Wednesday, April 02, 2014


New research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests individuals who consume 7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day may reduce their risk of death by 42% compared to those who eat less than 1 serving a day. The findings come at a time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other agencies are developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
America’s obesity epidemic weighed heavily in the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which placed stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption, increasing physical activity and choosing healthy foods, including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and fat-free and low-fat dairy items while limiting sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.
For this particular study, researchers at the University College of London used Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population between 2001 and 2013, and found that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age. Eating 7 or more portions reduces the specific risks of death by cancer and heart disease by 25% and 31%, respectively. The research also showed that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.
This study was the first to link fruit and vegetable consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per-portion, and the first to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit.
Compared to eating less than 1 portion of fruit and vegetables, the risk of death by any cause is reduced by 14% by eating 1-3 portions, 29% for 3-5 portions, 36% for 5-7 portions and 42% for 7 or more.
The study found fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, with each daily portion reducing overall risk of death by 16%. Salad contributed to a 13% risk reduction per portion, and each portion of fresh fruit was associated with a smaller but still significant 4% reduction.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Experts Reexamine Saturated Fat Guidelines

For decades, its link to major health issues like heart disease has demonized saturated fats among health experts. Now, a recent meta-analysis puts that claim into question, finding insufficient evidence to draw the long-held conclusion. Researchers tracking saturated fat intake among subjects have been unable to find a clear and consistent link to increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Experts suggest that the impact of saturated fats depends on the rest of one's diet and is unlikely to pose a risk to consumers on its own, reports NPR.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Calcium, Vitamin D Improve Cholesterol in Women

Consuming calcium and vitamin D after menopause can help improve women's cholesterol levels, according to new research published in the journal Menopause. Researchers from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found much of this effect stems from raising women's vitamin D levels.
Although the topic of whether calcium or vitamin D can improve cholesterol levels has been debated, lead researcher Peter Schnatz, D.O., NCMP, and his team found women who took a calcium and vitamin D supplement daily lowered their low-density lipoprotein (LDL—the “bad" cholesterol) levels and raised their high-density lipoprotein (HDL—the “good" cholesterol) levels.
Each day, women in the trial took either a supplement containing 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D3 or a placebo. This analysis looked at the relationship between taking supplements and levels of vitamin D and cholesterol in about 600 of the women who had both their cholesterol levels and their vitamin D levels measured.
The women who took the supplement were more than twice as likely to have vitamin D levels of at least 30 ng/mL (normal according to the Institute of Medicine) compared to the women who took the placebo. Supplement users also had LDL levels that were between 4 and 5 points lower. The investigators discovered, in addition, that among supplement users, those with higher blood levels of vitamin D had higher levels of HDL and lower levels of triglycerides (although for triglycerides to be lower, blood levels of vitamin D had to reach a threshold of about 15 ng/mL).
Taking the calcium and vitamin D supplements was especially helpful in raising vitamin D levels in women who were older, women who had a low intake, and women who had levels first measured in the winter—what you might expect. However, lifestyle also made a difference. The supplements did more to raise vitamin D levels in women who did not smoke and who drank less alcohol.
Whether these positive effects of supplemental calcium and vitamin D on cholesterol will translate into benefits such as lower rates of cardiovascular disease for women after menopause remains to be seen, but these results are a good reminder that women at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency should consider taking calcium and vitamin D, according to the authors.
“The results of this study should inspire even more women to be conscientious about their calcium and vitamin D intake—a simple and safe way to improve health," said NAMS executive director Margery Gass, M.D. "One action can lead to multiple benefits."
The study, “Calcium/vitamin D supplementation, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and cholesterol profiles in the Women’s Health Initiative calcium/vitamin D randomized trial," will be published in the August 2014 print edition of Menopause.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


Consuming less animal protein could lower the risk of dying from cancer by up to four times, according to new research published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Researchers from the University of Southern California tracked a sample of adults for almost two decades and found eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle-age years makes a person four times more likely to die of cancer compared to someone with a lower protein diet.
“There’s a misconception that because we all eat, understanding nutrition is simple," said corresponding author Valter Longo, professor of Biogerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute. "But the question is not whether a certain diet allows you to do well for three days, but can it help you survive to be 100?"
Not only is excessive protein consumption linked to a higher risk of developing different types of cancer, but middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources—including meat, milk and cheese—are also more susceptible to early death in general. Protein-lovers were 74% more likely to die of any cause within the study period compared to their lower-protein counterparts. They were also several times more likely to die of diabetes. But how much protein one should eat has long been a controversial topic—muddled by the popularity of protein-heavy diets such as Paleo and Atkins.
Before this study, researchers had never shown a definitive correlation between high-protein consumption and mortality risk. Rather than look at adulthood as one monolithic phase of life, as other researchers have done, the latest study considers how biology changes as we age and how decisions in middle life may play out across the human life span. In other words, what’s good for you at one age may be damaging at another.
Protein controls the growth hormone IGF-I, which helps our bodies grow, but has been linked to cancer susceptibility. Levels of IGF-I drop off dramatically after age 65, leading to potential frailty and muscle loss. The study shows that while high-protein intake during middle age is very harmful, it is protective for older adults: those over 65 who ate a moderate- or high-protein diet were less susceptible to disease.
The latest research draws from Longo’s past research on IGF-I, including on an Ecuadorian cohort that seemed to have little cancer or diabetes susceptibility because of a genetic mutation that lowered levels of IGF-I; (the members of the cohort were all less than five feet tall).
“The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality, through a process that involves regulating IGF-I and possibly insulin levels," said co-author Eileen Crimmins, holder of the AARP Chair in Gerontology at USC. “However, we also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid a low-protein diet to allow the maintenance of healthy weight and protection from frailty."
The researchers found that plant-based proteins did not seem to have the same mortality effects as animal proteins, and plant-based foods can still fulfill consumers' protein needs. Rates of cancer and death also did not seem to be affected by controlling for carbohydrate or fat consumption, suggesting that animal protein is the main culprit.
“The majority of Americans are eating about twice as much proteins as they should, and it seems that the best change would be to lower the daily intake of all proteins, but especially animal-derived proteins," Longo said. “But don’t get extreme in cutting out protein; you can go from protected to malnourished very quickly."
Longo’s findings support recommendations from several leading health agencies to consume about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day in middle age. For example, a 130-pound person should eat about 45 to 50 grams of protein a day, with preference for those derived from plants such as legumes, Longo said.
The researchers defined a high-protein diet as deriving at least 20% of calories from protein, including both plant-based and animal-based protein. A “moderate" protein diet includes 10% to 19% of calories from protein, and a low-protein diet includes less than 10% protein.
Even moderate amounts of protein had detrimental effects during middle age, the researchers found. Across all 6,318 adults over the age of 50 in the study, average protein intake was about 16% of total daily calories, with about two-thirds from animal protein. The study sample was representative across ethnicity, education and health backgrounds. People who ate a moderate amount of protein were still three times more likely to die of cancer than those who ate a low-protein diet in middle age, the study showed. Overall, even the small change of decreasing protein intake from moderate levels to low levels reduced likelihood of early death by 21%.
For a randomly selected smaller portion of the sample (2,253 people) levels of the growth hormone IGF-I were recorded directly. The results showed that for every 10 ng/ml increase in IGF-I, those on a high-protein diet were 9% more likely to die from cancer than those on a low-protein diet, in line with past research associating IGF-I levels to cancer risk.
The researchers also extended their findings about high-protein diets and mortality risk, looking at causality in mice and cellular models. In a study of tumor rates and progression among mice, the researchers showed lower cancer incidence and 45% smaller average tumor size among mice on a low-protein diet than those on a high-protein diet by the end of the two-month experiment.
“Almost everyone is going to have a cancer cell or pre-cancer cell in them at some point. The question is: does it progress?" Longo said. “Turns out one of the major factors in determining if it does is protein intake."

Friday, February 28, 2014

FDA Proposes New Nutrition Label Rules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed new labeling rules to provide clearer nutrition information to consumers. Significant changes include a more prominent calorie count and the addition of "added sugar" content. In an effort to make serving sizes more applicable to today's consumer, calorie counts per container will be revised as well to display the actual count in some containers, such as 20-ounce soda bottles, rather than calories per serving. The industry and consumers will have 90 days to comment on the proposed changes and will likely have at least two years to implement the new changes.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Obesity Rate in Young Children Drops by Nearly Half

A federal health survey has found that the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children has plummeted 43 percent over the past decade. It's the first broad decline in what's been called an epidemic and national health issue linked to higher risks for cancer, heart disease, and stroke. While earlier reports have found modest drops in certain groups of children, this report finds the trend spanning all groups of young children, and significantly so. About 8 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2004, reports The New York Times.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Survey Reveals Global Online Shopping Behaviors

Research network PwC has released a report detailing global online shopping behaviors. According to the report, retailers can provide a so-called total retail experience for their consumers with a compelling brand story that promises a distinctive experience, customized offers based on protected personal information, and an enhanced and consistent experience across all devices. The study states that a high percentage of survey respondents were attracted to brands that tell a story in an engaging manner. The top reason consumers cited for shopping at their favorite retailer was trust

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Excess Intake of Sugar Linked to Heart Disease

Doctors have long thought extra sugar in a person's diet is harmful to heart health because it promotes chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
But the added sugar Americans consume as part of their daily diet can -- on its own, regardless of other health problems -- more than double the risk of death from heart disease, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.
The average American diet contains enough added sugar to increase the risk of heart-related death by nearly 20 percent, the researchers said.
And the risk of death from heart disease is more than doubled for the 10 percent of Americans who receive a quarter of their daily calories from sugar that's been added to food, said CDC researcher and study lead author Quanhe Yang.
The findings were published online Feb. 3 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
"They're seeing that people who are moderately heavy consumers of added sugar have a heightened risk of dying of [heart] disease, and the heaviest users have the highest risk of dying of [heart] disease," said Laura Schmidt, who wrote an accompanying journal commentary. "When you start seeing a dose-response reaction like they found, that is powerful evidence that consuming added sugar puts people at risk of death from cardiovascular disease."
Food manufacturers add sugar to many different products to improve flavor, appearance or texture. People who eat those varied products might not be aware that they have increased their total sugar intake, because the sugar is hidden inside the food, the researchers said.
About 37 percent of the added sugar in Americans' diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, the authors said. One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar (about 140 calories), Yang said -- enough to put the person into a higher-risk category if they drink soda daily.
"I could be eating a 2,000-calorie diet, not overeating, not overweight. But if I just drink a can of soda a day, I increase my risk of dying from [heart] disease by one-third," said Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. "I think people would assume one can of soda a day would not have that kind of impact over the course of their lives."
Other major sources of added sugar include cakes, pies, fruit drinks, candy, and ice cream and other dairy desserts, the researchers said.
Added sugar can even be found in foods most people would consider savory, such as salad dressing, bread and ketchup, Schmidt said. Another major offender is yogurt, which often comes with as much sugar as you'd find in candy.
Previous research has focused exclusively on the health effects of sugary beverages, Yang said. For the new study, the research team decided to look at how the total amount of added sugar in the American diet can affect the risk of heart-related death.
Recommendations for added sugar consumption vary, and there is no universally accepted threshold for unhealthy levels.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar make up less than 25 percent of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10 percent and the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men, according to background information included in the study.
The researchers used national health survey data to review consumption of added sugar. They found that added sugar made up an average of 14.9 percent of daily calories in the American diet from 2005 to 2010, down from 15.7 percent from 1988 to 1994 and 16.8 percent from 1999 to 2004.
Nearly three of four adults consumed 10 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar, while about 10 percent of adults consumed a quarter or more of their calories from added sugar in the latest study years.
The researchers then compared data on sugar consumption with data on death from heart disease.
The risk of heart-related death increases 18 percent with the average American diet that receives about 15 percent of daily calories from added sugar, compared to diets containing little to no added sugar, the study authors found.
The risk is 38 percent higher for people who receive 17 percent to 21 percent of their calories from added sugar, and more than double for people who get more than 21 percent of their daily diet from added sugar, Yang said.
Although the study found that eating more food with added sugar was tied to a higher risk of heart-related death, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The Corn Refiners Association, which represents the manufacturers of one popular form of added sugar, fructose, said it had no comment on the study.
Commentary author Schmidt said added sugar could be increasing heart attack risk by disrupting a person's hormone system, throwing their metabolism out of whack.
By comparison, foods that are naturally rich in sugar -- such as fruit -- also contain lots of fiber and other nutrients, which reduces the impact the sugar has on the body, said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and chairwoman of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee.
To avoid added sugar, read Nutrition Facts and ingredients labels carefully, Johnson said. Look out for ingredients that end in -ose, such as fructose or sucrose, as well as any type of syrup, she said.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

FDA Proposes Rule on Food Transportation Sanitation

Food transportation companies will be required to adhere to certain sanitation standards to prevent food from becoming contaminated during transit under a new rule proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The rule would require shippers and carriers to properly refrigerate food, clean vehicles between loads and protect food during transportation.
The rule is the seventh and final plank of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, a sweeping initiative designed to reduce food-borne illnesses by giving the FDA greater powers to intervene before an outbreak occurs.
It would establish standards for vehicles and transportation equipment, transportation operations, information exchange, training and records.
"This proposed rule will help reduce the likelihood of conditions during transportation that can lead to human or animal illness or injury," said Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
Excluded from coverage will be shippers, receivers or carriers whose operations generate less than $500,000 in annual sales. The rule also excludes food that is fully packaged and stable, and live food animals and raw agricultural commoditiestransported by farms.
The FDA proposes staggering the implementation of the rule based on the size of a business, ranging from one to two years after publication of the final rule. The proposed rule is open for public comment through May 31.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Coffee in Moderation Doesn’t Lead to Dehydration

Good news for coffee drinkers. New research published in the journal PLoS ONE found drinking moderate amounts of coffee does not result in dehydration and actually contributes to daily fluid requirements in regular coffee drinkers just as other fluids do.
Previous research showed the acute effects of caffeine as a mild diuretic, and there is a common assumption that caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, can cause dehydration. However, the effect of coffee consumption on fluid balance cannot be directly compared with that of pure caffeine.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham School of Sport and Exercise Sciences conducted the study to directly assess the effects of a moderate consumption of coffee compared to equal volumes of water.
"Despite a lack of scientific evidence, it is a common belief that coffee consumption can lead to dehydration and should be avoided, or reduced, in order to maintain a healthy fluid balance. Our research aimed to establish if regular coffee consumption, under normal living conditions, is detrimental to the drinker's hydration status," said Sophie Killer, a doctoral researcher and lead author of the study.
In a sample of regular coffee drinkers, the researchers measured the effects of moderate consumption of black coffee compared to the consumption of equal volumes of water on fluid balance and hydration status. Fifty male participants were tested in two phases, where they were required to drink four mugs (200ml) of either black coffee or water per day for three days. In the second phase, those who had initially consumed coffee switched to water and vice versa. The two phases were separated by a 10-day wash-out period. Females were excluded from the trial to control against possible fluctuations in fluid balance resulting from menstrual cycles.
To assess hydration status, the researchers used a variety of well-established hydration measures including body mass and total body water, as well as blood and urine analyses. The researchers found no significant differences in total body water or any of the blood measures of hydration status between those who drank coffee and those who drank water. Furthermore, no differences in 24-hour urine volume or urine concentration were observed between the two groups.
"We found that consumption of a moderate intake of coffee, 4 cups per day, in regular coffee drinking males, caused no significant differences across a wide range of hydration indicators compared to the consumption of equal amounts of water," Killer said. "We conclude that advice provided in the public health domain, regarding coffee and dehydration, should be updated to reflect these findings."
A separate report published by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) in December 2013, found regular, moderate coffee consumption may decrease type 2 diabetes risk by 25%. The report, outlined the latest research on coffee and type 2 diabetes, including epidemiological evidence showing that drinking 3-4 cups of coffee per day is associated with an approximate 25% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to consuming none or less than 2 cups per day.
Research has also suggested an inverse dose response, with each additional cup of coffee reducing the relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 7%-8%. Caffeine is unlikely to be responsible for the protective effects of coffee, as both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Friday, January 03, 2014

FDA Proposes New Labeling Regulations

The FDA has sent potentially far-reaching labeling regulations to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The agency's proposals center on updates to the Nutrition Facts information on food labels, to build consumer awareness of healthful dietary practices. Revisions include providing updated Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed for certain food categories and adding a "per container" column in addition to "per serving." The FDA also proposes revising the definition of a single-serving container. Serving size regulations have not been updated since mandatory nutrition labeling was first required in 1993

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Vitamin E May Delay Alzheimer’s Decline

Alpha tocepherol, fat-soluble vitamin E and antioxidant, may slow functional decline—problems with daily activities such as shopping, preparing meals, planning and traveling—in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Veterans Administration Medical Centers examined the effects of vitamin E and memantine in a group of 613 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Patients were administered either vitamin E 2,000 IU/d, 20 mg/d of memantine, the combination or placebo and were then examined based on the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study/Activities of Daily Living (ADCS-ADL) Inventory Score. Alzheimer’s disease cognitive, neuropsychiatric, functional and caregiver measures were secondary outcomes.
“This trial showed that vitamin E delays progression of functional decline by 19% per year, which translates into 6.2 months benefit over placebo," said Mary Sano, Ph.D., trial co-investigator and professor in the department of psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine. There was no added benefit for memory and cognitive testing with the vitamin.
Vitamin E is inexpensive and easy to obtain. The clinical trial investigators believe it can be recommended as a treatment strategy, based on the study findings.
“This study is the first to show an added benefit for vitamin E in mild-to-moderate disease," said Kenneth Davis, M.D., chief executive officer and president, Mount Sinai Health System. “Now that we have a strong clinical trial showing that vitamin E slows functional decline and reduces the burdens on caregivers, vitamin E should be offered to patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease."
In 2011, Ohio State University researchers found that vitamin E, in the form of alpha-tocotrienol, can also trigger production of a protein in the brain that flushes toxins from nerve cells, preventing those cells from dying after a stroke. The findings, published in the journal Stroke, suggest natural vitamin E may be more potent than drugs targeting single mechanisms for preventing stroke-induced brain damage. In addition, vitamin E may help alleviate obesity-related liver disease and boost heart health in former smokers.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Consumers Notice Convenience Stores Getting Healthier

While the price of gas was what consumers most noticed at convenience stores in 2013, they also say that they have increasingly noticed stores offering prepared and healthy food options in the past year, according to a consumer survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
A majority of consumers (56%) say overall gas prices overall in 2013 were noticeably higher or lower, depending upon where the consumer lives. There were significant regional variations, with 26% of consumers in the Midwest saying that gas prices in December are lower than a year ago, while 45% of consumers in the South saying that gas prices are higher than a year ago.
Customers at the pump have taken particular notice of more opportunities for savings and discounts. One in three (32%) consumers say that they saw more stores offering loyalty card discounts, and one in five (18%) say that they saw more stores offering discounts for consumers who paid by cash, which reduces swipe fee expenses.
Consumers also noticed that stores increasingly offering alternative fueling options: 8% of consumers say that they saw more stores offer diesel fuel and 7% say that they saw more stores offer alternative fuels like E85 or natural gas.
Inside the store, consumers say that they saw more stores offering food options of all types. One in five consumers (20%) say that they saw more stores offer prepared foods and 11% say that stores offered more healthy options like salads, nuts and fruits. Consumers also noticed changes to the store itself; 15% say that they saw more stores remodeled in order to improve their attractiveness.
Younger consumers were much more likely to notice these improvements at convenience stores and they also were much more likely to shop more. Nearly one in five (17%) of consumers 18 to 34 say that they bought more items inside a convenience store than last year.
"Gas prices will always be top of mind with consumers but many are looking beyond the price and selecting where to stop based on what's inside the store," said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.
The consumer results are from a nationwide survey commissioned by NACS and conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC. For this survey, 801 consumers were surveyed from December 3-5, 2013.
Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS ( is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 149,000 stores across the country, posted $700 billion in total sales in 2012, of which $501 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.