Saturday, August 27, 2011

Omega-3s Reduce Brain Damage After Stroke

Consuming a daily diet rich in foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the severity of brain damage by 25% after a stroke, according to a new study published in the journal Stroke.

Researchers at the Université Laval researchers found the effects of stroke were less severe in mice that had been fed a diet rich in DHA for three months compared to mice fed a control diet. Mice that consumed the DHA-rich diet had a reduction in the concentrations of molecules that stimulate tissue inflammation and, conversely, a larger quantity of molecules that prevent the activation of cell death.

"This is the first convincing demonstration of the powerful anti-inflammatory effect of DHA in the brain," the researchers said. "The consumption of omega-3s creates an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective environment in the brain that mitigates damage following a stroke. It prevents an acute inflammatory response that, if not controlled, is harmful to brain tissue."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good news, coffee lovers: Your buzz is getting cheaper

Like a caffeine junkie on a morning buzz, the price of coffee futures began spiraling higher in late 2010 -- and coffee brands passed those higher costs on to consumers.

The buzz has worn off, at least briefly. Coffee futures had dropped some 1.7% over the past six months, and now java lovers are enjoying price cuts on some popular brands.

In March, Kraft hiked prices of select coffee products by 70 cents per pound on ground coffee and 6.25 cents per ounce of instant coffee. Kraft had already raised those prices in December 2010.

A Kraft spokeswoman attributed those increases to the soaring cost of green coffee, which is used to make the different blends of coffee available at cafes or grocery stores. Poor growing conditions in South America and other coffee-growing countries had led to fears of an imminent supply crunch.

But those conditions have turned around, according to the International Coffee Organization. The group cites a Wall Street Journal report that said big coffee producers -- Colombia, Mexico, Peru and all Central American countries except for El Salvador -- are having their largest harvest of coffee beans in three years.

The International Coffee Organization also noted that 8.76 million bags of coffee were exported globally in June 2011, compared with 8.02 million in June 2010.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cholesterol-Lowering Diet Trumps Low-Fat Diet

Individuals with high cholesterol who consume a diet high in plant sterols, soy protein, fiber and nuts reduced their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels by 13% over the course of six months compared to individuals who followed a low-saturated fat diet, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto conducted a multi-center trial to compare the two diets at 6-month follow-up. The control diet emphasized high fiber and whole grains, but lacked components of the portfolio diet that emphasized dietary incorporation of plant sterols, soy protein, viscous fibers and nuts.

The study included 351 participants with hyperlipidemia from four participating academic centers across Canada randomized between June 2007 and February 2009 to one of three treatments. Participants received dietary advice for six months on either the low-saturated fat therapeutic diet (control) or a routine or intensive dietary portfolio, for which counseling was delivered at different frequencies. Routine dietary portfolio involved two clinic visits over six months and intensive dietary portfolio involved seven clinic visits over six months.

They found participants on the cholesterol lowering diet had a 13% reduction in their LDL-C levels, while those who ate a diet low in saturated fats experienced a 3% decrease.

“This study indicated the potential value of using recognized cholesterol-lowering foods in combination. We believe this approach has clinical application. A meaningful 13% LDL-C reduction can be obtained after only two clinic visits of approximately 60- and 40-minute sessions," they said. “The limited 3% LDL-C reduction observed in the conventional diet is likely to reflect the adequacy of the baseline diet and therefore suggests that larger absolute reductions in LDL-C may be observed when the dietary portfolio is prescribed to patients with diets more reflective of the general population."


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Almonds Help Maintain Healthy Weight

A diet rich in almonds may help individuals maintain a healthy weight, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health studied the impact of almond consumption on cholesterol levels for 81 men and women for 24 weeks; however, an unexpected finding was that when free-living individuals added almonds to their diets (without being asked to compensate calorically by cutting other foods), they did not gain weight.

All participants followed their usual diet for six months, after which they followed their usual diet supplemented with almonds for six months. For the almond supplement intervention, participants were provided with their choice of dry roasted or raw almonds in the amount of 15% of their mean habitual energy intake. Participants were free-living and compliance with the almond supplement was 90% according to reported intake. On average, daily almond supplementation was 52 g (or nearly 2 ounces).

"It is important for Americans to look at their whole diet over time in relation to weight management, not just one meal," said Karen Lapsley, Chief Science Officer for the Almond Board of California. "The healthy choices made at each occasion, on each day impact a person's weight over time. For this reason, it is important that more long-term research be conducted to examine what those choices should be."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Milk Rehydrates Kids Better Than Water

Many children reach for a sports drink or water to rehydrate after vigorous exercise; however, drinking an ice-cold glass of milk has been found to be more effective beverage choice to counter dehydration, according to new research conducted at McMaster University.

For the study, the team asked a group of children between the ages of 8 and 10 to exercise in a climate chamber. They were then given a drink before researchers measured their level of hydration. They found milk helped replace sodium lost in sweat, helped the body retain fluid better, and provided protein needed that is critical for muscle development and growth.

“Children become dehydrated during exercise, and it's important they get enough fluids, particularly before going into a second round of a game. Milk is better than either a sports drink or water because it is a source of high-quality protein, carbohydrates, calcium and electrolytes," said Brian Timmons, research director of the Child Health and Exercise Medicine Program and principal investigator of the study.

The researchers noted active children and adults usually don't drink enough to stay hydrated during exercise, so they often have a "hydration disadvantage" when they start their next period of exercise. A person measuring 1% dehydration can experience a 15% decrease in performance, with an increased heart rate, core temperature and less stamina. More significant dehydration comes with an increased risk of heat-related illness such as heat stroke.


Monday, August 22, 2011

A diet rich in potassium may reduce the risk of stroke

People who eat plenty of high-potassium fruits, vegetables and dairy products may be less likely to suffer a stroke than those who get little of the mineral, a new study suggests.

The findings, reported in the journal Stroke, come from an analysis of 10 international studies involving more than 200,000 middle-aged and older adults.

Researchers found that across those studies, stroke risk dipped as people's reported potassium intake went up. For each 1,000-milligram (mg) increase in daily potassium, the odds of suffering a stroke in the next five to 14 years declined by 11 percent.

That would translate into a modest benefit for any one person, the researchers say. And the findings do not prove that potassium, itself, is what produces the positive effect.

But they strengthen existing evidence that it might, said lead researcher Susanna C. Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Since high-potassium foods are generally healthy ones -- including beans, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy -- the findings offer one more reason for people to eat more of them, Larsson told Reuters Health in an email.

Potassium is an electrolyte needed for maintaining the body's fluid balance. It's also involved in nerve and muscle control and blood pressure regulation. A number of studies have suggested that diets high in potassium help maintain a healthy blood pressure and possibly protect against heart disease and stroke.

Of the nearly 270,000 participants Larsson and her colleagues included in their study, 8,695 (about one in 30) suffered a stroke. But the drop in stroke risk seen with every 1,000 mg increase in daily potassium was with factors like age, exercise habits and smoking taken into account.

Potassium was specifically linked to reduced risk of ischemic strokes -- those caused by a blockage in an artery feeding the brain. They account for about 80 percent of strokes.

The mineral was not, however, linked to a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when there is bleeding in the brain.

It's not clear why that is, according to Larsson, who noted that only a few of the studies actually broke strokes down into subtypes.

If potassium protects against ischemic stroke only, that would suggest there are reasons other than better blood pressure control, the researchers say.
The findings are in line with a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that followed more than 12,000 adults for 15 years.

Researchers found that people who downed a lot of sodium but little potassium were more likely to die from any cause during the study period.

Potassium helps balance the effects of sodium, keeping blood pressure down and helping the body excrete excess fluids. So the combination of too much sodium and too little potassium may be especially harmful.

But experts say that imbalance is common in the U.S. diet, with about 90 percent of Americans getting more sodium than is recommended -- often from processed foods.

According to the CDC, the average adult should get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Certain people -- adults older than 50, African Americans, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease -- should limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day.

As for potassium, the CDC advises adults to get 4,700 mg a day from food.

There are some people, though, who need to be careful about potassium. They include people with kidney disease, which can hinder the body's ability to clear potassium, and those on certain blood pressure drugs.

Too much potassium in the blood can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia, which may cause dangerous heart-rhythm disturbances.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

More Young Adults Drinking Coffee

Coffee consumption among younger U.S. consumers in 2011 has rebounded to 2008-09 levels, with 41 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds enjoying a daily cup of joe compared to 31 percent in 2010, according to findings from the 2011 NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends study.

Commissioned by the National Coffee Association, the study found the coffee category remains strong, narrowing the already slim lead of soft drinks.

“2011 NCDT data show that coffee’s relevancy remains strong amid a proliferation of beverage options," said Robert F. Nelson, NCA president & CEO. “A rebound in consumption among younger drinkers demonstrates strong category loyalty, which suggests a solid customer base for future growth."

Survey results revealed 54 percent of 25- to 39-year-olds drink coffee daily, up from 44 percent in 2010 53 percent in 2009. Gourmet coffee continues to be a significant portion of total coffee consumption, indicating that consumers want to maintain coffee quality even as the economy is uncertain. Nearly 90 percent of coffee consumers said they drank coffee at home in the past day as compared with 24 percent who said they drank coffee away from home in the past day.

Penetration for single-cup systems is growing at an average of 1 percent per year, and 35 percent of those with a pod system acquired it in the past six months. Consumers who buy the pod system are more likely to use it to replace their current brewer. Perception of the single-cup systems also is improving, with 45 percent of consumers rating them as excellent in 2011 compared to only 26 percent in 2007.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vitamin C Slows Progression of Alzheimer’s

Vitamin C can dissolve the toxic protein aggregates that build up in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease and attack the brain’s memory center, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The findings may lead to new opportunities for research into Alzheimer’s and the possibilities offered by vitamin C.

Researchers at Lund University treated brain tissue from mice suffering from Alzheimer’s disease with vitamin C, and discovered toxic protein aggregates were dissolved. The results show a previously unknown model for how vitamin C affects the amyloid plaques. They also found vitamin C can be absorbed in larger quantities in the form of dehydroascorbic acid from juice that has been kept overnight in a refrigerator.

 “The notion that vitamin C can have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease is controversial, but our results open up new opportunities for research into Alzheimer’s and the possibilities offered by vitamin C," they said.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Going Gluten-Free

The gluten-free food sector is gaining mainstream momentum and is expected to hit $6 billion by 2015, as more consumers embrace the gluten-free lifestyle out of medical necessity or thinking it is somehow healthier.

According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), Oak Brook, IL, celiac disease affects approximately 1 in 133 people, or approximately 2 million people in the United States, which means the sector is poised for explosive growth based on increased diagnosis of digestive-health conditions, growing interest for wheat-free and gluten-free diets, improved labeling regulations, and tastier innovations in the category.

According to “Gluten–Free Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd Edition," a report from Packaged Facts, Rockville, MD, the U.S. gluten-free food market reached an estimated $2.6 billion in retail sales in 2010, and the market experienced a CAGR of 30% from 2006 to 2010.

Further, gluten-free foods represent the fastest-growing segment of the global food-allergy and food-intolerance products market, which is projected to exceed $26 billion by 2017, according to the recent “Food Allergy and Intolerance Products: A Global Strategic Business Report" from market researcher, London.

While gluten-free foods have been targeted to celiac suffers who must avoid gluten to lead a healthy life, the products also are embraced by people who think a gluten-free diet can help treat disorders such as joint pain, osteoporosis or osteopenia, anemia, leg numbness, muscle cramps, aphthous ulcers, seizures, infertility or behavioral changes that may or may not be associated with celiac disease.

In fact, the consumer base for gluten-free diets includes a greater proportion of non-celiacs, due to growing concerns related to symptoms associated with celiac disease and incorrect self-diagnosis among non-celiac sufferers. The sector also is being driven by consumer belief that gluten-free can address non-celiac-related disorders, such as autism, and celebrities endorsing gluten-free and wheat-free diets as a weight-loss regimen.

The rapid expansion of gluten-free products has made it easier for consumers to try out this formerly niche dietary regime. The market witnessed an avalanche of new product launches in 2010, with savory snacks, energy bars, baking ingredients and mixes, chocolates, and cookies topping the list of gluten-free introductions. Consumers now have a variety of options to choose from in the baked-goods category, including baking mixes, breads, bagels, muffins, entrées, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pastas, pizza, cereals, snack foods and soups. In addition, a variety of gluten-free grains, starches, flours and seeds are available to home cooks and industry alike.

As more gluten-free products hit the shelves, FDA has reopened the comment period for its proposed rule on regulations related to “gluten-free" labeling of products. The agency also has made available a safety assessment of exposure of gluten to people with celiac disease. The proposed rule dictates that foods carrying the claim cannot exceed 20 ppm gluten. This number was tapped because it was deemed that testing methods could not reliably determine amounts below 20 ppm. FDA also notes that this is the level that has been agreed upon for foods carrying a “gluten-free" claim in other countries.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coffee, Tea Consumption Up

Coffee and tea are top beverage choices for the majority of U.S. adult consumers. In fact, 60% of consumers reported drinking regular hot coffee or tea within the last month, second only to the 62% who had a non-diet carbonated soft drink during the same time period, according to new market data from Technomic.

According to the “Market Intelligence Report: Coffee and Tea," retailers also have seen increases in coffee and tea sales, especially single-cup coffee varieties. Foodservice operators are responding to coffee and tea's popularity by keeping the classic drinks in their basic forms on menus and putting new and interesting spins on them, from toppings and add-ins to frozen-blended treats to adult-beverage choices.

Survey results also found 14% of consumers are purchasing more regular hot coffee today than they did two years ago, and 10% say the same about iced tea by the cup or glass. When it comes to tea, 73% of consumers prefer antioxidant-rich green tea because of its healthful benefits, making it the most appealing flavor for hot or iced tea.

Grocery, drug and mass-merchandise stores witnessed a 15.9% increase in coffee sales from 2007-2010. Although each type of retailer saw a gain, mass merchandisers achieved the biggest increase (53.1%) to coffee sales of $318 million in 2010 from $208 million in 2007.

With the exception of frozen/blended coffee drinks, all other types of coffee and tea drinks have steadily increased in price since 2008. Offered for an average price of $2.25 in 2008, regular coffee now sells for an average of $2.36; tea/iced tea products increased from an average of $2.40 in 2008 to $2.57 in 2010.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Study Says Eating Red Meat Ups Diabetes Risk

Individuals who consume a diet high in red meat have a 19% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while people who eat high amounts of processed red meat have a 51% increased risk, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study also found substituting one serving of low-fat dairy, nuts or whole grains significantly lowered the risk.

The study found substituting red meat with nuts was associated with a 21% lower risk of type 2 diabetes; substituting low-fat dairy reduced the risk by 17%; and substituting whole grains lowered the risk by 23%.

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) analyzed data from 37,083 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2006); 79,570 women in the Nurses' Health Study I (1980-2008); and 87,504 women in the Nurses' Health Study II (1991-2005). They also conducted an updated literature review analysis including data from the new study and previous studies that included 442,101 participants, 28,228 of whom developed type 2 diabetes during the study.

After adjusting for age, body mass index (BMI), and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, they found a daily 100-gram serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 19% increased risk of type 2 diabetes; one daily serving of 50 grams of processed meats was associated with a 51% increased risk.

The researchers found that, for an individual who eats one daily serving of red meat, substituting one serving of nuts per day was associated with a 21% lower risk of type 2 diabetes; substituting low-fat dairy, a 17% lower risk; and substituting whole grains, a 23% lower risk.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chocolate Scoops Vanilla as Favorite Ice Cream Flavor

Americans love their ice cream, and 28% will choose chocolate over any other flavor in the freezer, according to results of a new Harris Interactive® poll. Vanilla tied for second place at 26%, while cookie dough/cookies and cream came in third at 22%.

Results also found flavor preference is linked to demographics. For example, 31% of Easterners and 32% of Midwesterners say chocolate is their favorite, while 30% of Southerners prefer vanilla. Westerners have a close race for top flavor with 22% choosing vanilla, 21% chocolate and 19% cookie dough/cookies and cream and rocky road.

Did you know ice cream is a bipartisan treat? One-third of Republicans say chocolate is their favorite flavor (32%) followed by vanilla (28%) and cookie dough/cookies and cream (24%). One-quarter of Democrats say vanilla is their favorite (26%) followed by chocolate (23%) and butter pecan/Swiss almond (22%). Thirty percent of Independents choose chocolate, followed by cookie dough/cookies and cream (24%) and vanilla (22%).

Harris Interactive surveyed 2,183 U.S. adults online between July 11-18, 2011. The poll also included questions regarding generational preferences, how individuals preferred to eat ice cream and topping choices.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Making Salt Reduction a Global Priority

Lowering dietary salt intake by just 3 grams per day may significantly boost heart and cardiovascular health by preventing up to 66,000 strokes, 99,000 heart attacks and 120,000 cases of coronary heart disease annually in the United States, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.
The study findings were presented ahead of a United Nations’ meeting on non-communicable diseases by lead researcher Prof. Francesco Cappuccio from Warwick Medical School who called on the UN and food manufacturers make salt-reduction efforts a global priority. The researchers believe changing personal behavior and choice alone is not an effective or realistic option when the majority of salt is added to food before it is sold and the commercial addition of salt to food is becoming a global trend.

They suggested a four-pronged approach to form the base for a comprehensive policy:
  1. Communication—establishing and evaluating public awareness campaigns.
  2. Reformulation—setting progressive salt targets for reformulating existing processed food and engaging with the food industry in setting standards for new foods.
  3. Monitoring—surveying population salt intake, progress of reformulation, and effectiveness of communication.
  4. Regulation—engagement with industry, including regulation, to create a level playing field so as not to disadvantage more enlightened and progressive companies.
“The huge responsibility of food manufacturers in contributing to the epidemic of cardiovascular disease must be acknowledged," Cappuccio said. “Prevention implemented through food reformulation and effective voluntary, market intervention or mandatory action throughout the industry is what needs to happen with society, governments, academia and health organizations all needing to play a part."


Warwick Medical School: Less salt, less strokes says new research from Warwic

Sunday, August 14, 2011

High-Fiber Diet Might Lower Risk for Colon Polyps

People who regularly eat legumes, brown rice, cooked green vegetables and dried fruit have a reduced risk of colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer.

That's the finding of California researchers who analyzed data from 2,818 people who were followed for 26 years. During that time, 441 cases of rectal/colon polyps were detected among the participants.

The risk of polyps was 40 percent lower among those who ate brown rice at least once a week and 33 percent lower among those who eat legumes (a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils) at least three times a week, the Loma Linda University team found.

Eating dried fruit three times or more a week, compared to less than once a week, was associated with a 26 percent reduced risk. Eating cooked green vegetables once a day or more, vs. less than five times a week, was associated with a 24 percent reduced risk, according to the report published online in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.

"Eating these foods is likely to decrease your risk for colon polyps, which would in turn decrease your risk for colorectal cancer," study author Dr. Yessenia Tantamango, a postdoctoral research fellow, said in a university news release.

"While a majority of past research has focused on broad food groups, such as fruits and vegetables, in relation to colon cancer, our study focused on specific foods, as well as more narrowed food groups, in relation to colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer. Our study confirms the results of past studies that have been done in different populations analyzing risks for colon cancer," Tantamango said.

"Legumes, dried fruits and brown rice all have a high content of fiber, known to dilute potential carcinogens," Tantamango noted.

Additionally, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain detoxifying compounds, which would improve their protective function."

More information
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about colon polyps.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Forty-three Percent of Women Prefer to Buy Brands That Make a Donation With Every Purchase

When choosing between two brands that benefit a cause, 43 percent of women say they choose the brand that donates with every purchase over a brand that donates a set amount. This was revealed in The Checkout, the shopper experience study currently underway by The Integer Group ® and M/A/R/C ® Research.

"This may be because shoppers aim for instant gratification and a feeling of doing good, which they receive from making each purchase. This is also good for the brand since it encourages repeat purchase and loyalty," said Randy Wahl, EVP, M/A/R/C Research.

Women seem to be motivated by causes that hold an emotional and personal relevance, according to study results. Of several different causes, women report finding disease prevention the most compelling, with social change, faith based, animal welfare and child welfare causes all trailing behind.

On the other hand, many cognitive researchers believe that rational thought trumps empathy in men's brains. This seems to point to a more pragmatic process of why men lean more toward social causes where involvement is typically a monetary fix versus an emotional engagement.

"Brands need to appeal to men's rationale side, delivering a more rational benefit for their participation in a cause program, which can lead to higher engagement. Men are more likely to support organizations like The Salvation Army or Goodwill, with women saying they support disease prevention causes such as breast cancer awareness," said Craig Elston, SVP, The Integer Group. "If you're targeting women, focus on the messaging as a means to evoke emotion."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Boston’s Ban on Sugary Drinks Yields Results

Just two years after high schools in Boston banned the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages, including soft dinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks on campus, area students are drinking significantly fewer sugary drinks, according to a new study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. The findings suggest such policy changes may be promising strategies to reduce unnecessary caloric intake among teenagers.

The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, tracked ninth- through 12th-graders for two years after the ban began in the 2004-05 school year. They found sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, inside and outside school, fell from an average of 1.71 servings per day in 2004 to 1.38 servings in 2006—roughly 45 calories per day. A serving was defined as one can or glass, with a 20-ounce bottle counting as two servings.  By comparison, nationwide there was no statistically significant decrease in teens’ sugary-drink consumption between the 2003-04 and 2005-06 school years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

98 percent of preschoolers' lunches kept at unsafe temperatures

School starts in just a few weeks, and parents should be sure they keep their children’s packed lunches safe.
A study by a University of Texas in Austin doctoral student found fewer than 2 percent of the meats, dairy and vegetable products in more than 700 preschoolers’ lunches were cool enough to be safe.

"It was a shock when we discovered that more than 90 percent of the perishable items in these packed lunches were kept at unsafe temperatures," Fawaz Almansour told Reuters.

The study tested 705 lunches packed by parents for children at full-time daycare centers, and found 88.2 percent of lunches were at ambient temperatures.

Multiple ice packs did not keep lunches safe, although 39 percent of the lunches had no ice packs. Only 12 percent were kept in refrigerators, the University of Texas in Austin reported.

Perishable foods kept at 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours were no longer safe to eat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brain Protein Regulates Appetite, Body Fat

A new study found that nesfatin-1, a protein abundant in the brain, stimulates insulin secretion. This effect, according to York University researchers, may hold the key to keeping appetite and blood sugar in check.

Suraj Unniappan, associate professor in York's Department of Biology, Faculty of Science & Engineering, found that rats administered with nesfatin-1 ate less, used more stored fat and became more active. In addition, the protein stimulated insulin secretion from the pancreatic beta cells of both rats and mice.

"[The rats] actually ate more frequently but in lesser amounts," says Unniappan. "In addition, they were more active and we found that their fatty-acid oxidization was increased. In other words, the energy reserve being preferably used during nesfatin-1 treatment was fat. This suggests more fat loss, which could eventually result in body weight loss"

The study findings indicate that the protein stimulates insulin secretion from the pancreas, which contains clusters of cells called the islets of Langerhans. These islets produce several important hormones, including the primary glucose-lowering hormone, insulin.

Previously, Unniappan's team studied mice and found similar results; not only was insulin secretion stimulated, but nesfatin-1 was observed to be lowered in the pancreatic islets of mice with Type 1 diabetes and increased in those with Type 2 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, the body no longer produces insulin due to the destruction of cells within the pancreas. In Type 2 diabetes, the body becomes insulin resistant, and obesity often results.

Unniappan's research, conducted in the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroendocrinology, focuses on identifying and examining the biological effects of gut and brain-derived appetite-regulatory and metabolic hormones in fish and mammals.

"We call this the 'gut-brain axis,'" says Unniappan. "While the brain is involved in many factors that regulate our energy balance, the gut is also responsible for many neural and endocrine signals responsible for regulating hunger, satiety and blood sugar levels. A major question we're trying to address is how these peptides act and interact with other peptides in the endocrine network – which is so complex – in order to maintain steady blood glucose levels and body weight," he says.

A better understanding of this gut-brain axis could contribute to developing potential pharmacological interventions for diabetes and obesity.

"New hormone-based treatments that would suppress body weight and blood sugar would be very desirable. However, we are far from developing nesfatin-1 as a candidate molecule. Our current research focuses on further exploring the therapeutic potential of nesfatin-1 in metabolic diseases with debilitating complications," Unniappan says.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Groupon subscribers jump to 115 million

Groupon Inc subscribers have more than doubled to 115 million so far this year, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Groupon had 50.58 million subscribers at the end of 2010. That jumped 64 percent to 83.1 million at the end of the first quarter.

Since then, the number of subscribers has climbed to 115 million, the person said. That means subscribers are up about 38 percent since March 31.

Most of the recent growth has not come through acquisitions because Groupon has not bought many companies lately, the person added.

Groupon filed plans in June for a $750 million initial public offering that may value the company at as much as $20 billion. However, Groupon is facing more competition from big rivals including Google Inc and Facebook

"There are few growth opportunities on the scale of companies like Groupon," said Lou Kerner, vice president in equity research at Wedbush Securities covering social media and e-commerce. "That's really what a lot of investors are seeking today."

Monday, August 08, 2011

Honduras passed Guatemala as the top coffee producer in Central America

This year, Honduras passed Guatemala as the top coffee producer in Central America, the region that produces the bulk of the world's washed Arabica coffee beans, the most expensive and sought-after coffee beans, which are used in gourmet blends. Honduras's harvest this season was 3.8 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee, compared with 3.5 million bags for Guatemala.

While Colombia remains the world's top single producer of washed Arabica, the rise of Honduras provides the global coffee market with another top player, and a boost for the  nation's economy.

For Honduras, a poor nation known more for coups than coffee, topping its neighbour is sweet vindication. This has been because for years, many Honduran coffee growers smuggled their beans to Guatemala, where they would fetch a higher price due to Guatemala's reputation for quality coffee.

It has been one of the dirty secrets to the coffee trade - some of Guatemala's beans were actually grown in Honduras. As Guatemala's coffee commanded ever higher prices, it only encouraged more smuggling, creating a vicious cycle for Honduras's coffee industry.

Honduras had always had bigger harvests, however it never showed because of how much coffee was being smuggled.

Things started to change a few years ago, when a government tax on coffee exports—which initially led to more smuggling—helped fund technical assistance to growers that boosted production and quality, helping local prices rise and make smuggling less attractive.

Coffee traders, however, are keeping an eye on Honduras.

Honduras was like a sleeping giant – now the giant is awake.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Americans are much more aware of the health benefits of specific "functional" foods

Maintaining health and reducing risk of disease is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds as they age. New research from the International Food Information Council shows that Americans cite cardiovascular disease (46 percent), weight (32 percent) and cancer (22 percent) as their top health concerns. Along with these issues that can affect us as we age, almost one in five Americans (19 percent) cite healthy aging as a top health concern.

The 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey, also shows that people often look to food for its health benefits.  Ninety percent of Americans can name at least one food and its associated benefit and 76 percent say that functional foods, or foods that can promote health, can have a meaningful impact on their health when they consume them.

The foods and food components Americans look to the most to help improve or maintain their health are:

1)     Fruits and Vegetables
2)     Fish/Fish Oil
3)     Dairy
4)     Whole Grains
5)     Herbs & Spices

“Americans have made it clear that they want to take advantage of the health benefits of food,” according to Elizabeth Rahavi, RD, Associate Director of Health and Wellness at the International Food Information Council.  “But it’s not just fruits and vegetables that can have a positive impact on our health. There are lots of healthful components like antioxidants, fiber, whole grains, and soy found in a variety of foods and beverages that can make a difference in our health as we age.”

The top components with benefits mentioned in the survey include calcium (92 percent) and vitamin D (90 Percent) for bone health, protein (87 percent) and B vitamins (86 percent) for overall well-being, omega-3 fatty acids (85%) for heart health, and probiotics (81 percent) and fiber (79 percent) for digestive health.

Still, Americans struggle to incorporate these key food components into their diets citing the top barriers as expense, taste and availability.

“Consuming foods for health benefits doesn’t have to be expensive,” according to Rahavi. “Just taking simple steps such as choosing a whole grain cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt for breakfast each day can go a long way to improve health over time.”

The 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey randomly sampled 1000 U.S. adults and is the seventh version of the Survey dating back to 1998.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Eating healthy food costs more money in US: study

Eating healthier food can add almost 10 percent to the average American's food bill -- and that is just to boost a single nutrient like potassium.

Researchers from the University of Washington looked at the economic impact of following new U.S. dietary guidelines, which recommend eating more potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium, and avoiding saturated fat and added sugar.

The diet recommendations try to fight rising rates of obesity in the United States, but the study findings underline some of the obstacles to adopting new habits.

In an article in Health Affairs published on Thursday, the researchers reported that eating more potassium, the most expensive of the four nutrients, can add $380 to the average person's yearly food costs.

Americans spend about $4,000 on food each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At the same time, getting more calories from saturated fat and sugar reduces overall food costs, the study said.
Pablo Monsivais, acting assistant professor at the University of Washington and one of the study's authors, said the government should consider the economic impact of food guidelines.

"We know that dietary guidelines aren't making a bit of difference in what we eat and our health overall," he said. "And I think one missing piece is that they have to be economically relevant."

"They emphasize certain foods without much regard for which ones are more affordable."

More than one-third of children and two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

In the study, the authors collected questionnaires on the typical eating habits of 1,123 people in King County, Washington, and calculated how much each diet cost based on retail food prices in three local supermarkets.

However, they did not factor in costs for food bought outside grocery stores, such as fast food -- which would likely increase the food cost for each person.

The study also found that it is more expensive to eat more dietary fiber and vitamin D, and that people with higher average incomes were more likely to eat healthier food.

Monsivais said when talking about eating more fruits and vegetables, the government should also mention the most cut-price options. For examples, bananas and potatoes are the cheapest sources of potassium.

"(Guidelines) should tell people where you get the most bang for your buck," he said. "By putting the economic dimension on dietary guidelines, it would be very helpful for those on the economic margins, but also for everyone ... trying to save money in the current economy."

SOURCE: Health Affairs, online August 4, 2011.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Even a little exercise spells big help for heart

A little exercise can do a lot for your heart. That's the message from Harvard researchers after a new study showed that as little as 2.5 hours of exercise a week can dramatically cut heart disease risk.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service recommends 2 hours 30 minutes of exercise per week. Researchers looked at 33 studies on exercise's benefits to see if working out for that amount of time reduced heart disease risk for the study published in the August 1 issue of Circulation. Their analysis found that 2 hours 30 minutes of exercise cut heart disease risk by 14 percent. Even people who exercised less than the recommended time allotment decreased their risk more than those that did nothing.

"The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines - even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better," Dr. Jacob Sattelmair, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a written statement.

How much better? Exercising for 300 minutes a week decreased heart disease risk by 20 percent, 750 minutes cut the risk by 25 percent. The protective benefit was found to be even greater for women.

The authors say this is the first study to quantify how much exercise is needed to cut heart disease risk.
"The biggest bang for your buck is at the lower ends of physical activity," Sattelmair told HealthDay. "If you went from none to 2.5 hours a week, the relative benefit is more than if you went from, say, 5 to 7.5 hours a week.

Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. taking more than 631,000 lives each year -one in four deaths. It's caused by plaque buildup in the coronary arteries which impedes blood flow, resulting in a potentially deadly heart attack.

Besides exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a low-salt diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables, and not smoking are ways to reduce heart disease risk.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Nutrition labels help fast-food eaters cut calories, study shows

The city that never sleeps apparently doesn't read calorie counts either. A new study looking at New York City's fast-food restaurants found only one in six customers actually read them.

The good news, city health officials say, is that customers who look at the counts actually order something healthier - items with 100 fewer calories.

In 2008, New York became the first U.S. municipality to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts, and other places like California and Seattle soon joined in. Come next year, all chains with 20 or more locations will be required by a new federal law to print calorie counts on menus.

"Calorie labeling alone won't cure the obesity epidemic but it is one part of trying to address it," said study co-author Dr. Lynn D. Silver, director of the Office of Science and Policy at the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The study - published in the July 26 issue of the British Medical Journal - was the first large-scale look at the law's success. Silver said it showed modest gains in getting people to order lower-calorie meals and led restaurants to offer healthier options like salads.

For the study, researchers looked at lunchtime purchases at 11 fast-food chains around New York in 2007, before the city law was passed, and then again in 2009. They spoke to nearly 16,000 customers about their orders and read their receipts. Overall, they saw little change. But customers ordered fewer calories, on average, at three major chains: McDonald's, Au Bon Pain and KFC. Those restaurants also introduced healthier options around the same time the law was passed, according to the study.

But popular sandwich chain Subway showed a big increase in the average calorie count of a lunch order, which the authors linked to the popularity of its "$5 foot-long" promotion
Some customers checked calorie counts more than others. Women were more likely to use them when deciding what to order, as were people in wealthier neighborhoods. The least likely to look were young people. More than 20 percent of customers at Subway and Au Bon Pain paid attention to calorie counts, an increase from the overall average of 15 percent.

Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and author of the blog "Food Politics," said the study confirms that once people pay attention to the calorie counts, they make dietary changes.

"The next step has to be to get more people to look at the info."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

FDA: Wake Up, People, Those Lazy Brownies Are Unsafe

The Food and Drug Administration has given the maker of Lazy Larry relaxation brownies a wake-up call.

The Associated Press reported the agency has warned HBB LLC, the Memphis-based company that sells the brownies, that the melatonin in them has not been deemed a safe food additive. And the FDA says it can seize the brownies, which it considers adulterated, if HBB keeps making and selling them.
Melatonin, which is sold widely in tablets as a dietary supplement, is a naturally occurring hormone that plays a role in sleep regulation. Supplements, such as melatonin, are lightly regulated by the agency, and their makers' claims aren't generally subject to FDA's prior approval unless they contain a brand-new ingredient. Manufacturers of supplements are responsible for assuring their safety.

At the moment, the Lazy Larry website's most prominent caution to consumers is a tongue-in-cheek marketing message positioned next to a boldly labeled "Buy Now" button:

Warning: this product may cause extreme relaxation and excessive use of the word "dude."

Until last month, the brownies were sold as "Lazy Cakes," but the name was changed to appease critics and establish the product as a supplement rather than a food.

But the FDA's warning letter, which you can read here, shows the agency isn't buying the name change. Among other things, Lazy Larry is "marketed alongside snack foods" and the company's website even says it contains "the same ingredients your mother uses to make brownies," which the FDA notes are "a conventional food."

A company spokeswoman told the AP that HBB execs are still reviewing the letter with lawyers and aren't commenting on the FDA's warning.

In March, Anna Rouse Dulaney, a toxicologist with the Carolinas Poison Center, told Julie Rose from NPR member station WFAE that "eating the whole brownie would be about twice the recommended dose" of melatonin.

In large quantities, Dulaney said, melatonin can cause the central nervous system to slow down and lead to labored breathing. More commonly, people just get really sleepy and maybe nauseated.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Is Chocolate Really Good For You?

Research has shown that chocolate does have some health benefits, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cautions chocolate lovers about over-indulging. In its Aug. 2011 newsletter, NIH notes that research linking the cocoa-eating habits of the Kuna Indians with low incidence of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure doesn’t mean much for Americans
“Kuna cocoa is a far cry from the chocolate that most Americans eat," the article notes. “The Kuna make a drink with dried and ground cocoa beans (the seeds of the cocoa tree) along with a little added sweetener. The chocolate we tend to eat, on the other hand, is made from cocoa beans that are roasted and processed in various other ways, and then combined with ingredients like whole milk.

Research showing the health benefits of dark chocolate are fairly solid, according to the article, and the beneficial effects of chocolate flavanols are also well-supported.

Nevertheless, NIH says the calorie content of chocolate is not healthy, so if you indulge, do so in moderation, and don’t start eating chocolate for its purported health benefits if it’s not a treat you normally eat.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Doctors group says hot dogs as dangerous as cigarettes

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C., group that promotes preventive medicine and a vegan diet, unveiled a billboard Monday near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the advisory: "Warning: Hot dogs can wreck your health."

The billboard features a picture of hot dogs in a cigarette pack inscribed with skull and crossbones. It aims to increase awareness of a link between colorectal cancer and hot dogs.

Hot dogs, like cigarettes, should come with a "warning label that helps racing fans and other consumers understand the health risk," said Susan Levin, the committee's nutrition education director.

Other health experts disagree.

Although hot dogs are certainly not health food, neither are they toxic, if consumed in moderation, they say.
"It is not necessary to eliminate consumption of red or processed meat; rather the message is that these foods should not be the mainstay of your diet," American Cancer Society guidelines state.

About twice a month, Kimberly Hunt indulges. She harbors no illusions that hot dogs are good for her, but she's not worried about the risks.

"Not any more than any other processed foods that we eat," said Hunt, as she finished off lunch in downtown Indianapolis. "There's a lot of things that are going to cause cancer. Are hot dogs on the top of my list? No."

Hot dogs are low in nutritional value, said Dr. Jesse Spear, an internal medicine physician with St. Vincent Medical Group in Fishers, Ind. They're high in salt, which can lead to hypertension and heart disease.

Should we avoid them at all costs?

That's not what Spear tells patients. Instead, he advises them to eat a generally healthy diet -- more fruits and vegetables, less processed meats.

"I don't personally tell people never to eat hot dogs, because I guess I'm just realistic enough to know that people will still consume them to some degree," he said.

But there's something about a car race that encourages hot dog consumption. Last year, more than 1.1 million hot dogs were sold during the Indianapolis 500.

So this year, the Physicians Committee decided to target another Speedway event, Sunday's Brickyard 400, with its $2,750 billboard.

The strong warning is needed to make people think twice about eating hot dogs and all processed meats, Levin said. That includes deli meats, ham, sausage, bacon and pepperoni.

"A hot dog a day could send you to an early grave," said Levin, a registered dietitian. "People think feeding their kids these foods (is) safe, but (it's) not."

The research linking colorectal cancer and processed meat is convincing, says a 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research.

Just one 50-gram serving of processed meat -- about the amount in one hot dog -- a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent, the study found.

George Hanlin has his consumption down to one or two a month, as part of a plan to eat healthier. Monday, he contemplated the data linking hot dogs to health risks.

"Will it keep me from never eating hot dogs? No," Hanlin said. "But there's no question I will try to limit it a lot more."