Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Soy Sauce Effectively Reduces Salt in Foods

Food scientists at the National University of Singapore have discovered a method to reduce salt in foods without compromising the taste intensity and pleasantness of the food by replacing salt with naturally-brewed soy sauce, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sensory Studies.

The research team explored the use of soy sauce to reduce salt intake in daily food preparation by replacing all or some added salt with naturally brewed soy sauce without change in consumer acceptance. They investigated three types of foods: salad dressing, tomato soup and stir-fried pork. A two-alternative forced choice test between a salt standard and a variety of soy sauce samples was used to establish the exchange rate, giving the amount of soy sauce needed to replace added salt with the same taste intensity.

In a separate session, consumers were asked to evaluate the pleasantness and several sensory attributes of another five varieties of the food samples based on the proportion of salt and soy sauce added. Results showed that it is possible to reduce added salt by 33% to 50% in the foods studied when soy sauce is used to replace added salt during food preparation. Percentage of salt reduction achievable may be higher in a population with prior exposure to soy sauce in their diet. The method can be used by food industries to produce reduced salt products or by consumers at home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Exercise Increases Satiety, Improves Diet

Consuming a healthy diet and getting ample amounts of exercise increases satiety and helps suppress the brain’s drive to overeat, according to a study published in the journal Obesity Review. Understanding the interaction between exercise and a healthy diet could improve preventative and therapeutic measures against obesity by strengthening current approaches and treatments.

Researchers from Harvard University investigated the neurocognitive groundwork of eating behavior and the impact of physical activity on cognition and the brain. Data from epidemiological studies suggest tendencies toward a healthy diet and the right amount of physical exercise often come hand in hand, and an increase in physical activity is usually linked to a parallel improvement in diet quality.

They found exercise increases sensitivity to physiological signs of fullness. This not only means that appetite can be controlled better, but it also modifies hedonic responses to food stimuli. They noted “physical exercise seems to encourage a healthy diet. In fact, when exercise is added to a weight-loss diet, treatment of obesity is more successful and the diet is adhered to in the long run."

The researchers support the concept that “regular exercise improves output in tests that measure the state of the brain's executive functions and increases the amount of grey matter and prefrontal connections."

The researchers concluded “in time, exercise produces a potentiating effect of executive functions including the ability for inhibitory control, which can help us to resist the many temptations that we are faced with everyday in a society where food, especially hyper-caloric food, is more and more omnipresent."


·                                 EurekAlert: Exercise helps us to eat a healthy diet

Monday, November 28, 2011

Whole Grain’s Nutritional Advantages

The refining of grains strips out a sizable portion of their nutrition, so whole grains have the advantage, especially when it comes to vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. According to FDA and the American Association of Cereal Chemists International, St. Paul, MN, whole grains are defined as “intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grain whose principal components, the starchy endosperm, germ and bran, are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain." Whole grains can undergo processing and reconstitution and still be considered whole grains if they contain the same proportion of bran, germ and endosperm as the original grain before processing.

Nutrient content

Insoluble, poorly fermentable carbohydrates make up the majority of the outer bran layer of a whole grain, whereas the inner germ contains soluble fibers, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, oils and other phytonutrients. During refining, the outer bran layer and inner germ layer are partially or fully removed and, therefore, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are lost. Even though refined grains are enriched with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron to restore levels back to those in the original whole grains, vitamin E, trace minerals, unsaturated fat and phytochemicals are not replaced. Therefore, “whole grains have 2.5 to 5.0 times more nutrients than refined grains," notes Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies, Oldways/The Whole Grains Council, Boston.

Whole grains include commonly consumed grains such as whole wheat, wild rice, brown rice, whole oats and oatmeal, whole-grain cornmeal, and popcorn, as well as whole rye, whole-grain barley, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, sorghum, amaranth, emmer, farro, grano (lightly pearled wheat), spelt and wheat berries.

Unique whole-grain nutrients

In addition to fiber, vitamins and minerals, whole grains contain a number of other beneficial nutrients. Whole grains are a source of antioxidants, including lignans, carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin and ß-cryptoxanthin. The germ fraction of whole grains also contains vitamin E in the form of tocopherols and tocotrienols (Critical Reviews in Food Science, 2010; 50:193-208). And, the fat in whole grains comes primarily from oleic acid and the essential omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid. Whole grains also are a source of resistant starch, which affects colonic bacteria and may increase satiety, prebiotic oligosaccharides and lignans (PLoS One, 2010; 5:e15,046; Nutrition Research, 2009; 29:100-105; Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2011; 51:178-194). And finally, whole grains are a source of plant sterols and stanols, compounds that inhibit the body’s absorption of cholesterol (Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009; 18:179-186).

Each whole grain has a different nutrition makeup and their fiber content can vary widely. For instance, brown rice contains 0.6 grams fiber per 16 grams brown rice, whereas Kamut® grain contains 3.9 grams of fiber per 16 grams. Despite these differences, the health-promoting effects of whole grains are not solely due to their fiber content.

In addition to varying amounts of fiber, the total antioxidant capacity differs among grains. “Corn has one of the highest antioxidant activities, followed by wheat, oats and rice," says Harriman. In a study examining the distribution of phytochemicals in wheat, scientists milled two varieties of wheat into endosperm and bran and germ fractions to examine how the refining process affects the total phytochemical content. The total phenolic content of bran and germ fractions was 15 to 18 fold higher than that of the endosperm fractions. And, the bran and germ fraction, the part that is removed during the refining process, contained an average of four times more lutein and 12 times more zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in the retina of the eye. The bran and germ fraction also contributed to 83% of the total phenolic content, 79% of the total flavonoid content, 85% of the total hydrophilic antioxidant activity and 94% of the total lipophilic antioxidant activity (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005; 53:2,297-2,306; Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 2007; 458:128-135). Though whole grains retain more antioxidants, thermal processing and milling can make some of the insoluble bound phytochemicals found in grains more bioaccessible (The Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 141:1,011S-1,022S).

Whole-grain health claims

The FDA approved health claim for whole grains and risk of heart disease and certain cancers specifies that the food contain 51% or more whole-grain ingredients by weight per RACC (reference amounts customarily consumed) and a dietary fiber content of at least:

• 3.0 grams per RACC of 55 grams

• 2.8 grams per RACC of 50 grams

• 2.5 grams per RACC of 45 grams

• 1.7 grams per RACC of 35 grams

Additionally, the food must be low fat. The required wording for the claim is: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.".

Gaining ground

Many whole grains are gaining popularity yet don’t come in a refined form. Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free grain that contains more protein than many grains, and one- quarter cup, uncooked, is an excellent source of magnesium and iron, and a good source of copper and phosphorus. In addition to quinoa, food manufacturers and chefs are incorporating a variety of other, less commonly used grains into food to enhance the taste and texture of products while meeting consumer needs (like gluten-free or nonallergenic).

According to NHANES data, many Americans are falling short on their intake of whole grains. This presents an opportunity for food manufacturers to create products that incorporate one or more whole grains while also communicating the nutrition benefits of whole grains to consumers. As Harriman notes, “it all comes down to a balanced diet incorporating a variety of nutrient-rich foods for good health."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Drinking Coffee Reduces Risk of Endometrial Cancer

Drinking four or more cups of coffee a day has been shown to reduce a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer by 25%, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The findings suggest coffee is emerging as a protective agent in cancers that are linked to obesity, estrogen and insulin.

Harvard researchers observed cumulative coffee intake in relation to endometrial cancer in 67,470 women who enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. During the course of 26 years of follow-up, researchers documented 672 cases of endometrial cancer. Drinking more than four cups of coffee per day was linked with a 25% reduced risk for endometrial cancer. Drinking between two and three cups per day was linked with a 7% reduced risk. A similar link was seen in decaffeinated coffee, where drinking more than two cups per day was linked with a 22% reduced risk for endometrial cancer.

“Coffee has long been linked with smoking, and if you drink coffee and smoke, the positive effects of coffee are going to be more than outweighed by the negative effects of smoking," the researchers said. “However, laboratory testing has found that coffee has much more antioxidants than most vegetables and fruits."


·                                 American Association for Cancer Research: Coffee May Protect Against Endometrial Cancer

Saturday, November 26, 2011

About 46% of U.S. adults plan to shop online on Cyber Monday, Nov. 28 instead of in-store on Black Friday

While some shoppers revel in the thrill of Black Friday shopping trips, others are content to click their way to savings. According to a new survey, nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. adults plan to shop online on Cyber Monday, November 28, the Monday after Thanksgiving, instead of in-store on Black Friday. These Cyber Monday shoppers said they plan to shop online so they can avoid crowds (35 percent), take advantage of the better deals online (27 percent), save money on gas (21 percent) and cut back on in-store impulse shopping (11 percent). This survey was conducted online nationwide by Harris Interactive on behalf of from October 25-26, 2011 among 2,115 adults ages 18 and older.

 In addition to avoiding the Black Friday in-store pitfalls and taking advantage of the great savings online, shoppers plan to hit the Web on Cyber Monday to give themselves the gift of time. More than four-in-ten (44 percent) Cyber Monday shoppers said that shopping online that day will save them a lot of time, while an additional 42 percent report it will save them at least some time.

 "The benefits to shopping on Cyber Monday surpass convenience and really lie in the amazing deals to be had online that day," said Jackie Warrick, President and Chief Savings Officer at "More than half of U.S. adults we surveyed said they plan to shop online that day, while 24 percent of those who are employed said they will do their shopping while they work. No matter where or how you plan to take advantage of online Cyber Monday deals, be sure to have a plan of attack to ensure you don't miss out."

 The majority of Cyber Monday shoppers will be firing up their laptops to purchase electronics (e.g., TVs, DVD/Blu-ray Disc players, computers) and entertainment (e.g., video games, movies/TV series on DVD or Blu-ray, books) on November 28, at 55 percent and 54 percent, respectively. In addition, Cyber Monday shoppers said they plan to purchase:

·                                 Clothing, shoes and/or accessories – 47 percent

·                                 Toys – 33 percent

·                                 Gift cards – 17 percent

·                                 Sporting goods – 13 percent

·                                 Jewelry – 11 percent

No matter what shoppers plan to buy, there are tons of deals to take advantage of on Cyber Monday. How can shoppers ensure they get the best discounts on the Web? Warrick offers the following tips:

 Save on shipping – If you're starting your holiday shopping on Cyber Monday, think about shipping gifts directly to the friends and family on your list. Many sites will offer free shipping that day, and by shipping directly to your recipients, you'll cut out any shipping costs on your end. Plus, many sites will giftwrap the item and include a personal note in the box!

 Plan your attack - If you know there's a certain product you want to buy, make sure to create a list of sites where it's available. Once Cyber Monday arrives, make your way down that list comparing prices, taking notes as you go, to ensure you're getting the deepest discount possible.

 Get social – Follow your favorite stores on Twitter, Facebook and their blogs to stay up-to-date on savings as they happen on Cyber Monday. Don't forget to also follow coupon sites like, where deals and offers will be posted constantly that day via Twitter and Facebook.


Friday, November 25, 2011

People who consume a lot of unfermented soy products like tofu may have a smaller chance of getting lung cancer

There is still no proof that soy itself is protective, but compounds in the soy called isoflavones have been shown to slow cancer cell growth in the lab.

Because researchers studying the link between diet and lung cancer have come to mixed conclusions on soy, Chinese and U.S. scientists decided to get an overview of the medical literature.

They found 11 observational studies, a few of which followed people for a decade or longer. Pooling all of the results, people who got the most soy in their diet had a 23 percent lower risk of lung cancer than those who got the least.

According to the American Cancer Society, about eight percent of men will develop lung cancer at some point, while six percent of women will get the disease.

The new findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, come with several caveats, according to Wan-Shui Yang from the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine and colleagues.

The link between soy and cancer only held for unfermented products such as tofu and soy milk, for example. What's more, it was only found in people who never smoked, in women and in Asian populations.

Matthew Schabath, a researcher at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, whose study was included in the analysis, cautioned that more research is needed to tease out the relationship between soy and lung cancer.

"It may not be soy alone," Schabath told Reuters Health. "It could be a collection of other nutrients packaged in the food."

"We've been looking at this for decades," he added. "The observational studies do consistently show that healthy diets will provide beneficial effects. We just haven't found the one magic pill that will be able to prevent this. It just tells you about the complexity of this."

Schabath said until a link is found there is one surefire way to cut lung cancer risk.

"If you want to reduce your risk of lung cancer you need to stop smoking," he said. "The next step is to be prudent of the information out there."

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Consumers are willing to pay more for apples that have an "exciting, sensory" name

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but an apple by another name could fetch a much sweeter price for farmers.

Using experimental auctions, researchers at Cornell University's Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management tested participants' willingness to pay for five different varieties of apples, including a new, patented variety developed at Cornell, currently named NY1. Participants didn't know about the apples' history or the Cornell connection, but they learned about each variety's attributes, such as sweetness and crispness, and they tasted slices of each.

The researchers' conclusion? Consumers were willing to pay more for NY1, and they were willing to pay still more when it had an "exciting, sensory" name, said assistant professor Bradley J. Rickard. He presented the research Nov. 8 at the New York Produce Show and Conference in New York City.

Rickard and co-authors Todd Schmit, Miguel Gómez and Hao Lu, all of the Dyson School, wanted to test the influence of branding on patented fruit varieties.

"There are a lot of brands throughout the grocery store. The one exception is fresh produce," Rickard said. "But in the case of apples, pears, tomatoes and peaches, that's the one place in the fresh produce sector where you have a choice. Not really across brands, but across these varietal names."

And what's in a name? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Apple names generally fall into three categories, Rickard said: sincere names based on a breeder or location, such as Cortland or Granny Smith; sophisticated names, which usually highlight the fruit's appearance, such as Red or Golden Delicious; and exciting names that evoke the taste or texture of the apple, such as Honeycrisp.

In the experimental auction, the researchers tested the new Cornell apple under three names: sincere "Williams," sophisticated "Burgundy Beauty" and exciting "Flavor Haven."

In all cases, the average bid for the new apple was 12 percent higher than the average for four other apples (Empire, Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Piñata). With the Flavor Haven name, the average bid jumped to 27 percent over the other varieties.

Perhaps most interesting, Rickard said, bids on NY1 influenced bids on the other new, patented Washington apple, Piñata, but made no difference in bids on the traditional varieties.

New York grocery shoppers already enjoy a wide selection of apples -- including some of the 66 varieties developed at Cornell, such as Cortland, Empire, Macoun and Jonagold -- but new, patented varieties are starting to hit shelves. These varieties often sell for a premium, but they're also more expensive to grow, as farmers have to buy licenses to grow them.

Historically, public universities developed new apple breeds and released them to the public. But in 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act gave universities the right to retain the intellectual property rights for their research. In May 2010, Cornell forged a partnership with a new industry group, the New York Apple Growers LLC, to establish an exclusive licensing agreement for the new apple varieties, NY1 and NY2.

"The license will entail some fairly substantial upfront fee. It could be $1,500 an acre upfront," Rickard said. "Then once you sell a box of fruit, you also need to pay a royalty."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nov. 23: It's National Espresso Day

Happy Thanksgiving to our USA friends and may you have a peaceful day outside the USA

1. Many of us have a big day ahead tomorrow and may be inundated with a variety of tasks in order to pull off a festive, happy Thanksgiving.

With our lives already busy enough, it's no wonder why so many folks go for that morning cup of coffee to kick-start our day. It just so happens that today, Nov. 23, is National Espresso Day, and if you're looking for that extra "umph," espresso may be just what you're looking for.

But what is espresso exactly? First of all, it isn’t just the trendy new thing; it’s actually been around since 1903 and was invented by Luigi Bezzera, according to a history of espresso published on the University of Scranton website.

True espresso is brewed with a pump or piston-driven espresso machine and is enjoyed worldwide,according to Wikipedia. Espresso is not a type of bean, nor is it a type of blend or roast. It is simply a speedy method of brewing coffee using machines that force hot water, between 192ºF and 204ºF, at high pressure through finely-ground and compacted coffee, according to Wikipedia.

The ideal shot of espresso is extracted in approximately 23 to 25 seconds and has three parts – the foam, body and heart. The foam is a rich caramel cream that forms when brewed properly and sits atop the body. The heart is at the bottom of the cup and is typically bitter.

2. Since we’re on the topic, let’s do a quick Coffee 101 on what is what, according to The CoffeeBrewers.

·                                 Typical American Coffee – coffee is brewed by mixing the grounds of roasted coffee beans with hot water, steeped briefly, then straining out the grounds.

·                                 Cappuccino and Latte – These are made with espresso and milk. In cappuccino, the milk is frothed into foam. Cappuccino uses equal portions of espresso and milk. In latte, the milk is just steamed, and there is twice as much milk used than espresso.

About 51% of consumers that cook at home do so because it is generally healthier

While Baby Boomers have been given credit for launching America's cooking craze and nurturing it over the past few decades, Baby Boomers' children, the Millennial generation (aged 17-34 in 2011), are now poised to take over and start stirring the pot.

 According to a new Mintel report, younger cooks may lack skill in the kitchen, but make up for it with their enthusiasm. Only 6% of Millennials say they have advanced skill in the kitchen, compared to 15% of those aged 55+. However, a quarter (25%) of Millennials claim to "love cooking" versus 17% of their senior counterparts.

 "It appears that years of frequent cooking helps to hone skills, but the downside is they sometimes fall into a rut from fixing the same dishes over and over," says Fiona O'Donnell, senior analyst at Mintel. "This creates an opportunity for marketers to provide seniors with options that adhere to specific health requirements, as well as add an element of fun and adventure to meal prep."

The desire for a healthier diet is an important motivation for home cooking. Roughly half (51%) of home cooks say they cook because homemade food is generally healthier than both restaurant food and prepared foods sold at grocery stores. In addition to health, experimentation, socializing and personal enjoyment round out the reasons people are spending more time cooking.

 Fifty-six percent of Mintel respondents who cook occasionally say cooking allows them to experiment and try new things and 27% say it helps them to explore foods eaten in other cultures. Meanwhile, 48% say cooking is a way to express affection to friends and family and 41% enjoy teaching their children how to cook. And perhaps the simplest of reasons, 43% enjoy the process of cooking as much as eating and 40% find that preparing food helps them to relax.

 "Older cooks, possibly for health concerns, are somewhat more likely to cite health as a reason for their interest in cooking," adds Fiona O'Donnell. "Younger cooks appear to be more interested in experimentation, with those in their 20s and 30s more likely to agree that cooking gourmet meals makes them feel sophisticated and smart, suggesting that learning to cook and cooking for friends is viewed as a way to establish credibility among their peers."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Consuming green tea could reduce "bad" cholesterol readings

Green tea, taken in a capsule or drunk in a cup, may shave a few points off "bad" cholesterol readings, according to a U.S. study involving more than a thousand people.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, showed that green tea trimmed 5 to 6 points more from people's total cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels than dummy capsules or other treatments.

The trials tested either green tea itself or capsules containing green-tea compounds called catechins, which are thought to decrease cholesterol absorption in the gut.

Green tea in a cup was more consistently effective than capsules, though the benefits overall were fairly small, noted senior researcher Olivia Phung, an assistant professor of pharmacy at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California.
"If someone is already taking medication for their cholesterol, they should stick with it and not try to trade it for green tea, either capsules or the beverage," she told Reuters Health in an email.

But adding green tea to your diet could be one way to further improve cholesterol numbers, she said.
The researchers, however, found no strong evidence that green tea boosted "good" HDL cholesterol, or cut triglycerides, another type of blood fat.

Phung's team pooled the results of 20 clinical trials that involved a total of 1,415 adults.

Participants were randomly assigned to either use green tea every day, as a beverage or capsule, or be part of "control" groups that took placebo capsules, drank a low-catechin tea or downed water.
The trials lasted anywhere from three weeks to six months and the benefits seemed to be limited to people who already had high cholesterol when they entered the study.

Overall, tea seemed more effective than capsules, though Phung said there isn't enough data to be sure that the beverage is better than the extract.
A number of clinical trials that examined whether green tea, or its extracts, can benefit people's cholesterol levels have reached mixed conclusions. Most of the trials have been small, making them less reliable.

There are other questions too, including what dose of green tea catechins is ideal.
In the trials Phung's team studied, the researchers were unable to test for a "dose-response" effect, which would have shown whether the cholesterol benefits increase as the catechin dose goes up.

"We would really need to have some head-to-head studies comparing the different forms of green tea in order to show which ones work more effectively," Phung said.
As for side effects, green tea is considered safe in moderate amounts, though the drink and the extracts contain caffeine, which some people may need to avoid.

There have also been a few dozen cases of liver damage reported among people using green tea extracts, but it's not certain that the supplements are to blame.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Low vitamin D may increase heart attack risk in women

Low levels of vitamin D may put women at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, according to one of several new studies on the important nutrient.

After analyzing 16 years of data on more than 2,000 healthy, postmenopausal white women aged 45 to 58, researchers found that the 788 women with a vitamin D deficiency had more risk factors for heart disease than 1,225 women with normal levels of the vitamin. They were scheduled to present their findings Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Women with low vitamin D levels had higher levels of triglycerides; higher fasting glucose; a higher body mass index; and lower HDL "good" cholesterol. The researchers noted 47 percent of the women who were deficient in vitamin D were smokers compared to 38 percent of the women with normal vitamin D levels.
About 15 percent of the women deficient in vitamin D either died or suffered heart failure, a heart attack or stroke during the study period compared to 10.2 percent of the women who did not have this deficiency.

Three other studies also looked at vitamin D's possible protective effects on the heart. One study found that people who took 4,000 units of vitamin D daily for five days following a severe heart event had less inflammation afterward than patients who didn't take the supplement.

A third study found that chest pain patients with low Vitamin D levels were more likely to die during the next two years than those with adequate levels of the nutrient.

Finally, a fourth study found that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease.
Because these studies were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The End Of Cheap Coffee Is NEAR! MAYBE

Zak Stone reports on what is probably the worst news all. That news is this: we may be approaching a day where coffee is both rare and expensive. This threat comes from two sources. The first is the ever-growing demand for coffee all over the world, especially as more countries develop a strong, robust middle class that requires coffee to function.

Second, there have been a number of impacts to the supply of coffee. Weather causes, possibly fueled by overall climate change, have led to lower crop yields. On top of that, there have been outbreaks of new pests and fungi, as well as some very unstable labor issues in coffee-producing companies. The overall effect is that, as Stone notes, “supply has gone down and demand has gone up.”

This is particularly the case because the coffee beans that produce the best flavors are also among the hardest to produce, because they require particular weather systems to reach a productive peak. Unfortunately, those weather systems are being impacted by the overall changes to the Earth’s climate:

The delicate balance in those ecosystems is being thrown off kilter. In Colombia, the world’s third-biggest coffee producer, agricultural scientist Peter Baker has watched while record rainfall, increased heat, and frequent plagues have devastated farms across the country’s Andean coffee- growing region. It was 2005 when Baker “started to think seriously that climate change was not just about the future but was already happening.” Today, the signs are plentiful. Average temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees in some areas over the past 30 years, “especially nighttime minimum temperatures,” says Baker, “a tell-tale signature of [man-made] climate change.” Hotter, rainier weather nourishes pests and disease, particularly coffee rust, a fungal plague that’s ascended Colombia’s mountain peaks, which were formerly too chilly for the organism. Heavy rains damage Arabica’s delicate blossoms—the same blossoms that eventually turn into coffee cherries, whose seeds are coffee beans. As heat and pests climb Colombia’s mountains, “the lower limit at which coffee is grown is starting to go up,” says Baker. As growers move higher into the mountains, they run into another problem: mountains have tops.

The results of these climate changes was a decrease in yield. Arabica, the world’s most common bean, has seen diminished yields over the past few years, which has led to a rise in the price of coffee overall. Right now, it looks like that trend is going to continue.

Furthermore, the fact that coffee is a mental stimulant is well-documented. For example, the rise of coffee in the Islamic world in the early Middle Ages is what led to the rise of coffeehouse culture in those countries, which fueled the intellectual ferment that led to the Islamic golden age. Islamic students and scholars, fueled by coffee, revived Greek philosophy and laid the groundwork for the scientific method and modern mathematics. Without coffee, the Renaissance and Enlightenment might never have happened, as they were sparked by Europe’s introduction to the scientific and philosophic works of the Muslim world

It's possible that the modern world and the advance of science are not the direct result of coffee-fueled discussions in Cordoba and other Muslim cities. And the lack of readily-available coffee might not lead to the collapse of science, engineering, and civilization.

But is that really a risk we’re willing to take?

Credits:  Forbes

Saturday, November 19, 2011

About 44% of those hosting Thanksgiving this year are at least somewhat overwhelmed with the cost,

Hosting a Thanksgiving meal is an honor and a joy for many, but sometimes the price tag that goes along with it can be daunting. A new survey reveals that 44 percent of those hosting Thanksgiving this year are at least somewhat overwhelmed with the cost. More women said they feel overwhelmed by the cost than men, at 51 percent and 36 percent, respectively. This survey was conducted online nationwide by Harris Interactive on behalf of from October 24-26, 2011 among 2,132 adults aged 18 and older.

 Between a turkey, side dishes, beverages and dessert, a Thanksgiving host's grocery bill can cost a cornucopia of money. Nearly one-in-five (17 percent) Thanksgiving hosts said they plan to spend $250 or more on the meal this year, while half (52 percent) will spend between $100 and $249. Others are planning a more frugal Thanksgiving, as 31 percent said they will spend under $100.

"Don't let the burden of the cost of Thanksgiving fall squarely on your own shoulders," said Jackie Warrick, President and Chief Savings Officer at "Since many people will be enjoying the meal with you, consider asking guests to chip in on the cost, or better yet, contribute with a dish of their own. Combine the sharing strategy with other money-saving tactics and you'll be well on your way to a less expensive Turkey Day."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Protein-Rich Dairy Foods Improve Bone Health During Dieting

Obese premenopausal women who consume high levels of protein from dairy sources may help reverse bone loss often associated with calorie-restricted diets, according to a new study appearing in the January 2012 issue of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Previous studies have shown that higher body weight is associated with greater bone mass and that weight loss through dieting can adversely affect bone health. For this study, researchers at McMaster University conducted a controlled, randomized weight-loss intervention trial involving 90 premenopausal overweight or obese women that was designed to achieve weight loss and be supportive of bone health. Participants were put on modest dietary calorie restriction and daily exercise, including aerobic and resistance training with varied intakes of protein and dairy foods. Researchers used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans to assess bone mineral density and content, and analyzed participants’ urine and blood samples to evaluate serum levels of several bone health biomarkers.

They found the consumption of diets higher in protein with an emphasis on dairy foods during a diet and exercise period positively affected markers of bone turnover, calcium, vitamin D status and bone metabolism in overweight and obese premenopausal women.

“Our data provide a good rationale to recommend consumption of dairy foods to aid in high-quality weight loss, which we define as loss of fat as opposed to muscle, and the promotion of bone health in young women who are at the age when achieving and maintaining peak bone mass is of great importance," they said.


·                                 Newswise: Eating Dairy Foods May Improve Bone Health During Diet and Exercise in Overweight Premenopausal Women

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Middle Class Eats the Most Fast Food

Middle-class families consume on average more fast food than lower-income, less-healthy families that can’t afford to eat out, according to a new study published online in the journal Population Health Management. The findings challenge the popular belief that fast food is to blame for higher obesity rates among the poor.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis examined data from the 1994 to 1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals and the accompanying Diet and Health Knowledge Survey. The data included responses from nearly 5,000 U.S. consumers about food consumption patterns, household income, race, gender, age and education.

They found as incomes rose, visits to full-service restaurants increased. In contrast, eating at fast-food restaurants followed a different pattern. Fast-food restaurant visits rose along with annual household income up to $60,000; however, as income increased beyond that level, fast-food visits decreased.

The researchers noted that the fast-food industry attracts the middle class by locating restaurants right off freeways in middle-income areas and by offering products that appeal to a large proportion of Americans.

"There is a correlation between obesity and lower income, but it cannot be solely attributed to restaurant choice," said senior author J. Paul Leigh, professor of public health sciences at UC Davis. "Fast-food dining is most popular among the middle class, who are less likely to be obese."


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some 46% of Americans are aware of USDA's MyPlate Guidelines

As government organizations lead the battle against this nation’s obesity epidemic, it seems Americans are putting down their forks and listening. Forty-six percent of Americans have heard of the new USDA MyPlate Guidelines, according to a national survey conducted by M Booth’s Better4You practice —and more than half of those (60%), 27% of all Americans surveyed, say they may adopt the dietary guidelines for themselves or have already vowed to do so (11%).

 The MyPlate model for healthy eating may help shape the way American families eat. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) Americans aware of MyPlate say they would factor the guidelines into decisions that affect their families’ eating habits. Surprisingly, the youngest group surveyed – those between ages 16 and 34 – are twice as likely as older age groups, 55 years plus, to change their habits (19% vs. 9%). Females are the most receptive audience to target with MyPlate messaging, with 7% more women than men willing to adopt it.

Those resistant to accepting MyPlate include: 16% who reported they definitely wouldn’t use the guidelines in determining how they feed their families; and 45% of those 55 and older who were the least likely to use MyPlate when making family-oriented food decisions.

 M Booth’s Better4You Director of Nutrition Tanya Zuckerbrot, creator of the The F-Factor diet, believes the new nutrition tool has the potential to effectively change American eating habits. “The key to changing one’s eating habits is to make small sustainable changes. If people embrace even one facet of the MyPlate guidelines, such as filling half their plate with vegetables and fruit, it is a huge step forward for public health,” says Zuckerbrot. “MyPlate can be used as a motivating force to drive food manufacturers to create foods that meet healthful dietary guidelines, taste great and are affordable. It is imperative to educate the public on how to enjoy food as part of a healthy lifestyle."

 With nearly half the population aware of the new guidelines and even more considering a change in their habits, MyPlate offers a vehicle for brands, marketers and the like to communicate nutritional messages to the masses.

 “The results of our survey offer promise for brands in the Better4You space that wish to connect with consumers desiring a healthier lifestyle,” says Rich Goldblatt, senior vice president and director of M Booth’s Better4You practice. “Shoppers are more plugged in than ever when it comes to understanding the good, bad and ugly in their daily diets. They are more pro-active, delving beyond creative packaging on store shelves – and taking a consistently closer look at nutritional labels.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Starbucks to Offer More Things We Don't Need to Spend Money On

Starbucks (SBUX) has long been a master at getting people to overpay for something they could consume much more cheaply at home. Now -- confronted by a host of coffee rivals, led by Dunkin' Brands (DNKN) -- Starbucks hopes to pull off that neat profitable trick once more, this time with juice.

On Thursday, the world's largest coffeehouse chain announced its acquisition of Evolution Fresh, a small, high-end maker of juices and cut fruit and vegetables. In a press release, Starbucks proclaimed its intention to "reinvent the $1.6 billion super-premium juice segment, its significant next step in entering the larger $50 billion Health and Wellness sector."

But can Starbucks credibly claim to offer a beneficial addition to our nutritional regimens? This is a place, after all, that sells a 680-calorie Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha ("venti" size, made with whole milk plus whipped cream).

"Starbucks' idea of nutrition is nutrients in products, not real foods," says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, and author of Food Politics and What to Eat, among other publications. "Starbucks would be a doing a lot more for the health of its customers if it reduced the sizes of its food offerings, and increased the proportion of real foods," says Dr. Nestl In other words: oranges instead of orange juice.

But you can only charge so much for a piece of fruit; the markup on a smoothie or blended juice drink can be many times higher.

Evolution Fresh does at least make a claim to singularity, boasting of new technology called High Pressure Pasteurization, which purportedly eliminates potentially harmful microbes without subjecting the juice to high temperatures that can degrade flavor or nutritional content. The result is a fresh product with a very long shelf-life -- 40 days, reportedly.

"I'm sure the juice is just fine nutritionally," Dr. Nestle said. "This is just part of Starbucks' plan to be seen as health foodish as well as caffeinated."

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said as much in an interview with CNBC. Schultz mentioned the respective sizes of "the health and wellness category in America" and "the premium juice business" and said that no "national specialty retailer of any kind" has matched what Starbucks thinks it can do with juice" (seeming to diss Jamba Juice). But aside from touting the taste and shelf-life of Evolution's products, which carry labels like "Daily Detox" and promise "vitality," Schultz said nothing about any actual health benefits.

Instead, discussing plans to open separate specialty stores after introducing Evolution drinks in Starbucks locations, Schultz said the company will "capture the romance and
theater of juice beverages." But he did not elaborate on what might constitute that romance and theater, the atmospheric details that are presumably why consumers will be expected to pay a premium. In any case, Schultz sounded confident about Starbucks' ability to pull it off. After all, he'd done it once before, as he reminded the interviewer: "If you think back 30, 40 years ago we reinvented a commodity, which was generic coffee, and built a major business around the experience. We think we can do the same thing with juice."

The products at Starbucks' juice-based specialty shops could well wind up delicious enough to make a claim on our wallets. But as a strategy, the "major push into health and wellness" announced by Howard Schultz amounts to a bet that consumers will happily pay hand over fist for a feeling of health and a taste of wellness, preferring these pleasures to the hard, unglamorous work of exercising regularly and eating right.

Monday, November 14, 2011

U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $497 on gifts this holiday season

U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $497 on gifts this holiday season, The Conference Board reports today. Only 7 percent of consumers said they plan to spend more on holiday gifts this year, while approximately 40 percent plan on spending less than last year.  

The survey of holiday gift spending intentions, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The survey was conducted for The Conference Board in October.  

"As the holiday season approaches, we once again find consumers in a frugal mood," says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "With the overwhelming majority of consumers expecting to spend the same or less than they did last year, it's not surprising that they expect a large share of their purchases to be on sale or discounted."

Consumers will be heading to the malls and online searching for bargains. Four out of ten holiday shoppers say they expect more than half of their purchases to be on sale or discounted. An additional three out of ten expect a quarter to half of their purchases to be discounted.

Close to two-thirds of consumers expect to purchase a portion of their holiday gifts online, with about 15 percent saying more than half of their gifts will be purchased online.

Source: The Conference Board Holiday Spending Survey, November 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Study questions benefits of reducing sodium in diet

Although cutting back on salt does lower blood pressure, new research finds that it may also increase levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and other risk factors for heart disease.

At this point, though, it's not entirely clear what the findings mean for long-term health, according to the study, which appears online Nov. 9 in the American Journal of Hypertension.

"In my opinion, people should generally not worry about their salt intake," said study author Dr. Niels Graudal, senior consultant in internal medicine and rheumatology at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

For decades, health experts have been saying that reducing sodium consumption lowers the risk for heart disease and stroke. And there's a powerful new government push to reduce salt in prepared and processed foods.

New U.S. dietary guidelines now recommend that people aged 2 and older limit daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg).

People aged 51 and older, blacks and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should consider going down to 1,500 mg per day, many experts say.

And the American Heart Association believes the 1,500-milligram-a-day recommendation should apply to all Americans.

The average American probably consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day which, by these standards, is way too much.

But is it?

One European study recently found that lower sodium excretion was associated with an increased risk of heart-related deaths and higher sodium excretion was not linked with increased risks for blood pressure or complications from heart disease in healthy people.

The study published this week reviewed data from 167 studies that compared high-sodium diets to low-sodium diets.

Less salt did lower blood pressure in whites, blacks and Asians who had either normal blood pressure or high blood pressure.

But this came with significant increases in levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, the enzyme renin (involved in regulating blood pressure) and the hormones noradrenaline and adrenaline (which can affect blood pressure and heart rate).

It's unclear at this point if these changes would translate, over the long run, into more heart attacks or strokes.

But the findings do raise the issue that not all salt consumers are created equal.

"There are those who are more salt-sensitive than others," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

As for the general public, the message is still the same: Less salt is probably better for your health, Steinbaum said.

And even people who do keep their sodium intake within normal bounds should know that might not be enough.

"People need to moderate their lifestyle with better mineral intake, more plant-based foods and more exercise in their daily lives," said Karen Congro, director of the Wellness for Life Program at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "Sodium reduction is not going to solve their problems 100 percent."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Consumers are more likely to choose a cookie over an apple when paying with cash

It is 3:00 p.m. and you are feeling a little hungry. You walk into your favorite coffee shop. As you walk in, you look in your wallet and decide to pay with cash instead of a credit card. Will this seemingly innocuous decision affect what you buy

 Authors Rajesh Bagchi and Lauren Block argue that because it feels more expensive when paying with cash versus a credit card consumers are likely to indulge more. That is, they are more likely to choose the cookie over the apple when paying with cash, but would choose the apple when paying with a credit card. Consumption of indulgent foods alleviates the pain of payment and leads to greater positive affect, the authors write.

The authors say the theory stems from the pain of payment and applies to all payment types, and paying with cash is more visceral than other payment forms. The theory applies to consumers at all income levels, but may be most readily apparent among the poor. "Payment can be painful when it is more difficult to earn money. People below the poverty line often find it difficult to earn money. So when they spend they want every penny to count. This can potentially explain why obesity rates are higher in these segments," Bagchi says.

 But it is not just the poor who find products expensive, Block says. "During these current economic times, almost everybody is feeling the pain of payment. Therefore, the sale of indulgences should be on the rise as consumers will purchase indulgent products to compensate for the pain of payment."

These findings are in direct opposition to some recent study findings that found that when making grocery purchases consumers make judicious purchases with cash but buy more indulgent products with a credit card. Bagchi says this may be because in grocery contexts, the purchase is not consumed immediately. In a grocery store context consumers have to justify the purchase and because cash is more painful to pay with, consumers are more careful when making cash purchases. "But in our contexts," Block says, "justification is not necessary as consumption is immediate. It is this consumption that blunts the pain of payment."

SOURCE American Marketing Association

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eating Watermelon Benefits Heart Health

Individuals who incorporate watermelon into their diets may help lower their risk of  atherosclerosis, according to new research conducted at the University of Kentucky. The findings also suggest the nutrient-rich melon may help in the area of weight management.

Researchers conduced a study on mice with diet-induced high cholesterol. The control group was given water to drink, while the experimental group was given watermelon juice. By week eight of the study, the mice given watermelon juice had lower body weight than the control group, due to decrease of fat mass. They experienced no decrease in lean mass. Plasma cholesterol concentrations were significantly lower in the experimental group, with modestly reduced intermediate and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations as compared to the control group.

A measurement of atherosclerotic lesion areas revealed that the watermelon juice group also experienced statistically significant reductions in atherosclerotic lesions, as compared to the control group.

“Melons have many health benefits," said lead investigator Sibu Saha. “Our ultimate goal is to identify bioactive compounds that would improve human health."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Healthy Side of Coffee

Coffee lovers (/addicts) the world over have reason to rejoice and fill up. The health benefits of coffee has been looked at once again.  A new study recently published found that coffee is good for more than just Monday mornings and has been linked to preventing the most common type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma (BCC).  This is a big find, explains Dr. Fengju Song, a postdoctoral researcher over at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical center, “Given the nearly 1 million new cases of BCC diagnosed each year in the United States.

According to the American Cancer Society, BCC makes up around 3 quarters of all skin cancers, especially affecting people with light colored skin and hair, blue or green eyes. The study, which was presented at a cancer prevention conference in Boston, tested the cancer rates of 73,000 people between 1984 and 2008 and found that a large number of instances (23,000) were cases of BCC.  Once these numbers were determined, researchers then looked into how much coffee was consumed by the subjects.

Song and her team found that “women who consumed more than 3 cups of coffee per day had a 20% reduction in risk for BCC, and men who consumed more than three cups per day had a 9% risk reduction compared with people who consumed less than one cup per month.”  So, based on this new data, it was determined that the more cups of coffee a person drank the less likely that person would be to developing this most prevalent type of skin cancer.

It is still unknown what the exact link is between coffee and cancer and why it would have the effect that it does on that particular type of skin cancer, it is clear that more research is necessary.  Dr. Robert S. Kirsner, the vice chairman of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine commented on the study.“It does suggest that there is something in caffeine that may have a specific effect on the pathway for BCC development…This would likely lead people to get back into the lab and try and figure out how caffeine might effect that pathway.”

And while the doors are now open for additional research, coffee has added yet another benefit to its list. Harvard Health Publications lists some “good news” about coffee in regards to blood pressure control, cholesterol levels, diabetes prevention, and protecting (mostly men) against the onset of Parkinson’s disease.  Another article nicely maps the progress in coffee research and lists multiple examples of the helping hand coffee provides: including reducing the risks of having a stroke.  Women have shown to be less likely to be clinically depressed, people are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver, the dangerous and possibly deadly infection methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is less likely to develop in heavy coffee drinkers,  prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease and gallstones are less likely to develop in men, and those undergoing treatment for hepatitis C are more likely to react positively to the treatment if they are coffee drinkers.

All in all, the past stigma associated with coffee—jitters and headaches—has changed. Donald Hensrud , M.D., of the Mayo Clinic: “Coffee has a long history of being blamed for many ills—from the humorous ‘It will stunt your growth’ to the not-so-humorous claim that it causes heart disease and cancer.  But recent research indicates that coffee may not be so bad after all…The best answer may be that for most people that health benefits outweigh the risks.” 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Almonds take top spot as food ingredient worldwide

Almonds have maintained their position as the No. 1 ingredient nut used in new products worldwide, according to reports from the two leading global databases, Mintel and Innova Market Insights, which track new food product introductions.

From 2008 to the present, almonds have been the preferred nut ingredient for food professionals. New nut-containing products with almonds as an ingredient experienced significant growth from 2009 to 2010 in the categories of snacking (26 percent), confectionery (36 percent) and bakery (37 percent). And almond product introductions in North America are at an all-time high following a record 30 percent growth in 2010. Almonds are the only nut to rank in the top two across all key global regions (North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.)1
“Almonds offer a combination of qualities not many ingredients have — great taste, distinct texture and multiple benefits — so it’s not surprising they’re the No. 1 nut food professionals are choosing,” said LuAnn Williams, head of research for Innova Market Insights. “The applications are truly limitless, when I look at the top trends today — from heart health to confectionery innovation — there is a place for almonds in every one.”