Friday, May 31, 2013


Scientists are closing in on genes in rice that regulate the uptake and storage of important minerals, a pursuit that could bolster the nutritional value of a grain that is a food staple for nearly half the world's population. The goal is to conventionally breed new rice varieties whose grains boast exceptionally high concentrations of one or more of 14 essential minerals, including zinc, iron and calcium, according to new research published in the Agricultural Research magazine.

Rice is a popular mainstay because it's a rich source of energy, free of gluten, easy to digest, low in fat and packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients; however, some key elements like iron are lost when the bran on unmilled brown rice is stripped off to produce white rice, said Shannon Pinson, a USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist at the ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark.

In developing countries, re-fortifying rice after milling may not be a viable option. In fact, the soils in which the crop is grown may be lacking in certain essential minerals, or the minerals are unavailable for uptake by the plant's roots.

To address these issues, the ARS-university team focused attention on three different population groups of rice—with the most diversity represented by 1,643 accessions collected from 114 countries. In this diverse group, they encountered rice accessions whose grains contained up to nine times the amount of minerals normally observed in standard U.S. varieties.

The team also is developing molecular marker data for use in rapidly identifying high-mineral rice plants without growing them to maturity during breeding operations. The team has so far identified 127 gene locations in 40 different chromosome regions that correlate to high concentrations of certain minerals and other grain features.


Thursday, May 30, 2013


Patients with kidney stones are often instructed to drink more fluids to prevent the condition from recurring; however, new research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found drinking just one sugar-sweetened soft drink a day increased the risk of kidney stone formation by 23% compared to people who had a maximum of one per week.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study to determine which fluids are detrimental or beneficial to one's risk of developing kidney stones. They found that certain drinks are more effective than others in preventing the recurrence of kidney stones. They found consumption of sugar-sweetened soda and punch is associated with a higher risk of stone formation, whereas consumption of coffee, tea, beer, wine, and orange juice is associated with a lower risk."

"Our study found that the relation between fluid intake and kidney stones may be dependent on the type of beverage consumed. We found that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with a higher incidence of kidney stones," said senior author Gary Curhan, M.D., ScD, Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from three ongoing cohorts—the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), and both the Nurses' Health Study I (NHS I) and II (NHS II). A total of 194,095 people were involved in the analysis over an average follow-up of more than eight years. All of the participants had to complete questionnaires concerning their medical history, lifestyle, and medication. Every four years questions on diet were updates.

Results of the analysis revealed that people who drank just one sugar-sweetened cola per day were at a 23% increased risk of kidney stone formation compared to people who had a maximum of one per week.

A study presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting revealed that calcium and vitamin D supplements are linked to high levels of calcium in the blood which can significantly raise the risk of developing kidney stones. In 2012, a study published in the journal European Urology found obese or diabetic patients have an increased risk for kidney stones.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Specialty Retailers See Strong Tea Sales

Among specialty retailers like Starbucks, servings of hot tea rose 18 percent for the year ended February 2013, compared with a year earlier, according to NPD Group, while the iced variety showed solid growth of 5 percent over the same period. In supermarkets, ready-to-drink tea has been booming for some time; during the past six years, it has grown 58 percent, to $3.8 billion in wholesale figures, from $2.4 billion. In the U.S. last year, ready-to-drink tea grew 5 percent, making it the fourth-fastest growing beverage category, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., reports Advertising Age

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cold Facts: The Science of Brain Freezes

Given Memorial Day heralds the beginning of the season for frosty treats, this seems timely: File it under “Science is Fun," or maybe just “For Science Geeks Only," but a neuroscientist has explained the phenomena experienced after gulping down ice cold foods and beverages commonly referred to as “brain freeze."

Most of us get it--that sudden pain in your brain when you slurp your Slurpee or gobble your gelato on a hot summer day. Technically, it’s called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia . “Brain freeze is really a type of headache that is rapid in onset, but rapidly resolved as well," explains Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Our mouths are highly vascularized, including the tongue–that’s why we take our temperatures there. But drinking a cold beverage fast doesn’t give the mouth time to absorb the cold very well."

Quickly consuming something cold rapidly changes the temperature of the back of your throat. That’s the location of the internal carotoid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which is where brain tissue starts. And while the brain itself doesn’t feel pain, the meninges, or outer covering of the brain can. So the rapid drop in temperature causes the two arteries to dilate and contract, and the brain interprets it as pain. “One thing the brain doesn’t like is for things to change, and brain freeze is a mechanism to prevent you from doing that," Godwin said.

To prevent brain freeze, Godwin suggests placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth to keep your throat warm or drinking a tepid beverage to moderate the temperature in your mouth. Or, you can stop drinking the icy cold beverage or eating the ice cream. But what’s the fun in that?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Startups in U.S. at 13-Year High

Entrepreneurship is back: Nearly 13 percent of American were starting or running new businesses in 2012, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. since at least 1999. That's according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an annual report published by Babson College and Baruch College. Here's more good news: Three out of four Americans starting a business are doing so because they see an opportunity, not because they can't find a job and are going out on their own out of necessity. More than 43 percent of Americans think there are good opportunities for entrepreneurs in the U.S. today. That's also the highest rate for this question in the survey's 13-year history. But fear of failure also is growing: One out of three Americans who see business opportunities feel constrained by the possibility that they won't succeed, up from one in four in 2008,

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Greek Yogurt's Toxic Byproduct Stumping Industry

Greek yogurt is a booming $2 billion a year industry—and it's producing millions of pounds of waste that industry insiders are scrambling to figure out what to do with. For every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can produce only one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey. Whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years, reports Modern Farmer.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wily Cockroaches Find Another Survival Trick: Laying Off the Sweets

Everyone knows that cockroaches are the ultimate survivors, with enough evolutionary tricks up their carapaces to have thrived for 350 million years and to have completely adapted to the human species.

 But the nature of the adaptation that researchers in North Carolina described on Thursday in the journal Science is impressive even for such an ancient, ineradicable lineage, experts say. Some populations of cockroaches evolved a simple, highly effective defense against sweet-tasting poison baits: They switched their internal chemistry around so that glucose, a form of sugar that is a sweet come-hither to countless forms of life, tastes bitter.

The way the roach’s senses changed, experts say, is an elegant example of quick evolutionary change in behavior, and offers the multibillion-dollar pest control industry valuable insights into enemy secrets, perhaps even revealing some clues for the fight against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, which are far more dangerous to human health than roaches.

“This is a fantastic discovery,” said Walter S. Leal, the head of the entomology department in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis. (Dr. Leal was not part of the research.)

“Sometimes,” he said, “the science is beautiful but you don’t know whether there is going to be an application five years from now, 10 years from now or 100 years.” But in this case, he said, the impact is both fundamental and practical.

Ayako Wada-Katsumata, Jules Silverman and Coby Schal, all at North Carolina State University, who wrote the report in Science, set out to explain a well-known phenomenon: Some populations of German cockroaches (the ones that apartment dwellers see scurrying around in the kitchen at night) avoid poison bait that is laced with glucose, which is supposed to attract them.

This behavior, discovered by Dr. Silverman, “first appeared in the early ’90s,” said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist at the National Pest Management Association, shortly after exterminators — who now prefer to be called pest management professionals — started using poison baits instead of spraying as the main method of battling roaches. To get around the problem, the industry developed new baits, but the change in roach behavior was a puzzle.

Grzegorz Buczkowski, an entomologist at Purdue University who was not involved in the research, said the industry was always developing new poisons, because roaches and other pests become resistant to their effects, just as bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.

“We lose baits all the time,” he said.

But in this case, the problem was not a poison that had become ineffective. The cockroaches just seemed to avoid any bait that had glucose.

Dr. Silverman showed that this behavior was inherited, not something an individual roach learned during its brief life. And a few years ago the North Carolina researchers decided to investigate what caused the change.

Instead of taste buds, roaches have taste hairs on many parts of their bodies. The three North Carolina researchers concentrated on those around the mouth area and on two types of nerve cells that sense tastes and respond by firing electrical signals to the brain. One responds only to sugars and other sweet substances; the other responds only to bitter substances. Whenever a molecule of something sweet attaches to a sweet detector, it fires electrical impulses and the roach brain senses sweetness, which makes it want to eat whatever it is tasting. Whenever a molecule of something bitter attaches to the bitter detector, that cell fires and the brain senses bitterness, which makes the roach want to avoid that substance.

But somehow the roaches had changed so that the glucose made the bitter detector fire.

“Basically,” said Dr. Buczkowski, “when cockroaches taste glucose, they’re repelled by it because it tastes bitter to them.”

Dr. Schal said the next step was to figure out the details of the genetic mutation that had occurred. Perhaps a mutation changed the molecules that detect bitter substances so that they would be sensitive to glucose, too. Or a different sort of mutation could have caused the dedicated bitter neurons to have lots of standard glucose detectors, which did not exist on those neurons before — a shift that also would have made the insects register sweet glucose as bitter.

The research may be relevant far beyond roach control, perhaps helping to explain the behavior of mosquitoes that spread malaria, Dr. Schal said.

“The mosquito changed its behavior,” he said, “and no longer rests on walls that are treated with insecticide. Instead it tends to rest on the ceiling, or it tends to rest on the outside walls that are not treated with insecticide.

“We still don’t understand the cellular, the neural mechanism responsible for this change in behavior of the mosquito,” he said, so the approach that yielded results with the cockroach could offer useful insights.


Friday, May 24, 2013

U.S. not respecting WTO ruling on meat labeling: Mexico

The United States is not respecting a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on meat labeling, Mexico's Agriculture Minister Enrique Martinez said on Tuesday, saying it was hurting local industry.

The WTO ruled in late June last year that a U.S. program for labeling imported meat unfairly discriminated against Mexico and Canada, putting pressure on the United States to bring the scheme in line with global country-of-origin meat-labeling rules.

"We can't understand why once the very WTO ... issues a ruling, the government of the United States does not respect it," Martinez said.

"We have talked with beef producers in the United States and Canada, and totally agree this is an arbitrary decision and means discrimination against Mexican beef, which we will never agree with and as a government will defend against.

Meat exporters in Canada and Mexico say the new rules would cut even deeper into cattle and hog shipments that have already slumped by as much as half in the last four years.

The Canadian government has threatened a possible retaliatory strike against U.S. imports, and is hoping Mexico will join it.

The WTO Appellate Body said last year that U.S. country-of-origin labeling rules, commonly known as COOL, were wrong because they gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from Mexico and Canada than to U.S. meat.

Meat labels became mandatory in March 2009 after years of debate. U.S. consumer and some farm groups supported the requirement, saying consumers should have information to distinguish between U.S. and foreign products.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tips for avoiding Lyme disease

20 years ago you hardly anyone knew anyone who had Lyme disease, today everybody seems to know somebody who has it. Why is there an increase? For this edition of Healthy Living, Marcie Fraser has more.

 "Because of increase testing, there are a lot of different theories,” said Dr. Liza Whalen, Public Health and Preventative Medicine Specialist.

While the reasons why Lyme disease is on the rise, isn't clear, what is clear is where ticks can be found. They love damp, shady areas, shrubs, leaves, and tall grass.

“You want to stick to trails and areas that are well cleared and cover up to where you could get tick bites,” said Dr. Whalen.

If you are bitten by a tick, you may not get Lyme disease; but, do look out for symptoms.

"The bull’s-eye rash sometimes can be accompanied by flu-like illness and later on as the disease progresses it can cause other symptoms,” said Dr. Whalen.

When the infection is caught in the early stage, oral antibiotics are given. Treatment for later stages of the disease is still under investigation.

"So far, the literature doesn't really show that very long, prolonged courses of IV antibiotics is helpful for people,” said Dr. Whalen.

Not all ticks are infected, and your risk of acquiring Lyme disease is greatly reduced if the tick is removed within the first 36 hours after attachment.

The disease causing bacterium is in the gut of a tick. If you agitate the tick by attempting to remove it several times, the tick will release the bacterium from in his gut into you. So, remove the tick swiftly on the first try. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion.

If the tick's mouth parts break off and remain in your skin, don't worry. The mouth parts alone cannot transmit Lyme disease; they will dry up and fall off. If you are concerned about your risk of Lyme disease, call your doctor.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Pistachios provide almost all of their polyphenols and antioxidants during digestion making them readily available to the body, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

The study, conducted by the Model Gut Group at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in the United Kingdom in association with the University of Messina, Italy, used an experimental model that mimics digestion. The study looked at polyphenols and antioxidants like gamma-tocopherol (vitamin E) found in pistachios and in fruits and vegetables. Results showed these polyphenols and antioxidants are released during digestion making them available to the body.
Findings are significant because they suggest that the body may be able to absorb the polyphenols and antioxidants which are nutrients that are not always readily accessible by the body. For example, iron in spinach is naturally harder for the human body to absorb however, iron can be made more readily available by the body when combined with vitamin C.

Findings from this study, along with previous research suggesting that not all dietary fat content may be absorbed, published in the January 2012 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, further emphasizes pistachios as a nutrient-rich snack for a healthy diet. In this randomized controlled-feeding study, conducted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it's suggested we may consume less calories per serving that originally thought at 160 calories per 30 gram serving, about 1 ounce. The colorful, green, yellow and purple-red pistachio nut offers polyphenols, antioxidants, protein, and fiber making a good-tasting and healthy snack. Pistachios also recently gained Heart-Check approval, deeming it as a heart-healthy food.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Organic Food is $63 Billion Global Industry

2011 is the most recent year for statistics on the growth of the organic industry worldwide, but here's an update.

Organic food is a $63 billion industry globally, according to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

From 2002- 2011, the industry grew 170%, or about 19% a year.

Interestingly, the US is the largest single market for organic food (and beverages), but developing countries are the biggest producers of the food we eat.

In the US, the organic industry reached $31.5 billion in sales, rising 9.5% from the previous year.

Approximately a third of the world's agricultural land and more than 80% of the producers are in developing countries and emerging markets.

Germany and France are the other dominant markets for organic food and Switzerland, Denmark and Luxemburg consume the most organic food per capita.

Organic agriculture still makes up less than 1% of the world's farming acreage (0.9%) with 37.2 million hectares planted worldwide across 162 countries.

You might be surprised to learn that Australia leads the world in organic acreage with 12 million hectares, followed by Argentina with 3.8 million hectares. The US comes in third with 1.9 million hectares.

Organic's share of total agricultural land is highest in the Falkland Islands (35.9%), Liechtenstein (27.3%), and Austria (19.7%).

Although the Oceania region has a third of the world's organic acreage - 12.2 million hectares - it accounts for just 2.9% of farmland there. Europe, with 10.6 million hectares, has 29% of the world's acreage, taking up 5.4 percent of the land.

Latin America has 6.9 million hectares (18.4%), North America has 2.8 million hectares (7.5%), and Africa has 1.1 million hectares (3%).


Monday, May 20, 2013


Most colleges and universities lack knowledge and options to meet students' gluten-free needs, according to new data gathered by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).

After a recent U.S. Department of Justice settlement requiring universities to offer gluten-free meal options to students, the NFCA conducted a survey of nearly 1,000 college students on their colleges' knowledge of gluten-related disorders. The research reveals a continued and pervasive lack of awareness and accommodation for students with gluten sensitivities or allergies.

The settlement stated that food allergies may constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite this ruling, the NFCA survey revealed that 61% of gluten-free college students believe that their dining services directors or staff members do not have sufficient knowledge about the gluten-free diet. In addition, 60% of gluten-free students reported sickness from eating at a dining hall or foodservice establishment on campus.

“To students with celiac disease, gluten-free isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s a necessity," said Alice Bast, founder and president of NFCA. "It’s time that our colleges and universities paid equal attention to the nutritional needs and food-safety concerns of this growing population."

According to the NFCA, about 1% of Americans have celiac disease and 6% have gluten sensitivities. Among the students NFCA surveyed, nearly one in two was diagnosed while in college, emphasizing the need for support on campus.

New market research also indicates North America is the largest market for gluten-free products, with the 2018 market expected to hit $6.2 billion.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Small restaurants serving big calories, salt: studies

Despite public health progress in cutting calories, as well as salt and fat from fast foods and supermarket products, neighborhood restaurants are still packing big helpings of each into their meals, a trio of studies suggests.

Small independent eateries are not required to display nutritional information for consumers - if they did, the researchers report, patrons would routinely see single meals containing nearly a full day's worth of calories and fat plus one and half times the daily recommended intake for salt.

"It's really a disgrace. Every day the newspapers say things about the obesity epidemic… To a large extent, you can trace that to too many calories," said Susan Roberts, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Energy Metabolism Lab and professor of nutrition at Tufts University, in Boston.

About two thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. And as American waistlines continue to expand, public health policy has focused on the quality of food available in supermarkets and restaurants.

President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, for example, contains a requirement that restaurants with at least 20 outlets in the U.S. make their nutritional information available to customers.

But one of three new studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday points out that policy only applies to about half of the nation's restaurants. The other half is made up of smaller chains or independent restaurants exempt from the requirement.

For their analysis, Roberts and her colleagues measured the calories in 157 meals at small Mexican, American, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Thai restaurants in and near Boston between June and August 2011.

Overall, the researchers found the average meal at those restaurants contained 1,327 calories. That's about 66 percent of the 2,000 daily calories recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About 8 percent of the meals exceeded 2,000 calories.

The meals from small restaurants also contained up to 18 percent more calories than comparable dishes from larger chains - suggesting the requirement to display nutritional information is keeping the large-chain restaurant meals healthier, according to the researchers.

In another of the studies published Monday, Canadian researchers led by Mary Scourboutakos from the University of Toronto found similarly high calorie counts in more than 3,500 meals from Ontario restaurants they analyzed.

What's more, Scourboutakos and her fellow researchers found that individual meals contained an average of 89 percent of the daily recommended amount of fat and 151 percent of the daily recommended amount of salt.

A third study also zeroed-in on salt as a major area of concern.

Several organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization have all called for reductions in the amount of sodium people consume.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that most healthy people get 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, with an upper limit of 2,300 mg. But the average American eats closer to 3,600 mg each day, largely in processed foods.

For their new study, Dr. Stephen Havas of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and his colleagues analyzed 402 processed foods and 78 fast-food products to see if their salt content had changed between 2005 and 2011.

They found a small decrease in the amount of salt in processed foods over that period but also a similarly-sized increase in the amount of salt in fast-food products. The differences in each category, however, were small enough that they could have been due to chance.

Havas said the results show that the calls for voluntary reductions in salt have been a "total failure."

"The only thing that will solve this problem is for the amount of salt in our food to be regulated," he added.

But regulating food and what goes into it has been a controversial topic, according to Dr. Mitchell Katz, from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services in California.

Instead, he suggests in a commentary accompanying the three studies that doctors should advocate for their patients' right to know what they're eating.

"As we debate the controversial role of government in stemming the interrelated endemics of obesity, diabetes mellitus, and heart disease, we must insist on the right of our patients (as well as ourselves) to know what we are eating, whether fast food or slow, whether large chain, small chain, or individual restaurant," he wrote.

One encouraging finding from the study of Toronto restaurant meals highlighted by Scourboutakos and her colleagues is that entrees identified on the restaurant menus as "healthy" were generally at least healthier - with about 474 calories, 20 percent of the day's value of fat and 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of sodium.

Roberts told Reuters Health she'd like to see restaurants add a few healthy choice options to their menu to at least give people an alternative.

"That would mean the restaurant doesn't have to calculate the whole menu and that would give people choices," she said.


Friday, May 17, 2013


A diet rich in omega-3s may play a significant role in stalling refined sugars and saturated fats’ ability to inhibit the brain’s control on the body’s intake of food, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool reviewed more than 180 research papers and found that diets high in fat disrupt the generation of new nerve cells, which is called neurogenesis. However, a diet high in omega-3 fish oil may limit the harmful impact of unhealthy foods on the brain.

"Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume," said lead author Lucy Pickavance, of the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease. "Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing."

Pickavance added while fish oils may not have a direct impact on weight loss, they do "take the brakes off of the detrimental effects" on the brain caused by high-fat diets.

"They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health," she said.

Previous research also suggests consuming nutrient-rich foods such as omega-3s and engaging in physical and mental exercises can help increase brain health.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kraft set to cut price on its premium Gevalia coffee

The maker of Maxwell House coffee will lower the U.S. retail list price for its premium Gevalia brand for the second time in a year, a Kraft Foods Group Inc spokesman said on Friday, after arabica coffee futures fell to a three-year low.

Effective on Sunday, Kraft will cut its recommended retailprice of its 12 oz Gevalia retail bagged coffee by 6 percent, bringing it to $7.89 per bag from $8.39, due to sustained declines in the green coffee market, Kraft spokesman Russ Dyer said in an email.

This follows a decrease of 10 percent in May 2012, he said.

Gevalia Single Serve Cups, Gevalia e-commerce SKUs and Tassimo Gevalia T Discs are not included in the price decrease, he added.

The benchmark arabica coffee futures contract trading on ICE Futures U.S., were up slightly from Monday's three-year low at $1.3270 per lb but down nearly 14 percent since trading at roughly $1.41 per lb at the end of May 2012.

The benchmark robusta coffee futures contract trading on Liffe was down about 7 percent from May 2012 at around $2,015 per tonne.

Arabica coffee is generally more expensive than the more bitter robusta bean and is typically roasted for brewed blends. Although robusta has traditionally been the bean of choice for instant coffee, some roasters include it in their roast and ground blends as a lower-cost alternative.

The price reduction comes after major U.S. roasters, including Kraft, reduced the price of their flagship coffee brands in February, marking their third round of coffee price cuts within 1-1/2 years amid falling green coffee prices.

Kraft reduced prices on its Maxwell House and Yuban roast and ground coffees by about 6 percent, and its Instant Maxwell House and soluble Sanka decaffeinated coffees by roughly 5 percent then. This followed a similar price cut by Smucker's on its Folgers brand.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wrigley Suspends Sales of New Caffeinated Gum After FDA Threatens To Ban Caffeine

Wrigley has temporarily suspended the sale of its newly launched caffeinated gum after FDA issued a statement threatening to ban the use of caffeine in food items in the US.

Caffeinated products are consumed extensively in the U.S. and the Food and Drugs Administration is worried that this "love affair" between caffeine and Americans is posing a huge threat to Americans. The department has issued a statement that threatens to ban the use of caffeine in food items in U.S.

Their first target is Wrigley's new Alert Energy Gum, which contains caffeine and claims to be a wakeup call for people in the mornings. Though the gum has a very small quantity of caffeine in it, Wrigley has nevertheless temporarily suspended the sale of the gum until they have a discussion with the FDA.

President Casey Keller said the decision of temporary suspension was taken because the company respects the agency.

"After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply," Keller said in a statement to The Associated Press. "There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products."

The company officials stated that the suspension hopes to give the agency enough time to regulate caffeine food items.

Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner of foods said that Wrigley's move is commendable and shows "real leadership and commitment to the public health." He hopes that other companies in the food industry will take similar actions in the interest of public health.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pets a Boon for the Human Heart, Cardiologists Say

That four-legged friend of yours may be more than a companion -- he also may be boosting your heart health, experts say.

An official statement released Thursday by the American Heart Association says there is evidence that having a pet, particularly a dog, may lower your risk of heart disease.

Cardiology specialists weren't all that surprised.

"Pets really might be man's best friend," said Barbara George, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Lifestyle Medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

"Studies have shown people who own pets, particularly dogs, have lower blood pressure, increased mood-related brain chemicals, better cholesterol numbers, lower weight and improved stress response," George said.

Members of the American Heart Association (AHA) committee that wrote the statement reviewed data from an array of relevant studies. They found that pet ownership appears to be associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels and obesity -- and improved survival among people with heart disease.

Dog ownership in particular may help reduce heart risk, the statement said. People with dogs may get more exercise because they take their dogs for walks. A study of more than 5,200 adults found that dog owners did more walking and physical activity than those who didn't own dogs, and that dog owners were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity.

"Walking your dog is a healthy chore; it is a great way to exercise without thinking about it," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, clinical associate professor in the department of medicine at the Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "Pet owners increase their physical activity simply by walking their dogs."

Pets can also have a positive effect on the body's reactions to stress, according to the AHA. George agreed, saying pets can be "a tool for weight loss, socialization, calming our nerves and easing anxiety and depression."

The AHA stressed, however, that the studies they reviewed cannot prove that owning a pet directly reduces heart disease risk.

"It may be simply that healthier people are the ones that have pets, not that having a pet actually leads to or causes reduction in cardiovascular risk," statement committee chairman Dr. Glenn Levine, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in an AHA news release.

"There probably is an association between pet ownership and decreased cardiovascular risk," he said. "What's less clear is whether the act of adopting or acquiring a pet could lead to a reduction in cardiovascular risk in those with pre-existing disease. Further research, including better quality studies, is needed to more definitively answer this question."

In the meantime, George said, humans can benefit from the mental and physical rewards of furry companions. "Pets tug at our heartstrings," she said. "But they also improve our health -- both mental and physical -- helping us to live longer and happier lives."


Monday, May 13, 2013

Whoops: Whole Foods Mistakenly Labels Chicken Curry Salad As Vegan Curry Salad

Whole Foods has an excellent curry salad that is made in both a chicken and vegan variety. The yummy stuff is sold in locations across the country, but those living on the eastern seaboard may have gotten an unpleasant surprise earlier this week, when several Whole Foods stores mixed up the chicken curry and vegan curry salads. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, mislabeled salads were sold in 15 Whole Foods stores in five different states.

Stores in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine were all affected be the labeling mix-up, which saw the egg-based chicken salad labels mixed up with the soy-based vegan curry salad labels. According to ABC News, this affected wrapped items that were available in the cold food bar and behind glass. An employee later figured out the mix-up and the items still available for purchase were pulled—but not before people had already purchased the food items.

This is a pretty big problem, for several reasons, one of which is unhappy customers were probably not pleased when the company’s soy-based meat substitute actually turned out to be chicken. There’s also the problem of food allergies—ingredients in the vegan and curry chicken dish are different and anyone who had an egg allergy, etc. could have landed in the hospital thanks to the mistake. Luckily, no hospital visits have been recorded thus far due to the big chicken mix-up.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cinnamon-Flavored Foods, Beverages May Cause Liver Damage

Many kinds of cinnamon, cinnamon-flavored foods, beverages and food supplements in the United States use a form of the spice that contains high levels of a natural substance that may cause liver damage in some sensitive people, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Coumarin as an additive or as a constituent of tonka beans or tonka extracts is banned from food in the United States due to its potentially adverse side effects. However, coumarin in food from other natural ingredients is not regulated.

“True cinnamon" or Ceylon cinnamon refers to the dried inner bark of Cinnamomum verum. Other cinnamon species, C. cassia, C. loureiroi and C. burmannii, commonly known as cassia, are also sold in the United States as cinnamon. “True" cinnamon is expensive, so most breads, sticky buns and other products in the United States use dried cassia bark, or cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon contains very little coumarin; however, cassia cinnamon can contain larger amounts.

For the study, researchers at the University of Mississippi analyzed coumarin and other marker compounds in authenticated cinnamon bark samples, as well as locally bought cinnamon samples, cinnamon-flavored foods and cinnamon-based food supplements using a validated UPLC-UV/MS method.

Results indicated that C. verum bark contained only traces of coumarin, whereas barks from all three cassia species, especially C. loureiroi and C. burmannii, contained substantial amounts of coumarin. These species could be potential sources of coumarin in cinnamon-flavored food in the United States. Coumarin was detected in all locally bought cinnamon, cinnamon-flavored foods, and cinnamon food supplements. Their chemical profiles indicated that the cinnamon samples and the cinnamon in food supplements and flavored foods were probably Indonesian cassia, C. burmannii.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Frozen Food Gets Ready For Its Image Upgrade

Alarmed by a nation that increasingly equates fresh with healthy, the frozen food industry has a message for you.

"What we call fresh in the supermarket is really better termed raw," says Kristin Reimers, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition for ConAgra Foods. "A lot of times, those vegetables have been transported for days, and then sit. It could be a matter of weeks between when they're picked and consumed."

Frozen vegetables, she says, are "probably more nutrient-rich than many of the raw vegetables in the produce section."

We called Reimers after seeing that the frozen food industry just hired two big ad agencies for a $50 million campaign to convince us that frozen food is good.

ConAgra is one member of the new Frozen Food Roundtable, along with General Mills, Heinz, Kellogg and other big manufacturers. They have ordered up a campaign "designed to change the way consumers think and feel about frozen food by promoting positive messaging regarding the benefits and attributes of frozen food," according to Ad Age.

"We're going to do this in a way that hasn't been done before," says Corey Henry, vice president of communications at the American Frozen Food Institute, which hosts the Roundtable. He told The Salt: "You've had various voices weighing in here and there on the value of frozen. Here, frozen food manufacturers are united to weigh in in a comprehensive fashion."

The campaign should launch later this year, Henry says.

We at The Salt have plenty of frozen vegetables in our home freezers: Brussels sprouts and kale and lima beans, to name just a few. And the Science Desk freezer is full of single-serve meals that people have stashed for lunch on deadline. So we figure this is not an industry on the ropes.

Indeed, frozen vegetables remain popular, racking up $5.7 billion in sales last year, up about 1 percent. Frozen fruit sales totaled $422 million, up 8 percent, according to AFFI. And frozen breakfast items have been posting robust sales.

But in an era when even Wendy's is advertising "always fresh, never frozen," producers worry that longevity and convenience are no longer selling points, particularly among 35- to 44-year-olds.

One industry survey found that people are more positive about frozen vegetables than they are about frozen entrees, with "significant concerns with the nutritional value and a general feeling that frozen foods are not as good as fresh," according to Ad Age.

Newer technologies like steaming and special baking trays have made frozen foods taste fresher, and reduced problems from inconsistent heating in microwaves, Reimers says.

Studies comparing the nutrient content of frozen vegetables with fresh find that frozen ones are almost as good. But there are plenty of variables, including how long fresh vegetables have been stored since picking, how long their frozen counterparts have been interred in the home freezer, and how both types are cooked.

In a "visionary video" that ConAgra posted on YouTube last month, two women text each other as each heads off to the farmers market to buy fresh veggies. "Oh, my gosh, I almost forgot about this work party tonight!" Jen texts from amid the broccoli.

"I know! I was just about to grab fresh vegetables to go with dinner tonight but running short of time now," Shana texts back.

Shana abandons the farmers market, heads to the store and buys Healthy Choice Top Chef Chicken Margherita with Balsamic. What the ad doesn't note is that the meal has 310 calories, 8 grams of fat and 600 milligrams of sodium — 25 percent of the daily recommended maximum.

Jen abandons the farmers market, heads to the store and buys Marie Callender's Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo. (FYI: It gets 100 of its 350 calories from fat, and has 970 milligrams of sodium — 40 percent of the daily maximum.) Then she tops that off with Marie Callender's Peanut Butter Cream Pie, with 600 calories and a whopping 44 grams of fat.

Maybe ConAgra needs fictional shoppers who make healthier choices. Or maybe the frozen food industry really needs that $50 million image makeover.


Friday, May 10, 2013

FDA to consider revamping food additive rules

Amid growing public concern over the safety of additives in products ranging from caffeinated energy drinks to industrial chemicals in food containers and water bottles, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is under pressure to reexamine its rules, and there are signs it may do so.

It has been more than half a century since U.S. regulations governing food additives were last revised. In that time, the number of chemicals in the food supply has risen from fewer than 2,000 to an estimated 10,000, many of which are never reviewed by the FDA because companies and their advisers have declared them to be safe.

Under loose regulations created more than 50 years ago to help companies avoid lengthy delays in getting food additives approved, the FDA created a list of products considered "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS).

Companies can either petition to get their ingredients affirmed safe by the FDA, or they can declare them safe based on their own research or that of hired consultants. The FDA has the option to challenge such declarations but has rarely done so.

"Our system really puts the onus on us to prove harm," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at the Reuters Health Summit in New York. "It's perhaps a time to look at what the legal framework looks like and what opportunities there are now to ask and answer questions in new ways because of advances in science and technology."

"We are an agency with a wonderful history, but many of our laws are rooted in a different historical era," Hamburg said. "An important question to ask is, would this be a good time to look at this issue again?"

According to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts' food additives project, which is conducting a three-year investigation into food additive regulation, 1,000 chemicals have been self-affirmed by industry as GRAS without notice to the FDA.

Another 2,000 chemicals have been declared GRAS by the Flavor and Extracts Manufacturers Association, which submits information to the FDA, though the FDA does not review it, according to Pew, bringing to about 3,000 the number of chemicals in the food supply never reviewed by the FDA.

Caffeine, when contained in cola-type drinks, was declared decades ago to be a GRAS product in cola-type beverages. Yet the agency has not challenged companies to prove the safety of caffeine in other products or other beverages - including those whose levels exceed the 71 milligrams per 12 ounces typically contained in soda.

One 8.4 fluid ounce can of Red Bull Energy Drink contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, according to its website. Twelve ounces of Red Bull contain 114 milligrams of caffeine.

Last year Democratic Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called on the FDA to respond to concerns about the effect on children of caffeine in energy drinks.

Between January 2004 and October 2012, the FDA identified 21 reports of heart rate abnormalities, vomiting, convulsions and other medical problems, some life-threatening, in people who had drunk Red Bull. But Hamburg said the events are not sufficient to warrant regulatory action "at the present time."

"There is not a clear linkage of exposure to caffeine and the adverse events reported," she said, adding that the agency will continue to monitor energy drinks and that further examination of the underlying science "may merit action going forward."

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Programs for mentally ill teens, adults improve skills

Programs for mentally ill U.S. teens and adults achieve positive outcomes in behavioral and emotional health, skills, employment and education, officials say.

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also showed older adolescents and young adults who had participated in these SAMHSA-supported treatment programs reported lower levels of substance use disorders.

The report, Promoting Recovery and Independence for Older Adolescents and Young Adults Who Experience Serious Mental Health Challenges, indicates that 20 percent of young adults living in U.S. households had a mental health condition in the last year. Of these, more than 1.3 million had a disorder so serious that their ability to function in many aspects of everyday life was compromised, the report said.

For example, among older adolescents and young adults participating in the SAMHSA-sponsored Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program, 28 percent showed significant improvement in their behavioral and emotional health within the first six months, and 38 percent showed significant improvement within the first year.

Many participants reported they had greater confidence in their abilities to perform important life skills such as preparing meals and securing rental agreements, while homelessness dropped by 36 percent after six months among those ages 18 and older.

"These data show that treatment is effective," Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of SAMHSA, said in a statement. "Young people who experience mental or substance use disorders can recover and lead healthy, productive lives with improvements in employment opportunities, housing, education and emotional well-being."


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but may still fit into a heart healthy diet

For years, health care experts have discouraged the intake of saturated fats because of their contribution to heart disease. Coconut oil is high in saturated fats so has been included in that recommendation. In the past few years, however, coconut oil has been promoted as the latest cure-all from helping poor immune function to helping control weight to preventing heart disease.

So, is there new research that supports adding coconut oil to your diet?

First of all, coconut oil is 92 percent saturated fat, the highest amount of any fat. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature and contain cholesterol, such as the fat in meat and dairy. While tropical oils such as palm, palm kernel and coconut oil can be solid or liquid depending on the room temperature, they do not contain cholesterol, so have somewhat different properties.

Like all fats, coconut oil is a blend of fatty acids. Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, 44 percent lauric acid and 16.8 percent myristic acid. While myristic acid has proven to have some heart benefits, lauric acid is not healthy for the heart.

Research on coconut oil so far has focused on cholesterol levels, and the findings have provided mixed results. While coconut oil improves HDL, the good cholesterol, it also raises LDL, the bad cholesterol. Since LDL cholesterol is a primary focus in heart disease prevention, any food that increases LDL cholesterol is not currently recommended.

The American Heart Association's position is that coconut oil isn't any better or preferable over other saturated fats. It continues to recommend that saturated fat be limited to 7 percent to 10 percent of calories, approximately 15 to 20 grams a day for most people.

As for calories, all fats have the same number of calories per gram. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories, 14 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat and little vitamins and minerals. Coconut oil doesn't include many nutrients compared to the amount of saturated fat it provides, so it would be beneficial to favor foods that offer some nutritional benefits such as lean meats and cheese for your saturated fat budget.

Research is evolving on the role of fats, saturated fats and LDL cholesterol in the prevention of heart disease. Most experts currently agree that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is preferred. In the future, they may discover that coconut oil's unique blend of fats may offer health benefits, but there is little evidence at this time. There is agreement that more research in the area of fats and their relationship to health is certainly needed.

While coconut oil is a better choice than butter and trans fats, as they both contribute to heart disease, it is not as good as liquid vegetable oils. There are many unsaturated fats to choose from that are not as controversial at this point, including soybean, canola, peanut or olive oil. If you choose coconut oil, enjoy it in moderation until further research shows it is better than other saturated fats.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A new study offers evidence to support what many people have learned for themselves: never go grocery shopping when you're hungry.

Researchers found that people who hadn't eaten all afternoon chose more high-calorie foods in a simulated supermarket than those who were given a snack just before online food shopping.

And in a real grocery store, shoppers bought a higher ratio of high-calorie foods to low-calorie ones in the hours leading up to dinnertime compared to earlier in the day, the study team observed.

"Even short-term fasts can lead people to make unhealthy food choices," said Amy Yaroch, head of the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska.

"Don't go shopping when you're hungry and you don't have a list, because you're just going to buy all sorts of junk food," advised Yaroch, who wasn't involved in the new study.

She said the results may have implications not just for everyday shoppers, but for "food insecure" families, which often don't have the money to buy healthy food - or any food.

For their research, Aner Tal and Brian Wansink from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, conducted a lab study and went out into "the field" to see how hunger influenced food choices.

For the lab study, they asked 68 adults not to eat for the five hours before a late-afternoon appointment. Prior to starting the experiment, the researchers gave half of the participants a plate of Wheat Thins to sate their hunger. Then they had all study subjects shop in a simulated online grocery store.

On average, both hungry and sated participants bought eight low-calorie food items, which included certain types of dairy products, meats and snacks.

The hungry participants also bought six higher-calorie items, compared to four purchased by people who'd recently had a snack, according to the findings published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Likewise in their field study, the researchers observed 82 people's purchases in a real supermarket and found the ratio of high-calorie foods to low-calorie foods was healthier between 1 pm and 4 pm than between 4 pm and 7 pm.

Endocrinologist Tony Goldstone from Imperial College London said the findings should be interpreted cautiously given the assumptions the authors made that people would be hungrier during the later time period.

Still, he told Reuters Health, "It overall is pointing to what we expected."

That behavior might stem from an evolutionary time when it was essential for a person to find high-calorie food after a long fast, Tal speculated.

Goldstone agreed.

"The body is always trying to defend its state and it makes very logical sense that if you're going for a period without food, and you're wanting food, you're more likely to go for the food that's high-calorie," he said. "If we're needing energy, we're not going to go out for lettuce."

Tal recommended that people have a snack, such as a piece of fruit, before going grocery shopping or chew gum while perusing the aisles to mitigate the effects of hunger.

"Do your shopping at hours when you're less vulnerable, like after lunch versus before lunch, and so on," he told Reuters Health.

Yaroch said that for people who can't always afford food, the new study shows there may be biological cues as well as practical ones pointing them toward the junk food aisle.

"It's not surprising to me that when you're hungry, you're going to choose foods of low nutritional quality," she told Reuters Health. "What's disturbing to me is I feel that people don't understand the connection between obesity and food insecurity."

Not knowing when you're going to have food available means that when you do, you're going to choose a high-calorie option, Yaroch said - especially when it's the cheapest one.

"There are definitely different implications for someone who's hungry most of the time," she said.


Monday, May 06, 2013

'Clean Your Plate' Orders From Parents May Backfire for Kids

Although you might think being a member of the "clean plate club" is something that stops when a child is young, new research suggests that up to two-thirds of parents still encourage teenagers to finish all the food on their plates, even if the teen is overweight.

The study found that the use of controlling food behaviors was common in parents of adolescents, with some parents pressuring their kids to eat more and others pressuring their kids to eat less.

Not surprisingly, restrictive behaviors were more common in parents of children who were overweight or obese, while pressure-to-eat behaviors were more common in children who weren't overweight.

"Parents do use high levels of control, such as restriction and pressure to eat," said study author Katie Loth, a registered dietician, doctoral candidate and research assistant at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

"I was surprised at some of the parent behaviors, like feeling that their children should clean their plates and not waste food," Loth said. "In the 1950s, cleaning your plate meant something different. Portion sizes have gotten bigger over time, and if you encourage kids to rely on environmental indicators, like how much food is on their plates or the time of day, they'll lose the ability to rely on internal cues to know whether they're hungry or full."

Results of the study were released online April 22 and will be published in the May print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

As obesity rates among America's adolescents have been rising, researchers have been looking for factors that might be modifiable to help keep teens at a healthy weight. Parental food-related behaviors, whether it's restricting food or encouraging children to eat more, have long been considered a factor in children's weights.

Loth and her colleagues wanted to look at a diverse group of parents and teens to see if parental food behaviors were, in fact, linked to weight status in teens.

Data for the study came from two population-based studies that included parents and teens. One study was conducted in 2010, and the other was done in 2009 to 2010. A total of more than 2,200 teens with an average age of 14.4 were included in the studies, as well as nearly 3,500 parents.

Examples of restrictive behaviors were positive responses to statements such as, "I have to be sure that my child does not eat too many sweets," or "If I did not guide or regulate my child's eating, he or she would eat too much of his or her favorite food."

[See Vogue's 'Diet Mom:' How I Enforced My Kid's Diet]

Examples of pressure-to-eat behaviors were positive responses to statements such as, "My child should always eat all of the food on his or her plate," or, "If my child says, 'I am not hungry,' I try to get him or her to eat anyway."

The researchers found that restrictive food behaviors were more common in parents who had overweight or obese children. Pressure-to-eat behaviors were more common in parents of children who were normal weight.

One expert noted that what is a normal weight has been skewed in recent years.

"There's now so much obesity in the United States that when we see a child who is normal weight, inevitably, a parent will think the child is too skinny," said Dr. Michael Hobaugh, chief of the medical staff at LaRabida Children's Hospital in Chicago. "But if a pediatrician charts that child's height and weight, he or she may even be overweight. There's a wide range of normal, and for many teens it's normal to be slender and gangly. Children aren't supposed to be shaped like linebackers.


Sunday, May 05, 2013

Franchising can be a faster way to grow

Emmy Preiss and Harriet Mills launched a party-and-paint franchising empire after a road trip to South Carolina that involved at least two bottles of wine and two great works of art.

"We went and had a girls' weekend there," Mills said. "And the rest is history."

Inspired, the pair opened their first Wine and Design in Raleigh, N.C., in March 2010 and began franchising the business a year later. Today, Preiss, 31, and Mills, 32, have 26 franchisees in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and New York.

Franchising is one path small-business owners can take to expand their enterprises.

"Franchising is perhaps a faster way to grow than growing based on their own capital and the credit market," said Ritchie Taylor, a lawyer with Manning Fulton in Raleigh.

Franchising involves replicating a business through manuals, software, and other systems, meeting state and federal requirements, and recruiting franchisees who invest their own capital. Successful franchisers constantly work to improve their brands, create and test products, and support franchisees, Taylor and others said.

"When you become a franchiser, you are making a massive commitment to other people to help them get up and provide for their families and their children and their wealth-building," said Doug Schadle, chief executive and cofounder of Rhino7, a franchise sales and development firm in Apex, N.C.

Before exploring franchising, small-business owners need to polish their business models and systemize what they are doing, Taylor said. They should also be prepared to spend time and money to create the required documents and support systems for franchisees.

Franchisers can spend from $20,000 to $100,000 in start-up expenses and a legal process that takes three to six months, Taylor said. "It is not an insignificant investment. But the opportunity is cheaper also than opening up a second location on your own."

When small-business owners are ready to franchise, they should start by reaching out to qualified franchise attorneys or consultants to discuss the suitability of their concepts and read books on franchising, said Taylor, who recommends Franchising for Dummies, cowritten by Wendy's founder Dave Thomas.


Saturday, May 04, 2013

Decades-old question: Is antibacterial soap safe?

It's a chemical that's been in U.S. households for more than 40 years, from the body wash in your bathroom shower to the knives on your kitchen counter to the bedding in your baby's basinet.

 But federal health regulators are just now deciding whether triclosan — the germ-killing ingredient found in an estimated 75 percent of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the U.S. — is ineffective, or worse, harmful.

 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to deliver a review this year of whether triclosan is safe. The ruling, which will determine whether triclosan continues to be used in household cleaners, could have implications for a $1 billion industry that includes hundreds of antibacterial products from toothpaste to toys.

 The agency's review comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers
 consumer advocates and others who are concerned about the safety of triclosan. Recent studies of triclosan in animals have led scientists to worry that it could increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems in humans.

 "To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now," said Allison Aiello, professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. "At this point, it's just looking like a superfluous chemical."

 The concerns over triclosan offer a sobering glimpse at a little-known fact: Many chemicals used in everyday household products have never been formally approved by U.S. health regulators. That's because many germ-killing chemicals were developed decades ago before there were laws requiring scientific review of cleaning ingredients.

The controversy also highlights how long it can take the federal government to review the safety of such chemicals. It's not uncommon for the process to drag on for years, since regulators must review volumes of research and take comments from the public on each draft.


In the case of triclosan, Congress passed a law in 1972 requiring that the FDA set guidelines for dozens of common antibacterial chemicals found in over-the-counter soaps and scrubs. The guidelines function like a cookbook for manufacturers, detailing which chemicals can be used in what products, and in what amounts.


In 1978, the FDA published its first tentative guidelines for chem

icals used in liquid hand soaps and washes. The draft stated that triclosan was "not generally recognized as safe and effective," because regulators could not find enough scientific research demonstrating its safety and effectiveness.


The FDA published several drafts of the guidelines over the years, but the agency never finalized the results. So, companies have not had to remove triclosan from their products.


Friday, May 03, 2013

Food menus that list exercise costs could lead to healthier choices

If you knew it would take two hours of intensive walking to burn off that dessert tempting you at dinnertime, would you still choose it?

A new study finds that restaurant guests who look at menus that show them an estimate of how much exercise is needed to burn off calories tend to choose lower-calorie options.

Researchers at Texas Christian University recently conducted a study of 300 men and women under the age of 30. They broke them into three groups, giving each group a menu with the same food choices.

One group received a regular menu; the second received a menu that listed the calories of each food item; the third got a menu that listed the calories as well as the number of minutes of brisk walking needed to burn those calories.

The study found that the people who got the third menu not only tended to order less, they also ate less compared to those who got the menu without calorie labels.

Results of the study were presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston.

The researchers say putting calories into context seemed to have an effect on the people they studied.

"This study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women,” senior researcher Dr. Meena Shah said in a statement.

“We can't generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older and more diverse group," Shah added.

Registered dietician Leslie Beck finds the study results interesting.

“I guess what this suggests is that if you eat out in restaurants on a regular basis, knowing and seeing that (calorie and exercise)information could help you manage your weight,” she told CTV News Channel.

Beck says it’s hard to say why the combination of the calorie and the exercise information made a bigger difference than simply the calorie information. But she suspects that when most people see that something has 500 or 700 calories, they don’t really know what that means.

She says it seems that putting calorie information into a context that most people can relate to – brisk walking – helps to make people think a little harder about their food choices.

“If you were to go to a coffee shop and you saw that that muffin that you were going to have with your coffee would take two hours on a treadmill to burn off, you would probably think that’s hardly worth it for a muffin,” she said,

The researchers say that the majority of studies done of the effectiveness on displaying calories on menus show that the menus do not lead to fewer calories ordered or eaten. They say that contextualizing those calories could be an effective strategy to encourage people to eat less.