Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Sales Expected to Grow for 2012

Halloween candy sales are expected to be higher this year than any time in the past decade, according to the National Confectioners Association. The association estimates that consumers will spend $2.4 billion on candy for Halloween, the most popular holiday for candy sales. The group also expects overall candy sales for 2012 to reach $32 billion, up from $24.7 billion in 2007, reports Chicago Tribune. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Burger King’s Original Whopper Turns 55

WOW! amazing how time flies.

All hail the king. Burger King Worldwide is celebrating the 55th anniversary of its original WHOPPER® sandwich with three new, limited-time only (LTO) menu items in commemorative retro-style anniversary packaging.

The new 55th Anniversary LTOs include the Wisconsin White Cheddar WHOPPER® Sandwich featuring thick-cut hardwood smoked bacon and natural Wisconsin white cheddar cheese; the ANGRY WHOPPER® Sandwich featuring thick-cut hardwood smoked bacon, melted Habanero cheese, jalapeño slices, spicy onion petals and angry sauce; and Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries.

“The WHOPPER® Sandwich has been the iconic flagship of the BURGER KING® menu since its introduction in 1957," said Flavia Faugeres, executive vice president and global chief marketing officer, Burger King Worldwide. “We invite consumers to join us in celebrating this milestone with delicious, new limited-time products created in honor of AMERICA’S FAVORITE BURGER™."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weight Loss Doesn’t Lower Diabetes-Related Heart Disease

New findings from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study revealed an intensive diet and exercise program resulting in weight loss does not reduce cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, in people with long-standing type 2 diabetes. As a result of the findings, the study’s data and safety monitoring board recommended stopping the intensive lifestyle intervention in September 2012, but encouraged the study to continue following all Look AHEAD participants to identify longer-term effects of the intervention.

The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study tested whether a lifestyle intervention resulting in weight loss would reduce rates of heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular-related deaths in overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes, a group at increased risk for these events.

Researchers at 16 U.S. centers worked with 5,145 people, with half randomly assigned to receive an intensive lifestyle intervention and the other half to a general program of diabetes support and education. Both groups received routine medical care from their own health care providers. Participants were 45 to 76 years old when they enrolled in the study—60% of enrollees were women, and more than 37% were from racial and ethnic minority groups. Researchers are now analyzing data to measure effects of the lifestyle intervention on subgroups, including racial and ethnic groups and people with a history of cardiovascular disease.

Although the intervention did not reduce cardiovascular events, Look AHEAD has shown other important health benefits of the lifestyle intervention, including decreasing sleep apnea, reducing the need for diabetes medications, helping to maintain physical mobility, and improving quality of life.

"Look AHEAD found that people who are obese and have type 2 diabetes can lose weight and maintain their weight loss with a lifestyle intervention," said Dr. Rena Wing, chair of the Look AHEAD study and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University. "Although the study found weight loss had many positive health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, the weight loss did not reduce the number of cardiovascular events."

Data are currently being analyzed to fully understand the cardiovascular disease results. Investigators are preparing a report of the findings for a peer-reviewed publication.

Few, if any, studies of this size and duration have had comparable success in achieving and maintaining weight loss. Participants in the intervention group lost an average of more than 8% their initial body weight after one year of intervention. They maintained an average weight loss of nearly 5% at four years, an amount of weight loss that experts recommend to improve health. Participants in the diabetes support and education group lost about 1% of their initial weight after one and four years.

“The intervention group did not have fewer cardiovascular events than the group receiving general diabetes support and education, but one positive factor we saw was that both groups had a low number of cardiovascular events compared to previous studies of people with diabetes," said Dr. Mary Evans, director of Special Projects in Nutrition, Obesity, and Digestive Diseases within the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the study's primary sponsor.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Exercising in your 70s 'may stop brain shrinkage'

Exercising in your 70s may stop your brain from shrinking and showing the signs of ageing linked to dementia, say experts from Edinburgh University.

Brain scans of 638 people past the age of retirement showed those who were most physically active had less brain shrinkage over a three-year period.

Exercise did not have to be strenuous - going for a walk several times a week sufficed, the journal Neurology says.

But giving the mind a workout by doing a tricky crossword had little impact.

The study found no real brain-size benefit from mentally challenging activities, such as reading a book, or other pastimes such as socialising with friends and family.

More research is also needed to tease out how physical activity might be having a beneficial effect”

When the researchers examined the brain's white matter - the wiring that transmits messages round the brain - they found that the people over the age of 70 who were more physically active had fewer damaged areas than those who did little exercise.

And they had more grey matter - the parts of the brain where the messages originate.

Experts already know that our brains tend to shrink as we age and that this shrinkage is linked to poorer memory and thinking.

And previous studies have shown that exercise helps reduce the risk of dementia and can slow down its onset.

But scientists are still baffled about why this is.

'Never too late'

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients to brain cells, which may be important.

Or it may be that as people's brains shrink, they become less inclined to exercise.

Regardless of why, experts say the findings are good news because exercise is an easy thing to do to boost health.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "This study links physical exercise to fewer signs of ageing in the brain, suggesting that it may be a way of protecting our cognitive health.

"While we can't say that exercise is the causal factor in this study, we do know that exercise in middle age can lower the risk of dementia later in life.

"It will be important to follow these volunteers to see whether these structural features are associated with greater cognitive decline over the coming years. More research is also needed to tease out how physical activity might be having a beneficial effect."

Prof James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK, the charity that provided the funding for the research, said: "This research re-emphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it's a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What pediatricians might advise on organic food

The American Academy of Pediatrics wades into the organic food confusion with a paper out Monday to try to guide doctors in their discussions with families about what to eat.

It turns out, no surprise, to be an on-the-one-hand this, on-the-other-hand that discussion, with the first point of advice to pediatricians being to encourage patients and their families to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and low- or non-fat dairy products.

The paper in the journal Pediatrics, a composite of studies on organically and conventionally produced food, suggests that doctors review the academy’s report with families to cover nutritional, health, environmental and cost implications of their choices.

Drs. Joel Forman and Janet Silverstein, along with the academy’s nutrition committee and Council on Environmental Health, set out the arguments, noting that the organic foods market has grown from $3.5 billion in 1996 to $28.6 billion in 2010, according to the Organic Trade Assn.

Organic diets, the authors say, expose consumers to fewer pesticides, and organic farming has been shown to have less impact on the environment than conventional operations. But, they say, there is no evidence of “meaningful nutritious benefits” from an organic diet, and there are no good studies showing disease protections from one.

The paper notes that some studies have shown that families with children are more likely to buy organic fruits and vegetables than other consumers – so the advice of pediatricians could be particularly important.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Deaths Possibly Linked to Monster Energy Drinks

The energy drink business is suffering from a buzzkill. Incident reports released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveal five people may have died over the past three years after drinking the popular Monster Energy.

Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman, told The New York Times the agency received reports of five deaths possibly linked to the drink as well as an additional report of a heart attack. FDA said the incidents are considered to be allegations and that no conclusion is drawn until an investigation is completed, Bloomberg reported.

The revelation raises questions about the high levels of caffeine in energy drinks and comes 10 months after the death of a 14-year-old girl who consumed two 24-ounce energy drinks within a 24-hour period. The parents of Anais Fournier have sued Monster Beverage Corp. for wrongful death after she was induced into a coma and taken off life support, according to the lawsuit that was filed in California Superior Court in Riverside.

"Monster does not believe that its beverages are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier," the company said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg through an outside spokesperson. "Monster is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks."

Caffeine levels in energy drinks can range from 160 to 500 milligrams per serving, according to a report released last year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). That same organization found the number of emergency room visits due to energy drinks rose ten-fold between 2005 (1,128) and 2009 (13,114), according to a letter from U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bitterness Key to Dark Chocolate Lovers’ Cravings

It may seem like common sense that dark chocolate lovers tolerate significantly more bitterness in chocolate than those who like milk chocolate, but researchers recently discovered just how large that difference can be, according to a new study published in the Journal of Food Science.

Researchers at Penn State University added a food-safe bitter chemical to chocolate, finding that people who prefer dark chocolate tolerated about two-and-a-half-times as much of the additive as the milk chocolate consumers.

For the study, the researchers determined group rejection thresholds in solid chocolate-flavored compound coating for bitterness. The influences of self-identified preferences for milk or dark chocolate, as well as eating style (chewers compared to melters) on rejection thresholds were investigated. Stimuli included milk chocolate-flavored compound coating spiked with increasing amounts of sucrose octaacetate, a bitter and GRAS additive. Paired preference tests were used to determine the proportion of the group that preferred the blank. Across pairs, spiked samples were presented in ascending concentration.

The rejection threshold for the dark chocolate preferring group was significantly higher than the milk chocolate preferring group. Conversely, eating style did not affect group rejection thresholds, and there was no association between chocolate preference and eating style. Present work supports the theory that this method can be used to examine preferences within specific market segments and potentially individual differences as they relate to ingestive behavior. The researchers said the method provides a direct means to answer the question of how much is too much.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

FAO Predicts 2.6% Drop in Global Cereal Supply

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s latest forecast for world cereal production in 2012 has been revised downward slightly— 0.4% to 2.286 million tons—since the previous update in September. The latest adjustment reflects a smaller maize crop in central and southeastern parts of Europe, where yields are turning out lower than earlier expectations following prolonged dry conditions.

At the current forecast level, world cereal production in 2012 would be 2.6% down from the previous year’s record crop, but close to the second largest in 2008. The overall decrease comprises a 5.2% reduction in wheat production, and a 2.3% reduction for coarse grains, while the global rice crop is seen to remain virtually unchanged.

Severe droughts this year in the United States and across a have been the main cause of the reduced wheat and coarse grains crops. However, the very early indications for wheat crops in 2013 are encouraging, with winter wheat planting in the northern hemisphere already well advanced under generally favorable weather conditions.

World cereal utilization in 2012/13 marketing season is forecast at 2.314 million tons, down marginally from the previous season, but 2% below the 10-year trend. Global wheat utilization is likely to reach 687 million tons, pointing to a 1% decline from the previous season, mostly on reduced feed use after the previous season’s exceptionally elevated use of wheat for animal feed. Total utilization of coarse grains is forecast at 1.154 million tons in 2012/13, also down slightly from the previous season, with most of the reduction reflecting a decline in maize utilization to 866 million tons, down nearly 1% from the revised estimate of 874 million tons in 2011/12. The decline in maize consumption reflects an anticipated contraction in industrial usage of maize, largely because of an anticipated drop of 10% (13 million tons) in the crop usage for production of biofuels in the United States. By contrast, world rice utilization is set to increase by 1.2% to 474 million tons, resulting in stable per caput food consumption.

The forecast for world cereal stocks at the close of crop seasons ending in 2013 now stands at 499 million tons, down 4 million tons from September and as much as 5% (28 million tons) from their opening level. This month’s downward revision reflects the worsening of the global production outlook. Compared with the previous season, the fall in world inventories would stem from lower wheat and coarse grain carryovers.

At the current forecast levels, the world cereal stock-to-use ratio is projected at 20.7%, which compares with 22.8% last season and with the low of 19.2% registered in 2007/08. Global wheat inventories are foreseen to reach 172 million tons, down 11% (21 million tons) from the previous season and almost 2 million tons less than in the September forecast.

The reduction in wheat inventories is likely to be most pronounced in Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, but stocks are also anticipated to end lower in mainland China, the European Union and the United States. As a result, the world wheat stock-to-use ratio is projected at 24.8%, down from 28.1% estimated in 2011/12, though still 2.9 percentage points above the all-time low of 21.9% in 2007/08.

World inventories of coarse grains are forecast to reach 162 million tons, 9% (16 million tons) less than in 2012 and 2.5 million tons below the September forecast. Most the decline from the previous season reflects shrinking maize supplies in the United States that may curb the country’s maize stock-to-use ratio to an all-time low of 7.3%. By contrast, given the expectation of another bumper rice crop, global rice inventories at the close of seasons in 2013 are expected to surge by 6% (9.3 million tons) to a record of 165 million tons. This would lift the rice stock-to-use ratio by 1.6 percentage points to a comfortable 34.5%, or 10 percentage points higher than the 24.5% registered in 2006/07.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Eating Alone Occasions Create Opportunities For Food Marketers

A new analysis from the Hartman Group reveals that while 46% of adults report eating meals alone, up from 44% in 2010, many companies are missing the opportunity to market to the eating alone occasion for adults by continuing to market to family occasions and iconic meals of the past.

According to the Hartman Group, what constitutes a "meal" today has transformed from traditional, sit-down "meat and potatoes with the family" into a constantly shifting assortment of snacking and eating alone occasions. Consumers are giving up meal occasions with others or combining eating with other tasks as the need for productivity compels them to move forward.

Rules no longer really apply for eating occasions, especially when it comes to eating alone. Statistics reveal more than half adult-alone eating occasions take place in the home, and marketers need not cede the sourcing for alone occasions to QSR or other foodservice channels. Within food retail, significant opportunities exist to develop single-portion-oriented baked, prepared and refrigerated stations that enable those shoppers assembling meals-for-one to mix and match new tastes and cuisines. Prepared foods sections found in supermarkets can be masterfully constructed for this behavior.

Hartman also notes marketers are missing the opportunity to connect with consumers on these solitary occasions—both with marketing and product innovation. CPG food manufacturers can connect with consumers relevantly by creating new forms of packaging and ingredients that encourage interactivity and a sense of personalization. Trader Joe’s is often praised by consumers for its two-person meal solutions.

Finally, food retailers also should keep in mind that consumers are cooking for themselves, and retailers need to provide them with meal components they need to enjoy the occasion.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Magic in a Nutshell: Going Nutty

The almond is an energy-boosting, low-fat, protein-packed nut. Almonds are extremely versatile. No matter the meal course or ethnic cuisine, there is an almond form that delivers the needed flavor, crunch or thickening properties.

While almonds are great on their own for munching, especially seasoned or flavored with sweet or savory mixtures, they add distinctive flavor and a healthy halo to a variety of dishes. For example, a pancake batter made with half wheat and half almond flour, as well as diced and toasted almonds, creates a morning grill dish with a healthy crunch. Serving with grilled or griddled seasonal fruit elevates this morning breakfast dish into an anytime meal or even a special after-dinner dessert. .

Diced or chopped almonds can be used in stuffing and coatings, or used to encrust chicken or fish. Almond butter can adds rich, nutty flavor and hints sweetness to smoothies. Further, almond milk can substitute for dairy milk in most applications—think almond milk “ice cream." It is delicious to enjoy alone, but it’s also great in coffee, smoothies and frozen desserts. Consider a marzipan-inspired hot chocolate made with almond milk and cocoa. And of course, almonds’ creamy flavor is a natural in confectionary applications.

In addition to almonds, many other nuts find culinary use including popular varieties, such as walnuts (the more common English variety as well as black walnuts), pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias and Brazil nuts. Less-common, but equally delicious include: chestnuts, which can be steamed, boiled or roasted, and used in a variety of dishes from traditional stuffing to less-traditional hummus; and hickory (shagbark), which can be treated like a pecan, because they are close cousins; just to name a couple. Also pine nuts and cashew nuts are considered nuts in the culinary world and are often seen in Indian and Mediterranean cuisines, respectively.

There are countless applications for nuts, but following are a few ideas. For a sweet and spicy nut snack, mix walnuts or pecans with sweetened egg whites and spices, such as cinnamon, all spice, cardamom and chili. Place the mixture on a sheet pan and bake at low temperature until crunchy. Or, just a quick sauté with a small amount of butter or peanut or almond oil brings out the nut flavors.

Nut flours play a flavorful role in gluten-free desserts, breads and even pizzas. Yale University, for example, offers gluten-free, high-protein breakfast options—like milk chocolate and peanut butter ganache muffins—as well as desserts—including dark chocolate-peanut pound cake—where lightly toasted, golden peanut flour substitutes for traditional wheat flour. Special menu items have also been created for Cornell University, including a selection of healthful, protein-packed, gluten-free products, and even a hot beverage—Power Peanutccino—a protein-packed hot drink worthy of Starbucks. For the school’s resident halls and student stores we developed peanut-butter, strawberry and chocolate cannoli; peanut meringue roundies; milk-chocolate peanut-butter whoopie pies; and peanut-butter shortbread.

Sliced or slivered, seasoned nuts are perfect in salads or as topping for hot or cold vegetables. You can create a trio of salad, soup and vegetable toppers as a healthy replacement for croutons. Think about nuts flavored with roasted garlic, toasted onions and baked Parmesan cheese.

Any nut is a natural in granola. Just a sprinkle of roasted and sliced nuts, toasted oatmeal and dried cherries or cranberries adds crunch and flavor to a breakfast cereal, low-calorie snack or an attractive topping for ice cream or desserts.

For bakery applications, sprinkle a few nuts atop muffins or other pastries just before baking. Increasingly, chefs and food product developers are incorporating crushed nuts in stuffings and coatings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Private-Label Food Sales to Hit 30% Market Share by 2025

Private-label food brand sales are predicted to achieve market penetration of between 25% and 30% in the next decade, up from their current market share of just less than 20%, according to new market data from Rabobank. The projected growth translates to one in every three food product purchases in the United States being a retailer-branded product by the year 2025.

According to the report, "What Would Apple Do? How Can U.S. Branded Food Companies Withstand the Retailer Brand Onslaught?", retailer brands have grown 6% over the past five years, compared with the sales of national branded packaged food manufacturers that have grown just 2%. Increasing competitive strength of private-label brands reflects a power shift from consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) to food retailers, as well as the growing trust and loyalty consumers have to today's innovative and high-quality retailer brands.

"Retailer brands have matured from their original positioning as 'cheap and cheerless' generic products into a more diverse range of national brand equivalents and, more recently, highly innovative premium products," said Nicholas Fereday, Rabobank analyst and author of the report. “On grocery shelves around the U.S., from convenience stores to upscale supermarkets, retail brands now compete successfully and often win against national brands, earning consumer trust in terms of pricing, quality, image and value."

The report also proposes strategies for consumer packaged goods companies to defend their national brands and/or to compensate for the loss of market share to retail brands.

"Many national brand owners need to be bolder in their thinking and strategizing," Fereday said. "Instead of opting for low-cost, low-risk, conservative solutions, they need to think and act more like the Apples of the world, innovating new game-changing food products and entering new categories. Alternatively, national brand owners should consider downsizing brand-building efforts and diversifying their manufacturing into B2B activities."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brewing the perfect cup of joe

Coffee brewing equipment has never been better. Here’s what you need to know to buy the right brewer for your operation.

It used to be that coffee brewing just involved spraying hot water over ground beans for a set amount of time. The coffee was brewed with unsophisticated equipment and held in simple urns at a set temperature. The latest coffee equipment brings more science to the art of coffee making. Here are the main types of coffee equipment that may fit your operation.

For a small-volume outlet, the basic single-pot brewer may be the product of choice. These units drip hot water through coffee into decanters that sit on a warming plate. One model is the pour-over type, meaning water is manually poured into a reservoir to make coffee with no water connection needed. Pot brewers can also be plumbed for automatic water filling. There is some variation in sizes, but most of these models usually brew about a half-gallon in about four minutes.

The next coffee-maker type is the airpot, which brews coffee directly into insulated containers that are completely sealed and insulated. They can hold coffee temperature and quality for several hours compared to the pot brewer hold time of about 20 minutes. They are excellent for serving a variety of specialty or flavored coffees since a group of airpots can be held on a rack for merchandising. These portable containers are usually one to three liters in capacity.

The move up in coffee volume is to an urn. The most popular size is a twin three-gallon unit. As a rule of thumb, consider using an urn when serving six gallons of coffee, roughly 100 eight-ounce servings or more in one hour. Most urns have some quality brewing features built in, including a water bypass to divert water around the coffee being brewed directly into the urn to prevent overextraction of the grounds. Another feature you’ll want is automatic agitation. Coffee strength varies during the brewing cycle and agitation is needed to mix the coffee to a uniform consistency. If you don’t have an agitation feature, just draw off some coffee once brewing is complete and pour it back into the urn to mix the stratified flavor strengths.

Another coffee brewer type is the modular brewer, which is often used in high-volume applications. It consists of a fixed brewing module that controls the temperature and volume of water used. It usually has spaces for two brewing containers that can be attached to a hose or spout of the brewing module. The brewing container varies in size with some up to five gallons. Some may have their own heater modules.

Coffee makers with a coffee grinder and brewer in one machine are common in high-end restaurant operations. These units often have dual coffee bean hoppers to brew two types of coffee into a decanter or airpot. Single-cup brewers are also becoming popular in restaurants. These units are suitable for high-end fine dining operations where quality and personalized service are more important than volume. French presses for tableside use are also popular in many quality restaurants.

Coffee maker purchasing tips

• A coffee maker is basically a hot water heater that requires a lot of power. Most large-volume models use 208- or 240-volts of power. Some models have options for the heater size, rated in kilowatts (KW). If you can, choose the higher KW option. The recovery time to bring temperatures back up to par will be shorter.

• When idle for an extended period, some brewers will automatically go into sleep mode. During the sleep mode, the heating element allows the temperature to drop, which helps conserve energy. Newer coffee brewer designs are better insulated, hold heat better and have more efficient heating elements.

• Don’t over purchase on the size of your coffee maker. Nothing is worse than coffee that’s been sitting too long. It may take a little more effort to make coffee batches regularly, but your guests will love you for it.

• A good water filter will eliminate off tastes and greatly reduce machine maintenance.

• If you want to make your operation known for a great cup of coffee, choose the right equipment and follow the elements of brewing noted above. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Coffee May Speed Up Bowel Recovery From Colon Surgery

Drinking coffee instead of water may restore normal bowel function more quickly among people who have had surgery to remove part of their colon, a new study suggests.

Researchers at University Hospital Heidelberg, in Germany, also found that these patients were able to tolerate solid food sooner after their operation than people who didn't drink coffee.

The study was published in the November issue of the surgical journal BJS.

"Postoperative bowel obstruction is a common problem after abdominal surgery, and the aim of this study was to test our theory that coffee would help to alleviate this," study lead author Dr. Sascha Muller, who is now based at Kantonsspital St. Gallen, in Switzerland, said in a journal news release.

The researchers recruited 80 patients with colon cancer, diverticular disease (a structural problem in the wall of their colon), inflammatory bowel disease or another condition. The patients were an average of 61 years old and slightly more than half were men.

Participants were divided into two groups: those who drank coffee and those who drank water after colon surgery. The patients were given 100 milliliters (about half a cup) of coffee or water at three different times during the day.

Coffee drinkers took slightly more than 60 hours to make their first bowel movement after surgery, the study found. Water drinkers, on the other hand, took 74 hours.

The coffee group also tolerated solid food in just more than 49 hours after surgery. The water drinkers took 56 hours to do the same. The coffee drinkers were also able to pass wind within 41 hours after surgery compared with 46 hours for water drinkers.

"This randomized trial showed that the time to first bowel movement after surgery was much shorter in the coffee drinkers than the water drinkers," Muller said. No coffee-related complications were seen in the study.

Exactly how coffee restores bowel function is uncertain, the researchers noted. "Whatever the mechanism, it is clear that postoperative coffee consumption is a cheap and safe way to activate bowel motility after elective colonic surgery," they wrote.

Although the researchers found an association between coffee consumption and earlier bowel movements after surgery, they did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Industry files lawsuit to block NYC crackdown on sugary drinks

Soda makers, restaurateurs and other businesses sued Friday to try to block the city's unprecedented move to restrict sales of super-sized, sugary drinks, an effort the city called a coup for public health but the industry views as unfair and undemocratic.

"For the first time, they're telling New Yorkers how much of certain safe and lawful beverages they can drink," said Caroline Starke, a spokeswoman for the business groups, whose complaint also faults the city for making the decision through an unelected board. The groups include the American Beverage Association, the National Restaurant Association, a soft drink workers union and groups representing interests ranging from movie theater owners to Korean-American grocers.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the regulation's chief champion, called the lawsuit a groundless effort to stop a groundbreaking policy.

"This predictable, yet baseless, lawsuit fortunately will help put an even greater spotlight on the obesity epidemic," said the spokesman, Marc LaVorgna, who noted that the city also won fights over outlawing smoking in bars and offices and forcing fast-food restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus.

The beverage industry hinted it was considering a suit as soon as the city Board of Health approved the regulation last month. The rule would stop restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands from selling soda and other high-calorie drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. It's set to take effect in March.

Bloomberg has called it a reasonable way to fight an obesity problem that takes a toll on many New Yorkers' health and city hospitals' budgets.

The measure keeps people from drinking extra calories without thinking, he says. For someone who drinks a soda every day, for example, downing a 16-ounce Coke instead of a 20-ounce one trims 14,600 calories a year, or the equivalent of 70 Hershey bars.

"Nobody is banning anything," the mayor said when the plan passed, noting that someone who wanted a second soda could get one.

The soda makers and sellers say the city is being a nanny-like nag to consumers and imposing an unfair, uneven burden on businesses. Manufacturers will have to get new bottles, and eateries will lose sales to competitors that aren't covered by the rule, they say. A customer who couldn't buy a 20-ounce soda at a pizzeria would be able to get a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven, for instance, as convenience stores are under different regulations.

"(The rule) unfairly harms small businesses at a time when we can ill afford it," the suit says.

It also says the Bloomberg-appointed health board shouldn't dictate the size of soft drinks. Ten City Council members signed onto a July measure calling on the health board not to approve the rule; a New York Times poll in August showed that six in 10 New Yorkers opposed it.

The city says the board, made up of physicians and other health experts, is exactly the panel to make such decisions. It has held sway over matters ranging from milk inspection in the 1870s to banning lead paint in 1960, the city notes.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Beverage Calorie Counts Coming to Vending Machines

America’s beverage companies launched a new Calories Count™ Vending Program, which will be launched in municipal buildings in the cities of Chicago and San Antonio beginning in 2013 and eventually rolled out to vending customers nationwide.

“We are proud to launch our Calories Count™ Vending Program with Mayor Emanuel and Mayor Castro, both of whom are deeply committed to reducing obesity in their communities," said Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association.

Building upon previous industry initiatives that removed full-calorie beverages from schools and placed new calorie labels on the front of every bottle, can and pack, the Calories Count™ Vending Program will provide clear calorie information on vending machines, encourage lower-calorie beverage choices and remind consumers that “calories count" in all the choices they make.

Under the Calories Count™ Vending Program, The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo will work with government leaders, foodservice operators, vending companies and other customers to increase availability of lower-calorie beverages in vending machines; display a “Calories Count™" vending snipe on the front of beverage vending machines reminding consumers to consider calories in their beverage choices with messages such as “Check then Choose" and “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage"; and add calorie labels to the selection buttons on beverage vending machines to show calorie counts per beverage container.

“Working with key stakeholders is an important part of addressing the public health challenge of obesity," Neely said. “With our Calories Count™ Vending Program, everyone who works in or visits a municipal building in Chicago and San Antonio will know exactly how many calories are in their favorite beverages before making a vending machine purchase—and they will be reminded that ‘calories count’ as part of achieving a balanced lifestyle."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Want A Nobel Prize? Eat More Chocolate

Can eating chocolate help land you a Nobel Prize? The answer may be a tasty yes, according to a new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found countries that eat more chocolate produce more Nobel Laureates.

Since chocolate consumption could hypothetically improve cognitive function not only in individuals but also in whole populations, lead researcher Franz Messerili, a Columbia University professor, investigated whether there would be a correlation between a country's level of chocolate consumption and its population's cognitive function.

For the study, he downloaded a list of countries ranked in terms of Nobel laureates per capita from Wikipedia. Because the population of a country is substantially higher than its number of Nobel laureates, the numbers had to be multiplied by 10 million. Thus, the numbers must be read as the number of Nobel laureates for every 10 million persons in a given country.

All Nobel Prizes that were awarded through Oct. 10, 2011, were included. Data on per capita yearly chocolate consumption in 22 countries was obtained from Chocosuisse, Theobroma-cacao, and Caobisco. Data were available from 2011 for one country (Switzerland), from 2010 for 15 countries, from 2004 for five countries, and from 2002 for one country (China).

Switzerland was the top performer in terms of both the number of Nobel laureates and chocolate consumption, followed by Sweden and Denmark. Messerli estimated that every citizen would have to eat 400 grams of chocolate a year to increase the number of Nobel laureates in a given country by one, if the correlation holds true.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Need Label Review for Compliance?

A consulting firm in Maryland has launched five new labeling websites that allow companies with products regulated by the FDA to receive a label review in order to identify compliance issues with their product label. says users can upload their label files for free and obtain a label review report within as little as three days, identifying what is and is not compliant and what could be changed in order to avoid problems with the food and drug regulators.

The consulting firm has separate label review websites for the food, drug, supplement, cosmetic and homeopathic industries. Among others, the websites include and

"Labeling compliance is more important than ever," said Benjamin England, founder and CEO of "FDA takes it very seriously and can prevent products from ever coming to market because of a misleading statement, health claim, incorrect Drug or Nutrition Facts panel or wrongly named ingredient."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Study Links Sugar Sweetened Drinks to Obesity

Daily consumption of sucrose-sweetened soft drinks (SSSDs) increases the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, compared to drinking milk, diet cola and water, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The association between consumption of sucrose-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease has been long established; however, researchers at Aarhus University Hospital wanted to compare the effects of SSSDs with those of isocaloric milk and a non-caloric soft drink on changes in total fat mass and ectopic fat deposition (in liver and muscle tissue).

For the study, 47 overweight subjects were randomly assigned to drink 1 liter per day for six months of one of four different test drinks—sucrose-sweetened soft drink (regular cola), isocaloric semi skim milk, aspartame-sweetened diet cola, and water. The amount of intrahepatic fat and intramyocellular fat was measured with 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Other endpoints were fat mass, fat distribution (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and magnetic resonance imaging), and metabolic risk factors.

Subjects who drank the sucrose-sweetened beverages gained more fat than those who consumed any of other three beverages. Compared to the baseline measurements, drinking the regular soda increased liver fat 132% to 143%, skeletal muscle fat 117% to 221%, visceral fat 24% to 31%, blood triglycerides 32%, and total cholesterol 11%. There was no significant difference in total fat mass among all four groups. Milk and diet cola reduced systolic blood pressure 10% to 15%, compared to regular cola. Diet cola has similar effects to those of water on fat storage.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Global Food Prices Nudge 1.4% Higher in September

Following two months of stability, new statistics released by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed the FAO Food Price Index rose 1.4%, or 3 points, from its level in August.

The FAO Food Price Index, measuring the monthly change in international prices of a basket of 55 food commodities, climbed to 216 points in September from 213 points in August. The rise reflected strengthening dairy and meat prices and more contained increases for cereals. Prices of sugar and oils, on the other hand, fell. The FAO Index currently stands 22 points below its peak of 238 points in February 2011, and 9 points below its level of 225 points in September 2011.

The Cereal Price Index averaged 263 points in September, up 3 points from August, as gains in wheat and rice offset a decline in maize. At this level, the FAO Cereal Price Index is 7% higher than in the corresponding period last year but still 4% below the peak of 274 points registered in April 2008. While shrinking maize export availabilities and high maize prices have been leading cereal markets in recent months, tightening wheat supplies have also become a concern. Nonetheless, international wheat prices fell toward the second half of the month, following the announcement by the Russian Federation that it would not impose restrictions on exports.

The Dairy Price Index averaged 188 points in September, up 7% from August, representing the sharpest monthly increase since January 2011. All the five dairy products monitored saw prices rise, in particular skim milk powder and casein, which both surged by 12%. World demand for milk products remains firm which, combined with increasing feed costs, is underpinning world quotations.

The Oils/Fats Price Index averaged 225 points in September, down 0.4% from August. While prices for soy, rapeseed and sunflower oil remained firm during most of September, palm oil quotations dropped for the second consecutive month reflecting seasonally high production, which, combined with weak demand, has led to a marked rise in stocks.

The Meat Price Index averaged 175 points in September, up 2.1% from August. The grain-intensive pig and poultry sectors recorded particularly strong gains, increasing by 6% and 2%, respectively. Bovine prices made little headway, while sheep meat values were stable.

The Sugar Price Index averaged 284 points in September, down 4.2% from August, and 25% from September 2011. The decline in sugar quotations reflects improved sugarcane harvest in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar exporter, and improved crop prospects in some key producing regions including India, China and Thailand.

Monday, October 08, 2012

FDA Delays Food Registration Period

Today was supposed to be the first day food facilities could re-register information with the Secretary of the Department of Human Health and Services.

But FDA has put on hold the biennial registration requirements. The government agency says on its website it is not accepting food facility registration renewals at this time.

FDA is delaying the registration renewals that are mandated under a 2011 law after the Grocery Manufacturers Association and numerous other trade associations recently sought guidance in meeting the registration requirements.

"It would be extremely inefficient and costly for companies to re-register shortly after October 1st based on the old procedures, only to find out later they have to do it all over again after FDA clarifies the new procedures in its guidance," wrote Leon Bruner, senior vice president, science and regulatory affairs, and chief science officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, in a Sept. 21 letter to the Office of Management and Budget. "Thus, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for food facilities to effectively and efficiently meet FSMA's registration renewal mandate without guidance from FDA."

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requires domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food for consumption in the U.S. to register every two years starting with a renewal period stretching from October 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012. The requirements apply to beverages, conventional foods and supplements, said Justin Prochnow, a Denver-based shareholder with the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

FDA recommends companies check its website or sign up for FSMA updates to learn when the registration renewal becomes available.
The agency has explained the registration information will help it find the location and source of a bioterrorism event or foodborne illness.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

EFSA Rejects French Study on GMO Corn

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that a controversial paper by French scientists linking genetically modified (GMO) corn to an increase risk in cancer in rats is of “insufficient scientific quality to be considered as valid for risk assessment."

EFSA’s initial review, published Oct. 4, found the design, reporting and analysis of the study, as outlined in the paper, are inadequate. The agency also invited authors Séralini et al to share key additional information to enable the fullest understanding of the study.

Such shortcomings mean EFSA is presently unable to regard the authors’ conclusions as scientifically sound. The numerous issues relating to the design and methodology of the study as described in the paper mean that no conclusions can be made about the occurrence of tumors in the rats tested.

“Therefore, based on the information published by the authors, EFSA does not see a need to re-examine its previous safety evaluation of maize NK603 or to consider these findings in the ongoing assessment of glyphosate. EFSA assessed the paper against recognized good scientific practices, such as internationally agreed study and reporting guidelines," the agency said in a statement.

Per Bergman, who led EFSA’s work, said: “Some may be surprised that EFSA’s statement focuses on the methodology of this study rather than its outcomes; however, this goes to the very heart of the matter. When conducting a study it is crucial to ensure a proper framework is in place. Having clear objectives and the correct design and methodology create a solid base from which accurate data and valid conclusions can follow. Without these elements a study is unlikely to be reliable and valid."

EFSA’s preliminary review is the first step in a two-stage process. A second analysis will be completed by the end of October 2012, and will take into account any additional information from the study authors, who will be given an opportunity to supply study documentation and procedures to the agency to ensure the broadest possible understanding of their work. It will also include an overview of Member State assessments of the paper and an analysis from the German authorities responsible for the assessment of glyphosate.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Low Vitamin D Levels Increase Mortality

Low levels of vitamin D and high levels of parathyroid hormone are associated with increased mortality in black and Caucasian older adults, according to a new study accepted for publication in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM). The findings also suggest the potential impact of remediating low vitamin D levels is greater in blacks than Caucasians because vitamin D insufficiency is more common in blacks.

Low levels of vitamin D have been directly associated with various forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Most studies regarding the health effects of low vitamin D levels have been conducted on persons of European origin, but the current study examines the relationship between vitamin D and mortality in blacks and Caucasians.

The Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition report published in April 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found deficiency rates for vitamins and nutrients vary by age, gender, or race/ethnicity and can be as high as 31% for vitamin D deficiency in non-Hispanic blacks.

“We observed vitamin D insufficiency in one-third of our study participants. This was associated with nearly a 50% increase in the mortality rate in older adults," said Stephen B. Kritchevsky, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine and Transitional Science at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and lead researcher of the study. “Our findings suggest that low levels of vitamin D may be a substantial public health concern for our nation’s older adults."

For the study, 2,638 Caucasians and blacks aged 70-79 years were asked to fast for 12 hours, after which a blood sample was collected to determine levels of vitamin D. Every six months study participants were contacted to ascertain their medical condition. The study determined the proportion of deaths among participants of with different vitamin D levels. In addition to many health factors, the time of year was also taken into account due to the seasonal effects on vitamin D. Researchers found levels of vitamin D less than 30 ng/ml were associated with significantly increased all-cause mortality.

“We all know that good nutrition is important to overall health, and our study adds to a growing body of literature that underscores the importance of vitamin D and indicates that poor vitamin D nutrition is widespread," said Kritchevsky. “The good news is it’s easy to improve vitamin D status either through increased skin exposure to sunlight or through diet or supplements."

A 2010 study conducted by researchers from Emory University found almost 75% of healthy, low-income, minority children were low in vitamin D. They also found age and season were significant predictors of vitamin D deficiency, and most children get their vitamin D through fortified milk.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Study Says Metabolized BPA Poses Bigger Threat

Numerous studies have reported associations between bisphenol A (BPA) exposure and myriad adverse health and development effects, from cancer and neurological disorders to physiological defects and, perhaps, a cause of childhood obesity. Now, new research published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests metabolic changes that take place once BPA is broken down inside the human body pose a greater health threat than previously thought.

Of particular concern is that BPA exposure is correlated with disruption of estrogen signaling. The chemical’s molecular structure is similar to that of estradiol, one of the human body’s three main estrogens, suggesting that BPA binds to estrogen receptors. In binding to the estrogen receptor, BPA can disrupt the body’s endocrine or hormone system, with consequences especially worrisome for fetuses, infants and young children. Earlier this year,the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.

Scientists at UC San Diego School of Medicine said three-dimensional modeling suggests a metabolite of BPA—a molecule produced when BPA is metabolized or broken down by the body—actually binds to the estrogen receptor much more strongly than BPA itself. The finding could point the way to development of a new class of drugs designed to specifically inhibit excessive estrogen activity linked to disease.

In 2004, researchers in Japan discovered that another compound, dubbed MBP, was produced when BPA was metabolized. MBP has a 100-fold to 1,000-fold stronger bond to the estrogen receptor than BPA; however, the structural basis for MBP’s high affinity for the estrogen receptor was not investigated further.

For this study, the researchers creating 3D molecular models of MBP and BPA in the estrogen receptor and matching it against the crystal structure of estradiol in the estrogen receptor. They found that MBP’s longer structure allows both ends of the chemical to interact with the estrogen receptor in a way similar to estradiol. The shorter BPA molecule contacts the receptor at just one end, resulting in a weaker connection, providing an explanation for BPA’s lower affinity for the estrogen receptor.

The researchers said the 3D modeling supports the idea “that BPA is not the endocrine disruptor culprit. Instead, MBP is one (of perhaps several BPA metabolites) that causes disruption of estrogen signaling in humans and other animals."

They said research points to the need to measure MBP levels in urine and blood of patients suspected of BPA-mediated health effects, and may fuel development of a new therapeutic treatment for conditions linked to excessive estrogen levels and activity, such as some forms of breast and prostate cancers

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Eating An Apple A Day Cuts Atherosclerosis by 40%

There’s new science supporting the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Healthy middle-aged adults who ate one apple a day for four weeks lowered blood levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is linked to hardening of the arteries, by 40%, according to a new study published online in the Journal of Functional Foods.

For the study, Ohio State University researchers recruited non-smoking healthy adults between the ages 40-60 who had a history of eating apples less than twice a month and who didn't take supplements containing polyphenols or other plant-based concentrates. In all, 16 participants ate a large Red or Golden Delicious apple for four weeks; 17 took capsules containing 194 milligrams of polyphenols a day for four weeks; and 18 took a placebo containing no polyphenols. The researchers found no effect on oxidized LDLs in those taking the placebo.

When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Lead researcher Robert DiSilvestro, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and a researcher at OSU’s Agricultural Research and Development Center, said they found a tremendous effect against LDL being oxidized with just one apple a day for four weeks. The difference was similar to that found between people with normal coronary arteries versus those with coronary artery disease.

"We think the polyphenols account for a lot of the effect from apples, but we did try to isolate just the polyphenols, using about what you'd get from an apple a day," DiSilvestro said. "We found the polyphenol extract did register a measurable effect, but not as strong as the straight apple. That could either be because there are other things in the apple that could contribute to the effect, or, in some cases, these bioactive compounds seem to get absorbed better when they're consumed in foods."

He described daily apple consumption as significantly more effective at lowering oxidized LDL than other antioxidants he has studied, including the spice-based compound curcumin, green tea and tomato extract. “Not all antioxidants are created equal when it comes to this particular effect," he said.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Gluten-Free Marketing is Catching on in the Food Industry

As the gluten-free market is exploding, food manufacturers are taking note. More and more food companies are recognizing the need to inform and serve the segment of the market that needs or wants gluten-free products. From gluten-free flours to gluten-free restaurant menus, the prevalence of these products is only expanding—and that means good things for the gluten-free community

 The Rise of Gluten-Free Merchandising
In the United States alone, sales of gluten-free food and beverages hit $2.64 billion in 2010, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30% over the 2006-2010 period, according to Packaged Facts. A report by the Frost & Sullivan consulting firm estimates retail sales of packaged foods free of the protein are approaching $2 billion a year in the U.S. What's more, sales are expected to continue growing—even exceeding $5 billion by the year 2015.

The growth of gluten-free parallels the growth of celiac disease, a gluten intolerance that has doubled in case numbers every 15 years since 1974, according to University of Maryland study. With an increasing number of Americans diagnosed with Celiac, not to mention many more non-diagnosed individuals finding health benefits from avoiding gluten, the market has a ready audience.

Brands Already Active in the Gluten-Free Market
Because gluten-free products require specialty flours and premium ingredients that command higher prices, they're typically more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Yet despite that fact, they're selling fast, which is exactly why so many companies and brands are jumping in.

Gluten-free sales are soaring at Cub Foods grocery stores, according to a report from Minnesota Public Radio. The chain has a website that helps shoppers create shopping lists of items that don't contain gluten, and almost every Cub now has a section dedicated to the category.

Food-manufacturing giant General Mills, the company behind Cheerios and Betty Crocker, now offers hundreds of products with the gluten-free label. Kellogg has gluten-free Rice Krispies. Beer manufacturer Anheuser-Busch sells Redbridge, a gluten-free beer. There's a long list of gluten-free menu options at P.F. Chang's, a wide variety of gluten-free options at specialty grocers like Whole Foods Market (a grocery that has more than doubled its gluten-free products in the last five years) and designated sections of gluten-free products at most major supermarkets, including Kroger, Publix and Wal-Mart.

The Problem for the Celiac Community
Given that there's money to be made in the gluten-free marketplace as the idea grows in popularity among celebrities, athletes, etc., it's no surprise to see so many different brands jumping on board. The problem, however, is not that companies are offering gluten-free products—it's that the products labeled "gluten-free," are often cross-contaminated in production, making them still seriously unsafe for celiac patients. For patients diagnosed with celiac disease, going gluten-free is more than a trend—it's a necessity.

One example of this struggle is Domino's gluten-free pizza crust, launched earlier this year, which the company itself admits it "cannot guarantee … will be completely free from gluten." For someone jumping on the gluten-free fad diet, the pizza is perfect; for someone with celiac, it's a reminder of how hard eating out can be. The same goes for Starbucks, which cannot guarantee a gluten-free environment, as well as many other retailers.

What All This Means for Gluten-Free Customers
There is good news on the horizon for the gluten-free community. What's so significant about the upswing in gluten-free merchandise is that the more gluten-free expands, the more variety there will be and the more that prices are likely to go down. It's the basic law of supply and demand. Whereas in 2007, low availability of gluten-free goods raised prices, soon it could be the opposite that is true. As more companies seek to gain a piece of the gluten-free pie, there will be greater options, more competition and lower price tags.

"The more you produce of something, the less it costs in general in an industrial society, if you're talking about processed products," a University of Minnesota professor, Benajmin Senauer, said in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio. "And there's going to be increased competition [in the gluten-free market]."


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tomato Trade Pact: U.S., Mexico on Collision Course?

The United States and Mexico could find themselves in a trade war should the U.S. Department of Commerce terminate a 16-year old agreement that has kept prices of tomatoes low for many consumers who purchase fruit that is grown south of the border.

Florida tomato growers want to end a pact that was worth more than $1.8 billion to Mexico last year. The Associated Press said the decision to do so would allow U.S. growers to seek anti-dumping duties on imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Commerce on Thursday signaled it may end the 1996 agreement, leading to anger and frustration for Mexican officials and businesses. The federal government said it would make a final decision in no later than 270 days.

"We're disappointed. We're confused. We're frustrated. We're angry," Martin Ley, vice president of Del Campo Supreme, a family business that exported $60 million in tomatoes to the U.S. and Canada last year, told The New York Times. "We don't understand where this is going and where this is coming from."

The Obama Administration faced criticism from the right that it is trying to placate Floridians ahead of the Nov. 6 election, and The Wall Street Journal opined that Mexico is likely to retaliate with tariffs against U.S. exports as it has done previously.

Florida tomato growers have griped the pact fails to protect them against Mexican tomatoes sold in the U.S. below the cost of production, according to Reuters.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Eating Cherries Reduces Gout Attacks by 35%

Consuming cherries over a two-day period reduces the risk of gout attacks by 35% in patients suffering from the disease compared to those who did not eat any cherries, according to a new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. The findings also suggest the risk of gout flares was 75% lower when cherry intake was combined with the uric-acid reducing drug, allopurinol, than in periods without exposure to cherries or treatment.

Researchers at Boston University recruited 633 gout patients who were followed online for one year. Participants were asked about the date of gout onset, symptoms, medications and risk factors, including cherry and cherry extract intake in the two days prior to the gout attack. A cherry serving was one half cup or 10 to 12 cherries.

Participants had a mean age of 54 years, with 88% being Caucasian and 78% of subjects were male. Of those subjects with some form of cherry intake, 35% ate fresh cherries, 2% ingested cherry extract, and 5% consumed both fresh cherry fruit and cherry extract. Researchers documented 1,247 gout attacks during the 1-year follow-up period, with 92% occurring in the joint at the base of the big toe.

“Our findings indicate that consuming cherries or cherry extract lowers the risk of gout attack," said Dr. Yuqing Zhang, professor of medicine and public health at Boston University. “The gout flare risk continued to decrease with increasing cherry consumption, up to three servings over two days."

The researchers also found further cherry intake did not provide any additional benefit; however, the protective effect of cherry intake persisted after taking into account patients’ sex, body mass index, purine intake, along with use of alcohol, diuretics and anti-gout medications.

More than 8 million U.S. adults suffer with gout, an inflammatory arthritis triggered by a crystallization of uric acid within the joints that causes excruciating pain and swelling. Prior studies suggest that cherry products have urate-lowering effects and anti-inflammatory properties, and thus may have the potential to reduce gout pain.