receptive to extreme flavors -- such as Dominos' "The Revenge" pizza with jalapeno and mustard -- so much so that they are experienced as badges of status, particularly among men. The extremely hot and sour kim-chi flavor is proving increasingly popular, even outside its home market, Asia, where it is a popular flavor for convenience foods and snacks.

Even bartenders are mixing ginger and jalapeno in their cocktails. Expect to see more extreme tastes on mainstream menus, with more ordinary food products being given an extreme taste makeover. Some argue that our growing thirst for extreme flavor is being driven be an aging population who are seeking taste sensations to pep up taste buds and olfactory nerves.

Meanwhile, a new generation of food artists such as the U.K.'s Bompas & Parr, makers of jellied desserts, are pushing boundaries with innovative food installations-cum-entertainment experiences specially designed to play to all five senses. Bompas & Parr's Complete History of Food, produced in July, took over an entire building and included flooded dining rooms, giant sugar sculptures and dinner in the belly of a dinosaur, topped off with cocktails by sponsor Courvoisier. Over the next few years, expect to see more examples of multisensory branding as companies find new ways to push boundaries and stimulate and connect with consumers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Eat Your Fruits & Veggies for Longer Life

Consuming high amounts of beta-carotene's less well-known antioxidant cousin, alpha-carotene, in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of dying from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, new research suggests.

Both nutrients are called carotenoids -- named after carrots -- because of the red, yellow and orange coloring they lend to a range of produce. Once consumed, both alpha- and beta-carotene are converted by the body to vitamin A, although that process is believed to unfold more efficiently with beta-carotene than with alpha-carotene.

However, the new study suggests alpha-carotene may play the more crucial role in defending cells' DNA from attack. This might explain the nutrient's ability to limit the type of tissue damage that can trigger fatal illness, researchers say.

In the study, a team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 14 years of follow-up, most people -- regardless of lifestyle habits, demographics or overall health risks -- had fewer life-limiting health troubles as their blood concentrations of alpha-carotene rose.

The effect was dramatic, with risks falling from 23 to 39 percent as an individual's alpha-carotene levels climbed.

"This study does continue to prove the point there's a lot of things in food -- mainly in fruits and vegetables that are orange or kind of red in color -- that are good for us," said registered dietitian Lona Sandon, American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. But Sandon stressed that, right now, the study only proves an association between alpha-carotene and longer life, and can't show cause-and-effect.

The findings are to be published in the upcoming March 28 print issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, with an online version of the report published Monday.

Researchers led by Dr. Chaoyang Li, from the CDC's division of behavioral surveillance with epidemiology and laboratory services, note that a host of yellow-orange foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squash, and mango and cantaloupe are rich in alpha-carotene, as are some dark-green foods such as broccoli, green beans, green peas, spinach, turnip greens, collards, kale, brussels sprouts, kiwi, spinach and leaf lettuce.

These foods fall within the U.S. Department of Agriculture's current dietary recommendations, which highlight the benefits of consuming two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables daily.

Li's team focused on more than 15,000 American adults, 20 years of age or older, who took part in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. All underwent a medical exam between 1988 and 1994, during which time blood samples were taken. Participants were tracked for a 14-year period through 2006.

By that point, more than 3,800 participants had died. Blood analyses revealed that, compared with those who had blood alpha-carotene levels of between 0 and 1 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL), those falling in the range of between 2 and 3 mcg/dL faced a 23 percent lower risk of death from all causes.

Risk of death for those with alpha-carotene blood levels in the range of between 4 and 5 mcg/dL, between 6 and 8 mcg/dL, and 9 mcg/dL or above dropped 27 percent, 34 percent and 39 percent, respectively, versus those in the 0 to 1 mcg/dL range.

The team also linked higher blood alpha-carotene levels to a lower risk for dying from the nation's two top killers: cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Li's team said that while more research is needed, the findings generally suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk for premature death.

Sandon agreed, but cautioned against over-interpreting the findings.

"This is very preliminary," she said. "There haven't been many clinical trials looking into this. And it's always tricky when you're singling out a single nutrient, because components in foods may work individually or synergistically. The question is: Is alpha-carotene acting in conjunction with something else? We don't really know," Sandon explained.

"The alpha-carotene itself is probably not the cause of longer life," she added. "But we can still say that if you're getting more of these kinds of phytonutrients found in foods, this may help you live longer and healthier."

The bottom line, according to Sandon: "I certainly think it would be wrong for people to take away from this that they should set out to specifically consume alpha-carotene. What people should take away from this is that they should go out and eat the foods that have alpha-carotene in them."

And what about nutritional supplements? Li's team pointed out antioxidant supplements currently on the market do not contain much, if any, alpha-carotene, and the study therefore only looked at the impact of consuming the compound via foods.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Tis the Season to Save—More Consumers Getting Their Coupons via Internet or Email

Black Friday is upon us and as a result, many shoppers will be combing their favorite stores for the best bargains in an effort to save money during the pricey holiday season. Exclusive online sales, door busters and coupons are also ways to save, and according to Mintel, roughly a third of coupon users now cite the Internet or email as a source of coupons.

Compared to five years ago when 19% of consumers said they got coupons from the Internet or had them sent to their email account, the figure has increased to 32% in 2010. Seventy-one percent of respondents say their coupons come from leaflets inserted in newspapers, while 55% use coupons found in or on packages they've purchased.

"Consumers report that they're budgeting less than they did a year ago in regards to food, transportation and clothing, but coupon usage is as popular as ever," says Fiona O'Donnell, senior analyst at Mintel. "While the percentages of coupon users who cite traditional sources like newspapers have held relatively steady over the past five years, the incidence of obtaining coupons from the internet and email has risen sharply."

While 59% of those surveyed say they usually use coupons, that's not the only way consumers save money. An equal percentage say they seek out sale products advertised in store flyers and 57% watch for sales via newspaper ads. A meager 6% say they listen out for sales on the radio.

"The self-discipline required for a strict monthly or weekly budget can be difficult for some consumers to maintain for an extended period of time," adds Fiona O'Donnell. "Opportunistic savings like coupon clipping and sales ads take relatively less effort."

But it's not all penny-pinching and bargain hunting: many consumers treat themselves with any extra money they save. Once all bills are paid and essentials purchased, 46% of those surveyed say they use their extra money to dine out, 35% say they pay off debt and 30% say they spend any excess cash on entertainment like concerts, movies or music.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pomegranate juice could help kidney patients

There may be a seed of truth amidst the many health claims for pomegranate juice, researchers from Israel said Thursday, at least for kidney patients on dialysis.

They found that such patients who gulped a few cups of the tart liquid every week lowered their chances of infections, the second-leading killer of the more than 350,000 Americans on dialysis.

The findings were presented at the American Society of Nephrology's meeting in Denver -- aka Renal Week -- and have not yet been vetted by independent experts.

"It's a very intriguing study," said Dr. Frank Brosius, who heads the nephrology division at the University of Michigan Health System and was not involved in the research.

"I certainly don't know of anything else that would have such a profound effect," he told Reuters Health, cautioning at the same time that the study needed to be replicated by other centers.

The results come in the wake of a U.S. crackdown on allegedly false advertising by POM Wonderful, which claims its pomegranate products can help everything from heart disease to prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

The Israeli researchers, led by Dr. Batya Kristal of Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, did not use POM juice, but a brand sold by Naturafood.

In lab tests, Kristal told Reuters Health, that brand ranked highest in polyphenol antioxidants, which can reduce cell damage caused by so-called free radicals.

Antioxidants are found in different levels in fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries or broccoli.

"Pomegranate juice was shown in the last three years to contain the highest levels of polyphenols among a variety of products," Kristal said. "Much higher than red wine, for instance."

The researchers figured an antioxidant-rich diet might help patients with kidney failure, because the level of free radicals in their blood increases as the blood circulates through the dialysis device. That, in turn, may rev up inflammation in their tissues.

In the study, funded by the Israeli Ministry of Health, 101 patients were randomly assigned to either a concoction without pomegranate juice, or the real thing.

After downing about half a cup three times a week over a year, those who drank the real thing had a reduction of inflammatory molecules in their blood.

They also made fewer trips to the hospital.

"We found significant reductions in hospitalization due to infections, with more than 40 percent reduction in the first hospitalization and 80 percent in the second," said Kristal.

However, the researchers were only able to rule out chance as the cause of the reduction in the second visit to the hospital.

According to the findings, among 50 patients drinking pomegranate juice for a year, about two would have to go to the hospital at least twice. By comparison, that number would be nearly 11 in patients not drinking the juice.

The researchers say they don't know if their results extend to other brands as well, and suggest squeezing your own juice. A 16-oz bottle of POM Wonderful sells for about $4.

She said her team had found no side effects, but added that kidney patients should be aware of the high potassium content in the juice, given the delicate balance of nutrients in their blood, and talk to their doctor if they consider drinking it.

Brosius was skeptical of the benefits, although he said the juice was unlikely to cause harm.

"I would prefer to see this validated at other centers before we come out and say this is the thing to do," he said. Even if the findings hold up, he said, it is still unclear what accounts for them. "Who the heck knows what the active ingredients are?"

Marion Nestle, a nutrition expert at New York University, said the effects might not be unique to pomegranate juice.

"This study does not demonstrate anything special about pomegranate juice," she told Reuters Health in an e-mail. "The effects of juice were compared to a placebo, not to any other kind of juice that might have exactly the same effect."

"The pomegranate people are spending millions to prove what I could have told them in the first place," she added. "Pomegranate juices -- like most if not all fruit and vegetable juices -- have antioxidant activity. Does this make pomegranates better than any other fruit? Investigators have yet to show this."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Barley Lowers LDL Cholesterol

Increasing the amount of barley in a diet may benefit heart health by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers from Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, The Hashemite University in Zarqa, Jordan, found barley and beta-glucan isolated from barley lowered total and LDL cholesterol concentrations by 0.30 mmol/l (P<0.00001) and 0.27 mmol/l (P<0.00001), respectively, compared with control. The type of food matrix used did not affect the cholesterol-lowering abilities, according to the researchers. In the analysis, 11 eligible randomized clinical trials published from 1989 to 2008 were identified from nine databases.

The propionic acid produced from barley's insoluble fiber may be partly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering properties of fiber. In animal studies, propionic acid has been shown to inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol by the liver. By lowering the activity of this enzyme, propionic acid helps lower blood cholesterol levels.

Beta-glucans, polysaccharides abundant in barley has been shown to help lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids and removing them from the body via the feces. Bile acids are compounds used to digest fat that are manufactured by the liver from cholesterol. When they are excreted along with barley's fiber, the liver must manufacture new bile acids and uses up more cholesterol, thus lowering the amount of cholesterol in circulation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Future of Food

By 2050, the world population is expected to reach nine billion. The question of how to feed those many mouths is high on the mind of agriculture and food experts. Although food production has increased over the past 50 years, it is estimated that 70% to 100% more food will need to be produced to meet demand.

To help address this global conundrum, a team of 55 agricultural and food experts from the world’s major agricultural organizations, professional scientific societies and academic institutions was appointed to identify the top 100 questions for global agriculture and food. Their top 100 questions, whittled down from an initial list of 618, are published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

The belief is that if these 100 questions are addressed, the answers will significantly impact global agricultural practices worldwide. They offer policy and funding organizations an agenda for change. The questions are wide-ranging, are designed to be answerable and capable of realistic research design, and cover 13 themes identified as priority to global agriculture.

Lead author, Professor Jules Pretty, of the University of Essex, said: “The challenges facing world agriculture are unprecedented and are likely to magnify with pressures on resources and increasing consumption. What is unique here is that experts from many countries, institutions and disciplines have agreed on the top 100 questions that need answering if agriculture is to succeed this century. These questions now form the potential for driving research systems, private sector investments, NGO priorities, and UN projects and programmes."

This research forms one part of the UK’s Foresight Global Food and Farming Futures project. The project will publish its findings in January 2011. The Foresight Programme is part of the UK's Government Office for Science. It helps Government think systematically about the future and uses the latest scientific and other evidence to provide signposts for policymakers in tackling future challenges.


* International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability: The top 100 questions of importance to the future of global agriculture

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks in FDA’s Crosshairs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering the ban of the sale of alcoholic drinks containing caffeine after of a number of college students around the country were hospitalized last month after drinking Four Loko caffeinated alcoholic drink.

Last year, 19 U.S. state attorneys general prompted FDA to sent letters to nearly 30 manufacturers responsible for more than 40 alcoholic energy drinks asking them to prove their products are safe.

Four Loko's main product is a 23.5-ounce drink with 12 percent alcohol - roughly equivalent to drinking five 12-ounce beers. The drink also has about one cup’s worth of coffee, according to the manufacturer.

As reported by just-drinks, FDA has been reviewing the situation for almost 12 months. "It is FDA’s position that these type [caffeinated-alcohol] of beverages are not 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS) and therefore we have concerns about their safety and legality," an FDA spokesperson said.

Many college campuses already have banned alcoholic drinks containing caffeine, and state regulators also are taking a hard look at them. Michigan's Liquor Control Commission on Nov. 4 banned alcoholic energy drinks and ordered manufacturers of the beverages to remove all inventory from the state in within 30 days. Regulators in New York also are considering asking the legislature to give them the power to ban alcoholic energy drinks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reaching for an apple instead of a cookie doesn't only keep the weight off, it may also prevent broken bones later in life, according to a study.

Older women who eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may have a lower chance of bone fractures than those who pass on such healthy fare, the study -- published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition -- added.

While other studies have found that people with higher intakes of specific nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D, have greater bone mass and suffer fewer fractures as they age, little has been known about the impact of overall diet patterns.

"Previous research has shown that dietary patterns are related to the risk of several adverse health outcomes, but the relation of these patterns to skeletal fragility is not well understood," wrote Lisa Langsetmo at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who headed the research team.

Langsetmo and her colleagues studied 3,539 postmenopausal women and 1,649 men aged 50 or older, focusing on the relationship between "nutrient density" -- a food's concentration of nutrients in relation to calories -- and the risk of bone fractures.

At the start of the study, participants filled out detailed diet questionnaires. The research then calculated nutrient density scores for each person.

A diet high in nutrient density would feature plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and fish. One high in calorie density might include things such as desserts, potato chips and processed meats.

Over the next 7 years, 70 men and 372 women in the study sustained fractures unrelated to major accidents.

In general, the research found that for each 40 percent increase in calories from fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods, the odds of suffering a fracture over 10 years fell by 14 percent among women.

This was true even when accounting for other factors such as body weight, bone density, smoking habits and calcium and vitamin D intake.

There was a similar pattern among men that did not reach statistical significance.

But there was no relationship, however, between fracture risk and diets high in calorie-dense foods.

Langsetmo said that while the current research does not prove a nutrient-rich diet prevents fractures, the message is that a diet already seen to be healthier -- by lowering risks of heart disease and diabetes -- may also be good for bone health.

She also noted that people with nutrient-rich eating habits also tend to be more health-conscious than people who shun vegetables, getting more exercise and being less likely to smoke.

In addition, it is also unclear how much of a difference diet changes might make.

Source: : link.reuters.com/suw85q

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Garlic may be useful in addition to medication to treat high blood pressure

Australian doctors enrolled 50 patients in a trial to see if garlic supplements could help those whose blood pressure was high, despite medication.

Those given four capsules of garlic extract a day had lower blood pressure than those on placebo, they report in scientific journal Maturitas.

The British Heart Foundation said more research was needed.

Garlic has long been though to be good for the heart.

Garlic supplements have previously been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure in those with untreated hypertension.

In the latest study, researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia, looked at the effects of four capsules a day of a supplement known as aged garlic for 12 weeks.

They found systolic blood pressure was around 10mmHg lower in the group given garlic compared with those given a placebo.

Researcher Karin Ried said: "Garlic supplements have been associated with a blood pressure lowering effect of clinical significance in patients with untreated hypertension.

"Our trial, however, is the first to assess the effect, tolerability and acceptability of aged garlic extract as an additional treatment to existing antihypertensive medication in patients with treated, but uncontrolled, hypertension."

Experts say garlic supplements should only be used after seeking medical advice, as garlic can thin the blood or interact with some medicines.

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said using garlic for medicinal purposes dates back thousands of years, but it is essential that scientific research proves that garlic can help conditions such as raised blood pressure.

She said: "This study demonstrated a slight blood pressure reduction after using aged garlic supplements but it's not significant enough or in a large enough group of people to currently recommend it instead of medication.

"It's a concern that so many people in the UK have poorly controlled blood pressure, with an increased risk of stroke and heart disease as a consequence. So enjoy garlic as part of your diet but don't stop taking your blood pressure medication."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Costs Up, Turkey Prices Down

Feeding a family of 10 a classic home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings, will cost 1.3 percent more this year, according to a new survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). According to the survey, the average cost of this year’s feast is $43.47, a 56-cent increase from last year’s average of $42.91. Both figures are lower than from two years ago, when the meal cost $44.61.

The AFBF survey shopping list included turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $17.66, is roughly 6 cents per pound cheaper than last year.

“Turkey prices are down some this year despite the fact that, according to Agriculture Department estimates, turkey production has been slightly lower in 2010 than in 2009 and supplies of turkey in cold storage are below last year’s level," John Anderson, an AFBF economist, said in a statement. “This suggests that retailers are being fairly aggressive in featuring turkeys in special sales and promotions."

A gallon of whole milk increased in price by 38 cents per gallon to $3.24. Other prices increases were seen in canned pumpkin pie mix, ready-made pie shells, whipping cream, sweet potatoes, carrots and celery, and brown-n-serve rolls.

“Some of the Thanksgiving dinner items have rebounded from quite low price levels in 2009," Anderson said. “For example, last year’s milk price was at its lowest level since 2001. Dairy product prices have climbed some in 2010, largely reflecting better consumer demand as the economy has gradually improved this year."


* American Farm Bureau: Cost of Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Up Slightly in 2010ss

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A 3,000-milligram reduction in sodium by teenagers could reduce hypertension by 30% to 43%

If teens could reduce their daily salt consumption by 3,000 milligrams, they would cut their risk for heart disease and stroke significantly in adulthood, researchers said on Sunday.

Based on results of a computer modeling analysis, researchers projected that a 3,000-milligram reduction in sodium by teenagers could reduce hypertension by 30 percent to 43 percent when they become adults.

Other benefits over time as teens hit 50 years of age include a 7 percent to 12 percent reduction in coronary heart disease, an 8 percent to 14 percent reduction in heart attacks, and a 5 percent to 8 percent reduction in stroke, according to data presented at the scientific sessions at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago this week.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams. Teenagers consume more than 3,800 milligrams -- more than any other group.

Processed food typically contains too much sodium. One bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos has 310 milligrams. Pizza is one of the biggest problems for teens when it comes to sodium, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

"The additional benefit of lower salt consumption early is that we can hopefully change the expectations of how food should taste, ideally to something slightly less salty," said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Most of the salt we eat is not from our salt shaker, but salt that is already added in food that we eat.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Red Meat Intake, Prostate Cancer Not Linked

A meta-analysis of epidemiologic investigations of the link between meat intake and prostate cancer revealed that there is not an independent positive association between red or processed meat intake and prostate cancer.

The analysis included 26 studies—15 studies of red meat and 11 studies of processed meat. High vs. low intake and dose-response analyses were conducted using random effects models to generate summary relative risk estimates. No association between high vs. low red meat consumption and total prostate cancer was observed. Similarly, no association with red meat was observed for advanced prostate cancer. A weakly elevated summary association between processed meat and total prostate cancer was found, although, according to the study abstract, “heterogeneity was present, the association was attenuated in a sub-group analysis of studies that adjusted for multiple potential confounding factors, and publication bias likely affected the summary effect."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Soy chemicals may lower risk for invasive breast cancer

The more isoflavone-containing soy products a young woman eats, the lower her odds for developing invasive breast cancers, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Philadelphia.

That was among the good news, but other research at the meeting found that hormone replacement therapy might raise women's odds for ovarian cancer.

The soy study looked specifically at isoflavones, organic compounds found in certain foods. These compounds contain antioxidants that are thought to be protective against breast cancer.

The study included 683 women with breast cancer and 611 women without the disease. It found that participants who consumed the most isoflavones had a 30% lower risk of developing an invasive tumor.

Examining the data more closely, researchers found that among premenopausal women, those who consumed the most isoflavones had a 30% decreased risk of early, stage I disease, a 70% decreased risk of having a tumor larger than 2 centimeters, and a 60% decreased risk of having stage 2 breast cancer. These connections were not seen among postmenopausal women, the researchers reported.

"Eating isoflavones seems to be associated mainly with breast cancer characteristics that are more treatable and less severe than other types," said study lead author Anne Weaver, a graduate student at the University at Buffalo and a research apprentice with Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. She and the other researchers noted that the findings were not definitive and needed to be confirmed through further research.

"The biggest source of isoflavones are soy and soy products but they're also found in beans, cooked cereal, potato chips, coffee, cookies and cake," Weaver said. She cautioned that the overall intake of soy in the study was low — in fact, 75% of participants reported never eating soy at all.

The hormone replacement therapy study aimed to see if different types of treatment (estrogen alone or estrogen-plus-progestin), the form of treatment (pill, patch, cream), or whether or not it was taken sequentially or continuously affected ovarian cancer risk.

During the 1990s, hormone replacement therapy was widely used by women to help control menopausal symptoms. However, data from the Women's Health Initiative study in 2002 suggested that the treatment raised risks for cardiovascular events and breast cancer, and rates of use fell precipitously.

In the new study, the authors examined data on almost 127,000 postmenopausal women in 10 European countries.

"Current use of hormone therapy was associated with a small but significant increased risk of ovarian cancer (29 percent compared to women who had never used hormone therapy) but there was no association for former use," said study lead author Konstantinos Tsilidis, a postdoctoral fellow in the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford.

The longer a woman used the therapy, the higher the risk, although the only significant risk was seen among women who used hormone therapy for over five years. There seemed to be no difference in risk between type of therapy, by regimen or route of administration.

A third study presented at the conference found a heavy burden of side effects — including hot flashes, sleep aberrations, hair loss and leg cramps — in women taking aromatase inhibitor medications to treat their breast cancer.

"Aromatase inhibitors are associated with the new onset of a number of symptoms that occur much more frequently in women with breast cancer compared to women of the same age without cancer," said study lead author Lisa Gallicchio, an epidemiologist with the Prevention and Research Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "These symptoms may affect quality of life and medication adherence which is crucial in reducing breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer-related mortality."

A previous study found that only 49% of patients took aromatase inhibitors "at the full duration at the optimal schedule," Gallicchio said. "That means 51% did not."

The current research was partially funded by pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca.

A final study, this time by researchers at Yale University, found that exercising for at least 150 minutes a week reduces the odds of developing endometrial cancer by 34%.

The benefit was greater for slim women, who had a 73% reduced risk compared with heavy, sedentary women. But even overweight and obese women who exercised had a 52% reduced risk compared to their counterparts who didn't exercise.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Consumers Unaware of Sustainable Efforts

Most consumers are aware of sustainability, yet few can name products or companies that practice sustainable initiatives, according to a new report by The Hartman Group. The consumer culture specialists found 15-percent more consumers are now aware of the term “sustainability" compared to three years ago (69 percent in 2010 say they are familiar with “sustainability" vs. 54 percent in 2007), but only 21 percent can identify a sustainable product and even fewer, 12 percent, can name specific companies as “sustainable."

“We’re seeing a broad gap in the way consumers and companies think about and approach sustainability," said Laurie Demeritt, Hartman Group President & COO. “That very few consumers today can name a sustainable company underscores the fact that so many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability activities go relatively unnoticed by consumers."

Still, the firm noted closing the divide represents significant opportunities for companies. “Industry typically places great emphasis on energy and the environment projecting an image of being stewards of the planet," Demeritt said. “But consumers are focused on more personal benefits like whether a product is healthy for their families or how a company invests in the welfare of their local community; above all consumers are looking for companies that are good citizens. From this perspective, we say consumers equate sustainability with the golden rule, or a reciprocal notion of fair treatment of communities, people or animals, and look through this lens when evaluating companies or thinking about which brands to use."

The Hartman report, “Marketing Sustainability 2010: Bridging the Gap Between Consumers and Companies," is a third phase of a multi-year research project begun in 2007. The report analyzes changes in attitudes and behavior from studies conducted in 2007 and 2008 as well as providing new insights. It examines the degree of loyalty and commitment consumers have for companies, brands and products that are perceived to be sustainable. In addition to the general report, a Sustainability Playbook is included that serves as a best practices guideline on how to deploy effective sustainability marketing and communications.

Findings and insights in the study are based on integrated qualitative ethnography and quantitative research and analysis. Qualitative ethnographies were fielded in three major U.S. markets. More than 1,600 U.S. adult consumers participated in the online survey.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Women Who Drink Sugary Beverages Raise Risk of Gout

Women who drink fructose-rich beverages such as sugar-sweetened sodas and orange juice are at increased risk for gout, a new study finds.

The incidence of gout -- a painful type of inflammatory arthritis -- in the United States increased from 16 per 100,000 people in 1977 to 42 per 100,000 in 1996. That rise coincided with a large increase in soda and fructose consumption, the study authors noted.

Fructose-rich beverages can cause a buildup of uric acid in the blood, which leads to gout.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from 78,906 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study between 1984 and 2006. The women had no history of gout at the start of the study.

Over the next 22 years, 778 of the women were diagnosed with gout. Compared with women who consumed less than one serving of sugar-sweetened soda per month, those who consumed one serving per day were 74 percent more likely to develop gout and those who consumed two or more servings per day had a 2.4 times higher risk.

In addition, the investigators found that compared with women who consumed less than a glass (six ounces) of orange juice per month, those who consumed one serving per day were 41 percent more likely to develop gout, and those who consumed two or more servings per day had a 2.4 times greater risk.

The study also found that women in the highest quintile (fifth) of fructose intake were 62 percent more likely to develop gout than those in the lowest quintile.

Doctors should be aware of the potential effect that fructose-rich beverages have on gout risk, said Dr. Hyon K. Choi, of Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues.

The study, which was released online in advance of publication in the Nov. 24 print edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, was presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology annual scientific meeting in Atlanta.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about gout.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tomatoes Significantly Reduce Blood Pressure

Adding more tomatoes and tomato products to a diet may help improve cardiovascular health, according to new findings presented American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston. The research revealed a significant decrease in blood pressure in people with high blood pressure who ate two servings of canned tomato products daily over the course of six weeks.

ConAgra Foods, the maker of Hunt’s® tomatoes, sponsored a session where Dr. Tissa Kappagoda of the University of California-Davis and Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton of Penn State University reviewed multiple studies, including the 2009 Tomato Products Wellness Council research they co-authored with other medical experts, examining how fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes can reduce heart disease risk factors.

“Research suggests a protective relationship between the consumption of tomatoes and tomato products and cardiovascular disease," Kappagoda said. “For instance, in a six-week study, people with high blood pressure who consumed two servings of canned tomato products daily experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure."

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found lycopene absorption is two to three times greater in canned tomato products than raw tomatoes. Kristin Reimers, Ph.D., nutrition manager, ConAgra Foods, said tomatoes not only contain high levels of carotenoid antioxidants such as lycopene, but also serve as a significant source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium in the American diet.

“Calorie for calorie, tomatoes contain more than twice the potassium of other common sources such as bananas, potatoes, milk and orange juice," she said.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chocolate Boosts Heart Health in Older Women

Older women who eat chocolate once a week may reduce their risk for developing heart disease and cardiovascular-related problems later in life, according to a new study appearing in the November issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

As reported by PsychCentral, Researchers at University of Western Australia conducted a 10-year randomized controlled trial of 1,216 women over age 70 to determine the relationship between chocolate consumption and atherosclerotic vascular disease (ASVD) events. The women were divided into three groups based their self-reported chocolate intake. More than 47 percent of the subjects had less than one serving of chocolate weekly, nearly 36 percent had between one and six servings per week, and nearly 17 percent had more than seven servings per week. The researchers examined plaque buildup in their arteries using B-mode carotid ultrasonography, as well as data from the Western Australian Data Linkage System to assess clinical outcomes and causes of death, to verify events independent of patient reporting.

Data revealed 158 ASVD events (27.3 percent) in the group that rarely consumed chocolate, compared with 90 events (20.7 percent ) in the group that consumed chocolate weekly, and 42 events (20.8 percent) in the group that consumed chocolate daily.

Results showed that hospitalization or death was less common in participants in the study who consumed chocolate frequently. Compared to non-chocolate eaters, women who consumed more frequently were at significantly lower risk for hospitalizations for or death of ischemic heart disease or heart failure.


* PsychCentral: Chocolate Associated with Fewer Heart Problems in Women

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks in FDA’s Crosshairs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering the ban of the sale of alcoholic drinks containing caffeine after of a number of college students around the country were hospitalized last month after drinking Four Loko caffeinated alcoholic drink.

Last year, 19 U.S. state attorneys general prompted FDA to sent letters to nearly 30 manufacturers responsible for more than 40 alcoholic energy drinks asking them to prove their products are safe.

Four Loko's main product is a 23.5-ounce drink with 12 percent alcohol - roughly equivalent to drinking five 12-ounce beers. The drink also has about one cup’s worth of coffee, according to the manufacturer.

As reported by just-drinks, FDA has been reviewing the situation for almost 12 months. "It is FDA’s position that these type [caffeinated-alcohol] of beverages are not 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS) and therefore we have concerns about their safety and legality," an FDA spokesperson said.

Many college campuses already have banned alcoholic drinks containing caffeine, and state regulators also are taking a hard look at them. Michigan's Liquor Control Commission on Nov. 4 banned alcoholic energy drinks and ordered manufacturers of the beverages to remove all inventory from the state in within 30 days. Regulators in New York also are considering asking the legislature to give them the power to ban alcoholic energy drinks.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Report Calls for Dietary Changes to Federal Nutrition Program

Meals and snacks served to children and adults at day care facilities through a federally supported food program should have more vegetables and fruits and less fat, salt and added sugars, according to the new “Child and Adult Care Food Program: Aligning Dietary Guidance for All" report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The report's recommendations will bring the nutrition standards of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) in line with the latest nutrition science and dietary guidelines used in other federal food programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. Approximately 3 million children and 114,000 functionally impaired adults and other adults over age 60 received meals and snacks through the program in fiscal year 2010.

The report builds on existing CACFP requirements for meals and also calls for each meal to include one serving of fruit and two of vegetables and for the amount of dark green and orange vegetables served each week to increase while limiting starchy vegetables to no more than twice a week. Juice should be 100-percent fruit juice without added sugars. At least half of the grain products served should be rich in whole grains. Day care facilities should limit their use of foods and ingredients that are high in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and added sugars. Sites should use vegetable oils and limited amounts of salt when preparing meals. Meats should be lean; soy products, beans, eggs, nuts, and other meat alternatives may be used.

“The meals and snacks made possible through the Child and Adult Care Food Program are an important source of nutrition for millions of children and tens of thousands of adults," said committee chair Suzanne P. Murphy, researcher, professor, and director of the Nutrition Support Shared Resource, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii, Honolulu. “This report points the way to updating the program's meal requirements so that they reflect the latest nutrition science. The changes recommended will help program beneficiaries get more of the nutrients they need without getting too many calories and will promote lifelong healthy eating habits."


* Institute of Medicine: Changes Needed to Improve Nutrition of Meals and Snacks Provided Through Federally Supported Day Care Food Program For Children and Adults

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Resveratrol May Help Treat Malaria

Resveratrol, a key antioxidant found in chocolate and red wine, may help fight severe malaria that kills an estimated 1 million people each year, according to a study presented Nov. 4 at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH)'s 59th annual meeting.

A new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study suggests that treatment of parasite-infected red blood cells with resveratrol significantly reduces their ability to adhere to the body's cells lining small blood vessels. That reduction in binding to blood vessels is predicted to greatly lessen the probability of developing severe clinical manifestations of malaria, according to the study. The study suggests resveratrol, which is commercially available, can be used in combination with antimalarial chemotherapy to improve the survival chances of people with severe malaria.


* PR Newswire: Substance Found in Red Wine May Help Treat Malaria

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Organic Veggies Don’t Have Higher Antioxidant Levels

Organically-grown onions, carrots and potatoes do not appear to have higher levels of antioxidants than vegetables grown with traditional fertilizers and pesticides, despite their premium cost, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

According to the study, the most important reasons for the popularity of organic food products include improved animal welfare, environmental protection, better taste and possible health benefits. However, the health benefits of organic food consumption are still controversial and not considered scientifically well documented.

The researchers analyzed onions, carrots and potatoes that were cultivated in 2-year field trials in three different geographical locations, comprising one conventional and two organic agricultural systems. The contents of flavonoids and phenolic acids in plants were analyzed by pressurized liquid extraction and high-performance liquid chromatography—ultraviolet quantification. In onions and carrots, no statistically significant differences between growth systems were found for any of the analyzed polyphenols.

“On the basis of the present study carried out under well controlled conditions, it cannot be concluded that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally have higher contents of health-promoting secondary metabolites in comparison with the conventionally cultivated ones," they wrote.


* Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: Effects of Organic and Conventional Growth Systems on the Content of Flavonoids in Onions and Phenolic Acids in Carrots and Potatoes

Friday, November 05, 2010

Grapes and grape products may play a beneficial role in cardiovascular health,

As I always stated,grapes are a very healthy fruit!

More than 50% of Americans list heart health as their number one health concern.(1) According to recent scientific papers published in Nutrition Reviews(2) and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition(3), consumers can take steps to support heart health by incorporating grape-based products into their diets. Specifically, these studies reveal that grapes and grape products, most notably Concord grape juice, may play a beneficial role in cardiovascular health as part of an overall nutritious diet.

A new review by Vislocky and Fernandez, summarizing previously published research, outlined existing scientific evidence on the role of Concord grapes in heart health. In particular, this review highlighted several studies that support the beneficial role of grapes on maintaining healthy, flexible arteries (endothelial function) and managing the effects of "bad" cholesterol to help keep arteries clear of plaque (LDL oxidation). Grape seeds, skins and juice have natural plant nutrients known as polyphenols (or more specifically, flavonoids) which naturally serve many functions in the body including acting as antioxidants to help fight free radicals, which are known to harm healthy cells. Eating and drinking polyphenol-containing foods has been associated with promoting overall health. This review provides further support for consuming Concord grapes and juice for heart health.

"Grape products can be a wise choice for a healthy lifestyle," said Maria Luz Fernandez, PhD with the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. "Grapes and grape juice are easy ways to take a proactive step in maintaining health."

An additional study by Dohadwala and colleagues examined the role of Concord grape juice in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Study participants included 64 adult men and women with an early stage of high blood pressure classified as either pre-hypertension or stage 1 hypertension. This study showed that drinking Concord grape juice helped lower nocturnal or night-time blood pressure (an indicator of healthy blood pressure regulation), and had a beneficial impact on blood sugar levels compared to a calorie-matched, grape-flavored drink. While this is exciting, it is important to note that more science is needed to confirm these findings, and that the researchers found no significant effect on blood pressure measured over a 24-hour period.

The review by Vislocky and Fernandez also outlined emerging areas of grape research, including cognitive function. As the brain ages, it becomes more vulnerable to free radicals which can hinder cognitive function. Recent studies have suggested that polyphenol-containing Concord grape juice may help support cognitive function in older adults with age-related memory decline.(4) While early research in this area appears promising, the science is preliminary and further exploration is needed to determine if Concord grape juice can have an effect on cognitive health.

These two recent scientific papers complement a growing body of evidence suggesting that Concord grape juice can help promote heart health in certain groups of people. Consumers can bring this refreshing discovery into their lives by adding a glass of 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes to a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

Welch's is committed to supporting independent research exploring the role of Concord grape juice in a healthy lifestyle and provided support for these studies.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Adding Monounsaturated Fats to Diet May Boost Heart Health

The success of a low-cholesterol diet can be improved by adding monounsaturated fat (MUFA), which are commonly found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils such as olive oil, canola oil and sunflower oil, new research suggests.

In the study, researchers randomly assigned 17 men and seven postmenopausal women with mild to moderate elevated cholesterol levels to either a high-MUFA diet or a low-MUFA diet.

Both groups consumed a vegetarian diet that included oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant, okra, soy, almonds and a plant sterol-enriched margarine. In the high-MUFA group, the researchers substituted 13 percent of calories from carbohydrates with a high-MUFA sunflower oil, with the option of a partial exchange with avocado oil.

In the high-MUFA group, levels of "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL) increased 12.5 percent while levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL) decreased 35 percent, according to the report in the Nov. 1 issue of CMAJ, the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

People with low HDL levels and high LDL levels are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, Dr. David Jenkins of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues explained in a news release from the journal's publisher.

"The addition of MUFA increased [HDL] and therefore may further enhance the cardioprotective effect of the cholesterol-lowering dietary portfolio without diminishing its cholesterol-lowering effect," Jenkins and colleagues wrote.

Monounsaturated fats are commonly consumed in what is known as the Mediterranean diet, noted the researchers, who added that exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, not smoking and weight loss can also help raise "good" HDL cholesterol.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about cholesterol.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Peanut Allergies Start Before Birth

Pregnant women who eat peanuts may put their infants at risk for peanut allergies, according to a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers evaluated 503 U.S. infants aged 3 months to 15 months with suspected milk or egg allergies or significant eczema and positive allergy tests to milk or egg. The infants had no previous diagnosis of peanut allergy. A total of 140 infants had strong sensitivity to peanut based on blood tests, and consumption of peanut during pregnancy was a significant predictor of the test result.

“Researchers in recent years have been uncertain about the role of peanut consumption during pregnancy on the risk of peanut allergy in infants," said Scott H. Sicherer, MD, professor of pediatrics, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “While our study does not definitively indicate that pregnant women should not eat peanut products during pregnancy, it highlights the need for further research in order make recommendations about dietary restrictions."

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that women whose infants were at increased risk of allergies based upon family history consider avoiding peanut products while pregnant and breast feeding. However, the recommendation was withdrawn in 2008 due to limited scientific evidence to support it. The Consortium of Food Allergy Research (CoFAR), which was just awarded a renewed $29.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, is conducting this ongoing, observational study to help better understand the risk factors behind a child's developing peanut allergy, as well as allergies to milk and egg.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Raw Milk Debate

The debate over raw milk versus pasteurized milk is making headlines as consumers want the freedom to rebel against the industrialized by drinking locally grown, natural products but are being prevented from doing so by laws that prohibit the sale of raw milk.

Raw milk devotees don’t mind paying a premium price for the unpasteurized beverage because they believe it is a more healthful option because it contains more nutrients and has a creamier and richer taste. They also say cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream and sour cream made from raw milk tastes better than store-bought goods.

However, raw milk isn’t easy to come by if you are not a dairy farmer. In states like Ohio and Wyoming it is illegal to sell raw milk so people drive to neighboring states like Pennsylvania or Colorado where it is legal.

In Wyoming, a group of legislators and raw milk proponents want to legalize raw milk sales with a bill next year that would allow people to purchase a share of a cow or goat, paying for a portion of its care in exchange for milk. The advocates say government has no business telling informed consumers what foods they can put in their bodies; however, health and agriculture officials dispute the perceived benefits of raw milk and say legalizing raw milk sales will lead to more foodborne illnesses.

According to one state epidemiologist, raw milk can contain several harmful organisms, including Salmonella, E. coli and brucellosis that can cause severe illness and even death. In fact, a number of states experienced outbreaks of foodborne illness this year that were tied to raw milk.

The raw milk movement has gained enough momentum that researchers at Ohio State University are conducting a study of milk drinkers to determine why people make the choice to drink raw or pasteurized milk. The researchers are looking for 60 participants and hope to complete the study in the next few months.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Beware the Jellybean

Functional foods is a lucrative market—over $30 billion in the United States—but one that might be fraught with legal landmines. The FDA again has gone after food companies that the agency believes have crossed the legal line, issuing warning letters to Unilever (for Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated) and Cadbury Adams Dr Pepper Snapple Group (for Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale).

According to the warning letters, Lipton Tea’s transgressions were:

1) Including a link to its websites (making those websites “labeling”) that promote the product “for conditions that cause it to be a drug” that is “intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. (The website discussed studies showing a cholesterol lowering effect from tea or tea flavonoids.)

2) Unauthorized nutrient content claims using the term “antioxidant” in several ways that do not meet current regulations, saying “The use of a term, not defined by regulation, in food labeling to characterize the level of a nutrient misbrands a product.”

The FDA warned Canada Dry about:

1) Labeling that “bears a nutrient content claim that is not authorized by regulation” (again concerning the product’s use of the term “antioxidants”).

2) Fortifying a carbonated beverage while “21 CFR 104.20(a) states that the FDA does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages” (The infamous “jellybean rule”).

It’s not just the government who’s getting tough with functional foods either. The September 2010 Scientific American Magazine ran an editorial, “Snake Oil in the Supermarket,” which tarred the segment with a broad brush, saying in part, “consumers are getting a rotten deal. Although health claims for foods may appear to be authoritative, in many cases science does not support them and the government does not endorse them.”

These are just the latest in a series of indications that functional food and beverage purveyors have to scrutinize the concept, the carrier and the communication of any benefits to stay on the side of the regulatory angels and maintain consumer confidence in the industry. Most of the information is set out in the CFR, albeit the language occasionally has a Jabberwocky feel to it. Crossing the line—intentionally or not--may seem a bold move, but likely will cause the government and the slithy pundits to give you some unpleasant surprises.

So, remember when fortifying foods (with apologies to Lewis Carroll):

Beware the Jellybean, my friend!

The laws that bite, the claims that catch!

Beware the soda pop to shun

The frumious Fed’s dispatch!