Monday, February 28, 2011

Education linked to low blood pressure

A 30-year health study in the United States has shown that the advancement of education could have a direct inverse link with blood pressure - the higher the degree held by a person, the lower his blood pressure.

The Framingham Offspring study that analysed health data of some 4000 individuals in the U.S. over 30 years found that systolic blood pressure levels of men who had gone on to study in graduate school were 2.26 mmHg lower than those of high school dropouts. For women, the differential was even higher at 3.26 mmHg.

Even when adjustments were made for blood pressure medication, alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking, the differences were evident - an average of 2.86mmHg for women and 1.25 mmHg for men.

The benefits of graduate or higher education were also noted, albeit with lower differentials, when the readings were compared with those of men and women who completed bachelor's or associate's degrees but did not continue with graduate studies.

Systolic hypertension is considered to be one of the major triggers of ailments and of heart disease, in particular. Findings from the mentioned study could therefore explain to some extent the association between education and lower cardiac risks as substantiated in several documented studies in developed countries.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Higher Vitamin D Intake Reduces Disease Risk

Higher intake of vitamin D is needed to boost blood levels that can prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, according to new research published in the journal Anticancer Research.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Creighton University School of Medicine reviewed surveys of several thousand volunteers who were taking vitamin D supplements in the dosage range from 1,000 to 10,000 IU/day. Blood studies were conducted to determine the level of 25-vitamin D.

“We found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 4,000-8,000 IU are needed to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases," said Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “I was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high—much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU/day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century.

Garland said now that the results of this study are in, it will become common for almost every adult to take 4,000 IU/day. “This is comfortably under the 10,000 IU/day that the IOM Committee Report considers as the lower limit of risk, and the benefits are substantial," he added.

* University of California, San Diego: Higher Vitamin D Intake Needed to Reduce Cancer Risk

Saturday, February 26, 2011

70% of U.S. Diners Want More Menu Transparency

Seventy percent of U.S. diners want more information about the sourcing and nutritional value of their meals when dining out, and 64 percent would choose healthier meals if more information was provided, according to Unilever Food Solutions’ new World Menu Report.

The "What's in Your Food?" report surveyed 3,500 diners in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Russia, Brazil and Turkey who dine out at least once a week to measure their attitudes and behaviors toward eating out.

“Globally, consumers’ attitudes toward healthy eating are evolving and their desire for delicious food when dining out is constant," said Lisa Carlson, MS, RD, development nutritionist, R&D, Unilever Food Solutions North America. “Consumers want food that tastes good, but they also want food that is good for them. Because of this, today’s chefs have a tremendous opportunity to help consumers eat better by providing healthy, great-tasting menu options, as well as increasing transparency about meal content so that consumers can make informed decisions."

The majority of U.S. respondents want greater transparency about ingredient sourcing and production, preparation details and nutritional content; however, 83 percent said that information is not currently offered by restaurants. In non-western and developing nations, 90 percent or more of respondents want more information.

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. respondents said food labels, including low fat and calorie content, would be a welcome addition to menus when dining out. Across all surveyed countries, fat, calories, preservatives and food additives topped respondents’ lists of the nutrients and ingredients they are most interested in knowing more about when dining out. In the United States and United Kingdom, sodium is also seen as an important topic for information, while in China respondents would like to know more about the vitamins and proteins in their meals.

“The World Menu Report has highlighted a clear call-to-action for those of us within the foodservice industry—we need to not only provide consumers with delicious food but also the information they want and need about their meal content," said Steven Jilleba, CMC, executive chef with Unilever Food Solutions North America.


* Unilever Food Solutions: Unilever Food Solutions "World Menu Report"

Friday, February 25, 2011

DNA Test Tracks Foodborne Illness Outbreak

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists used a new genome sequencing test to retrospectively examine the 2009-10 Salmonella Montevideo outbreak that sickened nearly 300 people in 44 states and the District of Columbia to help trace the source of the infection. The findings suggest the new test may help augment future outbreak investigations.

Field investigators collected samples of the suspect product to find the source of the contamination; however, conventional laboratory testing methods could not distinguish between the outbreak involving spiced meat and certain previous Salmonella contamination events. FDA analysts turned to next-generation sequencing (NGS) to test 35 samples suspected of being contaminated with the Salmonella strain. The samples came from suppliers, consumers who became ill and a variety of food sources from a broad range of places and times. Test results revealed a single food facility was the common origin of the outbreak strain and a spiced meat rub was the single source.


* FDA: FDA: Advanced genomic test helps trace sources of foodborne illness outbreak

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Maternal Fructose Intake May Affect Fetal Changes

Maternal intake of fructose-sweetened beverages and foods during pregnancy may result in sex-specific changes in fetal and neonatal endocrinology, according to a new study published in Endocrinology. The findings also suggest maternal fructose consumption also may affect placental development.

Researchers at the University of Aukland examined female Wistar rats that were time-mated and allocated to receive either water or a fructose solution designed to provide 20 percent of caloric intake from fructose. Only female fetuses in the fructose-fed rats had higher leptin, fructose and blood glucose levels than their control counterparts. Male and female offspring of fructose-fed rats both showed higher plasma fructose levels and were hypoinsulinemic. Researchers also found that the placenta of female fetuses in the fructose-fed rats were lighter than the female fetuses in the control group.

“There has been a marked increase in the consumption of fructose-sweetened beverages and foods, particularly among women of reproductive age," said lead author Mark Vickers PhD.


* Newswise: Maternal Fructose Intake Impacts Female and Male Fetuses Differently

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cheese Industry Tackles Sodium Challenges

In December 2010, more than 17 leading cheese companies and manufacturers gathered at a Best Practices Task Force meeting hosted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to address opportunities and challenges associated with reducing sodium content in cheese.

The group recognized three important aspects related to the challenge of sodium levels in cheese products: maintaining taste and functionality in lower sodium products, updating process controls in manufacturing, and educating key audiences about the necessary role of sodium in cheese in terms of the cheese making process and food safety/shelf stability.

A recent cheese-sodium study spearheaded by the Dairy Research Institute analyzed Cheddar, mozzarella and process cheeses in 16 U.S. cities across four regions found sodium variability among cheese types and even within varying brands of the same cheese type.

“These research findings already are being used to develop industry-adopted best practices to minimize variability in sodium content, which then needs to be reflected in labeling," said Nigel Kirtley, vice president cheese research, development and quality for Kraft Foods and member of the Health and Wellness Committee for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “The industry will continue to use the findings to develop guidance and support to help manufacturers put this information into action for better process controls that will allow for consistently lower sodium and improved quality."

The task force will continue to work together to meet the challenges of cheese and sodium, with the ongoing goal of providing timely educational resources and guidance to industry partners. Industry members are invited to participate and apply research and insights to their business practices.

“While cheese contributes less than 8% of the sodium in the U.S. diet, the Dairy Research Institute and our industry partners continue to investigate process improvements and solutions that industry can employ to help Americans manage their sodium consumption," said Gregory Miller, Ph.D., president, Dairy Research Institute and executive vice president, National Dairy Council®. “To move forward with goals to reduce sodium in cheese or attempt to meet arbitrarily pre-determined target levels, the industry must determine where sodium levels currently stand through benchmark studies."


* Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy: Cheese Industry Works Together to Address the Sodium Challenge

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cereal With Milk Healthiest Breakfast Choice

Individuals who start the day off with a good breakfast of cereal and milk have a lower fat and higher carbohydrate intake during the day compared to those who skip breakfast, according to a new study published in the BNF Nutrition Bulletin.

U.K. researchers analyzed 12,068 food records from respondents in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of adults ages 19 to 64. One in five adults ate no solid food for breakfast, one-third chose ready-to-eat cereal or porridge, and 45 percent ate a non-cereal breakfast. Coffee and tea also were consumed 84 percent of the time. Milk was consumed with 82 percent of breakfasts, followed by cereal (39 percent), bread (33 percent) and fruit (14 percent).

The researchers concluded breakfast cereal consumed with milk was associated with significantly better macronutrient composition.


* BNF Nutrition Bulletin: What's for breakfast? Nutritional implications of breakfast habits: insights from the NDNS dietary records

Monday, February 21, 2011

Many stick with fast food after heart attack

You might think that people who've had a heart attack might cut back on fast food, which usually has unhealthy amounts of fat and salt.

And in fact, some heart attack patients who are frequent fast food eaters do cut back, researchers found in a new study. But 6 months later, more than half of them can still be found at their favorite fast food places at least once a week.

The researchers who published these findings in the American Journal of Cardiology say the reduction in visits to fast food restaurants is not enough and patients need better dietary education.

"We can do better," Dr. John Spertus, a professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City and one of the authors of the study, told Reuters Health.

Spertus and his colleagues studied nearly 2,500 heart attack patients across the U.S. who filled out surveys while they were still in the hospital. Overall, 884 patients, or roughly one of every three, reported eating fast food frequently in the month before their heart attack. "Frequently" meant once a week or more.

When the researchers checked back 6 months later, 503 were still eating fast food every week.

Those patients - the die-hard fast food eaters - were more likely to be white, male, employed, and without a college degree, compared to patients who didn't go for fast food as often.

They were also more likely to have unhealthy levels of fat in their blood.

"These people are likely increasing their risks and likely not complying with the American Heart Association's recommendations for diet," Spertus said.

Older patients and those who underwent bypass surgery were more likely to be avoiding fast food 6 months later.

The American Heart Association encourages people to eat lean meats and vegetables and to avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium and cholesterol - hallmarks of cheeseburgers and fried food, Spertus said.

Spertus said his study was not designed to show that eating fast food causes heart disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, however, saturated fat and cholesterol in food make cholesterol levels in blood go up, increasing the likelihood of heart problems.

The survey also did not ask what menu items people ordered. And Sue Hensley, a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association, points out that fast food is more than burgers and fries.

"We're seeing trends toward more fruits and vegetables and healthy offerings in restaurants," Hensley told Reuters Health. Those include salads, whole grains and low fat milk.

Spertus and his colleagues note, though, that the people in their study who kept on eating fast food every week tended to have high levels of fat in their blood, "consistent with selection of less healthy options."

Fast food eating is not considered healthy, Spertus said. A study of 3,000 adults published in The Lancet medical journal in 2005 found the more often people ate fast food, the more likely they were to gain weight and develop warning signs of diabetes.

Nine out of 10 patients in the current study had received dietary counseling before they left the hospital, but this didn't seem to affect the odds that frequent fast food eaters would improve their diets. Their behavior shows they need more education after discharge, Spertus says.

"The problem is that patients are absorbing so much information at the time of their heart attack, that I just don't think they can capture and retain all the information they're getting," he said.

Fast food restaurants in the U.S. will soon post calorie, fat, sodium and other nutritional information on their menus, as required by the major health care law that passed last year. Already, cities like New York and Philadelphia mandate calorie counts on menus. It's still up for debate whether such numbers next to food offerings will affect what people order.

The survey is part of a national study called TRIUMPH, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Spertus also receives research funds from the American Heart Association.

SOURCE: The American Journal of Cardiology, online February 9, 2011.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Consumers Vent Frustrations With Supermarkets

Results of a new Quick Poll “Retailers Most Annoying Habits" reveals consumers have a love-hate relationship with supermarkets and their retailing tactics with 31% of respondents reporting disappointment with their shopping experience.

According to the survey, the top three annoyances are running out of sale items (62%), requiring companion purchases to get a sale price on an item or a free item (46%), and issuing coupons at checkout with short dates to use (32%). Exactly 33% of consumers said the store they shop in most is usually guilty, while 24% said it happens half the time.

Nearly 40% said perishables (dairy, produce) and service departments (meat, seafood, deli, bakery) were guilty of high prices, while 34% said freshness was inconsistent. Consumers also complained about lack of signage above food displays, out of stock items and short dates.

Roughly 35% complained that items on top shelves too high to reach and placement of value-priced items are usually on the bottom shelf, while 28% said promotional displays impede aisle traffic.

Despite annoyances, 59% of shoppers shopped at a store because they’re most convenient to home or work, and 28% seemed flexible enough to accept the store’s flaws because “no store is perfect."


* Supermarket Guru: Are Supermarkets Annoying Shoppers?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Consumers Pick 2011 Products of the Year

Food and beverages garnered top honors Feb. 8 during the 2011 Product of the Year USA awards ceremony that recognizes innovation in consumer-packaged goods.

Hosted in 28 countries, Product of the Year is the world's largest consumer-voted program that recognizes innovation in consumer-packaged goods. Finalists for Product of the Year were judged on four key elements—appeal of innovation, usage, satisfaction and purchase intent. This marks the third year that Product of the Year was conducted in the United States, with 60,000 American shoppers voting on products in a survey conducted by custom research agency TNS. According to the 2011 Product of the Year U.S. Shoppers Survey, 68 percent of shoppers say a consumer voted award means more for a new product than an expert’s opinion.

The following products were recognized for innovation in consumer-packaged goods:

* Candy & Snacks—M&M'S® Pretzel Chocolate Candies (Mars Chocolate North America)
* Frozen Food—Lean Cuisine® Market Creations (NestlĂ© USA)
* Specialty Foods—BUITONI® Riserva Frozen Complete Meals for Two (NestlĂ© USA)
* Cooking Spices—Recipe Inspirations (McCormick & Company Inc.)
* Beverage—Lipton Brisk (Pepsi-Lipton Partnership)
* Breakfast—Jimmy Dean® Hearty Sausage Crumbles (Sara Lee)
* Cooking—Olivari Mediterranean Olive Oil (Sovena USA)

"Consumer packaged goods continue to demonstrate a need for the market to create products that enhance both consumer confidence and product loyalty," said Colleen Kelly, managing director of Product of the Year. "Product of the Year is pleased to offer consumers the ability to easily sift through and distinguish those brands that stand apart in the consumer packaged goods sector."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tart Cherry Juice Reduces Muscle Damage

Athletes who drink tart cherry juice after a vigorous workout may reduce muscle damage and recover faster thanks to anthocyanins that reduce inflammation, according to a new study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The findings also suggest the cherries could affect inflammation related to heart disease and arthritis.

Researchers at the Sports and Exercise Science Research Center at London South Bank University gave 10 trained athletes 1 ounce of an antioxidant-packed tart cherry juice concentrate (provided by CherryActive) twice daily for seven days prior to and two days after an intense round of strength training. The athletes’ recovery after the cherry juice concentrate was significantly faster compared to when they drank juice without the same phytonutrient content of cherry juice.

After drinking cherry juice, athletes returned to 90 percent of normal muscle force at 24 hours, compared to only 85 percent of normal at the same time point without cherry juice. Researchers suggest that the powerful antioxidant compounds in cherry juice likely decreased oxidative damage to the athletes' muscles the damage that normally occurs when muscles are worked to their max allowing the muscles to recover more quickly.



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Balding in 20s linked to doubled risk of prostate cancer

Men who go bald in their early 20s have a doubled risk of developing prostate cancer, but those who lose hair in their 30s and 40s apparently are not at greater risk, French researchers reported Tuesday. The findings suggest that men who lose their hair very early in life might benefit from increased screening.

Because the same male hormones that are involved in hair growth also play a role in prostate cancer, researchers have been tantalized by possible links between balding and prostate cancer. But past studies have yielded conflicting results or none at all.

Dr. Philippe Giraud, a professor of radiation oncology at Paris Descartes University, and Dr. Michael Yassa, a radiation oncologist who is now at the University of Montreal, studied 388 men being treated for prostate cancer and 281 healthy men, questioning them about their history of hair loss. They reported in the Annals of Oncology that 37 of the men with prostate cancer had some balding at the age of 20, but only 14 of the healthy men had had balding at that age. But there was no association with the type or pattern of hair loss, they reported, and no association with balding at older ages.

Androgenic alopecia, sometimes known as male pattern baldness, is common in men, affecting about half of them throughout the course of their lives. It is related to androgenic hormones, and androgens also play a role in the onset and growth of prostate tumors. The widely used drug finasteride blocks the conversion of the male hormone testosterone to an androgen called dihydrotestosterone, which is thought to play a role in hair loss, and the drug, known as Propecia, is used to treat hair loss. It also has been shown to decrease the incidence of prostate cancer and is sold as Proscar for that purpose.

PSA screening for prostate cancer is generally not begun until men are in their 40s and 50s, but Giraud and Yassa suggested that it might be useful to start it somewhat earlier for men who go bald in their 20s because of their increased risk. Experts cautioned, however, that the number of people involved in the study was small, so the results should be interpreted with care.

Other risk factors for prostate cancer include age, family history of the disease, diet, lifestyle and ethnicity.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eating more fiber could mean longer life

That's the message from the largest study of its kind to find a link between high-fiber diets and lower risks of death not only from heart disease, but from infectious and respiratory illnesses as well.

The government study also ties fiber with a lower risk of cancer deaths in men, but not women, possibly because men are more likely to die from cancers related to diet, like cancers of the esophagus. And it finds the overall benefit to be strongest for diets high in fiber from grains.

Most Americans aren't getting enough roughage in their diets. The average American eats only about 15 grams of fiber each day, much less than the current daily recommendation of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, or 14 grams per 1,000 calories. For example, a slice of whole wheat bread contains 2 to 4 grams of fiber.

In the new study, the people who met the guidelines were less likely to die during a nine-year follow-up period.

The men and women who ate the highest amount of fiber were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause compared to those who ate the lowest amount, said lead author Dr. Yikyung Park of the National Cancer Institute.

The study, appearing in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, included more than 388,000 adults, ages 50 to 71, who participated in a diet and health study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and AARP.

They filled out a questionnaire in 1995 or 1996 about their eating habits. It asked them to estimate how often they ate 124 food items. After nine years, more than 31,000 of the participants had died. National records were used to find out who died and the cause of death.

The researchers took into account other risk factors including weight, education level, smoking and health status and still saw lower risks of death in people who ate more fiber.

"The results suggest that the benefits of dietary fiber go beyond heart health," said Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health, who wasn't involved in the new research but co-authored an editorial in the journal.

The evidence for fiber's benefits has been strongest in diabetes and heart disease, where it's thought to improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure, inflammation and blood sugar levels. Fiber's benefits also may come from its theorized ability to bind to toxins and move them out of the body quicker. High-fiber diets can promote weight loss by making people feel full, which has its own health-promoting effects.

However it works, fiber may offer a prevention benefit against killers like pneumonia and flu, the new study suggests. The cancer benefit may have shown up only in the men because they're more likely than women to die from cancers related to diet, Park said.

Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and beans. But fiber from grains was most strongly tied to the lowered risk in the study.

"That's what seemed to be driving all these relationships," said Lawrence de Koning of the Harvard School of Public Health, a co-author of the editorial.

Whole grains also contain vitamins and minerals, which may play a role in reducing risk, he said. For that reason, supplements may not be as effective.

"Nothing beats the original food," he said. He suggested substituting whole wheat bread for white bread as a simple way to increase fiber from grains.

What does a high-fiber diet look like? A woman who wants to meet the 25 gram guidelines for daily fiber intake could eat one-third cup of bran cereal (9 grams), a half cup of cooked beans (10 grams), a small apple with skin (4 grams) and a half cup of mixed vegetables (4 grams).

To reach 38 grams, a man could eat all that — plus about 23 almonds (4 grams), a baked potato (3 grams), an oat bran muffin (3 grams) and an orange (3 grams).

Experts recommend adding fiber gradually to allow your digestive system time to get used to it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Energy drinks potentially dangerous for kids, study reports

Parents might start hearing more about Red Bull during pediatrician visits.

Researchers at the University of Miami have reviewed the literature on energy drinks -- caffeinated beverages such as Red Bull, which sometimes also contain herbal supplements -- and their effects on children.

It's no great surprise that they found that the products, many of which have three times the caffeine of a cola and some of which have five times more, might be quite harmful to kids. Their results were released by the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

The team ran targeted searches of Google and the medical database PubMed to find 121 references to energy drinks, two-thirds in scientific articles. Sifting through the materials, they reported that:

* Many children and young adults have tried energy drinks, and some consume them heavily. A survey of college students reported that 51% regularly consumed one or more of the drinks per month, and a majority of those students drank them several times a week, citing insufficient sleep and a desire for more energy as reasons for that consumption.
* The drinks are unregulated in the U.S., and the number of overdoses of caffeine from drinking them are not known. But in Germany, Ireland and New Zealand, officials have reported cases of liver damage, kidney failure, seizures, confusion and arrhythmias associated with energy drink use.

* Caffeine in the drinks can exacerbate cardiac conditions (especially in children with eating disorders) and interfere with calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents.
* Additional ingredients may boost caffeine levels.
* Extra calories in the drinks can contribute to diabetes, high BMI and dental problems.

The authors concluded that energy drinks don't have a therapeutic benefit to kids, and could put some children at risk for serious problems.

They urged pediatricians to ask patients about their energy-drink consumption and let them know about potential dangers. The team asked researchers to seek out safe doses, warning that "unless research establishes energy-drink safety in children and adolescents, prudent."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Omega-3s Slow AMD, Retinopathy Progression

A diet rich in foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinopathy, an eye disease that can cause blindness in premature babies and individuals with diabetes, according to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine.

Building on previous studies that showed eye diseases are slowed in people who consumed a diet high in fish, researchers at Children’s Hospital sought to determine a specific metabolic process that provided a protective mechanism. They fed mice deficient in each key lipid-processing enzyme—cyclooxygenase 1 or 2, or lipoxygenase 5 or 12/15—a diet high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They found the omega-3 rich diet helped prevent the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. They determined an enzyme called 5-lipoxygenase, or 5-LOX, converted omega-3 into an acid called 4-HDHA, slowed abnormal blood vessel growth.

"This is important for people with diabetes, who often take aspirin to prevent heart disease, and also for elderly people with AMD who have a propensity for heart disease," the researchers said.


* EurekAlert: Study reveals how they work in preventing several forms of blindness

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vegetable-Fed Salmon Still Rich in Fatty Acids

New research from the Research Council of Norway found 70 percent of fish oil and 80 percent of marine proteins in conventional feed can be replaced with vegetable ingredients without any adverse effect on farmed salmon and salmon trout health.

The AquaMax project, a collaboration between 33 partners from 14 countries, examined whether production salmon can still be considered healthful food when raised on roughly 50 percent vegetable feed. The findings suggest even with such a radically altered diet, salmon appear to retain their value as a good source of fatty acids that are healthy for humans.

“The risk of ingesting contaminants must be weighed against the health benefits of eating seafood rich in the marine omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA," the researchers said. “This is a dilemma for pregnant women in particular. Pregnant women and the children they are carrying are most vulnerable to pollutants such as dioxins, yet they also have the greatest requirement for the nutrients in fish. Marine omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for both mother and baby."

The researchers raised salmon on a customized feed in which large proportions of marine ingredients were replaced with vegetable meal. The salmon feed still contained some marine ingredients. The fish fillets were consumed by 62 pregnant women twice a week, from week 21 of their pregnancy until giving birth. The babies were also followed up for their first six months. The control group of 62 pregnant women ate the same amount of fish as they normally would have.

“The results were very encouraging. In the group that ate the test salmon fillets, omega-3 levels were elevated in both the mothers and their babies. Even though these test salmon had received less omega-3 through a feed based mainly on vegetable ingredients, the salmon meat still provided an excellent source of the healthful fatty acids," the said.


* The Research Council of Norway: Vegetable-fed salmon still yield healthful fat

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fructose Doesn’t Increase Body Weight

Normal consumption of fructose does adverse effect on body weight or serum triglycerides in normal, overweight or obese individuals, according to a new review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

The researchers did not find any relationship between fructose and hyperlipidemia or increased weight. The findings support a similar review that analyzed the role of fructose on blood lipids, glucose, insulin and obesity among the healthy, normal weight population.

Both of the recent fructose reviews utilized an evidence-based approach employed by FDA when evaluating potential health claims for foods, beverages and food ingredients. The conclusion drawn from the two studies was that consumption of fructose does not increase triglycerides, body weight or food intake in normal weight or overweight/obese people. Researchers limited their analysis to the 95th percentile level of intake and below, which is considered the high end of dietary ingredient consumption.

“There is no evidence that ingestion of normal amounts of fructose is associated with an increase in food intake or body weight (compared to other carbohydrates), when it is not consumed in caloric excess. This is true for both normal weight people and people that are overweight or obese," said Dr. Laurie Dolan, lead author of both studies.

Commenting on the studies, Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, said: “Fructose is sweeter than sugar and so less can be used to sweeten foods and beverages. This helps to reduce calories in foods and drinks when used in appropriate product formulations.”


* Calorie Control Council: Extensive Research Demonstrates that Fructose Does Not Increase Food Intake or Impact Body Weight

Friday, February 11, 2011

Restaurants Love Valentine’s Day

The nation’s restaurants will be feeling the Valentine’s Day love this year, as more than 70 million Americans will celebrate the love holiday by dining out, according to results of a new survey by the National Restaurant Association.

When choosing a restaurant for Valentine’s Day, consumers’ top three deciding factors are the familiarity of a favorite eatery, a romantic setting and special menu offerings. Younger adults are more likely to enjoy a special Valentine’s Day meal at a restaurant than older adults; 33 percent of 18- to 34-year olds, and 39 percent of 35- to 44-year olds plan to dine out for a Valentine’s Day meal, compared with 27 percent of those 55 and older.

When it comes to factors involved in choosing where to dine out for Valentine’s Day, 42 percent of consumers pick their favorite restaurant or their companion’s favorite restaurant for their special meal; 21 percent select a restaurant with a romantic atmosphere; 12 percent choose restaurants that offer special menus or promotions; 12 percent let their companions pick the venue; and 11 percent choose a restaurant where they haven’t dined.

Thirty-nine percent of 18- to 34-year olds said a romantic atmosphere is important versus only 8 percent of those 65 and older.

The association also surveyed member restaurants on what type of promotions they would offer around Valentine’s Day. The most common responses included special menu items (63 percent), prix fixe menu (45 percent), celebratory beverages or desserts (34 percent), flower/candy (28 percent), and entertainment/music (13 percent). Interestingly, 63 percent considered Valentine’s Day falling on a Monday—a typically slower day of the week—an advantage.


* National Restaurant Association: Restaurants to Welcome 70 Million Diners for Valentine’s Day

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Americans define healthy eating based on quality features rather than fewer calories

Americans are looking for more healthful options at restaurants and other foodservice outlets but define healthy eating based on quality features rather than fewer calories, according to a recent foodservice market research report by The NPD Group, a leading market research company.

NPD’s report, “Consumers Define Healthy Eating When They Go Out to Eat,” finds that a significant share of foodservice traffic is driven by healthy eating behaviors and one of the top motivations for more healthful eating is to feel healthier. The feature most important to consumers seeking healthy menu options is quality, such as fresh, natural, and nutritious ingredients. Fewer calories were among the least important features.

“Typically, the perception has been that healthy eating to consumers means low calorie and low fat, and our findings show that the perception is not the reality,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. “Clearly, descriptors like fresh or natural will resonate more with consumers than less calories.”

In addition to defining healthful eating, the report also addressed consumer attitudes about the importance of the taste. Consumers place a high importance on taste regardless if they are eating healthfully or not, and some consumers equate healthier foods as not being as tasty. The majority of consumers expect to pay the same for healthier foods as those considered less healthy.

“Understanding these trends provide foodservice operators and manufacturers with the opportunity to offer products that meet consumers’ needs for healthier options,” says Riggs. “More consumers are seeking healthy/light foods and having these options available on menus will meet these consumers’ needs; however, healthful menu options must be fresh, taste good, and be affordably priced.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Chocolate contains more flavanols, gram-for-gram, than fruit juice

Chocolate contains more healthy plant compounds, gram-for-gram, than fruit juice, a study has found.

Scientists compared cocoa powder, the raw ingredient of chocolate, and powders made from fruit.

They found that the cocoa had a greater content of flavanols, health-giving plant chemicals, and more antioxidant capacity.

Comparisons were also made between single servings of dark chocolate, cocoa, hot chocolate mix, and fruit juices.

The research again showed that both dark chocolate and cocoa had more antioxidant activity and more flavanols than fruit.

But hot chocolate contained few healthy ingredients due to processing.

Antioxidants, which include flavanols, neutralise destructive molecules called free radicals and are believed to combat heart disease and cancer.

The research, conducted by scientists at the Hershey Centre for Health & Nutrition, in Pennsylvania, US, appears in the Chemistry Central Journal.

Lead author Dr Debra Millar and colleagues wrote: "Natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate have significantly greater TF (total flavanol) values than the other fruit powders and juices tested, respectively.

"Cocoa powder... provides nutritive value beyond that derived from its macronutrient composition. Cacao seeds should be considered a 'super fruit' and products derived from cacao seed extracts, such as natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate, as 'super foods'."

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Healthier Lifestyles May Prevent 340,000 U.S. Cancers a Year

About 340,000 cancer cases in the United States could be prevented each year if more Americans ate a healthy diet, got regular exercise and limited their alcohol intake, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

These types of lifestyle changes could lead to significant reductions in particularly common cancers such as breast (38 percent fewer cases per year), stomach (47 percent fewer) and colon (45 percent fewer).

The research about how a healthy lifestyle can reduce cancer risk was released Feb. 3 to mark World Cancer Day. The WCRF said its findings are supported by the World Health Organization's new Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, a report that says that regular physical activity can prevent many diseases, including breast and colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

"Physical activity is recommended for people of all ages as a means to reduce risks for certain types of cancers and other non-communicable diseases," Dr. Tim Armstrong, of WHO's Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion, said in a WCRF news release.

"In order to improve their health and prevent several diseases, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity throughout the week. This can be achieved by simply walking 30 minutes five times per week or by cycling to work daily," he advised.

Other healthy lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of cancer include quitting smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, avoiding excessive sun exposure, and preventing cancer-causing infections, the WCRF said.

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Each year, 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 7.6 million die from the disease. But 30 percent to 40 percent of cancers can be prevented and one-third can be cured through early diagnosis and treatment, according to the WCRF.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer prevention.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Vitaminwater Ads, Labels Are ‘Dangerously Misleading’

The National Consumers League (NCL) filed a complaint with the FTC against The Coca-Cola Company. The complaint calls advertising and labeling claims made by vitaminwater “dangerously misleading" and urges FTC to put a stop to the statements suggesting vitaminwater can replace flu shots and prevent illness.

“These advertising claims are not only untrue; they constitute a public health menace. Stopping these vitaminwater claims, which contradict information by the Centers for Disease Control and other public health authorities, should be a top FTC priority," stated Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “The FTC should act now, during cold and flu season, to stop vitaminwater’s outlandish claims."

The complaint also urges FTC to halt deceptive label statements that describe vitaminwater as a “nutrient enhanced water beverage" and that claim “vitamins + water = all you need."

According to NCL, the statements are deceptive because the products on which they appear are not simply made from vitamins and water, but are made with crystalline fructose or other forms of sugar, and contain 125 calories per bottle.

“Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; the last thing people need is sugar water with vitamins you could get from eating a healthy diet, or by taking a vitamin pill," Greenberg stated.


* National Consumers League: Consumer group urges FTC to halt ‘dangerously misleading’ marketing claims by vitaminwater

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Maternal Employment Affects Child’s BMI

The total number of years a mother is employed has a small but cumulative effect on her child’s BMI. This, according to researchers at American University, can increase the likelihood of the child being overweight or obese. Researchers found this correlation to be strongest among children in 6th grade.

The study, published in the January/February issue of Child Development, used data from school-age children (approximately 8 to 12 years) in the NICHD’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (N = 990). One possibility for the results is that working parents may rely more on eating out or serving prepared foods, both of which tend to be higher in fat and calories than food prepared at home. Further, the researchers note, changes in children’s physical activity, time spent unsupervised, and time spent watching TV didn’t explain the link between maternal employment and children’s BMI.

According to an American University press release: “Given that more than 70 percent of U.S. mothers with young children work, the importance of providing support to these families is clear. Based on their findings, the researchers call for efforts to expand the availability of affordable, readily accessible healthy foods, and to support and educate working parents about strategies for providing nutritious meals despite busy schedules."


* American University: Children’s BMI May Rise the Longer Mothers Work
* Child Development: Maternal Employment, Work Schedules, and Children’s Body Mass Index

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Tangerine Tomatoes Surpass Reds in Preliminary Lycopene Study

Besides their appealing orange color and sweet flavor, there's another reason to give tangerine tomatoes a try this year. A one-month study led by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in California has provided new evidence to suggest that, ounce for ounce, these heirloom tomatoes might be a better source of a powerful antioxidant called lycopene than are familiar red tomatoes.

The difference lies in the forms of lycopene that the two tomato types provide. That's according to chemist Betty J. Burri, based at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, Calif. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

The trans-lycopene form, or isomer, makes up most of the lycopene in common red tomatoes. In contrast, most of the lycopene in tangerine tomatoes is tetra-cis-lycopene.

Results of the California investigation and one conducted by scientists in Ohio suggest that the tangerine tomato's tetra-cis-lycopene is more efficiently absorbed by the body than is the trans-lycopene of red tomatoes.

For the California study, 21 healthy men and women volunteers alternated week-long "no-lycopene" stints with a week-long tangerine tomato treatment and a week-long red tomato treatment. Volunteers were asked to not eat tomatoes or other foods rich in lycopene during the study, except for the special lunches of kidney bean chili provided to them at the nutrition center during the tomato treatment weeks. The chili, about a two-cup serving, was made with either red or tangerine tomato sauce, and was accompanied by French bread, butter and a salad of leafy greens with dressing.

Analyses of volunteers' blood samples, using high performance liquid chromatography, indicated that lycopene levels increased relative to levels measured just before each one-week chili regimen began. However, total lycopene levels increased more following the tangerine tomato treatment week than following the red tomato treatment.

Using a procedure known as a TBARS assay, the scientists determined that oxidative damage decreased with both treatments, and that decreases were greater following the tangerine-tomato regimen.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Fish Consumption Hits Record High

According to a report from FAO, “State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture," global fish consumption has reached a record of about 17 kg per person on average, supplying over three billion people with at least 15 percent of their average animal protein intake. The report notes that the increase is due to the ever-growing production of aquaculture which is set to overtake capture fisheries as a source of food fish. The report also notes, however, that the status of global fish stocks has not improved. About 32 percent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be urgently rebuilt, the report says.

"That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern," said senior FAO fisheries expert Richard Grainger, one of the report's editors. "The percentage of overexploitation needs to go down, although at least we seem to be reaching a plateau."

That said, 15 percent of the stock groups monitored by FAO were estimated to be underexploited (three percent) or moderately exploited (12 percent) and therefore able to produce more than their current catches, according to the report.

The report also examines the growing efforts to enforce against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and also notes increasing debate about a proposed global record of fishing vessels that would make it easier to police vessels engaged in illegal fishing activities.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Gut Bacteria May Influence Brain, Behavior

A team of scientists from Sweden and Singapore found that gut bacteria may influence brain development and adult behavior, at least in mice.

"Not only are signal substances like serotonin and dopamine subject to regulation by bacteria, synapse function also appears to be regulated by colonizing bacteria," continues Prof. Sven Pettersson, coordinator of the study. "However, it is important to note that this new knowledge can be applied only to mice, and that it is too early to say anything about the effect of gut bacteria on the human brain."

For the study, published in PNAS, researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, and the Genome Institute of Singapore compared behavior and gene expression in two groups of mice: those raised with normal microorganisms, and those raised in the absence of microorganisms (or germ-free). The adult germ-free mice were observed to be more active and engaged in more 'risky' behavior than mice raised with normal microorganisms. When germ-free mice were exposed to normal microorganisms very early in life, as adults they developed the behavioral characteristics of those exposed to microorganisms from birth. In contrast, colonizing adult germ-free mice with bacteria did not influence their behavior.

Subsequent gene profiling in the brain identified genes and signaling pathways involved in learning, memory and motor control that were affected by the absence of gut bacteria, highlighting the profound changes in the mice that developed in the absence of microorganisms. This suggests that, over the course of evolution, colonization of the gut by microorganisms (in total 1.5 kilograms) in early infancy became integrated into early brain development.

"The data suggests that there is a critical period early in life when gut microorganisms affect the brain and change the behavior in later life," says Dr. Rochellys Diaz Heijtz, first author of the study.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Western Diet Linked to Kidney Function Decline

A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and legumes may offer protection from loss of kidney function over time, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital examined the effect of three different dietary patterns—Western, Prudent and DASH—on change in kidney function over 11 years in 3,121 female participants in the Nurses' Health Study. Kidney dysfunction was determined by estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), which measures how well the kidney filters blood, and presence of microalbuminuria, a urinary protein that may be a marker of vascular disease and inflammation.

The findings revealed the Western style diet was associated with increased levels of albuminuria and increased risk of rapid eGFR decline, while the DASH-style diet was inversely associated with eGFR decline. The association persisted after controlling for other health factors such as smoking, activity level, obesity and diabetes.

"Traditional studies about diet and health focus on specific nutrients or foods, but dietary patterns may better reflect how people really eat," said Julie Lin, MD, MPH, lead author and a physician in the Renal Division at BWH. "We found that a diet that is low in red meat, saturated fat, and sweets but high in whole grains and fruit and vegetables may be associated with slower loss of kidney function over time."


* Brigham and Women's Hospital: Western Dietary Pattern Associated with Kidney Function Decline

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Demand Increases for Functional Beverages that Support Mood

The global market for functional beverages that support alertness and enhance relaxation is $521 million, according to a new report from Zenith International. The report analyzed opportunities in five key countries—the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan—and estimated sales volumes have tripled since 2007 to 133 million liters in 2010.

“Consumers are now looking for products to help them deal with pressure and to perform effectively without the use of stimulants," said Cecelia Martinez, Zenith market analyst. “Alertness drinks are designed to reduce stress and focus the mind. Relaxation drinks usually contain ingredients solely to assist relaxation and in some cases to aid sleep."

While the concept of this category of functional beverages primarily started in Japan with drinks enhanced with GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), the market has grown globally, with the majority of innovation now stemming from the United States. There is a broad range of active ingredients used the alertness and relaxation drinks including vitamins, minerals, botanicals, amino acids (L-theanine, in particular) and even hormones (melatonin).

Zenith is projecting an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent for the alertness and relaxation drink market through 2013. The firm’s new report includes more than 25 brand profiles as well as a commentary on consumer positioning and market potential.