Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Only 1% of Facebook 'Fans' Engage With Brands

For a few years now, brands have been touting frothy Facebook "like" numbers as evidence of their social-media acumen. But how many of those fans are actually bothering to take part in conversation with brands?

Not too many, as it turns out.

Slightly more than 1% of fans of the biggest brands on Facebook are actually engaging with the brands, according to a study from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, an Australia-based marketing think tank that counts Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and other major advertisers as its supporters.

To get to these findings, the researchers used one of Facebook's own metrics, People Talking About This, the awkwardly-named running count of likes, posts, comments, tags, shares and other ways a user of the social network can interact with branded pages. It was unveiled last fall as a way of giving advertisers a sharper look at at the level of activity on their pages.

Researchers for the institute looked at this metric as a proportion of overall fan growth of the top 200 brands on Facebook over a six-week period back in October and they found the percentage of People Talking About This to overall fans to be 1.3%. If you subtract new likes, which only requires a click and in the minds of the researchers are akin to TV ratings, and isolate for more engaged forms of interaction, you're left within an even smaller number: 0.45%. That means less than half a percent of people who identify themselves as like a brand actually bother to create any content around it.

You might assume these are damning numbers. But this isn't necessarily the case.

"I don't think it's a bad thing," said Karen Nelson-Field, senior research associate for Ehrenberg-Bass Institute who describes herself as a "Facebook advocate." "People need to understand what it can do for a brand and what it can't do. Facebook doesn't really differ from mass media. It's great to get decent reach, but to change the way people interact with a brand overnight is just unrealistic."

In the background here is the thinking of Andrew Ehrenberg, the late mathematician who was highly skeptical of conventional marketing wisdom. In dense statistically-oriented papers, he cast doubt on concepts such as brand loyalty and was never sold on the persuasive power of advertising. Now his disciples advocate achieving broad reach through mass media. Brand growth, they maintain, is attained not by reaching a few loyal fans but a larger number of light and medium buyers. In this understanding of the marketing and media worlds, social is just another media channel useful for its reach rather than any notion of engagement.

This research jibes with that thinking, as does a separate study from Ms. Nelson-Field looking at the distribution of buying behavior among Facebook fan bases. In that study, she used web-based consumer panels to examine the behavior of Facebook fans of two unnamed repeat-purchased brands, in the chocolate and soft-drink categories. The key finding was a much greater occurrence of heavy buyers in the Facebook population than in a more general population of customers. The study also found that purchase frequency didn't increase after someone became a fan.

In other words, Facebook fan bases skew toward heavy buyers rather than the more casual shoppers that a brands needs to reach in order to grow. Again, unless you're someone who believes marketing on Facebook alone constitutes a full strategy or you're lining up for the inevitable Facebook IPO, this isn't all bad news. Facebook does provide good reach and its audience of loyal fans is good for market research and word-of-mouth advocacy.

If there's an overall caution, it's against, in the words of Ms. Nelson-Field, "putting a disproportionate amount of effort into engagement and strategies to get people to talk about a brand, when you should be spending more time getting more light buyers."

Monday, January 30, 2012


Food safety has been China’s Achilles heel for the past few years, and new data that reveals 51% of food inspections conducted in Mainland China during 2011 failed only adds to country’s food-safety woes.

According to the recent AsiaInspection 2011 Q4 Barometer, a quarterly synopsis of Asia-based manufacturing and the quality control services industry, while the majority of these inspections were failed because of minor defects, 10% were for critical defects with an extreme case involving contamination by a large quantity of rodent fecal matter. The fact that over half of all Chinese food inspections fail is even more alarming when compared to an average failure rate for non-food products of about 30%.

China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce also reported 62,000 illegal food cases were reported in 2011. Authorities also stopped the operation of 43,000 unlicensed food-producing businesses found to be operating illegally and revoked the business licenses of 576 operators during the same period.

The report also noted food packaging had a 57% inspection failure rate in 2011. “Food packaging defects may not seem critical," said Sebastien Breteau, CEO of AsiaInspection. “But by the time food leaves the factory and hits store shelves, toxic amounts of contaminants like formaldehyde and lead can leech out of packaging, contaminate food and cause serious harm to consumers."

China exported over 4.5 billion tons of food in 2011 alone," said Antoine Bloch, Asia Pacific Vice President of Silliker, a partner of AsiaFoodInspection with AsiaInspection. “With chemical and natural contaminants threatening food available to all of us, the need for prevention in the form of comprehensive laboratory testing has never been clearer."


·                                 Business Wire: AsiaInspection 2011 Q4 Barometer: 1 in Every 2 Food Inspections Failed in China in 2011

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lose weight while dining out: Study reveals 6 tips

Eating at restaurants frequently, which can mean consuming large portions of high-calorie foods, could boost your risk of becoming obese. But there may be a way to eat out and still lose weight, a new study suggests.

 Researchers looked at 35 middle-aged women and found that after six weeks of following a weight gain prevention program, they lost more weight than women who didn't follow the program.

In the program, researchers suggested that when dining out, the women should ask that half of their meal be boxed up "to go" before they started eating, and should look up calorie information on restaurants' websites, along with other advice.

"Being able to control and manage what you eat is useful," said lead author Gayle Timmerman, a nurse who studies eating patterns and weight in women at the University of Texas. "But you need some knowledge and skills in order to do that."

The study is published today (Jan. 10) in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Over the past several decades, the percentage of our total spending on food that goes to eating out has risen. In 1970, 26 percent of all food spending was on food away from home, but by 2005, that number had climbed to 41 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Restaurants are a high-risk food environment," Timmerman said. "If you don't have a strategy, it's easy to gain weight and eat more without intending to."

In fact, a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that lower-calorie foods purchased in restaurants may contain more calories than listed.

The study included 35 healthy women between the ages of 40 to 59 years who ate out frequently. Nineteen of the women were given instructions about how to prevent weight gain, 16 were not.

Women in the prevention group attended six weekly, 2-hour sessions. Each session included discussions on managing weight, weekly goals, eating out strategies and mindful eating meditation, which involved exercises aimed at helping the women appreciate the sight, smell and texture of eating food.

As an incentive, those in the prevention group were given a $20 gift card during the first part of the study and a $30 gift card at the end of the study.

By the end of the study, researchers found women in the weight gain prevention group consumed less calories and fat than women who were not in the prevention program.

On average, women who participated in the prevention program lost close to four pounds, whereas women in the control group lost about half a pound.

Moreover, the number of times women ate out didn't decrease over the course of the study, indicating that women were able to manage their weight while continuing their habits of dining out.

Judy Stern, a nutritionist from the University of California, Davis, however wasn't too impressed with the study's findings.

"If you're overweight, and I gave you some incentive to lose weight, you would probably lose weight," Stern said. "While I appreciate the efforts they went through in this study, I'm underwhelmed."

She also noted that the study could have been strengthened by being longer. But she did find the study to be a step in the right direction. "It's increasing our awareness of what we're eating," she said.

Along with boxing up half of a meal before starting to eat, and researching calorie counts, here are the tips the researchers gave study participants:

·                 Budget your calories. If you know you're going to be dining out, eat a lighter meal, but don't a skip meal. You might overeat later.

·                 Pay attention to what you're eating and enjoy the experience. Try to chew slowly and savor it.

·                 Avoid "unloved" calories. Do you really enjoy eating cold fries? Skip food you feel neutral about—but that doesn't mean you can pass on your veggies.

·                 Order salad dressings, sauces and gravy on the side. That way you control how much you put on your food.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

About 89% of U.S. women ages 18 to 34 consume the caffeine equivalent of 1.5 to two cups of coffee a day

Caffeine changes women's estrogen levels and has different effects in Asian and white women, a new study says.

More than 250 women, ages 18 to 44, took part in the study between 2005 and 2007. On average, they consumed 90 milligrams of caffeine a day, about the equivalent of one cup of caffeinated coffee.

Estrogen is the reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries.

Asian women who consumed an average of 200 milligrams or more of caffeine a day (equivalent to about two cups of coffee) had elevated estrogen levels compared to women who consumed less. But white women who consumed the same amount of caffeine had slightly lower estrogen levels than women who consumed less.

Black women who consumed 200 or more milligrams of caffeine daily had elevated estrogen levels, but this finding was not statistically significant, said the U.S. National Institutes of Health researchers and their colleagues.

The caffeine consumed by the women in the study came from any of these sources: coffee, black tea, green tea and caffeinated soda. The findings differed slightly when the researchers considered the source of caffeine individually.

Consuming 200 milligrams of caffeine from coffee mirrored the overall findings. But consumption of more than one cup each day of caffeinated soda or green tea was associated with higher estrogen in all three groups of women, according to the study published online in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The caffeine-related changes in estrogen levels did not appear to affect women's ovulation, said the researchers, who followed the women for up to two menstrual cycles.

About 89 percent of U.S. women ages 18 to 34 consume the caffeine equivalent of 1.5 to two cups of coffee a day, according to the authors.

"The results indicate that caffeine consumption among women of child-bearing age influences estrogen levels," Enrique Schisterman, of the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in an NIH news release.

"Short term, these variations in estrogen levels among different groups do not appear to have any pronounced effects. We know that variations in estrogen level are associated with such disorders as endometriosis, osteoporosis, and endometrial, breast and ovarian cancers. Because long-term caffeine consumption has the potential to influence estrogen levels over a long period of time, it makes sense to take caffeine consumption into account when designing studies to understand these disorders," Schisterman said.

More information

Health Canada has more about caffeine.

Friday, January 27, 2012

U.S. worker spends $1,000 a year on coffee

Coffee plays a significant role in the routines of Americans during their workdays.

A new survey has concluded that the average U.S. worker spends over $1,000 a year on coffee.

According to the latest Workonomix survey, conducted by Accounting Principals, people are spending a yearly average of $1,092 on coffee, which translates to approximately $20 bucks a week.

In order to aggregate information, Accounting Principals surveyed 1,000 employed U.S. workers, age 18 and over, partly to determine how much individuals spend on work-related expenses and also to explore people's financial attitudes from the past year and looking forward to the new year.

The survey was conducted via telephone by Braun Research on behalf of Accounting Principals and representatives called the 1,000 individuals between Dec. 22 and Dec. 27, 2011. Accounting Principals has listed a margin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

Results also found the American workforce frequently purchases coffee during work hours because their company does not offer good coffee. The survey unearthed 22 percent of workers surveyed "wished their company would invest in better coffee in the office."

Other findings include younger workers (18-34) are more apt to buy coffee during the workday than those aged 45 and up. The amount spent by the two age groups was $24.74 vs. $14.15, respectively. Another demographic explored in the survey was gender. The survey illuminated men tend to spend more on foods and beverages than women do during the workday. In terms of coffee, men spend, on average, $25.70, whereas women spend about $15.00 in comparison.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cooking in olive or sunflower oil is not linked to heart disease or premature death

Researchers in Spain have some good news for people who enjoy eating fried food: Cooking in olive or sunflower oil is not linked to heart disease or premature death.

Because heart disease risk factors -- such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity -- have been linked to eating fried foods, the study authors decided to investigate the association.

For the study, the researchers examined the cooking habits and health of nearly 41,000 adults, aged 29 to 69, who did not have heart disease at the start of the 11-year study. The participants were split into four groups depending on how much fried food they consumed.

The study authors pointed out that because their research was conducted in Spain, where olive and sunflower oil are used for cooking, the findings may not apply in other countries where other types of oil are more commonly used. For example, when food is fried in solid and re-used oils (as in the Western diet), it absorbs the fat of the oils, which increases the calories of the food.

There were 606 heart disease-related events and 1,134 deaths during the study follow-up period, according to the report published in the Jan. 24 online edition of the BMJ.

"In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death," according to the research team, led by Pilar Guallar-Castillon from Autonomous University of Madrid.

In an accompanying editorial, Michael Leitzmann, from the University of Regensburg in Germany, wrote that the findings challenge the belief that "frying food is generally bad for the heart."

However, he added that this "does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences." Specific aspects of frying food, such as the type of oil used, are important, Leitzmann noted.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlines how to eat for a healthy heart.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Images of Food Stimulate Appetite

A new study published in the journal Obesity confirms that seeing delicious foods stimulates the appetite. The findings suggest the hormone ghrelin in the blood increases as a result of visual stimulation through images of food.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry investigated the molecular processes for the control of food consumption by examining the specific physiological reaction of the test subjects to images showing either delicious food or non-edible objects. The measured concentrations of different hormones in the blood, such as grehlin, leptin and insulin that play a role in the regulation of food consumption. The researchers observed that the concentration of grehlin in the blood increases specifically in response to visual stimulation with food images.

Ghrelin controls both eating behavior and the physical processes involved in food metabolism. The results showed in addition to the physiological mechanisms for maintaining the body’s energy status, environmental factors also have a specific influence on food consumption. They concluded, the presence of heavy food advertisements in Western cultures may contribute to weight gain.

“The findings of our study demonstrate, for the first time, that the release of ghrelin into the blood for the regulation of food consumption is also controlled by external factors. Our brain thereby processes these visual stimuli, and the physical processes that control our perception of appetite are triggered involuntarily. This mechanism could prompt us to eat a piece of cake just two hours after breakfast," the researchers said.


·                                 Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry: Pictures of food create feelings of hunger

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Europeans are outpacing their American counterparts when it comes to use of technology for shopping

A new breed of 'Xtreme shoppers' has been identified, amongst whom the European ones are outpacing their American counterparts when it comes to use of technology for shopping.

Over nine out of ten European Xtreme shoppers (95 per cent) like to research products online, compared to just over six out of ten of the American Xtreme shoppers (66 per cent). This is despite a higher percentage of the US shoppers agreeing that shopping online is more efficient (90 per cent and 80 per cent respectively).

These are the findings of a recent study by GfK into the Future of Shopper Marketing, which was carried out across the France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Spain, the UK and the USA.

Alison Chaltas at GfK explains, "Xtreme shoppers are a new segment of consumers defined by their specific shopping attitudes and behaviours across all demographic groups. They are present across all seven of the countries in this study, accounting for over two out of five of the European consumers, and just under that in the US. More importantly, they appear to be a rapidly expanding segment that is largely made up of 25-44 year olds in full time employment - a prime target group for many retailers."

Born out of the combination of a belt-tightening economy and readily available technology, Xtreme shoppers show increasing levels of value-oriented shopping behaviour. The European ones are currently leading the way in use of the internet for researching and buying products, with three-quarters saying they are using the internet more than before to research products (75 per cent), compared to just over two-thirds of US Xtremes (68 per cent).

Direct buying over the web is also increasing amongst this segment - with the European contingent leading the way here too, with seven out of ten using the internet more than before to shop for products (70 per cent). In Poland and the UK, in particular, three quarters or more Xtremes are increasing their use of the internet to purchase products, while the US tails the chart alongside Spain at 62 per cent - but well ahead of Germany at 52 per cent.

Chaltas states, "There is clear indication that the trends we are seeing are set to rise, with the Xtreme shopper segment increasingly adopting their mobile phones and tablets to help them shop. This is especially strong in Russia and Spain, where a third of shoppers are using their mobiles more than ever to shop.

"Of course, the down side to all this internet shopping is that competition is extreme. Over three quarters of European Xtreme shoppers and two thirds of US ones say they are less loyal to any one retailer because they need to shop around for value. Retailers therefore need to find a way to reward loyal customers that will resonate with their current needs - a statement that nearly nine out of ten of all shoppers surveyed agreed with."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Want your kids to do better in school? Try exercise

Children who get more exercise also tend to do better in school, whether the exercise comes as recess, physical education classes or getting exercise on the way to school, according to an international study.

The findings, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, come as U.S. schools in general cut physical activity time in favor of more academic test preparation.

Amika Singh, who worked on the study, said the findings meant that schools should prioritize both academics and exercise and that families could have the same attitude at home.

"Maybe it's an activity break, stand up every half an hour in class and do something," said Singh, from VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

"It might mean going to school by bike ... Any kind of physical activity you can think of. It doesn't mean only the physical education standard class."

Singh and her colleagues reviewed 14 studies that compared kids' physical activity with their grades or scores on math, language and general thinking and memory tests.

Those included two types of reports, such as 10 so-called "observational studies" in which researchers asked parents, teachers or students themselves how active they were, then followed them for a few months to a few years to track their academic performance.

In the four other studies, one group of kids was given extra time for physical education classes and other health and fitness exercises, and their test scores were later compared against a group of kids who didn't get extra exercise.

When researchers asked students how much time they spent exercising, they found that those with higher rates of physical activity did better in the classroom.

Three of the four studies involving an exercise intervention found that students given more exercise time scored higher on measures of academic performance.

In one report from the United States, second and third graders who got an extra 90 minutes of physical activity per week did better on a test of spelling, reading and math, along with gaining less weight over the next three years.

That may be because children are better behaved and can concentrate better when they get enough exercise, or because physical activity improves blood flow to the brain and boosts mood, the researchers wrote.

"There's obviously the long-term links between physical activity and health," said Sandy Slater, who has studied recess and physical education at the University of Illinois at Chicago but wasn't involved in the latest study.

"But this is another reason to try to continue to keep some dedicated amount of time for physical education or recess or some other types of physical activity in the school day."

Recent research has suggested that many U.S. children are not getting the recommended amount of physical education and recess endorsed by the American Heart Association, which includes two and a half hours of physical education a week and 20 minutes of recess every day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Consumers Focused on Labels and Ingredients

The haves and have-nots—that's what's driving health and eco consumer purchasing this year—gluten free, non-GMO, and no antibiotics.  According to a recent MamboTrack™ survey byMambo Sprouts Marketing, consumers are as concerned about what's not in their products as what is.

This label and ingredient focus was a highlight of the recent MamboTrack™ study.  Mambo Sprouts surveyed the buying habits of 1,000 health and natural product consumers to get an outlook on market trends for the coming year.

Health and natural consumers are paying more attention to what goes into the products they purchase.  Most already buy organic foods (99%), non-GMO products (93%), antibiotic free (ABF) and hormone free meat and poultry (85%), and gluten free foods (69%).  More than half plan to increase purchasing of organic foods (64%), non-GMO (56%), ABF and hormone free products (52%), and 38% plan to increase gluten free purchases. 

Among those consumers who seek out non-GMO foods (66%), a large majority (85%) want food products to be specifically certified and labeled as non-GMO.  Perhaps more importantly, seven in ten (70%) expect that products labeled "USDA Organic" are non-GMO. This compares to just 41% of consumers who expect "natural" products to be non-GMO. To that end, two in three (67%) wish their favorite retail stores provided more information about non-GMO such as signage, special sections and advertising features.

Notably, almost seven in ten (68%) cited "ingredient list" as a key brand purchase factor for 2012.  Among the other purchase drivers, health and nutrition benefits (69%), organic ingredients (51%), price (51%), and coupons (47%) were frequently ranked as "very important."  

And while consumers expect to increase organic purchasing across all product categories, Karen Herther, Director of MamboTrack Research, says health conscious consumers remain torn over their organic preferences and price.  "Price is still very much a top-of-mind factor among consumers---driving where people shop and how marketers position and promote their products."

While prices (69%) were among the factors most important to consumers in deciding where to shop in 2012, they also ranked selection of healthy/organic products (68% vs. 56%), safe food preparation and storage (62% vs. 55%) and environmentally friendly practices (31% vs. 25%) higher than in 2011.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Walnuts Contain Highest Antioxidant Levels Among Nuts

New research published in the journal of Food and Function reveals walnuts have the highest content, quality and potency of antioxidants among other nuts.

Researchers at the University of Scranton analyzed free and total (after basic hydrolysis) polyphenols in nine types of raw and roasted nuts and two types of peanut butter (54 commercial samples) after methanol extraction using catechin as standard. Walnuts had the highest free and total polyphenols in both the combined raw and roasted samples. Total polyphenols in the nuts were significantly higher than free polyphenols. Roasting had little effect on either free or total polyphenols in nuts. Raw and roasted walnuts had the highest total polyphenols.

“In addition to providing fiber, high-quality protein, and an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), our research shows that an ounce of walnuts has more antioxidants than the daily sum of what the average person gets from fruits and vegetables," said lead researcher Joseph Vinson.

                        University of Scranton: Research Study Ranks Antioxidant Value of Nuts:                        Walnuts Top List

Friday, January 20, 2012

The world's 250 largest retailers recorded sales growth in excess of 5% in fiscal year 2010

The world's 250 largest retailers recorded sales growth in excess of 5 percent in fiscal year 2010 (encompassing fiscal years ended through June 2011), according to the 2012 Global Powers of Retailing report from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL), in conjunction with STORES Media. The figures mark a substantial improvement on FY09, when the group recorded anaemic growth of just 1.2 percent.

The report also found that profitability improved, with net profit increasing to 3.8 percent in 2010, up from 3.1 percent in 2009. While this performance has been impressive, retailers will have been concerned by the deterioration in the global economy over the latter half of 2011.

Dr. Ira Kalish, Director of Consumer Business for Deloitte Research, part of Deloitte Services LP in the United States, said: "The global economy is decelerating, with growth in 2012 likely to be slower than in 2011 in many of the world's leading markets. The Eurozone crisis continues to drain investor and consumer confidence, while growth in the United States next year is unlikely to significantly reduce unemployment.

"However, retailers may find some silver linings in this otherwise cloudy environment. One positive effect of slower global growth will be the continued dampening of commodity prices. For retailers, this means some improvement on the cost side of the ledger while retail price inflation in some economies presents an opportunity for improved profit margins, even in the context of slow top-line growth."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A magnesium-rich diet may lower stroke risk

People who eat lots of magnesium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts and beans have fewer strokes, according to an international analysis covering some 250,000 people.

But the authors of the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, stopped short of recommending people take a daily magnesium supplement because their analysis focused on magnesium in food -- and it may be another aspect of the food that is responsible for their finding.

"Dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with risk of stroke, specifically ischemic stroke," wrote lead author Susanna Larsson, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

The results suggest that people eat a healthy diet with "magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains," she added.

Larsson and her colleagues combed through research databases spanning the last 45 years to find studies that tracked how much magnesium people took and how many of them had a stroke over time.

In seven studies published in the past 14 years, about 250,000 people in the United States, Europe and Asia were followed for an average of 11.5 years. About 6,500 of them, or three percent, had a stroke in the time they were followed.

For every extra 100 milligrams of magnesium a person ate per day, their risk of an ischemic stroke -- the most common kind, typically caused by a blood clot -- fell by nine percent.

The median magnesium intake for U.S. citizens included in the analysis was 242 milligrams a day. The United States recommends that men and women over age 31 eat 420 and 320 milligrams of magnesium daily, respectively.

Most of the studies allowed the researchers to rule out other factors, such as family history.

But Larsson told Reuters Health in an email that she could not say whether other aspects of what the people ate partially or entirely explained the finding.

More in-depth studies are needed before researchers can say that the magnesium was what actually reduced the stroke risk, she added.

Other experts said the results were consistent with dietary recommendations.

"It's a diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables and grains. Those are things that have low sodium, high potassium and high magnesium," said Larry Goldstein, director of the stroke center at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Omega-3 fatty acids may prevent and treat nerve damage

The new study, published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could play a significant role in speeding recovery from nerve injury.

The study focused on peripheral nerve cells. Peripheral nerves are the nerves which transmit signals between the brain and spinal cord, and the rest of the body.

These nerves have the ability to regenerate but, despite advances in surgical techniques, patients usually only have good recovery when their injury is minor.

Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for the body's normal growth and development and have been widely researched for their health benefits. Because the body cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids, they have to be consumed in foods such as oily fish.

In the new study, researchers first looked at isolated mouse nerve cells. They simulated the type of damage caused by accident or injury, by either stretching the cells or starving them of oxygen. Both types of damage killed a significant number of nerve cells but enrichment with omega-3 fatty acids in cells gave them significant protection and decreased cell death.

Next the researchers studied the sciatic nerves of mice. They found that a high level of omega-3 fatty acids helped mice to recover from sciatic nerve injury more quickly and more fully, and that their muscles were less likely to waste following nerve damage.

The research was carried out by a group led by Adina Michael-Titus, Professor of Neuroscience at Barts and The London Medical School and lead of the Neurotrauma and Neurodegeneration group in the Centre for Neuroscience and Trauma, Queen Mary, University of London.

She explained: "Our previous research has shown that these fatty acids could have beneficial effects in a number of neurological conditions. This new study suggests that they could also have a role in treating peripheral nerve injuries.

"More work is needed but our research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids can protect damaged nerve cells, which is a critical first step in a successful neurological recovery."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Choosing Poultry Over Beef Cuts Stroke Risk by 13%

Men and women who eat more than two servings of red meat daily increase their risk of stroke by 28% and 19%, respectively, compared to individuals who consume less than one service a day, according to a new study in the journal Stroke. The findings also reveal people who eat chicken and turkey reduce their risk of stroke by 13%.

Researchers at the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic investigated the association between dietary protein sources and stroke risk. They followed 84,010 women aged 30 to 55 years at baseline and 43,150 men aged 40 to 75 years at baseline without diagnosed cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Diet was assessed repeatedly by a standardized and validated questionnaire. They examined the association between protein sources and incidence of stroke using a proportional hazard model adjusted for stroke risk factors.

During 26 and 22 years of follow-up in women and men, respectively, they documented 2,633 and 1,397 strokes, respectively. Higher intake of red meat was associated with an elevated risk of stroke, whereas a higher intake of poultry was associated with a lower risk. There were no significant associations with exchanging legumes or eggs for red meat.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Natural factors put pressure on coffee market

This year coffee producers will have higher spirits due to rains in Brazil. According to predictions of Conab, production volume will vary between 49 mln. and 52.3 mln. bags, in comparison to 43.5 mln. bags last year.

With the coming of winter, due to low temperatures in Northern hemisphere, coffee market has experienced a fundamental change, which can be observed at the chart dated December 19, 2011. Floods in Columbia put even more pressure on coffee prices, as transportation and gathering is getting harder.

According to the Department of Derivatives Trading, this year bullish trends will prevail until there is new information from Brazil:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

35% of Americans Resolve to Lose Weight in 2012

Approximately 35% of Americans made a New Year's resolution to lose weight in the last five years, according to a results of a recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll.

The survey, which asked respondents their opinions and experiences with New Year's resolutions focused on weight loss and smoking, found the 52% of those who pledge weight loss were categorized as obese; 57% of those who made resolutions said they were successful at losing their weight.

Respondents who made a resolution to lose weight said most often that their goal was between 10 and 29 pounds (48%). The second most-popular weight-loss goal was 30 to 49 pounds (21%).

Heading into 2012, 51% of all respondents indicated that they will make a resolution to exercise more in the upcoming New Year. Moreover, 35% said they will make a pledge to lose weight.

“As the country re-evaluates ways to reduce runaway healthcare spending, it is time for all Americans to be resolved to take better care of themselves and others. Data demonstrates that the majority of medical costs can be traced back to poor lifestyle issues such as obesity and tobacco use," said Raymond Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer at the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters. "While we know it often takes several attempts to lose weight and quit smoking, it is encouraging that many survey participants are taking strides to improve their health in 2012. Let's celebrate and support those who have resolutions to lose weight, stop smoking, eat better and exercise. If they can meet these New Year goals they will be healthier and wealthier for it as well as helping to solve America's health care crisis."

The survey asked respondents their opinions about New Year’s resolutions that they have made, with a focus on smoking and weight loss. To establish a baseline, respondents were asked their height and weight to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI) and if they smoked regularly in the last five years.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


According to a report published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (Dec 28 2011), a group of scientists headed up by Drs. Ling Zheng and Kun Huang believe that coffee's inhibitory effect on type 2 diabetes is due to two substances in the brew -- caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. A bit of background:

So far the news about coffee and diabetes has come from correlating the results of a number of large-scale population-based studies. Researchers in a couple of different parts of the world have used the data collected in these studies to determine if there was a pattern between coffee consumption and later development of diabetes 2. The one most people are familiar with is based on the Nurses' Health Study, which started in 1975. Thousands of nurses have been filling out questionnaires about their daily habits, including how much coffee they drink for 35 years. Researchers found that nurses who reported drinking 4 or more cups of coffee a day had a 50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and the more coffee they reported drinking, the lower their risk of diabetes went. They also found that it didn't matter if the nurses were drinking decaf coffee.

That data was backed up by a number of other studies, including one that compared a large cohort of Finnish twins. That data was particularly interesting because it found that in twins -- genetically identical and with similar early childhood backgrounds but with different coffee-drinking habits -- those who drank more coffee (more than 7 cups a day in this study) were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

All of the studies concluded that coffee has a definite inhibitory effect on the development of type 2 diabetes and suggested that further research be done to determine which compounds in coffee might be responsible.

That's the starting ground for the Chinese study recently released. The researchers focused on recent research that linked human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP), also called amylin, with type 2 diabetes. Amylin is secreted by the pancreas at the same time as insulin and works with insulin to help control glucose levels in the blood. It's been known for a while that pateints with type 2 diabetes show a larger concentration of amylin residues in the pancreas than those who don't have diabetes. The researchers decided to see which, if any, compounds in coffee might affect the concentration of amylin. They tested the inhibitory effects of caffeine, caffiec acid and chlorogenic acid on the aggregation of hiAPP and found that all three substances inhibit the development of toxic levels of hiAPP -- but caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid had a much greater effect than caffeine.

Those findings may also explain why some studies have found that filter coffee doesn't have quite the same effect as coffee brewed in other ways -- filter coffee typically has less acids than French press coffee or espresso. Robusta, which is often mixed into espresso blends to give them an "edge", also has a higher content of chlorogenic and caffeic acid than arabica beans.

Of course, this means that if these findings are confirmed, some big pharmaceutical company will be working on synthesizing caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid and putting them into a pill for people to take. But wouldn't it be kinda cool for your doctor to tell you "Drink 3 espressos and call me in the morning?"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Red wine researcher Dr. Dipak K. Das published fake data

Are studies tying red wine to health benefits nothing more than wishful thinking? Some red wine studies may soon be called into question following a report that a top researcher at the University of Connecticut falsified data on more than 100 occasions.

UConn officials conducted an internal review into the work of Dr. Dipak K. Das, director of the cardiovascular research center at the university, after the university received an anonymous tip. Das had been known in recent years for his research on the benefits of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine. Resveratrol is thought to work because it activates proteins called sirtuins that have been shown in studies to have protective benefits.

The officials found 145 cases of fabricated or false data and notified 11 journals - including the Journal of Cellular & Molecular Medicine and Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry - of its review, the university said in a written statement.

"We have a responsibility to correct the scientific record and inform peer researchers across the country," Philip Austin, interim vice president for health affairs, said in the statement.

As a result of UConn's three-year investigation that culminated in a 60,000 page report on the allegations, UConn has declined $890,000 in research grants and cut off external funding to the lab.

It's unclear at this time which studies contained falsified data, so wine aficionados can hold out hope that red wine might benefit a person's health.

The Connecticut Mirror reports that much of the research discrepancies centered on "western blot" figures, which illustrate specific proteins from tissue samples. The review showed these images may have been manipulated to combine data from other experiments, which were passed off as coming from a single experiment.

"Many figures had more manipulations but, for expediency, the review board only noted the most obvious," in flagging 145 cases of misconduct according, to the paper.

According to the research bibliography site PubMed, Das has served as a lead author or co-author on more than 150 articles, including a Jan. 2012 study titled, "Health benefits of wine and alcohol from neuroprotection to heart health," published in Frontiers in Bioscience.

Das' other areas of research besides resveratrol include medicines derived from plants and the molecular structure of plants and herbs and their effect on heart disease, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier reservatrol studies have suggested the compound might be "exercise in a bottle" in its ability to stave off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, while other research has said the compound might reduce risk for skin cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies have showed resveratrol lowers levels of "bad" cholesterol and protects the lining of heart blood vessels.

In 2009, 60 Minutes' Morley Safer profiled potential benefits of resveratrol.

Some resveratrol researchers were not concerned by the fraud allegations and still believe the compound can improve longevity.

"I don't expect this news to have a big impact on what we work on," Dr. David Sinclair, a resveratrol researcher at the Harvard Medical School, told CBS News in an email. Sinclair had been featured in the 2009 60 Minutes report. Sinclair said his research focuses on sirtuins and aging, while a lot of the published research papers in question focused on heart health.

"There is a comprehensive body of literature in mouse and rats indicating that resveratrol is effective in preventing numerous diseases in those animals, including type II diabetes, neurodegeneration, fatty liver, and inflammation, Sinclair said. "These results would not be in question, even if some of his work is retracted."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Black Tea Reduces Diabetes, CVD Risk

Drinking at least three cups of black tea daily may lower an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to new research published in the bulletin Nutrition Communications.

Researchers from the United Kingdom reviewed 40 epidemiological studies to evaluate evidence linking black tea consumption with the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes; the mechanisms by which black tea may have a protective effect; and the potential role of tea drinking in relation to public health.

Their findings suggest a significant association between regular black tea consumption and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease at about three or more cups per day. For diabetes risk, the data are restricted to a few large cohort studies that suggested a beneficial association at one to four cups daily.

The researchers noted while some studies suggest that drinking black tea may reduce the risk of stroke, likely mechanisms remain unclear, highlighting the need for more human intervention studies.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Private Label Sector Continues to Thrive

Over the past 20 years, private-label food products have grown steadily in sales and often directly compete for market share with national brands, which results in lower prices and increased product choices for consumers, according to a new report released by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

The report, “The Relationship Between National Brand and Private Label Food Products: Prices, Promotions, Recessions, and Recoveries", analyzes the relationship between private label and national brand product prices and in-store promotions for two major U.S. grocery store chains during the 2007-2009 recession and the year following the recession (2010).

The report found retailers promote private-label products strategically in response to national brand pricing promotions to protect private-label market share during national brand promotions. However, the extent of the retailer response varies widely across supermarket departments and is also affected by both the density of food stores and the market share of supercenters within a market area. The findings hold true regardless of the state of the economy, although the magnitude of the interaction between national brands and private labels differs in times of recession and recovery.

Other key findings include:

  • On average, private labels are priced about 23% lower than name brands, both with and without promotions. This gap is smaller than that found in previous analyses using older data, suggesting the items may have become more comparable in price and quality over time.
  • Name brand/private-label promotional interaction was strongest among processed, storable products, but much weaker for produce, fresh meat and seafood.
  • In general, as market concentration increased within an area, the intensity of within-store name brand/private-label promotional interaction also increased.
  • Name brand/private-label promotional interaction lessened, however, as the market share of supercenters increased, which may be due to supermarkets focusing on everyday low prices generally, rather than on promotions, when competing with supercenters.
  • Promotional activity for name brands changed very little during the recession, while private-label promotional activity increased.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Coffee roasters are experiencing a lull in arabica bean supply

There is a lull in supplies of arabica beans, the most widely consumed variety of coffee, after rain damaged output in Colombia and Central America. Meanwhile, Brazil's harvest, expected to be large, is months away. Prices still are at historically high levels, even though they have come down considerably from the near-14-year settlement high of $3.0490 a pound hit by the front-month futures contract in May.

Last year's surge in arabica prices prompted some roasters to substitute robusta beans in certain blends. Robusta is an easier-to-grow variety that is less expensive because its taste is considered to be more bitter than that of arabica.

But now coffee roasters appear to be near the limit of how much robusta they can add before consumers turn up their noses. With arabica supplies tight, the competition for beans could drive arabica futures higher.

Arabica for March delivery rose 1% to settle at $2.2175 a pound Friday on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange.

"Arabica futures still have to deal with a tight supply situation for the short term, and the possibility of less-than-expected arabica coffee production over the coming year," Price Futures Group Vice President Jack Scoville said in a note.

Rachel Hamburger, chief executive of one of Israel's largest coffee roasters, Portofino Coffee Ltd., said it is common practice for roasters dealing with less high-end coffee to add more robusta to blends at times when arabica prices are high, although she said Portofino wouldn't do that because it caters to a gourmet market.

"Because the arabica-robusta [price] disparity is so wide, it naturally makes sense to use as much robusta as possible," said an executive who works with major U.S. coffee brands. Robusta "is like a coffee filler," he added.

Since hitting a one-year low in mid-December, the price gap between arabica and robusta has widened by 14%, to $1.4446 a pound, due to the continued scarcity of arabica supply coupled with a strong harvest of robusta from Vietnam, the variety's top grower. The trend is seen continuing until the bulk of Brazil's arabica beans is harvested in mid-2012.

José Sette, head of operations at the London-based International Coffee Organization, said roasters are now close to the ceiling in terms of how much additional robusta can be used in coffee blends.

"Too much robusta can impact the quality and taste of coffee," Mr. Sette said. "There are, of course, consequences to altering coffee mixes."

One of those consequences is losing market share.

Companies can turn off customers if they add more robusta to their blends, said Christian Wolthers, president of Wolthers America, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based coffee brokerage that sells coffee from Brazil, Colombia and Central America to major roasters.

"There is only so much magic you can do in terms of blending," he said.

One alternative is to create a new product with more robusta, he said. "They can choose to present another product to their customers and market that—but the difference is dramatic," he added.

The other option is to simply pay up for the beans, a cost that could be passed on to consumers at the grocery store.

"If they want to stay with the clients they have and the flavor profile they've had historically, they'll have to raise prices," Mr. Wolthers said.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Red wine prevents breast cancer?

This was an interesting study although I am not an advocate of the curing through alcohol, red wine does contain resveratrol.

In a study suggesting that red wine might be the next big thing in breast cancer prevention, a study has found that women who drank just under two servings of red wine daily experienced hormonal changes that mimic the effects of a drug used to prevent malignant breast tumors from coming back.

The study, published Friday in the Journal of Women's Health, found that consuming the same amount of white wine did not have the same effect in premenopausal women participating in the study.

Women intent on warding off breast cancer have been warned about alcohol consumption: as recently as November, a study found that women who consumed as few as three servings of alcohol a week increased their risk of developing the disease, which strikes one in eight American women at some point in life.

White wine and other alcoholic beverages are believed to promote the conversion of androgens--"male hormones" such as testosterone, which circulate in all women's blood--into estrogen. And the greater a woman's lifetime exposure to estrogen--whether her own or estrogen that comes from medication or environmental sources--the higher her risk of developing breast cancer.

But red wine acts differently, the present study found. Instead of promoting the conversion of androgens to estrogen in a woman's body, red wine appears to block that process. In that sense, it acts more like a class of drug called aromatase inhibitors, which are prescribed to most women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to prevent recurrences.

It's not the alcohol in red wine that appears to conjure such magic. It's the phytochemicals, which also are found in grapes, grape juice and grape seed extract. Resveratrol, one of the phytochemicals found plentifully in red wine, has been linked to a host of disease-preventing processes.

Researchers led by a team from Cedars-Sinai's Heart Institute and Medical Center found that study participants who drank eight ounces of red wine daily (the equivalent of almost two servings at five ounces per serving) showed a significantly different mix of seven sex hormones than those who drank the same amount of white wine. Among the red wine drinkers, estrogen levels were lower and androgen levels were higher.

The current study was small--36 women, with an average age of 36, participated. Each drank eight ounces nightly of Cabernet Sauvignon wine for most of a single menstrual cycle, then drank no alcohol for a little over a week and then drank eight ounces of Chardonnay nightly for roughly the next 21 days.

The authors asserted this was the first rigorous study to find that red wine is a "nutritional aromatase inhibitor in healthy premenopausal women." Another study has found that women who drank more red wine showed less breast density on mammograms--an emerging marker for breast cancer risk-- than those who drank other forms of alcohol.