Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Oxidative Stress in Diabetics

A diet rich in broccoli and broccoli sprouts may benefit type 2 diabetics by increasing total antioxidant capacity of the blood and reduced oxidative stress, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at the National Nutrition and Food Technology Research Institute enrolled 81 people with diabetes in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Participants were assigned to take either 5 grams or 10 grams daily of broccoli sprout powder or a placebo for four weeks. Participants in both of the broccoli sprout powder groups experienced a significant decrease in the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a known marker of oxidative stress. Broccoli sprout powder also was associated with a reduction in another oxidative stress marker, oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have been studied mostly for anti-cancer properties, which are attributed to high levels of glucosinolates, which, once ingested are metabolized into potent anti-cancer substances and antioxidants called isothiocyanates. The main isothiocyanate from broccoli is sulphoraphane, which is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. The richest source of sulforaphane is broccoli sprouts, which contain 20 to 50 times the amount of the phytochemical found in broccoli.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Advocacy Groups Sue FDA Over Antibiotics in Meat

A number of consumer advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 25 alleging the agency has failed in its legal responsibility to address overuse of antibiotics in animal feed. The lawsuit has no bearing on the use of antibiotics for treating sick animals.

The complaint, filed by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), and Public Citizen and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), seeks to force FDA to act on its own safety findings, which would involve withdrawing approval for antibiotic use in animal feed for non-therapeutic uses.

“More than a generation has passed since FDA first recognized the potential human health consequences of feeding large quantities of antibiotics to healthy animals," said Peter Lehner, NRDC executive director. “Accumulating evidence shows that antibiotics are becoming less effective, while our grocery store meat is increasingly laden with drug-resistant bacteria. The FDA needs to put the American people first by ensuring that antibiotics continue to serve their primary purpose—saving human lives by combating disease."

In a separate regulatory petition filed May 25, co-plaintiff CSPI is urging the agency to require testing of ground meat and poultry products for four antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella—Salmonella Heidelberg, Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hadar and Salmonella Typhimurium. CSPI also wants USDA to declare the Salmonella strains as “adulterants" under federal law, making products that contain them illegal to sell.


Center for Science in the Public Interest: USDA Urged to Prohibit Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella in Ground Meat and Poultry

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Caffeine May Reduce Fertility in Women

Women who consume excessive amounts of caffeine may find it harder to conceive, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology. The findings may one day help with the treatment of infertility as well as some complications of pregnancy.

University of Nevada School of Medicine researchers analyzed fallopian tubes in mice and found caffeine stops the actions of specialized pacemaker cells in the wall of the tubes. These cells coordinate tube contractions so that when they are inhibited, eggs can’t move down the tubes. The muscle contractions play a bigger role than the beating cilia in moving the egg towards the womb. The findings provide insight as to why women with high caffeine consumption often take longer to conceive than women who do not consume caffeine.

"As well as potentially helping women who are finding it difficult to get pregnant, a better understanding of the way fallopian tubes work will help doctors treat pelvic inflammation and sexually transmitted disease more successfully," the researchers said. "It could also increase our understanding of what causes ectopic pregnancy, an extremely painful and potentially life-threatening situation in which embryos get stuck and start developing inside a woman's fallopian tube."


British Journal of Pharmacology: Why Caffeine Can Reduce Fertility in Women

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The median age of Americans is 37.2

The U.S. Census Bureau released today a 2010 Census brief on our nation's changing age and sex composition that shows the nation grew older while the male population grew faster than the female population over the last decade.

According to Age and Sex Composition: 2010, the median age of Americans is now 37.2, with seven states recording a median age of 40 or older. The brief also shows the male population grew 9.9 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the female population grew 9.5 percent. Of the total 2010 Census population, 157.0 million people were female (50.8 percent) and 151.8 million were male (49.2 percent).

Selected Age Categories

Between 2000 and 2010, the population 45 to 64 years old grew 31.5 percent to 81.5 million. This age group now makes up 26.4 percent of the total U.S. population. The large growth among 45- to 64-year-olds is primarily because of the aging of the baby boom population. The 65-and-older population also grew faster than most younger population groups at a rate of 15.1 percent to 40.3 million people, or 13.0 percent of the total population.

For those under 18 and between the ages of 18 and 44, growth rates were much slower. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people under 18 grew 2.6 percent to 74.2 million people, comprising 24.0 percent of the total population. The 18 to 44 age group grew at an even slower rate of 0.6 percent to 112.8 million, comprising 36.5 percent of the population.

Median Age

In 2010, the median age increased to 37.2 from 35.3 in 2000, with the proportion of older Americans increasing. The 1.9-year increase between 2000 and 2010 was a more modest increase than the 2.4-year increase in median age that occurred between 1990 and 2000. The aging of the baby boom population, along with stabilizing birth rates and longer life expectancy, have contributed to the increase in median age.

Sex Ratios

In 2010, there were 96.7 males for every 100 females in the United States, representing an increase from 2000 when the male-to-female ratio was 96.3 males for every 100 females. The increase in the population of older males was notable over the last decade, with males between the ages of 60 and 74 increasing by 35.2 percent, while females in the same age group increased by just 29.2 percent. This increase in the male population relative to the female population for those 60 and over has led to a notable increase in the sex ratio among this age group – potentially because of the narrowing gap in mortality between older men and women.

Geographic Distribution

In the 2010 Census, seven states had a median age of 40 or older: Maine (42.7), Vermont (41.5), West Virginia (41.3), New Hampshire (41.1), Florida (40.7), Pennsylvania (40.1) and Connecticut (40.0). In both 1990 and 2000, West Virginia and Florida had the highest median age of all states. Maine overtook West Virginia and Florida as the state with the highest median age in 2010, while Utah remained the state with the lowest median age.

States with the lowest median age (excluding the District of Columbia) remained the same as they were in 2000: Utah (29.2), Texas (33.6), Alaska (33.8) and Idaho (34.6). Utah had the highest percentage of population under age 18 (31.5 percent) and remained the only state with a median age under 30.

All states experienced an increase in median age when compared with 2000 – a further indication of population aging. However, the District of Columbia experienced a decrease in median age, declining from 34.6 to 33.8. In the District of Columbia, almost half (48.6 percent) of the 2010 Census population was between the ages of 18 and 44.

Regionally, the Northeast recorded the oldest median age at 39.2, followed by the Midwest at 37.7, the South at 37.0 and the West at 35.6. In the West, 24.9 percent of people were under the age of 18 and 37.8 percent of people were between the ages of 18 and 44. The Northeast recorded the largest percentages of people in the age groups 45 to 64, and 65 and over (27.7 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively).

All four regions of the United States had a sex ratio of less than 100 in 2010, indicating more females than males nationwide. The Northeast had the lowest sex ratio (94.5 males per 100 females), followed by the South (96.1), the Midwest (96.8) and the West (99.3).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Heart Failure Risk Lower in Women Who Often Eat Baked/Broiled Fish

The risk of developing heart failure was lower for postmenopausal women who frequently ate baked or broiled fish, but higher for those who ate more fried fish, in a study reported in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

In a large-scale analysis, women who ate the most baked/broiled fish (five or more servings/week) had a 30 percent lower risk of heart failure compared to women who seldom ate it (less than one serving/month).

Previous research has found that fatty acids (omega-3) in fish — EPA, DHA and ALA — may lower risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing inflammation, resisting oxidative stress and improving blood pressure, cardiac and blood vessel function.

This study showed that they type of fish and cooking method may affect heart failure risk. The researchers found that dark fish (salmon, mackerel and bluefish) were associated with a significantly greater risk reduction than either tuna or white fish (sole, snapper and cod).

In a similar analysis, eating fried fish was associated with increased heart failure risk. Even one serving a week was associated with a 48 percent higher heart failure risk.

"Not all fish are equal, and how you prepare it really matters," said Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., senior author of the study. "When you fry fish, you not only lose a lot of the benefits, you likely add some things related to the cooking process that are harmful."

Other research has shown that frying increases the trans fatty acid (TFA) content of foods, which is associated with increasing risk for heart disease. In this study, however, the researchers did not find an association between TFA and heart failure risk.

Lloyd-Jones and his team examined self-reported dietary data from 84,493 postmenopausal women in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. They then divided study participants based on the frequency and type of fish consumption. Two groups of fish intake were defined: baked/broiled fish or fried fish. The baked/broiled fish group consisted of canned tuna, tuna salad, tuna casserole, white fish (broiled or baked), dark fish (broiled or baked) and shellfish (not fried). The fried fish group consisted of fried fish, fish sandwich and fried shellfish.

They conducted their analysis based on data from 1991 through August 2008. During an average follow-up of 10 years, 1,858 cases of heart failure occurred.

Most participants (85 percent) were Caucasian, 7 percent African-American and 3 percent Hispanic. Their average age was 63 at baseline.

Participants whose diets included more baked/broiled fish tended to be healthier and younger than their counterparts who ate fried fish. They were more physically active and fit, more educated and less likely to smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease (irregular heartbeat and coronary artery disease). Furthermore, their diets contained more fruits and vegetables, less unhealthy, saturated and trans fatty acids and more beneficial fatty acids, which are found in fish and in non-marine foods such as nuts, seeds and certain vegetable oils. Consumption of fried fish was associated with higher body mass index (a weight-to-height ratio), higher energy intakes (calories) and lower fiber consumption. Consumption of other fried foods besides fish was adjusted in the analysis.

While previous studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids to a decrease in some types of heart disease, their precise relationship to heart failure risk was unclear. Researchers sought to clarify the connection between fish and heart failure risk in postmenopausal women.

"Baking or broiling fish and eating it frequently seem to be part of a dietary pattern that is very beneficial for a number of things," said Lloyd-Jones, associate professor, preventive cardiologist and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "In this case, we demonstrated that it's associated with heart failure prevention. This suggests that fish is a very good source of lean protein that we ought to be increasing as a proportion of our diet and decreasing foods that contain less healthy saturated and trans fats."

The results of this study are consistent with previous findings in studies of older American and Swedish populations, he said, "but the new study adds the interesting results on darker fish. They also suggest that baked/broiled fish is associated with reduced risk of heart failure through mechanisms other than reducing risk for a heart attack, a precursor to heart failure in some people."

In the United States, heart failure affects about 5.7 million people. Although the heart continues to function in this disease, it's unable to pump blood efficiently enough to meet the body's needs. Heart failure has many different causes, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight, lack of physical activity and poor diet. It's often treatable with lifestyle changes, medicine or surgery.

Co-authors are: Rashad J. Belin, Ph.D., M.S.C.I.; Philip Greenland, M.D.; Lisa Martin, M.D.; Albert Oberman, M.D.; Lesley Tinker, Ph.D.; Jennifer Robinson, M.D.; Joseph Larson, M.S.; and Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded the study.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Increased Calcium Doesn’t Boost Bone Health

Increasing dietary calcium intake later in life does not lower the risk of osteoporosis or fractures in older women, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

Researcher at Uppsala University conducted a longitudinal and prospective cohort study, based on the Swedish Mammography Cohort, including a subcohort, the Swedish Mammography Cohort Clinical conducted in 1987. The study involved 61,433 women born between 1914 and 1948; 5,022 of them took part in a smaller sub-research group. All were followed for 19 years.

During follow-up, 14,738 women (24 percent) experienced a first fracture of any type and among them 3,871 (6 percent) a first hip fracture. Of the 5,022 women in the subcohort, 1,012 (20 percent) were diagnosed with osteoporosis.

The researchers used food-frequency questionnaires to determine participants’ calcium intake and use of multivitamins and supplements. They also examined other factors, including menopausal status, post-menopausal estrogen therapy status, BMI, smoking status, physical activity and educational levels.

Women who consumed approximately 750mg of calcium per day had the lowest risk of fracture. The highest quintile of calcium intake did not further reduce the risk of fractures of any type, or of osteoporosis, but was associated with a higher rate of hip fracture.


British Medical Journal: Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

USDA Lowers Pork Cooking Temp to 145 Degrees F

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lowered its cooking recommendation for pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit from 160 degrees F, a departure from the agency's decades-old guideline that warned against consuming “pink" pork. USDA also recommended a 3-minute rest time after cooking so the temperature remains consistent and destroys any pathogens.

The new guideline puts whole cuts of pork, beef, veal and lamb on the same standards; however, it does not apply to ground meats, including ground beef, veal, lamb and pork, which should be cooked to 160 degrees F and do not require a rest time. The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, remains 165 degrees F.

"With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform 3-minute stand time, we believe it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation," said Undersecretary Elisabeth Hagen. "Now there will only be three numbers to remember—145 for whole meats, 160 for ground meats and 165 for all poultry."

The new cooking recommendations clarify long-held perception that the color pink in pork was a sign of undercooked meat. The pink color can be due to the cooking method, added ingredients or other factors; cured pork will remain pink after cooking.

USDA's FSIS: USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperature for All Whole Cuts of Meat, Including Pork, to 145 °F

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Coffee and Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure

In a press briefing, the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) revealed evidence that coffee and alcohol consumption can affect blood pressure (BP) levels. Several studies, which will be presented at the organization’s 26th Annual Scientific Meeting and Exposition, examine the role of caffeine and alcohol consumption on BP. According to ASH, the findings will help physicians treat patients more effectively.

“It’s critical that we fully understand how lifestyle factors impact the ability of patients and physicians to screen, diagnosis, and treat high blood pressure," explains ASH press briefing moderator Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and International Health (Human Nutrition) Director, Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. “As we continue to develop our understanding of how diet and exercise choices impact hypertension, including the nuances among specific patient populations, we are gathering evidence to help us best counsel and advise our patients."

One new meta-analysis shows that, among hypertensive individuals, caffeine intake of 1.5 to 2 cups of coffee produces an acute increase in BP, which lasts for at least three hours. However, evidence does not support an association between longer-term coffee consumption and increased BP or increased risk of cardiovascular disease among patients with HBP.

“These results have clinical implications for the control of hypertensive patients. Because caffeine intake acutely increases blood pressure, hypertensive patients with uncontrolled blood pressure should avoid consuming large doses of caffeine. Also, the consumption of caffeine in the hours before measuring blood pressure may elevate the reading and give the erroneous impression that blood pressure is poorly controlled," explains lead study author, Esther Lopez-Garcia, PhD, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Autonoma University of Madrid, Spain. “Finally, in well-controlled hypertensive patients, there is no evidence to justify avoidance of habitual caffeine consumption and healthcare providers should emphasize other lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining weight control, increasing physical activity, and stopping smoking."

In a study on the link between alcohol consumption and hypertension, researchers found that, in men, drinking too much alcohol can raise BP to unhealthy levels. The meta-analysis evaluated a total of 16 prospective studies, which included 158,142 men and 314,258 women. Among men, a linear dose–response relationship between alcohol intake and risk of development of hypertension was noted. As compared to non-drinkers, men consuming more than 10 grams of alcohol per day had a relative risk (RR) of 1.006, those consuming 10-20 grams per day had a RR of 1.091, and those consuming more than 30 grams per day had a RR of 1.416. Among women, the meta-analysis indicated protective effects at less than 10grams per day (RR -0.867) and 10-20 grams per day (RR – 0.904) of alcohol consumption, while the risk increased in women consuming more than 30 grams per day (RR – 1.188). The risk of hypertension significantly increases with consumption of more than 30 grams per day in men in women alike.

“For patients, especially men, it’s very important to ask about alcohol consumption and to recommend moderation when trying to maintain blood pressure control," explains Agarwal, MD, MPH, Department of Medicine, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Medical Food Reverses Metabolic Disease

Combing medical food with a low-glycemic, Mediterranean-style diet is almost twice as effective as one of the best diets alone for lowering risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to new study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology. The findings illustrate the importance of nutrigenomics, the science of how nutrition impacts genetic expression and its potential to improve health and avoid chronic illness.

“Chronic illness is draining our healthcare resources and keeping millions of people from enjoying healthy, vibrant lives. Many of these illnesses are the result of long-term lifestyle and behavior choices," said Robert H. Lerman, M.D., Ph.D., director of medicine and extramural clinical research for Metagenics Inc., which sponsored the study. “This study is important because it shows how effective UltraMeal® PLUS 360° is in resolving metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors in affected individuals, and identifies a powerful new approach to combating chronic illness."

The clinical trial, which was conducted at three universities including the University of Connecticut-Storrs, the University of Florida-Jacksonville, and the University of California-Irvine, consisted of 89 women between the ages of 20 and 75. To be eligible for the study, they had to have a LDL -C of more than 2.59 mmol/L (100 mg/dL), TG equal to or greater than 1.70 mmol/L (150 mg/dL), and meet two of the four remaining criteria for metabolic syndrome. The requirements are based on standards set forth in the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults—Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATPIII) criteria. Participants with heart, liver or kidney disease or who were using blood sugar or cholesterol-lowering agents were excluded. Those with type II diabetes were not excluded.

“Most physicians are accustomed to prescribing drugs for people with lifestyle-related conditions, even though the first line recommended course of treatment is lifestyle therapy," said Wayne Dysinger, M.D., current president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. “This study reminds physicians that the option of prescribing food, in this case a medical food, should be considered. It demonstrates the ability of medical foods to reduce risk factors and improve health. The study results are a valuable addition to research on the impact of nutrition on health."


Metagenics: Breakthrough Medical Food Reverses Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nutrition and Hypertension

Those trying to control hypertension via diet are often advised to decrease sodium, increase potassium and watch their calories. Experts often point to the DASH diet as an ideal eating pattern. Here are some nutritional factors to keep in mind when developing products that may help tame blood pressure.

Sodium sensitivity

Years of research tells us that greater sodium intake increases one’s risk of hypertension (Hypertension, 2009; 54:203-209). Therefore, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day, and those with hypertension or at high risk of developing hypertension should limit their intake to no more than 1,500 mg per day.

Though high-sodium diets play a significant role in the development of hypertension, not all individuals respond to sodium in a similar manner. In fact, people who are salt-sensitive will experience large changes in blood pressure upon a severe sudden change in salt intake. And, salt sensitivity seems to progress with age. Those who are not salt-sensitive do not experience dramatic swings in blood pressure in response to their sodium intake (Hypertension, 2009; 54:203-209). In addition to decreasing salt intake, sodium-sensitive individuals should engage in regular physical activity, which may blunt the effects of a high-sodium diet on blood pressure (American Heart Association; Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, 2011 Scientific Sessions, Atlanta).

Other minerals

In addition to the CDC’s recommendation that high-risk groups cut their sodium intake, they also recommend a minimum potassium intake of 4,700 mg per day through food for those with normal kidney functioning. “Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease," notes Chris Cifelli, Ph.D., director, nutrition research, Dairy Research Institute, Rosemont, IL. Though potassium-rich foods help, some studies show that potassium may have a greater effect on blood pressure in African Americans compared to Caucasians (Hypertension, 2006; 47:296-308; British Medical Journal, 1990; 301:521-523).

Though the DASH diet is also high in magnesium-rich foods, and it has been suggested that this mineral plays a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure, at the current time more randomized, controlled trials need to be conducted prior to recommending diets rich in magnesium for hypertensive patients (Hypertension, 2006; 47(2):296-308).

Planting better nutrition

There is some indication that plant-based foods may be beneficial for hypertension. And, there are several components of plants that may help control blood pressure, including fiber, flavonoids (such as isoflavones) and plant proteins (PloS ONE, 2010;5:1-15; Journal of Hypertension, 2010; 28:1,971-1,982; Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2009; 28 Suppl:500S-516S). In addition, increasing intake of plant-based foods may help displace intake of some sodium-laden foods.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Diet Rich in Fruit, Veggies Lowers Obesity Risk

Replacing red meat and fried foods with vegetables and fruit could help to lower obesity rates in women, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University conducted a study based on data from the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a large follow-up study of 59,000 African American women from across the U.S. conducted since 1995. The study asked participants about their diet at the beginning of the study in 1995, and again six years later in 2001. Two major dietary patterns were identified—a “vegetables/fruit" pattern high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish and whole grains; and a “meat/fried foods" pattern high in red meat, processed meat, french fries and fried chicken.

Women who consumed a diet high in vegetables and fruit gained less weight over 14 years than women whose diets were low in these foods. Women who consumed a diet high in meat and fried foods gained more weight than women with low intake of these foods. The associations were strongest for women whose dietary patterns did not change during the study period. The associations also were stronger among women younger than 35 years, who gained the most weight (29 pounds during the 14-year study period, on average).

“A diet high in red meat and fried foods can lead to consuming too many calories because these foods contain more calories than the same amount of vegetables and fruit," the researchers said.



Friday, May 20, 2011

Temperature, Humidity Degrade Green Tea Benefits

Increased temperature and humidity, to a smaller degree, speed catechin degradation in green tea powder, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

"People drink green tea for health benefits, so they want the catechins to be present," said lead author Lisa Mauer, a Purdue University professor of food science. "The instant powder beverages are becoming more popular for consumers, and it's important to know how storage can influence nutrition of your products."

Previous research showed the powders were stable below the glass transition temperature, the temperature at which an amorphous solid changes from a rigid, glassy state to a rubbery, viscous state. In that rubbery state, compounds may start reacting with each other faster due to increased molecular mobility, leading to significant chemical degradation.

For the study, catechin concentrations were tracked using high-performance liquid chromatography. The method involved dissolving the green tea powder into a solution, which then passed through a column. Compounds moved at different rates and could be measured. More than 1,800 powder samples were stored at varying temperature and humidity combinations for up to 16 weeks and then measured for catechin loss. Those at the highest temperatures and humidities lost the most catechins.

Models then were built to predict the rates at which catechins would be lost at different storage conditions. Mauer said the food industry could use the models to predict the amount of catechins and the likely health benefits in green tea powder at the time it is used.

"Knowing what's happening to the ingredients is extremely important for understanding the quality of a food or beverage product," she said.


Purdue University: Temperature, humidity affect health benefits of green tea powders

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Industry Ranks Food Safety No. 2 Global Concern

The Consumer Goods Forum released its 2011 Top of Mind Survey that reveals the food and product safety is the No. 2 priority for the global food and beverage industry. Ranked No. 4 in 2010, the category Food & Product Safety includes standards, traceability and consumer confidence.

The survey is based on a sample of 443 decision-makers in the consumer goods companies across 45 countries In the overall industry ranking, corporate responsibility rose one place to take the top position, displacing the economy and consumer demand, which fell two places to No. 3. Food and product safety climbed two places, driven by the manufacturing and service sectors. By contrast, the competitive landscape tumbled four places to rank seventh overall. Consumer marketing also diminished in importance, falling by three places to rank 11th overall.

There was little change in priority from the retail sector where the economy remained the chief concern. The retail/brand offer and corporate responsibility exchanged positions, with the latter moving up one place. Last year saw big retailers finally winning share back from the European discounters, which were on the back foot in 2010. A major push in format innovation and price positioning from big retail was the chief driver. With the trend reversed, retailers can more time into their sustainability work.

The manufacturing sector saw more dynamic movement. Corporate responsibility and human resources both jumped three places to rank first and seventh respectively. The prime mover was the competitive landscape, which plummeted from third to 11th place, indicating that the threat of private label, the development of new channels and growth by acquisition are almost the last things on manufacturers’ minds. Collaboration between trading partners also was less important this year, along with consumer marketing.

Manufacturers seem more concerned with food and product safety, nutrition and consumer health, which gained in importance this year. They voted food and product safety up two places to rank third, while retailers held steady at fifth place. It comes in at second place overall and at third place excluding service providers and associations, including certification bodies.

The major stories in the review period involved the recall of half a billion eggs in the United States linked to Salmonella poisoning and meat and eggs from Germany tainted with dioxin.

Detailed concerns voiced in the survey’s qualitative data include the competence and consistency of food safety auditors; food fraud; vendors’ compliance with GFSI standards; installing an effective incident management culture; the burden of repeated auditing and the development of quality management standards in the food industry.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Compound in Onions Helps Combats Obesity

Eating an onion a day may help keep obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure at bay, according to a new research published in the Journal of Nutrition. The findings suggest rutin extracted from onions reversed fat stores in laboratory rats, lowered blood pressure, reversed glucose problems and improved liver damage.

Researchers at the University of Southern Queensland fed rats a high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for eight weeks until they developed signs of metabolic syndrome, including obesity, hypertension, fatty liver and cardiac stiffness. The rats given rutin for a further eight weeks improved the structure and function of the heart and liver, together with improved metabolic signs and less abdominal fat compared with rats given the high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.

“Inflammation can induce weight gain as well as damage to the heart and liver," the researchers said. “We now have scientific evidence that the adverse effects of the high fat diet in these rats were completely reversed by rutin."

Rutin is found in many foods, including onions, apples, green tea and red wine, and has shown health-improving effects in different animal studies. This is first study concentrating on diet-induced health problems.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Too Much Computer Time Promotes Overeating

Individuals who participate in a lot of screen-time activities, such as working or playing games on their computers, are more likely to eat more during the day and have a higher risk for obesity, according to a study published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at the University of Bristol sought to explore ways in which memory and attention influence appetite and food intake. They divided 44 participants into two groups. One group ate a lunch comprised of nine items while playing Solitaire. The second group ate the same lunch without distractions.

Participants who played Solitaire felt less full after lunch, and the effects of distraction lasted longer. After 30 minutes, the distracted participants ate nearly twice as many snacks compared to the non-distracted participants. At the end of the session, the participants tried to remember the food items that they had been given for lunch. Distracted participants had a poorer memory.

“This work adds to mounting evidence from our lab and others that cognition, and memory and attention in particular, play a role in governing appetite and meal size in humans," the researchers said.


University of Bristol: Eating at screen can lead to later ‘snack attacks’

Monday, May 16, 2011

High Pollen Count Has Many of Us in Low Spirits

For some, that layer of fine, yellow powder on their car in the morning is the unwelcome harbinger of itchy throats, runny noses, watery eyes, sneezing and congestion.

It seems to be just pouring from the trees at an alarming rate, silently floating through the air, coating the ground, plants and people below, providing no hope for escape for townspeople and their tissues.

The region has had a tree pollen count in the "high" or "very high" range for for the past four weeks, according to weather.com, which receives its pollen data for Conn. from the Allergy Associates of Fairfield County P.C., the Allergy Center of Norwalk, Phillip Hemmers, MD, and Waterbury Hospital Health Center.

Why the high count? Gregory Anderson, a Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, has his theories.

"I haven't actually seen any data, but the other plants that are flowering this year, like the azaleas and spring flowers and daffodils all look very good," Anderson said. "Last winter was very hard, but very good for the plants because they had a thick blanket of snow so the ground was protected from too deep a freeze. I suspect that's why we're having such a good season of flowering and that would also effect the trees; there would be more pollen from the trees."

Anderson, who specializes in plant pollination, also said that it's just that time of year.

"Right now is the time of year when the Evergreen trees are producing high amounts of pollen, " Anderson explained. "Pine trees and Spruce trees and all the Evergreens are putting their pollen into the air. All of them are wind pollinated. The pollen is released into the air and there is no precise deposition, it just floats through the air until the grain finds a female cone."

His advice to those wheezing and sniffling and sneezing? Stay inside or wait for a rainy day to wash the pollen out of the air, because, while the Pine, Spruce and Hemlock pollen season are coming to a close, the Hickory and Oak will start to flower soon after.

Staying cloistered isn't a realistic option for most though, especially for kids who go outside during their recess at school. Allergic reactions to pollen can get pretty severe as Michelle Fall, the registered nurse at McAlister Intermediate School, explained to Suffield Patch.

“I sent three home yesterday. Poor kids, it was painful to watch them. This is my third year here and it’s been bad. I tell them to give their eyes a bath,” Fall told Suffield Patch. She said her remedies include over-the-counter eye drops, cold compresses and salt water gargle.

Suffield Patch also reported that many allergy Web sites estimate that the tree pollen season should come to a close by the end of May, but that the grass and weed season follows. Appropriately and effectively medicating allergies during the coming weeks can be made easier with the help of an allergist or pediatrician.

There are dozens of remedies for allergies ranging from at-home panaceas passed down by Mom to vaccines administered by doctors.

Dr. Jeffrey Factor of the New England Food Allergy Treatment Center told the Hartford Courant, "Allergy shots are probably the closest we have to a long-term, sustained treatment for allergies. It can build up the level to where, hopefully, symptoms are minimized. The benefits are maintained long after that."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

High-Tech Scanner Detects Contaminants on Produce

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have developed and patented an advanced experimental optical scanning system to be used in fresh produce packinghouses to detect defects and contaminants on the exterior of fresh produce or other items.

The system uses the capabilities of a type of camera known as a high-speed multispectral/hyperspectral line-scanner. Positioned above a conveyor belt, the scanner captures images of each fast-moving item, such as an apple. Each apple is exposed simultaneously to ultraviolet light from a UV fluorescent lamp and near infrared light from a halogen lamp. The near infrared light that bounces off the apple can be captured by a spectrograph and analyzed for tell-tale patterns of defects, while the UV light beamed on the apple can disclose the whereabouts of contaminants.

The system combines information from both forms of illumination into a single image with contaminant and defect results. When linked to a sorting machine, the system can signal the sorter to separate the problem apples from others.

Currently, the system can scan about three to four apples per second and provide a 180-degree view of each apple's exterior. The scientists are working to improve the process so it will provide a 360-degree whole-surface view for thorough inspection

ARS: High-Tech Approach Uses Lights, Action and Camera to Scrutinize Fresh Produce

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Moderate Amounts of Candy Cut Diabetes Risk

Eating moderate amounts of candy daily may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome such as diabetes by 15 percent and lower body mass index compared to individuals who do not eat candy, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition Research.

Researchers at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center analyzed more than 15,000 diet surveys taken among U.S. adults between 1999 and 2004. Among respondents, only 20 percent said they consumed candy. Those who consumed candy had a slightly lower BMI than non-candy eaters—27.7 versus 28.2. For the study, "moderate" consumption was defined as 1.3 ounces or two "fun-size" packets of plain M&Ms, which total 176 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrates.

The study, co-sponsored by the National Confectioners Association and the USDA, also found the major food contributors to obesity include non-candy items such as sugary sodas, extra-large restaurant portions, baked goods and chips that people consume in far larger quantities than candy. The also said people who consume moderate amounts of candy tend to exercise more to make up for their sugar consumption and offset any ill effects from eating sweets.


Diabetes Health: Prediabetes Sweet Tooth Doesn’t Always Lead to Weight Gain

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Dark Chocolate Benefits Eyesight, Brain Health

Eating dark chocolate, which contains high levels of cocoa flavonols, may boost eyesight and brain health by improving blood flow to the retina and brain, according to a study published in the journal in Physiology and Behavior. The findings suggest the effects may last for several hours after consumption.

Researchers at the University of Reading conducted a randomized, single-blinded, order-counterbalanced, crossover design in which 30 healthy adults ate both dark chocolate containing 720 mg of cocoa flavanols and a matched quantity of white chocolate, with a one week interval between testing sessions. Visual contrast sensitivity was assessed by reading numbers that became progressively more similar in luminance to their background. Motion sensitivity was assessed by measuring the threshold proportion of coherently moving signal dots that could be detected against a background of random motion, and by determining the minimum time required to detect motion direction in a display containing a high proportion of coherent motion. Cognitive performance was assessed using a visual spatial working memory for location task and a choice reaction time task designed to engage processes of sustained attention and inhibition.

They found relative to the control condition, cocoa flavanols improved visual contrast sensitivity and reduced the time required to detect motion direction, but had no statistically reliable effect on the minimum proportion of coherent motion that could be detected. In terms of cognitive performance, cocoa flavanols improved spatial memory and performance on some aspects of the choice reaction time task.


Physiology and Behavior: Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in an acute improvement in visual and cognitive functions

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Majority of Americans Cutting Back on Dining Out

New market data from the NPD Group reveals 76 percent of U.S. consumers are still wary of the economy and continue to reduce restaurant visits, trade down and order fewer items. The consumers anticipate will be less restrictive with their restaurant visits when the economy recovers; however, they do not expect the economy to recover in the near future.

“The Changing Consumer Mindset: What it Means to the Restaurant Industry" report examined the broad reaching effects the recession had on consumer behavior and thinking and the difference between consumers who are more cautious and control their spending and those who are optimistic and feel economically stable.

The majority of consumers fall into the “cautious, controlled spender" demographic group of unemployed, less affluent and retirees. Twenty-four percent of the respondents are optimistic and have been less inclined to moderate their restaurant behavior, although they did trade down in segment visits since 2007. They cross all demographic groups but are more likely to be employed and live in affluent households.

"There is considerable disparity between the views of optimists and controlled spenders regarding enticement to visit restaurants more often," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst and author of the report. "Optimists place much more importance on service and a relaxing atmosphere than controlled spenders, who are more concerned with price and value."

According to NPD's CREST® service, the restaurant industry is slowly recovering from two years of traffic declines. For year ending February 2011, total industry traffic was flat compared to the 3 percent decline the industry experienced in the same period a year ago. NPD forecasts growth of less than 1 percent for the industry through 2019.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Compound in Celery, Parsley Inhibits Breast Cancer

A compound found in parsley, celery and other plant products, including apples, oranges and nuts, may stop certain breast cancer tumor cells from multiplying and growing, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

Researchers at the University of Missouri exposed rats with a certain type of breast cancer to the flavonoid apigenin, a common compound found in parsley and other plant products. The rats exposed to the apigenin developed fewer tumors and experienced significant delays in tumor formation compared to those rats that were not exposed to apigenin.

The findings may one day impact the 6 million to 10 million women who take certain hormone replacement therapies.

“We know that certain synthetic hormones used in HRT accelerate breast tumor development. In our study, we exposed the rats to one of the chemicals used in the most common HRTs received in the United States—a progestin called medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA)—which also happens to be the same synthetic hormone that accelerates breast tumor development," the researchers said.

When tumor cells develop in the breast in response to MPA, they encourage new blood vessels to form within tumors. The blood vessels then supply needed nutrients for the tumors to grow and multiply. The researchers found apigenin blocked new blood vessel formation, thereby delaying, and sometimes stopping, the development of the tumors. They also found apigenin reduced the overall number of tumors. While apigenin did delay tumor growth, it did not stop the initial formation of cancer cells within the breast.

Apigenin is not absorbed efficiently into the bloodstream, so scientists are unsure of how much can or should be ingested.

“We don’t have specific dosage for humans yet," they said. “However, it appears that keeping a minimal level of apigenin in the bloodstream is important to delay the onset of breast cancer that progresses in response to progestins such as MPA. It’s probably a good idea to eat a little parsley and some fruit every day to ensure the minimal amount."


University of Missouri: Parsley, Celery Carry Crucial Component for Fight Against Breast Cancer, MU Researcher Finds

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Calorie Intake Linked to Fast Food Proximity

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals adults who live within five miles of a fast-food restaurant consume more calories.

Researchers examined the associations between fast-food restaurant availability with dietary intake, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference among 4,74 blacks the southeastern United States who participated in the African American Jackson Heart Study. No consistent associations were found between the availability of fast-food restaurants and body-mass index (BMI) or waist circumference; however, increased access to fast-food restaurants was associated with higher calorie intake.

They found living within five miles of fast-food restaurants was associated with higher calorie intake among women and men younger than age 55, even after adjustments were made for individual socioeconomic status. Men consumed 138 more calories, while women consumed 58 more calories. Similar associations were observed for those living within two miles of a fast-food restaurant, especially in men.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Berry Fruit Juices Boost Heart Health

Drinking berry fruit juices rich in polyphenols may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in the journal Food and Function.

Different fruits contain different polyphenols that are often bitter; therefore, researchers at the University of Strasbourg assessed the ability of selected pure fruit juices, purees and blends to cause endothelium-dependent relaxations in isolated arteries. Vascular reactivity was assessed using pig arteries, and fruit juices, purees and blends were characterized for their content in vitamin C, total phenolic, sugar and antioxidant activity.

As reported by Chemistry World, they found the most-effective blend with the least bitter flavor consisted of a base of grape juice (63 percent), blended with apple, blueberry, strawberry, lingonberry, acerola and aronia. The blend did not have the highest overall polyphenol level, but the fruit combination caused a greater increase in vasodilation than other blends.

“Most of the juices you can buy in a supermarket have a very low level of biological activity. Buying fruit juices that provide something extra is an important message for consumers," they said.


Chemistry World: Health benefits of blended fruit juice

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Study Says Obesity is Socially Contagious

Shared social behaviors like eating out and shared environments play a larger role in obesity than previously thought, according to a new study published in the Journal of Public Health. The findings suggest obesity is socially contagious and provides insight into to the transmission of obesity among friends and family.

Researchers from Arizona State University concluded shared ideas about acceptable weight or body size play only a minor role in spreading obesity among friends.

“When you see that something like obesity spreads among close friends and family members, this raises important questions about how it's spreading. Is it because we learn ideas about acceptable body size from our friends and family members, or that we hike together, watch TV together or go out to eat together?" they said. "If we can figure out exactly why obesity spreads among friends and family members, that can tell us where to focus resources in curbing rates of obesity. Is it more effective to change people's ideals of acceptable body size in hopes that they will change their behaviors or rather directly target socially shared behaviors that can contribute to weight gain or loss?"

To investigate how clustering of body attitudes account for the observed social contagion of obesity in past studies, the researchers interviewed 101 women from the Phoenix area and 812 of their closest friends and family members. Comparing the body mass index (BMI) of the women, their friends and family members, the researchers confirmed prior findings that the risk of a woman's obesity rose if her social network was obese. .

The team also examined three potential pathways by which shared ideals of acceptable body size might cause obesity and body size to spread through social ties. They found no evidence for the first and second pathways as means of transmission and only limited support for the third, suggesting other factors such as eating and exercising together may be more important in causing friends to gain and lose weight together.

The researchers said the strength of the study was the range of approaches taken to assess body size ideals, including ideal body size, anti-obesity preference and anti-fat stigma. For example, the participants were asked to choose whether they would rather be obese or have one of 12 socially stigmatized conditions, such as alcoholism or herpes. In many cases, the women would rather have more of the other conditions, with 25.4 percent preferring severe depression and 14.5 percent preferring total blindness over obesity.


Arizona State University: Study gives clues to how obesity spreads socially

Saturday, May 07, 2011

1 in 4 Pay More for Eco-Conscious Products

Nearly one in four adult U.S. shoppers are willing to pay more for product if they feel like they are helping the environment, and consumers ages 55+ have higher levels of eco-consciousness than younger generations, according to results of “The Checkout," a study from Integer Group, and M/A/R/C Research.

The findings also suggest while college-aged consumers are expected to embrace eco-concerns, they aren't necessarily willing to pay money to do so. Interestingly, all consumers are willing to make easy changes such as switching out light bulbs or getting paperless statements, but when it comes to doing something that requires more time, money and effort, such as only purchasing locally-grown organic food or carpooling, the amount of willing participants drops.

"Buying local means purchasing new products in new ways—requiring more effort behind routine shopping trips. To change behavior, the incentive must be compelling with tangible benefits," said Craig Elston, SVP, The Integer Group. "If shoppers can't see or feel an immediate reward for this new behavior—saving money, time, creating social change, etc—they'll opt to stick with what they know. Enabling shoppers to become change agents means helping them overcome deeper psychological barriers within."

Experts suggest brands and marketers focus on the emotional need instead of only the functional benefits if they want to see change.

“They need to make it worth their while. Price and quality are largely functional benefits. An emotional reward that focuses on how consumers feel versus the functional environmental benefit is the territory in which marketers must play," said Randy Wahl, EVP, M/A/R/C Research.


PR Newswire: Research Finds One in Four Shoppers Willing to Pay More for Products that Support the Environment

Friday, May 06, 2011

FDA issued the first two regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced two new regulations that will help ensure the safety and security of foods in the United States. The rules are the first to be issued by the FDA under the new authorities granted the agency by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in January. Both rules will take effect July 3, 2011.

The first rule strengthens FDA's ability to prevent potentially unsafe food from entering commerce. It allows the FDA to administratively detain food the agency believes has been produced under insanitary or unsafe conditions. Previously, the FDA's ability to detain food products applied only when the agency had credible evidence that a food product presented was contaminated or mislabeled in a way that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.

Beginning in July, the FDA will be able to detain food products that it has reason to believe are adulterated or misbranded for up to 30 days, if needed, to ensure they are kept out of the marketplace. The products will be kept out of the marketplace while the agency determines whether an enforcement action such as seizure or federal injunction against distribution of the product in commerce is necessary.

Before this new rule, the FDA would often work with state agencies to embargo a food product under the state's legal authority until federal enforcement action could be initiated in federal court. In keeping with other provisions in the FSMA, FDA will continue to work with state agencies on food safety and build stronger ties with those agencies.

"This authority strengthens significantly the FDA's ability to keep potentially harmful food from reaching U.S. consumers," said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Mike Taylor. "It is a prime example of how the new food safety law allows FDA to build prevention into our food safety system."

The second rule requires anyone importing food into the United States to inform the FDA if any country has refused entry to the same product, including food for animals.

This new requirement will provide the agency with more information about foods that are being imported, which improves the FDA's ability to target foods that may pose a significant risk to public health.

This new reporting requirement will be administered through the FDA's prior notice system for incoming shipments of imported food established under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.

With prior notice, in the event of a credible threat for a specific product or a specific manufacturer or processor, the FDA is able to mobilize and assist in the detention and removal of products that may pose a serious health threat to humans or animals.

"The new information on imports can help the FDA make better informed decisions in managing the potential risks of imported food entering the United States," Taylor said. "These rules will be followed later this year and next year by a series of proposed rules for both domestic and imported food that will help the FDA continue building the new food safety system called for by Congress."

The issuance of these rules is the latest accomplishment of FDA in implementing the new food safety law. In April, the FDA launched a consumer-friendly web search engine for recall information and issued the first annual report to Congress describing FDA's activities in protecting the U.S. food supply. FDA also released a guidance document to the seafood industry on ways to reduce or eliminate food safety hazards.

In addition, since the law was signed, the FDA has held two large public meetings with industry and consumer groups on the import and preventive control provisions of the law, and reached out extensively to partners in other federal, state, and foreign governments.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

U.S. food prices may be headed for a sustained bout of inflation

U.S. food prices may be headed for a sustained bout of inflation, a Dallas Federal Reserve Bank researcher said on Tuesday, citing data on brand-named foods such as Campbell's (CPB.N) soup and Kellogg's (K.N) Frosted Flakes.

Prices for "more-processed" foods rose at an annualized 5.2 percent rate in January and February, compared with a decline of 0.9 percent in the first six months of last year, Dallas Fed senior economist Jim Dolmas said in the bank's latest Economic Letter.

Those prices are a more comprehensive gauge of future good price trends than overall food prices, Dolmas argued.

That's because producers of brand-named foods change prices less frequently than do makers of raw foods, and therefore incorporate a forward-looking view of food costs when they do set prices, he said. As prices of more-processed foods go, Dolmas wrote, so go overall food prices.

"A sustained period of higher food price inflation may be in store for U.S. consumers," he concluded.

Dolmas' focus on a subset of food prices to predict overall food price trends mirrors the Fed's use of core inflation, which excludes sharply higher food and energy prices, to anticipate overall inflation.

The Fed's decision to continue to pump liquidity into the U.S. economy late last month rested heavily on its view that recent commodities price increases are likely to be transitory.

Some analysts have criticized the Fed's focus on core inflation, and have suggested it should pay more attention headline inflation, which is rising much faster.

Dolmas -- whose boss, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher has warned the Fed's super-easy monetary policy may be fueling future inflation -- defended the idea of a "core" inflation index.

"The idea that one can learn more about inflation by ignoring some of its components is certainly counterintuitive," Dolmas wrote. Still, he said, "Core inflation measures, to greater or lesser degrees, have this trend-tracking property."

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Children who sit down to eat with their families are less likely to be overweight

Kids who sit down to eat with their families are less likely to be overweight and eat unhealthy foods, according to U.S. researchers who call for more shared meals.

In the first report to combine all existing studies on the issue, they found kids who eat with their parents at least three times a week had 12 percent lower odds of being overweight.

The children were also 20 percent less likely to eat junk food, 35 percent less likely to have eating problems like skipping meals or bingeing, and 24 percent more likely to eat vegetables and other healthy foods.

"Sitting down together as a family, there are nutritional benefits from that," said Amber Hammons, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, whose findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

Still, the 17 studies reviewed in the new work were based on observations, not actual experiments, and Hammons acknowledged that they don't prove shared meals trim waistlines.

"It's just an association," she told Reuters Health. "Families who sit down together could be healthier to begin with."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 3 decades, reaching close to 20 percent in 2008.

The extra pounds may weigh down on kids' self-esteem and can set them up for health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

The new report is based on findings from nearly 183,000 children about 2 to 17 years of age. While those studies yielded mixed results and weren't easy to compare, overall they show regular family meals are tied to better nutrition.

It's not clear why that is, Hammons said, but it's possible that parents may influence and monitor their kids more during shared meals.

"We also know that families that sit down together are less likely to eat high-calorie food," Hammons added.

As a result, the researchers encourage families to spend more time together around the dinner table.

"It doesn't have to be every day," Hammons said. "We know that families are very busy."

SOURCE: bit.ly/cxXOG Pediatrics, online May 2, 2011.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Low Vitamin D Linked to Anemia in Kids

Children with low levels of vitamin D may have an increased risk for anemia, according to new research presented May at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. The findings also suggest low vitamin D levels in black children may be an important contributor to anemia.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center examined data from the blood samples of more than 9,400 children aged 2 to 18 to determine the relationship between hemoglobin and vitamin D. Children with levels below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of blood had a 50-percent higher risk for anemia than children with levels 20 ng/ml and higher. For each 1 ng/ml increase in vitamin D, anemia risk dropped by 3 percent.

Only 1 percent of Caucasian children had anemia, compared with 9 percent of black children. On average, black children had much lower vitamin D levels than Caucasian children.

Anemia is more common in black children, but the reasons for this remain unclear, although some suspect that biologic and genetic factors are involved. The new findings suggest low vitamin D levels in black children may be an important contributor to anemia.

"The striking difference between black and white children in vitamin D levels and hemoglobin gives us an interesting clue that definitely calls for a further study," said lead investigator Meredith Atkinson, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatric nephrologist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.


Newswise: Low Vitamin D in Kids May Play a Role in Anemia

Monday, May 02, 2011

Nutrition Suffers As Food Prices Soar

Rising food prices have an adverse effect on nutrition because consumers move away from luxury food items such as meat, fish and dairy products to more affordable foods with less quality, according to a new study that will be published in an upcoming issue of the Food and Nutrition Bulletin.

Researchers form the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) examined the effects of food price hikes on calorie consumption in seven Latin American countries. Using data from nationally representative household budget surveys, they found during a food price crisis calorie intake was reduced an average 8 percent from pre-crisis levels; rural areas and urban areas were equally affected; and the wealthiest households actually increased caloric intake, exceeding 10 percent of pre-crisis levels.

The researchers discovered households shifted from buying meat, fish and dairy products to poorer quality food. They said the reduction in calories and critical nutrients for children under age 2 could pose long-term consequences such as stunted growth, cognitive deficits, lower educational attainment and reduced future productivity.


Washington University in St. Louis: Food price crisis can lead to deteriorating nutrition

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Red Chile Pepper Reduces Hunger Pangs

Adding about half a teaspoon of red chile peppers to a daily meal may help curb hunger pangs and burn more calories, especially for individuals who don’t eat the spice on a regular basis, according to a new study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

Researchers at Purdue University measured the effects of 1 gram of ordinary dried ground cayenne red pepper on appetite. Previous studies have shown that capsaicin, the active component that gives hot peppers their heat, can reduce hunger and help burn calories.

Twenty-five non-overweight people—13 who liked spicy food and 12 who did not—participated in the 6-week study. The preferred level of pepper for each group was determined in advance; those who did not like red pepper preferred 0.3 grams compared to regular spice users who preferred 1.8 grams. In general, red pepper consumption did increase core body temperature and burn more calories through natural energy expenditure. The study found those who did not consume red pepper regularly experienced a decrease of hunger, especially for fatty, salty and sweet foods.

"The appetite responses were different between those who liked red pepper and those who did not, suggesting that when the stimulus is unfamiliar it has a greater effect. Once it becomes familiar to people, it loses its efficacy," the researchers said.

According to the researchers, the failure to account for individual differences in liking the burn of chile peppers may explain why previous studies varied on capsaicin's impact on appetite suppression and thermogenic response. They also suggest red pepper should be consumed in non-capsule form because the taste—the sensory experience—maximizes the digestive process.

“That burn in your mouth is responsible for that effect. It turns out you get a more robust effect if you include the sensory part because the burn contributes to a rise in body temperature, energy expenditure and appetite control,"


Purdue University: Study: Reasonable quantities of red pepper may help curb appetite