Monthly Archives: August 2012

Belly fat might be worse for your heart than obesity

FoodFacts.com is well aware that, especially, as we age, we may develop an unfortunate situation around our mid-sections. You know what that’s like … suddenly the weight that you gain seems to gather in one specific area, affectionately known as your belly. Some of us appear to be more prone to this than others. But one thing is becoming very clear. Even if you aren’t overweight, that excess belly fat can be a precursor to heart disease and other serious health problems.

New research has been released that links belly fat in a person of normal body weight with more than a 50% likelihood of dying earlier than obese persons. Research presented in Munich this last week at a European Society of Cardiology meeting explored data from 12,785 Americans who had been followed for about 14 years in a large CDC study. Information was studied on both BMI (the measure of how fat you are in relationship to how tall you are) as well as WHR or the circumference of your belly in relationship to your hips.

Participants were split into three BMI categories … normal, overweight, and obese. Ina ddition they were divided into two categories of WHR (normal or high).

At the end of the 14-year study period, over 2500 people had passed away. Among those who had died, it was found that the people with a normal BMI but a high WHR had the greatest mortality rate of the subgroups studied. And even more importantly, that same group had a higher death rate than obese study participants. It appears that belly fat is actually different than other kinds of fat. It is composed of visceral fat cells that are more likely to promote insulin-resistance. In addition, the placement of those cells in the mid-section can cause inflammation as well.

It appears that this research is considered controversial because it analyzes not only the risks of heart disease from belly fat, but also death. It is felt that the study needs to be replicated before any conclusions can be drawn.

Advice in the meantime remains consistent with healthy eating concepts. Watch your diet: concentrate on adding more vegetables, fruits and whole grains, eliminate trans fat, reduce overall fat intake and improve the quality of the fats in your diet. And, please don’t leave exercise out of your health equation. It’s the same advice FoodFacts.com has been standing behind for years.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/30/can-love-handles-kill-why-having-a-paunch-may-be-worse-than-being-obese/#ixzz254er4DZa

More ban attempts from the Big Apple

FoodFacts.com is tracking more news on attempted beverage bans in New York City. First came Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large-sized sugary beverages being sold in the city. Now New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman is conducting an investigation into energy drink manufacturers based on deceiving consumers regarding their products health risks.

Now, please don’t get us wrong. FoodFacts.com is no fan of energy drinks – evidenced by the health scores most receive on our site. But we’re fairly shocked that the probe being conducted is focused on how accurately companies are disclosing the amount of caffeine in these beverages. The companies that have been subpoenaed are Monster Beverage, PepsiCo and Living Essentials (5 Hour Energy). The focus of the investigations appears to be on the possibility of caffeine-laden ingredients that are not included on the product labels. Things like black tea extract or guarana (which has already proven to be dangerous).

So, why is FoodFacts having a problem with this? Well, if you take a good look at the brands in question, we’re wondering why caffeine is the focus of the probe. Certainly, if manufacturers are including ingredients in their beverages that they are not listing on the label, they should be made to change their actions. But … why isn’t the government focusing on ingredients like Benzoic Acid, Acesulfame Potassium and Caramel Color?

Benzoic Acid (which is present in almost all of these products) has been studied in rats, cats and rabbits and has shown different degrees of toxicity. Symptoms can include hypoactivity, emaciation, diarrhea, muscle weakness and tremors. Benzoic Acid in humans has been linked to rashes, asthma, inflammation of nasal mucus membranes and anaphylactic shock in some cases.

The presence of this ingredient alone should alert the government that caffeine isn’t the only concern here. So why isn’t anyone talking about the other problematic ingredients included in energy drinks?

We know that energy drinks have quickly become a multimillion dollar industry. We know they are not healthy options. And we also know that too much caffeine in a person’s diet can cause major problems. But for FoodFacts.com, that’s the whole point. We all know that too much caffeine isn’t good for us. But how many consumers actually understand that Benzoic Acid and Acesulfame Potassium – to name just two of the ingredients that are commonly included in these beverages – can cause major health problems.

Why is the concern about misleading consumers focused strictly on caffeine? Why isn’t there a concern that consumers are being misled about the other potentially harmful ingredients included in energy drinks? And why is the government focusing only on the ingredient that consumers are already familiar with and already have a general understanding of? Hate to say it, but perhaps there are fewer lobbyists attempting to get the ear of the government for caffeine than there may be for other additives. Just a guess …

We stand firmly behind the idea that consumers need to be educated regarding the ingredients in our food supply. ALL ingredients. Not just caffeine … which most consumers are fairly familiar with and understand more than Benzoic Acid. So for the Attorney General of New York City: FoodFacts.com would really appreciate a more educated, expanded view of why energy drinks might need regulation. We’re betting most consumers would actually appreciate it too.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/29/new-york-lawmakers-investigate-energy-drink-claims/

A new – and natural weapon against antibiotic resistant infections?

FoodFacts.com read some information today that may prove to be very valuable to the entire population when it comes to fighting antibiotic resistant staph infections. In the recent past, these infections have been becoming increasingly more common and have posed a real threat to survival.

A study published this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation was conducted by several institutions including The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, UCLA and the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. It was focused on the increasing number of “super infections” that have been springing up worldwide.

For generations, antibiotics have proven to be a powerful defense against any number of infections … and in many cases still are. But in an increasing number of instances there have been difficulties with the resistance of certain forms of bacteria to antibiotics. Specifically pointed out was the staphylococcus aureus bacteria or staph infection.
In the study, clinical doses of nicotinamide or Vitamin B3 successfully increased the number and efficiency of a special kind of white blood cell that can kill off harmful bacteria. The study noted that this may well give doctors a new way to treat deadly staph infection that could possibly be combined with existing antibiotics. It could possibly stimulate and enhance the power of the human immune system and help it respond to infection with more intense action against infection.

Animals in the study were given Vitamin B3 at therapeutic levels that were far greater than our normal diets could provide. The affects of the vitamin were also studied in human blood. The amounts of the vitamin used were considered safe in the human population. It is important to note that the study did not focus on whether or not regular doses of the vitamin (whether through diet or supplementation) would have the same effects for treating bacterial infection and they don’t want to encourage people to begin taking larger doses of Vitamin B3 because of the findings.

Doctors who had studied bacterial infections for the last decade found that Vitamin B3 has the ability to enable antimicrobial genes that increase the body’s immune cells to kill bacteria.

One of the most exciting discoveries found through the study was the effectiveness of Vitamin B3 on one of the most common and most serious staff infections affecting the public today – MRSA. Unfortunately it is accepted that the widespread usage of antibiotics has contributed to the increase of instances of MRSA infection. Dr. George Liu, an infectious disease expert at Cedars-Sinai and co-senior author on the study, said that “this vitamin is surprisingly effective in fighting off and protecting against one of today’s most concerning public health threats.” When Vitamin B 3 was used in human blood in clinical doses it appeared to destroy the staph infection in only a few hours.

This is an exciting finding and one which FoodFacts.com hopes will undergo further study in order to offer greater protection of the public health in the coming years. Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827122258.htm

Nutritional link to fertility for men

FoodFacts.com is happy to see that finally, science is looking into the fertility concerns surrounding men of a certain age AND finding that nutrition appears to play a part in the improvement of sperm quality in men over the age of 44.

That’s right, there seems to be a link between micro-nutrients and healthy sperm. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Folate and Zinc help turn back the biological clock for men. In a new study 80 healthy men between the ages of 22 and 80 were studied for sperm quality. Those participating in the study who were over the age of 44 and consumed the greatest amount of Vitamin C had 20 percent less DNA damage in their sperm than the control group of the same age who consumed the least amount of Vitamin C. This same finding was also true for Vitamin E, Zinc and Folate.
Through this study it was determined that men may be at an increased risk for sperm DNA damage as they get older, but that they can actively do something about this through the use of supplements.

Year after year, there are greater numbers of men and women who are putting off child birth until they are over 35 years of age. There are greater health concerns associated with conceiving in this age group. A recent study, for example, linked an increased risk for autism and schizophrenia to infants of older men. In addition it was been discovered that older men are less fertile than their younger counterparts and have an increased number of chromosomally defective pregnancies. While this information has been known about older women attempting and achieving conception for years, the studies for men are relatively newer.

The new information linking Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and Folate to an increase in sperm quality is good news for men in this age group and suggests the need for additional studies on the affect of antioxidants on fertility as well as the risk for genetically defective pregnancies across the board. Can an increase in micronutrients result in healthier offspring with a decrease in genetic problems? The results are yet to be seen … but FoodFacts.com thinks that it can’t hurt any man over 40 who’s looking to embrace fatherhood to up their intake of C, E, Zinc and Folate. The answer to men beating their biological clocks may just be waiting for them at their local health food store! That would certainly be worth the trip!

Read more at http://www.counselheal.com/articles/2678/20120827/sperm-quality-improved-by-healthy-nutrition.htm#juB7XBlviiHvLTB9.99

Does grilling contribute to the American obesity problem?

FoodFacts.com has been staying on top of everything related to the growing rates of obesity in the United States. When we find information we deem valuable we share it with our community through here, through our blog. And today we came across some new research that might link the development of abdominal obesity along with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes with the cooking of food over dry heat (aka grilling).

The study was conducted by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. They’ve identified a common compound in our diets that results from grilling food or cooking food with dry heat. That compound is methyl-glyoxal or MG. They have published their findings this month in Proccedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found that mice who were fed a diet of food cooked with dry heat on a consistent basis (therefore experiencing prolonged exposure to MG) gained a significant amount of abdominal weight, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. MG is a type of advanced glycation endproduct or AGE. And AGEs can lower the body’s protection against inflammation.

The study spanned four generations of mice and was split into two groups. One was fed a traditional diet without MG and one group was fed a diet high in MG. Over those foru generations of mice, the group fed high-MG food experienced and increase in body fat, and early insulin resistance. The other control group did not develop any of these conditions. There was a definite deficiency in the protective mechanisms of the mice bodies that was related to MG.

Led by Helen Vlassara, MD, Professor and Director of the Division of Experimental Diabetes and Aging, the study presents important information regarding the control and possible prevention of both obesity and diabetes. “This was a prolonged but rewarding study showing that a specific AGE compound … contributes to the increase in weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes, reproducing the pattern seen increasingly in humans over the last decades,” said Dr. Vlassara.

“The study demonstrates how the prolonged ingestion of seemingly innocuous substances common in human food, such as MG, can reduce defenses and compromise native resistance to metabolic and other diseases,” said Dr. Vlassara. “The mouse findings are also quite exciting because they provide us with new tools, not only to study, but to begin taking measures to prevent diabetes, either by suppressing their formation or by blocking their absorption with our food.”

Because of this research it does appear that just a small decrease in foods high in AGEs can really improve the insulin resistance of adults with type 2 diabetes. The researchers are recommending that clinical guidelines be revised to eliminate foods cooked with dry heat. Of course, further study is needed to corroborate these findings. But it is possible that avoiding consumption of foods cooked with dry heat and using other methods instead of grilling our foods, we might be able to reduce the instances of both obesity and diabetes.

FoodFacts.com invites our community to read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820152102.htm

What’s happening now: how new federal regulations are changing school lunch menus

FoodFacts.com is happy to report that as our children are getting ready to go back to school, or are already beginning their new academic year, there are many changes happening in their cafeterias nationwide. Those changes aren’t just happening to the menus offered in our schools, they’re also affecting how school lunch workers are approaching their jobs … which may just turn out to be the key to instilling healthier eating habits in cafeterias.

Here are the basics of the changes you can expect:

• Maximum weekly calorie and sodium limits have been established for different student age groups. The limits for sodium intake are being gradually phased in over the coming decade, but there are changes that have been made for this school year. Establish maximum calorie and sodium limits for meals. The sodium limits are phased in over 10 years.

•Schools must now serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch and in larger portions than offered before. Portion sizes vary by age group. For instance, high school students will have to be offered one cup of vegetables and one cup of fruit a day.

•Additionally, they must now offer a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red/orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes per week. These serving sizes will also vary by student age – in high school, kids must be offered at least half a cup.

• After the second year of the new regulations, all grains offered to students must be rich in whole grains such as brown rice. Breads, buns, cereals and pastas must list whole grain as the first ingredient.

• Flavored milk, such as chocolate, must now be fat-free.

•There can be no trans fat at all in any foods offered.

Of course, you’ll still be seeing some familiar items on the menus … there will be cheese pizza and submarine sandwiches … but these offerings will be prepared using whole wheat dough and whole wheat rolls. And, unfortunately, French fries wills still count as a vegetable – but they will be baked or roasted and not fried and will have less salt on them than before. And none of the new regulations deal with ingredient lists or preservatives(excepting the exclusion of products containing trans fat), but it is at least a starting point that can be built on in the coming years.

The good news is that the School Nutrition Association has been holding conferences for cafeteria workers to help them take an active role in student lunch choices. Here they are being encouraged to actively motivate kids to make healthier choices on the lunch line. Part of that will be marketing the food to the children. Everything from how the food is laid out on the line and how it is labeled will hopefully be very different. For instance, give the vegetable of the day a more interesting name than just the vegetable itself so that the label holds more attraction for the students. Place baskets of fruits and veggies by the checkout – instead of unhealthier options. There’s research that proves that kids are more apt to pick up the grab and go item at the checkout than when it’s placed elsewhere. But most importantly, the workers are being encouraged to speak with the kids about the foods being offered that day … to promote them by interacting with the kids, just as though they were the wait staff at a restaurant promoting daily specials to customers.

Overall, FoodFacts.com thinks these efforts are a wonderful beginning for our kids in the cafeteria line. After all, what good is revamping the lunch choices if those choices remain uneaten? With better choices and a little encouragement, we may very well see kids at every grade level becoming more adventurous with their lunch line selections. And it’s possible that as the program moves forward, we can advocate for further regulations regarding the products chosen based on their ingredient lists.

Read more:
http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2012-01-25/Government-requires-more-fruits-veggies-for-school-lunches/52779404/1
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/16/school-lunch-quiz_n_1790435.html#quiz_4390
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/back-to-school-what-stude_n_1812994.html?utm_hp_ref=food&ir=Food
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120821/us-back-to-school-lunches/

So what’s really in that beef you’re eating for dinner tonight?

FoodFacts.com has come across some information that might make you think twice before purchasing, cooking or eating beef from you local butcher or grocery store. It seems that the drought has hit ranchers very hard this year and some have been unable to keep up with the rising prices of corn – the usual feed for cattle.

As an answer to the problems, some cattle ranchers have switched their traditional feed sources and have come up with some “out of the box” solutions in order to survive this very difficult time. The only problem with that is that it may make the rest of us question whether or not we really want to be eating their beef.

Second-hand candy has become an alternative to regular cattle feed. Ranchers have explained that because candy has a higher ratio of fat than corn, they were concerned that the candy might not be effective. The candy is mixed with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient. In this manner they can provide a more balanced ration of fat while still maintaining cattle health. The cows being fed this mixture are gaining the appropriate amount of weight from the feed.

The ranchers are purchasing the candy from companies at a discounted rate because manufacturers have deemed it as salvage – or not acceptable to retailers. Sadly there is some information that states that there are times the candy is fed to the cattle in the mixture while still in their wrappers. Not a very pleasant meal, if I you ask us.

In addition, some ranchers are also feeding cattle a mixture called “blood meal”. This is created from clean, fresh animal blood, and should not include material such as hair,
stomach belchings, and urine but it is acknowledged and accepted that trace amounts of these materials may occur even in good manufacturing processes.

There are several other options for cattle ranchers in terms of feed. These are a few of them that are gaining in popularity because of the higher corn prices ranchers are facing. And while we sympathize with the rising costs of traditional cattle feed, we are more than a little concerned about the quality of the beef showing up in our butcher shops and grocery stores.

FoodFacts.com makes every effort to let you know what’s REALLY in your food. This is an issue we’ll keep a close eye on and make every attempt to provide you with further information in the days ahead. Meanwhile, read more: http://www.wpri.com/dpps/entertainment/must_see_video/cows-eating-candy-during-the-drought-nd12-jgr_4323303 and http://www.uwex.edu/ces/dairynutrition/documents/byproductfeedstuffs.pdf

Lawsuits being brought against food manufacturers for product misrepresentation

FoodFacts.com has long held the opinion that many of the products on our grocery store shelves are labeled in a misleading fashion, and don’t actually give consumers a clear representation of the products held in their boxes, cans and bags. Our community has always agreed with us. And it does appear that a controversy may be brewing over this practice.

Information has come to light that the same lawyers who brought millions of dollars in lawsuits against big tobacco companies (and won tremendous settlements form the likes of R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris) have been busy filing 25 new cases against food manufacturers, including ConAgra Foods, Heinz, General Mills and PepsiCo. These suits have been filed over the last four months and are claiming that these food manufacturers are mislabeling products and ingredients. Currently there are also lawsuits regarding Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

While the food manufacturers are claiming that these are frivolous lawsuits and are strictly financially motivated, the lawyers are claiming that these cases could result in a cost of billions of dollars to the food companies.

For example, two mothers have brought a lawsuit against the makers of Nutella, claiming they were deceived into believing that the chocolate hazelnut spread was healthy for their kids. A similar suit was brought against PepsiCo three years ago accusing them of false advertising for Cap ‘n Crunch Crunch Berries cereal because it does not contain actual berries. The court felt that a “reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product contained a berry that does not exist.” But is that really an analogous case? Of course, there are no such things as “crunch berries,” but Nutella certainly advertises itself as a healthy product that moms can feel good about serving their families. As a note, the product does not rate well on the FoodFacts.com website for a number of reasons.

In addition to the lawyers who filed suit against Big Tobacco, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has also filed suits against General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over claims they make on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products. Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are faced with many suits regarding the 100% natural claims on many of their products, as well.

The focus seems to be – as we would have suspected – on products that make claims of “natural” or “Healthy.” These claims, often, seem to be subjective. And since these products aren’t subjected to the same federal standards as organics, the claims really do reflect the purposes of the food manufacturer and not the nutrition labels or the ingredient lists.

With obesity at epidemic levels in this country, and food additives being linked every day to increasing health problems, FoodFacts.com wonders whether or not this will go the way of the old tobacco lawsuits. Initially, the courts declared smoking a personal choice that consumers make, hopefully understanding the health risks they are inflicting on themselves. It wasn’t until the tobacco companies were sued on behalf of states on the basis of the hundreds of millions of dollars caring for sick smokers that the settlements were won by the lawyers.

It does appear that this is a new trend that is just beginning to emerge. It’s a trend that may cost offending food manufacturers a tremendous amount of money and cause them to actually pull products from the shelves, until they rebrand, rename or redevelop many of their products so that they accurately depict nutritional value and ingredients used.
FoodFacts.com thinks that this is a trend worth watching and we’ll be keeping you informed as we discover more about what companies are being sued and why. In the meantime, here are two links for you to read and discover more about what’s happening: http://www.bendbulletin.com/article/20120819/NEWS0107/208190394/ and http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/lawyers-of-big-tobacco-lawsuits-take-aim-at-food-industry.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&smid=tw-share

More incriminating information on BPA

FoodFacts.com is always looking for information for our community regarding controversial food ingredients, but we also keep a close eye out for information on anything controversial affecting our food supply. There’s some new information on BPS that deserves your attention.

Bisphenol-A is a chemical used to make plastics and can lining. It has long raised health concerns in regards to its use in food applications. It’s controversial because it exerts detectable hormone-like properties. BPA is actually a weak endocrine disruptor. It mimics estrogen and has been linked to neurological difficulties in connection with prenatal exposure. Problems with BPA have also been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, as well as reproductive and thyroid issues. Canada is the first nation to declare BPA a toxic substance. And recently Europe and the United States have banned its use in baby bottles and sippy cups.

As if the problems BPA is already linked to weren’t enough, we now have a brand new study suggesting that BPA can increase the risk for coronary artery disease. The Metabonomics and Genomics in Coronary Artery Disease study researched the levels of BPA in 951 people suspected of having severe coronary artery disease or a narrowing of the arteries around the heart. They found that BPS levels were higher in those who were actually diagnosed with the disease.

The study’s participants were referred by their doctors to specialists because they exhibited symptoms for coronary artery disease. BPA levels are tested by a simple urine test. Since the chemical is processed quickly by the body, if a person hasn’t been exposed to BPA in a few consecutive days, the urine will be clear of BPA.

Of the 591 people studied, the 385 people diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease had notably higher BPA levels than the participants who did not receive the diagnosis. There were 86 participants who developed coronary artery disease while having no BPA exposure.

While more research is needed, this information is important enough for consumers to limit their use of canned foods, foods packaged in plastics and beverages in plastic bottles. And while the U.S. has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, young children are still prone to exposure (think plastic water bottles).

FoodFacts.com encourages our community members to be aware of the dangers of BPA and the possible sources of exposure. Keep yourselves and your families safe from this chemical that continually exhibits dangerous effects.  Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/08/16/bpa-may-boost-artery-disease-risk/#ixzz242ieYd9Q

Plant-based diets and their affect on coronary heart disease

FoodFacts.com wanted to share this important information regarding coronary heart disease with our community. This new information may have an impact on the dietary habits of you, your family or friends.

While we’ve always known that risk for coronary disease is impacted by one’s diet, and that a plant-based diet can, in fact, stop the disease from progressing or even actually reverse it, a new article is suggesting that fats in your diet play a large part in your risk of ever developing it.

W.C. Willet (Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health) has written an article linking consumption of fats to coronary heart disease risk. In publishing his report, Dr. Willett reviewed 95 various studies. What he found might help us understand how each type of dietary fat influences the development of coronary heart disease.

The findings state that trans fats are clearly related to the risk of coronary heart disease and should be completely eliminated from our diets. Noted is the presence of partially hydrogenated oils in so many food products. Also noted is the fact that both beef and dairy products contain natural trans fats.

Moving on to saturated fats, his findings indicate that consumption should be reduced and most optimally replaced by polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. In addition replacing saturated fats with specific carbohydrates (that do not contain added sugars) will reduce coronary heart disease risk even further.

While Dr. Willett also specifies that it may be important to achieve a low ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. While both of these are important to reduce the risk of heart disease, it is felt that Americans have a high intake of omega-6 from vegetables. He cites both corn and soybean oil as undesirable because they contain high levels of omega-6.

What he’s concluding is that by reducing red meat and dairy while increasing nuts, fish and better vegetable oils, we can improve our intake of the fatty acids that protect us from heart disease. But he goes further stating that diets emphasizing fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in refined starches, sugars and salt will do the most to reduce the possibility of developing heart disease. In other words, a plant-based diet is the way to go to ward off this disease.

FoodFacts.com wants you to have the information you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your family when it comes to dietary choices. Read more here: http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Nutrition/Diet/dietary_fat_and_coronary_heart_disease_0815120714.html