Thursday, August 30, 2012


Researchers at the University of Adelaide are collaborating with Italian researchers on two projects to investigate the fundamental role of cell walls in durum wheat and discover how they can be better utilized to produce better quality pasta with higher nutritional value.

The first project, in conjunction with the University of Bari, will investigate how the growth of durum wheat affects the levels of starch and dietary fiber within it, and how the fiber levels in pasta can be improved. The second project, in conjunction with the University of Molise, will investigate the important roles played by two major components of dietary fiber—arabinoxylans and beta-glucans—in the quality of pasta and bread dough.

"The term 'super spaghetti' is beginning to excite scientists, nutritionists and food manufacturers around the world," said Rachel Burton, associate professor and program leader at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls. “In simple terms, 'super spaghetti' means that it contains a range of potential health benefits for the consumer, such as reducing the risk of heart disease or colorectal cancer. Our research is aimed at achieving that, but we're also looking to improve the quality of pasta as well as its health properties."

According to the researchers, the new projects could help pasta manufacturers in South Australia and Italy to carve a niche by supplying domestic markets with specialist pasta products that will benefit the health of consumers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The effects of energy drinks on the heart have been hotly debated among the medical and regulatory communities; however, new research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) suggest consuming energy drinks can boost heart function.

Researchers from the University of Siena used speckle-tracking echocardiography, the avant-garde technique in echocardiography, and echo Doppler analysis to explore the influence of energy drinks on heart function. For the study 35 healthy subjects with a mean age 25 years drank a body surface area indexed amount of an energy drink (168 ml/m2) containing caffeine and taurine. Assessments of heart rate, blood pressure, left ventricular function and right ventricular function were undertaken at baseline and one hour after consumption. Heart rate increased by 1.2%, systolic blood pressure increased by 2.6% and diastolic blood pressure increased by 6%.

“This confirms that a standard energy drink consumption induces a light increase in diastolic blood pressure," the researchers said.

Left ventricular function improved in comparison to baseline. Right ventricular function was also improved one hour after consuming energy drinks.

“Taken together these results show that energy drinks enhance contractions of both the left and right ventricles, thereby delivering a positive effect on myocardial function," said Dr. Matteo Cameli from University of Siena. “This could be explained by the inotropic effect of taurine that, as previously demonstrated, stimulates the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum."

He noted future studies need to focus on whether such benefits persist after long-term consumption of energy drinks, and what the effects are of consuming these drinks during physical activity.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Snacking is a mainstay in street food and the bar and restaurant culture in various countries, making these little meals an opportunity to make cultural connections between people. Although a snack is sometimes a personal treat, in the case of a tradition like tapas, it’s often a ritualistic sharing of a few calories to bind trust and camaraderie among friends and family.

During my travels, snacking becomes critical to the success of my days. Out of professional (and personal) curiosity, I have an inherent desire to hunt for snacks and other foods throughout my host country, particularly since meal times on the road tend to be haphazard compared to my regimented schedule back home. I oftentimes find myself waning between meals, only to discover that dinner doesn’t start until 9 P.M.

Snacking through Latin America

Spain’s fertile landscape provides countless natural resources that all score high on the ethnic snacking scale. Consider the venerable mini sandwich known as the bocadillo, literally translated as “something small for the mouth," a small, snack-sized sandwich generally made with barra de pan (like a baguette). They are filled with everything from fruit marmalades to cheeses and thin-sliced meats, or even a small omelet. Various merchants, from high-end retailers to small, local markets and grocers, have little stands where the sandwiches are available. They are not nearly as large as our American sub sandwich, but rather intended as a true “tide me over" until dinner or the next impending meal.

Close cousins to bocadillos are Spanish pinchos or pintxos, originating in Spain’s Basque region and similar to tapas. These are generally small pieces of bread with olive spread, dry-cured meats, cheese, fish or roasted vegetables, presented on platters in a marketplace or bar. They are almost always served skewered with a toothpick so that the ingredients stay together. Pinxtos are considered more akin to finger foods than tapas, which tend to lean more toward knives and forks.

Snacking on tapas has already begun to take hold in the United States. These small, two- to four-bite plates are intended to be combined to create a larger, sharable meal, while single servings make a quick, flavorful snack. They are categorized as hot or cold, with types differing due to key ingredient influences in different regions. Spain’s coast is known for seafood tapas (like gambas al ajillo, garlic shrimp with pepper, chiles and/or paprika) and central regions for jamón ibérico (dry-cured ham, served simply on bread or by itself). Other areas might show some signs of French influence, such as the Basque region, where pinxtos, like bites of various cheeses, might be more common, or perhaps gildas, pickled, mild, green chiles skewered with anchovies.

My maternal heritage is deeply rooted in Chile, and—like Spain—Chilean culture has a propensity for snacking and socializing. In Chile, breakfast might be something light at home. Then, shared snacking enters the picture with something called las onces (“the elevens," referring to the time, although this break can sometimes come after lunch, around traditional “tea time"). Before and/or after lunch, there is a little time, usually a half hour, when areas like the town square fill with people seeking a little pastry and coffee, some freshly roasted nuts, fresh-picked berries, and small sandwiches.

Seasonality often plays a role in snack offerings, especially in Chile. Winter brings warm items, such as empanadas and roasted nuts (chestnuts, peanuts and almonds), to street-food snacking. Summer brings little bags of red murtilla berries (sometimes called Chilean guava), a tart-sweet, indigenous, high-antioxidant berry eaten fresh and often made into jam.

Empanadas de pino are often made with ground beef (seasoned with various mixes of cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper), onions, raisins, black olives and hard-boiled eggs, all wrapped within slightly sweet dough and baked. The German immigration to Chile weighs in with the completo (“completed one"), which looks a bit like a Chicago-style hot dog, but often made with pickled vegetables (sauerkraut is common), chopped tomatoes, avocado and mayonnaise.

Let’s not forget the small bites and snacks of Mexico, which display various flavor influences from Spain, including the prolific use of corn and pork. Some notables are tacos al pastor, with rich flavors of dried and roasted chiles, slow-roasted pork, and corn. Sopes have a creamier version of a thick taco shell, hand-formed into a little pie shape and grilled, often served topped with roasted meats and cotija cheese, and perhaps some salsa. Crunchy, salty chicharones are pieces of pork skin that fry up completely devoid of moisture so the fat layers and solids in the skin puff up like crisped rice and deliver an amazing crunch, as well as rich, meaty—and sometimes spicy—flavor.

The streets of Asia

Asia is another snacking Mecca—from some of the very curious street foods of Vietnam, where juicy beetles are skewered and fried into crisp delicacies, to the sweet, salty Japanese combination of dried fish and toasted almonds.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Test Pesticides With Your iPhone

A good handful of months ago, I hesitantly swapped my trusted BlackBerry for an iPhone. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve been an Apple adherent for many years, and had already traded my costly PowerBook G4 laptop for an iPad without complaint, and have faithfully used Mac desktop computers since childhood (often alongside a PC supplied by work…).

Of course, I haven’t looked back and now wonder how I ever survived without the iPhone—and am continually amazed at its capabilities. Case in point, the other day, I ran across a Mashable story on a new device you can plug into your iPhone to test produce for potential pesticide residue (see “Lapka Turns Your Phone Into an Organic Monitor”).

Those of us who make the food industry our professional home know that, more than ever, transparency is key to establishing consumer trust. After all, folks are skeptical. And this Lapka iPhone device and app play right into that skepticism (other capabilities of the device include other paranoia-driven tests for electromagnetic fields and radioactivity, as well as humidity, with the latter option helping users determine their “perfect comfort level”).
The device basically seeks to detect nitrates in foods to, ostensibly, determine if they are truly organic or not (you can also test drinking water to discover pesticide contamination). Although it’s quite possible that the probe works on contact, I’m envisioning people carrying these devices around the grocery store and skewering fruits and vegetables—perhaps even poking through the barriers of packaged foods—with the probe before purchase, which I’m sure will rile many a store manager… Nevertheless, a cool idea that pushes the boundaries of iPhone capabilities.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Adding Added Sugars to the Label

One of the theories currently bandied about in nutritional circles is that added sugars in processed foods are contributing to the worldwide, and particularly the American, obesity epidemic. One of the fixes proposed is that “added sugars” be included on the Nutrition Facts label. To that end, in May, the FDA posted a comment request in the Federal Register on an “Experimental Study on Consumer Responses to Nutrition Facts Labels With Various Footnote Formats and Declaration of Amount of Added Sugars.”

The 20 comments make for interesting reading. (Well, 19 at least, if you discount the incoherent rant by one of the “Anonymouses” that seems to be about FDA contractors.) They include comments from the usual suspects: Marion Nestle, the American Heart Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University encourage labeling. the American Bakers Association, the Independent Bakers Association, the American Beverage Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Dairy Council, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Confectioners Association, Ocean Spray Cranberries and the Sugar Association oppose labeling.

Central to many of the arguments is whether “added sugar” contributes to obesity. One side argues that either the sweetener itself is a problem or that added sugar is a marker for nutrition-devoid food. The other side argues that it unfairly implies that excess carbohydrate sweetener calories are somehow worse than excess calories of other sorts and that there’s no difference between added and naturally occurring sugars.

Both sides have some valid arguments. (Unsurprisingly CSPI goes off the deep end: “CSPI urges FDA also to evaluate the effects of labels that show only added sugars and juice sugars,” and not the total sugar content, somehow inferring that added sugars are chemically and/or metabolically different than the same sugars in, for example, an apple or a sugar beet.) But the point of the study is to “focus on the following types of consumer reactions: (1) Judgments about a food product in terms of its nutritional attributes and overall healthfulness; (2) ability to use the Nutrition Facts label in tasks, such as identifying a product's nutrient contents and evaluating the percent Daily Values for specific nutrients; and (3) label perceptions (e.g., helpfulness and credibility)” And it’s not meant to settle the debate on whether added sugars—whatever they are defined as—are good or bad for our health. From that standpoint the study is valid, especially if the labels of certain items are paired together--for example fruit leather (added sugar) vs. potato chips (no added sugar) or instant oatmeal (added sugar) vs. a meaty, cheesy breakfast biscuit (no added sugar). Inquiring minds also want to know if a bag of granulated sugar will be labeled 0% added sugar or 100% added sugar. If it’s the former, it’s likely that the implication is that if you add a couple of teaspoons to your iced tea, that’s somehow better than if a manufacturer adds it.

In fact, consumer understanding is the crux of the matter. I haven’t seen any research that indicates that consumers are particularly adept at deciphering the current nutritional information, so I’m not confident that adding an “added sugars” declaration makes a lot of practical sense . Rather, it’s likely it will just further confuse people. Here’s what I propose: Let’s just add a front-of-pack label that says, “Hey you! This stuff has a lot of calories and not a lot of nutritional value. Stop eating so much!”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Drink Made from Berry Wine May Provide Tasty Drug for Diabetes

In evaluating the bioactive compounds of Illinois blueberry and blackberry wines, University of Illinois scientists have found compounds that inhibit enzymes responsible for carbohydrate absorption and assimilation. And that could mean a tasty way to help people with diabetes decrease their blood sugar.


We're thinking about a dealcoholized fermented fruit beverage that would optimize the inhibition of the alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase enzymes and also make use of the wines' other healthful bioactive components," said Elvira de Mejia, a U of I professor of food chemistry and food toxicology.


Graduate student Michelle Johnson evaluated the nutritional value of 19 Illinois wines, deciding on a blueberry-blackberry blend for maximum effectiveness.


In the in vitro study, the scientists compared the anti-carb effects of the alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase enzymes with acarbose, an anti-diabetes drug. The carb-degrading enzymes were inhibited in a range of 91.8 percent for alpha-amylase compared to acarbose and 103.2 percent for alpha-glucosidase compared to acarbose, de Mejia said.


The study is the first to assess the effect of berry fermentation at different temperatures on these carb-inhibiting enzymes. At both room and cold (4ºC) temperatures, berry wine retained the ability to degrade the enzymes, she said.


In a second study, Johnson quantified the antioxidant, polyphenol, and anthocyanin content of blueberry and blackberry wines. Her proposed blend contains an abundance of these bioactive compounds, which add to its healthful properties.


The researchers are particularly interested in the ability of anthocyanins to reduce inflammation, which contributes to the development of many chronic illnesses, including cancer, metabolic disease, and cardiovascular disease. To that end, they are experimenting with the berries' effects on inflammatory cells, and they have found that anthocyanins reduce markers associated with the inflammatory response.


"Preliminary studies have indicated that anthocyanins may have a positive effect on cognition and overall brain health while protecting against some of the effects of aging, such as Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. These berries have some very intriguing components," de Mejia said.

A food chemist, de Mejia would like to remove the alcohol from the wines, leaving the carb-degrading enzyme compounds, the inflammation-fighting anthocyanins, and other beneficial bioactive components in a functional and flavorful drink for diabetics and others.


The bioactive ingredients could also be added to any prepared beverage to give it color, flavor, and nutritional punch, making them useful to the food industry, she said.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ingredients for Eyesight

Everyone knows the connection between carrots and eyesight, but what other foods and compounds improve eye health?

Several compounds are important for eye functioning and prevention of eye disease. In particular, antioxidants have been examined because various structures within the eyes, particularly the lens, are susceptible to damage from reactive oxygen species (ROS; Journal of Biology and Chemistry, 1998; 273:28,603–28,609). And, ascorbic acid, alpha tocopherol plus the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are all found within the eye (Physiological Research, 2004; 53:1-10; Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, 2011; 30:188-203).

In addition to nutrients that protect the eyes, vitamin A is necessary for normal vision; a deficiency can lead to dry-eye syndrome, night blindness and blindness (Journal of Nutrition, 2008; 138:1,835-1,839). Zinc is necessary for normal retina functioning (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2001; 20:106-118).

The most widely publicized eye study in recent years was the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which followed approximately 3,600 people with various stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Each participant was randomly placed in one of four daily treatment groups: 1) 80 mg zinc oxide and 2 mg copper (copper was added to prevent zinc-induced anemia); 2) antioxidants (500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E and 15 mg beta-carotene); 3) a combination of the same antioxidants, 80 mg zinc and 2 mg copper; or 4) a placebo. All three treatment groups reduced both risk of developing advanced AMD and risk of vision loss, although the antioxidant plus zinc group showed the greatest reductions in risk. Study subjects at high risk of developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25% by taking the multinutrient supplement while also reducing risk of vision loss due to advanced AMD by about 19%. No changes in risk of age-related cataracts were noted in the study (Archives of Ophthalmology, 2001; 119:1,439-1,452).

Though AREDS showed the multinutrient supplement had no effect on risk of developing age-related cataracts, several other studies indicate antioxidants have potential to do so. The Blue Mountain Eye Study found increasing vitamin C consumption was associated with a significantly reduced 10-year risk of incident nuclear cataract, and above-median intakes of vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc from diet or dietary supplements were protective from the development of nuclear cataract (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008; 87:1,899–1,905). Several other studies show lower prevalence of nuclear cataract in those with higher diet and/or supplemental intakes of vitamin C, higher serum vitamin C concentrations or general multivitamin use (Ophthalmology, 1998; 105:831–836; American Journal of Epidemiology, 1995; 141:322–334; American Journal of Ophthalmology, 2001; 132:19–26; Ophthalmic Epidemiology, 2002; 9:49–80).

Despite the positive effects of the antioxidant mix with zinc noted in AREDS, a Cochrane review of three randomized controlled trials (n=over 23,000) found neither beta-carotene nor alpha-tocopherol prevented or delayed AMD; this suggests a potential synergistic relationship between the antioxidants used in AREDS (Cochrane Database System Reviews, 2008; 23(1):CD000253).

Lutein and zeaxanthin make up macular pigment, help filter short-wavelength light and protect the retina from oxidative damage. Research suggests higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin improve visual performance by reducing glare disability, eye discomfort and inflammation. However, longitudinal studies are necessary prior to determining if this combination can reduce risk of AMD (Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, 2011; 30:188-203).

High levels of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in the retina, and this fatty acid plays a role in the development of vision and retinal function (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2005). Dietary data collected during the 8-year period of AREDS found higher intakes of DHA (more than or equal to 64 mg per day versus less than 26 mg per day) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (more than or equal to 42.3 mg per day versus less than 12.7 mg per day) and lower dietary glycemic index were associated with a lower risk and progression of AMD, independent of AREDS supplementation (British Journal of Ophthalmology, 2009; 93:1,241-1,246). And, a review of nine studies found high dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids associated with a 38% reduction in risk of late AMD, and biweekly fish intake associated with a reduced risk of both early and late AMD (Archives of Ophthalmology, 2008; 126(6):826-833).

Vitamin D took center stage earlier this year after a small, yet widely publicized study conducted on mice. Mice injected with vitamin D for six weeks showed a decrease in retinal inflammation and proteins associated with normal aging, in addition to improved visual functioning compared to the control mice (

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Healthy, Natural Claims Driving Soft Drink Growth

Consumers’ desire for natural and healthy products is helping drive the global soft drink market that is accelerating with rising levels of launch activity over the past two years, according to Innova Market Insights.

More than 58% of the soft drinks launches in the 12 months ending June 2012 had a health positioning of some kind, with over 50% using passive health claims and 18% active health claims, indicating that a number may use both types of claim together.

The most popular health-related claims recorded were undoubtedly concerned with naturalness and freedom from artificial additives and preservatives, and encompassed a wide range of products, led by water and juices that tend to be seen as inherently fairly natural, or can be relatively easily formulated to use this type of claim. More than 23% of launches were marketed as free from additives and preservatives, while nearly 13% used natural claims. Combining the two categories resulted in more than 30% of total soft drinks launches using either one or both claims. If organic claims, used for over 5% of launches, are added, the total rises to 35% using one or more of the three claims.

Fruit juices and drinks dominated launch activity with more than 43% of the total, reflecting the extremely diverse range of products included in the category. Carbonates took second place with 14%, just ahead of concentrates and mixes, then iced tea and coffee drinks, sports and energy drinks, plain and flavored water and sports and energy drinks.

Over the past five years, the shares of carbonates, juices and juice drinks, concentrates and mixes and iced tea and coffee have risen, while the shares of bottled water (flavored and unflavored) and sports and energy drinks have fallen.

Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, said a declining share of launch activity does not necessarily indicate a poor market performance overall.

“Sports and energy drinks remain one of the fastest-growing sectors of the market over that period, despite their share of global soft drinks launch activity falling from a peak of 13% in 2005 to just under 7% today.

Consolidation in the increasingly mature market, particularly the greater dominance of multinational brands and the disappearance of many smaller brands is probably the main reason for slowing activity rates, although actual launch numbers did still rise over the 5-year period," she said.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pan-Fried Meat, Poultry May Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

Cooking red meats at high temperatures, especially pan-fried red meats, may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer by as much as 40%, according to a new study published in the journal Carcinogenesis. The findings provide new evidence on how red meat and its cooking practices may increase the risk for prostate cancer.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) examined pooled data from nearly 2,000 men who participated in the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study, a multiethnic, case-control study conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Los Angeles. Study participants completed a comprehensive questionnaire that evaluated amount and type of meat intake, including poultry and processed red meat. Information regarding cooking practices (e.g., pan-frying, oven-broiling and grilling) was obtained using color photographs that displayed the level of doneness. More than 1,000 of the men included in the study were diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

“We found that men who ate more than 1.5 servings of pan-fried red meat per week increased their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 30%," said Mariana Stern, associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “In addition, men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40% more likely to have advanced prostate cancer."

When considering specific types of red meats, hamburgers—but not steak—were linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, especially among Hispanic men. “We speculate that these findings are a result of different levels of carcinogen accumulation found in hamburgers, given they can attain higher internal and external temperatures faster than steak," Stern said.

Researchers also found that men with diets high in baked poultry had a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, while consumption of pan-fried poultry was associated with increased risk. Stern noted that pan-frying, regardless of meat type, consistently led to an increased risk of prostate cancer. The same pattern was evident in Stern’s previous research, which found that fish cooked at high temperatures, particularly pan-fried, increased the risk of prostate cancer.

The researchers suspect pan-frying poses a higher risk for prostate cancer due to the formation of the DNA-damaging carcinogens—heterocyclic amines (HCAs)—during the cooking of red meat and poultry. Other carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), also are formed during the grilling or smoking of meat. There is strong experimental evidence that HCAs and PAHs contribute to certain cancers, including prostate cancer.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Egg yolks almost as dangerous as smoking, researcher says

A researcher at Western University in London said he's found more evidence pointing to the harmful effects of egg yolks.

He claims the cholesterol found in the yolk is almost as dangerous as smoking.

Dr. David Spence says Canadians are being duped by what he calls "propaganda" from the egg industry.

His most recent study of more than 1,200 people found egg consumption accelerates atherosclerosis or plaque build up on arteries.

He said the culprit is the cholesterol found in the yolk, which is 237 mgs in a jumbo egg.

"It's more than the cholesterol in a Hardee's monster thick burger which is two-thirds of a pound of beef, three slices of cheese and four slices of bacon," said Spence.

Karen Harvey is the nutrition officer with Egg Farmers of Canada and a registered dietitian. She stands by the safety of eating egg yolks on a daily basis.

"We have decades of clinical research demonstrating no link between egg consumption and an increased risk of heart disease," said Harvey.

Spence says, he's looked at that research and accuses the egg industry of being selective about what it shares with the public.

"They're just like the tobacco industry," he said.

Canada's food guide lists two eggs as an alternative serving to meat.

Spence said that would be well over anyone's recommended daily intake of cholesterol.

Friday, August 17, 2012

U.S. Kids Drinking More Diet Beverages

The number of U.S. children who consume artificially sweetened beverages has doubled in the past decade, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University conducted a study to assess recent national trends in low-calorie and no-calorie sweeteners (LCSs) consumption among children and other demographic subgroups in the United States.

They examined NHANES data collected in five 2-year cycles from 1999-2000 to 2007-2008. Consumption of foods and beverages with LCSs was estimated by using one 24-hour dietary recall. Estimates of the proportion of the population consuming foods and beverages containing LCSs (prevalence of consumption) were weighted to obtain nationally representative results. Trends in prevalence of LCS consumption and mean intake of beverages sweetened with LCSs were tested by using chi-square tests for trend and F tests.

They found in 2007-2008, the percentage of children and adults consuming foods and beverages containing LCSs increased. The prevalence of consuming beverages with LCSs increased from 6.1% to 12.5% among children and from 18.7% to 24.1% among adults. Increases in the prevalence of consumption of calorie-containing beverages with LCSs were observed among all weight, age, socioeconomic, and race-ethnicity subgroups in both children and adults. However, little change in consumption of no-calorie beverages with LCSs or LCS-containing foods was found.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Specialty Carbohydrate Increases Satiety, Cuts Food Intake

DuPont Nutrition & Health's soluble fiber and low-calorie specialty carbohydrate, Litesse®, helps increase satiety and reduce food intake, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

The study, conducted by the Functional Food Centre of Oxford Brookes University, found a 10% reduction in energy intake at a monitored lunch following consumption of a polydextrose preload 60 minutes prior to the meal. The researchers concluded polydextrose “has the potential to reduce food intake" and “could be potentially used for appetite control." Results of a further positive study are expected to be published later this year.

Part of the DuPont™ Danisco® ingredient range, Litesse is a recognized prebiotic fiber that contributes just 1 calorie per gram and mediates a low-glycemic impact. These factors, combined with its ability to enhance satiety, mean that it can be used to develop innovative foods that are both satisfying and lower in calories. Available in three grades, it is suitable for almost all food and beverage applications.

In 2011, DuPont expanded production of Litesse in order to build on its success and further capture opportunities in the health and nutrition market.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

University of Warwick chemists have taken out much of the cocoa butter and milk fats that go into chocolate bars, substituting them with tiny droplets of juice measuring under 30 microns in diameter.

University of Warwick chemists have taken out much of the cocoa butter and milk fats that go into chocolate bars, substituting them with tiny droplets of juice measuring under 30 microns in diameter.

 They infused orange and cranberry juice into milk, dark and white chocolate using what is known as a Pickering emulsion.

 Crucially, the clever chemistry does not take away the chocolatey 'mouth-feel' given by the fatty ingredients.

 This is because the new technique maintains the prized Polymorph V content, the substance in the crystal structure of the fat which gives chocolate its glossy appearance, firm and snappy texture but which also allows it to melt smoothly in the mouth.

 The final product will taste fruity -- but there is the option to use water and a small amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) instead of juice to maintain a chocolatey taste.

 Dr Stefan Bon from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick was lead author on the study published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

 He said the research looked at the chemistry behind reducing fat in chocolate, but now it was up to the food industry to use this new technique to develop tasty ways to use it in chocolate.

Dr Bon said: "Everyone loves chocolate -- but unfortunately we all know that many chocolate bars are high in fat.

 "However it's the fat that gives chocolate all the indulgent sensations that people crave -- the silky smooth texture and the way it melts in the mouth but still has a 'snap' to it when you break it with your hand.

 "We've found a way to maintain all of those things that make chocolate 'chocolatey' but with fruit juice instead of fat.

 "Our study is just the starting point to healthier chocolate -- we've established the chemistry behind this new technique but now we're hoping the food industry will take our method to make tasty, lower-fat chocolate bars."

 The scientists used food-approved ingredients to create a Pickering emulsion, which prevents the small droplets from merging with each other.

 Moreover, their chocolate formulations in the molten state showed a yield stress which meant that they could prevent the droplets from sinking to the bottom.

 The new process also prevents the unsightly 'sugar bloom' which can appear on chocolate which has been stored for too long.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Study: Consumers Confused About Specific ‘Health Foods’

While many consumers have a strong desire to eat healthy, most aren’t exactly sure what healthy eating entails, and how they can make it practical for them, according to results of a new study conducted by iModerate Research Technologies.

The study focused on healthy eating by investigating consumers’ perceptions about two specific food groups: functional foods that contain natural health benefits, such as the antioxidants found in blueberries, and fortified foods, such as pastas that are enriched with calcium and vitamins.

Currently, there is a lack of information as it relates to what types of foods are healthy and what specific health benefits these foods provide, which creates a challenge for consumers. Aside from a lack of information and prominent marketing by functional food producers and purveyors, the study found definitive barriers that prevent consumers from purchasing fortified and functional foods. Concerns about taste, cost, spoilage, convenience and preparation are the major hurdles when it comes to purchasing and consuming functional foods. When it comes to fortified foods, consumers’ apprehension stems from the fortification process itself, believability as to the product’s health claim, the possible overconsumption of nutrients, and long-term health implications.

“People generally want to eat healthy and do what’s best for them and their family" said Adam Rossow, vice president of marketing at iModerate.

“However, while consumers know some of the basics and what to stay away from, there is a tremendous lack of practical information and education that would help break down the barriers for them, inspire purchases and create a loyal following."

According to the findings, there are significant areas of opportunity for manufacturers, growers and retailers to educate consumers about the benefits of healthy eating by taking the guesswork out of healthy eating, messaging health benefits more effectively, and improving labels and signage.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Red Meat Lovers Have Higher Risk For Bowel Cancer

Individuals who consume high amounts of red meat, which is rich in iron, may have an increased risk for developing bowel cancer, according to a study published in the journal Cell Reports.

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK, based at the University of Birmingham and the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, found bowel cancers were two to three times more likely to develop in mice with a faulty APC gene that were fed high amounts of iron compared to mice who still had a working APC gene. In contrast, mice with a faulty APC gene fed a diet low in iron did not develop bowel cancer at all.

“We’ve made a huge step in understanding how bowel cancer develops. The APC gene is faulty in around eight out of 10 bowel cancers, but until now we haven’t known how this causes the disease," said Owen Sansom, deputy director of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute for Cancer Research. “It’s clear that iron is playing a critical role in controlling the development of bowel cancer in people with a faulty APC gene. And, intriguingly, our study shows that even very high levels of iron in the diet don’t cause cancer by itself, but rely on the APC gene."

The researchers said the results also suggest iron could be raising the risk of bowel cancer by increasing the number of cells in the bowel with APC faults. The more of these cells in the bowel, the greater the chance that one of these will become a starting point for cancer.

The study could also explain why foods such as red meat, which have high levels of iron, are linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer. When the APC gene is deleted, two proteins are switched on that cause iron to build up in bowel cells. When this happens, a key cancer signaling pathway called wnt is switched on, causing cells to grow out of control. In mice fed a diet with no iron, cells with a faulty APC gene were killed and bowel cancers did not develop. Mice with a fully functioning APC gene did not develop bowel cancers, even when fed a diet high in iron. In these bowel cells, the iron accumulation proteins are turned off and wnt signaling remains inactive.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grapes Boost Heart Health in Men With Metabolic Syndrome

Consuming polyphenol-rich grapes may help protect heart health in people with metabolic syndrome by reducing blood pressure, improving blood flow and reducing inflammation, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers at the Department of Nutritional Sciences of the University of Connecticut, recruited men between ages 30 and 70 years with metabolic syndrome to investigate the impact of grapes on metabolic syndrome. Participants were randomly assigned to consume grapes, in the form of a freeze-dried whole grape powder, or a placebo powder, for four weeks. Following a 3-week "washout" period where neither grapes nor placebo were consumed, individuals were allocated to the alternate treatment.

Results showed that for each of the study's subjects, grape consumption resulted in significant decreases in blood pressure, improved blood flow (greater vasodilation), and decreases in a compound associated with inflammation.

"These results suggest that consuming grapes can improve important risk factors associated with heart disease, in a population that is already at higher risk," the researchers said. "This further supports the accumulating evidence that grapes can positively influence heart health, and extends it to men with metabolic syndrome."

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Resistant Starch Improves Insulin Resistance

Consumption of HI-MAIZE resistant starch improves certain aspects of fatty acid metabolism within adipose tissue, which directly causes insulin resistance, a major biomarker for pre-diabetes, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The findings also help explain how fat metabolism contributes to the development of pre-diabetes.

Researchers at the University of Surrey conducted the study that showed a clear stimulatory effect on the expression of adipose tissue genes for three important enzymes [hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL), lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL)] after HI-MAIZE resistant starch consumption. HSL levels in study participants increased by 85%, LPL levels by 171% and ATGL levels by 71% versus the control. The study is the fifth clinical study demonstrating improved insulin sensitivity with HI-MAIZE resistant starch made by Ingredion. The effects are independent of changes in caloric intake, body weight and exercise.

The randomized, single-blind, controlled crossover dietary intervention study of 15 adults investigated the effects of dietary HI-MAIZE resistant starch in insulin resistant (but non-diabetic), moderately obese (as determined by a mean body mass index of 34) men and women, with mean age of 49 years. All study participants were considered sedentary and during the study, they maintained their normal daily activity levels.

Participants who consumed 40 grams of dietary fiber/day from HI-MAIZE resistant starch as a supplement to their diet for eight weeks experienced a 16% reduction in fasting insulin levels and 4% lower fasting glucose compared to the control that contained no resistant starch. Study participants also experienced a 65% increase in glucose uptake into muscles after eating and insulin sensitivity in the muscles rose 21% as measured by the euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp method.

“In many ways, metabolism can work against us in a vicious cycle. Improper storage of fat causes insulin resistance, which leads to more storage of fat, and more storage of fat further escalates insulin resistance. The primary recommendation to improve insulin sensitivity is to lose weight," said Dr. Christine Pelkman, clinical research manager for Ingredion. “The exciting news from this study is that HI-MAIZE resistant starch can give people an additional tool with which they can improve their insulin sensitivity and break the cycle."

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Kids Who Eat Healthy Foods Have Higher IQs

Young children who are fed a healthy diet rich in foods, such as legumes, cheese, fruit and vegetables, have slightly higher IQs compared to toddlers who consume a diet high in snack foods, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide investigated the link between the eating habits of children at six months, 15 months and 2 years, and their IQ at 8 years. The study of more than 7,000 children compared a range of dietary patterns, including traditional and contemporary home-prepared food, ready-prepared baby foods, breastfeeding, and 'discretionary' or snack foods.

"Diet supplies the nutrients needed for the development of brain tissues in the first two years of life, and the aim of this study was to look at what impact diet would have on children's IQs," the researchers said.

They found children who were breastfed at six months and had a healthy diet regularly, including legumes, cheese, fruit and vegetables at 15 months and 24 months had an IQ up to 2 points higher by age 8. Children who had a diet regularly involving cookies, chocolate, candy, soft drinks and chips in the first two years of life had IQs up to 2 points lower by age 8.

"While the differences in IQ are not huge, this study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that dietary patterns from six to 24 months have a small but significant effect on IQ at eight years of age," the researchers added. "It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children."

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

C-stores Gaining Share in the Snacks Category

The $20 billion of retail sales in the snacks category is moving from food/mass to convenience stores. In 2011, c-store growth percentages almost doubled those of other channels, Greg Jones, consulting partner of b2b Solutions LLC, said during the AWMA C-Metrics Convenience Industry Outlook Forum.

The top salty/alternative snack trends include grazing occasions replacing dayparts; new products combining salty and sweet flavors; healthy snacking; and bifurcation or the splitting of shopper spending, he said.
There were a total of 2,597 new product introductions in 2011, including 287 crackers; 461 nuts and seeds; 382 potato chips; 357 cereal bars; 114 popcorn products; and 998 other items. The most popular snack time is 2 p.m., and there is an opportunity for related sales with grazing. New salty snack profiles feature more international flavor profiles, Jones noted.
Total c-store salty snack sales increased 24 percent over the last five years. Margins have grown 35 percent. Gross profit dollars were up 9 percent, yet overall growth was held down by direct-store delivery (DSD) products (C-Metrics only tracks warehouse-delivered products).

Alternative snacks have increased 20 percent over the last five years, with dollar margins growing by 25 percent. This category generated the fifth highest gross profit.

In looking at category performance for salty snacks, sales were up 10 percent, totaling $524 million. All subcategories were growing. Nuts, seeds and crackers represent 44 percent of salty snack category warehouse-delivered snack growth, which exceeds total industry snack growth.
Potato chips are the second highest salty snack category, growing 6 percent, with expected growth of 8.7 percent in 2012 vs. 2011. This category contributes 11 percent of total growth dollars.

Sunday, August 05, 2012


Past studies have shown that inhalation of diacetyl by workers in factories processing microwave popcorn can potentially lead to respiratory problems, with some developing bronchiolitis obliterans, resulting in recommendations for such workers to wear respiratory protection. Now new research from the University of Minnesota has found possible links between exposure to diacetyl and Alzheimer’s disease (“The Butter Flavorant, Diacetyl, Exacerbates β-Amyloid Cytotoxicity,” Aug. 2012, Chemical Research in Toxicology).

Diacetyl, a natural byproduct of fermentation, is used to lend a characteristically buttery flavor to a variety of food products, most prominently in microwave popcorn, but also in margarine, snack foods, candy, baked goods and alcoholic beverages like wine.

As reported by Science Daily, the Minnesota researchers found that diacetyl intensifies the damaging effects of an abnormal brain protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease (see “Artificial Butter Flavoring Ingredient Linked to Key Alzheimer’s Disease Process”). They also found that diacetyl enhanced toxic effects on nerve cells in a laboratory setting, and that it crosses the blood-brain barrier.

In summary, the researchers noted, “In light of the chronic exposure of industry workers to DA (diacetyl), this study raises the troubling possibility of long-term neurological toxicity mediated by DA.”

Saturday, August 04, 2012

As demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables has increased, so too has the number of urban farmers markets sprouting up across the nation.

As demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables has increased, so too has the number of urban farmers markets sprouting up across the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that the number of direct-sales markets has increased 9.6 percent in the past year, with California and New York leading the way.

"Farmers markets are a critical ingredient to our nation's food system," USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. "These outlets provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also to the communities looking for fresh, healthy foods."

After 18 years of steady increases, the number of farmers markets across the country now registered with the USDA is 7,864. In 1994, there were 1,744.

Organizations such as Slow Food, founded in 1989 to counter fast-food, junk-food lifestyles, first ignited consumer demand for fresh, local produce.

"My husband and I prefer to eat locally and organically," said Tracy Stuntz, a college instructor who shops at the Vineyard Farmer's Market in Fresno. "You go to the grocery store and everything is the same. The farmer's market has yellow zucchini and green onions that are like a foot long — produce you don't see other places."

Some markets are so popular that there are wait lists for farmers to sell there, including one of the largest and most diverse of all, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. Farmers from across the region travel there three days a week to sell fruits, vegetables and artisan breads and cheeses to thousands of shoppers, including top chefs from the food-centric city.

Operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the iconic market on the San Francisco Bay is celebrating its 20th birthday.

"When we started there were only three markets in the city, and now there are 29," said Liz Hunt, a center spokeswoman.

Grant Brians of Heirloom Organic Gardens sells more than 200 old-fashioned varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruit grown on two farms in San Benito County, about 100 miles south of San Francisco. Others bring in stone fruits from the San Joaquin Valley, and berries from the coast.

Dave Stockdale, the center's executive director, said farmers markets empower consumers to become active supporters of their communities.

"Every day eaters have the opportunity to vote with their forks and support small-scale farmers, investing resources in their communities, stimulating their local economies, and keeping ag land in sustainable production," he said.

The center uses the markets to educate consumers about unique varieties of produce and how to prepare them. Stockdale said the growing interest in farmers markets has prompted others to ask the center for help creating educational programs.

San Franciscan Bryan Miller frequents the Heart of the City farmers market at the San Francisco Civic Center, a venue so popular it recently added Fridays to its normal Wednesday and Sunday operations.

"It's fresh and cheap, to be quite honest," Miller said. "I can go to the store on the bus and buy black, ugly, mass-market stuff, but I don't want to do that. I would rather get local produce."

The USDA has worked to make the markets accessible to people of all income levels by outfitting more with the ability to accept payments from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. More than $4 million is being made available to equip markets with wireless point-of-sale equipment.

California, the country's top agricultural producing state, has 827 markets, according to the USDA. New York has 647, more than double the next most prolific state, Massachusetts, which has 313.

The mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Southeast saw the biggest percentage growth in markets, reporting 15.8, 14.4 and 13.1 percent jumps in participation.

Friday, August 03, 2012

What causes brain freeze? Study reveals new clues

We've all been there before: On a hot day, you reach for an ice cold drink or a big scoop of ice cream and when you sink in, you're met with excruciating pain.

We're talking the dreaded "brain freeze," - often dubbed an "ice cream headache" - and a new study claims to have finally unlocked clues as to what causes this chilly sensation. The researchers behind the study say their findings may lead to better treatments for other headache sufferers, such as people with migraines or those with traumatic brain injuries.

Almost everyone has felt brain freeze at some point in their lives, according to the study and the effect is triggered by an ice-cold sip of liquid or a slurp of an ice cream or some other chilly product hitting the mouth's upper palate. But scientists have long been unable to explain the phenomenon - until now.

For the study, presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego, researchers induced brain freeze in 13 healthy adults by having them sip ice cold water with a straw on their upper palate. The researchers monitored participants' blood flow in their brains with a "transcranial Doppler test," and found the sudden headache seems to be triggered by an abrupt increase in blood flow on the brain's anterior cerebral artery. The pain disappears when that artery constricts, an effect researchers reproduced by having participants drink warm water.

According to the researchers, since migraine sufferers are more likely to experience brain freeze than people who don't experience the icy headache often, brain freeze may share traits with other types of headaches, including those brought on by the trauma of blast-related combat injuries in soldiers or migraines. One possible link between brain freeze and other headaches is local changes in brain blood flow. If further research confirms all these types of headaches are caused by blood flow changes, new drugs that block widening of the blood vessels - called vasodilation - could improve treatment for sufferers.

Why does this increase in blood flow occur? The researchers think the brain is adapting to the "freeze" through a self-defense mechanism.

"The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time," study co-author Dr. Jorge Serrador, a cardiovascular electronics researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said in a written statement. "It's fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm." He adds the sudden influx of blood could raise pressure and cause pain.. The blood vessel constriction that follows may be a way to bring pressure down in the brain before it reaches dangerous levels.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Better Burgers Still Thriving

As part of its research into the limited-service restaurant (LSR) burger market, Technomic has found that while McDonald’s drives roughly half of activity, upscale, fast-casual “better burger” concepts are quickly moving in. In fact, fast-casual burger chains grew sales by 20.8% last year, while all limited-service burger chains grew 3.7%. And Technomic reports that it sees plenty of room for continued growth, as fast-casual sales currently only represent 3.2% of LSR burger-segment sales. Its findings have been compiled into the recent release, “Market Intelligence Report: Better Burgers.”

“Better-burger concepts have a lot going for them,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president, Technomic. “First, they have the benefit of a basic and beloved menu focus. Raising the quality of the protein, bun, toppings and sides has been a winning formula. And a number of celebrity chefs have opened concepts that focus on burgers made with premium ingredients, helping to raise their profile. Plus, the segment includes some of the rising stars of the industry overall.” For example, Smashburger grew sales by more than 71% in 2011, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries increased sales by 24%.

Noteworthy findings in Technomic’s report include:
  • Many full-service chains have gotten in on the better-burger action by adding gourmet burgers to their menus and have opened burger-focused spinoff concepts offering “build-your-own” burger options
  • Quick-service burger chains have raised the quality of their burger offerings
  • Consumers place a premium on quality of their burger: 74% rank quality/taste of the meat or protein as the most-important part of the burger
  • Cheeseburgers are the top hamburger type on LSR burger-chain menus
  • Customization is key—several fast-casual brands offer a “build-your-own-burger” option, where customers can choose from a variety of proteins, breads, cheeses, toppings and sauces

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Energy Drinks Outsell Bottled Water

As noted in the recently published Beverage Industry 2012 State of the Industry report, for the first time, energy drinks have outsold bottled water (for the 52 weeks ending April 15 in U.S. supermarkets, drug, gas, convenience and mass merchandise retailers, excluding Walmart, per SymphonyIRI Group). During that period, energy drinks garnered more than $6.9 billion in sales for a 19.4% increase over the previous year; bottled water saw $6.7 billion in sales for a 3.4% increase.

Red Bull remains the top seller in the category, with nearly 40% market share for a total of $2.8 billion in sales. A recent addition to the line is Red Bull Total Zero, a slight reformulation of Red Bull Sugar Free (Total Zero is calorie-free while Sugar Free has 13 calories). In addition to the caloric difference (likely achieved via the addition of sucralose to the sweetener mix), Total Zero has slightly more caffeine (3 mg more in the 8.4-oz. can) and a slightly different flavor.

Both Monster Energy and Rockstar are starting to target the recovery market. Monster Rehab uses a tagline of “refresh, revive, rehydrate,” with one version (Protean) containing 15 grams of protein per can. Rockstar Recovery seeks to provide “energy + hydration” in a low-calorie beverage enhanced with electrolytes.

The Beverage Industry report notes that emerging categories in energy include natural options. Jamba Juice, Campbell’s Soup (via its V8 line) and Starbucks carrying “natural” energy lines.

Energy shots also continue to perform well. That segment is dominated by 5-Hour Energy (Living Essentials, LLC), which captured over 90% of the market. However, more companies, including Monster, with its concentrated 5-oz. M3 product, continue to enter this segment