Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's the Ads, Stupid: Why TV Leads to Obesity

How much TV do your kids watch? If you don't know, you might want to find out, say experts, since the time children spend in front of a TV or computer screen can have a profound effect on their physical and developmental health.

In a new policy statement on the role of media on obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Council on Communications and Media warns parents that TV watching doesn't just make children more sedentary, but also influences their eating habits, which in turn has consequences for their health. In other words, it's not just that TV watching encourages youngsters to be less physically active, but it also exposes them to food advertisements that contribute to develop poor eating habits that can set kids up for health problems as adults.

“We created a perfect storm between media use, junk and fast food advertising, and physical inactivity,” says Dr. Victor Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and member of the AAP's Council. “We created a situation where we now have more overweight and obese adults in the U.S, than underweight and normal weight adults; it's become an urgent public health problem.”

The policy statement highlights the fact that the harms of TV viewing go beyond promoting inactivity. More studies have shown that children who spend more time in front of the tube are more likely to eat higher-calorie foods, drink sugared sodas and grow up to be overweight adults. In a U.K. study that followed children over 30 years into adulthood, for every additional hour of TV youngsters watched on weekends at age five, their risk of being obese as adults rose by 7%. And in some cases, it doesn't even take that long for the extra pounds to accumulate: a Japanese study found that children who watched more TV at age three were more likely to be overweight at age six.

The culprit: advertising for unhealthy foods. (See the video, below.) The average American child sees nearly 8,000 commercials on TV for food and beverages, and only 165 of these are for nutritious options like fruits and vegetables. “Clearly eating behavior changes if you watch a lot of TV,” says Strasburger. “You tend to snack more, eat more unhealthy food and eat more calories if you eat in front of the TV set.”

What can parents do? Limiting TV time to no more than two hours a day can help, says the AAP committee. Another important step toward breaking the TV-obesity link is to make sure that children don't have TV sets or Internet connections in their bedrooms. Parents should also watch television with their kids, so they can educate them about commercials and learn to distinguish healthy from unhealthy foods
“Media such as television is the most important and under-appreciated influence on children's development and behavior,” says Strasburger. “Media affect virtually every concern that parents and pediatricians have about their kids, whether it's obesity, sex, drugs or school performance. When kids spend up to seven hours a day watching television or on the computer, it's time to acknowledge that influence and spend money on researching how we can maximize the good effects of media and minimize its bad effects.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vitamin D Lowers CVD Risk in Men

Men who have higher total vitamin D intake from foods, such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products and cereals, have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the associations between dietary and supplemental vitamin D and CVD risk in 119,000 adults who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984–2006) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986–2006) who free of CVD and cancer at baseline.
After a 20-year follow-up, they found men who got at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily were 16% less likely to develop coronary heart disease or stroke, compared to men who consumed less than 100 IU daily. There was no association with reduced risk in women.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Soda remains the most-consumed beverage in the U.S

With the weather heating up and summer in full swing, Americans will be slaking their thirst with a variety of fizzy, sweet and intoxicating beverages
Soda is still the most-consumed beverage in the U.S., with the average consumer chugging nearly 45 gallons of the fizzy stuff last year. So it's no coincidence that three of the biggest measured-media budgets in the beverage category belong to soda brands. According to Ad Age's Leading National Advertisers report, Coke spent $267 million last year, while Pepsi shelled out $154 million and Dr Pepper spent $104 million.

Beer ranks as the most-consumed alcoholic beverage, though spirits and wine, perceived by some to be more healthful, have been gaining ground in the past few years. Still, last year, the average American threw back nearly 21 gallons of brew, or about 168 pints. The category also commands major marketing dollars, to the tune of $1.25 billion spent on measured media last year. The category's biggest spender, Anheuser-Busch InBev, shelled out $555 million.

Interestingly, the bottled-water category, which includes bulk containers, as well as single serve, has been growing, indicating that noise around consumers' perceived environmental concerns has been overblown. Also worth noting, the energy-drink category has more than doubled with a slew of new entrants as well as innovations in the form of energy shots.

"Two overriding trends that we've seen in recent years are consumer demand for variety and consumer demand for healthier refreshment," said Gary Hemphill, managing director-chief operating officer at Beverage Marketing Corp., noting the decline of carbonated soft drinks.

But, Mr. Hemphill added, some of the consumption trends can be attributed to economic factors as well. "White-collar consumers fared better through the economy than blue-collar consumers, so what we've seen is mass market, traditional categories like carbonated soft drinks and fruit beverages underperform the market, while some of the more premium categories, like ready-to-drink teas and energy drinks, have outperformed the market," he said. "To some extent that's consumer tastes, but it's also this tale of two different consumers in a weak economy."

Monday, June 27, 2011

To Keep Off Pounds: Pass The Nuts, Hold The Chips

To keep from gaining weight as you age, the conventional wisdom says you have to cut calories and exercise more.

But exactly what you eat and drink can make a big difference, too, according to provocative findings just published by Harvard researchers.

"All foods are not equal, and just eating in moderation is not enough," lead researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist, told the Washington Post. The results appear in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Eating more nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and yogurt can keep help keep age-related weight gains in check. In what could almost pass for deadpan humor, the authors write, "Obviously, such foods provide calories and cannot violate thermodynamic laws."
So what's going on? They figure that eating more of these foods may have led to lower consumption of foods that are higher in calories.

And how could that be? More fiber and slower digestion of these foods could be part of the answer.

Yogurt, though, was also a winner, and it's no fiber bomb. The researchers aren't exactly sure how it helps keep waistlines in check, though it could have something to do with good work the bacterial cultures do inside our intestines. It's also possible that people who eat a lot of yogurt have other healthful habits.

The worst of the bad food news can be summed up in one word: potatoes.

Potato chips, french fries, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes and baked potatoes were associated with the biggest weight gains over time. For every additional daily serving of potatoes people ate, they gained more than 1 1/4 pounds over a four-year period.

After taters, sugary drinks (sodas!), unprocessed red meat, and processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon, were the worst offenders.

The federally funded study looked at the eating and exercise habits of more than 120,000 people, who were mainly white and well-educated. The data came from two big studies involving nurses and another that enrolled various health professionals.

Information about what the people ate, and how much of it, came from questionnaires rather than direct measurements.

The bottom line: little changes in diet could make a big difference in weight over time. Mozaffarian told the Wall Street Journal the study's findings suggest "that the path to eating fewer calories is not simply to count calories, but to focus on consuming a more healthy diet in general."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Women control the majority of purchasing decisions in a household

Women control the majority of purchasing decisions in a household and their influence is growing. Women across the world are expanding beyond traditional roles to influence decisions in the home, in business and in politics. Marketers have a massive opportunity to better connect women with the products they buy and the media technologies they use to make a positive impact both in their lives and in the bottom line.

Nielsen surveyed women across generations and from all corners of both developed and emerging economies. Reaching out to 21 countries representing 78 percent of GDP, this study provides insight into how current and future generations of female consumers shop and use media differently. The findings are both enlightening and surprising. One universal truth prevails: women everywhere believe their roles are changing and they are changing for the better.

Susan Whiting, Vice Chair, Nielsen revealed the findings from this comprehensive study at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 event in Orlando Florida and spoke with Kasha Cacy, EVP, Director of Communications Planning at Universal McCann to discuss the campaigns they successfully launched to reach and engage the female consumer.
“What was interesting in the findings from the Nielsen study is that while the insights did not completely shock me, bringing the insights together in one place validates the findings we’ve seen from other research studies.”

The common themes around the globe about family and stress levels experienced by women are areas that we’ve addressed with some recent campaigns. “One particular client has taken a hold of that messaging and has started to become an ally to women by using visualizations that paint a more real picture.”

“We arrived at this strategy from talking to women around the globe,” continued Cacy. “Do women not have enough support systems? Are they pulled in multiple directions?” This realization helped to launch the “The Joy Project”, a campaign which helped women remember the joys of parenthood and provided an opportunity to give back with donations to improve the lives of children. “Women want to participate in something bigger and proactive to make the world a better place. “And this is an area that is completely untapped.”

What’s Next

As family dynamics continue to evolve, not only understanding what is happening in the woman’s world, but an understanding of how this is impacting the man’s world is important too. We need to figure out a way to more meaningfully resonate with both groups. In the next five to ten years, more research will be needed to better understand the drivers behind women’s stress levels – will levels continue at the high rate we are seeing or will they level off?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stress Triggers Craving for Comfort Foods

Stress triggers the hunger hormone ghrelin to kick-start cravings for comfort foods like mashed potatoes, sweets and other high-fat, high-calorie feel-good foods, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Center conducted a study to observe the levels of ghrelin in mice who had access to free food while being exposed to a number of stressful situations. The results showed the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin rose according to the extended levels of stress and appeared to stimulate cravings for less healthy food. They found higher levels of ghrelin were brought on by increased stress and that this led to an increase in the appetites of the mice.

“This helps explain certain complex eating behaviors and may be one of the mechanisms by which obesity develops in people exposed to psychosocial stress," said Dr. Jeffrey Zigman, assistant professor of internal medicine and psychiatry and senior author of a study. “We think these findings are not just abstract and relevant only to mice, but likely are also relevant to humans."

Previous research conducted by Zigman showed chronic stress also causes elevated ghrelin levels, and that behaviors generally associated with depression and anxiety are minimized when ghrelin levels rise. In mice, these stress-induced rises in ghrelin lead to overeating and increased body weight, suggesting a mechanism for the increased prevalence of weight-related issues observed in humans with chronic stress and depression.

Interestingly, researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal have developed an anti-obesity vaccine containing ghrelin that curbs appetite and boosts calorie burning in mice. The findings, presented June 5 at the Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting, suggest an anti-ghrelin vaccine may become an alternate treatment for obesity, to be used in combination with diet and exercise.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Cinnamon May Slow MS Progression

A Rush University Medical Center neurological scientist has been awarded a 2-year $750,000 NIH grant to study whether at cinnamon may stop the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). The findings may lead to natural, dietary interventions to treating MS symptoms.

Interferon-B, Copaxone and Tysabri are currently used to treat MS symptoms; however, they are expensive, have many side effects, and are only 30% to 40% effective in patients. “If our study is successful, there may be a day when just a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon per day with milk, tea or honey, may help MS patients manage the disease process and significantly cut down the drug cost drastically to $10 per month per patient," Pahan said.

“Since medieval times, physicians have used cinnamon to treat a variety of disorders including arthritis, coughing and sore throats," said Kalipada Pahan, PhD.,  a Floyd A. Davis professor of neurology at Rush and principal investigator of the study. “Our initial findings in mice indicate that cinnamon may also help those suffering from MS."

Glial cell activation in the brain has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and MS. Activated glial cells accumulate and secrete different neurotoxin factors that cause various autoimmune responses that lead to brain injury. Pahan said the autoimmune reactions in the brain ultimately kill oligodendrocytes, which are a certain type of brain cell that protects the nerve cells and myelin sheath; however, cinnamon has an anti-inflammatory property to counteract and inhibit the glial activation that causes brain cell death.

Previous studies conducted by Pahan and published in past issues of the Journal of Immunology have shown that sodium benzoate, which is a metabolite of cinnamon, can inhibit the expression of various pro-inflammatory molecules in brain cells and block the disease process of MS in mice.

Different doses of sodium benzoate were mixed into drinking water since it is highly soluble and non-toxic, and administered to the mice. Sodium benzoate suppressed the MS clinical score by more than 70 percent and inhibited incidence of MS by 100 percent in the animal model.

A 2010 study conducted by scientist at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found cinnamon extract might prevent brain cells from swelling after traumatic brain injury and stroke. The scientists used isolated glial cells and put them in a culture solution. When the cell cultures were deprived of oxygen and glucose for five hours, the researchers measured the function of the mitochondrial inner membrane in the glial cells. They found a nearly 40 percent decline in the mitochondrial membrane potential due to the lack of oxygen and glucose. The researchers then exposed some of the cells to a cinnamon extract, while other cells served as “nonexposed" controls. The reduction in the membrane potential was alleviated in the presence of the cinnamon extract. Ninety minutes later, the researchers measured volume of the glial cells. They found that cell volume among the oxygen- and glucose-deprived cells had increased by more than 34 percent.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stop and Smell the Nut Flours

The average consumer believes nuts come in one of three forms: in a shell, out of a shell, or as a chunky or creamy paste in a jar. Product developers, however, are discovering exciting new applications for a fourth functional nut form: nut flours
Not the same ol’ grind
Put simply, nut flours are ground-up versions of whole nuts. Almost any tree nut can be used, as well as peanuts (not technically a nut but generally treated as one). In some cases, though, nuts are chosen for compositional characteristics. Bruce Kotz, vice president, specialty products, Golden Peanut Company, Alpharetta, GA, notes: “We use high-oleic southeast runner peanuts for the majority of our product line. The high-oleic nature of the peanuts we use helps to extend the shelf life of the peanut flour itself and the finished food product it is used in, and is also a slightly more heart-healthy fatty acid profile."

Fat levels affect nut flour characteristics, as well. Nuts leftover from oil-extraction processes can be ground to yield flours with a drier texture than those used from a “raw" state. Peanuts undergo a mechanical defatting process to achieve specific fat levels. “We offer 12% fat and 28% fat peanut flours," explains Kotz. “The 28% fat line is more flavorful, more economical and a little lower in protein. Our 12% fat product line has a high protein level with a minimum of 50%, while the 28% fat line contains a minimum of 40% protein."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Snacking Adds 580 Calories Daily

Eating snacks and drinking beverages outside of a regular meal accounts for more than 25 of American’s daily caloric intake, according to new research presented at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo in New Orleans. The findings also reveal beverages account for 50 percent of the calories consumed through snacking.

Between 1977 and 2006, snacking in the American diet has grown to constitute "a full eating event," or a fourth meal, averaging about 580 calories each day, said Richard D. Mattes, Ph.D., professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University.
Data also found the amount secondary eating doubled from 15 minutes each day in 2006 to nearly 30 minutes in 2008, and secondary drinking jumped nearly 90 percent from 45 to 85 minutes.

Researchers were quick to note that, in general, snacking is not necessarily linked with weight gain. In fact for young children and older adults foods consumed outside a meal are important sources of nutrients as well as energy.

Nancy Auestad, Ph.D., of the Dairy Research Institute, said a definitive definition of what constitutes a snack, as well as more information on what motivates individuals to snack is desperately needed to further assess the impact of snacking on the American diet and health.

Americans’ love of snacks isn’t just adding to daily caloric intake, retail sales of packaged snacks rang up $64 billion in 2010, up from $56 billion in 2006, according to a Packaged Facts report. The market is predicted to reach $77 billion by 2015 fueled by reduced restaurant dining, busier lifestyles and rising health concerns.
Factors driving the snack sector including less frequent restaurant dining, hurried lifestyles that encourage on-the-go eating, a growing tendency to replace meals with several smaller snacks, and marketer efforts to combat the obesity epidemic by developing healthier snack foods that still taste appealing.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lupin Flour Boosts Heart Health

Individuals who consume lupin-enriched foods may significantly reduce their risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the International Journal for Obesity
Researchers at the University of Western Australia suggest consuming breads, biscuits and pasta made with flour containing 40% lupin beans instead of conventional wholemeal flour lowers blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity. They said lupin, which is traditionally used for livestock feed, has a high-protein, high-fiber, low-carbohydrate composition and can easily be incorporated easily into typical food products.

The researchers followed 130 overweight but healthy people from Western Australians who were divided into two groups. One group was fed products made with lupin flour for 12 months; the second group was fed wholemeal goods. Participants were monitored for heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure and the level of fat, sugar and insulin in their blood. Both the groups lost similar amounts of weight; however, the lupin group exhibited larger improvements in several heart disease risk factors.

The researchers also noted lupin flour may benefit diabetics because non-diabetic individuals' sensitivity to insulin improved during the study.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chemical Used in Food Containers Added to U.S. List of Carcinogens by NIH

The widely used preservative formaldehyde, and styrene, found in food containers and coffee cups, are among eight agents added to a list of known and suspected carcinogens by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Formaldehyde, linked to leukemia and a rare type of nasal cancer, is “known to be a human carcinogen,” according to the congressionally mandated report published today on the health agency’s website. Styrene is categorized by researchers as “reasonably anticipated” to be cancer-causing.

The new compounds bring the total number of substances linked to cancer to 240. Aristolochic acids, found in herbal products used to treat arthritis and gout, were also listed as a known carcinogen because they can cause bladder or urinary-tract cancer in people with kidney disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned consumers against taking supplements containing aristolochic acid in 2001, according to the report. 

“A listing in the report does not by itself mean that a substance will cause cancer,” said John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, in a conference call with reporters.

The cancer-causing risk from formaldehyde and styrene comes from the products’ widespread use in industrial applications and less from their presence in consumer products, Bucher said.

‘Unfounded’ View

The report makes “unfounded classifications” about formaldehyde and styrene that will scare consumers, said Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, a Washington trade group, in a statement. Formaldehyde manufacturers include Georgia-Pacific LLC, based in Atlanta.

The American Composite Manufacturers Association disputed the link between styrene and cancer.
“The styrene-based composite material system has been used safely for over 60 years,” the Arlington, Virginia-based trade group said in a statement. The organization’s members include Owens Corning (OC) Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, and Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries Inc. (PPG)
Styrene is a component of the polystyrene used in food and drink containers, as well as the manufacturing of plastics, fiberglass, insulation, carpet backing and other products, according to the National Toxicology Program. Cigarette smokers face higher risks of exposure than others because the smoke contains styrene, the agency said.
Consumers don’t need to worry about polystyrene cups and food containers though they should seek versions of products like cosmetics that don’t contain formaldehyde, said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society.
“I see no problem with Styrofoam cups,” Brawley said. “If I were using nail polish or nail polisher remover, I would try to get formaldehyde-free versions of those, which are available.”
The report is the 12th issued by the U.S. since the National Toxicology Program was established in 1978.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

German E. coli Outbreak May Prompt New Food Regs

The deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany that killed 39 and sickened more than 3,200 may prompt new regulations, improved surveillance and disease prevention strategies pertaining to fresh produce in Europe, according to new data presented at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo.

Professor Patrick Wall, the former chair of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said, “Once you have an outbreak like this it exposes weakness. There’s not time to fix them when an event is happening, and no one wants to give you resources when nothing is happening."

He said there are usually six potential causes of food-borne illness outbreaks—contaminated ingredients, inadequate storage and refrigeration, insufficient cooking, cross contamination from raw products to cooked products, inadequate hygiene facilities for staff, and poorly trained and supervised staff. When a disease outbreak does occur, virus confirmation typically takes four or five days.

Wall said changes will need to be made worldwide to speed up testing and indentifying sources of confirmation throughout the world following this outbreak. Unfortunately, confirming the source of the source of the outbreak in Germany took more than two weeks, fanning speculation and fear that resulted in the boycott and widespread destruction of produce in Europe. Reinhard Burger, president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said the pattern of the outbreak had produced enough evidence to implicate the sprouts even though no tests on sprouts from an organic farm in question had come back positive for the particular E. coli strain that caused the outbreak.

He noted produce, meat and dairy may come from a local farm, the livestock may have received vitamins or medication from one part of the world, and the fertilizer used to grow crops from another.

“The journey from farm to fork is not a straight line," Wall said. “When you eat a meal you are eating off a global plate. We need consistent science throughout the world that is compatible with commerce."


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stem Cell Research May Help Trim Obesity

New stem cell research may have unlocked the secret to curbing obesity, according to a new study published online in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) developed an approach for targeting fat-generating stem cells that one day could aid in the delivery of drugs that slow adipose stem cells’ ability to direct fat expansion.

The researchers used small artificial proteins (peptides) in a mouse model to identify a marker on the surface of adipose stem cells. Markers are molecules specifically expressed on individual cell types. The scientists screened about 100 billion peptides before finding one that was specific for mouse and human adipose stem cells.

“This marker, called delta-decorin, is specifically expressed on the surface of adipose stem cells, which are responsible for the production of white adipose tissue," said Mikhail Kolonin, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and assistant professor of molecular medicine at the UTHealth Medical School. “This is the first prospective marker to be discovered for this particular type of adult stem cell."

The researchers report that delta-decorin, a modification of a previously defined protein, interacts with another clinically important protein called resistin on the surface of adipose stem cells. They said decorin-resistin connection is particularly interesting because both decorin and resistin have been previously implicated in type 2 diabetes and other inflammation-related diseases.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Olive Oil Protects Against Stroke

Consuming copious amounts of olive oil may dramatically reduce stroke risk for older adults, according to a population-based study
Heavy use in cooking and dressings was associated with a 41% lower stroke incidence compared with never using olive oil, Cécilia Samieri of the Université Bordeaux in France and colleagues found.

The top one-third on intake by serum measures had a 73 percent lower stroke risk than those in the bottom third among older adults living in three cities in France.

Because these results controlled for other dietary and stroke risk factors, olive oil may be considered "a major protective component" of the Mediterranean diet for stroke, the group suggested in the Aug. 2 issue of Neurology.

Intensive olive oil intake could find a place alongside more fruits and vegetables and less salt in the dietary recommendations to prevent stroke in elderly populations, Samieri and colleagues suggested.

"But this can be claimed with confidence only if the observations … withstand the trial of randomized interventions," warned Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and Dr. Luc Dauchet of Institut Pasteur de Lille, France, in an accompanying editorial.

The association is plausible because of the benefits of olive oil with regard to diabetes, hypertension, lipid profiles, coronary artery disease, and obesity, the editorialists acknowledged.

However, they cautioned, olive oil can't be entirely separated from the other foods it typically accompanies.
"Olive oil is usually added to other foods (i.e., fruits and vegetables, legumes, cereals, and fish) and may contribute indirect benefits by increasing the palatability and consumption of foods that may have health-promoting potential," they wrote in Neurology.

Samieri's group analyzed olive oil consumption among 7,625 participants 65 and older without a prior stroke in the Three-City Study of community-dwelling residents of Bordeaux, Dijon, and Montpellier.

That prospective cohort study of vascular risk factors for dementia followed participants over a median 5.25 years for independently validated stroke incidence.

At baseline, 22.8 percent of the cohort reported not using olive oil, 40% used olive oil moderately for cooking or dressing food, and 37.2 percent used it intensively for both cooking and dressing.

Higher use yielded lower stroke incidence after adjustment for sociodemographics, diet (including fish, fruit, vegetables, and other types of oils and fats), physical activity, body mass index, and stroke risk factors.
Moderate intake showed a 20 percent reduced incidence of stroke compared with no olive oil intake but the association was not significant
The study also included 1,245 individuals with plasma oleic acid levels measured as a marker for olive oil intake.
After similar adjustment for dietary, stroke risk, and other factors, higher plasma oleic acid was associated with lower stroke incidence.

Although plasma oleic acid levels were linked to level of olive oil intake in the study, the association wasn't strong.

The researchers suggested cautious interpretation since plasma oleic acid isn't a specific marker for olive oil consumption and in fact was linked to higher intake of butter and goose or duck fat as well as a worse vascular risk profile.

They also cautioned that the study may have missed some strokes, which depended on initial self-report for final validation.

The study didn't distinguish type of olive oil consumed, but Samieri's group noted that nearly all olive oil sold in France is extra virgin olive oil.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rising Food Costs Alter Healthy Eating Habits

Escalating food costs over the past few years have prompted 56% if Americans to change their diets from what they were eating two years ago, according to results of a in a new global survey by Oxfam. The survey results were released ahead of next week’s meeting in France of agriculture ministers from the G20 countries, where they are expected to discuss the global food price crisis.

Oxfam also launched Grow, a new campaign to ensure everyone around the world has enough to eat. Of 16,000 people polled in 17 countries, 39% blamed the rising price of food for changing their eating habits. Soaring prices are the biggest food worry with 73% of Americans, and 66% of people globally citing it as one of their top concerns. In fact, 43% of those polled said the nutritional value of the food they and their families ate was also a key concern.

Data also revealed 54% of people questioned globally and 56% in the United States said they are not eating the same food as they did two years ago.  Globally, 39% said their diet had changed because food is becoming too expensive, and 33% cited health reasons. Domestically, 31% of Americans cited the cost of food, and 49% cited health reasons.
Global hunger also is a rising concern. Eight percent 8% of Americans reported they sometimes, rarely or never had enough to eat on a daily basis, compared to one in five people surveyed in developing countries such as Pakistan, Kenya, Ghana, Mexico, India and Guatemala. In very poor countries such as Tanzania and Kenya, 21% said they rarely or never had enough to eat.

In January, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its report that revealed global food prices reached a record high in December 2010, outpacing 2008 levels that prompted riots in 61 countries. FAO estimated that global food production will have to increase at least 70 percent by 2050 as the world population expands to 9.1 billion from about 6.8 billion last year.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mangos Trim Body Fat, Control Blood Sugar

Incorporating mango in the diet may help to reduce body fat and control blood sugar and ultimately lower the risk for developing metabolic syndrome, which can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to new research conducted at Oklahoma State University

“Mango contains many nutrients and other bioactive compounds that can provide various health benefits aside from what we investigated," said lead researcher Edralin Lucas. “It is high in fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as other minerals and phytochemicals. In addition to the positive effects on body fat, blood lipids and glucose, it is not associated with serious side effects such as negative effects on bone that is linked with the use of rosiglitazone, a drug commonly used to lower blood sugar."

OSU researchers conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of powdered mango flesh in modulating blood glucose and lipid values in mice fed a high-fat diet to induce obesity. They formulated six diets with various additives including a regular mouse diet, which had 4% total calories from fat, and five high-fat diets with 35% total calories from fat. One diet was only high fat, while the other four high-fat diets also contained 1% mango powder, 10% mango powder, fenofibrate or rosiglitazone. After adjusting the high-fat diets to have similar carbohydrate, fiber, protein, fat, calcium and phosphorous content, the team assigned eight mice to each of the six diets and allowed them to eat and drink at will for two months.

After a 2-month follow-up, they found no statistically significant differences in body weight among the mice, but the amount of body fat was varied according to the diets. Both diets containing mango had comparable effects with those of rosiglitazone and fenofibrate in reducing body fat.  The mice consuming diets with mango or the two drugs had body fat levels similar to those mice eating the standard control diet. The mango-containing diets also exhibited glucose and cholesterol-lowering properties. The 1% mango diets had a similar or even a more pronounced effect in reducing blood glucose than the diet containing rosiglitazone.

The researchers also determined mango affected several factors involved in fat metabolism including a reduction in the circulating level of the hormone leptin. Mice that received high-fat diets containing mango had significantly lower levels of leptin than mice eating the high-fat diet alone.

Mangos also have been found to lower the risk of breast and colon cancer. A study conducted by Texas AgriLife Research food scientists tested mango polyphenol extracts in vitro on colon, breast, lung, leukemia and prostate cancers. Although the mango created some difference against lung, leukemia and prostate cancers, it was most effective on common types of breast and colon cancers.


Oklahoma State University: NSCI research finds health benefits in mangos

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gulf Oil Spill Leads to New Seafood Safety Protocols

The process of testing seafood affected by the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was daunting at first because the methods for testing the safety of the affected seafood were inadequate and new protocols had to be designed on-the-fly, according to research presented at an IFT Expo 2011 pre-annual meeting short course session.

The issue of consumer confidence in the safety of gulf seafood is especially important after market researcher Technomic released its “Market Intelligence Report: Seafood" report in January 2011. The report revealed 23 percent of consumers said their consumption of seafood at restaurants decreased as some 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico last summer, and 19 percent say they are still eating less fish as a direct result of the spill.

During the “Evaluating the Safety of Gulf Seafood: Programs and Analytical Techniques in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Spill" session, Steven Wilson, chief quality officer of the Seafood Inspection Program for the U.S. Dept. of Commerce said while scientists want to collect data, analyze it, and collect more data to get a total picture, food safety professionals have to make “yes" or “no" decisions with some level of risk. The latter mindset was critical in establishing protocol for reopening areas for fishing and seafood harvesting following the Gulf oil spill.

Sensory analysis became the standard test for reopening various areas; chemical analyses also were used. Wilson said the sampling program initially targeted 30 specifies of fish and shellfish; however, it quickly was determined the volume of samples would overwhelm the testing laboratory and sensory panelists. Instead, the sampling program focused on top, middle, and bottom feeders through the use of nets and line trawling. Protocols were developed for sample size, storage and chain of custody.

Existing protocol called for wrapping a sample of the fish in aluminum foil on the fishing vessel and sending it to the laboratory in Pascagoula, Miss. Due to the hot temperatures in the region, many samples were showing up in the lab in a highly decomposed state. New protocols were put in place, treating the fish as if it were a commercial catch.

Another challenge was training the sensory panelists. Due to the burning of the oil and the resulting odor and potential contamination in the area, it was decided that training should take place at a laboratory in Gloucester, Mass. The actual sensory testing was done at the laboratory in Pascagoula. Samples were spiked with oil and dispersants as a quality-control check. This was done sparingly due to the limited availability of the seafood supply in the gulf. Even so, the testers went through about 6 million pounds of purchased seafood in two months.


Monday, June 13, 2011

FDA Issues Guidance on Nanotechnology

One month after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its first guidance document for addressing potential risks arising from engineered nanomaterial (ENM) applications in food and feed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its draft of guidance outlining the agency’s view on whether regulated products contain nanomaterials or involve the application of nanotechnology.

While the draft guidance, "Considering Whether an FDA-Regulated Product Involves the Application of Nanotechnology," is the first step toward providing regulatory clarity on the FDA's approach to nanotechnology, it does not offer a legal definition of nanotechnology.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said the agency wants to discuss nanotechnology points with industry to create a starting place. Specifically, the agency named certain characteristics, such as the size of nanomaterials used and the exhibited properties of those materials, that may be considered when attempting to identify applications of nanotechnology in regulated products.

For products subject to premarket review, the FDA intends to apply the points contained in the draft guidance, when finalized, to better understand the properties and behavior of engineered nanomaterials. For products not subject to premarket review, the FDA will urge manufacturers to consult with the agency early in the product development process so questions related to the regulatory status, safety, effectiveness or public health impact of these products can be adequately addressed.

FDA will develop additional guidance documents related to specific products or product categories in the future, as needed. FDA wants to understand how changes in physical, chemical or biological properties seen in nanomaterials affect the safety, effectiveness, performance or quality of a product that contains such materials.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Exercise may stave off 'silent strokes'

Older people who regularly partake in moderate to intense exercise may be at a lower risk of suffering a so-called “silent stroke,” according to a new study.

clearpxlThe small brain lesions are associated with an increased risk of falls and impaired mobility, memory problems and even dementia, researchers at Columbia University in New York said.

The study involved 1,238 people who had never had a stroke. The participants were asked how often and how intensely they exercised at the beginning of the study and then were given MRI scans of their brains six years later when they were about 70 years old.

Forty three percent of the participants reported no regular exercise, 36 percent regularly engaged in light exercise such as golf, walking, bowling or dancing, and 21 percent regularly engaged in activities that included hiking, tennis, swimming, biking, jogging or racquetball.

The MRIs showed that 197 of the participants, or 16 percent, had small brain lesions.

Moderate and intense exercisers were 40 percent less likely to have the lesions than those who reported no exercise. The researchers took into account other heart-risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

A full report on the study is published in the June 8 edition of the journal Neurology

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Apples Help Keep Muscles Strong, Mouse Study Finds

A natural compound found in apples may help prevent muscle wasting that can result from aging and illness, according to the results of a study in mice.

The benefit appears to come from a compound in apple skin called ursolic acid, according to Dr. Christopher Adams, of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and colleagues.

Adams and colleagues first identified 63 genes that change in response to fasting in both people and mice, and another 29 that change their expression in the muscles of both people who are fasting and those with spinal cord injuries. They then looked at 1,300 small molecules and zeroed in on ursolic acid as a compound that might counteract muscle atrophy.

In the next phase, the researchers found that ursolic acid could protect against muscle wasting in mice that were deprived of food. They also found that adding ursolic acid to the food of normal mice for a number of weeks prompted muscle growth.

In addition, mice that received ursolic acid became leaner and had lower blood levels of glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides, the investigators found.

The health benefits noted in the mice were due to enhanced insulin signaling in muscle and to corrections in gene signatures associated with muscle atrophy, the researchers explained.

"Ursolic acid is an interesting natural compound," Adams said in a journal news release. "It's part of a normal diet as a component of apple peels. They always say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away....People who eat junk food don't get this."

It is not clear whether the findings in mice will be confirmed in human trials, however, and whether the amount of ursolic acid consumed as part of a normal diet would protect against the ravages of muscle wasting.

The findings, published in the June issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, might lead to the development of new drugs if confirmed in humans, the study authors suggested.

"Muscle wasting is a frequent companion of illness and aging," Adams said. "It prolongs hospitalization, delays recovery and in some cases prevents people from going back home. It isn't well understood and there is no medicine for it."

More information
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about muscle atrophy

Friday, June 10, 2011

Does coffee make you hear things?

Scholars at Australia's La Trobe University just released a study showing a correlation between caffeine intake and auditory hallucinations. In layman's terms: Lots of coffee might make you more likely to hear things that aren't there.

Researchers came to the conclusion after studying 92 people with a broad range of java-drinking habits. Participants -- who were told they were taking part in hearing tests -- were set up with headphones and asked to press a buzzer every time they heard audio from Bing Crosby's classic "White Christmas." As a matter of fact, the only sound played into the headsets was white noise. But participants who drank at least 400 milliliters (or about 13.5 fluid ounes) of coffee per day were significantly more likely to identify Crosby's soulful croon.

"On average, low-caf subjects heard it once. But stressed coffee guzzlers buzzed three times," said Australia's Herald Sun newspaper.

Summing up the results from the experiment, Professor Simon Crowe concluded:

There is a link between high levels of stress and psychosis, and caffeine was found to correlate with hallucination proneness. The combination of caffeine and stress affect the likelihood of an individual experiencing a psychosis-like symptom.
It would be prudent to note that correlation isn't the same as causation, and this study merely suggests the former. It's possible that excess coffee drinking and "hallucinatory proneness" are both symptoms of some underlying issue. At the same time, this isn't the first instance of scientists finding a link between caffeine intake and hallucinations. An even more alarming study was published in 2009, claiming that individuals who drink the equivalent of 315 milligrams of caffeine -- that's three cups of brewed coffee, or seven of the instant variety -- are three times more likely to hear and see things that aren't actually there.
An article on that study, published in Live Science, also helpfully added that, "though most people who drink loads of coffee are not known to hallucinate seriously, when these types of experiences interfere with daily functioning, they are considered to be psychotic."
In closing: Maybe try decaf next time?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Group Names Best Diet For Weight Loss

With thousands of diets purporting to be the best plan for shedding the pounds, a US media health group on Tuesday announced its picks for the best diets after assembling a panel of experts to assess the benefits of each.

US News Media Group, publisher of and the annual Best Hospitals rankings, quizzed 22 recognized experts in heart disease, diabetes, diet and exercise to review 20 diets, reported.

The method of assessment included a rating scale measuring effectiveness, ease of compliance, nutritional completeness and health risks on a five-point scale.

A key component of healthy weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is exercise or physical activity, but this was not included in the review, nor was cost (of food or classes).

Weight Watchers, with its ever-evolving points system came in at No. 1 for best weight-loss diet. The program encourages fruit and vegetable consumption, portion control, and offers support through meetings and online.

Jenny Craig and the Raw Food Diet tied for second place, with the Glycemic Index Diet and the Paleo Diet plans at the bottom of the ranking. The latter plans lacked scientific evidence and long-term weight loss maintenance.

The Ornish Diet ranked highest for heart health. This food plan is low-fat, high in fiber, vegetarian and integrates the mind-body experience of exercise, yoga and meditation.

In second place was the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet in third place. These two diets evolved from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and are great examples of how to apply scientific findings to improving health.

The Atkins Diet and Paleo Diet plans were at the opposite end of the heart-health spectrum, with clear evidence that high-fat diets are not best for our ticker, arteries or veins.

The DASH Diet ranked first for best diabetes diet, with the Mayo Clinic Diet, the Ornish Diet and the Vegan Diet in a three-way tie for second place. The Zone Diet and the Paleo Diet were the big losers when it came to helping people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Taking out the prize for best diet overall was the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet, while the TLC Diet and Weight Watchers tied for second.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

About 63% of White adults, 57% of Asian adults, 56% of Black adults and 54% of Hispanic adults are dieting to lose weight

Whether it's a suggestion from our physician or a need to slim down, almost everyone experiences the desire to exercise more or eat healthier at some point in our lives. According to the latest research from Mintel, more Black adults who are watching their diet are doing so for health reasons, not to lose weight. In fact, 56% of Black adults are dieting to lose weight, compared to 63% of White adults, 57% of Asian adults and 54% of Hispanic adults.

Moreover, 70% of Black adults who limit the amount and/or kind of food eaten say they're doing so for general wellness and 46% say they're watching their diet to maintain their current weight. Fifty-two percent are eating healthier to prevent or control high blood pressure.

"Black adults are concerned with controlling cholesterol, blood sugar levels, hypertension, salt intake and other health-related issues," says Leylha Ahuile, senior multicultural analyst. "This demographic needs effective, targeted solutions that can help them reach their weight-loss goals rather than information that focuses on appearance, which may not speak to their concerns—as dieting simply to be thinner isn't as important."
Twenty-six percent of respondents who are cutting back on the amount or kind of food they consume say boredom with the "good" food they are noshing makes it difficult to curb their eating habits. Additionally, 35% report that the challenge to find healthy options at restaurants is to blame and 26% say hunger pangs test their willpower to eat better.

"Marketers should emphasize elements of delicious taste to make healthier products more appealing to Black consumers," adds Leylha Ahuile. "For example, emphasizing the 'creamy taste' of a low-fat item or the fact that it's 'less greasy' compared to a full-fat item may help Black consumers focus on attributes other than delicious taste, and create interest in trying a low-in item."

Forty-two percent of Black adults who limit the amount and/or kind of food they eat believe that most diets don't work and nearly half (49%) say they have a hard time sticking to a diet. Meanwhile, 60% say they would like to eat more healthy foods, but it's just too expensive.

Egg Nutrition Update

Periodically, USDA reviews the nutrient composition of various foods. In a recent reassessment of eggs, the agency found the average cholesterol content in one large egg (50 grams) is 185 mg, or 14% lower than when the nutrient content of eggs was last recorded in 2002. In addition to cholesterol levels going down, vitamin D levels in eggs have risen by 64% to 41 IU.

There are a few theories as to why the cholesterol and vitamin D content changed. “Many folks in the field think that changes in feed given to hens have played a role in the changing nutritional composition in the egg," says Mitch Kanter, Ph.D., executive director, Egg Nutrition Center, Park Ridge, IL. “It is well known that by altering the composition of the hen’s diet you can impact the egg content of various nutrients. That said, other changes over the years may also have impacted the nutritional composition of the egg: breeding; rate-of-lay, yolk-to-albumin ratio and changes in analytical methods, to name a few."

Whatever the reason, it is good news for food product developers, as the USDA findings apply to egg products, as well. “Shell eggs are the basis for all egg products," Kanter says. Nutritionally—and functionally—similar egg products include whole eggs, egg whites and egg yolks in frozen, refrigerated-liquid and dried forms.

“One large egg is equivalent to 50 grams of liquid egg in the further-processed egg ingredient category," according to Elisa Maloberti, director of egg product marketing, American Egg Board. “Egg products are becoming increasingly popular in foodservice operations because they’re convenient to use and also provide a cost savings with regard to labor, storage and portion control."

Further, food manufacturers using egg products can relay the new nutrition information to consumers. “While newer research seems to indicate that dietary cholesterol may not be the ‘boogeyman,’ as health professionals previously thought, the fact of the matter is that many folks are still concerned with their cholesterol intake, and they pay attention to this information," Kanter notes. “Similarly, newer research indicates that vitamin D may have far-reaching health implications that were not appreciated in the past."

Monday, June 06, 2011

Anti-Obesity Vaccine Curbs Appetite

Researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal have developed an anti-obesity vaccine containing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin that curbs appetite and boosts calorie burning in mice. The findings, presented June 5 at the Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting, suggest an anti-ghrelin vaccine may become an alternate treatment for obesity, to be used in combination with diet and exercise. Ghrelin is a gut hormone that promotes weight gain by increasing appetite and food intake while decreasing calorie burning. Recent research shows that bariatric surgeries, such as gastric bypass, suppress ghrelin.

The researchers developed a therapeutic vaccine using a noninfectious virus carrying ghrelin, which was designed to provoke the development of antibodies against ghrelin that would suppress the hormone. They vaccinated normal-weight mice and mice with diet-induced obesity three times and compared them with control mice that received only saline injections. Compared with unvaccinated controls, vaccinated mice—both normal-weight and obese mice—developed increasing amounts of specific anti-ghrelin antibodies, increased their energy expenditure and decreased their food intake. Within 24 hours after the first vaccination injection, obese mice ate 82 percent of the amount that control mice ate; after the final vaccination shot they ate only 50 percent of what unvaccinated mice ate.

The effects of each vaccination lasted for the two months of the study, which for the normal 18-month lifespan of mice, corresponds to four human years. The researchers saw no toxic effects in the mice as a result of the vaccine.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Green Tea Compound Enhances Immune Function

For consumers clamoring for natural products to help them stay healthy, recent research on green tea should be good news, indeed. Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) found that Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the primary polyphenol found in green tea, increases the number of regulatory T cells, thereby enhancing immune function and suppressing autoimmune disease
“This appears to be a natural, plant-derived compound that can affect the number of regulatory T cells, and in the process improve immune function," said Emily Ho, an LPI principal investigator and associate professor in the OSU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

“When fully understood, this could provide an easy and safe way to help control autoimmune problems and address various diseases."

As noted in an OSU press release: “There are many types of cells that have different roles in the immune system, which is a delicate balancing act of attacking unwanted invaders without damaging normal cells. In autoimmune diseases, which can range from simple allergies to juvenile diabetes or even terminal conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, this process goes awry and the body mistakenly attacks itself."

Regulatory T cells are among those that help balance the immune system and help prevent the body from attacking itself. Although the researchers acknowledge that prescription drugs designed for this same purpose are more potent than the EGCG, with green tea, there is little concern about toxicity. 

“EGCG may have health benefits through an epigenetic mechanism, meaning we aren’t changing the underlying DNA codes, but just influencing what gets expressed, what cells get turned on," Ho said. “And we may be able to do this with a simple, whole-food approach."


Saturday, June 04, 2011

U.S. retail sales of food and beverage products with a "high omega-3" or "high DHA" claim grew 11%

Novel production technologies are allowing for the addition of omega-3 fatty oils to an expanding number of foods and beverages, imparting the assortment of scientifically backed health benefits to consumers without the unpleasant fishy odor or taste. As essential fatty acids that support cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous system health, omega-3 oils are in demand and the attention is helping to fuel growth in the still maturing industry, according to "Omega-3 Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd Edition" by market research publisher Packaged Facts.

The report estimates U.S. retail sales of food and beverage products with a "high omega-3" or "high DHA" claim -- predominantly meaning omega-enhanced products -- grew 11% and approached $4 billion in 2010.. Packaged Facts predicts the U.S. omega-3 ingredient market will grow 40% between 2010-2015, as U.S. retail sales of "high omega-3" or "high DHA" foods and beverages (excluding fish) approach $7 billion by the end of the forecast period.

For many years, fish oils and powders, the main sources of omega-3 fatty acids, were primarily consumed as dietary supplements. As technology allowed different formulations, marketers began to add fish oils to different types of foods, beginning with spreads and oils and continuing into dairy products, cereals and even fruit-flavored beverages. Consumer perceptions that fish oils and powders impart a bad taste or smell to food had impeded the unlimited introduction of omega fatty acids into all types of foods and beverages, although these concerns have largely been resolved.

"When the first omega-3-enriched foods entered the market in 2003, some predicted that there would be a flood of products within a couple of years. But the challenges of finding ways to get the fatty acids into foods and beverages, making the resulting product palatable and achieving a reasonable shelf-life were more daunting than expected," says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. "Now that many of these technology hurdles have been overcome, more categories of products have become viable candidates for fortification with omega fatty acids. Several industry experts we interviewed believe that the biggest trend in the next five to ten years will be food and beverage companies seeking to fortify their products with omegas."

Friday, June 03, 2011

Healthy eating pyramid out, plate in

The US government has ditched its two-decade old pyramid model for healthy eating and introduced a new plate symbol half filled with fruits and vegetables to urge better eating habits.

The colourful design, called MyPlate, was unveiled by first lady Michelle Obama.

The plate icon is sectioned into four parts, with fruits and vegetables making up one half and grains and proteins filling the other half. A dairy drink is included alongside.

The graphic replaces the food pyramid, released in 1992, which showed that fats and oils were located at the upper tip and should be used sparingly, while whole grains made up the base of the diet with six to 11 servings daily.

But critics maintained the pyramid design was too hard for the general public to understand.

A total of 26.7 per cent of the US population is obese, and no single state has been able to meet the 15 per cent obesity limit set by the US government, according to 2009 data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

A White House taskforce found last year that close to one-third of children in America are overweight or obese, and obesity rates among youths have tripled since 1980.

Mrs Obama said the MyPlate icon would be useful in the fight against childhood obesity, but would not be limited to that age group.

''It's an image that can be reinforced and practised at breakfast, lunch, and at dinner, no matter how old we are,'' Mrs Obama said.

Hot Water Treatment Reduces Microbes on Blueberries

Hot water treatment on fresh blueberries may be an effective solution to maximize microbial reduction without affecting the quality of the blueberries, according to a new study published in the Journal of Food Science.

Researchers at Mississippi State University designed the study to optimize conditions for hot water treatment (temperature, time, and antimicrobial concentration) to remove biofilm and decrease microbial load on blueberries. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image showed a well-developed microbial biofilm on blueberries dipped in room temperature water. The biofilm consisted of yeast and bacterial cells attached to the berry surface in the form of microcolonies, which produced exopolymer substances between or upon the cells. Berry exposure to 75 degrees C and 90 degrees C showed little to no microorganisms on the blueberry surface; however, the sensory quality (bloom/wax) of berries at those temperatures was unacceptable.

They found increasing temperature was a significant factor on reduction of aerobic plate counts (APCs) and yeast/mold counts (YMCs) while adding Boxyl® did not have significant effect on APC. Overlaid contour plots showed that treatments of 65 degrees C to 70 degrees C for 10 to 15 seconds showed maximum reductions of 1.5 and 2.0 log CFU/g on APCs and YMCs, respectively; with acceptable level of bloom/wax score on fresh blueberries.

The study showed SEM, response surface and overlaid contour plots proved successful in arriving at optima to reduce microbial counts while maintaining bloom/wax on the surface of the blueberries.


Journal of Food Science: Optimization of Hot Water Treatment for Removing Microbial Colonies on Fresh Blueberry Surface

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Study Links MSG to Weight Gain

Individuals who consume 5 grams of monosodium glutamate (MSG) daily are 30 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than people who consume less than half a gram daily, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sought to examine the longitudinal association between MSG consumption and incidence of overweight. They examined data from 10,095 healthy Chinese adults aged 18 to 65 years who participated in the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS).

Diet, including MSG and other condiments, was assessed with a weighed food inventory in combination with three 24-hour recalls. Incident overweight was defined as a body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) ≥ 25 or ≥23 based on World Health Organization recommendations for Asian populations. Multilevel mixed-effects models were constructed to estimate change in BMI, and Cox regression models with gamma shared frailty were used to determine the incidence of overweight.

After a 5.5-year follow-up, participants who ate the most MSG (roughly 5 grams a day) were 30 percent more likely to become overweight than those who ate the least amount of MSG (less than 0.5 gram a day).

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Food Pyramid is Ancient History

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on June 2 will unveil a new food icon that will replace the current MyPyramid image that has been the government’s primary food group symbol since 2005. The new icon will serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices.

The New York Times reported the new icon will be a circular plate consisting of four colored sections for fruits, vegetables, grains and protein. Next to the plate will be a smaller circle for dairy, such as a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt.

The new food icon is the result of the 2010 White House Child Obesity Task Force’s call for simple, actionable advice to equip consumers with information to help them make healthy food choices. The new food icon will be part of a comprehensive nutrition communication initiative that provides consumers with easy-to-understand recommendations, a new website with expanded information, and other tools and resources.

The new icon will help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that place stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption, increasing physical activity and choosing healthy foods, including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and fat-free and low-fat dairy items while limiting sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.

USDA said MyPyramid will remain available to health professionals and nutrition educators in a special section of the new website.


USDA: UPDATED: USDA to Launch New Food Icon as a Reminder to Help Consumers Make Healthier Food Choices