Sunday, July 31, 2011

Food Costs Continue to Rise

U.S. consumers can expect to see their grocery bills continue to rise well into the fall as food companies pass higher commodity prices onto the consumer.

As reported by Bloomberg, costs for groceries and restaurant meals rose 3.7% in the 12 months ending June 2011—a period that saw rice, wheat, corn, soybean and milk reach the highest levels since 2008. Corn futures rose 76% in the 12 months through July 22; wheat 16%, raw sugar 71%; rice 65%; and meat 21%. Weather, rising oil costs and manufacturing costs all combine to create a perfect storm for continued inflation.

The world's population has increased 10% to 12% over the past decade, driving up the demand and cost for food commodities. According the a recent World Bank food pricing index, prices of food commodities increased 30% to 35% over 2010.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Americans downed nearly a quarter less added sugar in 2008 than they did nine years earlier, a new report concludes.

The drop is largely due to a decrease in the amount of sugar-sweetened soda that people drank.

"We were surprised to see that there was a substantial reduction over the years," said Dr. Jean Welsh, a researcher at Emory University in Atlanta and the lead author of the report.

Although the reasons for the dip are still murky, she said a big push by the government and private organizations to alert consumers to the potential health hazards of sugar -- obesity in particular -- might have played a role.

Welsh and her colleagues used national surveys of more than 40,000 people's diets collected over a decade by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers calculated from the responses how much added sugar -- that is, extra sugar used to sweeten food -- people ate. Sugar that is originally a part of a food, such as the fructose in an apple, was not included.

Between 1999 and 2000, there was about 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces, of added sugar in a typical person's daily diet. By 2007 to 2008, the number was 77 grams, or 2.7 ounces.

That corresponds to a drop from 18 percent to 14.6 percent of people's total calorie intake.

"That's good to see, but it's still too high," Welsh told Reuters Health. "All our discretionary calories shouldn't exceed five to 15 percent of our calories, and we're consuming that much in just added sugar."

Two-thirds of the decrease was due to people chugging fewer sweetened beverages, according to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The report notes that in the early 2000s, schools began to limit sugar-sweetened drinks for students, and low-carb diets for adults became more popular.

Dr. Barry Popkin, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the recession that began in late 2007 also sparked a change in the food people bought.

"They all shifted toward cheaper goods, and shifted down the calories they bought," he told Reuters Health.

Still, Popkin, who was not involved in the new work, added that the survey might not tell the entire sugar story.

Fruit juice and fruit juice concentrate are also used to sweeten foods and drinks, he said, but are not included in survey data on added sugar.

"Fruit juice concentrate is just another sugar. It's deceiving to think this is a long term trend, and to interpret while ignoring fruit juice concentrate and fruit juice," Popkin said.

Energy drinks were the one source of added sugar in people's diets that increased from 1999 to 2008, although they still only make up a small part of the total calories.

The trend for energy drinks in the future "will be interesting to watch," said Welsh.

SOURCE: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August, 2011.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Being 'Unplugged' Leaves People Upset,

What if you completely unplugged yourself from your smartphone and denied yourself access to the Internet? Do you think you’d feel empowered or depressed?

Well, according to a new survey of 1,000 people, 53 percent said they felt upset when they were denied access to the Internet, and 40 percent said they felt lonely when they were unable to log on to the World Wide Web, the Daily Mail reported.

The survey, done by the consumer research firm Intersperience, asked the participants about their "attitudes" towards the Internet, and went even further, by requesting that they go without technology for 24 hours. That meant no Facebook, Twitter, emails and text messages.

After the 24 hours were up, some volunteers compared the experience to quitting smoking or drinking, and one even described it as "having my hand chopped off."
"Online and digital technology is increasingly pervasive, influencing our friendships, the way we communicate, the fabric of our family life, our work lives, our buying habits and our dealings with organizations," Paul Hudson, chief executive of Intersperience, told the Daily Telegraph.

According to statistics from 2010, The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), estimated that there were 2.1 billion Internet users worldwide.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eating smaller portions ranked 11th in importance among adult consumers

Portion control is a tenet of healthy eating, and it appears that consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of managing the portion size of the foods they eat, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company.

For a recent report entitled Healthy Eating Strategies by Generation, NPD compiled a list of 30 healthy eating and lifestyle dimensions to determine which ones consumers of different generations associate with healthy eating. Out of the 30 attributes, eating smaller portions ranked 11th in importance among adult consumers across generations as a healthy eating characteristic. Adult consumers ranked the top five characteristics of healthy eating and healthy lifestyles consistently: exercise regularly, eat well balanced meals, eat all things in moderation, limit/avoid foods with saturated fat or cholesterol or trans fats, drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.

Eating smaller portions ranked seventh in importance amongst Generation X consumers, ages 35 to 45, as a healthy eating characteristic, which is the highest rank for the behavior among all generational groups. For Gen Y, ages 21 to 34, eating smaller portions ranked in the eighth position, and for younger boomers, ages 46-54, it ranked in the twelfth position as a healthy eating characteristic. The older age groups — older boomers, silent generation, and G.I. generation, ages 55 and older, with lesser appetites overall, had the lowest overall ranks for eating smaller portions. More women, especially overweight and obese women, tend to place a higher importance on eating smaller portions than do men.

According to the NPD food and beverage market research report 43 percent of the over 5000 adults surveyed indicated that they ate smaller portions always or most of the time in the past year. An even greater percentage of adult consumers (57%) aspire to eat smaller portions in the coming year, suggesting that this healthy eating strategy will become more important in the future.

Smaller portions and portion control are also important to consumers who want to eat more healthfully when they eat at restaurants and other foodservice outlets. A recent NPD foodservice market research report entitled How Consumers Define Healthy Eating When They Dine Out, finds that portion control and smaller portions rank third in importance for consumers looking for healthier option at restaurants. Fast food consumers rank smaller portions and portion control second.

“Based on the interest in smaller portions among the younger age groups and the size of these age groups, portion control is an area of opportunity for food manufacturers,” said Dori Hickey, director, product management at NPD and author of the report. “As they move through their life, these generations may continue the healthy eating behaviors they adopted in their younger years, making portion-control a long-term opportunity.”   

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Study looks at why fatty foods help to lift our mood

When you're feeling blue and crave a snack, what do you reach for? Chances are it's more likely to be macaroni and cheese than carrot sticks.

Now, new research suggests fatty food really can help lift our moods -- but contrary to what you might think, it's not the "mouth feel" or the way the food looks that does it; it's the fat itself hitting out stomachs.

For the experiment, conducted at the University of Manchester, 12 healthy men and women were put on 12-hour fasts and then given direct infusions into their stomachs of either a saltwater saline solution or fatty acid solution. The participants couldn't taste the solutions and weren't told which one they had received.

During four days of experiments, the participants underwent 40-minute fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) neurologic scans in which they listened to either sad or neutral music while viewing images of sad or neutral faces.

They were then given the solutions and asked questions about their mood, as well as about their feelings of fullness or hunger.

The participants reported more hunger while listening and viewing sad emotions, and less hunger during neutral emotion conditions.

As well, those who got the fatty acid solution reported feeling about half as sad as those who received the saline infusion. The fMRI results also showed that their behavioral and nerve cell responses to sad emotions were also lessened.

The study was published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The authors concede that the study was relatively small, and that the findings need to be confirmed by further research.

But they say this may be the first study looking at the connection food and mood, in which the participants weren't able to tell what kind of food they were receiving.

Lead author Dr. Lukas Van Oudenhove, a psychiatrist at the Translational Research Centre for Gastrointestinal Disorders at the University of Leuven in Belgium, said the findings could have implications for the study of eating disorders.

"…It may indeed open possibilities for depression research, obesity research," he told the Canadian Press.

Dr. Giovanni Cizza, who co-authored a commentary in the journal and who is chief of the neuroendocrinology section of obesity at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, said the study took a new approach to studying how food affects mood.

"The mind-body connection has been explored in the direction from the mind to the body. Something I like about this study is that it starts from the body, from the stomach and it goes to the brain," he told CP.

He described the research as "a very good start" but said it would be interesting to see if the experiments had the same effect on obese people.

"The proof of principle that you can manipulate sadness by putting something in the stomach is very important," he said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trends in Condiments and Sauces

Condiments and sauces make it easy for consumers to experiment with  new flavors. They can add a little or a lot to truly customize the flavor intensity of their food.

"Condiments and Sauces: Culinary Trend Mapping Report" by Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) reveals that consumer interest in condiments and sauces is high. The report also offers several trends in the condiments and sauces segment, including:

Poutine—This dish of french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy is appearing on fine dining menus and peeling out from the food truck scene.

Gastrique—The classic sweet-and-sour French reduction of sugar and vinegar presents an opportunity for manufacturers to produce bottled gastriques for both cooking and cocktails.

Umami in a Bottle—Umami is fast becoming a household word, so now is a good time to develop products and foodservice dishes that call out and underscore the umami experience.

Romesco—A traditional red pepper and ground almond sauce from the Catalan region of Spain, romesco sauce presents an opportunity for restaurateurs and food manufacturers to emphasize its intense rich flavor in dips, sauces, marinades and more.

Sriracha—This fiery sauce is common in traditional Southeast Asian cuisine and has now reached cult status among consumers. The passionate following from chefs and culinary consumers, combined with Gen Y interest in global cuisines and extreme flavors, sets up sriracha for continued market growth and popularity, whether in new variations on the original condiment or sriracha-enhanced products.

Aioli—The versatile French-inspired condiment, which is basically garlic mayonnaise, has infiltrated the U.S. market in every pocket of the food industry, from fine dining to fast food. The ability to add a variety of non-garlic flavors (including lemon, basil, chipotle, parsley, harissa and avocado) while also delivering tasty, creamy richness drives home aioli's potential for new dips, spreads, condiments and accompaniments.

"Condiments and sauces are the fashion accessories of the culinary world, and today more than ever they are a necessary part of the ensemble as diners seek enhanced food experiences and more global flavors, especially in their home kitchens," says Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Relaxation drinks see energetic growth in U.S.

People have been guzzling energy drinks for the last 10 years -- maybe it's time to relax.

Sales of "relaxation drinks" with names like Vacation in a Bottle, Dream Water and Just Chill, while small, are growing.

"There is clear potential for further growth in the coming years," said Cecilia Martinez, market analyst at UK-based beverage research group Zenith International.

Relaxation drinks help the body chill out by relieving muscle tension and reducing levels of cortisone, the main stress hormone, according to a report that Martinez wrote about the drinks earlier this year.

The drinks, which evolved in Japan as far back as 2005, contain no alcohol but some have melatonin, a hormone that can cause drowsiness.

The biggest relaxation brands include Innovative Beverage Group's (IBGH.PK) Drank, Purple Stuff and Jones GABA. Another called Slow Cow is up and coming. Their names provide a marked contrast to engine-revving energy drinks such as Red Bull, Hansen Natural's (HANS.O) Monster and Dr Pepper Snapple Group's (DPS.N) Venom Energy.

Some 22.4 million cases, or 127 million liters (36 million gallons) of relaxation drinks were sold in 2010, double the amount sold in 2008. By 2014, U.S. volume sales will exceed 300 million liters (79 million gallons), Martinez said.

That is well below the 1.35 billion liters (357 million gallons) of energy drinks sold in 2009 alone, according to Zenith.

"Consumption trends of America show that Americans are always willing to try out new things -- relaxation drinks might be one of those things," said NPD Group Food & Beverage analyst Darren Seifer.

Carbonated soft drinks -- or "sodas" to most people in the United States -- far outsold the other drinks, with 9.36 billion cases moving in 2010.

Yet growing health consciousness has led many people to reach for drinks they consider healthier, like juices and waters. Many of these drinks claim to boost energy, metabolism and the ability to relax.
As a result, smaller niches are set to gain greater share over the next ten years, according to Seifer, especially as carbonated drink sales fall.

"Relaxation drinks could bring new life into beverages," said Seifer.

The main ingredients are melatonin, a hormone that is intended to induce drowsiness; L-theanine, an amino acid primarily found in green tea; GABA, a chemical that calms the mind; B vitamins, and chamomile -- a plant that often winds up as tea that people drink to help them unwind.

"It gives me a chance to relax from a hard day of work without using something that might land me in jail," said relaxation drinks consumer Marcus Brook, a Facebook fan of the Drank drink line.

For Denise Ivy, also on Facebook, the drinks helped her cope with the closing of two family businesses: "If it were not for Drank, we would have not gotten any sleep for several weeks."

Nonetheless, the Zenith report says levels of ingredients in the drinks may be too small to be effective. To move beyond the next 10 years, companies that make the drinks must prove that they do what they say they do, according to Morningstar analyst Philip Gorham.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Early Intro to Fruits, Veggies Benefit Kids

Infants fed home-cooked food are more likely to eat more fruit and vegetables by age 7 than babies fed store-bought prepared meals, according to a new study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
Researchers from De Montfort University and the universities of Bristol and Birmingham analyzed data from 7,866 mothers of children born in 1991 and 1992 who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

Children who were frequently given home-cooked fruit or vegetables aged six months were more likely to be eating higher amounts of fruit and vegetables at age of 7 than those given home-cooked meals less often. There was no positive effect on later eating habits for babies fed shop-bought meals.

The age of introduction and the frequency of exposure to home-cooked vegetables also affected intake. Babies weaned earlier, between 4 and 6 months, and exposed to fruit and vegetables regularly, had higher levels of consumption. Those weaned later, closer to the 6 months recommended by the World Health Organization, and given fruit and vegetables less frequently, were likely to eat fewer vegetables at age 7.

“The research has provided evidence that the early weaning period is an important time for the introduction of fruit and vegetables and that exposure in this period is a good indicator of later frequent consumption of fruit and vegetables," the researchers said. “It is likely that mothers who place importance on providing their child with a diet that is high in fruit and vegetables will start this process during the early weaning period."


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy Shoppers More Decisive When Purchasing

People who are happy or have a positive attitude while shopping are able to decide what they like or don't like more quickly and consistently, new research shows.

In conducting the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers changed people's moods by showing them pictures of either likable subjects (puppies) or unpleasant things (diseased feet) or asking them to recall pleasant or unpleasant memories. Then, the participants were shown pictures of common objects. After viewing these objects one at a time, they described each of them with a positive or negative adjective selected from a random list.

"Our prior research found that people respond faster to positive adjectives than negative adjectives," the study's authors wrote. "The present work finds that this difference disappeared for people in the positive affect conditions."

The researchers noted the participants in a positive frame of mind not only responded more quickly to all adjectives, but they also were more consistent in their decisions and did not tend to change their minds.

"These results have implications for how we navigate our world," the researchers wrote. "The decisions we make about liking or disliking objects around us are fundamental to which things we approach and which things we avoid."

The study concluded that to create ideal shopping conditions, retailers may want to be aware of factors that can exacerbate bad moods among shoppers, such as abrasive salespeople. They also noted their findings may help retailers understand consumer responses to new products in which buyers' first impression is essential to their success.

More information
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides more information on the brain and moods.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Health Groups Want Stricter Menu Labeling

More than 80 members of the health community filed a petition asking the government to improve proposed regulations regarding calorie labeling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments and vending machines

Groups including the American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), American Public Health Association, and the National PTA said the proposed regulations do not comply with the labeling law that was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010.

The Act requires the disclosure of calorie and other nutrition information in certain food establishments and for certain foods sold in vending machines. Additionally, on menus and menu boards, statements would be posted concerning suggested daily calorie intake and indicating that additional nutrition information is available on request. Under the proposal, the information would be displayed clearly and prominently on menus and menu boards, including menu boards in drive-through locations; and for individual foods on display.

Under the proposed rules, operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines would post calorie information for food sold in a vending machine, unless certain nutrition information is already visible on individual packages of food inside the machine. 

While the advocates voiced strong support for calorie labeling on menus at chain restaurants and on vending machines, they filed three major objections and recommended the following:
  1. Extend the definition of "restaurants and similar establishments" to include all venues that sell food, including movie theaters, casinos, bowling alleys, stadiums, hotels, airlines, and cafes and delis in superstores.
  2. Require calorie labels for alcoholic beverages on menus. Currently, the law does not require calorie information for these drinks, although they are the fifth-largest source of calories in an American adult's diet.
  3. Require vending machine operators to post calorie information directly next to the product it describes, rather than on a sign next to the machine.
"It's disappointing that the Administration would weaken the labeling proposals from what Congress required ," said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "You'd think, given the Administration's strong commitment to addressing childhood obesity, that it would try to provide nutrition information for as many foods in as many venues as Congress required
"Many of the foods sold in the venues that the Administration has proposed exempting are similar to foods that will be labeled in restaurants. In addition to restaurants, Congress required menu labeling at ‘similar retail food establishments,’ which sell the same types of prepared foods as restaurants. The proposed rule is unfair to traditional restaurants and would significantly reduce the number of venues providing calorie labeling to their customers."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mouse Study Suggests Grape Chemical May Combat Alzheimer’s

A new study on mice offers tantalizing evidence that grape seed polyphenols—a natural antioxidant—may help prevent the development or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers studied the ability of grape-derived polyphenols to prevent the generation of a specific form of beta-amyloid peptide.

This peptide is a substance in the brain long known to cause the neurotoxicity associated with Alzheimer disease.

The research is published online in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Lead researcher Giulio Maria Pasinetti, M.D., Ph.D., and collegues administered grape seed polyphenolic extracts to mice genetically determined to develop memory deficits and beta-amyloid neurotoxins similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease.

They found that the brain content of the beta-amyloid*56, a specific form of the peptide previously implicated in the promotion of Alzheimer’s disease memory loss, was substantially reduced after treatment.

Prior studies have suggested consumption of red wine, a product of grape-derived polyphenols, may protect against cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s.

This new finding, showing a selective decrease in the neurotoxin beta-amyloid*56 following grape-derived polyphenols treatment, supports those theories.

“Since naturally occurring polyphenols are also generally commercially available as nutritional supplements and have negligible adverse events even after prolonged periods of treatment, this new finding holds significant promise as a preventive method or treatment, and is being tested in translational studies in Alzheimer’s disease patients,” said  Pasinetti.

However, in order for grape-derived polyphenols to be effective, scientists need to identify a biomarker of disease that would pinpoint who is at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease
“It will be critical to identify subjects who are at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so that we can initiate treatments very early and possibly even in asymptomatic patients,” said Pasinetti.

“However, for Alzheimer’s disease patients who have already progressed into the initial stages of the disease, early intervention with this treatment might be beneficial as well. Our study implicating that these neurotoxins such as beta-amyloid*56 in the brain are targeted by grape-derived polyphenols holds significant promise.”

Source: The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personality Affects Body Weight

A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns associated with personality traits likely contribute to unhealthy weight and difficulties with weight management.

The findings suggest people with high neuroticism and low conscientiousness are likely to go through cycles of gaining and losing weight throughout their lives. Conscientious participants tended to be leaner and weight did not contribute to changes in personality across adulthood.

Researchers from the National Institute on Aging examined 50 years of data from a longitudinal study of 1,988 people to determine how personality traits are associated with weight and body mass index. They found impulsivity was the strongest predictor of who would be overweight. Participants who scored in the top 10% on impulsivity weighed an average of 22 pounds more than those in the bottom 10%.

“Individuals with this constellation of traits tend to give in to temptation and lack the discipline to stay on track amid difficulties or frustration," the researchers said. “To maintain a healthy weight, it is typically necessary to have a healthy diet and a sustained program of physical activity, both of which require commitment and restraint. Such control may be difficult for highly impulsive individuals."

“We hope that by more clearly identifying the association between personality and obesity, more tailored treatments will be developed. For example, lifestyle and exercise interventions that are done in a group setting may be more effective for extroverts than for introverts," they said.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Child obesity from an 11 year old perceptive

This article was written by Sophie Pleva my granddaughter. It is a perceptive insight from a 11 year old who probably has more first hand knowledge than us adults.

That's been a popular topic these days.  But why can't it just go away? Why can't all of the larger kids in America become skinny?  The answer is pretty simple...eating healthy and exercising.  However, if it's that simple, why don't we convince and help children to eat right and exercise at for at least an hour a day.

Well people have tried that, but it's really not that simple.  The child has to commit to exercising and being able to tame the temptation to eat junk food all the time. As my mom always says, "There has to be a balance to everything.

You can have a bit of unhealthy food if you balance it out with some healthy foods. Always remember the food pyramid." Also, the kid is influenced by the parents. If the parents are teaching the child this lifestyle, then the parents are probably going to have to learn some new habits also. Another thing to thing of is that the child has to want to get slimmer or the results won't be very promising. I think this problem won't be completely solved for a while. However, we must do all that we can to ease it a little. Here are some instances of healthy foods to have instead of unhealthy foods...for breakfast avoid unhealthy cereals like lucky charms or coco pebbles.

The only things in a sandwich to avoid are fatty substances and sugary foods.

Try to buy sodium free or fat free meats (and don't use too much of them because they can be unhealthy).

Sophie will contribute from time to time. It is great to hear from someone who is seeing this first hand.

I have not edited this blog and it comes from the heart of an 11 year old

Monday, July 18, 2011

Onion Waste Contain Healthful Compounds

Onion waste, including the dry brown skin, the outer layers, roots and stalks, are rich in compounds that are beneficial for human health, according to new research published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. The findings may lead to food waste that could be used as food ingredients.

Researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid and Cranston University said the brown skin and external layers are rich in fiber and flavonoids, while the discarded bulbs contain sulphurous compounds and fructans.

"One solution could be to use onion waste as a natural source of ingredients with high functional value, because this vegetable is rich in compounds that provide benefits for human health", the researchers said. "The results show that it would be useful to separate the different parts of onions produced during the industrial process. This would enable them to be used as a source of functional compounds to be added to other foodstuffs."

The researchers conducted lab experiments to identify the substances and possible uses of each part of the onion. According to the study, the brown skin could be used as a functional ingredient high in dietary fiber (principally the non-soluble type) and phenolic compounds, such as quercetin and other flavonoids (plant metabolites with medicinal properties). The two outer fleshy layers of the onion also contain fiber and flavonoids.
"Eating fiber reduces the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal complaints, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity", they said.

Phenolic compounds help prevent coronary disease and have anti-carcinogenic properties. The high levels of these compounds in the dry skin and the outer layers of the bulbs also give them high antioxidant capacity.

They also suggested using the internal parts and whole onions that are thrown away as a source of fructans and sulphurous compounds. Fructans are prebiotics that stimulate the growth and activity of bacteria in the colon. Sulphurous compounds reduce the accumulation of platelets, improving blood flow and cardiovascular health.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vitamin C Keeps Cataracts at Bay

Individuals who eat foods rich vitamin C may have a lower risk of developing cataracts, especially among older individuals who live in lower-income countries, according to a new study published in the journal Ophthalmology.
Researchers in India evaluated more than 5,600 Indian adults age 60 and up for cataracts. They also interviewed them about their diets and lifestyle habits, and measured their blood levels of vitamin C.

More than 73% of the study participants suffered from cataracts; however, the risk decreased 39% among those who had the highest levels of vitamin C compared to those who had the lowest.

They also found vitamin C levels were very low across all participants. More than 50%  were deficient, and the bottom 30% had vitamin C concentrations below the level of detection.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Another way coffee, tea may keep you healthy

Evidence that coffee and tea may be good for your health has been mounting in recent years, as it’s become apparent that the tasty brews may help protect against type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and other ills. 

Now it looks as though these beverages, at least when consumed hot, might help keep the "superbug" MRSA at bay.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a pathogen that caused an estimated 278,000 illnesses and 6,500 deaths in 2005, according to a study published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine. 

MRSA is particularly dangerous because, as its name suggests, it’s developed resistance to the antibiotic methicillin, one of our main lines of defense against such bacteria. About 2.5 percent of us carry MRSA in our noses all the time, the study says, often without its doing us any harm. Though some research has suggested that the nasal passages may provide MRSA an easy route to infect the body, the scientific data are conflicting on that point, the study says.

Still, finding a simple, safe, inexpensive and even pleasurable way to combat MRSA that doesn’t involve antibiotics (overuse of which poses the risk that bacteria will become resistant to them) would be a boon.

The study found that people who drank hot tea were about half as likely to have MRSA in their nasal passages than people who drank no hot tea. The same held for hot-coffee drinkers and for people who drank both beverages. There was no such association between likelihood of carrying MRSA in the nasal passages and drinking iced tea or soda. That finding, the study notes, undercuts the idea that caffeine might be the key to beverages’ anti-MRSA effects. The study notes that coffee and tea have been shown to have antimicrobial effects in other settings.

The study says further research is warranted before we enlist coffee and tea in the war against MRSA. In the meantime, I intend to continue enjoying my cups of joe with gusto — and with new appreciation for coffee’s potential power.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Omega-3s Reduce Anxiety, Inflammation

Ohio–Increasing daily consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, a main compound present in fish oil, reduces inflammation and anxiety in healthy young adults, according to a study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a study on 68 first- and second-year medical students who were given supplements that contained four or five times the amount of fish oil found in daily serving of salmon. Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills.

Psychological surveys showed students receiving the omega-3 experienced a 20% reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group. An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed a 14% reduction in the amount of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the blood serum among the students receiving the omega-3.

“Anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases," said Ron Glaser, study co-author and professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dairy Improves Metabolic Health, Cuts Diabetes Risk

Eating the recommended three servings a day of dairy improves metabolic health and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to two new studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In the first study, published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and administered by the Dairy Research Institute™, researchers conducted a clinical trial in which 40 overweight and obese adults with metabolic syndrome were randomly assigned to consume either a low dairy or adequate dairy (at least three servings per day) weight maintenance diet for 12 weeks. They found adequate dairy intake significantly improved multiple health indicators compared to low intake. Markers of both oxidative and inflammatory stress in subjects with metabolic syndrome were reduced. High blood pressure and insulin resistance also showed improvement, while fat mass and waist circumference decreased with no significant change in body weight for either group.

For the second study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Chinese researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of seven prospective studies examining the association between dairy product consumption and type 2 diabetes. They found higher dairy intake was associated with a 14% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk compared with those with the lowest intakes. Low-fat dairy consumption was associated with an 18% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk; yogurt consumption was associated with a 17% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk. They also found type 2 diabetes risk was decreased 10% with an additional daily serving of low-fat dairy.

“Although additional research is needed, evidence is growing that indicates dairy’s positive role not only in improving health and nutrition but also in reducing risk of chronic disease," said Gregory Miller, Ph.D., president of the Dairy Research Institute and executive vice president of the National Dairy Council.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Salt Risk Is Real

High sodium intake was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality, researchers reported.

On the other hand, in a large population-based study, an increase in potassium intake was linked to a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, according to Quanhe Yang, PhD, of the CDC, and colleagues.

And a high sodium-potassium ratio was linked with increased all-cause, cardiovascular, and ischemic heart disease mortality, Yang and colleagues reported in the July 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings come from an analysis of 12,267 adults who took part in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), starting in 1988.

An earlier analysis of the data had found only an insignificant association between sodium intake and cardiovascular mortality, the researchers noted.

But that analysis had a shorter follow-up than the current median of 14.8 years, as well as some methodological differences.

Participants had an interview and a physical examination, as part of which they provided a 24-hour dietary recall; a subset of participants also provided a second 24-hour dietary recall.

Over the 170,110 person-years of follow-up, 2,270 participants died, including 825 who died of cardiovascular disease and 433 who died of ischemic heart disease.

On average, men had an estimated daily sodium intake of 4,323 mg a day and a potassium intake of 3,373 mg day; women had intakes of 2,918 and 2,433 mg daily of sodium and potassium, respectively.

Regardless of sex, sodium intakes on average were higher than the recommended 1,500 mg a day and potassium intakes were lower than the recommended 4,700 mg daily.

The sodium-potassium ratios for men and women were 1.31 and 1.23, respectively, the researchers found.
In multivariate analysis, Yang and colleagues found:
  • Each 1,000-mg-a-day increase in sodium intake was associated with a 20% increase in the risk of all-cause mortality (HR 1.20, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.41).
  • Each 1,000-mg-a-day increase in potassium was associated with a 20% lower mortality risk (HR 0.80, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.94).
  • Sodium was not significantly associated with either cardiovascular or ischemic heart disease mortality.
  • However, potassium was significantly and inversely associated with the incidence of both cardiovascular and ischemic heart disease death. Comparing the highest quartile with the lowest yielded a hazard ratio for cardiovascular disease mortality of 0.39 (95% CI 0.19 to 0.80) and for ischemic heart disease mortality of 0.26 (95% CI 0.10 to 0.71).
  • For the sodium-potassium ratio, comparing the highest quartile with the lowest quartile yielded hazard ratios for all-cause, cardiovascular, and ischemic heart disease mortality of 1.46, 1.46, and 2.15, respectively. The 95% confidence intervals in each case did not cross unity.
The researchers cautioned that sodium and potassium intakes were not updated over time, so that changes in diet were not captured. Also, the intakes were estimates based on self-report, rather than on measurement of sodium excretion in urine.

Thus, the results should be interpreted carefully, they said.

Nevertheless, the study "strengthens the already compelling evidence of the relationship between sodium intake and mortality," argued Lynn Silver, MD, and Thomas Farley, MD, both of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In an accompanying editorial, they said the findings have important public health implications, including continued efforts to reduce sodium artificially added to the food supply during processing.

Such efforts "have positive impacts on absolute sodium intake and the sodium-potassium ratio and thus should reduce mortality," they argued.

Also, they argued, policies to promote plant-based sources of dietary potassium are needed, and food makers should be required to display potassium content on packaging.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Consumers Want More From Functional Drinks

When it comes to functional beverages, consumers demand products that provide prolonged and balanced energy as well as mental performance enhancement, according to results of a new market research from BENEO.

The survey was conducted in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany and examined the benefits consumers expect from energy, sports and functional water drinks. More than 1,700 people between ages 14 and 59 were polled from each country.

“Only slight differences in priorities are recorded across the beverage sectors in our consumer research, but the message remains clear – functional beverages need to deliver new forms of energy and maintain mental performance if they are to prove successful in the long-term," said Dr. Christian Niederauer, Market Research Manager, BENEO.

When consuming energy drinks, all respondents place high importance on “prolonged energy" (87% in the U.S., 84% in the U.K. and 81% Germany), with only the U.S. favoring “mental performance" more (88% and 87% respectively). “Balanced energy" is rated highly by the respondents when consuming functional waters (84% in the U.K., 81% in the U.S. and 76% of Germans). Female respondents in the study feel “lacking in energy" the most (47% in the U.S., 43% in the U.K. and 39% in Germany).

Data also shows that the non-cariogenic benefits of drinks score well in all countries. In particular, 76% of U.S. respondents favor tooth-friendly sports drinks, compared to 78% of Germans and 86% of U.K. participants prefer functional waters to deliver their tooth-friendly benefits.

Sports drinks are the most popular category in the United States, with 30% of respondents frequently consuming them each month, compared to 18% for energy drinks and 20% for functional waters.

Thirty-one percent of Germans prefer functional waters compared to energy drinks (23%) and sports drinks (24%). More than 36% of U.K. respondents consume an energy drink compared sports drinks (31%) and functional waters (16%).

“The research results in Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. confirm our belief that consumers are continuing to seek out new ways of boosting their energy and performance in the functional beverages category. We are in a good place to maximize new product development opportunities for functional beverages with our next generation carbohydrate, Palatinose™," Niederauer said.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Sad to say, Mississippi is fattest US State

Rural Mississippi is the country's fattest state for the seventh year in a row, according to an annual obesity report. Colorado, a playground for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, is the nation's thinnest.
The report by two public health groups has again delivered bad news: The nation is getting bigger and bigger every year. And looking at state-by-state statistics over the last 15 years, the groups found exponential waistline growth – Colorado, with 19.8% of adults considered obese according to 2010 data, would have been the nation's fattest state in 1995.

"When you look at it year by year, the changes are incremental," says Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, which writes the report with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation . "When you look at it by a generation you see how we got into this problem."

The study says a dozen states topped 30% obesity in 2010, most of them in the South. Alabama , West Virginia , Tennessee and Louisiana were close behind M i s s i s s i p p i . Just five years ago, in 2006, Mississippi was the only state above 30%.

Jim Marks of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said the numbers have skyrocketed over the last couple of decades because of the growth of portion sizes and the ready availability of unhealthy foods. Schools have ditched physical education programmes and school lunches have gotten less healthy. No state decreased its level of obesity, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.

There was a bit of good news in the report : Sixteen states reported increases in their obesity rates, down from 28 states that reported increases last year. Levi says those increases have been gradually slowing , most likely due to greater public awareness of health issues and government attempts to give schools and shoppers better access to healthier foods.

First lady Michelle Obama has tackled the issue with her "Let's Move" campaign, pushing for better school lunches, more access to fruits and vegetables and more physical activity. And Congress last year passed a new law requiring school lunches to be healthier. As in previous years, the study showed that racial and ethnic minorities , along with those who have less education and make less money, have the highest obesity rates.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Food Choices Based on Flavor, Price

Flavor remains the No. 1 motivator for food and beverage selections. However, U.S. consumers are evaluating food with a more-critical eye, taking into consideration its cost, where and how the food is produced, its safety and reliability, and its overall healthfulness, according to results of the 2011 Food & Health Survey from International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, Washington, D.C.

Statistics reveal flavor is the top consideration for 87% of consumers, while 79% say price impacts their decision when deciding which foods and beverages to purchase—a 6% increase from 2010 and a 15% increase since 2006. While healthfulness (66%), convenience (58%) and sustainability (52%) were factors in consumer decision-making, no other variable rose at the same rate as price over the past five years. Consumers also say lower prices would lead them to make more healthful choices when shopping for food. “The economy seems to be having a significant effect on what people look for when buying food," said Marianne Smith Edge, M.S., R.D., senior vice president of food safety and nutrition, IFIC Foundation. “While Americans will almost always choose foods that taste good first, they’re certainly looking for affordable, healthful foods as well."

Results also found 62% of Americans perceive their diet as “extremely" or “somewhat" healthful compared to 53% in 2010. Additionally, fewer Americans report making dietary changes (59% in 2011 compared to 64% in 2010).

Other key findings include:

·        53% of Americans said they were “very" or “somewhat" concerned about their sodium intake, despite a significant emphasis on sodium reduction in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, other initiatives and media attention.

·        88% believe that fortified foods and foods with added benefit have at least some impact on overall health. Four out of five Americans purchase a variety of foods and beverages, including milk, juices, eggs, yogurt and cereal, specifically because of an added benefit or fortification.

·        Americans remain confused and concerned about the types of dietary fats they consume. For example, 71% say they are trying to limit some type; 66% say they are trying to limit their consumption of saturated fats and/or trans fatty acids. Almost 20% say they are trying to limit polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

·        More than half of Americans are trying to limit their consumption of sugars, with 4 in 10 trying to limit high-fructose corn syrup. One-quarter say they are trying to limit refined carbohydrates, and 17% are trying to limit complex carbs.

·        61% of Americans believe food produced in the United States is safer than imported food because of greater regulation. Half of Americans are “extremely" or “somewhat" confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply, similar to previous years. The top U.S. food-safety concern continues to be foodborne illness.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Drinking green tea seems to cut "bad" cholesterol by about 2%

Drinking green tea seems to cut "bad" cholesterol, according to a fresh look at the medical evidence.

The finding may help explain why green tea has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, the leading killer worldwide, Xin-Xin Zheng and colleagues from Peking Union Medical College in Beijing report.

Because few people in the U.S. drink green tea, encouraging Americans to down more of the brew could have significant health benefits, the researchers write in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Still, one U.S. expert cautioned the drink shouldn't be used as medicine for high cholesterol, as the effect found in the Chinese study was small.

The new report pools the results of 14 previous trials. In each of those studies, researchers randomly divided participants into two groups: one that drank green tea or took an extract for periods ranging from three weeks to three months, and one that got an inactive preparation.

On average, those who got green tea ended up with total cholesterol levels that were 7.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) lower than in the comparison group. Their LDL, or "bad," cholesterol dropped 2.2 mg/dL -- a decrease of slightly less than two percent.

There was no difference in HDL, or "good," cholesterol between the two groups.

The cholesterol-lowering effects of green tea may be due to chemicals known as catechins, which decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, according to the researcher.

However, the cholesterol reduction with green tea is pretty small, cautioned Nathan Wong, who runs the heart disease prevention program at the University of California, Irvine.

He told Reuters Health the drink "should not be recommended in place of well-proven cholesterol-lowering medicines for people with high cholesterol."

Some researchers have raised concerns over possible side effects from heavy consumption of green tea or green tea extracts. For instance, there have been a few dozen reports of liver damage, and green tea may also interact with certain medications to reduce their effectiveness.

Still, Wong said smaller doses of the brew "could be a useful component of a heart-healthy diet," with benefits that may go beyond its effect on cholesterol.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical

Friday, July 08, 2011

About 35% of U.S. consumers are trimming and removing items from their "typical" grocery list to save money

More consumers are taking steps to compensate for rising gas prices, as nearly eighty percent (80%) of consumers say they will alter their purchase behavior, this according to recent research conducted by TNS, a world leader in market information.

Burdened by strong gas prices and a sluggish economy, consumers are looking at ways to cut their spending, starting with their monthly grocery bill. Thirty-five (35%) percent of those surveyed say they are trimming down and removing items from their "typical" grocery list to save money. "Shoppers are careful and watchful of their money and given the overall level of uncertainty about the economy, it's not a surprise to us to see consumers reign in their spending on groceries," said Dan Boehm, Senior Vice President at TNS.

But, it's not simply a matter of removing items from a given grocery list. Consumers are also paying close attention to what they're buying. According to the survey, nearly one-third of consumers (30%) are more likely to purchase private label brands than national brands. "For their money, consumers are increasingly seeing an equal or greater value of purchasing more private-label brands," said Boehm. "This is a great opportunity for marketers to communicate why their brands are superior.  They should continue to make being visible in the store a priority."

As they pay more at the pump and consolidate their shopping lists, consumers are making fewer trips and often choosing to shop at discount stores (32%) over traditional retail outlets. "Even as gas prices have receded a little from their peak, our research shows consumers are adjusting their grocery shopping patterns to manage a more uncertain conservative purchase environment," said Boehm "More than ever, grocery retailers need to clearly articulate the value proposition they give their shoppers as shoppers make fewer trips per week, buy less and look for discounts."

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Will lowering salt intake extend your life?

Americans have been told to slash their salt intake by about half, but whether that will actually protect our hearts and extend our lifespans remains a matter of fierce debate among experts. The latest finding, a Cochrane review analysis of seven studies involving 6,250 participants, indicates that reducing sodium in the diet does lead to lower blood pressure but that there’s no proof this translates into fewer heart attacks or deaths from heart disease.

One study of heart failure patients found that those who were randomly assigned to lower their sodium intake to 1,840 milligrams per day experienced more deaths and hospitalizations than those who told to aim for no more than 2,760 mg per day.

But the researchers, who published the finding in the American Journal of Hypertension, emphasize that the reason heart benefits have not been demonstrated may be the design of the studies rather than faulty thinking about the merits of salt reduction. For example, the studies -- each involving anywhere from 42 to 1,213 volunteers -- may have been too small to measure a statistically significant difference in strokes, heart attacks, or deaths in those who lowered their sodium intake compared with those who didn’t. Or perhaps the studies didn’t last long enough to see real benefits.

“We did see a trend towards a reduction in mortality in the shorter term, two to three years,” points out study author Rod Taylor, a professor of health services research at the Peninsula Medical School University of Exeter in an e-mail, though that trend may have been due to chance. Still, Taylor says that the lack of longer-term follow-up data may reflect how tough it is to truly reduce sodium for a decade or more.

The 2010 Dietary Recommendations for Americans say those with heart failure, high blood pressure, and kidney problems -- as well as anyone over 51 and all African Americans -- should get no more than 1,500 mg per day and that the rest of us should aim for no more than 2,300 mg. Yet in most of the studies in the Cochrane review, those with high blood pressure or heart failure aimed to get no more than 1,800 milligrams a day, which is above the lower recommendation.

Thus, results may have been more striking if researchers had been able to lower sodium intakes to currently recommended levels. What’s clear, at least to Taylor, is that greater efforts still need to be implemented to get Americans to eat less salt -- beyond simply advising folks to put down the salt shaker or eat low-sodium packaged goods.

“We need to continue to encourage the food industry to reduce hidden salt,” he says, and to make “better use of food labelling.

But he’d also like to see better designed and larger studies to see whether these strategies really work, not just to reduce blood pressure but all the life-threatening complications that come with it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fatty Foods Trigger Snacking

Eating fatty foods like potato chips and french fries triggers the body to produce natural marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids that cause a person to eat more, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at UC Irvine discovered when rats tasted something fatty, cells in their upper gut started producing endocannabinoids. The process starts on the tongue, where fats in food generate a signal that travels first to the brain and then through a nerve bundle called the vagus to the intestines. There, the signal stimulates the production of endocannabinoids, which initiates a surge in cell signaling that prompts the wanton intake of fatty foods, probably by initiating the release of digestive chemicals linked to hunger and satiety that compel us to eat more.

"This is the first demonstration that endocannabinoid signaling in the gut plays an important role in regulating fat intake," the researchers said. The findings suggest it might be possible to curb this tendency by obstructing endocannabinoid activity by using drugs that "clog" cannabinoid receptors.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sedentary Lifestyle as Harmful as Smoking, Studies Reveal

A sedentary lifestyle makes an individual more susceptible to heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and premature death, several studies have revealed.

According to Naples Daily News, statistics show that 40 million to 50 million Americans have sedentary jobs -- jobs which don’t allow them to get the recommended 30 minutes of moderately intensive physical activity five days a week.

Research also indicates that 60 percent of Americans don’t exercise enough and 25 percent are not active at all, Naples Daily News reports.

While in some cases it’s not possible to avoid situations where prolonged sitting is necessary, Matt Marion, deputy editor of Men's Health, told Reuters, “In certain cities, there is a more laid-back lifestyle.”

According to Marion, Lexington, Ky. is at the top of the list when it comes to a sedentary lifestyle. "When we crunched the numbers, Lexington finished at the bottom," Marion told Reuters.

A sedentary lifestyle was mostly found in Southern cities such as Birmingham, Ala., Laredo, Texas, Nashville, Little Rock, Tulsa, Charleston, W.Va. and Oklahoma City.

“There is not that same drive you'll see in certain parts of the northeast or California, or the northwest where people get up every morning and run or hit the gym," Marion continued.

"With the most active cities, a common theme that runs through is there is a bit more body consciousness, a more youthful and body conscious sensibility in these cities. And I think that equates to people making it a priority, no matter how busy, to get a run in or go for a walk."

Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. were listed as the most physically active cities.