Saturday, April 30, 2011

Healthy Eating Habits Differ by Age

Results of a new Harris Interactive online poll of nearly 2,500 U.S. adults reveal while consumers are more conscious about health and nutrition, how they put that knowledge to use varies by generation to generation.

Data reveals Americans develop stronger purchasing preferences and habits with regard to healthier choices as they age. Matures (66+ years old) are the most likely of all generations to pay close attention to nutritional facts and translate their health consciousness into behavior, possibly because they are more likely to need to follow a diet with specific restrictions, such as with low salt and sugar. The differences in eating habits among age groups suggest that actual behavioral change may be more driven by necessity than by knowledge.

At least three-quarters of all U.S. adults place importance on fresh (89%), fiber (81%), whole grains (81%), fat content (80%), portion size (79%), calories (77%) and saturated fat (76%) when making food and beverage purchases. However, specialized nutritional items are rated much lower with 33% and 20% rating gluten and vegan as important, respectively.

At least seven out of 10 of all U.S. adults place importance on consumption of protein (83%), fat (81%), whole grains (81%), calories (80%), saturated fat (79%), sugar (76%), cholesterol (75%), carbohydrates (74%) and sodium (73%) when thinking of how they manage their diet and/or weight. Hydrogenated oils were rated the lowest in importance at 67%.

More than half of U.S. adults (57%) place some type of monitor or restriction on their diet. Sugar and salt are the top two restricted items, with 34% and 32% restricting salt and sugar, respectively.

When asked about broader food-related issues, 71% of U.S. adults rate locally-sourced produce as important when thinking about where their food comes from. Only 42% rate organic as important.

Three quarters (76%) of Matures have a diet restriction, as compared to 58% of Baby Boomers (aged 47-65), 50% of Generation X (aged 35-46), and 51% of Echo Boomers (aged 18-34). Matures are also more likely to curb their salt or sugar intake than any other generational group.

Finally, data reveals awareness is not translating into dietary change for most generations. Among those who rate sugar or salt as important when managing their diet/weight, less than half of these U.S. adults actually restrict their sugar (42%) or salt (47%) intake. The action/awareness gap is even more pronounced when comparing the youngest and oldest generations, where 32% and 31% of Echo Boomers restrict their sugar or salt intake respectively, compared to 67% and 61% of Matures who do.


Harris Interactive: Most Americans Are Health-Conscious, But Behavior Varies By Age

Friday, April 29, 2011

80% of U.S. Adults Concerned About Weight

Eighty percent of U.S. adults aged 18 and older are conscious about their weight, and 54 percent want to shed pounds by making exercising, cutting back on sugar, using low calorie or reduced sugar products, and restricting portions size, according to results of a new survey by the Calorie Control Council.

An additional 28 percent of Americans are trying to control or maintain their weight. Among weight-loss methods, 86 percent cut back on foods high in sugar, 85 percent eat smaller portions and 78 percent eat low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages. Sixty-four percent of Americans trying to lose weight said they perform moderate exercise for 45 minutes at least three times per week. Data revealed dieters also understand short-term approaches will not result in lasting success—only 17 percent skip meals to diet, 13 percent use diet pills, and 8 percent follow restrictive weight-loss diets.

Frustrated dieters cited several factors hindering them from reaching their weight-loss goals including not enough exercise (69 percent), metabolism slowing (62 percent) and too much snacking (52 percent). Fifty percent of women reporting eating for emotional reasons, while 44 percent of men said they overeat.

"It's all about calories in and calories out. For healthy weight loss, reduce calories while eating a balanced diet, and burn calories through physical activity," said Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian with the Calorie Control Council. "A good way to start is by stopping any further weight gain by making small lifestyle changes. "Just cutting 100 calories a day can prevent the gradual weight gain experienced by most Americans. Continuing to increase regular exercise and eating smarter by reducing portions, and limiting fat and sugar intake will help in both losing weight and maintaining it. It is important to realize that these healthy changes need to be ones that can be maintained for life."


Calorie Control Council: Survey: Most Americans are Weight Conscious

Thursday, April 28, 2011

U.S. Adults Don’t Get Enough Calcium

A study published in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests U.S. adults are not getting adequate dietary amounts of calcium, which increases the risk of osteoporosis in older adults. The findings suggest increasing the frequency and level of calcium supplementation, and increasing consumption of nutrient dense foods may help improve bone health.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut and Yale University examined data from 9,475 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2003-to 2006. Diet was assessed with 24-hour recall and supplement use via questionnaire. Trends in median intakes for dietary calcium, total calcium, and energy across age categories were assessed using survey analysis methods. Nutrient density was represented using calcium to energy intake ratios.

When compared to the 19- to 30-year age group, median dietary calcium intake was lower in the ≥81-year age group by 23% in men (P<0.001) and by 14% in women (P=0.003). These reductions coincided with 35% and 28% decreases, respectively, in median energy intake (P<0.001 for each sex). In contrast, the frequency of calcium supplement use increased (P<0.001) with age in both men and women. Yet, among female supplement users, the decline in median dietary calcium intake was greater than in nonusers (P=0.02). Calcium density in the diet significantly increased relative to age in men and women (P<0.001 for each sex); however, dietary and total calcium to energy ratios were insufficient to meet target ratios inferred by adequate intake standards after age 50 years.

"Calcium plays a fundamental role in promoting bone health and forestalling osteoporosis. In light of evidence that energy intake declines with aging, calcium dense foods and calcium supplements become vital factors in maintaining adequate calcium intake across the lifespan," said Jane E. Kerstetter, RD, PhD, Professor, Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of Connecticut. "Encouraging calcium supplementation is an established approach to addressing this issue in the clinical setting—one that needs additional emphasis in order to promote more frequent and sufficient supplementation in meeting adequate intake levels. Altering the concentration of calcium in the diet relative to energy by increasing consumption of nutrient dense foods is a new and important concept that also deserves additional consideration as a component of osteoporosis prevention efforts."


EurekAlert: Americans still may not be getting enough calcium

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Americans Confused About Red Wine, Salt Effects on Heart Health

Results of a new American Heart Association (AHA) survey reveal the vast majority of Americans are misinformed about recommended daily intakes of salt and red wine and how they affect overall heart health.

AHA surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to assess their awareness and beliefs about how salt and red wine affect heart health. They found that while 76 percent of Americans believe drinking red wine is good for heart health, only 30 percent were aware AHA recommends alcohol consumption be limited to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Heavy and regular alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, high triglycerides, cancer, obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.

“This survey shows that we need to do a better job of educating people about the heart-health risks of overconsumption of wine, especially its possible role in increasing blood pressure," said AHA Spokesperson Gerald Fletcher, M.D.

Survey results also revealed many Americans are confused about low-sodium food choices and don’t know the primary source of sodium in their diets. Of those surveyed, 46 percent incorrectly said table salt is the primary source of sodium in American diets. In reality, processed foods such as soups, canned foods, prepared mixes, condiments and tomato sauce are the source of 75 percent of sodium consumption in the United States. Sixty-one percent believed sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt. Kosher salt and most sea salt are chemically the same as table salt (40 percent sodium) and count the same toward total sodium consumption.


American Heart Association: Most Americans don’t understand health effects of wine and sea salt, survey finds

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Most Americans mistakenly believe sea salt is a low-sodium alternative

Most Americans believe drinking wine is good for your heart but are unaware of recommended alcohol limits, and most mistakenly believe sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to regular table salt, according to a new survey about these common products.

The American Heart Association surveyed 1,000 American adults to assess their awareness and beliefs about how wine and salt affect heart health. Many studies have reported the benefits of limited wine intake for heart health and the risks of too much salt.

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that wine can be good for your heart. Drinking too much can be unhealthy, yet only 30 percent of those surveyed knew the American Heart Association's recommended limits for daily wine consumption.

"This survey shows that we need to do a better job of educating people about the heart-health risks of overconsumption of wine, especially its possible role in increasing blood pressure," said Gerald Fletcher, M.D., American Heart Association spokesperson and professor of medicine – cardiovascular diseases, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.

If you drink any alcohol, including wine, beer and spirits, the American Heart Association recommends that you do so in moderation. Limit consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women – for example, that's generally 8 ounces of wine for men and four ounces of wine for women.

Heavy and regular alcohol use of any type of alcohol can dramatically increase blood pressure. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats. Heavy drinking can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer, obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.

The survey also showed that many Americans are confused about low-sodium food choices and don't know the primary source of sodium in American diets. Excessive sodium can increase blood pressure in some people, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke.

Sixty-one percent of respondents incorrectly agreed that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt. Kosher salt and most sea salt are chemically the same as table salt (40 percent sodium), and they count the same toward total sodium consumption.

Forty-six percent said table salt is the primary source of sodium in American diets, which is also incorrect. Up to 75 percent of the sodium that Americans consume is found in processed foods such as tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes.

"High-sodium diets are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. You must remember to read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list on food and beverages," said Dr. Fletcher.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. To effectively limit sodium intake, when buying prepared and prepackaged foods, you should read the nutrition and ingredient labels. Sodium compounds are present whenever food labels include the words "soda" and "sodium," and the chemical symbol "Na."

Managing your blood pressure is a good way to manage your heart health. Access the American Heart Association's free information, resources and tools on high blood pressure at

Monday, April 25, 2011

FDA: Hand Sanitizers Make False Claims

Hand sanitizers protect us from germs, don't they? A new FDA initiative has consumers confused.

The FDA yesterday warned consumers not to buy hand sanitizers "that claim to prevent infection from MRSA, E. coli, salmonella, flu, or other bacteria or viruses." But isn't that why we use them?

An FDA spokesperson tells WebMD that consumers should continue to follow CDC advice to use hand sanitizers when water is not available.

The CDC advice specifically says alcohol-based hand sanitizers help protect against MRSA and other germs. During flu season, the CDC continually warns Americans to prevent flu by using hand sanitizers when soap and water aren't around.

So what's the FDA's problem with hand sanitizers?

The FDA points to four companies whose products, it says, are in violation of FDA regulations. Each of these products specifically claims to kill MRSA, staph, or other bacteria or viruses:

* Staphaseptic First Aid Antiseptic/Pain Relieving Gel from Tec Laboratories
* Safe4Hours Hand Sanitizing Lotion and Safe4Hours First Aid Antiseptic Skin Protectant from JD Nelson and Associates
* Dr. Tichenor’s Antiseptic Gel from Dr. G.H. Tichenor Antiseptic Co.
* CleanWell All-Natural Foaming Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizing Wipes, and CleanWell All-Natural Antibacterial Foaming Handsoap from Oh So Clean Inc. (doing business as CleanWell Company).

But what about other products? The label of a very popular 62% ethyl alcohol hand sanitizer says "Kills 99.99% of Germs." The product web site stresses that it "kills" the bad germs on your hands.

The FDA's rule on the question is a "tentative final monograph" (a confusing term itself) published in June 1994. It says that makers of over-the-counter antiseptic products may claim only that they "help reduce bacteria that potentially can cause disease." They may not claim a product "kills micro-organisms."

FDA spokesperson Shelly Burgess tells WebMD that the FDA is sending warning letters only to the four firms listed above.

"FDA has not approved any products claiming to prevent infection from MRSA, E. coli, Salmonella, or H1N1 flu, which a consumer can just walk into a store and buy," Deborah Autor, FDA compliance director, says in a news release. "These products give consumers a false sense of protection."

Here's the bottom line: Don't count on hand sanitizers for 100% protection from anything. Do wash your hands often. And when you can't wash your hands, do use hand sanitizers. Even the FDA agrees they get rid of a lot of the germs that are on your hands.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coffee Doesn’t Increase High Blood Pressure Risk

New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no association between drinking three or more cups of coffee a day and increased risk for high blood pressure.

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analyses of long-term prospective studies that examined the association of habitual coffee consumption with risk of hypertension. They pooled data from six previous studies involving a total of 172,567 participants and 37,135 incidents of hypertension cases were included. They examined how many cups of coffee the participants drank each day—from less than one to more than five—and then followed them for up to 33 years.

They found habitual consumption of more than three cups of coffee a day is not linked to increased risk of high blood pressure compared to drinking less than one cup per day; however, there is a slightly elevated risk for light to moderate consumption of one to three cups per day.


* American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Habitual coffee consumption and risk of hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective observational studies

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cranberry Juice Boosts Heart Health

Drinking cranberry juice may help improve endothelial function and reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The findings suggest cranberry juice’s polyphenolic compounds were responsible for reducing carotid femoral pulse wave velocity—a clinically relevant measure of arterial stiffness—suggesting an acute benefit; however, no chronic effect on measures of endothelial vasodilator function was found.

Researchers completed an acute pilot study with no placebo (n=15) and a chronic placebo-controlled crossover study (n=44) that examined the effects of cranberry juice on vascular function in subjects with coronary artery disease.

In the chronic crossover study, subjects with coronary heart disease consumed a research preparation of double-strength cranberry juice (54-percent juice, 835 mg total polyphenols and 94 mg anthocyanins) or a matched placebo beverage (480 mL/d) for four weeks each with a two-week rest period between beverages. Beverage order was randomly assigned and participants refrained from consuming other flavonoid-containing beverages during the study. Vascular function was measured before and after each beverage, with follow-up testing at or after12 hours after consumption of the last beverage. Mean carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity decreased after cranberry juice in contrast with an increase after placebo (P=0.003). Brachial artery flow-mediated dilation, digital pulse amplitude tonometry, blood pressure and carotid-radial pulse wave velocity did not change. In the uncontrolled pilot study, researchers observed improved brachial artery flow-mediated dilation and digital pulse amplitude tonometry ratio four hours after consumption of a single 480-mL portion of cranberry juice.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Approximately 60% of consumers are cutting back on driving,

As the national average for a gallon of gas edges closer to $4-a-gallon consumers have cut back on their driving, reports The NPD Group, a leading market research company. NPD's motor fuels research shows that consumers have cut back on their gas purchases from a year ago, which means they are driving less.

According to The NPD Group's Motor Fuels Index, which continually tracks consumer motor fuel purchasing behaviors and attitudes, gallons purchased are down 1.2 percent from a year ago. In addition, a consumer survey conducted by NPD in January to gauge what price level would be required to cause consumers to drive less suggests that at today's gas prices (national average is $3.79-a-gallon) approximately 60% of consumers are cutting back on driving now.

"If the current uptick in gas price is sustained, we can expect consumers to begin implementing some key changes like reducing or consolidating shopping trips, taking more mass transit, and carpooling," says David Portalatin, industry analyst for NPD's automotive aftermarket business. "In the case of a prolonged spike above $4.00, we'd expect even more significant changes like working from home, relocating or changing jobs, or driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle."

Based on recent history in 2008 when gas reached a high of $4.16-a-gallon, NPD research shows that drivers made significant changes in driving behavior including 49% who reduced or consolidated shopping trips, 29% cancelled or modified vacations, and 25% found alternate means of transportation including mass transit, carpooling, and riding a bike. These are the very changes consumers are likely implementing once again.

"It comes down to the simple economics of share of wallet," Portalatin says. "Most consumers have limitations in their budgets. If they are spending more on gas, they either need to cut down on their driving or spend less on other things. History has told us they begin by cutting down on their driving."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Study Says ‘Seeing is Eating’

People will choose and eat more indulgent food after they see someone who is overweight—unless they consciously think about their health goals, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. The findings suggest that merely seeing someone who is strongly associated with an undesirable behavior leads to surprising increases in the behavior.

“Seeing someone overweight leads to a temporary decrease in a person’s own felt commitment to his or her health goal," said authors Margaret C. Campbell and Gina S. Mohr. "Why do people often think back on a pleasant evening with friends and realize that they ate more and worse food than they wish they had? If any of those friends carry a few extra pounds, just being in their presence could trigger what the authors call a "negative stereotype."

In one study, researchers asked people who were walking through a lobby if they would take a quick survey. The surveys had photos of an overweight person, a person of normal weight or a lamp. After completing the survey, the respondents were asked to help themselves from a bowl of candy as a thank you.

"People who completed the survey that included a picture of someone who was overweight took more candies on average than people who saw either of the other two pictures," the authors said.

In subsequent studies, people who were invited to do a cookie taste test ate twice as many cookies or candy after seeing someone who was overweight. This was true even if the participants had a goal to maintain a healthy weight and believed that cookies and candy can lead to weight problems.

Two main strategies served to counteract people's tendency to overeat when in the presence of overweight individuals: thinking about health goals and being reminded of the link between eating and becoming overweight.


* EurekAlert: Does seeing overweight people make us eat more?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Diet Soft Drinks Don’t Increase Diabetes Risk

While regular consumption of soft drinks and other sugary drinks can increase a person’s risk of diabetes, drinking diet soda or artificially sweetened beverages does not, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Harvard researchers analyzed data from 40,389 healthy men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up study. They filled out questionnaires on their medical status and dietary habits, including how many servings of their average intakes of sugar-sweetened (sodas, fruit punches, lemonades, fruit drinks) and artificially sweetened (diet sodas, diet drinks) beverages they consumed on a weekly basis.

About 7 percent of the participants were diagnosed with diabetes at some point during the 20-year study. Men who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages—one serving a day—were 16 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than men who never drank sugary beverages. The link was mostly due to soda and other carbonated beverages, and drinking non-carbonated sugar-sweetened fruit drinks such as lemonade was not linked with a higher risk of diabetes. When nothing else was accounted for, men who drank large amounts of diet soda and other diet drinks also had an increased diabetes risk, however, once researchers took into account men's weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol, those drinks were not related to diabetes risk.

Replacing one serving of sugar-sweetened beverage with one cup coffee daily was associated with a 17-percent risk reduction.


* Reuters: Diet soda doesn't raise diabetes risk: study

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Low-Carb Diet Reduces Liver Fat Quickly

Adhering to a low-carbohydrate diet is more effective than cutting calories for individuals who want to quickly reduce the amount of fat in their liver, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The findings could have implications for treating diabetes, insulin resistance and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center assigned 18 participants with NAFLD to eat either a low-carbohydrate or a low-calorie diet for 14 days. Participants assigned to the low-carb diet limited their carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams a day for the first seven days. For the final seven days, they switched to frozen meals prepared by UT Southwestern’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) kitchen that matched their individual food preferences, carbohydrate intake and energy needs. Low-calorie diet participants continued their regular diet and kept a food diary for the four days preceding the study. The CTRC kitchen then used these individual records to prepare all meals during the 14-day study. Researchers limited the total number of calories to roughly 1,200 a day for female participants and 1,500 a day for males.

After two weeks, the study participants on the low-carb diet lost more liver fat. Both the low-calorie dieters and the low-carbohydrate dieters lost an average of 10 pounds.

“This is not a long-term study, and I don’t think that low-carb diets are fundamentally better than low-fat ones," said Dr. Jeffrey Browning, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and the study’s lead author. “Our approach is likely to be only of short-term benefit because at some point the benefits of weight loss alone trounce any benefits derived from manipulating dietary macronutrients such as calories and carbohydrates. Weight loss, regardless of the mechanism, is currently the most effective way to reduce liver fat."


* Newswise: Limiting Carbs, Not Calories, Reduces Liver Fat Faster

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pea Protein’s Natural Emulsifying Abilities

Food and beverage designers frequently face a challenge in making more-sophisticated products that meet consumer needs while using label-friendly ingredients. Pea protein might provide an answer for certain applications based on new research from University of Manitoba in Canada.

According to the study, the food industry has seen “increased interest in plant-derived food ingredients such as those from pea seeds because of consumers’ demand for cholesterol-free and low-fat food products." While soybean ingredients dominate the sector, yellow field-pea ingredients can provide similar nutritive and functional properties to food and beverage formulations.

“The study was designed to look at potential contributions to food functionality of protein fractions present in the pea protein isolate," says one of the study’s authors, Rotimi Aluko, PhD., Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program, Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. “Commercial applications include replacing meat proteins to formulate low-fat meat products, production of protein-fortified beverages and manufacture of protein gels."

Researchers analyzed commercial yellow pea seed flours prepared by a patented wet-milling process and pea protein isolate (PPI) for emulsifying and foaming properties at pH 3, 5, and 7 and compared the results to soybean protein isolate (SPI). The ingredients tested included two high-fiber products, Centara III and Centara IV, two starch-fiber products, Centu-Tex and Uptake 80, one pea protein isolate (Propulse) and one high-starch product, Accu-Gel, from Nutri-Pea Ltd. (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada) and soybean protein isolate PRO-FAM 974 from ADM (Decatur, IL).

The researchers found that pea protein isolate and SPI formed emulsions with significantly smaller oil droplet sizes than flours that primarily contained fiber or those that consisted mainly of starch. Data showed that PPI was better at emulsifying than SPI at pH 7, and was a better foaming agent at pH 3 and pH 7, although foaming capacity varied with sample concentration. A smaller particle-size range in the pea protein produced significantly smaller emulsion-oil droplets. Adding pea starch to SPI emulsions produced a synergistic effect and increased emulsification capacity (reduced emulsion oil-droplet size) compared to SPI or starch alone.

Gel electrophoresis revealed that commercial pea protein isolate and its fractionated proteins had minimal level of disulfide bonds. According to Aluko, this “limits intense protein-protein interactions and could allow the manufacture of soft food gels using high concentrations of the proteins. But the protein is not suitable for the manufacture of hard food gels." In addition, he continues, “the disulfide bond is a source of sulfur in human nutrition and is desirable for synthesizing cellular glutathione (an antioxidant) and it can also provide the liver with the sulfur required to detoxify undesirable compounds, which enhances their excretion in the urine."

The researchers concluded that pea protein isolate had generally significantly higher emulsion and foam-forming properties than SPI, and that pea starch can improve the quality of SPI-stabilized food emulsions.


* Food Chemistry: Functional properties of protein fractions obtained from commercial yellow field pea (Pisum sativum L.) seed protein isolate

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Women who ate dried apples every day for a year lowered their total cholesterol

Eating apples every day may be good for your cardiovascular health, new research suggests.

Women who ate dried apples every day for a year lowered their total cholesterol by 14 percent and their levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol by 23 percent.

"I never expected apple consumption to reduce bad cholesterol to this extent while increasing HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol by about 4 percent," Bahram Arjmandi, chair of the department of nutrition, food and exercise sciences at Florida State University in Tallahassee, said in a statement.

Arjmandi was to present the findings Tuesday at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington D.C. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided partial funding for the study.

Many foods can have an effect on cholesterol levels, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foods containing saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol can raise your cholesterol levels, while foods with healthier fats such as olive oil can lower your cholesterol. Foods with fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can reduce cholesterol levels, while carbohydrates that are low in fiber tend to raise triglyceride levels and lower "good" HDL cholesterol levels.

In the current study, the researchers wanted to assess the long-term effect that apple consumption might have on cardiovascular health.

They recruited 160 women between the ages of 45 and 65. The women were randomly assigned to one of two dietary intervention groups. One group was given 75 grams of dried apples every day for a year, while the other group was given dried prunes daily for a year.

The daily serving of dried apples contained about 240 calories, according to the study. An apple contains about 5 grams of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The researchers found that women eating dried apples lowered their total cholesterol by 14 percent. LDL cholesterol dropped by 23 percent. Daily apple consumption also significantly lowered levels of C-reactive protein and lipid hydroperoxide, two substances that may indicate an increased risk of heart disease. What effects, if any, the prunes had on cholesterol levels were not mentioned in the study abstract.

The researchers theorized that the nutrients in apples may reduce inflammation in the body.

Despite the addition of several hundred calories a day to their diet, the apple-eating women didn't gain weight over the course of the study. In fact, they lost an average of 3.3 pounds.

Registered dietician Jessica Shapiro said she wasn't surprised that the women didn't gain weight. The addition of apples to the diet probably kept the women feeling fuller because of the fiber content in the apples, she explained.

"Apples really are an amazing fruit for many reasons," said Shapiro, who is a clinical nutritionist who counsels cardiac patients at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "A large reason apples are so good is the fiber. Apples have both soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble is found more in the skin, and the pulp is more soluble fiber."

"The pulp of an apple gets to be a very viscous gel-like substance that grabs cholesterol and pulls it out of the body. It's kind of like nature's toothbrush, and it's brushing the bad stuff out," she explained.

"Another good thing in apples is pectin. It's a substance that's used to make jellies or jams, and pectin contributes to the viscosity of what's going through the body, and bulks it up to help remove it. Apples also have tons of antioxidants and other natural components," she said.

Shapiro said she would recommend fresh apples over dried apples, because some nutrients are probably lost in the drying process.

But Shapiro stressed that making healthy changes to what you eat can only do so much.

"Changing your diet can make a big difference, but eating a healthy diet is only part of it. Once your cholesterol is high, diet may not be enough," she said. "Some people are predisposed because of their genes to having high cholesterol, and a healthy diet may not be enough."

Shapiro also advised against making any changes to your medications, including cholesterol-lowering drugs, without talking to your doctor first.

Also, she cautioned, when increasing the fiber in your diet, do it slowly. This will help prevent bloating and gas that may occur if you increase your fiber intake too quickly. She said that 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily is the recommended intake, and she suggested increasing your current intake by about 5 grams daily each week to give your body a chance to get used to the increased fiber.

More information

Learn more about the importance of fruits and vegetables from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Jessica Shapiro, M.S., R.D., clinical nutritionist, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; April 12, 2011, presentation, Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting, Washington D.C.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

74% of Kids Don’t Get Enough Exercise

Results of a recent YMCA’s Family Health Snapshot survey reveal 74 percent of children ages 5 to 10 do not get the recommend 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and only 15 percent of U.S. parents consider overall physical health as the top concern for their children.

The findings suggest lack of physical activity increasing obesity and chronic disease risk in children. According to the survey of more than 1,600 parents with children between the ages of 5 and 10, the economy has created financial challenges and time constraints that make it difficult for many families to carve out time for physical activity and to provide a healthy home environment.

The survey also found 74 percent of parents opt to spend family time with their kids sitting in front of the TV, while 42 percent of parents say technology is getting in the way of active play, although 53 percent admit they spend leisure time with their children on the computer and playing video games. Data also revealed 58 percent of children ages 5 to 10 spend less than four days a week playing outdoors.

On April 16, YMCA will celebrate the 20th anniversary of YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day™– an event that reminds parents that health and well-being is vital to ensuring that children reach their full potential, and that being active can be as simple as making a play date with their kids. Healthy Kids Day is the nation’s largest health day for kids, celebrated by more than 1,600 Ys across the country.

“The Y knows parents struggle to find the time and resources to incorporate physical activity and healthier habits into their kids’ daily routine," said Lynne Vaughan, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Y-USA. “But getting active doesn’t have to require a lot of time and resources. The Y created Healthy Kids Day to encourage active play and inspire a lifetime love of physical activity that’s easy and accessible for today’s families."


* YMCA of the USA: YMCA Survey Finds U.S. Parents Not Making Kids’ Health Top Priority

Friday, April 15, 2011

51% of Americans Prefer Easter Buffets

Approximately 33 million Americans will celebrate Easter Sunday this year at their favorite restaurant this year, and more than half will hop on over to an abundant buffet, according to new market research from the National Restaurant Association.

“Buffets will be popular options for Easter diners this year, as they provide a variety of food options to fit anyone’s dietary needs and preferences," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association. “Restaurants planning their Easter menus should consider both traditional offerings, including baked ham and deviled eggs, as well as new twists on those dishes, such as ethnic flavors and health-conscious versions, to appeal to today’s increasingly sophisticated diner."

Overall, 14 percent of adults plan to celebrate the holiday with a special meal at a restaurant. Forty-six percent of those are planning a special Easter lunch at a restaurant, while 44 percent will enjoy a meal at dinner. Twenty-nine percent of consumers visiting a restaurant for an Easter meal are planning to dine out for brunch, while 21 percent are going out for breakfast.

Data revealed 48 percent of diners are most likely to choose their favorite restaurant regardless of Easter specials; 16 percent of Easter diners said will choose a restaurant with holiday specials or menu items; and 13 percent will select a restaurant that they haven’t been to before.

Consumers were asked what they considered “must-have" features or foods for Easter at a restaurant. Fifty-one percent said a buffet was essential; 39 percent wanted ham on the menu; 37 percent listed pastries; and 27 percent wanted eggs. Only 7 percent of those surveyed considered lamb essential to their Easter dining experience.


* National Restaurant Association: 33 Million Americans Will Visit a Restaurant on Easter Sunday, According to the National Restaurant Association

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Organic Food Labels Influence Consumer Behavior

Foods that carry organic labels are perceived as more nutritious and better tasting than conventional foods, according to new research presented April 10 at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting.

To test the theory that a label can make people believe the food items are healthier and tastier, a Cornell University researcher surveyed more than 144 consumers and asked them to compare conventionally and organically produced potato chips, plain yogurt and chocolate sandwich cookies.

All of the products actually were organic, but labeled either "regular" or "organic." The participants were instructed to use a scale of one to nine in rating the food on taste, fat content, calories and price. They also were asked to estimate the number of calories in each food item and how much they would be willing to pay.

The findings revealed the participants preferred almost all of the taste characteristics of the organically-labeled foods, even though they were actually identical to their conventionally-labeled counterparts. The foods labeled “organic" also were perceived to be significantly lower in calories and evoked a higher price tag. Foods with the “organic" label were perceived as being lower in fat and higher in fiber. Overall, organically-labeled chips and cookies were considered to be more nutritious than their “non-organic" counterparts.


* Experimental Biology 2011: The Health Halo Effect: Don’t Judge a Food by its Organic Label

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Canola Oil Reduces Colon Cancer Risk

Canola oil reduces the size and incidence of colon tumors in laboratory animals by nearly 30 percent, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer. The finding suggest using canola oil in household cooking may protect against colon cancer development.

Researchers at South Dakota State University compared the effects of canola oil and corn oil in laboratory rats. Canola oil inhibited the average number of tumors per rate by 58 percent compared to corn oil, and inhibited the size of the tumors that occurred by 90 percent.

“This is the first time anyone has done work on the effect of canola oil in animals on colon cancer prevention. Canola oil was able to reduce the incidence of colon cancer in animals almost to one-third," the researchers said.

The current research builds on earlier studies by the researchers that suggests omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil have a chemopreventive effect by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase and reducing the synthesis of arachidonic acid, both of which are associated with inflammation.

Flaxseed oil has a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids, but canola oil may be easier to include in a typical American diet.

“The advantage of canola is it can be used for day to day cooking, frying and anything else, in contrast to the flax," they said. “You could not use flax oil for frying. If people start using canola oil, replacing other oils with canola oil, it gives them the advantage of including omega-3s in their diet."


* South Dakota State University: Study shows canola oil protects against colon cancer

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Green Tea Boosts Bone Health in Women

Drinking four to six cups of steeped green tea daily coupled with an exercise regimen improves bone health and reduces inflammation in postmenopausal women, according to new research presented at Experimental Biology 2011 on April 10.

Researchers at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center investigated the potential for green tea to work synergistically with tai chi in enhancing bone strength. They conducted a 6-month double-blind, placebo-controlled, intervention trial that involved 171 postmenopausal women with a median age of 57 who had weak bones but not full-fledged osteoporosis. The subjects were divided into four groups—placebo and no tai chi; green tea polyphenols (GTP) (500 mg/day) and no tai chi; placebo and tai chi (3 times/week); and GTP and tai chi.

Women who consumed a level equivalent to about four to six cups of steeped green tea daily and participated in tai chi showed enhanced markers of bone health by three and six months. They also had increased muscle strength at six months. The finding suggests green tea and tai chi may help reduce the underlying etiology of not only osteoporosis, but other inflammatory diseases as well.


* Experimental Biology 2011: Green Tea and Tai Chi Enhance Bone Health and Reduce Inflammation in Postmenopausal Women

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Natural Food Dilemma

One of the hottest food-industry trends is the increased interest in products that can be called natural. While the analyses behind the trend could go into innumerable pages, the general consumer perception is that natural foods and beverages and natural ingredients are in some way better: better for your health, better tasting, better quality, better for the earth or better because they hearken back to simpler, better times. Context Marketing recently surveyed 600 more-affluent U.S. consumers to determine which nonhealth product claims were most important in grocery and restaurant products: 57% said they were concerned about safety (the highest-ranking issue), while 50% said a natural label was important.

So, the industry faces a formulation dilemma. What exactly is “natural”?

Organic is definitely a subset of natural. Organic has a very clear definition in the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). However, the Context survey found “organic” is ranked lower in importance (35%) than natural, and the market bears that out. After nearly a decade of double-digit growth, organics have stalled to a modest 5% rise—and that’s on perhaps 5% of the total food market. For three years running, the percentage of U.S. consumers purchasing organic products has held steady in the 38% to 39% range, reports TABS Group, Inc. In our recessionary world, the organic upcharge is a significant issue. Plus, despite the NOP rules, many consumers don’t understand organic, and it may even carry the baggage of being too elite, especially given the oft-referenced organic and natural grocer “Whole Paycheck.”

Could it be green? Products that affect social, environmental and sustainability issues, like fair trade–certified items, appeal to the socially conscious consumer and are becoming more popular. Sales of U.S. food and nonfood fair-trade products in 2009 reached $1.2 billion, with ready-to-drink coffee and tea products growing by 39%, according to Fair Trade USA and SPINS. But “greenwashing,” falsely portraying or overestimating a positive environmental impact, seems prevalent, and fewer than 50% of consumers “don’t know how to verify a company’s claim that they’re ‘green,’ and that number has declined compared to 2008,” according to Mintel.

According to a recent survey of 1,000 natural product consumers by Mambo Sprouts Marketing, 34% were either “not very” or “not at all” confident in current natural labeling, and 65% were very interested in a uniform standard to certify natural products—including ingredients and processes—that are labeled as “natural.” Such standards would also be helpful to the product designer to aid ingredient selection. Are only plant- and animal-based products natural? What about the processes used to make various ingredients, including chemical, physical and enzymatic reactions? Just look at the current sweetener controversies to see the tangled web of perceptions, claims and facts.

However, it’s hard to see that any standards other than the FTC’s “false and misleading” stricture and the definitions that currently apply to meat and flavors will be coming soon. Who will be willing to untie that particular Gordian knot?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Easter Sales Hop to Pre-Recession Levels

Easter retail sales are expected to bounce back to near pre-recession levels as consumers fill their baskets with everything from candy and greeting cards to food and clothing, according to results of the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Easter Consumer Intentions and Actions survey.

Total spending on Easter-related merchandise is expected to reach $14.6 billion, with the average consumer expected to spend $131.04, up from $118.60 last year.

“Due to such a late holiday, Easter promotions will last all spring long," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Though lingering concerns over food and energy prices may keep shoppers from splurging, retailers are expecting consumers to stock up on apparel, home décor and of course food and candy, a good sign leading into the much busier and important months to come."

Food and candy will account for most of a consumer’s budget, bringing in $2.1 billion in candy sales and $4.5 billion in food sales.. The average consumer will spend $18.55 on candy, compared to $17.29 last year, and $40.05 on food, up from $37.45 last year.

Easter’s biggest spenders will be 25- to 34-year-olds ($173.41 vs. $136.79 last year) and young adults aged 18 to 24 ($145.12 vs. $125.85). On average, 35- to 44-year-olds will spend $138.55, followed by 45- to 54- year olds ($122.15) and 55- to 64-year-olds ($113.32).


* National Retail Federation: Spending on Food, Gifts and Apparel Expected to Increase This Easter, According to NRF

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Lower-Calorie Items Headlining Restaurant Menus

America’s war with obesity and looming legislation that will require restaurant chains with 20 or more units to post calorie counts on menus and menu boards has many restaurants adding lower-calorie items to their repertoire, according to Technomic’s new MenuMonitor report.

Many restaurants are offering lighter menu items that contain less than 550 calories in a way that does not make consumers feel as though they are sacrificing flavor or satisfaction. According to Technomic EVP Darren Tristano, restaurants can tout them as savory and delicious, as well as better for you, rather than picking just one aspect over another.

Some new lower-calorie menu items tempting customers palates include La Madeleine’s Shrimp and Tilapia Provençal (460 calories), Friendly’s Half Turkey Club SuperMelt Sandwich and Garden Salad (420 calories), Logan’s Roadhouse 6-ounce Filet Mignon (under 550 calories), Carvel Ice Cream’s Low Fat Sundae Dishes (under 300 calories), Mimi’s Café Veggie Burger with Fresh Fruit (364 calories), Taco Cabana’s Build-Your-Own Cabana Bowl (under 400 calories), Fazoli’s New Mini Bakes (400 calories), Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Guacamole Turkey Burger (490 calories) and Z’Tejas Turkey Jalapeño Wrap (under 550 calories).


* Technomic: Technomic Finds Lower Calorie Items Gaining Momentum on Restaurant Menus

Friday, April 08, 2011

54% of Customers Ignore Restaurant Cleanliness

More than half of restaurant customers turn a blind eye to cleanliness of a food prep area, according to results of a recent survey conducted by US Food Safety Corp.

The survey, which addressed how restaurant cleanliness influenced consumers’ dining decisions, revealed more than 70 percent of the respondents cite food quality and taste as the primary reasons for choosing a restaurant, while 5 percent say sanitation is a factor in their restaurant choice.

While consumers ultimately chose food over cleanliness, sanitation was still a concern. In a follow-up question, more than 99 percent of those surveyed said restaurant cleanliness was important and would stay away from a restaurant if they felt it was not clean. More than 70 percent of the respondents dined at restaurants at least once a week.


* US Food Safety Corp.: US Food Safety.Com Survey Reveals 54 Percent of Restaurant Patrons Turn Blind Eye to Cleanliness of Food Prep Area

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Strawberries May Prevent Esophageal Cancer

Eating strawberries as part of a regular diet may help reduce the risk of esophageal cancer, according to new findings presented April 6 at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 102nd meeting 2011 in Orlando, Fla.

Researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute collaborated on a clinical trial with researchers in China to investigate the effects of freeze-dried strawberries on patients with esophageal precancerous lesions. Thirty-six 36 study participants consumed 2 ounces of freeze-dried strawberries daily for six months. The researchers obtained biopsy specimens before and after the strawberry consumption. Results showed 29 out of 36 participants experienced a decrease in histological grade of the precancerous lesions during the study. They reported daily consumption of strawberries suppressed various biomarkers involved in esophageal carcinogenesis, including cell proliferation, inflammation and gene transcription.

“Our study is important because it shows that strawberries may slow the progression of precancerous lesion in the esophagus. Strawberries may be an alternative, or may work together with other chemopreventive drugs, for the prevention of esophageal cancer. But, we will need to test this in randomized placebo-controlled trials in the future."


* Ohio State University: Strawberries May Slow Precancerous Growth in Esophagus

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Vegetarian Diet Cuts Metabolic Disease Risk

Individuals who adhere to a vegetarian diet have a lower risk of developing metabolic disease like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Researchers at Loma Linda University conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 773 adults who participated in the Adventist Health Study 2. Measuring for metabolic risk factors, they found vegetarians had lower levels of triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure and waist circumference than non-vegetarians. The only exception was cholesterol.

As reported by Reuters, the researchers found 23 out of every 100 vegetarians have at least three metabolic syndrome factors, compared with 39 out of every 100 non-vegetarians and 37 out of every 100 semi-vegetarians. Vegetarians' average BMI of 25.7 was four points lower than non-vegetarians, who had BMIs near 30.


* Reuters: Vegetarians may be at lower diabetes, heart risk

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Low-Fat Dairy Products Lower Blood Pressure

Individuals who consume low-fat dairy products have a reduced risk of elevated blood pressure, according to a study published in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of Human Hypertension. The findings suggest dairy can play a positive role in a balanced, healthy diet and lifestyle.

Researchers at Monash University in Australia conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the association between dairy food intake during adulthood and the development of elevated blood pressure (EBP), specifically comparing the association of EBP with consumption of low-fat dairy foods versus high-fat dairy foods, as well as cheese versus fluid dairy foods (milk or yogurt). Seven databases were searched and five cohort studies selected for inclusion, involving nearly 45,000 subjects and 11,500 cases of EBP.

According to the findings, dairy food consumption resulted in a significant reduction in the risk of elevated blood pressure. However, an analysis of full-fat dairy products including cheese, indicated neither an increased risk nor a decreased risk of elevated blood pressure. Regardless of fat content, fluid dairy foods (including low-fat and full-fat milk and yogurt) were associated with a reduced risk of developing EBP.

“High blood pressure continues to be a critical concern for many Americans and populations around the world," said Gregory Miller, Ph.D., president of the U.S.-based Dairy Research Institute™ and executive vice president of the National Dairy Council®. “This latest review reinforces the value that dairy foods provide, by indicating that three servings of low-fat dairy products per day may help to reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure."


* Dairy Research Institute: Study Finds Increased Consumption of Low-Fat Dairy May Help Decrease Elevated Blood Pressure Risk

Monday, April 04, 2011

FDA proposal would require chain restaurants to display calorie information

Chain restaurants, convenience stores, concession stands and vending machines would soon have to display calorie information for the food products they sell under rules proposed Friday by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We do see this as an important step in providing consumers with information they can use in choosing healthy diets and fighting obesity,” Michael R. Taylor, deputy FDA commissioner for foods, said in describing the nation’s first federal menu-labeling law.

The rules, required by Congress in a little-noticed provision of the health-care reform law passed last year, are subject to a public comment period before they are finalized and implemented in 2012, Taylor said.

A notable exception under the proposed rules are movie theaters, which earn up to a third of their income from sales of popcorn and other items at their concession stands. Movie theaters have lobbied the FDA in recent months, saying they should not be subject to the law because people go to theaters to see movies, not to eat meals.

That means moviegoers at Regal Theaters, the country’s largest chain with 548 theaters, will not be confronted with the fact that a medium tub of unbuttered popcorn can contain 1,200 calories, according to a 2009 laboratory analysis ordered by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. That’s half the recommended total daily caloric intake for a 45-year-old man.

Under the regulations, any restaurant with 20 or more locations offering standard fare — including table-service establishments, fast-food outlets, bakeries and coffee shops — would have to disclose calories “clearly and prominently” on menus or menu boards, including drive-through order stations. Other nutritional information, such as sodium and fat content, would have to be available upon request.

Vending machines would have to clearly display the calorie counts for each item. The information must be in close proximity to the machine so that consumers can see the calories as easily as the price or selection button number, according to the FDA.

Food industry groups, which have been meeting with the FDA over the past year and have anticipated the rules, said a federal law is better than a patchwork of state and local regulations. Menu labeling laws have been passed in 18 states and localities, including Montgomery County, Md., California and New York City, and some restaurant chains already voluntarily provide the information.

Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive of the National Restaurant Association, said her organization supported the federal law.

“From Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, the new standard will help chain restaurants provide the same type of nutrition information to consumers in any part of the country,” she said.

With fewer outlets to absorb the cost, small- and medium-size chains may face the greatest burden of the new requirements as they analyze their fare to determine calorie counts, reprint menus and refashion menu boards.

In addition to movie theaters, the regulations would not apply to bowling alleys, airplanes and other places where less than half the floor space is devoted to food sales. But the rules would cover a chain kiosk housed inside another business — a Starbucks inside a bookstore, for example.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has pushed for menu labeling for a decade, hailed the proposed rules but said that theaters and alcoholic beverages should have been included.

“If a movie theater is going to serve up thousand-calorie tubs of popcorn, 400-calorie drinks and 400-calorie boxes of candy, the least they could do is tell you about it,” said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the group.

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), who authored a separate bill requiring menu labeling, said Friday that she would “work to ensure that the final rule is strengthened” to include movie theaters and alcoholic beverages.

Patrick Corcoran, a spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners, a trade group, declined to comment Friday.

When Congress passed the health-care law, it stipulated that the labeling requirements should apply to restaurants and “similar retail food establishments.”

But in a nation where ready-to-eat food is seemingly everywhere — from refrigerated “grab and go” cases in drugstores to pizza franchises inside gas stations — the FDA has found it tricky to define “food establishment,” Taylor said.

And in restaurants where diners can customize their orders — deciding whether to add cheese or guacamole, or both, to a burrito, for instance — it’s difficult to display specific calorie counts. As a result, the FDA says restaurants can post a range of calories for items that are customized. “In a pizza situation, where you can have 20 different toppings, we’re allowing those calories to be declared in ranges,” Taylor said.

In supermarkets, all packaged foods have carried a “Nutrition Facts” label since 1990, allowing shoppers to quickly assess such information as calories, sodium and fat. But the same information has not been available at many restaurants, convenience stores and other places where food is sold.

“For people who are interested or curious, this will be staggering information,” said Marion Nestle, who teaches nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “And they’ll change their behavior. For others, it’s not.”

According to the USDA, Americans spent 42 percent of their food budgets in 2009 on items away from home, both for meals and snacks. And that comes at a cost to the waistline: When eating away from home, Americans consume more calories, fat and cholesterol, according to USDA researchers.

Still, some experts are skeptical that calorie information will cause people to make different choices.

“I think it will have an initial impact, but not a lasting impact,” said Bonnie Riggs, an analyst with the NPD Group, a market research company.

In research performed in December, NPD found that people perusing a hamburger restaurant’s menu chose foods with 12 percent fewer calories when they were provided the calorie counts for each item, ordering fewer french fries, regular soft drinks, onion rings and extra-large burgers.

But when asked how they choose restaurant food, Riggs said, they spoke about quality, freshness and portion sizes, among other things. “Calories weren’t even mentioned.”

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Soy Isoflavones Sensitize Lung Cancer Cells

Soy isoflavones have the ability to improve radiation outcomes in lung cancer patients by blocking cancer cells' DNA repair mechanisms while protecting normal tissue, according to a new study published in the April issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

"These natural soy isoflavones can sensitize cancer cells to the effects of radiotherapy, by inhibiting survival mechanisms which cancer cells activate to protect themselves," said Dr. Gilda Hillman, associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Wayne State University's School of Medicine and the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. "At the same time, soy isoflavones can also act as antioxidants in normal tissues, which protect them against unintended damage from the radiotherapy."

Human A549 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells that were treated with soy isoflavones before radiation showed more DNA damage and less repair activity than cells that received only radiation.

The researchers used a formulation consisting of the three main isoflavones found in soybeans, including genistein, daidzein and glycitein. Previous research found pure genistein demonstrated antitumor activity in human NSCLC cell lines and enhanced the effects of EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors. This study found the soy mixture had an even greater antitumor effect than pure genistein. The soy mixture also is consistent with the soy isoflavone pills used in clinical studies, which have been proven to be safe, researchers said.


* EurekAlert: Soy increases radiation's ability to kill lung cancer cells, study shows

Saturday, April 02, 2011

High Fat, Coffee Combo Doubles Blood Sugar

Blood sugar levels in a healthy person can spike nearly 65 percent after consuming a high-fat meal and cup of caffeinated coffee, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers at the University of Guelph examined the effects of saturated fat and caffeinated coffee on blood sugar levels using a novel fat cocktail which contains only lipids. The specially designed beverage allows researchers to accurately mimic what happens to the body when fat is ingested.

For the study, healthy men drank about 1 gram of the fat beverage for every kilogram of body weight for their first meal. Six hours later, they were given a second meal consisting of a sugar drink. The researchers found that the fatty meal affected the body's ability to clear the sugar out of the blood. The subjects' blood sugar levels were 32 percent higher than they were when the men had not ingested the fat cocktail.

The researchers also tested the impact of caffeinated coffee combined with the fatty meal. For this test, participants received the equivalent of two cups of caffeinated coffee five hours after ingesting the fat beverage. An hour later, they were then given the sugar drink. The results showed blood sugar levels increased by 65 percent compared to what they were when participants had not ingested the fat and caffeinated coffee.

"This shows that the effects of a high-fat meal can last for hours," the researchers said. "What you eat for lunch can impact how your body responds to food later in the day."

The researchers also examined gastrointestinal effects by measuring incretin hormones released by the gut after ingesting the fat. These hormones signal the pancreas to release insulin to help clear the blood of sugar. They discovered the hormones' responses to carbohydrates are blunted after ingesting the fat beverage.

"Ultimately we have found that fat and caffeinated coffee are impairing the communication between the gut and the pancreas, which could be playing a role in why participants couldn't clear the sugar from their blood as easily," they said.


* University of Guelph: Got a Hankering for Fast Food? Skip the Coffee, Study Says

Friday, April 01, 2011

Inadequate Vitamin D Affects One Third Of Americans

One third of Americans aged at least 1 year are at risk of inadequate vitamin D levels and 8% are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed. The report added that 1% had excessive blood levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, it is a steroid vitamin. Individuals who are exposed to normal quantities of sunlight directly onto the skin generally get plenty of vitamin D, because sunlight encourages adequate vitamin D synthesis in the skin.

Vitamin D is also an immune system regulator, it helps keep our bones healthy, it may reduce multiple sclerosis risk, it likely helps keep the brain working well later in life, experts believe it helps us maintain a healthy body weight, it can reduce frequency and severity of asthma symptoms, it has been shown to reduce rheumatoid arthritis risk in women, it probably protects us from low level radiation damage, and has cancer protecting qualities.

The report found that from 2001 to 2006, referring to people in the USA aged 1 year or more:

* 67% had vitamin D blood levels between 50 and 125 nanomoles per liter (adequate)
* 24% risked having inadequate vitamin D blood levels
* 8% had less than 30 nanomoles per liter of vitamin D in their blood, placing them at serious risk of vitamin D deficiency
* 1% had excessively high vitamin D blood levels

The Institute of Medicine in November 2010 raised the recommended levels of vitamin D intake to 600 IU (international units) per day for individuals aged 1 to 70 years, and to 800 IU for those aged 70 or more.

The authors revealed that vitamin D deficiency risk varied according to sex, age, race and ethnicity. Younger individuals, males, and non-Hispanic white people appear to have a lower risk than the rest of the population.

In both periods, 1988-1994 and 2001-2002 vitamin D deficiency risk grew nationally in males and females, and remained unchanged between 2001-2002 and 2005-2006.

The report also informs that:

* Males have a lower risk of vitamin D deficiency than females
* Non-Hispanic white individuals have a lower risk of vitamin D deficiency/inadequacy compared to non-Hispanic black or Mexican-American people
* Pregnant and breastfeeding women are less likely to be vitamin D deficient compared to non-pregnant or non-breastfeeding women of childbearing age

The authors gathered data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES).

People who live in the tropics, or near the tropics and expose their unprotected skin to two 15-minute sessions of sunlight each week will naturally produce enough vitamin D for their body's requirements. Those who live very far from the equator will not get enough sunlight exposure for their vitamin D requirements during many months of the year. Cloud cover, smog and sunscreens will reduce the amount of vitamin D your skin can synthesize when exposed to the sun during those 15-minute sessions.

Individuals who do not produce enough vitamin D because of low sunlight exposure will have to make sure they get it from the food they eat, or possibly supplements.

Over the last couple of centuries a considerable proportion of people have spent more and more time indoors, resulting in less exposure to sunlight. Most nations started adding some types of vitamin D to bread, pastries, oil spreads, margarine, milk and other dairy products, and breakfast cereals.

The best natural dietary sources of vitamin D are some fish, such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, and fish liver oils. Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks also have vitamin D. Mushrooms may have varying amounts. Most people today get their dietary vitamin D from fortified foods.