Monday, October 31, 2011

Hunger Hormone Blamed for Weight Gain

Overweight people who regain weight even one year after shedding pounds can blame the setback on hunger hormone, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne sought to investigate the reasons behind the high rate of weight regain after diet-induced weight loss. They enrolled 50 overweight or obese patients, with a BMI of between 27 and 40, and an average weight of 95kg, in a 10-week weight-loss program using a very low-calorie diet. Levels of appetite-regulating hormones were measured at baseline, at the end of the program and one year after initial weight loss.

Results showed that following initial weight loss of about 13 kgs, the levels of hormones that influence hunger changed in a way that would be expected to increase appetite. The changes were sustained for at least one year. Participants regained around 5 kgs during the 1-year period of study.

“Our study has provided clues as to why obese people who have lost weight often relapse. The relapse has a strong physiological basis and is not simply the result of the voluntary resumption of old habits," said lead researcher Prof. Joseph Proietto.

He said although health promotion campaigns recommended obese people adopt lifestyle changes such as to be more active, they were unlikely to lead to reversal of the obesity epidemic.

“Ultimately it would be more effective to focus public health efforts in preventing children from becoming obese," he said.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cranberry Juice Better at Warding Off Bacterial Infections

Drinking cranberry juice is a more effective method to ward off bacterial infections, compared to taking cranberry extracts, according to a new study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute tested proanthocyanidins or PACs, a group of flavonoids found in cranberries. Because they were thought to be the ingredient that gives the juice its infection-fighting properties, PACs have been considered a hopeful target for an effective extract. The study shows that cranberry juice, itself, is far better at preventing biofilm formation, which is the precursor of infection, than PACs alone.

The researchers incubated two different strains of E. coli in the presence of two different mixtures of commercially available cranberry juice cocktail. They also incubated the bacteria separately in the presence of PACs, but not juice. While the juice cultures completely prevented biofilm formation, the PACs showed only limited ability to reduce biofilm formation, and only after extended exposure to the E. coli.

“Cranberries have been recognized for their health benefits for a number of years, especially in the prevention of UTIs," the authors write in the new paper. “While the mechanisms of action of cranberry products on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation are not fully understood … this study shows that cranberry juice is better at inhibiting biofilm formation than isolated A-type cranberry flavonoids and PACs, although the reasons for this are not yet clear."


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Early Dietary Intervention Wards Off Chronic Diseases

Modest reductions in total fat and saturated fat intake and increased consumption of dietary fiber during childhood and adolescence may have beneficial effects later in life by decreasing risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study, led by researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, evaluated the long-term effects of a dietary intervention to reduce fat and increase fiber intake during childhood on components of the metabolic syndrome in young adult women.

Researchers evaluated 230 women between the ages of 25 and 29 years, who nine years before the current study participated in the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC). DISC was a randomized controlled clinical trial of a reduced-fat dietary intervention that strived to limit fat intake to 28% of daily caloric intake and increase dietary fiber intake by encouraging consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The current study was conducted among females who had participated in the DISC trial to determine the longer-term effects of the DISC intervention.

Researchers measured body composition of study participants using whole body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans. Blood pressure was measured using automatic blood pressure monitors and blood samples were analyzed to assess levels of plasma glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides
“Few participants in our follow-up study met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, however the intervention group had statistically significant lower mean systolic blood pressure and fasting plasma glucose levels compared to the control group," the researchers noted. “Significant differences at the follow-up visit, but not earlier, suggest that adolescent diet may have long-term effects on age-related changes in blood pressure and glycemic control that begin to become apparent in young adulthood. Longer follow-up studies of DISC participants are needed to determine if the differences found in this study persist or widen with increasing age."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Starbucks betting that Americans prefer blonde

Are they finally realizing that Charbucks is not the flavor

In a nod to complaints that its coffee tastes 'burnt,' company to debut milder brew at stores in January

After 40 years and millions of lattes served, Starbucks Coffee Co. is acknowledging that, for millions of Americans, their coffee flavors are too strong. So they're bringing in some blondes.

The Seattle-based java giant estimates that 40 percent of the nation's 130 million coffee drinkers prefer milder-tasting coffee, an area where Starbucks hasn't had a significant presence.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There is a correlation across the nation between areas with limited access to healthy food and areas of obesity

A three-year investigation recently completed by MIT Collaborative Initiatives (MIT-CI) and the Urban Design Lab at the Earth Institute, Columbia University (UDL) used a design- and systems-based approach to detect drivers of and potential solutions for the current crises in obesity and diet-related disease faced by the United States. Findings point to key factors in the food system that impact all populations.

There is a correlation across the nation between areas with limited access to healthy food and areas of obesity and chronic disease prevalence in both rural and urban populations.  Specifically, data examined from New York City and Chicago showed that neighborhoods with limited access to healthy food options (defined for this project as fresh fruits and vegetables and minimally processed foods) saw significantly higher obesity rates than areas just a few miles away that enjoy greater access to healthy food products. Additionally, the rural counties where the bulk of our agricultural commodities are produced are, paradoxically, often areas with limited access to healthy foods, and see similar obesity rates.

MIT-CI was founded on the belief that design as a discipline is well-suited to addressing complex societal problems. The UDL has an established record of design research into complex systems.  A design-based analysis requires knowledge of the relationships between various parts of a system; an understanding of the long-range effect of changing any one part of that system; and awareness that approaching any single part of a comprehensive system independently will have limited effect. In this study, researchers have attempted to consider factors that contribute to obesity, their interrelation, and their effect on one another.

The research team studied the latest data on a broad range of topics related to obesity and researched and visited current intervention programs nationwide. The team considered the interrelation of broad social issues, including market trends, lifestyle changes in recent decades, policy impacts, socioeconomic factors, and the built environment as well as current literature on pharmacological, hormonal and epigenetic factors contributing to obesity.

MIT-CI and UDL's design-based look at the obesity crisis identified the current structure of the national food system as a primary culprit. The way food is produced, processed, and distributed directly impacts the incidence of obesity and chronic disease. The current food system was developed with an emphasis on quantity over quality, actively promoting a reduction in crop variety. The unintended outcome of these policies was a rise in low-cost processed foods, which tend to cost much less per calorie than healthy foods. Low cost and long shelf life make highly processed foods particularly attractive to families with limited food budgets.

Solutions to this problem will involve changes to food production techniques, the development of a region-based processing and distribution infrastructure, and new models for healthy food retail. A restructuring of the food supply infrastructure from its current processing and transport emphasis—in which food is often transported vast distances for processing, and then redelivered back to where it started—to a more regional approach is critical in order to improve food delivery efficiency. Improved efficiency is the first step toward improved affordability, which the study indicates will lead to better access, and eventually, better long-term health.

MIT-CI and UDL concluded that the development of a strong integrated regional food system based on access, affordability, quality, and health is a critical step needed to support community interventions across the country and enable long-term change.

According to Professor Michael Conard of the Urban Design Lab, "Most global food crises have been infrastructural, involving breakdowns in regional distribution systems.  Bigger systems are clearly no longer the better systems for the long term. Strengthening our regional systems can be a key contributor to many of our most challenging environmental and health problems."

Dr. Tenley Albright, Director and Cofounder of the MIT Collaborative Initiatives, says, "Our goal is to refocus the food system to be a positive driver for health.  Our methods are design-based, synthesizing multiple objectives into a collective approach. Having identified a clear target our next step is to use these same methods to unify stakeholder objectives and define a realistic roadmap for change."

SOURCE MIT Collaborative Initiatives; Urban Design Lab at the Earth Institute, Columbia University

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Women who drank more than three cups of coffee a day were 20% less likely to develop basal cell carcinoma

Drinking copious amounts of coffee may reduce the risk of the most common type of skin cancer, a new study finds.

Women in the study who drank more than three cups of coffee a day were 20 percent less likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, a slow-growing form of skin cancer, than those who drank less than one cup a month.
Men in the study who consumed more than three cups of coffee had a 9 percent reduction in their basal cell carcinoma risk.

Drinking coffee did not reduce the risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, the study found.
Basal cell carcinomas rarely spread to other parts of the body, and rarely return if they are promptly removed. However, any apparent health benefit that is found to come from our diet is a plus, the researchers say.

"Given the nearly 1 million new cases of [basal cell carcinoma] diagnosed each year in the United States, daily dietary factors with even small protective effects may have great public health impact," said researcher Fengju Song, a dermatologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The study found an association, not a direct cause-effect link. Further research is needed to confirm the findings and investigate how coffee may act to reduce skin cancer risk.

Previous studies in animals had suggested a link between caffeine consumption and a reduced risk of skin cancer, but studies in people had not been conclusive.

Song and colleagues analyzed data from 112,897 people who were followed from 1984 to June 2008. Over this period, 25,480 cases of skin cancer were documented.

Both coffee and caffeine consumption were linked with a reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma. Decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a reduced risk of skin cancer.

Study participants were in the health care field and may have had better habits than the average person, the study said.

Coffee consumption has also been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer and cancer overall. "To the best of our knowledge, coffee consumption is a healthy habit," Song said.

Caffeine in coffee may act to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Studies in animals have suggested that caffeine promotes the elimination of skin cells damaged by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

The biggest risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to UV radiation, usually from the sun. So protective measures such as applying sunscreen are more important than your daily latte, according to the study.

The study was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Boston. It has not been published in a scientific journal.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Black Tea, Fruit Lower Lung Cancer Risk

Individuals who consume high amounts of black tea and fruit, as well as those with higher BMIs, have a lower risk of developing lung cancer, while those who consume more than three alcoholic drinks per day have an increased risk of developing the disease, according to three separate studies presented at CHEST 2011, the 77th annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).

Kaiser Permanente researchers studied 126,293 people who provided baseline data from 1978 to1985 and followed them until 2008 to determine their risk for developing lung cancer in relation to cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, gender, ethnicity, BMI, and level of education. Of the 1,852 people who developed lung cancer during this time, results showed that cigarette smoking remained a strong predictor of all types of lung cancer; however, heavy alcohol consumption (more than three alcoholic drinks per day) also increased lung cancer risk, with a slightly higher risk related to heavy beer consumption as opposed to wine and liquor.

In a second study, the same researchers found an inverse relationship between BMI and lung cancer risk, where higher BMI levels were associated with a lower risk for lung cancer. A similar relationship was seen in those who graduated from college.

In a separate study also presented at CHEST 2011, researchers from the Czech Republic investigated the relationship between smoking exposure, diet, and exercise, and the risk of lung cancer. They found that consumption of black tea had a protective effect on nonsmoking women, while fruit had a protective effect for both men and women.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Smokeable caffeine: Same kick without calories or bad breath

The creator of wacky products like smokeable chocolate, has now come out with a new innovation, which gives the same caffeine kick as a large cup of coffee minus the bad breath and calories.

Aeroshot Pure Energy, which has been created by David Edwards, a Harvard professor, is a small inhaler that gives people the same energy boost as a large cup of coffee, reported.

Each pocket-sized tube contains six to eight puffs of a light powder made from vitamin B and 100 milligrams of caffeine that dissolves on the tongue.

The caffeine junkie is expected to be sold in New York and Boston from January.

Whats next, smokeable pizza ?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Individuals exposed to social content are significantly more likely to increase their spending and consumption

According to final results from a new Ogilvy-ChatThreads study of restaurant consumers, individuals exposed to social content are significantly more likely to increase their spending and consumption than those who aren't exposed.  

There was a 2-7x greater likelihood of higher spending or consumption depending on the media encountered by the study group.  The sales impact was most pervasive when social content was combined with other types of media such as PR, out-of-home and TV.

Additionally, out of over 20 channels studied, social content exposure was associated with the largest shift in brand perception during a 7-day period.

Despite these strong social content impact findings, consumers are seeing relatively little branded social content during their daily routine.   Only 24% of the study group reported exposure to social content, compared to a 69% exposure rate to TV ads.

According to Irfan Kamal, SVP Digital/Social, Ogilvy, "Much of the work to date has looked at direct channel impacts; for example, do direct clicks from a social media site result in sales?  This study of restaurant consumers attempts to understand the more complex factors that lead to consumer purchase and perception changes.  We found that in the real world, social content exposure - by itself and more broadly when combined with other types of media exposure such as out-of-home, PR or TV ads - is linked with 2-7x higher likelihood of consumption and actual spend increases.  And, social content exposure alone is associated with the largest shift in week-to-week brand perception."

Dr. Walter Carl, ChatThreads Founder and Chief Research Officer, adds: "Because we captured detailed touchpoint data in the moment from the consumer's point of view we were able to track day-to-day brand exposures and assess the complex interaction effects of the various media and marketing initiatives."

This Integrated Social Media Sales Impact study is from Ogilvy and ChatThreads.  Data was collected between January and May 2011.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Green tea compounds show promise for treating the genetic disorder hyperinsulinism/hyperammonemia

Prevailing medical evidence suggests that the deadly genetic disorder hyperinsulinism/hyperammonemia is rare.
But Dr. Thomas Smith, a researcher at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, questions whether that's true.

He and researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have found green tea compounds that show great promise for treating the disorder, which causes insulin to rocket to dangerously high levels and glucose to plummet when patients who have the disorder eat a little too much protein. They often go into a coma then die.

Perhaps, Smith said, a lot of children die before they're diagnosed, and the disorder is more common than believed.

"Unless doctors happen to know what they're looking for, it's hard for them to pick up on, unless they happen to be monitoring baby glucose levels," he said. Getting funding to develop the green tea compounds into a safe, effective drug is difficult because hyperinsulinism/hyperammonemia syndrome — or HHS — is considered an orphan disease.

So Smith has pinned his hopes on studies at Harvard University and University of Texas where researchers took findings from his study and the one at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, expanded on them and found that the same green tea compounds appear to kill gioblastomas, an aggressive brain tumor, and tuberous sclerosis complex disorder, which causes non-malignant tumors to grow on multiple organs.

"If we can use the cancer as an excuse to test the (green tea) drug and develop it, it might provide a way back toward curing HHS," he said.

The root cause of HHS is glutamate dehydrogenase, a compound that is found in all living organisms and is responsible for digesting amino acids.

It's emitted from the liver, kidney, brain and pancreatic beta-cells and is regulated by a complex network of metabolites in animals. It occurs when the glutamate compound isn't properly regulated. When patients who have the disorder eat protein, their pancreas secretes too much insulin and they become severely hypoglycemic.

Smith and his colleagues used atomic structures to understand the differences between plants and animals. Then they found that two compounds in green tea, when taken orally, turn off glutamate dehydrogenase which compensates for the genetic disorder.

Smith's goal is to develop the compounds into a digestible drug, because giving babies green tea would not work.

"They need a pretty big dose. It would be the equivalent of 10 cups of tea given to mice, and green tea has a lot of caffeine so it's working against you," he said.

He recently wrote a grant to study ways to turn the green tea compounds into a safe, effective and digestible drug that researchers at Harvard and University of Texas can "throw against their tumors."

His chances of getting funding for a study related to cancer, he said, are better than for one related to a rare genetic disorder.

He compares his funding issues to when researchers at Duke University wanted to study drugs for the common cold.

The common cold is not fatal, so drugs for it have to be safe as water, he said. Meanwhile, diseases such as encephalitis, which are in the same family, are fatal, so there's more funding to prove the safety and efficacy of the same drug for those diseases.

Smith has been studying green tea's effects on the disorder for more than 30 years when he was an undergraduate. "I thought we'd have this licked by now," he said. "It's a natural, digestible compound, but you still have to go through jumps and hoops."

Plus, he added, green tea as a drug has gotten a black eye in recent years and scientists must go the extra 10 miles to prove it does what they say.

"There have been a lot of bad papers out there that weren't carefully done," he said. "Talk to enough chemists and some will say it cures bunions, baldness and everything. The problem is they're goofy studies using ridiculous concentrations to get the antioxidant effect."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Papaya: A Nutritious Tropical Fruit

Papaya is a fruit from the group of yellow and orange fruits gaining immense popularity in the United States. This tropical fruit was reputedly called “The Fruit of the Angels" by Christopher Columbus. Originally from southern Mexico, Central America and northern South America, the fruit is now cultivated throughout the tropical world and in the warmest parts of the subtropics. Papaya fruit is commonly consumed fresh, but it is also cooked or used in salads, preserves, sauces, dressings, juices, nectars, smoothies and pies.

Papaya cultivation
Papaya belongs to the family Caricaceae, which includes four genera and about 20 species native to the growing region. The papaya tree is a rapid-growing perennial that looks like a small palm tree, with a single slender, cylindrical trunk with a crown of leaves. The tree attains an average height of 10 to 13 feet. It is propagated from seeds. Because of open pollination, it is difficult to obtain a pure cultivar for papaya. Papaya trees develop to their full size in less than a year and are ready to bear fruit at any time during the year.

Among the numerous varieties of papaya are important commercial varieties such as 'Red Lady', 'Maradol', ‘Waimanalo’ and different ‘Solo’ types. Two kinds of papayas are commonly grown; red papaya has sweet, red (or orange) flesh, and yellow papaya has yellow flesh.  The large-fruited, red-fleshed 'Maradol', 'Sunrise', and 'Caribbean Red' papayas often sold in U.S. markets are commonly grown in Mexico and Belize. Weather conditions, such as cold temperatures, lack of water (drought), high, constant winds, or shade, will reduce papaya growth and production. Papaya plants grow best in areas where temperatures remain warm to hot (70 to 90° F; 21 to 32° C). Papaya trees are not tolerant of freezing temperatures and are damaged or killed below 31° F (-0.6° C). Papaya trees are susceptible to wind damage and will not establish or grow well in continuously windy areas. The fruit is commonly spherical to cylindrical in form. Attached along the walls of the large inner cavity of the fruit are numerous small, round, wrinkled black seeds The juicy flesh is deep yellow, orange, red or salmon, and its flavor profile strongly resembles a muskmelon. Deliciously sweet with musky undertones and a soft, butterlike consistency, it is greatly enjoyed in tropical countries. The soluble-solids level of the mature fruits is typically 11.5% or higher,

Of nutritional note
Puréed papaya is a good source of beta carotene and iron for lactating mothers, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition (2001; 131:1,497-1,502.). Papaya is an excellent source of ascorbic acid (about 60 mg to 100 mg per 100 grams pulp), a good source of provitamin A, some B complex vitamins and many phytochemicals having antioxidant properties. During the the papaya’s development, ascorbic acid increases gradually until the fruit reaches maturity. The change in outer color is an indicator of ripeness, and this change is considered mainly due to increase in carotene content and decrease in chlorophyll. Carotenoid contents differ between yellow- and red-fleshed papaya. The red-fleshed papaya has 64 % of the total carotenoids as lycopene.

Papaya has many applications in processed-food products and is available in a variety of forms, including purée, concentrate, powder, and dried or canned slices or chunks. Papaya purée is the major semiprocessed product that finds use in juices, nectars, fruit cocktails, jams and jellies. A number of low-moisture products, such as fruit leather, toffees, chunks, rolls and slices, have also been prepared from papaya purée. Besides its well-known use in food applications, the papaya has many traditional medicinal uses. Shamans in the Amazon used the seeds to cure parasites, which commonly affect native people.

Most villages plant papaya in their medicinal gardens to make use of this treatment. It also is used in medicines to treat arthritis and asthma. An extract from the fruit was also used to treat ulcers and reduce swelling after surgery. Papain is also applied topically (in countries where it grows) for the treatment of cuts, rashes, stings and burns. Women in some Asian countries have long used green papaya as a folk remedy for contraception and abortion. Enslaved women in the West Indies were noted for consuming papaya to prevent pregnancies and thus preventing their children from being born into slavery.

Due to its unique flavor, papaya is a popular ingredient in fruit juices, nectars and squashes in various parts of the world. Papaya pairs well with fruits like mango and guava in fruit-juice formulations.

Enzymatic magic
The latex of the papaya plant and its green fruits contain two proteolytic enzymes, papain and chymopapain. Chymopapain is more abundant in the fruit, but papain is twice as potent in usage. Papain, a cysteine proteinase, also has a vast number of commercial uses. Papain is extracted and purifies to make digestive-enzyme dietary supplements, and is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums.

One of the best-known uses of papain is as a meat tenderizer, especially for home or foodservice use. The enzyme can be applied to the surface, but is best as part of a marinade. The result depends on the time and temperature of the application. Papain-treated meat should never be cooked “rare," but should be cooked sufficiently to inactivate the enzyme, requiring a temperature as high as 170 to185°F to completely inactivate it.

Papain has many other practical applications. It is used to clarify beer, treat wool and silk before dyeing, to de-hair hides before tanning, and also serves as an adjunct in rubber manufacturing. It is used in making toothpaste, and cosmetic products.

Papaya is a delicious and nutritious fruit, and is of considerable economic importance in many tropical countries and export markets in temperate countries.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pork products are making their way into more desserts

You’ve had bacon with eggs, bacon cheeseburgers and even bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. But how about bacon dessert?

Don’t look so disgusted. 

Savory bacon has been showing its sweet side for many months in Utah, appearing in doughnuts, cookies and even chocolate bars.

Beyond Glaze, a gourmet doughnut shop in Draper and Bountiful, sells regular raised doughnuts topped with maple-flavored frosting and sprinkles of crispy bacon. It’s become one of his top sellers, said owner Dean Morgan.

“A lot of people say it’s like eating all the flavors of breakfast — maple syrup, bacon and pancakes — all in one bite,” he said. 

A second doughnut with chocolate frosting and bacon also is available.

Last month, Bear Country Cookies at Salt Lake City’s The Gateway introduced a bacon-milk chocolate cookie. Mixed inside the dough are pieces of bacon and milk chocolate chips. After it’s baked, the cookie is topped with maple cream-cheese frosting and two strips of bacon.

“People either love it or they hate it,” said Cori Goddard, the store manager. “There’s not much in between.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Climate change pushing coffee to extinction?

Millions of people enjoy a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but a group of scientists says that daily ritual could be on its way to extinction.

The driving force behind the new information is coffee giant Starbucks, reports "Early Show" contributor Taryn Winter Brill,. One of its lead scientists says global warming is threatening the world's coffee supply -- and that news isn't being well-received by coffee drinkers around the world.

On Friday, the director of sustainability for Starbucks, Jim Hanna, said climate change is threatening the world's coffee supply, telling the Guardian newspaper, "What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road -- if conditions continue as they are -- is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean."

"Coffee likes a pretty narrow range of temperatures, and one of the hallmarks, really, of climate change will be increased extremes in temperatures," Todd Sanford, a climate scientist from the Union of Concerned Scientists, said.

Scientists say climate change will cause heavier rains, longer periods of drought, and higher rates of insect infestation in the tropical areas where coffee is grown -- factors that could have a devastating effect on future coffee production.

"Those of us who enjoy our morning cup of coffee, we may not always realize that future climate change due to extreme temperatures, increased precipitation, really could in some ways put that at risk," Sanford added.

Increased carbon emissions have been linked to global climate change. So for coffee lovers, the idea of waking up without their morning brew could be a wake-up call to lead a more eco-friendly life.

This is the second time in less than a month that scientists have warned that climate change threatens a favorite food item. A few weeks ago, we were told it will be too hot by the year 2050 to grow cocoa beans in much of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world's main cocoa-producing countries.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Marketers are increasingly shrinking package sizes as well as cutting prices

Hurt by the slow economy, marketers are trying a new pitch: Instead of offering more for less, they're selling less for less, shrinking package sizes and cutting prices in hopes of spurring purchases from penny-pinching consumers. 

Everyone from chewing-gum makers to soda-pop purveyors are playing small ball, or at least planning to, in yet another sign that corporate America doesn't see the downturn lifting anytime soon. "We're seeing a lot more paycheck-to-paycheck buying and so in those instances you're talking to consumers with limited dollars," said Rick Shea, a marketing consultant and former Kraft Foods marketer. "They are only going to spend so much, so there's much greater sales growth through $2 price points as opposed to $4," for instance.

Some products are still in the pipeline, like at Kraft where CEO Irene Rosenfeld has foreshadowed new, smaller pack sizes for gum at lower prices. "We were finding that increasingly, particularly teenagers, were having less pocket change," she told Wall Street analysts. 

H.J. Heinz is planning smaller sized versions across its portfolio aimed at struggling, low-end consumers. These buyers often only have $40 to $50 a week to spend on a family of four, Heinz VP-Investor Relations Margaret Nollen noted on a recent earnings call. 

Coca-Cola, meanwhile, is rolling out new 12.5-oz. "hand-held" bottles for 89¢ that are targeted at convenience-store customers. "Continued recruitment of new users and an entry price point below a dollar is essential to keep the category healthy and viable," Ray Faust, VP for small store strategy and marketing at Coca-Cola Refreshments, said in a statement. 

The moves come as marketers have to deal with rising commodity costs in addition to sluggish demand. In the face of the inflation, "manufacturers have very little choice but either stay the same and see their profits drop or make modifications to their ingredients to make themselves more profitable, or modify pack size," said Todd Hale, senior VP-consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen. Indeed, while companies have tried to pass higher raw-material costs along to consumers, most buyers balk at paying more because their incomes have flatlined or shrunk. "We'll never let food costs rise faster than our incomes," said NPD food analyst Harry Balzer. So "we buy less-expensive things." 

And that means marketers must get creative. Consider Procter & Gamble, which recently reduced the size of 100-oz. Tide to 75 oz. While the move was part of a broader price increase when calculated by price per volume, it allowed P&G to sell the smaller version for under $10 at Walmart compared with about $12 for the 75-oz. version.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How Obesity Works

Once you know how something works, it’s easier to fix it. In the fight against obesity, understanding how the disease progresses will help beat it. Researchers from Monash University made another step toward understanding obesity works by unraveling how leptin-resistance develops. 

"Acting on a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, leptin instructs the body to increase energy expenditure and decrease food intake, and so helps us maintain a healthy body weight," said Lead author Professor Tony Tiganis, of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute and Monash University's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. "The body’s response to leptin is diminished in overweight and obese individuals, giving rise to the concept of ‘leptin-resistance’. We've discovered more about how ‘leptin-resistance’ develops, providing new directions for research into possible treatments." 

Two proteins—PTP1B and SOCS3 — are already known to inhibit leptin in the brain. This study identified a third: TCPTP. In mice, TCPTP  becomes more abundant with weight gain, exacerbating leptin-resistance and hastening progression to obesity. The study, published in Cell Metabolism, showed that the three negative regulators of leptin take effect at different stages, shedding light on how obesity progresses. elevated TCPTP to the development of cellular leptin resistance in obesity

"Drugs targeting one of the negative regulators are already in clinical trials for type 2 diabetes, however, our research shows that in terms of increasing leptin-sensitivity in obesity, targeting only one of these won't be enough. All three regulators might need to be switched off," said Tiganis.

The study showed that high fat diet-induced weight gain is largely prevented in genetically modified mice when two of the negative regulators are deleted in the brain.

“We now have to determine what happens when all three negative regulators are neutralised. Do we prevent high fat diet-induced obesity?" 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Eat Broccoli to reap the Benefits

The research is new, but the message is the same: eat your vegetables. Scientists from Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University found that eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables has more health benefits than taking a supplement containing similar healthy compounds. 

“The issue of whether important nutrients can be obtained through whole foods or with supplements is never simple," said Emily Ho, an OSU associate professor in the OSU School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute. “Some vitamins and nutrients, like the folic acid often recommended for pregnant women, are actually better-absorbed as a supplement than through food. But the particular compounds that we believe give broccoli and related vegetables their health value need to come from the complete food."

The researchers found that the enzyme myrosinase is missing from most supplement forms of glucosinolates, a phytochemical in cruciferous vegetables that is linked with a reduced risk of developing prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. The myrosinase found in broccoli and similar vegetables help break the glucosinolates into sulforaphane and erucin. Sulforaphane, in particular, may help to detoxify carcinogens, and also activate tumor suppressor genes so they can perform their proper function. The researchers found that most supplements designed to provide glucosinolates have myrosinase enzyme inactivated, so the sulforaphane is not released as efficiently. There are a few supplements available with active myrosinase, and whose function more closely resembles that of the whole food, but they are still being tested and not widely available, Ho said.

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, also found that overcooking broccoli also squashes its nutritional power.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Specialty pasta sales are growing despite the economy

October is officially National Pasta Month, but doesn't every month feel like that? Pasta is in cold salads in the summer and hearty soups in the winter; it's on the table year round as the main dish under fresh tomato and basil, garlic and olive oil, vodka sauce or whatever tastes and outdoor temperatures dictate.

"Better than any other time in America, people love good pasta," says Jerry Turci, who hails from Gragnano, Italy.

"There are plenty of different pastas on the market, and this is a category that continues to grow, regardless of economic climate," Joe Gozzi, ShopRite's director of specialty foods, wrote in an e-mail from Italy, where he is doing research for the supermarket chain's next imported product line. ShopRite recently started selling a line of organic specialty pastas imported from Italy and packaged under its own label.

But Americans love pasta, period, not just the specialty products. Americans eat pasta an average of seven times a month, says a survey by the National Pasta Association. And 60 percent of respondents said pasta was the one food they could not live without.

But just because we're eating large quantities of it doesn't mean we're doing it right. Just ask Turci. He and his wife rarely go to restaurants because he gets so aggravated by the crimes against pasta he says he witnesses around him.

First, says Turci, the pasta is prepared incorrectly — it is precooked in many places, run under hot water and mixed with hot sauce before being served.

Then there is the matter of pasta and sauce pairings.

"In Italy, every pasta has a different sauce," he says, using linguine and clam sauce as the perfect example. "Here, you get penne with everything." And even worse, people start eating it.

"You go to a restaurant and it makes me crazy, because I see the guy who's eating spaghetti with a knife and fork," Turci says. "The guy next to me, he's having linguine with clam sauce, and he's putting cheese on it."

His tone is incredulous, with a bit of contempt. But more than anything, he knows what these people are missing.

So please, during this month of national recognition, it's time not just to eat pasta but to pay it the proper respect – prepare it the right way and pair it with its perfect style of sauce. Pretend this is Italy and make Turci proud.

Some pasta/sauce pairings are a perfect match: linguine and clam sauce, cavatelli and broccoli, ziti and meat sauce, says famed Italian chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. But beyond these, the many shapes of pasta and kinds of sauce can make pairing them tricky. Bastianich has a few basic rules for dried pasta:
  • Long, thin noodles, such as capellini, spaghetti or linguine
    Sauce: Olive-oil based, like pesto or white clam sauce
  • Thicker strands, such as fettuccine and tagliatelle
    Sauce: Cream sauces and ragùs
  • Short, tubular shapes such as penne, ziti and rigatoni
    Sauce: Thick or chunky. (Keep the size of the ingredients in mind. Rigatoni may feel too big for a simple tomato sauce; penne would work better.)
  • Sturdy shapes such as fusilli, farfalle and campanelle
    Sauce: Sauces with texture, such as pieces of meat, vegetable or bean, find the pasta's crevices and twists.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Coffee dips on crisis, oversupply

The economic crisis and a bumper Robusta coffee crop in Viet Nam have dragged down coffee prices on both the international and domestic markets.

The price on the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (Liffe) came down below the psychological level of US$2,000 per tonne last Monday.

Vietnamese exporters have been reluctant to sell at the low level due to the uncertainty with the weather, the start of the coffee crop harvest, and banks' refusal to provide credit.

Nguyen Minh Ban, director of the Dong Nai-based Minh Huy coffee company, said: "The bid is too low to sell. Even at minus $70 per tonne FOB, I cannot sell for the moment because of wet weather in coffee-growing provinces for many days."

The continuous rains in the Central Highlands in the past week have had a certain influence on Liffe Robusta prices.

Three weeks ago, experts believed that the new harvest would bring coffee beans to the market by mid-October.

However, four storms one after the other have brought more rains and the harvest is likely to be delayed.

Some farmers said the new beans would only reach the market by the end of November or early December if the sun starts to shine again within a week.

The late arrival of the new harvest last week helped slow down the price fall in the local market. Robusta coffee grade two with 5 per cent black and broken beans for delivery in December fetched VND35,000-36,000 per kilogramme, VND3,000 higher than 10 days before.

The 2011-12 coffee crop began on October 1 and will be harvested in September 2012.

Global coffee output next year is estimated by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) at 130 million bags (60kg per bag) and by the US Department of Agriculture at 135 million bags.

It is down from this year because Brazilian Arabica production will fall following the bumper crop this year as the coffee trees will be "tired" and must have a year's hiatus.

The Viet Nam Coffee&Cocoa Association (Vicofa) estimates the country's output at 18 million bags.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One in 10 consumers (31 million people) do not have breakfast in the morning

Although most U.S. consumersbegin their day with breakfast, one out of 10, or 31 milliondon’t, according to a recent food market research study conducted by The NPD Group, a leading marketing research company. 

NPD’sMorning MealScape 2011 study, which delves deeply into the situational factors and attitudinal drivers impacting consumers’ food and beverage choices in the morning, finds that males, 18-34, have the highest incidence of skipping(28 percent) whereas those adults 55 and older have the lowest incidence of skipping(11 percent for males, ages 55 and older, and 10 percent for females in this age range) among adults. Among children, the incidence of skipping —percent of individuals who are up, but don’t eat or drink anything in the morning—increases as childrenage with 13-to-17-year-olds having the highest incidence (14 percent) of skipping.

Percent of Adults, By Gender, Who Skip Breakfast

18-34 years old
35-54 years old
55+ years old
Source: The NPD Group/Morning MealScape 2011

Among the reasons individualsgive for not eating or drinking anything prior to 11 a.m. is that they weren’t hungry/thirstyor didn’t feel like eating or drinking. Other top reasons are that they didn’t have time and were too busy. Adult females show a higher propensity to skip a morning occasion due to a time constraint, like being too busy, rushing to get out the door, or running late.

For those who do eat a morning meal,three-fourths have their morning meals, snacks and beverages in their home. Approximately one in five consume foods and beverages in the morning both at-home and away-from-home on a typical day; and 14 percent of individuals have their morning meals away from home.

“With 31 million people skipping breakfast each daythere is a significant opportunity for food and beverage marketers to reach these consumers,” says Dori Hickey, director, product management at NPD and author of Morning MealScape 2011. “Marketing messages emphasizing the importance of having a morning meal should be age and genderspecific in order to increase their effectiveness. To convert teens, a two-pronged approach may be necessary – one that appeals directly to teenagers; the other to provide strategies for parents of teens.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Women who consumed the most chocolate, about two candy bars a week, had a 20% reduced risk of stroke

In the latest research to tout the cardiovascular benefits of an already beloved food, Swedish scientists report that eating chocolate seems to lower a woman's risk of stroke.

The study found that women who had the highest consumption of chocolate -- about two candy bars a week -- had a 20 percent reduced risk of stroke.

"Cocoa contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and can suppress oxidation of low-density lipoprotein ['bad' cholesterol] which can cause cardiovascular disease [including stroke]," explained study author Susanna Larsson, an associate professor in the division of nutritional epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Chocolate's benefits don't end there, Larsson said, adding that dark chocolate consumption has also been found to reduce blood pressure, lower insulin resistance and help keep your blood from forming dangerous clots.

But, that doesn't necessarily mean you should start adding chocolate to your daily menu.

"It's important to keep findings like these in context. These findings don't mean that people need to exchange chocolate for broccoli in their diet," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"Chocolate does have antioxidants, and antioxidants are beneficial for your health. They can help make your arteries more flexible and they can help you resist the oxidation of cholesterol. But, what if they had tried this study with apple skins or grapes?" she said.

While the study found an association between chocolate and reduced stroke risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect.

The findings are published as research correspondence in the Oct. 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study included more than 33,000 Swedish women between the ages of 49 and 83. None of the women had any history of stroke, heart disease, cancer or diabetes when the study began in 1997.

All of the women were asked to complete a questionnaire that included questions on more than 350 diet and lifestyle factors.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Caffeine Consumption Linked to Stimulant Use

Adolescents who consume caffeine-rich drinks such as coffee, energy drinks and soft drinks may have a higher risk of abusing drugs like cocaine and amphetamines, according to a new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to examine responses to stimulants, an individual’s subjective response to caffeine may predict how he or she will respond to other stimulant drugs, possibly reflecting differences in risk for abuse of other more serious drugs of abuse, such as amphetamine and cocaine.

They studied 22 people they classified as “choosers" (of caffeine) and “nonchoosers." The “choosers" picked caffeine instead of placebo 7 out of 10 times; the “nonchoosers" did exactly the opposite. Next, the participants were given different doses of d-amphetamine and asked to rate how much they liked the stimulant. When the researchers compared people who chose caffeine to the participants who did not, they found caffeine lovers liked the effect of d-amphetamine, especially in higher doses. “Nonchoosers" reported they found amphetamine unpleasant.

“People differ dramatically in how they respond to drugs," said Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. “For example, a single dose of a drug can produce completely opposite effects in two people, with one absolutely loving and the other hating the drug’s effects. It is important to improve our understanding of these differences, as they may reflect key individual differences in vulnerability or resilience for drug abuse.